Category Archives: Whisky

Smoky thoughts

The Real Deal

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Moonrise seen from the Sooke Harbour House. Photo: Peter Skillman

Moonrise seen from the Sooke Harbour House.
Photo: Peter Skillman

We were sitting at the Sooke Harbour House overlooking the Strait of Juan de Fuca of Vancouver Island, British Colombia, sipping a martini made from local ingredients: Sheringham Gin, Tugwell Creek Solstice Metheglin, Bittered Sling Lem Marakesh. I recognized very few of the words.

I’m more of a whisky person, but I’m coming around to gin these days. And this was a bright, nuanced gin martini with both floral and salty marine flavors, just like our surroundings. The garnish of a pickled fir tip was truly something I had never considered possible, much less tasted before.

We learned that Sheringham Gin was distilled just up the road from Sooke, in the community of Shirley. We decided to search for the distillery at the end the next day, after a lazy day of touring the coast by motorcycle, a pistachio and cream-colored dream re-issue of a vintage model. It’s been decades since I sat on the back of motorcycle, but I remember now how much fun it was.

Our ride: the Indian Chief Vintage.

Our ride: the Indian Chief Vintage.

We got a little lost looking for the road to the gin place, not that there are many roads; we were following verbal instructions from the night before rather than a map. We asked a couple of guys chatting roadside if they knew of a local gin distillery. They laughed as if that was a stupid question. Of course they did – this is the kind of place where everybody knows everyone.

Two double-backs later, we’d found our way – a steep-ish gravel road through forest and blackberry bushes heavy with fruit.

The view from Sheringham Distillery, Vancouver Island. All photos: PKR

The view from Sheringham Distillery, Vancouver Island.
Photo: PKR

It’s always a joy to see people create their own slice of paradise. Here is a place that distillers Jason and Alayne MacIsaac have made just the way they want it: A hand-built house, a lush garden overlooking the water, and a craft distillery out the back. The real deal. There was a vintage custom motorcycle out front to complete the picture.

We just showed up with no warning on loud bikes, and we were offered an extremely warm welcome.

Both Jason and Alayne came out to greet us, and Jason took us on a tour of their establishment.

Like the majority of distillers on Vancouver Island (there are almost 40 of them), the MacIsaacs make their own alcohol. Jason says they prefer the taste of locally produced organic white wheat and malted barley, and gives us a sip to prove it. It’s fresh, like a cool breeze.IMG_3007

The gin recipe involves the addition of orris, angelica, coriander and juniper. With dashes of orange, lavender, rose petals and lemon – and a dash of hand-harvested local winged kelp(!).  It might sound crazy, but we could taste every one of those ingredients. Lovely.

A further twist of the screw results in aqvavit, something I haven’t had in almost as long as I’ve been on a motorcycle. After tasting the Sheringham version, I’ll be returning to this drink more often.

Two of the Sheringham products.

Two of the Sheringham products.

When people talk about small craft distilleries, this is what they mean. It’s a lot of work and a massive amount of determination, but look at what it can bring forth. There is a commitment to authenticity, to quality, and to the life that goes with this work on every level.

I’m sorry to say we didn’t have time to visit the nearby Tugwell Creek winery to taste their honey mead – which is what the metheglin in that martini turned out to be.

Sheringham Distillers just started production over the past couple of years. Here’s hoping this is just the start of something beautiful.

Jason MacIsaac in front of the distillery.

Jason MacIsaac in front of the distillery.

 

Dessert Day

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I am not a dessert addict, and while I like cocktails, the sugar in them doesn’t always like me.
But sometimes you need to break the rules.

We were in need of an all-day distraction, so we decided to explore the Ballard district of Seattle, Washington.

Most restaurants provide alcohol beverages in some form or another to accompany the food.

But I’ve never seen so many restaurants in one place that place an emphasis on alcohol in food – specifically, alcohol in desserts.

Kiss Café with a misleadingly coffee-oriented sign. All photos: PKR

Kiss Café with a misleadingly coffee-oriented sign.
All photos: PKR

Over the course of the day, while shopping for things we didn’t need, we had Tennessee bourbon ice cream.

We were lured into the Kiss Café by the sign out front that promised Whisky Ice Cream.

Creamy whisky ice cream and a wall of patrons' individual glasses for the Ballard Drinking Team.

Creamy whisky ice cream and a wall of patrons’ individual glasses for the Ballard Drinking Team.

To be fair, we had soup and salad before our run on desserts started, just to lay a solid foundation.

It’s not like we were being irresponsible.

Then we moseyed over to Hot Cakes and had S’mores with smoky whisky infused chocolate and caramel.

A S'more like I've never tried - still marshmallow, chocolate and graham cracker, but not like the ones we used to make at camp.

A S’more like I’ve never tried – still marshmallow, chocolate and graham cracker, but not like the ones we used to make at camp.

Sure, we viewed other sights. The Ballard Locks, shipping locks located in the Lake Washington shipping canal that move boats and ships from one large body of water to another.

The Chittenden Locks, an artificial salmon ladder that allows salmon to traverse the same route.

It was a glorious sunny day for walking and talking.

The Pie Bar menu.

The Pie Bar menu.

Our real goal all day, however, had been the Pie Bar, which didn’t open until mid-afternoon. It’s a bar that serves mainly pies and pie-inspired cocktails.

We had pies, and pie-inspired cocktails.

It was worth the wait.

Pie Bar treats.

Pie Bar treats.

 

Comfort Zones

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I’d be the first to admit that my knowledge of tequilas is mainly limited to the stuff I did in shot form back in college in the tradition of salt on the hand and lick (to kill the taste), toss back the shot (grimace), bite the lime (to kill the taste).

I haven’t spent much time revisiting the drink except in the occasional margarita, even if some of those were made with excellent tequila and a variety of juices besides lime. I had a smoky pomegranate version at some point, and the fact that I can’t remember where is an indication of just how good that cocktail was (I want to say it was in Los Angeles? Maybe London?).

Fresh, handmade tortilla chips in a variety of flavors. Addictive. All photos: PKR

Fresh, handmade tortilla chips in a variety of flavors. Addictive.
All photos: PKR

Here’s a suggestion that margaritas assume the new role as the drink of New Year’s Eve, and while I can’t say I’ll be exchanging my champagne flute for a margarita glass at the stroke of midnight, it’s a legitimate proposal.

On a recent trip to Baja California, I had the pleasure of getting outside my comfort zone and into some really good tequila, the kind of stuff that isn’t easy to find outside the country.

My father happens to live near Ensenada, and if he’s as much of a whisky fan as I am, he’s also become something of a tequila aficiodano.

Religious candles, shoe polish and insect spray, an unexpected combination of cylinders.

Religious candles and shoe polish, an unexpected combination of cylinders.

 

One of the tequilas he pulled from the shelf was the Herradura Ultra, a newish addition to the Herradura premium line that is a mixture of añejo (aged 1-3 years) and extra añejo (aged over 3 years). In the case of the Ultra, a 25-month-old añejo is mixed with premium extra añejo that’s been aged in bourbon barrels for up to four years in American White Oak barrels.

 

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The common brown hues are filtered out, some pure agave nectar is added, and the result is a clear drink with a crystalline taste that rings like a bell. It’s got a lovely oakiness, with sweet hints of vanilla, almond and fruit. Meant to be chilled and then served neat, just the way I like the best spirits.

This stuff is so smooth, it has almost no resemblance with the stuff I knew from way back when. Salt on the hand and a lime? Banish the thought!

I was smitten.

Tequila Herradura, as the Grupo Industrial Herradura is generally known, was founded in 1870 in Amatitán, Jalisco, Mexico. The distillery is now owned by U.S. run Brown-Forman, but Herradura continues its traditional production from growing the agave to the finished product, and the spirit is still made from agave hearts roasted in clay ovens, then fermented with wild yeast.

Clown cupcakes, perfect for anyone trying to combat coulrophobia, fear of clowns.

Clown cupcakes, perfect for anyone trying to combat coulrophobia, fear of clowns. Also perfect for anyone trying to induce coulrophobia in others.

We bought two bottles at a supermarket in Enseneda to bring home to France, a place that had a range of tequilas comparable to the whisky shelves in good European supermarkets and which opened my eyes to everything I must be missing. I’m sorry to say that we won’t be drinking our imports all to quickly, because at the time of this writing, Herradura Ultra isn’t yet available in Europe.

You might be wondering why this post doesn’t have any images of the tequila itself in our glasses, or the tequila shelves.

An inexplicable cake and cupcake set featuring what I suppose a Santa's belt cake and elf cap cupcakes. At least, that's my interpretation. There's nothing like going into a large foreign supermarket to get out of your comfort zone when it comes to food assumptions.

An inexplicable cake and cupcake set featuring what I suppose a Santa’s belt cake and elf cap cupcakes. At least, that’s my interpretation.
There’s nothing like going into a large foreign supermarket to get out of your comfort zone when it comes to food assumptions.

Those images, which I had dutifully recorded in anticipation of this post, were lost along with my phone when I dropped it into the Pacific Ocean on an early morning walk. I was dodging an unexpected wave that swamped the shore and took my phone back out to sea with it when it retreated. The images here were from our other camera.

One thing I won’t be dodging in the future is premium tequila.

The phone-thieving and ever unrepentant Pacific.

The phone-thieving and ever unrepentant Pacific.

 

 

 

New Arrivals

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The first snow of winter, marching towards us across the Jura.

Different perspectives on the approaching snowstorm on the French Jura. All photos: PKR

Different perspectives on the approaching snowstorm on the French Jura.
All mountain photos: PKR

The sun was shining in a final burst before a major storm that was due to hit overnight, and I had to go for a final autumn run in the last bits of warmth, even as I could see winter’s approach.photo 1-6

No images here of the white carpet that greeted us the following morning, it all started melting soon after sun-up.

But in celebration of winter’s greeting card, we tried the Suntory produced Hibiki Japanese Harmony Master’s Select blended whisky I mentioned in a recent post, a foray into mostly unexplored territory for single malt fans such as ourselves.

According to Master of Malt, “Hibiki Japanese Harmony is made with malt whiskies from the Yamazaki and Hakushu distilleries, as well as grain whisky from the Chita distillery. The whiskies are drawn from 5 different types of cask, including American white oak casks, Sherry casks and Mizunara oak casks.” The blend includes ten different malt and grain whiskies.

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For me, this is limited edition blend is a curious mixture of tart, oaky acidity with round apple sweetness and not much in between, a double-edged sword that I’m not sure I love, but which I definitely enjoy. It’s like one of those candies which you might not like at first taste, but which you can’t seem to stop yourself from eating.

The Hibiki bottle and stopper.

The Hibiki bottle and stopper.

I do, however, think the bottle, with its 24 facets and matching stopper, is very lovely. The 24 facets are meant to represent the two dozen Japanese seasons, and I’ll be the first to admit that although I lived in Japan, I didn’t realize just how many seasons I was experiencing over the course of a year.

Alps across Lake Geneva, before their winter coat.

Alps across Lake Geneva, before their winter coat.

What I do know is that a new season is upon us. It’s cold outside.

Yes, winter is not only coming – it is already here.

That doesn’t have to be all bad.

Autumn Palette

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Mont Blanc at sunset. All photos: PKR

Mont Blanc at sunset.
All photos: PKR

Completing my regular running loop these days takes forever.

Why? Because it’s so breathtakingly beautiful. I have to stop every now and then just to take it all in.

Fallen leaves under a village streetlamp.

Fallen leaves under a village streetlamp at the end of an evening run.

 

The bourbon-sweet scent of fallen leaves and late crops, the soft snik-snik-snik of leaves falling on other leaves, falling to the ground like a gentle dry rain, the intoxicating tapestry of yellows, reds, oranges and browns.

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My mood is made even brighter by a lovely autumnal palette of blended whiskies, a wedding anniversary gift given to celebrate more than two decades of blended lives.

Look at all those lovely hues.

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What a treat.

Some of them I know, some of them I don’t. The Johnnie Walker Blue Label turns out to be like a soft puff of sweet smoke, a perfect complement to the seasonal change outside.

I’ll update on the others as we try them.

Who says autumn is the melancholy season?

Not me.photo 2-5

An update on the Hibiki whisky here.

Sipping Glaciers

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Travel in the 21st century means you can fly to the other side of the world for a few short days with little more than a toothbrush and a change of clothes.

Which is what I did last week when I flew from Geneva, Switzerland to Palmer, Alaska.

It took me four blissfully uneventful but long flights on very large planes (and a drive in a large SUV) to get to my destination, but the fifth flight was of an entirely different nature, and decidedly retro in more ways than one.

The fifth plane. All photos: PKR

The fifth plane.
All photos: PKR

Pre-flight, we stopped off at a local place and tried a few locally produced goods. Actually, our pilot Rob was having lunch. We arrived late and decided on afternoon cocktails in lieu of food. After all, we were just along for the ride.

Both cocktails were made with vodkas produced by Alaska Distillery in Wasilla, Alaska, just up the road from Palmer.

The Imperial Mimosa included the unlikely (for me) ingredient of Sprite, which I can honestly say I haven’t drunk since around 1985. More importantly, it included Permafrost Vodka, which is made from iceberg meltwater harvested in Prince William Sound.

I suppose of all the things glacier meltwater might become instead of staying put in a glacier, premium vodka is decidedly not the worst.

The Glacier Made Imperial Mimosa (right) and the Alaskan Birch Syrup Coffee Cooler (left).

The Glacier Made Imperial Mimosa (right) and the Alaskan Birch Syrup Coffee Cooler (left).

The Coffee Cooler was a version of a White Russian, one of my favorite deadly sins when it comes to cocktails. It was made using Birch Syrup Vodka, birch syrup being made from a sweet tree sap and similar to maple syrup.

Now, it was a bit early in the afternoon to start trying straight shots of these two vodkas to get the true shape of their taste, so we stuck with our two Alaska-sized cocktails.

And they were both delicious – unique in their own ways. The Coffee Cooler is probably the most flavorful White Russian I’ve ever had, likely due to the sweet vodka and the excellent locally-roasted coffee. The Imperial Mimosa was surprisingly un-Spritey, refreshing and clean.

The menu and the mixes at the Palmer City Ale House.

The menu and the mixes at the Palmer City Ale House.

It appears that Alaska Distillery spirits are readily available in some U.S. states and not at all in others. Nor is are they available yet in Europe, as far as I can tell.

Which is a pity, since I was sorely tempted to try their other highly-acclaimed spirits, especially the smoked salmon vodka and the hemp-seed variant known as Purgatory. But we had a flight to catch.

And while 21st-century travel means getting around the world and back with just a toothbrush and a change of clothes, 21st century travel limitations prohibit carrying bottles of vodka in carry-on luggage over three flights back home with transfer times that require sprints between terminals.

What this means, of course, is that I will have to go back to Alaska.

As for the post-cocktail flight in the Cessna, more on that tomorrow.

A Whisky Woman and a Spring Cordial

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I finally bottled a batch of elderflower cordial yesterday, after letting the brew steep for a couple of days and then rest in the fridge until I got around to cooking it up.

One of the bottles I used – I’d actually saved it for use as a cordial bottle – reminded me of a whisky woman I’ve been meaning to mention for a long time.

Anyone who knows Japanese whisky has at least heard of Jessie Roberta Cowan, better known as Rita Taketsuru (1896-1961), or as the Mother of Japanese Whisky.

Born in Scotland, Miss Cowan met a young Japanese man named Masataka Taketsuru who had come to Glasgow to study chemistry and Scottish whisky-making. They married, and she went with him to Japan, where he dreamed of creating a real Japanese-made whisky.

Jessie Roberta Cowan and Masataka Taketsuru Source: K&L Wine

Jessie Roberta Cowan and Masataka Taketsuru
Source: K&L Wine

To make a long story short, they succeeded after overcoming many obstacles on the long road to achieving their goal, from prejudice in both their native countries against an interracial and international marriage to the task of establishing a whisky empire. The Nikka distillery in Yoichi, Japan was founded in 1934, and continues today as one of the world’s top whisky producers.

I’ve written previously about the kind of determination it must have taken for Masataka Taketsuru to leave Japan and study in Scotland, and to use traditional Scottish methods in Japan to make whisky.

But as a long-term expat myself, and as one who once worked in Japan in a town that boasted only one other foreigner at the time, I can only imagine how challenging it must have been for a young Scotswoman in the 1920s, when foreigners were a genuine rarity.

Rita Taketsuru Source: Japanese Whisky

Rita Taketsuru
Source: Japanese Whisky

The cultural divide must have been daunting, to say the least, especially once World War II was underway. However, the war had the effect of increasing domestic whisky business in the face of an import ban.

Rita helped keep the household afloat by teaching English and piano lessons, and some of her clients ended up becoming investors in the distillery.

There is a new Japanese television series about her life, and I wonder how much that series manages to convey the challenges and rewards of living in another culture over the course of decades.

The 'Mother of Japanese Whisky' Source: Matome

The ‘Mother of Japanese Whisky’
Source: Matome

One of the things I’ve learned during my long time as a foreigner in rural France, at least, is an appreciation of the seasonal joys of homemade jams and cordials. Sure, my grandmother was master of the art in Washington State, but I grew up in the supermarket Sixties and Seventies. I had to relearn everything for myself.

And so to the elderflower cordial.

It’s an easy enough process. Pick some fresh flower heads, shake out any bugs or debris and give them a quick rinse.

The elderflower heads.  All cordial photos: PK Read

The elderflower heads.
All cordial photos: PK Read

Put them into a bowl with lemon zest and orange rind. photo 2-1

Cover the lot in boiling water, and let it sit around for a few hours or a couple of days (in the fridge, ideally). Strain through a cheesecloth.photo 4

Bring it to a gentle simmer with sugar and lemon juice, and funnel it into sterilised bottles or jars, cap them and store them cool.

I used brown sugar, which is why the cordial turned out a bit dark and hazy instead of a nice flowery yellow. If I make another batch this year, it’ll be with white sugar.photo 3-1

A couple of bottles to keep, a couple of bottles to give away.

Perfect in cold sparkling water with a sprig of fresh mint, or in a prosecco cocktail. Ready for summer.

It’s no whisky empire, but it’s not bad.

Maui Mixology

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I’m not sure what I was expecting from the poolside cocktail mixing class at the Hotel Wailea on Maui – the reinforcement of a few basics, maybe a couple of exotic ingredients in a familiar drink. We’d signed up the day before for the mixology class, but by the time it rolled around at 11 a.m., we felt like we’d already had a long day of intense touristing behind us, working hard to get the most out of our vacation.

Just after dawn on Haleakala, a wild mix of clouds and colors.

Just after dawn on Haleakala, a wild mix of clouds and colors.

We’d spent the morning making the drive from the coast of Maui up to the summit of Haleakala to watch the sunrise from 10,000 feet above the ocean, high above the clouds and slopes of Maui. We’d gotten up at 3 a.m., watched the 7 a.m. sunrise, and gave ourselves a pat on the back for getting up early and seeing such a spectacular sight as a reward.

Sometimes having fun requires a genuine effort.

Kerry, the beverage wizard who was teaching the mixology class, blithely dispensed with cocktail basics within the first ten minutes. What she really wanted to talk about was a lesson altogether more fundamental: the place in life where we take what we have on hand and make something wonderful. Less hard work, more appreciation.

For example, simple syrups. Sure, anyone can buy a simple syrup – that basic sweetener, water and sugar cooked together. And adding a flavor to that concoction is nothing new.

A few samples of simple syrup: Honey, jalapeño, rose, lavender, hibiscus.

A few samples of simple syrup: Honey, jalapeño, rose, lavender, hibiscus.

What I liked about Kerry’s approach was the notion of making just about anything into simple syrup, the spices or herbs or flowers or chilis or leaves that are in the kitchen, in the refrigerator, in the garden or blooming on the balcony. I especially liked her low-heat approach to processing these ingredients – in a blender with water and sugar, and then some time sitting in the sun before straining – adding sunlight to maintain pure flavors and come up with a lavender mojito, or a hibiscus margarita.

She introduced our small class to the lovely Pau Vodka, a Maui-produced spirit based on pineapple. Now, pineapple was introduced to the Hawaiian islands by the Spanish, so technically it’s not an indigenous plant – but Hawaii is the only U.S. state which produces pineapple. Pineapple cultivation might be a fraught subject, but the vodka was a delight, with a hint of the fruit’s tangy sweetness.

(Ocean Vodka is Maui’s other locally-produced vodka, one we didn’t try – and one more reason to go back to the island. Another would be the pineapple wines of the Tedeschi Vineyards.)

The well-used hydrosols - basil, lime, allspice, etc., with the simple syrup bottles and a few of the fruits used.

The well-used hydrosols – basil, lime, allspice, etc., with the simple syrup bottles and a few of the fruits used.

Kerry also had a number of hydrosols – the bi-product of essential oil distillation and condensed water left over after steam or water distillation – on hand. Not something I’d likely produce on a regular basis in my own kitchen, but easy enough to get at the local health food store.

After a morning of trying hard to get the most out of the day, the class was a lesson in taking life as it comes and making the best of what’s right in front us.

Back home and thoroughly bundled up against the Arctic temperatures both outside and inside our old stone house, I’m trying to do just that.

I think I’ll start with this:

 

 

 

Fragrant Whiskey Infusion

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The plan was to go to a bar here in Denver that, from its name at least, promised to have a good selection of whiskies.IMG_0097

And indeed, the Whiskey Bar on Larimer Street had a big selection of whiskies and a strong theme of whiskey throughout. It was also just a little bit loud for the kind of conversation we were having – a visit with an old friend who we hadn’t seen in years, catching up on life. IMG_0084

So we wandered out and into the place right next door, which promised wine and cigars. The sweet fragrance of rich cigar smoke wafted through the open door (who knew Denver could be so warm and sunny on a Sunday afternoon in January?), and once inside the Palma Cigar and Wine Bar, we knew we were in one of those true local gems I always hope to find while traveling, but rarely do.

Vintage lamps hung like Christmas lights, deep leather sofas, heavy crystal ashtrays, old hats and glass cabinets, Frank Sinatra crooning over the loudspeakers, and a warm welcome.IMG_0100

Besides serving a range of local Colorado wines (surprisingly good), the shop is home to a workshop for the hand-rolled cigars that other patrons were smoking. IMG_0096

Now, what does this all have to do with whiskey?

As it turns out, some of the cigars were flavored. And one of the those flavors was, you guessed it, whiskey. So of course we had to try one.

I can drink whiskey any old day. How often do I get the chance to smoke it?IMG_0102

I do favor the very occasional cigar, especially in good company, in good surroundings and with a fine beverage at hand.

All these criteria were met, and the cigar, rolled by master cigar maker and bar owner Clay Carlton, was a treat of smoky whiskey-tinged sweetness. And yes, we bought some to take along for the rest of the trip.IMG_0093

There were these bottles of whiskey-roasted whole coffee beans, another product of the shop – we didn’t try any coffee, but the scent of the beans was heady and aromatic with whiskey.

The shop’s other potential treat which we left unsampled was the barber’s chair at the back of the shop. Full haircuts available while you smoke. Real indulgence. IMG_0088

One of these days, the barkeep (the pleasingly-named and very knowledgeable Mr. Valentine) told us, the bar would have a full liquor license, and whiskey proper would be served.

Guess I’ll have to come back to Denver.

 

Palma Cigar and Wine Bar, 2207 Larimer St., Denver, CO 80205

All photos: PK Read

Blended Pumpkin Comfort

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Pumpkin from the garden. Photo: PK Read

Pumpkin from the garden.
Photo: PK Read

The weather over the last week has turned decidedly seasonal-appropriate, with a dusting of snow on the Jura range and wind that is anything but gentle.

The bird feeders are out, the garden is tucked in against the cold, and it was time for some comfort food.

Pumpkin soup, fortified with Gruyère cheese.

Used half, kept the rest for more soup this week… Photo: PK Read

Used half, kept the rest for more soup this week…
Photo: PK Read

Usually I make a simple stock using the pumpkin seeds scraped from the squash interior, carrots, turnips and celeriac, with a bunch of parsley. And I went to do exactly that yesterday, but found I was lacking a couple of ingredients, namely, the turnips and celeriac that give the soup its earthy, rounded flavor.

It was a lazy day, I didn’t feel like going to the store since the pumpkin was already roasting in the oven, so…I turned to whisky.

A world inside. Photo: PK Read

A world inside.
Photo: PK Read

I sautéd onions until they were glassy, then deglazed them with a couple of shots of Famous Grouse (no, I wasn’t about to use one of my good single malts for this one).

The result? Subtle, but tasty. A fine alternative, and also, a new thing I hadn’t tried before, an added positive.

Photo: PK Read

Photo: PK Read

The recipe is a bit fussy for something as simple as cream of pumpkin soup, but it’s both tasty and hearty, so here it is:

Heat the oven to 200°C (400°F). Cut and scoop a flavorful pumpkin (I usually use a red kuri squash). Keep the seeds and scooped bits.

Without peeling the pumpkin, rub the flesh with olive oil, place it flesh-down in an oven tin, and let it bake until completely soft. Remove it, let it cool, and you should be able to peel the skin right off the roasted pumpkin.

While the pumpkin is roasting, cut up a couple of yellow onions and sauté them in a pan with olive oil. Once they are glassy, add fresh thyme and sage, stir a bit, then deglaze with whisky.

Add the roasted pumpkin to the onions with a ladle’s worth of the broth, stir for a few minutes, then strain the broth into the pumpkin/onion mix until you get the consistency you like. Give it all a stir to get anything sticky off the bottom of the pot, then purée until smooth. Add a few dollops of cream (or milk), then slowly add a couple handfuls of grated Gruyère cheese, stirring the entire time. Not too much or you end up with stringy cheese soup (unless you like that, then add more).

Salt and pepper to taste.

Note: I’m celebrating my 500th post with this one – thanks for visiting!

Some smooth orange music to go with the soup: