27 November 2015

CHASING THE FLAVORS OF JUL

courtesy of www.dphtrading.dk
It's that time of the year! 
Yes, it's time to infuse some of nature's water into the warm caramelized colors of jull. My yearly goal is to always find a nice hue that resembles Aalborg Jubilaeum Akvavit - my favorite snaps.  You will notice should you decide on making more than one that the colors will begin to subtly change in just a few days. Once you have assembled all the ingredients every morning you will turn the still waters in the bottles upside down with a good shake so their contents distribute their rich flavors and then, are returned to rest and repeat in another 3-5 days.
botanical flavors
This quest may have you wondering...but, there is some reason in this madness of mine that I am sharing with you.  Having attended many a Danish celebration has given me a true awareness of the many varieties of akvavit that now exists. It may be just simple economics that has given way to my favorite akvavit being no longed exported to the US. But, it has given me impetus to understand and appreciate this part of my heritage even more. Whatever the true cause of what I will call the 'great embargo of 2009', I will do my best to find a comparable homemade substitute of my favorite water from the vine.  This little experiment will give you great delight in discovering the care and patience in producing a homemade version for someone stateside to enjoy.


So, let me share how this bottled batch was born.  First, all my Danish cookbooks (both in English and Danish) hit the kitchen counter.  There I went through each seeing what was available in background and recipes.  These I will list for your reference. Then, I went online and searched in both English and Danish databases/blogs/websites for additional recipes.  I have to tell you there were more recipes it seems than possible to try.  But, at least...they have become part of my own database and will then become part of this adventure that I am sharing with you.

With the first hurdle of finding recipes completed, I had to concentrate on the second most important part of this experiment, the ingredients. These all referred to choosing a liquid base ingredient with ingredients to flavor it.  In most Danish recipes the base ingredient that was used was unflavored 'Brændevin', which is general term for beverage distilled from potatoes, grain or in the past wood cellulose. Akvavit and vodka are derived from this same process.  Given this knowledge, I went online again and searched out potato vodkas and found it mainly a Polish product with some interesting commentary.  It seems in the world of vodka, the potato distilled version is viewed with little respect; except, Chopin Vodka.  Otherwise, the impression was one of basement brew.  Well, I did not need to enjoy a well-priced polished vodka for it's flavor alone.  So, I decided on this first endeavor to purchase some basic everyday polish potato vodka, 'Monopolowa' 750ml for a mere $12/bottle.  Purchase as many 500ml bottles as you may want to experiment. 

Below I have included the four recipes that I made in the past. I hope you will enjoy these as I have and remember to modify them as you think your palette might be pleased. 



DIRECTIONS for all Recipes

Open the vodka bottle, add all the remaining ingredients, and cover tightly.

Let stand in a cool, dark place for 2 to 3 weeks, shaking every 3 or 4 days – how long you let it sit depends on how strong you want it, so taste it after 2 weeks to see if you want to let it go longer.


When it’s as strong as you’d like, strain the solids through a sieve and discard them, then transfer the aquavit back into the bottle or unless otherwise, directed.

To serve: place your aquavit in the freezer until chilled and serve in 1 ounce tall glasses....or you might find that your homemade snaps...tasted best served at room temperature.

    ::FLASK ONE::
    Herbal Snaps / 'Kryddersnaps'

    (1/2 recipe) 
    Ingredients
    1-2 large spring of thyme
    10-12 dry whole cloves*
    1 tbsp tsp anise seed
    1 liter potato vodka


    ::FLASK TWO

    Basic Citrus Snaps
    (1/2 recipe)
    Ingredients
    2 tsp. caraway seeds 
    2 tsp. anise seeds (or 2 star anise) 
    1 whole clove* 
    peel from 1/2 orange - no white rind
    1 liter potato vodka


    ::FLASK THREE

    Andreas Viestad's Mock Aquavit Recipe
    (use 1/2 recipe)
    Recipe adapted from "Kitchen of Light: New Scandinavian Cooking with Andreas Viestad" by Andres Viestad. Prep time includes infusion.
    Ingredients
    2 teaspoons caraway seeds
    1 teaspoon fennel seed
    2 teaspoons dill seeds
    2 star anise or 2 tsp anise seed
    1 tablespoon coriander seed
    1 whole clove*
    1 cinnamon stick, 1-inch long (optional)*
    2 teaspoons cumin seeds (optional)
    1 liter potato vodka


    ::FLASK FOUR
    Organic Julesnaps
    (full recipe)
    Ingredients
    2 organic orange - grated peel...use large grater
    50 g Organic cane sugar
    1 stk Organic cinnamon*
    5 Organic cloves*
    2 stk. Organic vanilla pods
    1/4c Fresh or 1/8c dried Juniper berries*
    500ml potato vodka

    Add grated orange peel to a cookie sheet and sprinkle with sugar. 
    Bake low 150F for about 1hr. Check to make sure peel does not burn.
    Split the vanilla rods and scrape the seeds away. Save pods for decoration.
    Add all ingredients to a large jars. Seal and shake well.



    Personal Note...depending on flavor/strength of ingredients
    see ingredients with *Just strain and remove ingredient that is too strong/overwhelming and return other ingredient to bottle to continue infusing process. Seal and shake well again. 
    • Remove cloves early if they are too strong...they give off their oils first and can overwhelm the brew. 
    • Remove cinnamon early...depending on the recipe you use.
    • Remove juniper berries early...depending on the recipe you use.



    Some Tips and Background

    Collecting the fragrant berries and herbs is part of the adventure, when making homemade aquavit. Herbs can be found everywhere in the Danish countryside, but mostly in the area around the Liim Fiord. Here, in the beautiful, undisturbed countryside between fiord and sea runs “Snapseruten” (the Aquavit Trail). Take a book with good images and descriptions of the plants along with you – or go to www.snapseruten.dk (available in Danish, Swedish and German) and read up on some good tips on precisely where to find the various herbs.

    1. Herbs and berries
    Go out and pick herbs and berries when the morning mist has lifted. The more ripe they are, the more flavoursome. Use a basket for your harvest, clean it and lay the herbs and berries in a lidded jar.

    2. The essence
    To make spiced aquavit, concentrate on the essences. You release essences by filling a jar or empty aquavit bottle with one type of herb or berry, then filling it with BRØNDUMS Snaps or BRØNDUMS Snaps Klar. Put the lid on the jar so it is airtight and allow the essence to extract. The infusion time will vary. As a rule of thumb, fresh and dried herbs should be filtered out after a week at most, while berries, fruits and roots should soak for a week to six months.

    3. Filtering and aging
    When the essence has been extracted, it must be filtered using a coffee filter or cloth. Then pour the purified essence into a decorative bottle and set it aside for aging. As a rule of thumb, the less sweet berries and nuts – juniper and walnuts, for example – improve the longer they are aged. The flavour components will develop, impurities fall to the bottom and certain essences will also take on a beautiful golden hue. On the other hand, nothing is gained by allowing juicy berries like strawberries to age for long.

    4. Taste testing
    Should the essence be allowed to age for longer, or is it ready to drink? In this case there is only one thing to do: Close your eyes, taste it and rely on the sensations in your stomach.

    5. Serving
    Invite family and friends around for homemade aquavit and something tasty from the kitchen. Put the essence on the table and dilute to taste with BRØNDUMS Snaps or BRØNDUMS Snaps Klar. Every essence tastes fantastic on it own, but blending is also allowed. However, flavours can become muddled if you blend too many essences, which makes the aquavit taste of everything and nothing. One or two – and rarely more – herbs and berries that go together well will give the best “little taste”to your good company. Honey can be used to strengthen the flavor.
    [source: unknown...copied years ago]

    PERSONAL NOTE: Since Brøndums Snaps is not readily unavailable in the USA, use potato vodka as the base.


    SKÅL!

    8 comments:

    1. I made my own experiments when Aalborg snaps was no longer available, and what I came up with was much like your Flask 3. The hardest part was waiting. Some of mine was gone before I filtered it. . .

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    2. I am looking forward to making these as gifts! A couple of questions: In Flask 4, do I include the vanilla pod AND seeds in the bottle? Also, what is the proper amount of Juniper berries?

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      Replies
      1. hi pallas...thanks for pointing out these issues to me. see modified post above...i hope i have addressed your questions. also, save the vanilla pods to decorate the bottle once your brew is done.

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      2. Perhaps the website didn't refresh properly? I still don't see an amount of Juniper berries.

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      3. my apologies...it's fixed now : )

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      4. Thank you! I have one more question, just to double check: The other recipes call for 1L of vodka, but the Julesnaps calls for 500ml. The flavors seem SO much more intense (5 cloves! 2 orange peels!) that I wanted to make sure it really was for half a liter of vodka. I can't wait to gift this to my Danish mother-in-law, and I really want to make sure I do it correctly.

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    3. hi pallas...as noted you need to check the flavors every few days to make sure one is not dominating the other. this is the correct ratio as the organic julesnaps is one that is full flavored and needs monitoring. do not feel bad about filtering it out early if you feel one flavor is dominating the others. just discard that one and return the ingredients to the bottle...unless you are satisfied with the flavor you have created. remember...to try one thing before you return the ingredients to the bottle - take a small sample and put it in the freezer to chill and compare it with the room temp one. these infusions have a mind of their own and we each have our own palette for how we like the flavors. some are better chilled while others taste better at room temp. i am very happy that you have taken the challenge. hope these tips helps : )

      ReplyDelete

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