In Southwest France, ratafia is a fruit- and spice- infused brandy made at home. Almost any citrus makes delicious ratafia. Tart citrus fruit is best; blood oranges and sour mandarins (tangerines) are particularly good. Traditional ratafia can be made with either brandy or clear distilled spirits but brandy produces a mellower, more complex ratafia. Just be sure to remove all of the bitter pith and the seeds.
From the story: Ratafia: A cordial kissed by citrus fruits
Rinse the tangerines and separate the peels from the fruit, reserving the peels. Squeeze 3 cups of tangerine juice from the tangerines.
Remove the white pith from the zest of about 12 tangerines. Cut the zest into strips until you have 2 cups zest.
Combine the Armagnac, juice, zest and simple syrup in a large resealable jar. Toast the clove slightly in a pan over medium heat, just until fragrant, and add it to the Armagnac mixture. Crush the cardamom pod with a mortar and pestle and add it to the mixture. Seal the jar, shake it and store it in a dark place for 2 months, shaking every day or so.
After 2 months, strain the zest and spices from the liquid and discard. Let the remaining solids collect on the bottom of the jar. Pour off the liquid and discard the solids. Refrigerate to preserve the acidity. Makes about 7 1/4 cups.
You can substitute oranges, blood oranges or kumquats for the tangerines; you will need 3 cups juice and 2 cups zest.
A 750-ml bottle of Armagnac yields 3 1/4 cups.
To make the simple syrup, dissolve 1 cup sugar in 1 cup water in a small saucepan over medium heat; allow to cool.
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