The Passion

When I served this small sip at my Easter gathering this year, I gave it a cheeky name. It was clever, but wholly inappropriate and not for public airing. I’m serving in small coupes which are perfect for a delicate sip, but as this is delicious and refreshing, I wouldn’t blame you if you took a straw to the shaker and called it a night.

The Passion
Fill a shaker with ice. Pour in 2 ounces of vodka (i’m partial to Chopin) and 2 ounces of Chinola (passionfruit liqueur). Add a sprig of fresh thyme and a squeeze of lemon (approx teaspoonful). Put the top on securely and shake it until your arms are toned and your hands are frozen.
Strain an equal amount into 3 small coupes and top each with a generous swig of Fresca. Grab a jar of amarena cherries and tip a drop or two of the juice and a skewered cherry into each glass. If you’ve a patch of edible flowers, they make a beautiful (but not necessary) addition.

Pressing Cider

The small suburb of Los Angeles where I spent my youth was a bedroom community with nice plots and manicured front lawns. Children were everywhere and we all seemed to be just about the same age. Most everyone was a transplant from the East or Midwest, so to stave off suburban boredom, our moms would conspire; making plans for treks to the beach, the mountains, the desert, museums, theme parks, and everything in between. A favorite place which was annual event (including the time I had a terrible toothache and was being melodramatic in the back of the station wagon) was what we called Apple Country. It has been over 30 years, but I’ve been chasing the memories ever since.

I am someone who cannot resist (and why should I?) a long country road, a farmstand, or a run-down shack with a hand-lettered sign selling ANYTHING. If it is open, I’m stopping; apple farms included. Freshly pressed cider and warm donuts made with it is a fall treat that everyone should be so lucky to come upon.

We are not an apple farm. We grow apples, but none more than to press for our use and to make the odd batch of donuts or two. Sometimes our neighbors will off load a few tons of fallen fruit for us to feed our pigs; and truth be told we skim off the mildly bruised and press those into juice as well. We have our own small press and it is a handcrafted machine that I, with just a few hours of bending, twisting, and turning, can turn a dozen pecks of apples into gallons of cider. We pull it out Mid-October, and return it to storage by Thanksgiving.

While the act of pressing cider isn’t quite as magical as an outing with neighbors eating apple pie, donuts, ice cream, butter, and cider made by someone else’s hand without any concern of calories or affect, it brings me joy. Through the course of fall, I will make all of the things and I will eat all of the same; just not in one sitting.


I always have a citrus-cello project in the works. It is the final resting place for all the excess citrus that we grow and gather. I currently have a limoncello & arancello in the works.  Limoncello is an Italian digestivo, that is most popular on the Island of Capri…but can be found all over Italy, and now the States as well.  Arancello isn’t quite as popular, nor is it as authentic, but I love it anyway.  It is a delicious liqueur and has many uses beyond drinking. I, for example, toss it into my homemade jam just before canning and often use it as a soak for my olive oil cake.  Although making this takes passive time, it’s really easy…and makes a wonderful gift. Start now for the holidays.

You need lots of fruit–use lemons, blood oranges, mandarins, grapefruit, whatever you have on hand.  We mostly use the peel, but will also need to juice the fruit and store it for later.

Waste not, want not; so here are some ideas for the rest of the lemon:
Cut in half, pour some salt on it and tame your elbows (Barbra Streisand does it and so should we).
Juice the lemons and make the required sugar syrup in advance (but keep it in the freezer, so it doesn’t get weird).
Make lemon curd…better yet, make lemon chicken…ooh what about lemon bars? Those are my fave.

Back to the recipe. Wash and dry about 10-15 lemons {or fruit of choice}. The lemons should be unwaxed. Remove the peels. Now, this is very important…you do not want the pith. That is the white stuff that hugs the peel like a preschooler hugs his mom on the first day of school. Remove it all…you only want the yellow part. The pith is bitter and is not good for your end result. Place all the peels in a large glass or ceramic jar with a tight-fitting lid. Pour 1 bottle of vodka or grain alcohol over it. You do not need expensive vodka for this, you want the alcohol content, but the theory is that you will be changing the flavor of it, so don’t break the bank on this one.
Put the top on the jar, date it, and put it away in a cool dark place for a minimum of 2 weeks but as long as 3 or 4 months. I tend to steep mine for a long time; mostly because I forget.
When you see that all of the lemon peels have lost their color and/or it’s been at least 2 weeks you can move onto the next step.

In a heavy saucepan place 3 cups of water, 1/2 cup of strained lemon juice, 3 cups sugar and 3 Tbs honey. Boil over low heat until the sugar is completely dissolved and the mixture is clear. Don’t let it go too long and get thick and gooey. Let cool.

Pour the syrup into your glass jar with the lemon peels and vodka. Cover and let steep for another week (or longer if you have the time). When you are ready to bottle your limoncello, strain the liquid using cheesecloth or fine sieve. Squeeze all that you can from the peels and then throw away (or roll in sugar and dehydrate for a sweet and boozy garnish). Bottle the liquid in clean jars and seal tightly.

Like revenge, this is best served cold…store it in the freezer.

message in a bottle

Spring arrives and we run in full sprint preparing and tending. Summer has us watching, patiently waiting. Fall arrives with a prize: fruit grown in.the. bottle. Almost complete, almost. Large jars of ripe pears; bathing in brandy, infuse for months, monitored sip after sip after sip. When the time comes, the brandy pours; briefly veiling the pear. Bottles corked, ready for night capping and mood enhancing, hold secrets of the garden and whispers of the trees.

Honey Spiced Latte

I mostly drink tea; but this time of year, i love a festive coffee drink that isn’t filled with syrups and sugar. Because we have honey bees, I have a nice fresh stock of honey on hand at all times. Paired with warming spices, it is a delicious additiont to a hot cup o’ joe.

Honey Spiced Latte
perfect for a cool day, or apris ski
1 Tbs honey
dusting of cardamom
dusting of cinnamon
dusting of ginger
4 oz of hot espresso
6 oz steamed milk and foam
Put the honey in the bottom of the mug or glass. Dust the spices over the honey. Pour the hot espresso over and stir until the honey melts. Add milk to your liking. Top with foam and dust with a bit more cinnamon and ginger. Drizzle honey on top.

Strawberry Lemonade

Working in the garden, pulling weeds and picking fruit, can make a girl glisten and parched. I like to wet my whistle with a talk iced glass of this.


5 large lemons-sliced
1 1/2 cups strawberries-sliced in half
2 1/2 cups sugar
6-6 1/2 cups water
ice to serve
Place lemons, Strawberries and sugar in a crock or bowl. Let sit for 30 minutes. After the wait time, use a potato masher or muddle to crush the berries and the lemons to extract juice from the fruit and the oil from the lemons. Really get in there and mash them up. Allow to sit for another 10 minutes and then give it another good mash. Leave all the bits in the crock (or bowl) and add water. Start with 6 cups and check for sweetness/flavor. add more water to your liking. Refrigerate until ready to drink. Serve over ice.

Strawberry Balsamic Shrub

My childhood summers had one constant; my grandparents. Although maybe not the true reality, I remember our last day of school coincided with their arrival; The Grandparents, all 4 of them (yes, both sets) ready to take on the summer in California. My Grandma Grace, oh how fitting that name was for this amazing woman; each and every summer night wandered into the kitchen with pin curls in her hair in a perfectly pressed house dress, and served herself a tablespoon of vinegar. She drank it with the flair
of pouring herself a nightcap. She passed a few years ago and was well into her 90s. Healthy as an ox until the day she died. Sturdy and strong with peaches and cream, wrinkle-free, skin. She ate fresh food all of her life. It was all that she could afford. I believe her nightly vinegar shooter, was her secret weapon.

I like vinegar, but I take mine moderated in a shrub. A shrub marries the sweetness of fruit and sugar with the acidity and brightness of vinegar; in a way that makes that little shot every night, very palatable. A shrub is typically meant to be mixed with soda water, but
it is great in cocktails too.

Strawberry-Balsamic Shrub

2 cups ripe strawberries-cleaned, hulled & sliced
1 tsp fennel pollen (optional)
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
10 black peppercorns-slightly crushed
1 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup cider vinegar
Place strawberries, sugar, fennel pollen (if using), and peppercorns into a glass crock or wide-mouth jar. Allow to sit for about an hour, then macerate to break up the strawberries. Cover and allow to sit 24 hours. (i let mine sit at room temperature, but if you are concerned, it is okay to put it in the fridge). After 24 hours macerate the mixture again, aiming to crush the strawberries. You can move on to the next step, or allow to sit another 24 hours at this point. Add to the mixture the balsamic vinegar and the cider vinegar and stir well. Allow this to sit 7-9 days at room temperature, stirring daily. The sugar should eventually “melt” into the liquid. It is important that you tend to the mixture daily. After 7-9 days. Strain the mixture using a fine-mesh strainer (if you don’t mind a few bits in it) or a strainer with cheesecloth (if you do) and bottle for use. For longer shelf life, I recommend storing in the refrigerator.


Strawberry Cream Soda

When I think of summer picnics, my mind wanders to a scene from Oklahoma. The one where they were raising money for the schoolhouse; the gals made picnic hampers and the pals bid on them. While we never actually saw the food; we were told that under the kitchen cloth, the baskets overflowed with ham and biscuits and pie. Food so good, it made people break out in song. I wish my picnics were as magical. I’m betting that if i whipped this cream soda out of my hamper, Mike would whisk me away in a surrey with fringe on top. White horses and all.

Strawberry Cream Soda
makes 1 serving

1 Tbs mashed strawberries or strawberry puree
sugar *
1 Tbs cream
1/2 cup ice cold ginger ale
ice cubes
*summer strawberries are so sweet the don’t need extra sugar, but if you like a really sweet soda, use at your discretion.
Place the strawberries and cream in a glass and give it a good stir. Add several ice cubes and then pour ginger ale to fill the glass. Serve immediately

Watermelon Cooler

I woke up this morning in the pink. Peonies, bubble gum, flamingos, preppy handbook PINK. This refreshing cocktail, made with vodka, although more Wonka than Warsaw will put you in the PINK too!

Watermelon Cooler
3 TBS watermelon vodka (recipe follows)
1 tsp granulated sugar
1/4 cup watermelon dice
1/2 lime
2 mint leaves
tonic water

Place watermelon, mint, sugar and lime in the bottom of a highball or old fashioned glass. Muddle until the lime has been completely juiced, the mint has begun to give off scent, yet the watermelon has not been pulverized. Add a few ice cubes and pour the watermelon vodka over. Add enough tonic water to fill the glass. Give a good stir and serve.

watermelon vodka
1 1/2 cups watermelon candies
3 cups vodka
Place the candies in the bottom of a large jar. Add the vodka. Let sit in a cool dark place for about 3 days or until the candies are dissolved (may take less time). Use as desired.

Blood Orange Arancello

You’d think that living in near terminal sunshine with air naturally scented in citrus would lead a gal to evenings on the porch stoop; knees touching elbows, slowly peeling an orange while wistfully remembering her first love. I’m no rube
a blood orange tree weeping under the weight of its fruit is meant to be arancello. It, among other things, is more lustful than wistful.


4-5 blood oranges–washed and dried
3-4 cardamom pods–crushed (optional)
4 cups grain alcohol (everclear) or vodka
3 cups water
3 cups sugar
1/2 cup blood orange juice-strained
3 Tbs honey
Remove the peel from the oranges using a vegetable peeler. be careful to avoid any white pith. Place in a sterilized glass jar or crock. Add the cardamom pods, if using. Pour in the alcohol and cover tightly.