Archive for the Home Made Ingredients Category

Encore D’Orange

Posted in Exotic Citrus, Home Made Ingredients with tags , on April 26, 2011 by Mr. Manhattan

Over the weekend I had the occasion to serve some of the vin d’orange I made at the end of 2009. I actually hadn’t realized it had been over a year since I made this and reported about it on this blog. (If you are one of those people who are always making something new, you know the results of your old projects tend to get lost, which is what happened here.) Since then the vin has undergone several very wonderful changes in color and flavor. It’s developed a distinctly deep orange gold hue. Scott Beattie described it as being like padparadscha, a kind of orange sapphire. The flavors have merged with the bitterness, which was pretty dominating when it was younger, finally coming into balance against the citrus and sugar. It’s also developed a slightly oxidized or “rancio” like character, probably from the extended aging. (Note: it’s been kept in glass but not in bottles filled to the brim.) It’s a total pleasure to drink, neat or over ice.

Knowing that there were still some Seville oranges to be had, I decided to put up some more vin d’orange before they disappeared for the year. I decided to go a bit crazy and put up four times as much as I did last time—I’ve got some plans for this. Stay tuned.

Two Quick Infusions to Start the New Year

Posted in Bourbon and Rye, Exotic Citrus, Home Made Ingredients on February 1, 2011 by Mr. Manhattan

It’s been a while since my last blog post. I apologize for the long silence. I’m going to attribute that, on one hand, to some fatigue after spending all of summer and fall 2010 promoting the book and basic human laziness, on the other. It’s winter, right, and it’s supposed to be OK to hibernate. So I did.

To get back into the swing of things I made a couple of quick infusions both of which I’d been planing for some months. Both can be done in a couple of days or even less.

The first required obtaining a supply of locally foraged candy cap mushrooms (any one of several Lactarius species though most commonly L. rubidus or L. fragilus) which, when dried, smell intensely of maple syrup and butterscotch. They are most commonly used to make cookies to which they lend their distinctive scent. About year or so ago I heard about Neyah White’s experiments with infusing these into rye so that’s what I set out to recreate.

Rather than ordering the mushrooms on-line I resolved to find a local source. After asking about I was finally put into contact with friends of a friend who were active and avid mushroom collectors. More importantly, they had a pretty large supply of already dried fungi, foraged last year, which they were willing to trade for some of the finished rye infusion. I soon found myself the proud owner of 3 ounces of incredibly pungent mushrooms.

To make the infusion I measured out an ounce of the dried candy caps, put them in the bottom of one of my “infusing jars” and added a full bottle (750 ml) of Rittenhouse rye. Given how incredibly pungent the mushrooms were, I figured that it wouldn’t take terribly long to impart that scent and flavor to the rye. I was quite right. After about four hours I deemed that the two ingredients had spent enough time together and passed the rye though a coffee filter and bottled it.

The result is, unsurprisingly, redolent of maple syrup and butterscotch, both of which complement the spice of the rye. More intriguingly, at least to me, is that it also exhibits a distinct earthy-mushroomy taste. All these notes, the sweet, the earthy, and the spicy, carry on into the finish which is very long. I have to say I am on the fence about this one. It’s a bit much. I suspect that had I used less of the mushrooms and/or left the infusion to sit for less time that I’d have not captured so much of the mushrooms themselves, certainly not so intensely. Still, there is something very alluring about it and it seems to be better after you’ve been drinking it for a while.

Candy Cap-infused Rye

1/2 oz. dried candy cap mushrooms
1 bottle (750 ml) Rittenhouse 100-proof rye
A large wide-mouth jar
Strainer
Coffee filter (like a Melitta #4)

Put the mushrooms and the rye into the jar and seal well.
Let stand for 2 to 4 hours, testing frequently after the first 2 hours.
Strain out the mushrooms and then pass the liquid though a coffee filter.
Bottle the resulting infusion.

The second infusion I made using chinotto citrus from my potted dwarf tree. It set a sizable crop this year and, more importantly, I knew not to wait until they were completely orange to start using them. Chinotto (AKA Myrtle Leaf orange, Citrus aurantium var. myrtifolia) is a small, bitter, but very aromatic citrus variety, commonly grown in southern Italy where it may be used as a flavoring element in certain amari and, it is said, Campari. It’s also consumed on it’s own in the form of an eponymous soda made most famously by San Pellegrino though other brands exist. My concept for this infusion was to follow the template for a Rock ‘n’ Rye but to omit the horehound and instead rely entirely on the chinotto to provide both the citrus and the bitter flavoring element.

Last year I tried to use the chinotto as the basis for a digestive bitters but feel I waited too long to harvest the fruit, leaving them on the tree long after they were fully orange. There’s not a lot of juice in the fruit to begin with and leaving them to ‘hang’ for a long time seemed to have left them even drier. I processed that crop two different ways. First, by maceration with sugar which left me with a small amount of decent syrup. Second, by extracting favor in high-proof GNS (Everclear) which made a very bitter extract (most likely because of the peel) for which I haven’t yet found a good use.*

To make this year’s infusion, I sliced six chinotto oranges to which I added a bottle of Wild Turkey rye. I allow the fruit to steep for just 48 hours and then removed it. I then added about 4 tablespoons of rock sugar (procured from a chinese grocery) and let it sit until dissolved. That’s it.

Chinotto Rock ‘n’ Rye

6 chinotto oranges, washed and sliced.
1 bottle (750 ML) Wilde Turkey 101-proof rye
4 tablespoons rock sugar
A large wide mouthed jar

Put the chinotto slices and the rye into the jar and seal well.
Let stand for 48 hours.
Remove the orange slices with a slotted spoon and discard.
Add the rock sugar and leave until dissolved.
Strain and bottle the resulting infusion.

The finished product smells deeply of orange and captures both the citrus and the bitter flavoring elements of the chinotto. I will say that much as I like this stuff, it’s not as delicious as a classic Rock ‘n’ Rye. In part because it’s missing the slightly minty edge you get from the horehound.

So I’d make a couple of adjustments to the next batch, possibly adding a single regular Valencia orange (bring to add some sweet citrus) and use caramelized sugar in place of the rock candy. I think both “tweaks” will make for a more layered product.

* – I’ve actually now combined the syrup from the macerated fruit and the tincture to make a new base syrup. I then added about 50% by volume of a caramelized simple syrup to give it some balance and depth. The results are pretty amazing and flavorful. I am starting to work on some cocktails that incorporate it.

A Rose (Aprium) By Any Other Name

Posted in Cocktails, Home Made Ingredients, Stone Fruit with tags , , on October 9, 2010 by Mr. Manhattan

A few weeks ago I documented my efforts to capture the embers of the stone fruit season by infusing gin with apriums, pluots, and dried plums. (Previously) I am pleased to say that my experiments were most successful—despite have been told not to expect much from folks who’s opinions I regularly value. I don’t know what I did that they did not, but I wound up with deeply colored, highly flavored gins. Drinkable in their own right, actually. And the flesh of the fruit did not disintegrate as I had feared it might. (I chalk this up to using less than fully ripe fruit.) I also think my choice of Plymouth, in which the juniper is fairly muted, was spot on.

Since then I’ve used the gins to make a number of lovely sours (one of which is destined for the menu at Plum). The only down side is that I am running out and, alas, there really are no more stone fruit (least not of the varieties I was using). Now I’ll have to sit on my hands and await the next season—only 11 months away!

Meantime, to whet your whistle, or to make you envious, you choose), here’s a recipe for one of the cocktails.

Rose Aprium Sour (AKA By Any Other Name)

1 1/2 oz. Rose Aprium-infused Plymouth gin [*]
3/4 oz. Honey syrup (2:1)
1/2 oz. lemon juice
1/4 oz. Maraska maraschino liqueur
1 egg white

Combine ingredients in a mixing glass and dry shake to froth the egg whites.
Add ice and shake about 20 times to chill.
Double-strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

[*] Details on how I made the gin can be found in this post. The only missing details are as follows: let the fruit infuse for about 10 days. When ready, run the infused gin through a Melita-type coffee filter before using.

Stoned (Fruit) Infusions

Posted in Home Made Ingredients, Stone Fruit with tags , on September 6, 2010 by Mr. Manhattan

Emboldened by my recent success with apricots (previously), I decided to undertake some further exploration of stone fruit, again, before they completely disappear. But this time I set myself a slightly different challenge. I wanted to capture stone fruit flavors in a spirit so they could be used for mixing after the season was over. Motivations were two: first, I wanted to learn more about how best to do that and then play with the resulting flavors. Second, because I’ve been thinking about the possibility of a signature cocktail for the bar at Plum. Seems obvious you’d want something made with plums, only the bar won’t be opening until well after the end of season. Perhaps a well made infusion could capture the embers of the summer fruit season, keeping them safe and sound until needed?

Of Apriums and Pluots…

Once again, faced with piles of stone fruit at Berkeley Bowl, I felt bewildered by the choices even this late into the summer. Choosing an apricot variety for “When the Fat Lady Sings” was kind of a no-brainer because, frankly, there were no choices. But there are still plenty of plums, peaches, and nectarines to be had. There are also plenty of the crosses or hybrids: plum-apricots (or pluots) and apricot-plums (apriums), named according to the percentage of which fruit they most resemble—pluots being more plummy and apriums being, well, more apricot-y. Both crosses appear to be the brainchild of Mr. Floyd Zaiger, about whom wikipedia oddly enough, has very little to say. However, I did learn that man has trademarks on both “Pluot®” and “Aprium®.” (I wonder how much that’s worth?)

At any rate, you can see it was to the crosses was attracted. That’s in no small part because of the apricot component. It gave me a kind of psychic bridge from my previous success that I hoped would leave to more of the same. I poked and sniffed and even sampled a few pieces of fruit and finally settled on two: Rose apriums, cause they seemed like they had a lot of apricot nature, and Flavor Supreme pluots, for similar reason but they were intensely purple inside. I was also motivated by the texture of the fruit. I was concerned that very plummy fruit, with soft wet flesh would disintegrate when steeped in spirits. This seemed like it would make it hard to filter the infusion when it was ready and for some reason having a translucent (not cloudy) final product seemed important to me. Both of these varieties possessed a firmer, finer grained flesh.

I also had one further idea while in the store. Perhaps I could use dried plums (but not prunes) to make an tasty infusion? I had done this with dried apricots and pisco when making Ryan Fitzgerald’s “Il Terzo” cocktail for Left Coast Libations. Perhaps I could find and use dried plums to the same effect? And the advantage of that would be, honestly, the availability of dried fruit, into fall and winter. The Bowl did not disappoint: I found some rather moist (and tasty) dried plums in the bulk food section.

Method

I cut up three of each of the fresh fruit into pieces about 1/2″ on a size or smaller. (I discarded the stones.) I put the cut fruit into to one pint canning jars, added 8 oz. of Plymouth gin, sealed them up. I treated the dried fruit a little bit differently, cutting them into smaller pieces, about 1/4″ wide, to increase the surface area during infusion. I put these in a pint jar too and added 8 oz. of Plymouth. The jars are now sitting in my relatively cool (and frequently dark) basement/garage/warehouse.

Why Plymouth?

There are two reasons I chose to use Plymouth gin for this experiment. First, there’s a nice citrus/corriander component in the Plymouth which I always find very attactive. Its neither too juniper-ry not floral (like, say Hendrick’s). Second, Plymouth makes the best sloe gin, and sloe berries (as they are referred to) are close relatives of plums (both members of the genus prunus). So I already kind of know the two flavors can play well together.

Waiting…

So I am going to give my infusions about two weeks, sampling them along the way. They are already taking on quite a bit of color and scent. It’s also obvious that the fresh fruit is giving up a lot of liquid into the gin while the dried fruit is absorbing it. (I may even need to add some additional gin to this one.) I will let you know how all of them turn out and what sort of cocktails I come up with to showcase them in a future post. (Thinking ginger, thinking shiso.) And keep your fingers crossed I didn’t just waste most of a bottle of fine gin!

[A big shout out to Joel Baker for inspiring me to do this with his pear-infused rye. That's used in the "Claremont Affair" cocktail, a big seller at Bourbon & Branch, where Joel works as the Bar Manager.]

Calamondin Marmalade

Posted in Cocktails, Exotic Citrus, Home Made Ingredients with tags , , on August 28, 2010 by Mr. Manhattan

My little calamondin tree (previously) has been doing quite well and produced a nice sized crop of fruit this summer. When I went to water it a few days ago I realized most all of the fruit was ready to harvest. The question was what to do with it? With the winter harvest, I focused on muddling the fruit and created both a bourbon and a rum cocktail which were pretty decent. This time, however I had a lot more fruit than I thought could be reasonably used before going bad. So, I decided to preserve them by making a marmalade. I based the recipe below on one for kumquats by Matty Eggleston from Left Coast Libations.

Calamondin Marmalade

30 Calamondin
1 1/2 cups organic cane sugar
1/2 cup water

Makes approximately 1 pint of marmalade.

- Trim the very top off each calamondin and then slice in half across the “equator” of each fruit.
- Remove any seeds using the tip of the knife.
- Coarsely chop the cut and seeded calamondin in a food processor using “pulses” to prevent pureeing.
- Put the chopped calamondin into a medium sauce pan along with the sugar and the water.
- Bring the mixture to a simmer while stirring to dissolve the sugar.
- Continue stirring, removing any seeds which may have been missed.
- Heat the mixture for approximately 10 to 15 minutes or until it thickens, darkens, and most of the peel becomes translucent.
- Stir and adjust the heat as necessary to prevent boiling.
- Turn of the heat and remove the sauce pan from the burner.
- After the marmalade is cooled, put into an airtight container and store in the fridge.

I must say it came out fiendishly good! I mean like ‘eat it by the spoonful’ good. It’s also not too firm, a characteristic which would have made it difficult to mix with. I was also very happy with the couple of cocktails I made using it. Nothing ground breaking, just sturdy deliciousness. My favorite was the pisco sour and everyone who tried it thought so too. The smokiness of the pisco made a create completement to the rindy-tarness of the marmalade.

Calamondin Pisco Sour

1 1/2 oz. Don Cesar ‘Pisco Puro’
2 teaspoons calamondin marmalade
1/2 oz. lemon juice
1/2 oz. Senior Curacao of Curacao orange liqueur
1/2 oz. egg white
A few drops of Angostura bitters, for garnish

Combine all the ingredients in a mixing glass.
Shake hard, without ice, to froth the egg whites.
Add ice and shake 10 more times to chill.
Double strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
Put a few drops of Angostura bitters in the froth and make a pretty design using a toothpick.

Cherries 2010

Posted in Cherries, Creme de Noyaux, Home Made Ingredients, Stone Fruit with tags , , , on August 4, 2010 by Mr. Manhattan

It’s been a good cherry season here in northern California with plenty of nice looking fruit still for sale. Commensurately, I’ve been busy. Here’s an update on my projects.

Candied Sweet Cherries—Two ways

Back in May I made two separate batches of candied cherries using Bing and some Van, both of which are bigarreau-type cultivars of Prunus avium, the sweet cherry species. These are really fleshy fruit and I wanted to see if I could approximate the texture and taste of candied Italian amarenata cherries (often incorrectly referred to as amarena). Those cherries are very dark and dense inside, almost like a fruit paste. Some folks don’t like ‘em, but I myself am quite fond of them, especially when they’ve had the chance to ‘make friends’ with some rye in a mason jar and loose all of that heavy syrup in which they come packed.

For the first batch I started out by partially cooking 2 lb. of fruit that had been stoned and then macerated for one hour with 1 lb. of organic cane sugar. I added a vanilla bean (split lengthwise), the peel of two Seville oranges, their juice and about half a cup of water. I stirred everything until all the sugar was dissolved and simmered the mixture for about 15 – 20 minutes, as if I was going to make preserves. I then switched over to a ‘classic’ candying protocol, leaving the cherries to sit in the syrup over night, draining them in the morning, re-heating the syrup to which more sugar is then added, and then pouring the enriched syrup over the cherries again. I did this for about five days; fully candied fruit may be processed for two weeks in this manner. I then gave them a final draining (reserving the vanilla-rich syrup, which is totally killer over ice cream) and put the cherries on a baking sheet to allow them to dry. After a few days I deemed them done.

For the second batch I decided to follow the candying protocol more closely, which meant the stoned fruit was barely cooked on the first day and with much less sugar. Once again I added a vanilla bean, orange peel (Sevilles were now gone however) and the juice of a lemon. I enriched the syrup with daily additions of sugar for another full seven days after which I decided they were candied enough. One thing I didn’t want was to wind up with an entirely glaced cherry. As it turned out, this second batch was far closer to that point that I realized. After being stored in a sealed container for 10 days they were in fact showing signs of becoming crystalized.

Of the two batches, the first is clearly the more successful. The flesh of the fruit is very moist and a lot of fresh cherry flavor remains. There’s also no sign of crystallizing, even after a month in the container. The second batch, while tasty, is definitely more sugary and the fruit has begun to show signs of crystallization. I’ve put a bunch of them into my ‘washing jar’ with some rye where I think they will fare better.

I should say that neither batch approximates the jamminess of the Italian amarenata cherries. I am not sure that I will ever be able to do that.

Brandied Balatons

I have waxed poetic before on the Balaton, a cultivar of sour cherries (Prunus cerasus) originally developed in Hungary, established in states like Michigan, Idaho and Utah, and now showing up in commercial quantities here in California. These seem to be easier far to find than the tart standard bearer, the Montmorency. In fact, I’ve never seen these for sale anywhere around here.

I lucked upon Balatons last year as they were more or less fading and just barely managed to get some home before the market scuttled the box as unsalable. (I’d have taken ‘em!) This year I kept my eyes open for them every time I visited Berkeley Bowl. Two days ago they made their appearance, this time pre-packaged in 2 lb. clamshells. This was actually an improvement over the loose boxes in which I found them last year. All the fruit was firm, bright and in good condition. (Note: two days later all the Balatons were gone—sold out. Guess I wasn’t the only one waiting for these.)

Last year I put my Balatons up two ways: one rye (with orange peel and vanilla bean) and one in mixture of cognac and kirsch. I eventually added some sugar to both batches. Of the two, I liked the cognac and kirsch best, so this year that’s all I did. I also bumped the sugar a bit and allowed the fruit to macerate for a couple of hours before adding the spirits. In about a week I will sample and and adjust the sweetness if necessary.

Cherry Noyaux Experiments

My noyaux investigations continue. An abundance of cherries have been stoned in my kitchen over the past two months and I have not been letting the kernels go to waste. Unlike peach bunkers, cherry stones are easily cracked, though you get much less out of each one. For example, two pounds of Balaton cherries yielded just 19 grams of kernels. That’s “kernels,” the bit inside of each stone, not the shells which account for most of the mass.

I have made two distinct experiments using cherry stones at this point.

Experiment #1: Boosting the Peach Noyaux

The first thing I wanted to try was to add cherry kernels to the peach kernel noyaux I made last year. That first product has always felt a bit delicate and subtle to me. My thought was to boost the flavor by macerating some cherry kernels in it. One batch, using Bing/Van kernels, has been macerating for two months and has now been coarsely filtered. The aroma of this noyaux is definitely more intense but it’s the flavor which has really changed: much more marzipan and bitter almond. My current thoughts are to mix in more of the peach kernel noyaux to reduce the bitterness and/or add more sugar.

I also have a second similar batch based on the Balaton kernels in process. It will be interesting to see if it tastes any different than the batch based on Bing/Van kernels.

Experiment #2: Straight Cherry Noyaux

Another idea was to make a new batch of noyaux based entirely on cherries. Since cherry stones contain such small kernels I decided to just crush the stones and add everything—kernels, shells, and any flesh still attached—to a bottle of VS cognac. That batch is about one month old right now and has turned a coppery-red. You can smell the cherry in it and when tasted, it exhibits a light cherry flavor. It will be interesting to see how much more flavor develops in a month and how it tastes after it’s been sweetened. I may also augment this with some of the cherry-boosted peach noyaux.

And…We’re Off to the Printers!

Posted in Home Made Ingredients, Left Coast Libations with tags , on April 12, 2010 by Mr. Manhattan

It’s been a while since my last update on the book. I’m hoping to do that a bit more often going forward…

Last week we sent the completed print package for Left Coast Libations off to the printers, with no small sense of relief. All of last month was consumed with putting the finishing touches on the book: getting final hi-res color delivered, collecting releases from all the bartenders (herding cats, mon), completing the copyright page information, dealing with Library of Congress, building the index, adding a last minute section at the end for bartender updates, getting photos for our bios, etc etc. And now, that’s all done. Of course, as anyone who’s had a book printed knows, that particular stress was replaced almost immediately with concerns about things we might have missed (and that we’re going to find when we get our very expensive proof back to review) or problems in the print package itself (like missing fonts). It’s a never ending cycle of labor and joy, joy and labor.

What they are saying about Left Coast Libations

One really really cool thing we did in February was to send out early versions of the book as PDF to solicit quotes from key industry folks. These are the sorts of things you need for the back cover and for press releases which get generated before the book is made generally available for review. Amazingly enough not only did we get a 100% response from everyone we approached but everyone got back to us within a month. We didn’t have to follow up or cajole anyone. I am told that’s not always the case.

And, without further ado, here’s (some) of what “they are saying” about us…

“If cocktails aren’t your thing, buy this book anyway. Munat is delightfully entertaining, and his keen wit, coupled with a little sarcasm and a touch of attitude, have served him well here. It’s a darned good read. If cocktails are your thing you’ll get double your money’s worth with Left Coast Libations. It’s packed with fabulous formulas from all the big shots who hold forth from behind the mahogany on the west coast.”

Gary Regan, author of The Joy of Mixology and the bartender’s GIN compendium

“I am so very pleasantly surprised to learn that not only do some of our Western Territories have bars, but—if we are to believe this amusing and informative little volume—the conduct of those institutions is frequently placed in the hands of individuals who thoroughly know their business. I should like to visit them some day.”

—David Wondrich, author of Imbibe

“’Go West young man, go West!’ No truer words were ever spoken, then or now. It might seem like all of the nation’s trend-setting excitement is happening on the East Coast, but when you talk cocktails, you have to pay attention to what is happening in bars and restaurants up and down the West Coast. With Left Coast Libations, you not only have the opportunity to discover many of the great cocktails which have sprung out of the West, but also get a chance to meet the bartenders who created them.”

—Robert Hess, creator of DrinkBoy.com, co-founder of the Museum of the American Cocktail

“Munat and Lazar’s book is the finest attempt anyone has made to reveal the movement that culinary cocktail-making has become. Left Coast Libations not only delivers stellar drink recipes but also includes all of the sub-recipes for each of the bartender’s hand-crafted ingredients. Working through this process gives the reader a fantastic new arsenal of garnishes, syrups, foams, airs, and other unique ingredients that enable anyone to create memorable cocktails at home. Additionally, we get the chance to learn a little bit about the creative souls who contributed these recipes with sharp, humorous, and always entertaining biographies on each bartender. If you love mixology, you will love this book.”

Scott Beattie, author of Artisanal Cocktails

“Far more than a how-to or a coffee table tome, Left Coast Libations stands as a complete and inclusive record of the state of some of North America’s finest bartenders as we wallow contentedly in the second Golden Age of cocktails. By turns humorous, stylish and evocative, Munat and Lazar open the doors to the rich world of American bartending west of the flyover zone.”

Phil Duff, door 74, Amsterdam

Makes my head swim every time I read those. More about the book soon…

P.S. And let no post end without a pretty photo…

I will be hosting a large cocktail event next month. We’ll be serving a selection of drinks from Left Coast Libations, naturally. One selection will be Jim Romdall’s El Globo Rojo which uses a homemade ingredient from Charles Baker’s A Gentlemen’s Companion. Here’s an (enormous looking) jar of what will become Tequila Por Mi Amante in about four weeks time. Slurp!

Cheers!

Tincture blues…

Posted in Cocktails, Home Made Ingredients, Musings, Spirits News on February 26, 2010 by Mr. Manhattan

Like everyone else in the SF Bay Area cocktail community, I’ve been talking all morning with folks about the current injunction preventing bars from making cocktails with homemade infusions based on alcohol: a process that may be described as “rectification,” which is illegal. Bourbon & Branch and Rickhouse were specifically targeted and, it would seem, were forced to dump all the various infusions they had laying about. Here’s a link to the article in today’s SF Chronicle:

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2010/02/26/MNMA1C6KEV.DTL

Like most folks, I think it’s pretty outrageous (though not completely unexpected, I suppose). The Northern CA chapter of the United States Bar Guild (USBG) has already mobilized to fight this as it affects at least half the bars in the city, to say nothing of the rest of the state. I’m hoping to find out what I can do to help and will share that information as it comes my way.

Meantime, I’m thinking a secret room and a hidden door might be in order at my house. (Did I write that?)

Chinotto Ripening

Posted in Exotic Citrus, Home Made Ingredients with tags , on January 27, 2010 by Mr. Manhattan

Last summer I purchased a few exotic dwarf citrus trees: calamondin (which I’ve previously written about), kaffir lime (from which I’ve made a very pungent tincture) and chinotto, a variety of Italian sour orange which I am told is used to flavor many amari including Ramazotti. Despite some serious rain and cold over the last couple of weeks, the chinotto (also known in the US as myrtle leaf oranges) are now ripening very quickly, which means I will soon need to decide what to do with them. A tincture from the peel to use as the basis of an aromatic bitters seems like an obvious choice. I am also considering macerating some whole fruit from which I can attempt a “digestif” but I am flying blind here. I’d love to hear any suggestions you all might have.

Oranges to Vin d’Orange

Posted in Exotic Citrus, Home Made Ingredients with tags , on December 27, 2009 by Mr. Manhattan

Following on my last post about calamondin, I explore a great use for another exotic citrus now coming into season, Seville oranges…

One of the blogs I regularly follow is simply called “Cocktail of the Day” where the bartenders at Range list their most recent cocktail inventions. These folks are prolific, inventing several new libations every week, often incorporating the local in-season produce. Every so often I find something which really turns me on and then I have to make it at home. [See note below]

A few months ago, they mentioned that the were making their own vin d’orange, an aperitif made by infusing dry white white, to which sugar and neutral grain spirits have been added, with sour oranges and spices like vanilla and/or cinnamon. Variations of it are made throughout France and it is, to the best of my knowledge, the inspiration for Lillet. With Seville oranges in season, I figured it was time to make my move.

To make my version, I did some web research and then settled on the recipe posted on Savuer Languedoc by a freelance food writer named Anne de Ravel. Here’s that recipe as I adapted it:

Vin d’Orange (after Saveur Languedoc)

2.5 lbs Seville oranges, washed and sliced
2 organic or pesticide-free lemons, washed and sliced
4 bottles dry white wine (I used Rosenblum Viognier and Qupe Marsanne)
2 cups 151-proof Everclear neutral grain spirits
1 cup Wray & Nephew overproof rum
1 cup grappa di moscato
2 vanilla beans, split in half
950 grams organic white sugar

Everything above is mixed together and stirred until the sugar is dissolved and then covered and let to stand for about 2 months. Anne de Ravel indicated she stirred everything once a day for the first month and then once a week during the second. After two months, the mixture needs to be strained, racked, filtered and bottled.

To make my life much easier, I used a white 2-gallon food grade container with a tight fitting lid instead of the recommended jugs. Cramming all that citrus into the small opening of a jug (and then getting everything out again later) just seemed like too much of a pain and unnecessary. It also meant I could slice rather than chop my citrus. Here’s a photo showing how pretty things looked inside the container during assembly:

If you compare recipes, you also note that I’m using much higher proof spirit than called for in the original. To be honest, that was really just a mistake on my part. I unthinkingly interpreted “clear unflavored alcohol” as Everclear, which I use for making tinctures. I imagine I can compensate for this if it proves necessary by adding some water but I’ll hold off making that call for a month. Do note however that the choice to use some overproof rum and grappa was deliberate. I thought these would add interesting complexity to the blend.

Two other modifications I plan to make to the recipe are as follows. After the first month, I’ll mix in a handful of charred french oak cubes for added flavor. These were purchased from a local beer and wine making supply. I’ll leave them for no more than one month. Second, after filtering and bottling, I’m going to try infusing a couple of liters of the vin d’orange with chinchona bark ala the ever elusive Kina Lillet.

I’ll let you know how things are going in a month…

NOTE: If you visit the Range cocktail site you’ll notice right away that they don’t provide measurements for any of the recipes nor how do they tell you to how to make special ingredients when these are required. The good news is that if you post a comment and ask, someone from the bar will respond. It may take a day or two so keep checking back.

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