Umm, so yeah, this year’s canning season came to somewhat of an unceremonious end when, after a frightful number of attempts to find Calville Blancs, my favorite apple for canning (even above the Granny Smith), ended up all failing – from being promised a certain vendor would have them at the farmer’s market to a local heritage grower ignoring my attempts to contact to the produce manager at my husband’s store promising we could order some then flaking out over and over with our requests the eventually saying “oh I guess we can’t help you” to finding out after Portland Nursery’s apple event that they had them last weekend but they’re gone now? It actually made me pissed about apples in general. Like, hasn’t-2017-sucked-ass-enough-why-can’t-I have-my-goddamn-fruit-to-make-my-goddamn-applesauce kind of fury.
So of course, like an angry toddler, I told my husband “FUCK APPLES!” and that we’ll just get some heirloom trees to grow them ourselves when we move out to the country next year. No longer in a mood for canning, I used the rest of my quart jars for dry goods storage and, in my pissed-offed-ness, I decided for that hundred bucks or so that I was going to spend on a monstrous number of apples, I would spend that money at the fancy pants liquor store in the Pearl (one of the few where you can actually browse like a normal human being, not have to order it from behind a counter from an impatient dude who just wants to finish his shift) on some high end deliciousness.
Yes goddammit I bought Scotch and Vodka. Sixty bucks for a simple bottle of Dalwhinnie 15 year because it triggered a very sweet old memory of riding the last – and VERY crowded – train out of Aviemore during a massive snowstorm at the end of a journey up to Grantown on Spey, Scotland, 7 years ago. The fella I was with at the time and I played cards and shared our table and snacks with two others who were also returning to Kent via London, and I remember glancing out the window and snapping a shot of a snow-covered countryside and a sign for the Dalwhinnie Distillery. So, while the Scotch isn’t Speyside, it is still lovely. And, sadly, $60 ain’t much in the Scotch universe, but that’s all I could justify. Not as lingering of a finish as Glenmorangie and others, but had a lovely natural sweetness that could go with ice or in a bit of hot cider. Yum.
Along with that, I bought two local vodkas, trying the relatively inexpensive Bridge City Vodka for the first time (love the special edition version I got with the St. John’s Bridge on it just a few miles from my house) and picking up an old favorite, Crater Lake Vodka. While back in the day I was known for throwing some pretty awesome Solstice Parties, as I loved mixing cocktails, on the rare times when I bring vodka home these days, the purpose is usually not for entertaining (beyond Dan & I) but to try some new recipes out.
First…homemade vanilla extract! My husband used to make it back in his Oz days but I’d never tried it, so finally I’m doing it as we go through SO much vanilla, and what better than to do it with a cup of the Bridge City vodka (which btw is a great Oregon success story of a guy who transitioned out of a dying timber industry and found success in a new trade) and direct trade vanilla beans using a recipe straight out of one of my Karen Solomon cookbooks (my new favorite? Madecasse beans from a company started by two ex-Peace Corps volunteers wanting to give back to where they volunteered in Madagascar…rad). Side note: you can find a similar recipe here. We’re only on the third day of shaking it so by the holidays we should have something very lovely to use.
Second…ginger liqueur. Talk about YUM! I made this in our pre-IVF days in an effort to have a homemade version of my favorite drink flavoring by local distiller New Deal, and it was so good that now that we are no longer indundating my body with hormones, I wanted to take advantage and make a new batch for the holidays. We use honey instead of agave for the sweetener and beyond that it’s not too tough – let the chopped ginger sit in vodka for a couple weeks, add the simple syrup and honey in then let it sit a few more weeks and voila!
Neither of these two look very sexy as they steep, but when it’s time for something to warm the tummy around Thanksgiving or so, the ginger liqueur will be so perfect for hot toddies and hell, I can’t WAIT to use our own vanilla for baking!!
So yeah, now that I’ve got these projects kicked off, I think I can see past not peeling and chopping 50 lbs of apples…yeah, I will sorely miss the chunky applesauce this year but when I pull out the eggnog and get to add a wee bit of Scotch to it? I’ll find a way to survive.