How to make lacto-fermented mandarin liqueur, a step by step guide to producing a versatile and “funky” liqueur that can be used in cocktails and mixed drinks.
What is Lacto-Fermentation
Lacto-fermentation is an old form of food preservation involving salt, produce and in some instances water. The salt water brine creates an anaerobic environment (free of oxygen) where lactobacillus bacteria can survive, acting as s a preservative.
The word lacto refers to lactic acid which is produced when sugar is broken down in an anaerobic (free of oxygen) environment. Lacto-fermentation relies on lactobacillus bacteria as well as some yeasts to break down the sugars in food to form lactic acid, at times alcohol and carbon dioxide which produces a fizzy style of drink.
The process is as simple as adding 2% of the weight of the produce in non iodised salt in a sealed jar and burping it every couple of days to release the CO2. The result is a a slightly sour flavour profile, often described as “funky”. Lacto-fermentation amplifies flavour, adds texture and imparts a richer mouthfeel.
For this recipe, we lacto-fermented mandarins but you can use other fruit, vegetables and citrus such as pink grapefruit, blueberries. It’s important to remember that the yeast is on the peel therefore don’t wash it too much before use.
Note: The following recipe is for 1kg of mandarins and can be scaled up or down. Use it as reference to work out the ratios of the ingredients you need.
Lacto-Fermented Mandarin Liqueur Recipe
Recipe by Cocktails & Bars
- 1kg mandarins (cut into quarters)
- 20g non-iodised salt (ie 2% salt to mandarins)
For Rich Sugar Syrup
- 2 cups caster sugar
- 1 cup water
For 500ml Lacto-Fermented Mandarin Juice
- 500ml vodka
- 250ml rich sugar syrup , leave to cool
- 4g citric acid
Equipment: large bowl, kitchen scales, glass jar with rubber seal, measuring jug, fine strainer, coffee filter, funnel, clean glass bottle
Part 1 – Lacto-Fermentation
- Weigh the mandarins then calculate 2% of that weight in non-iodised salt.
- Cut the mandarins into quarters and place in a large bowl.
- Add the salt and mix thoroughly.
- Transfer to a glass jar with a rubber seal ensuring you scrape all the salt from the bowl then seal the jar.
- Leave to ferment at room temperature and away from sunlight for 5-7 days, ‘burping’ the jar (opening and closing the lid) every second day.
- After 5-7 days, remove the skins from mandarin and set aside to dehydrate.
- Blend the flesh of the mandarins then pass through a fine mesh strainer to capture the fermented liquid. Press down on the solids to extract as much juice as possible.
- Set aside the juice to make lacto-fermented mandarin liqueur.
- The mandarin skins and pulp can be dehydrated and blitzed into a powder. They can also be frozen for later use.
Part 2 – Rich Sugar Syrup
- In a saucepan, combine caster sugar and water in a 2:1 ratio of sugar to water.
- Stir to dissolve and bring to the boil.
- Leave to cool.
Part 3 – Lacto-Fermented Mandarin Liqueur
- Measure the amount of fermented mandarin juice. You’ll need an equal amount of vodka, and half the amount of rich syrup.
- In a glass jar, combine the lacto-fermented mandarin juice with vodka, rich sugar syrup and citric acid. You’ll need 4g of citric acid.
- Stir thoroughly to combine.
- Filter through a coffee filter or a fine mesh strainer lined with muslin cloth. This step can take a few days. Don’t be tempted to hasten the filtering process by pressing down on the liquid or stirring as you’ll risk some of the pulp getting through the filter.
- If you’re after a transparent liqueur, you may need to repeat the above process a few times. The liqueur show in the photo above has been filtered once.
- Once the liqueur has been filtered to your liking, bottle and refrigerate for future use.
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