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Huckleberry Liqueur

4 cups huckleberries, rinsed and drained
1 1/2 cups pure grain alcohol
1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 thin strips lemon peel

Place berries in aging container and mash with the back of a wooden spoon (or an old-fashioned potato masher works very well). Add alcohol and the 1 1/2 cups of water to the berries, stirring to combine. Cover container with lid or plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature or cooler for 2 weeks. Stir every few days.

Tip: If weather is very warm, berry mixture may be put in the refrigerator.

After initial aging, strain mixture over a large bowl through a colander or coarse wire mesh strainer. Discard fruit residue. Clean out aging container to remove all sediment.

Bring 1 cup water to a boil and pour over sugar and lemon peel. Stir well to completely dissolve sugar. Let cool to room temperature. Remove lemon peel and discard. Pour cooled sugar-water mixture ito aging container and add strained huckleberry liquid. Stir to combine. Cap and let age 1 1/2 months more.

After second aging, strain mixture again through fine strainer, wire or cloth, to remove all sediment. Re-strain as needed until clarity is reached. Bottle and cap as desired. May be used now for cooking but for serving as a liqueur age at least 1 more month; improves with additional time.

Variation: 3 cups 80-proof vodka may be substituted for the pure grain alcohol and the water if desired.

Spiced Huckleberry Liqueur is easily made by adding 1/2 teaspoon whole cloves and 1/2 teaspoon coriander to the Huckleberry Liqueur recipe.