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shruba dub dub

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014

Recipe: strawberry shrub

I just peeked outside on our deck to see a few inches of fluffy, beautiful snow accumulating at a nice clip. An upslope storm is hitting the Front Range right now. That’s why we came home early from Crested Butte – to catch the powder (and just to be home again – I love home). Kaweah, who usually sleeps most of the day, was wide awake watching us vacuum and scrub our place down in Crested Butte this morning. She knows the drill. She knows when we do this, a 5-hour car ride will follow. Kaweah didn’t sleep a wink during the drive home either. I think it makes the poor girl nervous. Once home though, she was pretty waggy and wanted to check everything out. Once we unloaded the car, I finally got her to settle down in her bed.

all comfy and cute

A few minutes later she was curled up and asleep, able to relax at last. There was merely a fresh dusting of snow in our yard when we arrived in Nederland in contrast to the several feet of snow piled up in our yard back in Crested Butte. One thing I noticed this winter is that we nominally enjoy one season in Crested Butte at a time. In Nederland, we straddle two seasons because Boulder sits 3000 feet lower in elevation and usually enjoys springlike conditions while we’re getting second helpings of winter in the mountains. I realize now that I actually like this. It mixes things up a little bit – keeps it exciting.

California strawberries have been showing up in Boulder markets lately. I’m not talking about the white, styrofoam, flavorless strawberries of the off season, but the juicy, red, sweet morsels that warrant festivals in celebration of this beloved fruit. So let’s make a shrub!

you’ll need: strawberries, sugar, and red wine vinegar (or apple cider vinegar)

What’s a shrub? Good question. I was not familiar with shrubs until two summers ago when Wendy gave me a jar of homemade rhubarb shrub after a successful morning of foraging. The first time I tasted it, I was startled. It’s sour and sweet… but sour! Shrubs are acidulated beverages, in this case it is a sugary fruit syrup made with vinegar. Back in the day, it was a way to preserve fruit well past its season. A shrub is also known as a drinking vinegar. They’re great to sip or to mix into cocktails or soda water and they are SO easy to make!

hull and quarter the strawberries

add sugar

stir it together

cover with plastic and chill

**Jump for more butter**

fruitful days

Wednesday, September 25th, 2013

Recipe: elder fruit salad cocktail

I don’t make birthday wishes, but every year I do hope for snow. This year I awoke to frosted windows on my birthday. Not only did we get below freezing overnight, but it snowed down to around 9500 feet!

this is the kind of birthday gift i love

To be honest, Jeremy and I stopped with birthday gifts about a year or two into our relationship. Neither of us were into things per se. The real gifts were every day – a heartfelt, “thanks for being so wonderful” or giving a much needed hug without being asked. As I age, I weigh what is important based on how much it will mean to me on the day I die. Useless crap is not going to rank high on my deathbed priorities. What matters most? Relationships and the people you love. My birthday would have been fine as just another beautiful day in Colorado with my favorite guy and my favorite pup, but there was a little something extra this time… a visit from two very dear friends.

After their fly fishing trip in the mountains, Todd and Diane drove out to Crested Butte to spend a few days with us, arriving on my birthday. We took them around to favorite restaurants, the local homemade ice cream shop (twice!), the local (bestest) coffee shop, hikes, the neighborhood, the towns of Crested Butte and Mount Crested Butte (yes, they are two different towns), and a scenic road trip to Paonia to pick organic peaches, apples, pears, and heirloom tomatoes. So strange to wake up to snow and frost in the morning and be picking the last of the season’s peaches in nearly 80°F sunshine in the afternoon. All the while, a running conversation catching each other up on lives and the latest news.

precious colorado peaches

todd is an expert picker

rome beauty apples

ever the photographers at work

bartlett pears

picking fruit in the shadow of the snowy white mountains

farm kitty

on beckwith pass

todd is so happy when he’s in the mountains

Todd and Diane are family to us. They love and worry about Kaweah as if she were their own pup. We are always learning new things from each other, always sharing, always laughing. The best meals were the ones we cooked together at home after a long day exploring the area, admiring the landscape and aspens, and picking fruit in the hot sun. While prepping dinner, I served Jeremy’s latest favorite cocktail. It has a lot going on, but it is utterly refreshing and delightful if you’re a fan of fruit… and gin. I call it the elder fruit salad cocktail and it got a big thumbs up from Todd and Diane. So I’m dedicating this drink to those two (also so I don’t have to write the recipe down for them).

lemon, lime, cucumber simple syrup, grapefruit bitters, saint germain, gin

**Jump for more butter**

twisted mojito

Thursday, September 5th, 2013

Recipe: watermelon berry mojito

Do you ever say to yourself, “I haven’t done X as much as I would like to”? X being whatever it is that you would like to do. I found myself saying that over and over again this summer with regard to hiking. Obviously, we can’t go backpacking right now because of Kaweah (who is doing quite well at the moment), but even scheduling hikes is conflicting with meetings, client work, and other things that demand our attention. We managed to get out the other morning to see the grasses of the high country starting to turn. In a few weeks, Colorado will start going gold when the aspens change from lush green to brilliant yellow. It’s an amazing time of year.

indian peaks morning

fiery moody sunsets

Jeremy and I did a good bit of hiking last summer, which has a lot to do with the fact that we weren’t splitting our time between two places. I also learned foraging last year, which is fun. Except lately I’ve begun to scrutinize “foraging” as an activity. This has been cycling through my mind lately whenever I’m outside like yesterday morning’s hike. I was overjoyed to be moving at a good clip, getting somewhere and seeing all of the familiar features of the mountains – places I’ve hiked countless times before. I am no forager. I am a hiker. You could say I’m a noodler when it comes to foraging because I don’t care about the haul so much as satisfying my curiosity of what grows where and when. I prefer the physical exertion of hiking. I’m in it for the journey and the challenge. The extra nibbles are a bonus for me, not the purpose.

sweet wild raspberries from late august

The idea for a watermelon berry mojito crossed my mind one evening and I made a mental note to pick some. Watermelon berries (Streptopus amplexifolius) or twisted stalk berries or wild cucumber are plump red berries that have a slimy texture (think ripe hachiya persimmon) and lots of seeds. The flavor is that of a slightly sweet cucumber. It’s lovely. Wendy introduced me to them last summer and they remind me of holiday ornaments dangling from their stalks. They grow across North America in mountain and subalpine zones.

you see why the plant is called twisted stalk

and if you look underneath, lots of berries

I find these berries to be easily identifiable, but as with all things foraged – you really need to know what you’re putting in your mouth or else things could go very badly for you. Jeremy and I picked the berries at about 9600 feet in a shady mixed stand of aspens and conifers near a stream in the mountains. They were everywhere. It was the same day we foraged huckleberries (which were not everywhere) for the huckleberry ice cream. On our way back to the trailhead, I felt dissatisfied and said as much. We both agreed that we’d be happier with less foraging and more hiking.

a cup of watermelon berries

watermelon berries, lemon, water, sugar

**Jump for more butter**