Project: Amaretto

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Happy New Years!

Ready for some more booze?

I know, I know we’ve all sworn off booze, chocolate, cookies, cakes and candy for the rest of 2013 and we are going to be the picture of health from now until next December.  I know that’s how I’m feeling right now… but in a month I have a feeling in one month I’ll be back to normal and ready to some fun. That just happens to be how long it takes to make Homemade Amaretto.

Here’s the bad news.  One of the ingredients took me a long time to find.  Apricot Kernels.  Have you ever heard of them?  They are essentially apricot seeds and they look like small almonds.  But they are controversial because they contain small amounts of cyanide.  So when eaten in excess (or when an animal like a dog gets into them… mine are stashed way in the back of my cupboard) they CAN be lethal.  On the other hand they are also used in some experimental cancer treatments. (Gotta love Wikipedia.)  But in this recipe, we are using a small amount as flavoring so I think we’ll be okay.

I after checking at about 4 local spice shops, I gave up on finding them locally and turned to Amazon.  Six weeks later they arrived, shipped from Estonia!  Estonia!  Do you know where that is?  Wikipedia tells me it is south of Finland, north of Latvia and to the west of Russia.

The rest of the ingredients are easy: lots of almonds, dried apricots, a few cherries, brandy and vodka. You just chop up all of the fruit and nuts, put it in a jar and pour the booze on top.  Then let it sit for 4 weeks, shaking the bottle every so often.  I just left mine on a dark park of my kitchen counter and shook it a out once or twice a week.

After 4 weeks, you drain everything through a double layer of cheese cloth.  Then squeeze as much as possible out of the cheese cloth.  This was harder than I expected.  I really had to use my muscles, so not a drop was wasted.

Then you filter it again through a flat-bottom coffee filter.  I had to have Jacob steal me a couple from work.  It takes about 5-6 hours to filter and at the end you are left with a gross sludge.

Finally, add more vodka and a simple syrup made with vanilla and almond extract and drink!

So… how does it taste?

Really great.  At first, i as unhappy with the taste, it had a harsh vodka flavor.  But after letting the bottle rest for about a week, it was excellent.  The flavor mellowed and in a taste test with Disoronno, we couldn’t tell the difference!  I’ve been pouring a shot over ice and adding the juice of half a lemon, for a makeshift Amaretto Sour.

Here’s the reciepe if you want to make it yourself:

HOMEMADE AMARETTO

From Chow.com

For the macerating mixture:

1/2 cup coarsely chopped dried apricots

3/4 cup bottled or purified water

2 cups vodka (get a mid-range bottle if you can swing it.  You’ll taste it.)

1 3/4 cups whole, skin on coarsely chopped almonds

1 cup brandy

1/4 cup coarsely chopped apricot kernels

1/4 cup coarsely chopped dried, unsweetened cherries

To finish the liquor:

1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup bottled or purified water

1 cup vodka

2 teaspoons almond extract

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

INSTRUCTIONS:

For the macerating mixture:

1) In a 2-quart jar with a tight fitting lid, soak the apricots in the bottled or purified water until they’re rehydrated and most of the liquid is absorbed, about 3 hours.

2) Add the remaining ingredients in the jar, cover and shake,  Place in a cool dark place for 4 weeks, shaking once a week.

3)  After 4 weeks, line a medium fine-mesh strainer with two 13×15 inch pieces of cheese of ultrafine cheese cloth and place over a large bowl.  Drain the contents of the jar through the cheese cloth and into the bowl.  Press on the solids, then gather the corners of the cheese cloth and squeeze the solids to extract as much liquid as possible.  (Be careful not to let any solids drop into the bowl.)  Discard the cheese cloth and reserve the liquid.

4)  Rinse and dry the strainer and place it over a second large bowl.  Set a flat-bottomed paper coffee filter inside the strainer and pour the reserved liquid into the filter.  (Be careful not to spill into the bowl.)  Let the liquid filter undisturbed until all of it has passed through and only a sludge-like beige film is left in the filter, about 5 hours.  Remove the strainer, discarding the filter.  Measue the liquid in the bowl- you should have about 1 3/4 to 2 cups.  (The amount of liquid will determine how much sugar syrup you’l add later.)  Return the liquid to the bowl.

To finish the liqueur:

1)  While the macerating mixture is filtering, make the sugar syrup.  Place both sugars and the bottled or pruified water in a small saucepan set over medium heat, stirring until the sugars have dissolved, about 5 minutes.  Remove from heat and let cool to room temperture.

2)  Add the vodka, almond extract and vanilla extract to the reserved filtered liquid and stir to combine.  Add about half the sugar syrup and taste the liqueur.  Depending on how much filtered liquid you have, and how sweet you like your amaretto, you may want to add more or all of the syrup.  Stir to combine.  Transfer to a 1-quart containter with a tightfitting lid or small individual containers and store in a cool, dark place for up to 6 months.

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