Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Blueberry Jam

Growing up, my father would make tons of raspberry jelly every year. Family and friends all came to expect a jar every Christmas. My parents had a big raspberry patch and we would all help pick them. My dad would squeeze them all down through jelly bags to get their juice, then cook it on the stove with sugar and pectin. Most fruits contain some amount of pectin but it is extracted from apples to be sold commercially for things like setting jelly.It has somewhat similar properties to gelatin but is made from fruit rather than animal bones.

People often use the terms "jam" and "jelly" interchangeably but they are distinctly different. Jelly, as stated above, is fruit juice that is sweetened and thickened. Jam, is made from the whole fruit cooked down until thick. It is still sweetened. Preserves are the same as jam but have noticeable chunks of fruit in the mix as well.

Blueberry jam is slowly becoming my yearly tradition although I am not yet growing the blueberries. Last year I went to New Jersey and picked them myself. This year I was blessed with quite a lot of blueberries that needed to be used up at once. Now it should be stated that I like jelly just fine but it always seemed like a lot of extra work to me. You can achieve a certain jelled, smooth texture that is just not possible in making jam, even when it is well pureed but you also loose some fiber in removing all the skin and seeds of the fruit. I mostly make jam out of laziness and lack of concern for perfect texture. Its sweet and fruity and spreadable and I'm happy.

Last year I only ended up making about 3 jars of jam. I had cooked it down so far that it is incredibly concentrated and wonderful. It is not necessary to go that far, however. What I learned on repeating my efforts this year, was that it needn't be the texture and thickness I desired while still hot on the stovetop. It thickens up considerably while it cools. A test I saw somewhere on the internet was to take a spoonful and plop it on a plate, put it in the freezer for 3 mins (so the jam becomes room temperature quickly), then take a spoonful and plop it on a plate again. If it holds a domed shape it has become thick enough and if it spreads out then it still needs to cook more.

Blueberry Basil Jam

(recipe doubled from put em up)

16 C blueberries
1/2 C lemon juice
4 C sugar
1/2 C basil

(That quantity of basil is for half the batch. I packed up half the jars as plain blueberry jam, then added basil to the remainder)  
Boil blueberries with a splash of water.
Mash and stir for 5 minutes.
Add sugar and stir until dissolved.
Add lemon juice.
Cook at a steady boil, stirring frequently.
Let rest for 5 minutes, stir, then pack in cans.

See above notes for a good way to test when its done. I ended up cooking for about an hour and a half. I did not puree but you can if you prefer a completely smooth jam. Mine is a little lumpy and Im fine with that. The longer you cook it, the less you'll end up with but the more firm and intensely flavored it will be

The basil sounds a bit unusual but really is quite nice. Doing a half batch "normal" is a nice way to see the subtle difference that a fresh herb can add to jams.It makes for a more unique peanut butter and jelly or a more unique gift.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Pegu Club Cocktail

This one is apparently from a country club in Burma originally. It is virtually unknown in Myanmar today, according to wikipedia and there happens to be a bar in New York currently which stole the name. Its an old school classic dating to at least the 1920's and its basically a gin margarita. I'm not sure why people don't make these more often. Its different but very good.

Pegu Club Cocktail

2 oz gin
1 oz triple sec
1/2 oz lime juice
dash Angostura bitters
dash Orange bitters

Shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

This drink follows the 3:2:1 formula that I enjoy for sours, like margaritas and sidecars. The addition of 2 kinds of bitters got me thinking of variations. While there are still peaches in season, heres what I got:

Peachauds Club Cocktail

2 oz bourbon
3/4 oz peach schnapps
1/2 oz lime juice
dash Peychauds bitters
dash peach bitters

Shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
I made the first drink with Cointreau.
The peach schnapps had to be reduced slightly for a balanced drink.

Monday, August 19, 2013


This month Mixology Monday is being hosted by Feu de Vie. Check out all the fiery entries here: fire drinks The theme is fire and it has me a little indecisive. Do I infuse something with chilis? Do I go over the top and make a drink that you ignite before serving? Do I go super subtle and just use bourbon, because it is aged in charred oak barrels? Do I infuse a smoky ingredient rather than a fiery ingredient like black cardamom or lapsang suchang tea? Uggh.


My wonderful girlfriend reminded me that I made a chili version of a Paloma last week that we both really enjoyed. So that's settled. When I made the original drink, I used jalapeno tequila made by Karen at Little Baby's Icecream. They were experimenting on a weirdo ice cream flavor, as they always do, and it didn't pan out and they had left over booze. I bake cookies for them and Karen knows I like making cocktails so she gave me what they had left over.

I looked up some jalapeno infused tequila recipes/ recommendations on the internet and I didn't believe them. However, I think they were right. I ended up testing a batch which was 1 small jalapeno, sliced  crosswise then infused in 1/2 C tequila for 30 mins. It was so incredibly spicy!!! Not unbearably so, but so much more than I expected. Most infusions (except tea) I do for days if not weeks so 30 mins didn't seem like much. Half a chili in a cup of booze is what Id recommend. Or use more chili for less time. Or if you like heat, do it the way I did and add a little more lime and salt to help balance out all that spicy. {But I don't recommend it, I prefer the more subtle spiciness.} And my camera died while procrastinating my cocktail homework so here's just a pic of chilies infusing....


2 oz jalapeno infused tequila
4 oz grapefruit soda
wedge of lime
pinch of salt

Build in an ice filled collins glass. Squeeze the lime, throw it in and stir.
To make jalapeno infused tequila, leave half a deseeded jalapeno in 8 oz tequila for 30 mins.
You can rim the glass with salt if you love salty things, but at least throw a pinch in the drink, its really nice. 

Monday, August 12, 2013


Benedicitine is a french liquer traditionally made by monks. It is a cognac base infused with a blend of herbs and sugar. Its in a few classic drinks, so I finally bought a bottle. Most of the drinks I've made call for it in very small amounts, but they wouldn't be the same without it. (Actually they all call for 1/4 oz which is a tricky measure with a jigger. I usually do 2 barspoons or try to eyeball half of my 1/2 oz jigger if Im already using it.) If anybody has made any other good drinks with it, please let me know! First up is a cocktail whose name I've been familiar with, although I've never ordered one at a bar, the Singapore Sling. This drink goes back to at least the early 1900's, although the recipe has changed slightly. Here's how I made it:

Singapore Sling

2 oz Gin
1/2 oz Cherry Heering
1/2 oz Cointreau
1/4 oz Benedicitine
2 oz pineapple juice
3/4 oz lime juice
dash Angostura bitters
splash club soda

Shake everything except the club soda.
Strain into a Collins glass filled with ice.
Top with soda.

Its pretty good. I recommend it if you have all those ingredients at your house...

I had never heard of this next one, even though its made with very normal ingredients. Except for Benedictine, which I forgot was in the drink until I saw this picture. I found this recipe in Gary Regan's Joy of Mixology. This is one of my favorite cocktail books. (The Sling recipe above is his as well...) Regan delves into the history of a lot of the drinks in this book. Unlike some cocktail tomes, this book doesn't have that many recipes. The drinks that are presented are well explained and really well organized. I liked it okay when I made it with Bourbon and Martini Rosso. It was even better when made with Carpano Antica.

Preakness Cocktail

2 oz Bourbon or Rye
1 oz Sweet Vermouth
1/4 oz Benedictine
Angostura Bitters
Lemon twist

Stir with ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with twist.

The Vieux Carre is a New Orleans classic. It is booze forward without actually having that much booze in it, compared to say an old fashioned, which I usually make with 3 oz of bourbon. It is kind of like a more complex whiskey old fashioned. I love it. Its an easy to remember recipe and it has rye in it. This recipe is from the newest Mr Boston, which is great because it has pretty much every drink worth making in it.

Vieux Carre

3/4 oz Rye
3/4 oz Brandy
3/4 oz Sweet Vermouth
1/4 oz Benedicitine
dash Peychauds bitters
dash Angostura bitters

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Jalapeno Carrot Pickle

I picked 5 lbs of rainbow carrots the other day and was slightly overwhelmed. So I canned some. Now I dont have to worry about them for awhile. I got the recipe from Put em up, this great canning/preserving/etc book that I love. I could only stand to wait about a day before I cracked a jar open. They're so good!! So much for preserving the harvest...

Spicy Carrots

 4 C white vinegar
1 C sugar
3 Tbl salt

2 lbs carrots
6 cloves garlic
2 jalapenos, sliced

In a small saucepan, bring first 3 ingredients to a boil.
Peel carrots and chop down so that they are 1 inch shorter than your jars.
Divide garlic and chilis between 3 clean pint jars.
Pack in carrots.
Fasten rims and put in a boiling canner for 15 mins
I didnt add the optional chili flakes of the original recipe. 
These are briney, sweet, spicy, crunchy and wonderful. 
Next time I will add double jalapeno, they give such a nice flavor without being too hot and the little slices of chili are super good too. There was enough brine leftover that I made a pint of beet pickles too, since I had the canner out and all. (Peeled and sliced beets, added all the dill seeds I just picked)

all the carrots came from this tiny row,
anise hyssop has recently colonized this bed
and the carrots didnt seem too mind

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Old Fashioned Dead Guy

Rogue is a great brewery from Portland, OR. They've been running a distillery as well for the past 10 years. They do cool stuff like grow their own barley and hops for some of their beers. They make a chipotle stout thats really weird and rad.

Its really hard to find their booze in Philly. I bought some while I was in California. They distill the wort used to make Dead Guy Ale. Which makes it a somewhat unusual whiskey. Its not bourbon or rye but all barley instead. Unlike scotch whisky though, it is not at all smokey. I made an old fashioned with it like this:

Old Fashioned Dead Guy
3oz whiskey
Orange slice
Maraschino cherry
1 tsp cane sugar
Angostura Bitters

Muddle orange, cherry, bitters and sugar in a rocks glass. Add whiskey and stir. Add ice and stir. Sip slowly while the ice melts in.

Sunday, August 4, 2013


new 10 day old Kombucha scoby, after mature Kombucha was drained
I love GT Dave's Trilogy Kombucha. Its pretty much the only one I ever buy. Ginger/ lemon/ raspberry perfection. I don't really buy it often these days but there was a time when I did. There also was a time about 4 or 5 years ago, when I made my own Kombucha for a little while. It was never great but I was never too methodical about it either and it was always drinkable.
mother scoby

Recently a friend gave me a new kombucha scoby. (symbiotic. culture. of. bacteria. & yeast.) There are many traditional ferments that are scoby based. Kombucha thrives in an acidic environment made of sweet tea. Weird, right? When its done fermenting its fizzy and sour and sometimes a little sweet still. The culture eats up the sugars and converts them into lactic acid, carbon dioxide, probiotic bacterias and more.

 The first time I made it years ago, I based my recipe off of Sandor Katz's Wild Fermentation book. This time I based it off of his Art of Fermentation. He's the best. While his style is not my style by any means, I really enjoy reading everything he does. Its really accessible. He gives really rough recipes/ encouragements in paragraph form. This is what I took away from it:


12 tea bags, steeped 4 mins
6 C boiled water, rested for about 2 mins before steeping
1 1/2 C sugar, stirred into tea after tea bags removed
6 C boiled and then cooled water
1/4 C mature Kombucha
Kombucha mother
3 Tbl raw cider vinegar

new scoby beginning to form
Boiling water is essential to remove chlorine, which lots of fermentation projects dislike. If you have boiled and cooled water to begin with, you can proceed faster. If not, make tea with the full 12 C and then let it cool forever. Make sure it is room temperature before adding mature Kombucha or scoby or you might kill it. I didn't have enough mature kombucha with my scoby, its supposed to be about 10% of total volume, so I added vinegar to raise the ph and add more raw culture support. You then leave it to ferment for about a week. Ideally it sits in a big open mouth crock or jar, with a covering to dissuade flies but still allow airflow. This fermentation is aerobic and requires fresh air to work properly. I used an old cookie jar, of which i had dropped the lid on my head and shattered it, making it useless for cookies any more, covered in a paper towel and sealed with a rubber band... 

mama scoby creepin up to the new jawn
crazy air bubble island in the scoby
It worked exceptionally well. Generally new layers form onto the mother scoby and as it gets super thick, you can peel away layers and give them to people. For some reason, when I did it, the mama scoby fell to the bottom and sort of floated lackluster near the bottom of the jar. However, a brand new, beast-thick scoby formed at the top. After about 8 days, the mama was creeping up towards the baby but it never connected. I waited 10 days (averaging in the low 80's the whole time) before bottling it, which was this afternoon. I bottled up four Grolsch swing top pints and a plastic bottle to test the carbonation. (you can tell how carbonated its getting by squeezing, something you cannot do with glass) If it carbonated too much they will explode, so the tester is nice to have. I think it will be a few days until I move them to the fridge. Fermentation slows dramatically in the refrigerator but doesn't quite stop.

I made 2 new batches of sweet tea before I attempted to bottle up the finished Kombucha. I have a smaller crock that I'm putting the original mother in, to see if it makes a new baby or just gets bigger.  And I'm putting the baby but already huge scoby into the same big jar again, because it fits it perfectly. 

next round
Hopefully they will carbonate nicely and taste delicious. I expect 10 more days until the next cycle is ready. If this first round tastes decent and doesn't need tweaking to get a nice balance of sweet and sour and carbonates nicely, then I will start trying to do a secondary fermentation to add more flavors in the next round.

I should have lots of scobys to give out in the next month for any Philly friends. Ill probably have Kombucha for everyone I know to drink soon also...

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Smashed Zucchini

  This sort of recipe is sort of from Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian, which rules. The entire huge book is filled with recipes that grandmas all over the world have been making forever. Anyways I cannot remember who I lent it out to so I just made this from memory. I believe the recipe was from Syria or Palestine. Here's what I did.

Smashed Zucchini

3 reasonable sized zucchini, diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
lots of good olive oil
chili vinegar
fresh basil, chiffonade

Heat oil in large pan. Add garlic and stir to flavor oil. Add zucchini quickly or the garlic will burn. Saute over medium heat, stirring occasionally until zucchini starts to stick and brown up just a little bit. Deglaze the pan with something acidic. You can use lemon juice or any vinegar. I used a white vinegar that I infused with chilis in the fall. Turn off heat. Smash with a potato masher for best results or the back of a wooden spoon if thats all you've got. Stir in fresh basil. Parsley or cilantro or chives would work well also. Eat with crusty bread or pita or chips or make into a bruschetta. I sliced fresh mozzerella onto some bread, piled smashed zucchini on top toasted it and sprinkled it with paprika salt. I question the healthfulness of squash once it has been cooked down this much but it is really delicious. Its a great way to use up lots of summer squash.