Let’s tip a toast to Father Time who allows magic to be wrought upon our local desert fruits. The joyous results of his temporal magic can be festive and delightful cordials. With a little industry, when our desert fruits are ripe in late summer or fall, there can be heartwarming dessert drinks to help celebrate chilly winter evenings–and especially fine for your favorite Valentine.
Tia Marta here, with an additional toast, this one to the father of Slow Knowledge, agricultural philosopher/author Wendell Berry. His “slow knowledge”–yea wisdom–comes with growing one’s own food (or wild-harvesting), watching the near-imperceptable progress played by Nature and Father Time on leafing, flowering, fruiting, fermentation, decay of individual plants, small or tall, in garden, farm, wild desert, forest. Being present is a key to “slow knowledge,” something sorely missed if one is always absorbed in a device. Lack of slow knowledge may lead to atrophy of human brain neurons. There is evidence that practicing slow knowledge, being out in Nature, in fact enhances brain function and development, broadens associative thinking, deductive and inductive reasoning, adds serenity, promotes compassion….Hey what’s not to like about it?
I’d like to share four of my favorite ways–four cordials– to celebrate time, with fruits that our Southwest gardens, orchards, and even prickly desert can supply in plenty: 1) Native fan palm “Desert Oasis Cordial” depicted above made with the seedy dates of our ubiquitous Washingtonia filifera (Read more by searching Jan.20, 2015’s post in this blog archive), 2) special Meyer Limoncello, 3) Prickly Pear Cordial, and 4) Colorado Cherry Cordial. They are really so easy to make with speedy prep-time– a good investment in one’s spare minutes when there is a bumper crop of fruits shouting for attention.
General Cordial Instructions: In order for all four cordials to “make,” i.e. to sit and mull, you will need a sanitized sealable crock or large canning jar. Wash and cut your fruits (no need to cut the teensy native palm dates), measure equal quantities of:
b) spirits (I use good 100% agave tequila or mescal, but vodka also works fine), and
c) a natural sweetener (I use agave nectar but my mother used sugar successfully).
Pack fruit into jars, add sweetener, cover with spirits, seal, and set aside in a cool, dark place for as many weeks or months as possible, checking periodically for progress or problems.
Essentially, with the help of Time, you are making a sweet herbal tincture. Decanting is the next step. Remember those gorgeous rosey red prickly pear tunas gathered carefully in August? (Yes, planning ahead is paramount. Put it on your calendar now for next August.) At harvest, I washed and removed as many spines as possible, cut them in half, and set them in the canning jar, seeds and all, with the other ingredients. Now at decanting time I must make sure to filter out all solid parts to clarify the cordial. Coffee filters or layered cheesecloth resting in a funnel over your catcher-cup or bottle will work perfectly. After filtering, store your cordial in glass indefinitely–to enjoy on special occasions.
You can view native fan palms on the University of Arizona campus, lemon trees at the Tucson Botanical Garden, and Engelmann’s prickly pear close up at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum and at Tucson’s Mission Garden. Find more traditional foods at http://www.flordemayoarts.com and http://www.nativeseeds.org. And watch for upcoming City of Gastronomy tours in Tucson beginning in March at Tucson’s Presidio Museum–Stay tuned at http://www.tucsonpresidio.com.
Now a cordial toast to you, dear Savor Blog Follower! May you delight in these spirited fruits of the desert and delight in the time they take to bring us this cheer!