Herbal liqueurs

JANE WRIGGLESWORTH
Last updated 10:18 22/08/2014
Concoctions
Fairfax NZ
CREATIVE CONCOCTIONS: With a few ingredients from your garden, you can enjoy some homemade herbal liqueurs.

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Fancy your own homemade tipple? Homegrown herbs aren't just beneficial for flavouring foods, they're an excellent ingredient in homemade liqueurs.

"Thyme, rosemary, mints, ginger, lemon verbena, also spices like cinnamon, cardamom, or oranges, lemons, limes, rose geranium - the list is endless, as are the combinations one could use," says Donna Lee of Cottage Hill Herb Farm in Upper Hutt.

Lee, who has experimented with making her own tipples, says anyone can have a go.

"The method is quite simple, really. One can use herbs and fruits or a mixture of either. Just make a tincture-type extract in a glass container by using the herbs and/or fruit, cover with vodka and leave for about three weeks. Then strain and add sugar to taste by using a double boiler and just enough heat to dissolve the sugar. White sugar gives a lighter flavour, brown sugar a heavier more full- bodied taste."

Lee says you can even add a little wine to the mixture if desired, for a different flavour.

Once the liqueur has been opened, it should be kept in the fridge.

"And if any cloudiness develops, refilter."

Ian and Marilyn Wightman, of The Fragrant Garden in Feilding, are old hats at making herbal liqueurs, often giving demonstrations at herb clubs.

"Ian does the demo while I walk round with sample tipples," Marilyn says.

The freshest and best quality herbs should always be used and ideally distilled water. Collect a range of fancy bottles to hold your liqueurs; you'll need jars or glass bottles with lids or caps as well, for ageing your liqueur. Straining the liquid is part of the process. For this you can use a metal colander, a wire mesh strainer, a jelly bag or linen or muslin. A funnel may come in handy too.

Started well in advance, these recipes make great gifts for friends, especially at Christmas-time. Or produce one at the end of a special dinner. You can proudly inform your guests - "I made that!"

TARRAGON LIQUEUR

(Recipe by Ian and Marilyn Wightman of The Fragrant Garden)

2 handfuls of tarragon leaves, stripped from the stems.

Put into a jar and pour 1 quart of brandy over the herbs. Let stand for a month.

Make a simple syrup - 300g sugar for each quart of brandy.

Add just enough water to wet the sugar and bring to the boil. Skim and cool a little.

Add brandy to syrup, stirring until all the sugar is dissolved. Cover and let this stand for a couple of days. Filter and bottle, and wait two months.

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SAGE LIQUEUR

(Recipe by Ian and Marilyn Wightman of The Fragrant Garden)

12 fresh sage leaves

2 whole cloves

Peel of one lemon

1 1/2 cups dry white wine

11/4 cups vodka

1 cup sugar syrup

Crush sage leaves and combine with all ingredients except sugar syrup for 3 weeks. Strain, add sugar syrup and bottle for 2 months.

Sugar syrup is 1/2 cup sugar gently heated in 3/4 cup water until dissolved. Cool before adding to the liqueur.

LIMONCELLO

(Recipe by Ian and Marilyn Wightman of The Fragrant Garden)

375g (about 4) lemons

420g (2 cups) caster sugar

Rind of one lemon

350ml vodka

375ml water

Wash lemons, leave peel on and chop roughly. Place them and sugar into a large bowl. Mash with a potato masher to bruise and release the lemon oil.

Add rind, vodka and water. Stir until all the sugar has dissolved. Cover with plastic wrap and leave in a cool place to infuse for 2 days. Strain through a sieve and pour into clean bottles.

Store in fridge or pour into plastic bottles and freeze. Serve well chilled.

ANGELICA LIQUEUR

(Recipe by Ian and Marilyn Wightman of The Fragrant Garden)

4 Tbsp dried angelica root, chopped

2 Tbsp chopped almonds

1 Allspice berry, cracked

1 cinnamon stick

6 anise seeds, crushed

1/8 tsp powdered coriander seed

1 1/2 cups vodka

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup water

Combine all ingredients except sugar and water. Cap tightly and age for 2 weeks. Strain through a coffee filter. Heat sugar and water and stir to combine. Add to liqueur mix when cooled then bottle. Age for 2 months.

LEMON VERBENA LIQUEUR

(Recipe by Donna Lee, Cottage Hill Herb Farm)

The sugar in this recipe does not need heating up; it will dissolve over the weeks with the shaking up.

1/2 cup tightly packed lemon verbena leaves

1 tsp grated lemon rind

4 cups vodka or brandy

2 cups sugar

Place lemon verbena and lemon rind in a large jar with vodka or brandy and steep for two days, then add sugar and steep three more weeks, shaking daily.

Then strain and filter and transfer to bottles.

Age an additional three weeks.

- The Southland Times

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