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Friday, December 21, 2012

Christmas Gifting: "Applejack"

Spiced rum and applejack.
by Panda

When Mango and I were in Virginia for Thanksgiving, we were invited to an engagement party.  Someone at the party had brought home made applejack; he had his own still that he made moonshine with.  He explained that whiskey is usually cut down to 80-90 proof by adding branch water to it; branch water is the water that was originally used to make the mash for the whiskey.  If you were to replace the branch water with apple cider, and add a few sweet spices, the result would be applejack.

His description was a bit different than what I found on Wikipedia, which says that it's a distillation of hard apple cider or apple wine.  Mango and I don't have a still.... yet.... or a way to freeze apple wine at the right temperature... Still, the idea of it was intriguing.  Then it occurred to me that if whiskey has already been cut with branch water, couldn't I just add concentrated apple cider to it?  Concentrated apple cider + water = apple cider, and high proof whiskey + apple cider = applejack, so shouldn't concentrated apple + with whiskey = applejack?

I started off by measuring out 750mL of apple cider (which was the same amount of whiskey that I happened to have).  Boiling this down and then adding it to the whiskey should result in a liqeur that has almost the same proof as the original whiskey.  I let this boil over medium heat, stirring constantly, until it was thick enough to leave a trail when I swiped my spatula through it.

This can also be used to make caramel, or used in  apple pie.
After that, it was a pretty simple matter of letting it cool a bit (just until it was warm to the touch), and then adding my bottle of whiskey to it.  I stirred it around with my spatula until I could see that it had fully incorporated.

I tasted it after that, and it didn't taste quite sweet enough to me.  I added some honey - about half the amount of apple syrup that I had eventually made (I eyeballed this), and at this point it had just the right level of sweetness.

I picked up some 8oz bottles (I got these from the Container Store) and added sweet spices to them.  Then I used a funnel to ladle my applejack mixture into them.

I used the same spices for the spiced rum that I made, but I didn't need to cook down apple cider for it.  I just used molasses to sweeten it up a bit and to add some flavor to it - around the same amount as the honey I added to the applejack.

Ta-da, more Christmas presents done.  They should be ready in about a week.

Maybe I shouldn't refer to it as applejack, since it isn't really applejack... Fauxpplejack?...  Fapplejack?...  I can't come up with a better name.  Screw it.  It's applejack.

Panda: You should like this.
Mango: Why?
Panda: It's whiskey.  All Indian women love whiskey.
Mango: *sigh* we don't all like whiskey!
Panda: ..... whatever, you love it.

Home Made Applejack

750mL bottle of whiskey (doesn't have to be a great brand)
750mL of apple cider
~2tbsp honey
3 cinnamon sticks, divided into 1/2 sticks (crack in half with the back of a chef's knife)
6 green cardamom pods
2 vanilla beans, cut in half and then again lengthwise, opened to expose seeds
3 slices candied ginger
12 cloves
3 large pinches of peppercorn, crushed with a pan (very coarse, just cracked)
6 large pinches of allspice berries, crushed with a pan (very coarse, just cracked)
3 strips orange zest, pith removed

Cook 750mL of apple cider down until it is a thick syrup.  Allow it to cool until warm, then add 750mL of whiskey.  Stir to combine.  Add honey and stir to combine (more or less honey can be used to taste).

For every 8oz bottle, place 1/2 cinnamon stick, 2 cardamom pods, 1/4 vanilla bean, 1 piece candied ginger, 4 cloves, 1 large pinch of cracked peppercorns, 2 large pinches of allspice, and 1 orange zest strip.  Close bottle and shake.  Allow the mixture to sit in the bottle for at least a week, shaking once a day.

Makes 3 8oz bottles.

* For spiced rum, replace the whiskey with clear rum, and use molasses instead of honey.  Adjust molasses according to sweetness preference.