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More Citrus Shrubs

8 Apr

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After last year’s enjoyable experience making shrubs (a shelf-stable way to preserve fruit with vinegar and sugar, for mixing into soda water, cocktails, salad dressings, and so on), I’ve spent a few more weekends trying new citrus, new vinegars, and different ratios, as well as using oleo saccharums (citrus oils extracted from the peel with sugar: I posted some photos of the process yesterday).

Bergamot / Cider Vinegar Shrub

Since much of the unique flavor of bergamot is in the zest, an oleo saccharum is key. I combined the peel of four bergamots with 2/3 cups of white sugar (let sit and periodically kneaded for about 10 hours, see photos)– by the end of that time I could smell it even through the bag. I added that to the juice of 17 bergamots (about 2 cups), another 1 1/3 cups white sugar, and, by trial and error, 3/4 cups of my favorite cider vinegar (Bragg).

The vinegar flavor was a little overpowering, initially, but it’s supposed to mellow over time… and indeed, after sitting for a week it’s become one of my favorite shrubs– one spoonful livens up a glass of sparkling water.

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Kaffir Lime Shrub

I’d been brought a gift of fresh kaffir limes (which I’d never seen before), just on the edge of turning brown, and knew immediately I wanted to preserve their flavor with a shrub. The peel has the same distinctive scent as kaffir lime leaves, a dry, spicy, and floral citrus.

Since they’re so knobby, they were a huge pain to peel– normal peelers or zesters were useless, so I used a small knife and painstakingly trimmed off rind and then removed pith… ending up with the peel of 15 kaffir limes packed in 1/2 cup sugar to make an oleo saccharum, plus the juice of the limes (only half a cup, quite dry), and almost 1/2 cup of a very mild neutral rice vinegar. This gave me a dry, perfume-like shrub that’s great to splash into water or champagne.

Calamansi Lemongrass Shrub

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I don’t have the exact proportions written down, but this excellent shrub (probably my favorite basic citrus shrub) combined tiny calamansi (which I just sliced in half and packed in sugar, extracting both oleo saccharum and juice), additional lime juice, half a stalk of finely-sliced lemongrass, sugar, and champagne vinegar.

Meyer Lemon Peppercorn Shrub

The peel of 9 meyer lemons in ⅔ cup sugar, the juice of 18 (about 2 cups), another 1 ⅓ cups sugar, mint leaves, black peppercorns, and a mix of cider and white vinegars. Easy.

I’m looking forward to exploring further this summer once non-citrus fruits are in season…

 

Oleo Saccharum (sugar-extracted citrus oils)

7 Apr

This is now my favorite way to extract intense citrus flavors, especially from fragrant citrus (bergamot, other sour oranges, kaffir limes, and so on). I’ve started using this in both shrubs and [citrus]cellos. Basically, you slice the peel off citrus, painstakingly scrape off any white pith so you have thin, translucent strips of peel, then pack them in sugar for about 10 hours, periodically kneading them as the oil diffuses out of the peel and liquefies the sugar. Bergamot through the afternoon, in photos: IMG_20140201_190346263 IMG_20140104_212438 DSC03334 DSC03338 DSC03339 And knobby kaffir limes getting the same treatment (I spent more time after the first photo removing pith before packing in sugar): IMG_20140111_200246880 IMG_20140111_220556519

Shrubs (drinking vinegar)

27 Dec

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A shrub (a.k.a. “drinking vinegar”) is a mixture of fruit, sugar and vinegar. It was popular in Colonial America as it was a way to easily preserve fruit pre-refrigeration, and has enjoyed a resurgence in the past few years as a non-alcoholic apertif or as an element in cocktails.

I was first exposed to one a few years ago at the Whiskey Soda Lounge in Portland, OR, and loved the tart/acidic flavor, but didn’t realize it was part of a broader movement. Fast forward to this fall and I got a shrubs and cocktail syrups lesson from Kelly McVicker , at Workshop, and then over the holidays made two more batches.

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Made at Workshop: a small batch involving strawberries, cider vinegar, szechuan pink peppercorns, and lemongrass (the glass on the right is a mint-and-peppercorn-syrup julep):

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And in my kitchen, after finding organic meyer lemons and blood oranges in a local market:

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Macerating the sliced lemons in sugar along with basil, straining, then adding a mix of cider and white vinegars. I let the fruit macerate for four hours but could have given it a day. This is the “cold shrub” style of preparation, letting the sugar draw the liquid out of fruit (I came back after a few hours and the bowl was almost full of liquid), which I hear keeps the most clean fruit flavor– the other approach is to cook fruit in sugar and make more of an infused simple syrup.

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Another one involved blood oranges soaked in a mix of brown sugar and Maine maple syrup made by my sister, with star anise and cider vinegar:

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And because any food preservation project also has to turn into a craft project, trying out a few quick label designs (with the usual milk-as-label-glue).

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I’d initially planned to draw the fruit on the label, but when the shrub itself is so colorful,  why hide it?

These both turned out quite well, and different– the lemon is great on its own or with soda, the blood orange is probably better in a more robust cocktail or in cooking.

“Lion’s Milk” (Raki)

5 Feb

Once I heard it was anise-based (like Pernod, Pastis, Ouzo, and so on, but unsweetened, unlike Sambuca), I had to try the unofficial national drink of Turkey, Raki.

Not bad, though better with food (cooked meat).

Scenic Drinks in Singapore

26 Jan

Along with eating in Singapore, I had drinks at a few memorable places.

The stout and blonde at the scenic Level 33 brewpub were my favorite:

I had an unremarkable beer (maybe a Tiger?) on the rooftop deck at Prelude, a bar above the Boathouse restaurant adjacent to the Fullerton Hotel. Another nice place to spend a balmy winter evening.

Finally, I had a “Tony Stark” (a transparent and successful attempt to sell a “manly” cocktail): it involved caramelized pineapple and black pepper, and was cute but a waste of money at $24 Singaporean ($18 US)). The 57th-floor views from the top of the Marina Bay Sands hotel and casino made up for that, though:

Chipotle Cocktail

19 Nov

I’m more into beer, but an A+ cocktail at Millenium: “House Infused Manchurian Crabapple & Chipotle Tequila, Kaffir Lime, Pomegranate, Cane Syrup, Peychaud’s Bitters”. A tart and smoky slow burn.

Cue grainy cell phone photo: