Flavouring drinks with fruit, spices or herbs is a process of patience. A friend of mine living in the lower mainland is huge into infusions, posting his creations on Facebook. Fruit infused water is becoming all the rage, with special bottles and pitchers for the task. Mixologist and bartenders often use a simple syrup in recipes – infused with herbs and spices or fruit – along side the more potent flavoured spirit.
Naturally, without the option of flavoured spirits, the job of creating flavoured syrups or liquids becomes more essential in a virgin drink. This has led me on a mission of creating simple syrups flavoured with all kinds of things from coffee to orange zest and from chai tea spices to apples. If you choose to try some of your own creations, Serious Eats will give loads of hints on how to infuse spirits, Toned and Fit gives some great tips on what and how to infuse fruits into water, and about.com gives a list of recipes for simple syrup infusions using heat, or go to Carey’s Reclaiming Provincial blog to see how she uses a cold infusion method to make strong bright fruit and herb syrups.
From what I have read, the pros of doing these infusions yourself is more natural flavours, more options than you would find in your local stores and the cost is much less. All you need is sugar, a pot, knife, grater, peeler, fine wire mesh strainer and storage containers. Seems like mason jars are the best bet – less costly and don’t absorb flavour. But they lack a bit of elegance. Buying bottles however adds to the cost and from my experience the cooler the bottle the more it costs. So what are your alternatives? Muddle and strain. Faster, simpler, but not the same. Nope.
So I am embarking on yet another infusion experiment, working on the list from part one.
Apple Jack Syrup Infusion
First up is Apple Jack or Apple Brandy. Turns out this is pretty easy to make, but normally takes about three weeks to infuse the apples into the brandy and wine. Since I wasn’t using brandy, I made a simple syrup instead, and added a dash of brandy extract at the end to give it it’s aged flavour. I found the concept for DIY applejack from wikiHow.com and altered the recipe as follows:
- 2 cups green apples, peeled and chopped really thin
- 3 cinnamon sticks
- 1 1/2 cup water
- 2 1/2 cup sugar
All Spice Dram Infusion
Next, I researched what is All spice Dram. Serious Eats to the rescue! Turns out it’s rum based, no problem, just pull out the imitation rum and omit the rum. Here is what I did:
- 2 1/2 cup water
- 1/4 cup all spice berries*
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2/3 cup brown sugar
- 4 tablespoons imitation rum.
While this doesn’t have the kick from the booze, it has a lot of flavour from the spice, and in most cases the recipes is calling for a few drops – so the booze isn’t the essential part. By infusing the spices like a tea before putting in the sugar, I got a nice concentrated taste to the syrup and probably would not even bother with the rum extract in the future.
Walnut Infusion Experiment
Remember those roasting nuts in the oven? They were to try to create a walnut flavoured syrup – which will either rock or be terrible I figure. Verdicts still out, as I wait for this to infuse. What I have done is find out how to infuse walnuts in oil, and then transfer that concept to syrup. Original recipe from Food.com. Process is to boil the nuts, stain the liquid, roast the nuts, smash them and then infuse them. As nuts are oil based this may or may not work with syrup but I couldn’t see wanting oil for a cocktail or mixed drinks. What did I do to alter the recipe? Well…
- 3/4 cup walnuts
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup white sugar
Drop nuts in boiling water and boil for 3 minutes. Strain reserving liquid. Spread nuts onto a baking sheet and roast at 350 F for 15 minutes (until golden brown). Remove from oven, cool, place in a ziplock bag and bash with a rolling pin. Pour into mason jar or other 500 mL container. Meanwhile, add sugar to reserved liquid and heat to dissolve sugar completely. Pour over nuts, let cool and store. How long? Not sure, but I am giving it 2 days and then will test to see if this was a great idea or a complete failure.
Next up: Juicing with no blender. In order to get the kick in an apple drink, and without investing in a juicer, I looked up how to juice with my blender. Turns out it’s not that hard. I found the instructions for juicing on chalkboard mag.com. The equipment is simple: a good blender, a fine wire mesh strainer, a wooden spoon & a bowl to catch the juice.
Apple Sour Recipe
Quarter the apples, with skins on, cut out the cores and chop into thumb size bits. Fill blender with apples and add lemon juice. Don’t forget this step! Lemon juice BEFORE blending makes sure that the apples don’t brown.
Start blender on lowest setting, chop by pulsing until apples are finely chopped. Turn to next setting and blend until the apples are moving freely through the blades without help. Increase speed and continue until you get to top speed and the apples are pulp.
Pour apples into strainer over the bowl, and use the back of your wooden spoon to push and squeeze all juice out of the pulp. The juice will be a nice green colour.
I decided to take the remaining pulp add just enough water to cover (about 1 cup) and bring to a simmer on medium low, this way I got a little more flavour out of the apples, and more of the sour out of the skins. Once the apples pulp had lost the green tint (about 10 minutes) I removed from heat and poured again into my strainer. I tried this liquid, found it lacked the sweetness of the first batch, but had a nice kick, so I simply poured the second press in with the first and sealed up the juice for later. Since the juice is fresh, it won’t last long and needs to be refrigerated.
Next blog: the drink mixing!