Archive for the ‘booze’ Tag
Email newsletter came in (haven’t read this article) that reminded me of the many instances of Surprising Things That Ruined A Run.
Actual examples from my past (some more than once):
*Fresh mountain lion tracks spotted in a box canyon (Tucson)
*Unseen open manhole cover (Atlanta)
*Stopped by Savannah River Site security and some military helicopters (nuclear reservation, South Carolina)
*Sudden outbreak of gang turf war (Tucson)
*Arrest (Athens, GA)
*Tornado (Alabama and Southern Illinois–not the same tornado)
*Pot farm (North Georgia mountains near Cohutta…decided it might be prudent to re-plot my route through this one)
*Wildfires (California, Colorado, and Arizona)
*Flooding (Missouri, Arizona, Oxfordshire, and Wiltshire)
*War games (on the tank tracks around Ft. Stewart, GA, then again more recently in the Salisbury Plain)
*Struck by falling tree (Cook’s Trail, Athens, GA–required several stitches in forehead and caused massive changes in sense of smell and taste for about a month, as well)
*Armed robbery (Decatur, GA near Emory: guy looks through wallet while holding the gun on me and demands, “Credit cards…where are they?”; I laugh and say, “look at me, dude…do I LOOK like I have credit?” at which point he flings the wallet back at me and tells me to run which, ironically, is what I had been trying to do at the time)
*Struck by golf ball (Griffin, GA)
*Alligator in road (Brunswick and Savannah, GA) [also, venomous snakes on trail more places than I care to remember in Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Arizona, California, New Mexico, and Texas]
*Dead Family acid (surprising, everytime, just how quickly it hit and how clean it was, Atlanta and Athens, GA)
*Jumping Cholla cacti (Tucson–newby surprise)
*Lock maintenance 14km across the Afsluitdijk (had to turn around and go back)
And, most frequently: the pub at the turnaround point of a long run is closed for the afternoon or closed down completely (happens too often to keep up with).
My run today took me past the Lidl supermarket out on Great Western and I popped in to grab a bottle of Western Gold (reckoning it was quite cold enough out to justify non-clear booze for the weekend). I’ve been a fan since Thanksgiving 2011 when this endless winter started broken only by a couple of nice days this springtime and two weeks last September.
But, the trip was even more serendipitous as there were TWO Western Golds to choose from, the bog-standard white label and a 6-year-old black label which I snapped up along with an incredibly low-priced package of sparkling water. The truth, in the tasting, is that this is a functional bourbon good for straight sipping, on the rocks, or with the splash of soda I prefer. The charred oak comes through throwing vanilla and varnish scents in the finish without the harsh edge you get from the white label, Clarke’s, or (for a Stateside comparison) Old Crow or Evan Williams (the rough equivalents of these two).
“Kentucky’s Finest Bourbon Whiskey,” may be a tad hyperbolic. Yum, though.
The liqueur manufacturing plant trundles on, and this month we filter, bottle, and eventually drink some coffee liqueur: Tio Mario because it is a little manlier than Tia Maria.
Most of the online recipes use espresso beans slightly crushed, but I used to make this stuff in the early 80′s out of ground espresso so that’s what I will do here.
Also, a very good clearinghouse for this hobby is Boozed and Infused and they strongly suggest using bourbon as the base liquor. You should probably take their advice, but this is a walk down memory lane so I used vodka…the original batches involved USP absolute ethanol liberated from the clutches of the Auburn University School of Pharmacy and College of Engineering.
I started with a 700 mL bottle, which is about 24 US fluid ounces (approximately 4 good coffee cups). So, I spooned enough coffee in to make 8 cups (I want this to be strong) and the amount of sugar I would typically use for 5 cups (two rounded per cup, for me). Fill and store, as normal, shaking every now and then for at least 4 weeks…this batch was started 12 December.
Filtering is as I have been doing for the other liqueurs, starting with the coarse screening through my unplugged coffee maker and then through an old hashing t-shirt (although these should become scarce in the upcoming months). It is strong, having aged a full month and starting with ground coffee, but it is copacetic and sublime…White Russians for me!
I filtered and bottled the apple bourbon for New Year’s Day, and it turned out pretty good. The apples were still surprisingly firm and packed with bourbon goodness but once out of the liquor they softened quickly; at the end of the holidays I get out of the baking mood so if I am ever going to use these to make a bonus treat I need to plan ahead so filtration happens at the START of the hols.
I only coarse filtered this so there is a little cloudiness that bothers neither of us; I suspect this will settle if the beverage lasts that long. We poured a wee dram each into our whisky tumblers and tried a few sips. The apple front is definitely there and provided a very sweet mouth, not cloying but surprising (next batch, I will add even less brown sugar, although this appears in the finish and may help kick-start the initial infusion). The cinnamon is fairly astringent but not as pronounced as I expected/feared. The cheap bourbon (half Jim Beam and half Clarke’s, my fave over here) benefitted from the malic acid released from the apples and seemed smoother than I remember (I’ll double-check this soon), but the best thing, by far, was the finish.
Walnuts. I added a handful of walnuts hoping for a few of the woody compounds to express themselves, and they did with strong vanilla flavours and tannic acids that belie the short storage time. But, the finish was like swallowing a mouthful of walnuts. I thought this was just me projecting my ‘creator’s foreknowledge’ on my glassful, but Jackie also commented on it as surprising and the most pleasant part of the overall pleasant experience. Hooray.
Oh, right, the label. I took the apples from trees growing along the workers’ cycle path below the old railroad scrapyard that became the site of the Oasis Leisure Centre (from which the band gleaned its name). I was going to call it ‘Wonderwall,’ but then found the cd-single label for the Magic Apple Pie and, being lazy, slapped the Drunken Bunny on it and claimed it for my own.
This is a collection of some of the household intake for the last two weeks (not shown: any of the 2012 Challenge Carlings, the hard liquor, obscene breakfasts, or tonight’s NYE/27th Anniversary fuels) [no particular order for the photos].
The cassoulet recipe which has generated interest in the past succeeded in being, like its predecessors, different from all others with half a roast duck, some leftover pieces of venison, roast beef, and pheasant, and some grilled lamb joining the standard root veg and bean contingents. The lot was baked with a Pinot Grigio.
The Christmas roast came out nicely, a three rib standing piece of meat…tender, juicy, and just so slightly bloody.
The sloe gin is nearly gone, the port is down to a half glass remaining, we have two bottles of Cava left, and I still haven’t made biscotti so the Vin Santo remains for a New Year treat.
As usual, we will try to tame the gluttons unleashed within us this December with a bit of dietary sanity in January (the 50 Kebabs in 50 Places in 2013 Challenge notwithstanding). As I said to one colleague over the break, if this year’s feasting doesn’t give us gout then we are probably indestructible.
christmas dinner served
bringing it to room temperature for a few hours
xmas snack because the roast was taking a while
for the xmas roast
christmas eve dinner
to go with some venison steaks
Sunday before holidays started
christmas drinking started with this one
chorizo, buffalo mozzarella, tomato sauce, artichokes, mushrooms, and olives
duck glazed with sloe gin
saucing the cassouleet before first baking
gift wine from a mass spec company
shot from the pheasants, one crushed when I bit it
Holidays mean poor nutrition and hangovers. Bloody Mary’s are a perfect remedy for both.
This is a fantastic Bloody Mary mix if you aren’t vegetarian; the original was published by Paul Woodford (aka ‘Flying Booger,’ a hashing acquaintance from Tucson who is a wealth of nifty info on a number of topics). The original is at this link.
Requiring some beef broth, I started by roasting some bones acquired from a Halal butcher in Swindon (using them for no other reason than they do a good job on this particular product, as well as goat and lamb). The bones are about 70% by weight meat and some of it very good so I roast these to barely rare and trim half (the best half) for sandwiches then put the rest, about a pound and a half, just under water, top off with a glass of wine (plus one for the chef) a sprig of rosemary, a quartered onion, an unpeeled head of garlic, and the leafy bits from a bunch of celery. This simmers (never boils) for three hours and then after straining it is reduced from about a quart to a cup and a half (this will be enough for 3 batches).
Take a third of this thick broth and add one teaspoon salt, some good (and dangerously hot) chilli sauce to taste — go light because you have to add a shot glass of Worcestershire sauce and another of lumpy horseradish sauce (do wasabi if you are a yuppie, or have tried this at a yuppie’s house, a half shot is plenty). Whisk this with about three and a half cups of a good quality passata, and stir well. Even up the spices starting with a hefty dusting of black pepper then go through the other sauces in order — the chilli sauce should call for an obvious amount up front. Refrigerate (make up to 3 quarts like this and freeze the extra amount).
To serve, split a celery stalk and put half in each of two tall glasses with an ice cube. Put two shots of vodka in the bottom and pour in some of the mix. You might get two more bloodies out of one of these small batches if you like them strong. Squeeze a quarter lime over the top and dump the lime carcass in the glass. Drink deeply.
I awoke Saturday with excitement and trepidation about the fast-track sloe gin project (most recent prior post including the label and other links here). This was the day of filtration followed immediately by the first taste and I was prepared for the worst. Normally, this is a long-term project and the infusion benefits from the alchemy of time and, more to the point, the slow kinetics of dissolution: the most complex and subtle flavours are leached from the pips deep in the fruit–tannins and vanillins that further react with some of the bitter fruit and skins and the added sugar. And, so, here were the steps involved in the final preparations.
Filtration is most effective if you start with a coarse step. With slow-sloe gin, this might include a sieve as the starter since the fruit will have softened significantly. With this rushed, 6 week batch I went straight to wire mesh (my metal coffee filter).
The smells filled the kitchen even though the room was a bit cool this winter morning. Dumping out the fruit, there was a distinct licorice and spice odour which reminded me that I used brown sugar in this batch. I began to worry less as I moved on to fine filtration.
“Use cheesecloth folded into several layers,” is the advice on multiple liqueur making sites (here is my favourite); I want my creations to have a personal touch, though, so I grabbed a hashing t-shirt for the job. The benefits are obvious: it has a fine weave, it is no stranger to being soaked in alcohol, and I have worn this on runs, quite literally, all over the world.
This photo doesn’t do justice to the quality of filtration achieved thus…it is actually pristine and not at all cloudy. From a 1 liter jug half filled with berries and a half cup of sugar then topped with gin, I recovered 750 mL plus a shot to taste:
It is harsh and could have gone at least another month. But, it is drinkable and sharp and has a depth of several flavours that usually disappear as the infusion progresses to full term. The anise flavour that attacks the nose is at the forefront but there are several subtler spices–a hint of ginger and cinnamon I didn’t expect but welcome. There is a grape-like finish but not like in a fine wine, more the grape MD 20/20 variety.
Overall, better than I hoped for.
The process takes time so spend an hour or so coming up with a label for the final product. This one relates to the source of the berries:
This will be a short-term (6 week) batch, but I also have another, larger jug that I will continue to shake every few days until Christmas 2013. Past steps include:
Who knew Castro was an avid golfer? Of course Che was…he was a doctor.
A more salient question today is: Will it be champagne or whiskey in the early hours of the morning? Here’s the last payout plot for four years:
They are taking bets until 10:00 pm GMT, if you have an itch.
This is a slight variation on a recipe posted at Boozed and Infused (a much better written site by some women that SEEM to have fewer psychological issues than your humble servant). I will leave this to steep until January and use it as my monthly project (I am prepping one new batch appropriate to the month throughout 2013 plus a few special bottles for particular occasions).
There is a cycle path into the town centre from near my house that was built to support the workers at the Great Western Railway works. The rail yard to the east now houses Swindon College and the Oasis Leisure Centre while much of the western side is an industrial estate. However, there are scads of fruit bearing plants along the path, including a number of trees yielding small, tart, red apples. I have used these apples to flavour roasted pork in the past, but the liqueur project prompted this current use.
Small run of Devil’s Punchbowl in back compared to the multi-liter batch-to-be of Faringdon Folly
The pickings on the Ridgeway were so meagre I have kept my eyes wide open hoping to spot another cache of berries (spell check corrected this from the Freudian-slip, ‘beeries’). Out the window of the bus as it trundled along the A420 between Oxford and Swindon I spotted the mother lode.
Dozens of bushes were hidden in the brambles behind the ones I spotted on the commute and I picked 5 pounds in less than 15 minutes. I’ll decant a taster of this batch, dubbed Faringdon Folly after an adjacent attraction, at Christmas but allow the infusion to sit until Christmas 2014. I’ll still use the much more rare batch of Devil’s Punchbowl this Christmas, though.
Thorn from one of the Blackthorn bushes yesterday
Traditionally, you should pick sloes right after the first hard frost but that occurs so late most years as to make it impractical. The idea is that the berries will have time to get a little sweeter and the freeze will fracture the tough skins making the inner pulp and pits accessible to the liquor.
Several alternatives exist. You can pierce the skins with “a sliver pin” (wtf?) or, as I choose to do, one of the thorns of the bush from which you harvest the fruit. I also put the fruit in the freezer for a day or two as an additional freeze/fracture step but you could just do one or the other. If you leave them in the freezer for a week or two, some of the moisture will sublimate and that isn’t entirely a bad result, either.
Proportions in recipes vary wildly and are usually measured as mass of fruit and sugar to volume of gin. I tend to put the fruit in a measuring cup and then pierce and put them into a bottle that will hold about 3 times that volume. I just used a 1 liter club soda bottle for this small batch, but you can get fancy ones made just for this (at one of those, “I Saw You Coming” type stores). I’ll put it in something nice at the end but this is sterile and sufficient for my purposes.
Next, you need to add sugar to assist the extraction of tannins, juices, and colour from the fruit. I treat this as a strong liqueur and so put in half as much sugar by volume as the fruit. This time I had some light brown sugar but you could use honey or Karo syrup (sort of light treacle, Brits) if you want. The sugar also acts as a minimum timing device since it doesn’t immediately dissolve.
Finally, add gin at twice the volume of the fruit. Use the cheapest gin you can find not least because you are doing insult to fine gin if you use it…sort of like putting Bombay gin into tonic rather than just pouring it over one or two small ice chips in a chilled Martini glass: if you don’t have any more dignity than that, yourself, at least show some respect to the beverage. Plus, I was assured by the Englishwoman who first set us on this path that cheap gin works better, in the end, but I don’t remember the reasoning behind that.
Finally, put the bottle someplace dark and rotate it every day or two. Ours is in front of the wine rack so we are certain to see it at least once per day. This will probably be ready for Christmas (2 months) but you can let it infuse for a year (and if you only use a tablespoon of sugar, should do).
Step 0: Find Blackthorn
Step 1: Gather the Fruit
An Autumn walk on the Ridgeway is always good, but today’s trek was a mission to pick sloes for the annual Sloe Gin.
Hard to do the Devil’s Punchbowl justice from this angle but the freshly plowed field and the saturated soils prevented a precipice shot.
I had some solitary blackthorns scoped-out but they were already devoid of leaves and only had withered fruit (but doesn’t that describe us all?). The overcast day and the necessity of watching the slick clay footing and huge puddles forced me to consider each tree as it was approached, and from quite a distance–and I was surprised how many hawthorns were along the field edges (with their pretty and plentiful but absolutely useless fruit compared to the sloe-bearing blackthorns).
Mostly defoliated hawthorn (relative of blackthorn) with its useless berries
Half a kilometer further on I arrived at a big stand of blackthorn bushes only to find they retained almost no sloes at all. A horsewoman riding by paused and noted that the mild weather had devastated this year’s crop. A bit further on (and off the main Ridgeway Trail on my way to Letcombe Regis) I found a much more rich stand–I think the Ridgeway bushes have been depleted by earlier hikers (although this stand still had fuck-all berries to speak of).
Three thickets of blackthorn were still fairly meagre pickings, but better than the devastation earlier on the trail
Still, it was meagre pickings, and while I hoped to have enough for 3 or 4 liters I think I barely scored enough for a normal sized bottle. Oh well, the effort is always more important than the final product.
Step O: Find Blackthorn
Step 2: Prepare the Infusion
Before moving to England, I had avoided sloe gin successfully since the late 1970′s. Back then in the US, it was sold in pint bottles alongside schnapps and crème de menthe (which were equally chemical in nature and essence), made primarily for the amateur (that is to say, youth) drinking market although I suspect many cat ladies also loaded up on bottles on which to get loaded whilst watching their soaps.
Was I ever that young?
One day while hiking one of the Roman Roads in Cambridgeshire, we met this family foraging along the path and stopped to chat; the mom gave us the basic recipe that I’ll relate as this series of posts progresses the next several months.
Blackthorn: berries from August to November (varies with weather), usually first thing to bloom in the spring…and fucking EVERYWHERE on this island
Step Zero, then, would be to find some blackthorn bushes and wait for the berries (sloes) to ripen then pick a shitload of them. Tradition has it that they are best for making sloe gin after the first hard frost which softens the skins but the weather is so mild here that other traditions have emerged (more on that in Step 1: Harvest). The sloes I will use this year will come from some hedgerows I scoped out on one of my runs along the Ridgeway, not far east of the White Horse of Uffington. Many sloe gin makers jealousy guard the locations of their spoils, but mine are from right around here:
Will probably call this batch “Devil’s Punchbowl”
The final product makes a pleasant enough dessert drink and has depth of flavour and colour that make it a fine ingredient in sauces, dark soups and gravy. It is also incredibly high in alcohol (flammable) so it can be used to glaze meats or baked fruit.
Next…Step 1, Gather the Fruit
Step2, Prepare the Infusion
Unpacking her bag (#not_a_euphemism) from her trip to the States, J said, “here, I bought you something pretty.” ”Mmmmm, my favourites!” So, here’s an offer to some of you lot…
I’m a pretty good cook. In fact, back in the mists of time we met in a professional kitchen where Jackie was my boss (although I remain the better and more imaginative cook, a fact she freely admits). So, anyone that know’s my real name — ie, I should already know you socially and/or professionally — that wants a nice meal during a visit to the UK can get one from me in exchange for a liter of Turkey and a 50 pack of Goody Powders (Goody’s…they are good).
Give me a day or two notice…my butcher keeps odd hours, my fish monger will need a couple days’ lead for something special, and I will need to get a few cases of wine in. And now I must dash, but first I think I’ll enjoy a little Goody’s lift:
Note 1, in response to a theme in several bits of correspondence: Yes, this excludes hashers because the very few that know my real name could never make it the hour-and-a-half journey from baggage claim to my front door without cracking the seal on the bottle.
Note 2: Family need not apply…you motherfuckers owe me a lot more than a bottle of bourbon.
I can’t help myself but every time I see an off-brand bourbon over here I give it a go. The guy at the newstand/offy/post office that sold it to me said that it is similar to Jack Daniels. Told him, ‘I sure hope not;’ unfortunately it is even worse than that…like JD not even bourbon but even that swill is aged. This stuff is only sour mash that has bourbon flavouring added. I might use this to flambé a dessert sometime but won’t be drinking anymore of it.
The run home required a stop for beverages and my sense of direction dictated that the stop was at Lidl…shit. However, there on the shelf was the 28-year-old malt that my single malt guru tipped me off to (with not a small amount of snarkiness less-than-subtly salting the ‘advice’); I could not resist, despite my better angels pushing me toward ANYTHING else.
Verdict: not really too bad, but it hasn’t picked up any of the character or complexity of the respectable malts less than half its age. There is an aromatic nose of vanilla and espresso faintly expressing itself, some malty smoke but not like you would hope and overall it is about as smooth as the price would dictate. I wouldn’t buy it again and since it is on a limited run of 3600 bottles that probably wouldn’t be in the cards, anyway.
Essentially, this booze has nothing to show for the 28 years before it climbed into the bottle and I feel a deep kinship with that. I really have to stop shopping at Lidl.
I was going to swing by Aldi for some of that fine Clarke’s bourbon but I got lost during the run and opted to shortcut back to the house. Luckily, I passed the Sainsbury’s at the Brunel Centre and figured, what the hell, the house brand isn’t so bad. They don’t always stock the bourbon, opting for Jim Beam white label at £20 - £25 per bottle (or Jack Daniels, which is foul swill and NOT BOURBON, brits…NOT BOURBON). Anyway, it was pretty nice for a change on the weekend and it really makes Saturday breakfast better. No idea who supplies this, but it is a little harsh like Early Times (don’t get me wrong…I drink a lot of Early Times back in the States, but it is a little harsh).
Winston Churchill was travelling by train with Harry Truman. The president suggested having a whiskey and Sir Winston was delighted. Upon his first taste, he exclaimed, “This isn’t whiskey, its bourbon!”
We settled into the hotel for the night and then realised we were dry. I had remembered to pack the travel shot glass but no beverages; this would not do. So, I put my shoes back on (checking first that I was still wearing trousers, of course…don’t need another one of THOSE incidents, do we?) and headed out to find an off license nearby. Instead, I popped into an Aldi Supermarket and found this little gem, some Clarke’s bourbon, which apparently is only sold in Germany and Austria (and German stores like Aldi) although it is truly bourbon, made in Lawrence, KY.
I have stopped drinking bourbon for the most part because if you ask for it in a bar they tend to pour Jack Daniels (vile swill and NOT bourbon). All you can usually find on the shelves in Offies is Jim Beam or Four Roses, bland tipples at best and yet they tend to be £20 for a 700 mL bottle. Clarke’s is smooth but with a strong oakieness that I really like; it reminds me a bit of Evan Williams without the medicinal edge. And, at £10 a bottle, I think we have found a winner.
Here are some whiskey quotes to make this an interesting read despite my ramblings (W.C. Fields may be a little heavily represented):
“Never eat on an empty stomach.”
“No married man is genuinely happy if he has to drink worse whiskey than he used to drink when he was single.”
H. L. Mencken
“I was brought up to believe that Scotch whiskey would need a tax preference to survive in competition with Kentucky bourbon.”
Hugo L. Black
“A woman drove me to drink and I didn’t have the decency to thank her.”
“I’m a simple man. All I want is enough sleep for two normal men, enough whiskey for three, and enough women for four.”
“What contemptible scoundrel stole the cork from my lunch?”
“What whiskey will not cure, there is no cure for.”
“Yes, honey…Just squeeze your rage up into a bitter little ball and release it at an appropriate time, like that day I hit the referee with the whiskey bottle.”
“A man should always carry a small bottle of whiskey in case of a snake bite. A man should also carry a snake.”
“Too much of anything is bad, but too much of good whiskey is barely enough.”
“So long as the presence of death lurks with anyone who goes through the simple act of swallowing, I will make mine whiskey.”
W. C. Fields
“Let’s drink to California, way out by the sea, Where a woman’s ass, and a whiskey glass, Made a horse’s ass of me”
“Drown in a cold vat of whiskey? Death, where is thy sting?”
W. C. Fields
“The melancholy days are come, the saddest of the year; Not cold enough for whiskey but too damn cold for beer”
“The advantages of whiskey over dogs are legion. Whiskey does not need to be periodically wormed, it does not need to be fed, it never requires a special kennel, it has no toenails to be clipped or coat to be stripped. Whiskey sits quietly in its special nook until you want it. True, whiskey has a nasty habit of running out, but then so does a dog.”
W. C. Fields
“Listen. If we can’t break the ice, how ’bout we drown it?”
Paul Bettany’s character in ‘A Beautiful Mind’
“If you can’t drink a lobbyist’s whiskey, take his money, sleep with his women and still vote against him in the morning, you don’t belong in politics.”
“When it’s third and ten, you can take the milk drinkers and I’ll take the whiskey drinkers every time.”