Limoncello is an old, traditional, Italian lemon liqueur made by infusing vodka, grappa or some other hard liquor with lemons or lemon peel. It got some notoriety in the States recently by the excesses of Danny DeVito and Avril Lavigne but it has been enjoyed as an end-of-meal refresher and pick-me-up for centuries.
I\'m big on tea. My favorite is black tea. I drink 2 or more cups every day. Sometimes I\'ll go for the naturally flavored black teas like jasmine, bergamot (Earl Grey) or rose. I like to have a Nalewka with my evening tea. Hmmm… what if I made a tea flavored Nalewka? Sounds easy enough and opens up a whole kettle of possibilities.
Krupnik is a very old Polish Nalewka (vodka infusion or tincture) that was very popular in the Dzikie Pola (wild steppes) and Kresy (outskirts) areas of the Polish Lithuanian Commonwealth. Before the days of refined sugar honey was the most common sweetener - my recipe gives this traditional honey liqueur some Nahuatl heat.
I have a very productive, 3 year old now, bush of lantern peppers from the Habanero (capsicum chinense) family growing in my yard. I\\\'ve used the peppers for a hot Nalewka before but this time I wanted a sweet liqueur style Nalewka.
To start off you will need to make a basic hot vodka infusion not unlike the Serrano Sun recipy. You can use different hot peppers like the serranos, or jalapenos, or scotch bonnets, or whatever. Please remember that you are not trying to make pepper spray. Moderate the heat because too much methyl vanillyl nonenamide (capsaicin) in your alcohol will make your Nalewka more of a weapon than a beverage.
I used 5 lantern peppers in 1 liter (4.2 cups) of Baczewski vodka. I put the peppers whole in a mason jar and poured in the vodka, closed tightly, gave it a shake and put it in a sunny place for about 2 weeks. I gave the jar a shake every now and than. After 2 weeks I had a very drinkable, pleasant, hot, peppery vodka. Not unlike the Serrano Sun but with a subtly distinct flavor and completely colorless. I bet it would mature well.
Now that we have the hot we have to make the Krupnik. You will need:
Put all the ingredients in a heavy pot and slowly bring to a boil stirring all the time. If you want a clearer Nalewka you can descum the mixture by removing as much of the foam, that builds up, as you can with a spoon. Boil for about 5 minutes. If you want to get more flavor from the spices let the honey sit for a few hours or even overnight. You will have to bring the mixture to a boil again before you can mix it with our vodka.
Let the honey and spices cool a little so it is not boiling and pour the hot mixture into the Nalewka through a sieve lined with cheese cloth. We want to catch all the spices.
Back in the old days Krupnik was often served hot on cold winter evenings but I think this already capsicum heated version tastes better cold. Let the Nalewka cool, filter it again if you want and bottle. It\\\'s good to drink right away but gets much better with age.
I tried it after 3 weeks and it was amazingly satisfying - like drinking hot peppers with a smooth, spiced honey chaser. I was going to name it Hot Honey and give it a Vargas style drawing but you don\\\'t want to have any children around when you Google that name.
About 4 years ago my in-laws, Syd and Marcello, gave me a pomegranate tree for my birthday. I planted it, curb side, in front of the house and it has done rather well. This year I got quite a few pomegranates but the neighbors took most of them. I decided the last 2 had to go into making a Nalewka.
So when does a Nalewka stop being just a liquor and starts being a liqueur? It's all in the sugar, but, the funny thing is nobody can give an exact point of transition. To some people most traditional Nalewki are liqueurs because they often have some sugar. Well I think this Nalewka made the full journey from liquor to liqueur and became a cordial.