Slow Sweet Sips
It's not surprising I'm dreaming of liqueur. The next season is already looming and the signs are everywhere: the blossoming balls of hydrangea, the bags of ume (Japanese apricots) in the supermarket, cherries getting cheaper (100 yen per 100 grams--a miracle!). It's the rainy season! This means two things: seriously soggy people and homemade ume shu--lumps of rock sugar and tart ume steeped in shochu--and maybe ume boshi if you're a fanatical Japanese Martha Stewart type. I tried making ume shu three years ago, but tragically, my husband's fear of the two little jars I have stashed at the back of the kitchen cabinet has infected me as well. Let's just say I wasn't terribly thorough in the sterilizing of those jars.
But that's old news. This year, my dreams are telling me to give cherries a go. I did a search on making cherry liqueur and I was rather disappointed when many of the recipes suggested piercing the cherries and/or crushing the cherry pits with a hammer to speed the process along. Such a no-nonsense approach ruins the appeal, which for me is the idea of whole unmarred cherries suspended in alcohol, the two initially trading colors--the alcohol staining red, the cherries bleaching white**; and finally after half a decade (or so), the natural and inexorable surrender of the seeds' perfume. What fun would there be in pulverizing everything for more immediate results and losing half the treasure: those whole cherries, plump with liqueur, and perfect for adding to ice creams and--as the book that pervaded my dreams suggested--crepes?
I did eventually find a recipe for whole Cherry Schnapps, but now that the dream has lots its immediate grip and I'm wondering where the heck I'll be geographically in half a decade (or so), I don't know if such long-term plans fit into my life.
Alternately, summer and the aromatic peach (with its also almondy, albeit supposedly poisonous, stone) is just a couple of months away. Bourbon peach tart, anyone?
*In case you were wondering, Five Quarters of the Orange (by Joanne Harris, author of Chocolat) was a pretty damn depressing read and Framboise a stoic, unsympathetic character--though maybe that's just me not being able to handle "serious" books--but the bits that focused on food were pretty wonderful.
**At least this is how I imagine it--I'm not sure that the cherries really do turn white.