WHAT IS BITTERS?
Bitters is an alcoholic solutions, prepared by cold infusion of various herbs and spices. During infusion alcoholic solution becomes saturated with aromatic components, which changes its taste. The ingredients of bitters may be different: various herbs, roots, seeds, leaves, citrus peel, fruits and other medicinal plants, aromatic alcohols, alcohol solutions of essential oils, rectified alcohol and softened water. The alcohol content of bitters may vary 30-60%. Sweet tinctures are prepared from a blend of alcohol infusions and fruit juices, sugar syrup, citric acid and softened water.
TYPES OF BITTERS
There can be simple tinctures, made of one key ingredient, and tinctures prepared of mixture of seeds, herbs, roots, and so on. Bitters consist of bittering (angelica root, wormwood, burdock root, dandelion leaves and root, citrus peel, black walnut leaves) and aromatic agents (herbs, flowers, spices, nuts and beans).
HOW TO PREPARE BITTERS
Fresh or dried plants are kept in an alcoholic solution till all the essential oils and active compounds of plants dissolve in alcohol. The tincture should be periodically drained, then again stirred.
The time of preparing infusions depends on the type of ingredients, temperature, duration of infusion, which usually lasts 3-5 weeks. When the temperature rises to 50-60 °C the duration of the infusion of some components is reduced to 5-8 days. This fact is used for the preparation of quick infusions.
It is better to infuse the components of bitters separately, as each ingredient has its own tincturing rate. Using this method you can experiment with proportions and ingredients to your taste or considering health conditions.
Remember that fresh leaves should be infused for a short time, no more than 1-2 days, and certainly in a dark bottle in the shade; otherwise the tincture becomes yellow rather than emerald. Berries, seeds and roots should be infused much longer, but not more than 4-5 weeks. Be very delicate with berries: cloudberries, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries are infused no more than 1-2 weeks. If you feel that the tincture is not ready after 1-2 weeks, it is better to add it to the second portion of herbs or berries and infuse in the same way.
Drain and filter tinctures using a glass funnel, lined with filter paper or a piece of absorbent cotton. Don’t press the cotton as all the impurities may get into the tincture. Keep tinctures in tightly closed and sealed bottles in a dark place.
Note that bitters including very delicate, fragrant herbs, such as black currant leaves can not tolerate long-term storage, as they lose their flavor. If you want to make strong tincture, it’s better to use highly concentrated alcohol, and dilute with water, when needed.
There are many recipes of healthy bitters, would you like to know about them?