A Brief Update on the Potent Potables
Faithful readers of this site will remember that during the summer I began work on a couple of alcoholic beverages: clementine ratafia and vin de noix. All of the former and some of the latter have been bottled and shelved, after a taste test in which they earned the anapestic seal of approval. V. liked them, too.
Since I didn't post the ratafia recipe earlier, I'm going to post it now.
1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 cinnamon stick
16 fluid ounces vodka
6 ounces granulated sugar
Bruise the coriander seeds and break the cinnamon stick into several pieces and put them in the bottom of a 24- or 32-ounce glass jar.
Cut the clementines in half and juice them. Pour the juice into the jar.
Remove the fruit and membrane from the peel and cut the peel in strips. Add the strips to the jar.
Add the vodka and the sugar to the jar, screw the lid on it, and shake it well. Put it away in your pantry, and shake it occasionally.
After about two months, strain and bottle the ratafia.
When I first put the ingredients into the jar, I used only four tablespoons of sugar because I didn't want the ratafia to be too sweet. I thought better of that later, and I added enough additional sugar to bring the total amount to six ounces a couple of weeks ago. It had all dissolved when I checked it tonight, so I bottled it. Six ounces turned out to be just about right. The bitterness from the clementine peels balances the sugar very well. The taste is really not very much like anything else I've tasted. The ratafia is definitely cloudy. I am sure that I could make it clear if I wanted, but I prefer to think of it as analogous to the unfined Gewurztraminer that I bought when I was out in Northern California and that arrived at the house this past week. The ratafia certainly doesn't taste cloudy.
When you go to throw away the peels and spices that are caught in your strainer, you will want to do something else with them because they smell really, really good. I couldn't think of anything. If it had been Christmas, I would perhaps have used them to make some spiced wine. If it were colder, I might have just boiled them in a little water to send the aroma through the rest of the house.
I am presently experiencing an unexpected shortage of empty wine and liquor bottles. This is perhaps due to our having tried the Black Box Merlot as our vin de table for the past week or two. It makes a very good table wine, and you certainly can't fault the price, but it leaves no empty bottles in its wake. In addition to drinking wine that comes from a plastic bag, I have not yet had the energy to cut up the fruits for my black cake. The cutting up is not such a big deal, but the finding a suitable container to macerate them in as well as space for that container to sit is something that I've not yet accomplished. As a result, the two rum bottles and the two Manischewitz Concord Grape wine (I know, I know, but that's what Laurie Colwin said they use in Jamaica) bottles are not freed up. The upshot is that I only had one empty wine bottle in which to put some vin de noix this evening. I will have to fix that soon because I don't think it will benefit from any further maceration. (Of course, the container that currently holds the vin de noix would be the ideal container to macerate my black cake fruits in. A detailed statement of the Catch 22 inherent in this situation is left as an exercise to the reader.) It has already picked up plenty of tannin from the immature black walnuts, and, if anything, it errs slightly on the side of too much, so I would just as soon not give it the opportunity to pick up any more of that particular flavor.
Nonetheless, the vin de noix is pretty good. To me it tastes most like a cross between a robust red table wine and a good but inexpensive port. It does have a fair amount of sugar in it, though I used only 2/3 of what the recipe called for. It is possible that the extra sugar would have balanced out some of the tannin, but it is equally possible that I would have ended up with cough syrup, and I have certainly avoided that horror.
Both the ratafia and the vin de noix will make excellent choices to sip at the end of a meal. I will likely end up giving much of the vin de noix away, seeing how I have a lot of it, and I would likely only drink a little at a time. Also, if I don't give it away this year, I won't get to make it again next year, and I have already begun to think of ways to improve the vin de noix. I am not sure that I want to tinker further with the ratafia recipe. It is possible that a small amount of another spice could be added during the maceration period, but it doesn't really taste like it lacks anything right now. In any case, I have many months to change my mind and change it back again. And there is no doubt that I will do so.