Just as the leaves begin to change each year, my kitchen pantry starts to fill with jars of jewel-colored liquids infusing with fruit.
These fruit-infused vodkas sit in my pantry from the end of summer until the winter holidays. Depending on what's available locally, I'll infuse everything from elderberries and huckleberries to peaches, plums and pears. Over the years, this ritual has become a nice way to celebrate the end of another growing season. Months later, we enjoy having a small glass of summer sunshine in the dead of winter.
Since late-August, I've added to my pantry as different fruits came to the market. I started with blackberries, strawberries, peaches and blueberries, as you can see above.
But I've since added delightful heirloom apples and plums (see above), which came from an abandoned pioneer homestead and still look remarkably healthy despite little attention. I've also added sweet shelley berries, which taste like grapes. And I'm determined to get a batch of pear vodka going soon.
Would you like to start your own end-of-summer tradition? Here are ideas to get you started:
1 bottle of vodka
(I recommend Skye, because it doesn't have a strong flavor)
1 large, clean jar with tight-fitting lid
fresh fruit (preferably, local and in season)
Wash, dry and chop fruit; discard bruised parts
Fill jar with fruit
Pour vodka into jar until it nearly reaches top
Make sure vodka covers fruit
Store in a cool, dry place; avoid direct sunlight
Shake jar regularly
Steep at least two months or longer
Timing: Herbs, spices, leaves and flowers only need a week or so to infuse. But fruit can take several months to nearly a year to bring out its true flavor. I allow my fruit vodkas about two to three months to sit, and they taste just fine. Just be sure to shake the jars often to stir everything up well.
Straining: When you're ready to filter the infusion, strain the fruit through a fine-mesh strainer into a bowl. Be sure to push down hard on the fruit to release all the good juices. Then toss the fruit, and pour your concoction through a funnel into a clean bottle with a tight-fitting cap to prevent oxidation. Look for unusual bottles to package your infusions. Most important is that bottles are absolutely clean before use.
Some folks like to add a sugar syrup to their infusions. But we prefer them without sugar here.
Here's an excellent source for making vodka infusions, including other recipes and instructions for sugar syrups. Enjoy!