A Bourbon Gal in Utah

cocktails, cookery & occasional domestic badassery

Archive for the category “Domestic Badassery”

Green Envy

A vibrant cocktail made with herbal gin, dry vermouth, zucchini juice, and celery bitters. These bright, elegant flavors eek out the last of summer’s bounty with a boozy kick. AND, it’s yet another way to use up that wheelbarrow full of zucchini!

Green Envy Gin, Ransom dry vermouth, celery bitters, zucchini juice, tarragon, and a bigass ice cube

Green Envy
Gin, Ransom dry vermouth, celery bitters, zucchini juice, tarragon, and a bigass ice cube

Green Envy

2.5 oz strained zucchini juice

3-4 dashes celery bitters

1 oz Ransom dry vermouth

2 oz Beehive Jackrabbit Gin

tarragon sprig

To a bar glass, add zucchini juice, bitters, vermouth and gin. Stir well with ice. Strain into a rocks glass over a bigass ice cube. Garnish with a tarragon sprig.

The story behind the drink….

This is NOT the side of the fence she's supposed to inhabit.

This is NOT the side of the fence she’s supposed to inhabit.

Every year I get requests from friends on how to use up zucchini, so this is a general H.O.A.G.Y (Help Out a Gal/Guy, Yeah?) response to add one more recipe to the arsenal, y’all. With a boozy cocktail!

This year’s garden situation has been hit-and-miss. My man The Macallan graciously built garden fence version 9.2 to keep the dogs and chickens out (this’d be an annual endeavor that has been unsuccessful every damn year). Sure enough, we get everything up and thriving, then BAM, come some dark August night I go out to investigate rustling in the tomatoes and find one or both of our chocolate Labradors gleefully gobbling down veggies left and right, waging destruction on the tender fruits in their 80 pound wake.

Zucchinipalooza! Fried, casserole-d, and in dense bread that's more like dessert than bread.

Zucchinipalooza! Fried, casserole-d, and in dense bread that’s more like dessert than bread.

We’ve been able to salvage a few baseball bat zucchini that the canine horde missed in their grazing, and I’ve been doing the usual harvest blitz of convincing my family that one of my favorite vegetables should be theirs, too. Zucchini bread’s always a winner, and who doesn’t love anything stuffed with cheese and then tempura battered and deep fried (that’d go for the zucchini blossoms). They are beyond tired of grilled zucchini already, and gave a “meh” vote to the buttery casserole. Whatevs. I will persevere.

Persevere with booze in my glass, anyway. After squeezing the shredded zucchini to release much of the liquid before it goes into the bread batter, I’m left with a few cups of gorgeous vibrant green juice. Sure, I could be all healthy and put it in a smoothie, but I’d rather toss it in a cocktail. The Macallan and I drank a couple of these sitting in the garden while trying to figure out Fence Version 9.3, and finally decided that we’d give up this season and go for full electric badassery next year. And those dogs’d better get their asses in gear for duck season to redeem themselves or they’re gonna be on my shit list for a while. Who am I kidding? They’re adorable and sweet as can be. It’s a good thing they’re so damn cute. And at least they don’t eat the lettuce.

Basil Mojito

No mint? No problem! Make your Mojito with basil, instead:

Basil Mojito!  Now does that look refreshing or what?

Basil Mojito!
Now does that look refreshing or what?

Basil Mojito

1 oz. gold rum

1 oz. silver rum

0.5 oz Cointreau or triple sec

juice of 1 lime, plus save hull of ½ lime

5-6 basil leaves

1.5 oz basil simple syrup*

3-4 drops lime bitters

2 oz (about) club soda

 

To a tall glass add lime juice, hulls, and 2-3 basil leaves. Muddle until basil is a bit bruised but not black and in a million pieces. Add all remaining ingredients except club soda. Stir with a long spoon to combine. Fill glass with ice, add club soda to rim of glass. Garnish with basil leaves and more lime wedges.

 

*to make basil simple syrup: to a pint mason jar, add 1 cup sugar, and pour over with just less than 1 cup boiling water. Stir until sugar is completely dissolved. Add 4-5 large basil leaves, and stir again. Add enough ice cubes to almost fill jar. Let sit at room temperature until cool to touch (about 3-4 hours). Remove basil leaves, seal with lid. Will keep in the refrigerator up to 1 week.

 

The story behind the drink…

Don’t y’all love how much credit “The Grillmaster” gets for charring up a bunch of food? Seriously, and this is with completely gender neutral observation: whoever pulls the stuff off the flames usually gets the credit for the meal, even if another partner in the equation spent most of the day butchering, marinating, making side dishes, and harvesting all that damn zucchini out of the garden. To be fair, in our house my man, The Macallan, and I generally share grill duties 50/50. But when it’s regular old cooking in the kitchen it’s a total 1950s marriage, mostly because I’d like our family to see the occasional vegetable on the plate. Though I love him dearly, the man’s specialties are pasta sauce from a jar, Steakums, and fish sticks with tater tots.

 

My therapist and feminist friends here will have a field day on the analysis of this breakdown, but for the most part it works for The Macallan and I, and it has for years. I really do enjoy cooking (the clean up? Not so much). And I love to grill. But so does he, so when the opportunity to pass the tongs comes along, as it does almost every hot weekend night at our casa, I let him at it. Then I make both of us huge honkin’ Mojitos, and I go cozy up in a comfy chair with a good book and let him take the credit. After all, nothing goes with passive-aggressive martyrdom quite like juicing the hell out of limes and plenty of rum.

 

Sugar House Distilling and Beehive Bitters Company did not pay me to use their products for this story. I just think their shit’s really awesome. I was thrilled as punch the guys at SHD hired me to work on the label copy for their rum and other spirits, hence the lovely signatures from their swashbuckling crew on the bottles. If you’re in Salt Lake City, stop by their distillery, take a tour, and buy a bottle or two. They’re good people. 

 

Charred 3 Pepper Ketchup

Charred 3 Pepper Ketchup

Charred 3 Pepper Ketchup

This week’s H.O.A.G.Y (Help Out a Guy/Gal, Yeah?) is a recipe request from my boys’ ski coach, Ben, who I don’t know well enough to bestow a liquor nickname, yet. Gimme time.

As some of y’all know from previous posts, both of my boys downhill ski race for the Brighton Ski Team, and race parents spend an inordinate amount of time during the season freezing our asses off huddled under tents in blustery conditions clutching travel mugs of whiskey-spiked coffee. Our team’s parents are also known on the circuit for some pretty spectacular tailgating spreads. My job? Usually I pitch in with Bloody Marys and the condiment bar [which in text messages often gets misspelled ‘condom,’ much to the hilarity of my girlfriends. ‘Cause we’re still 12 maturity-wise]. Last year I canned up three different kinds of mustard and a couple varieties of ketchup, along with the usual assortment of kickass pickles like okra, carrot, dilly beans, mushrooms, peppers, etc. for Bloody Mary garnishes galore.

Ski racing tailgating at Park City this season. This was a particularly lovely bluebird day; perfect for vodka spritzers.

Ski racing tailgating at Park City this season. This was a particularly lovely bluebird day; perfect for vodka spritzers.

Of all this delightful shit, the crowd favorite is hands-down my charred three pepper ketchup [bell pepper, jalapeño pepper, and cracked black pepper], which I’ve very loosely adapted over the years from a recipe I found in a home preserving guide. It’s that perfect combo of spicy-sweet-salty that’s more than a little addictive. We smear it liberally on buffalo burgers, dunk sweet potato fries, and it’s guilty indulgence epitomized alongside crispy potato chips. This recipe makes a lot [like, 10-12 cups], so if you are only looking to put it in jars and refrigerate it for a couple of weeks before it turns, I’d cut the quantities by half or a quarter. If you’ll be canning to make it shelf stable using the boiling-water method, keep to the usual rules of health and safety, please. Because botulism.

My son (in the middle) with his racing coaches at Snowbasin this year.

My son (in the middle) with his racing coaches at Snowbasin this year. I know. They’re all ridiculously adorable.

Charred 3 Pepper Ketchup

4 lbs. tomatoes

6 lbs. red bell peppers [about 24]

10-16 red jalapeño peppers

2 large yellow onions, chopped

3  1/2  c. apple cider vinegar

1 c. molasses

2 lbs. dark brown sugar

1 tsp. ground allspice

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

1 tsp. ground cloves

1 tsp. smoked paprika

1 Tbsp. (or more to taste) fresh cracked black pepper

To prep the tomatoes: Prepare an ice water bath in a large bowl or clean sink. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Dunk the tomatoes in the water until the skins begin to split; remove from the boiling water into the ice bath until just cool enough to touch. Remove the tomatoes to a colander to drain. Peel, core, and crush the tomatoes and keep them in a large clean bowl. No need to be too tidy, all this shit’s going to all get thrown through the blender anyway.

Peppers on the grill getting all charred up.

Peppers on the grill getting all charred up.

To prep the bell and jalapeno peppers: Set gas or charcoal grill to med-high heat. Char peppers on all sides until skins are just starting to blacken and split. Remove to a very large non-reactive bowl or pot; cover steaming peppers with plastic wrap and set aside for about an hour (or until cooled enough to handle). I wear gloves for this next part—ever gotten jalapeño juice into your fingers and then rubbed it in your eyes or other, ahem, sensitive places?—peel off pepper skins, and remove stems and seeds.

To a very large stockpot, add all ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer for about 10-15 minutes, or until the onions are softening and translucent. Remove from the heat and purée with a stick blender [or if using a blender or food processor, do so in small batches so you don’t get hot goo all over yourself and your kitchen]. Return purée to the heat and simmer over low heat until thickened; about 2 hours. Remove from heat.

For preservation and storage:

Refrigerator: Store in clean bowls or jars. Cool, cover, and use within 3 weeks.

Canning: Use the boiling water method. Ladle into clean, hot jars [4 or 8 oz. jars], leaving ¼ inch headspace. Release trapped air. Wipe the rims clean; center new lids on the jars and screw on jar bands until hand tight. Process for 15 minutes [that’s for sea level; add additional time for your elevation. For SLC process for 21 minutes total time]. Turn off heat, remove canner lid, and let jars rest in the canner for an additional 5 minutes. Remove jars and set aside at room temp for 24 hours. Check seals, then store in a cool, dark place for up to one year.

The MacHattan

Here’s an Irish-American twist on that New York classic, the Manhattan, made in the drier style of a Perfect Manhattan. A Manhattan crossed with a Tipperary Cocktail, y’all. Yum! 

The MacHattan

The MacHattan

The MacHattan Cocktail

To a bar glass with ice chunks add:

1 dash orange bitters

1 dash Angostura bitters

1/2 oz. Chartreuse

1/2 oz. sweet vermouth

2 oz. Irish whiskey

Stir, stir, stir with ice using a bar spoon for about 50 revolutions. Strain into a coupe glass, and garnish with a lime zest.

The story behind the drink…

Over the weekend, our family celebrated our 21st annual St. Patrick’s Day Bash. What started out over 20 years ago as a bunch of wild land firefighters and field biologists drinking whiskey in our cabin smack dab  in the middle western Washington’s nowhere has morphed a lot over the years. In the early iterations, guests were free to bring their dogs along for the festivities, as long as they didn’t drink all the Guinness. When we lived in Boston while my hubster was in graduate school, we had crazy late ragers with all kinds of guests; one year we suspect there was an actual leprechaun in attendance. Okay, maybe we stereotyped, however, if you’re a redheaded 5’0″ man with a neck tattoo of a feckin’ shamrock that covers an area from ear to collar, you’re just asking for it. We had one disastrous year of dog/baby overlap, then had to Ix-nay the canines. Y’all won’t be surprised to hear that later the toddlers and primary school aged kiddos proved to be even more shitty guests than the dogs.

From Beehive Distilling's Instagram feed. Love y'all! Everyone's a little Irish at our fest.

From Beehive Distilling’s Instagram feed. Love y’all! Everyone’s a little Irish at our fest.

This year we made it a ‘no kids’ party. Sure, there were fewer guests in attendance overall, but my stress factor was practically cut in half not having to entertain the little bastards. And feedback from our guests was all about the keeping it this way for a while, at least until the kids are old enough to be designated drivers. I didn’t have the space or time to mix MacHattan cocktails for the masses, but our friends cleared out three cases of Guinness, and 7 bottles of Irish whiskey [and no, we don’t serve green beer. We’re grown-ups, and that shit’s disgusting]. Guests knowing about our “only Irish beverages provided” rule brought their own bottles of wine, whiskey, and beer beyond number. We even had our local friends from Beehive Distilling stop by and they nudged a bottle of gin onto the bar. It magically disappeared rather quickly! Y’all are sneaky like that. Here’s my favorite Irish toast to you:

That those who love us love us well. And those that don’t, may God turn their ankles so we may know them by their limping!

Wild Goose Chorizo with tequila and pork

Chorizo made with wild Canada goose, pork, and tequila. Awesome for Taco Tuesdays!

Chorizo made with wild Canada goose, pork, and tequila. Awesome for Taco Tuesdays!

I know, usually I write about what I’m drinking, but this is one of those domestic badassery moments that my friends Cosmopolitan and Pink Lady always request I share with all y’all. I think its the chronic mess and mayhem factor of my life they find so amusing. Here’s to you, girlfriends!

Early morning decoy setup.

Early morning decoy setup.

The week before Christmas our family went on a waterfowl hunt near Ft. Collins, Colorado with badass hunting guide and hilarious human Tad Stout from Good Times Guide Service. My husband hunts with Tad a few times a year, often with clients for “work” [ahem], and our boys have gone along on a handful of hunts. This was my second time in their blind with the guys, but this year was a first for me and for my 10-year-old son to be active shooters. Although the weather didn’t cooperate for optimal goose hunting—only waterfowl hunters and skiers bitch about the weather being too warm and sunny—we still hauled in several geese, a handful of ducks, and during mid-day downtime the boys nailed some fat rabbits.

Making friends in the duck blind. Good dog, Lad!

Making friends in the duck blind. Good dog, Lad!

Yes, friends, you may have caught that little scheduling fact on the first read-through: the week before Christmas. Who in the hell plans a gear-intensive hunting trip with the kids AND dogs along, especially when the family expects the usual holiday hoopla? Well, apparently my husband does. AND, my in-laws were arriving from out of town the morning after we get back, which also happened to be my birthday. In addition to our house looking like fucking Cabelas had exploded out of the laundry room and all over the garage, I still had to finish cleaning up [our guide Tad did the up-front dismembering grunt work, thankyoubabyJesus] and prepping for the freezer the meat from eight geese, five ducks, and four rabbits, plus Tad very generously sent us home with two additional gallon freezer bags full of goose breast meat. But I still had to get it all done, done, done. Over Christmas. Cleaned up the rabbits [they were a mess, since they boys hunted ‘em with shotguns], into the freezer. BAM. Cleaned up the duck meat, went as-is into the freezer. Ka-POW.

Nice haul, guys!

Nice haul, guys!

Started the sausage-making process for my usual parade of goose charcuterie in hog casings: an Italian-style red wine sausage, Andouille with moonshine to pop in the smoker [a story for another day], and a garlic and sage-forward breakfast sausage. Hot Damn. By the time I’d gotten through all of those, I was so damn tired of cleaning out hog casings and sanitizing the stuffer yet another time—during Christmas— I went for my loose goose raw sausage fallback: chorizo.

I love chorizo. It’s the perfect blend of smoke, heat, and meat with just enough fat to keep things a little naughty. Whether first thing in the morning alongside some soft scrambled eggs and flour tortillas, or in place of ground beef or venison in tacos or chili, it’s all good. I’ve seen it sold in uncooked sausage links, in smoked links, and without casings, but it’s actually a pretty simple example of charcuterie to make at home for most cooks with basic equipment. Chorizo has become my go-to staple for the last few pounds of game meat—antelope, goose, whatever—that I’m not quite sure what to with and am in no mood to get out the sausage stuffer and set up the whole curing set-up: I just grind up the game with some pork fat, a heavy hand with the spice, and a splash of tequila, and it all gets portioned up raw and sealed for the freezer in under an hour. Done and done, friends. A little glug of tequila blanco in the chorizo, a big glug with a squeeze of lime and a pinch of salt for mama’s glass, and everyone’s happy. And we did end up having a very lovely Christmas, in spite of the Cabelas laundry overload and a kitchen full of butchering equipment.

I love this grinder! No more pushing the KitchenAid to its limits.

I love this grinder! No more pushing the KitchenAid to its limits.

This recipe is adapted loosely from the chorizo recipe in Michael Ruhlman & Bryan Polcyn’s Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing. Like with most of the game sausage I make, I add quite a bit of pork shoulder, butt, and backfat for flavor and texture, since wild game is so lean and tends to get dry and crumbly without the added fat. For a gazillion reasons, please consider buying your pork [and hell, beef, lamb, chicken, eggs, whatevs] from a small local producer with responsible animal husbandry practices. I get my pork from Utah Natural Meat. Check ‘ em out; they’re doing delicious work. Any good white [unaged] tequila will do; I used Utah-owned VIDA tequila for this batch [yum for sausage, and for cocktails!].

Wild Goose Chorizo with tequila and pork

[makes about 5 pounds]

2 ½ lbs. goose meat, cleaned and trimmed

1 ½ lbs. pork shoulder

1 lb. pork backfat

1 ½ oz. kosher salt [3 Tbs.]

2 Tbs. ancho chile powder

1 Tbs. smoked paprika

1 Tbs. chipotle chile powder

1 Tbs. finely minced garlic

1 tsp. fresh ground black pepper

1 tsp. dried oregano

½ tsp. ground cumin

¼ cup tequila blanco, chilled in freezer

2 ½ Tbs. red wine vinegar, chilled in freezer

Method: cut up all goose meat and pork shoulder into 1” cubes, and pork fat into ½” or smaller dice [this will ensure good even grinding]. Combine meat with all of the remaining ingredients except for tequila and vinegar. Cover and keep chilled until ready to grind [I like to wait at least 24 hrs for flavors to develop].

A little VIDA tequila blanco for the chorizo. A good sized glug goes in Mama's glass, of course!

A little VIDA tequila blanco for the chorizo. A good sized glug goes in Mama’s glass, of course!

Before grinding, set grinder parts and collection bowl in the freezer for 20-30 minutes. Grind the entire mixture through the small die of the grinder into a bowl set in ice. Immediately add the chilled tequila and vinegar, and mix thoroughly with the paddle attachment of a stand mixture or put some muscle behind using a sturdy wooden spoon. Keep mixing until the mixture has developed a uniform, sticky appearance [this means all of the fat is well-distributed].

If you want to adjust seasoning, take a pinch of sausage and sauté it in a skillet until cooked through and then taste.

The guys got me one of these fab vacuum sealer dohickies for my birthday. I'm sealing EVERYTHING now. Even if it doesn't need it. Just 'cause it's So. Fun.

The guys got me one of these fab vacuum sealer dohickies for my birthday. I’m sealing EVERYTHING now. Even if it doesn’t need it. Just ’cause it’s So. Fun.

Portion the chorizo into freezer storage bags, remove all air, and freeze or refrigerate immediately.

Disclaimer: Good Times Guide Service, Utah Natural Meat, and VIDA Tequila did not pay me to say these great things about their services and products. I just think they’re wonderful.

A Killer Vesper

A Killer Vesper

A Killer Vesper

Killer Vesper

To a bar glass filled with cracked ice add:

3 oz. gin

1 oz. vodka

0.5 oz. Lillet blanc.

Stir, stir, stir with a bar spoon for a full minute. Strain into a chilled martini or large coupe glass. Some people prefer a champagne flute. Whatever. Garnish with a long zest of ruby red grapefruit peel. Now, go kick some ass like James Bond.

I had an excellent Vesper recently at Provisions, a restaurant that opened a couple of months ago and for which I wrote a piece for my gig at cityhomeCOLLECTIVE. Their barman Giancarlo Farina makes his with a lovely lemon dust. I went for a long sexy twirl of grapefruit zest to bring out the citrusy backbone of the gin, and to punch up the floral notes of the Lillet.

The story behind my drink:

Y’all. I got so much shit done last week: wrote three articles, took and edited photos for two of ‘em, finished butchering and making three kinds of sausage from our recent waterfowl hunt, and removed all lingering remains of Christmas from the household [there are still lights outside—it’s not redneck until after January 31, right?—but that’s The Macallan’s territory of domestic upkeep. Not touching it, or I’ll end up mowing grass and running the sprinkler system this Spring]. Feeling pretty good about kickin’ ass and taking names, for real. Then, my editor at another gig gave the big thumbs down to a shitload of photos I’d done for a story [she loved the story, just not the photos. FML.], and I started feeling all “woe is meeeee,” and my self-esteem plummeted, and y’all know what I’m talking about, right? I was questioning my professional abilities and considered bankrupting myself to buy a truckload of camera equipment and editing software and all kinds of other random-ass tech to get back in the game.

And then my ever-practical hubby pointed out the obvious to me, “You can’t do everything well.” WTF? Of course I can! Damn it, no, and gah! I hate when he’s right. I really can’t. No one can do everything perfectly, at least if they’re being honest with themselves. Truth: I love writing and am usually pretty damn good at nailing a story. I make delicious eats for my family and friends, and can throw together a fan-freaking-tastic cocktail, if I do say so myself. I’m an A+ mom, much of the time, and a supportive friend. And, yeah, I’m a hack photographer for the most part; if the object is sitting still and I control the lighting—like for food or drinks—I’m competent. But I suck at taking photos in the big frame: people, landscapes, interior spaces, the big picture. I just can’t seem to make it click [heh heh]. Now, The Macallan may have been pushing the self-reflection so that we could afford a bigger truck instead of bigger camera lenses [not putting it past him], but he made his point, and I’m back on the “go me!” bandwagon after a couple of hours of mood swings. Yes, this whole manic freak-out bit happened in the space of an afternoon.

Not a Utah pour: full sized Vesper with 3 oz gin, 1 oz vodka, 1/2 oz Lillet, stirred with grapefruit zest garnish.

Not a Utah pour: full sized Vesper with 3 oz gin, 1 oz vodka, 1/2 oz Lillet, stirred with grapefruit zest garnish.

So, I mixed up a full version [that’d be NOT a Utah-regulated 1.5 oz pour] of the Ian Fleming classic, a Vesper, to celebrate the kick-assedness of my week and my little bout of mental health growth. I even mixed it up with booze brands I’ve gotten to know really well after writing about them: Beehive Distilling’s Jack Rabbit Gin, and Sugar House Distilling vodka.* After all James Bond occasionally ran away from a fight he couldn’t win. In the meantime, I’ll work on the photography skills and stick to my budget [of course I bought one new lens. Sheesh, I don’t have that much willpower]. Fewer lenses in my book means more cash for better booze. Screw the bigger truck.

*No, neither of these brands paid me to write about their products. I just really like their stuff.

Filthy Farmgirl – a harvest hot toddy!

The Filthy Farmgirl

The Filthy Farmgirl

I don’t know about y’all, but harvest has been dragging out forever around here, with our first hard frost just coming on just this week. Seems like we usually have snow in Salt Lake valley well before Halloween, so this Autumn has been a warm one. Instead of being able to stagger out the fruit and vegetable canning, then the hunt processing, this year’s harvest hit me all at once. I’ve been butchering the two (two!) mule deer the guys brought in from this year’s hunt, and of course bringing in all the garden veggies before frost. I have loads of tomatoes I still need to sort to ripen, and a bumper crop of tomatillos and green ‘maters I should pickle, fry, and salsa-fy verde style.

Until I get all that done, I’m going to enjoy a nice warm toddy to celebrate fall in all its glory. Hope y’all do, too.

The Filthy Farmgirl

To a heavy 5-6 oz. mug, add:

2 oz. bourbon

1 heaping Tbs.. sorghum or molasses

juice of ½ lemon

a generous pinch of smoked sea salt (I used Durango smoked salt)

a dash of cayenne pepper

Stir with a cinnamon stick until the sorghum is completely combined into the other liquids. Slowly pour in 2 oz. of hot (not boiling) water, and stir again.

 

Enjoy with a good book, and look forward to getting a sustainable manicure in another few weeks – we’ve still got plenty of pickling and sausage-making ahead!

Moonshine Layered Jello shots

Moonshine Jello shots.

Moonshine Jello shots.

That’s right y’all: Moonshine Jello shots, layered in patriotic colors and topped with exploding candy. I posted this recipe last July, but have gotten lots of requests for a re-blog and update, so here ya go.

I made the ones photographed here for a July 4th party hosted by Lemon Drop and IPA (a.k.a. Hoss on Hops) last year. They were a freaking HIT. Half I made without alcohol; those were topped with fresh cherries (to make sure the kiddos, pregnant women, recovering alcoholics, and Mormons didn’t get the boozy ones by accident).  Half were made using 80 proof white corn whiskey (moonshine) instead of the frat party favorite Everclear.   I left those unadorned until just before serving, then I scattered about ¼ teaspoon of Pop Rocks (yes! The exploding in your mouth candy!) on each shot. The combination of the whiff of Moonshine with the sweet gumminess of the Jell-O was perfectly balanced by the acoustic and sensory bang of the Pop Rocks. And nobody died from combining Pop Rocks and alcohol, so take that, urban mythologists.

As a basis for this recipe, and for help figuring out how to make the “white” layer, I turned to a Wiki-how tutorial on making Patriots football Jell-o shots.  Of course, you can substitute any colors/flavors you want, and you can always use plain old vodka if you don’t have corn liquor on hand.

This recipe makes about 35 shots, depending upon what kind of containers you use and how full you fill them.

Layered Moonshine Jell-O shots

1 – 3 oz. box blue Jell-O

2 packets plain gelatin

1 can (1 cup) sweetened condensed milk

1 – 3 oz. box red Jell-O

3 cups boiling water (divided use)

2 ½  cups clear relatively flavorless liquor (corn whiskey or vodka)

3-4 packages Cherry or Watermelon (red) Pop Rocks

To assemble your shots:

Place 35 small plastic cups on a large rimmed sheet tray.  Lightly spray all of the cups with flavorless cooking spray to reduce sticking.

Blue layer

Blue layer

For the blue layer:  combine blue Jell-O with 1 cup boiling water; stir until completely dissolved.  Let cool slightly (otherwise your liquor will evaporate from the heat- we don’t want that!!).  Add the liquor, and pour equally into small cups.  Refrigerate for about 2 hours, or until set.

For the white layer:  sprinkle gelatin packets over 1 ½ cups water just off the boil; whisk quickly to dissolve completely.  Keep whisking and add the condensed milk and ½ cup liquor.   After it’s all combined, pour verrrryyy slowly over the blue layer 2/3 the way up the cup.  Refrigerate for about 2 hours, or until set.

White layer

White layer

For the red layer:  combine red Jell-O with 1 cup boiling water; stir until completely dissolved.  Let cool slightly.  Add the liquor, and pour gently equally into small cups.  Add fruit to top at this point, if desired.  Refrigerate for about 2 hours, or until set. Don’t add the Pop Rocks yet. 

For the PopRocks Firecracker finale!  As you are serving the Jell-O shots, have guests sprinkle about ¼ tsp. Pop Rocks on their Jell-O shot right before slurping.

 

Everything was a little blurry by this time, including this shot

Everything was a little blurry by this time, including this shot

Shrub lovin’ (and a Cherry-lime Rickey)

Love That Homemade Shrub

Before we get into how to make your own shrubs, I’m hoping to inspire y’all with a cocktail. I recently made this one for my gal Woodford on the rocks as a long-distance birthday cheers. It’s like an upscale Sonic soda, or a cherry lime rickey. But boozier (I’m not going to say ‘better,” too, but it’s implied).

Cheery Cherry Lime Rye Rickey

Cheery Cherry Lime Rye Rickey

Cherry-Lime Rye Rickey

2 oz. rye whiskey [or bourbon]

1.5 oz. cherry-red wine vinegar shrub [recipe, below]

Juice of ½ lime

2 oz. club soda

Mint, spanked [for garnish]

Add all ingredients to a rocks glass over ice. Stir briefly (and gently) to combine without making the soda foam up. Easy peasy!

Now, y’all have probably seen lots of folks using ‘cleanse’ concoctions containing more or less the following components: water, lemon, cinnamon, some kind of sweetener [honey, agave, sorghum, sugar], and vinegar. You may even be a proponent of this stuff, yourself. The proportions differ, and everybody’s got their own soapbox about why this kind of vinegar or that works best. Or why sugar is poison, so you should only use honey. Unless you are vegan [yikes, sorry] in which case agave is the way to go. Now, if you like drinking this stuff that tastes IMHO like watered-down cat piss on a regular basis in the name of ‘cleansing,’ go right on ahead. Go, you! I doubt if it does much harm guzzling these things, and I could certainly use a bout of fasting every so once in a while. But since I’m neither a nutritionist, nor in any way a medical professional, I’m not going to touch talking ‘bout health benefits with a ten foot pole.

What’s interesting about this craze to me, though, is that it’s a recipe very close to a centuries-old tonic called a “shrub,” which Slow Food USA

Cherry Basil shrub with pink peppercorns and red wine vinegar - terrific with gin cocktails

Cherry Basil shrub with pink peppercorns and red wine vinegar – terrific with gin cocktails

claims on their “Ark of Taste” comes from the Arabic word sharab = to drink. Back in the day, folks made shrubs out of all kinds of past-its-prime shit to preserve fruits and their delicious nutrition-packed juices over the winter. By combining equal parts fruit, sweet, and vinegar [e.g. acid], they were essentially pickling the fruit in syrup form. Straining out the solids after a few days of percolating further extended the shrub’s shelf life. Let it sit out exposed to cool air, and all kinds of friendly bacteria joined the fermenting party, making for an even more flavorful—and some would claim beneficial—brew. Eventually you get a very fruity sweet-tart shelf-stable vinegar. In addition to not being a medical professional, I’m also not a chemist, so I’m going to defer to all those food scientists out there who throw around words like acidulation and acetobactator to explain how all of this works. I am a historian, so this is what I do know: Since this was all before refrigerators [and even before reliable canning], shrubs gave folks a burst of summer fruit flavor to mix up a winter diet filled with root vegetables and dried everything else.

Back in the day, shrubs got mixed in with hot water and brandy or rum to make flavorful toddies in the winter, or with colder equivalents in the summer to make the perfect sweet-tart refresher. Nowadays, you’ll see superbly mustachioed intimidatingly hip bartenders breaking out custom shrubs all over the place. But they’re dead easy to make at home, and following the recipes I’ve used—which are based on weight rather than volume, so you can make as much or as little as you want depending on what you’ve got ready to toss out—you can whip them up pretty quickly. I love ‘em in cocktails, but they also make a freakin’ spectacular NA spritzer when mixed over ice with a few glugs of club soda and a couple of tablespoons of shrub. See, the ‘cleanse’ recipe just got about a million times better. Right?

Mix strawberry-rhubarb shrub with equal parts bourbon and club soda for a pretty and pretty frickin' delicious cooler

Mix strawberry-rhubarb shrub with equal parts bourbon and club soda for a pretty and pretty frickin’ delicious cooler

M’kay, let’s get shrubbin.

The Fruit: Pretty much any “juicy” fruit will work. Strawberries, strawberry-rhubarb combo, berries of any sort, apricots, peaches, cherries, or pomegranates. You can make them with ‘sweet’ veggies like sugar snap peas, carrots, or beets (just juice them and use the juice by weight). These have all made an appearance in Mason jars stashed all over my house. As long as the fruit is clean and free of moldy spots, it can be smushy, ugly, and unpeeled. I don’t even pit the cherries or apricots first. See? Dead. Easy. I’m thinking I’ll experiment with some melon shrubs [for those I’ll have to take the rind off, I reckon] this summer, too, and let you know how it goes.

The Sweet: In colonial times, the most widely available sweeteners came in the form of honey, or raw/unrefined sugars. No doubt somebody’s made shrub with sorghum or molasses, but it seems to me like that would overpower the fruit, which kind of cancels out the desired tart-sweet effect. Most shrub recipes I’ve seen call for regular white sugar, which really does let the fruit flavor sing through all the vinegary syrup with the least amount of interference. Final call? It really depends on what you want the sweet flavor notes to be like, and go from there. Think of pastry combinations that work well as a baseline, for example honey-peach. Whereas cherries flavor up better [IMHO] with sugar.

The Vinegar:  Apple cider vinegar is the base acid for traditional shrubs, but red wine vinegar, light balsamic vinegars [use the cheap stuff, really], white wine vinegars also make terrific shrub. I stay away from regular white vinegar: it’s brash and overpowers the fruit flavor. This is also a terrific time to experiment with random wine-herb vinegars you’ve been hoarding: think tarragon with peaches, or sage with blackberries. YUM.

Keep it Clean: Just like with home canning, the first rule is to keep it clean. Run any jars/glass containers you’ll be using through the sterilize cycle of the dishwasher right before use, or rinse with a sterilizing solution [like you find at the beer brewing store]. The fruit can be ugly as sin on Sunday, but remove any wormy bits, moldy spots, stems, and leaves. I’d recommend using only a small amount of ingredients the first few times you shrub (about a cup of fruit, etc.) until you find out what flavors you like. Nothing more disappointing than spending a shit-ton of cash on farmer’s market fruit gold, local honey, and artisinal vinegar only to find out you hate the end product.

Measure up: Get out your trusty food scale: it’s the quickest and easiest way to make shrubs with however much fruit you’ve got on hand. You’ll be using the ‘tare’ feature if you’ve got it, or just jot down a little note as you go to remember your weights. Weigh your fruit after cleaning and prep – you’ll be surprised how much a package of berries will vary by weight depending on how dehydrated they got during shipping, and how much fruit is removed in the stemming/hulling process. Let’s say you have 8 oz. of fruit. That means you’ll also need 8 oz. of sweetener and 8 oz. of vinegar for your recipe. Taste as you go and add more acid if you’d like, but never have less acid than fruit/veg or you’ll run into trouble of the bacterial kind.

Hot Shrub: Sounds kind of naughty, hmm? Recipes for hot processing shrubs are more common, which makes sense since by boiling together the ingredients your chances of killing any nasty bacteria in the mix improve. Simple: put all the ingredients [equal parts fruit, sweet, and vinegar, by weight] in a non-reactive pot, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer for 20 minutes or so, or until the fruit breaks up and the mix has a syrupy consistency. Cool to room temp, strain through a double layer of cheesecloth or a jelly bag, bottle, and refrigerate. This type of shrub will live contentedly in your fridge for months.

Cold Shrub: This is the method folks used back in the day when they had cool root cellars or spring houses to start their shrubs, but you can duplicate the process in your fridge. Place equal parts fruit and sweet [by weight] in a non-reactive large jar or bowl. Cover loosely with a tea towel—to allow for all that airborne yeast and good bacteria to join the party—and refrigerate for two or three days. Stir it up every twelve hours or so to encourage the sugar to dissolve, or the honey to bond with the fruit juice. Add an equal part vinegar, stir again, and place back in the fridge covered with the tea towel for another day. Strain through a double layer of cheesecloth or a jelly bag, bottle, and refrigerate.

Don’t sue me on this one: I actually keep my shrubs in quart jars in the cellar for up to a year without refrigeration and I haven’t poisoned myself yet. So there. But I’m also the kind of gal who keeps her butter at room temperature and I don’t refrigerate my chicken’s fresh eggs, which drives my husband batshit crazy.

 

Some shrubs, infusions, and bitters working away in the cellar

Some shrubs, infusions, hard ciders, and bitters working away in the cellar

Get started! Here are some basic combinations.

Peach, honey, white balsamic vinegar

White peach, sugar, tarragon white wine vinegar

Cherry, sugar, red wine vinegar

Strawberry-rhubarb, turbinado sugar, apple cider vinegar

Blackberry, a couple of sage leaves, sugar, red wine vinegar

Apricot, one dried med-hot chile [like a guajillo], agave, apple cider vinegar

Darby’s Bourbon Pie

Let’s get this straight right from the start: This is NOT a “Derby Pie” [trademarked beyond belief] recipe

This is NOT D#rby Pie. It's got bourbon, and chocolate, and pecans. My kind of pie.

This is NOT D#rby Pie. It’s got bourbon, and chocolate, and sorghum, and pecans. My kind of pie.

This week’s H.O.A.G.Y [Help Out a Gal/Guy, Yeah?] has been a long time coming.  Last year right after the Kentucky Derby, my girlfriend from college Peach Mimosa* wrote to me:

 Hey, Bourbon Gal! Do you have a good ‘Derby Pie’ recipe aka bourbon chocolate pecan pie? We have a new pie store in town & they said they’ve never heard of it — so I want to give them a good recipe for next year.

See, she’s originally from Louisiana, but is now living in Ohio—like, far northern Ohio—where they don’t get access to yummy treats from just across the river like their southern Ohio compatriots. Most folks outside of the tri-state area of Kentuck-Oh-Indiana don’t realize just how much cultural back-n-forth goes on across the Ohio River regardless of modern map boundaries. In fact, the Cincinnati [Ohio] airport is actually across the bridge in northern Kentucky, where apparently land was cheaper and people are less sensitive to the noise. Or, just aren’t as many of ‘em with political clout to complain about it.

A 1949 edition of "Out of Kentucky Kitchens," one of my favorite vintage cookbooks.

A 1949 edition of “Out of Kentucky Kitchens,” one of my favorite vintage cookbooks.

But, back to the pie. What Peach Mimosa is asking for is a pie made by the Kearns Family, proprietors of The Melrose Inn in Prospect, Kentucky since the 1950s. Kern’s Kitchen, which registered the name in 1968, has exclusive rights to the name “Derby Pie,” and the recipe, which is about as fiercely guarded as a Mormon teenager’s chastity. It surely contains chocolate, corn syrup, and chopped up walnuts in a pastry crust, according to the inheritors of the trademark and recipe. They have taken on encroachers on the trademark—including Bon Appetit magazine and many a cookbook—in court and won dozens of times. I just read on Wikipedia that,

In May 2013, the Electronic Frontier Foundation inducted Kern’s Kitchen into their “Takedown Hall of Shame”, claiming that “the company behind the most litigious confection in America is going after individual websites that post new recipes for derby pies.

That gorgeous layer of dark chocolate on the bottom of the pie gets all gooey and mixed in with the filling while baking.

That gorgeous layer of dark chocolate on the bottom of the pie gets all gooey and mixed in with the filling while baking.

Holy shit, y’all. I’m reluctant to take on even the remote possibility that my little blog can go balls out on The Man. Friends, what we’re making here is decidedly NOT a frickin’ D#rby Pie. In fact, why don’t we just call it what my recipe is: Dark Chocolate-based Bourbon Pecan Pie—which has lots of things not in the contested recipe, and more things that I like. It’s something I’ve tweaked over the years, using a combination of recipes from two of my favorite southern cookbooks: “Best of the Best from Kentucky,” edited by McKee & Moseley (1993), and “Out of Kentucky Kitchens,” by Marion Flexner (1949). Oh, and last year I started making it with a combination of sorghum and agave syrup, instead of dark corn syrup, at the request of my friend Pink Lady, whose family is all up in my grill about corn syrup in, well, anything.

Here y’all go!

Darby's Bourbon Pie: ready to go in the oven!

Darby’s Bourbon Pie: ready to go in the oven!

Darby’s Bourbon Pie

1 unbaked pie crust

½ cup good quality dark chocolate, chopped

1/3 cup unsalted butter, softened

2/3 cup sugar

3 eggs, beaten

¼ cup agave syrup

½ cup sorghum [or molasses]

½ teaspoon kosher salt

3 Tbs. bourbon

About 1 cup whole large pecan halves

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place unbaked pie shell in a large, deep, pie pan. Spread chocolate in an even layer in the bottom of the pie shell. Cream together butter and sugar. Slowly add eggs and all other ingredients EXCEPT for pecans. Pour batter [it will be runny] slowly into the shell so as not to dislodge the chocolate. Place the pecans gently onto the surface of the pie evenly [I like to make a series of pretty concentric rings starting from the outside, going in]. Bake at 375 degrees for 40-50 minutes. The pie will still be a little jiggly. Let sit at room temperature for at least one hour to set slightly before serving. Traditionally, pecan pies are served with whipped cream. This one is so very sweet that I like it with a little dollop of crème fraîche, instead.

*Yes, cocktail geeks: technically a “peach mimosa” would be a Bellini cocktail. However, this one that reminds me of my friend is made with equal parts orange juice and peach nectar with a splash of peach liqueur. And, I think “peach mimosa” sounds better than “orange Bellini.” So there. Recipe soon…

I just found this sorghum supplier on the internet via Amazon.com Delicious product AND they sent it well packaged, super fast, and with the loveliest thank you note for my business. And no, they didn't pay me to say this, I just think they are wonderful.

I just found this sorghum supplier on the internet via Amazon.com Delicious product AND they sent it well packaged, super fast, and with the loveliest thank you note for my business. And no, they didn’t pay me to say this, I just think they are wonderful.

It doesn't last long in our house. Mmmm.

It doesn’t last long in our house. Mmmm.

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