Saturday, August 30, 2008

Possum up a Guava Tree

Possum up a 'simmon tree
Raccoon on the ground
Possum up a 'simmon tree
Shake dem 'simmons down

~ traditional lyrics

We had an unannounced caller this week. Late one night as I finished work at my desk, I heard a thud followed by scattery, frantic scrambling through our open back door. Leaning back in the chair to get a better view (uncapped pen in hand in case I needed to go all Jason Bourne on an unwelcome guest), I espied a possum, frozen as he regarded me from his precarious perch, his long-nailed little paws clutching at the top of the patio fence. I snapped a few shots of him as he ambled a little more gracefully away, past the rosemary, peppers, and lemon verbena. And then, like a freaky little Keyser Söze, he was gone.

No, not an opossum. Horace Kephart (Camp Cookery, 1910) writes, and I concur: “To call a possum an opossum, outside of a scientific treatise, is an affectation.”

One could marvel in the wonders of nature at such a moment, could take comfort in the knowledge that even in cities, wildlife still flourishes ("why, two of those mischievous little scamps at our old place used to positively gorge themselves on guavas from the trees out back of a summer evening"), or one could, in a soft-hearted moment, realize that, though odd-looking, possums can be almost…cuddly.

Me? I thought of sweet potatoes. See, I’ve lived in a few places where possums may just grace a table or two. Don’t get your backs all up: muskrats are trapped regularly just outside Manhattan…yes, for eating. Not a chance I’d attack a possum with an uncapped pen, though, so I let it slide into the night.

Of possum meat, Joe Dabney (friend to moonshiner and revenue agent alike) wrote in Smokehouse Ham, Spoon Bread, and Scuppernong Wine:
Mountain people consider the shy possum to be a superb game meat, with a wonderful wild taste, and [it] is often served with sweet potatoes or with chestnuts.
He then goes to describe a few ways of cooking, and notes especially to remove its scent glands before cooking.

Ernest Matthew Mickler, in White Trash Cooking, also notes “There’s only one thing to serve possum with—sweet potatoes.” Since Mickler lifted the supposed white trash recipe from the tony Junior League of Charleston though their recipe book Charleston Receipts, I’ll lift it from him and recommend that you buy both books, perhaps as a bridal shower gift.
Roast Possum

Possum should be cleaned as soon as possible after shooting. It should be hung for 48 hours and is then ready to be skinned and cooked. The meat is light-colored and tender. Excess fat may be removed, but there is no strong flavor or odor contained in the fat.

1 possum
1 onion, chopped
1 Tbl fat
¼ tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 cup breadcrumbs
1 hard-boiled egg, chopped
1 tsp salt

Rub possum with salt and pepper. Brown onion in fat. Add possum liver and cook until tender. Add breadcrumbs, Worcestershire sauce, egg, salt and water. Mix thoroughly and stuff possum. Truss like a fowl. Put in roasting pan with bacon across back and pour [one] quart of water into the pan. Roast uncovered in a moderate (350 degrees) oven until tender, about 2 1/2 hours. Serve with sweet potatoes.

Oh ~ and since someone’s bound to ask: No, I’m not going to eat him if he comes back. Not when the fridge is stocked with three pounds of bratwurst, a case of beer, several chickens, and enough vegetables to get us through the holiday weekend. It’s too damn hot to roast sweet potatoes or marsupials, anyway. I’m just sayin. You know. If you ever need a possum recipe, there you go.

Goes well with:
  • It’s all well and good to joke about white trash (the Blue Collar comics bank on it), but don’t dismiss Mickler’s book as sheer kitsch or merely a goof, though it is in part both those things. John T. Edge makes an eloquent case for Mickler as an intellectual, if not actual, peer of James Agee and photographer Walker Evans in his 2006 Oxford American article Let Us Now Praise Fabulous Cooks.


Monday, August 25, 2008

Rhubarb Chutney

Because rhubarb is such a harbinger of Spring, I’m happy we’re still getting the crunchy red stalks around here as the summer draws to a close. The nights have been just a hair cooler here recently, enough to put me in the mind of autumn and of places I used to live where that made a difference. Here? It means you think twice about wearing shorts out after the sun goes down.

So, taking inspiration from an afternoon I once spent in the heirloom gardens of culinary historian and seed-saving juggernaut William Woys Weaver, I loaded up on rhubarb. Weaver kept several varieties of the huge plant growing in his gardens and, as a parting gift, laid about ten pounds of the stuff on me. At his suggestion, I made a mess of chutney.

This time around, I consulted a few dozen books for recipes using “pie plant” (so-called because the stalks were so widely used as pie filling in years past—a use of which I heartily approve). In the end, I combined several chutney recipes to come up with this one that goes well with grilled chicken and pork.

As a belated thanks, Will, here's my nod to one of the most backward-looking gardening projects I've had the pleasure to know. And I mean that in the best possible way.

Rhubarb Chutney

The rhubarb will throw off a lot of liquid as it cooks.

1 lb rhubarb, cut into ½” pieces
zest of 1 large orange
2 small or 1 large onions (12-14 oz), chopped small
2 Tbl fresh ginger, finely minced
1 tsp crushed red pepper (e.g. Turkish Aleppo pepper)
1 tsp dry mustard
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup cider vinegar
½ cup dried cherries
1 tsp kosher salt

Put all the ingredients into a heavy-bottomed pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, partially cover, and cook 10-15 minutes. Uncover and cook another 20-25 minutes, until the rhubarb has broken down into less distinct shreds and colored the whole mass ruddy.

Makes about two pints.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Luck’s 10th Annual Kiln Opening

Now and again, some event or person pops up on the radar reminding me that I sometimes miss being back home. Fiercely. I miss the cheap flights to Amsterdam, the fantastic, slow-smoked barbecue, and countless friends east of the Rockies. And…I miss chances to hit Sid Luck’s annual kiln openings.

I met Sid several years back on the trail of moonshine in North Carolina. We talked a lot about pottery while I helped haul and cut wood to fire his partially-underground hedgehog kiln. In the end, I didn’t use his story when talking about Jugtown moonshine containers with the triple-X markings (no, he doesn’t make them) and face jugs (which some in his family do make), but I did end up buying a three-gallon, salt-glazed syrup jug a lot like the one he’s holding in this picture that remains one of my favorite pieces of pottery.

This coming Saturday, August 23rd, Sid is opening his kiln to the public for his huge annual sale. It’s something of a madhouse as buyers scramble for the best pieces—not only his pottery, but that of many other North Carolina potters. If you are anywhere near, get your tail there, buy something, and send me pictures.

If you buy face jugs, pack them carefully and send them to me. Send me one of a monkey wearing a fez and I'll inscribe a copy of my book and ship it off to you post-haste.

About those visages in clay: In the mid-nineteenth century, pottery “face” or “ugly” jugs began showing up in South Carolina. Crudely formed clay faces with wild eyes and protruding teeth made the entire jugs look like tortured, malformed heads. One tradition holds that these grotesqueries were specifically for moonshine or poison. Curious and gullible children would be kept out of the supply through fear that the boogieman would catch them plucking at his jugs.

It’s a nice story, but the jugs are so hideously endearing that I can’t help but think moonshine was a secondary concern: the grotesque pottery itself must have been the appeal for many buyers. David Garner, a potter who makes face jugs today, admits African aesthetics may lurk in the origins of face jugs, but thinks early potters made some to relieve the boredom of throwing pot after pot of utilitarian pieces. Like the moonshine that may have inspired them, face jugs are enjoying a resurgence in popularity.

The images here are from Luck’s website, but there are sure to be some for sale this Saturday.

What: Luck’s 10th Annual Kiln Opening
When: Saturday, August 23rd 4-8pm
Who: Sid Luck and a dozen or so other potters
Where: Luck's Ware
1606 Adams Rd.
Seagrove, NC 27341

Goes well with:

Monday Roundup: Moonshine, Grappa, Absinthe, and Scotch

The production of grappa is part of northern Italy's social and cultural tradition and is carried out in the Alpine regions by hundreds of families, as it always has been.

~ Senator Sergio Davina
arguing for legal home distillation of grappa

I've been offline for a few days, but the world of booze just keeps rolling on. Some of the highlights from the last week include—

  • Writing in Esquire, David Wondrich demonstrates the correct way to serve absinthe (note there are no flaming sugar cubes which translate into ruined absinthe spoons and little globs of caramelized sugar arc-welded to the sides of your glass). He also includes thumbnail reviews of the brands he considers The Five Best Bottles of Absinthe.
  • Our friend and all-around great guy Ian Smiley is in the news. Ian has been working with Michigan enterprise LS Moonshine to develop a distillery in China for producing unaged corn whiskey. Seems the Chinese have a taste for young corn liquor. I do remember a tale of a family member drinking shots of corn liquor with a Chinese general and breaking protocol by not allowing the general to win that little competition. Maybe Ian can help me steer my way through Chinese drinking protocol...
  • Speaking of China, seems there's a (gasp) serious problem with counterfeit goods the producers of genuine articles are trying to combat. Diageo has rolled out an anti-counterfeiting measure with their Johnny Walker scotch. In some markets (e.g., India) about half the scotch is counterfeit and, from what some distillers have told me, the figure is much higher in Pakistan where the scotch is not only fake, but very expensive. Like, someone-is-going-to-hell-for-this-scam-expensive. Diageo's solution? Make a bottle that can't be resealed to look new once it's been opened. According to Australian Food News,
Caps on Johnnie Walker bottles will now not return to their original position after opening and a permanent gold band appears at the top of the neck of the bottle upon opening - effectively eliminating the prospect of a disguised refill.

And for today, that's all the news that's fit to drink.


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Blood Orange Marmalade Sour

Egg whites in drinks have always skeeved me.
But this is delicious.
~ Dr. Morpheus

Broke a toe today. Maybe two. Meh. The last time I did that, I was playing volleyball. Got a splattery, smashed nose and a black eye in the same match when a buddy spiked my face instead of the ball. But we won. What's a toe compared to victory? Better it should be someone else's toe, but still...

About six years back, relatives (including a judge and a state senator who should have known something about casing the competition) challenged us Rowley kids to a water polo match. I forget whether it was a timeout they called or an outright truce, but the consensus among opposing counsel was never to have all Rowleys on one team, for what my brother-in-law once called Mrs. Rowley's debating squad snatches up gauntlets with glee.

Because blood's been on my mind, I cracked open the shaker and whipped up a cocktail using some blood orange marmalade I put up a few months back. Jamie Boudreau provided the backbone of this recipe with his own Marmalade Sour, but I like this sanguine version. My guess is that you will, too.

Don't like eggs in your drink? Whatsamatter? Chicken?

Ah, crap. Now I have to find my notes and post the marmalade recipe.

Blood Orange Marmalade Sour

3 oz cachaca (Leblon)
1 oz lemon juice
2 dashes Fee Bros orange bitters
1 egg white*
2 tablespoons of blood orange marmalade (or use grapefruit or other citrus)

Shake vigorously with ice until the egg white disappears into a soft, billowy foam that mutes the sound of the clinking ice, then strain into a cocktail glass. Quaff it cold.
I doubled the recipe, using only one egg white; it's just fine. No worries that it will be slimy or taste like a farmyard (something I like in cheese, but not necessarily booze). The white provides a smoothly velvet mouthfeel to the thing. You could even swap out some ginger preserves for a portion of the marmalade.

And if your mind works like mine, the answer is yes, Virginia: rye whiskey does stand up well to the sweetness of a marmalade sour.

*There should probably be some sort of disclaimer here that if you're elderly, or an infant, or have a compromised immune system, you should avoid raw egg whites. The truth is, that's not my bag. If you have concerns, consult your physician and read this eGullet thread, but many people I know consume raw eggs with no problems and microbiologists tell me that our fears of salmonella are wildly out of proportion to any real risk.

And if you're an infant reading up on sours, keep my number. I don't usually go for babies at parties, but you're a keeper.


Monday, August 11, 2008

Clam Squeezin's, Absinthe, and the Bloody Fairy Cocktail

Kevin Kelpe over at Save the Drinkers has thrown down the latest challenge to drinks bloggers who participate in Paul Clark's (more or less) monthly cocktail throw-down, Mixology Monday. Today’s MxMo has a theme I can snuggle right up to: local flavor.

And, unlike recipes in a lot of my cocktail posts, you can use moonshine or home-distilled neutral spirits easily in this one. Come on, it's MxMo XXX. With those triple-x's in the very name, how could I not post a cocktail recipe fit for home distillers?

Kevin explains today’s theme:
Option 1: Gather ingredients that are representative of the culture/geography/tackiness of your respective cities and make a drink with a truly place-based style. For example, huckleberries are native to the geographical area where I live, as are elderflowers, potatoes, and extremely conservative, closet-case politicians. (I’m just saying!)

Option 2: Dig up an old drink that came from your city and revive it! If you can find the original bar, that would be even more interesting.

Since sun-splashed San Diego is home these days, and there is so much cross-border traffic and influence upon and from Baja California just 15 minutes away, I decided to go local with a drink that’s not indigenous, but has adapted to the local climate: the Bloody Mary.

Obviously, the Bloody Mary didn’t originate here. For that, we’d need to turn to 1920's Paris when Russian émigrés were downing prodigious amounts of vodka, then an obscure Eastern spirit rather than the ubiquitous global powerhouse that it is now.

But just try to go to a Sunday brunch or a daytime pool party in Southern California where the host doesn’t serve the tomato-based cocktail. Nothing’s stopping you from having one as a nightcap or even dinner, but in general, it’s not a late-night drink. Instead, it’s meant to be consumed as a palliative, a hair of the dog, or just a way to greet an undemanding day.

Morpheus and I tested a lot of Bloody Mary variants using blind tastings, commercial mixes, built-from-scratch versions, various salt, lime, and chile rims, and assorted accompaniments. In the end, we settled on a fairly standard recipe, with two nods to San Diego’s heavy Mexican influence—and an inspired twist.

The Mexican elements are Cholula hot sauce (which is made from pequin and arbol chiles and doesn't quite have Tabasco's vinegar bite), and Clamato, a proprietary blend of tomato juice and clam broth that seemed called for since tomato-and-seafood cocktails are popular in these parts. If you detest clam broth, use plain tomato juice instead, but consider: In blind taste tests professed Clamato-haters preferred Clamato variants hands-down.

The twist? Absinthe. While we were picking apart our favorite Bloody Mary version, my eye fell on a dasher of absinthe I use for adding very small amounts to cocktails. Also once popular in Paris, but before the vodka years, the high-proof spirit was known as la fee verte (the green fairy). In it went. It’s something you can leave out, of course. I wouldn’t, for instance, go out and buy a whole bottle just for this. But if you happen to have some around, just a few drops transforms a very tasty Bloody Mary into a more complex, suave, and seductive drink: The Bloody Fairy.

Unlike its stature in the history of cities such as New Orleans or San Francisco, absinthe has no claim on the soul of San Diego. But if by “local” Kevin also means as local as my patio, it’s very characteristic of this place.

Be warned, though: too much absinthe ruins this drink and, in this instance, too much can be the matter of a single drop. Titrate to find the perfect balance for your taste by adding a drop, tasting, and adding another drop if the drink will bear it. You could do as I did and repeat until you destroy the drink. But after repeated tastings, I’ve found that five drops is the absolute threshold: more than that makes this cocktail too bitter in an unbalanced, kinda nasty way.

Bloody Fairy

1.5 oz vodka (or your best 40% abv neutral home-distilled spirit)
4 oz Clamato
¼ oz fresh lemon juice
4 dashes salsa inglesa (Worcestershire sauce)
2 dashes Cholula hot sauce (Tabasco or Crystal works, too)
Dash of salt
4-5 heavy grindings of black peppercorns (around ¼ tsp)
3-5 drops of absinthe (or Herbsaint)

Combine in a 12-oz glass, add ice, and stir to mix. Garnish with a celery stick and/or a few slices of pickled jicama.


Thursday, August 7, 2008

Rowley’s Lemon Punsch Pie

I live in California where the mixers grow on trees. In some places, the lanes are so lousy with oranges or lemons that they truly are gutter trash. I’m still fascinated by it all.

When I had a sample of Erik Ellestad’s lemon-infused Swedish punsch at Tales of the Cocktail during the panel “Making Your Own Cocktail Ingredients” I realized I wanted to play around with the liqueur. So I tweaked one of his recipes to come up with a one-liter batch and am very pleased with it.

What to call this thing…I like “lemon punsch pie” but then “punch drunk pie” works or “punsch debris pie” or even “enhooched pie” since my take on an old Shaker recipe definitely carries a strong smell of delicious Swedish punsch from the enhooched lemons slices used to flavor it.

Call it what you want, this is a tasty pie—if prepared with the thinnest-sliced lemons. Honest, if your slices are thicker than, say, your knife blade, they’re too thick and will never be tender enough for the pie, no matter how low and slowly you bake it. Use a mandoline or a Benriner if you've got one.

Go on and gild the lily with a fat dollop of whipped cream, flavored with vanilla extract and a knifepoint of salt (which in small enough doses doesn’t taste of salt but enhances the creaminess of the cream. Seriously. Try it.).

Rowley’s Lemon Punsch Pie

Start by using the sliced lemons from a recipe of Swedish punsch (such as Erik's or mine). If you use either recipe, you’ll have too many slices, so discard about one-third of the volume.

  • 9 oz/250g thinly sliced punsch lemons, seeded
  • 2 cups/14.5 oz/420g granulated sugar
  • 1 Tbl Swedish punsch (in addition to whatever clings to the lemons)
  • A pinch of salt
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • Egg white, beaten (to seal the edges and brush the top)
  • Two 10” pie crusts, uncooked*

In a nonreactive container, mix the sugar, lemon slices, and additional tablespoon of punsch. Let rest overnight until a thick, sludgy syrup forms (not all the sugar will dissolve).

The next day, mix together the lemon slice sludge with the four beaten eggs and salt until the sugar and eggs are combined. The sugar still won’t all dissolve. If you were worried about such things, you wouldn’t be making this pie, so hush.

Preheat your oven to 450°F/230°C.

Lay a pie crust in a 10” pan add the filling. Wet the edges of the crust with the egg white wash. Place the other 10” crust on top, pressing to seal the edges. Trim the excess dough. Lightly brush the egg while across the top and, using a sharp knife, puncture the top crust only with a dozen or so small slits to let steam escape.

Cook the pie for 15 minutes, turn down the heat to 375°F/190°C and cook another 30 minutes or so until the top is golden brown and the custard is lightly set.

Cool on a wire rack and serve with that fat dollop of cream. Go on, you know you want to.

*Usually I make my own pie crusts, but it's been so frackin' hot I wanted to be in the kitchen as little a possible and cheated by using a box of Trader Joe's frozen crusts. Eh. They're ok. You'll notice that I'm no photographer. I'll make it properly when it cools off. Lord knows I'll run out of the punsch soon enough.


Swedish Punsch (and Lemon Punsch Pie)

In which Rowley steals a recipe and lays the groundwork for updating an old Shaker classic dessert
(which was posted later that week).

I was skeptical of the boozy tea-and-cardamom flavored liqueur called Swedish punsch (or, punch), mostly because I’m leery of Scandinavian culinary delights such as lutefisk, reindeer, and whale. I shouldn’t have worried. There is aquavit, after all, and a robust home distilling tradition in those frosty northern climes. Plus, I like tea; cardamom can be delicious; and punch usually goes down without a fight.

Final realization? I should have made this long ago.

Given the cardamom and lemon, two flavors that find their way into cookies, pies, and cakes, the recipe also got me thinking about how the spent lemons (used to flavor the spirits) could be incorporated into baking instead of getting pitched once they'd given up their flavor to the punsch.

Now, you could drink this liqueur neat, chilled, but there’s a tradition of using it as a cocktail ingredient that’s a better route. First thing to do (that is, if you can’t find a bottle of the actual stuff) is to score a bottle of Batavia Arrack von Oosten, a Javanese rice-and-sugar cane spirit that is once again available in the US through Haus Alpenz. That will give a noticeable funky character to the final product. Which is good.

For a recipe using the Arrack—please, the Indonesian stuff, not the eastern Mediterranean anise liqueurs—I turned to Erik Ellestad’s Underhill Lounge. Erik’s recipe makes about three liters; a little much for something I’d never tried to make before, so I scaled the recipe to make one liter.

If I had known how good it would be, how fantastic in mixed drinks, I would have gone for the full three-liter batch.

Next time.

Swedish Punsch (one liter yield)

Spirit Base
  • 17 oz/500ml El Dorado 5 Year demarara rum
  • 8.5 oz/250ml Batavia Arrack van Oosten
  • 3 lemons, sliced thinly and seeded

Put the lemon slices, along with any accumulated juice, into a half-gallon non-reactive container with a sealable lid (e.g., a big ol’ Mason or le Parfait preserving jar). Let macerate six hours. Don’t leave it all day or overnight; you don’t want to extract too much of the bitterness from the lemon. It is important to slice the lemons as thinly as possible, say no thicker than a credit card (note that I don't follow my advice in the picture; the pie would've been much more tender had I done so).

Meanwhile, prepare the tea syrup (below) and allow it to cool to room temperature. After six hours, pour the arrack/rum infusion off the lemon slices (don’t squeeze them). Set the enhooched lemon slices aside (you may want to use them to make the lemon punsch pie. If not, pitch 'em, compost 'em, or slop the hogs with them).

Pour the flavored rum mix through a funnel into the one-liter bottle containing the tea syrup. Shake gently to mix and set aside at least one day to mellow.

Tea Syrup
  • 8.5 oz/250ml boiling water
  • 1 Tbl/6 grams orange pekoe tea
  • 2 cardamom pods, crushed
  • 1 1/3 cups/280g demarara sugar

Place the dry loose tea and crushed cardamom pods in French press. Heat a small pot of water to the boil, then measure 250ml. Pour this hot water over the tea and cardamom and steep for six minutes.

While tea is steeping, pour sugar through a funnel into a one-liter bottle.

After six minutes, strain the tea (through a coffee filter or a dampened paper towel or cheesecloth if necessary) into the bottle containing the sugar. Seal the bottle and shake the holy living bejesus out of it until the sugar dissolves completely.

To get you started on some tasty drinks, here’s a trio of recipes that use punsch. Try them all and for more recipes, check out
3/4 oz rye (Sazerac)
3/4 oz Swedish punsch
3/4 oz dry vermouth
1 dash Angostura bitters
1 dash fresh lemon juice

Stir in mixing glass with ice & strain.

Doctor Cocktail
2 oz Jamaica rum
1 oz Swedish punsch
1 oz fresh lime juice

Shake in iced cocktail shaker & strain.

~ from Ted Haigh’s Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails

100% Cocktail
2 oz Swedish punsch
½ oz fresh orange juice
½ oz fresh lemon juice
One drop of Angostura bitters (for garnish)

Shake punsch and juices with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a single drop of bitters.

~ from Jeff Hollinger and Rob Schwartz’s The Art of the Bar: Cocktail’s Inspired by the Classics

And that pie recipe that uses the spent lemons from the arrack/rum infusion? Hold yer horses. It's coming. [edit: now it's posted]

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Tales Tallies

Ann Tuennerman sent a note today tallying the impressive array of ingredients used in this year's Tales of the Cocktail.

Now and again, I'd bump into bartenders I didn't know, waiting for an elevator or chatting in the hallways. How'd I know they were bartenders? Easy to diagnose: after Day Two, they could often be spotted because they'd be using their left hand to massage their right forearm—that is, the one that was leveraging all the juice from endless-seeming bins of lemons and limes.

Hats off to all the volunteers, bartenders, and presenters who made that all happen. I'm reminded of something Jamie Boudreau said when talking about a hand-operated Büchner funnel: "My hands haven't ached so badly since I was eleven."

In addition to 6,000 pounds of ice in the five days, Tales bartenders and presenters went through:

• 70 liters of Cranberry Juice
• 28 liters of Tomato Juice
• 68 liters of Pineapple Juice
• 30 quarts of egg whites
• 15 dozen eggs
• 40 pounds of super fine sugar
• 26 pounds of Demerera Sugar
• 56 cases of Lemons/350 liters of lemon juice
• 61 cases of Limes/280 liters of lime juice
• 12 cases of Oranges
• 12 cases of Grapefruit
• 23 pounds of Cucumbers
• 50 pounds of Ginger Root
• 9 flats of Raspberries
• 5 flats of Blueberries
• 7 flats of Blackberries
• 9 pounds of Jalapeño peppers or 2340 jalapeño slices
• 31 pounds of Fresh Mint or 8085 mint leaves
• 6 Pounds of Fresh Basil
• 3 Pounds of Fresh Sage
• 3 Pounds of Fresh Rosemary
• 5 Pounds of Fresh Cilantro
• 12 Pounds of Cherries
• 30 cans of Condensed Milk
• 12 quarts of heavy Cream

There is no mention of the tallies of aspirin, Alleve, headache powders, or hairs of various dogs consumed to ameliorate the effects of the above when combined with thousands of gallons of spirits.


Friday, August 1, 2008

Banana Shrub

I spend too much money on books. There. I'll admit it. Though as my culinary library grows, I'm buying fewer and fewer titles—it's just that those I do buy are older, more rare, and in better condition that I might once have considered.


Every once in a while, though, I come across a book I haven't seen or even heard of before and the impish little glutton in me springs out. So it was with M.E. Steedman's Home-Made Beverages and American Drinks.

I hadn't heard of Steedman, so that caught my eye. The book itself is battered, the pages frayed. If there were dozens of these floating around the net, I would have waited until a better quality copy surfaced. But this is the only copy I've seen.

Greg Boehm shed some light on the author while we chatted in New Orleans during Tales of the Cocktail. Turns out that Steedman also penned Home-Made Summer and Winter Drinks; Cups, Liqueurs, Cocktails and Invalid Drinks. Greg had a nice scan on his laptop. They seem to be different books, but I'd still like to do a side-by-side comparison to see if my copy may be an earlier edition from a different publisher. Fortunately, online book merchants seem to have many copies.

Since shrubs seems to enjoying a renaissance among some cocktail folk, here's Steedman's recipe for

Banana Shrub

Put a quart of peeled and thinly sliced bananas into a jar, add the thinly pared rind and strained juice of a lemon, 3 pints of good old Jamaica rum, and 10 oz. of pure cane sugar. Cover the jar closely and infuse for 2 months, shaking it daily, then filter, and store in airtight bottles.

~ Home-Made Beverages and American Drinks
M. E. Steedman (nd) The Food and Cookery Publishing Agency, London.

Goes well with:
  • Mud Puddle Books, Boehm's imprint selling fantastic facsimile editions of early cocktail books. In general, I avoid facsimile editions because I enjoy the heft of the actual old texts in my hands. But Greg has so faithfully reproduced the books—from the fonts, to the paper, cover, ink, and size—that, except that they are clearly brand-new, you'd think you were holding bartender guides older than Barbara Walters.