Homemade Wild Finocchietto Liqueur (Fennel)

 

We remember our Grandmother Florence always having homemade liqueurs on hand for an after-dinner drink with coffee & dessert, especially around the holidays. Our favorite was Finocchietto (fennel) which she touted as a good digestif drink. We were only allowed a sip for taste…but liked it even then.

On our trip to Italy back in 2018, we had dinner at a farm in Naples. After dinner, we had a choice of Limoncello or Finocchietto. Of course, we chose the Finocchietto and it sure did bring back good memories of Grandma.

After having great success with making our own Limoncello, I decided to send away for the Italian Wild Fennel seeds and make my own.  Teresa and I along with my good friend, Jane Hall, planted the fennel seeds. We watched the seedlings grow big & strong then planted them outside in a side garden my husband Gary prepared for us. They were doing beautifully and even survived Hurricane Florence but low and behold they didn’t seem to survive the deer!!!!!!!  We were pleasantly surprised the following season and proceeded to make our own liqueur. You wouldn’t believe how many umbrella flowers we had with just 2 plants that survived. This year it’s even more! Fennel has a wonderful anise-like/licorice taste and you can use the green fronds to garnish a salad or even infuse with some olive oil. I don’t remove the fennel bulb because it will cause the demise of the plant, although I may this year!

Note:  Harvesting starts towards the end of June through August here in North Carolina. Fennel plants create umbrella-like flower buds similar to Queen Anne’s Lace. I pick the yellow flower umbrellas once the yellow flowers begin to open.

Ingredients for about 2 liters

  • 2-3 large handfuls of wild fennel flower umbrellas. ( I fill a 32-oz mason jar 1/2 to 3/4 high with the flowers)
  • 1 liter of Everclear (151 proof – grain alcohol) Please do not use rubbing alcohol!
  • 800 grams of sugar (about 3 1/3 to 3 1/2 cups)
  • 2-liter jar that closes hermetically (We used hermetically sealed lemonade bottles from Aldi)
  • Funnel- wide mouth
  • cheesecloth

Instructions

  1. Immediately after picking the flowers, wash and let dry thoroughly on a clean dish towel.
  2. Place all the flowers in the jar and pour the grain alcohol into the jar, making sure all flowers are covered. Close the jar and place it in a dark place for at least 30 days. ( I use my closet)
  3. Keep the bottle out of direct sunlight. All the color will leach out into the alcohol turning the alcohol a green color. No problem if you leave it longer than 30 days.
  4. After the 30 days or longer are up, prepare the sugar syrup.
  5. Make a simple syrup by boiling 1 liter of water with 800 grams of sugar for 15 minutes. Let it cool before the next step. (about an hour)
  6. While the syrup is cooling down, filter the alcohol. Using a wide-mouth funnel, place into another mason jar and place the cheesecloth in the funnel.
  7. Pour the alcohol through the funnel making sure none of the fennel plants get through.
  8. Mix the cooled sugar syrup into the filtered alcohol. Pour into a clean 2-liter hermetically sealing jar (the one you used before is fine, just make sure it’s clean & dry first.
  9. Let it sit another 4-5 days in a cool, dark place.
  10. Now we filter again and bottle.
  11. Put a regular funnel in the bottle with another piece of cheesecloth and pour the mixture into the bottle or use a small ladle so it doesn’t spill everywhere.
  12. There might be some organic matter caught in the cheesecloth. Wash the cloth for re-use.
  13. In a cool dark place, store the bottled fennel for at least another 3 months. The longer it sits the clearer it gets.

 

Note: Wild Fennel Liqueur makes a great Wild Fenneltini!

Recipe adapted from cucicucicoo.com

 

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Grilled Greek Chicken Breasts – Twiins Style

 

Grilled Greek Chicken Breasts-Twiins Style

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: Easy

When marinating chicken with Greek-inspired flavors the Mediterranean is brought to your dinner table and with it all the sunshine and joy for life that is associated with a beautiful outdoor dinner in the Greek Islands! This dish is so simple but packs huge flavor! Whether you want a quick family meal or a casual dinner with friends you will love it...Enjoy!😋❤️

Ingredients

  • 2 large boneless chicken breasts, sliced in half lengthwise to make 4 pieces
  • 2 tsp EVOO
  • 1 tsp red wine vinegar
  • 1½ tsp fresh Greek oregano, chopped (dried may be substituted, but use a lesser amount)
  • 1½ tsp fresh dill, chopped ( dried may be substituted, but use a lesser amount)
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 cup Feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 3-4 Tablespoons 2% milk ( any milk works well)
  • 1½ Tablespoons red onion, chopped
  • 1 large tomato, sliced
  • Fresh oregano, chopped for garnish
  • Mixed salad greens with  olives, cucumbers, red onion, thin sliced
  • Optional: Dolmas (stuffed grape leaves)

Directions

  1. In a large bowl, combine 2 tsp EVOO, red wine vinegar, oregano, dill, garlic powder, salt & pepper.
  2. Pound chicken between sheets of waxed paper to a 1/4” thickness. Cut each piece in half to yield approximately 6-8 pieces of chicken breast.
  3. Add chicken breasts to the marinade, cover & refrigerate 30 minutes. (this step can be prepared ahead of time until ready for cooking.)
  4. In a small bowl, combine the Feta cheese, garlic powder, 2% milk & chopped red onion. Using a fork, mash well to make a spread. Add additional milk if too thick until you reach desired consistency. (this step can be prepared ahead of time & refrigerated until ready to serve)
  5. In a grill pan or large skillet drizzle 1 tsp of EVOO, then using a paper towel, coat pan.
  6. Heat pan to medium-high. Once hot, place half the chicken pieces in the pan and cook until browned approximately 2 minutes on each side. Remove from pan & set aside. Cook remaining chicken breasts and set aside.
  7. Place mixed salad greens on a dinner plate then top with cooked chicken breast(s).  Garnish the chicken with Feta cheese spread.  Arrange tomato slices on the dish and garnish with fresh Greek oregano.

Oops, I had a brain freeze!  I forgot to add the olives, cucumbers, and sliced red onions to the salad greens before taking the photo for this post…then we ate & it was too late!😜😂