Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Hand-Crafted Liqueurs

Making liquor goes way back, I mean, waaaay back, like before-biblical back. Something there is that loves a fermented beverage. One can see how The Early Ones™ thought this was the greatest thing since, well, not sliced bread, that came later, but a really great invention. You feel good, you sorta get loose with your buds, maybe you approach the gal with the long hair that got burned in the cooking fire so she has an exotic look.

No doubt Holy People of The Early Ones™ tried to control access to such beverages for lots of reasons--they wanted the buzz, they wanted to control who had the delusions and visions, and/or they didn’t want others to have fun.

But, as good things will do, secrets to how to brew alcohol became widely known. I am dropping notes into a tickle file” on a book about The Early Ones that I will write someday. Alcohol will play a role.

But we are the Now Ones. Unless you live in certain areas of Extreme Liquor Management, alcohol is pretty readily available across the world. Now Ones can buy beer and wine making kits on the Internet and start a home brewery for $100-$200. Additionally, microbrewery and boutique breweries and wineries provide real options in liquors that have been crafted for millennia.

Chicago, our youngest son, worked in various areas of wine production and sales over the years. He has done it all from hauling rocks and killing snakes so he can plant vines to stocking liquor store shelves to selling bottles of fine wine in a tasting room. Let me tell you how weird it is to hear your child talk wine-speak, a language you barely understand.

But, I digress.

I am not going to deal with beer and wine kits and directions and aging and stuff like that. Nope. Liqueurs! That’s where we are today.

One year for Christmas I made liqueurs to to give friends and relatives (who were drinkers--I did not give this gift to my Mormon sister). Unfortunately, there were not a great success. They just didn’t taste like the real deal--because, of course, they were not the real deal. They were cheap knockoffs, and they tasted like it.

DH, trying to save money on how fast we drain liqueurs for our nightly take-the-rough-edges-off sipper, bought an alternative to the Bailey’s Irish Cream I am fond of. I got it down over the course of several nights, but I didn’t request more. I never whined, but when asked, I told DH that at this point in my life I was worth a few more bucks to him and he should cough up the cash. He did, bless his heart.

Some of you may sip these, but I recommend you put them in coffee or tea or over ice cream or mixed with pudding or to flavor pound cake or . . . Are you seeing a pattern here? Bury the flavor in something else. Got it? With that caveat, try these recipes:

MYO Kahlula: Boil 12c stng joe+2# brn sug. Cool. Add 4-6T van+1 btl Everclear.

MYO Kahlua: Boil 1qt h2o+2.5c sug+3T instant espresso. Simmer 3 hrs. Cool. Add 1T van+2.5 c vodka.

Oh, yeah, I forgot to mention how much I love “tweating” recipes. You get a word puzzle and a recipe. Cool, huh?

So, the recipes I provided here are good for what they are; but if you want to sip an after dinner drink, buy the real deal. You’re worth the few extra bucks.

Friday, March 2, 2012

The Cooking Life: How It All Began

Back to my normal schedule. Whew! Posting every day for a month was challenging. Until I do another “Month of . . .” series, I’ll be posting foodie stuff and recipes 2-3 times a week.

Speaking of the next “Month of . . .” series, what would you like to see me tackle? Desserts? Appetizers? Chicken dishes? Casseroles? Pastas? (Mission Impastable is the first book in my culinary mystery series.)

Make suggestions in the comments section and I might name a dish after you if you chime in. I’m kind of leaning toward those little mini desserts as a possibility. DH loves them, and so do friends. But, the gate is open on options. Let me know what you want. I will plan on a new “Month of . . .” every 3 or 4 months.

For today, I am feeling nostalgic. I had some early influences on my cooking interests. Big Mama cooked the way she had learned in the Appalachian mountains. That meant if it wasn’t fried in lard or had lard added to the veggies for flavoring, it wasn’t cooked.

The occasional salad was iceberg lettuce and Italian dressing. If it was summer, we added in carrots and tomatoes from the garden. If not, well . . . I cook nothing like that, and I haven’t since I left home for college. I do wonder why sometimes. It seems I was more influenced by some outside sources, though I am hard-pressed to identify them, than by years at Big Mama’s side. Odd.

One of my earliest cooking memories was when I was about 4. I was standing on a wooden chair pulled in front of the gas stove. I was stirring scrambled eggs. Why that memory? Who knows, but I see it clearly in that little galley kitchen that was my first home.

When I was about 12, my favorite aunt gave me a spice rack with 12 spices for Christmas. Wow! I was thrilled. Clearly I had been either expressing an interest in expanding my cooking or I was doing some experimentation. Why else give me that? My mother watched me open the box and turned to my aunt with an expression of dismay. “What have you done?” she asked. I’m not sure how soon it was before she forgave her.

Up until my spice rack (with exotic spices like basil and tarragon), I used the spices Big Mama provided--salt, pepper, or cinnamon. After the gift, I added spices to everything I cooked. And because we were really poor and could not afford to discard food uneaten, we ate it no matter how awful. It really was terrible sometimes.

I continued exploring spices and how to combine them. I either developed my taste-o-meter or tuned in to it during those years. To this day, some of my favorite reading is cookbooks and recipes. It’s as if I can taste what the recipe is describing with that taste bud in my head.

I thought everybody had a taste bud in their heads until some friends gave me very odd looks. So now I only share that with you. Keep it to yourself, okay?

Comment below if you, too, have a taste bud in your head and if you use your taste-o-meter to gauge how to develop a new recipe. There are not enough of us out there. Oh, and don’t forget to suggest a new month-of series.