Home Brews – Anisette

Three recipes for making anise flavored liqueurs-

Anise flavored liquors and liqueurs are popular in Europe and around the Mediterranean. Often served before or after a meal they are thought of as a digestive aid. I personally can’t vouch for that but they are tasty unless you don’t like licorice- in which case you probably won’t like these.

Anise flavored liquors (like Ouzo) and Liqueurs (like Anisette) turn cloudy when diluted with water. This is called “the Ouzo effect”. This is due to chemical compounds- mainly trans-anethole- imparted by the anise seed and star anise coming out of suspension as water dilutes the drink and lowers the alcohol content. You can see this in the two pictures below of a glass of Mastika with ice melting into it-

On that note: never store anise-flavored spirits in the fridge or freezer as this will cause a similar effect due to the drop in temperature. Once the anethole comes out of suspension it will eventually turn to sediment and will negatively effect the flavor of the brew. Honestly you shouldn’t be keeping liquors or liqueurs in the freezer anyway.

Liqueur Recipes- Simple and Easy Anisette

*This liqueur tastes remarkably complex for how few ingredients there are. The scent and flavor is very similar to Marie Brizzard Anisette. Unlike commercially produced anisette though it is a greenish-gold color -not clear- as this brew is not distilled afterwards.  It makes an interesting ingredient in cocktails and it’s wonderful on the rocks.

* For an herbaceous, green anisette that looks and tastes similar to a pastis or absinthe add a tbsp or two of mashed fresh fennel greens and fresh parsley to the brew a full 24 hours before straining.

  1. Pour the vodka into a mason jar (preferably wide mouth).
  2. Coarsely crush the spices in a mortar and pestle or spice grinder and add to the jar.
  3. Tightly seal up the jar and shake vigorously for a minute or so. Then place the jar in a cool dark location for at least 5 days (preferably a week or two), shaking daily.
  4. After the spices have infused check the brew. The liqueur should have an intense and intoxicating anise scent balanced with underlying spicy and citrusy notes. Add a tbsp of honey and let it dissolve then taste and see if it has the desired level of sweetness. If not add more honey (it should be semi-dry and very smooth). Seal the jar and shake vigorously for a minute or so. Let stew for another 8 to 12 hours, shaking every so often.
  5. Decant and strain the liqueur -preferably twice- through coffee filters or cotton plugs or both. The strained liquid should be a beautiful translucent, greenish gold. It should not be cloudy. Place liqueur in a bottle or jar (preferably dark glass) and keep tightly sealed. You can drink it straight away but I think it actually improves for weeks after straining. If kept in a tightly stoppered bottle at normal room temperature it should keep for months.

Liqueur Recipes- Complex and Spicy Anisette

*This liqueur tastes (and smells) similar to Ouzo although it is smoother, spicier and sweeter. It can be served like brandy, in cocktails that use anise based liqueurs or on the rocks. If served with ice or cool water this translucent liqueur will turn cloudy like ouzo.

  1. Pour the vodka into a mason jar (preferably wide mouth).
  2. In a mortar and pestle or spice grinder coarsely crush/grind the spices and add them to the jar.
  3. Tightly seal up the jar and shake vigorously for a minute or so. Then place the jar in a cool, dark location and let stew for week, shaking daily.
  4. Dissolve a tbsp of the honey to the jar and taste it to see if has the desired sweetness. If not add more honey. Then seal it back up. Shake the jar vigorously for a minute or so. Return the jar to a cool, dark location and let stew for a few more days to a week, shaking daily.
  5. Open the jar and smell the brew- it should smell intensely of anise with an underlying backbone of cinnamon and cloves with floral notes. Taste the liqueur again to see if it has the desired level of sweetness. It should have a little bite from the alcohol but it should not burn like moonshine. This liqueur should have a brandy-like mouth feel so if the alcohol is to strong add a little more honey. It should be semi-sweet, complex, spicy and smooth
  6. Decant and strain the liqueur -preferably twice- through coffee filters or cotton plugs or both. The strained liquid should be a beautiful, translucent earthy red- like a fine China black tea tea. It should not be cloudy. Place liqueur in a bottle or jar and keep tightly sealed. You can drink it straight away but I think it actually improves for weeks after straining. If kept in a tightly stoppered bottle at normal room temperature it should keep for months.

Liqueur Recipes- Mastika

*Mastika (or Mastica) is an anise-based liqueur flavored with gum mastic that is popular in Greece and surrounding countries. Gum mastic or mastic of Chios is a resin obtained from a tree related to pistachios native the Aegean basin. Gum mastic has a slightly bitter, piney, bay-leaf like scent and flavor. This liqueur tastes (and smells) similar to Ouzo. It can be served like Ouzo in cocktails in or on the rocks. If served with ice or cool water this translucent liqueur will turn cloudy like ouzo.

  1. Pour the vodka into a mason jar (preferably wide mouth).
  2. In a mortar and pestle crush the gum mastic and add it to the jar. Let it dissolve (this may take a few hours).
  3. In a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder coarsely crush/grind the other spices and add them to the jar.
  4. Tightly seal up the jar and shake vigorously for a minute or so. Then place the jar in a cool, dark location and let stew for week, shaking daily.
  5. Dissolve a tbsp of the honey into the brew then taste it to see if it has the desired level of sweetness. This liqueur should be semi-dry with some a bitter, piney notes imparted by the gum mastic. Seal the jar back up and shake vigorously for a minute or so. Return the jar to a cool, dark location and let stew for another day or two, shaking occasionally.
  6. Decant and strain the liqueur -preferably twice- through coffee filters or cotton plugs or both. The strained liquid should be a translucent reddish-brown – like tea. It should not be cloudy. Place liqueur in a bottle or jar and keep tightly sealed. You can drink it straight away but I think it actually improves for weeks after straining. If kept in a tightly stoppered bottle at normal room temperature it should keep for months.

Three Easy Stir Fry Recipes with Napa Cabbage

Napa or Chinese cabbage seems to be at it’s best this time of the year so here are three very quick and easy stir fry recipes that make use of it-

Spices for making Chinese five spice powder-

Napa cabbage is very different from the red and green cabbage you normally find at the grocery store. It is much more tender and mellow. It’s flavor is more like a mild celery than cabbage with nutty undertones and it doesn’t develop that sulfurous stench when cooked. It also keeps well once chopped and does not develop those black moldy looking spots as long as it is refrigerated.

*These recipes are loosely based on recipes from Elaine Luo’s cooking blog- www.chinasichuanfood.com – if you would like to find more authentic Chinese recipes check it out.

*The actual cooking process for this recipe is very quick- so it’s much easier to have everything prepped and ready to go.

*Chinese black vinegar, or chinkiang vinegar, is a dark, malty vinegar made from rice and wheat. It tastes very similar to a Flemish sour red ale without the bubbles.  If Chinese black vinegar is unavailable a mixture of regular rice vinegar and a balsamic vinegar, or Flemish sour or smoky brown ale is a pretty close substitute.

*Bok Choy can be used in place of Napa Cabbage. Whichever Chinese cabbage you are using the greens will cook much faster than the white rib portions- so to keep them from getting mushy they should be added just before removing from heat.

 

Vegetables:  Szechuan-Style Cabbage Stir fry

*Doubanjiang is a paste made from fermented fava beans (broad beans), hot chilies, salt and spices. There is really nothing quite like a quality Doubanjiang but a mixture of Sichuan Chili Oil and regular Chinese Black Bean Paste will make an effective substitute.

  • 1 tbsp each Chinese Black Vinegar, Chinese Cooking Wine and light soy sauce
  • 2 tsp each sugar (opt) and starch
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp sea salt (or to taste)
  • 3-4 green onions, sliced thin on the bias
  • 1-2 cloves garlic
  • 3-5 slices of fresh ginger
  • 1 tbsp Doubanjiang (fermented broad bean and chili paste)- pref from Pu Xian region
  • ½ tsp Chinese Five Spice powder (or to taste)
  • 1-3 dried Thai red chilies crushed in a mortar and pestle
  • Vegetable oil (pref sesame oil) as needed for coating pan
  • 1 head Napa Cabbage, sliced thin with white portions separated from the greens
  • Additional light soy sauce, ground Szechuan Pepper and thinly slices green onions to garnish

 

  1. In a small bowl mix vinegar, wine, soy sauce, sugar (if using), starch, sesame oil and sea salt. Sauce should be about the color of lightly creamed coffee. Set aside.
  2. In a second bowl crush the white portions of green onions as well as the garlic and ginger slices to a paste and mix thoroughly. Set aside.
  3. In a mortar and pestle mash up the Doubanjiang and stir in the Five Spice powder and Thai chilies. Set aside.
  4. In a wok or deep sauté or frying pan heat oil over medium. When nice and hot add the onion/garlic/ginger paste and sauté 30 sec or so until the raw garlic smell goes away. Add Doubanjiang/chili/ Five Spice mixture and sauté for another minute or until the reddish oil begins to separate from the pastes.
  5. Add the sliced up white portions of the cabbage, turn heat up to medium-high, stir for a minute and then add the sauce.  Continue cooking  for a minute or two until sauce thickens and turns translucent. Stir in green portions of cabbage and remove from heat.
  6. Serve hot with steamed rice and garnish with remaining green onion slices and a drizzle of soy sauce.

 

Pasta:  Chili Sesame Noodles

*If alkaline noodles are unavailable vermicelli or thin spaghetti will work. Tahini paste will work as sesame paste.

 

  1. Cook noodles in salted water until al dente. Drain, toss with a tsp of sesame oil (so they don’t glue themselves together) and set aside.
  2. In a small bowl stir remaining sesame oil, vinegar, soy sauces and water one by one into the sesame paste until it is thick and creamy. Add the salt and five spice powder and set aside.
  3. In a large wok, deep sauté or frying pan heat cooking and chili oils oil over medium. When nice and hot add the garlic paste and sauté 30 sec or so until the raw garlic smell goes away.
  4. Add the sliced up white portions of the cabbage, turn heat up to medium-high, stir for a minute then push the cabbage to the sides of the pan. Add the sesame sauce, cook for a minute then stir in the noodles.
  5. Mix everything together and cook for a minute or so until the noodles are nice and hot. Stir in green portions of cabbage and remove from heat.
  6. Serve hot garnished with fried soybeans or toasted peanuts, a drizzle of soy sauce and green onions.

 

Pasta:  Egg Fried Noodles In Black Bean Sauce

*Douchi are salted, fermented and spiced black soybeans. Douchi smells strangely chocolate-like with a very salty, savory flavor. There is really nothing quite like them but if you mix up some regular canned black beans with ginger, Chinese five spice powder, a lot of salt and cocoa powder it actually smells and tastes roughly similar.

*If alkaline noodles are unavailable plain ramen noodles, vermicelli or thin spaghetti will work. You can also use quinoa pasta- but you will want to rinse the noodles off after cooking as they tend to glue themselves together after draining.

  • ½ lb alkaline noodles
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil – or as needed
  • 1 tbsp Douchi (fermented and spiced black soybeans)
  • 1 tbsp each Chinese black vinegar, light soy sauce and dark soy sauce.
  • ½ tsp Chinese five spice powder (or to taste)
  • 1-2 Thai chilies, broken coarsely (opt)
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, crushed to a paste
  • 1-2 slices ginger root, mashed to a paste
  • 1 lb shiitake mushrooms, sliced thin
  • 3-5 leaves Napa Cabbage, sliced thin with white portions separated from the greens
  • ¼ tsp sea salt (or to taste)
  • Additional light soy sauce and thinly sliced green onions to garnish

 

  1. Cook noodles in salted water until al dente. Drain, toss with a tsp of sesame oil (so they don’t glue themselves together) and set aside.
  2. In a mortar and pestle mash up the douchi. Add a tsp of sesame oil, the vinegar, soy sauces and spices and mix everything together into a thin paste. Set aside.
  3. In a large wok, deep sauté or frying pan heat a tbsp of sesame oil over medium. When nice and hot pour the beaten eggs into the pan. Let them sit for a minute until they begin to set up then break them up with a spoon and fry until just cooked.
  4. Push eggs pieces to the sides of the pan and pour another tbsp or so of oil into the center of the pan. Add the garlic and ginger and sauté 30 sec or so until the raw garlic smell goes away.
  5. Add the mushrooms and white portions of the cabbage, turn heat up to medium-high, stir for a minute or so then push the cabbage to the sides of the pan.
  6. Add the black bean sauce, cook for a minute then stir in the noodles.
  7. Mix everything together and cook for a minute or so until the noodles are nice and hot. Stir in green portions of cabbage and remove from heat.
  8. Serve hot garnished with a drizzle of soy sauce and green onions.

Recipes- Updated Hamburger Stroganoff

Since summer is now technically over and it’s quite cool and clammy (in these parts anyway) here is a fresh take on a savory comfort food from childhood-

Hamburger Recipes:  Updated Hamburger Stroganoff

*This is a tangier and more complex take on the classic Americana recipe. The wine and vinegar reduction brings some natural sweetness and acidity to this traditionally very heavy (and fatty) dish that complements the sour cream. The generous amount of herbs gives it some added depth.

*A Chablis, Bourgogne Blanc or Viognier work best in this recipe. TVP or Faux ground beef work well if you want a veggie version of this- and they don’t need to be browned beforehand- simply add them to the pan after the mushrooms are nice and tender.  We have Pot Pie Squares from The Little Barn of PA here in the store which work well to in place of regular egg noodles.

 

  1. Melt 1 tbsp of butter in a large pan over medium heat. Add the raw hamburger and sauté until nicely browned and no pink shows. Remove from pan and keep warm.

2. Add the remaining butter to the pan and melt over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and sauté until onion is soft and begins to caramelize. Crush garlic into pan and sauté until fragrant and beginning to turn golden- do not brown/burn the garlic- about 30 seconds.

3. Add the porcini mushrooms, herbs, spices, wine and vinegar and bring to a boil. Lower heat and let simmer, uncovered, until the liquid begins to condense a little- probably 10 minutes or so.

4. Add mushrooms and sauté until they start to give off their juices. Then stir in the water or broth, the flour mixture, a little salt and the ground beef and let simmer, uncovered, for a few minutes.

5. When the gravy begins to thicken remove from heat and stir in the sour cream and parsley.

6. Serve hot over egg noodles dusted with pepper and paprika and garnish with green onion or chives.

Home Brews- Spiced Orange Liqueur

So for my first experiment with making flavored liqueurs I decided to make something similar to the spice blend I dust over my coffee in the morning which uses granulated orange peel, star anise, Ceylon cinnamon, mace and green cardamom.  I got some high proof vodka, placed some of these spices in a jar and then poured the vodka over them, twisted on the lid and let it marinate in a sunny window for a couple of days.

Upon first sampling the scent was intense as was the anise flavor- and the bite from the vodka. so to sweeten things up I added some mashed dried fruit and to balance out the spiciness I added more orange peel. The brew was left to infuse for another day. The smell was heavenly and the flavor much better- though there was still some burn to it so I added some clover honey and let it sit overnight. The final result was like a cross between a really good, mellow orange brandy and anisette.

Liqueur Recipes- Spiced Orange Liqueur

*This liqueur tastes (and smells) like a combination of orange brandy and anisette and can be served like either. If served with ice or cool water this translucent liqueur will turn cloudy like ouzo. Navel oranges are ideal for this recipe although mandarins will also work.

  1. Pour the vodka into a mason jar (preferably wide mouth).
  2. Break apart the star anise and cinnamon and add to the jar along with the orange peel.
  3. In a mortar and pestle coarsely crush the allspice, cloves, cardamom and mace and add these to the jar along with the nutmeg.
  4. Tightly seal up the jar and shake vigorously for a minute or so. Then place the jar in a warm, sunny window and let stew for at least 24 hours. 36 to 48 hours is even better. Shake the jar every few hours.
  5. Add the orange juice, raisins, dates, orange zest and 1 tbsp of honey to the jar and shake vigorously for a minute or so. Then return jar to the window sill. Let stew for another 24 to 48 hours, shaking every so often.
  6. Open the jar and smell the brew- you should note the anise first and the orange scent second against a spicy, floral background. Taste the liqueur to see if it has the desired level of sweetness. It should have a little bite from the alcohol (like a quality brandy) but it should not burn like moonshine. This liqueur should have a smooth mouth feel so if the alcohol is to strong add a little more honey. It should be semi-sweet, citrusy, spicy and balanced not bitter or like drinking straight orange juice.
  7. Decant and strain the liqueur -preferably twice- through coffee filters or cotton plugs or both. The strained liquid should be a rich, translucent earthy orange- it should not be cloudy. Place liqueur in a bottle or jar and keep tightly sealed. You can drink it straight away but I think it actually improves for weeks after straining. If kept in a tightly stoppered bottle at normal room temperature it should keep for months.

New Additions- September 2018

So we’ve added quite a bit to our selection during the month of August-

For the wine wall we stocked up on some sweet closeout deals including the following:

  • Belmondo Pinot Noir from Italy
  • Louis Bernard, Cotes du Provence Rose from France
  • Cosentino’s “The Rose” from California
  • La Puerta Torrontes from Argentina
  • Vandenberg Chardonnay from California

All $7.99 a bottle! We also have Hunt & Harvest Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc for $8.99; Georges Duboeuf Jolie Saison Gamay for $8.99 a pop and Pouilly-Fuisse at $13.49 a bottle.

Also we now have Nero D’Avola and Pinot Noir from Stemmari of Italy and Copper Ridge White Zinfandel from California.

And for the beer cart we have Royal Jamaican Ginger Beer. This Is an actual beer with alcohol- it is not a soda.

In the spice library we now have:

  • Organic whole juniper berries- great for making bathtub gin- recipes coming soon
  • Organic rosemary leaves
  • Jamaican allspice berries
  • Organic dried minced onion
  • Organic garlic powder
  • Organic whole celery seed
  • Organic whole dill seed
  • Organic Spearmint leaves
  • Organic vanilla extract
  • Linden flowers
  • Ajwain (Bishop’s weed seed)
  • Amchur powder (dry mango powder)
  • Anardana (pomegranate seed powder)
  • Asafetida powder
  • Black mustard seed
  • Sumac -ground
  • Saffron

*We also have Fair Trade/Organic full leaf Darjeeling Tea and Organic Matcha Tea Powder.

Also new:

  • Preservative-free papaya spears from NOW Foods
  • Raw almond flour also from NOW Foods
  • Better Stevia Organic stevia extract powder
  • Appalachian Salt & Cracked Pepper Chips from Rt 11 Potato Chips

Frigerator Pickles

Tired of mushy dill pickles or spending hours sterilizing jars and brining cucumbers overnight? Here are three incredibly easy refrigerator pickle recipes to try out-

And when I say incredibly easy I mean incredibly easy- they require no cooking skills whatsoever- just chop and assemble the veggies then the vinegar, salt and spices do the work. Plus since you can make a jar at a time you can have more variety.

* Use Thai chilies for heat and cayenne chilies for flavor. If fresh turmeric is unavailable ½ tsp ground turmeric will work. A tbsp of dried, minced onions will work in place of fresh onion or shallots. If want a sweeter version of these add a tablespoon of sugar or a pinch of stevia extract.

Recipe 1:  Frigerator Dill Pickles

  • 1 clean 16 oz wide mouth pickling jar with lid
  • 1 clove garlic sliced thin into chips
  • 1” piece fresh (or frozen) turmeric root sliced into thin chips
  • 2 tsp dill seed
  • ½ tsp coarsely crushed black peppercorns
  • 1-2 dried chili peppers, crumbled (opt)
  • 1 large English cucumber (or equivalent amount regular cucumbers) sliced into chips or spears
  • 1 ½ cups distilled white vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tbsp canning and pickling salt (or to taste)
  • Pinch of alum (opt)

Recipe 2:  Sweet and Spicy Pickled Zucchini

Recipe 3:  Frigerator Pickled cabbage

1 – Place onion, garlic, turmeric and other spices into the jar. Then pack in enough veggies that it fills the jar to just below the lip.

2 – Heat vinegar, water, alum (if using) and salt in a small sauce pot. When solution comes to a boil remove pot from heat and pour solution into the jar. The vinegar solution needs to cover the vegetables- if there isn’t quite enough add a little more vinegar.

3 – Secure lid to jar and shake jar vigorously. When jar is cool enough to pick up with bare hands place it in the fridge. Let veggies inpicklelate for 3-4 days before using. They will keep in the fridge for weeks.

 

Sweet and Savory Stewed Kidney Beans

The spice and cocoa blend used in this recipe is based on an authentic Mexican dark red mole recipe I found. The blend of smoky chipotle, sweet cinnamon and savory cumin and herbs compliments the rich, meaty quality of the kidney beans-

Kidney Beans: Sweet and Savory Stewed Kidney Beans

*You can use pre-ground spices instead of whole ones but the flavor won’t be as rich. You should use the thin, papery sticks of cassia cinnamon- the thick bark pieces can destroy a spice grinder. Save the thick pieces of cassia for mulled wine or cider. Thai chilies (or peri peri peppers) will give this dish some heat. If you want something less spice use ancho chilies or cayennes. Also ¼ tsp of stevia powder (or other sugar substitutes) can be used instead of brown sugar.

*I just pureed the raisins with the tomatoes. Other dried fruit like prunes or dates would also work.

*For a non-vegetarian version ground beef (lightly browned) would work well in this recipe. I would add it after the beans have become tender as they take quite awhile to cook. And on that note make sure to simmer/boil the beans for at least half an hour- kidney beans contain phytotoxins that can cause gastric upset (think extreme wind breaking). Thouroughly cooking the beans destroys these toxins. Pre-soaking them with baking soda also helps.

 

  1. Soak beans at least overnight (24 hours is even better) in cold water with baking soda. Drain beans and rinse in several changes of water
  2. Grind cinnamon, cumin, allspice, oregano, peppercorns, thyme, cloves, nutmeg and Thai chilies (if using) into a fine powder in a spice grinder. Place in a bowl and mix in cocoa and chili powders. Set aside.
  3. Melt butter in the large pot over medium heat. Add onion and bay leaves and sauté until the onion softens and begins to caramelize.
  4. Crush garlic and add that to the pot. Sauté the garlic for 30 sec or until fragrant and beginning to turn golden. Do not brown/burn the garlic.
  5. Add raisins, tomatoes and ground spice mixture to the pot and simmer for 5-8 minutes, stirring frequently, until gravy is thick.
  6. Add beans, water to cover (and a little extra depending on how soupy you want this dish), a tsp of salt and the sugar.
  7. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and let simmer 40-60 min or until the beans are very tender. Mash a cup of the cooked beans into a fine paste and return them to the stew. Continue to simmer, uncovered for about 20 min until stew is very thick. Remove from heat, add salt to taste and then stir in the cilantro.
  8. To serve, spoon over rice, add a dollop of sour cream and mix thoroughly. Garnish with shredded cheese, jalapenos, green onions and a dusting of ground cumin, cinnamon, chipotle and some freshly cracked black pepper.