The snow has finally returned to Bulgaria. Which is handy because I was getting really cheesed off with all that brownness. Brown trees. Brown muddy lanes. Brown garden. Brown paw prints all over the kitchen floor. Brown village river (it’s been raining a lot, which always churns up the water).
I like brown. I’d estimate 95% of our diet is brown food. We even have brown dinner plates. And I was a Brownie when I was a child. (I was a Sixer. Of course I was.) But there comes a point in every Bulgarian winter when we get thoroughly fed up with brown, and start really looking forward to snow.
It usually arrives on or around New Year, but this year the snow kept us waiting a couple of weeks longer, only to arrive just in time for Rob’s birthday. Is waking up to snow the best present a birthday boy could ask for? Let’s hope so, because he didn’t get anything from me!
As our neighbour used to say, the snow instantly cleans Bulgaria. And she was right. The mud, our bare garden, our rusty car, the goddamn Bulgarian litter. Snow covers it all in a fluffy white blanket. Suddenly we’re no longer living through a pandemic in January (or not just living through a pandemic in January) – we’re living inside an actual Christmas card. It’s an instant mood enhancer.
Speaking of mood enhancers, we’ve been gradually* working our way through Rob’s batch of homemade red wine, which must have saved us a small fortune over the Christmas period. And, as an added bonus, the white wine that we were worried about seems to be fine. I mean, it’s a bit, erm, cloudy. But it tastes alright. So that’s more booze for us to look forward to this year month. (Perhaps I should have done a trigger warning for anyone doing dry January??)
And in other homemade booze news, we tried our hand at a few liqueurs before Christmas, all of which have turned out well:
- Nocino. We made our usual nocino (Italian walnut liqueur) back in the autumn, using unripe, green walnut fruits from the garden. I’m not a huge aniseed lover, but for some reason I really like this drink. It’s like a cross between sherry and cough medicine. But, please, can anyone tell me whether I should be pronouncing it ‘notchino’ or ‘nossino’? Surely I must have one Italian reader out there somewhere? Italian reader, come forth. THIS IS YOUR MOMENT.
- Orange liqueur. Gripped by margarita fever, yet scuppered by the price and general scarcity of Cointreau in Bulgaria, Rob decided to make his own orange liqueurs. The whole process took a few months because he had to eat A LOT of oranges, then save and dry the peels (slicing away the pith first). But once he’d managed to accumulate a big jar of dried orange peel, it was quick and easy from there. All he did was pack the dried peel into a large sterilised jar, cover it with vodka, add some sugar, then leave it for a month or so, shaking the jar occasionally. We tasted and bottled it yesterday and it’s gorgeous. It still has that slight bitterness, but is smoother and less burny than Cointreau (which is my only complaint about a margarita) – although, full disclosure, it does make for a cloudier margarita. Perhaps it’s better suited to frozen margaritas in the summer, but either way, it’s all good. In other good news, Rob has eaten so many oranges, he’s probably gained lifetime immunity from scurvy. #blessed
- Muscat prunes. And finally, I had a go at making prunes and sultanas in wine, a Nigel Slater recipe from The Christmas Chronicles (which is a great book for anyone who loves to wallow in general wintery festiveness, and is not to be confused with the Kurt-Russell-does-sexy-Santa Netflix film). Basically, you just put some prunes and sultanas in a sterilised jar, slosh over a bottle of muscat, seal the jar and leave it for a month. My kind of homebrew. Again, the winey nectar tastes a bit like sweet, sweet medicine, but in a good way. Like the sort of delicious child-friendly medicine that tastes so good kids might be tempted to invent ailments just to get a spoonful (ahem, not that I’m speaking from experience or anything). And, as a bonus, I get to spoon the boozy fruits over my breakfast oats.
Friends, January doesn’t get any better than that. Certainly not in 2021.
*Not gradually at all. We’ve been MOTORING through the red wine.