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The Kumquat Crucible II


In my previous post, I explained what inspired my holiday project for 2016, kumquat liqueur. I also said I followed (rather loosely as it turns out) a Christina’s Cucina recipe for making it.

Christina’s recipe is designed to create one bottle of liqueur. But I am nothing if not ambitious. I wanted to make enough liqueur to give a tall jar to each of my four sons for Christmas. So I upped the recipe. I used 2 liters of grain alcohol, 40 ounces of water, 8 cups of Kumquat peels and 4 cups of sugar. But there were a few, shall we say…glitches.

First I should say that Christina’s recipe called for a 45%-by-volume alcohol base. She mentioned using vodka or grain alcohol. Having never heard of 45% (90 proof) grain alcohol, I opted for regular grain alcohol which is a great deal stronger. My wife asked if that would be too strong. I did a lightning calculation in my head. “No worries,” said I to my troubled spouse, “This is going to be extremely watered down and as sweet as candy when we’re done.” Her trepidation persisted, thinly veiled.  She is wise beyond her years.

Did you ever notice that as quick as lightning is, it’s rather arbitrary and destructive? Hold that thought for a bit.


The first step was to peel 8 cups of kumquats.

We soaked the rinds in alcohol for 14 days, more than the recommended 10. I’m a busy guy.

Straining the rinds

Next, we strained the rinds leaving the now fruity alcohol to be mixed with sugar water later.  It was at this point Lynette suggested we might make labels and give our stuff a name.

“It should have a pleasant Southern charm about it,” Herself said.

“How about Billy Bob’s Urine Sample,” I offered.  All I got was a smirk. “Mississip-pee? That would be a good one.” 

She smacked my arm and called me a twit.  “I’m thinking more along the lines of Gulf Mist or something with Gautier in the name.”

“Yes, dear.” 

We then followed the instructions to mix and heat the sugar water. After waiting for it to cool, we added the alcohol and filtered everything into mason jars. 

First filtered batch.

The filtering process was a bit slow. So I took a break and took the dog for a walk. When I returned, my problems still didn’t dawn on me.  This, despite the fact my house smelled like it had been hosed down with orange juice and rubbing alcohol.

You see, the problem was my math. The proportions resulting from my calculations were exactly backward. By the time I realized how poorly I had performed my “timeses” and “gozintas”, I had created 96 ounces of a citrus flavored high explosive. I DID NOT water it down to less than a third of its original strength. I hadn’t even cut it by a full third.

In Navy terms, this stuff would knock your dick in the dirt. And the citrus tingle stays strong on the tongue for hours (…14 days, more than the recommended 10).  If I gave this to my sons for Christmas, my great grandchildren would be born with hangovers and a lemon pucker.

The Do-over

I will now  resort to what I am calling great idea #722B.  We created another batch of sugar water (40 oz of water and 3 cups of sugar.) After employing algebra, calculus and having NASA engineers check my figures, we concluded this would cut the strength of the  mix by about a third. It would be about as strong as straight Jim Beam. And it would mellow the citrus kick. I sure hope so. I sampled a bit of the original and I think the nerve damage to my tongue is permanent.

So now, we wait while the filtration process is repeated… [Cue the Jeopardy thinking music]

Success!  Along with making the liqueur sweeter and a bit more mellow, we also removed a lot of solids that survived the original filtration process.  The dark orange particles floated to the top while the batch was stored.  When we filtered the old batch into the new sugar water, these little specs were captured. 

So now, we stow the jars in a cool dark place.  An initial cloudiness will fade to a clear honey gold and they will be ready to enjoy when we see the family.

Christmas is so much nicer when the words “poison control” are not haunting your thoughts.  God bless us, Every One!

Coming soon:  I will be updating my Blueberry (De)tour when I’ve cleared the bushes around the wild berry plants. The things I do for my readers.

Hey! That gives me another idea. Idea #723: Next year, homemade blueberry vodka! Brilliant! Why didn’t I think of that sooner?



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Homemade Holiday Gifts-STAND BACK! NO SMOKING!


Bringing Home a Bit of Greece for the Holidays.

A while back, Herself and I took an extended vacation which included a cruise to Croatia and the Greek Islands. We hit Crete, Santorini, Corfu and Mykonos.

Most of the port visits were too short. In Mykonos we didn’t have enough time to visit the beaches the cruise director spoke endlessly about. By the time we cleared customs, got into town and found the bus stop to hop a ride to the beaches, it was time to go back to the ship. If we had made the bus run the beach, we’d have likely missed our departure.

But it wasn’t a total tour fail, however. We did at least get to enjoy the waterfront and have a late breakfast. Over coffee, we watched the fisherman, already back from the morning run, smoking pipes, discussing who knows what; probably lying about the day’s haul.

We also wandered the back streets above the waterfront and got some amazing pictures.

The town above the waterfront is riddled with these tiny walkways. talk about being close to your neighbors!  But it really is interesting to explore.


The port at Mykonos

Jeeps, Fun and Fruit

Corfu was altogether different. If you ever make the tiny island by ship, be sure to take the jeep tour. That’s the event which presages this holiday season for us. We recently had a nice experience that brought back memories of Corfu as we prepared for the holidays.

We left the ship with the first excursions and were shuttled to the start of our tour. I was a bit nervous about driving a four-wheel drive vehicle in a foreign country, but the route to the trails was easy and fun.

The Switchbacks

It was really cool navigating the switchbacks up the sides of mountains. At one point a large tour bus coming down had to get past us. We all stopped an

Some of the jeeps on our excursion. Busses actually pass you on this route!

d pulled over. It didn’t look good, but the driver got almost completely by and around a very tight turn. I pulled very tight against the wall of the mountain and gave the driver the few extra inches he needed and off he went.

We spent the early day touring spots to get sweeping vistas of the islands, did some four-wheeling on some back roads and finally stopped at a place that made wine and liqueur from kumquats. If you not familiar with them, kumquats are like little sour oranges.

We did some sampling and really enjoyed the liqueur. It makes for a really nice dessert drink.

To the right is Psarras Taverna where you can sample the wines and liqueurs.


Fast Forward a Few Years

This year we discovered our neighbor had a kumquat tree. That’s when I got great idea #722. If you are an avid fan here you’ll know how many great ideas my best girl has weathered over the years. Idea #385 almost cost me an index finger; stupid lawn mower. #471 resulted in the two of us lost in the Alps for about a day. Someday one of my ideas will work. You’ll see.

No wait. Hold the phone! I did take tour of the gardens at Thurnham Hall outside Lancaster, England with the man who designed them. I took good notes and was able to recreate an English garden for Herself, at home in Virginia. And it wasn’t a disaster! Sonofabitch! So great idea #501 worked. Somebody make a note of that.

But this year I wanted was to bring our Greek Island experience home for the holidays. I would make kumquat liqueur as holiday gifts!  Brilliant!   I know, right? 

I followed a recipe (sort of) I found on Christina’s Cucina. The site was very helpful and the recipe was simple and straightforward. I really enjoy her website and will go back from time to time when new great ideas emerge.

Having Googled my way to expertise on the subject of homemade liqueurs, will I succeed in creating my holiday masterpiece without burning down the house?  We’ll all find out in my next segment.

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