Monday, April 19, 2010

Liquors- Part VI- Chambord

I have a friend who LOVES Chambord, another ridiculously expensive name brand liquor that doesn't seem to have a "knock off" available. Of course, some liquors are available in a generic that's just as good as the real thing- like banana liquor, peppermint schnapps, and so forth. And while you can find various raspberry liquors/cordials on the market, none of them even try to come close to Chambord- the store brand raspberry liquors are more just for flavoring mixed drinks and shots, and while Chambord can be used to do the same thing (Chambord Royale is a splash of Chambord in a glass of champagne), it can also be sipped as an after dinner appertif and is quite enjoyable by itself.

I'll warn you, this stuff takes forever to make, so one must have a sort of zen attitude about the process, and a lot of patience. It's worth it. Really. Don't try to rush the process. You will be waiting almost 2 months to sample the final product, but in that time, there's only about an hour total of actual interaction you'll have with the Chambord. It makes a great winter project- it's cold out and I always try to find things to keep me busy and keep my mind off of how cold, gray and dreary it is outside. Chambord it like bottled sunshine and summer, and making it just makes you feel good.

Unfortunately, when I went looking on the internet for "Chambord" recipes, I found none. Not a one. Well, not a one that even looked like it would come close anyway. So I figured that since I've had great success in making my own liquors with and without recipes, I'd just make up my own recipe for Chambord.

First, I needed to figure out what flavors are in Chambord- I've only ever tasted it once, and I just remembered it tasting like a strong, thick textured, sweet raspberry liquor. It is rich, so I figured it probably had some cognac in it, as that seems to be the key to imparting a rich flavor to any liquor. Of course I figured it had raspberries in it, as well as maybe a top and bottom note (complex and expensive liquors are flavored much the same way that perfumes are made- there is the primary flavor then a bright flavor to enhance it and grab your attention, and a bottom note to round it out and make it mellow- a good trick to know.) I found that it is flavored with black raspberries, citrus, "spices" (still not real sure which ones), and honey.

I started out with a bunch of frozen blackberries and raspberries. I bought the frozen raspberries at a local supermarket- and just got the ones that had no sugar added. The fruit that is marketed specifically for smoothies tends to be just whole fruit and works well. The blackberries I had picked myself last summer and frozen for later use. Chambord technically is "black raspberry" flavored liquor, but i've never been able to figure out what on earth a black raspberry is, so I figured that blackberries and raspberries would give it the right flavor and color. I used about 2-3 cups of raspberries and 1 1/2 cups of blackberries, smashed them up really well, put them in an old juice bottle, and added vodka (any ole brand will do- I use a sort of low-middle priced vodka)- I'd say I added about 1/4-1/3 gallon of vodka- I was using a half gallon juice bottle and with the fruit and vodka it was a little more than half full. I shook it up, and set it on a shelf to age. I let it sit for about 3 weeks, occasionally shaking the bottle to keep things stirred up. It started to take on a lovely red color.

At the 3 week mark, I added about 1 1/2 cups of cognac (ok, it's another low-middle priced brandy- you don't need to splurge on the expensive stuff since you are doing the flavoring yourself.) You want to add enough at this point that the brew starts to smell more strongly alcoholic, but not so much that it smells like cognac. I shook it up and let it sit for another week or so. See, I warned you it takes forever to make this stuff.

After I let the cognac infuse into the fruit/vodka mixture for that extra week or so, I strained out the fruit. I could have used a basic mesh screen strainer for this, but then I'd have had to strain it twice, so I just found a super fine strainer and used that. Honestly, it's probably 6 of one, half dozen of another. If I had strained off the large pieces of fruit with the large strainer, it would have gone really fast, but would have required the second straining to get the little bits. Just using the super fine strainer, it took a while. I think my superfine strainer was once part of a water filtration pitcher of some sort. I'm not really sure. If you cant find a super fine filter, you can strain out the fruit with a slotted spoon or a larger strainer, then strain through a coffee filter to get the little bits. You want a VERY clear final product.

Now you have a jug of very clear dark burgundy liquid, and some "drunken fruit"- which is somewhat pale compared to what it looked like before. The drunken fruit can be sweetened with a cooked sugar syrup and makes an excellent ice cream topping- but of course, adults only. I'm not real sure what else to do with it.

The liquid is now very berry flavored, very alcoholic stuff. I didn't bother to taste it, because I'm sure it's awful, but who knows, I may be wrong. I proceeded to the next step of flavoring- the addition of citrus (top note) and vanilla (bottom note). Since I make my own Grand Marnier, and had some on hand, I just dumped a little of that in (it's orange/vanilla flavored), with a few pieces of pith-free lemon peel, as well as some vanilla extract. You could use a very high quality orange extract instead of the Grand Marnier, and you could easily skip the lemon part- orange is more "full bodied". You could also use pith-free orange peel. Whatever works for you will work here. You could also use a vanilla bean split in half instead of the vanilla extract, but you'd be waiting another 3 months for that to infuse properly. So take your pick. I used Grand Marnier and vanilla extract. It worked just dandy. If you opt for the vanilla bean, sweeten the Chambord first, then add the split vanilla bean to the bottle of "final" product and let it age for at least 3 months to properly infuse. You can then remove the vanilla bean if you like, or leave it in to continue infusing for as long as you have the Chambord. I've left vanilla beans in Kahlua I've made, and when the bottle finally was finished off 10+ years later, there was still some remnant of the vanilla bean left, and that was the best Kahlua I've ever made. So there might be something to using a vanilla bean in Chambord, but you certainly won't have a clear final product.

I never did figure out what "spice" Chambord is allegedly seasoned with- aside from the Vanilla. I skipped it, and my result seems to be just fine. It could be one of those "the world may never know" things. Maybe you should ask the Owl.

Last, you'll need to sweeten it. As I mentioned, and you may already know, Chambord is sweetened with honey, and has a sort of syrupy consistency. The trouble is that you just can't use that much honey in anything. It doesn't work right. I can't quite explain how it's wrong, but it never quite dissolves properly. It gives an odd result- some sort of cloudy parts. So I had to devise a means of sweetening it that would give me a nice thick final result, and still have the flavor of honey. I solved this dilemma by taking about 16 oz of corn syrup, 1/3 cup of sugar, and about 6-8 oz of honey and putting the whole mess into a pot on the stove. I heated it over medium heat until it was bubbly and the sugar was all dissolved. Then, since I was experimenting with the recipe, I added this 2 cups-ish of thick goo to about 2 cups of the berry flavored alcohol. You can play with the ratio a bit to suit your taste- unfortunately, I didn't have a bottle of Chambord on hand to compare my product to. The end result was a slightly thickened, honey flavored, sweet but not too sweet, berry liquor. It was beautiful- see photo above. The color is amazing. I did add about a couple of teaspoons of commercially produced raspberry syrup (the kind you get in a coffee shop) just to amp up the berry flavor a tiny bit. This step could certainly be skipped as well.

The only thing you've got left to do is bottle it. Any bottle will do really. I see no reason that plastic would be a problem. I prefer glass bottles though, and that's what I always use. You can use any old liquor bottle you might have at home, you can put it into the bottle that the vodka came out of if you used all of a bottle, you can use a juice bottle, you can go online and buy a fancy bottle. Whatever works for you. I then label the bottle with the name of the liquor and the date (Chambord, April 19, 2010).

You're done. Its now ready for drinking, gifting, whatever you like. I have yet to have my friend perform an official taste test, and I still don't have any real Chambord to compare mine against. Once I have him taste my Chambord, and once I compare it to the real thing, I'll make any changes necessary to the recipe, and certainly update this page. I have a feeling I won't be needing to make any changes though- it turned out to be pretty good stuff!

1 comment:

  1. Wow! Just tried my first batch today. I did something a little different. Before adding the orange and vanilla, I add about 1/2 cup of dark chocolate pieces and let that steep about eight days. Then, I followed through with your recipe and added simple syrup for the sweetener. Yum! Yum! I just love chocolate raspberry anything.