Friday, September 19, 2008

Slipping Summer


Hello, denizens of Erin's Kitchen. J here. The sun's setting earlier in the evening, the breeze is carrying a hint of menace, so hanging onto the last shreds of summer is the correct response for northerners. Erin and I are doing our part by consuming the remains of our homemade vin d'orange.



A couple years ago, Erin picked up a book entitled Aperitif by Georgeanne Brennan, a book devoted to the virtues of the aperitif and containing several recipes for vins du maison. I decided it was time to put the book to use and kept a sharp lookout for bitter oranges this spring. One night I struck pay dirt and bought a couple dozen at Fairway.

Here's the basic recipe:

6 2/3 bottles of a dry rosé or white wine (e.g. Sauvignon Blanc); avoid anything too heavy, but don't abandon structure entirely
1/2 qt vodka
1 pound (2 cups) granulated sugar
2 vanilla beans (whole)
1 lemon, cut into pieces
peels from 6 bitter oranges (aka Seville oranges)

Combine everything in a clean crock or jar and cover. Store in a cool, dark place for a month, and give it a good shake every day for the first week to dissolve the sugar.

After aging, strain the wine through several layers of cheesecloth in a mesh sieve and discard all the solids. Sterilize some wine bottles in boiling water, ladle the vin d'orange into the bottles using a funnel, and cork. Store the bottles in a cool dark place for a couple months, then enjoy; the author warns they won't last the year. Serve chilled or with ice.


That's the idea anyway. I'm drawn to projects like this, but those who know me know all too well that my initial fire cools quickly. Fortunately, this is a wonderfully forgiving recipe. I had one jar sit around for 2 months before I bottled it one hectic night. A week later, the result was delicious, and has been since. The second crock remains in a cool, dark place, for bottling some night this week; I'm sure it will be fine.

Erin will tell you I can't make a recipe straight up, and she's right. I added a few whole star anise fruits into the concoction. It is a noticeable flavor in the wine, and I recommend similar tinkering wholeheartedly. The wine is sweet up front but with a bitter finish. In addition to the orange, there's a lot of vanilla, and the star anise helps temper that a bit. Next summer I might try adding cloves or cardamom. Since the rosé was fortified with the vodka, it has a proof similar to a port; but don't expect it to taste like a fine tawny or, on the other end of the spectrum, like a sweet ice wine. It's more like a Lillet with a Campari chaser.

We purchased 375mL bottles and corks over the internet as well as a simple corker thingy. The corks were definitely easier to push through if they'd soaked in the boiling water for a bit, and the smaller bottles have worked well for gifts -- not to mention that since they barely fit in our largest pot, we would not have been able to sterilize 750mL bottles.

Pickles & Pastrami

Me & My Pickle

Last weekend, J and I hit up New York's 8th Annual Pickle Day. We munched on all sorts of free samples of pickled goods--from melon to herring to cukes. The Pickle Guys were doling out free, whole new, sour or spicy pickles, and a Korean food stand featured kimchi stir fried rice and pancakes. Not completely stuffed with pickles, J and I completed our Lower East Side excursion with a delish pastrami at Katz's Deli. And, of course, more pickles.

Rick's Picks at Pickle Fest

A variety of Rick's Picks

Pickled Melon at Pickle Fest
Melon pickled with mustard


Pastrami at Katz's Deli, Lower East Side
Pastrami at Katz's Deli