The Virtues of Planting Late?

It’s September 23rd, and the world has not ended (yet), and neither has my West Virginia garden. Today, I collected corn and summer squash. Commercial farmers can’t gamble with cold weather, but maybe it’s worth it for the home gardener to set aside some ground to gamble on extending the fresh-from-the-garden season.

This corn was planted on July 5th. Last year, corn planted at about the same time matured much earlier, but this year we had two cold weeks that slowed down its maturation, and there was dry weather when I should have watered it, but didn’t. We’ve never had garden corn this late before; perhaps it is something to try on purpose next year to extend the availability of luscious fresh corn.

This hybrid summer squash (2016, Johnny’s Selected Seeds but they no longer carry it) was planted June 20th in the midst of the first corn patch planted to conserve garden space.  It limped along in shade, fighting weeds, until I harvested the corn sometime in late July or early August. The sad things were weeded and watered and have been producing squash for a few weeks. There are half a dozen young squash on them and the weather outlook is great (I am the only one in the family who eats squash, so this is more than enough.)

Last year there was so much fennel I had to freeze most of it.  Fennel does not freeze well. It lost flavor and was tough, so this year I planted less, twice. The fennel pictured was planted on June 2oth. Next year I’ll try three plantings.

The last tomato was not planted early, but next year I plan to plant one slicing tomato plant one full month after the others. The best thing about this plan is that I’ll be able to sow the seeds directly into the garden, so much less effort.

 

There is also watermelon maturing, and some Chinese cabbage that was looking good but now looks bug-eaten. I will let you know if either of these works out.

Drambuie Recipe

Homemade Drambuie in a reused bottle
Homemade Drambuie

Drambuie Experiment #2 was a blazing success.  The recipe below is very close to Drambuie and is absolutely excellent.  I used my own raw honey in it, and I’m of the opinion it’s every bit as good as the much hyped heather honey in Drambuie!  The beverage, like Drambuie, is 80 proof (40% alcohol).

Recipe:

  • 1.75 liter (L) Chivas Regal Scotch (blended)
  • 1.75 L 151 Everclear (75.5% alcohol)
  • 1.75 L raw honey
  • 5 rounded tablespoons Fennel seed

(One liter is about a quart)

Mix the alcohol.  Crush the fennel seed in a mortar and pestle and add to the alcohol mixture.  Bottle with as little head-space as possible and leave for three days; invert mixture daily.  Then strain out the fennel seed and mix in the honey.  Mix the alcohol in in small amounts until the honey loosens up enough to add to the bulk of the alcohol.  Bottle with as little head-space as possible.  Mine is a little cloudy, and if this is a concern:  (1) siphon the alcohol mix off of the fennel instead of straining it (with straining fine particulates always get through), and (2) use refined honey.

It’s a pretty simple recipe — much easier than Limoncello — and the cost is much less than buying Drambuie.

750 ml of Drambuie costs about $35.

This recipe will cost about $12/750 ml bottle if the honey is free:

  • 1.75 L of blended Chivas Regal Scotch costs about $55.
  • 1.75 L of 151 Everclear costs about $30.
  • With the honey, this recipe will make about 5.25 L:  7 bottles.
  • ($30 + $50)/5.25*0.75 = $12.  If you pay for the honey, every $14 (the cost for the needed amount of Sue Bee honey at Walmart) will add $2 per 750 ml bottle.
  • Total savings:  ($35-$12)*7 = $161

At 80 proof it will keep forever, and will make nice presents for your adult friends!

 

 

 

 

(Bourbon) Drambuie Experiment #1 — UPDATED

drambuieUPDATE: True Drambuie starts with a honey flavor, ends with a clean licorice flavor and is underpinned throughout with mild whisky.  What I made had a slight new flavor, and the bourbon knocked out the licorice finish.  While very nice on ice, not what I was aiming for.  Expect to post Experiment #2 by 10/29.

Drambuie is an 80 proof Scottish liqueur made from Chivas Regal Scotch, honey and a secret blend of herbs, that costs about $35 for 750 ml.  It’s very tasty, and since I have honey, I decided to try to replicate it or at least make something similar that is equally tasty.

Most “Drambuie” recipes call for a lot of rosemary, and some also have fennel seed as an ingredient.  When I taste Drambuie I taste only non-peaty scotch, honey and fennel, so I went light on the rosemary.  As for the alcohol, I used Evan Williams 1783 bourbon, which is 43% alcohol, or 86 proof.  Fine Scotch costs so much because it’s imported, and I think bourbon is superior.  1783 is not top-shelf bourbon, but it’s very palatable and reasonably priced.  Since the honey is free, this would result in a liqueur costing 25 percent of the cost of Drambuie.  On the other hand, the Bourbon Drambuie will be 32% alcohol instead of 40%.  Below is the recipe I used:

  • 750 ml Evan Williams 1783 bourbon
  • 1 1/3 cups honey
  • 1 rounded tablespoon fennel seed, coarsely chopped in a blender
  • 1 teaspoon (chopped and pressed down) fresh rosemary

Put the honey and herbs in the bowl first, and then slowly add a little bourbon at a time and whisk.  When the honey’s loose enough for easy mixing, add the rest of the bourbon.  Put the mixture into a quart-sized jar for aging.  As luck would have it, it won’t all fit :).  Strain the remainder and put in a glass with some ice-cubes and enjoy.  Add the strainer leavings to the quart jar and seal.

I’m gong to leave it sit for a month or two to ensure the fennel and rosemary flavors make their way into the liqueur.

The fresh remnants were lovely and I have high hopes for the final result.  My husband thought it was very good, but that the bourbon was a little strong.  I agreed, and thought that was a very fine thing.