Here’s a list of the tips I’ve learned along the way in the making:
Buying Ingredients. Acquire a membership to Costco or another big-box warehouse store. When you’re making booze or jam, you need large quantities of ingredients. If you’re going to shop there a lot, go ahead and get the Executive membership and you’ll get 2% back (note: this does not include alcoholic beverages). As for other ingredients, I buy online and wherever possible, in bulk.
International Groceries. When I need “weird” fruits or ingredients, I go to stores where those ingredients aren’t considered weird. Consider this: at Whole Foods, a guava costs like $2.99, while at my local international grocery store, I can get a guava for about 49 cents.
Knives. I’m a big fan of awesome knives, but of my two favorite knives, one is from IKEA and the other is this Chef Tony Miracle Blade set, which my mom and I bought together whilst on a Target adventure together right before she died. My favorite knife from this set is the “Rock-n-Chop.” Call me crazy, but I really do love these knives. And also? As much as people tell me that a really good knife will keep you from getting hurt, the only time I’ve ever gotten hurt while chopping vegetables or fruits was when I was using an expensive Shun knife that cost me four times the price of my entire Chef Tony set. I know it’s unconventional. I don’t care.
Ripeness of Fruit. Whether you’re making jam or jelly or booze, try to use fruit that’s just a little unripe. Unless you’re making a really nice spiced pear jam, in which case it tastes better if you use pears that are on the ugly side of ripe.
Judgement. Be prepared for people to think you’re an alcoholic, just because you like to cook up a little hooch in your pantry. It’s nonsense. Personally, I like to experiment with flavor profiles and tastes. So, ner.
Equipment. If you’re going to actually ferment fruit (as opposed to infusing alcohol with fruit flavors), make sure you have the right equipment so that the gas the fruit puts off (fruit toots!) can get out without causing, you know, minor explosions in your house.
Sterilize! When you’re making anything that’s going to ferment, make sure to sterilize your containers. When you’re making anything that’s going to be a gift, make sure to sterilize, well, everything.
Use Fresh Juice. I once tried using bottled lime juice and lemon juice. Don’t. Always, always, always use fresh. I keep bags of limes and lemons from Costco in my fridge at all times. They’re awesome to use on salads and fish, but even more important for jams and jellies and preserves. Don’t buy bottled juice!!!