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Have a look at my plums.

Disclaimer – Yes, I know plums are funny. Yes I know I have double entendred myself to within an inch of my life. ENJOY!

Seasonal stuff going on here on partyspanner at the moment, and so we turn to fruit in the back garden. It’s not yet time for the quince to fruit but the plum tree is groaning with goodness.

HEAVING with fruit

Rather predictably my mind turns not to plum tarts or plum jam (although I am planning on making some spicy jam in the next few weeks) but instead I have decided to make some plum schnapps. Yes, yes I know I went on and on about blackberry vodka but the thing is, it’s easy to make and once again serves as a great drink to serve at Christmas.

In for a penny in for a pound of plums as they say.

A handful of plums

I used approximately 20 plums, halving them and removing the stone before placing them into a kilner jar.

A work in progress

And so, the plums go into the Kilner jar before being topped up with 70cl of vodka.

Just gorgeous!

Off this jar goes to a dark place, to be occasionally brought out and shaken, for at least 3 months. It will join it’s cousin, the blackberry vodka, in imprisonment. I almost feel a bit sad.

Farewell, sweet, soft fruits. Farewell. *sob*

I’m planning on checking on these (taste test obv) in late november. Until then, Good luck to you, my vodka friends. *salute*

Christmas Booze – Part Eleventy (New Super Quick Method!)

I. Am. Obsessed.

Obsessed with flavoured alcohols.

At this rate my entire family (including the children) will be completely and utterly spangled by lunchtime of Christmas Day. (HEY! Sounds like a plan)

As my Werther’s Original Vodka winged their way to family members I realised that I was now a couple of gift bottles short – Catastrophe!

The Christmas Pudding Rum lurks maelvolently in the back of the cupboard, refusing to taste like anything other than rum.

Look at it - SINISTER

And so, I decided to try the top tip of speeding up the process of sweetie dissolution via Dishwasher. Oooh. Yeah, that’s right if you have a dishwasher and an airtight jar (Kilner preferably) you too can make some flavoured vodka in a matter of hours!

Amazing!

I decided after a quick twitter poll (@partyspanner) that Chocolate Lime Vodka would go down a TREAT.

Ah, Chocolate Limes – the sweet of elderly relatives and strange men who wanted to show you their puppies.

I bought a cheap bottle of vodka (750 ml) and two bags of chocolate Limes.

WayHey!

I got rid of some pointless aggression by smashing the living crap out of the sweets before adding them to the kilner jar. Quite the therapy I’m sure you’ll agree.

Smashed to buggery

I added the vodka, and now for the genius part. I sealed the jar, gave it a good shake and added to the dishwasher load. I used the bottom rack to make sure the container stayed upright (which will be more than can be said for me come the party season).

Snug and ready to boil

Now, the top tip I had received didn’t specify whether the dishwasher cycle should include soap, but in these financially straitened times I decided to wash my dishes and include the vodka in the load – therefore needing to add a dishwasher tablet. You will need to use your hottest wash cycle – and to be honest it seems not only to make more sense financially to add the jar of alcohol to a full load; but also *earnest face* for the planet, yeah? *wafts patchouli*

I must admit to being a little bit concerned as the dishwasher clanked and bubbled away.

There was no need. Once the cycle had completed I had lovely clean dishes and this:

Steamy!

DON’T make the mistake I made of having a sniff while the liquid is still hot – the fumes will make your eyes water and your BRANE GO RONG.

See that large amount of chocolate limey sediment in the bottom? Do Not Worry.

All you need to do is keep shaking the jar every hour – or half an hour if you can – and the heat of the vodka will continue to melt the sweets and dissolve all the sediment away.

After the first hour:

First Hour after Dishwasher

Second Hour after leaving Dishwasher:

Keep shaking regularly!

Third Hour:

Almost there!

Three and a half hours:

As near as dammit

And after four hours I was ready to filter the stuff.

My record of filtering flavoured alcohol is…sporadic to say the least ..but this one really needed a jolly good filtering. My poor old brain finally worked out that if I emptied the liquid from the jar into a large measuring jar and then placed the funnel and coffee filter paper into the now empty Kilner Jar, I can pour the unfiltered stuff through the funnel and just walk away and do something else until it is finished.

Yes, Yes, I know it's obvious...

It took about 40 minutes to filter the whole batch but it left me with a clear mix which goes down smoothly. Oh yes.

I bottled up:

Sticky! - notice the washcloth ready for any spills.

And now have three bottles (and a small jam jar – don’t ask) of gorgeously chocolatey, evocatively flavoured vodka to give as gifts (and add to my Christmas Day Liquour Tour)

After Resting for an hour

I utterly adore that little seam of chocolate at the top of the bottles and am delighted with the result.

So – if you’ve wanted to take a stab at making some flavoured alcohol, but have either refused to take my previous advice, or haven’t had time, or are stumbling onto my blog for my first time – be of good cheer! You too can have some sickly sweet vodka in just a few hours by following this advice!

Good luck and please let me know of any flavour combinations you come up with.

Stir Up Sunday – Making Christmas Pudding

I have a confession to make. I hate Christmas pudding, Christmas cake and mincemeat – mainly because I don’t like raisins, sultanas, glace cherries and mixed peel. ick.

This year, we are having lots of lovely people to us for Christmas day and so I thought I’d better make a traditional pudding.

Stir up Sunday, which falls on the last Sunday in November before Advent, is the day when we’re all supposed to scuttle into our kitchens and prepare our cakes and puddings to give them plenty of time to mature into dark, sticky sweets and making them this far in advance also means that they can be fed with brandy or rum for a good few weeks before the big day.

The night before making my pud, I put a pound coin into some coca-cola over night to give it a good clean.

Coca-Cola is like bleach

I’ve never made a christmas pud before so I had a good look through my recipe books, and online, before plumping for a fairly basic recipe – with a couple of my own personal tweaks.

Look at that adorable pudding bowl

I macerated the dried fruits, substituting a little of the horrible raisins for horrible glace cherries, in my Christmas Pudding Rum, and a splash of Cointreau.

Soaking the fruit should plump it up (is that true? Maybe it's just to disguise the taste)

and left it to stew in it’s own juices for an hour or so. I then zested an orange and lemon using my amazing new gadget.

Zester of brilliance

Yep, I’ve got yet another new helper in the kitchen and it is awesome! It fits onto your knuckles and as you  gently rub away at the skin of the fruit it grates it very finely giving you perfect zest in a little box with no mess or aggravation.

Fabulous!

I couldn’t be bothered to grate the apple shown in the ingredients photo, so for that reason, it’s out.

I added the zest, spices (cinnamon, nutmeg and mixed spice), suet, sugar and plain flour to the marinated fruit, popped the cleaned coin into the mixture and stirred it up!

Well, that looks...vile.

Traditionally each member of the family, starting with the youngest, gets to have a stir of the mixture and make a wish.

I wonder what he wished for...

Tom was out so he didn’t get a wish. I guess I should be grateful or I might have been melted and unable, therefore, to write this post.

I prepared circles of foil to fit onto the top of the basins and large circles (a good few inches wider than the circumference of the bowls)of greaseproof paper before packing the mixture into two bowls. (Lucky Nana might be getting one of these)

This is NOT like a cake batter at all. (It looks a bit maggoty)

The next bit – the tying of the paper onto the basins was a total nightmare. The full basins were awkward, the string kept sliding off the slippery surface of the greaseproof paper and it was frustrating, until I called for help and finally managed to secure the bloody things.

*frowns*

The puddings need to steam now for 5-6 hours. I KNOW! That’s bloody MAD! FIVE TO SIX HOURS and then they have to be steamed again on Christmas day for a further 2-3 hours. It’s not even bloody NICE and it takes eight hours to cook and – let’s face it – a month to mature.

Waste. Of. Time.

Unless you like Christmas pudding that is, in which case, I expect it all sounds very reasonable.

I placed one pudding into a steamer pan, and the other into a large saucepan with an inverted saucer on the bottom, and boiling water poured to 3/4 of the way up the bowl and left them to it.

Lid on

The noise of it! The water bubbling and boiling, the lids ticking, the steam escaping! My kitchen sounded like some sort of steampunk dream.

After the first couple of hours had passed (and condensation dripped from every window pane) it suddenly started to smell a lot like Christmas in the Spanner home.

It’s very important to keep a close eye on the water levels. I let the steamer pan boil dry twice and only noticed when the bubbling from the kitchen had changed from a low bubbling sound to a high pitched crackly screech.

After five and a half hours, and just as Antiques Roadshow started it’s comforting theme tune, I removed the puddings and left them to cool.

Cooling Puddings

Once they were cold I replaced the foil and paper for fresh, before stashing in a dark cupboard.

Ready to go and be the mature and manly puddings they should be

For the recipe have a look here – if you started this weekend I’m sure it would be fine.

Christmas Booze – Week Four

To get started look here for week one

and here for week two

I know there’s no week three, but that’s because nothing much was happening.

The Werther’s Original Vodka is doing OK, it’s still very vodka-y so I will be adding yet another bag of sweets to the mix this weekend (when I remember to buy them)

Before shaking

The Christmas Pudding Rum is..well, it needs something but I’m not sure quite what yet. I’m going to give it another week and then maybe add some more fruit, nuts and sugar.

Also before shaking - check out the sediment on this baby.

The Parma Violet Vodka is ready for filtering.

It smells like a pack of sweeties and tastes like twisted childhood memories.

It looks like a very naughty, slightly effeminate, Guinness

Filtering is the same process as in week two.

drip, drip, drip, drip, drip, drip, drip

The first filtration left quite a lot of foam in the filter paper

I didn't taste it. (You know I did)

and a slight “scum” floating on the top of the liquid.

It looks a bit like mould. It isn't.

So I changed the filter paper and poured the liquid through again.

This time though, I went slightly bonkers at the end of the process (in my defence I was baking cakes at the same time and drinking wine was a little bit distracted) and squeezed the filter paper to get the last valuable drops of liquid out. What an idiot. Of course this squirted the foam straight through the paper, down the funnel and into the liquid and so I was onto a third filter paper and starting all over again. Top Tip – don’t do this.

Squeezed filter paper

So after a third (and self-inflicted) filtering the vodka was ready and bottled up.

Hmmm.

Now. As you can see I have lost half of my lovely, lovely vodka. Some of this can be attributed to the filtering process (by the final one I was starting to get a bit slapdash) some of the loss can be blamed on the tasting, and some on the initial pouring away of vodka to fit the sweets into the bottle.

It is fabulous though, and I will definitely be making more of this one.

The Rhubarb and custard vodka, bottled on the second week, remains clear and sediment free. It has become quite the party trick for visitors.

I play, “what’s the flavour?” and watch as they get steadily more pie-eyed while trying to locate that memory buried in the back of their childhood brains, of sweets sucked on a wet playground while Barry Tilner chased them for a kiss.

Now, just to get that Christmas Pudding Rum tasting as good as it smells (It’s going in the Christmas pudding this weekend, ready or not)

Christmas Booze – Week Two

So week two eh? That came around a bit quickly didn’t it?

Just like Christmas will – be warned! I have already seen two houses decorated with Christmas lights and Christmas trees, admittedly these homeowners are clearly insane, but if you want some tasty, tasty booze ready to give as presents or drink yourself crying while listening to “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” then you’d better get on with it.

Head over to week one to get started.

I’ve been shaking the jars everyday, and having a good sniff. Let’s have a look

Whoa there Parma Violet - what you up to then?

The Christmas Pudding Rum is coming along nicely, but as the flavouring comes from natural ingredients, this one will take the longest to mature.

Remember that this was a white rum when we first started

The Werther’s Original Vodka just smells and tastes of vodka (which is fine itself) but I want this to be really tasty, so I’m going to add some more Werther’s. A whole large bag would be good (I’ve only got three quarters of a bag left, thanks to the Werther’s pixies who sneak in once night falls and snaffle them, leaving their golden wrappers in Oliver’s bed. DAMN THEM)

The colour's looking good; now to get the taste.

The Parma Violet Vodka is looking…well, a bit grim actually, and smells of nothing but vodka.

Hmmm. FOAMY.

The bottle lid has lost it’s thread, so I’m going to transfer this mixture to a fresh bottle (sterilised) and add some more parma violets.

A whole tube of large parma violets

The Rhubarb and Custard Vodka looks, smells and tastes fantastic, and is ready for bottling.

All the rest of the drinks are heading back into the cupboard for another week of daily agitation (an almost perfect description of my working life there)

Did I mention that everything should be kept in a dark place? Well it should.

Bottling up.

You’ll need some coffee filters, a funnel, a large jug and some bottles (duh). I got mine from Jamtastic and they were delivered quickly with no problems at all.

I LOVE MY FUNNEL. *cough*

Place a coffee filter into the head (is that the right word?) of the funnel and pour vodka into filter, allow to drain through slowly.

It takes longer than you'd think for the liquid to filter through.

Now, this particular flavoured vodka only required one filtering (I think – but as this one is an experimental batch we’ll check that there’s no sediment in the finished bottle next week) but be prepared to repeat this process if your vodka still looks cloudy or any way unpleasant.

I’m looking at you Parma Violet Vodka.

I poured my finished drink of certain drunkenness into a fresh, sterilised bottle and labelled it up.

Aw. Pretty. (Potent).

I haven’t drunk half of it by the way, that’s the amount extracted; remember that I needed to pour a little vodka out when flavouring in order to put the sweets in – This can be solved by flavouring in kilner jars.

So, cheers! and here’s to next week.

Christmas Booze – Week One.

Yes, yes, I know I said the “C” word, but if you want to have some amazing alcohol tucked away ready for the Holiday season, it’s getting time to start thinking about it. Sorry about that.

First up this year is some Christmas Pudding Rum. Oh yeah, baby. It’s Christmassy and also a little bit PIRATEY. What’s not to love?

You’ll need:

1 x sterilised container with air tight lid (I’m using 1.5 litre preserve jars). To sterilise the jars either run them through a full dishwasher cycle, or wash them thoroughly with warm soapy water before placing them in an oven set to gas mark 4 for twenty minutes. Allow them to cool down completely before adding your ingredients.

Obviously you only want the peel of the fruit.

So we’ve got:

Currents, blanched almonds (chop them up roughly), cinnamon sticks, dark muscovado sugar (about 250 g) star anise, cloves, honey, vanilla extract and the peel of an orange and a lemon (be careful that there’s not pith on any of the peel as this will make your rum taste bitter) and a litre of white rum.

Bung everything into your jar and add the rum.

Dry Ingredients

And now for the important part.

You then need to give it a good shake. DON’T do what I did, which was put the rubber seal on the wrong way round, as you’ll end up with a kitchen counter which smells like a Friday night in Sinatra’s Nightclub.

Next is some Toffee/Butterscotch whatever it is Werthers Original Vodka.

Same rules apply for the jar as for the rum. I used one large bag of Werthers Originals to 1 litre of vodka.

Sweets in sterilised jar with lid

Add the vodka

And give it a good shake.

I’m also trying some Parma Violet Vodka and an old childhood favourite of mine, Rhubarb and Custard Vodka. (The sweets were a childhood favourite, I didn’t drink vodka then)

As these are a trial run, I used small flask bottles of Vodka, poured a little of the lovely liquid away and added the sweets before tightening the lid back on and giving them a shake.

Parma Violet Vodka

Rhubarb and Custard Vodka

All of these beauties will be kept in a dark cupboard and will be shaken on a daily basis.

Hmmm…boozy…

We’ll see how they’re doing next week.