I checked my raspberry wine and found that I have two gallons of raspberry vinegar. Ack! Quickly, I removed it to a warm place in the kitchen where it can finish its transformation, far from the carboys so decoratively sitting around the living room. Well, as French winemakers say, God loves to make vinegar. When you’re making wine in an apartment with minimal temperature control, you have to expect an occasional failure. But my efforts have produced some (I must say) delicious Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon blends as well as good wines of apricots, strawberries, pomelos, even raspberries. So what happened here? Well, the airlock stopping the mouth of carboy (fermentation vessel) was crooked – probably just enough air and maybe a fruit fly got into the fluid and spoiled my drink. (That airlock on that particular carboy was always getting tangled up in my skirt as I swept past. ) Raspberry shrub, anyone?
Looking into recipes for that old-fashioned drink, I see that people first steeped their raspberries in vinegar for several days, added 75% of the strained liquid’s weight in sugar, and boiled the mix till a syrup formed, about 15 minutes. They then flavored cold water with the red, sweet-sour liquid: recipes say anywhere from 1 tablespoon per glass to 1/3 of the glass as syrup. Guess it was a matter of taste. In Colonial America, they liked it sweet. Since my raspberries have obligingly gone ahead and made vinegar in my modern Israeli setting, I believe I’ll take a liter or so of it and simmer it to a syrup with sugar. Maybe it will taste good in soda water. Those old recipes all say it’s refreshing, tasty, good for a sore throat. I mean, that’s two gallons of raspberry vinegar, folks.
My raspberry wines have been good in the past, but expensive to make as the berries aren’t local. I bought frozen imported ones, convinced that the wine justified the fruit’s high price. With this little disaster, I tightened my resolve to stick to local ingredients as much as possible. On my shelves are luscious food-and-travel books by authors sensuously eating and cooking their ways through the Mediterranean. They make me start dreaming, feeling hungry. How nice it would be to make some of those recipes myself…imagine, chestnut-flour cake…but I pull up short as I remember that all those delicious peasant foods of Italy and France are based on raw materials grown or foraged close to home. Israel also has olives and wine; abundant, fresh, flavorful produce; and a great mix of ethnic groups from which to cull recipes. No great amount of chestnuts, though, except around Tu B’Shvat.
We do import a large part of our food – most our flour comes from imported wheat, for example. Few can claim to be real locavores in our small country, and I frankly think people don’t give the issue a minute’s thought. But I’ve come under the influence of Leda Meredith’s passionate crusade to reduce carbon transmission in our planet by eating local, seasonal foods – see her 250-mile diet. Meantime, I think I’ll concentrate on bottling the liqueurs of apricot and strawberry that I put up two months ago.
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