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Making Limoncello July 21, 2013

Posted by inspiredbywolfe in Drinks.
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This project was inspired by a trip to the Farmers’ Market, where someone was selling delicious bottles of gin, grappa and limoncello. While I did partake of some samples, I didn’t end up purchasing anything because the prices were rather…prohibitive. While I’m not intending to start making gin any time soon, as we were returning home I remembered that limoncello was apparently fairly easy to make.

While I was looking about for a recipe, I did discover that yes, limoncello did seem pretty simple to make – but there was so much variation in recipes I ended up abandoning them and making my own (which was an average of several of the recipes I’d read).

I thought I’d try by making one bottle, and if it was good, I’d make more. So I started by using my microplane to grate the skin of 5 lemons. This seemed the easiest way of getting the peel into small pieces while ensuring that the bitter white pith was not included. Not having access to random high-proof spirits traditionally used to make limoncello, I instead used vodka. After the lemon zest was ready, I poured out a bit of the vodka and then stuffed in all the zest. It started to go yellow almost immediately, and most of the zest settled in the bottom.

After reading recipes that said it should be left to steep from anywhere from 5 to 45 days, I decided to leave it to steep for a month, and I occasionally shook the bottle to redistribute the zest.

After a month, it was time to filter out all the lemony bits. I used a coffee filter, which worked pretty well.

I was left with some very yellow – and very potent – lemon flavoured vodka.

Next, I made a sugar syrup (not 1:1, more water than sugar) to add to the mixture. Making your own limoncello of course has the advantage that you can make it as sweet as you like – in my case, not very sweet. After mixing the sugar syrup with the lemon mixture, I was rewarded with almost 2 full bottles of lovely limoncello, ready to drink.

I was so happy with how this came out that I immediately started 4 more bottles of the stuff, which are now steeping. This limoncello is super refreshing – very lemony, not very sweet – and is great added to gin and tonics or even to martini-type drinks. It is still quite potent and I think with this next batch I’m making, I’ll add more water to dilute it a bit more, but overall the result is very nice. So I would like to thank the man at the Farmers’ Market for inspiring me to make my own limoncello – although I don’t think I am brave enough to show off what I have made to him!

Coconut Daiquiri cupcakes February 3, 2013

Posted by inspiredbywolfe in Drinks, Sweet things.

We’ve been on a shredded coconut kick in our household recently. Macaroons (not macarons) are a definite favourite, as are various coconut-based cocktails. So it will come as no surprise that the combination of coconut and alcohol came up in the discussion of desserts. Of course I am not the first to consider the combining of alcohol and cupcakes and there are many recipes for cocktails-turned-cupcake.

I used the basic framework of a daiquiri for my cupcakes – rum, lime, sugar – and coconut of course. I found a similar recipe on the fabulously-named Bake It With Booze blog, and made a half-recipe to end up with about 15 cupcakes. I appreciated that this recipe had rum in the batter as well as in the icing – and a good slug of it to boot.

Once they were cooled, I made up what can only be described as rum buttercream – icing sugar, butter, and rum in the place of the usual water I use when making buttercream. It was quite boozy! I smoothed some icing onto the cupcakes and then decided that this already indulgent cupcake needed more.

I worked in batches of three or four, icing them and then dunking them into a bowl I’d filled with more shredded coconut. The end result was a tray full of snowballs in garish wrappers.

Then it was merely a matter of decorating the cupcakes appropriately before serving.

Yes, we are the type of household to have little paper umbrellas to hand. No, I did not realise the colours of the umbrellas were so closely matched to the colours of the cupcake wrappers until I went to put them in – but I was pleasantly suprised by this!

As for the cupcakes themselves, they were definitely boozy – primarily from the rum in the icing. The flavour of the icing was great, and definitely something I intend to repeat. It wasn’t to sweet, and the rum contributed some great vanilla notes as well. I also really liked the cupcakes’ texture – fluffy and light, but with a definite chewy texture thanks to the shredded coconut in the batter. The lime came through nicely too.

While it wasn’t quite like being transported to some tropical island, eating these cupcakes was almost like drinking a coconut daiquiri. I think that more cocktail-based desserts will definitely be part of my future.


Relapse: Preserved lemons September 16, 2012

Posted by inspiredbywolfe in Drinks, Fruit, Relapse.
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Relapse: An occasional series where I discuss several ways of preparing an ingredient.

It being the season for stupid amounts of lemons, I decided to make some preserved lemons. I kept mine pretty straightforward, packing them in salt with a couple of bayleaves. I left them for about a month, and hae recently started using them. I find these preserved lemons very versatile and thought I’d share a few things I do with them.

Chicken tagine with preserved lemon and olives
This is of course a very popular way to use preserved lemons, but this doesn’t mean it’s not delicious. I blended up preserved lemons, garlic, chili, onion, coriander, cumin and saffron with some olive oil until it formed a paste. I marinated the chicken pieces in this mixture for about 2 hours. I chopped up more onions and tomatoes, and placed them in the bottom of a cast iron pot. I put the chicken on top, adding more tomatoes, preserved lemons and olives. I let it cook over a low stove for about 45 minutes, before serving with couscous.

Technically I probably can’t call this a tagine since I didn’t cook it in a tagine, but I think regardless of what you cook this in, the flavours are going to be fantastic.

Preserved lemon martini
You could celebrate how delicious your tagine is with a cockail! This is a variation on a dirty martini, using the lemon juice left over from the preserving process. Make a martini how ever you like it (as long as it’s with gin, of course), and add a splash or two of the lemon juice liquid. I also added a couple of slices of the preserved lemon as a garnish.

Not surprisingly, this is quite similar to a dirty martini, but with a lemony flavour instead of only just the brine.

Preserved lemon salt
Following a post by A Cook Blog, I thought I’d try dehydrating some of the liquid left over from the preserving process. I didn’t use much liquid but had enough to line the bottom of a ramekin. I dried it in a low oven, and after a couple of hours, I was rewarded with some very intense, flavoursome salt.

This is a great way to add an accent of lemon to a dish – it’s very strong, so you don’t need much, but it makes a big difference even in small amounts.

There’s so many ways to use preserved lemons, and I would definitely recommend any of three listed above. I still have lots of preserved lemons left so will be trying out some other ways to use this ingredient. But in the meantime, I’m off to make another preserved lemon martini…

Rhubarb bitters July 23, 2012

Posted by inspiredbywolfe in Drinks.

New, to the Nero Wolfe Emporium of Convincing Cures and Healthy Tonics: Rhubarb bitters. Guaranteed to cure whatever ails you, from measles and mumps to sadness and soberness. Properly medicinal, like a good bitters should be, with a pleasing rhubarb tang, the quality of these bitters is assured by Nero Wolfe himself.

Made from a recipe passed down from time immemorial, these bitters are handcrafted from the finest rhubarb.

Left to steep in the darkness of Nero Wolfe’s basement, the rhubarb imparts all its goodness to the vodka, leaving an elixir not seen or tasted before or since.

The rhubarb is then joined by another jar filled with bitter and medicinal herbs; the exact quantity and type of herbs used remains a secret for the ages. Nevertheless, it can be revealed that not more than 3 juniper berries are ever used, lest Nero Wolfe’s wrath be invoked…

Our assistants may seem like mad scientists as they grapple with giant jars filled with pink liquid – but please be assured they have all been trained to the highest standard and are indeed as trustworthy as they are keen to drink the bitters themselves. Now that the proper taste testing has been undertaken, we are pleased to offer our bitters for sampling right here and now.

Feel the effects of the wholesome bitters directly! Can you sir, or you madam, really risk *not* trying these bitters? We have set them up for you to sample, and once you are satisfied of their quality and healthsome effects (as you will be as soon as you taste them), we have bottles packaged up for you to take away with you immediately.

Naturally, if you are not completely satisfied with the ongoing benefits of your rhubarb bitters, you may return your unused portion for a refund. And because it is clear you are a person of the world, we will let you in on a little secret: the application of the bitters to an alcoholic beverage does wonders for your health and helps you forget about all your cares in the world!

Cocktails for International Archives Day and World Gin Day June 10, 2012

Posted by inspiredbywolfe in Drinks.
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As I’ve mentioned before, I work as an archivist. And, as you may also be aware, gin is one of my favourite spirits and I have been known to imbibe it occasionally. Therefore, when I learned that June 9 was both International Archives Day and World Gin Day, the course of action was obvious: invent and make some gin-based archives-themed cocktails. I was aided in this effort by Antonina, who came up with several of the recipes below. All measurements given below are for one drink – multiply accordingly if making them for many archivists. I would suggest using a relatively neutral gin for this, rather than something unique tasting such as Hendricks. Onto the drinks!

The Papercut

Actually, I find I get more cuts from boxes than from paper. At any rate, this bloody mary variation pays tribute to the many small niggling cuts which always occur in the archives.
90ml tomato juice
60ml gin
Juice of one lime
20ml pernod
Shake all together with ice, strain into a glass and add a celery garnish.
Tastes: Like a bloody mary with a hint of aniseed, with tartness from the lime.

The Reading Room and The Saturday Reading Room

Ahh the reading room. That fabulous place where patrons can interact with both archivists and the archives themselves. A place of power, where you will inevitably get drawn in by a genealogist recounting their family history.
60ml gin
Juice of 1/2 grapefruit
Shake with ice, strain into a highball glass and top with soda water. Garnish with a cucumber slice if you wish.
For the Saturday Reading Room variation, add 20ml Pimm’s and garnish with a cucumber slice.
Tastes: Tangy and refreshing, especially with the cucumber. A good drink for summer. The Saturday Reading Room adds fruit notes from the Pimm’s.

White Glove

Alternative name: The Photo Opportunity. The discussions about whether archivists should wear white cotton gloves sometimes get almost as punchy as this drink.
50ml gin
20ml white vermouth (the initial recipe called for lillet blanc)
30ml bacardi rum
10ml pernod
1 egg white
Combine all ingredients, shake once without ice and once with. Strain into a martini glass.
Tastes: Strong with a taste of aniseed, smoothed out by the egg white. I substituted white vermouth because I didn’t have any lillet blanc, but I think it would be better with the lillet blanc.  The rum certainly plays its part.

The Preservation

A cocktail to represent the mould and paper damage we witness. If you end up with mould the colour of this cocktail, you probably need a few of these cocktails to get over the horror.
50ml gin
30ml green chartreuse
1 egg white
Shake the gin, chartreuse and egg white together, once without ice and then once with. Strain into a martini glass and float the bitters on top.
Tastes: Herbal and smooth, offset by the bitters. One of my favourites, and I’ll definitely make it again.

The Compactus

Where would all the archives in the world be without their compactuses (compactii?)? Able to store many thousands of items, with the time to access the collection limited only by how fast the archivist can access the row required.
40ml gin
40ml dubonnet
40ml calvados
Orange bitters
Stir the gin, dubonnet and calvados with crushed ice and then strain. Add orange bitters to taste.
Tastes: Smooth, not unlike a Negroni. Very nice balance of sweetness with bitter and fruit flavours.

The Cockroach

Archives pests. They’re not pleasant, but sometimes, they turn up. It’s best to kill them as soon as possible, and stomp on them for good measure.
40ml gin
20ml campari
20ml fernet branca
Stir all ingredients together with crushed ice and strain.
Tastes: Bitter, with a funky, menthol kick from the fernet branca. Not recommended unless you really like fernet branca. Much as I’d imagine a cockroach to taste.

The Continuum

(Please excuse the Deadwood shot glass)

I couldn’t resist naming a cocktail after one of Australia’s contributions to archives/records theory – the records continuum. The records continuum theory suggests that there are four dimensions to records and archives creation and use, with each dimension informing and feeding into the others.
Green Chartreuse
Create layers of the first three ingredients in the order listed by slowly dribbling each ingredient over the back of a spoon so it sits on the layer underneath it. Add the Bailey’s to represent the fourth dimension as it falls back and interacts again with the first dimension of the continuum.

(I didn’t take the photo quick enough to get the full effect)
Tastes: Actually, better than I was expecting. The Bailey’s worked to mellow out the other flavours and the herbal notes of the chartreuse came through.

Here’s some of the cocktails which were thought up but not made – if you make any of them, please let me know! I’m definitely going to try a Disaster Recovery as soon as the gin is of the right consistency. And happy International Archives / World Gin Day!

The Original Order: Gin and its botanicals: Gin, juniper, coriander, lemon peel
The Perfect Transfer: Gin and green fairy absinthe, with a rosemary garnish
The Disaster Recovery: Freeze gin and water until it is frozen/slushy, add campari and lime