Infusing the Harvest
The harvest this time of year is so perfect and precious, it's hard not to eat every morsel of herb, berry, and pepper. If you can spare a bit of the garden raised, CSA, or farmer's market bounty, consider making some alcohol infusions. Herbs, berries, flowers, and veggies all release their flavors into alcohol. Making homemade infusions couldn't be simpler and in the middle of winter you will appreciate tasting a little 'summer'.
Here's how I do it:
Pick your poison I prefer infusing into vodka because it has minimal flavor and is uncolored. Any liquor will do, of course, so feel free to experiment or use what you have available. Top shelf isn't necessary, but swill will not be improved by flavor, so choose something in the middle. I picked up some Tito's at Weiland's market for the summer infusions this year because then I can say they are 100% made in the USA.
Prepare the infusant (yeah, we made up that word) Wash and dry a handful of prime in-season herbs, fruits, and/or vegetables. Remove stems and pithy parts. Add them to a jar or bowl you will not need for a week. Mascerate with a fork to release juices.
Add infusant to liquor This year I plan to make small batches of about 2 cups vodka to a handful of infusant, but use your best judgment. So long as all the infusant is covered by liquor you won't risk spoilage.
Wait Close the jar and shake once a day or so. Taste and add more infusant as needed. Heavy aromatics like peppers or hard herbs need only a few days. Lighter flavors from berries and soft herbs can stay in the jar a week or more.
Strain Remove the fruit from the liquor. (If you're a lush like me, turn the vodka soaked juicy fruit bits into a blended drink.) For perfectly clear infused liquor, strain again through layers of cheese cloth.
Label Anyone who has been preserving for awhile has mystery jars sitting around. Save yourself the trouble of tasting and guessing! Label with the ingredient(s) and date.
Enjoy Flavored liquor is great as an aperitif, mixed into a cocktail, or made into a spiked sauce. Flavored vodka in pretty jars make good holiday gifts too.