Sugar Pie, Honey Wine


Despite my current, pervasive obsession with monkeys these days, I’m a Winnie the Pooh fan from way back. ‘Bother!’ is a frequent exclamation of mind and a few weeks ago Todd did the “think, think, think” line in the kitchen. Which prompted my favorite Pooh-quote ever:

I’m a little black rain cloud.

This line has been making us laugh at any given moment for the last month or so.

So, of course, when I decided to reread A History of Food and it starts with Collecting Honey as Chapter 1, I’m constantly thinking along the lines of our favorite bear. (Even if monkeys had enough sense to use a stick to avoid contact with the bees–we are talking about the bear of little brain, here.)

When I got to the section about “Mead and Sacramental Intoxication” my thoughts aged up several year to my brief stint with the Society for Creative Anachronism and the beverage so many were fond of.

My own personal favorite honey-drink was Hydromel which I could have sworn was non-alcoholic but all the references I can find (having never made it myself) call for a brief fermentation. Bother.

Still, when we used it at the Italian feast I did we diluted it to such an extent that it was probably not very strong at all.

I’ve seen various ratios of water to honey, anywhere from 5 to 11 parts of water to one part honey, but all of it gets boiled and skimmed of any impurities, reduced a bit, cooled and then combined with aromatics. Thin slices of ginger seem to be a must, with cinnamon, cardamom and cloves common flavorings as well–I’ve even seen reference to a sprig of rosemary!

After everything else a tiny amount of yeast is added and it gets set aside. Again, here opinions differ as to how long it should ferment. Some recipes call for only overnight or over the weekend while others suggest 5 to 6 weeks! Obviously, the longer it sits the stronger it gets (both in flavor and alcohol content) so do what feels right. And, of course, you can test it as it goes along–just make enough to account for, uh, quality control!

Once it’s where you want it, strain out your aromatics. My friend who made this for me preferred the large liquor bottles for storage and then diluted it  at least by fourths when she served it. It’s sweet and a little spicy (depending on your flavor combinations) but not over-powering in the honey department.

I know honey has been added to my shopping list, what about yours?

What’s So Hard About Being a Lemon?


You know the saying: When life gives you lemons… But why stop at just plain old lemonade? Why not bring lemonade from the stand to the shaker and beyond?

When you hear “Hard Lemonade” it probably brings to mind the bottled malt beverages that come in a variety of flavor options. To make this sort of lemonade, it takes your basic home brew kit, some sorbate-free lemon juice concentrate, malt extract and yeast (the brewing kind). While I’m sure there’s finesse required to make a truly exceptional hard lemonade this way, the 6 to 8 weeks it would take before it was ready is a bit of a deterrent.

If you’d like something a bit quicker, try one of these recipes on for size:

Sunny’s Hard Lemonade
(adapted from Cooking for Real on the Food Network)

4 oz 2:1 Simple syrup
1 oz Vanilla Vodka
2 oz Lemon Juice

Mix over ice in a tall glass. Serves 1. Garnish with a slice of lemon, lime, or both.

Now you know I’m going to love this because of the vanilla vodka, right? Of course! It’s actually a good, fresh lemonade, very tart, but that hint of vanilla just makes it oh-so-good. Plus, with the relatively low alcohol content you could sip these all through a barbecue or pool party with little worry.

Hard Lemonade
(adapted from

1.5 oz Jim Beam Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
.5 oz Sweet and Sour Mix
4-6 oz. Sprite
Splash of Grenadine

Combine, in order, in a tall glass over ice.

The original called for Jack Daniel’s but I didn’t have any and Squirt is kinda hard to find around here. I wouldn’t mind trying it with a citrus soda that had more grapefruit influences (I’ll bet I could find a good substitute at World Market–their beverage section is awesome) and see what difference it made. The taste of this version is, obviously, stronger and Todd thinks that going down to a single ounce of Whiskey might be a better plan for those not into the harder flavors. The grenadine really makes this one for me, though, the touch of sweet pink making it more palatable than if it were just the booze and soda.

Of course, if you prefer your lemonade with a different edge, have you ever had the Earl Grey Lemonade from Earl of Sandwich? The recipe couldn’t be simpler: brew a pot of fairly strong Earl Grey tea and then dilute with a can of lemonade mix (the frozen kind is fine) and the 2 or 3 cans of water it calls for. It’s incredibly refreshing and suitable for all ages.

I know that school will be starting again very soon and, with it, the end of what we think of as Summer. But the heat will surely continue for many months, at least down here in Florida, so there’s still plenty of time to enjoy your lemonade–hard or soft.