Monday, September 23, 2013

The Sfozando

 This month's Mixology Monday jawn is smoke. Its being hosted by Elana at Stir and Strain, check it out. For the smoke theme, I was thinking about cocktails made with Scotch or Mezcal. I tried getting weird and not using smokey booze but was mostly unsuccessful. I made a super gross old fashioned with barbecue sauce, a pretty decent manhattan with liquid smoke and finally an acceptable paloma with mezcal. My experiments that were actually drinkable just felt like normal drinks that were unnecessarily smoky, and while that wasn't bad it was no better than the original drink. So I starting looking through my cocktail diary for anything tasty I had made with Mezcal and found this recipe which I really loved.

Mezcal is the smokey cousin of tequila. Well, technically tequila is a kind of mezcal but to most people in the US anyway, mezcal is the weirdo, scotch-like relative of tequila. Both are made from the agave plant, but tequila is only from blue agave grown in Jalisco. Most mezcal Ive seen is from Oaxaca but Im under the impression it can be from any state. In that regard, it is similiar to brandy and cognac, with cognac having a protected desgnation of origin. The majority of Mezcal we can even find here in the US is made in the traditional methods where hearts of agave, a big sorta cactus like succulent desert plant, are roasted in smoldering pits for days?, maybe. This lends a very smokey character to the finished distillate. You can find unsmoked mezcals also though.

I never heard of this drink before seeing it in Mr Boston. It was conjured up by Eryn Reece, whom I know nothing about. It contains 2 of my favorite liquors, rye and mezcal, and uses weird bitters that I have, chocolate. The only references to it on the internet are to the Mr Boston cocktail book. Its really good though and you should make it.

The Sfozando

1 oz mezcal (San Perderra)
3/4 oz rye (Russels Reserve)
1/2 oz dry vermouth (Noilly Pratt)
1/2 oz benedictine
dash chocolate bitters (Fee Brothers)
orange twist

Stir with ice, strain into a chilled cocktail glass, garnish with an orange twist.

I normally dont like chocolate and orange stuff. The combination of orange and chocolate are subtle, there is an herbal note from the benedictine, a spicy flavor from the rye and a smokiness from the mezcal. All together it makes for a deliciously balanced cocktail that I highly reccomend.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Foraged Fig Butter

This summer, while walking my dog farther than he wanted to go, we found a new fig tree. Well, its new to me anyway. Each time I've been there now that they're ripe, I see several people within 15 minutes. They pull over in their car, walk across the lot (its too small to call a field but its a big lot) and pick a small handful of the ripest figs. I had been checking on this tree for weeks and it seemed like they never ripened up. I know learned they are just well looked after. Except no one prunes it. Its a crazy jumble of branches that touch the ground on all sides. Its a 15 foot shrub.

Walter Crumpkin resting at the multi-trunked base of the fig.

The last time I went, a man offered me a few of his ripest figs and told me of another tree in the neighborhood. I thanked him in Arabic, which surprised him. (That is about the extent of my Arabic though.) He also told me I should climb into the tree because I am little and others didn't climb up. I took his advice and collected about 3 pints total. I gave a few of my ripest figs to the next man that came to check on the tree.

When I got home I sorted them. The very ripest I put in the fridge. These were all yellow with a purple blush. Some were greenish yellow but still fairly soft so I picked them, wondering how close they were. By the very next day, they were super ripe, they looked just like the ones in the fridge. Fruit flies were invading my kitchen. I was doing lots of food projects that day, so I decided to just cook them down into fig butter. I used honey and bourbon to make my small batch efforts even more worthwhile.

Honey Bourbon Fig Butter

1 quart fresh Figs
1/4 C Honey
2 Tbl Bourbon Whiskey
another splash of whiskey at the end to deglaze the pan, help preserve the preserves and add a tasty alcohol bite to the sweet gooey fig mush.

Destem the figs and cut into 1/8ths. Add to a pot with honey and bourbon. Simmer over medium low heat for 30 minutes, stirring frequently. Turn down heat to low, mash with a potato masher and continue cooking for another 30 minutes. A this point you need to stir very frequently and it will start to stick to the pan a bit. Take off heat and add a big splash of high proof bourbon, if possible. Let cool completely and then put in a jar and keep in the fridge. I didn't even consider properly canning it as I only had one jar. Eat on toast or with cheese.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Fermented Salsa


I don't make salsa often. When I do, its usually summer and I need to use up an abundance of tomatoes. I generally dont use any recipe, I just chop tomatoes, onions, garlic, cilantro and chilis. Unfortunately, I didn't stagger my cilantro growing properly and all the mature plants have long been used up and all I have growing are tiny little slow growing sprouts. So, no cilantro. A little bit of acidity is really good at bringing out all the flavors, much like salt. Fresh salsa often gets lime juice and canned usually gets a little vinegar. I thought that making my salsa and then treating it like kim chi would be an interesting way to add that acidity. I put my salsa in a quart mason jar and let it sit out for 3 days, stirring twice a day. It was so good! There was lots of skins, which annoys me in salsa, because I used so many cherry tomatoes and after days of stirring and breaking them up they separated from the fruits. It was really tasty though. Also, I think we are growing yellow jalapeno? Who knew? One plant has chilies that fade to yellow and then get brighter and brighter yellow and never show any signs of a red blush. I didnt realize such a thing even existed...

after sittimg for a day
all stirred back in

Raw Fermented Salsa

~ 3C chopped tomatoes, tossed w/ salt and left in a strainer while chopping other veg
1/2 onion, diced
1/2 green pepper, diced
garlic clove, minced
2 yellow jalapeno, minced
1 Tbl brine from raw cumin beet pickles

Set a strainer over a bowl. Chop tomatoes and put in strainer. Salt heavily and stir a few times while preparing other ingredients. I was able to draw out about 5 oz of liquid from the tomatoes. This greatly improved the texture of the finished salsa. Combine all ingredients in a quart mason jar and stir with a chopstick. Put a lid on lightly, it doesnt need to be air tight. Stir every 12 hours until it starts to smell slightly sour. For me this only took 3 days in the low 80s. I expected it to be quick because everything was chopped small or was a soft tomato. Really good. Im going to make more before summer is over....

Thursday, September 5, 2013


Melancia is Portuguese for watermelon. Agua fresca is Mexican. Cachaca is Brazilian, where they speak Portuguese more than Portugal. Why does any of this matter? Cocktails, duh.

First of all agua fresca is delicious and refreshing if you did not know. Its basically lemonade using other fruits. Water, fruit, sweetener, citrus, sometimes herbs. Its less sweet and more refreshing than plain old juice and it stretches your produce into more drinks. When made out of cucmbers and mint and lemon I've heard it called cucumber water. However, watermelon water sounds stupid. Watermelon agua fresca sounds delightful though. I made it like this:

Watermelon Agua Fresca

10lb watermelon, rind cut off, chopped coarsely to fit in a blender
4 C water
1 lime
6 Tbl Agave nectar

This is a monster batch. My watermelon didnt even seem that huge to me but when I weighed it the scale said ten pounds. It filled the blender 4 times! I did a quarter of the water melon, 1/4 lime, 1 1/2 tsp agave for each batch. My watermelon wasn't amazing and this was a great use for it but if I had an amazing watermelon it would be even better and maybe not need quite as much sweetener. I strained it through a mesh strainer and then washed away the foamy pulpy stuff. I filled 4 quart jars when I was done. When it sat in the fridge for a day, it separates into fine fruit pulpy solids and more clear liquid but a quick shake and its back to normal. Now what? Drink it as is, or over ice with mint leaves and lime slices added top the glass or make a cocktail:

Melancia Sour

recipe adapted from Kevin Deidrich of the Burritt Room, SF; via the internet.

1 1/2 oz Cachaca
1/2 oz lemoncello
1/2 oz lime juice
1 1/2 oz watermelon agua fresca

Stir with ice, then strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lime wheel.

I adapted the recipe only because I didn't have the necessary ingredients for the original but I thought my version was really tasty. Cachaca is like the funky Brazilian cousin to rum. It is made from cane syrup rather than molasses and it is aged in wooden barrels for a year or more. It's pretty interesting if you can find it. If I didn't have Cachaca but I did have Smith & Cross Rum, I'd probably make it with that and be intoxicated more quickly but the flavor profile would be similar.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Peach Fig Kimchi

I made a similar condiment 2 years ago and it was a huge success. I didn't measure it then and I didn't measure it now. I'd compare it to mango chutney before kimchi but it is made in the kimchi style. "Real" kim chi is a korean fermented cabbage condiment/salad/side dish. It generally contains cabbage, daikon radish, sometimes carrots, chili, garlic, scallion/onion, ginger, sometimes fish sauce. It is sour but there is no vinegar added when made correctly; the sour flavor is all from lactobacillus fermentation. There are tons of different recipes using a wide range of ingredients, sometimes even fruit.

Peach Fig Kim Chi

5 Peaches, chopped
1/2 lb Figs, chopped 
bunch Garlic Chives, diced
1 Shallot, minced
1 inch knob Ginger, microplaned
2 jalapeno, minced

Chop peaches and figs coarsely, put in a strainer set over a bowl, salt heavily and stir. Stir a few times while chopping the other ingredients. Combine everything in a quart mason jar and leave loosely capped for about a week. (Its ok for air to get in but no bugs!) Stir every 12 hours.

By chopping and salting the fruit before adding the other ingredients, a significant amount of liquid is drawn out of the fruits. When making kimchi, you want everything to be submerged in liquid, not exposed to air. By pre-salting the fruit, you also insure that any bits that do get exposed to air above the surface of the brine (or in this case fruity/ mushy/ briney stuff) will be salty enough that they wont mold. Stirring frequently reincorporates any bits that are near the surface, as well as slowly mashing it up. I use a chopstick. The fruit has so much liquid that I remove some at the start so that when finished it will have a nice, thickened, almost chunky applesauce texture.

A microplane is a superfine super sharp grater that is great for ginger, citrus zest and hard cheese. I always use it for ginger. You get really fresh, juicy ginger and are left holding some of the stringy pulp instead of eating it. I used garlic chives because they are so prolific in my garden. (You could use scallions and garlic instead.) They are a little bit tough raw sometimes and I was concerned about the texture in the finished kim chi. Luckily, they worked out fine chopped small and fermented for a week.
Peach Fig Kim Chi, after a week of stirring twice a day.