Busytown by Jolisa Gracewood

In the test kitchen...

Gotta hand it to you Public Address readers: you know your liquor, and you're all creative geniuses in the kitchen. No sooner had I raved about the feijoa-flavoured drinks and foods I encountered last month, than several enthusiastic missives arrived offering do-it-yourself recipes. I think it's only fair that I share them with the world at large.

First up, one regular correspondent (OK, my sister) suggests using a dash of feijoa-flavoured liqueur to liven up a glass of m├ęthode champenoise. As she puts it, "Wheeeee!" The same correspondent suggests this cunning lurk for bakers: "You can make a good old feijoa cake by making a banana cake recipe using apples instead, but soaking the apples first in the feijoa liqueur." I'll remember that trick, especially since I last saw feijoas at Fairway for US$2 each, whereas apples are a dollar a pound. Thanks, Gemma!

And then there was this marvellously straightforward recipe for home-made fruit-flavoured liquor, from Raewyn Whyte of URL. [NB recipe amended and expanded 6 Sept 03]

Fruit-Infused Vodka (or Gin)
...the Crummer Road small batch method...

Half fill a very clean wide-mouthed (V8 juice-type) jar or a standard preserving jar with peeled and chopped up fresh, ripe organic fruit such as feijoas or pears, or washed whole blueberries.

Note: For a standard V8 juice jar, 6 - 8 feijoas or 2 pears or 2 punnets of blueberries should be adequate.

Add sugar (in an amount roughly 1/10th of the volume of the jar, or slightly more for blueberries).*

* Important note on sugar: You need the sugar to be in solution -- i.e. dissolved in the alcohol -- for the infusion period. You can simply add the sugar to the alcohol and shake to dissolve, but that takes a while (though we have found this is a perfectly good way to do it!). A more elegant method is to use a sugar syrup, made by dissolving 400gm/1lb of sugar in 4 cups of boiling water: stir until dissolved, and cool before use. Add the necessary amount of cooled syrup to your fruit + vodka infusion -- using the syrup to account for around 10% of the total volume. You can also use commercial glucose syrup, which makes a stickier liqueur, although you'll need to warm it slightly before mixing it in.

Then top the whole lot up with vodka or gin.

Cover with a nice tight lid and store in a safe place for 6 weeks or so: patience is rewarded by richer flavours.

Once you have infused the vodka for 6 weeks or more, and drained the fruit out, add syrup til you get to a desired level of sweetness (more for a syrupy dessert-style liqueur, less for a subtler taste).

Store in freezer and sip from shot glasses.

...or pour over ice-cream, use to tart up cocktails, infuse breakfast cereal (in extremis), etc. Besides feijoa, pear, and blueberry, Raewyn recommends cherry, but notes that pomegranates are rather tart and persimmons just don't work at all. She adds: "We have discovered that you MUST put sugar in with the fruit at the start as it helps to draw the flavours into the vodka or gin. The feijoa vodka and blueberry gin we've made is quite delicious and we never make enough! The critical thing seems to be making sure the fruit is ripe. We use organic fruit off our own tree and from a friend's tree."

Her partner-in-crime Derek -- who actually makes the vodka from scratch for the full DIY effect (see Still Spirits for ideas and equipment) -- notes that it's far from an exact science. "It's all a process of trial and error. We had one batch of feijoa-infused vodka that was crap after 6 weeks, but after a year it was utterly fabulous."

Thanks, guys! Inspiring stuff, especially for those of us far from a source for the bought variety, or those lucky enough to be gazing out at a tree full of fruit and wondering what to do with it after you get sick of feijoa ice-cream, feijoa crumble, feijoa kebabs, etc. I get the impression the infusion process gets pretty addictive once you get started. So what do you do with all that lovely fruity liqueur lying around the house, apart from drink it? As it happens, Raewyn is writing a book on cooking with vodka -- keep an eye out for it in October 2004. Consider this an exclusive preview to whet your appetites and make sure you have enough of the raw ingredient lying around when the book comes out.

Now I look forward to hearing the results of readers' experiments -- tamarillo liqueur, anyone? -- and in the meantime, anyone know of a North American source of dried feijoa bits that I can mix into my home-baked muesli, for that taste of home?