DIY Liqueurs for Holiday Gifting

All right, weekend warriors, you've got just a couple days left to crank out some last-minute gifts. Here's a few that can be done in the time left, and have seasonal appeal. Ready, set ... GO.

Citric Liqueurs:

Limoncello, found on
The classic lemon liqueur of southern Italy is a ray of sunshine during the dark winter months. It's easy to make, too.
Crema di Limoncello, found on
Crema di Limoncello 
Or try this twist on the classic Italian lemon liqueur, with cream and vanilla. The cream mellows the sweetness and gives it a richer mouthfeel.
Arancello, found on
Citrus liqueurs are not limited to lemon. Try it with oranges, be they standard navels or sanguine blood oranges.
Orange Liqueur, found on
Orange Liqueur 
Triple sec, Gran Marnier, Cointreau ... try your hand at making orange liqueur at home, and give your margaritas a DIY zing.
Vin d'Orange, found on
Vin d'Orange 
Vin d'Orange, a bitter liquor made with Seville oranges, is easy to prepare, requiring the mixing of a few ingredients and allowing it to sit for two weeks to allow the spices and orange zest to infuse the wine and vodka.
Whatevercello, found on
Think outside the lemon box and make liqueurs from whatever citrus you like -- bergamots, grapefruits, pomelos, and kumquats all work great.
Grapefruit Bitters, found on
Grapefruit Bitters 
Mix the natural bitterness of grapefruit with spices like pink peppercorn, cardamom or juniper to make an intriguing bitters that enhances many cocktails.

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Three Things Thursday: Powder Keg

Once again it's Three Things Thursday, where I highlight three things that ran on the site recently that inspired, intrigued or impressed me. This week, I'm focusing on three contributions from dehydrator extraordinaire Urban Nettle. Here's what she's been powdering up.

Red Onion Powder, found on
Red Onion Powder
You've heard of regular onion powder. Now try red onion powder...a beautiful lavender colored seasoning to add that onion sweet/savory tone to whatever dish you'd like!

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Review and Giveaway: Mrs. Wheelbarrow's Practical Pantry

Review and Giveaway: Mrs. Wheelbarrow's Practical Pantry, found on

You know, year over year, more and more books come out in the DIY food space. Every year I am increasingly impressed with the caliber of the content, the inspired ideas and erudite information. (See: Best books of 2012 and 2013.) And just when I think that surely no one could possibly raise the bar any further, BOOM, Cathy Barrow throws down and produces a tome that may make all other DIY and preservation books obsolete. I am not exaggerating. 

You know her from her fabulous blog, Mrs. Wheelbarrow's Kitchen, which surely you found via her many contributions to this site. And of course you know her as the cofounder and driving force behind 2011's Charcutepalooza, wherein dozens, nay hundreds of bloggers sign up to make increasingly sophisticated meat projects at home. In Mrs. Wheelbarrow's Practical Pantry, she brings it all home. Literally.

Barrow is neither a DIY dilettante canning up jars of twee jam, nor a high-minded Martha who touts fussy techniques and fancy presentations. She is a realist, a nuts-and-bolts preserver who doles out plain-English instructions on preserving more or less everything, and then follows it up with real-world uses that anyone can undertake and enjoy. 

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16 Ways to Preserve Cranberries

No other fruit embodies the flavor of fall like cranberries. With their bracing acidity, they form the backbone of all manner of preserved foods, and have applications well beyond the Thanksgiving table. Here's a bunch of ways to use these lovely ruby orbs.

Cranberry Sauce, found on
Cranberry Sauce
The homemade stuff is invariably better than what you buy on the shelf. But if you must have the ridges from the can, then make yours in an empty can to complete the effect. (Image via Food in Jars)
Cranberry Conserve, found on
Cranberry Conserve
Leave it chunky, plus maybe add the hearrty crunch of nuts, for a conserve that adds tooth to the classic sauce. (Image via Stephanie the Recipe Renovator)

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Ways to Put Up Pomegranates

Persephone's pick for a wintertime snack got her an e-ticket to Hades, but these bejeweled fruits have many applications that will take you straight to the heavens. In syrups and liqueurs, jams and jellies, pomegranates are the season's most alluring fruit. 

How to Open a Pomegranate
How to Open a Pomegranate
First thing's first: Before you can get the good stuff out, you gotta get in. Here's how to crack open a pom without turning yourself into a bloody mess, and to extract the sweet-tart juice.
Skip the stuff that's made with corn syrup and red dye. True grenadine is a syrup made from the juice of pomegranates, and its sweet-tart tang brings brightness and life to cocktails. (Image via Arctic Garden Studio.)

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Putting Up Persimmons

Do you know your fuyus from your hachiyas? Persimmons are some of autumn's most tempting fruits. Here's a handful of ways to preserve them.

Persimmon Butter, found on
Persimmon Butter
Don't worry if your fuyus get a little sunburnt. Simply stew the flesh with autumnal spices for a delicious and unusual fruit butter. (Image via Vanessa Barrington.)
Persimmon Chutney, found on
Persimmon Chutney
Fuyu persimmons cooked down with vinegar and spices make a sweet and tangy chutney perfect for a cheese plate or to dress up some roast pork. (Image via The View from Great Island.)

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Review and Giveaway: Shrubs

The very thing that got me started with food preservaion, my gateway drug, if you will, was making infusions and liqueurs. After traveling to Italy, I was smitten with limoncello, and was mildly blown away when I figured out I could make my own, easily. This opened the door to a range of projects, experimenting with infusing fruits and vegetables into alcohol base to extract the pure essence of the ingredients. 

What had not occurred to me yet was the idea of infusing these ingredients into vinegar, at least for drinking purposes. Yet it turns out that shrubs, or drinking vinegars, are in fact a very old beverage; in fact, the word "shrub" derives from the Arabic root, sharab, meaning to drink. This same root brought us other familiar words: Sherbet, sorbet and syrup. All hint at a similar concept: Flavors infused into a sweetened base. In shrub's case, that base is vinegar. 

So I learned in Michael Dietsch's new book, Shrubs: An Old Fashioned Drink for Modern Times. (Disclosure: Links in this post may be affiliate links from which I may derive revenue.) A longtime cocktail blogger and drinks writer for Serious Eats (and personal friend), Dietsch digs deep into the history of drinking vinegars, then proffers up news you can use on how to make them, and, at least as importantly, how to use them. 

At their most basic, shrubs are vinegar, sugar, and flavoring agents, be they fruits, vegetables, spices, herbs and so on. As is the case with so many things with simple roots, the permutations are endlessly complex. Dietsch discusses what kinds of vinegars work best, and for what. (Like me, distilled white is pretty much only useful as a cleaning agent.) Sweeteners also influence flavor. Many of the shrubs are straightforward single-fruit recipes, whereas others get more complex, like a gazpacho-esque tomato, cilantro and coriander shrub. Most importantly, they're a great way of capturing seasonal flavors. The cranberry-apple shrub, for example, is a great addition to the Thanksgiving table. 

Shrubs are delicious simply mixed with sparkling water for a refreshing soft drink. (It turns out that shrubs can trigger saliva production, quenching thirst more effectively -- another fun fact from the book.) But being a cocktail maven as he is, Dietsch offers up an array of sophisticated cocktails to use them, such as an updated julep made with cherry-mint shrub. 

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Three Things Thursday: Global Influences

Once again it's Three Things Thursday, where I highlight three things that ran on the site recently that inspired, intrigued or impressed me.

Cherry Peppers with Prosciutto & Provolone
, found on
Cherry Peppers with Prosciutto & Provolone
You know those spicy pickled cherry peppers numbers, the ones stuffed with sharp provolone and prosciutto that are an integral part of every good antipasto platter? You can made them! Via Beets and Blue Cheese.

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Conquering the Quixotic Quince

Knobby, hard and fuzzy, quince won't win any beauty contests, but their intoxicating perfume lures you in. Once you know how to conquer these rugged beasts, their heady flavor -- and substantial pectin structure -- make them a preserver's dream.

Canned Quinces, found on
Cutting a Quince
Quince are tough customers. Before you lop off a finger trying to chop into one, be sure to check out this video from What Julia Ate. Your digits will thank you.
Canned Quince in  Syrup, found on
Canned Quince in Syrup
Canned slices of aromatic quince made all the more exotic with white wine or rose syrup will find their way into your holiday baking regimen.

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Eleven Ways to Put Up Pears

Cooler, crisp days and oblique light. Autumn is upon us, and with it the first fall fruit that comes to mind. Juicy, sweet pears are delicious and versatile. Here's almost a dozen ways to preserve the bounty of the season.

Canned Pears
Canned pears
Can those pears in syrup, infused with booze, spiked with ginger or redolent of aromatic tea. (Image via Snowflake Kitchen)
Pear Jam
Pear Jam
Naturally soft and succulent pears cook down to a beautifully delicate jam, especially nice with autumnal spices.

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