CRANBERRY ROSEMARY VINEGAR
Makes 1 quart plus 1 pint.
Note: Red cranberries and pine-like rosemary sprigs reflect the holiday spirit. Use this flavored vinegar in your favorite vinaigrette and to season roasted vegetables, sweet potatoes and squash. Add a splash to ginger ale or soda water for a tart, refreshing drink.
• 2 c. fresh cranberries, rinsed and dried
• 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
• 2 c. white wine vinegar or champagne vinegar
• 1 c. sugar
Wash and dry cranberries and rosemary. Place them into clean, sterilized bottles or jars.
In a small saucepan, stir together vinegar and sugar over low heat until sugar dissolves. Carefully pour vinegar over the cranberries in the jar. Cover and store in a cool place or refrigerate for 4 weeks. Strain off into sterilized bottle(s), adding a few cranberries to the vinegar as a garnish.
ROSEY MULLED PEARS
Note: The sweetened wine with the fruit makes a lovely aperitif or after-dinner drink.
• 6 small pears (about 2 lb.)
• 1 orange
• 6 cinnamon sticks
• 6 whole cloves
• 1/2 c. sugar
• 2 to 3 c. light fruity red wine such as Beaujolais
Wash and dry pears and orange. Peel the pears, leaving the stalks intact. Peel very thin strips of the peel from the orange, leaving behind the white pith. Pack the pears and orange rind into sterilized preserving jars, dividing the cinnamon sticks and cloves evenly between the jars. Put the sugar and wine into a saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir until sugar has dissolved, then bring to a boil and cook until it has thickened a bit, about 5 minutes.
Pour wine over pears, making sure that the fruit is completely covered with syrup. If you need more liquid, top with additional wine. Cover jars with their lids and allow to cool to room temperature. Refrigerate at least 2 weeks before using.
MARJORAM ORANGE VINEGAR
Makes 1 quart.
Note: This is the easiest, prettiest gift that keeps on giving. Double or triple the batch, because this herb-scented vinegar is great to have on hand for vinaigrettes, salad dressings and to spice up roast meat, especially lamb.
• 4 sprigs fresh marjoram, plus more for garnish
• 3 strips of orange zest, white pith removed
• 4 c. white wine vinegar or champagne vinegar
Wash and dry marjoram and orange. Place them and the vinegar into a large sterilized glass jar. Cover and store in a cool place or refrigerate for 4 weeks. Strain off into sterilized bottle(s), adding a sprig of fresh, clean rosemary to each as a garnish.
Makes 1 generous quart.
Note: Inspired by the French writer Colette, this sweet orange-scented wine has a lovely golden hue. It makes a pretty holiday cocktail, served cold and garnished with an orange slice.
• 3 c. dry white wine (such as pinot grigio or a non-oaked chardonnay)
• 1/4 c. brandy or Calvados
• 1 c. sugar
• 2 organic oranges, seeded and coarsely chopped
In a small saucepan, heat together the wine, brandy and sugar until the sugar has dissolved.
Put the oranges into a sterilized jar and pour in the wine mixture. Allow to cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate 2 weeks before using.
For gifts, strain the liquid and discard the oranges. Pour the flavored liquid into pretty jars or bottles.
Makes 1 generous quart.
Note: Because dried apricots are so naturally sweet, there's no need to add sugar before they steep in the liquor. You can always add some before serving if you wish. Once you've sipped all of the spirit, serve the apricots spooned over sponge cake or ladyfingers, topped with whipped cream.
• 2 c. dried apricots
• 1 vanilla bean, split open
• 3 to 4 c. vodka or grappa (a colorless, high- alcohol Italian spirit), or more to cover
Put the apricots and vanilla into a large, sterilized jar. Add enough vodka or grappa to cover completely by about 2 inches. Cover the jar and refrigerate 1 to 2 weeks before serving.
For gifts, discard vanilla bean. Transfer apricots and the flavored spirit into pretty, sterilized jars.