10 July 2016

Vin’d Orange

I learnt about this drink from a book by Hervè This-Benckhard, which my brother, a fantastic cook and an engineer, with a very scientific approach to cooking, gave me as a present. This-Benckhard uses science to explain how cooking works, and this recipe was a way to illustrate osmosis. It is strictly speaking a winter recipe because you need bitter/Seville oranges, which one gets in January, but it reaches the point at which it has matured enough to be really tasty in June and July. Apparently it improves with age, but it rarely is given time to reach it. It is a lovely summery drink, slightly deceptive because it is rather alcoholic, and it combines the bitterness of the oranges with the sourness of lemon and dry white wine and the sweetness of brown sugar. The perfect summer aperitif!

What you need

  • 4-5 Seville (bitter) oranges, ideally organic (usually these are available in January and February; alternatively normal oranges can be used, but fewer)
  • 1 lemon (also organic; 2 if there are no Seville oranges)
  • 2 vanilla pods (one to be used later on!)
  • 1 l of vodka or a similarly neutral fruit schnapps, ideally 45% or over
  • 500+ g brown sugar
  • 4+ l dry white wine

What you do

  1. Place the citrus fruit in a large glass container, either whole or quartered (according to This-Benckhard osmosis will take place just as successfully if the fruit are left whole).
  2. Add one of the vanilla pods and leave in a cool, dark place for at least three months.
  3. After that period, strain the schnapps off and resist the temptation to squeeze out the citrus fruit (osmosis will have ensured that the flavour molecules have diffused into the schnapps) and discard the fruit and vanilla pod.
  4. Add the sugar and the white wine to the schnapps, starting with 5 bottles and 500 g sugar. Include the second vanilla pod (or a piece of untreated oak wood, the effect is about the same).
  5. Leave the mixture to sit until late June or July, longer if you have the patience, but if made in January the Vin d’Orange is ready for drinking as of mid-May.
  6. Bottle and keep in a cool, dark place.