I can’t believe I’m writing this post. It’s Monday night, I just got home from the Martin Miller’s Gin Masters Competition in New York — MUCH more on that to come — and I’m absolutely exhausted after spending the past four nights in bars until closing time (I also feel kind of strange; oddly clear-headed and with an uncanny ability to walk a straight line; I’m assuming I’m what’s known as “sober”). But since Darcy and I are the only Mixology Monday participants who have had a hand in every round since day one, and his schedule is forcing him to crap out this month, that means I’ve got to put something together quick and dirty so as not to let down the franchise.
This month’s event is hosted by Doug at Pegu Blog, and Doug chose as the theme “Made From Scratch.” Fortunately I have a project underway right now: Quince Ratafia. Until about a month ago I was a total quince neophyte — I’d had quince paste, and dishes prepared with quince, but I don’t recall ever having handled the fruit itself. But at a recent dinner party, the hosts had a large bowl of quince in their living room, the product of a tree they have growing near their house. I brought some home, not really thinking what I’d do with them, and came in the kitchen the next morning to be surrounded by the aroma of the fruit. It’s absolutely captivating, complex and perfume-like; I knew there had to be a way to drink this stuff.
After comparing assorted recipes for quince brandies, cordials and ratafias, I assembled my quinces, chopped them to little bits, then covered them with cognac. This was initially going to be a one-jar test run, but I had more quince than I realized, so I put up two jars, inserting a cinnamon stick in one and a few cloves in the other, just to see what happens.
All the recipes I saw suggested letting the fruit macerate for a minimum of six weeks, and preferably longer; this means my batches should be ready for sampling just before Christmas, which is exactly what I was aiming for. Once the fruit has done its job and the batches have been strained, I’ll add sugar to taste — maybe set a sample aside to be sweetened with honey — and then go to town.
So, apologies for being anticlimactic by mixing something with no report whatsoever on its taste, but it’s still too soon to tell. (And apologies as well for not putting up the lovely photos of quinces I took during the preparation, but my camera seems to have slipped into a coma during the gin competition yesterday, and I can’t retrieve the data on it just yet.)
Now, to bed. Jesus, what a weekend — but head on over to Doug’s place to see who else participated this round.
Quince Ratafia (work in progress)
- 2 – 3 fresh ripe quince
- cinnamon stick and/or cloves and/or blades of star anise (optional x 3)
Thinly slice or grate the quince and place in a sterilized jar. Cover with cognac and add spices. Let macerate a minimum of six weeks (preferably longer), then strain out solids. Sweeten to taste — it’s supposed to be liqueur-like, so be generous if you’re planning on using this as a cordial. The flavors should marry and mature over time.