Man, protracted writer’s block the past few months. This blog was conceived with two thoughts in mind – give me a place to organize and collect my thoughts, and also give a place to try my hand at writing. The latter was becoming a chore and taking away some of the fun of the whole thing. We haven’t been sitting still, just not making too many notes about what was going on.

A brief update – the Pokeberry ink turned out so-so. It lost the brillant purple of the fresh berries turning a deep purple that went on to turn brown as it dried. Not a failure, but not a screaming success. One good thing – I now know where the poke bushes are so I was able to grab some poke sallit a few weeks back. Fried it up in bacon fat and scrambled it with eggs.You have to boil the greens twice before eating them. After that treatment, there isn’t much flavor left. Beyond the color, it didn’t add much to the eggs. I could see the attraction 100 years ago though when this was the first green thing you got to eat after a long winter of grains, cured meats and maybe canned fruits or vegetables.

We also had a little work done on the fire pit. Winter was not kind to it. The walls crumbled in a bit turning it into more

Latest Fire Accessory

of a fire depression. You can’t fight nature, so I turned it into a proper fire ring with more level ground surrounding it. Got my survival guides and I’m looking forward to cooking all manner of things on the campfire this summer.

The last big change was finally getting around to planting a vegetable garden. We’ve got a great spot. The dirt is mostly clay thought – it is cut into the hill that is the back yard. I’ve been through it a couple of times tilling, adding compost and all that. It’s still clay. My last great plan was to haul off the top 18 to 24 inches of clay, put in a drainage field then come back and fill it up with top soil. Right.

Future Julep or Southside

Bailed on that one for now. It was miles easier to put in two small raised beds and fill those with mostly good dirt. Root vegetables seem to do well around here so carrots (lots of carrots), beets, parsnips and radishes are in the mix, some  in the beds, some in the clay around them. For the kids – two tomatoes, a couple of watermelon plants and one or two sunflowers, For daddy – Fava beans, cabbages, brussel sprouts and corn. For future cocktails, I set out some raspberries and a mini raised bed of mint (synthetic plant pot with the bottom cut out – the stuff can run and take over a garden). The raspberries were an after thought, but an “ah-ha moment.” Why didn’t I think of them sooner? The wineberries up the street look great again this year. I hope to spend some time this summer extending the bed for the raspberries and put more plants out next spring. The mint is doing fine. As it gets warmer, I’m thinking Mint Juleps with the Peach infused Bourbon. We also have some horehound starting to sprout. I never did get around to making Rock and Rye last year. Hopefully it will work out this go round

As far as drinks go, rumor has it one of the private clubs in town is looking for a signature cocktail to serve. The idea got me thinking about the qualities of a drink that would fit their style . I would think something with a traditional style – a brown liquor base, with at least one local component, but no precious or obscure ingredients. It would need to be something a busy bartender could reproduce quickly, but still have some flair. It would also have to appeal to men and woman. Tough order. My first attempt:

The Private Club Cocktail #1

  • 1-1/2 oz Cognac
  • 1/2 oz Grand Marnier
  • 1/2 oz lemon juice
  • 1/2 oz Blackberry syrup
  • 2-3 dashes of Angostura bitters
  • 4-5 oz Champagne

Shake and strain the first four ingredients, top with the champagne, serve with a lemon twist.

It’s a more enriched variation of the French 75. The blackberry syrup is fairly easy to make. I used frozen berries for this batch. Fresh ones would be a treat. You could also plug-in a syrup from whatever fruit was current, or use crème de cassis or Chambord. As a nod to the local apple orchards I suppose you could use Apple Brandy or Calvados. Mmmm, may have to try that one once.

Blackberry Syrup

  • 4 cups of Blackberries
  • 2 cups of sugar
  • juice of one lemon

Simmer all ingredients for 10-20 minutes. Add to containers when it cools and refrigerate. This made about 500 ml.