Saturday, October 15, 2011

One Hour Pumpkin Liqueur -- Finally!

Homemade One-Hour Pumpkin Liqueur
One-Hour Pumpkin Liqueur just after filtering
Halloween is near and you get the brilliant idea to search the Internet for some Halloween drink recipes.   You land on this site and find pumpkin martinis, and even better, the recipe for pumpkin liqueur.   You get excited, right up to the point that the recipe say's it has to steep for five weeks!   Halloween will have come and gone by then.

But no longer, we've been working hard for several years in the test kitchen, trying different methods to speed up the process.    After many iterations and plying friends with different versions in blind taste tests, we are ready to unveil the newest version of the pumpkin liqueur recipe, the One Hour Pumpkin Liqueur.

The taste is very close to the original recipe, though it definitely gets more complex and interesting when it gets to steep for 5 weeks.   And I should come clean now, it steeps for 1 hour, but the filtering still takes some time and effort.   And if you want the beautiful crystal clear look, the only way I know now is to let it sit for several weeks after filtering, then siphon off above the sediment.    This will be our next task, to devise a quicker and more efficient filtering method.   But if you need it, you can be drinking homemade pumpkin liqueur tonight!

About the recipe....   It isn't that different from the classic recipe, it is just how we go about the process that makes the difference.   There are two ways to get the essence of the pumpkin and spices into our liqueur, (1) steeping in alcohol, and (2) heat.  Both will extract the flavorings that we are looking for.    To speed up our process, we now employ heat in addition to steeping in alcohol.    Changing the order of several steps is what accelerates the process.  And finally, we also increased the quantity of most of the spices, which helps to get more flavor quicker.

Scott's One Hour Pumpkin Liqueur

Monarch 100 Proof Vodka - 1.75 litre
Libby's Easy Pumpkin Pie Mix - 30oz can
5 Cinnamon Sticks (I've cut down the cinnamon more)
3 TBLS of vanilla extract
15 whole allspice
15 whole cloves
1.5 tsp ground ginger
3/4 tsp ground fresh nutmeg

3-1/2 Cups Sugar   (Also cut down the sugar, if you like really sweet, then go up to 4-1/2 C)
6 cups water

3 TBLS glycerin
food coloring
Filter bags
Coffee Filters

In a really large sauce pan, dutch oven, or stock pot, we start with the simple syrup.   Mix the sugar and water in the pot and stir frequently while bringing it to a boil.    Once the sugar has dissolved and it is boiling, remove from the heat, turn OFF your burner, and stir in all the ingredients above (except for the finishing items.)    The pumpkin, spices, and the vodka all go in the pot while it is still hot.

Caution!!!  Be absolutely sure there are no open flames at this point!   This is 100 proof vodka, and it is being heated, you do not want the vapors or liquid to catch fire!

Cover the pot and start the timer for one hour.  After one hour, it is time to strain and filter the liqueur.   It is very cloudy at this stage, and we need to start the process of finishing.   I have two filter bags now that I've purchased from a local brewing supply store.   A "course" filter bag and a "fine" filter bag.    I place the course bag in a colander, over a large bowl and start pouring the liqueur into the filter bag.   It drains quickly for a moment and then starts to clog.   I then gather up the filter bag around the sediment and tighten to drain all the liquid.   Then dump the damp sediment, wash the bag from behind to clear any remaining sediment, then repeat until you've passed the entire batch through the course bag.   Return the liqueur to the pot, then start again with the fine filter bag.

After the filter bags, you'll still have a cloudy liqueur, but the majority of the solids are out now.   Taste a sample for an idea of what the finished product will taste like.      Continue the filtration with the coffee filters.   This is the best I've come up with, but it is a horribly tedious process.    I put the coffee filters in anything that will hold them and allow the liqueur to drain through to a container below.  You'll want several going in parallel, because it filters so slow.   I put them in strainers, coffee pots, colanders, etc. and pour in some liqueur and start the filtering.   It flows fine for a moment, but then the filter starts to clog.   Carefully pull up the edges of the filter and close in to seal the top.   Then start twisting to gently force the liquid through the filter.   Keep twisting tighter until all the liqueur is out, then toss the filter away and start again.

The resulting liqueur is still cloudy, but it only has incredibly fine particles of pumpkin and spices now.   You can bottle and be done now, but I like to let it sit a few weeks and it will become crystal clear over time.   Siphon off the clear liqueur and avoid the sediment.

Once you have the liqueur ready for bottling, add the glycerin (it gives it an interesting mouth feel) and add the food coloring.   I've bought professional grade orange, but I'm going back to mixing red and yellow as I like the color better.   I can adjust it to the perfect shade of pumpkin orange, with 35 drops total, 28 yellow and 7 red.  You may have to experiment just a bit with your food coloring to get the perfect color.  Pour into sterilized bottles and add some labels.
Pumpkin Liqueur
Comparison of color and clarity - finished vs. newly filtered

Your ready now to mix a fabulous pumpkin martini, choose your favorite, the Ultimate Pumpkin Martini, the Classic Pumpkin Martini, or my favorite, the Subtle Pumpkin Martini.
© Copyright, 2008-2013, Scott Axworthy