In his first blog, Gintleman Jack is playing with flavours for Valentine’s Day.
It’s Valentines Day, to some of you a day of love, joy and happiness. To others, a day of chocolate and self indulgence. To a few, a day of self pity due to a religious festival you haven’t had a chance to celebrate since the age of six, so you just carry on as if it doesn’t exist, whilst whining that everyone is so happy even though it’s been commercialised and is just another way for corporate companies to strangle more money out of you so the CEOs can get a bigger bonus at the end of the year, whilst they laugh at the misfortune of others from upon high… But I digress.
With everything going on this week there should be a pethera of ingredients floating around. So, all these interesting flavours, things you don’t always have lying around. What are you going to do with what’s left over? Those strawberries that have gone just a bit TOO soft, those Cocoa Nibs from the cake you attempted to bake? That little bit of duck fat left over from those roasties that had to be perfect? Surely we have to use them up? Sustainability, after all, is the name of the game these days. So how can we use all of these small bits and bobs before they go off and need throwing out?
What could be more impressive when your friends come over than giving them something YOU have made, be at a cocktail or spirit for them to sip on, or some outstanding food. By making your own, you can create something truly unique, and it helps out with the idea that we shouldn’t be wasting things. It’s a win win!
Now all these techniques revolve around one idea. Maceration. Put simply, throwing something in a jar with booze and shaking.
Now of course, like everything, there is a bit more to it than that! First of all, decide on what you want to make. Liqueurs (sipping straight or in cocktails), flavoured spirits (mixing, sipping and cocktails – think rhubarb gin), bitters (baking and cocktails).
We’ll start with flavoured spirits. By far the easiest way of gaining flavour (we shall go into fat washing later), it is as simple as cutting up want you want to flavour with and putting it in a Kilner jar with what you want to flavour. Simple right? Shake each day and give it a little taste, when you’re happy strain out the liquid and voila! If you like, make a note of how much you put into how much and you can make the same thing time after time! Experiment, I currently am making samphire infused gin. I have left over samphire, so why not?
Bitters, as the name suggests, are rather bitter. A complex flavouring that can add flavour to a multitude of dishes or cocktails, normally the bitter flavour comes from wormwood (used in vermouth production) or quinine (the stuff that flavours tonic water). Take several different flavoured spirits and mix them together with a bittered spirit. Easy enough to do, just mix slowly to get the right amount of each flavour! These can be used to add depth into cocktails, but also can be used in baking, I’ve done orange and chocolate bread, simply by adding a couple of dashes of bitters to my dough!
Liqueurs, sweet and flavoursome, add to a glass of prosecco, use to make your favourite cocktail or even bake with it (Duck Infused with Cassis is amazing). Let’s say you want to make a chocolate liqueur. Do as before, macerate a cocoa nibs in gin, and take some more cocoa nibs, mix them with sugar (a little bit of water as well as they don’t contain any liquid). The sugar draws out the flavour of the cocoa, creating chocolate flavoured sugar. Once again this takes a couple of days, but once done, add water and gently heat to create a syrup. Then just blend the syrup and your flavoured spirit to create a liqueur! Two things to mention, I would advise two parts sugar to one part water for your syrup and a Liqueur contains a minimum of 100g of sugar per litre, more than 200g makes it a cremè.
As I said before, I’ve done a samphire gin as something a bit more different, I’m obsessed with using a bit more obscure, may it be using Kirsch instead of the standard maraschino, fructose rather than sucrose or my project of using and keep using bergamot all year round that I will be starting later on in the year. Variety maketh life. The gin I created was relatively simple, 6:1 standard London Dry Gin to cut and slightly pressed samphire. This was a quick 24 hour infusion that added a fresh plant flavour, as well as adding the synoptical saltiness of samphire. If you’re looking for something fresh and interesting for spring, I can suggest nothing more than a samphire infused White Lady;
50ml Samphire Infused Gin
25ml Lemon Juice
12.5ml Rich Sugar Syrup
1 egg white
Double shake and strain into a chilled Coupè