August 28, 2011

Summer Fruit In Vodka

We don't do this as often as we used to, but every summer we think about what fruit we might turn into liqueur.

Peaches have gone into both vodka and brandy in the past. Their rich, summer flavour and aroma is a welcome reminder on a cold winter evening. These are from the Okanagan and have been ripening in the sun on our balcony. Their perfume fills the house.

Sugar, fruit, vodka, a big jar, and a dark cupboard. And either lots of patience or a short memory. Or a short memory.

Regular sugar will do, but try an imported grocery store for rock sugar. It dissolves slowly and looks beautiful going in. Ask visiting friends to bring you a big bottle of Duty Free vodka, the cheaper the better since none of the original flavour (?) will remain.

Amounts and proportions vary. Starting out with less sugar means you can always add more later if needed. Make sure the fruit is de-stemmed and without obvious blemishes. Apples and pears should be cored.

Apricots are the closest thing to the Japanese ume that goes into umeshuu (梅酒), and that is what we usually use. Try a little taste every 6 months or so to experience how the flavour develops.

We have had varying levels of success with different fruit. Hazelnuts in the foreground, ginger on the right, cherries in the back. The red-capped jar is the last few centimeters of our 1998 apricot, now dark and deeply, deeply rich.

  • Peaches: excellent; the fruit breaks down quicker than apricots.
  • Peaches in brandy: fantastic.
  • Apples: should be consumed sooner as the crisp acidity doesn't seem to last.
  • Pears: must be at peak of ripeness since the flavour is so delicate.
  • Raspberries: spectacular; highly recommended.
  • Strawberries: ready within a couple of months; the soft fruit breaks down quickly.
  • Lemons: limoncello is wonderful.
  • Limes: spectacular; even better than lemons.
  • Blueberries: great colour but not a lot of flavour.
  • Cherries: mixed success; requires high-quality fruit. We added more fruit after two years.
  • Ginger: yow! Incredible zing. Nice when mixed with less flavourful liqueur like blueberry.
  • Hazelnuts: deep, woody and very, very good. Required more time for full extraction.
  • Christmas spice: cinnamon, clove, orange peel, raisins, allspice, juniper berries, etc. Ready in 6-8 weeks and goes very well with Christmas dessert. The cinnamon can easily overpower the other ingredients.

The fruit really gives up all its flavour to the alcohol. You'll be amazed at how little flavour is left if you sample a piece after a year. We made a cake with some of the raspberries once, but it wasn't really worth it.

August 24, 2011

Origami Coffee

These single-serving pour-over coffee packs arrived from Japan recently. They are as beautifully designed as they are fun to use.

The shiny foil packaging just falls open at your command. There is a little half-slit in the seam on the back. When you tug opposing corners the foil gently rips open, lengthwise, like a wallet. I would like to see what the same designers could do with those horrible tetra-pack cartons for juice and UHT milk.

The filter mouth is lightly sealed and opens easily. The coffee smells good, but not very strong.

Intelligent use of the cardboard keeps the frame sprung open. Why is "PUSH" written in English? Foreign words still have a stylish appeal in Japan.

These tabs go inside the cup, stabilizing the frame on the rim.

The instructions say to pour a trickle of boiling water as though you were writing the letter の ("no") repeatedly. Things like that make us miss Japan.

A little hot milk. The experience was more fun than the coffee was good. It is almost worth using your own fresh-ground coffee instead of the stuff that comes with it . But if you do that you may as well use your own filters. This is more about convenience and fun. And, since you just throw the whole thing away afterward, guilt.

August 17, 2011

BC Camping #5: Water

The unusually deep snow-pack over the winter raised water levels all over the province.

This "island" in Marble Canyon Provincial Park is usually a small stand of trees in a riverside meadow.

Highway 99 follows the Fraser River along Fountain Valley, east of Lillooet.

Our site at Ashnola Campground is right beside Ewart Creek.

Ewart Creek is a cold but refreshing dip on a hot afternoon.

Coming down the big switchbacks of Highway 3, high over Osoyoos Lake. Haynes Point Provincial Park is just visible on the left. The narrow green promontory is a great camping spot, but is booked well in advance.

North-east across Kootenay Lake from Kaslo.

The community-maintained Halfway hot springs near Nakusp.

These river-side hot pools were where we had a breakfast of roast chicken and chardonnay.There are usually a couple more pools but the river had risen right over them. We had to siphon cold river water in to mix with the piping hot, odourless springs water. The two were at such temperature extremes that the hot water floated on top of the cold, making two distinct layers. We had to constantly stir it all up in order to stay comfortable.

The very challenging path down to the river-side hot springs. Aya was determined and wouldn't let anything get in between her and a hot soak.

The ferry across Upper Arrow Lake, from Shelter Bay to Galena. Running hourly, the crew is reluctant to abandon travelers to a long wait for the next trip. Our ferry actually returned to the dock after leaving to pick up late-comers. Twice. I am not kidding.

August 13, 2011

BC Camping #4: Mountains

It is easy to be overwhelmed by the mountains in British Columbia. They scrape the bottoms of clouds, shine orange in the sun, and loom over like shaded giants. A few days scooting around their feet will show their many different personalities. They are dry and bare, black and jagged, snow-capped, lush green, softly rounded, imposing, beckoning.

Looking up from our campsite at Ashnola.

Along Highway 3 in the Kettle Valley.

Crow's Nest Pass, Highway 3.

The ridge above Hedley, home to one of Canada's most lucrative gold mines.

At the Mining Museum in Hedley there was a telescope pointed up at the old mining buildings. Aya managed this amazing shot through the eyepiece.

View from our campsite, Marble Canyon Provincial Park.

Behind Church & State winery, Black Sage Bench in the south Okanagan Valley.

Looking across Slocan Lake at Valhalla Provincial Park.

The Trans-Canada Highway reveals treasures like this with alarming frequency.

August 8, 2011

BC Camping #3: Food

Our first dinner of the trip was a real surprise. Our campsite was only a couple of hours outside Vancouver, and just north of Hope.

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This diner was the only restaurant around, and it looked like it held little beyond deep-fried frozen things. However, when I asked the Indo-Canadian owner if there was curry to be had, his eyes lit up. "You like curry?" he asked, smiling.
Turns out his family was preparing a curry lunch for a nearby festival the next day. For 500 people. They asked what we wanted and we said "an amazing dinner for two, please." They didn't let us down.

Raita, dahl, chai paneer and puri.

Fresh-ground espresso every morning, of course.

Korean bulgogi beef with pasta and beer for dinner.

Landmark Bakery in Kaslo gets a shout-out. I'm sure their food is great, but it was their password-free wifi that we particularly appreciated.

Simple, perfect omelette and salad lunch with great friends just outside Nelson.

There were some memorable restaurants in Nelson, too. In particular, The Bent Fork where the cornbread French toast made an excellent breakfast.

We so often forget to take photos when making and eating meals. We'll try to get better at this.

August 6, 2011

BC Camping #2: Fauna

Two nice encounters with wildlife on Highway 12 outside of Lilooet:

This little black bear scampered up the steep embankment, pausing only to wave his tongue at us. No sign of a mother around, and he looked a little young to be on his own. Perhaps not.

These two mountain goats tolerated each other while they grazed, but would clash whenever a vehicle passed, perhaps reacting to the noise. They stood stock still after each clash, which is understandable considering how hard they hit.

This little orange terror wandered into our campsite, very confident and full of play. She helped set up the tent.

She inspected our washing line.

She investigated the car.

She took a peek in the tent...

... and chased the finger-monster inside.

She helped cook breakfast in the morning.

Eventually she settled down for a wash and a squeeze or two.

August 1, 2011

BC Camping #1: Flora

This nine-day, 2150 km loop took us through both new and familiar areas.
Lilooet turned out to be a much drier place than we had expected, full of beautiful little Provincial Parks with very easy camping.

We should really know more about the various mushrooms and fungi we meet. I bet some of them would be delicious.

Patches of bright orangey-red lichen, very striking on the dark rocks beside Green Lake.

Anyone who has popped a wild strawberry in their mouth knows the concentrated punch of flavour they pack. These were no exception.

Here is our route, with campsites and other points of interest marked.

View Camping BC, July 2011 in a larger map
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