Friday, September 26, 2014

Jessica Redux: Streamlined and Refined

Bottles of Jessica

Since my return, I have revisited several of the early shrubs once again, not only to finally share the recipes that I wish I had given you in the first place, but also to take a look at some of them in the cold light of day several years on to see if there are things that could be better or different in light of my experiences with the craft in the past several years.

Jessica is a really great example of one that has likely gained the benefit of some good old fashioned hindsight. While I realize that I am known for experimenting with odd flavors in this medium, in the more recent past I have discovered that there is a time and a place for both methods of thinking. Sometimes, you just want to taste the fruit, and having a simple shrub that highlights that is exactly what you want.

In its first incarnation, Jessica was supposed to approximate a peach cobbler by utilizing allspice berries and vanilla along with the earthier undertones of brown sugar. I enjoyed it at the time, but after getting a massive windfall of stellar peaches from an Eastern Washington farm recently, this definitely seemed like a great time to put the less is more practice into action.

Essentially, the base of Jessica is the same: white wine vinegar, brown sugar, and damned ripe peaches. The only difference is the new absence of vanilla and spice.

Is it better? I think so.

The original arrangement definitely evoked exactly the feelings about a peach baked good that I was after, but ultimately with such a great fruit, it occurred to me that this kind of narrowed profile could be cutting me off from other avenues, be it cocktail or cooking.

I am hoping to illustrate later this week just how scaling back to this simplified recipe will allow me to use the shrub in a couple of other ways.

But enough of that. Without further ado, I present the final recipe of Jessica, which I hope you'll enjoy as much as I do.


16 oz Peaches, cut into chunks
13 oz brown sugar
16 oz white wine vinegar

Food scale
Sealable non-reactive container
Muddler or heavy spoon
Strainers of increasing fineness
Large measuring cup
Tea strainer
Funnel(preferably canning funnel)
Sealable glass bottle

Wash peaches and pat dry. Cut into large chunks and set aside.

Put open non-reactive container on scale and use tare function to zero out the reading. Gently drop peach chunks into container until desired weight is reached. Use tare function again.
Pour or spoon brown sugar into container until desired amount is reached. , and using muddler, grind sugar into peaches until a thick, syrupy mixture forms. Seal container and rest mixture in refrigerator for 2-5 hours.
Remove container from refrigerator and unseal. Place on scale, once again using tare function. Add  white wine vinegar to container. Reseal, and place back into refrigerator. Rest jar one week.
After one week, remove container from refrigerator. Arrange strainers in levels of increasing fineness over measuring cup. Strain liquid through strainers, pressing on pulp to express any trapped shrub.
Place funnel in bottle, and situate tea strainer in funnel opening. Pour strained shrub through tea strainer into bottle, and seal bottle.
Refrigerated shrub should last from six months to one year.


Thursday, September 18, 2014

A Little Bit Behind

Good morning.

I always hate to do these placeholder posts, but I also hate leaving people hanging when they might be expecting content, even if it's usually on a weekly basis.

Things have been really busy lately, and part of the reason there have been so few posts lately is that I am currently waiting on a couple of batches of shrub that I think will be really good and should hopefully lead to some good posts in the next week or two which will hopefully include multiple cocktails and another cooking post, which I am really excited to do more of.

In any instance, my apologies for the long delays, and I promise neither I, nor the blog have vanished into the ether again.

In the meantime, as always, I urge readers to leave comments to let me know if there is anything you'd like to see covered or topics you'd be interested in learning more about. Or anything you like or don't like. I love your feedback!

My ultimate goal here is to be a valuable resource for those with an interest in the craft, and I want to do everything I can to spread the word and help as many people embrace this beverage.

In the meantime, keep an eye on this space, and I will be back soon with some interesting stuff.

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Hard Stuff: Exsanguination Without Representation

Exsanguination Without Representation

Let's do some word association.

When I say "cocktails with tomato," what is the first phrase that pops into your head?

If you said "Bloody Mary," I'm not surprised.

Given the lack of tomato based cocktails, we are likely hardwired to immediately envision vodka and the Bloody Mary. And why wouldn't we? Other than the mimosa, it's one of the most well known staples of the morning drinking set, and it at least flirts with the idea of mitigating the otherwise deleterious effects of a tall, salt forward glass of "morning sunshine" by throwing a pretty hefty dose of lycopene and vitamin C at you.

Now, I've had some decent Bloodies in my day, and when prepared in a thoughtful, classic manner, they can be an absolute delight if one is enmeshed in that nebulous, but socially acceptable ocassion to drink before noon known as brunch. The problem is, these days Bloody Mary preparation is anything but.

I don't want to go all Embury or anything, but I will say this: rather than a simple blend of savory and tangy flavors, the Bloody Mary has essentially become a sort of farcical wonderland in which otherwise sane people decide to turn their cocktail into either some kind of Dada masterpiece or an opportunity to skewer as many rich, fatty, or outlandish items as they can with a stick, then dropping it into the glass with wild abandon, trying to one-up the guy down the street who tried to stuff a whole braised pork belly in a glass of tomato juice and pepper vodka in the name of "whimsy."

As a countermeasure to this madness, I would like to offer a a different take on this old chestnut that I think not only would work as a brunch drink, but could also reasonably bring a tomato cocktail to a respectable pre-prandial after 5 kind of an affair.

Using a nice smooth bourbon, such as Buffalo Trace as a base, I added a healthy dose of the Elizabeth shrub from last week, and temper it with a small amount of lemon juice for some freshness and levity, and tie the whole thing together with celery bitters, which calls to mind the ubiquitous Bloody Mary stalk that comes to one's mind when they think of the Bloody Mary of old.

That's it.

No bacon, no salad bar, no carefully "house curated Bloody Mary mix", not even Worcerstershire.

The funny thing is, once I tasted this I didn't miss it at all. The berbere, jam packed full of all the umami you could ever want when paired with tomatoes, does all of the heavy lifting in the seasoning department. It is paradoxically so simple but so complex all at the same time, you'll wonder if you've just performed a magic trick. The answer is probably yes, because you've likely made it disappear in a couple of gulps.

A stunning display piece or mixological blank canvas, it is not, but when you want the great tastes of tomato and booze to taste great together, and you want it with a minimum of fussy nonsense, pull one of these together and enjoy.

As for the name of this cocktail, it ties into the name of the shrub which itself is named after Elizabeth Bathory, who supposedly bathed in the blood of a parade of nameless victims in efforts to keep herself youthful. As there were no trials before these young unfortunates were allegedly killed, the first thing that sprang to mind of course was Exsanguination Without Representation.

Exsanguination Without Representation

2 oz bourbon(Buffalo Trace)
.25 oz lemon juice
2 dashes celery bitters

Combine all ingredients.

Shake with ice and strain into Old Fashioned glass with big ice cube or good sized cubes.