Everyone needs a summer project—even if that project is just working on a tan. Maybe it’s a throwback to my nerdy summer reading list days (and yeah, I was the kid with a whole lot of check marks next to titles come fall) or maybe it’s my compulsive need to always have a project with a deadline, but I just love a summer to-do.
This summer, due to my sister’s overwhelming need to buy a blueberry bush on a farm in Michigan and my overwhelming dedication to alcoholic beverages, I made blueberry cello. Here’s the long and short of it: Emily bought a blueberry bush for the season and with it the promise of 20 pounds of blueberries delivered directly to your door (or since I’m home all the time and have a large refrigerator, my door). Emily had dreams of blueberry pints delivered every week or so throughout the summer. Well, they came all at once. All 20 pounds of blueberries.
After freezing and eating and baking a whole mess of them, we still had a whole mess of blueberries left over. Enter blueberry cello, like limoncello but with the fruit we have on hand. (For those unfamiliar with the glories of limoncello, it’s a liqueur made from steeping lemon in alcohol, and then mixing with sugar.) I found this one on nola.com, a lovely web site from the Times-Picayune in New Orleans.
Blueberry Basil Cello
- 750 ml vodka
- 20 fresh basil leaves
- 1 pint blueberries
- 2 C sugar
- 3 C water
Wash the basil leaves and blueberries thoroughly. Muddle the blueberries and discard the juice, keeping only the skins. (Muddle a pint of blueberries? I used a hand-held potato masher in a large bowl.)
Lightly press the fresh basil leaves to extract their essence. Place the blueberry skins and pressed basil leaves in a jar. Add the vodka to cover the contents and seal with the lid. (As mentioned before, we had an abundance of blueberries, so I made a double batch. After muddling and extracting of essences, this is what it looked like…)
Please note: Those are “upcycled” glass pickle jars from Costco. Having gone from housing store-bought pickles to housing the material for a fine cocktail, we can definitely consider these upcycled.
Set aside and store for five to seven days. Agitate the jar periodically.
After the five to seven days, heat 4 cups of water in a sauce pan. (Huh? The recipe says 3 cups above. I would definitely whittle that down to 2 cups of water. Every single simple syrup recipe I’ve ever made is a one-to-one ratio. I definitely had too much liquid at the end of this process. Also, I usually mix water and sugar and then heat…)
Then add 2 cups of sugar and stir until the sugar is completely dissolved. Add the sugar water into the jar containing the vodka/blueberry/basil mix and stir. Mine looked like this:
Take a gander at that dark, lovely blueberry coloring.
Then, place the sealed jar in the freezer until cold. (Ugh! This is the worst part of this recipe. Because you end up with…)
Chunks of frozen blueberry bits. So, you have to do this:
And, then refreezing it so you can have this:
You definitely need the basil in this recipe. With limoncello, you have the tartness of the lemons to cut the added sugars and the fermented sugars. But blueberries in syrup are sweet on top of sweet. The basil gives the cello an earthy quality.
Now, for the refinements: Either up the sugar quantity or reduce the water quantity to make a thicker syrup. If you like your booze boozy, go with the latter. Mix the water and sugar together AND then heat them to a slow boil before simmering for a minute or so. Finally, strain BEFORE you put in the freezer. (I’m such a dope.)
You end up with a pretty nice after dinner liqueur that would taste good with ice cream and a fruit buckle. One glass will do it as it’s still pretty sweet even with the basil.
So, that’s what I did this summer. (Yup, took me three whole months to concoct a single drink.) What did you do?