If you have been thinking of making a liqueur for Christmas and haven't got around to it you may like this idea. It would be better to make these at least a month before consuming them, but they are pretty tasty even after a week or so.
Although I've been living in Italy for ages, I discovered "zuccherini" for the first time in the Summer. I was undecided whether or not to write about them, as I was actually rather scandalized to learn about them and to try one..........
You must promise not to abuse them if you do make them.
Italy has so many undiscovered secrets and so many ways of usings any ingredient. This is a cross between a sweet, a liqueur and a herbalist's tincture.
I was offered zuccherini in a newly opened "osteria" (a restaurant which serves simple, local food). It's common to be offered a liqueur in many restaurants at the end of a meal or even if invited to eat with friends of family. Quite often these liqueurs are home-made and are always considered "digestive". Italians aren't really big drinkers, they just have a small glass to help digest the meal. "Amaro" means bitter in Italian and bitter is known to aid digestion. "Amaro" liqueur is produced by macerating herbs, roots, flowers, bark and/or citrus peels in spirits or wine and allowing the liquid to age.
"Zuccherini" follow the same principle, but are made with 90/95° alcohol. Layers of sugar cubes are packed in jars with layers of the chosen herb/spice etc. and covered with alcohol.
The following photo shows the original choice I was offered to choose from in the osteria:
basilico(basil), cannella (cinnamon), rosa canina(wild rose),
ginipro (juniper), limone(lemon), alloro(bay) and menta(mint).
I chose wild rose. Which one would you choose?
So, how to you serve them?
Well, you definitely don't drink the alcohol. The alcohol needs to stay in the jar.
The waitress taught us what to do. A "zuccherino" is taken with pincers (allowing the excess alcohol to fall back into the jar) and placed on a saucer. It is then flambéd (set on fire) and allowed to burn for about 20/30 seconds. The flame is put out by covering with a cup or glass and the cube is eaten hot and allowed to melt on the tongue. Amazing!!
Be careful not to burn your mouth and don't eat and drive!!!
I have just prepared some for Christmas or Hostess gifts;
Wild mint and Lime peel
Rosehip and Anise
Rose and Cinnamon
You can create any combination that your taste buds fancy.....
Here are some other ideas:
Sage and Lemon peel
Coffee bean and Vanilla pod/Orange peel
Berries (dried as too much water content will dissolve the sugar)
Chili pepper (not for the faint of heart)
They can be topped up the next day if the level of alcohol goes down after making.
Keep in a dark place for a month. When they are finished, more sugar cubes can be added.
The alcohol needs to be 90° proof and the ingredients quite dry, otherwise the sugar will dissolve.
90 proof means the alcohol content is 45%, by volume.
200 proof = 100%180 proof = 90%and so on.
I use food-grade alcohol which is sold for liqueur making.
Other ideas in English about zuccherini @
instructables.com/Cubes-of-sugar-into-alcohol (funny translation)