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Winner - Best Personal Blog - 2003 Netguide Web Awards

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In the test kitchen... | Sep 06, 2003 14:52

Gotta hand it to you Public Address readers: you know your liquor, and you're all creative geniuses in the kitchen. No sooner had I raved about the feijoa-flavoured drinks and foods I encountered last month, than several enthusiastic missives arrived offering do-it-yourself recipes. I think it's only fair that I share them with the world at large.

First up, one regular correspondent (OK, my sister) suggests using a dash of feijoa-flavoured liqueur to liven up a glass of méthode champenoise. As she puts it, "Wheeeee!" The same correspondent suggests this cunning lurk for bakers: "You can make a good old feijoa cake by making a banana cake recipe using apples instead, but soaking the apples first in the feijoa liqueur." I'll remember that trick, especially since I last saw feijoas at Fairway for US$2 each, whereas apples are a dollar a pound. Thanks, Gemma!

And then there was this marvellously straightforward recipe for home-made fruit-flavoured liquor, from Raewyn Whyte of URL. [NB recipe amended and expanded 6 Sept 03]

Fruit-Infused Vodka (or Gin)
...the Crummer Road small batch method...

Half fill a very clean wide-mouthed (V8 juice-type) jar or a standard preserving jar with peeled and chopped up fresh, ripe organic fruit such as feijoas or pears, or washed whole blueberries.

Note: For a standard V8 juice jar, 6 - 8 feijoas or 2 pears or 2 punnets of blueberries should be adequate.

Add sugar (in an amount roughly 1/10th of the volume of the jar, or slightly more for blueberries).*

* Important note on sugar: You need the sugar to be in solution -- i.e. dissolved in the alcohol -- for the infusion period. You can simply add the sugar to the alcohol and shake to dissolve, but that takes a while (though we have found this is a perfectly good way to do it!). A more elegant method is to use a sugar syrup, made by dissolving 400gm/1lb of sugar in 4 cups of boiling water: stir until dissolved, and cool before use. Add the necessary amount of cooled syrup to your fruit + vodka infusion -- using the syrup to account for around 10% of the total volume. You can also use commercial glucose syrup, which makes a stickier liqueur, although you'll need to warm it slightly before mixing it in.

Then top the whole lot up with vodka or gin.

Cover with a nice tight lid and store in a safe place for 6 weeks or so: patience is rewarded by richer flavours.

Once you have infused the vodka for 6 weeks or more, and drained the fruit out, add syrup til you get to a desired level of sweetness (more for a syrupy dessert-style liqueur, less for a subtler taste).

Store in freezer and sip from shot glasses.

...or pour over ice-cream, use to tart up cocktails, infuse breakfast cereal (in extremis), etc. Besides feijoa, pear, and blueberry, Raewyn recommends cherry, but notes that pomegranates are rather tart and persimmons just don't work at all. She adds: "We have discovered that you MUST put sugar in with the fruit at the start as it helps to draw the flavours into the vodka or gin. The feijoa vodka and blueberry gin we've made is quite delicious and we never make enough! The critical thing seems to be making sure the fruit is ripe. We use organic fruit off our own tree and from a friend's tree."

Her partner-in-crime Derek -- who actually makes the vodka from scratch for the full DIY effect (see Still Spirits for ideas and equipment) -- notes that it's far from an exact science. "It's all a process of trial and error. We had one batch of feijoa-infused vodka that was crap after 6 weeks, but after a year it was utterly fabulous."

Thanks, guys! Inspiring stuff, especially for those of us far from a source for the bought variety, or those lucky enough to be gazing out at a tree full of fruit and wondering what to do with it after you get sick of feijoa ice-cream, feijoa crumble, feijoa kebabs, etc. I get the impression the infusion process gets pretty addictive once you get started. So what do you do with all that lovely fruity liqueur lying around the house, apart from drink it? As it happens, Raewyn is writing a book on cooking with vodka -- keep an eye out for it in October 2004. Consider this an exclusive preview to whet your appetites and make sure you have enough of the raw ingredient lying around when the book comes out.

Now I look forward to hearing the results of readers' experiments -- tamarillo liqueur, anyone? -- and in the meantime, anyone know of a North American source of dried feijoa bits that I can mix into my home-baked muesli, for that taste of home?

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Chez nous | Sep 03, 2003 12:16

After a month in New Zealand and only a week back in Manhattan, Busytot has come out as a confirmed café crawler. We just had lunch at Chez Nous, which was a pallid substitute for the café lunch I promised him. The café I had in mind turned out to be packed full of Columbia undergrads - first week of semester, rainy day -- so what could we do but go home, set the teeny tiny table with plastic knives and forks, and order up cheese toasties, peaches, and chocolate milk for two. Thankfully, Busytot fell in with my cunning scheme, after some initial scepticism (i.e. shrieking "No go home! Want go café!"). Advantages of the domestic ersatz-café: vastly more elbow room than your average city eatery, own choice of music (in this case, Don Linden's classic selection of vintage kiddie songs with the beloved "Kiwi Song" on endless repeat), and best of all, the clientele can fall asleep on the floor after eating.

Behold the urban child. I was reminded of writer Adam Gopnik's description of his daughter's imaginary friend, a chap called Charlie Ravioli who was always too busy to see her and whose PA would frequently put her on hold when she called him (Charlie Ravioli has become quite a meme, all by himself). It hasn't got quite that bad around here yet, but the first morning we woke up in the city after arriving back from New Zealand, Busytot's first comment upon waking was a dreamy "Oooh, garbage truck... garbage truck go backwards..." And yes, outside the window, the garbage truck of the apocalypse graunched its way up and down the street, waking the dead and the jet-lagged.

Only a week back in the city and we're sleeping through the garbage trucks and fitting back into our American life. You know how when you travel, certain mundane things carry the aura of the Other Place long after your return, how you hoard the last few drops of Fairy Liquid, or French dentifrice, or Danish hair skum, but one day they're finished and you're back to prosaic local products? This time, it was the switch from Treasures to Pampers, and handing over the last of the little boxes of UHT milk, the one that proclaims itself "the milk NZers grow up on." And reaching the bottom of the box of Hubbards' feijoa-flavoured cereal...

Someone once said that patriotism is the memory of foods eaten in childhood. I don't know if that's entirely true, but there seems a whole lot of food-based nostalgia going on in NZ at the moment, from kiwiana wedding menus (sausage rolls, mini-pavs) to feijoa-flavoured everything. It's not just the cereal and the fizzy water, but vodka from 42 Below, and a very yummy liqueur that, as far as I can tell, was made in Greenhithe. As the label on the latter points out, the feijoa is originally a South American fruit, as indigenous to New Zealand as, well, Chinese gooseberries, but it's also indelibly the flavour of a Kiwi childhood, especially if you were lucky enough to have, or live next to, one of those damnably prolific trees. We used to put washing baskets full of the things at the end of the driveway, labeled "FREE!"

The feijoa liqueur is particularly redolent, and it makes a nice metaphor for what seems to be happening to New Zealand at the moment: there's a sort of distillation going on, a concentration of particular flavours that is both welcome and a little intense. I tried to immerse myself in it over the four weeks we were there -- I feel like the chap who drowned in the giant vat at the whiskey factory, and who bravely fought off his rescuers -- and will attempt to describe it in the next several blogs. I don't promise anything coherent: it's as impossible to anatomize a return to an ever-changing, multi-faceted place as it is to explain your family to strangers, and probably for similar reasons. Watch this space.

But here's something I can detail for you. It was a major treat to finally put faces to most of the other Public Address bloggers. I'm happy to report that they're all devastatingly good-looking and uniformly charming, and altogether not so different from what I had imagined. See, in the movie version of Public Address that had been playing in my head, our Russell was inexplicably played by Russell Crowe. Turns out our Russell is smarter, nicer, has more whiskers and would far rather hug you than thump you. He also makes the best coffee in the southern hemisphere.

For Debra and Chad, I already had author photos to go on (which are generally as accurate as the gruesome mugshots in one's passport, only in the opposite direction). Happily, these two resembled their glam studio photos far more than they did, say, Liza Minnelli and David Gest. I had no mental picture for Damian, save that he had shoulder-length hair and a surfboard in one hand; I am pleased to report that he is much more urbane and well-groomed in the piece (which is to say, that's not really him in the picture that you get if you do a Google image search for Damian Christie ).

Meanwhile, Matt and Karl, our loyal designers, coders and debuggers, always showed up on my mental screen as Sean Bean and Viggo Mortenson, wearing manly armour and speaking in iambic pentameter. Substitute keyboards and desk-chairs for swords and horses, but otherwise the resemblance was spooky. Alas, Rob didn't make it to dinner, so he's still stuck in my head as Hugh Grant (circa About a Boy, rather than Maurice). And yes, I realize I've left one person out: dear readers, feel free to picture me as Sarah-Jessica Parker, albeit after a stiff regime of protein shakes, wearing something made in NZ, and without most of that silly hair.

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