Friday, June 11, 2010

Everybody In The Bathtub!

Nancy and the Kitties are making gin!

A weird thing has happened to me since I moved to the country. OK, a lot of weird things have happened since then, but the one that's applicable here is, to quote Son One in the throes of the Terrible Twos, "I do it MYself!"

Perhaps it's because we are 10 miles from the nearest grocery store, unless you count the convenience store across from the Barber Motorsports complex, where you can buy Red Hots, fried pies, pork rinds and cheap beer at expensive prices. Maybe I've been inspired by my Super-Woman-Farm-Girl friend, Rachel, who grows her own wheat and hollowed out her own mushroom cave. Perhaps it's just because I CAN. Whatever the case, I find myself eschewing "storeboughten" in favor of in-house productions.

A polk plant caused The Great Polk Revolution, and two months of home-grown weed consumption in place of spinach. That led directly to growing vegetables in straw bales, and a devotion to the Dervaes family, and their urban homestead. (Thanks, Valerie!) At that point it was, of course, only a matter of time before I started making gin.

Well, I had all those herbs laying around...

And Megan over at Not Martha posted a link to this story at Gourmet.

The husband drinks gin, I make martinis. I am happiest making martinis when we have that very fancy, very French, very expensive gin in the house. It is made with "19 spices from all over the world". It smells divine, and the bottle is beautiful. Only the price tag is in poor taste.

Imagine my delight! A experiment with homegrown ingredients, and no real fear that I might kill someone (the original Polk Salad Experiment was a bit nerve-wracking until we both woke up the next morning.) I DID have to make a run to Whole Foods, fifteen miles away, for juniper berries - they don't carry them at the convenience store by the racetrack. But they probably have Juniper Berry Chewing Tobacco in a cute pouch. Then I pulled out that bottle of vodka that we keep around just in case someone who drinks vodka decides to stop by unexpectedly. (Since my sister is the only person I know who drinks vodka, and to my knowledge she has never been in the state of Alabama, that bottle has remained intact...for years. I sniffed it, though, and it smelled OK; so I proceeded.)

So here is how I made gin. First I put a bunch of juniper berries in the vodka. Some of them sank, and some floated. I let the bottle sit overnight on the counter, with an army of countertop appliances around it so the cats couldn't knock it over. The next morning I sniffed it (oh, OK...I tasted a tiny little bit!) and then added - in no particular order - a few peppercorns, a star anise, a spoonful of fennel seeds, a couple of cloves, a broken bay leaf, too much cracked cardamom (because it is my favorite spice), a sprig from each of my two rosemary plants, two purple basil leaves, the last shoot from my cilantro plant, a twist of grapefruit rind and another of lemon rind. And a cranberry. That was not in the recipe, but I had one, so what the hell. Now, that comes to 13 additives. The very fancy, very French, very expensive gin has 6 more ingredients, but maybe some more things will grow in the straw garden before I make the next batch. And I THOUGHT I had cinnamon sticks, so I really intended to add one of those this time.

By midday, I sniffed again...and yes, I tasted (just a tiny bit, though!) And, like magic, it smelled (and tasted, although I don't LIKE gin) like gin! With too much cardamom! Coffee filter in the funnel, decanted into another bottle. It had a bit of a golden color - true gin would go through another distillation to make it clear - but it looked like sunshine!

So, around 5 PM I chilled the shaker, crushed the ice, poured my homebrew, dribbled in the dry vermouth, and set my creation gently in the freezer to await The Moment of Truth...

Thumbs up! High Five! Passed muster with flying colors! And I'm thinking...Nancy's Herb World and Designer Gins! You Pick 'Em, We Pickle 'Em! Anyone know how to grow star anise?

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