Heirloom Tomato Bloody Marys

It’s peak tomato season, so at the farmers market I’ve been rattling off all the tomato projects I know in a very thinly veiled attempt to convince people to buy huge amounts of tomatoes from me.  The usual tomato projects that I tell people about are making canned sauce, dehydrating heirlooms in the oven (they’re so good, and it’s so easy!), freezing bags of sungold tomatoes to make tomato bisque during the winter, canning tomato jam, ketchup, and bbq sauce…  I mistakenly omitted one of the best projects, though: the Bloody Mary.  Williams-Sonoma contacted me and asked if I’d share my recipe here as part of their focus on juicing this month.  Since Bloody Marys are delicious and we’re drowning in tomatoes, it seemed like a perfect idea.  (Especially since a bunch of the farmers from the Redwood Valley Farmers Market had been meeting up after the market for Bloody Marys for a good part of the summer, and every time we’re drinking them I keep saying I need to write up our recipe to share with everyone). bloody maryThese are bloody marys for right now.  While it’s true that you can cook tomato juice and can bloody mary mix for later (which I’m going to do), the base for this cocktail is just fresh tomato juice, bright and sweet. I used my champion juicer to juice a couple slightly overripe tomatoes that we had leftover from the market today, but feel free to use a blender if you don’t own a juicer.

The ingredients for this cocktail were almost all right out in the garden.  Jason picked some fresh dill to add to the bloody mary base, along with horseradish and green olives.  I raided the pantry for some pickled okra and dilly beans that I’d canned a few weeks ago for garnishes, though any sort of crunchy pickled vegetable is at home in a bloody mary.  The one thing I noticed is that you have to be careful not to over spice these since the fresh juice from heirloom tomatoes tastes much more delicate than regular cooked bloody mary mix.   Our first round was a little heavy on the horseradish and I thought it overwhelmed the flavor of the tomatoes, so naturally we had to do some more recipe testing and get it figured out.  Naturally. (Because cocktails).bloody mary & okraHEIRLOOM TOMATO BLOODY MARYS

The perfect cocktail to celebrate tomato season, and the perfect cocktail to relax after a long day working at the farmers market.

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Makes: 2 cocktails

Ingredients:

  • Bloody Mary Mix
  • 4 oz. vodka
  • Garnishes: pickled okra, dilly beans, lemon wedges and green olives

Fill two glasses with ice. Add 2 ounces of vodka (or less, of course) to each glass. Top of bloody mary mix. Stir. Garnish with a lemon wedge and pickled vegetables.

BLOODY MARY MIX

Ingredients:

  • 2 c. fresh heirloom tomato juice
  • juice from a wedge of lemon
  • 2 tbs. fresh dill, roughly chopped
  • a dash of worcestershire sauce
  • Tabasco sauce or cayenne pepper, to taste
  • 3 green olives and 1 tbs. olive juice
  • 1 tsp. prepared horseradish (or if you have fresh, substitute 1/2 tsp. fresh grated horseradish)
  • 1/2 tsp. celery salt
  • fresh cracked black pepper

Combine all the ingredients in a blender and puree. Taste and adjust the seasonings if necessary. Individual varieties of tomatoes will taste very different from one another and may taste good with more horseradish, a little extra heat, some extra lemon, etc.

Halloween, and Jason’s Infamous Spiked Hot Cider

 

Halloween is my favorite holiday.  I don’t really care all that much about the costumes, but I do really enjoy getting drunk and carving pumpkins.

Sidenote: I guess I’m lying about the costumes.  We don’t always bother with it, but this year I’m dressing up my rottweiler as Glitzy the Pig from Honey Boo Boo.  True story. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, good for you, it means you still have all your brain cells).  Whenever you pet him he grunts like a pig, which is adorable, so the pig costume makes sense, and the Honey Boo Boo part is just me escalating the situation because, you know, if you’re gonna dress up your huge handsome dog as a pig, you might as well put a tiara and a dress on him too.  He’s excited, he told me. I haven’t really decided what I’m making for dinner; it will be something festive, but will not be shaped like ghosts or look like dead mummy fingers.  I usually make something with winter squash, like this butternut squash bisque with coconut milk and lemongrass.  I’ve also made dinners that are kind of Thanksgiving inspired – some kind of roast turkey, mashed potatoes and stuffing.  Halloween tends to mark a drastic change in the weather here, when it tends to go from nice and summery to freezing cold and rainy, and the date seems more appropriate as a harvest celebration than late November.

The one thing on the menu that never changes, that’s set in stone, that I know we’ll be having, is my boyfriend’s famous hot cider, known among our friends simply as “punch.”  It is so, so good.  It’s the perfect thing for when it’s ridiculously cold out and you want to warm up but also have cocktails.  It’s a great for Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, Tuesdays and any other time you want to drink something amazing.  It’s the kind of cocktail that tastes sweet and innocent but has a huge amount of alcohol hiding behind those spiced apples.Jason’s Punch

I don’t actually know his exact recipe; I don’t think there really is one.  Usually making punch involves gallon jugs of cider and whole handles of whiskey.  This is the closest I could come to replicating it in a batch size that seemed reasonable for normal people.  If you decide to go big, you don’t really have to stick to to the recipe.  The key is that the brown sugar and the honey hide the taste of the booze, so if it tastes too boozy, just add more brown sugar.  Good luck!

 

Makes: 4 cocktails, which is most likely nowhere near enough…

Cook Time: 20 minutes or so

Ingredients:

  • 32 oz. apple cider or high quality apple juice
  • 4 cinnamon sticks
  • 3 whole cloves
  • a pinch of ground allspice
  • a pinch of ground nutmeg
  • 200 ml. dark rum  (6 1/2 oz.)
  • 1/2 c. whiskey – you can tell  by our recycling bin that I like Crown Royal right now, but whatever you have on hand is most likely fine
  • 1/4 c brandy – if you have infused brandy in your pantry, this is a great time to use some.  I have a big jar of pear brandy that was perfect for this.
  • 1 c. brown sugar
  • 1/2 c. honey
  • Optional fancy ingredients: 1 fresh bay leaf, 2 green cardamom pods

In a medium sized pot, combine apple cider, cinnamon sticks, cloves, allspice, nutmeg, brown sugar and honey.  If you want to make even fancier, add the bay leaf and cardamom pods, but it’s totally fine without them.  Simmer this mixture for about 20 minutes.  You can remove the whole spices at this point, if you want, but I don’t usually bother.  Turn the heat to very low and pour in the whiskey, brandy and rum.  Serve, garnished with a cinnamon stick in each cup.

At this point, we leave the heat on very low so that it stays on the stove for people to go get more if they want.  It’s so important that you do NOT let the temperature get any hotter that this, or else the alcohol will cook off and the cocktail will lose all of its punch, and that would be an absolute travesty.

 

Note: I just want to say, I rarely am organized enough to write blog posts with recipes for major holidays before the holiday actually happens,  but this one is so ridiculously good that I actually managed to get it done.  You should make this for Halloween.  You’ll be happy, I promise.

Happy Halloween!

 

 

 

 

This One Is Dangerous: Rhubarb Granita Cocktails

So I’m in the middle of a pretty intense obsession with rhubarb- I’ve made a ton of jam, rhubarb syrup, rhubarb mojitos, and most recently this rhubarb granita.Granitas are simply frozen syrups that you stir during the freezing process, making a texture something like a snow cone. ( The Los Angeles Times has an article here explaining the general process.) They’re almost are always a good idea- they’re sweet and cold, the perfect treat for a hot day.

This granita is superpowered, though.

It’s already amazing because it’s made of rhubarb…. but this granita also has vodka in it.  Throw some in a glass and top it with sprite or seltzer water, and you now have one of those deceptive cocktails that definitely doesn’t taste as strong as it really is.  Fizzy, sweet and tart, cold….  it’s the perfect cocktail for a sunny afternoon.  Whenever I put recipes up here for the whole internet to see, I like to taste them one last time to make sure I have the measurements right.  That means that right now (9:42 a.m.) I’m having to remind myself that drinking vodka cocktails before breakfast is never, ever a good idea.

oh, but what a breakfast it could be….

(no! step away!)

seriously though, these are addictive.  Serve it at your next party and all of your guests will love you.

Rhubarb Granita 

I got the idea for this recipe here, from A Crafty Lass’s recipe for Rhubarb Slush.  I didn’t really follow the recipe, so I’m not 100% sure, but I think her version is more like frozen rhubarb jello.  I omitted the gelling step, changed a couple ingredients, and figured a basic granita would be just as good.

Cook Time: oh, with time in the freezer included, about a day- but don’t let that scare you- it’s easy.

Makes: a lot- almost a gallon

Ingredients:

  • 8 c. rhubarb, chopped into 1″ sections
  • 2 quarts of water
  • 2 c. sugar
  • 1/2 c. lemon juice
  • 1/2 c. strawberry jam
  • 2 c. vodka
  • for serving the cocktails: sprite, 7-up, ginger ale, seltzer…. anything fizzy will work

Step 1: Make the rhubarb syrup

Combine the rhubarb, water, sugar and lemon juice in a large pot and cook on high heat until the rhubarb is soft, about 20 minutes.  Strain the mixture through a colander, reserving the rhubarb syrup.  (Save the pulp- it still tastes good and you can put it in quick bread, mix it into yogurt, make fruit leather, etc.)

Combine the rhubarb syrup with the strawberry jam and the vodka.

Step 2: Make the granita

Pour the rhubarb-vodka mixture into a large, shallow dish.  Cover with saran wrap and place in the freezer.  (If you don’t have enough space in the freezer for a large dish, it really will work ok in a bowl too.  It just might take longer.)    Most granita recipes will tell you to stir the liquid every 30 minutes, but I didn’t do it nearly that often and it turned out fine.   The idea is that you don’t want to let it freeze solid.  I stirred mine with a fork every hour or two, then let it freeze overnight and gave it another stir in the morning.

Step 3: Cocktails

Top with seltzer water, sprite, ginger ale, whatever you like, and drink immediately.  The granita will last awhile (days? weeks? but who could let it sit in there that long without drinking it?) in the freezer, but the texture may change a little, becoming more frozen.  You can always let it thaw for awhile to soften it back up and it should be fine.

Pickled Pearl Onions For Some Serious Bloody Marys

It’s really hot outside and I sprained my ankle. That’s the summary of life right now.  Or maybe I have tendonitis or something.  Either way, I can’t do anything except hobble around like an old lady.  I’m going to make cocktails tonight since not being able to work makes me angry. Here’s the more exciting part that makes me happy, instead of angry:

Pickled Pearl Onions With Horseradish Root and Thai Chilis

Pickled pearl onions that are sweet and sour and spicy all at once, with a wonderful extra kick from whole, unprepared horseradish root are going to make for some serious beverages. Onions and other aliums are in season right now and when I saw bunches of pearl onions at the farmers market, I knew exactly what I wanted to do. Is that bad? That pearl onions instantly take my brain to cocktails? Nah…We have a lot of pearl onions in the garden that should be ready in a few weeks, and while I had grand ideas about serving them with braised meats or roasting them in balsamic vinegar, I have a feeling that they’re not going to make it into any dinners.

This recipe is a loose adaptation from a recipe in the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving, which is an absolute must-have for anyone interested in canning.

Pickled Pearl Onions

makes: 4  1/2 pint jars

cook time: 12 hours soaking in brine plus 45 minutes active cooking time

Ingredients:

  • 4 c. pearl onions, peeled, tops removed (don’t throw them away, make kimchi!)
  • 1/4 c. kosher salt
  • water
  • 2 1/2 c. white vinegar
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1 tbs. mustard seeds
  • 4 pieces of very thinly sliced horseradish root*
  • 4 small dried thai chili peppers (or whatever you have on hand)
  • 2 bay leaves, split into pieces

1. In a large glass bowl, combine onions and salt and add water to cover.  Cover the bowl and set aside for 12 hours.

2. Sterilize jars and lids. Bring boiling water canner to a boil.

3. The next day, drain the onions in a colander. Rinse thoroughly with cold water.  In a medium sized, nonreactive pot bring the vinegar, sugar, horseradish and spices to a boil. Simmer for 15 minutes to infuse the vinegar.

4. Pack the onions into hot jars and cover with the hot vinegar mixture, leaving 1/2″ headspace. Divide the spices and horseradish equally among each of the jars. Remove air bubbles with a wooden chopstick or skewer and adjust the headspace if necessary. Wipe rims and screw on lids. Process for 10 minutes.

*The natural food store in my town had whole horseradish root in their produce section, and I’m willing to be that stores like Whole Foods would have it too. If you can’t find it, substitute 3 tsp. prepared horseradish when you’re simmering all the spices in the vinegar.

P.S. So, if I could walk and hadn’t spent four hours this morning doing an hour’s worth of work, I would have a picture and a tested recipe for the internet universe.  It didn’t happen. It’s too good to leave this out though…

J’s Fantastic Dirty Bloody Marys

This is an approximation of an amazing cocktail that my boyfriend makes. I don’t even know everything that goes in there, but we can try, right? Caution: I’ve made this many times, but never written it down, so some of these amounts are definitely approximations.

serves: 1

makes: 1 cocktail

special equipment: a glass for your cocktail

Ingredients:

  • a shot or two of vodka
  • cold tomato juice (or bloody mary mix) to fill the glass about 3/4 full
  • 1/2 tsp. minced fresh parsley
  • a few grinds of freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. prepared horseradish
  • 1 tbs. green olive juice
  • 3 green olives
  • juice from 1 lemon wedge
  • a dash of your favorite hot sauce (tabasco, tapatio, etc.)
  • garnish: 1 stick celery, 2 pickled onions

Mix all that together in your glass. Drink. Repeat as needed. 

Apple Brandy

the finished product

Last August, I bought a case of Gravenstein Apples for apple sauce, and I ended up with a few extras that didn’t fit in the pot.  Since we already had apple butter, apple pie filling, and apple sauce in the pantry, I started going through all my cookbooks to find something more interesting.

The answer was booze, of course.

I adapted a recipe from Put ’em Up, by Sherri Brooks Vinton.  Her recipe calls for soaking the apples in brandy for two weeks, making an apple-infused brandy.  When I made it, I added a lot more apples and then I left them in the brandy for six months, making more of an apple-liqeur, with very little taste of brandy left.  The flavor is amazing: light, refreshing, with a really bright burst of apple flavor, like apple juice.  I credit a lot of this to the delicious Gravenstein apples that I originally started with; they have just the right combination of sweet and tart, and a deliciously fresh flavor that later-season varieties of apples don’t often have.

Here’s my version of the recipe:

Apple Brandy

Ingredients:

1. Sterilize your jar and lid.  (Wash jar and lid in hot, soapy water, and then put the jar in the oven at 200 degrees for twenty minutes.  Put the lid in a small bowl and cover it with boiling water, then set aside.)

2. Put the cinnamon stick and sugar in the jar.

3. Rinse the apples, remove stems and cores, and chop into 1″ cubes.  Fill the jar up with as many apple cubes as you can fit (or as you have), leaving about an inch at the top of the jar.

4. Pour brandy into the jar, making sure to completely cover the apples and reach the top of the jar. You don’t want a weird floating apple to get exposed to the air and start doing bad things… like rotting.

5. I gave the jar a gentle shake every day for two weeks (just to make sure that the apples, sugar, and liquor are all staying mixed together).  After that, leave the jar in your pantry (or any other cool, dark spot) and give it a shake every month or so.  When the time is up, strain out the fruit and put the filtered brandy in a clean jar in the fridge, where it lasts up to a year.

apple brandy at the end of the six months, minus one glass...

This basic formula doesn’t end with apples, by the way.  You could put any fruit you want in some brandy or vodka…  the possibilities are endless.  I just started a new batch of blood-orange vodka that I can’t wait to try.  Clean jar + alcohol + fruit = cocktails!