You know I love my cocktails right? I love making them as much as any dish; they are creative and fun and add something special to a get together with friends. But want to know a secret? I drink wine more. It’s true! Cocktails are special but require some planning and often special mixtures and preparation and well, wine is easy. So perfect with food and the truth is, I’ll have a glass of wine with a salad or a simple grilled burger but I only enjoy cocktails if I’m having company.
So while I’m sharing secrets? You also know how much I love to add some booze to dishes don’t you? I especially like using bourbon or rum in desserts but most often it’s wine that goes into so much of what I do on a regular basis. I’ve prepared Julia’s Beef Bourguignon which is a fabulous beef dish with red wine and I LOVED this Cranberry and Croissant Bread Pudding which included some champagne in the dessert sauce. I doubt there is a salad dressing that goes on my table that doesn’t include either red or white wine.
When I thought about a recipe that included wine; I knew I was up to the task but I have to tell you; once I started thinking about it, nothing seemed unique enough; maybe because I seemed to have already been there and done that. As often happens, and I’m not kidding, I had a thought come to me in the middle of the night. I wasn’t sleeping, Tivo had something playing that I hoped would put me back to sleep and I was playing out what I had to get done the next day (I’m not alone right…please tell me I’m not!). Develop a wine recipe, cut the grass, do laundry; just a simple list and then it happened.
Somewhere in that nether world between sleep and awake I had enough consciousness to actually formulate a plan. It was as if the cherries in my fridge were calling to me, ‘Use me, use me!’ and I was helpless to disagree. I haven’t made jam or jelly for many years so I knew it would be a challenge. Not that jams or jellies are hard to make but I decided to go ‘old school’ and can my efforts. I remembered enough to know that jam and jellies develop their texture because of the pectin in fruit; I wouldn’t be using enough fruit for a good result so I was heading into somewhat uncharted territory but once I got that idea in my head there was NO stopping me.
I have to tell you though…this? This Cabernet Sauvignon with Bing Cherries? Oh my. Served so simply with just cream cheese and my favorite crackers; nothing more was needed. I finished this right before fresh cherry season ended but I’m making it again using frozen cherries; this is going to be a standard in my pantry; come on over for a bite…and a glass of wine while you’re at it.
Many years ago when I lived in North Carolina, we had some property and a huge garden and I spent the better part of a week each summer processing all sorts of goodies for our family stores. We didn’t have berries though so my friend Janis and I would go to berry farms and pick berries for hours to use for jams. I used to have a ton of equipment but today I just do a couple of jars here and there and having equipment is a thing of the past.
I borrowed my friend Holly’s canner because I was doing a couple of dozen jars but it’s larger than I need for everyday use so after I returned it to her I thought about how I could use my stockpot for more (Merlot was sad) without purchasing specialty equipment. A stockpot, an open mesh rack used for cooling cake pans and a contraption for lifting jars out of the hot water is all that is needed. I have a special tool for lifting those jars but I also saw this video last week from Melissa Clark with the New York Times that I think shows how easy canning can be for the ‘casual’ canner like me!
I love making holiday food gifts; if you are a recipient pretend you didn’t see this; I assure you there will be some wine jelly in gift baskets this year!