Living Better With...Alcohol

Kay brought along a very large bag of nashis, and some beans from her garden to share, to which I said 'Yes please'. I have been steadily working through these as I slice them into the dehydrator. More school snacks for the children. Thanks Kay.

Yet again, a magnificent evening at our Living Better With Less group. Because what could possibly be bad about sitting around a big old wooden table passing around bottles of home made wine and liqueurs to try? Nothing, that's what..

First, Kay brought along a bottle of her two-year-old sloe berry wine for us to sample. Oh my goodness, it is so rich and smooth - almost like a port. Apparently the hardest part about making this wine is leaving it for two years before drinking it. But so worth it.

Unfortunately, Kay's computer died recently, taking the sloe berry wine recipe with it. But luckily, Kay gave Brad the recipe some time ago, and Brad thinks he can find it to share with us, DON'T YOU BRAD? This is why recipe sharing is so very important, people. It protects us from the triumph that is technology... Fortunately, sloe berry season isn't until June, so that gives Brad a little time to rifle through his recipes. At which time I faithfully promise to make the wine and record every step and publish the recipe to the world, because this is one we don't want to lose.

Next, Katherine has been busily experimenting with liqueurs. First, limoncello. Again, slow food, but happily, we don't have to wait two years for this one. Traditionally, limoncello is steeped for eighty days, and every Italian family has a different recipe. What I love about Tasmania is that its foodie culture is not elitist, and practically everyone has a lemon tree in the back yard and knows how to use it. At one of The Boy's first soccer games, when he was about six (the club he played for had The Italian Club as its headquarters), in between cheering for the herd of excited little boys charging up and down the field, the parents were waging a hotly contested argument about how to make the best limoncello.

But that argument has finally been put to rest. We know now that Katherine makes the best limoncello.


Peel only (no white pith) of 8 lemons
1 litre vodka
1kg sugar
1 litre water

Add lemon peel to vodka and leave to steep in sealed container for four days.

Slowly dissolve sugar in 1 litre of water over a low heat.

Cool, then add to vodka mixture. Leave for ten minutes, then strain through a muslin cloth, bottle, and leave for as long as humanly possible before drinking.. maybe even eighty days..

Makes two and a half litres.

Katherine's next triumph comes from Beshlie Grimes' Making Wines, Liqueurs and Cordials. We all had a good browse through this book whilst sipping on our liqueurs, and it is a really good resource if you are interested in concocting your own beverages - and why wouldn't you be - especially this one - Rose Petal Liqueur. As Katherine said, so many wines and liqueurs are made from things we wouldn't otherwise eat - lemon peel, sloe berries, rose petals.

Now, a rose petal flavoured drink doesn't sound immensely appealing to be honest, but this was wonderful as well, with David claiming that it had a flavour similar to glayva. The rose petals for this liqueur are picked in full bloom, preferably at the end of a hot day. Katherine used a combination of all the roses that were blooming in her garden at one time.

Rose Petal Liqueur

4 1/2 cups (fresh) or 3 cups (dried) rose petals
2 scant cups (400g) superfine/caster sugar
3 1/8 cups (750ml) vodka

Put the rose petals, sugar, and vodka in a sterilised preserving jar. Seal the jar and give it a good shake.

Store it in a cool, dark place for 3 months, giving it a shake once a week to help dissolve the sugar.

Strain the liquid through a piece of fine muslin into a sterilised bottle. The liqueur is now ready for drinking.

- from Beshlie Grimes, Making Wines, Liqueurs and Cordials 

Ok, so the wine and all the liqueurs so far have been divine, and we are all very happy and jolly, when Katherine pulls out a huge jar full of something dark brown with bits floating in it that looks like it has been brewed in a witch's kitchen. It is a lavender liqueur, also from Beshlie Grimes' book, and it is still in the steeping stage. When Katherine takes the lid off we all reel from its very powerful lavender aroma. It smells like something I would cheerfully pop in a spray bottle and use to clean the bathroom or spray on my ironing. It is gorgeous, but doesn't make me want to drink it so much..

However Beshlie Grimes waxes eloquent about this Provencal liqueuer, and she was right about the rose petal one, so maybe we can trust her on this too? At least if you don't like it to drink it will make your house smell divine:) This comes recommended as an addition to champagne for a special occasion - 1 part liqueur to 3 parts champagne.

Lavender Liqueur

50 lavender heads
2 scant cups (400g) superfine/caster sugar
3 1/8 cups (750ml) vodka

Put the lavender heads, sugar and vodka into a large, sterilized preserving jar. Seal the jar and give it a good shake.

Store it in a cool, dark place for 3 months, giving it a shake once a week.

Strain the liquid through a piece of fine muslin. Pour it into sterilized bottles. Although it will be ready for drinking immediately, it will improve with age.

- from Beshlie Grimes, Making Wines, Liqueurs and Cordials 

To finish with, David described the process of brewing beer, and promised to bring some home brew for us to try next month. We WILL remember, David:)

Now, for someone like me who has never made anything more exciting than lemon cordial to drink, this evening was a revelation and took some of the mystery out of making a simple wine, and these liqueurs tasted divine, and are so easy to make. They may solve some of my gift-giving dilemmas this year.

So thank you to all who bravely and generously shared your bounty and your knowledge with us, and do try one of these liqueurs. I am starting with the limoncello.


PS Next month, soap making..



Tanya Murray said…
Sounds fabulous! So glad you guys are having such fun. I KNOW Brad has that recipe somewhere and didn't he put down some sloe wine 12 mths ago? I think we will need to check it and sample next year...just to be sure it's Kay's recipe don't you know..wink wink! I think David is a bit keen to get the low down on ginger beer making too. I have been steeping elderberries in vodka but I don't think that really counts amongst your gorgeous beverage line-up. Hopefully I can come to the next one. Thanks for sharing the recipes x
Jo said…
Tanya, we would love to see you again of course:) Your elderberry liqueur sounds wonderful, and excellent to keep the winter chill out, but we would have to sample it for quality assurance purposes..

I wonder if there is any fruit that CAN'T be improved by steeping it in vodka?
Anonymous said…
Sloe berries! I'd never heard of them until I read Frugal Queen's blog. Never knew we had them in Australia. More Tassie tastes and experiences for me to try soon!
Jo said…
Yes, it's like living in an Enid Blyton novel here sometimes. Luckily Tasmania was mostly always too poor to have to suffer from 'progress' so we still have a lot of the old hedgerows full of sloes and hawthorn and rosehips, which is all to the good for those of us who forage..
Bek said…
The only danger with these is you need to make what you will drink. I made limoncello two or three years ago and I've still got bottles left!
You missed cider and perry though! With tastier being the apple state, and given the ever giving pear tree you have, any reason why not to go down this path? I'll be cider making this weekend. It's not any harder than preserving, to be honest. Just needs different equipment.
Jo said…
Mmm, Bek, I doubt I will have bottles of limoncello left..

And of course I would love to make cider, but I don't know how, and don't have any of the equipment..yet.. I am waiting for a very detailed tutorial on your blog:)

I figure liqueurs are the super beginner alcohols to start with, and I'll move on up from there.
Sounds great Jo. When you need a taste tester let me know. cheers Wendy
wooo, boozy things happening up north :-) i'm not a big drinker (but I have a well stocked cabinet for coking purposes. chocolate brownies always taste better with a slug of tia maria or Frangelico... your limoncello could be lovely in a lemon cake, surely!

Popular Posts