11 November 2013
Pear schnapps and subsequent pear liqueur
Fall fruit, you guys. Let's preserve it in alcohol for a winter's worth of imbibing!
The trendy term "infusion" came into widespread use after I started making liqueurs, as far as I can tell. Instead, I use the term "schnapps," which is...the older term for an infusion in vodka or other alcohol! SHOCKING. The only difference I'm aware of is that contemporary infusions usually only steep for a day or two, while schnappses start out at a few days of steeping (for intensely flavored things like herbs), but often go on much longer. Since I'm all about aging my concoctions, the schnapps term is doubly appropriate.
Okay then! Let's make some schnapps!
I chose pear, because pear is one of the best of all fall fruits. Who doesn't want pear in cocktail form? I ask you.
1.5 chopped bartlett pears
up to 750 ml vodka
Wash, core, & chop your pears. Put them in a quart mason jar or the other steeping vessel of your choice. You want to fill the jar approximately 2/3 of the way with fruit, but more is ok too. I more or less said TIME FOR FRUCT (not a typo; "fruct" is slang for "fruit" at our house) and filled the jar with as much pear as I could cram without crushing anything.
Pour in vodka to cover the fruit, all the way up to the neck of the jar. Then lid your jar and stick it in a dark cupboard to age.
Give your jar a gentle shake whenever you think of it. Every few days or so is fine.
The question of when to remove the fruit from the schnapps is up in the air. I'd leave this for at least two weeks, and up to three months for a deep & full pear flavor. It depends on how strong you like your schnapps, and also on your patience.
When you're ready, strain your pears out of your schnapps. I find it easiest to do this by putting a fine-mesh strainer into a canning funnel and filtering the whole shebang into a second mason jar. Canning funnels: get one.
Strain your schnapps a second time through a coffee filter-lined strainer or other extremely fine mesh to make sure you've removed every bit of sediment. It's possible that some more bits and pieces will settle as your schnapps sits in the cupboard; if this happens, you can just re-strain whenever it's necessary. Real talk: I routinely strain my stuff through tissues or paper towels, since our coffeemaking equipage consists of a french press and nothing else. It's all good.
Voila! Pear schnapps!
At this point you have a choice. You can either use the schnapps as-is, or you can sweeten it with simple syrup to create a liqueur.
Of course, since simple syrup doesn't have to be just sugar and water, this opens up a whole world of possibilities. Rosemary? Cardamom? Vanilla bean? Ginger? Cinnamon and nutmeg? What would be tastiest with pear?
I have a little rosemary simple syrup left over from making Tracy Shutterbean's pear cornmeal cake with rosemary syrup (note: it was awesome & you should make one), so I'm planning on trying that when my schnapps is sufficiently steeped. Ginger and pear also sounds like a really good plan.
In any case, here's how to make a basic flavored simple syrup. The amount of herb or spice components will depend on what you want to use and how strong an infusion you prefer. Several branches of herbs, 3 or 4 cracked cardamom pods, or a single split vanilla bean would all produce delightful results. However, I'd err on the side of strength to make sure whatever flavor you choose can stand up to the pear without getting too sweet.
Infused simple syrup
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
Herb, spice, zest, etc. of your choice
Put everything in a pan and simmer gently until the sugar is completely dissolved, swirling occasionally. Turn off the heat, lid the pan, and let steep for about an hour. Taste your syrup and see if you want to let it steep further.
Strain out your solid ingredients and let your simple syrup cool completely. Use it to sweeten & flavor schnapps to taste or make the cocktails of your choice. I find that simple syrup can last in the refrigerator for a shorter time than most people say. Try to use it within 2 weeks.
Who else is making liqueurs this season?