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Infusions

These infusions make the ultimate Christmas presents, as can be prepared in advance and a great homemade gift idea that you can share with your guests, after a big Christmas lunch.

Infusions

Tonics and liqueurs were originally designed to draw the flavours and volatiles from fruit and spices, that have therapeutic benefits.

Traditionally liqueurs were designed to have a therapeutic effect, providing herbs, spices, and fruit oils used to break down the fats and heavy proteins of a meal. Limoncello and Amaro especially, were designed to be digestive aids. The alcohol was secondary, used only as a preservative. The stabilising effect of the essences with alcohol can be more beneficial than a manufactured probiotic.

Berry, cucumber & basil leaves with vodka

Makes 1.5 litres

3 punnets strawberries
2 punnets raspberries
½ telegraph cucumber
2 cups basil leaves
1.25 litres vodka

Clean a large 2.5 litre preserving jar. Sterilise in hot water, and dry well. Wash strawberries. Remove hulls from strawberries and slice in half. Remove stalks from raspberries, and slice the cucumber into rounds. Stuff the berries, cucumber slices and basil leaves into a jar, alternating in layers filling as much space as possible. Pour over vodka, filling the jar and completely covering the fruit. Seal the jar with a lid. Leave for 2-3 days in a cool dry place before using.

When the colour of the strawberries colour has faded the liqueur is ready. Drain the liqueur from the vodka jar and allow the fruit to drain, then discard the fruit pulp and re-bottle the liqueur. The remaining liqueur can be sipped by itself in chilled glasses; as a flavouring in sorbets; as a marinade for venison or other game meats; to flavour chocolate ganache when making truffles or in fruity cocktails or summer punch. Turn into a sugar syrup for flavouring desserts.

Cardamom, Pear & Sage Brandy

Makes 1 litre

6-7 firm pears
2 tbsp cardamom pods
¼ cup sage leaves, depending on taste
1 litre brandy

Clean a large 1 litre preserving jar. Sterilise in hot water, and dry well. Wash pears and slice thinly, removing the core and stalks. Bruise the cardamom pods with the back of a knife. Arrange the pears, cardamom pods and sage leaves alternately, in the jar filling as much space as possible. Pour over brandy, filling the jar and completely covering the fruit. Seal the jar with a lid. Leave for 2-3 days in a cool dry place before using. Drain the liqueur from the jar and allow the fruit to drain through a muslin cloth. Discard the fruit pulp and re-bottle the liqueur.

The remaining liqueur can be sipped by itself in glasses accompanied with a good Christmas cake; as a marinade for meats. The liqueur can be used when making a Christmas cake, pudding or Christmas fruit mince pies or truffles. Can also be used in desserts like crepe suzette, gateaux or tortes. Perfect for making Christmas brandy sauce, or butter sauces.

Chilli, Lime, Ginger & Lemongrass 

Note: This can be made just as well with an alcohol like vodka, tequila or whiskey as well as any type of vinegar.

Makes 1 litre

2 large red chillis, sliced
4 green chillis
2 fresh turmeric rhizomes, sliced thinly
4 stalks lemongrass
1 lime, cut into wedges
4-5 kaffir lime leaves
1 litre apple cider vinegar

Clean 3 large 1 litre bottle or jars. Sterilise in hot water, and dry well. Stuff the chillis, turmeric slices, lemongrass, lime wedges and lime leaves into the bottle, filling most of the bottle. Pour over the vinegar or spirit if using. Leave for 2-3 days in a cool dry place before using. The chillis and other flavourings can be left in the bottle, but the flavour will be intensified the longer they are left.

The flavoured vinegar can be used as rice dishes like pilaf or sushi; vinaigrettes and dressings; sprayed on roast potatoes or salad greens before serving; as a bit of spice in a morning smoothie; taking as a tonic each day; used in Cocktails and marinades; or for braising chicken or other poultry; or flavouring homemade potato crisps.

Pink Gin Liqueur 

Makes 1.25 litres

6 blood oranges
9 tangelos or mandarins, peeled
6 limes
3 lemons
1.25 litres gin
½ cup mint or lemon balm leaves, optional

Clean 3 large 1 litre preserving jars. Sterilise in hot water, and dry well. Thinly slice the blood oranges, divide the segments of the tangelos or mandarins and cut the limes and lemons into segments. Divide the pieces between the three jars, packing the jars full. Top with mint or lemon balm leaves if wished. Pour over the gin, filling to the top and covering the fruit. Seal the jar with a lid. Leave for 2-3 days in a cool dry place before using. The liqueur can be drained from the jars, or leave and pour the gin directly from the jars.

Pour gin over ice and serve straight or add tonic or soda water to make a spritzer. Can be made into any gin cocktail or fruit punch, or use in desserts, sorbets and granitas. Make summer flavoured jellies, ice blocks or mousses. The orange slices can be used to make candied orange slices.

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