Method

Fruit liqueurs are an acceptable replacement for grape wine of medium strength and may be prepared from any kind of berries or fruit as follows: First, it is crucial that berries be ripe, clean, and free from green leaves or roots (old or crushed berries, provided they are not moldy, will not spoil the liqueur). If apples are used, they should be sour, not sweet, and cut into pieces small enough to fit through the neck of the bottle. Second, good spirits are essential; if not French brandy, then distilled vodka with the strength of 25 degrees of Gess* [Hess] must be used, otherwise the fruit liqueur will have a nasty odor.

Add a suitable amount of clean, ripe berries or fruit to a large glass bottle or carboy. Cover the berries with spirits (use distilled vodka if French brandy is not available) until you have ⅓ more liquid than berries; for example, if the berries fill ⅔ of the bottle, fill the remaining ⅓ of the bottle, to the very top of its neck, with vodka. Cover the bottle with a good strong cloth, tie it with a cord, and seal the ends. Set the bottle of liqueur in a window with a southern exposure, that is, on the sunny side of the house, and leave it there for 2 or 3 months, shaking it every 3 or 4 days. The length of time (2 or 3 months) depends on the ripeness of the berries or fruit and their quantity. The riper the berries and the more of them, the less time needed. For instance, if only very ripe berries or fruit are used, and vodka covers the fruit by the height of only two fingers, the time may be shortened even to 1½ months.

After standing, the fruit liqueur must be refined or strained. Line a clean funnel with a piece of cotton, cover the top with a cloth, and strain, pouring directly from the carboy into smaller bottles that were prepared beforehand. Should the fruit liqueur still be cloudy, strain it again in the same manner, but this will happen very rarely if only clean berries were used and if all the fruit liqueur was passed through a piece of cotton. Fruit liqueur prepared this way is still quite strong; to use in place of grape wine, it should be diluted by adding 1 bottle of water for every 3 to 4 bottles of strained liqueur.

Sweeten the liqueur, or add syrup, as follows: make a syrup, using from ¼-⅓ lb sugar, broken into small pieces, for each bottle of liqueur (including the additional water). That is, add the sugar to a good tin-plated saucepan large enough to hold all the liqueur. Pour in only enough water to dissolve the sugar, and place on the fire. When the sugar dissolves and comes to a boil, immediately add the liqueur, including the water used to dilute it, to the boiling syrup. Keep on the fire until the mixture barely begins to boil. Immediately remove the saucepan from the fire and transfer the contents to a stoneware or glazed bowl to cool.

When the liqueur has cooled, it is ready to be used. The liqueur must first be bottled, corked, and sealed, and then it may be kept as long as you like. A little plaque with a number and description should be attached to every bottle of liqueur, sparkling beverage, or syrup. To keep track of how many remain, always use the highest-numbered bottle first. The sugar required per bottle, from ¼ to ⅓ lb, depends on the taste of the prepared liqueur and still more on the berries that were used. For example, black currants and cloudberries (from Archangel province) require less sugar than other berries—not more than ¼ lb per bottle. The liqueur from these berries (especially cloudberries) is very tasty. If only ripe berries and good vodka are used, the liqueur will be exactly like old Fiungarian wine** in both flavor and bouquet [sic].

The very best fruit liqueurs are made from cloudberries, black currants, cherries, raspberries, red currants, lingonberries, plums, and rowanberries. Gather the latter in the fall after the first frost; pick them over and add them to a carboy. Add vodka as indicated above and set in a window, but best of all on a cupboard in a heated room for 2 or 3 months.

*“Gess” is a unit of measurement denoting the strength of alcohol, named after the chemist Academician German Ivanovich Gess (1802–1850).

**Hungarian wine, which here I assume means Tokay wine, was a favorite of the Tsars and was held in the highest repute during the nineteenth century.

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