I was going to save this until I made a new batch, but it went over so well I thought I would step it up, since even if I started it today, it takes too long overall.
Raw almond are one of my favorite snacks, but most almond flavored products are just too sickly sweet (which sort of defeat the best part of the almond–that subtle sweetness it has all on its own). Infusing almonds pretty much just takes the best aspects of everything in the world (even if it’s not an almond) and combines them all together. Despite this process requiring up to 3 months to complete, it’s worth it (and doesn’t require a lot of active labor other than day 1 and at the end). Since the steps are a bit more involved, I will separate them out.
- 1 cup raw, whole, perfect almonds
- 1/2 vanilla bean
- 2″ piece of cinnamon (optional)
- Sugar (optional)
- A good knife
- 2 1-quart sealable glass jars
- cheesecloth, metal strainer, and coffee filter
- Large bowl
Step 1: Chop the almonds
First, be sure to not cheap out on the almonds here. Find the fattest, unwrinkliest, most perfect ones you can. Do not blanch or remove the skin–that helps give the infusion a nice dark color.
Using a large knife, chop the almond thoroughly. Alternately, you can use a wooden mallet to break them up. Do not use a food processor, unless you are very careful not to create a meal out of it (even then, it can cause sludge problems). We’re looking for small, gravel sized chunks, not almond flour.
Step 2: Combine components
In a 1-quart jar, add the almond chunks, the half vanilla bean, and fill with vodka—leave about an inch of space at the top. Shake well and store in a cool, dark place.
Step 3: Wait wait wait wait wait
3 to 8 weeks (or more) to be precise. 8 weeks is recommended. At least once a week, give that sucker a shake. Please note, that after the main infusion time, you still have about 5 weeks to go so don’t time this to coincide with an event 😉 On the very last day you can handle waiting, add the cinnamon piece if using and give it one last good shake.
Step 4: The straining process
Let the infusion settle for about 3 days, then—very gently without agitating the sludge—pour through a metal strainer into a large bowl. Once all the vodka is out, transfer the “clean”-ish liquid to a clean 1-quart jar. THEN, dump the remaining sludge into the metal strainer and allow it to drip the remaining vodka out. If you want, add a 1/4 cup water or vodka to the dirty jar, swirl it around to pick up all the remaining sludge, and then pour that on top of the almonds in the strainer.
This second straining will likely be a lot “dirtier” looking than the initial bit (which will also be cloudy, don’t worry). Give it 5-10 minutes to settle, then gently pour it through a coffee filter into the jar with the rest of the infusion. Seal that jar and return to storage for 1-2 days (discard the cinnamon stick).
After time to settle, you’ll see a darker cloudy layer of sludge at the bottom of the jar. This will clog a coffee filter almost instantly. For this stage, gently pour the mixture through a few layers of cheesecloth into a fresh jar. If you want to extract maximum benefit from the sludge, add a bit of vodka or water, swirl, and then pour that into the cheesecloth at the end–it’ll need a few minutes to drip most of its juice out–don’t squeeze.
Repeat the settling process again. This time, the sediment should be much less. Gently gently gently pour through a coffee filter (set into a funnel) into a clean jar. Once only sludge remains, you can try to add a bit of vodka or water and pour that into the filter as well, but it may be clogged already.
Step 5: Aging
Store in a cool, dark place for another week. If it has more sediment, pour through a coffee filter another time. Continue to do this each week for a total of 5 weeks of aging, minimum. The aging process helps enrich the flavor quite a bit. Adding up to a half cup of sugar or brown sugar will also help to enhance the flavor a bit.
To make amaretto
Mix 3 parts almond infused vodka with 1 – 2 parts simple syrup (1-1 is closer to the commercial varieties).
Tip: Don’t throw out the leftover almonds! They retain much of the flavor and texture. I’ve had great success adding to pancakes, waffles, cookies, and other baked goods, and they can be stored in the freezer. I rinsed a bunch under cold water for a bit and gave to our birds, which was a well-received snack.
- With sour mix
- With soda water
- With coffee
- On the rocks
Extra Toasty Almond
(I tried this once when trying to figure out what to do with a amaretto-gift. I nearly gagged at how sweet it was. However, using unsweetened almond infused vodka makes it *perfect*)
- 1.5 oz kahlua
- 1.5 oz almond infused vodka
- 2 oz cream or half & half
Shake everything with ice and strain into a rocks glass filled with fresh ice.
Note: I would love to hear a vegan alternative to cream for use in alcoholic drinks–ideas?