Midsummer Schnapps

There is just enough time remaining to make a simple Midsummer Schnapps, to help celebrate the summer solstice on 21st June.  In Scandinavian countries, where the midnight sun arrives to delight at midsummer, Schnapps is a key ingredient of many celebrations. There are several recipes available for Midsummer Schnapps, here’s one which I like.  Ideally it is made a month or so before midsummer, allowing time for the properties of star anise and juniper berries to infuse into the vodka, but St John’s wort will infuse far quicker. Just a few days are required to get a reasonable colour, pleasant flavour and sunny properties from this herb, into the liquor.

St. John’s wort is renowned for helping people through periods of depression.  Capsules of the herb can have unpleasant side effects and may interact with some drugs so beware if you are taking any medication. The tincture (and the Schnapps is a weak tincture) is more likely to leave you feeling sunny and calm.  St John’s wort blooms on midsummer’s day, it is full of sunshine in so many respects, making it perfect for this drink.  I have not tried it but apparently the flower buds may be frozen for later use.  This recipe calls for buds which are fully developed but not yet opened, thus pick them before midsummer’s day.  The plant is full of a red oil, particularly at midsummer so use a good field guide to check you have the real thing and tear a petal to see if it “bleeds” red oil, showing it to be ripe for picking.

Recipe for Midsummer Schnapps

Pick St John’s wort flower buds before noon or before the sun becomes too hot, leave sepals on the plant or strip them from harvested flowers.  They do not add a good flavour to the schnapps.

Pick only black, fully ripened Juniper berries (or buy them dried and crush before use).  Blue and green Juniper berries do not taste pleasant. If necessary wash and carefully dry the flower buds and berries with paper towels before use.

Use wholes, fresh or dried star anise pods.

  1. Add about 3/4 cup of St John’s Wort flower buds, 45 – 55 Juniper berries and 10 Star anise pods to a clean glass jar with tighly fitting lid (preferably sterilised in dishwasher or low oven).
  2. Add enough unflavoured vodka (40% alcohol / 80 proof ) to cover the berries, pods and flowers.
  3. Secure the lid and leave in a room temperature, dark place for anywhere between 3 days and a month.  (As mentioned above, the St John’s wort will impart it’s properties in just a few days, the berries and pods require much longer but you should get a pleasant Schnapps after a few days).
  4. Shake the jar gently every few days.
  5. When you are ready, strain and filter your infusion into a clean (preferably sterile) glass bottle or jar with a tight-fitting lid.

So, get your flower garlands and schnapps ready and enjoy the summer solstice!

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