The Frugal Hostess had a busy weekend, so busy that she forgot to post this yesterday! So, please enjoy a special Tuesday edition of Make It Yourself Monday.
Fair Reader, you may remember that The Frugal Hostess mentioned making vanilla and vinegar for holiday gifts. This, along with comments from reader Liza's, set TFH off on a bender of booze-making. Here are some of the things she made:
1. Vanilla: Nothing could be easier. Buy the cheapest vodka you can find. Pour some out into a jar. Shove in a bunch of vanilla beans. [Vanilla beans are expensive, but this is the cheapest place to get them - only $20 per pound!] Use a funnel to fill the bottle up with as much as you can of the vodka you poured out. Stick in basement or back of closet for a few months (four to six). Decant into little bottles, make cool labels, and give as gifts. This is really the best vanilla you will ever taste.
2. Vinegar: Save all of the dregs of your bottles of red wine. TFH understands that you usually drink all of your wine and doesn't blame you. However, you might try pouring half a cup into a jar for a few weeks (days? You wino!). When you have a good amount, cover the top with a coffee filter, paper towel, or piece of cheesecloth and hide in basement or dark closet. After six months, you will have vinegar. Please note that you won't want to add more wine after you've started, as it will prolong the amount of time it takes to vinegar-ize. Just keep saving the wine in a different container, and start a new vinegar when you have enough. A jar or crock with a spout is good for making vinegar, since you can use the spout to pour off what you need. Also, The Frugal Mother recommends filtering one's vinegar through a coffee filter, but The Frugal Hostess is just rebellious enough to have ignored that advice. This is another thing that is cool to bottle and give as gifts.
3. Limoncello and other infused boozes: Also super easy. TFH followed a recipe for the limoncello and then modified it to make other stuff. It will be ready in about six more weeks, so stay tuned for an update. Essentially, you put your flavoring agent (lemon zest, leftover limes food-processed to death, and dried apricots are currently brewing) into a jar of cheap, nasty vodka. Let these sit for two weeks, shaking daily. After that, make simple syrup (equal parts water and sugar boiled into a syrup), and add to vodka that has been drained of flavoring agent. You can also add flavors to the simple syrup, such as lemon juice for the limoncello. Time will tell if this turns out to taste good!
4. Ginger beer: Beer is a stupid name for this, in The Frugal Hostess's humble opinion. It is non-alcoholic and has no bubbles. In fact, it tastes sort of like poison until you mix it up, at which point is turns delicious. But TFH gets ahead of herself. Peel a bunch of fresh ginger. This is supposedly an easy thing to grow, but TFH hasn't tried yet, so she bought about two pounds of it. Once peeled, cut into uniform pieces (you know, just so they'll fit in the Cuisinart; don't kill yourself over it). Put in food processor with one cup of water and process like crazy. Then, and this is the messy/annoying part, scoop the pulp into a mesh sieve positioned over a bowl. Using a plastic scraper or spoon, press down on the pulp to push out all the juice, which is - strangely enough - bright yellow! It smells so good, too. You should do this two or three more times (process with cup of water, squeeze out juice). You'll get a lot more juice than you expect, so have a large container for it. (TFH filled a handle-sized vodka bottle and a large jar.) Add one cup of fresh lime juice and three cups of sugar, then shake it up. You're done! However, it will be very strong, so here is TFH's recommendation for consuming. Fill a tall glass with crushed ice. Pour in a quarter cup of ginger beer, and add two ounces of dark rum. Stir, then fill the rest of the glass with soda water. Garnish with a lime. Enjoy!
Ginger beer recipe modified from "Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It" by Karen Solomon.
Photos by The Frugal Hostess.