A Bourbon Gal in Utah

cocktails, cookery & occasional domestic badassery

Archive for the category “Nice Cans!”

Repeal Day Bourbon Punch

During the crucial taste-testing process! Most cocktails started as punch recipes, so this can also be scaled down to make individual drinks with 0.5 oz shrub, 1.5 oz bourbon, and top with bubbly.

During the crucial taste-testing process! Most cocktails started as punch recipes, so this can also be scaled down to make individual drinks with 0.5 oz shrub, 1.5 oz bourbon, and top with bubbly.

A boozy punch for a crowd!

The key to making this very old school-style punch is making the oleo-saccharum, basically a process for releasing all of the goodness and zing of the lemon oils from the zest, which then gets made into a shrub to balance the fruit/acid/sugar. This is a technique of pre-Civil War era origins which I’ve messed with a bit (see sources below), popular with booze slingers from the Early American Republic through the early cocktail era. It’s a pain in the ass, for sure, to peel all those lemons, but get to work: it’s totally worth it after you’ve completed making the shrub base a couple of days later. I made this punch by request for my friends over at Sugar House Distillery for a private event they held to celebrate the release of their first bourbon whiskey. All grains sourced within 200 miles, then fermented, distilled, barreled and bottled in house! This recipe makes a quart of shrub concentrate, which when combined with three bottles bourbon and three bottles sparkling wine makes enough generous drinks for 40-60 people. Or a dozen of my friends. Collect erry’body’s keys upon arrival, just sayin’. This punch is some potent stuff!

Bourbon made in Utah! Who'd have thunk it? My buddy Jake from Sugar House Distilling and I are pretty dang excited!

Bourbon made in Utah! Who’d have thunk it? My buddy Jake from Sugar House Distillery and I are pretty dang excited!

Repeal Day Punch

1 quart lemon shrub*

3 bottles bourbon

3 bottles sparkling wine (err towards brut profile)

Combine well and serve over ice

 

*Shrub ingredients:

6 big juicy lemons

2 1/4 cups demerara sugar (divided use)

6 allspice berries (or 1/8 tsp. ground allspice)

½ of a whole nutmeg grated finely

6 whole cardamom seeds (or are they pods? whatever, the small green things)

4-5 whole white peppercorns

1″ of a cinnamon stick (more if you really like cinnamon)

To make the shrub:

Prepare an oleo-saccharum (oil-sugar) by completely removing zest (just the peels without any white parts – a swivel potato peeler is the perfect tool for this job!) of six large juicy lemons. In a big bowl, combine the lemon peels with 1 cup demerara or raw turbinado sugar. Stir to combine, smash peels a bit with the back of a wooden spoon to grind in the sugar. Lightly cover with plastic wrap, and move to a warm spot out of direct sunlight- this bowl’s gonna be living there for a while so get used to it! Reserve all those whole peeled lemons in the refrigerator; you’ll be needing them later. Every time you remember (every 3-4 hours or so), stir and smash the sugar and peels some more. Do this for at least 12 hours and up to two days. You’ll eventually have a nice pool of lemony oily, syrupy goodness in your bowl of curly lemon peels.

Image capture from my new friend Amanda (well, new IRL; we've been Instafriends for forever!) So many great folks out supporting the distillery.

Image capture from my new friend Amanda (well, new IRL; we’ve been Instafriends for forever!) So many great folks out supporting the distillery.

While that’s going, you can prepare the spice syrup. To a quart or other large heat-proof lidded jar, add 1 ½ cups demerara or raw turbinado sugar, bring 1 ¼ cups water to a boil, and pour hot water over the sugar. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Add up to another 1/4 more hot water to dissolve sugar, if needed. Add the following spices to this simple syrup: 6 allspice berries (or 1/8 tsp. ground allspice), ½ of a whole nutmeg grated finely, 6 whole cardamom seeds (or are they pods? whatever), 4-5 whole white peppercorns, and a 1″ piece of a cinnamon stick. Stir well to combine, then let sit until the syrup reaches room temperature. Remove the cinnamon stick (really, or the entire brew will taste only of cinnamon). Put a lid on that jar, and refrigerate until you’ve got your oleo-saccharum nice and runny.

When the oleo-saccharum is ready, juice the reserved 6 lemons over the lemon oil (it’s great if some pulp and pips end up in the bowl, no worries! You’ll be straining this, anyway). Stir well to combine. Add the spice syrup to the bowl with the lemony goodness. Stir well again, and let sit at room temp to meld for a few hours. Stir again, then strain through a sieve with a couple layers of cheesecloth to catch all the woody bits. Decant into another lidded jar (this should make about a 4 cups/1 quart of shrub, if it’s not quite 4 cups, add enough water to fill the quart jar) and refrigerate until ready for use, up to two weeks.

PUNCH! By David Wondrich. Put it on your booze geek reading list today!

PUNCH! By David Wondrich. Put it on your booze geek reading list today!

For booze geeks wanting to explore the delights of historic punch recipes, I highly recommend picking up a copy of David Wondrich’s treatise on the subject, “PUNCH: The Delights (and Dangers) of the Flowing Bowl” (Penguin, 2010). Therein he discusses the roots and uses of various recipes for making oleo-saccharum and other alcoholically alchemical wonders. The Repeal Day Punch recipe I made is loosely based on Wondrich’s historic research on the Chatham Artillery Punch, and old Georgia recipe that featured bourbon, rum, brandy mixed with lemon oil and juice in horse buckets.

Full disclosure: the guys at Sugar House Distillery paid me to curate this punch recipe for them. Which I did gladly, since their booze kicks ass and they’re fantastic fellas. -abg

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.

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!

Plum Loco

This week’s H.O.A.G.Y. (Help Out a Gal/Guy, Yeah?) comes from my new best girlfriend who has several 30+ year old fruit trees in the backyard of her Avenues home in our Salty City. Plums, pears, apples, and other fruity goodness for days, people. The boys and I went over a few days ago and harvested buckets full of her late-season plums, and she’s still swimmin’ in ’em.  I’m sending her some of my Plum Ginger Pink Peppercorn syrup–which is dead easy to make with even the squishiest of fruit you’ve got on hand– in thanks for sharing her bounty, and hope she’ll make this fab tequila cocktail with it, or perhaps an equally delish Plum Lucky (with gin) or Plum Crazy (with bourbon). It’s ALL good.

Plum Loco A tequila, plum & ginger glass of YUM

Plum Loco
A tequila, plum & ginger glass of YUM

 Plum Loco

1.5 oz (okay, more like 2) oz. tequila blanco

0.5 oz. Cointreau or triple sec

2 oz. Plum Ginger pink peppercorn syrup

splash of club soda

generous pinch of smoked sea salt

Fill a tall Collins glass with ice. To a bar glass filled with ice, add the tequila, Cointreau, and plum syrup. Stir with a bar spoon for a minute. Strain into the Collins glass. Add a splash of club soda floater. As with many sweet drinks, a good pinch of salt does wonders right on top; use plain kosher salt, or some wacky smoked sea salt you’ve been saving up. Get yourself a straw to slurp down all of that sweet, sweet goodness.

 

 

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

Cranberry Nation

Cranberries Three Ways: in an Old-Fashioned, Sugared, and in a Cranberry-Rum ginger jam that is amazeballs instead of that jiggly canned shit served at Thanksgiving.  Trust me.  It’s also delightful stirred into rum cocktails, or into club soda with a dash of bitters for a gorgeous spritzer.

Cranberry-Clementine Old Fashioned.  Mid-century style (photo by Tristan Shepherd).

Cranberry-Clementine Old Fashioned. Mid-century style (photo by Tristan Shepherd).

My super-hip friends Fat Tire Ale and Cosmopolitan recently asked me to curate—which it seems is a fancy-schmancy word used everywhere now for ‘make shit up’ as opposed to the ‘curatorial’ work I did in museums, anyhoooo—the cocktails for a holiday party they hosted recently at their gorgeous mid-century modern house.  I was MORE than happy to do so, and even more excited about the substantial research and testing needed to get the job done.  I suffer for y’all.  Really I do.

For the past couple of years, I’ve been experimenting with making a cranberry jam.  Cranberries are perfect for canning projects: they are easy to process (no peeling, seeding, etc.), take on flavor well, and already have a lot of natural pectin, which means they gel delightfully well.  As I often do, I referenced the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving (ed by Judi Kingry and Lauren Devine) to make sure my acid levels would be appropriate for canning to avoid the cooties.  In case you hadn’t heard:  Botulism sucks. Avoid it.  If you are a beginning canner, or just want to have pretty much The Bible of Canning on hand, THIS, my friends, is the book for you.   Here are the recipes I came up with, based very loosely on the Ball book’s Cranberry Rum Sauce.

Cranberry-Clementine Old-Fashioned

My buddy Ramos Gin Fizz and I, all fancied up.  Classic polaroid.  (photo by Cody Derrick)

My buddy Ramos Gin Fizz and I, all fancied up. Classic polaroid. (photo by Cody Derrick)

For the full story on my Old Fashioned experience, see the piece that I wrote for CityHomeCollective this week.  Apologies in advance to my in-laws: they are wonderful, talented, loving people.  They are just not-so-great bartenders.  

Rub ½ of the rim of a lowball glass with ¼ of a Clementine wedge;

dip the citrus-coated rim of the glass in turbinado sugar to coat.

To a short glass add:

juice of ¼ Clementine wedge (drop it into the glass, if you want to be like Don Draper’s daughter)

3 dashes bitters

½ tsp. cranberry jam (or cranberry sauce)

½ tsp sugar

Stir with a spoon until sugar dissolves.

Add 2 oz. bourbon

3-4 cubes ice

Top with an optional tiny baby splash of club soda.

Stir gently to combine.

Garnish with 2-3 sugared cranberries*.

Cranberry Jam with ginger and citrus.  If you have a few tablespoons left from canning, it's terrific on toast, or mixed into a rum-citrus cocktail with a little ginger beer floater.

Cranberry Jam with ginger and citrus. If you have a few tablespoons left from canning, it’s terrific on toast, or mixed into a rum-citrus cocktail with a little ginger beer floater.

Cranberry-Rum Jam with ginger and citrus

Makes nine or ten 8oz. jars

3 lg. (6”) cinnamon sticks, broken into 2” pieces

12 whole allspice berries

9 whole cloves

4 ½ cups granulated sugar

2- 2/3 cups water

12 cups fresh cranberries

3 large apples (sweet or tart, or a combo), peeled, cored, and chopped

1 ½ cups rum

2 Tbs. fresh grated ginger

Zest of 1 orange

2 tsp. vanilla extract

1 envelope liquid fruit pectin

Prepare canner, jars and lids for water bath canning.

My Canning Bible.

My Canning Bible.

Make a spice bundle with a large square of cheesecloth: add cinnamon sticks, allspice, and cloves.

To a very large non-reactive saucepan, add sugar, water, and spice bag.  Bring to a boil, and stir constantly until sugar dissolves.  Reduce heat, and boil gently for 5 minutes.

Add cranberries and apples, and return to boil.  Boil on med-low gently, stirring frequently to avoid scorching, for about 15-20 minutes, or until cranberries have burst and the apples are very tender.

Remove the spice bag, and remove pan from heat.  Add the rum to the pan.  Purée until smooth using an immersion blender (or in batches- careful!!!- in a regular blender).  Add the ginger, orange zest, and vanilla extract. Stir to combine.

Bring to a high boil that cannot be stirred down (as for jam), add the liquid pectin, and stir constantly to avoid scorching.  Boil hard for one minute, then remove from heat.

Ladle hot jam into jars leaving ¼” headspace.  Wipe rims, add new sterilized lids and clean rings.  Tighten to fingertip tight.

Process in boiling water bath canner for sea-level baseline 15 minutes (adjust for altitude wherever you are!).  Turn off the heat, and remove canner lid.  Let jars sit in canner 5 minutes.  Remove jars, cool, and store for up to one year.

Sugared Cranberries

To make sugared cranberries:  whisk together 1 egg white and 1 Tbs. water in a medium bowl until frothy.

Throw 1 cup cranberries in the egg-water and toss to coat; shake off the excess egg by letting it drip through your fingers.

Immediately toss the cranberries with 1 cup turbinado or sanding sugar until evenly coated.  Set out in a single layer on a rimmed cookie sheet to harden for 24 hours.  Store for up to one week on the cookie sheet or in a vented container (if it’s sealed tightly, the sugar will melt).

Green Tomatoes: Fried, pickled and in Salsa Verde

We’ve got snow!  Time to pull in all the harvest, my friends, if you haven’t already.  We’re eating green tomatoes for days here.  My friend White Lightin’ Lemonade FB messaged me recently, “I would love to have your green tomato salsa recipe if you’re willing to share.”  Sure!  I’m going to do that, and more for this week’s H.O.A.G.Y (Help Out a Gal/Guy, Yeah?)  We’re having them fried, pickled, AND in salsa verde.

Here’s how to do ‘em up right:

Fried Green Tomatoes with Chili Sauce

Fried Green Tomatoes with Chili Sauce

Fried Green Tomatoes

Use only entirely un-ripe firm green tomatoes for this dish.  Some of my friends prefer a buttermilk/egg coating to the tomatoes before the dredge, but I like the crisp crunch of very lightly battered tomatoes.

4-5 large green tomatoes, sliced crosswise in ¼” thick rounds (discard both ends).

1 cup white flour

1/3 cup cornmeal

1 tsp. each salt, fresh ground black pepper, and Cajun seasoning

Combine flour, cornmeal, and spices in a shallow bowl.  Coat tomatoes entirely in flour dredge, tapping lightly to remove excess dredge.  Fry in a cast iron skillet coated with a scant 1/8” deep hot vegetable oil or bacon grease, over medium-high heat.  Reduce heat to medium if your oil starts to smoke and burn the tomatoes.  Fry tomatoes until golden brown on each side, and just slightly softened through (about 7-10 minutes per side).  Remove to a plate covered with paper towels to drain; sprinkle hot tomatoes with a little kosher salt. Add more oil or fat to skillet as needed.  I like mine served with a little hot/sweet chili sauce.

Spicy Pickled Cherry or Pear Tomatoes

Use only entirely un-ripe firm green cherry or pear tomatoes with no cracks in the skin.  Those cute little 4 oz. or short wide-mouth 8 oz.  jars work great for these pickled beauties.  Use them as a spicy change up from olives in your dirty martini!  Makes about 2 pints total

Spicy Pickled Cherry Tomatoes - ready for brine and the canner!

Spicy Pickled Cherry Tomatoes – ready for brine and the canner!

1 cup white vinegar1 cup water

1 tsp. pickling salt

2 lbs. small green cherry or pear tomatoes

Prepare brine: combine vinegar, water, and salt in a saucepan.  Bring to boil, reduce to simmer.

Prepare canner, and heat jars.  Sterilize lids and rings.

Pack hot jars to within ½” of rim with tomatoes.  To each 8 oz. jar (halve for 4 oz. jars), add:  1 small clove garlic, ½ bay leaf, 10 black or mixed peppercorns, ½ tsp. dill seeds.

Ladle hot brine into jars, completely covering tomatoes, leaving ½” head space.  Remove air bubbles and adjust for headspace with more brine if needed.

Wipe jar rims, place lids and rings.  Tighten to fingertip tight.

Process completely covered with boiling water in canner for 15 minutes (at sea level; adjust for altitude).  Remove canner lid and turn off heat.  Wait 5 minutes, then remove jars, cool to room temp, and store for up to 1 year.

Green Tomato Salsa Verde

Green Tomato Salsa Verde

Green Tomato Salsa Verde

I volunteer at my kids’ school garden, and we had a TON of leftover green tomatoes this year.  I made this salsa verde (usually made with tomatillos) with produce from the school garden and am planning to give it as thank you gifts for garden volunteers and teachers.  It’s super tasty with tortilla chips, but I like it best with cheesy scrambled eggs and tortillas for brunch.  Makes about 10 half-pint jars.

8 cups finely chopped green tomatoes (I leave the skin on)

5-10 (about, to taste) chopped hot peppers; jalapeños, Serrano, whatever you’ve got!

1 very large red onion (2 cups), chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

½ cup lime juice

¼ cup agave syrup or nectar

¼ cup tequila

½ cup chopped cilantro, loosely packed

2 tsp. ground cumin

1 tsp. Mexican oregano (dried)

1 tsp. kosher salt

2 tsp. coarsely ground black pepper

Prepare canner, sterilize jars, lids, etc.

Combine all ingredients in a large non-reactive saucepan.  Bring to a boil, reduce to just bubbling, and cook for five minutes, stirring constantly to avoid sticking.  Remove from heat.

Ladle hot salsa into hot jars.  Leave ½” headspace; tap gently to remove air bubbles.  Wipe rims, place lids and rims to fingertip tights.

Process completely covered with boiling water in canner for 20 minutes (at sea level; adjust for altitude).  Remove canner lid and turn off heat.  Wait 5 minutes, then remove jars, cool to room temp, and store for up to 1 year.

The Wasatch Mule: a pear-ginger white whiskey cocktail

The Wasatch Mule

The Wasatch Mule

After posting my call for bourbon cocktail requests in honor of National Bourbon Heritage Month I learned quite a bit about y’all via your feedback. Mostly that:

1) your time, storage space and/or desire to mix up a bunch of esoteric syrups, shrubs, and bitters is limited;

2) y’all don’t like to purchase or wash any more cocktail equipment than necessary; and

3) you are curious (dare I say suspicious?) about how I manage to make this shit happen on a regular basis in my tiny kitchen with all of those kids and dogs underfoot.

So, for the rest of this month at this here blog we’ll go through each of these concerns and talk it out. And drink some bad-ass cocktails. We’ll tackle the time/space issue this post.

Before I call y’all out as the laziest bunch of sorry cocktail geeks I’ve ever known, I’ll make some of excuses on your behalf. In fact, they’re excuses I use for myself, all the time. Rare ingredients and random specialty booze like that 12-year-old crusty Blue Curaçao bottle with only 3-4 oz. used up take up a lot of space, and if you live in a 1940’s Sugarhouse cottage like mine, that’s at a premium. We were lucky enough to buy a house that the previous owner had obviously fitted with some SERIOUS food storage/hoarding capabilities, which my boys promptly filled with Legos in various stages of completion. Also, most syrups and some shrubs experiments require refrigeration, and if you are an infrequent cocktail mixer this seems like a waste of space that could be used for cheap white wine, expensive beer, and your Costco-sized bag of lettuce. I get it, so I’m gonna go full disclosure on y’all so you don’t get all frustrated about the physical and emotional space you are in.

The booze: You know why bars have that huge shelf of hundreds of bottles behind them? Because a bar needs them to serve the whim of folks who wouldn’t ever use Fernet or Aperol (both of which are next to impossible to source for the home consumer in Utah) for in a cocktail at home, but like to order the most complicated cocktails ever made when they’re out. A good barkeep will also have a wide price and flavor range within a booze category, e.g. several kinds of gin, bourbon, etc. Unless you are having outrageous cocktail parties every weekend or write a booze blog you don’t need all that shit at your house. Figure out what you like, and just keep that on hand. If you don’t know what you like, go to a very good bar early on a not-very-busy night and talk to your bartender. They’ll be happy to help you find your groove – most mixologists love to share their knowledge and recipes. Only buy the random stuff when you have a big party and want to make a signature cocktail, then at the end of the night give a guest who loved it (and whom you love) the random bottle(s). You get your space back, and make a friend for life. Win-win.

The mixers: I started out making my own shrubs, syrups, and bitters because when I first moved to Utah years ago there wasn’t much of a cocktail scene here and these things were hard to come by for the average home consumer. Thanks to Amazon.com, Etsy, and great local small-batch producers all over the country, it’s getting easier every day to source great ingredients. For instance, here in Salt Lake, you can buy Sugarhouse Libations cocktail syrups at the Downtown Farmer’s Market on Saturdays, or order their delicious syrups online. No, they didn’t pay me to say this, I just like their stuff. And the packaging and recipes that come with the heavy sexy bottle are feckin’ killing it. Get some. Then make this with it:

The Wasatch Mule

This cocktail is a play on the Moscow Mule, which you’ve seen served in pretty metal cups. To make it Utah Wasatch Mountains style, I used High West Distillery Silver Oat Whiskey instead of vodka, and Sugarhouse Libations Pear-Ginger syrup, and mix up the whole thing in a pint Mason jar. Yes, you can make your own pear liqueur (which, yes, I do, and it’s the BOMB), but you can also find it at big liquor stores.

5-6 leaves mint, spanked
2 oz. Silver Whiskey (or moonshine)
1 oz. pear liqueur
4 oz. pear-ginger syrup
2 oz. club soda

Spank the mint between your palms, as if clapping. Throw it in the bottom of a pint Mason jar. Add the whiskey, pear liqueur, and pear-ginger syrup. Fill almost to the top with ice. Close up with the jar lid and shake like crazy. Uncap the jar and add club soda. Replace the lid and gently tilt to combine ingredients –don’t shake it or that shit will explode all over you! This can also be made in a traditional cocktail shaker (minus the club soda—again with the exploding) and poured into a mule cup or julep cup with a floater of club soda swizzled in.

Plum Lucky

local plums

local plums

We were on a plum glut for a while here at my tiny kitchen.  My girlfriend Pink Lady has a friend with a super-prolific plum tree and he basically gave her– and by extension, me, though I’d never met this scion of generosity before—carte blanche with his crop before the birds got ‘em all.

We’re talking plums for DAYS, friends.

Nice, small–about the size of a walnut– dark ones, which were delightfully sweet out of hand.  A large portion of the less-gorgeous specimens* I used to make a big batch of thick cocktail syrup, which I then processed in half-pint jars to keep shelf stable for the year.  I’m sharing here with y’all a small-batch recipe which will keep beautifully in your fridge (if you’ve strained it well) for 3-4 weeks.

This syrup will make you look like a cocktail rock star: the gorgeous deep purple-to-pink color practically glows in the glass, even when it’s shaken vigorously with liquor.  It pairs especially well with an English dry floral gin (think Plymouth, or Broker’s), or with vodka if you want more of the ginger notes to stand out.  It’s also very refreshing mixed with one part syrup to two parts club soda, poured over ice: a super elegant and tasty option for your friends who’d like something non-alcoholic at the party.

The Plum Lucky (makes one)

Plum-Ginger Pink Peppercorn syrup and Gin
Plum-Ginger Pink Peppercorn syrup and Gin

2 oz. gin

2 oz. Plum-Ginger Pink Peppercorn syrup (recipe, below)

To a cocktail shaker filled half way with ice, add gin and plum syrup.  Shake the bejeezus out of it until your hands can hardly hold that shaker ‘cause they are so icy cold.  Strain into a martini glass; garnish with a cube of candied ginger pierced on a narrow skewer.

Plum Crazy- a bourbon & plum cocktail.  Thanks to The Macallan for the awesome coaster.

Plum Crazy- a bourbon & plum cocktail. Thanks to The Macallan for the awesome coaster.

Plum Crazy

2 oz. bourbon

2 oz. Plum-Ginger Pink Peppercorn syrup (recipe, below)

2 oz. club soda

In a large glass filled with ice, swizzle together bourbon and plum syrup with a long spoon until well combined.  Pour in club soda and gently stir to combine.

 

 

Plum-Ginger Pink Peppercorn Cocktail Syrup (makes about a quart)

One pound plums, any color- pitted and cut into quarters

1/3 cup fresh ginger root, peeled and rough chopped

1 tsp. pink peppercorns

2 ½ cups water

1 ¾ cups granulated sugar

Plum-Ginger Pink Peppercorn syrup on the stovetop.  Smells so good!

Plum-Ginger Pink Peppercorn syrup on the stovetop. Smells so good!

Combine all ingredients in a heavy medium saucepan.  Bring to a low boil, and then reduce to a simmer.  Let simmer for 30 minutes or more, or until fruit is very soft and broken, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.  Remove from heat, uncovered, and let sit until it reaches room temperature (about an hour).  Pour initially through a mesh strainer to remove large solids.  Strain again through a double layer of cheesecloth or a jelly bag; don’t be tempted to push your liquid through the strainer or scrape the goo off the bottom (that will make your syrup cloudy- yuck!).  Store in a sealed glass jar or bottle in the refrigerator.

*You can use fruit that’s a little bruised or smooshed to make this syrup, but throw any fruit showing rotting or mold in your compost.

Applaud the Pod: Okra, okra, okra!

Okra:  Pickled, fried, and in a martini.   pickle okra_martini

My first introduction to okra was in the form of cornmeal-crusted deep fried bites in a Louisville diner.  Crunchy, salty, greasy goodness.  Yum.  After that, I looked for okra all over the South, trying the pod in its many and various forms:  stewed with tomatoes, with onions and spice topping rice, folded into gumbo, and of course, fried.  Deep fried, pan fried, fried in bacon fat or peanut oil.

As a grown-up, though, my absolute favorite okra treat is a crunchy, spicy, garlicky okra pickle.  Even better if it’s a whole skewer full of them lined up on the rim of a Bloody Mary glass, or on the advice of my girlfriend who we’ll call Tennessee Redneck Martini, in place of olives for a truly bodacious dirty martini.  If this doesn’t convert you to okra, then I gladly throw in the towel.

When we lived in Phoenix (down the street from my aforementioned girlfriend TN Red Martini) I grew okra right alongside my artichoke plants, collard greens, and rainbow chard.  The desert growing season being both long and hot enough there to produce a bumper crop every year, provided I spent plenty of time watering.  Seeing the combination of crazy purple artichoke blooms, variegated chard, and spiky outrageous okra plants taller than me made me smile every day: it was like my own personal Little Shop of Horrors-slash-Tim Burton garden.   I swear some days you could watch an okra pod grow in one afternoon – like zucchini, you’ve got to watch those little bastards because they will get woody and fibrous on you in a matter of days, if not hours.

Since moving to the mountains, my okra-growing days appear to be over (or at least limited), but that hasn’t stopped me from gathering up bushels of okra when I see them fresh at the Asian market or farmer’s market.  You can tell okra pods are fresh if they are uniformly green, and the tip end is firm (not bendable); also check for bruises and dark spots, which indicate they are past their prime.  The cut end of the pod should be firm; trim the end off of the stem end to clean, but do not pierce the pod.

After much trial and error, I can share the following suggestions for making your own pickled okra, and then wish you the best of luck. You can also buy perfectly good pickled okra at most grocery stores, but where’s the fun in that?

The actual canning part of making okra pickle is pretty straightforward.  Gently pack all of your ingredients into sterilized jars, and then pour over the pickling liquid and process as usual.  But okra are tricky little buggers, and it’s taken me years of practice to get them to behave.  They are susceptible to bruising and bursting, and are notorious floaters.  One friend claims that he has one jar explode in the canner every time.  On the other hand, another friend’s jars are routinely only half-full of pickling liquid after processing.  I’ve tried pricking the pods with a needle on the advice of grandmas (which does limit floaters, but tends to make the pickling liquid gluey and cloudy), hand-packing the pods in the same direction, or alternating directions.

My advice: place the flavoring ingredients in the bottom of your jar, first.  Gently pack okra one at a time in the jars, filling jars as full as you can (it doesn’t matter which direction, but I like them all lined up the same way because it looks pretty).  Put long pods in pint jars, and the baby ones in squat half pint jars.  Avoid squishing, bending, or bruising the pods.  Most recipes call for ½ inch of headspace AFTER removing air bubbles – I audaciously fill those suckers with pickle liquid right up to the rim.  Again, gently, poke around the pods with a chopstick to remove air bubbles, then recklessly fill the jars to the rim again.  Trust me:  there are inevitably air pockets around the okra no matter your chopstick skills, and the pods themselves are full of air.

Okay, here you go:

Crunchy & Spicy Okra Pickles (makes about 7 pints)

1)      Prepare canner; sterilize jars and lids

2)      In a large non-reactive (stainless steel) saucepan combine 6 cups water, 6 cups white vinegar, and 2/3 cup pickling salt; bring to a rolling boil, then reduce to a simmer

3)      Meanwhile, to each pint jar (or halve ingredients for ½ pint jars) add:  1 large clove peeled garlic, two tiny bird chilies, ½ tsp. dill seeds

4)      Clean and trim about 6 lbs okra pods, sort by size (see, above)

5)      Gently pack okra into jars, leaving at least ½ inch head space between pods and the rim of the jar

6)      Ladle hot pickling liquid into jars to the rim.  Poke a chopstick around pods to eliminate air bubbles.  Pour more liquid in to cover okra, if needed.

7)      Wipe rim with a sterile cloth; center lid on jar, and screw band down to finger tip tight

8)      Place jars in canner, making sure they are completely covered with boiling water.  Resume boil, and process for 15 minutes (In SLC I add another 6 minutes to adjust for altitude).

9)      Turn off burner.  Remove canner lid.  Let sit for 5 minutes.

10)   Remove jars, cool at room temperature for 24 hours (do not tip those jars, no matter how tempting!).  After 24 hours, test seals, then tip jars over on their sides & lids to release air bubbles and check that pickling liquid is covering most of the pods.  Store in a cool dark place for up to 1 year.

Tennessee Redneck Dirty Okra Martini (makes 1)

Rub half of the rim of a martini glass with a section of picked okra, dip the damp rim into a saucer dusted with Cajun or Creole seasoning.   In a cocktail shaker combine:  3-4 cubes ice, 2 oz. gin, a dash of dry vermouth (1 tsp., or to taste), and a slosh of okra pickle juice (about 1-2 tsp).  Shake vigorously for 8-10 seconds.  Strain into the martini glass, and garnish with skewered okra pickles.

This is a bit more involved than my eponymous gal makes- hers just has gin, okra juice, and an okra pickle in it and it is sublimely and simply delightful just like that.

Fried Okra

Cut 2 lbs. okra pods into 1” wide rounds.  Combine 2/3 cup cornmeal and 2/3 cup white flour.  Add 1 tsp. salt, 1 tsp. black pepper, and ½ tsp. cayenne pepper and mix thoroughly.  Toss all of the okra into the dredge and mix to coat.  Heat a cast iron skillet over med-high heat, and add 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil; heat over med-high until almost smoking.  Shake off excess dredge, and gently scatter a handful of okra into the hot grease.  Fry until golden, then remove to a paper-towel lined plate.  Keep on repeating until all your okra is done, adding more oil as needed, and turning down the heat if okra is getting too brown too fast.  Dust with additional sea salt while still steaming.  Eat right away.

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