Chef and author Magnus Nilsson of rural Sweden’s acclaimed restaurant, Fävaken Magasinet, serves homemade liqueurs after dinner. For berry liqueurs, he favors very short extraction times using frozen fruit to ensure fresh flavors with no woody overtones. I have made homemade liqueurs for many years, using longer extractions with pure grain alcohol, then adding sugar and water for a mellowing period. Chef Nilsson doesn’t include water, so for this adventure in cooking from Fäviken, I stuck with vodka. On my own, I might have called these products flavored vodkas instead of liqueurs, but maybe that’s because I didn’t add much sugar.
Although Fävaken is all about “local,” I took advantage of Chef Nilsson’s advice to freeze the berries, and made one batch from frozen lingonberries I’d bought at my local Scandinavian shop. I made another batch from California raspberries and recommend that you give this technique a try with wild blueberries, currants, blackberries, or other berries that you pick yourself. If you live in the far north, Chef Nilsson likes cloudberries.
(This recipe was adapted from Fävaken by Magnus Nilsson, Phaidon, October 2012)
Freeze the berries. If it’s convenient, use a container to which you can add the vodka.
Remove the berries from the freezer, pour in enough vodka to cover, and allow to defrost, about an hour.
Strain the liquid through a fine-mesh sieve. Do not force the liquid through the strainer, or the liqueur will be cloudy
Sweeten to taste. (For the lingonberry liqueur, I added about 3/4 cup sugar, and it still wasn’t very sweet. I didn’t add any sugar at all to the raspberry.)
Store in a bottle in the freezer.
Note: I was a little bit surprised that my raspberry liqueur iced up in the freezer. And at first, the lingonberry tasted a little medicinal. But after a lot of research (!), I found that adding just a bit of these liqueurs to a fresh glass of cold vodka was a pretty nice end to a meal.