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I find it very interesting that you never know when a new idea from a casual conversation will lead to a new obsession.

Two weeks ago, I told you about the wonderful gift of apples that my friend Jean passed on to me. I have been looking for ways to use them and I had a conversation with my sister Jayne that led to an experiment and several batches of homemade apple liqueur. This stuff is seriously good and has led to experimentation with different ways to make it.

I now have six 750 ML bottles of apple liqueur aging in my basement for Thanksgiving sipping and Christmas gift giving. I thought I would share the recipe with you now because then you will still have time to make a batch or two for the same purpose.

The recipe that Jayne gave me was modified from one she found in her recipe file. It is easy to make and uses simple syrup and your choice of brandy as the base for the drink. I decided to make three batches using two different types of brandy and one very inexpensive bottle of vodka to see which made the better drink. First I’ll share the recipe and then share the results.

Apple Liqueur

4 cups sugar

2 cups water

4 pounds apples, cored and peeled

1 750 ml bottle of brandy

1 cinnamon stick

Mix water and sugar and bring to a boil until sugar is completely dissolved. Cool. Peel and core apples and slice. Put into a large glass or plastic container and cover with the cooled syrup. Do not use a metal container. Add cinnamon stick and pour the alcohol over the apples. Let sit in a dark place for two weeks, stirring every other day or so. After two weeks, remove the apples from the liquid and reserve. Strain the liqueur through a fine sieve and then pour into a glass storage bottle. Let age for a month or so to soften the flavors.

I made my first batch with Christian Brothers’ Honey Brandy. This brandy is a bit sweeter and mellower than Christian Brothers’ regular brandy. The resulting liqueur was smooth with lovely hints of cinnamon and apple flavor and a deep amber color. It was very easy to drink even without the additional month of aging.

The regular brandy made a slightly more astringent brew that I think will benefit from aging before we serve it. It was still wonderful.

The vodka batch was a bit lighter in color with a more dominant apple taste but also a more pronounced presence of alcohol.

All three of them were agreeable and I look forward to serving them to our Thanksgiving guests and getting their take on the differences.

However, the real gift of this process was the brandy-soaked apples. They were what inspired me to make three batches of the stuff. Jayne said the original recipe’s instructions said to discard the apples, but she tasted them as she was pulling them off of her liqueur and said to herself, “Self, these are amazing, don’t you dare throw them away.” She stuck them in a bag put them in the freezer and then put on her thinking cap to decide what to do with them. She decided any apple recipe she had would benefit from these delightful morsels and proceeded to make a favorite apple cake. She said the resulting cake was superior to any she had made before and she saved the rest of her brandy-soaked apples for holiday treats.

I have six bags of these brandied apples in various quantities for favorite apple treats this fall and winter in my freezer. Any recipe you have that calls for chopped apples will benefit from these brandy-infused little wonders. I made the following cake and while it is always delicious, it is even better now.

Apple Brandy Cake

1 package yellow, white or spice cake mix

1 cup buttermilk

3/4 cup canola oil

2 tablespoons apple liqueur

3 large eggs

2 cups brandy-soaked apples, finely chopped

1 cup walnuts or pecans

Lightly grease a 10-inch fluted cake pan or a 9-inch-by-13-inch-by-2-inch baking pan. Place the cake mix, buttermilk, oil, liqueur and eggs in a mixing bowl. Blend with an electric mixer on low for 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and increase the mixer speed to medium and beat for 2 more minutes. Fold in the apples and nuts by hand. Pour the batter in the prepared pan. Bake the cake in a 350-degree oven for 40 to 45 minutes for a 9-inch-by-13-inch pan or for 50 to 55 minutes for a fluted cake pan. Cool on a rack. Recipe note: I prefer a spice cake mix for this recipe, but I have done it with the yellow or white if that’s all I have on hand. The spice version is definitely a more flavorful cake. If you want to make the cake and not the apple liqueur, just use any brandy and chopped apples.

Apple Liqueur Butter Glaze

4 tablespoons butter (use the real thing)

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2 cups confectioners’ sugar

3 tablespoons apple liqueur

1 teaspoon vanilla

Melt the butter and let cool slightly. Add the sugar, liqueur and vanilla and use your whisk or mixer to make it smooth and lump free. Drizzle over the warm cake and let it soak in for at least 20 minutes before serving.

* * *

We often make apple sangria for any of our fall celebrations for holidays or birthdays. I decided this brandied apple brew would be the perfect base for a batch and I don’t regret that decision at all.

Fall Apple Sangria

2 apples -- one red and one green -- cored and thinly sliced

2 cups apple liqueur

1 bottle of white wine (pinot grigio, moscato, chardonnay)

Club soda

Slice apples and place in a 2-quart pitcher and pour the apple brandy over them. Chill for one hour. Add wine and chill again. Serve over ice with a splash of club soda to add a bit of fizz. Recipe note: You can make this with regular brandy and apple cider if you don’t have the apple liqueur. Just use 1 and one-half cups brandy and one-half cup apple cider instead of the apple liqueur.

Quote of the Week

If an apple blossom or a ripe apple could tell its own story, it would be, still more than its own, the story of the sunshine that smiled upon it, of the winds that whispered to it, of the birds that sang around it, of the storms that visited it, and of the motherly tree that held it and fed it until its petals were unfolded and its form developed. -- Lucy Larcom

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