In the Catskills, you learn the sound of animals. The peck, peck and hissing of a wild turkey as she fights with her own image in a window pane. You’d think the window was about to break.
Or the snort of a mountain lion. No, they can’t growl. They snort. How would you recognize it? Oh, trust me. When we had one in our front yard, and Suzen and I were hugging each other like our first night together, the conversation went something like this:
“You go look to see if it is still there.”
“Because you are the girl.”
A month ago, there was another sound but I knew the species: wifus frustratedus. Yes, Suzen was in the panty and unhappy.
“What is it?” I poked my head in.
“This!” Her hand was on the shelf she has for vinegars and olive oils. We don’t have enough to open up a museum, but we could do a serious popup.
“Well,” I reached forward.
“No,” she corrected, “this.” Her hand now pointed to the shelf above. The one where I store supplies for cocktail research. “Is there an orange liqueur that you don’t own?”
“Maybe one. From Albania,” I admitted.
“I need space. Can’t you do something?”
“Actually, Suzen, I began the solution yesterday. It will just take a month.”
“A month? A MONTH?” Eyes rolled as she walked past. She did not hear my explanation, but I had one.
And now, that month has passed, and I do have a solution. I can eliminate most [but not all!] of those orange liqueurs. And, without ego, I want to say: this:
I made my own orange liqueur and it is wonderful, awesome, excellent.
How? I followed the recipe for Triple Sec in Luscious Liqueurs by A. J. Rathbun. This slim volume has recipes for over 80 home-made liqueurs. I’m working my way through, page by page and this orange gem is the first to complete the process. Each recipe takes, from start to finish, several weeks. Each week and each step is definitely worth the effort.
While the book calls this Triple Sec, I am calling it Orange Liqueur. Triple Sec is, by reputation, the lowest common denominator of orange-flavored liqueurs. This creation is the equal of fine liqueurs, such as my favorite, Mandarin Napoleon.
I’ve enjoyed this liqueur on its own, at room temperature and chilled. In a margarita, it’s sublime. The flavor is sweet and not complex: just pure orange intensity, with none of those chemically aftertastes that can come with, say, conventional Triple Sec.
Of course, since it is so good, I’ll need to make a lot more. And that will mean I need shelf space. I wonder how best to explain this to Suzen.
For the vodka to use here, go with a moderately priced brand. You don’t need expensive, but you want underlying quality.
Homemade Orange Liqueur
Yield: a bit over 1 quart
- 4-5 medium to large oranges, as sweet as possible
- ½ cup water
- 2 cups sugar
- 2 cups vodka
Wash, dry, and peel 2 of the oranges, trimming away any white pith. Put the peels in a glass container with a tight-fitting lid.
Juice all the oranges. You need 1 cups of orange juice.
Combine the sugar and water in a saucepan, stir well, and turn on the heat to medium. Slowly add the orange juice, stirring all the while. Raise the heat to medium-high, and bring the mixture just to a boil. Lower the hat a bit and simmer gently for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool completely.
Add the orange syrup you just made and the vodka to the peels, stir well, and seal. Place in a cool dry spot away from sunlight. Let the liqueur stay calm, except for occasional swirlings for 1 month.
If it is really pulpy, filet the liqueur first through a fine-mesh strainer into a bowl. Otherwise, just strain through a double layer of cheesecloth into a pitcher or other easy-pouring vessel. Strain again through 2 new layers of cheesecloth into a 1 large bottle or a number of small bottles or jars.
Source: Luscious Liqueurs by A. J. Rathbun
I don’t work at Barnes and Noble but I do shop there. When you first enter the store, there is often a rack of “special” books that you may overlook. They always have modest prices. They always have a distinct size or cover. You might pass right by, but if you see The Complete Mexican by Jane Milton, Jenni Fleetwood, and Marina Filippelli, grab a copy. It’s filled with recipes that simply don’t “look” like the ones you are used to. You’ll gain a very new perspective on Mexican fare.
For example, salsa. Salsa? Most of the time we make our salsa with some — but not necessarily all — of a core set of ingredients: tomatoes, chilies, onion, cilantro.
Here’s a twist. Keep the tomato, but ditch the other stuff. Use oranges and chives instead! Yes, it sounds almost bizarrely different. But, it’s delicious. I had this as a side dish with a Mexican trout — blog to come! — and it was brightly flavorful.
One note here. You dice up the tomato and oranges. There’s a lot of fluid running around. This dish is best made just before the meal. And, no, it really does not last overnight in the fridge. In that sense, it seems to be a very authentic “make it now and eat it now” dish.
Orange, Tomato and Chive Salsa
Yield: Serves 4 as a side dish
- 2 large, sweet oranges
- 1 beefsteak tomato, or 2 plum tomatoes
- Bunch of fresh chives [mine were right of the garden!]
- 1 garlic clove
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- Sea salt
Slice the base off each orange so they will stand firmly on a chopping board. Using a large sharp knife, remove the peel by slicing from the top to the bottom of each orange.
Working over a bowl, segment each orange in turn. Slice toward the middle of the fruit, and slightly tone side of a segment, and then gently twist the knife to release the orange segment. Squeeze any juice form the remaining membrane.
Roughly chop the orange segments and them to the bowl of collected orange juice. Halve the tomato, and scoop the meat into the bowl. Dice the remaining flesh of each tomato half and add to the bowl.
Hold the bunch of chives over the bowl, and use scissors to snip them in short pieces over the bowl.
Thinly slice the garlic and stir into the mixture. Pour in the olive oil, then season with salt. Stir, taste, and adjust to meet your needs.
Source: The Complete Mexican by Jane Milton, Jenni Fleetwood, and Marina Filippelli