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Bringing the farmers market to your home bar with tasty infusions

Transform farmer's market abundance into homemade liqueurs 

In Praise of Fraise is 
a seductive strawberry-vodka infusion.

Photo by Leigh Beisch

In Praise of Fraise is a seductive strawberry-vodka infusion.

We're in that in-between season where locally grown produce is scant at farmers markets but memory of past seasons' bounty holds the promise of crisp vegetables and juicy fruit.

Already, tables are overflowing with strawberries. The very thought makes me want to lift a glass and cheer. And if I can stand waiting seven days, I'll do so with homemade Strawberry-Rhubarb Twin Tamer.

The rum-based liqueur is one of dozens featured in Homemade Liqueur and Infused Spirits by Arthur Schloss (Storey Publishing). There's also a tantalizing strawberry-vodka infusion called In Praise of Fraise.

While the $18.95 paperback includes expected recipes for making knock-offs of popular drinks—including Kahlua and Cointreau—its chief appeal can be found in sections that spotlight seasonal vegetables, herbs and flowers. Fold down the corner of page 94 for the long-awaited return of summer tomatoes to make Tomato Essence, which you can use to make distinctive Bloody Marys. Dig the deep flavors of licorice root or sassafras? Try Rüt, which derives its earthy flavor from infusing rye with parsnips, carrots, beets and horseradish root.

If you can get your hands on fresh sour cherries, pick up a fifth of vodka on the way home then snip some basil from the garden. Schloss describes these "intense flavors" creating an irresistible blend: "Soon after the first sip you will not be able to remember a time when basil and cherries was not your favorite flavor combo."

Schloss uses dried honeysuckle blooms and brandy to create Honeysuckle Honey. Of course, many of us in the Triangle already know that fresh flowers are both abundant and perfect for creating syrups for sorbet and jelly. If you can sweet-talk a home brewer into sharing fresh hops flowers, try the Hop Blossom, which Schloss says gives bourbon the subtle flavor of added bitters.

If you use fresh blooms, Schloss recommends doubling the amount of flowers, since dried versions pack more intense flavor.

If you're fortunate to live in a neighborhood full of fig trees—or perhaps you're a forager with a secret spot—don't miss White Fig, which converts figs, white tea and English-style gin into a delicate sip. Again, if substituting fresh figs for dried, increase the quantity.


Strawberry Rhubarb Twin Tamer

Excerpted from Homemade Liqueurs and Infused Spirits © by Andrew Schloss, used with permission from Storey Publishing.

Makes about 1 quart

2 pints strawberries, hulled and sliced, or 1 1/2 pounds frozen strawberries, thawed 3 stalks rhubarb, chopped, or 10 ounces frozen rhubarb, thawed 2 cups simple syrup* 1 fifth (750 ml/3 cups) light rum (80 proof)

Muddle the strawberries, rhubarb and simple syrup with a wooden spoon in a half-gallon jar. Stir in the rum.

Seal the jar and put it in a cool, dark cabinet until the liquid smells and tastes strongly of strawberries and rhubarb, about seven days.

Strain the mixture with a mesh strainer into a clean quart jar. Do not push on the solids to extract more liquid.

Seal and store in a cool, dark cabinet. Use within one year.


In Praise of the Fraise

Makes about 1 quart

2 pints strawberries, hulled and sliced, or 1 1/2 pounds frozen strawberries, thawed 1 1/2 cups simple syrup* 1 fifth (750 ml/3 1/4 cups) vodka (80–100 proof)

Muddle the strawberries and simple syrup with a wooden spoon in a half-gallon jar. Stir in the vodka.

Seal the jar and put it in a cool, dark cabinet until the liquid smells and tastes strongly of strawberries, about seven days.

Strain the mixture with a mesh strainer into a clean quart jar. Do not push on the solids to extract more liquid.

Seal and store in a cool, dark cabinet. Use within one year.

*Simple syrup is made by mixing equal parts sugar and water. Bring to a boil over high heat and stir until sugar crystals are dissolved. Remove from heat and cool before using.

This article appeared in print with the headline "Farm to cocktail glass."

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