Once again it's Three Things Thursday, where I highlight three things that ran on the site recently that inspired, intrigued or impressed me. This week, I'm focusing on three contributions from dehydrator extraordinaire Urban Nettle. Here's what she's been powdering up.
You know, year over year, more and more books come out in the DIY food space. Every year I am increasingly impressed with the caliber of the content, the inspired ideas and erudite information. (See: Best books of 2012 and 2013.) And just when I think that surely no one could possibly raise the bar any further, BOOM, Cathy Barrow throws down and produces a tome that may make all other DIY and preservation books obsolete. I am not exaggerating.
You know her from her fabulous blog, Mrs. Wheelbarrow's Kitchen, which surely you found via her many contributions to this site. And of course you know her as the cofounder and driving force behind 2011's Charcutepalooza, wherein dozens, nay hundreds of bloggers sign up to make increasingly sophisticated meat projects at home. In Mrs. Wheelbarrow's Practical Pantry, she brings it all home. Literally.
Barrow is neither a DIY dilettante canning up jars of twee jam, nor a high-minded Martha who touts fussy techniques and fancy presentations. She is a realist, a nuts-and-bolts preserver who doles out plain-English instructions on preserving more or less everything, and then follows it up with real-world uses that anyone can undertake and enjoy.
No other fruit embodies the flavor of fall like cranberries. With their bracing acidity, they form the backbone of all manner of preserved foods, and have applications well beyond the Thanksgiving table. Here's a bunch of ways to use these lovely ruby orbs.
Persephone's pick for a wintertime snack got her an e-ticket to Hades, but these bejeweled fruits have many applications that will take you straight to the heavens. In syrups and liqueurs, jams and jellies, pomegranates are the season's most alluring fruit.
The very thing that got me started with food preservaion, my gateway drug, if you will, was making infusions and liqueurs. After traveling to Italy, I was smitten with limoncello, and was mildly blown away when I figured out I could make my own, easily. This opened the door to a range of projects, experimenting with infusing fruits and vegetables into alcohol base to extract the pure essence of the ingredients.
What had not occurred to me yet was the idea of infusing these ingredients into vinegar, at least for drinking purposes. Yet it turns out that shrubs, or drinking vinegars, are in fact a very old beverage; in fact, the word "shrub" derives from the Arabic root, sharab, meaning to drink. This same root brought us other familiar words: Sherbet, sorbet and syrup. All hint at a similar concept: Flavors infused into a sweetened base. In shrub's case, that base is vinegar.
So I learned in Michael Dietsch's new book, Shrubs: An Old Fashioned Drink for Modern Times. (Disclosure: Links in this post may be affiliate links from which I may derive revenue.) A longtime cocktail blogger and drinks writer for Serious Eats (and personal friend), Dietsch digs deep into the history of drinking vinegars, then proffers up news you can use on how to make them, and, at least as importantly, how to use them.
At their most basic, shrubs are vinegar, sugar, and flavoring agents, be they fruits, vegetables, spices, herbs and so on. As is the case with so many things with simple roots, the permutations are endlessly complex. Dietsch discusses what kinds of vinegars work best, and for what. (Like me, distilled white is pretty much only useful as a cleaning agent.) Sweeteners also influence flavor. Many of the shrubs are straightforward single-fruit recipes, whereas others get more complex, like a gazpacho-esque tomato, cilantro and coriander shrub. Most importantly, they're a great way of capturing seasonal flavors. The cranberry-apple shrub, for example, is a great addition to the Thanksgiving table.
Shrubs are delicious simply mixed with sparkling water for a refreshing soft drink. (It turns out that shrubs can trigger saliva production, quenching thirst more effectively -- another fun fact from the book.) But being a cocktail maven as he is, Dietsch offers up an array of sophisticated cocktails to use them, such as an updated julep made with cherry-mint shrub.
Once again it's Three Things Thursday, where I highlight three things that ran on the site recently that inspired, intrigued or impressed me.