Liqueur is simpler than wine because it’s not fermented, and though some will age well, most are ready to drink quickly. That’s why I wanted to make liqueur from my small plum harvest. Like all fresh fruit liqueurs, this one will need some time for extraction – pulling the sugar, color, and flavor from the fruit into the liquid. In a way, that extraction step is a bit like the primary fermentation step in making wine. Making liqueur starts to look very different from winemaking, however, when you think about alcohol, sugar, clearing, and aging. I’ll have more to say on that later, but first, here’s the recipe:
|Plums||1 kg||2.2 lb|
|Table Sugar||500 g||1.1 lb|
|Vodka (80 proof)||2 L||2 L*|
|Fruit Protector||22 ml||1.5 Tablespoons|
* Yes, “2 liters” is the US Measure of vodka. Don’t believe me? Go into any liquor store in the US and try to buy vodka by the quart. Go right now, I’ll still be here when you get back 🙂
I based this recipe on a recipe for Umeshu, Japanese liquor made from unripe plums. It’s different enough from other liqueurs I’ve seen and different enough from Umeshu (made from unripe ume plums – which I understand are more like apricots than plums) to be interesting. It’s also easily scalable. How often do you have exactly 1 kg of plums? When I made this recipe, my plums weighed in at 825 g, so I scaled everything by 0.825:
- 825 g plums
- 413 g sugar
- 1650 ml vodka
You’ll need a container that can hold all of the ingredients (like a bucket with a lid), a strainer, and a jug with stopper. After that, it’s quick and easy:
- Clean and sanitized the container.
- Add plums.
- Pour sugar over plums.
- Add vodka.
- Cover and let sit in a cool dark place for a 2-4 weeks, stirring occasionally.
- Strain into a cleaned and sanitized jug. Let sit in a cool dark place for 4 more weeks.
Sugar and alcohol
There’s more alcohol in liqueur than in wine (about 20% by volume), and you add it directly (as vodka, usually). Liqueurs are sweeter too – from 15 – 30% sugar (by weight). Sometimes higher. Making a recipe revolves around the amount of alcohol, sugar, and water you want in the final product. This recipe will yield about 25% alcohol (by volume) and 18% sugar (by weight). I wouldn’t go below 20% alcohol, but feel free to vary the sugar and alcohol to your taste.
If you’re wondering why I report alcohol content by volume and sugar content by weight, it’s because you’d get some weird results if you tried to figure sugar content by volume. Try dissolving 2 cups of sugar in 1 cup of water (you may need to boil briefly). Once it’s back a room temperature, you’ll have about 2 cups of syrup. So is it 50% water and 100% sugar? If you do it by weight, it’s roughly 60% sugar, 40% water – adds up to 100%, like it should. I’d do alcohol that way too, but it’s just too common to report alcohol by volume.
Were you wondering about that ingredient? It’s a combination of sugar, vitamin C, and citric acid that’s used in home canning to keep fruit from browning. I’ve seen it in some liqueur recipes, so I decided to try it in mine. As a winemaker, I’m tempted to use sulfite for the same purpose, and I also wonder about how acidity affects the final taste. It’s available in supermarkets, and you can order it online.
Those are things I’ll look into later. Right now, it’s time to open a bottle of plum liqueur and hit the send button 🙂