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all signs point to fall

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

confetti slopes


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

Pear Liqueur
[print recipe]
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).

29 nibbles at “all signs point to fall”

  1. Y says:

    Wow, who would’ve thought pear liqueur would be so easy to make! I love the stuff (but mostly in baking, less so in imbibing :) ).

  2. Melissa | Dash of East says:

    I am gushing over your photos of fall Jen! Especially the ones of the elk. I adore the one with the young elk laying it’s head on the back of the older male – love it. so. much.

    I never knew pear liqueur was so easy to make. I agree – what a great, homemade gift for friends.

  3. Margie says:

    Photography leaves me speechless, but then you went and played with pears and Vodka. Will you ever learn? Sometimes your attempt to entertain can overwhelm. ;) Just look at me! I am worthless until I get my hands on some comice and seckels, a bit of vodka, and an afternoon of freedom.

    Seriously, this is a wonderfully timed post. I was checking my drunken fruit and it is about time I put the fruitcakes together. Tis the season and you are one of my reasons. :)

    …off to the photo blog

  4. Lacey says:

    The photos are beautiful! It’s never occurred to me to infuse a liquor before. This seems like an awesome gift idea for someone who’s really into fancy drinks.

  5. Elle says:

    Oh, just gorgeous! Your photos have me salivating to get up the the White Mountains here in NH for some fall colors. It’s a long drive, since I’m at the bottom of the state, but so worth it!

    You’ve also inspired me to make some pear liqueur. I’ve never tried to make anything like that, but you’ve made it look so easy! Thanks!

  6. Barbara | Creative Culinary says:

    I will use this post to help people understand why I am so in love with Colorado. And I don’t even live ‘in’ the mountains like you do Jen. Just gorgeous.

    Would LOVE for you to link your drink to something new I’m doing on my blog. It’s Happy Hour Friday…I post an appetizer or cocktail and invite others to leave a link to their post with one of the same. This is perfect.

  7. Phoo-d says:

    Stunning fall colors and great elk shots! The sound of elk bugling is awesome to hear in person.

  8. Charlene says:

    The bottles and corks you used to bottle the infusion are so pretty! At what kinds of stores can you pick those up?

  9. Bri says:

    I’m with Charlene, where’d you get those bottles? The shape is perfect. I’m hoping you didn’t just buy a LOT of fancy vinegars and use those bottles. :) Thanks Jen.

  10. jenyu says:

    Charlene & Bri – I found a local store in Boulder (Hop To It home brewing) that sells these bottles! They’re much cheaper than say Pier 1 or other places (which also have nice bottles, but $$). These shapely bottles are about…? $2.19 each? I can’t recall. $2-$3 I think. The more square kinds are a little cheaper. I’m sure you can find some online too. xo

  11. knitopia says:

    I spotted the great Williamsburg word “tourons,” Jen! I hadn’t heard that in a while. We have an annual pass to RMNP and usually don’t encounter too many people when we go. The rut is definitely a busy time, though. Thanks for the beautiful photos!

  12. Samantha says:

    Yum, what a delicious idea!

  13. Anna says:

    Pears are such wonderful fruits! Very versatile!

  14. TheKitchenWitch says:

    I’m not sure which shot is my favorite–they’re all stunning. I’ve never infused vodka before but pear sounds tempting. I’m glad you got such wonderful results from your trip this year!

  15. Amy says:

    I really have no words. Photos are just beyond belief. “healthy gold stands near gothic” is unreal! Beautiful work!

  16. Sally - My Custard Pie says:

    To live in such surroundings must bring incredible joy – no wonder you are compelled to shoot as much as you can…and with such results. Breathtaking.

    Love the pear infusion recipe and off to get some comice pears myself tomorrow. I covet some of the ‘amber liquid’.

    So glad I landed here today.

  17. Rachel says:

    Just in case no one has told you this in the last 24 hours… YOU ARE AMAZING. This blog is equivalent to my bible (or Torah in my case). I can’t wait to try this latest pear concontion. You’re like a mad scientist bringing the unimaginable to the masses. Thank you!

  18. Sandra says:

    This blog has so amazing pictures. It makes us be sure how nature is perfect!! Thanks for sharing!

  19. Mrs Ergül says:

    Everything is so beautiful in this post, from the scenery right down to the bottled booze! Those are indeed pretty bottles!

    The amazing fall photos gave me idea that the perfect season to visit Colorado (and you!) has got to be fall! :)

    Now that the temps are cooler, I hope you will share some pressure cooker recipes. I have mainly been using mine for making soups and nothing else. Gotta use it more for the bucks we shelled out for it ;)

  20. Laura says:

    Amazing photos, sadly we don’t get the same fall colors in the Bay Area.

    We get a distilled pear liquor from our own pear, produced by a neighbor, your seems so much faster and requires no distillation!

    I would love to taste this cocktail, it sounds really delicious.

  21. jenyu says:

    Y – I don’t drink it much, but I love to infuse vodka with all manner of fruits :)

    Melissa – thanks, hon!

    Margie – wow, you’re planning ahead. Good for you.

    Lacey – even if people aren’t into fancy drinks, they make pretty gifts.

    Elle – I imagine NH has some stunning colors. I lived in Ithaca, NY for 6 years and noodled in the Whites. The reds are so amazing.

    Barbara – Thanks sweetie! You are more than welcome to link to the drink, I just can’t comment at the moment (long story – has to do w SPAM tags). I’ll fix it later when I have a less crazy schedule :) xo

    Phoo-d – totally agree about the bugling!

    knitopia – I rarely get up there… there’s so much good wilderness right out my door :)

    TKW – it’s fun. We can totally get together and infuse some stuff this fall/winter!

    Amy – thank you.

    Sally – ha ha, well… it’s my job, actually :)

    Rachel – aw, so sweet of you! Thanks. xo

    Sandra – thanks for dropping by!

    Mrs. Ergül – It’s hard to say. Colorado is really lovely in summer and a lot less volatile. In fall, we can get winds and snow – which is why shooting the leaves can be a game of Russian Roulette.

    Laura – wow, sounds like great neighbors to have!

  22. In my kitchen « My Custard Pie says:

    […] pear-infused vodka (see above), an amber liquid inspired by Use Real Butter, warming and redolent of Autumn flavours and a slab Roquefort from Jones the Grocer which would go […]

  23. Rosemalyn says:

    Jenyu . . . fast forward . . . October 13, 2012 . . . my oh my . . . such gorgeour pictures. How are the colors this year? I stumbled into your site because I have been looking for pear liqueur recipe to use for my Chojuro Asian Pears. Yummmmmmmm your recipe sounds so good. I will try yours. In the past, I used something else for our European pears but your recipe is worth making. Thank you for sharing your photographs & the recipe. My best to you & yours.

  24. MB says:

    Hi! Wondering what the shelf life is, once infused. Thinking of holiday gifts…and don’t want to make too far in advance. Thanks!

  25. jenyu says:

    MB – even if you start now, it should be good through January. Actually, I think these things are good for at least 6 months if not a year. There’s just so much booze, nothing goes bad (but keep it refrigerated or in a cool, dry, dark place).

  26. Terri in KC says:

    Jen, Just finished distilling the pear vodka and am disappointed in my results. I used Bosc pears because that’s all they had at my Whole Foods. I left it for 3 weeks and my pears haven’t produced hardly any juice when pressed. Could it be the pears, being Bosc instead of Comice or Seckel? I love your Peach Shrub (still have some in the fridge) and I have the Buddha’s Hand Citrus Vodka in the cupboard. May have to start over with this one. Any suggestions?

  27. jenyu says:

    Terri – oh no! Were the Boscs ripe when you cut them up? If they weren’t dripping juices then, I think that might be the problem. Otherwise, I can only guess that it was the variety of pear? Both of mine were super juicy. I’m so sorry. I wonder if you could try again with super ripe pears? Don’t toss out the vodka – keep it for the next batch of pears.

  28. Lee Anne says:

    Is the pear-vodka mixture supposed to be refrigerated for the week while its diffusing? This looks amazing and I’ve got a few pears that would be perfect! Thanks!

  29. jenyu says:

    Lee Anne – the recipe says a cool, dark place. I think a basement or some such area would be ideal. No need to refrigerate (unless your house is really hot).

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