How Hanukkah Harry hasn’t helped us delay gratification

My Fellow Inebriates,

Surrounded by Gentiles in Langley, Canada, I almost forgot that today is the start of Hanukkah.751_menorah_325 copy

My Jewish uncle (who wraps the best-looking Christmas packages in the whole family) emphasizes that Hanukkah is a small occurrence on the Jewish calendar—not a “me too” answer to Christmas but a celebration in its own right. Uncle B is a good sport about Christmas even though he cultivates a broad misanthropy that blankets all faiths and he would happily downplay both Christmas and Hanukkah if his Catholic-raised wife (my mum’s sister) would permit it.

Another thing I haven’t mentioned—Uncle B doesn’t talk to bears. Despite our obvious animation and partial intelligence, he doesn’t see the bears at LBHQ. He’s like that kid who sees dead people, except the dead people are bears, and he doesn’t see them. So he’s actually not like that kid who sees dead people. But Uncle B has more brain cells than I do, so maybe he’s right, and Scary and I aren’t really here.

"You bears are actually not real."

“You bears are actually not real.”

Which is to say, Uncle B doesn’t care what my Hanukkah plans are (harassing Hanukkah Harry for eight gifts). Nor is Uncle B going to show up with eight gifts.

I was thinking this when Christine arrived last night with her famous canvas bag. Eight days’ worth of gifts sounds great, but they are very small gifts—arguably the sort that make you crave larger gifts. (A teeny bottle of Patron, for example, would just foster rabid desire for a large one, but perhaps HH should bring it anyway as an experiment.)

Eight days of moderate satisfaction. Eight days of relative restraint.

So when Christine rang the doorbell I decided to throw my lot in with her rather than Hanukkah Harry, who actually forgot to visit us altogether last year. What could be in her canvas bag?

She’d brought stuff, and we had stuff waiting. While the kids gobbled pizza, we sampled eight things, unconsciously shooting the eight-present wad before we even remembered it was Hanukkah Eve.

cannery scotch ale

Cannery Squire Scotch Ale

Hazy dark copper with a soap-sud head, this ale gives off a woody, malty, butterscotchy aroma with perceptible peat. It could be chewier on the palate, but it delivers a mellow sweetness that goes down easily. Pretty ordinary, though. I’d get it again, but only if it were cheaper.

Capitão Rayeo Reserva (2009)

capitao raeyo reservaA blend of Syrah, Trincadeira, and Aragonez, this Portuguese red wine is aged six months in French oak barrels and weighs in at 14% alcohol. It would benefit from decanting, which we didn’t bother doing, only to find that it had developed into a gem by the time our glasses were finished. A cheap gem too—at $14 bucks, it serves up rich fruit, supple tannins, and some unexpected depth.

Ola Dubh 16

OLA DUBH 16The product of a collaboration between Harviestoun Brewery and Highland Park Distillery, this dark “black oil” boasts 8% ABV and exudes oak, smoke, peat, and molasses. On the tongue it’s surprisingly moderate in weight, Scotch-like characteristics becoming more pronounced and diverse. Roasty-toasty with vanilla, chocolate, and coffee, the overall sensation is velvety and marvelous with a nice boozy burn.

Innis & Gunn Rum Finish

innis_and_gunn_rum_caskBeer with a rum-cask finish? OMG! Why aren’t more brewers doing this? The malty, enveloping INNIS & GUNN—but pirate-style. Rich mahogany bronze with gorgeous clarity, this 7.4% elixir fills the mouth with toffee, smoke, candied fruit, vanilla, and the promised rum essence. Every taste bud is rewarded with a symphony of masterfully harmonized flavors. What a treat. We knew whatever we had after this would suffer by comparison, so we switched gears…

Canadian Cream

We’d been thinking our homemade hooch was barely a success, but it surprised us by being pleasant and drinkable. While all of us agreed it wasn’t exactly Bailey’s, it wasn’t nasty either.

Canadian Cream II

Bailey's and Homemade side-by-side comparisonUnbeknownst to me, my mother made a second batch of Wiser’s whisky–based cream liqueur, this time tasting and tweaking as she went, loosely following a much simpler recipe reliant on fewer canned items and therefore ending up fresher-tasting and more successful. Still not a match with Bailey’s, but totally yummy. But why the hell didn’t my mum invite me to help???

WHISKY BALLS

DSCN2695If we can drink rum-flavored beer, we can eat whisky-flavored balls. I promised I wouldn’t describe Christine as “eating my balls,” but we all agreed my balls could use more booze. Even a spray-misting with more whisky would have helped them. But then again, perhaps Wiser’s just doesn’t have enough character to carry a whisky ball.

HighlandPark12

Highland Park 12

Cue angel song! Cue God-rays! Ahhhhhhh, this was what Christine’s canvas bag contained. Silky and palate-coating with a teasing honey sweetness, HIGHLAND PARK 12 lulls you with malt, then surprises with delicate smoke and vanilla, barely perceptible peat, and an endless finish. Christine, Christine, Christine…sigh.

You see, I passed out after our wee dram and didn’t wake up until the next morning. Christine had had coffee and left, sensibly opting out of the family’s planned “breakfast with Santa.” I awoke alone, with a furry tongue (like every day). And I was sad. I would have liked to hug her good-bye.

So there you have it: eight days of gifts, all in one day—the day before Hanukkah. We did the opposite of what scientists advise for optimal emotional and intellectual development: hastened gratification rather than delayed it. If you’re familiar with the Stanford Marshmallow Experiment, you’ll know that, of preschool children offered a marshmallow along with two options (eat it immediately or wait 15 minutes and get two marshmallows), those who chose the second option grew up to have higher SAT scores, more self-assurance, higher social competence, and better reasoning abilities.

By taking our eight gifts before Hanukkah, we didn’t take option 2. We didn’t even take option 1. We took option 0, which probably explains a certain brain-cell shortage in yours truly 😉

Happy Hanukkah, my fellow inebriates.

Hanukkah_Harry_Shirt-2T

CANADIAN CREAM—Empty somehow without Glen

My Fellow Inebriates,

Glen Bear has still not materialized anywhere at LBHQ.

Last night Blackie and I had a good cry about it while Fluffy observed us emotionlessly and Scarybear attacked a plate of ginger cookies, which he would have done anyway.

This should not be a sorrowful time of year. This is Glen’s favorite time of year, when his big, thick coat of white fur is his best asset and he doesn’t mind cuddling.

Glen as a baby, 2006

Glen as a baby, 2006

But he’s gone. He seems to be…really gone.

It didn’t seem respectful to drown our sorrows last night, but what the hell else was there to do?

Blackie Bear isn’t an alcoholic, and he has some common decency, so he hesitated—but not after we’d got the CANADIAN CREAM open. The lid wasn’t even tightly on, my fellow inebriates, it was a cinch. This means my mum was into it last. With her habit of returning jars and bottles to the fridge and cupboards with the lids barely on, my dad won’t even pick up a jar or bottle by the neck any more; it’s too dangerous. He retaliates by closing jars and bottles so tightly that she in turn can’t get them open without asking him nicely. This is the state of their marriage. It’s also how I know who’s been into what most recently. And my mum has apparently had some of my liqueur, otherwise Blackie and I wouldn’t be able to pour a toast to Glen.

Ahhhh, I know you’ve been wondering how our CANADIAN CREAM turned out. Or maybe not, in which case, here’s a picture of some people shopping at Walmart.

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When we first made the CANADIAN CREAM it seemed a little thin. Then again, we couldn’t remember the exact consistency of Bailey’s. (And no one would buy any, even to be scientific.) Over the last 17 days our concoction has thickened noticeably, achieving what seems to be the right viscosity. How does it smell?

The aroma is comfortingly familiar—definitely in the neighborhood of Bailey’s if not right next door. The top note is milk chocolate, a full cup of which went into our recipe. Next time we should probably reduce this a little.

20121117_100557Under the chocolate is the scent of delicious whisky, mellowed somewhat by a fortnight in a plastic milk jug. Of course it hasn’t really aged; whisky ages in casks, after which it ceases to mature. If it were to take on the characteristics of a two-litre plastic jug…well, we wouldn’t really want that. But somehow our three cups of Wisers have married nicely with the milk ingredients; the mixture doesn’t have the same searing booziness it had when we first poured it into the jug. Which is to say, it’s become less appealing.

The container needs a vigorous shake. Some of the chocolate has settled down to the bottom—not in chunks or particles, mind you, just a layer of darker chocolatiness that reluctantly goes back into solution if you jump up and down with the jug for a while.

CANADIAN CREAM coats the ice cubes in a crystal rock glass, looking eerily like Bailey’s but naggingly not. It is thick and creamy, but not as smooth as it should be. It foams a little over the ice instead of settling into a smooth, placid surface.

Not only is Glen missing; so is the camera charger. Not only THAT; my parents have refused to buy Bailey's Irish Cream for to compare with our custom hooch. Luckily, someone else on the Internet has taken such a picture already. Photo: cocktailhacker.com

Not only is Glen missing; so is the camera charger. Not only THAT; my parents have refused to buy Bailey’s Irish Cream to compare with our custom hooch. Luckily, someone else on the Internet has taken such a picture already. The one on the left is Bailey’s. The one on the right is homemade.           cocktailhacker.com

The consistency feels right. But there is something missing in the taste. And something added.

Missing?

  • ???? We can’t figure it out. Almond? Vanilla? Coffee?
  • Booze. It needs a smidge more.

Added?

  • Definitely chocolate. It’s not oppressive, but the additional chocolate makes our version seem a little sophomoric—like a milkshake but less thick.
  • Something higher-frequency…not sourness, this stuff had better not be souring this soon. But something about the homemade stuff is not quite as…deep.

Blackie’s verdict:

“Good, but dude…this isn’t right. Is there any more?”

LB’s verdict:

“It’s not right, but Glen would want us to have it.”

The upshot? A sense of dissatisfaction. A longing for the exact right thing and a sense of discomposure at not quite having it. Kind of like if someone suddenly produced a polar bear who looked just like Glen but was really just one of his Animal Alley™ twins. Not our Glen with the stained paw. Not our Glen whose fur Miss P decided to trim one day. Not our Glen who warms me up with a winter cuddle.

😦

Balls!

My Fellow Inebriates,

Our Canadian Cream is almost ready for consumption. Not that we haven’t had a small sip already, but at the end of this week it should be as good as it’s going to get—i.e., ready to chug. I have a few nagging worries, though.

Canadian Cream Label copyWhen we made the liqueur, we bought a one-litre carton of whipping cream. Two and a half cups went into the mix, my mum put half a cup or so in some solid-food risotto-like thing, and the rest sat in the fridge with nothing to do. Recycling day came along and, since the unused cream was two days away from expiry, we gave it a sniff. OMG! Holy shit, people! That cream smelled rank. Holy crap, two days early the stuff was horrid. Mum poured it down the drain and rinsed the carton…but it was hard not to look at our giant Canadian Cream jug and think…the same cream’s in there! OMG!

That’s really the reason we got into it early—to make sure it wasn’t off. You wouldn’t want to take a big slug of sour milk products and end up barfing. But it smelled fine. It tasted fine.

Alcohol keeps food from going off.

So what is this amazing preservative power of alcohol all about? How does it work?

Simply put, alcohol is poisonous. At concentrations above 15 percent, bacteria and fungi can’t survive. That having been said, cream-liqueur experts advise against keeping homemade concoctions more than a few weeks, and only then in the fridge. Roger that—we’d better finish this shit now. Review…on the way 😉

To this sage advice, my mum said, “Oh. I guess we’d better not make another batch then. It’ll be enough to get through this lot.”

This is exactly the opposite of what I meant. Of course we should make another batch. Right now.

But instead she said we were going to make whisky balls.

rum balls

I was immediately suspicious. Another recipe requiring us to cook with booze? OMG! The angels’ share is supposed to be miniscule—the tiny portion that evaporates naturally, not liberal gases spewing into the air from a hot saucepan. Damn it, why do the angels get any of our booze? Aren’t they supposed to be perfect creatures? Not addicts jonesing in distillery cask rooms.

“Relax,” said my mother. “Behave yourself.”

Apparently you don’t cook whisky balls.

They’re just like rum balls, which you don’t cook either—only they’re made by people who are too ungenerous to buy rum for loveable bears who have repeatedly requested it. Whisky balls are a not-horrible-sounding variation on rum balls. Let’s do this shit.

Here’s what we need:
  • 3 ¼ cups vanilla wafer crumbs
  • ¾ cup icing sugar
  • ¼ cup cocoa
  • 1 ½ cup walnuts 
  • 3 tbsp light corn syrup
  • ½ cup whisky

Life is a compromise at LBHQ, so we’re using graham crumbs. We have to do this without Miss V seeing, or she will demand a bowlful of them (not that she would deign to eat a graham cracker).

Next two ingredients: check.

Walnuts…the kids will bitch a very great deal if walnuts go into this recipe. But perhaps they shouldn’t be the arbiters of our whisky-ball ingredients.

Corn syrup is one of those things that doesn’t age, and ours is probably older than I am. We’re going to use it anyway.

As for throwing half a cup of Canadian whisky into this recipe…what the hell. The plastic Wiser’s jug is enormous and its somewhat atonal siren song has been relentless lately—better do something with it other than just pound it. Sigh.

rum ball mixingOkay, so you really just mix all this stuff up and shape it into balls. (OMG, I’m not even allowed to help with that—what’s the big deal, a little fur?) Then you sequester your balls away for a few days in an airtight container so the flavor can mellow. Five days is about ideal. But it’s hard to be away from your balls for five days. You might find yourself opening the container and sniffing your balls every so often, wondering if they’re ripe.

Whisky or whiskey balls?

If your balls are Scottish, Canadian, or Japanese, they’re whisky balls.

If your balls are American or Irish, they’re whiskey balls. As a rule of thumb, if your country has an “e” in the spelling, so does your whisk(e)y and any balls made therefrom.