Infusing vodka at home has been the trend in the west as of late. In Korea, people traditionally make fruit-infused soju around autumn, when there is plenty of fruit lying around after harvest that needs to be preserved. Since this is a national hobby, the equipment and ingredients you need are easily available.
You need a jar for infusing the soju. There are some gorgeous jars designed just for that. Some say you need a large jar, but I disagree. Only get the size that you think you`ll need. Make sure it has a good seal and a non-metallic lid.
After that, you need the soju itself. Yet don`t use just any green bottled soju. Large multi-liter plastic jugs of the lethal liquor are at the market just for this purpose, and at a higher proof to boot. And you thought that they were for people with serious alcohol problems. Look for the big plastic jugs with 25 percent labeled on them. Sometimes they come as kits, complete with sugar. You don`t need the sugar for what we`re doing.
You can infuse the soju with whatever vegetable or spice matter you wish. Lemons work great, as do kiwis. It also works great with ginseng roots. Just clean them, cut them up and put them in your sterilized jar, along with enough soju to cover them.
Let`s have some fun with this, shall we?
Here`s my experiment. In one jar, I placed three stalks of sliced celery and a small handful of black peppercorns. Filled it up with soju and sealed it. Celery and pepper? There`s a purpose for this. In fact, it`s not a totally original idea. There`s a popular celery and black pepper vodka out there. The finished product tastes earthy and spicy with a dash of cool. The other jar required a little more work.
I took an empty pizza box and cut a large window out of the top. I cut some holes on the sides. Then I lined the inside with aluminum foil and covered the "window" with plastic wrap. When the sun comes out anytime this autumn, I have a homemade solar-powered dehydrator. Feel free to purchase a thermometer to keep track of the temperature. Put it in a place where it can face south to get the best exposure.
I sliced up some red, red tomatoes and put them in the box, angling at the sun.
The other option works if you have an oven, whether full-sized or a toaster oven with temperature controls. Put the sliced tomatoes on some aluminum foil and place them in the oven at the lowest setting possible, ideally 100-degrees Celsius. Dry them for around six hours, checking to see if any parts are scorching.
Now you have some dried tomatoes, which can be thrown in pasta salad, pureed into a pesto or just eaten straight as a highly addictive snack. For our purposes, we`re throwing them in a jar and pouring in some soju.
Keep the infusing soju jars in a dark cool place. Shake them vigorously once a day and taste them daily until they reach a desired flavor. When finished, strain the soju into sterilized glass containers and chill. When chilled, pour in a shot glass two-thirds dried tomato soju and one-third pepper-celery soju. Throw in a dash of hot sauce and smear a smidgen of wasabi on the lip of the shot glass.
What you have there is the infused soju version of a Bloody Mary.
For more of Joe McPherson`s writings, go to www.zenkimchi.com - Ed.