Amaro… amaro… such a pretty, romantic word. Before moving to Durham almost 4 months ago now (wow), little did I know that I had in fact tried amaro before in the form of Fernet Branca, a more well known amaro that is hitting the food/hipster world. So aside from just a pretty name, which turns out means “bitter” in Italian, amaro is an herbal liqueur that is commonly enjoyed as an after-dinner digestif. It usually has a bitter-sweet flavor, sometimes syrupy. Thank you Mr. Wikipedia…. The second time I tried amaro was earlier this year at The Portland Hunt & Alpine Club. I had no clue what I was tasting, but I knew I enjoyed it more than Fernet Branca. At the time I was a bit distracted by the amazing aesthetic of the establishment, so much that I didn’t make note of what we were tasting. Fast forward 5 months and I instantly recognized the iconic bottle with an artichoke on it while enjoying a drink at a neighborhood cocktail hangout. Cynara scolymus, known commonly as artichoke, is the predominant ingredient that lends to the drink’s name, Cynar.
In following in the footsteps of my boozy cranberry creations from the past two years, I decided to try Cynar as the main ingredient for this years’ cranberry fun. Port was awesome, whiskey was safe, Cynar is just weird. But weird in a really complimenting way with the tart flavors of the fresh cranberries. For this recipe, I kept it quite simple: berries, spices, sugar, citrus, ginger, and booze. Depending on your palate, I’d recommend tasting your sauce before canning, though know that as the mixture sits and cools, the flavors change a bit. I wouldn’t typically opt for bitter, tart, and sweet together for my canning recipes, but as a friend all knowingly suggested pretending that I was making a strong cocktail surprisingly worked out great. Enjoy!
The tales of the traveling Tonic bottle… In checking out their photos online one could say that this little bottle gets around. Being that funny limbo time between fresh summer and early fall harvest, I’m always forced to get creative with my canning ideas. Thanks to my new friends over at Alley Twenty Six and Behind the Stick Provisions, LLC, this week I decided to put up a small batch of jelly using the Durham produced craft Tonic Syrup. Local, weird, and easily the prettiest colored jelly I’ve ever made. With hints of lemongrass and spice, I plan on serving this Tonic jelly with goat cheese and crackers.
What’s up with the burnt orange color? The color is caused by the bark of Peruvian cinchona trees that they use. Never heard of it? Neither had I. As the name suggests, the main use for this syrup is cocktails. Gin + Tonic syrup + soda water = close to the best gin and tonic I’ve ever tasted. Interested in trying or making this somewhat regionally specific jelly yourself? You can find Alley Twenty Six’s Tonic in many drinking establishments and bottle shops around the Triangle. For those of you who don’t live in the area, Tonic is currently being sold in store and online at Southern Season. Word on the street is that their website is going hit the interwebs any day now. In the meantime, for news, ideas, and a list of retailers, check out their Facebook page.
“Miso, Korean spice, dumplings, sauce…, lotus root (!!), Erin you should totally pickle this.” Two weekends ago my friend Jon and his wife took me on an adventure to LiMing’s Global Mart in Durham, NC. A pickle connoisseur himself, walking down aisle by aisle he couldn’t help but make suggestions for weird pickles that I should try. It was tempting, it was over indulgent, and it was a bit expensive, but how often do I go to ethnic stores? … and to think of going to a hispanic market together. While I typically stick to local and in-season sourced ingredients for my canned goods, ethnic grocers always offer enticing veggies to experiment with. Lotus root is a vegetable that is similar in texture to crunchy water chestnuts and occasionally served atop salads. I decided to mix in a healthy handful of edamame for both color and additional zing. Another completely new thing that I opted to play with here was fresh lemongrass. Tangy and tart this pickled lemongrass lotus root is sure to be fun. Enjoy!
“Erin, can you teach me how to pickle?!” Music to my freaking ears! Last weekend, my very first best friend paid me and the Lil’ house a 6 day visit. Albeit not much privacy (“it’s not like I haven’t seen your butt before”), the visit was awesome. A lot of yoga, a lot of booze, and a whole lot of rain. Perfectly timed with her visit, we tried not to let hurricane Joaquin ruin our weekend fun. As we were stuck inside for most of the time, we figured Sunday was fit for an impromptu pickling session. Using a couple pounds of red onions acquired from Hurtgen Meadows Farm in Hillsborough, NC, fresh tarragon from Maple Spring Gardens, and a habanero peppers from Four Leaf Farm we put up these beautifully colored red hot onion pickles.
Rather than rambling on and on about how I didn’t (again) wear gloves while prepping these hot peppers, instead I’m going to talk about how the magic of homemade kefir saving my pepper oil burned hands. “I’m a badass, I don’t need to wear gloves…” fast forward 3 hours.. don’t worry I remembered not to touch any of my bits… and my hands were on fire. A few years back following a similar pepper situation, a friend suggested I try yogurt for heat relief. With no yogurt on hand, the only thing that I had that would suffice was my precious kefir. So picture this: 1am in the morning, buck naked, rubbing creamy kefir all over my hands. Sexy? NO! I swear, if only I was a bug on the wall observing my odd behaviors… But the point here is that it worked. So there ya’ have it, yet another awesome reason to make your own homemade kefir (see recipe link above).
Quite surprisingly, this is my first pepper jelly. Surprising because I use hot peppers in everything. Perhaps the fear of the prep. process, or perhaps because I felt it would be hard to create a hot sweet jelly comparable to the stuff other people make, but after 3 years of routine canning I decide to just go for it. To keep it weird, I added some fresh ginger acquired from Maple Spring Gardens and cilantro (really just for the touch of green) to the melange of hot peppers found at the Four Leaf Farm market stand. What makes this pepper jelly a bit different is in the use of a specific bastardly-hot pepper: the lemon drop pepper… “a hot, citrus-like, lemon-flavored pepper which is a popular seasoning pepper in Peru, where it is known askellu uchu.”
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