Honey liqueur and mozzarella

No, this isn’t a recipe for one of those interesting (i.e., wierd) “molecular” dishes. It describes what consumed me for most of Monday afternoon and all of Monday evening.

I decided to take the day off. Kind of hard to do when you work from home and the internet is always there. It’s difficult to establish boundaries, be they physical or mental (the latter is especially hard). But I had a particularly busy week, including Saturday, and Mark suggested it, and I actually agreed. So I didn’t sit down at the computer, and I pushed the “To Do” list aside, both physically AND mentally. 

So what does a type A do on her day off? One of the things on her personal “To Do” list, of course! Ever since we tasted honey liqueur at the dinner hosted by Slow Food Bucks County at the Honey Restaurant in Doylestown, I’ve had an urge. Peter Sliwka, the beekeeper and owner of Stagecoach Orchard Apiary taught us a lot about honey that evening. I had first tasted his honey over the winter after buying it at the New Hope Farmers’ Market. One of the courses was a simple oblong plate with six strips of Peter’s honey – from different times of the year, to different types of flowers. It was a revelation. So, I thought, why not make my own honey liqueur with different types of local honey, each reflecting the complexity and uniqueness of that honey?

Recipe found! Isn’t the internet amazing? (I am, of course, speaking to those of you old enough to have lived without the internet. Remember card catalogs?). Really simple too:

Honey Liqueur
Makes 37 oz.

16 oz./1 pint (500 g) honey (I prefer local, raw, unprocessed)
1 cup water
.375  liter (12.7 oz) Everclear grain alcohol*, or whisky

*You may have to special-order the grain alcohol; I got mine at Phillips’ Fine Wines in Stockton.

Dissolve honey in hot water. The water should not be hotter than 113 degrees Farenheit. Let the mixture cool down, then add spirit (alcohol). Mix. Bottle.

That’s it. Truly. Oh there are some more complicated recipes out there with spices (Lithuanians apparently make something called Krupnikas) but I wanted the taste of Peter’s raw, unprocessed honey to come through. In April I made a small batch. Tried a sip or two in early May and the smell of the grain alcohol nearly took my nose off. “Great,” I thought. “I’ll just have to tell people to hold their noses while sipping.” But…tasted some a month later, and the alcohol smell was much diminished. There really is something to this “aging” thing when it comes to liquor.

Armed with more honey bought last Thursday from Peter, I went to West Trenton to Princeton Homebrew. Thanks to owner Joe Bair, I walked out with a case of bottles and Zorks (really cool cork-like things). This time I made the honey liqueur with buckwheat honey. I also split the batch and used grain alcohol for half, and whisky for the other half. (Hopefully, I may have found a use for the two huge bottles of Canadian Club Whisky we bought for our wedding five years ago.) After sterilizing the bottles in a bleach bath for 10 minutes (1 Tbsp bleach to 1 gallon water), I rinsed the bottles, filled them with liqueur and Zorked them. I’ll let you know how it turns out in a month or two.

So what about the mozzarella, you’re thinking? Ah. An on-going saga. Let’s just say that didn’t go as smoothly as the honey liqueur. And why I decided to do both in the same day, I just don’t know. That’s what comes from type A’s trying to relax, I guess.

Ever since purchasing the 30-minute mozzarella kit from the New England Cheesemaking Supply Company, I have been on a mission. I made the 30 minute mozzarella, but wasn’t satisfied with my results (good, but too rubbery). So I decided to tackle the more complex mozzarella recipe in Riki Carroll’s Home Cheese Making cookbook. I’ve been buying the milk from Birchwood Farms (one of the only two places in Bucks you can get raw milk). Two gallons of milk, a fruitless trip to Petsmart for pH strips (don’t ask), and three hours later, I was not happy. The result is edible, but not what I was aiming for (I refuse to show you a picture; it’s not pretty).

Lessons learned? Anyone can make cheese. But making good cheese requires skill and much, much patience. I think I’ll take a break from cheese making right now, and stick to honey liqueur.

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