Each Autumn, I dust down my kilner jars, get foraging and lay down a range of liqueurs that will be ready in time to swell the yuletide entertainments. This year my timing was a little off and it was only in the last couple of weeks I got round to this.
However, it seems luck is with me as a number of these are still going to be ready for Christmas – hurrah. Even the sloe gin – it appears forgetting the sloes you put in the freezer ‘overnight’ for a month turns them a bit mushy, thus accelerating the infusion process. Error, as well as necessity, is the mother of invention.
In addition, I made some plum rum late summer and found this was ready in about a month. I doubt there will be any left for Christmas but I still have time to make another batch.
Of course, if you have a whipped cream canister you can make most of these pretty instantaneously. Lucky you.. I don’t own one myself and as I’ve not been particularly good this year I doubt I’ll find it under my tree come Christmas morning….
Quick sloe gin
300 ml gin
1 large tbsp sugar
A few generous handfuls of sloes
Wash the sloes thoroughly and place in freezer for at least a week. Add gin, sugar and sloes to a kilner jar. After two weeks remove sloes and strain the liquid carefully through muslin or an unused jeyes cloth and return to jar. Mature for a minimum of two weeks – preferably a month.
NB This makes perfectly drinkable sloe gin if you’re running out of time but best results are obtained through more traditional methods of long maturation.
500 ml rum
350 gm plums
2 tbsp sugar
Fill a kilner jar with plums and sprinkle with sugar. Cover with rum and leave for at least two weeks. After that check the liqueur every couple of days. Once the liqueur has reached the right intensity you can remove the plums (or if any plums show sign of deterioration) to make an excellent sorbet or, if you prefer, leave them in the liqueur to use as required. At this point I found the rum perfectly drinkable and couldn’t really imagine how it could improve.
I used little cherry plums I found growing wild in Hertfordshire – to the right of the picture. They are lovely added to a glass of champagne along with a little liqueur or into any rum cocktail where a Maraschino cherry is usually called for. However, any plums would work well but bear in mind different varieties can produce greatly differing results. Moreover larger plums may take longer to develop flavour.
The liqueur itself I mostly just sip because it’s too lovely to dilute in a cocktail…
500 ml vodka
350 gm chestnuts
2 tbsp sugar (I used light soft brown but any sugar will do)
Peel the chestnuts – if the skins are stubborn, pop the nuts in the microwave for 1 minute. Place everything in a kilner jar to macerate. Give the jar a gentle shake every couple of days. After a week remove the cinnamon and vanilla. Leave to mature for at least another four weeks but preferably three months.
You can also gently roast the chestnuts first which helps release their flavour, which should make it ready in a month. I didn’t roast mine this year as I want to make a chestnut puree with the nuts once the liqueur is ready so the recipe above is something of an experiment.
500 ml white rum
Juice of seeds from one pomegranate
1 tbsp dried orange peel
Add all the ingredients to a kilner jar. Leave for two weeks, shaking the jar every day then strain off the rum and return to the jar. Leave to mature for at least a further two weeks.
I took my inspiration for this from Caribbean style christmas drinks – as an alternative to pomegranate you might like to try a handful of Jamaican sorrel which is readily available from larger supermarkets and Caribbean food shops (try areas such as Finsbury Park or Brixton). You might also like to try leaving the orange peel in the jar for a really intense flavour but beware leaving it too long as it may become bitter.