Earth, Air, Fire, Water


Thank you, everyone, for being patient during my August-off. I did get quite a bit done, but now it’s back to the usual blogging schedule and back to the bar!


Elemental Cosmos Cocktail

Elemental Cosmos

So, this week’s Alphatini asks us to tackle the letter E. Early brainstorming turned up eggplant (not sure how that would work), eggnog (which was a contender, if a little predictable), and Everclear (just say no!). The everything concept, a la the bagel with everything on it, also made a brief appearance on the list but I figured the Long Island Iced Tea has the ‘everything’ vote covered. The wonky weather these last few weeks had me thinking earthy–but what flavor (other than, say, dirt) says earth? Mushrooms and brie, but even I don’t view those as potential cocktail comestibles.

Accompaniments, yes. Ingredients, no.

Earth kept bumping around in my brain (no jokes about having a big head, please) and I was this <-> close to concocting something with the name EarthShake, but I was still stuck on my primary flavor inspiration. Meanwhile, the idea evolved–maybe not just earth but all the rest of the elements too! Not that that helped with the earthy-flavor issue, but it gave me more to play with.

What’s better than over-thinking a cocktail theme on your own? Musing aloud to the Tester Monkey!  He came up with the brilliant idea of carrot juice–or some other liquid from something that was grown in the earth (peanuts, potatoes, grains, etc.). Then he struck gold, quite literally, when he suggestion Goldschlager. I mean, what’s more natural than a mineral straight from the earth?

The Elemental Cosmos

1.5 oz Pepper Vodka (like Absolut Peppar)
1 oz Cranberry Juice
3/4 oz Goldschlager
1 Orange slice (plus one more for garnish)

Combine vodka, juice and liqueur over ice. Squeeze in the orange slice and drop the rind in for good measure. Shake like the creation of a world depends on it and strain it into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with the second orange slice and enjoy.

Even if earth took some time to come up with, fire was an easy match: pepper vodka fit the bill nicely. I took a bit of liberty with water and air, though, choosing both for their environment: oranges grow hanging in the air and cranberries are harvested by flooding their bogs.

Of course, when you’ve got citrus, vodka and cranberries staring at you across the bar, the first thing that comes to mind is the classic Cosmopolitan. Using that drink as a guide for the quantities in this version, I was pretty certain some tinkering would be necessary to get a balanced drink. I definitely though we’d need more juice to balance out the 2 very strong alcohols.

Turns out, you should never doubt the classics.

Which is probably a good philosophy to live by in general, doncha think?


Hope everyone has a fabulous Labor Day weekend. Yes, it’s the unofficial end to summer but I happen to really love fall and everything that comes with it, so I’m looking forward to the next season or two!

Next week we’ll be back with a fabulous f-themed cocktail!

The Lost Art of… Marmalade?

Blueberry Toast with Mixed-Citrus Marmalade

Blueberry Toast with Mixed-Citrus Marmalade

On our second trip to the farmers’ market (Todd came with, this time), I spotted kumquats and thought making marmalade would be a good way to use the fruit and have it available for more than just one meal. Now, I’d made marmalade in the past, but it had been maybe 10 years since, so I wanted to check what I thought I remembered (namely that it didn’t require added pectin) and how much sugar per pound of citrus and so forth.

Would you believe that I went through 6 cookbooks before finding marmalade instructions? We have an entire bookcase of cookbooks and not all of them are general-use, so it’s not like I was looking in the specialty books and striking out, these were the massive tomes of all-purpose food knowledge. And while my “textbook” from Culinary School did have a definition and basic method listed, it still wasn’t telling me what I needed to know. Even Joy of Cooking only had a Red Onion Marmalade (which, by the way, is stretching the definition just a bit).

It’s no wonder, then, that the one book to finally come to my rescue was Forgotten Skills of Cooking. It had a whole section on marmalade and even featured a kumquat one. I ended up cobbling together several recipes to fit my time constraints (it was already Sunday and I wanted to use the finished marmalade Monday night, so doing an overnight soak of the seeds and membranes wasn’t practical) and did a mixed citrus marmalade using up some leftover lemons (from Lemon Curd-making the day before), tangerines from Christmas and a couple of pink grapefruits, too.

What I ended up with, after analyzing the various recipes I’d found, was a basic formula that can be used for any sort of citrus you’ve got:

Marmalade Formula

Per pound of citrus (weighed whole) you’ll need:

1 quart water plus 1 cup for the pot
2-3 cups granulated sugar, depending on the kind of citrus you’re using and how sweet you want your finished marmalade to be

And it really is that simple–which is probably why only 7 of our 95 cookbooks mention it at all. (The other reason being that most people buy their marmalade, of course.)

The reason you don’t need additional pectin is because you get that from the seeds and membranes of the fruit, itself–you use everything in some way, shape or form.

Marmalade Procedure

Break Down the Citrus Break down the fruit into its basic components: juice, seeds and peels. Juice each lemon, lime, orange or grapefruit, reserving the juice and placing the seeds in a cheesecloth-lined bowl. Remove the membranes from the squeezed-out fruit halves and add those to the seed-pile. Since kumquats don’t really juice so well, just slice those and remove the seeds, and slice the other citrus peels into bite-sized strips.
Combine and Simmer The initial simmer. Combine the reserved juice, the peels, water and the seeds and membranes tied up in their cheesecloth sack in a deep stock pot. Choose one deeper than I did to prevent boil-overs in later steps–learn from my mistakes, folks! Simmer this mixture, covered, for an hour or so. Don’t let it boil or your marmalade could end up very bitter. Unless, of course, you prefer your marmalade with a lot of bite, then boil it covered through the next step.
The Volume Decreased by Half Cook and concentrate. Right now you’ve got a lot of liquid and some still-tough peels in your pot. Remove the cheesecloth bag with the seeds and membranes (you’ve already harvested the required pectin from them). Bring the mixture to a boil and cook, at a low boil and uncovered, until the liquid has reduced your preferred amount and the peel is as soft as you want it to be.
Adding the sugar before the final boil Add the sugar and cook until set, approximately 15-20 minutes. Here’s the tricky part. According to Forgotten Skills you can test for doneness by placing a small amount of the marmalade onto a cold saucer and see if it gels. This didn’t work for me so I kept cooking the marmalade (on medium-low) for another hour or more (honestly, I lost track). It still hadn’t passed the set-test as described, but I pulled it off the heat and let it cool, anyway, figuring something had to have happened by now.
The finished Marmalade I started with 2.5 pounds of citrus and ended up with 2 quarts of marmalade. I’ve never been into canning so I just divided the spread between 4 pint containers and popping them into the fridge once they’d had a chance to cool off a bit on the counter. If you don’t go the sterilized jars and heat sealing method, you’ll want to store any marmalade you’re not going to use in the next couple of weeks in the freezer.

About the setting thing? I needn’t have worried. The next day You could stand a knife in the marmalade and it wouldn’t even wobble. And despite it’s dark color (probably from the extra cooking time), it wasn’t bitter at all. Added to warm, buttered toast, it’s quite tasty!

Oh, and the main reason I purchased the kumquats and the redfish fillet on the same day? Monday’s dinner was marmalade redfish and it was wonderful!

Season the redfish (or any other firm, white-fleshed fish like cod or monkfish) with salt and pepper and place, skin-side down, on a bed of sliced lemons. Heat half a cup of marmalade with a tablespoon of white wine, just until pourable, and spoon over the fish. Broil the fish 10-15 minutes until done (the flesh is opaque and flakes easily when pressed with a fork), moving it a few inches farther away from the heat if the pieces of peel in the marmalade start to get too dark.

Marmalade Redfish

Marmalade Redfish