Simple Pleasures Homemade Blackberry Liqueur

I am posting this ahead of the upcoming Tennessee blackberry season so when you pick-your-own berries, or purchase at a farmer’s market, you’ll be ready to make a few bottles of Blackberry Liqueur.

It’s really refreshing splashed into a glass and topped with Prosecco or poured over ice with seltzer water. I think a slice of pound cake, a scoop of ice-cream and a trickle of liqueur would be delicious.

How about a cooling (adult) Blackberry Liqueur Snow Cone? Just the thing for a hot summer day and pretty unforgettable.

It only takes a few ingredients……

Fresh, plump, juicy berries……

…a sugar + water simple syrup….all added to a large jar filled with good vodka…

Day 1..this is what it looks like just mixed together…wait a while longer….


….Day 8….a week later and a few shakes this is what is looks like..continue waiting…and shaking….


….Day 15..,wait’s over….ready to strain and sip.

There are so many things we have no control over in our lives. Making things gives me just a bit of control over part of my little corner of the world for a bit. That is why I make things and encourage others to give it a try.

Keep a bottle…gift a bottle…make some more. It’s a simple pleasure.

Fresh Blackberry Liqueur

  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 6 cups good vodka
  • 4-5 cups fresh blackberries, rinsed & drained
  • 2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup water


  1. Bring water & sugar to a low boil over medium heat and stir until sugar is dissolved. Turn heat to simmer and cook for 15 minutes stirring often. Remove from the heat to cool completely.
  2. Pour vodka into a large glass container with a lid. Add the berries & simple syrup and gently shake.
  3. Infuse berry-vodka mixture for 15 days. The berries will lose most of their color. Every few days gently swirl mixture around.
  4. Pour through a fine mesh strainer twice. Discard the berries. Decant mixture into decorative bottles for gift giving.

For Snow Cones – crush ice and pack into a glass. Drizzle chilled Blackberry Liqueur over the ice. Serve with a spoon and enjoy.


Teresa Blackburn

Homemade Vanilla Extract, E.A.T. #21 and The Need to Make Stuff


Pure Vanilla Extract is one of the simplest & most appreciated gifts to give cooks. Bulk vanilla beans can be purchased online easily these days and combined with a good bottle or two of vodka or bourbon you have everything you need to make multiple bottles of richly flavorful Vanilla Extract is just a few weeks.


I have been thinking about why I like to make things a lot lately. As a child I made things with my hands all the time…little pieces of art or make-believe foods from mud, grass and sicks…pot holders and hands always busy and engaged.

I am like that to this day. I am pretty sure it is because the act of making  stuff is something I can control in a world where so much is absolutely, insanely out-ot-control.  When my hands and mind are engaged in a project I am more at peace and able to sort through my thoughts in a more calm manner. At the end of the process I have something to show for this time spent. An art piece, a cake or loaf of bread, a bottle of pure vanilla extract. Making stuff to share. We all have to find our way do we not? What is your method?


I split the beans…about 25 or so and add them to 6 cups vodka or bourbon. Add a tight-fitting lid and wait…..a small lesson in patience…..


….in  a few weeks (2 to 4) you’ll have lots of pure vanilla extract. I keep my jar in a closet and shake it every few days to help release the vanilla bean seeds….week by week the color darkens to a deep amber.


I add a few of the vanilla beans to each bottle after I decant the extract. The vanilla flavor will just keep getting better.


Make stuff, share stuff….it’s as easy-as-this.

Homemade Vanilla Extract

  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 6 cups good Vodka or Bourbon
  • 25 vanilla beans, split
  • 1 large glass jar with tight-fitting lid
  • various decorative bottles with tight-fitting lids for decanting extract


  1. Pour 6 cups vodka/Bourbon into a large glass jar.
  2. Add split vanilla beans. Top with lid and shake.
  3. Keep in a dark closet or cabinet for 2 to 4 weeks, shaking jar every few days.
  4. Decant into decorative bottles. Add a few of the split beans to each bottle. Add tops and your ready to give away as gifts to your friends who love to bake. Bon Apetit!

Teresa Blackburn

Cranberry-Pomegranate Cordial – Gift Giving Made Simple



You still have time…plenty of time to make this cranberry and pomegranate cordial for gift giving. Ten days and you will be ready to bottle the best gift ever for all your amateur or professional bartender friends. This one can be drunk as is or used to shake-up some very special seasonal cocktails. A sip or two will also make you feel more “cordial”during the often stressful days of December.

One cup of pomegranate seeds (arils) and 12 ounces of fresh or frozen cranberries…..


…one liter or good vodka, a simple syrup and the peel of one orange are all you will need.


For 10 days this jar stayed in my pantry with a shake once a day and it was ready to decant and gift. Very yummy, very easy, very pretty.


Clear seasonal color to sip!


I really like to “bottle” as  you might have realized from previous blogs. I also like to make libations to bottle. Here are some previous posts that will give you information on how to make Limoncello, Blood-OrangecelloBuddhacello (using the exotic citrus Buddha Hand), or my Pear Infused Vodka among others.


Cranberry-Pomegranate Cordial



  • 1 1/2 cups sugar mixed with 1 1/2 cups water
  • 12 ounces of fresh or frozen(thawed) whole cranberries
  • 1 cup pomegranate seeds
  • Orange rind strips from one orange
  • 1 liter of good vodka


  1. To make the simple syrup bring the sugar & water to a low boil over medium high heat. Stir & turn to low to simmer for about 5 minutes or until sugar dissolves. Remove simple syrup from heat to cool completely.
  2. Put cranberries in a food processor and pulse until roughly chopped.
  3. Mix together in a large glass jar with a tight-fitting lid the cooled simple syrup, 1 liter of vodka, chopped cranberries, pomegranate seeds & orange rind strips. Store in a cool, dark closet or cabinet, shaking daily, for about 10 days.
  4. Strain liquid mixture through a fine sieve & pour cordial into small bottles to give as gifts. Close bottles tightly with metal caps or corks.

To enjoy: Drink chilled or at room temp as an aperitif….or pour into a glass of ice and top with seltzer or Cava for a refreshing cocktail garnished with a slice or orange.

(This recipe is adapted from a Cranberry Cordial recipe by Melissa Clark published in the New York Times.)

Teresa Blackburn


“Good Luck Buddhacello” made with Buddha’s Hand Citron



In December of 2011 I posted my “Buddha’s Hand Good Luck Marmalade” recipe and to date it is still one of my most popular posts. It even got a mention in an article on written by K. Annabelle Smith, “What the Heck Do I Do with a Buddha’s Hand?” from which I still get a few hits every week. Thanks K. Annabelle.

This most mysterious of the citrons are once again showing up in the markets…only in December in Nashville does the Buddha’s Hand, or “finger citron” for obvious reasons, appear for a few short weeks.

Buddha's Hand Still Life on Gingko Leaves, 5th Avenue North
Buddha’s Hand Still Life on Gingko Leaves, 5th Avenue North

I am not sure why I am so seduced but each winter I purchase a few. They spend some time in our fruit bowl ripening and scenting the entire house with a light citrus aroma. Very subtle but pleasing. Anyone who drops by is equally smitten. Friends pick them up and play with them…you know who you are e.e….smell them, turn and twist them and finally ask what in heck they are.  All in all they are lots of fun to have around before I actually do something with them in the kitchen.

e.e. with Buddha’s Hands…

“Buddhacello” liqueur is this year’s recipe.  As well as Candied Buddha’s Hand that is  yummy decorating the top of a cake,  and a very aromatic simple syrup for drizzling on pound cakes or adding to some Holiday cocktails….. all of which from these two Buddha’s Hand Citrons.


(In previous posts I have shared my “Mellow Yellow Limoncello” and “Blood Orangecello” recipes and stories.) The process is simple but the finished liqueur is anything but….


A vegetable peeler and a bottle of good vodka…..


….a large glass jar with a tight-fitting lid for holding the liquid and for safe shaking…


…and patience is a good thing as well. The wait will be worth it.


Two words….”dark place”. Yes, put this jar of glowing yellow into a dark, cool place…a closet or cabinet…for 4  to 6 weeks. Shake every so often. If you start now you can have your own Buddhacello ready for gift giving or sipping on cold winter nights.

Meanwhile….tick, tock…tick, tock..the days pass…lots of things to do….cold and dark nights….inside the dark place chemistry is happening….

After 4 weeks, I strain out the peel, add some of the simple syrup left over from making the candied peel to the vodka mixture and leave in the “dark place” one more week….decant into individual bottles. Store a bottle in the freezer and serve icy cold straight or with a splash of soda water over ice or added to a hot toddy to make a cold night warmer.


Good Luck Buddhacello



  • 2 Buddha’s Hand Citron (or use grapefruit, orange, or lemon peel)
  • 6 cups good Vodka
  • 1 cup simple syrup – 1 cup sugar melted in 1 cup water or use the syrup from the candied peel if you make this

Directions for Buddhacello:

  1. Using a sharp vegetable peeler remove peel & pith to make at least 3 cups of strips.
  2. Place strips of Buddha’s Hand into a large glass jar.
  3. Pour in vodka, tighten lid and shake well.
  4. Place jar in a cool dark place for 4 to 6 weeks, shaking a few times a week.
  5. After the 4 to 6 weeks, strain out the peel from the vodka and stir in 1 cup of Buddha’s Hand simple syrup saved from making candied peel, or any plain store-bought or homemade simple syrup.
  6. For making a simple syrup at home put 1 cup sugar plus 1 cup water in a sauce pan over med high heat. Bring to a boil, stirring often until sugar is melted. Remove from heat and let cool completely.
  7. Tighten the lid on the jar, shake well and return to the cool dark closet or cabinet for another week. Strain & decant Buddhacello Liqueur into individual bottles or jars. Store or give as gifts.
  8. Serve icy cold straight, or over ice with a splash of soda water. Also makes a great drizzle over pound cake or ice cream.

Directions for Candied Peel:

  1.  Chop 2 cups of Buddha’s Hand Citron into small chunks. Place in a pan of water and simmer for about 45 minutes or until the chunks are somewhat transparent. Remove from heat and drain.
  2. Place chunks in a larger pan with just enough water to cover and 2 cups white sugar. Bring to a low boil, stirring often. Turn to simmer. Cook until a candy thermometer reads about 200 to 225 degrees. Remove pan from heat. Let sit for about 1 hour to cool down.
  3. Pour candied chunks of Buddha’s Hand into a strainer set over a bowl to catch the syrup. Let drain for about 30 minutes. Reserve syrup, storing in a glass jar in the refrigerator until ready to use for other recipes.
  4. Toss candied chunks in a bowl with 1 cup of sugar until pieces are well coated. Scrape out onto a cooling rack set over a parchment paper covered pan. Leave overnight to harden. Shake to remove excess sugar & store in an airtight tin or jar. Great for topping desserts or adding to cookies.

Teresa Blackburn

A Refreshing & Intoxicating “Third Thursday Community Potluck Cookbook” and a “Spicy Golden Mary”


Above is a cool, refreshing & quite intoxicating “Spicy Golden Mary”.

Below is the refreshing & intoxicating cover of the “Third Thursday Community Potluck Cookbook” by Nancy Vienneau (her blog is Good Food Matters). This book’s release date is just a few days away, June 17th, 2014 and will be available at your local bookstores and on-line. It’s a beauty full of wonderful stories of food and folks. The “monthly chapters” feature seasonal produce & recipes from each month of the year. You can cook your way through 5 years of Third Thursday Potluck gatherings all in one book. I was so pleased to do the food and prop styling for this book, which was a real labor of love.

Third Thursday FINAL

What do these two things have in common you might ask?

One is a much-anticipated cookbook that chronicles the stories and recipes that have been shared over the past 5 years, every Third Thursday of every month, at one of Nashville’s best kept secrets. Nancy, and her friend, Gigi Gaskins (who owns HatWRKS) started this potluck as a way for a group of food friends to get together, share incredible seasonal recipes & foods, have a glass of wine and talk. There is no set theme except for the season.  As the cover says, this truly is a potluck like no other.

To herald this book’s release I want to share with you a recipe of mine from the book. The deliciously refreshing & intoxicating “Spicy Golden Mary “.  Get the book for this and so many more enticing recipes and stories. This recipe is from July’s Chapter “The Big Tomato”.

Before we have a “Spicy Golden Mary”, here are two events you will not want to miss if you happen to live, or be visiting the Nashville, TN area on these dates….lots of fun and good food.

This one is on Tuesday night, 6/17……


This is on “Third Thursday”, 6/19 of course! Bring a dish and a drink (wine, etc) if you like and come join all of us…..


Here is how to make my  recipe,
“Spicy Golden Mary”
Orange heirloom tomatoes
1. Core and chop 4-5 pounds of very ripe yellow tomatoes. (About 7 cups).
heirloom tomatoes
2. You will also need 1 1/2 cups good quality Vodka such as Tito’s from Austin, Texas or Ketel One from Holland.
3. Puree chopped tomatoes in a food processor fitted with a chopping blade until smooth.
4. Strain through a fine mesh sieve to remove the pulp, pressing down gently with a wooden spoon to get all the juice from the pulp.
IMG_1649Whoa! Look at that beautiful golden tomato juice.
5. To the bowl of tomato juice add the following:  the Vodka, 2 tsp grated horseradish, a generous pinch of salt to taste, freshly ground black pepper to taste, 1 tbsp Serrano chili-lime pepper sauce (or 2 tsp Tabasco sauce), 3 tbsp fresh lemon juice and 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce. Taste and adjust seasonings.
7. As I was making this for a  Third Thursday Potluck evening I used two bottles to transport it to the gathering. First I made a label on my computer of a giant tomato on a gold background and added type identifying what was in the bottles. All the ingredients were listed, along with my blog name and a catchy phrase “Drink your breakfast for dinner right now!”.
I cut up some fresh limes & celery sticks, packed it all up in my antique carrier and off to Third Thursday!
Here is a toast to all the past Third Thursday Community Potluck dinners and to many, many more! Congratulations Nancy on your beautiful cookbook!