Christmas can be an expensive time of year.  This year especially seems difficult because of all the doom and gloom surrounding the Euro, Banks, UK government…….ect ect.  I have stopped watching the news as it is just too depressing.  I am now firmly staying in the mantra of ignorance is bliss, very much believing in positive thinking too and that 2012 will be a great year, especially for Betty Blue’s Loungerie!!!

So with the depressing state of our country, I have devised a few ways to save a little money on Christmas gifts but still giving a thoughtful and meaningful present.  I love making homemade gifts for people and last year I made jam with all the free fruit from my uncle’s apple trees that I collected.  This year I decided to go one step further and make more sophisticated gifts – ALCOHOL!!  Because who doesn’t love a bit of festive cheer.  I will now show you how to create this brill little gift.

You will need:

1 bottle of cheap Vodka (I was a little worried about the cheapness of this Vodka as I saw a Panorama type programme about illegal Vodka making factories – fingers crossed it won’t kill anyone!)
about 35g of Caster Sugar
about 150g of Mixed Dried Fruit
The zest of 1 Lemon
The zest of 1 Orange
1 Cinnamon Stick
3 Whole Cloves
Half a Grated Nutmeg
1 teaspoon of Mixed Spice

I got the above recipe from a Hairy Bikers Christmas Cookbook and I roughly halved the ingredients as I don’t tend to follow recipes religiously and am not using the whole bottle of Vodka as I am also making Limoncello (recipe will be blogged about in Jan time as it needs a month or so to develop).

To start off I zested the lemon and orange into a large bowl, adding in the cinnamon stick, cloves and grating in half a nutmeg.

To that I tipped in the fruit and sugar and gave the whole thing a good mix so that all the flavours are spread out evenly.

I poured enough Vodka in to cover all of the ingredients, and a dash more for luck!

One more good mix and then I covered the bowl with cling film to stop all the flavours and vapours escaping! This then needed to go into the fridge for 3 days to make sure that all the flavours had time to seep into the Vodka.  I stirred the mixture a couple of times each day to mix everything.

Three days later and this is what I ended up with.  The sugar has all dissolved into the Vodka, the zest has lost some or all of it’s yellow or orange colour and the fruit has swollen up.

To finish the gift, over a separate bowl I placed a sieve with two sheets of muslin (usually used in Jam making) over it.  I tipped the fruit and alcohol mixture into this and let the mixture sit for a while.

You can see the Vodka seeping through here.  I also gave the mixture a good squeeze to get the last drops of liquid and flavour out.  And I ended up with this:

The Vodka

The Fruity Mix

You can re use the fruity mixture for your Christmas Cake for a true Austerity Christmas!  At this stage if you are super fussy you could use a coffee filter paper to filter the Vodka once more, but this is for my Uncle’s Christmas present so I figured he wouldn’t know the difference!

I bought this glass bottle from Lakeland in the summer as I was going to make Sloe Gin – but I couldn’t find any free Sloe’s!!  So I now have used it to hold my Christmas Vodka in, and it makes the present look posher than putting the Vodka back into it’s original bottle or a plastic bottle.  I used a funnel that I also use in my jam making to help pour the liquid into the bottle; but if you strain the mixture into a jug with a spout instead of a bowl, it can often make it a lot easier to pour into bottles.

And to finish I added some festive ribbon around the neck of the bottle.  I wasn’t sure whether to or not, but I think I may tie a cinnamon stick to it to make it look pretty and a little tag with a message on.  I also wasn’t sure whether to slice some lemons and pop half a slice into the bottle to make it decorative, but wasn’t sure how to get the lemon in there!  Or maybe I could put the cinnamon stick into the bottle……… many ways to decorate it, what do you think?

I hope this has inspired you to have a go at making some flavoured Vodka, it smells like Christmas and I really wished I had made extra so I can try some!!  There are also many variations you could do on this as Vodka is a great vessel for flavours.  Cranberry Vodka?  Orange Vodka?  Limoncello? I even saw a recipe in a magazine for Turkish Delight Vodka, you can literally put anything you like in it!

Lots of Love
Betty xxx