Those who know me, knew it was just a matter of time before I'd post a "hooch" recipe for the weekly flavor assignment. Oddly enough, Beet Liqueur was the very first thing I ever I consulted The Flavor Bible for.
It was late fall of 2009. I'd admired the book in the cooking reference section at Barnes & Noble, but was yet to purchase it. Then we decided our next trip would be to Estonia, and as is my habit, the first thing I began researching was the country's food traditions. With its proximity to Russia, it is to be expected that those traditions include beets.
I'd just finished a new batch of Carrot/Ginger liqueur and was in a groove with root vegetables, so I checked Andrew & Karen's recommendations and a new liqueur recipe was born.
2 cups - Everclear (grain alcohol)
2 cups - Vodka
1 large ORANGE
1 bundle (6-8 five inch stems) fresh TARRAGON
6 small or 3 large red beets
3 cups - white granulated sugar
2 cups - water
Peel beets, cut into cubes and put in a large glass jar that can be tightly sealed (I use gallon sized jars with rubber gaskets and metal hasp latches.)
Peel the orange in as large strips as possible, making sure to take only the peel of the orange and as little of the white inner pith as possible. Add these strips to the jar
Rinse and shake dry the tarragon and add to the jar.
Pour in Everclear and Vodka and seal down lid. Shake to mix, and store in a cool dark place for 10-20 days. Shake the bottle every day to redistribute ingredients.
Once the infusion is a deep dark red and most of the color has leached out of the orange peel and tarragon, remove all solids and strain liquid through a coffee filter into a clean sealable jar.
Put sugar in a saucepan and add water. Heat over medium heat to melt sugar. Bring to a rolling boil and continue to boil until sugar syrup is clear. About 3 minutes should do it.
Remove pan from heat and allow sugar syrup to cool to room temperature.
Pour cooled syrup into filtered beet liqueur. Stir to mix, seal lid, and return to cool dark place.
Allow to mellow for as long as you like. Several weeks to several years.
The picture above is what the liqueur looked like just a few weeks after bottling.
The one below is what it looks like today, two years later. You can see that when young it retains the red color of the beets, and after mellowing it becomes a golden whisky color.
An interesting side note about that trip to Estonia that led to the development of this recipe -- the glass you see in this picture is a souvenir. While in Tallinn, we visited the "Soviet Life Museum", a funky and fun collection of common items from everyday life under Communist rule. The museum receives donations from Estonians all over the country and supports itself by running a sort of flea market to sell the items it can't use for display. I loved the chunky look of this glass and knew I had something waiting to pour into it.