“What should I get your husband?” I asked my sister on the phone the other night.
“Drink.” she said.
“Anything in particular?”
“No, just drink”
Please don’t think my brother-in-law is some kind of unreformed drunkard – he’s just terribly hard to buy for. I didn’t want to just get a bottle of whisky; he’s quite a connoisseur and I’m not sure what his tastes are. Also, malts are expensive. Gin? Well, Hendricks or Caorunn both are divine. But, you know, maybe not very festive. Also, expensive.
In the spirit of making stuff – which I’m trying to do more and more – I decided to make him a Christmas Spiced Cranberry Liqueur. Here’s how:
2 cups white granulated sugar and 2 cups of water go in a big pan and are slowly warmed until the sugar dissolves. As it warms, add six cloves, a decent bit of cinnamon bark (or some broken up bits from the bottom of the bag) and the peel (no pith) of an orange. I was going to use clementines, but they didn’t seem as well-scented.
Then add a 200g bag of cranberries and cook gently for around 15 or 20 mins until the berries are soft. During this time you’ll hear them gently popping and the kitchen will fill with the mixture’s festive spicy scent. When the berries are soft, cool the mixture a bit (so you don’t crack the jar) then tip the whole lot into a really big jar (I’m using an old glass sweetie jar, like the ones that used to line the shelves of proper sweet shops) – or, conceivably, two middle-sized ones – and top off with vodka, a litre or so. Don’t be daft and use the world’s best vodka for this, just supermarket stuff should be fine.
Lid on, and put in a dark place. Bring it out once or twice a day and shake it. Over the days it should take on a beautiful red colour, and the liquor should improve in taste.
After three weeks (more or less) it should be done. Test it, just to be sure! If it’s ready, then strain the liquid and bottle up beautifully. Don’t chuck out those drunken berries! They’ll make a very adult addition to baking or a boozy ice-cream topping, so I’ll probably jar up some and gift them too.
It will, I hope, be ready by Christmas. I expect it will be tip-top in the bottom of a champagne flute and topped up with fizz. At least, that’s how I’m going to sell it to my brother-in-law.