There's not a lot of examples of delicious things to make with rowanberries (Sorbus americana) on this site. I've tried to use the berries in all kinds of different ways, and most of those things were failures.
The reason is the berries are very tannic and bitter, with a strong flavor most people will find offensive. Schnapps (along with classic rowanberry jelly) is actually good though. The finished product has a flavor you won't get anywhere else.
The inspiration for giving it a whirl came from Eastern Europe. When I occasionally post about harvesting the fruit to make jelly, or this year when I collected a large amount of them to give to the distillery I've been working with, there is usually someone of Eastern European descent who comments "we put them een vodka" (for the record, the same comments come when I mention highbush cranberries).
Putting fruit in vodka has a tendency to come off to me as a kind of cop-out, similar to when people tell me that they make tea out of some plant. You can make tea out of anything, and you can put anything in vodka. But, I'm sitting here drinking my words as I write, because it works, and they're right.
What I did, was make a simple mixture of vodka and sugar with a good amount of rowanberries. I put the mixture into a couple glass jars and let it sit and mellow for a couple months. When I took the lid off and snuck a taste, I was really surprised.
The maceration seems to draw out the flavor of the rowanberries, without the bitter, tannic quality. The color is a beautifully pale orange that reminded me a bit of rosewater.
The fruity taste of the berries, typically obscured by bitterness, comes through in the finished product, and there's noticeable aromas of grapefruit and orange peel. It's great mixed with soda or champagne, or enjoyed as a digestif.
Sugar is optional
I use sugar in this, and plenty of it. When I make sweet infused liquors, I serve them in small amounts after dinner, or mixed with something else. If you want to skip the sugar or reduce it you'll still have a good rowan flavor in the finished product.
If you want to opt for a different sweetener I'd start with honey, adding it a few spoonfuls at a time until you can taste it.
- 1 2 quart mason jar or similar
- 1 fine strainer or sieve
- 1 lb vodka
- 8 oz sugar
- 10.5 oz / 300 g rowanberries
- Wash the berries, then mix with all ingredients, put into a mason jar, and allow to rest in a jar in a cool dark place for two months.
- Strain the berries and discard, strain the liquid through cheesecloth and store in a cool dark place.
Absolutely! But I would leave out the sugar...
Helps the medicine go down for most people.
Jarzębiak is the name of the Polish Rowan flavored vodka. Delish. Hard to find it these days, even in Poland.
Along the same line, I recommend Quince flavored vodka. Try mixing fruit and sugar first, add vodka afterwards.
Congrats on your nomination!
Hey Piotr. Nice to hear from you! Thank you. 2022 has been quite a ride so far. Keep your fingers crossed for me in June.
Hi, I live in Belarus and have large experience of putting things in vodka 🙂
I made lots of liquors using various berries from garden and forest. From my experience - it gives better taste and colour if first combine berries or fruits with only vodka, wait for a month or two, then strain and keep the liquid. After add sugar to the berries, then wait until the sugar dissolves and then combine the alcohol liquid and the syrup from berries. This method allows to keep the colour well (especially for red berries) and gives more intense taste.
This year I plan to make a liquor using a mix all berries that I have at my disposal, adding them layer by layer - starting with strawberries and will finish with rowanberry.
By the way, the bitterness of rowanberry becomes less strong after frost.
Thank you very much for your blog, I am waiting for your book.
This is great Ina, thanks so much for sharing. I'll have to try the vodka only method first this year!
Is there any concern about parasorbic acid solubility in ethanol? I thought raw Rowan berries were a bit poisonous.
Parascorbic acid is broken down by heat or by water (hydrolysis) to form sorbic acid.. Presumably the water content of vodka (about 60%) will hydrolise the parascorbic acid to harmless sorbic acid, just as heat does the same when cooking the berries to make rowan jelly.