This year I’m celebrating the holidays with a “12 Days of Christmas” series on the abundances of our kitchen and garden. Share your experiences, too, and happy holidays!
OK, folks, today is Epiphany! Three Kings’ Day! And the point in our holiday song where, in the traditional version, we have a long, dramatic rest, followed by a slow, majestic horn section for the rest of the tune …
On the 12th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me …
12 ounces of homemade anisette,
11 pickled beets,
10 cellared squashes
9 candied bacon strips
8 oranges’ peels, candied
7 dozen pounds of pork … and fat to render
6 farm-fresh eggs,
5 daikon pickled for banh mi,
4-some gallons of beer,
3 quarts of applesauce,
2 half-gallons of sauerkraut,
and 1 quart of yogurt, homemade.
And because my true love is into homemade liquor, we whipped up (or “gently mixed and let sit around”) some anisette.
This is from a cookbook I found quite a while ago at Goodwill, called “Better Than Store-Bought.” (And which I was delighted to recently spy upon the well-endowed cookbook shelf at the home of a writer who hosted a holiday party for a group of us!) And homemade anisette is, in fact, better than store-bought.
Anisette is an anise-flavored liqueur, most commonly known as Pernod or Ricard, but apparently anisette is sweeter and lower in alcohol. We made it by steeping anise seeds in vodka, then straining and mixing with simple syrup.
Let’s just say we followed the recipe loosely. We made a smaller amount than it called for — we don’t drink vodka, but had some left from last year’s Cherry Bounce, so we used what we had and adjusted the other ingredients accordingly. Then we put it out of sight on a shelf and forgot about it until it was probably stronger than it ought to be.
Then, to keep up with the slapdash theme, I set the simple syrup to boiling and sort of forgot about it until it was rather more candied than syrup (oops). But waste not, want not, so I mixed it with the liqueur and poured it through a coffee-filter-lined strainer, sort of pushing the liquid through with clean fingers at the end, and I discarded the chunks (after maybe tasting just one of the chunks and thinking it did taste good, like a liquid pizzelle). If anything, these errors make our liqueur a little more anise-y and a little less sweet than the recipe calls for. It’s lovely mixed with a little water. To continue the cookie theme, Mr. Cheap says it tastes like biscochitos. That is high praise indeed.
If you wish to mimic the process, perhaps eliminating our user error, the recipe is as follows:
3 cups vodka
3 tablespoons anise seeds
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
- In a clean jar with a tight lid, combine the vodka and anise seeds and let stand at room temperature for about 1 to 3 weeks, shaking occasionally. Taste; when the flavor is pleasing, strain the infusion.
- Combine the sugar and water in a saucepan, bring to a boil, and boil for 2 or 3 minutes, skimming if necessary. Cool.
- Combine the anise infusion and the syrup and pour through a funnel lined with coffee-filter paper into a clean, dry bottle or jar. Cover and store at room temperature.