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Highlights from the General Topics and Cookware boards. Food trends, food products, and burning questions.

Brandied Sour Cherries, for Superior Cocktail Garnishes and More

Homemade brandied sour cherries are a mega-step up from commercial maraschino cherries as a garnish for cocktails. They’re also wonderful in their own right as as topping for ice cream and other desserts. And if you steep with good brandy, you’re left with wonderful cherry brandy (as a byproduct!)

It’s a simple process. Here are some methods:

Use pitted or unpitted sour cherries. If you do pit, retain some pits to add to the brandy (they add a lot of additional flavor). Leave the cherries whole with stems–they’re very pretty for garnishing drinks.

For each pound of sour cherries, use 2 cups of brandy and 3/4 cup of sugar. Mix in quart jar and hold for one month in a cool pantry before using. Store in the refrigerator after the first month (JudiAU).

Some prefer to steep in maraschino liqueur, a not-too-sweet liqueur made from Dalmation marasca cherries (Stock and Luxardo are two widely available brands). Whether using brandy or maraschino, sugar isn’t necessary; just pack a sterilized jar with cherries, cover with brandy or liqueur, and place in a cool, dark place for a month or so. After opening, store in the refrigerator.

While using fresh sour cherries is preferable, their season is short, and they’re not available everywhere. Dried sour cherries plump up nicely in brandy, and still beat chemical-laden commercial maraschino cherries every time (MC Slim JB).

Board Links: Brandied Sour Cherries
Anyone starting any summer time liqueurs and cordials?

Trader Joe’s Canned Smoked Trout

We don’t want to start a run on your TJ’s store, but word has it that this product is being discontinued. The can contains a nice portion for one person. The trout is packed in Canola oil, and very tasty. Some stores still have a supply on the shelves.

Board Links: Trader Joes discountinued its canned smoked trout:(–anyone else sell this?

Jarred Vodka Sauce

Vodka sauce is delicious over any pasta. And there are are some decent-tasting jarred brands–which can be made even better by adding crushed red pepper, some crab meat, or sauteed prosciutto. Here are some good brands:

Patsy’s Vodka Sauce.

Rao’s is a popular but pricey choice.

Trader Joe’s Organic Vodka Sauce is a delicious low-cost alternative.

Cento is made with San Marzano tomatoes (very good, plus not as high calorie as some other brands).

Victoria brand, from Brooklyn, costs $6.99 a jar and is better than Rao’s, says emdb. Find it at Big Y stores and Stop & Shops in the northeast.

Board Links: Recommendations…jarred vodka sauce

Maker’s Mark All Mixed Up

Maker’s Mark is good bourbon, all agree, and while some can’t see why anyone would desire to combine it with more than a couple ice cubes, others offer their favorite cocktails and tall drinks making use of the drink.

A simple but delicious combination is Maker’s and a good spicy ginger ale or ginger beer (like Blenheim’s).

For those who like their Manhattans made with bourbon rather than rye, MM is the ultimate base. Here are basic proportions:

3 parts bourbon
1 part sweet vermouth
dash bitters

Many find this classic too sweet, and prefer a Perfect Manhattan, made with half sweet and half dry vermouth. Recommended brands of vermouth include Noilly Prat and the harder to find but excellent Vya.

Sable & Rosenfeld Tipsy Cherries, soaked in whiskey, make the perfect garnish, says Candy. You can order online.

Three intriguing recipes, courtesy of countbranca:

Whiskey Smash

Muddle in a highball glass:
2-3 half lemon slices
6-8 mint leaves, depending on size and to taste
1.5 tsp superfine sugar or 1/2 simple syrup, or to taste
Add 2 oz Maker’s Mark and ice, and top with soda or flat water

San Francisco Fog

Place in cocktail shaker over ice:
2 oz Maker’s Mark
3 dashes orange flower water
1/4 oz orgeat (almond syrup)
1 egg white

“Shake the hell out of it, strain into chilled cocktail glass, sprinkle with grated orange peel.”

Gold Rush

Place in cocktail shaker over ice:
2 oz Maker’s Mark
3/4 oz fresh lemon juice
3/4oz runny honey (dilute 4 parts honey with 1 part very hot water)

Shake and strain into chilled cocktail glass, garnish with lemon twist.

The Stiletto: Shot of bourbon, shot of almond liqueur, rocks. “Swig, repeat” (Brandon Nelson).

Finally, gina advocates drinking MM neat–but paired with a rich chocolate dessert (e.g. flourless chocolate cake), a combo she says is wonderful.

Board Links
Maker’s Mark

The Papain Effect

Fresh (or frozen) pineapple, kiwi, papaya, figs, guava, and ginger root all contain the enzyme papain, a powerful meat tenderizer. So beware that cooking any of these fruits in combination with meat will effect the meat’s texture. If the fruit is canned, the enzyme’s been destroyed.

Board Links: Fruit with Meat; a Do or a Don’t

Havista Kyoto Noodles

HLing rhapsodizes about the Havista Kyoto brand noodles she found in a Korean market (the package is mostly red and yellow with a drawing of a Japanese doll, and a picture of a bowl of beef noodle soup in the lower left corner). Neatly combed and twisted noodles are visible through the packaging.

Besides the plain noodles, there are three flavors–chicken, beef, and kimchee. The beef flavor packet produces a broth that tastes like a perfectly cooked homemade spicy beef noodle soup: “It’s so good I don’t need actual chunks of beef in the noodles,” she raves.

Board Links: Havista kyoto noodles–great beef flavor

Bottoms Up! Beer with Clamato Juice

A drink called a “Chavela” is popular in Mexico. It’s Clamato juice spiked with beer. It’s served in a large mug with a garnish of boiled shrimp along the rim, and is good with a shot of hot sauce and a squeeze of lemon or lime. Cadbury Schweppes has been advertising their Clamato juice to Mexican communities for quite a while and it’s really caught on. You can also find it readily available in supermarkets north of the border.

Board Links: What is Chavela (Chabela) Cerveza preparada … beer with clam juice
Beer cocktails like the beer Bloody Mary

Penzey’s for Spices

Penzey’s spices are very fresh, and their extracts are equally wonderful. Customers rave about their excellent customer service.

Of all their cinnamons, the Vietnamese Extra Fancy is the best. liu has tried them all, and says this one has real deep cinnamon flavor.

Check out Penzey’s magazine called “One”, which features diverse recipes from its readers.

Board Links: spices

Ben & Jerry’s Portion Control

A pint of ice cream can disappear awfully quickly. The solution: Ben & Jerry’s new mini-size, delivering a relatively healthful four ounce portion, along with a small spoon. One weird report: John Seberg says that not only is the portion skimpy, but the size of the chocolate and cherry chunks in the Cherry Garcia flavor seems smaller as well (“isn’t that what Ben & Jerry’s is all about? Big Chunks?”).

Also new and self-limiting from Ben & Jerry’s: “The Cone”, a new drumstick-type ice cream hounds find more satisfying.

Board Links: Little Ben & Jerry’s

Scrambling the Golden Egg

Should you luck into a fresh goose egg, don’t get fancy. Goose eggs are rich and full flavored, and benefit from simple cooking. Scrambling (over low heat) or omelettes are good choices, but frying won’t bring out the golden egg’s best qualities, as goose eggs, like duck eggs, have firmer whites than chicken eggs that turn tough when fried.

heidipie got her hands on a just-laid goose egg, and says It scrambled up beautifully. “Goose eggs are to chicken eggs as goose meat is to chicken meat. So very rich!”

Board Links: One Goose Egg…