In re: homemade ginger ale

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A few months ago I saw an episode of Good Eats that on Ginger. (For years I was a religious Good Eats viewer but I somehow stopped watching as often and eventually not at all, but have intermittently seen a few episodes over the last few months. The gags are a bit more annoying then I used to think- but still I have a soft spot for it. Also doesn’t seem like the show is on very much anymore, oh well the food network basically sucks these days.) At some point after seeing that I was over at the Asian market (one of the three in basically two or three blocks) I can’t believe I don’t shop there more – great prices, amazing stuff – like huge pieces of ginger at cheap cheap prices. So back to Good Eats, saw an episode on ginger and thought why not. So while not being that into the ginger cookies he was making and the stupid ginger bread man story the show was operating around, thought the ginger ale he made looked pretty good and amazingly simple. So that night after dinner I whipped up a 2 liter bottles worth and in 2 days we would get to taste the results.

The recipe/process from Alton Brown is pretty simple, you start by essentially making an infused simple syrup with grated fresh ginger. After you make that and let it steep for an hour you add this along with water, lemon juice, and a tiny bit of yeast into a clean 2 liter bottle and wait for the yeast to do its thing and carbonate it.
(The recipe from Alton Brown is here

So that first batch turned out to be pretty good, it was nicely carbonated, it had good flavor and it was amazingly easy. It was missing something though: more ginger flavor,(disclaimer though – I am a fan of the Bahamian ginger beer (Barritt’s is one of the classic brands – available even here in Columbus), which gets put to good use a dark and stormy – an amazingly simple drink of the aforementioned ginger beer and Goslings Black Seal Rum with a lime for a garnish).

So with all that in mind I had planned to double or triple the ginger the next time I tried it. The other thing that wasn’t quite right in that first batch was the flavor the yeast imparted that made the drink taste reminiscent of bread. It wasn’t as off putting as that might sound, but it wasn’t quite right. The only problem was I didn’t ever get around to making it again, despite being so easy.

Last weekend though I finally remembered we should make homemade ginger ale. Just as before we had in the fridge a giant piece of ginger (this time from an Indian grocery store) but this time I happened to think of making ginger ale at just the right moment – while I was standing in the wine making shop in Clintonville. We had stopped in the store on the way back from the farmers market to look for a good summer beer kit and to finally brew our first batch of beer. As we were checking out with a kit for summer ale I thought of asking about yeast for ginger ale. The clerk recommended champagne yeast and with the little packet in hand we were ready for batch 2.0.

The results were stunning. I doubled the ginger (although it could still use more) but the flavor profile and the bubbles were amazing. It still couldn’t be easier. I still basically used the Alton Brown recipe with the doubled ginger, and of course champagne yeast and two days later we tasted an amazing batch of homemade ginger ale with a clean taste of ginger, a slight hint of the heat and great carbonation. Thankfully a packet of champagne yeast has more then enough for several more batches.

In re: How the Sling was Slung

Singapore sling

I hadn’t ever given much thought to the Singapore Sling until a friend of mine who was getting into cocktails ordered us up a pair out in San Francisco a couple years ago.  It wasn’t a signature of the bar we were at (I think they had to look it up in fact) and I don’t think they made it as good as it could be, but nonetheless I had it, thought it was okay and kinda slipped my mind.  Fast forward a year or two and when thinking of a gift for that friends birthday it suddenly dawned on me that the supplies for the Singapore Sling (a drink that uses some non-standard ingredients) would be a great gift, but I needed to learn about the Sling first.  The search led me to an article in Imbibe magazine: How the Sling was Slung: getting to the bottoms of Singapore’s most famous cocktail by David Wondrich (by the way if you don’t know that magazine and are interested in drinks it is really good).

In the article I learned that the drink today (at least as served in Singapore at the Long Bar of the Raffles Hotel, the place of the Slings creation) is not what the drink was originally having been reformulated in the 1970s to be more like a tiki drink or punch that includes pineapple juice as the primary ingredient.  Wondrich in the article goes to great length to find a recipe for the original and a new searchable archive of the national paper in Singapore gave him the answer.  So unfortunately and sadly today if you visit the apparently beautiful and expensive Raffles Hotel and the long bar you will find plenty of people drinking the famous sling, but they will be drinking a pre-made drink from a dispenser that goes into a blender.

To make the drink you indeed need some ingredients you might not have on hand, depending on how well you stock your bar (making drinks like these sure causes the number of bottles you have on hand to increase!)  To make the original version the two things that are out of the ordinary you need are Bénédictine, a sweet herbal liqueur from France and Cherry Heering a Danish liqueur made soaking crushed Danish cherries and spices in a neutral spirit, aging that in casks and adding sugar.  Cherry Heering was a complete surprise to me and I had not known it before.  Whereas a lot of cherry things taste artificial and cloying, Heering somehow avoids that taste and I hope to figure out some other uses for the stuff (see Imbibe’s article on Cherry Heering with some suggestions of what to do with it and more information the stuff itself).

Singapore Sling

With those ingredients in hand (purchased here in Columbus at Weiland’s grocery store) I was all set to go making a sling already having gin, bitters, some limes and soda water.  The drink is on the sweet side so depending on your taste and mood I think upping the gin a tad can make for a less sweet version which is quite nice as well.  Either way while sipping its nice to sit back relax and maybe try and picture that your sitting in Singapore, back in 1915 watching  a cricket match.

Slings

I think Wondrich’s recipe for the original is the superior drink, but the pineapple version served in a Poco Grande glass has its time and place and is fun in its own right.

The recipe for the original sling from Imbibe:

1 oz. London dry gin

1 oz. Bols Cherry brandy or Cherry Heering

1 oz. Bénédictine

1 oz. fresh lime juice

2 oz. soda water

1 dash Angostura bitters

Tools: barspoon

Glass: Collins

Combine all ingredients except soda water and bitters in an ice-filled glass. Top with soda water, stir briefly and dash with Angostura bitters. Note: The original Singapore Sling appears to have been ungarnished.

 

Current version of the Singapore Sling as served at the Raffles Hotel, Singapore 

1 oz gin

1/2 oz Heering Cherry Liqueur

4 oz Pineapple Juice

1/2 oz Lime Juice

1/4 oz Cointreau

1/4 oz Dom Benedictine

1/3 oz Grenadine

A Dash of Angostura Bitters

Pour all ingredients into a cocktail shaker filled with ice.  Shake well.  Strain into Poco Grande glass.  Garnish with a slice of pineapple and cherry.  (Note: the Raffles Hotel Long Bar currently services a blended drink, which adds additional froth and is dispensed from an automatic machine, but upon request they will mix it from scratch).

In re: Cider braised chicken with Ohio apple brandy

picture from Cooks Country

Saw this recipe the other day on WOSU our local PBS station on an episode of Cooks Country. The recipe is for Apple Cider Chicken, which uses bone in chicken pieces, seared in a pan, where a braising sauce is then made, with the chicken then going back into the pan to finish in the oven in a kinda shallow braise allows the skin to stay super crispy and for an amazing sauce that braises the bottom half of the chicken into deliciousness. The recipe is quick to which is nice on a weeknight and was on the table in no time leaving us a nice lunch of leftovers for the next day. (I used a whole chicken the I cut into a fairly standard 10 pieces – legs, thighs, wings, and cutting each half breast in half again to give four quarters of the breast meat – all left on the bone of course).

The technique in the recipe is one that is really useful and could be used in countless other ways, using the pan to sear, sauce and bake makes for easy cleanup (something I am not very good at).  The other reason the recipe sounded  so good to me was to achieve the apple flavor the recipe uses apple cider, apple brandy and apple cider vinegar and we already had some Ohio cider already sitting the in fridge as well as a bottle of Ohio’s own Tom’s Foolery Apple-Jack (recently made available here in Columbus at Weiland’s – where and enthusiastic clerk pointed it out to us and didn’t take any convincing on his part to take it home).

Tom’s Foolery Apple-Jack is an apple brandy made right here in Northeastern Ohio and the stuff is small batch (they say micro batch actually as they say it would take four years to maker the amount that small batch folks make).  Either way the stuff is fantastic (more fruity I would say than a calvados, but with the complexity and warmth you’d expect from a brandy) and finding out that there is another great local distiller is very exciting stuff and I am really pleased that Weiland’s down here in Columbus carries it (there aren’t too many places in Ohio to buy it – I think Weiland’s is the only place in Columbus).  Hopefully the trend of creating artisan spirits continues and people will continue to support the fantastic local liquor scene.

Ok so back to the chicken.  After about fifteen minutes cooking the chicken in the skillet, made the sauce by cooking the onions and scrapping up the fond from the chicken.  Next in goes some garlic, thyme, cider, the brandy and some diced apples, bring it to a quick boil and the chicken goes back in and into the hot 450 degree oven that crisps the chicken even more.  After the oven you finish the sauce with a bit more brandy and a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar.  The sauce is reminiscent of a good french onion soup (but applely) and was fantastic and worthy of eating on its own with a spoon.  Served it with some potatoes from the oven and some green beans that are easily prepared while the chicken is in the oven.  Forgot to take a picture of the results as we started to devour it so quickly, so the top picture is courtesy of Cooks Country.

 

 

In re: How a banned Polish vodka finally made it to the US

Came across this article and plan to check out the US version.  A long time ago had tried Żubrówka in Poland and despite being not that into Vodka thought it was really good and brought back a bottle (didn’t know it was illegal exactly, just thought you couldn’t sell unfiltered vodka in the US).  An interesting story on it over at the WSJ.

 

“BIALYSTOK, Poland—Distillers here have the American spirit—vodka from where the buffalo roam. But this cocktail has a twist: Its banned in the U.S.Now, after nearly a decade of work on two continents to formulate and brand a legal version of the alcohol, its producers are taking a shot at the American market. The booze, called Żubrówka, is unusual because it is flavored with a rare, pungent wild grass enjoyed by European bison. Each bottle has a blade of the grass in it for the drinker to admire.Remy Cointreau USA, Inc.Żu brand Żubrówka, a Polish vodka flavored with bison grass.”

via Name Your Poison: How a Banned Polish Vodka Buffaloed Its Way Into the U.S. – WSJ.com.

In re: Starbucks homebrew…

“As the amount of Americans who home-brew increases, Starbucks will continue to lose out on potential grocery store sales.” — Forbes article on why Starbucks should get out of its deal with Kraft (which is already happening, Kraft has sued over it) and get into K-cups the Keurig/Green Moutain coffee machine.

I am just a bit curious how Forbes thinks that home brewed coffee is on the rise, it may be so, but I have to assume the author means those who use single serving machines like the Keurig.  Anyway, just thought it was a strange comment.  I agree that being locked into Kraft’s system makes no sense (no one has one) and the premium available on single serving coffee I imagine is nice.

In other Starbucks news I noticed that they are dropping the name Starbucks from their logo, guess they are trying to be like Nike or other ‘symbol brands’ not a bad move, may take some time to adjust but whenever I see those type of logos I think of the ad-busters calendar I had that talks about how many brand logos we can recognize and how few plants we can.

In re: The beer can is back?

Fireside Chat Can

21st Amendment's Seasonal Fireside Chat in a Can?

A couple of weeks ago I was in Whole Foods up in Cleveland and I was buying a few random loose beers to have around my folks house.  One of the things I grabbed was some Brooklyn Brewery Brown Ale, nothing strange about that except it was in a can.  Not too many craft beers are found in cans, makes sense I would think as cans seem like a bigger operation (I don’t really know though).  Thinking about it now though I also had some Newcastle in a can this past summer which I thought was cool (I like the Geordie’s finest export, and in a can somehow was quite exciting – lame I know).  Anyway back to the present, today I was back here in Columbus walking up to pick up a sixer at the Dairy Family on 5th ave (which I might add has a very impressive selection of beer, kinda amazing in fact how much stuff they cram in there – alas to GLBC Xmas Ale, but still some good stuff).  I ended up grabbing a beer again in cans, and it wasn’t Strohs.  21st amendment out of San Francisco brews beer in cans (actually the canned beer is brewed in Minnesota, not sure exactly the logistics on it).  The box points out the many reasons, both durability wise (no light) and environmentally for using cans and I gotta say having a good beer (it was their Fireside Chat a ‘Winter Spiced Ale’, cool name and graphics and actually thought it was a pretty nice beer, wouldn’t have guessed it was 7.8%). out of a can is fun.  Not sure if this novelty value of it will last long, but it would seem to me that more beers should go to the can route.  Carrying the six-pack home  was definitely easier than bottles and fit in my fridge oh so nice.

In re: Coffee consumption up north

“We know from lots of other situations that the Scandinavian nations lead the world when it comes to such important things like environmental matters, gender equity, income equality. But amazingly, its not just Finland where they need a lot of coffee amidst all the darkness to make it through the day. But its Norway, Sweden and Denmark — all of those four countries take the top four stops globally in the world for coffee consumption.”

via Which country drinks the most coffee? | Marketplace From American Public Media.

Had this passed on to me because as you may remember I noted all the caffeine in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  Well,  apparently Stieg Larsson the author the Millennium Trilogy (Girl w/ the Dragon Tattoo is the first book) was just being accurate when he put a pot, thermos,cup or some other form of coffee in every scene in the book, including 3 am when someone is going to bed.

On a side note I finished all three of the books (on a borrowed Kindle DX) and aside from wishing as many have that Mr. Larsson was still alive to work on the fourth book (selfish I know) it did lead to me ordering up the new wifi only Kindle.