Although I did not pull a 10-hour shift waiting tables even once, or mow and trim overgrown lawns all day, all summer, I’m still ready to raise a glass to the end of the season. It’s called a Shelter Island Sunset, so called because Terry Lucas (library director and gifted cocktail-namer) commented via Facebook that it reminded her of the gorgeous sunsets Shelter Island has enjoyed this summer.
In honor of those red displays of nature, I concocted two vivid red treats; the aforementioned cocktail, and a sorbet with local beach plums, tiny, tart plums about the size of grapes that when cooked, cooled and mixed with sugar, basil and lemon juice make an intensely fruity and sweet sorbet.
The red drink is flavored with Campari, an Italian aperitif that’s been around since 1860, and is the primary ingredient in the Negroni — a cocktail guaranteed to make you feel like you’re lingering in a piazza, even if you are actually in a lawn chair adjacent to your driveway.
Until 2007 or so, Campari derived its red color from dyes derived from a crushed insect that was widely used to color food red before manufacturers switched to “artificial” colorings.
Beach plums, which are actually red — without crushed insects or artificial ingredients — are sold at Briermere Fruit Farm in Riverhead and are also available from the Goodale Farms stand at the Havens Farmers Market.
Beach plum sorbet
Makes about five one-scoop servings
1 pint of beach plums
1/2 cup, and 2/3 cup super-fine sugar
Juice of five lemons, strained.
1 cup water
The grated zest of a lemon
½ cup packed fresh basil leaves
Pinch of salt
1. Combine the beach plums (including pits), ½ cup sugar and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice in a heavy pot, heat to a simmer, and cook stirring until the plum flesh softens and the pits emerge.
2. Strain the plum mixture into a measuring cup and press the solids. Add additional lemon juice to make one cup. Set aside to cool.
3. Mix 1 cup water, 2/3 cup super-fine sugar and the grated lemon zest. Heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved.
4. Add the basil leaves and salt and let the leaves steep for 30 minutes.
5. Add the beach plum juice. Chill for at least two hours in the refrigerator.
6. Pour the mixture through a strainer (to remove the basil leaves) into the bucket of an ice cream freezer.
7. Churn the sorbet until it is smooth and firm, and transfer it to a freezer storage container. If it’s still a little too soft, temper it in the freezer for an hour before serving.
Shelter Island Sunset
Makes one 5-ounce drink
1-ounce lemon juice
1-ounce simple syrup
1. Combine and stir the first three ingredients.
2. Add the seltzer and lemon zest and serve.