Category: Travel

Brandied Cherries

My state of the art cherry pitter.

For years we had a big – I mean BIG – cherry tree, but eventually it fell to disease and we had to chop it down and plant another. That one didn’t reach maturity before we had to move, but by then I was hooked on having a freezer full of cherries. Now every year I wait like a cougar in a tree for the prices to drop: $6.99, $4.99, $3.99, then, finally last week, $2.99 a pound and I pounced!

Judy sneaking cherries

The California cherries are the first, then Washington state, then finally, fresh BC cherries from the Okanagan Valley, the inland, fruit and wine producing region of the province.  Sweet, dark and Juicy, this year they are very BIG – almost too big for my doubled barrel cherry pitter. Yes, I’m serious about my cherries.

I usually freeze them with a dusting of sugar (don’t judge me!) but this year I seemed to hear about brandied cherries at every turn. “Too much trouble,” I thought, but they did sound good – Christmas gifts, I rationalized – and I soon found myself in the liquor store, looking at Brandy.

“Use a brandy you would want to drink,” the recipe cautioned. But I knew I wouldn’t want to drink any of it. Then I saw the Sliivovica (pronounced Slivovi-ch-a) and was flooded with fond memories of travelling in Eastern Europe where every generous host brings out the Sliivovica. Not good tasting! But as a woman I could gracefully decline, and our Czech friend Peter could say he was driving, but my poor husband always had to drink a glass with the host – even at breakfast!

Those were the days.

So I bypassed the fancy French brandy and bought the bottle of the crystal clear Croatian Plum Brandy, the only brand of Sliivovica they sold. Peter had told us how as children, in plum season, they would collect prune plums on the way home from school and drop them in a barrel fermenting in the shed on the way into the house so their dad could make his own Sliivovica. We visited his house, family compound really, in a small Czech town where his Aunt and cousin’s family still live, and I could just picture it.

So I bought the bottle, and then was plagued with doubt as to whether it would work in my recipe. And, like most of my cooking attempts it had quickly become my recipe.

But oh my goodness! I tasted a bit of the liquor after boiling the cherries in it with the sugar, cinnamon stick and cloves and wow! It’s going to be amazing! Now if I can just wait the prescribed 4 – 6 weeks.

I might have to buy another bottle and make another batch. The cherries will be around for at least another week.

Let me know how yours turn out!

 

Introducing Rocky and Bernadette!

I’m giving free Advanced Reader Copies (ARCs) of my new book, Temple of the Jaguar, to my readers.

It’s  Rocky and Bernadette’s first international adventure. A little bit funny, maybe even some romance, these  amateur sleuth/ travel mysteries are more  “cozy” than “true crime.”

Temple of the Jaguar, is on Kindle Scout right now and I could really use your help to get the series off to a good start.

(If you are not familiar with Kindle Scout, readers help Kindle Press find new work to publish by nominating work on their website. If your nomination is chosen for publication, you receive a free ARC from Kindle Scout.)

Competition is tough, so I’m requesting your help. Please

  • go to Kindle Scout

  • read my entry, the first three chapters of Temple of the Jaguar, by J.M. Hudson,

  • then nominate the book to help keep me on the HOT & TRENDING list, which could lead to a Kindle Press contract! (I keep slipping on and off the list.)

I’ll send the first 100 people who nominate the book an ARC right now, because I’m publishing Temple of the Jaguar this spring, with or without Kindle Press.

When you’re finished, just send me an email to let me know at

Judy@JudithHudsonAuthor.com

Click here to find out more about the book

I’ll be posting regularly about the story here on my website.
So go to Kindle Scout right now, and get your free ARC

Thanks for your help! Looking forward to hearing from you.

Judy Hudson

PS – Don’t worry, I”m not abandoning the Fortune Bay community. I have an idea for a story for Star that I’ll hopefully have finished by next fall, but it will really depend on how our house and business move goes next month.

Cuba

We went to Cuba for a week just before Christmas and I came home with more questions than answers. Most of what I’m writing here today was told to me by local Cubans because, after only one week on the island, I can’t pretend to really understand the situation or what life is like for the average Cuban.

A street in Havana.

I’ve always heard that the embargo’s been tough on the Cuban people, but people I met on the trip told me that now they have the double and triple whammies of the collapse of the Soviet Union (and the virtual elimination their assistance toCuba) and economic  problems in Venezuela, one of their key trading partners.

But the people we met are making do with a smile. “We have the wonderful weather,” one of them told us. “And music and dancing.”

The country is beautiful country,  and the people are very friendly, making do the best they can. I came home with a new appreciation of all we take for granted.

We’d heard unemployment was high, but online sources  peg it at 3.5% – Much lower than Canada, the US and the UK’s 7.2%. Sounds good, but as is often the case in Cuba, all is not as it seems.

One young man who worked at the resort told us he made $500 per month, but it goes directly to the government and they reimburse him with $40 per month.

That’s for 8 hours a day, 6 days a week. He felt lucky  to have the job, though, because he said unemployment was so high. Not what I see in those outside reports, but where do they get their figures?

We soon started tipping for absolutely everything. A one CUC peso tip, equivalent to one US dollar, is really nothing to us but 1/10th of his weekly wage, and he was highly paid compared to many. He said, quite openly, that

to make ends meet, almost everyone has a black market business going. 

A cigar factory in the town of Jaruco. I assume the bars on the windows are for ventilation and to keep people out. There didn’t seem to be glass.

I don’t know how many people offered to sell us cigars that the company “gave” to a member of their family who worked there. We visited the home of one of our guide’s family members in what looked like a middle class neighborhood in a medium sized town. They had 4 tiny rooms for at least 4 people, acceptable by our standards and I think well off by Cuban standards. Their tiny back yard was full of chickens in cages – no doubt a source of extra income.

This, along with a small refrigerated compartment on the left was all of the food available at this government store. Fine if you wanted olives or coffee.

The stores are woefully under stocked. Much of the meat, all beef, and most vegetables are not available to the local people, only to the tourists.

There is not much a visitor can do about that, but we can help out with consumer products. I had always heard that you should take things, almost any “thing”, to leave with the people you meet, but it didn’t really sink in until we saw how few “things” there were in the stores. Or, I should say “the store”, because in many towns there is really only one government run store.

One of our guides happily showed us his watch and cell phone and shoes and said they were

The extent of the dry goods in the government store, the only store in town.

all gifts, hand-me-downs from tourists. We became increasingly generous with tips to everyone we came in contact with because I hadn’t brought an gifts to give away. I often thought of the drawer of old cell phones and glasses I could easily have brought. Anything, even shampoo, is valuable. One young man said he used it to barter for an eye examination.

Apparently the wonderful free health care system is not as wonderful as we have been led to believe.
Old cars were everywhere, but we saw lots of horse-drawn buggies too. Gas is expensive.

Long waits and shortages – or complete  lack of availability of medicines – is common. I asked about the food vouchers I had  heard were given to every person. Not really any more, I was told. One thirty-something young man said he remembered when he was a boy there was milk for children for breakfast, but not anymore.He said it was particularly difficult for old people without family. They receive one very poor meal a day at a public facility that he said was very unhygienic.

No one has internet in their homes.
First day of Wifi in this town square.

For us, the week turned out to be a break from computers and internet. They system at the resort was so difficult and frustrating to use that we soon gave up completely. The country has only had WiFi for a few months. In town squares, you see people clustered around cell phones and I soon recognized these as WiFi zones.

 

Uniformed children getting onto a school bus.

In many ways the people are well educated – Cuba is known for its universal education system – but except for the lucky few, it ends with high school. It was hard to really understand how the system there works in such a short visit, because there are large gaps in what the people know about the outside world and possibly even what they know about how their own country is run. That might all change with the coming of the internet.

Comparing our two systems, social and political, is like comparing apples and something that is not fruit at all.

Someone gave me this mind boggling explanation of how one person can sell a house to another, something which for some reason, I was told, is illegal, unless you do it like this – Couple A owns a house. Man B wants to buy it. Woman A divorces Man A, on paper, and keeps the house. Then she marries Man B. Then she divorces Man B and remarries Man A, leaving the house with Man B. The same process is followed if you want to sell a car.

A walk in the beautiful, overgrown Hershey Gardens.

The trip has left me with a lot to think about. About freedom of information and, obviously, about our consumer system, both the good and the bad.

Cuba is a beautiful  country though with a rich history, friendly people and contagious music.

They are struggling to provide visitors with the best they can offer, but a lack of supplies means any hotel is at least one less star than it advertises.  But don’t hesitate to go. Our visits are so important to their economy, to the people and their ability to feed their families.

If you’ve visited Cuba, I’d love to hear your memories.

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