Portland can be a funny place, and I'm not saying that with a "Keep Portland Weird" smirk. Stroll through any neighborhood in town from late summer to early fall and you'll see fallen prunes, plums and apples smearing sidewalks. This time of year persimmons glow like orange lanterns from trees planted decades ago.
Persimmons in vodka.
Some of those fruit trees were left when the east side of the river, much of it consisting of farms and orchard land, was developed for housing in the early part of the 1900s. Other fruit trees, like cherries, prunes, quince and plums, were planted as street trees back when families had large gardens and preserved the fruit and vegetables they grew to use in the lean days of winter.
With the emergence of large supermarkets that stock fresh greens and fruit year round—not to mention women needing to get full-time jobs to support their families—big gardens gave way to landscaping, and the pantries stocked with row upon row of fruit, vegetables, tomatoes and preserves were torn out. Sadly, this meant that the skills to do all that preserving were also lost in many families like mine, though they're now being rediscovered through books, classes and online videos.
Quince in vodka.
Another way of preserving fruit, aside from submerging it in sugar syrup and "putting up" jars in the pantry, was to make liqueurs and infusions. I've now done that with quince, green walnuts, black currants and persimmons, and it's always fun to pull out a few of these colorful containers to share with friends as an after-dinner digestif. They also make great gifts decanted into small bottles available in most kitchen supply stores.
But aside from sippers and hostess gifts, they're also great mixers in cocktails. The persimmon-infused vodka I made from foraged fruit last year pairs particularly well with brown liquors like bourbon and rye. This is a cocktail that Dave created the other night, and I hope that one winter's day you'll consider making your own infused liqueur when you see those glowing orange orbs dangling from a tree.
Good Fuyu #2
2 oz. rye
1 oz. persimmon-infused vodka
1/2 oz. sweet vermouth
2 dashes Angostura bitters
Fill cocktail mixing glass half full of ice. Add ingredients and stir 30 seconds until well-chilled. Strain into cocktail glass or coupe. Garnish with amarena cherry.