14 December 2009

the looming holiday season

Last year, I experimented with infused rum as a base for mulled wine, which still is in regular use in my household.

So when it finally turned cold in my part of the world (as opposed to rainy), I sought for something similar to experiment with this year. Somewhere, I had read about home-made coffee-liquor, and I decided I would start making some of that.

The first thing that I learned was that coffee and liquorice absolutely don't go together. I had completely misjudged the amount of star anise in one recipe, and the results were... haunting. Actually, that batch was one of vilest things I have ever concocted in my kitchen. Imagine getting an electric shock from your espresso machine, with off-colour afterimages of liquorice floating through your jumbled mind. I still get a numb tingle on the tip of my tongue by even thinking about it, and I had merely tasted half a teaspoon.

Anyway. I had a steep learning curve.

Coffee and vanilla work great together, though, and allspice and pepper add a lovely, complex background. The liquor made with the final recipe below is more spicy than sweet, and in my eyes offers a really great alternative for those moments when you can't decide wether you want a strong schnaps or an espresso after a particularly rich meal. Looking ahead at the looming holiday season, there'll be many of those, I'm pretty sure of that.

This liquor works great when very cold, a little like Jägermeister. You could also mix it with cream for something like Kaluha, or pour it onto your icecream or mix it with hot coffee...

And of course, it makes a lovely small gift for people who basically have everything already. Especially, as it only takes a little less than a week to mature, you could start it today and still have plenty time to find pretty bottles before christmas.
Which actually reminds me that I still need some of those...

digestif de café
(makes a little more than half a litre)

for the infusion
0,7 litre brown rum (40% alcohol)
200g whole roasted coffee beans
3 vanilla pods
1 stick cinammon
1 small star anise
1 teaspoon allspice berries
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns

for the syrup
200g demerara sugar
200 ml water

For the infusion, combine all ingredients in a large, airtight jar and leave to macerate in a cool, dark place for about five days.
Right in the beginning, the coffee beans will float on top of the liquid, so you may need a jar of about 1,5 litre volume to accommodate all without a spill.

After the week, take out all spices and filter the liquid. If you like, you can return the vanilla pods, as they will continue to add their arome without becoming too cloying. Discard the other spices.
Now that the coffee beans have soaked up a good part of the rum, there'l be surprisingly little liquid left, a little less than half a litre with me. It is kind of a shame to throw all the spices away, but the rum is really pungent already.

For the syrup, add the water and the sugar in a small casserole. Bring to a gentle boil and cook for about 10 minutes. Leave to cool.

Sweeten the rum with the syrup according to taste.
I usually use a little more than 100 ml syrup, as I do not want the final product to be too sweet, only sweet enough to make the taste mellow and lasting.

Store in a cool and dark place.
As this is the first time I made this, I have no idea how long it'll keep. Looking at the ingredients, it should keep pretty long, provided it is stored in the dark. 

Serve very cold, on the rocks as a digestiv or mixed with cream in equal parts with a dusting of cocoa for a  velvety dessert-like drink.


Anonymous said...

Can you use the discarded rum-soaked coffee beans for anything?

Reuben Morningchilde said...

Well, if they can be used for anything, I really do not know. As they are soaked in rum, they aren't crunchy anymore, so covering them in chocolate (as I sometimes do with fresh coffee beans) wouldn't really work.

Also, even drying them again wouldn't be of much use as the alcohol in the rum will have taken out much of their taste and caffeine.

So, apart from the classic use as fertilizer, I'd say no. But if you come across something, I'd be really interested to know.

shiao-ping said...

Reuben, that sounds like a very nice combination.

Funny enough with your first try on a liquorice coffee flavor that you used star anise as well. Star anise is said to have superficially similar flavoring compounds as liquorice. Most Chinese do not like liquorice, and yet as early as I could remember, we have been exposed to star anise (as it is one of the key ingredients in the Chinese Five Spices).

I like your combination of coffee, vanilla and pepper very much. I once had a salty peppery chocolate with a oozing soft centre, very fine chocolate. I imagine this flavor combination would work with coffee liquor too.