Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Just before the frost, an end of season cocktail

My garden has begun to brown at the edges like lace carelessly dipped in coffee.   The sumac has tips of red.  The end of summer is here.   I sit, listening to the pop of canning jars just pulled from the pot, brimming red with the last tomato harvest.   I reflect on the summer and its stormy changes.
I need a drink.
With the first frost in my garden comes the conflicted feeling of regret and release.   The garden season is over.  No more picking Japanese beetles.  No more weed burns on my hands and cursing at bunnies.    But, no more garden phlox on the table.  No more fresh herbs or tomatoes still warm off the vine.   I try to do what I can to extend my season.  Use the cold frame.  Cover some of the herbs at night.  I spend evenings checking weather sites to see if there will be frost.  Then I check again an hour later.  (It could have changed you know.)  I fret over whether I should bring in the last of the cucumbers.   But, no matter what I do, the dahlias still get spots, and the basil just isn’t as green as it once was.  
So I harvest.  I harvest like there will never be a summer again.  My fridge is full.  My kitchen floor is covered in boxes of tomatoes.  Soon, cabbages will join them.  My husband stands in the kitchen door, eyes watering from boiling vinegar, and picks at a tomato seed stuck to the trim.  He sighs and turns to use the front door instead.    What do you do when you have too much to do and too little time?  Make a cocktail, of course. 
 I had a lot of mint this year.  It was a mint hedge, really.   I tried to give mint away to anyone who walked by.  Every guest who came had a handful of mint shoved at them on the way out.  Mint adorned packages.  Mint garnished cocktails, desserts, and once a bowl of cereal.
The following is a recipe for a Cucumber Mint Martini that my good friend and I devised.  It is a great way to use up end of season mint and cucumbers, as the cucumbers don’t have to look pretty.  Scars and blemishes are fine.  

For two Cucumber Mint Martinis (because who ever needs just one)
You will need:  
One cucumber, sliced, skin still on                  

1 handful mint (I prefer chocolate mint for this one)
1 lime wedge, about 1/8 of a lime                        2 tsp simple syrup (recipe below)
2 shots (or more) citrus vodka                                club soda
A shaker                                                                            muddler or a fat wood spoon
Ice                                                                                         2 pretty glasses

Simple syrup: Mix equal parts sugar and water in a non reactive pot.  Heat and boil 2 min.  Remove from heat and cool.
Martini:  Put 8 slices of cucumber, 4 sprigs mint, 1 wedge lime, and 2 tsp simple syrup (more if you prefer) into the shaker.  Muddle until the juices start to flow from the cucumber and the lime.  Add 2 Shots vodka and top with ice.  Secure the lid and shake.  Pour equally into 2 glasses and top with club soda.  Sit back and enjoy September.  Or, November.  Or, anytime.

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