I’ve been holing up on Lopez for a few weeks, neglecting any pressing responsibilities and just sailing and canning and eating and eating and eating. There was the crab boil where I learned that if you douse something in enough butter I will eventually grow to like it. These crab had been crawling along the ocean floor beneath our sailboat only a few hours before we boiled them up in a spicy broth and cracked their legs, still warm, in a dark cabin as midnight approached. Like something out of a Nora Ephron novel. After residing on my list of “foods I’m working on” for years, crab may have just graduated with honors. Huzzah!
And there was the fried chicken feast where Blake and Julie’s chickens were soaked in buttermilk, breaded, and fried in Kim and Todd’s pork fat. I don’t think I need to say any more about that.
Then there were the back-to-back wood-fired pizza oven potlucks - one unfortunately attended by bird-sized mosquitoes - where we baked hot pizzas as the sun set. Food tastes better outdoors somehow. Closer to where it came from, with room to roam around while you shove your face with slices of steamy pesto, pancetta and rainier cherry slices. Yes, cherries on pizza. Try it.
But I supposed I’m here for more than to make your mouth water with tales of potlucks past.
Last night I went sailing on Fisherman’s Bay. We haven’t had a bad day yet this summer. Truly. It’s a little unsettling when you think about the implications, but for now I’ll take hazy pastel sunsets and light breezes while they’re here. You know, something about a gift horse and all that. We tacked and jibed though the channel, only ran aground once, and had a few of those upwind stretches where you’re hiked out over the rail, holding tight to the main sheet and the tiller while the wind whips up spray and tousles your hair into your eyes and there’s absolutely nowhere else you’d rather be in the whole world.
When not on the water, I’ve been quite busy stuffing things into canning jars. Vanilla peaches, dill pickles, raspberry jam. I found some spare plums on our local digital bulletin board - Lopez Rocks - and thought I’d try something new. I’m not a fan of plum jam - neither the texture nor flavor - but I tried some plum liqueur last year that a friend had made from their front yard trees, and I could have drank a gallon of the stuff. (Well, not and still walked). Mine is only in the first stage, but if it turns out anything like the one I tasted, you’ll want to go grab yourself a few pounds and make a bucketload. Stat.
Cinnamon Plum Cordial
Adapted from Laura Adams via Kurt Jacobs
Makes one pint
1 pound plums
1 cup sugar
1 cup vodka
1/4 cup brandy
2 large cinnamon sticks
Wash plums and slice in half. Remove the pit - don’t worry about the bit of flesh that clings to it, you’ll have plenty. Discard pit and stems and any bad parts of plums. I like to keep a garbage bowl on the counter and drop all the plum detritus into it as I work.
Fill a quart size mason jar just under halfway with the cut plums. This should be approximately 1 pound, but you can also just use the jar to measure.
Cover plum mixture with sugar and macerate using a wooden spoon. The sugar should begin to dissolve into the plum juice and fruit should break down.
Pour vodka and brandy over the sugar and plum mixture. Add cinnamon sticks to the jar and cover tightly with a lid.
Shake mixture well to combine. Some sugar may settle to the bottom. Shake periodically over the first day or two until sugar has fully dissolved into the liquid.
Store with lid on in a cool, dark place for 2-3 months.
After the mixture has sat for a period of months, remove the lid and pass liquid through a strainer or sieve. Press plum mixture in strainer to squeeze out any liquid.
Strain a second time through cheese cloth to remove any particles. Bottle the remaining liquid in resealable bottles (like the kind I used here)
Each quart jar should produce one finished pint of cordial. This recipe can easily be scaled up for larger batches. I just use each quart jar as a measurer and make as many jars-full as I have plums.