Picked up our free turkey at Ingles last week. The grocery store runs a promotion every holiday season – buy a certain amount over a certain period of time and you get the bird.  I guess the intention is for you to serve this at a holiday meal, but I like turkey so I cooked it. I used a method described in the latest issue of Saveur. Very simple oven roasting. Great result. Also made some stock that I will save for Thanksgiving gravy.

This time of year is a boon for food fans. I think I’ve picked up and gone through a half dozen holiday issues of different cooking and food magazines. Saveur gets a mention because they have good recipes and travel articles that aren’t overwhelmed by the advertising. Cranberries came up in about all of these. Cranberries are something I’ve always wanted to like but seem to pass on each year when I’m fixing my plate. I think it’s the texture, because I like the smell. They are uniquely American and may have been served at the first Thanksgiving. I wanted to get them into the meal some way so into the vodka they went.

Cranberry infused vodka isn’t a new idea. They are several recipes out there for making it. Most include sugar to make a liqueur. I tend to like things dry so I will have a better base to add things in to. I looked at several cranbery sauce recipes as I considered how to make my vodka. Oranges seem to get added in often. They was also the question of cooking the berries or not. I thought cooking would make it easier to extract the flavors. As you cook cranberries they thicken on there own into a sauce.  I assume that the pectin in the berries is the cause. One risk of infusing a cooked sauce might be another gelled mass like I got with the fig infusion.

Here’s what I’m trying:

Cranberry Orange Infused Vodka

  • 16 oz fresh cranberries
  • zest of 3 oranges
  • 75 cl 40 proof vodka

Cook 12 oz of the berries in a small amount of water until most of them pop, about 4 minutes. Cool, then add all ingredients to the vodka.

It’s been sitting for a week now, getting stirred every day to make sure it doesn’t gel. The smell is great. I will strain before Thanksgiving so it will be ready to serve. I’m thinking of combining it with a little apricot brandy and lemon juice, or maybe some creme de cassis. If it works out, I might try infusing some gin or rum. Watch for follow up –

 

Here’s the follow-up (Nov 22) – I’ve been stirring every day and today it seemed right. Great bright red color and good aroma off the liquid. I strained through a large colander, then into a bottle through a smaller mesh sieve. Rather then deal with the hassleof running it through cheese cloth, I am going to try and let it settle for a few days and then decant of the sediment.

 

Several observations for the next batch: First, the whole cranberries looked exactly like they did when I started. They spent their week and half floating on the vodka, whick I suppose is what cranberries do. The popped berries looked washed out. I take this to mean that the whole ones contributed nothing and could be skipped. Next time I’ll use only 12 oz of fresh berries and cook them all until pooped. Second, the left over fruit pulp makes a not too bad sauce. Add a little water, some sugar to taste and a few fresh berries and simmer for 5 minutes or so. The flavor isn’t terribly strong (a lot of it is in the vodka) but it is still enjoyable. Third, I ended up with a little more volume than I started with. Yeah.

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