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Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review June 14, 2007 / 28 Sivan, 5767

Summer in a bottle: Capture the delectable flavors of summer by making your own liqueurs

By Gail Borelli


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http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | (MCT) The season for sun-kissed, vine-ripened strawberries is fleeting. If only there were a way to bottle and save this taste of summer.

Actually, there is. When you make your own liqueurs from fruits, vegetables and herbs, you can have your summer produce and drink it, too.

Do-it-yourself liqueurs have a buzz on the food scene. "It's something in the air right now. I think it's all part of the outgrowth of people being interested in organic and locally grown foods," says Susan Elia MacNeal of Brooklyn, N.Y., author of "Infused: 100+ Recipes for Infused Liqueurs and Cocktails" .

Her book includes recipes for liqueurs made from such obvious choices as berries and peaches, as well as the more unexpected black peppercorn and truffle (fungus, not chocolate).

At JP Wine Bar in Kansas City, manager and part owner Ryan Maybee makes a cucumber-infused gin that he mixes with mint syrup, lime juice and Chardonnay in a drink called the Crossroads Cooler.

"I like doing it," Maybee says of making infusions. "I get produce from local growers, and it's very, very fresh.

"It's fun, and it looks good on the bar to have those big jars with fresh produce. It piques people's interest."

Making your own liqueurs is a simple business. A flavoring agent is steeped until the flavor migrates into the alcohol, which can take a couple of days or several months. Then the liqueur is filtered, sometimes sweetened, bottled and aged.

"Once people realize how easy it is, they want to do it at home," says Barb Fetchenhier, a gardener who teaches two classes a year on do-it-yourself liqueurs.

Fetchenhier recommends that novice spirits-makers start with a flavor they really like. (If you don't like spicy foods, don't make jalapeno vodka!) It's also important to follow the recipe exactly the first time, she says.

Once you are familiar with a recipe you can get creative, perhaps substituting lavender honey for granulated sugar or using gin instead of vodka. But tinkering with an unfamiliar recipe may result in failures that discourage the pursuit of a fun hobby, she says.

Fruits such as strawberries, peaches and blueberries are obvious candidates for infusion. MacNeal also likes to infuse savory herbs such as rosemary and basil. The resulting liqueurs are delicious in cocktails such as Bloody Marys, she says. They also open up the palate when served before dinner as an aperitif.

"It's so delicious and refreshing and unexpected," MacNeal says of herbal infusions. "Guests think you've done something really special."

When selecting flavoring agents for liqueurs, search local farmers markets for produce of the highest quality.

"Taste your fruit before you infuse it. It needs to be sweet and yummy — perfectly ripe with lots of flavor," MacNeal says.

It is not necessary to use premium spirits in your infusions; average quality is fine. Vodka is used most commonly because the colorless, nearly tasteless spirit happily soaks up any flavor with which it is paired.

Once you're comfortable with the infusion process, experiment with tequila, rum and brandy. Think about which flavors would complement each other. Bourbon might mix well with mint; tequila partners well with limes.

THE PROCESS
Although the details of each recipe vary, this is the basic process for making liqueurs.

Step 1: Infuse

Thoroughly wash the fruit, herbs or vegetables and pat dry. Cut the produce into thick chunks and place it in a clean 2-quart glass jar with a tight-fitting lid. Don't worry about sterilizing the jars, because "the alcohol will kill everything in there," Fetchenhier says.

The size of the jar is important. Too much headspace can be a problem because it might harbor oxygen that may cause fermentation, which is a good thing when making wine but not when making liqueurs. But there does need to be enough space at the top to shake the jar's contents.

Add the alcohol, close the lid tightly to prevent evaporation and place the jar in a cool, dark place where the alcohol can work its magic. Gently stir or shake the jar every day or two. Taste the liqueur occasionally to check its progress. Infusion can take days, weeks or months.

Step 2: Filter

Once the liqueur has reached the desired flavor, fish out the big chunks of produce with a slotted spoon.

Next, filter out smaller particles by pouring the alcohol through paper towels, coffee filters, clean pantyhose or double-layered cheesecloth. This is the biggest challenge of making liqueurs, Fetchenhier says, because the filters clog quickly. It may take hours to filter some of the liqueurs.

If you want your liqueur to be crystal clear, you may have to filter it three or four times, Fetchenhier says.

Wait! Don't throw away that soused fruit! It adds a kick when spooned over pound cake or vanilla ice cream. Fetchenhier also likes to freeze the fruit and add it to quick bread or pancake batter.

Step 3: Add sweetener

The amount of sweetener used is a matter of personal preference. A blueberry liqueur that you plan to serve after dinner might have as much as 1 cup of sugar syrup for every 3 cups of alcohol, whereas a savory basil vodka probably will have none.

The most common sweetener used in liqueurs is a simple syrup made by dissolving 2 parts granulated sugar in 1 part boiling water. Cool the syrup before adding it so it does not evaporate the alcohol.

The cardinal rule when adding sweeteners is to be conservative. You can always add sugar, but you can't remove it.

Alternative sweeteners such as honey and brown sugar may add either a pleasing complexity or chaos to the liqueur's flavor, so choose wisely. Be warned that honey will turn a liqueur cloudy.

In her book, MacNeal advises against using sugar substitutes. "It's like making a rum and Coke with Diet Coke," she says. "Why do it?"

If you like heavier, smoother liqueurs, this is the time to add glycerin, about 1 tablespoon per quart, Fetchenhier says. (Find glycerin in drugstores.)

Most fruit-infused liqueurs are beautiful reds and blues and "look like jewels," MacNeal says. But if you'd like to add color to your liqueur — maybe some green to a creme de menthe — choose natural colorings and start with just a drop or two.

Use a funnel to pour the strained and sweetened liqueur into the original liquor bottles, or look for decorative bottles at the store. Seal tightly and store away from direct heat and light.

Step 4: Age

Aging mellows the liqueur and smoothes out the raw edges, making it more pleasant for sipping. Depending on the recipe, the liqueur may need to age several months. When the spirit has aged, you may filter it again if you want.

Summer infusions should be ready for sipping in time for holiday gift-giving. That way friends and family can also enjoy the fruits of your labor.


SPIRIT HOW TO PREPARE
Apricot (4 to 5 apricots) Wash well. Remove the stones and cut into 1-inch cubes. Peel can be left in place or removed.

Bell pepper (1 to 2 peppers) Wash well. Discard seeds.

Blueberry (1 quart blueberries) Wash well; crush berries with a fork.

Cucumber (2 cucumbers) Peel and slice cucumbers to make 2 cups. Herbal (1 cup lightly packed herbs, such as basil, rosemary, tarragon, spearmint or peppermint) Wash well and pat dry. Roughly chop.

Hot pepper (1 to 3 peppers) Wash well. Discard seeds.

Peach (12 peaches) Wash well. Remove the stones and cut into 1-inch cubes. Peel can be left in place or removed.

Plum (6 plums) Blanch briefly in hot water. Remove the skin and stones and cut into quarters.

Raspberry (1 quart raspberries) Wash well; crush berries with a fork.

Rhubarb (3 to 4 stalks rhubarb) Wash well and slice to make 2 cups.

Rose (2 cups lightly packed petals) Use organically grown flowers.

Strawberry (1 pound strawberries) Wash well. Hull and slice in half.

Tomato (1 pound tomatoes) Blanch in hot water. Remove the skins, cut into quarters and discard the seeds.

Watermelon (3 cups cubed watermelon) Remove and discard seeds.


WATERMELON LIQUEUR
Makes about 2 quarts

750 ml bottle vodka, rum or tequila
3 cups cubed watermelon
1/4 to 1 cup sugar syrup (optional, see note)
Pour spirits into a clean 2-quart glass container with a tight-fitting lid. Soak the original bottle to remove the label. Let dry.

Add watermelon to the spirits. Allow the spirits to infuse away from direct sunlight and intense heat 2 weeks to 1 month. Shake the container a few times each week. When you're satisfied with the intensity of flavor, strain the liqueur through a metal sieve into a bowl. Discard the watermelon. Add sugar syrup to taste, if desired.

Using a funnel, pour the liqueur into the original spirits bottle or another container. Label with the name of the liqueur and the date. Age 1 month away from light and heat.

Note: To make sugar syrup, combine 1 cup water and 2 cups granulated sugar in a small saucepan. Bring the water to a boil while stirring. Reduce heat and continue to stir until sugar dissolves. Cool.

Per 2-ounce serving: 58 calories (1 percent from fat), trace fat (no saturated fat), no cholesterol, 2 grams carbohydrates, trace protein, 1 milligram sodium, trace dietary fiber.


BASIL VODKA
Makes about 2 quarts

750 ml bottle vodka or tequila
1 cup lightly packed basil leaves, preferably organic, rinsed and patted dry (see note)

Pour the spirits into a clean 2-quart container with a tight-fitting lid. Soak the original bottle to remove the label. Let dry.

Add basil to the spirits. Allow the spirits to infuse away from direct sunlight and intense heat 24 hours. Strain liqueur through a coffee filter. Discard basil.

Using a funnel, pour the liqueur into the original bottle or another container. Label with the name of the liqueur and the date.

Age 1 week away from light and heat.

Note: One cup of lightly packed tarragon, thyme, rosemary, spearmint or sage leaves can be substituted for the basil.

For a Basil Martini: Combine 3 ounces Basil Vodka, 1/2 ounce dry vermouth and 1 cup cracked ice in a shaker; shake 10 to 15 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a few basil leaves.

Per 2-ounce serving: 51 calories (none from fat), no fat or cholesterol, trace carbohydrates, trace protein, trace sodium, no dietary fiber.


SCRUMPTIOUS STRAWBERRY LIQUEUR
Makes about 1 quart

3 cups fresh strawberries, stemmed and washed (see note)
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 cups vodka
1 cup water
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon orange zest
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

Crush together strawberries and sugar in a bowl. Let stand about 1 hour. Transfer to a clean 2-quart container and add vodka, water, zests and lemon juice. Cover and let stand in a cool, dark place 2 days, shaking frequently.

Use a fine-mesh strainer to strain out solids. Transfer liqueur to clean container, cover and let stand 1 week. Filter into final container. Age at least 1 month before serving.

Note: Use only fresh, ripe, mold-free strawberries. If berries have green tips or bruises, cut off these parts before using.

Per 2-ounce serving: 145 calories (1 percent from fat), trace fat (no saturated fat), no cholesterol, 21 grams carbohydrates, trace protein, 1 milligram sodium, 1 gram dietary fiber.


BEYOND COCKTAILS
Some ideas for using homemade liqueurs in the kitchen:

  • Drizzle over parfaits and stir into puddings and fruit salads.

  • Pour over shaved ice for a grown-up snow cone.

  • Add to the braising liquid for pork or beef roasts.

  • Drizzle over the ladyfingers or spongecake in a trifle.

  • Flavor whipped cream.

  • Sprinkle over fruit salads and fruit crepes.

  • Mix into the confectionery centers of homemade chocolate truffles.

  • Stir into hot chocolate and coffee.

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© 2007, The Kansas City Star Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services