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The Kumquat Crucible II

Planning

In my previous post, I explained what inspired my holiday project for 2016, kumquat liqueur. I also said I followed (rather loosely as it turns out) a Christina’s Cucina recipe for making it.

Christina’s recipe is designed to create one bottle of liqueur. But I am nothing if not ambitious. I wanted to make enough liqueur to give a tall jar to each of my four sons for Christmas. So I upped the recipe. I used 2 liters of grain alcohol, 40 ounces of water, 8 cups of Kumquat peels and 4 cups of sugar. But there were a few, shall we say…glitches.

First I should say that Christina’s recipe called for a 45%-by-volume alcohol base. She mentioned using vodka or grain alcohol. Having never heard of 45% (90 proof) grain alcohol, I opted for regular grain alcohol which is a great deal stronger. My wife asked if that would be too strong. I did a lightning calculation in my head. “No worries,” said I to my troubled spouse, “This is going to be extremely watered down and as sweet as candy when we’re done.” Her trepidation persisted, thinly veiled.  She is wise beyond her years.

Did you ever notice that as quick as lightning is, it’s rather arbitrary and destructive? Hold that thought for a bit.

Execution

The first step was to peel 8 cups of kumquats.

We soaked the rinds in alcohol for 14 days, more than the recommended 10. I’m a busy guy.

Straining the rinds

Next, we strained the rinds leaving the now fruity alcohol to be mixed with sugar water later.  It was at this point Lynette suggested we might make labels and give our stuff a name.

“It should have a pleasant Southern charm about it,” Herself said.

“How about Billy Bob’s Urine Sample,” I offered.  All I got was a smirk. “Mississip-pee? That would be a good one.” 

She smacked my arm and called me a twit.  “I’m thinking more along the lines of Gulf Mist or something with Gautier in the name.”

“Yes, dear.” 

We then followed the instructions to mix and heat the sugar water. After waiting for it to cool, we added the alcohol and filtered everything into mason jars. 

First filtered batch.

The filtering process was a bit slow. So I took a break and took the dog for a walk. When I returned, my problems still didn’t dawn on me.  This, despite the fact my house smelled like it had been hosed down with orange juice and rubbing alcohol.

You see, the problem was my math. The proportions resulting from my calculations were exactly backward. By the time I realized how poorly I had performed my “timeses” and “gozintas”, I had created 96 ounces of a citrus flavored high explosive. I DID NOT water it down to less than a third of its original strength. I hadn’t even cut it by a full third.

In Navy terms, this stuff would knock your dick in the dirt. And the citrus tingle stays strong on the tongue for hours (…14 days, more than the recommended 10).  If I gave this to my sons for Christmas, my great grandchildren would be born with hangovers and a lemon pucker.

The Do-over

I will now  resort to what I am calling great idea #722B.  We created another batch of sugar water (40 oz of water and 3 cups of sugar.) After employing algebra, calculus and having NASA engineers check my figures, we concluded this would cut the strength of the  mix by about a third. It would be about as strong as straight Jim Beam. And it would mellow the citrus kick. I sure hope so. I sampled a bit of the original and I think the nerve damage to my tongue is permanent.

So now, we wait while the filtration process is repeated… [Cue the Jeopardy thinking music]

Success!  Along with making the liqueur sweeter and a bit more mellow, we also removed a lot of solids that survived the original filtration process.  The dark orange particles floated to the top while the batch was stored.  When we filtered the old batch into the new sugar water, these little specs were captured. 

So now, we stow the jars in a cool dark place.  An initial cloudiness will fade to a clear honey gold and they will be ready to enjoy when we see the family.

Christmas is so much nicer when the words “poison control” are not haunting your thoughts.  God bless us, Every One!

Coming soon:  I will be updating my Blueberry (De)tour when I’ve cleared the bushes around the wild berry plants. The things I do for my readers.

Hey! That gives me another idea. Idea #723: Next year, homemade blueberry vodka! Brilliant! Why didn’t I think of that sooner?

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Homemade Holiday Gifts-STAND BACK! NO SMOKING!

THIS HOLIDAY ARTICLE WAS TO BE POSTED ON MY TRAVEL PAGE. BUT I OFTEN FORGET WHAT PRICKLY PANSIES HUBPAGES CAN BE ABOUT CONTENT.  TO TALK OF ALCOHOL!

Bringing Home a Bit of Greece for the Holidays.

A while back, Herself and I took an extended vacation which included a cruise to Croatia and the Greek Islands. We hit Crete, Santorini, Corfu and Mykonos.

Most of the port visits were too short. In Mykonos we didn’t have enough time to visit the beaches the cruise director spoke endlessly about. By the time we cleared customs, got into town and found the bus stop to hop a ride to the beaches, it was time to go back to the ship. If we had made the bus run the beach, we’d have likely missed our departure.

But it wasn’t a total tour fail, however. We did at least get to enjoy the waterfront and have a late breakfast. Over coffee, we watched the fisherman, already back from the morning run, smoking pipes, discussing who knows what; probably lying about the day’s haul.

We also wandered the back streets above the waterfront and got some amazing pictures.

The town above the waterfront is riddled with these tiny walkways. talk about being close to your neighbors!  But it really is interesting to explore.

 

The port at Mykonos

Jeeps, Fun and Fruit

Corfu was altogether different. If you ever make the tiny island by ship, be sure to take the jeep tour. That’s the event which presages this holiday season for us. We recently had a nice experience that brought back memories of Corfu as we prepared for the holidays.

We left the ship with the first excursions and were shuttled to the start of our tour. I was a bit nervous about driving a four-wheel drive vehicle in a foreign country, but the route to the trails was easy and fun.

The Switchbacks

It was really cool navigating the switchbacks up the sides of mountains. At one point a large tour bus coming down had to get past us. We all stopped an

Some of the jeeps on our excursion. Busses actually pass you on this route!

d pulled over. It didn’t look good, but the driver got almost completely by and around a very tight turn. I pulled very tight against the wall of the mountain and gave the driver the few extra inches he needed and off he went.

We spent the early day touring spots to get sweeping vistas of the islands, did some four-wheeling on some back roads and finally stopped at a place that made wine and liqueur from kumquats. If you not familiar with them, kumquats are like little sour oranges.

We did some sampling and really enjoyed the liqueur. It makes for a really nice dessert drink.

To the right is Psarras Taverna where you can sample the wines and liqueurs.

 

Fast Forward a Few Years

This year we discovered our neighbor had a kumquat tree. That’s when I got great idea #722. If you are an avid fan here you’ll know how many great ideas my best girl has weathered over the years. Idea #385 almost cost me an index finger; stupid lawn mower. #471 resulted in the two of us lost in the Alps for about a day. Someday one of my ideas will work. You’ll see.

No wait. Hold the phone! I did take tour of the gardens at Thurnham Hall outside Lancaster, England with the man who designed them. I took good notes and was able to recreate an English garden for Herself, at home in Virginia. And it wasn’t a disaster! Sonofabitch! So great idea #501 worked. Somebody make a note of that.

But this year I wanted was to bring our Greek Island experience home for the holidays. I would make kumquat liqueur as holiday gifts!  Brilliant!   I know, right? 

I followed a recipe (sort of) I found on Christina’s Cucina. The site was very helpful and the recipe was simple and straightforward. I really enjoy her website and will go back from time to time when new great ideas emerge.

Having Googled my way to expertise on the subject of homemade liqueurs, will I succeed in creating my holiday masterpiece without burning down the house?  We’ll all find out in my next segment.

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Beware the Ides of December and Your 401K. Merry Christmas!

Your First Dose of Christmas Cheer From Street Politics!

For weeks, on social networks, we’ve been seeing people who don’t know any better celebrating the recent stock market rally. They and talking heads on TV, who should know better, have been calling this the Trump rally. Concurrently, Barry Obama has been saying the rally is a further sign of the market “boom” he is handing off to Trump. It’s going to be an interesting December.

The market we see today is NONE OF THE ABOVE! As I’ve said here and on various sites over the last two years, there is no fundamental support for what the market is doing. It is a scam. And it is going to start winding down in about a week.

We’d Be Here With or Without Trump.

That the market is above 19,000 has absolutely nothing to do with the election of Donald J. Trump. He is just enjoying the happy illusion while it lasts. He has as much to do with the Dow right now as I do with how the Cowboys are doing this season. Which is to say we can both only watch and shake our heads.

31146825175_09053b7576_bThe market has nothing to do with a healthy economy. We do not have a healthy economy. None of the developed nations have healthy economies right. The U.S. and China are merely the healthiest horses in the glue factory. The stock market and the wider economy have been divorced since the Fed started the “Quantitative Easing” program years ago.

Long after they should have ended it they decided to just stop using the term and continued to loan big banks money at ruinously low rates. With this money the big banks would buy stocks in bulk. The buys would trigger computer buys on Wall Street. This would get the attention of the retail investor who would follow along. All of this would drive up the value of the stock whether there was fundamental support or not.

Then they would do it again.

Yellen Feels Like Scrooge After the Dreams…Without the Kind Heart.

But when Fed Chair, Janet Yellen raises rates next week I am predicting we will see a repeat of last December. There will be a sharp cooling off period through Christmas and into January. I expect the increase to be at least ½ point.

14373734290_d6a5a77c7b_b
Janet Yellen discussing the bane of our economic liberties.

In the early part of 2017, the market will simmer a bit in anticipation of the next quarterly meeting. But I don’t expect any real rallies again until we’ve unwound of all the damage the Fed has done.

Yellen was absolutely floating above the ground when she hinted at the increase. She has been dying to end this nonsense since she took the chairmanship but as had to carry Obama through his last two years. Now the she doesn’t have to worry about carrying Clinton, she can start moving the market back to some sense of normalcy.

Today They Credit Him, Tomorrow They’ll Curse Him.

This will be a painful transition. The reason for Yellen’s relief is, knowing how gullible the American people are, any side effects of her actions will be blamed on Trump. Her modulation of rate increases can be held over Trump’s head to dampen any desire to actually scale down the size of government. I never believed Trump ever really intended to drain the swamp in a real way. But if he gets it in his head to actually do so, he will suffer the Federal Reserve’s wrath.

Anyway, as the market flushes out all the crap the Fed has dumped on it, we may start to see a Wall Street that actually reflects our present, TRUE economic state. The picture won’t be pretty, but it shouldn’t come as a great shock.

Matt Jordan is host of streetpolitics.us and author of 16 20 24: A Path to Consistent Conservative Victory,  on Kindle as: Street Politics: It Ain’t Your Daddy’s GOP Anymore!

Kindle Version, STREET POLITICS: It Ain’t Your Daddy’s GOP Anymore! 50% of all author proceeds go to fighting Multiple Sclerosis!!

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Photo Credit: International Monetary Fund Flickr via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: KAZVorpal Flickr via Compfight cc

 

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Trump Snarks Media and Fumbles on Flag Burning

Dull-witted Snark as Political Argument

Sometimes, an argument is presented so poorly, so devoid of maturity and reason that language fails the respondent. Such is the case with much of what people call “political discussions” on social media.

Almost half our population is now witlessly enthralled with monosyllabic populism. And whether right or left, that populism comes packaged in witless barbs which get pumped through the web by people who think they sound smart employing them.

Some people blame Trump and Clinton. I don’t. Our low-caliber discourse isn’t their invention. They just recognized a market for it. And yes, that means they see Americans as stupid and catered to that stupidity.

And they recognized our flaw in their own success. Trump struggled throughout the campaign forming complete sentences. He rarely if ever expressed a fully-formed philosophical or political thought. And he got the nomination! Hillary is the most corrupt and inept politician of our time. And she was nominated!

Both of them could look at themselves or each other and correctly conclude the American voter doesn’t want or need substance. Then with a glance at Twitter or Facebook, they would have that summation validated.

And so we have President-elect Twitter Girl.

I had expressed vague hope during the presidential campaign that Donald Trump’s tweeting was just a rope-the-dope ploy.  He was appealing to the lowest common denominator of his active supporters and would suddenly explode into adulthood.  Sadly, except for a short period just prior to Election Day when Trump was on the prompter and on message, he is still a petulant teenager.  He cannot control his urge to prove he can be really, really snarky.

If the man was not the President-elect, I wouldn’t give a damn what he said to anyone – ever. I never did before.  But he is.  The problem with his immature mini-rants on Twitter is two-fold.

First, it shows that he still relates to his job based on his Twitter feed.  I don’t know if you’ve seen some of the political threads lately.  If not, trust me, there are few Mensa members filtering through to Trump’s cell phone.  And it is there he finds information, such as it is, and inspiration.  We have an incoming president with a severe maturity problem!

In one of his recent Tweets he said, “I thought that @CNN would get better after they failed so badly in their support of Hillary Clinton however, since election, they are worse!”  What?  Effing what?  He also retweeted a fellow teenager’s tweet about a reporter named Zeleny. http://theweek.com/speedreads/664356/donald-trumps-latest-twitter-tempest-targets-cnn-reporter

This is the kind of immaturity that gives people serious pause.  There was a huge contingent that had to hold their noses to vote for Trump to begin with.  There are members of his party who are only giving tacit support at this point. They are watching repeats of the Rosie O’Donnell cat fight all over again.  And it is truly disturbing.

The second problem with this inability to disengage from the twittersphere is the way such impulsiveness telegraphs plausible intent.

Combine Trump’s meanderings about the press, including “and we’re going to fix that, believe me,” with his tweet about flag burning.  Now we have a supposed “conservative” who seems to be ready to fundamentally alter our first amendment rights.  And for over a year, Trumps loyal fan club has been (correctly) excoriating universities for doing just that.

Here’s that tweet: “Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag — if they do, there must be consequences — perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!”

The President-elect said there MUST BE consequences for flag burning.

No American over the age of six can deny that burning or doing anything to a flag as a protest isn’t anything other than exercising the right to free expression.  Leave aside your dislike for it, I’ll get to that.  But it is speech.

Now if you burn someone else’s flag, that’s theft and destruction of property. You could even make a case for destruction of evidence. But with Hillary as precedent, you probably couldn’t make that stick. But if the combined penalty for all this were say, a year in jail, hmmm… A judge could do a lot of damage with that.

But we can’t have a man in Trump’s position threatening to abridge liberties because people are picking on him. We can’t have him threatening protestors because all the cool kids on Twitter are saying flag burners should be punished.

Our Luxury, Trump’s Burden.

On the issue of flag burning or desecration, my heart is with those who hate the burner. It is a rare protest where such actions aren’t more than an immature urge to shock and an effort to get cameras pointed at the man with the lighter. And the National Ensign does represent something important to many Americans.

Everyday I see a derivation of heartbreak and the flag on Facebook. We see the soldier, in tears, carrying his buddy’s flag-draped coffin or the widow receiving the folded flag. You can’t look at that and not be moved.

flag burning

But sadness and disdain do not an argument make when you are talking about the U.S. Constitution. Can you call the flag burner an asshole? Sure. Do you owe him that least personal respect? Absolutely not! But you can’t lay a finger on him and neither can the government.

If the flag is his property, he can do anything to it he wishes and you don’t have the authority to stop him.

The argument about how it insults soldiers is a dicey one. I often see people saying because it is an insult to soldiers it should be prosecuted…or at least an ass-kicking is in order (Oh, wouldn’t it be lovely). But like my brothers and sisters in uniform, I put 23 years in the Navy protecting a list of rights enshrined in the Constitution, including that guy’s right to be a complete asshole.

So thanks for the thought, but speaking for my fellow warriors, we’ll get over it. Don’t go kicking anyone’s ass on our behalf.  THAT would be the insult to our service.

And that is the only valid way Trump should see this. But he doesn’t seem capable of separating the distasteful from the legally punishable. It’s the same with his view of the media. He sees an anti-Trump or pro-sanctuary city or pro-TTP editorial line as a personal attack that he says he wants to punish.

Well, I am anti-TPP and anti-Illegal alien. And I am often disgusted by the specious arguments made in their favor. But making such arguments is not criminal activity. If Trump sees it that way and senses we are ignorant enough to go along, what will he take upon himself to do?

We need to be very careful here. We need to watch this man very closely. What he’ll do to one, out of animus, he would do to you or a cause you espouse.  

Photo credit: Sacrifice by Arbyreed, via Flickr

Matt Jordan is a travel writer and author of Street Politics:  It Ain’t Your Daddy’s GOP Anymore!  and 16 20 24.

Kindle Version, STREET POLITICS: It Ain’t Your Daddy’s GOP Anymore! 50% of all author proceeds go to fighting Multiple Sclerosis!!

Find 16 20 24 on Amazon.

Find 16 20 24 at Barnes & Noble

 

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