Before Christmas, I found a fantastic recipe for making hazelnut liqueur at home. I adore hazelnut liqueur, it’s my favourite drink. The only brand I am aware of is called Frangelico, but it’s really difficult to find in this country (or in the North at any rate) so it made sense to try making some myself. If you’ve never tried it, with a few ice cubes and a dash of Coke, you haven’t lived. Seriously, it’s like drinking Ferrero Rocher. I’m salivating just thinking about it.
The liqueur I made was like nectar from Heaven. It was bliss. I took a few bottles home for friends over Christmas, and very quickly it was all gone. There was also a rather fraught situation where a half litre bottle of liqueur decided to get a little too cozy with my brand-new Kindle. Panicking and flapping ensued. The Kindle survived, and smelled tantalisingly of sweet, roasted hazelnuts for weeks.
To make the liqueur, I needed 2 litres of high-quality vodka as a base. I used Absolut, which can be quite pricy, so I made a mental note to buy it whenever it was next on sale, to rustle up another batch. And this was the week!
The whole process takes over a month, as you have to let the mix ferment for at least 30 days before beginning to filter it. Therefore, there was no time to lose. I was so excited to make some more, that I got cracking on heating the bottles and the vodka before looking for the recipe online. Only to discover…..I couldn’t find the recipe anywhere! NOOO!! If I do find the real recipe, I promise to post it here, as it really is delicious.
I could vaguely remember the general ingredients and process, so I gamely soldiered on.
2 litres Absolut vodka
1 litre caster sugar (the original recipe was US and therefore measured everything in cups. I think the recipe was 1 part sugar to 2 parts vodka, so I poured the sugar into a jug up to the 1 litre mark)
2 vanilla pods
2 tablespoons vanilla essence
500g whole hazelnuts.
1. I spread all the hazelnuts out on a baking tray and toasted at 160C for 5-10 minutes. This loosens the skins and helps them release the flavour. After they are nicely toasted, I poured all the hazelnuts into a clean tea towel and wrapped them up to let them steam for a minute or two, and then shook the tea towel and bashed it around a bit, so that a decent proportion of the skins are removed. You don’t need to remove all of the skins as they will add to the luxurious, caramel colour of the liqueur. Once I’d done this, I then needed to chop them up a bit. I tried blitzing them in the processor, but it didn’t cut them evenly to I resorted to the lo-fi method of simply roughly chopping them with a knife.
2. I heated the 2 litres of vodka and 1 litre of caster sugar up in a pan until the sugar was dissolved. I also thoroughly cleaned a few bottles, rinsed out the suds and placed them in the oven to sterilise, prior to bottling. I didn’t have enough of the proper preserving, Kilner bottles, so I used the old Absolut bottles too.
3. When it was all ready, I poured the chopped, toasted hazelnuts into the hot bottles, added a chopped up vanilla pod to each bottle, and then filled it up with the sugary vodka mix. This is all easier said than done, as the bottles are really hot and it’s a bit tricky to get the nuts in there without either burning yourself or scattering hot nuts all over your kitchen. Expect a mess!
…and this is where it all started to go a bit wrong. You see, I realise that 2 litres of vodka, plus all the other ingredients, will take up more than 2 litres of space. Therefore, I prepared 3 bottles, to take into account the hazelnuts. However, I forgot that the sugar will be taking up more space too. Therefore, after using up all of the nuts and all of the bottles, I was left with a remaining half litre of hot, sugary vodka. Well, it’s not like I was going to allow it to go to waste!
4. I found a half pack of whole almonds in the cupboard, which I quickly threw onto a baking tray and started toasting. When they were done, I chopped them as before and funnelled them into another, hastily prepared hot bottle, and then topped it up with the leftover vodka mix. Hopefully this will turn out ok!
5. As previously mentioned, some of the bottles were not specific preserving bottles. In order to ensure that the old vodka bottles were fully sealed, I placed a small amount of cling film over the neck before tightly closing the lid. As the bottles cool, the cling film will help cause a vacuum, which will preserve the liquid.
So the bottles are done! Now I’ve got to shake them every day for a month, to allow the flavours to percolate gently before filtering. I can’t wait to try the contents!
Has anyone else had success with making nut liqueurs? I’d love to try walnut or pecan, or maybe a nut combination?