Took some of the extra hour from last night’s shift of Daylight Savings to strain out my on-going infusions. One big surprise and a couple of nice treats. Started with the Fig infused vodka. Something completely unexpected happened – it had gelled. The fruit and vodka looked like a jello salad as I got it out of the container. I suppose pectin from the fruit did it.

I ran it through the mesh strainer, then twice through cheese cloth to get back to a liquid. Ended up losing over half of the original volume, 300 ml after starting with 750. The aroma and flavor are very earthy and dominated by the vanilla. Added 30 ml (1 oz) of 2:1 simple syrup to try and make something more palatable. I’ll have to think hard to come up with a use for this one. Skip the vanilla bean next time.

Now for the two pleasant surprises. About the time I set up the fig infusion, I also collect some wild bunch grapes. I see the vines all around our area. They appear to be dioecious (ie, males and females) so you need a fruit bearing female vine for grapes. You also need to find one with fruit you can get to. They grow up trees and seem to get quite high up. I found a couple with fruit I could reach near our neighborhood and one on the main north-south road in town. I checked the vines every few days and tried to get to them  when the fruit was ripe. The bunches ripen unevenly and then are only ripe for a few days before they start to wither. It made it tough to get much fruit. The berries are small and have to be removed from the bunch one grape at a time to seperate ripe ones from the green ones. They are very acidic and have very little sugar. Plus, they have a strong green vegetal aroma. Not unpleasant, just not grape-like. I didn’t hold out much hope for a palatable result, but went ahead and set up an infusion.

The photo shows what I got after two early morning runs to gather what I could from the vine near the busy street. The berries on these were a little larger than the ones near our house. The clusters also seemed to be more evenly ripe than the ones near us. I just got a few odd looks while I set up my step stool on the sidewalk and tried to get all the clusters I could reach.

An aside – when I first saw these a few yeas ago, I really wanted to make wine out of them. One taste of the grape stopped that idea. We have several species of native grapes in this country. The best example of wine made from one variety can be had from Valiant Vineyards. The next best option is to track down a wine made from the Norton (also called the Cynthiana) grape, preferably from Missouri or Virginia.

Back to the topic at hand. I coverd the berries with 80 proof vodka and let them sit for six weeks. The final product is pitch black. It still has the green/vegetal aroma of the original fruit but it seems to have toned down. 

This was strained through wire mesh then cheese cloth. The final product has the strong vegetal aroma, the palate has a nice grape character and a hint of sweetness. It’s a tooth stainer. I had planned to add some simple syrup to help mask any off flavors, but it turns out it didn’t need it.

The final pleasant surprise was the spiced rum. This was a fairly straight foward item to process. Not much sediment. It has a rich brown color, with nutmeg scent on the nose and a little bite of cinnamon on the palate. The vanilla isn’t as noticable as it is in the fig infusion. This one’s a keeper. It should be a great base for Mai Tais, Egg Nogs or other seasonal drinks. We did a side to side tasting with Appleton Estate V/X and prefered the home brew. Cost: $18 for the Appleton’s, around $14 for the home brew (Bacardi used as the base)

Spiced Rum

  • 75 cl bottle of white rum
  • 1 vanilla bean, split
  • 1 nutmeg pod, broken
  • 2 cinnamon sticks

Steep for 1-2 weeks, strain and bottle.

Addendum – Came back to this tonight (Nov 30). I had some extra lime juice from the weekend that I hated to waste-

Spiced Rum Daiquiri

  • 1-1/2 oz spiced rum
  • 1/2 Cointreau
  • 1/2 oz Orgeat
  • 3/4 oz lime juice

Shake and strain. Not bad. You get the vanilla and nutmeg on the nose. The nutmeg gives is a slight bubble-gummy-root-beer taste. That observation lead to a Cinnamom Daiquiri, substituting Goldschläger for the Cointreau, and adding a few dashes of orange bitters. The cinnamon is quite obvious now, but the effect was more harsh. Stick with the recipe above.