Sunday, October 21, 2007

black brandy

Hot, bright late October sun. We are confused about the season as we dig out the vegetable garden and begin to cut back the perennials. How unjustified this autumnal activity when a few roses still bloom as well as the nepeta, chrysanthamum, and the African cousin of hibiscus with its gently falling red trumpets. But the calendar tells us what needs to be done, if the weather won't. Cleaning, clearing, planting, list-making, curing, fermenting.

While Caleb was very good about getting his walnut liquer into its second stage back in August, I have been dragging in regard to my own black wine. The blackberries have been steeping in the brandy with vanilla bean and lavender for weeks and weeks. I'll get to it today I say to myself, and today turns into tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow. Creeps by at a petty pace. Shakespeare and all that.

But today is the day. The pretty mason jars of my inky brew get strained, plump and slightly color-leeched berries fill the basket. "Gelato with brandy-soaked berries," Caleb says, and we pack them up in containers for the freezer and a future dessert. I taste my concoction. The flavor of the fruit comes first followed by a thread of the vanilla and a hint of lavender. Two cups of sugar heated and dissolved in two cups of water on the stove make a simple syrup. We add the brandy to the liquid and stir, then pour back in the mason jars for further curing. Between the now everpresent yeasty smell emanating from the bathroom where the wine is fermenting, and the hot alcoholic tinge of the brandy in the kitchen, we think the cats are getting drunk.


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