Preserving Fruit Flavors in Alcohol: Homemade Liqueurs

When we discuss food preservation, we are usually talking about canning, dehydrating, freezing or fermenting. But did you know that you can also preserve fruit in alcohol, such as brandy or vodka? It is a way of preserving the flavor or essence of the fruit for later use.

This method consists of steeping fresh or frozen fruit in alcohol for several weeks. In the end, you end up with some “drunken fruit” (good as a dessert topping) and a flavorful alcohol that can be used to make dazzling cocktails, punch, deserts or sauces.  But if you take it a step further and add a little sugar syrup to the mix , you now have delicious homemade liqueur! WOW!

Homemade Raspberry Liqueur

Homemade Raspberry Liqueur: This little gem is versatile in the kitchen and so easy to make.

Better than store bought and packed with flavor, these little liqueur gems are versatile in the kitchen and very easy to make. What’s more, they make terrific gifts at holiday time. What could be better than that?

And guess what? You can even make cocktails from jam! But that is another topic…

Fruit:

You can make liqueur from just about any fruit: apples, apricots, blackberries, blueberries, cherries, citrus, cranberries, peaches, pineapple, raspberries or even a mixture of fruit. My favorites are lemon, raspberry and cranberry, but they are all good. Fresh fruit is always best, but frozen unsweetened fruit also works in a pinch. In fact, if you want to make some liqueurs as holiday gifts this year, start now with frozen fruit or fresh cranberries and in a month’s time you will have many bottles to give away.

Alcohol:

I prefer to use vodka for most liqueurs because it allows the flavors and the colors of the fruit to really shine. But brandy will also make a nice liqueur with peaches, cherries or any heavily spiced mixtures. You don’t have to use the most expensive brand of alcohol, but avoid the cheapest if you want a delicate flavor. You get what you pay for. You can also use pure grain alcohol if you have it in your area.

Spices:

You can make your liqueur uniquely your own by including some spices in the steeping process. Try whole cinnamon sticks with cranberries or a teaspoon of allspice with peaches or a whole vanilla bean with…well ANYTHING! It is all good!

Bottles:

You can find very inexpensive, used glass bottles at thrift stores and garage sales or brand new bottles from sources such as Lavender Lane. When giving them as gifts, I stick with smaller sizes (6-8 oz or so) because a little goes a long way. Seal the bottles using either corks or screw tops.

Basic Homemade Fruit Liqueur Recipe:

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4 cups fruit of your choice (or 12 oz. bag of fresh cranberries)
2-3 cups of vodka or brandy
Optional spices such as cinnamon sticks, whole allspice or vanilla bean
Cheesecloth and coffee filters
Large funnel for straining & filling bottles
1 cup sugar
½ cup water

Wash fruit and remove stems or pits if necessary (depending upon fruit used). Cut large fruit (like apples or peaches) into bite-size pieces. Smaller fruit (such as strawberries or cherries) should be cut in half to release juices. Cranberries, should be chopped in a food processor for best results. Blueberries or Raspberries can be left whole.

Fresh blueberries in a vintage jar waiting to become liqueur

I like to use vintage canning jars for steeping, but any large glass jar will work well.

Place fruit in a large, clean glass container. (I use my collection of vintage canning jars for this purpose. But any quart size or large jar will work.) Add 2-3 cups vodka or brandy or enough to cover the fruit. Some fruit will float and that is okay. Add any spices that you wish. Stir the mixture and cover the container tightly. Set container on a shelf, away from heat or sunlight for at least 4 weeks. Stir or shake occasionally.

After steeping, strain the mixture using several layers of cheesecloth. Once removed from the alcohol, store the “drunken fruit” in the refrigerator and use within a few days as a dessert topping, addition to tea bread, or addition to a dessert sauce.

Take the remaining flavored alcohol and strain again using fresh cheesecloth or better yet, coffee filters to get a clear liquid with no cloudiness.

Meanwhile in a small saucepan, combine sugar and water. Heat to a boil, stirring constantly and cook for one minute or until the bubbling mixture turns clear. Remove from heat and set aside until completely cooled. (About 1 hour)

Pour half the sugar syrup into the alcohol base, stir and taste for sweetness. Some fruits are very tart and will require all of the sugar syrup. Others will only need a hint of sweetness. Extremely tart fruits (like cranberries) may even need a second batch of sugar syrup to really create a truly sweet liqueur. This is a personal preference, so use your own judgment. Continue adding syrup until you reach desired flavor.

Bottle your liqueurs in clean, decorative bottles and label with a date.  The liqueurs will have the best flavor after a few months of sitting on the shelf (aging). They will begin to lose their bright color and some flavor after one year but they will not “go bad” because the alcohol is the preservative. I usually have no problem using them up within one year.

Imagine that!

About

Theresa Loe is the Co-Executive Producer and the canning/homesteading expert on Growing A Greener World TV. She creates seasonally inspired pantry items based on homegrown and locally-sourced produce. A lifelong canner and a graduate of the Master Food Preserver Program, Theresa also studied sustainable horticulture and culinary arts. She also blogs at LivingHomegrown about homesteading & preserving. Follow her on Google+ and download her FREE CANNING RESOURCE GUIDE.

Comments

    • Theresa Loe says

      Hi Robert,

      Good for you in scaling up! Sounds fun and I like the fancy fermenter you found.

      My only suggestion is that when you scale up the liquid in your recipe, you do not need to scale up the spices or flavorings to the same scale or your risk over seasoning it. You will have to test it out. For example, if I doubled a peach/cinnamon recipe I would double the liquid but not quite double the spices. The reason is that the spices will flavor quite a bit of liquid at a time. The trick is to taste it and remove the spices when you reach the desired level of flavor. If you add a lot of spices, you will need to check the flavoring every day.

      Other than that, I don’t have any tips. But I hope that helps. Good luck!

  1. says

    Hi, I made limoncelloe with grain alcohol and organic lemons. This is the second batch I have ever made. I zest end the lemons, soaked in grain fro 45 days. We strained it, added the boiled water/ sugar mix like the recipe called for (after letting it cool), then put in bottles that I thought I sterilized pretty well. It turned out great, really strong, sweet, and lemony. I put a bottle in the freezer and we have been slowly drinking. I put the rest in a dark cupboard and after 6 weeks I checked them and there is a dark liquid layer on the top 1/2″ or so…. Seems like it couldn’t be mold on this grain alcohol could it? I was hoping just to suction this layer off then put all the bottles in the fridge or freezer….any thoughts? I could post a picture too….? Thanks for any input!

  2. Anna says

    I tried to go to lavender lane but it said the site did not exist. Can you recommend another company for bottles?

  3. Eli says

    Hi, Can you tell me if the shelf life will be safe for fruits and fruit juices if alcohol content of entire bottle is 15%-20% alcohol? I am hoping to get a year or two non-refridgerated. Would I need to heat/pastuerize the bottles to stop fermenting or get that kind of shelf life with that alocohol content?

    Thanks!

    • Theresa Loe says

      Hi Eli – I’m unsure about the shelf life with that level of alcohol. I would heat the mix to kill any yeast that may be present in the fruit. But I really do not know if that level of alcohol will preserve the fruit long term. Sorry I can’t be more helpful.

  4. Aradia says

    Hello,
    Thank you for the info, and also for continuing to respond to questions four years after your post! :) I tried to get through all the comments to make sure I am not repeating a question..so if this has already been asked I apologize in advance.

    My first question is about changing a recipe I have from sugar to honey. It calls for 1lb cranberries, 1 whole orange and 1 whole apple in two cups of rum with 3.5 cups of sugar. If I can change the sugar to honey, what would you suggest as the conversion/ratio?
    Also, the instructions say to grind up) the fruit (literally the word “ground” is next to each = I suppose in a blender) – perhaps it’s more about the liqueur than the fruit *shrug* – does that change the flavor? Does it really matter either way?

    Thank you so much!
    ~Aradia

    • Theresa Loe says

      Hi Aradia,

      So sorry for the delay in answering you. Here are your answers:

      Question one – Using honey instead of sugar: Yes, you can use honey but do not convert 1:1 because honey is very sweet AND the honey you use can have a very strong flavor. Start with about 1/4- 1/3 the amount of honey and then after a few days, you can taste and add more if you wish. Remember, the apple will add sweetness too.

      Question two – Grinding the fruit: I would imagine that grinding the fruit would make the flavor of the fruit stronger as that gives you more surface area and all the juice. I say go for it! It might make something really delicious. Does it matter? Well, it wouldn’t hurt either way. But if you grind it, you have juice in the mix and if leave the fruit whole, you only have the flavor of the fruit without all the bits. So aside from the flavor difference of that, you also have the sediment that will come with grinding. You will probably have to strain a few more times to get rid of all that sediment when you are done steeping.

      Good luck!

  5. Josie says

    Hi,
    I infused Bourbon with fresh figs, a bit of honey and orange. I removed the orange after a few days because I only wanted a hint of the citrus. I removed the figs after three weeks and pureed them. I then strained the bourbon several times, filled sterilized bottles with the liquor and corked them. I sealed the corks with wax and placed the bottles in a cool dark place for four weeks. I took the bottles out to use and there is what appears to be cloudy sediment floating in the bottles. Could there be mold? What can I do? How would that have happened?

    • Theresa Loe says

      Hi Josie,

      I do not think that is mold. It is just sediment from the figs and is very common. Even though you strained it (and I’m sure you did a great job), you can still get sediment at the bottom of the bottle. In order to prevent this, some people take an extra step after straining: They pour all the liquid into a large bottle (or big pickle jar) and set it in a quiet place for a week or two. Then, they siphon off the top using gravity and clean plastic tubing into another container (leaving some sediment behind). Then they bottle. The other option is to strain a few more times through coffee filters to get crystal clear liquid.

      Honestly, it is a lot of extra work just to make it look pretty. The sediment poses no danger. You can simply use it as is or pour through some cheesecloth as you use it. It is just fine and still should taste great.

      If there are huge amounts of sediment at the bottom, you may have had some fermentation going on there in the bottle. This is okay too and happens sometimes when there are natural yeasts on the fruit that are not killed by the alcohol. The fermentation process will only increase your alcohol content and pose no danger. You can strain off the sediment through cheesecloth as you use the bottle up.

      Let me know how it tastes!

      • Annie says

        Regarding pits and cyanide poisoning: There are actual recommendations to use the inner nut of cherries or peaches as a cancer cure. The scientific breakdown of the inner nut or seed states that the cyanide is isolated in it’s natural form and is not actually ingested as a poison. The inner nut of cherry or peach & other fruit is processed by our bodies & also has been discovered to destroy cancer cells. As with everything, use in moderation as allergic reaction is possible, as with any food ingested by small percentage of people sensitive to certain chemicals . Google to learn more to evaluate for yourself.

  6. Ann says

    I was given several jars of aged vodka cherry bounce with fruit inside. Everything is a very dark color. I discovered that they were made with whole sour cherries that were not pitted. On questioning the giver as to safety with pits, she said her family never ever pitted the cherries and that it was safe to use. Could this be true? I had thought that all pits needed to be removed prior to steeping.

    • Theresa Loe says

      Hi Ann,
      I’m not sure. I too understood the pits to be dangerous because they leach cyanide into the liquid. We are supposed to be able to detox small amounts at a time with no affect. So, perhaps the fact that the fruit is covering the pit keeps the cyanide inside. I just don’t know.

      But you are correct. Recipes always tell you to remove the pits before canning or steeping.

  7. says

    Every Thanksgiving we start a bag of cranberries & sugar in vodka or Everclear and keep it in the refrigerator. Next Thanksgiving we drain the cranberries, the liqueur into the bottle and the drunken fruit into the holiday cranberry sauce. By not using water the liqueur can be kept at room temperature.

    Soak the dried fruit for fruitcake in brandy for at least three months before making the fruit cake. Four cakes and a half gallon of brandy in the fruit and cheese cloth wrappers.

  8. says

    Hello,

    My husband has been making sour cherry liquer for many years using the pitted fruit, vodka and sugar. It has been enjoyed by family and friends for just as long. After sitting for several months (3) the liquer has always been strained and then bottled in sanitized bottles and stored at room temperature. For the first time 15 years we just received a call from his brother who claims the gifted bottle of liquer exploded while sitting on the shelf in his pantry. I immeditely checked our bottles to find no pressure build up in any of them. Can you possibly explain why this would suddenly happen with one bottle? We picked up these bottles at a kitchen store while on holiday in the Napa Valley and are manufactured by a well know canning company. Looking forward to hearing from you.

    Adele

    • Theresa Loe says

      Hi Adele,

      It sounds like that one bottle started to ferment. A ferment can happen when some of the cherries have an abundance of yeast and/or there is not enough heat or alcohol to kill the yeast that is present on all fruit. Natural fermentation does happen from time to time. But I do not have an answer as to why just one bottle would do that and not any of the others. I suppose there are a few different possibilities:

      1) It could be that all the bottles are fermenting slightly and that particular bottle had a weak spot making it more vulnerable to the internal pressure. If a bottle has a weak spot (hairline crack, large bubble or stress in the seam) it does not take much to make it pop.

      2) Perhaps the jar was stored at a warmer temperature which accelerated any natural fermentation going on? If that is the case, then the bottle simply had more fermentation than the others.

      3) Maybe that bottle was not strained as much? Could it have been the bottle filled with the bottom of jar sediment? (Which may have had more yeasts)

      So it is a bit of a mystery. It will probably never happen again but to prevent it in the future, you can always heat the mixture before bottling (don’t boil it, but heat to almost boiling). Let it cool before actually putting in the bottle. This is usually not necessary, but it will kill enough of the yeast to prevent fermentation in the bottle.

      Hope the rest of the bottles do okay. It sounds delicious!
      ~Theresa

  9. Karalina says

    Hi

    You have such great info on this!!! I’m someone who worries too much on botulism and such.

    January 2012 I made a sweet dark red cherry infused vodka. Fresh cherries. I used a jar I cleaned in very hot water and soap and rinsed very well. But did not use boiling water bath to sterilize more so

    Washed cherries were pitted and halved and layered in the jar with superfine white cane sugar.

    Over that I poured a bit more than a couple cups of pure vodka.

    The recipe said to leave it for 3 months but I wanted it to have more flavor. I just strained it into a new jar last night. I was very careful even more so this time with sterilized utensils.

    It is no longer rich crimson red but very dark reddish brown. It smells potently like vodka still. I tried a bit and it tastes like a fresh cherry w/ alcohol and end note of a slight cough medicine taste. I tried a cherry and although the color is like an olive now it’s still crisp ish. Like an ugly candied cherry infused with alcohol!

    So it’s unlikely or impossible for it to be contaminated right ?!

    From all your responses to others I’m guessing mine is safe. From vodka and also cherries I’m sure have acid in them.

    I still can’t help but be scared a bit. I was trying to make a faux ukrainian vishnia liqueur that my grandfather had in ukraine.

    I found a recipe for cranberry raspberry liqueur using vodka and they say to chill it the entire time? Of 4 weeks ? Not sure what the reason would be ??

    My cherries were sitting in cool closed dark shelf

    Thanks for any reply although I’m sure it is so annoying. I love this site though!! So glad to discover it !!

    • Theresa Loe says

      Hi Karalina,

      Yep. I think your infused vodka is fine to consume as are the cherries. The color is from oxidation and from the amounts you are telling me, I think you are fine on pH and alcohol content. It should be safe.

      One thing I like to do with the drunken fruit is chop it up and add it to a tea bread (like lemon bread or vanilla bread – something without a lot of flavor). It can get a rubbery consistency from sitting so long in the mix. So I find that chopping it fine and/or cooking it in something helps. I also works in a sauce that you would drizzle over ice cream or angel food cake. Mmmmm!

      As you noticed, the flavor changes when the fruit sits in the alcohol a long, long time. Everyone has their own idea of what length works best. But honestly, it changes with each fruit and alcohol you use. So in the future, you should just taste it as you go and then remove the fruit when it has the flavor you like. Also with time, the fruit flavor will lose some of its brightness (hence the cough syrup taste). You can revive it by steeping a new cup of fresh fruit in it again. But only leave it in a week or so or you will be back in the same boat.

      Hope that helps!
      T

  10. Richard says

    If I were to preserve fruit for a year in a liquor would it still be good? I hear people preserving fruits all the time, but for only a few weeks.

    • Theresa Loe says

      People preserve fruits in liquor for 2 reasons: to create drunken fruit and to flavor the alcohol. In both cases, you can steep the fruit for a week or two and be done. The alcohol will have a lovely color/flavor and the fruit will be sufficiently “drunken”.

      But if you want to keep the fruit in the alcohol for extended periods of time (year or longer), you can simply leave it and it will not rot as long as the alcohol is not diluted too much. If you wish to store the fruit for a year, then do NOT add water to the liquid (or only add a little bit) so that you are mostly dealing with pure alcohol and maybe some sugar and spices. The fruit will keep but will have a more rubbery texture the longer it sits in the mix. It will not have the texture of flavor of fresh fruit. But it would work beautifully in a sauce or fruit bread or other baked product.

  11. Krystal says

    So my question is I made some Apple pie moonshine last year for Christmas and had sliced apples in it. I used Everclear and let it ferment for 3 weeks. I took the fruit out and kept it in a ziplock container in my pantry. It is still preserved and smells like alcohol still. I am curious if it is still good? I know that alcohol will preserve, but wasn’t sure for it sitting out at room temp. I would like to add it to my new batch this year for a extra kick!!!

    • Theresa Loe says

      Krystal,
      I think you win the prize for asking the most interesting question all year. That is one I have never been asked before!

      First of all, your moonshine sounds amazing! Please tell me it tasted. And to be clear, you fermented it and steeped it in Everclear? Does that mean you added a yeast as well? Or by “ferment” do you mean you let it sit on the counter for 3 weeks?

      Unfortunately, I am unsure about the safety of the apples in the ziplock baggie and here is why: Everclear is a grain alcohol with a very high percentage of alcohol (generally 75% or 95% alcohol depending upon which version you used). If your moonshine was pure Everclear (no watering it down with anything else) and apples, I suspect what happened was that the alcohol seeped in completely to the apple flesh and hence preserved it from the inside out. So even though it was out of the liquid, it “might” have had enough alcohol within it to preserve it the same as sitting in the liquid. However, we really don’t know how well preserved those apple slices are on the inside.

      Also, I don’t think there is really anything special about the apples in the baggie that would warrant using them in your new batch. Most of their flavor (and juice) was steeped out the the first time. You would actually get a much better (and more flavorful) batch of moonshine with new, fresh apples. So my vote is to use fresh apples and make a new batch. Yum!

      • Karen Clark says

        I was about to ask a similar question. In the past, I have saved peaches that I made home-made hooch with and then used in a cake mix with added butter to create a rum-like cake. D E L I C I O US Well, now I have made some lemonchello using orange rind (have done it before and loved it). Anyway being that hoarder type of person I am I chopped up the orange rind to use in a similar way and wondered if it would keep without sealing or freezing like my peaches have done? The rind has soaked for just about 10-13 weeks. Being less porous is making me wonder my own sanity. The orange peel is crisp and not rubbery. Maybe I will freeze just to make sure. What do you think? I now have almost 5 gallons of orangechello. I have one gallon of lemonchello also. Needless to say, my daughter has more oranges than lemons that she shares; which is the reason I tried the oranges instead of lemons loving the results. We make hooch out of most anything growing in our orchard. Apple was incredibly good that we made using 8 lbs of fruit, 10 lbs of sugar, 1 yeast cake and 4 gallons of warm water. We need to be careful not to turn into problem drinkers. One small glass is more than enough.

        • Theresa Loe says

          Hi Karen,

          Although I think the rind would last for quite a while in the refrigerator. I would freeze it (as you suggested) because then you are sure to get a long life out of it. Your orangechello sounds great! (As does all the other yummy things you are making)!

    • Theresa Loe says

      Hi Esther,

      Your recipe looks fine (and delicious). Being 80 proof becomes important if you are diluting the mix down with water or other liquid. And even then, the biggest concern would be not having enough alcohol to prevent the fruit from rotting. You are not worrying about botulism because the pH level is safe. This sounds like a winner recipe to me!

  12. David says

    Hi , I’ve been looking to make this for a long time. My friend once told me he made it in a water jug. He said he added a layer of fruit , then a layer of sugar, layer of fruit , layer of sugar until he filled the jug then added 190 Proof Grain Alcohol. Put it away for 6 months and done. My question is, Can you actually do that without actual measurements and leave it alone for 6 month, or does it need more care than that ??

    David

  13. Heather says

    Hi! These sound like lovely gift ideas. Two questions. How many 6 – 8 oz jars does the recipe make? Also, if I want to use spice.. do you have a suggestion for how many vanilla bean or cinnamon sticks to use? I was thinking 1..
    Thanks!

    • Theresa Loe says

      Hi Heather,

      This recipe is very forgiving – meaning that you can estimate the measurements of alcohol, fruit and sugar and it still works. So as for the amount you end up with, that can vary. However if you follow the recipe exactly, you will end up with between 4-5 cups of liqueur. That would equal about 32-40 liquid ounces which would make between 5-6 (6 oz jars).

      One vanilla bean would be perfect. I would use 2-3 cinnamon sticks. But again, it is all based on personal preference. I would start with a smaller amount and taste after a few weeks of steeping. You can always add more and continue to steep. The spice flavors are subtle and they add their flavor slowly. So you don’t have to worry about them overpowering the mix if you start small. It is more of a delicate side note to the flavor.

      Have fun! You will love it.

  14. angie says

    Hi theresa,
    I have soaked rasins and frozen cranberries in a bottle which is half filled with gin in the fridge for about 1 yesr. . the fruits tasted and smells ok and the gin is dark in colour.. can I use the fruit for my fruit cake.

    Angie

  15. Grey says

    Hi! Thank you for your helpful articles. I recently tried to strain the strawberries out of the vodka I had infused (the berries were soaked for 3 or 4 months in a dark cool cabinet). I’m not sure if some of the berries floated to the top or what happened, but there was a sort of jelly in between some of the strawberries. Is this normal? Is it still safe to make a liquor out of or should I throw this batch away? Thank you for your help!

    -Grey

    • Theresa Loe says

      Hi Grey,
      I’m assuming you were steeping berries with just vodka and perhaps sugar? No other ingredients, correct? Then my best guess would be that you had a fermentation happen there. When foods ferment, a “scum” forms at the top. You should be able to scrap off the scum and strain out the berries and vodka should be fine. The alcohol will prevent botulism and bacteria from forming. The act of fermentation itself also keeps the mixture in the ‘safe’ zone. I think your vodka is okay. And yes, fermentation does happen sometimes if there are natural yeasts present on the fruit. It is normal. You just didn’t see it happen because the jar was in the cabinet.

  16. jane says

    I made juice from some beautiful muscadine grapes, it’s thick and is sweetened. Will I be able to make liqueur mixing the juice and alcohol?

    • Theresa Loe says

      Hi Jane,

      I have not tried mixing juice with alcohol, but I would guess that yes you can. I use 50% alcohol or more only so that the alcohol will preserve the fruit juice. If you have more juice than alcohol, I would guess that you risk spoilage.

      Good luck!
      t

      • Mandy says

        Hi there,i have bought a rum ,strawberries,kiwi & bananas,can I use these items to make me homemade liquor & how long will it last,will the strawberries not rot

        • Theresa Loe says

          If you are using straight vodka, rum or brandy to steep the fruit, it will last indefinitely. After 6 months, the color begins to darken but the alcohol is safe even years down the road. However, I did want to caution you on the bananas. They tend to fall apart during the steeping process. You will get a lot of fiber and bits in the mix. I would plan on straining it several times with cheesecloth when you remove the fruit.

  17. Cissy says

    Question: Several years ago I made some raspberry vodka and never used it. It has been in the refrigerator ever since until recently. It no longer has a nice red color, but rather a brownish red. The photo of your raspberry vodka shows it to be bright red. Has something gone wrong with mine? It seems to me mine was a bright red for a very long time. Thanks so much!

    • Theresa Loe says

      Hi Cissy,

      Your vodka is okay. It just oxidized. It will lose color after 6 months. The fact that it was refrigerated probably slowed down the process. The flavor also changes over time and loses it “brightness” as well. But it should be safe to drink. Only the color is bad.

  18. Emily says

    Hi Theresa. We did this with pears a few weeks ago, and now some of the lids are bulging. I opened one and it burst. What’s going on?

    • Theresa Loe says

      Hi Emily,

      I’m sure its hard to find with over 140 comments on this post, but I have answered that question several times here. I’m thinking maybe I need to do a post on this very subject! Ha ha

      What is most important is to verify that you had not “canned” those jars. We are talking about just steeping fruit & alcohol on the shelf, right? You had not heated the contents or processed those jars in a water bath, right? The reason that is important to ask is because if they had been processed, you should not have any fermentation (which is what I suspect is happening) because the natural yeasts would have been killed. So if they WERE heated-processed-canned, I would say through it out because you have something bad going on other than fermentation.

      HOWEVER – I am assuming you did NOT “can” or process the pear alcohol and we are talking about a natural fermentation happening with fruit, alcohol and sugar. If you have nothing else in the jar and you did not can it…natural fermentation can happen and is ok (safe).

      Your fruit has natural yeasts on it. What I suspect happened is that there was enough yeast for the fermentation to happen.

      You need more alcohol to stop the fermentation process or you need to let the fermentation finish it’s job. And don’t add any more fruit. I would also leave the lid on loosely so the fermentation does not explode the jar. (It can!) Don’t tighten the lid until the natural fermentation is complete. The act of fermentation creates a more acid environment, so it is a safe process. But you don’t want to seal up a jar with that happening inside or you will have quite a mess on your hands when the jar breaks.

      Hope that helps!
      t

  19. lisa says

    Thanks for the recipe! I’m making huckleberry liqueur and i want to put it in clear glass containers. I think it would be nice to leave a few whole berries in the finished liqueur. Is it safe to do that ? or will the berries rot?

    Cheers!

    • Theresa Loe says

      Hi Lisa,

      Yes it is safe to do that. The berries might hold together, but they also might fall a apart a bit. Just know that having them in there will cause some sediment at the bottom. Perfectly fine – just can make the liquid cloudy when the bottle gets stirred up.

  20. says

    Hi Theresa,
    Enjoying reading your site! I have an abundance of raspberries in the garden this year and am most definitely going to make some kind of alcohol infused mixture, possibly raspberries in rum.

    Doing a bit of research there are a lot of recipes that say ‘add sugar’. My question is why is sugar needed? Is it purely for flavor? Is there any chemical reason to why sugar needs to be added in recipes?
    Thanks
    Rebecca

    • Theresa Loe says

      Hi Rebecca,

      I think the main purpose of the sugar is flavor. But sugar also aids in retaining of the color. Without sugar, the liquid mixture will turn brown, dark or muted. You can adjust the sugar so that it is much less if you wish. But I always add “some” to hold color (unless you are avoiding it for dietary reasons). The alcohol is what preserves it.

      t

    • Laura says

      Hi
      We’ve just picked boxes of plums from my Dad’s garden. They can’t drink brandy and I was hoping to preserve some in Port – does anyone know if this is possible and how to do it?
      Many thanks in anticipation
      Laura

      • Theresa Loe says

        Hi Laura,

        Yes, you can steep in the port. But although the port has a higher alcohol content than regular wine, it is much lower than things like vodka and brandy. (Less than half the alcohol content) You need to use less fruit or you will get a natural fermentation process starting. As you will see in the comments, when the ratio of natural yeasts (which is on all fruit) vs. the ratio of alcohol gets too high, the alcohol cannot prevent the fermentation from happening. You need to keep the lid on loosely so that if any fermentation happens, it does not build pressure and break your jar. You could also blanch the plums before adding them to the port and that would kill most of the yeast. Drop them fruit into boiling water for a few minutes, drain and add to the port.

        T

  21. Damain says

    Hi you have probably answered this in the past but i was wondering about doing some vodka infusions with fruit< but instead of straining out the fruit i wanted to let it age for a couple months and then drink it. The fruit wont rot or anything like that will it?

    • Theresa Loe says

      Ummm…Damain, this post you commented it gives instructions on doing just that. You place the fruit in the vodka for at least a month. Several are okay. The fruit should not rot.

  22. Pat says

    I know I must take the pits out of fresh plums before putting the fruit into vodka. Since plum skin is bitter should I peel the plums?

    • Theresa Loe says

      I leave the skin on because I like the color it gives the vodka. And I counter the bitter with more sugar. (Ha ha) But you could certainly peel them if you want. I just try to make it as little work as possible.

      Enjoy!
      ~Theresa

  23. Joan says

    I used raspberries with vodka to make a rasberry extract. I strained the mixture and changed the raspberries every 3 weeks. The last batch nearly exploded. The canning jar lid was bulging. I had to loosen the lid very slowly so the contents wouldn’t explode. It was like if you shook a bottle of Pepsi. Is this OK. Can I keep going adding more raspberries?

    • Theresa Loe says

      So I am assuming you did not “can” or process this vodka, but only had it setting on your pantry shelf?

      If so, your fruit has natural yeasts and it sounds like you have a natural fermentation going on here. Yes,the mixture is okay. What I suspect happened is that you kept adding fresh fruit (which is fine & does make for a yummy mixture) and each time, you were adding in more yeast. Eventually there was enough yeast for the fermentation to happen.

      You need more alcohol to stop the fermentation process or you need to let the fermentation finish it’s job. And don’t add any more fruit. I would also leave the lid on loosely so the fermentation does not explode the jar. (It can!) Don’t tighten the lid until the natural fermentation is complete. The act of fermentation creates a more acid environment, so it is a safe process. But you don’t want to seal up a jar with that happening inside or you will have quite a mess on your hands when the jar breaks.

      The reason I wanted to make sure you did not “can” or process this jar is because THAT would have killed the natural yeasts. If this were a processed jar sitting on the shelf, then we have something else going on and I would say to throw it out. But if this jar has not been processed in a water bath canner, then we are talking a very natural process and it will be fine.

  24. Jeff Michaels says

    I messed up and added my sugar first thing with all my other ingredients. Now what’s my next step?
    Thanks

    • Theresa Loe says

      Thats okay Jeff. Cooking the sugar with the water first is only so that you can:
      1) Control the amount of sweetness you add
      2) Dissolve the sugar so you do not have cloudiness in the mix

      It doesn’t hurt anything. But don’t add any more sugar until you see if you need it. You probably have sweetened it enough. It will be fine!
      ~Theresa

  25. Carolyn H. says

    I’m thinking about using fresh figs from my tree…and perhaps maple sugar if I can find it, or real maple syrup. What about ground cherries? Would any other sweeteners such as agave work ? Can you safely add fresh herbs or edible flowers? Thanks!

    • Theresa Loe says

      I have never used figs, but I am sure they would be great. You can sweet your mixture with any pure sugar you wish. Ground cherries would work, but do not use the pits. I have never used agave, so I am not sure how that would taste. Yes, you can add herbs and edible flowers as flavorings as well.

  26. Michael Williams says

    Greetings! My question is similar to one above. I did the work to make cherry liqueur and then forgot about the jars on a back shelf. I just found them last weekend. The whole cherries have been soaking in Vodka for three years. Judging from the question involving the pears, I assume that this will be OK to strain and drink, but because they contain pits, I wanted to make sure that nothing toxic would have come out of the cherry pits steeping this long. I do hope these will be OK. The color is deep and glorious. Thanks.

    • Theresa Loe says

      Hi Michael-

      I wish I could tell you that your mixture is okay – but I am unsure. Cherry pits produce prussic acid (hydrogen cyanide) and are not supposed to be eaten in large quantities. I know that you are not eating them. But your liqueur has been steeping with the pits for THREE YEARS! I would guess that some of that poisonous compound is in the mix. I really have no way of knowing. If it were me, I would probably not drink it. So, so sorry.

  27. Shannon says

    We’ve made several kinds of infused vodkas, and all have turned out great. We were given a box of apricots that were very ripe and had a delicious sweet flavor. We couldn’t eat them all before they went bad, so I opted to make an apricot infused vodka. I didn’t pack the jar, and I added enough vodka to cover the fruit (which floated) and still leave decent head space in the jar. Its been on my counter out of direct light for 5 days.
    Today, I noticed the lid was bulging, obviously under pressure, and there was white foam in the jar. We opened the jar to let the pressure out, and about a third of the fruit pushed its way out of the now overfull jar. Is this fermentation normal? Is it still safe? I’ve never had this happen with other fruits. I know these apricots had a high sugar content, but I didn’t expect the foam and pressure. I’d LOVE to keep this, its smells delicious, and my husband was brave and took a bite of the apricot that spilled out. But, I want to make sure the infusion is still good, and the apricots will be safe to eat. Thoughts?
    Thanks for you input!

    • Theresa Loe says

      Hi Shannon,

      You have a wild fermentation going on here. A wild fermentation means that the natural yeasts on the apricots are turning the high amount of fruit sugars to alcohol in your mix. I’m surprised because the alcohol in the vodka is usually enough to keep this from happening. But it is not dangerous. You are sort of creating your own apricot wine without meaning to. The only bad part is that you don’t know what yeasts are working and it may not give you the flavor you want in the end. So here is my suggestion: To stop the fermentation, add more vodka. The extra alcohol should kill off the remaining yeast. Perhaps you need to split the fruit into two larger jars and cover them with more vodka. Do not add sugar (you obviously have plenty in there). This should take care of it. Also, I would cover the tops of the jars with some cheesecloth (too keep out bugs and place the lids on loosely so that you don’t build up too much pressure. You don’t want one of those jars exploding all over the counter.

      I do have one question – Did you cut the fruit in half and remove the pits before starting your jars? You don’t want the pits in the mix. So if you have not done that, do it now. You want to use the fruit of the apricot. Hope it all turns out yummy!

  28. Mila Giganti says

    Hi
    Happy to have found this page!
    I have made Limoncello before & would like to try other fruit liqueurs…..so, I am encourage to do it soon
    Thanks for the info and comments/feedback
    Cheers
    Mila Giganti

  29. Quiltlover says

    I made apricot jam the other day and ended up with 6 or 7 apricots that I did not need. I improvised today by washing them, slicing them and putting them in a pan that contained sugar and water. I boiled this mixture for 5 minutes until the fruit was soft. Using a slotted spoon, I put the fruit in a just washed quart mason jar, and boiled down the sugar mixture until it was thicker. I then added an equal amount of peach brandy (I did not have apricot), stirred it, covered the jar with a lid and put it in the refrigerator. Do you think I will end up with anything worth using in a month’s time?

  30. James says

    Hi,
    a month or 2 ago (might even be coming on to 3 months) i cant really remember how long its been now, i started the fermentation process with 2L of rum, without sugar and roughly 5 oranges without the skins and squashed in but leaving some chunks in an air tight jar. Some friends informed me that i had to be careful how long i left it for because the mixture can become poisonous if left too long, I didn’t think that was the case but now I’m doubting the information i thought i knew…

    • Theresa Loe says

      Hi James-

      You say you “started the fermentation process…” but what you describe is steeping not fermentation. I just want to be sure I am understanding. Steeping oranges in rum will not turn poisonous. I am not sure what your friends were referring to.

      If you are fermenting, then you would have yeast in the mixture (natural or added) and you would have a fermentation lock to release the gas bubbles. So, I don’t think you are fermenting – Correct?

      ~Theresa

      • James says

        Sorry i stand corrected, i did mean steeping because there is nothing but rum and oranges in the jar. Im not sure what my friends were referring to either but when i showed them and explained it they said be careful, which i disagreed but now i wasn’t 100% sure and didn’t want to poison anyone with an orange infused rum?

        • Theresa Loe says

          Infused rum is a very common thing to make and I never heard of it turning to poison. I think you are fine, especially since you only have oranges in there and nothing else. I would suggest you throw in a cinnamon stick for a week or so to add another layer to the flavor. (If you like cinnamon) You only want a hint of cinn flavor.

          I think it sounds delicious!

          ~theresa

          • James says

            Thank you for clearing that up for me, im pretty sure my friends were talking about the distilling process but im not doing that. Which they made me doubt my understanding (and they call themselves bartenders haha). I had thought about adding cinnamon or vanilla beans, but im using this as a trial before i make a second batch containing dark rum, cinnamon, vanilla beans and maybe a few cloves or something. still thinking about it. thank you once again for your help.

            • Theresa Loe says

              Absolutely! Ya know, you could strain out the oranges and then divide what’s left into different jars and just add a different spice to each one. That way, you could see what you like and would not ruin the whole batch if you didn’t care for something. Just a thought…

              Good luck!!

  31. Firegurl says

    About Mangoes and allergies…Mango are in the family Anacardiaceae family or Sumac and Cashew family…their compounds upset some people so if you are allergic to tree nuts or cashews..be careful…see wikipedia on this family, and yes this is the same family as poison sumac but don’t let family names fool you. Many plants are poisionous don’t eat it unless you know.

  32. Foamheart says

    Opps…. I had a question. Labels. Is there a good cheap computer software where we can design or make bottle labels. I am bottling 18 oz bottles, pretty clear glass to show the good stuff off when giving to friends. Besides with cherries and strawberries being red, pineapple and peaches being gold, need some way to know what it is and when it was put up.

    Besides the obvious presentation bonus points (hehehe).

    What I have found so far on the net is sort of expensive. I would rather spend my money on ingredients.

    • Theresa Loe says

      Unfortunately, I have not found anything that is really super cheap. I handwrite most of my labels because it is fast and easy. But I did see something on Pinterest that I thought was really cute. They used a white paint pen to write labels. We also have a friend/winemaker who uses this same technique on their family wine and if you have decent handwriting, it is really very charming! Here is the link to the Pinterest picture: http://pinterest.com/pin/110549365824550631/

  33. Foamheart says

    I have got to tell you, I am having a blast! I am not a patient person but……. I used to make what is called Cherry Bounce in the summer for my yearly Christmas party. It was a big hit. This is so much more fun. The biggest difference is the small quanties, each “Batch” of mine is made in a quart canning jar which yeilds about 2 cups of the resulting nectar.

    It needs to be re-said, when you pour off and seperate from the fruit, its NOT the finished product. I first thought I had wasted my booze, but still set it up and allowed to mello, which I call a smoothing process. This makes all the difference, its like aging corn squeezing I assume. Everyone that has tryed my first attempts has ranted and raved including my “Chuch Lady” sister.

    What ever is the cheapest fruit works great, talk to the produce man at your market and cut a deal for his old fruit.

    Finally, I would personally like to recommend pineapple steeped in a pirates spiced rum with 1/2 a good vanilla bean, or if you are from the south, peaches steeped in that pirates rum, then after it is smoothed, add that to an old southern classic making Spiced Peach Sweet Tea. It ain’t your Momma’s sweet tea, but she will drink a second glass with you.

    I am still experimenting, we raise strawberries every year. So far not impressed though, beautiful color, the smell makes you drool, but the taste isn’t just right yet. The berries are so naturally sweet, maybe I am not using enough sugar not wanting to over compensate. I will figure it out.

    I am thinking maybe oranges in 1/2 vodka and 1/2 190 proof next, ’cause the citrus in the back is falling off the trees now.

    BTW TL, thank you, you have now been elevated to hero status IMHO.

    • Theresa Loe says

      Well thank YOU for the wonderful comment! And holy cow – That pineapple/rum combo sounds incredible. What a great way to describe it! I just love how you have taken the ball and run with it and designed some really fun creations! Way to go!

  34. Phyllis says

    Found this wonderful website and am hoping you or some of the other commenters will have a suggestion for me. I mixed up my first fruit liqueur last December, using vodka and frozen raspberries from my back yard harvest. The “minimum” 3-month mellowing period ended in late April and I understood that leaving it even longer, like 6 months, was even better. So I filtered it all through coffee filters and bottled in small jars intending for Christmas favors this year. Much to my dismay, I just brought the bottles out of storage and see a cloudy layer at the bottom of each. Any way to get rid of this? I can filter them all again through paper coffee filters but as I recall from last time, it takes forever and you lose a fair amount of liquid to absorption in the filter (and maybe even evaporation of the alcohol content). Any better ideas? Is this normal? Many thanks! [P.S. for all the chocolate liqueur comments: I used cocoa nibs, available at beer brewing supply stores, for a batch of this and it was a snap, turned out great, lasted longer than liqueur made with cocoa powder, and didn't need refrigeration. You can find recipe on web or I can post a URL if anyone needs it.]

    • Theresa Loe says

      Hi Phyllis-

      The sediment at the bottom of each bottle is just that – tiny particles of the fruit that made it through the first filtering. It is totally normal and not harmful.

      You can either:

      1) Filter again – losing a little bit of your mixture in the process (and yes it does take a long time)

      2) Let it be – and explain to people what it is.

      3) Carefully decant most of the clear portion of the liquid off into new bottles and only filter the remaining cloudy portion at the bottom of each bottle.

      I opt for #3 personally. I like it to be as clear as possible and by only filtering the bottom half of the bottle, you save time. It is very hard to get it perfectly clear without filtering multiple times.

      Also, I filter first using cotton tea towels or cheese cloth BEFORE filtering with coffee filters. That gets rid of the big stuff and allows the remaining portion to filter through faster.

      Good luck with your gift making. I’m sure it tastes wonderful.

      ~Theresa

    • Laurie N. says

      Matt, I made lemon vodka. You want to make certain you use organic produce. I peeled the lemon, using only the yellow. Then, I put it in the vodka bottle and left it there. The vodka turned a gorgeous yellow and is very lemony. So, I’m guessing you could use the key lime juice for a pie and the peel for the vodka.

    • Theresa Loe says

      Hi Matt -

      Laurie is correct. One of the most delicious vodkas you can make is with citrus peel. With ANY citrus, you use a potato peeler to cut the colored part of the peel off – leaving the bitter white part behind. Place the colored peel in a jar with the vodka and steep. Easy! And yummy. In the case of limes, there really is not much pith (white part) anyway, so the peeling should be fairly easy.

      ~Theresa

    • Theresa Loe says

      Hi Nick -

      No, you do not have to add sugar. You can just steep the fruit in the alcohol with no added sugar and it is safe. The alcohol is the preservative.

  35. says

    Hi all,
    We have recently built a new home on a few acres and moved in – previously we were temporarily renting and had most of our stuff stored in a shipping container.
    Upon unpacking, I have found two sealed Vacola preserving jars of lemon sugar vodka, two of lime, one of cherries in brandy and one of pineapple in brandy. The citrus vodka is clear and the cherreis and pineapple seem intact and clear too. They’ve been there for just over three years, I’m guessing. I made them with equal quanities of sugar, vodka and fruit – no cooking, ‘all-in and seal’ kinda method.. an experiment really.

    I popped the lids on the citrus and had a little nip – strong, syrupy, fragrant, bloody beautiful, but I want to know if I am missing something..Is there are particular ‘bad’ taste I should be looking out for, or could they be off with no telltale signs? After I try it on myself, how long should I wait to feel ill, before I unleash it on the rest of the extended family..
    If it’s ok, I want to keep it in the freezer so it’s chilled ready during summer – any chance of it exploding if I do that?

    Thanks,

    Sonya :)

  36. Carolyn Ellertson says

    I have a question: Sometime back a relative gave me some leechees. I wanted to do something with them because the are so rare, but didn’t know what. Thought about a leechee liqueur. I peeled and seeded them and put them in a container in the frig – where I am embarrassed to say they remain in cold storage. I imagine they are worthless by now – or are they? They pretty much look the same as when I put them there, because the juice was surrounding them. What do you think? Also: does anyone know how to make non-alcoholic sparkling fruit juices? I have lots of grapes and apples..Thanks for your input everyone.

    • Laurie N. says

      Carolyn, for the past two seasons, I have made elderflower champagne. The use of the word champage is misleading. the alcohol content is so minimal as to be undetectable. The final product is fizzy–like champagne. Anyhow, I would imagine if you google a recipe (basically elderflowers, lemon, water and sugar–I am not near my recipe book), you may be able to adjust it or find leads to using fruits.

  37. crystal says

    Hi, I have been searching the internet for an answer, and perhaps you could help me. About 2 years ago, I had some extra cherries. I threw them in jars and covered them in vodka (or was it brandy?) I threw them to the back of my liquor cabinet and promptly forgot about them. I recently “found” them again and was wondering if they were still edible. If not, would the alcohol at least still be safe? I didn’t seal the jars or process them at all, and I didn’t add any sugar or spices. Thank you.

    • Laurie says

      if the cherries were totally immersed in the alcohol, all should be safe. I have left elderberries in brandy for well over a year with no problem. There was also honey in that jar so if there were a problem, the jar would likely have exploded from the fermentation of the berries. In fact, the brandy/vodka and cherries are probably quite delicious.

      • Amanda Clegg says

        Have to confess I found a jar of plums in something alcoholic that came with me from my old house, 20 years ago, and obviously got unpacked into the back of the pantry. I now have about a pint of the most amazing fruit liqueur!

    • Keith says

      Well as I am slowly finding out from learning more than from serious answers yes they should still be very good. Vodka and Brandy seem to be the best two preservatives in the forms of alchohal for fruits. Only one question really…How did you manage to forget there was such a delicious treat in the back of your cabinet. If its vodka I would recomend a few cubes of ice and some of your cherry vodka and some lemonade and put a few cherries in for enjoyment, color and difference! …Enjoy!

    • Theresa Loe says

      Hi Crystal,

      As the others have said in their replies – Yes, all should be safe. The alcohol preserves the fruit. However, the texture of the cherries may be less than desirable. I would suggest that if you use them, you chop them up and blend them into something (like tea bread or a sauce for ice cream). The vodka should be AWESOME as you have essentially aged your liqueur and it should have a mellow flavor. You can now adjust with sugar if you need to or use it as a mix for martini’s etc.

      ENJOY!!!!

  38. Keith says

    Thank you for having a site up here with so many ideas and remedies. I am new to all this kind of. I have made serveral mixes and liquers but have stumbled across a thought I never seem to get a forthwright answer to… I am using kilner jars for my rasberry vodka and blackberry and watermelon vodka and have a selection of peach brandies as well. in that lies my dilema …how long can I keep the mixture in these containers…could I just leave them even if years past? So far they have all had around 4 months this latest batch and because I am moving soon I do not intend to be using them anytime soon? Am I ok as I am or should I be using something else?

    • Theresa Loe says

      The kilner jars are fine for your liqueurs and they should last for many many years in there. I would remove and use the fruit within 6 months to a year if you can only because the texture breaks down and they become either mushy or hard as a rock (depending upon the fruit). But from a safety standpoint, you can keep the flavored alcohol indefinitely.

      Enjoy!

      • keith says

        Thanks Teresa,

        Well that is good to know and I will take your advice and remove the fruit in a couple more weeks to a month. I found the blackberries are one for getting really hard with vodka and so have already removed them. The watermelon is crunchy and the mango seems oblivious…lol Thanks for your advice it is well taken!

  39. kathy says

    Thanks, Carolyn–
    Maybe if I add campden tablets to stop the fermentation so I can bottle it before it goes bad? Treating it like a virgin batch of alcohol is a little beyond my skill level as I think we are talking about distillation…a little scary! LOL

    • Theresa Loe says

      Hi Kathy,

      Fermentation and distillation are two very different things. Fermentation is actually how pickles and sauerkraut is made. The problem with fermentation is if the wrong bacteria get started you can have spoilage and if you seal the product before it is done fermenting, the pressure can build up.

      Making moonshine takes two processes: fermentation AND distillation. Fermentation is a chemical reaction that occurs when yeast breaks down sugar. One result can be alcohol (if the right yeasts and food products are used). Distillation is the process of evaporating the alcohol and collecting the steam and then condensing it back into liquid form.

      In this situation, I am still unsure what to do to stop the ferment process other than letting it run its coarse. The natural yeast of the fruits are breaking down the sugar you added. Eventually it will slow down and stop.

      I wish I could offer more information, but I have never had this happen before. I think the warm conditions just made the situation perfect here.

      • kathy says

        Thanks Theresa–
        I found my mistake: When I added the alcohol to the plums, I did this in small batches and apparently did not add enough alcohol (vodka) to some of the batches. That is why some of them were perfect and not fermenting and others were bubbling and foaming at the top. Next time, I will be sure to mix it all together to avoid confusion. To correct the mistake, I simply added more vodka to the weak batches and everything is just peachy–er–plummy now!

        • Theresa Loe says

          Okay! So that explains why I never had this happen to me before (and I have been doing this for about 20 years – LOL). I am so glad you figured it out. Thank you very much for coming back and sharing with us so we learned too!

          ~Theresa

  40. Carolyn Ellertson says

    Fruits (acids and enzymes and/or starchs) plus sugar makes alcohol. Think about brandied fruit (or even sourdough). You start it with fresh fruits and sugar with a little brandy or something to seed the fermentation. It can be done without the initial brandy, but it takes longer to start the process. In any case, the sugar feeds the fermentation process as long as it has something to interact with and it is “alive”. It has a wonderful period of peak fermentation which is fabulous for using over desserts, ice cream, etc. (you can see the effervescence as it works) but eventually if you do not add more fruit and sugar, it works itself out, dies, and will eventually spoil if not refrigerated, made into jam or used up. To me this is a different process than flavoring an already stable alcohol (vodka, brandy, rum, etc.) with some fruit. Kathy may have just hit the nail on the head. Perhaps if she treats her concoction as a virgin batch of alcohol she might be able to save her large investment in vodka. I’m no expert, but it seems to sound like it might make sense. I would try exploring recipes for making alcohol from scratch, and learn more about the science of it. There is definitely something amiss here. All alcohol has to ferment in some way. Think about moonshine, liquor made from potato peelings by sailor in the old days, dandelion wine etc. There has to be an explanation. It will probably be the one that kept my mango liqueur from not working! Enlighten me when you figure it out! I have found that when I heat my fresh mangoes through in the microwave when I am using them for jam purposes, they do not eventually darken as they do when you do not. That is because I like the low/no sugar and no cook kinds of jam, and there is not the same ratio of sugar to fruit and pectin as when you make the cooked kind. Even processing them in a boiling water bath and seeling them did not stop them from turning dark. I’m sure that’s why our grandmothers had blue jars for things like applesauce, pears, and peaches. Light and oxygen are the worst of the darkening agents, interacting with the enzymes in the fruit unless stopped some way, and yes, a warm atmosphere would definitely cause anything working on yeasts to work faster…think bread..

  41. kathy says

    Theresa–
    The recipe(s) that I saw and followed before I ran across your site instructs that the sugar should be added together with the vodka and fruit from the very beginning. Your recipe adds the sugar after the vodka and fruit have steeped for a few months. I’m thinking that might be the issue here?

  42. kathy says

    Just wondering how tight the lids should be during the 4-month fermenting process–I am making plum liqueur using the vodka and sugar and one of the bottles nearly burst! Most of the recipes I’ve read just say “cover and keep in a cool dark place for four months”.

    • Theresa Loe says

      Kathy,

      That is odd. It is not supposed to ferment. It is only meant to steep. In other words, the fruit is only sitting in the alcohol to flavor it. If you have fermentation going on, I would think that something is wrong. What kind of alcohol are you using and how much fruit and sugar?

      ~T

      • kathy says

        I thought it was odd, too. I have had this sitting for about a week now. The recipe I followed called for 2 pounds of chopped up plums, 2 cups of vodka, and 2 cups of sugar. I am using a lemon flavored Vitali vodka (70 proof) I have about 6 gallons of this liqueur. Half of it is sitting in a 3 gallon glass jug and the other 3 gallons are steeping in much smaller jugs. The kitchen where I prepared it was unseasonably warm for a few days (not sure if that had any influence) but I have it stored now in a cooler room in a dark corner. I spent a considerable amount of money for the vodka, so I would hate it if this didn’t turn out. The fruit rises to the top of the jar and bubbles. I could hear a slight release of pressure on the other bottles as well. The fruit flies are loving all of this!

  43. Coolcooker says

    More a question than a comment. After straining the liquid off the fruit, could you then make a jam or compote etc from the fruit? If so, I think the fruit would not have to be used up so quickly.

    • Theresa Loe says

      Yes, you could make a jam or compote with the fruit. The only problem would be in appearance and texture. The fruit turns dark and gets mushy. But the flavor should still be good.

  44. Vivian says

    I didn’t have luck with the chocolate liqueur, so I’d like to learn this too. I used cocoa, which didn’t dissolve at all.. Maybe it needed to be cooked first?

      • Stephanie says

        You make chocolate lliqeuer the same as any other, using cocoa powder. Strain out the majority of the cocoa after it’s been sitting. You’ll never get it as clear as fruit liqeuer, but the trouble of giving the bottle a little shake before using it is WELL worth the effort. Add some simple syrup, and you have some delicious (and maybe dangerous) stuff.

  45. Kim says

    How would you make a chocolate or coffee liqueur? I am so anxious to try some of the fruit varieties but also after reading the comments, would like to try these as well. Thanks for the great information.

    • Chad says

      Do an online search for recipes for Kahlua or Tia Maria and you’ll find a lot of similar recipes. I did one that I found that called for strong ground coffee and that used rum instead of vodka and it came out really, really good. I don’t have the recipe handy but there are tons available.

  46. Vivian says

    I don’t know how common a mango allergy is, but it does exist; my daughter is allergic to them. They do contain the oil urushiol, which is also in poison ivy.
    Same goes for pistachios & cashews.

  47. Paula Akin says

    i would not even touch mango skin more than necessary or wear gloves when peeling those, since they’re same family as poison oak, I’ve read. Some people are allergic if they’re sensitive to poison oak at all. So be careful!

    • Carolyn Ellertson says

      Paula: I’ve never heard of such a thing! Especially the part about the poison oak??? I do not think our local food chains would sell something unsafe like that in their stores without some sort of warning label. Are we talking about the same fruit??? I’ve been peeling them for years, just like an apple or anything else. I can’t imagine! I worry more about the green chilis in the veggie department. I would like to read up on what you are saying. Do you have a reference I can use? Thanks so much!
      PS: There is nothing more fantastic than mango jam on buttered toast…I think you shouldl try it. Wear your rubber gloves to peel them if you like..they’re worth it..

      • Theresa Loe says

        Well I learned something! I did not know about the mango allergy either! Very interesting.

        Carolyn -
        As for your question about heating the fruit. I don’t think that would be a problem at all. I have not tried it, but it should not affect the flavor at all. So I would go ahead and give it a shot.

        Good luck!

        • Pat says

          Hi,
          I started a vodka based liqueuer in Feb 2012, my first attempt. I cooked nothing, did not make a sugar syrup but simply did this:

          Blueberries, Blackcurrents, Strawberries no particular quantity or order.
          Chop fruit, place an initial amount in a quart jar, shake some brown or demerara sugar to cover, leave till juices soak sugar.
          Top up to just cover the fruit, leave until you have some more fruit and repeat until jar is full with a little air space. Seal and leave. Stir regularly, until you fell the taste is right, then strain, bottle the liquor and use the fruit for topping ice cream or in a trifle.

          Mine has just reached perfection last week (Aug 2012) and is simply stunning. Starting another today for Christmas, this time its a white rum base.

          Its so easy even a bloke like me can do it. Enjoy.

  48. Carolyn Ellertson says

    Hi! Hey I am older than dirt, and been canning, freezing, and dehydrating forever, but want to try some liqueurs. Mangos are in season and I always make jam mango jam in addition to freezing the puree for the grandkids, who adore smoothies for breakfast with it. I saved a few to cover with vodka, and if you think it is a manageable idea, I will buy a few more before the season is over. I could use if for Christmas gifts, as I always give lots of those. I also have tons of blackberries on our farm, and I pick, pick, pick. Eight grandkids eat lots of peanut butter and jelly, and my DIL even deseeded some for smoothies. Can I do them whole and then strain? Other fruit will come on soon. Last year I tried some quince, but I think I let it set too long before covering it with alcohol. Eventually the stuff in the jar turned dark and looked gross and I tossed it. Ditto some make with mango peels like someone on the internet said I could do (fail!) Should I heat them through to prevent that darkening? If I just do it enough to stop the darkening enzymes it doesn’t seem like it would hurt the flavor that much. Ditto with the mangoes. When I nuke the mangoes for my frozen jam to heat them through, they don’t turn dark. If not, it can. It takes them a while, but they eventually do turn dark if they do not have enough sugar or other preservative in them. My ultra light jam eventually did. Suggestions? Love your site. Thank you so much.

  49. Sarah says

    Responding to your answer to Nick’s question regarding preserving fruit in alcohol. If I were to make the “fruit preserved in syrup and alcohol” would the processing time in a water bath be the same as jams and jellies? If I used straight rum would that be considered straight (enough) alcohol not to need the water bath? Thank you so much!

    • Theresa Loe says

      Hi Sarah,

      If you use straight rum, it would be considered straight alcohol and you do not need to water bath.

      As for your question on processing time, there are too many variables to know. Many factors need to be considered: the density of the fruit, whole fruit vs. cut up, the amount of syrup and alcohol. I would suggest you find a tired and true recipe that already has the processing time calculated for you. Otherwise, we would just be guessing.

      Sorry I don’t have a better answer!
      ~Theresa

  50. Nick says

    You posts are very helpful. I am wondering if you need to water bath can the jars if you are keeping fruit in the alcohol for long periods (6mnths- multiple years)? I would like to make bourbon cherries and drunken peaches, but I find conflicting info on if these need to be properly canned or if the alcohol will be enough to keep the fruit safe to eat for extended periods.

    Thanks for your help

    • Theresa Loe says

      Hi Nick,

      If we are talking about preserving fruit in straight alcohol (not a sugar syrup that has a bit of alcohol in it), then it is my understanding that you do NOT need to water because the alcohol is a reliable preservative. I have fruit liqueurs that are many years old and they are fine. Botulism cannot grow in alcohol. And either can mold. What does happen with time is that the fruit will become dark (even black) and the texture becomes undesirable. But the liquid is delicious and safe to drink. I would suspect that some people process the fruit in alcohol to preserve the color and texture of the fruit for a bit longer.

      However, there are some recipes that are really “fruit preserved in syrup and alcohol” and those would need to be processed because there is not enough alcohol to prevent botulism and mold. So you need to be sure of which recipe you are following. Straight alcohol does not need processing.

  51. says

    I am looking for a Cranberry Liqour? that I made several years back. It had Cranberries {of course] oranges,Lemon ?,sugar and vodka, that is all I can remember they were chpd and let set then strained,it was soo pretty at Christmas in decanters I hated to drink it. Can you help.. I’ve looked everywhere for the recipe… A GREAT BIG THANK YOU

  52. Donny says

    Hi ive been steeping my raspberries for 6 days now and i tasted is for the first time yesterday. there was definitely a raspberry flavor to it but there was still a strong vodka presence. How can you tell when a full infusion has been achieved? I know the steeping times vary based on environmental factors like temperature. WIll the raspberries float or will there be any indicator like that? Also when adding the sugar syrup does this intensify the raspberry flavor? thanks

  53. says

    This is fantastic, thanks for the detailed recipe. I’ve been canning for a few years and and just made my own vanilla extract (vanilla beans and vodka, how easy can you get?) and this seems like a logical and delicious next step. Now I can’t wait for my strawberries and currants to ripen to I can try this out. Thanks again!!

  54. That Guy says

    I would like to try something similar to this but unfortunately all I have is red wine. Could I use it in a similar process?

  55. John G says

    This is very informal. Thanks. Have a question that didn’t exactly get answered. I preserve my fruits and make my liqueurs using grain alcohol that is between 50-70 % alcohol content. Im curious, when I preserve fruits using a mixture of fruit juices and my alcohol, what volume ratio ( juice to alcohol) is necessary to keep the fruit from actually rotting?

    • Theresa Loe says

      Hi John,

      That is a good question. The rule of thumb in preserving is that at 80 proof or 40% alcohol content by volume, no bacteria can survive in it. So, if you are currently using 50-70% alcohol content and want to add fruit juices to the mix, do not dilute your mixture to less than 40% alcohol. ( I would shoot for no less than 45%).

      ~Theresa

  56. Vivian says

    Yesterday I decanted the lemon, lime, raspberry, chocolate, coffee, and pumpkin pie spice liqueurs–and tasted every one. The pumpkin and chocolate ones were very difficult to filter, but by then I was no longer a perfectionist!
    I forced my husband to drink beer out of those bottles w/resealable caps for the coffee & chocolate liqueurs. I used clear bottles for the others, because they’re pretty to look at. [I did tweak the color of the lime & lemon ones a little].
    Sure you can buy these in a store, but it was fun to make and I think nearly everyone appreciates a homemade gift.

    • Theresa Loe says

      That is awesome Vivian!

      It doesn’t matter if some things are available store bought. Homemade is always best! I think everyone on your holiday list will be excited to get them.

      Well done!

      ~Theresa

  57. Travis says

    Just started my first batch!!!!! Gonna be hard to wait:-) The jar I used is a little too big for the amount of liqueur I am making…. so there is a gap (a few inches) between the top of the mixture and the jar lid….Is that okay? Or should the mixture reach the top of the jar? Thanks in advance!! :-D

    • Theresa Loe says

      No worries Travis. It should be fine. The extra air can add to the darkening of the fruit, but I find most of the fruit turns dark no matter what. I would not worry about it.

      And yes, it is hard to wait. That is why I suggest you sample it…often. You know, just to be sure the flavor is coming along.

      ;-D

      ~Theresa

  58. Theresa Loe says

    Hi Marissa,

    If you preserved the pears in rum, they should be fine even if they floated to the top. They are safe to eat, but may not be very appealing. So you can skim them off and discard them, or chop them up and use them as flavoring (like in tea bread). But as far as safety, they are fine and you do not need to throw out the jar.

    Enjoy!

    ~Theresa

  59. Marissa says

    This is an awesome post. I recently preserved sliced ripe pears in spiced rum with orange slices and cinnamon. In several of the jars the pears floated to the top and turned brown. Are these okay to eat or not? If not, do I discard the whole jar? Thanks for the post and any advice!

  60. Laurie says

    last year, I made an elixir, a spin-off of your liqueur. I used whole, fresh elderberries (you can use any berry or cutup fruit), covered the fruit by about an inch with a really good brandy, then filled the bottle almost to the top with honey. I let that sit about six or eight weeks before tasting. Even longer was better. I did not strain the fruit out for months. Yum!

  61. Vivian says

    I’m finding that it’s difficult to strain the raspberry liqueur with a coffee filter, even though there is no solid fruit. There isn’t even any residue on the filter. Any suggestions?
    I can see that what does filter through is more clear, definitely prettier.

    • Theresa Loe says

      Hi Vivian,

      YES – use cheesecloth! You can strain through several layers of cheesecloth and repeat until the mixture is very, very clear. You may not even need to use a coffee filter if you do that.

      Good luck!

  62. Karen says

    Can I use frozen raspberries to make this ? We’ve got an abundance in the freezer right now, and it would be great to use some of them for this recipe. Would they need to be defrosted first ? Thanks
    Karen

    • Theresa Loe says

      Yes Karen, you can use any frozen fruit and there is no need to defrost. Just drop them right into the jar and cover them with alcohol.

      A raspberry liqueur is divine! Enjoy!

      ~Theresa

  63. Mary Ann says

    I’ve got an old mayonnaise jar filled with homemade “Pear Vodka” that I made by pouring vodka over diced pears back in November of 1998! Before I closed the jar, I put a layer of plastic wrap under the lid. Every now and then, my husband asks if it would be safe to drink it but we’ve been afraid to try. Do you think the alcohol will have preserved it this long? Should we take a chance? (I think I’d just strain out the fruit.)

    • Theresa Loe says

      Mary Ann,

      1998? Wow. You now have “aged” liqueur! It probably tastes fantastic.

      The answer is YES it should be safe. I know! You are probably surprised. But here is the deal:

      IF you used only vodka as the liquid (and did not dilute it with water or something else). It is safe! The bad stuff (like botulism spores) cannot live in vodka. So if only vodka was used, the alcohol content kept it all preserved.

      The fruit would actually be safe too, but I would imagine that the consistency would be less than ideal. If it were me, I would strain out the fruit and keep the flavored vodka.

      Let me know how it tastes. You could use it to make martinis.

      ~Theresa

  64. susie kew says

    hi thanks for your help. is it ok if the pears are very hard. there from my pear tree. also the peaches are very hard. thanks susie.q

    • Theresa Loe says

      Totally okay from a safety standpoint. But if they are softer, they might be more flavorful, juicy and sweeter.

  65. SUSIE KEW says

    hi i am trying for the first time pears in brandy. i am going to put them in jars. i am leavring
    the pears in. do i need to do the straining prosess. if leaving the pears in. or can i just do the syrup and pour on top. thanks .
    you have given me great ideas for xmas.
    susie.q

    • Theresa Loe says

      Hi Susie-

      If I understand you right, you want to use pears to flavor the brandy and not strain them out? Yes, you can do that. But know that the pears do become discolored and eventually get mushy. If your goal is to make “canned pears” that hold their color and texture well, then I suggest that you visit this link.

      http://www.uga.edu/nchfp/publications/usda/GUIDE%202%20Home%20Can.pdf

      It has many recipes for preserving fruit in syrup. I think that will give you a better result for the pears.

      But if you are more interested in the flavored brandy and don’t want to strain, that is perfectly safe to do so.

      Does that make sense?

      • SUSIE KEW says

        thanks that has helped alot. i have just covered some pears in vodka too. after the four weeks, can i just and the sugar syrup and leave again for another four week, and test.

        thanks alot great help.
        susie.q

        • Theresa Loe says

          Absolutely Suzie!

          But you might not need to wait so long. I know I say let it steep for 4 weeks, but it is perfectly okay to taste at 2-3 weeks. Even though it won’t be sweetened, you can get a sense for how strong it is. Once the flavor seems strong enough to your liking, go ahead and add the sweetener. You can leave the fruit in the mix indefinitely if you wish, just know that over time, more and more sentiment will settle in the bottom of the jar. People strain to get a clear liquid – so that it looks pretty. But it does not change the safety of the final product.

          Let me know how it turns out!

  66. says

    Thanks a million for this post! I’ve got 12 lbs of strawberries and I’ve already canned over 20 lbs of previously picked ones; I’m definitely looking for something different and this fits the bill. Very excited to get started.

  67. Nick says

    Can you can a hard lemonade or iced tea? How high does the alcohol content have to be for preserving it. I’d like to make A simple hard lemonade recipe not using a fermenting process but a heating and mixing process where the alcohol content would be around 5% to 10%. Would it be safe to store at these levels? Or is this just for liquers and syrups as opposed to a ready to drink beverage?

    • Theresa Loe says

      Hi Annie-
      Yes, we could make some nice cocktails with these infused vodkas. My favorite is still a Lemon Drop Martini made with lemon infused spirits. Mmmmm.

  68. Joyce Woodrow says

    I would like to make either a chocolate raspberry sauce or some kind of a chocolate
    liqueur for Chiristmas Gifts I have lots of tall long bottles and short ones with corks and would like to know is there any special process I need to do with these bottles after I make the sauce or liqueur?

    • Theresa Loe says

      Hi Joyce -

      Great question!

      If you make a chocolate liqueur (with vodka, chocolate, vanilla and/or sugar), your only requirement is that the bottles be sparkling clean. The alcohol in the liqueur will preserve the mixture. You can use a cork in the top and it will keep on a shelf for at least a year.

      The chocolate SAUCE is a bit different. It is usually made with cream or butter and/or milk and must be refrigerated. It is not a candidate for canning or “putting up” on the shelf. Commercial chocolate sauce has preservatives so that it can sit on the shelf, but yours would not have that. So if you want to give sauce, you must make it up just before giving, put in clean jars and keep it refrigerated until you give it away. It would last for about a week in the refrigerator, so you would have to give it right away. Also, chocolate sauce is considered too thick to be safely canned at home.

      I hope that helps. It sounds like the liqueur is the best choice for gift giving this year. Good luck!

      ~Theresa

  69. Kendra says

    Can you add the simple syrup then put the fruit back in so it’s the double gift of fruit and liqueur? I’d like to work with cranberries. Thanks for the great instruction!

    • Theresa Loe says

      Yes Kendra,

      You can add back in the fruit. But some fruit (such as raspberries) get mushy in the process and will make the finished liqueur cloudy (with floating bits of fruit). If you don’t mind that, then by all means keep the fruit for added flavor. It is a personal preference based on cloudiness and appearances – not on food safety.

      I’m glad you like the recipe. Let me know how yours turns out!

      ~Theresa

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