After reading through a mess of different things that I wanted to do, I’ve buckled down the past couple of weeks and made a true go of it. In the fridge, there’s currently cod doing its thing with some salt, a fairly large piece of beef curing before hanging to eventually become bresaola, and a piece of salmon steeping in a bunch of stuff, readying itself to become lox.

My ambitions this summer have not been tempered, merely misplaced. Early in the season, I was really into spirits. I made some infused liquors out of which a few nice cocktails came about. I wanted to take it to the next level, though, and I checked out recipes on how to make my own bitters at home using aromatics. Easy enough.

At the store, I bought a bottle of vodka, simply some inexpensive, not too terrifying neutral alcohol. I got some orange peel, some cardamom, some lavender, and other things that would make for that added dimension in whatever was going to be the final product. 

I got home and reread the recipe. My bottle of 80 proof vodka was not going to be strong enough to set the aromatics for the bitters. Ugh. Vodka is not a drink that I care for, unless it’s proffered by someone who knows what they’re talking about. In that instance, I’ll join them in a toast or two, and then go back to my old standbys of something with bourbon. Whatever I’d drink in that company, I probably wouldn’t go out of my way to drink myself, and now with a bottle at home of something that wasn’t even good, I was at a crossroads. 

I know in dealing with booze that bourbon gives you sweetness and woody overtones, for lack of classic terminology. Gin is distinctly piney, and Scotch is peaty and sometimes smells like the inside of a pirate’s treasure chest. Vodka, though, there’s nothing to it. Cheap vodka, as well, is essentially gasoline-cheap, grain neutral spirits that you can add to something because aside from the burn, there’s nothing to it. Want cranberry juice, but want to get drunk? Put some vodka in it. 

That’s not my style. Oh, no. If I drink something, I want the flavors to blend, and the drink to be something that I can enjoy in a glass or a tumbler. I scoured my pantry at home for what to do with this beast, and I found a tin of green tea powder. 

A-ha. That’s a stronger flavor that will drown out the sorrow of this spirit. I added a couple of teaspoons, shook it around, and left it in the liquor cabinet to steep for a couple of days. 

When I returned, I opened it up and took a whiff. Smelled like grass, looked like wet, green sludge. Muddy, murky, mossy, not what I had hoped for. I strained it a few times, once through a sieve, once through a coffee filter, and it never lost the moldy aquarium look. I added a stalk of lemongrass wishing to leave it for another couple of days, hoping that it would temper this utter failure. 

I forgot about it longer than a couple of days. I found it last week, and it smelled about the same. The lemongrass did in fact mellow it out, but it wasn’t doing much of anything, so into the trash it went. 

Now, as I’ve been remiss in my summer mission to cure more meats, I’ve made a positive change to attempt more projects. The bresaola, the simplest of cured meats, is almost ready to hang after a couple of weeks in the cure, and I’ve done salmon so many times that once more won’t hurt it. 

The salmon will be my savior. 

Today, on the hottest of days, I picked up some seafood. Tonight’s dinner is going to be a hearty fish stew. I have lobster, and I got a handful of mussels, some shrimp along with a bunch of shells I’ve been saving, and used some of the cod and salmon trimmings, as well as a few tiny frames from some mullet that met their match at the end of my knife. I would have loved to attempt what I had in my head from a meal 15 years ago at the French Laundry, but after filleting one, I understand why top restaurants are renowned for their attention to detail. I just don’t have the patience to pinbone and skin two tiny fish for a total of 1/4# of meat. Into the soup they went. 

Back to the salmon, though. I still have all those aromatics, and I still intend to use them. For the salmon, I grabbed my salt and sugar, some dried orange peel, a small handful of peppercorns, and a bit of lavender. Mixed up and caked on, that was my cure. For my normal gravlax cure, I’d either use lemon juice or vodka, but hey. In the cabinet. Green tea vodka. Oh, sweet relief. Checking my ratios, I estimated I needed 1/4 cup for the piece I was curing. 

Only have to make 15 more batches before it’s gone. I’ll let you know how it is in a few days. 

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