Posted by Lanea on Thursday, February 9th, 2017
Krupnik is a Polish spiced honey cordial, which my friend Scot introduced to be ten or fifteen years ago. I learned to make it from my friend Jenny and took to altering the recipe to fit my palate. The method I’ve devised is far from traditional at this point, but produces something less sweet and with a deeper flavor than many krupniks I’ve sampled over the years. The recipe can easily be scaled up or down–we tend to make one huge batch every winter and decant it from an infusion jar as needed. For that reason, we attempt to limit options for mold growth–honey itself does not generally mold–nor does vodka or other high proof liquor. Water and fresh fruit can introduce possibilities for mold growth, so I avoid using them in most instances. I also don’t add the liquor to hot honey, because I don’t want to catch the liquor on fire or aerosolize it.
Large stock pot
Large glass infusion jar or other large glass vessel for storing the Krupnik while it mellows (the one I used for this mega batch holds six gallons)
Star-san or other sterilization method
Swing top bottles
15 pounds of honey
2-3 cups of hot water
10-20 cinnamon sticks
2/3 cup crystallized ginger
1/4 cup whole black peppercorns
1/4 cup granulated orange peel
1 teaspoon orange oil
6 whole nutmegs
1 tablespoon whole cloves
1 tablespoon ground cardamom
(All of the spices are optional–you can use just one, you can omit spices you don’t enjoy, and you can add other spices or flavoring agents like vanilla or allspice. I do encourage caution with cloves–they can become overpowering very quickly. If you decide to use fresh orange or lemon peel, keep an eye on it and make sure it doesn’t mold.)
6-8 1.75 liter bottles of vodka. You could also use white rum or grain alcohol if you prefer.
- Add the honey to the stock pot and rinse out the honey jars with a small amount of hot water. You want to waste as little honey as possible while also adding as little water as possible to the Krupnik base.
- Add the spices and aromatics to the pot
- Slowly bring the honey mixture up to a simmer, stirring regularly.
- Continue simmering and stirring the honey mixture until it thickens as the water evaporates and the honey starts to darken. I like to thoroughly caramelize the honey so the finished Krupnik has a deep flavor.
- Do not allow the honey mixture to boil over. Making honey candy on your stove burners is not ideal. I’ve done it several times, and I do not find the experience enjoyable.
- Spoon out a small sample of the honey, allow it to cool, and taste it. Adjust your spice mixture if necessary. The hot honey will draw flavors out of the spices quickly, so this is the best time to adjust things.
- Once you are happy with the amount of caramelization and spice in the honey, remove the pot from the heat, put a lid on it, and allow it to cool completely.
Storing for flavor development:
- Select a good spot to store your krupnik for at least a month. You want it to be out of direct sunlight and kept at a moderate temperature, but you will also want to stir and sample the krupnik regularly while it mellows.
- When the honey mixture is completely cool, sterilize your infusion jar using your preferred method.
- Pour the honey mixture from the stock pot into the sterilized infusion jar, using a rubber spatula to get every bit of honey you can into the infusion jar. This will make everything near you sticky unless you are far more dexterous than the average person.
- Add vodka to the honey, stirring gently to avoid splashing stickiness any further than you already have. Because I made such a large batch, I moved the infusion jar to its storage location before adding the vodka. I don’t start with the full 6-8 large bottles of vodka. For this batch, I added four bottles and let it sit to mellow and will add more later once I get a sense of how the batch is tasting. I don’t want the final product to be too sweet or too thick, but I also don’t want the honey and spices to be overpowered by the vodka.
- Allow the krupnik to mellow for at least a month, checking it frequently for flavor. If it seems too sweet or thick, add more vodka. If the Krupnik reaches a point where you have enough of a particular flavor, feel free to remove that spice. I’ve strained out cloves after a week or two, removed orange peels after a month, etc.
- Once the krupnik has the flavor you want, decant it into sterilized swing top bottles and enjoy.
This is just the caramelized honey and spices–you can see how dark the honey is.