I didn’t mean to. I prefer to wait till 20 December for my Christmas preparations, as is traditional in my family. But there are some things that need time to reach perfection. And anyway, I enjoy pottering about in the kitchen.
So yesterday I bought some fresh cranberries and a bottle of vodka. Last time I made cranberry vodka it was far too sweet, but was a perfect late night (after too much wine) shot. So I’m trying it again. And plum brandy (if only because I have brandy in the cupboard and our plum harvest in the freezer).
Cranberry Vanilla Vodka
1/2 vanilla pod
160g caster sugar
You’ll need a kilner jar, larger than a 1l one. I think mine is probably 1.5l, but not entirely sure. Hey, it won’t really matter if your jar is too small, you just won’t be able to fit all the vodka in (so use slightly less fruit and sugar too).
- Here’s the slightly laborious bit, although I find it meditatively soothing. Prick each of the cranberries with a fork, and pop them in the jar.
- After you’ve added a cranberry layer, spoon in some of the sugar, then layer with more pricked cranberries and more sugar. Keep going till you’ve put in all the cranberries and sugar. And I know the pricking seems ridiculous, but really, if you don’t do it the flavour won’t leach out into the vodka so much, and you’ll end up with a disappointing drink, having saved yourself a mere 15 minutes sitting down listening to the radio.
- Now using a sharp knife split the vanilla pod lengthwise, and scrape out the seeds into the jar. Throw the empty pods in too, they still have lots of seeds and flavour left in there.
- Pour the vodka in on top of the fruit layers, seal the lid and give it a shoogle.
- Leave somewhere out of the way, but easy to hand – so it’s not in your way, but you can give it a wee shoogle every day for the next 3 weeks.
- Taste it. If you’d like it sweeter, then make up some basic sugar syrup, with caster sugar and water, and add it to the jar. If you like it as is, then bottle it up and put a pretty label on it.
Follow the basic method for Cranberry Vanilla Vodka. I only had a 1l jar, so I layered plums and soft brown sugar till the jar was about half full. Then I added a star anise and about 1″ cinnamon stick, followed by some brandy. We’ll see how it turns out… I suspect I’ll wish I’d put more star anise in it.
Next weekend I will probably turn my hand to a Stollen. I’ve never made one before, but much prefer stollen to heavy fruitcake. Mind you, I do have a recipe for a Christmas Cake which lasts like a normal cake, but is made of nice light fruit, like apricots instead of all that horrid stuff you usually find in a fruitcake.