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So we’ve been away and busy. That’s life. We’re back now and I’ve got a few things up my sleeve for upcoming posts (#1– we made mustard! It was great and easy!), so please forgive us the absence. Just because we’ve been gone doesn’t mean I haven’t been writing at all, though. I’ve managed to eke out my monthly booze columns for Vue Weekly. You can check out my not-always-expert examination of and cocktail recipes for Fernet Branca (yum!), Pisco, Goldschlager (yuck), shochu (love it), grappa (firewater, but tasty) and Poire William(delicious, delicious pear) over at the Vue site. I also did a feature for the Hot Summer Guide where I got some local bartenders’ input on summer drinks. You can check it out here. Unfortunately, I took pictures of all the drinks and the one they featured on the site looks pretty but tastes… well, just don’t make that recipe. Try any of the others; they’re all great, but “The Bender” is, um… not.
Also, we went to a great meetup yesterday with some other Edmonton bloggers and cooks. It was fun, though very cold. Carlo pointed out that it’s pretty sad when you’re discussing wind chill at the end of June. Such is life. Also, we didn’t bring our camera (delinquent bloggers that we are), so we have no evidence of the event to show. We had a great time talking with Court and Brooke, Sharon, Mack, Chris, Kevin, Maki, Grace, and Béné and Christian (who don’t have a blog yet but absolutely should. Can’t wait to see that!). If you’d like to get a better rundown, check out Sharon or Chris’s blogs. We’re lucky to be in contact with such a great group of people! I can’t wait until meetup #3. If you’re Edmontonian and would like to come to the next one, keep an eye on the wiki.
Hi! How are you? I hope you’re already out at a New Year’s party, or that you’re settling in for a cozy evening in. Carlo and I, we’re staying in. About four hours ago, when we came home from a shopping trip, our door broke, and we were stuck OUTSIDE for an hour and a half (or longer, I’m not sure. My brain froze.), in -22 C (-32 C with the wind chill!) while we waited for a locksmith. We were so happy to get into the apartment, we decided we weren’t leaving it again tonight. So here we are. If you’d told me five years ago that I’d be content, even happy, washing dishes and rearranging my apartment on New Year’s Eve, I’d… well, I’d have done something… laughed, cried, I don’t know. But right now we’re happy, cozy, and warm. And we’ve got a bottle of bubbly chilling in the fridge for later, so don’t feel sorry for us.
If you’ve got some champagne/cava/prosecco/other sparkler laying around that you’re not sure what to do with (besides drinking it the way it is, which is of course nice too), my latest article in Vue Weekly has a couple ideas. Nothing ground-breaking, just some nice, simple cocktails.
Happy New Year! I hope you’ve had a wonderful year.
I promised a grenadine recipe to my food writing class almost a month ago. Here it is, finally. When I first made the promise, I’d never made grenadine before, so I was far from an expert. When I set out to get the formula, I immediately turned a simple recipe into a complex test of techniques and flavours. That’s the history of the Great Grenadine Experiment. The result was five different grenadines, all of which are sitting in my freezer (GGE tip#1- the syrup has a high sugar content, and that along with a dash of vodka for preservation means that it won’t freeze solid in the freezer. It’ll last forever stored this way).
When I started reading about grenadine, I found that most of the syrups you buy in the store are unlikely to contain any pomegranate at all. They’re all corn syrup, artificial flavouring and red dye. A traditional grenadine is made from pomegranate (grenade is pomegranate in French–isn’t that a beautiful word? Then again, so is pomegranate) juice that is combined with sugar to make a thick syrup. I also found a few sources that mentioned cherry juice and orangeflower water as other possible ingredients. I thought I’d play with the cherry flavour, but I didn’t try any grenadine with orangeflower water. Next time. Or if someone gives it a shot (just a dash per 1 cup should do… it’s strong stuff), please let me know what you think!
So sugar and juice– that’s all right, easy to handle. Next step–technique. I found two basic techniques online, one “cold” and one “cooked.” So I tried them both. And I also discovered that some people juice their own pomegranate while others used prebottled juices. So I tried that too. All those techniques equalled the following combinations: pom/cherry juice cooked, pom/cherry juice cold, pom juice cooked, pom juice cold, and finally, fresh pom juice (which I cooked, as I didn’t have enough juice to try the cold… I know, serious scientific method failure).
GREAT GRENADINE EXPERIMENT
Hypothesis: I can make grenadine at home.
Method: The following two recipes, which can easily be doubled or tripled.
1 cup pomegranate juice (or pomegranate-cherry blend)
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp. vodka (optional)
Bring the juice to a simmer over medium-high heat on the stovetop. Simmer it until it is reduced by half, then mix in the sugar, continuing to cook until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat, cool, add vodka, then refrigerate or freeze.
1 cup pomegranate juice (or pom-cherry blend)
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. vodka (optional)
Combine juice and sugar in a lidded jar, and shake until sugar is dissolved. Let the jar sit for a while, then shake again. Allow to sit once more, then shake again to finish. Honestly, all this shaking may not be necessary. I just really wanted to make sure the syrup was all un-sugar-crystallized. When the sugar is fully dissolved, add a dash of vodka, then refrigerate or freeze.
Pomegranate/ Cherry juice cooked: This is a dark syrup with a definite cherry flavour. Though the cherry juice was organic with no preservatives, Carlo felt that this had a “preserved” flavour that he didn’t find appealing. I liked the cherry flavour all right, but I felt that the cooked syrup tasted, for lack of a better word, a little musty.
Pomegranate/Cherry juice cold-method: This syrup was thinner and brighter flavoured, but tasted too much of cherries for me. The shaking left a bit of froth at the top of the juice, and the sugar concentration is obviously lower, as the syrup turns to slush in the freezer. I found I needed more of it to add enough flavour to the drink, but I much preferred its flavour to the cooked syrup.
Sub-Conclusion: Pomegranate/Cherry might be okay, but the proportions need to be adjusted so that it’s somewhere more like 3/4 pomegranate and 1/4 cherry juice.
Bottled Pomegranate Juice Cooked: This tastes dark and just slightly tangy. In my taste-testing, however, I found it very unpleasant. Like the cooked pom/cherry, it was musty tasting. It was actually my least favourite.
Bottled Pomegranate Juice Cold-Method: Like the cherry/pom combo, this was bright-tasting, but the lack of cherry made it a little heavier. I’m starting to think that maybe my pomegranate juice was at fault. (GGE hint #2- try a different bottled juice than President’s Choice brand)
FRESH pomegranate, juiced and Cooked: The most beautiful colour of the five, this syrup is candy-pink, thick and smooth, but it has the brighter, sunnier taste of the cold-method syrups. I’m sorry, dear readers, because this is obviously also the most labour-intensive syrup. But it really is the best. And I’ll tell you how I juiced the pomegranate in a separate post. It’s not really THAT hard to do.
FINAL CONCLUSION: Fresh pomegranate juice is the best! What do you think? Have you made grenadine before? What technique did you use?
Just for colour reference, here’s that picture from the top of the post again. It’s just grenadine in soda water. From left to right, the syrups are: cooked pom/cherry, cold pom/cherry, cooked fresh pom, cooked pom, and cold pom.
In which I meet someone who knows a lot, learn interesting things, and then do the Scotch connoisseur’s equivalent of a face-plant. Not literally. Though given the Scotch drinking part, that might also have been a possibility.
A couple weeks ago I posted about tasting a $660 bottle of Scotch with Peter Gordon, the chairman of the company that makes Glenfiddich (William Grant & Sons). That interview was one of the highlights of my November. The article I wrote about the experience of tasting Scotch with an expert just came out and I’m pretty proud of it. If you want to know what I learned about Scotch, or how I totally embarrassed myself at the end of what was mostly a great interview, you can check it out here.
So the other day, I asked what people thought of egg white cocktails. I had a lovely recipe I wanted to publish, but I wasn’t sure what its reception would be.
Thanks to your input, I decided that Edmonton was ready for raw egg whites.
Here’s the article, if you want to check it out (recipe included). Please excuse the headline. I didn’t choose it. (Sorry, Mom and Dad).
Hanne’s written 1–2–3–4 great booze articles for Vue Weekly, all odes to classic cocktails and/or rare spirits. In October, our columnist turned her job into a losing venture by purchasing 1–2–3–4 bottles of rum, three of which are pictured above (Havana Club Anejo Blanco-Appleton Estate V/X-Gosling’s Black Seal) and won’t be subsidized by the weekly. The problem is, I can’t object because she has 1-2-3 more jobs than I do right now. Also, the cocktail recipes Hanne dug up and created in her latest feat of investigative journalism are some of my favourites.
One of these is the Harpo’s Special, which may (or may not) have been invented by (or for) Harpo (probably not Karl) Marx. I like flavours that attack in different ways with different trajectories. The Harpo’s Special has a sour hook of lime, a jab of boozy acid, a slap of bitters and a soft sweet finish. Go to Hanne’s latest Vue article to make this and other rum-based cocktails.
SiS’s Ginger Beat Cocktail
This drink will work you over. It’s a SiS original made by Hanne, a take-off on Gosling’s Dark and Stormy. I’ll call it–and I get to because I’m, like, married to the creator–the Ginger Beat. Think your various tastebuds cymbals, toms, high hats, bass drums and imagine benched behind them the best drummer you can name, say Stewart Copeland or Dave Grohl.
Gulp, sip or do whatever you do. The lime shimmers sour over your tongue and rumbles in your cheeks. The ginger snaps up your palate and burns down your throat. The dark rum breaks in, flattening the flavour with bitter caramel while beating licorice, anise and earthy (peat moss?) notes. Sugar settles the flavour’s throb to a steady beat and is nearly a nod to silly-girly-drink but comes off more sophisticated-lady-or-mister-drink, grounding the bite of the alcohol and ginger and making the drink less brash than composed.
That may seem a bit exuberant, but I’ve just had 1-2-3 drinks while writing this post. Make it like this:
- A third of an old fashioned glass of crushed or cracked ice
- 2 oz Gosling’s Black Seal or other dark rum
- 1 Tbsp ginger syrup (recipe below)
- Top glass up with ginger ale
For ginger simple syrup:
- 1 inch cube of fresh ginger, sliced thin
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup sugar
- Put above in pot, bring to boil, simmer until golden
- Refrigerate leftovers for seconds
Sometimes I feel sorry for Carlo. I’m not always easy to deal with. I read a lot (too much), and get intensely interested in whatever I’ve learned. That’s cool, but I’m also impatient. When I learn about something new, I usually need to try it right away. Carlo’s the best. He’s very patient with my whims and hardly scolds me when my obsessions lead me to buy four bottles of rum in the space of a month. Honestly, though, I felt justified. As I was doing research for this, I discovered all kinds of exciting things about rum, and then I had to try all the different kinds. This obsession led me to dark rum, which led me to what we had for dinner this weekend.
Bermuda Fish Chowder has a tomato rather than a milk base, and is rich, sweet, and satisfying, without being unhealthy. Plus, its rich flavour is complemented with a generous glug of rum. I’m not big on fish soup, as I find very fishy flavours unpleasant, so I was pleased that this soup had nice clean flavours, and the fish was tasty instead of overwhelming. I suppose the lightness of the fish was due to the fish I used– basa, snapper, and cod, along with scallops and shrimp. Also, the soup had a good amount of spiciness, thanks to red chili flakes and a jalapeno (the original recipe called for sherry pepper sauce, which I didn’t have, so I improvised with some sherry vinegar and the addition of the peppers).
Bermuda Fish Chowder
Adapted from epicurious.com. See the original here
While this chowder isn’t difficult, it is time-consuming. If you plan to eat it the same day, allow 2-2 1/2 hours total time before eating. And if your husband wants to practice his cooking-course knife skills, make sure you start well in advance (completely uniform veg in this soup IS very pleasant, I must add).
1 medium onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 leek (white and pale green parts only), chopped
2 large garlic cloves, minced
2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
1 cup canned, diced tomato or 1 medium tomato, peeled, seeded, and chopped
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tsp. salt
2 cups bottled clam juice
6 cups water
3 lb mixed white fish fillets such as cod, snapper, and basa, (feel free to improvise), skin and bones removed and cut into large chunks
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon whole allspice, tied in a cheesecloth bag (I used ground, and added it directly to the pot)
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, crumbled, or a couple sprigs of fresh thyme
1 jalapeno, diced small(optional)
1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce, or to taste
3 tablespoons cornstarch stirred together with 3 tablespoons water to make a slurry
1/2 lb. medium shrimp, shelled and deveined
1/2 lb. scallops
2 to 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup dark rum, or to taste
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar, or to taste. (feel free to leave this out, or substitute the real thing– sherry pepper sauce)
Salt and pepper, to taste
Cook the onion, bell pepper, leek, carrots,tomato, and garlic in butter in a large heavy pot over medium heat, stirring frequently, until softened, about 10 minutes. Toss in red pepper flakes, and salt, cooking for 1 more minute. Stir in clam juice and water and bring to a boil. After the soup is boiling, simmer it briskly, uncovered, for 20 minutes.
Stir in the fish, tomato paste, bay leaf, allspice, thyme, jalapeno (if using), hot pepper sauce, and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer 20 minutes (fish will break up), then add cornstarch slurry (make sure it’s stirred and the cornstarch hasn’t clumped in the bottom) and stir into chowder. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 2 minutes.
Stir in scallops, shrimp, Worcestershire sauce, and rum and gently simmer 30 minutes. Remove from heat and let chowder stand, covered, 1 hour (or better yet, overnight). Return your chowder to a simmer, then add a touch of sherry vinegar (to taste).
It’s 5 C today. It’s been going below zero overnight. Our garden is finished for the year, the last of the plants harvested or left to die (you should see how sad frozen tomato plants look). We’re getting ready for winter, which, for me at least, involves mostly mental time. I have to remind myself that winter’s coming (as if, with this weather, it would be easy to forget), and make my plans. Mostly this is a good thing. I think of books I’ll read, TV shows Carlo and I will watch when it’s too cold to get outside and walk, and of winter stews. I will admit, though, the retreat of summer is always a little bitter. No more garden tomatoes! No more bare legs! No more grass!
Something we’ve done this year to lessen the blow is preserves. Since I was a little girl, my mom has canned in the fall. I remember canned peaches and pears, but most of all, applesauce. Do you know what applesauce tastes like? No, really, what real applesauce tastes like? Because what you can buy off the supermarket shelf, that’s not applesauce. It’s a pale, tasteless, gag-inducing interloper. Real applesauce is peachy-pale, tart and tasty. It’s a perfect preserve to keep in a winter pantry arsenal. And I’ve got my own applesauce arsenal this year! I’ve never done it before, but this year I joined my mom in the kitchen, and we took advantage of a neighbour’s unwanted wealth of crabapples.
Crabapples are beautiful little fruits, just a bit bigger than cherries and nearly the same colour, a dark, dusky, purple-tinged red. But you have to process them to enjoy them. These are definitely not eating apples–they’re super-tart, not to mention too tiny to offer any real apple satisfaction. So we processed. And processed… and processed. There were a lot of apples. We made applesauce, we made jelly, we made liqueur, we made sorbet. And there are still two or three litres of crabapple juice sitting in the freezer waiting for my next idea.
Crabapples are a pain to work with because of their size, but their deeply-coloured skin makes for a gorgeous final product, and I love their distinctive tart flavour. Here are a few recipes, none super-precise, as we were winging it in the kitchen.
This is a beautiful pink sauce (see picture below). If you’re making a small amount, feel free to just transfer finished sauce to a jar and into the fridge. If you have a load of crabapples to dispose off, try canning them–crabs are super-acidic, so they take well to canning. When you’ve cooked your apples, save any juice that may have accumulated in the bottom of the pot–it’s perfect for jelly!
Crabapples, washed and stemmed
Sugar (to taste, but I found a 2:1 apple to sugar ratio was good)
A touch of water
After you’ve washed and stemmed your crabs, put them in a large pot on the stovetop with a splash of water in the bottom (just to prevent sticking). Cook over medium heat until apples are very soft and beginning to disintegrate (about 30 to 45 minutes or longer, depending on how big your pot of apples is). When apples are soft, process them in a food mill to remove skins and seeds. Reserve the clear juices at the bottom of the pot for jelly. When you’ve processed the apples, you’ll have a smooth, pink, and very tart sauce. Add sugar to taste, beginning with about 1/3 as much sugar as you have sauce (eg. 1 1/2 cups sauce=1/2 cup sugar). Taste and continue adding sugar until you’re satisfied with the flavour. Transfer to a jar for the fridge, or put sauce into sterilized jars and can in a boiling water bath.
I think because there is so much skin compared to flesh in crabapple, their juices are very high in natural pectin and thus is super-welcoming for jelly making. I love this jelly on pancakes, but I feel like it would be good with chicken too.
Leftover crabapple juice from sauce-making OR crabapple juice extracted with a juicer
An equal amount of sugar
Combine juice and sugar, and bring them to boil on the stovetop. Make sure the sugar is totally dissolved, then continue simmering for 10 minutes. You’ll have a thick syrup. Pour this syrup into sterilized jars for canning, or just throw it into the fridge. When the mixture cools it will set, so don’t worry if it doesn’t seem thick enough for jelly. It’ll happen.
This is so easy–it requires no real skill but patience. I added a couple sprigs of thyme to my vodka-crabapple mix, just to try it out.
Crabapples, cleaned, stemmed, and halved
Sugar syrup (combine sugar and water in equal amounts, and bring them to a boil. Allow sugar to dissolve, then remove from heat)
Gin or Vodka
Fill half-litre jars with crabs (almost up to their necks), then add 1/3 cup of sugar syrup per jar. Add liquor to cover, then put on lids. Agitate gently to combine liquor and sugar. Put jars in a cool, dark place for a few months. Go ahead and shake them up occasionally. If you do this now, it’ll probably taste good by Christmas.
Another thing I did this summer: I started writing for the food section of Vue Weekly, a free local paper. It’s pretty much as much fun as I can possibly have, and I can’t wait to do more. The job is this: find something that I think is interesting, then read a lot about it, and then after that, tell people about it. Those of you who know me in real life know that this is pretty much my entire mode of existence, so it’s cool to be paid for it.
So far I’ve been writing about booze, but I’m going to be tackling some other subjects soon. I’ll keep you posted!
Everything I’ve learned about:
I have something to tell you. Up to now, this blog has been decidedly positive. We tell you how much we love a food item, give a little run-down on why we like it, maybe give a glowing description and a couple preparation suggestions. Then you get the recipe. This is good. And positive. Everything’s all right here at Supper in Stereo.
But here’s my confession– I’m not generally sunny. I’m a whiner, a complainer, a look-on-the-dark-side kind of person. I complain about my job, curse the cloudy weather, call my cat stupid.
Actually, I only did that last one once. And I felt really bad afterwards.
I’m working on it, I am. But sometimes Carlo’s and my self-imposed exercise of listing three good things that happened every day ends up sounding something like this: Today is over. I survived today. I can go to bed now. This, my friends, is not positive.
Sometimes when you’re busy feeling grey like this, food falls by the wayside. Oh, we still eat, of course. But cookies turn out tough and floury, soup tasteless, meat dry. And we dutifully shovel it in, to get enough energy to slog through another day. January and February are especially bad when you live in a wintry climate. We’re lucky to get one sunny day a week and the rest of the days are plodding and overcast. They’re not even grey, they’re just… nothing.
Have you had enough yet?
Then listen: every once in a while, even I have to poke my head up and say “wait, this is pretty good.” The other night, Carlo and I were contemplating a beautiful pan of chicken parts scattered with chunks of lemon and rosemary that we were about to roast (the recipe was yet another gift from my generous aunt and uncle, and I’ll pass it on to you soon). It was gorgeous, even uncooked, and we could tell just by looking that it was going to be delicious. Carlo said “man, we have it pretty good.” And I agreed.
I had another moment like this the other night, standing in the kitchen, sticking my tongue out while I took a paring knife to the skins of our last Meyer lemons. I was sticking my tongue out because I was concentrating on only getting skin and not pith, so that the mini batch of limoncello that I was preparing wouldn’t come out with any bitterness at all. To be honest, the task of carefully peeling thin-skinned lemons isn’t really all that fun. I was tense and my shoulders were aching. But at the other end of the counter, Carlo was preparing a batch of one of our favorite ice creams. He was talking himself through the steps, pretending to host a cooking show (sample instructions: “…then you take a thing… or a spoon… and you move the stuff in the bowl around with it.” Sample banter: “I’m okay! Do you like me? You’re okay!”). If I wasn’t concentrating so hard, I would have been giggling. Carlo finished preparing his ice cream, and I finished peeling my lemons (it took me 30 minutes for four lemons– that’s dedication). Then Carlo put his ice cream into the ice cream machine and I put my limoncello in the cupboard to steep.
It’s just a little jar, mind you. I only had four lemons left (and incidentally, the more-than-half-empty bottle of vodka on our bar had the exact right amount of alcohol left, which was a nice coincidence). When the limoncello’s finished, it will be enough for a few sips, not much else. But I still like knowing that it’s sitting in the cool darkness of our cupboard, getting more and more delicious, waiting for us. You can steep your limoncello anywhere from two weeks to four months. I’m leaving mine there for all of February. We’ll see how I feel come March.
I’ll let you know how the limoncello turned out in a couple months. And Carlo’s ice cream? It was perfect, perfect. Life is good and we are lucky. I just don’t feeling like talking about it.
BROWN SUGAR SOUR CREAM ICE CREAM
We follow the recipe for brown sugar sour cream ice cream from Mercedes at Desert Candy faithfully. The last few times, we’ve used panela instead of brown sugar, just because I found panela in the store and felt that it needed to come home with me. I highly recommend this variation, as the panela has a great intense smoky, molassesy flavour. However, you MUST try the original recipe as well. It’s great! I love the addition of bourbon to the mix, but you could easily leave it out and still have a great ice cream. Plus there’s no custard to fiddle with (Farhan, I’m thinking of you…).
If you want to make limoncello, here’s the recipe I used. I used vodka, as it’s what we had around, but if you can find a grain alcohol, that would probably be better. The linked recipe makes a huge amount, but I scaled it to the following proportions:
4 lemons, preferably unsprayed and unwaxed
350 mL vodka or grain alcohol
1 1/4 c. water
1 1/3 c. sugar
Wash and dry the lemons, then peel them. Place them in a mason jar with the alcohol. Make sure the lemon is fully covered. Put the mason jar in a cool, dark place, shaking it once a day. Leave this for at least two weeks, but I’ve read you can go up to four months.
When your lemon concoction has steeped to your satisfaction, it’s time to sweeten it. Bring the water to a boil and add the sugar. Stir until the sugar has dissolved, then remove from the heat and allow to cool. When the mixture is room temperature, put a strainer over the saucepan that’s holding the sugar syrup and strain your steeped lemon mixture into the sugar syrup. Combine the liquids well, then place the mixture back into a mason jar. Put the mason jar back into your cupboard and repeat the first process, shaking twice every day for about three weeks.
Finally, after all that time, it’s ready to taste! The Washington Post recommends storing your limoncello in the freezer, where it will turn a milky yellow.
By the way, I juiced the lemons after I peeled them and boiled the juice with sugar in a 1:1 ratio to make lemon syrup. You could use this syrup to make lemonade, or you could pop in a vanilla bean and do a bit more fiddling to make something like this (which looks super-lovely).