Summer Shrubs

Summer Shrubs

Shrubs

Shrubs

A shrub is an old-fashioned elixir intended to preserve seasonal fruit using a combination of sugar and vinegar. Once outmoded, shrubs have seen a resurgence in popularity over the last couple of years. D and I had sampled several, both in their non-alcoholic state and mixed in to cocktails, but we had never made any until this past weekend. Perhaps we never would have tried our hand at these lovely summer sippers had it not been for Heidi.

Heidi is a purveyor of shrubs, selling her Mixers and Elixirs brand at our local farmers market. After meeting her a couple of weeks ago we added her on twitter where she promptly challenged us to try making shrubs of our own. The very next day D returned from his morning coffee run with a book on shrubs from our neighborhood culinary bookstore, Barbara-Jo’s Books to Cooks. D cannot walk within two blocks of this store without absolutely requiring a very important tome. And thus, with shrubs on the agenda, began our most recent Sunday Funday.

We started at the farmers market where we found lovely fresh currants and a flat of mixed berries. From this we decided on three shrubs from the book: red currant with white wine vinegar; raspberry and thyme with apple cider vinegar; and blackberries and lime (with the unscripted addition of mint because I have great difficulty sticking to a recipe), also with apple cider vinegar.

Initially I was concerned about using fresh herbs, as they may contain bacteria and mold that can rapidly multiply. However a quick Internet search affirmed that fresh herbs can be used to infuse vinegar but should not be used to infuse oil.

Shrubs

Shrubs peparations

I washed each fruit and herb separately, allowing them to bathe in a solution of 1 tablespoon of white vinegar to 6 cups of water for 10 minutes and then rinsing them in cold water.

This, incidentally, is a fabulous way to clean berries to help increase shelf life. Then we went to work, muddling berries with sugar to extract as much juice as possible.

You may never have heard of a shrub before and may be wondering why that is. Shrubs were an early method of preserving fruit beyond the natural growing season, much the same way as beer preserved grain and wine preserved grapes, though in this instance without producing alcohol. (There are boozy shrubs but we’ll save those for another day.) With a shelf life of more than a year the preserved fruit flavor can then be enjoyed at any time. Shrubs are usually diluted, either with sparkling or flat water or with alcohol, before serving. But as food preservation techniques advanced shrubs were all but forgotten.

I’m not sure why shrubs are seeing a revival now, though I suspect it is a natural offshoot of our contemporary interest in antique cocktails. Whatever the reason, they add a new and fun dimension to any bar.

To be clear shrubs do have a pronounced vinegar taste. The vinegar should mellow as the solution ages but be sure to work only with vinegar that you actually like. Also if you decide to work with ‘live’ vinegar, such as Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar with “The Mother,” be prepared for your shrub to be cloudy. While I use live ACV for many purposes I selected pasteurized vinegar for project shrub.

Red Currant Shrub

  • 1 ¾ cups red currants, cleaned and stemmed
  • ½ cup turbinado sugar
  • ½ cup white wine vinegar

Using a muddler or similar gently crush the currants in a medium bowl.

Add the sugar and continue to muddle until the mixture is juicy and the sugar is mostly incorporated. Cover the bowl and refrigerate 2 hours.

Separate the liquid from the solids using a fine strainer. Discard the solids. Add the vinegar to the currant and sugar syrup, stirring well to incorporate any sugar crystals. Transfer to a glass jar and allow to rest in the fridge at least one week before using.

For a refreshing cocktail add ½ – 1 ounce of shrub and 1-3 ounces of dry vermouth to a highball glass. Top with soda water. Garnish with a twist.

Red Currant Shrub

Red Currant Shrub

Raspberry Thyme Shrub

  • 2 cups raspberries, washed and picked over
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 8 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar

Muddle the raspberries and sugar in a medium bowl until the juices are released and most of the sugar has been incorporated. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for 2 days.

Place the thyme in a small mason jar and cover with the apple cider vinegar. Store in a cool dark place for 2 days.

Shrubs Thyme

Shrubs Thyme

Separate the liquid from the solids using a fine strainer. Discard the solids. Strain the thyme from the vinegar, discarding the thyme. Add the vinegar to the raspberry syrup, stirring well to incorporate any sugar. Transfer to a glass jar and allow to rest in the fridge at least one week before using.

 

For a refreshing cocktail shake 1/2  ounce raspberry thyme shrub with ½ ounce of elderflower liquor and 1 ounce of vodka or gin. Strain into a rocks glass filled with ice and top with soda or sparkling wine.

Raspberry Thyme Shrub

Raspberry Thyme Shrub

Blackberry Lime and Mint Shrub

  • 1 ½ cups blackberries, washed and picked over
  • Zest of 4 limes, pith carefully removed
  • 1 large handful fresh mint, washed
  • 1 cup turbinado sugar
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar

Muddle the blackberries, lime zest, mint and sugar in a medium bowl until the juices are released and most of the sugar has been incorporated. Cover the bowl and refrigerate overnight.

Shrubs lime-blackberries

Shrubs lime-blackberries

Separate the liquid from the solids using a fine strainer. Discard the solids. Add the vinegar to the blackberry syrup, stirring well to incorporate any sugar. Transfer to a glass jar and allow to rest in the fridge at least one week before using.

 

 

 

 

 

For a refreshing cocktail shake ½-1 ounce of blackberry lime shrub with 2 ounces of tequila or rum and ½ ounce of lime juice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass or serve on the rocks topped with soda.

Blackberry Lime and Mint Shrub

Blackberry Lime and Mint Shrub

Book reference:

Shrubs: An Old-Fashioned Drink for Modern Times by Michael Dietsch

Shrubs

Shrubs

 

 

Homemade Falernum

Homemade Falernum

Munktiki Johnny Ku

Munktiki Johnny Ku

Falernum is a complex spicy aromatic syrup commonly used in tiki cocktails. There are a few commercial falernum products available but most are excessively sweet and not nearly as nuanced as this simple recipe. Don’t be intimidated by the two-day process, active time spent on this recipe is only about 30 minutes.

Falernum #9

  • Zest of 9 limes, with all traces of white pith removed
  • 40 whole cloves
  • 1.5 ounces fresh ginger, peeled and julienned
  • 2 tbls blanched slivered almonds, toasted
  • 6 ounces 151 rum
  • 14 ounces cold process 2:1 simple syrup (see below for recipe)
  • .25 tsp almond extract
  • 4.5 ounces fresh lime juice
Lime Zest

Lime Zest

Step 1: Place the lime zest, rum, ginger, cloves, and toasted almonds in a clean mason jar and shake vigorously to combine. Press solids down until covered by rum and let stand for 24 hours.

Step 2: Strain the mixture through damp cheesecloth, squeezing until no liquid remains. Discard solids.

Step 3: Place the strained solids in a clean glass jar. Add the simple syrup, almond extract, and lime juice. Shake to combine. Store in the refrigerator up to 1 month. Makes about 24 ounces.

This falernum is so delicious that if it wasn’t for the 151 base I would top it with soda water and call it pop! Try it in the Chartreuse Swizzle or the Mai Tai Swizzle.

Source: Beachbum Berry Remixed by Jeff Berry

Homemade Orgeat & Falernum

Homemade Falernum on Left (Homemade Orgeat on Right)

Easiest Cold-Process Simple Syrup

The other day I was grinding table sugar in my Vitamix to create superfine sugar, which dissolves more easily when making cold-process simple syrup. It suddenly occurred to me that the entire activity could be done in my blender.

Cold-Process 2:1 Syrup:

  • 4 cups table sugar
  • 2 cups warm water

Place sugar in high-performance blender and pulverize on high about 20 seconds. Add the water and continue to blend on high until all the sugar has dissolved. Store in a clean glass bottle in the fridge.

This method is so quick and easy and successful that I suspect I will never make basic simple syrup on the stove again!

Homemade Orgeat

Homemade Orgeat

Munktiki Big Head

Munktiki Big Head

Orgeat, a sweet almond syrup with floral undertones, is a fundamental ingredient in tiki cocktails. There are many commercially available orgeats on the market but most contain artificial flavors and/or high fructose corn syrup. What’s more, despite the fact that the primary ingredient in orgeat is almonds, many mass-produced orgeats contain no nuts at all. Orgeat is simple enough to make at home and well worth the effort. This recipe, adapted from Beachbum Berry Remixed, contains only 5 ingredients and comes together in just a few hours. Try it in Trader Vic’s Mai Tai or the Kona Swizzle.

Orgeat Syrup:

  • 500 grams almonds
  • 800 ml water
  • 700 grams white sugar
  • 100 ml brandy or vodka
  • 2 tbls orange flower water
Blanch Almonds

Blanch Almonds

Step 1: Blanch almonds in boiling water for one minute then drain in a colander. Run cold water over the almonds to cool, then slip the almonds from their peels. You can skip this step and save about 15 minutes if you purchase pre-blanched almonds.

 

 

Step 2: Soak blanched almonds in cold water for 30 minutes.

Almonds in Blender

Almonds in Blender

 

Step 3: Add almonds and 800 ml water to a powerful blender such as a Vitamix or Blendtec and whirl on high for about 10 seconds until crushed fine but not eviscerated. Pour the mixture into a bowl and let stand for 1-2 hours. If you do not have a powerful blender then you can crush the almonds in a food processor or with a rolling pin or meat mallet on a cutting board before adding them to the water in a bowl.

 

 

 

Straining Almond Mixture

Straining Almond Mixture

Step 4: Strain the puree through a nut-milk bag or several layers of cheesecloth into another large bowl, being sure to squeeze all the liquid out of the pulp (this helps release all the almond oils.) Add the pulp back into the liquid and allow to stand another hour. Strain again, this time discarding the solids.

Step 5: In a medium saucepan over low heat stir the strained liquid and the sugar until all the sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool 15 minutes. Add the orange flower water and the brandy or vodka. Pour into a clean glass jar and store in the refrigerator up to 2 weeks. This recipe makes well over a liter of syrup and can easily be halved.

Homemade Orgeat on Right

Homemade Orgeat on Right (Homemade Falernum on Left)

Cherry Bounce

Cherry Bounce

Cherries

Cherries

 

I am blessed to live in a neighborhood that hosts a farmer’s market each Sunday morning from May until October. I eat only local fruits and vegetables during these months and am deeply saddened when the season comes to an end. This year I decided I’d try to preserve some of the market bounty for the winter months.

Recently I came along this recipe for Cherry Bounce, a mixture of liquor, sugar, and fruit, deciding to put it to the test. I settled on rum as the base spirit, rather than the rye called for in the recipe, because I feel that rum and cherries contain a similar and complementary flavor profile. But as always, you should make the recipe your own.

Cherry Bounce:

  • 750ml Appleton Estate Jamaican rum
  • 4 cups whole sour cherries, stemmed
  • 1.5 cups sugar

 

In a saucepan bring the cherries and sugar to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.

Cherry Bounce

Cherry Bounce

 

Let cool. Add the cooled cherry mixture to a 1.5litre glass jar (I sterilized the container for 10 minutes in boiling water), and then top with the rum. Seal the jar and give the contents a good shake to combine the flavors. Store in a cool dark place for 3 months.

 

 

Once aged, strain the cherry pulp from the infused liquor. Will keep for 2 months.

 

I look forward to providing recipes using the Cherry Bounce in the fall!!

Cherry preserve

Cherry preserve

Note: Sour cherries are smaller and more tart than sweet cherries. If you cannot find sour cherries you can substitute a sweet cherry such as Bing or Lapin, but reduce the sugar by half and add a tablespoon and a half of fresh lemon juice before boiling.

 

Source: Todd Appel http://imbibemagazine.com/Cherry-Bounce-Recipe

Image Credit

Title: Cherries by Benson Kua is licensed by CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

 

 

Maraschino Cherries

Maraschino Cherries

Maraschino Cherries

Maraschino Cherries

D and I both love cherries, in pretty much any form. But the specialty cherries made in-house at high-end cocktail bars have a special place in our hearts. For the past couple of years we have been purchasing Luxardo brand maraschino cherries, which are light-years ahead of their neon-red counterparts found at the grocery store. But at a whopping 22$ a jar, and with a shelf life of about 4 months, they are not the best deal in town. This year we decided we would make our own cherries and I’m flabbergasted at the simple perfection of this recipe.

You will need to invest in a cherry pitter if you do not already have one.

Cherry Pitter

Cherry Pitter

I purchased a Good Grips brand pitter for about 11$ and it worked very well. I consider it an investment in years of maraschino cherries to come.

Note: Sour cherries are smaller and softer than the sweet cherries you find all summer long. They are much more tart, as their name suggests, and only available for a couple of weeks each summer. I prowl my local farmer’s market each July in search of these rare and treasured berries.

Maraschino Cherries:

  • 1 pint sour cherries, cleaned, stemmed and pitted
  • 1 cup Maraschino liqueur (Luxardo is best)

    Maraschino Cherries

    Maraschino Cherries

 

Bring the liqueur to a boil in a small saucepan. Remove from heat and add the cherries. Let cool. Poor into a large mason jar (I sterilize mine in boiling water for 10 minutes.) Refrigerate. Wait at least two days before consuming. Will keep for several months.

 

 

 

 

source: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/18/dining/181arex.html?_r=1&

 

 

 

More Adventures in Barrel Aging

More Adventures in Barrel Aging

barrel aging

The Bijou being barrel aged and soon to be enjoyed.

 

I’m not sure we knew what we were getting ourselves into. It seemed an innocent enough project, but now I wonder if it is getting out of hand. Our first foray into barrel aging was a raging success, our Vieux Carre turned out beautifully and we were hooked. But D, who prefers the cannonball approach to dipping his toe in the water, now has three barrels on the go. I caught him trying to order a fourth last week and quickly nipped that in the bud.

You see, three barrels does not simply mean aging three cocktails. These barrels are designed to be used at least four or five times each. And while it takes a little longer to reach the desired level of oakiness with each successive aging, it only takes about two weeks for the initial endeavor. Furthermore these barrels cannot sit between batches, so we find ourselves constantly trying to decide what goes in next, tracking down ingredients, and bottling the fruits of our labors.

To date we have successfully aged the aforementioned Vieux Carre as well as a batch of Boulevardiers. barrel aging part 2-2Those casks have been replenished with a batch of Toronto cocktail and Red Hook, respectively. The cask designated for gin got a late start, due to leakage, but is currently in the process of maturing a liter of Bijou cocktail. I think that will be replaced by a personal favorite known as the Jutland Calling. But as the clock ticks down on each cask there is the constant question of what goes in next.

Don’t get me wrong, we are having a blast, but we are also generating far more product than we can reasonably consume. So far D seems unfazed by the volume of product or the cost of investment, but I suspect that we will be tapped out long before the wood on these casks stops infusing liquor with good old oak flavor.

Barrel Aging Cocktails

Booze Bottle and Barrels, a sight for thirsty eye

Vieux Carre

  • 1 ounce rye
  • 1 ounce cognac
  • 1 ounce sweet vermouth
  • .5 teaspoon Benedictine
  • 2 dashes Angostura Bitters
  • 2 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters

Stir over ice until chilled. Strain. Garnish with a lemon twist.

The Boulevardier

  • 1.5 ounces bourbon (we used Bulleit)
  • 1 ounce Campari
  • 1 ounce sweet vermouth (Martini Rosso works fine but feel free to experiment)

Stir over ice in a mixing glass. Strain. Garnish with a cherry.

Toronto Cocktail

  • 2 ounces Canadian Whisky
  • .25 ounce Fernet Branca
  • .25 ounce gomme syrup or simple syrup
  • 2 dashes Angostura Bitters

Red Hook

  • 2 ounces rye (Rittenhouse is best)
  • .5 ounce Punt e Mes
  • .5 ounce maraschino

Stir over ice until chilled. Strain. Garnish with a cherry.

Bijou

  • 1 ounce gin
  • 1 ounce Green Chartreuse
  • 1 ounce sweet vermouth
  • 1 dash orange bitters

Stir over ice until chilled. Strain. Garnish with a cherry.

Jutland Calling

  • 1.5 ounces London dry gin
  • .5 ounce Bornholmer Bitter liquer
  • .5 ounce St Germain elderflower liqueur

Stir over ice until chilled. Strain. Garnish with a lemon twist.

 

 

Bottling

Bottling

Bottle capper-4

If you have been following along you know that we have been barrel-aging batches of cocktails for some time now. We have three barrels on the go, each producing about a liter of liquor every two to three weeks. This is obviously more than we can consume. In order to store these libations for future use, or to give away as gifts, we have turned to bottling.

We prefer to bottle in individual-sized portions. It took us some time but we finally tracked down some Italian non-alcoholic apperitivo bottles that are exactly the right size. Bottle capper-1We were under the impression that bottle cappers were universal so D stopped by the local U-brew and picked one up. Meanwhile I emptied the bottles of their pseudo-vermouth and sterilized them. We were so excited. Can you guess what happened next? I bet you can.

Our adorable Italian bottles are not compatible with a universal bottle capper. We were stumped. After much online research D did what us amateurs always do when we need advice, he turned to a professional. He warmed the barstool at West, seeking advice from the incomparable David Walowidnyk, who not incidentally stores his cocktails in a similar fashion. He advised D on the type of capper suited with these bottles and suggested that we search eBay for a smashing deal.

Ten days, twenty dollars, and one trip across the border to collect the capper at Point Roberts later, we were ready to bottle for real.Bottle restoration compositeThe capper D purchased was rather rusty so he took an extra day to sand blast it and paint it all shiny and new.

It may seem trivial but the ability to store product away for future consumption puts my heart at ease. We are hobbyists, not alcoholics, and I was becoming overwhelmed by the quantity of prepared cocktails accumulating in our apartment. Having it in small bottles preserves it for the future but also allows us to distribute it among family and friends. My Dad, for one, was more than pleased to receive a collection of aged cocktails as a father’s day gift!

 

Bottle capper-3

Sunday Funday – Bitters

Sunday Funday – Bitters

 DIY Bitters It’s official, we are cocktail geeks. We tried to reign ourselves in and focus on one project, recreating the 100 drinks in Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails, but alas we are multitaskers at heart. Forgive us as we digress… Somewhere along the way D and I christened the seventh day of each week “Sunday Funday.” On this day we follow our hearts’ desires, whether that would be trying out a new restaurant, taking a rambling miles-long walk, or diving into a new project. The last couple of Sundays have involved the latter. On Christmas morning D and I opened our stockings only to discover that Santa had deposited a copy of Brad Thomas Parsons’ Bitters in each of our stockings. DIY BittersWith not one, but two copies of this book on hand we felt compelled to make a freshman attempt at bitters production. We selected the BTP House Bitters as our first endeavor, largely because of their versatility (Parsons claims that they can be used in place of Angostura Bitters in any recipe.)   It took us two weeks to track down all the ingredients, DIY Bittersthe hardest to come by found in unexpected places. Who would have guessed that we’d find gentian root and cassia bark at a shop called Gaia Garden? It would seem that for the bitters enthusiast, the new-age apothecary is your best friend. With all the ingredients on hand the assembly seemed almost ridiculously simple. The hardest part is waiting the two weeks before you can strain the solution and boil down the solids, and then waiting two weeks again. As of this writing we have yet to try the fruits of our labors, but we are already plotting our next batches of bitters. We will let you know how things turn out. Patience grasshopper. DIY Bitters

Sunday Funday – Barrel Aging

Sunday Funday –Barrel Aging

DIY Barrel

DIY Barrel

 

 

We really enjoy making the libations in Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails, but the nature of our project compels us to follow Ted Haigh’s recipes to the letter. Sometimes we feel like going rogue and adding our own touch to the cocktails we create. Enter the one liter oak barrel.

Having coveted these miniature casks for at least six months, D found the best deal he could online and ordered two barrels from oakbarrelsltd.com. Upon arrival we set to work prepping the barrels, a process that takes about 72 hours, while debating the pros and cons of the recipes on our short list.

DIY Barrel Prep

DIY Barrel Prep

We decided that we would age one whiskey or rye cocktail and one gin, but which ones? As the gin drinker I settled on a Bijou cocktail for the simple reason that it is a drink I can go back to again and again – we are making a liter of this stuff, after all! Using my logic D decided on The Boulevardier for his creation.

 

As it turned out we were only to make one cocktail on our first attempt. One of the barrels continued to leak past the 72 hour mark and was deemed unfit. We will credit oakbarrelsltd.com here with amazing customer service. They replied to an email we sent almost immediately and a replacement barrel has been shipped. With a little luck the cask will be ready to go in a few days.

With only one barrel on the go we experienced a last minute change of heart vis-à-vis the recipe being aged. I wanted D to have first go at the oaking process but he wanted to ensure we made a libation we both enjoy. The Vieux Carre was the answer. Murray Stenson made me my first Vieux Carre at Canon in Seattle,Barrel Aging-10 leaving me with fond memories of both the drink and the man.

As of this writing the concoction is sitting snuggly in the barrel. DIY BarrelWe anticipate that the entire process will take about two weeks, but are intending to taste the work-in-progress when we top up the cask in a few days. The short list for what goes in next continues to grow…

 

 

 

Pomegranate Grenadine

Pomegranate Grenadine

Pomegranate Grenadine

Pomegranate Grenadine

I made pomegranate grenadine from scratch using this incredibly simple recipe attributed to Todd Thrasher that I found in Jason Wilson’s Boozehound (adapted for quantity):

Pomegranate Grenadine

  • 1 473ml bottle Pom brand pure pomegranate juice
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 ounce fresh lemon juice
  • Rind of 1 small orange, in large strips

Bring the pomegranate juice to a boil in a small saucepan. Add the remaining ingredients and lower heat to medium-low. Simmer the mixture very gently about 45 minutes, until reduced by half. Strain through a fine sieve and allow to cool.

I was thrilled with the product of this recipe. The dark red syrup is not too thick but is wonderfully flavorful. It has a molasses essence that is sweet but at the same time very tart. The orange rind permeates the syrup, reminding me of holiday spices. There’s really no excuse to buy commercial grenadine when you can produce one of this quality so simply and affordably.

The grenadine will keep for two weeks in the fridge, as is. To extend the shelf life for up to two months add an ounce of 151 rum.

As a side note I’m absolutely using this grenadine to deglaze my holiday ham. It’s stunning!!