I’m no stranger to a good homemade cordial. J’adore the mix of instant and delayed gratification from the infusing process. Liquors generally need to stew for weeks or even months to fully form and then morph into all sorts of directions over time, but most recipes take mere minutes to come together. And I am instantly attracted to an instant recipe, so it’s no surprise that I typically first tackle cordial recipes in any new cookbook.
While you’ve likely seen my blog posts for tart Rhubarb Cordial, creamy Homemade Baileys and different types of lemon-infused drinks (Limoncello and Meyer Lemon Liquor, where you should leave your vote because I’ll be tasting soon), I perform a lot of experiments that rarely see the light of day. My freezer hosts a few successes. For example, I’m on my last few ounces of a Kumquat Liquor made four years ago that I plan to reproduce the moment I lay my eyes on the perfect specimens.
My cupboard, though, is filled with lots of trials in-process, like a Seckle Pear Infused Vodka that seems to need another zillion years to form and the largest jar of Cherry Bourbon you’ve ever seen due to an impulse buy of organic Washington Bing cherries last June. I sneak a cherry every now and then. You know, chef’s treat.
Earlier this year, I visited Rabelais Books (Portland, Maine) in search of some new cookbooks. Instead of impulsing buying everything in sight, I asked one of the owners, Don, to tell me what he’d buy. He happened to be carrying Jane Lawson’s latest tome, a tribute to cold weather Northern European cuisine with the photography and book design of a modern day 1970s ski lodge. Since the Australian cookbook author’s books are rarely available in the States, I grabbed it fast and have pretty much been in love ever since.
While many favor her recipes for ‘Meatballs with a Vodka Dill Cream Sauce’ – and I do too – she actually has pages and pages dedicated to infused cordials and warming cocktails. My first recipe was her Honey and Saffron Liquor, just in time for a winter visit from Chloe and Dennis (also Eat Boutique contributors). Within a simple seven days, I had a one-liter jar of heaven to sip by the fire (not at one sitting, of course). And now over a month later, the liquor has only gotten better.
Fully formed and completely aromatic, this cordial will be a staple in my pantry and freezer no matter what the season, because I always have a taste for saffron, honey and vodka. (Um, who doesn’t?) And now that spring is springing, I top off a couple tablespoons of this stuff with some Champagne. Sipping my instant cocktail, I feel like, indeed, spring is in the air, almost instantly.
Honey and Saffron Liqueur
Recipe adapted from Jane Lawson’s “Snowflakes and Schnapps”
– 350 g (12 oz/1 cup) honey
– 1/2 vanilla bean, finely chopped
– 1 cinnamon stick
– 10 black peppercorns
– 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
– a small pinch of saffron threads
– 3 strips of lemon zest, white pith removed
– 750 ml (26 fl oz/3 cups) Polish vodka
Put the honey, 125 ml (4 fl oz/ 1/2 cup) water, the vanilla bean, cinnamon stick, peppercorns, nutmeg and saffron in a saucepan and bring just to the boil. Quickly reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, add the lemon zest and set aside to infuse for 20 minutes. Reheat until simmering, then remove from the heat, cool completely, strain, then stir in the vodka. Carefully pour into a sterilized airtight bottle and allow to steep for a week. Serve chilled or slightly warmed.
Makes about 1 liter for sipping or dozens of Champagne cocktails.
A huge welcome and thank you to new Eat Boutique contributor, Jill Chen. Jill is a photographer in Toronto, Canada and photographed this liquor for Eat Boutique. (Her liquor happens to be a bit lighter in color than mine; the color of the honey you use will decide your liquor’s tone. I used a dark clover honey.) Jill Chen also blogs about her homemade urban life and her beautiful chickens, among other topics, at Freestyle Farm.