Wednesday, November 11, 2009

44 days

I mentioned in my first post that I was testing two recipes for a French cordial called Liqueur 44. The "44" refers to the number of coffee beans and sugar cubes that are added to a a quart of vodka or rum, along with an orange. It also refers to the number of days that the concoction should sit and infuse prior to sampling. So, forty four days have past, and my two brews have been decanted and strained into decorative bottles.

Lest you think I have hopped on the trendy train with home-infused cocktails, this is a traditional European recipe. And while food magazines like to present cordial-crafting as some new idea originating in the far reaches of Brooklyn, it is a time-honored peasant tradition (see the first post of this blog). I will admit this is my first foray into crafting an aperitif with ingredients that do not originate from my garden or a local source. Having just nipped at the results, I can't say I am persuaded to abandon my favored recipes for Thyme Liqueur and Quince Eau-de-Vie. Is it terroir? Likely not. These recipes are just more earthy and more interesting than the flavors of of Liqueur 44. Liqueur 44 is jazzed-up Grand Marnier.

The lighter colored bottle is from a recipe from Saveur. This recipe is the more straightforward of the two -- rum, orange, coffee and sugar. The darker bottle is from Susan Hermann Loomis' essential French Farmhouse Cookbook. It is vodka-based, and adds a vanilla bean and a peeled banana to the infusion. Both are a little cloying, as is store-bought Grand Marnier, if I must be honest. If I make it again, I will cut the sugar. There is not a pronounced coffee flavor in either, but there is indeed something taming the citrus notes in both. If I didn't know it was coffee, I would have guessed chocolate. Loomis' has an additional odd but not unwelcome undertone -- funky, overripe -- probably from the banana that slowly blackened in the vodka over the past month. I don't taste the vanilla bean at all.

I'll give the Saveur bottle away as a holiday gift - it is pleasant, beautiful and likely more welcome than another tin of cookies. Loomis' recipe will stay in my cupboard -by Thanksgiving or Christmas, maybe the funky character will be more prominent. My quince liqueur is still "working" as they say, and this is the recipe I would encourage you to try. Your guests can taste orange flavor anywhere, but quince flavor --pineapple and roses? lets just say quincey-ness-- is special. This drink is called a ratafia, an after-dinner drink, which according to Loomis, comes from the Roman tradition of ending a business deal with a drink -- rata fiat, "deal concluded". I'm not sure how many business deals I will seal with this drink, but many a cheery holiday celebration will be the more so for concluding with it.

Quince Liqueur

2 quinces, grated (including peels and seeds)
1 cup sugar
2 cups white rum

1. Put all ingredients in a jar, close tight and shake hard. Place in a cool, dark place.

2. Shake the jar every few days for five or six weeks. Strain into a bottle and discard the solids. Tastes better after several months of storage.

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