Recipe: pear liqueur and pear garden cocktail
The nights are getting longer, but I’m sleeping less thanks to all of the goings on of fall. This is when events and people converge on my calendar in the same place and time, squeezed into the little spaces between shoots. It is the most frenetic time of year for me and also the most glorious – especially when the leaves are so good. I’ve been plowing through my latest photos because I hate having an enormous backlog to process. The way this season is shaping up guarantees a backlog at some point. Here are some photos from the road trip to Crested Butte and Aspen.
healthy gold stands near gothic
the maroon bells at sunset
There is something magical about aspen stands in autumn, as if they give off more light than is actually present. Our aspens (the quaking aspen or American aspen) glow when they turn yellow. Even when the sun isn’t shining on them, they appear like a beacon of golden light. This is usually because they keep company with dark green pines. Aspens are the first trees to move into alpine meadows and scree slopes around these parts. Although they can be found between 5,000 and 12,000 feet in elevation, we typically encounter them between 7,000 and 10,000 feet. Aspens create a nice nursery for pine saplings which grow and eventually overtake their shelters. So when you walk through the forests in our Colorado mountains and step from the shade of the pine forest into an aspen stand, it’s as if someone poured a bucket of sunshine on your head. Stand quietly and wait for a breeze to move through the aspens. You’ll be surrounded by the sound of a million little leaves clapping joyfully. It makes me feel like clapping too.
mount elbert (14,440 ft)
afternoon clouds moving in
understory of wild rose
orange aspen with red tips
You can find the entire set on the photo blog.
But autumn isn’t just about the colors. Up the road from where I live is a place you may have heard of… Rocky Mountain National Park? I don’t spend much time there except to take out-of-town guests. We have equally excellent wilderness closer to our house without the throngs of tourons. While Rocky has some decent stands of aspen, it doesn’t get me excited the way the southwestern quarter of the state does. I’ll tell you what is a sure bet and a lot of fun to shoot in fall: the elk. Elsewhere you can shoot the elk or shoot the elk, but in the national park, you can only shoot them with a camera. So that’s what Jason and I did the other day. It’s the rut, when the bull elk are continuously running around salivating, bugling, trying to hang on to their harem of cows while chasing off any other male competitor. It’s exhausting just watching them.
sparring in the tall grasses
it’s all about the ladies
I love the sound of elk bugling, especially early in the morning when mist hangs low over the frosted ground in the backcountry. They don’t tend to noodle about too much during the daytime, but in Rocky Mountain there are certain locations where your chances of seeing elk are better than good. This particular male was dealing with two competing bulls, one of which stole a cow while the male was off challenging the other bull. He never rested long if ever. Just keep in mind that you shouldn’t approach or harass bull elk during the rut (or ever, but especially during the rut) because they can be incredibly aggressive and do you some serious harm.
i am aggressive
you’re not the boss of me!
The entire set from Rocky Mountain National Park can be viewed on the photo blog.
And of course, let’s not forget fall fruits. They are the subtle and sophisticated flavors that follow in the footsteps of their summer cousins. I haven’t quite had my fill of heirloom tomatoes yet (I don’t think I ever will), but I know their season is ending soon and it’s time to move on. I have a slight obsession with vodka infusions and the latest one is just in time for your fall bounty of pears. I did a little research and learned that comice or seckel pears are the sweetest and best to use for vodka infusions. They actually had both at the store which meant I had to try both…
comice on the left, seckel on the right
peel, core, dice
It’s best to wait until the pears are ripe (yield to gentle pressure), but half of mine were under ripe when I started because of schedule limitations. I did two separate batches, although as of today I am unable to distinguish between the two (however the seckel infusion is a week behind the comice infusion). Some infusions say to wait 40 days or 80 days, but this one is three weeks in total. Good for people who don’t have the patience for those lengthier infusions.
add the vodka to the pears
at the beginning the pear pieces will sink to the bottom
by the end of a week, they’ll float to the top
After the first week of infusion, strain out the pear pieces. There seemed to be so much good liquid in the pear bits that I mashed them up a little and strained out the excess liquid which added a slight cloudiness (pear pulp that got through the fine sieve). Seal up the liquid and place in a cool, dark location for another two weeks.
mashing some of the liquid out of the pear
seal the jar and hide it away for two weeks
The vodka turned a lovely amber color and carries a delicate pear scent and flavor. I divvied the pear liqueur into pretty bottles and tagged them. Vodka infusions are terrific homemade gifts and this is by far the fastest and easiest one I’ve made. It has autumn written all over it.
the comice pear liqueur
As soon as my infusions are ready, I always want to make a cocktail with the new booze. Since I know nothing about cocktails, I went in search of some pear vodka cocktails and one called “Absolut Pear Garden” caught my attention. Instead of using Absolut Pear vodka, I *of course* substituted my own pear vodka infusion. I can’t help that I’m such a fan of fruity and this drink was more like adult fruit punch: pear liqueur, cranberry juice, crème de cassis, lemon juice, simple syrup.
pour into the shaker and fill with ice
This isn’t the kind of cocktail where the pear stands out because there are so many flavors swishing around in your mouth. But they come together well as a combination of sweet, tart, slightly bitter, and mellow – with a kick from the booze. It’s a little too drinkable, if you know what I mean.
garnish with pear and lemon curl
from this site
1.5 lbs. pears (comice or seckel are good choices), ripe
750ml vodka (cheap is good)
Peel, seed, and stem the pears. Cut them into 1″ pieces and place in a large glass container (at least a half gallon – I doubled the recipe). Pour the vodka into the glass container. Seal tightly and shake the jar. Place the jar in a cool, dark location for one week. Strain the pear out and then let sit for another 2 weeks.
Pear Garden Cocktail
from Girly Drinks (love it!!)
2 oz. pear liqueur (which you just happily made)
1 oz. cranberry juice
1/2 oz. Crème de Cassis (black currant liqueur)
1 oz. lemon juice
1 oz. simple syrup (1:1 sugar:water – dissolve sugar, bring to boil for a minute, let cool)
pear, for garnish (optional)
Place martini glass in freezer. Pour everything except the pear garnish into a shaker, fill with ice, and shake until cold. Strain into cocktail glass. Garnish with pear slice and other fruity things. Go girl drinks! Makes 1 big martini (8 ounces).