Simple Distillation

The holidays are over, and we took down our tree which usually means it is time to start distilling conifer needles.  Sometimes I don’t want to drag my big still out and use a variety of makeshift methods when I want to make a quick distillate. I decided not to do the thing where I bend the homemade wort cooler, because sometimes I don’t get it straight enough and I end up with a mess like this:

If you think this is bad, you should have seen the ceiling. It usually works quite well. 

I decided to try the even more makeshift method that we sometimes read as being attributed to the anonymous author of Le Ménagier de Paris, although we take liberties with our interpretation of that recipe.

If I were following those directions for using glass bowls, I would be using a tightly woven linen cloth over the pot instead of an inverted lid and set it in the sun.  I might try that next summer with my small pickling crock.  Just to see what happens.

There are a couple of things that I don’t do. I don’t use bricks or rocks because I cook with these distillates. I put a small, inverted glass custard cup under the glass bowl inside the soup pot. Which you can’t see very well in the video.   It ends up looking something like this.

(Please don’t laugh at my drawing.)

How much water you put in is really up to you and depends on how much plant material you put in there.  You want to make sure that it is just barely covered. Just try to make sure it doesn’t go more than halfway up the bowl that is sitting upright in your pot.   

People who want exact measurements are going to be as disappointed in me as they are a lot of medieval sources.   How much you use depends on the size of your stock pot.  I use two cups of spruce needles and one-half-gallon water.

Then I just simmer the needles over low heat until the water is almost gone and collect the distillate that has dropped into the bowl.  Then I bottle it and store it in the refrigerator.

Published by Stephany Riley Hoffelt

If you want to read more about me, it's on the website

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