Berncasteler Doctor

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Today’s plonk tube comes to us from no less notorious a recommender than Mrs Quoad, of Disgusting English Candy Drill fame. (The original, not the usurper, for you PIPCast listeners). We last visited this territory with some gin marshmallows. Also in her fearsome arsenal: wine jellies made from the products of great European vineyards.  Slothrop remembers the wine jellies from a previous encounter with Quoad with dread and perplexity, but he’s unaccountably drawn back to them. Page 116:

Now once again he finds himself checking out these ruddy gelatin objects, nodding, he hopes amiably, at Mrs. Quoad. They have the names of different wines written on them in bas-relief.

“Just a touch of menthol too,” Mrs. Quoad popping one into her mouth. “Delicious.”

Slothrop finally chooses one that says Lafitte Rothschild and stuffs it on into his kisser. “Oh yeah. Yeah. Mmm. It’s great.”

“If you really want something peculiar try the Bernkastler Doktor. Oh! Aren’t you the one who brought me those lovely American slimy elm things, maple-tasting with a touch of sassafras—“

“Slippery elm. Jeepers I’m sorry, I ran out yesterday.”

I have this evening cracked a bottle of Berncasteler Doctor (Pynchon and the vineyard disagree on spelling) in liquid form. I wouldn’t say it was really peculiar—more like really delicious.

DSC_0114.jpgThe stuff looks gorgeous in the glass—pale hay, except glowing, lambent. It tastes sweetand tropical, passionfruit and pithy orange juice, strawberries, plus an almondy meringuey edge like an Aussie Christmas pavlova. Bright and really quite sweet and just lush, but without ever becoming at all sickly or cloying. A juicy tightrope walk. I like it.

So much so that I’d drained half the bottle before I remembered this was supposed to be made into Disgusting Candy! I brought my drinking to a speedy halt and wandered out into the night in search of gelatin.

The gelatinising itself had to wait until morning. Happily I had plenty of wine left for a batch of jellies, though not enough for a second should anything go wrong… I never did show you the photos of my first attempt at the gin marshmallows…. *shudder*

I followed a recipe inspired by this, plus some peppermint extract for the “touch of menthol.” Here is is:

Berncasteler Doctor Wine Jellies

  • 1 cup Berncasteler Doctor
  • 20 g gelatin
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp peppermint extract

Whisk ingredients together over low heat, being careful not to exceed ~75 C so as not to burn off the alcohol, until sugar and gelatin is dissolved.

Pour into moulds or a tray and refrigerate for at least 90 minutes to set.

I had no cute moulds and just poured the lot into a tupperware container, then liberated the jelly from this prison in one big semi-precious looking block the next evening. Its freedom was not long savoured before I cut it up into bits.

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I believe I have successfully recreated the peculiarity Mrs Quoad refers to. These things have some of the tropical passionfruit richness of the wine, but cut short by the cooling peppermint menthol and confused by the soliDSC_0197.jpegd gelatin texture. In their favour: the jellies glow just as good as the wine did. And I think the peppermint level is just about perfect, detracting from the wine no doubt but never totally overwhelming it. A lot of that wild fruitiness is preserved if you look for it. Against though: juiciness really is markedly reduced. They could probably do with being a little sweeter (I cut the sugar compared to my reference recipe). But they’re a pretty satisfying little snack. Would be bloody smashing with some cheese. Otherwise I think I’d choose to keep the old Doctor in liquid form. I don’t know where’ll I’ll find the strength to pull out the gelatin should I ever nab myself some of that (outrageously expensive) Lafite Rothschild. Usurper or no, Mrs Quoad is a dastardly creature. Slothrop’s not wrong to fear her confections, if only for their profligate abuse of lovely wine.

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