Kitchen Wit & Wisdom: Start liqueurs now for holiday gift-giving

Homemade gifts can be a nice alternative to those purchased in a store

I always wait until after Remembrance Day to begin offering Christmas recipes because I just don’t believe Christmas hubbub should start before Nov. 11.

For me, it is very important, before jumping into the happy attitudes of Christmas, to acknowledge, understand, remember and pay tribute to the young men and women who lost their lives fighting for our freedoms. It is equally important to honour those who did come home, like my dad, who were forever altered, injured in spirit and mind after living through the unimaginable horrors of war.

Remembrance Day needs poppies, not Christmas decorations or shopping; I’m hoping we all took the time Monday to reflect, to feel a sense of sadness, and most of all, to be thankful for the freedoms we experience today. It came at a great cost.

Today I again raise a glass to our war heroes, and you can, too, with homemade liqueurs. These make lovely gifts when packaged in unusual or pretty glass containers. They add a personal touch as well as being far less expensive than store-bought varieties.

Today’s recipes need to be started pronto in order to be ready for Christmas. I’ll offer some last minute liqueur recipes nearer to Christmas, so watch for them.

Hazelnut liqueur

750 ml vodka

Two cups hazelnuts, finely chopped

One cup, minus two tbps., sugar

6 tbsp. water

1 vanilla pod, bruised with the handle of a kitchen knife

Pour the vodka into a lidded glass container. Add the chopped nuts and steep for about two weeks, shaking gently every day.

After two weeks, strain the vodka, pressing the nuts with a wooden spoon or spatula to release their flavour. Discard the nuts. Strain the liquid again through a coffee filter or fine muslin.

Bring the sugar and water to a boil in a small pan and simmer for five minutes until syrupy.

Cool, then add the vanilla pod (bash it first with the handle of your knife to release the flavour); if you are dividing the syrup between two half-bottles, cut the vanilla pod in half. Add the syrup and vanilla to the hazelnut liqueur.

Transfer to a bottle or bottles and store for four weeks before drinking, turning occasionally.

liqueur 44

1 large orange

44 coffee beans

44 sugar cubes

1 litre alcohol (vodka, brandy, whiskey)

Make 44 cuts in the orange and insert the 44 coffee beans. Place in a jar with 44 sugar cubes and cover with the alcohol.

Set in a cool dark place for 44 days, then remove orange; strain through a filter, and drink after 44 days.

Cathi Litzenberger is The Morning Star’s longtime food columnist, appearing every Wednesday and one Sunday per month.