Years ago, my father's baby sister gave my parents a bottle of a cranberry liqueur made near where they lived close to the base of Cape Cod, just outside the whaling town of New Bedford, Massachusetts. It was a beautiful ruby red color, and thick and sweet, but tart, too. Very yummy. So yummy that a new bottle appeared from time to time to replace the empty one. Eventually, the bad news came - Cranberria was no longer being made. This was a terrible blow to my parents and me, because we loved the stuff. We still had a half bottle, and we kept it for years, for that "special" occasion. We moved that bottle to California and again to Georgia. Some of it evaporated over time. Eventually, about seven years ago, while I was carefully packing the precious bottle for another move, I realized that it was a dull brown color, with sediment on the bottom. I opened it and got a faint whiff of cranberry. I was brave and I tasted it, but it had no flavor at all. And that was the end of the last known bottle of cranberria.
Around the same time, I watched an Italian movie on Netflix and was intrigued by the limoncello that everyone was drinking in the Italian sunshine. It brought back all sorts of memories, and I decided that I would see if I could make it. My first attempt required a lot of doctoring - I had left a tiny bit of the white pith on the lemon peels and that made it bitter. I added more and more sugar until it was a thick syrup, but I could still taste a bit of bitterness, so reluctant to throw it away, I put it in a big glass bottle an shoved it in the back of the fridge where I promptly forgot about it. After it had rested for three months as it was supposed to, I tasted it, and it was still a harsh flavor, partly from the bitterness and partly from the alcohol flavor of the vodka that I had used.
Fast forward two whole years, and I pulled it out of the fridge to taste. Oh my! How smooth and delicious it was! It didn't last long, and I needed to make more - fast! Or at least, faster than 2 1/2 years! I tried Giada's recipe and several others, but I finally found one that is no-fail, quick and delicious.
After my limoncello success, my thoughts returned to my beloved Cranberria, and I tried the limoncello recipe, but substituting cranberries for the lemon peel. I had to double the sugar since they were so tart, and found that it has to sit for 6 - 12 months to ensure a really smooth product. I tried some tonight and it is so very delicious!
750 ml vodka or Everclear
10 organic lemons, unwaxed
750 ml water
1 1/2 - 2 lbs sugar
Wash the lemons with a brush under hot running water, but do not use soap. Dry well. Use a sharp knife or vegetable peeler to remove only the lemon rind, and meticulously scrape all trace of the white pith off. Put the lemon rinds in one or two large glass (not metal) bottles that can be tightly sealed, such as quart canning jars, and cover with the alcohol. Shake well, seal well, and put in a dark place for two weeks, shaking and checking the seal every day.
After two weeks, make a simple syrup with 750 ml of water and 1 1/2 lbs of sugar. Stir and boil it on the stove until all the sugar is dissolved. You can use up to 2 lbs of sugar, but I don't care for it that sweet, so I use 1 1/2 lbs.
While the syrup is cooling, remove the lemon rinds from the alcohol and stir the alcohol into the syrup. Taste for sweetness and adjust according to your preference. Pour into decorative bottles, seal well, and store in the fridge, or you can even freeze it. I usually put a couple of rinds back into the bottles as a decoration. Let sit in the fridge for at least two more weeks for the flavor to smooth out. Delicious!
To make Cranberria, you do the same thing, substituting 1 1/2 lbs fresh, organic cranberries, chopped coarsely and crushed, instead of the lemon rinds. You will need to use more sugar - start with 2 lbs and work up from there. 2 lbs is good for me, but I like things a little tart. When it is time to mix the cranberry alcohol with the syrup, I have blended the cranberries in the blender and left the pulp in the finished product to enhance the cranberry flavor. However, if you want a clear liqueur, I think you could add a defrosted can of cranberry juice concentrate, too.
In fact... I wonder if that would be the easiest way to make a fruit flavored liqueur - mix frozen concentrate with some vodka.... I think I have some experimenting to do!!!!