Have you noticed the seemingly unstoppable home-made and DIY trends out there? Everybody is at it, from tv programmes like Kirstie’s Homemade on Channel 4 to places like Drink, Shop, Do where you can learn how to crochet with a glass of wine (in the sense that you drink the wine while you learn to crochet, not that you learn to use a glass of wine to do the actual crocheting). Recessions do have a good side to them , I guess they focus us on what we want to spend our money on. Why would I give Ikea my hard earned money for a chest of drawers made of plastic and currently residing in another 3 million homes across the planet when I can bring my grandmother’s solid oak one back to life with a bit of clever sanding and a few links of paint? I have to admit that I am rubbish at that kind of thing so I do, begrudgingly, hand my cash over to Ikea. What I am pretty good at, though, is DIY in the kitchen so that’s where my economies go. If you follow this blog you’ll know that I’m quite keen on a bit of home-made food.
This year the arts & crafts frenzy has inspired me to venture out into unknown territory and have a go at making my own liqueurs. I’ve never made anything like this before. I’m not sure why as I lived in Italy for more than a decade where everyone makes their own and many of my friends would never dream of buying Limoncello. Most of them have recipes passed down by their grandmothers. One of my friends will only use lemons from her garden in Amalfi whilst another swears by the Sicilian ones her aunt ships to her in Rome. Another friend scorns tradition and makes a crema di limoncello using milk in the process to make a deliciously smooth and creamy lemon sherbert like drink. Why would I give some big drinks manufacturer my hard earned money for a bottle of Limoncello which tastes like washing up liquid and glows in the dark, considering that I don’t mind a bit of chopping and mixing?
I’m actually not a big fan of Limoncello and the only lemons I have access to are of the supermarket variety so I cast around for other flavour ideas. Scouring the internet, and my favourite recipe website, Tastespotting, I came across recipes for home-made ginger and coffee DIY liqueurs, both by Marcia Simmons on Serious Eats. I like all things ginger, especially in drinks – Crabbies is my current favourite so I love the idea of a ginger liqueur that I can add to everything from a hot lemon and honey drink (my version of a lemsip) to vanilla ice cream. And although I’m not an avid coffee drinker I do like coffee flavoured stuff and I have a particular attachment to Caffe Sport Borghetti, another very sweet and syrupy Italian liqueur, since I first got drunk on it aged 16 on holiday. I love the idea of adding a shot of coffee liqueur to a coffee and walnut cake and can’t wait to stir it into a hot chocolate – a sort of boozy up-side-down moccacino.
As I write, I have two jars lurking in the back on my pasta cupboard, the ingredients steeping away and working their magic. One pot has a good quality rum and a demerera sugar syrup in it with slices of fresh ginger, a vanilla pod and some orange peel. The other one looks like a murky swamp swirling with ground expresso, more sugar, and more vanilla in brandy. Soon, the contents of the jars will be filtered through a couple of coffee filters into pretty little bottles and I will have two new ingredients in my larder and a couple of handy presents for ginger and coffee lovers in my life.
Ahhh! There’s nothing like a bit of homemade. What are you going to make yourself this year instead of handing over your hard earned cash to a multibillion dollar corporation?