Jan 312013
 

koshger wine festival jerusalem
The new kosher wine market expands as kosher-keepers discover and taste.

On one occasion I heard a secular winemaker complain how hard it is to maintain a kashrut certificate. Not because of the expense involved but because he isn’t allowed to  be with his fermenting wine. Having known the passion myself, I understand. A winemaker wants to nurse the wine along with his or her own hand.

But it’s encouraging, for a kosher-keeper like myself, to see how many good wineries have gone kosher in the past few years. And it’s amusing to watch the religious crowd, some of them black-hatted and all, opening up to the wonderful possibilities of fine wine.

Continue reading »

 Posted by at 8:21 PM
Jun 252012
 

image-rose-geranium-liqueur

Rose geraniums are so intensely fragrant, you’re tempted to eat them.

And Pelargonium Graveolens is indeed an edible flower. Just now, having soaked up lots of sun, rose geranium blooms and leaves are full of heavenly essential oil. The lightest brush with your finger releases a scent that makes you feeling like you’re standing in a rose garden.

In a region where cooks often scent pastry with rose and orange blossom water, it’s natural that scented geraniums should also have a place. But flavoring with geraniums is viewed as folklore, a cute thing to do with kindergarteners baking cookies (carefully placing one leaf in the middle of each cookie before Teacher slides the tray into the oven). Still, lovers of old-fashioned teas enjoy breaking a few leaves off to make a fragrant brew.  And hoping to revive the custom, I’ve posted a truly exquisite, summery, geranium-flavored sweet cream to serve with fruit.

So let me show you how to make a rose geranium liqueur. It’s a treat to serve with dessert, candy-like but not cloying. It impresses your guests.  And it couldn’t be more simple to make. Continue reading »

Mar 082011
 

image-limoncello

Ah…so refreshing. Originally from the south of Italy, limoncello is becoming better known in the world as a digestif and something to toast “l’chaim” with. The lemon-based drink is also very good in cooking or baking when you want to add intense lemon flavor without the bitterness of fresh lemons.

You can buy limoncello at the liquor store. But I like things made from scratch. And come Purim time, my friends love getting it in their Purim baskets. The trick is finding unsprayed lemons because to make limoncello, you must use only the peels. Not a great idea to put pesticide-sprayed peels into vodka. But if you really, really want something, sometimes your wish is granted.

Across from the shuk, there’s a corner where several elderly people sit and sell little bunches of their garden produce for a few shekels. Once I scored a load of fresh grape leaves from an old lady there and cooked a dish I was longing for – mushrooms in grape leaves (here’s the recipe). Last week I was hurrying home from the shuk, loaded down as usual and a little impatient, when lo and behold – two bags of beautiful, home-garden lemons, on a folding chair.

The vendor was a small, thin man with big eyes under the brim of a sporty cap. I came to a halt in front of him.

“Are these lemons sprayed?”

“Nooo,” he said indignantly. “They’re from my own trees. It’s a different taste. Try them. Here – take both bags.” He stuffed the bags into the top of my shopping cart. If he hadn’t been so elderly and earnest, I would have taken only one, but as it was…those lemons looked good. All of 10 shekels for about 2 1/2 kilos of lemons picked that morning.

Now I had my unsprayed lemons. Cutting one open, the divine aroma of new citrus arose. My vendor friend was right – their sweetness and fresh flavor was beyond compare. I started my limoncello right away, to preserve the best of those essential oils in vodka, and juiced the peeled fruit for freezing.

Here’s the recipe. When you see how easy it is to make, you’ll want to go on a hike for some fresh lemons yourself.

Limoncello

Ingredients:

1 bottle of vodka, 750 ml.
7 or 8 large lemons
5 cups water
3 cups sugar

Method:

1. Wash the lemons well. Peel them thinly, avoiding the white pith as much as possible. A vegetable peeler works best.

2. Pour the vodka into a wide-mouth jar and add the peels. Cover tightly and label the jar with the date.

3. Shake the jar once a day. This redistributes the essential oils in the liquid. The peels will become pale and become hard. One week of this maceration will make good limoncello, but longer – up to a month is even better. When the peels have given their all, they’ll be crisp and dry.

4. Strain the vodka into a clean jar.

5. Make a simple syrup by boiling the water and sugar together for 5 minutes. Allow it to cool and add it to the vodka.

6. Allow the limoncello to develop for 1 week. Then bottle. Store in the freezer and serve it cold. It will pour out thick and syrupy if frozen.

Smack yer lips.

Enjoy! limoncello

Oct 292009
 

Another Israeli Kitchen – Baroness Tapuzina Food Adventure!

An email from Denny Nielson appeared in my Inbox. “We’re going to press apples for cider. Want to come?”

Did we ever. The Tapuzinas (if I may call the Baroness and her good hubby that) had come over for dinner and we were all feeling kind of full and expansive.  The Baroness thought it would be an adventure. Mr. B.T. was excited at the thought of home-brewed “scrumpy,” which seems to be the same as “hard cider,” only in British. Me, I was overcome by a wave of nostalgia for juice pressed out of real, live apples, like I used to drink in my Michigan childhood.

So we joined up last Friday and sped through the central plains on to the hills outside of Jerusalem, in search of cider. Denny’s home and homebrew supply store are located in Mevasseret Tzion, where nights are cool and a home-owner might grow a grapevine to twist over a garden wall. We opened the gate and climbed up stone steps to a sunny patio where people were standing around watching the apples getting crushed.

It was like crushing grapes. Throw the apples into the hopper, and press the button.

The lathe inside the crusher bumps and grinds, spitting apple particles all over you if you stand too close, and the pulp drops into a bucket underneath.

Take the bucketful to the press,

and get a nice strong volunteer to twist the rachet around till the pulp yields no more juice.

Strain the juice and measure it out. Add some sulfite to avoid spoilage.

That was all. The rest of the work is done at home. You throw some wine yeast into the juice, which already wants to start fermenting, and close the bucket (in my case a carboy) with an airlock. Airlocks are the plastic widgies that, filled with sanitized water or a mixture of water and vodka, allow the gases produced by fermentation to escape, while forbidding insects, dust, or bad mojo to enter.

But there was more to it than that. There was a garden with herbs.

Gorgeous basil, eh? Or as Mr. B.T. said, “Nice pesto plant.”

Views of the Judean Hills and the back side of Jerusalem. Yad VaShem stands in the far distance, a somber reminder of how lucky we were to be making cider in the sunshine, in the Israel of today.

There were people hauling apple crates together, managing the crusher, lifting the bucket full of juice, and suddenly finding it easy to talk to each other. Here is our host and homebrewing master, Denny.

An unfamiliar voice called my name, and when I turned around, it was a Twitter friend who had recognized me from my avatar. He is of Lebanese extraction, and this interested the Baroness. In a second he and she were talking about Lebanese cuisine and swapping recipes.

It was also neat to get more homebrewing supplies at Denny’s shop downstairs. I brought home 10 liters of juice and six bottles of beer.

I’m happy to see interest in good beer expanding in Israel. The appearance of several serious local microbreweries is making a difference to folks who (like me) enjoy a glass of suds and would rather support an Israeli small business. But only Denny does things like the apple crush for cider. So far; I’m sure the idea will catch on.

Next thing is to convince him to crush pears for perry, which is pear cider. Or pear wine!

So what does the cider look like?…Well, when I brought the juice home, it looked like this:

It ain’t done yet. Takes about 2 months for the cider to drop all its sediment (bits of apple pulp, a layer of used-up yeast), become clear, and be ready to drink. I expect it’ll have between 7-8% alcohol by volume. When it’s ready, I’ll show you.

We bloggers moved on to lunch at a Kurdish eatery in Or Yehudah. It’s called “Hapundak shel Moshe,” a crowded, working-man’s place that’s famous for its kubeh soup. I’ve never been all that fond of kubeh, but that day, I had to change my mind. There was bulgur kubeh, semolina kubeh, kubeh fried and kubeh in soup. I had pumpkin soup with kubeh dumplings ladled over rice made yellow with turmeric. The owner also put a few inches of Kurdish kishkeh on top.

It was spicy and savory/sweet and filling and so nutritious, I looked 10 years younger when I got up from the table than when I’d sat down.

And here are just a few of the pots full of mighty Kurdish food.

The Baroness was writing up her own blog post about our cider and kubeh adventures just a little while ago.  Make sure to skip over to her blog and see how the day looked to her.

Jun 032009
 

The last, best strawberries still linger in the markets. Yesterday at the shuk I picked up several kilos of the red fruit for liqueur. This is, like all liqueurs, such an easy pleaser. All it takes is a good jar, strawberries, sugar, vodka, and a little citrus. Give in to the goodness, you’ll enjoy it yourself and impress your friends.

Strawberry Liqueur

1 liter

Equipment:

2 glass jars that contain up to 2 liters and have tight-fitting lids

1 long-handled spoon

Knife for hulling and paring berries

cheesecloth or coffee filters for straining – or buy a pair of nylon knee-high socks, wash one well with dishwashing soap and rinse very well. I have often used new nylon socks for straining, in a pinch (in fact I keep a package in the kitchen at all times).

Ingredients:

3 cups fresh, rinsed, and hulled strawberries. Use only fruit in top condition; cut out any bruised, green, or bad parts.

1 1/2 cups sugar

2 cups inexpensive vodka. The reason to use cheap vodka is that the higher-priced brands have strong characteristic flavors that dominate  the taste of the fruit. You want to taste the fruit, not the vodka.

1 cup water

1/2 tsp. lemon zest

1 tsp. orange zest

1 tsp. lemon juice

Method I: For the Patient Person

1. Measure your prepared fruit and the sugar. Crush them together and allow them to stand, covered, for an hour.

2. Pour the sugary fruit into a jar. Add the rest of the ingredients; cover.

3. Stir everything up well several times a day for 2 days or until you see that the berries have given up all their color.

4. Strain into the second jar. Throw out the worn-out berry solids.

5. Cover and allow to stand for 1 week without stirring: remaining solids will go to the bottom of the jar.

6. Strain again and allow the liqueur to mellow for 1 month before serving.

Method II: For the Impatient Person

1. Put your prepared fruit in a large jar.

2. Pour the sugar on top; add the vodka, zests, and lemon juice.

3. Stir to start the sugar dissolving.

4. Cover and stir twice a day.

5. When you see that the strawberries are all white and pathetic, strain the liqueur.

6. Cover and allow to settle for 1 week; strain again.

7. Wait 1 month before serving.

Can you tell which method I used? I can be lazy sometimes.

Either way, it’s luscious stuff, with all the bright flavor of the strawberry in it.

Jun 012009
 

Summer in a bottle, indeed. This will make you smack your lips over the bright, fresh flavor, even a year later.  Wait till you see how easy it is. For a photo of the finished product, look at the previous post.

Apricot Liqueur

Ingredients:

2 1/2 cups – 16 oz. fresh apricots

1 1/2 cups – 10 oz. granulated sugar

1  cinnamon stick

1 vanilla bean

1 1/4 cup – 14 oz. inexpensive vodka

Method:

1. Rinse, halve, and remove pits from apricots.

2. Put the fruit into a jar with a tight-fitting lid – but don’t close it yet.

3. Pour the sugar over the fruit.

4. Add the vanilla bean and the cinnamon stick.

5. Pour the vodka in.

6. Stir to dissolve the sugar. Stir once or twice a day till the sugar completely dissolves: it takes a little while.

7. Steep for 3 weeks.

Note: try to steep the apricots in a jar that doesn’t leave much headroom. Any part of the fruit which is exposed to the air will start to turn brown. If necessary, fill the jar up with more fruit/sugar/vodka, about 1/3 of each. You don’t need to add another vanilla bean or cinnamon stick.

8. Filter the liqueur through cheesecloth. After two days, filter again. Give it another week and see if sediment is still falling; if so, filter again.

When the liqueur is clear, funnel it into clean, dry bottles. Allow it to mellow at least a month before opening a bottle. Serve cold.

Nov 192008
 

I was in the Carmel market this week, taking photographs as I moved between the stands. Among the colorful fruit displays, there was one stand that was decorated with hanging pineapples.

That put me in mind of two things. One, my husband, who loves pineapple. Second, Guarapo de Piña. “Guarapo” is a fizzy, slightly alcoholic drink made from fruit, and Guarapo de Piña is based on pineapple rinds. I learned to make it when I lived in Venezuela.

I left the shuk pineapples alone, but bought a nice ripe one from the greengrocer close to home. My husband and Little One devoured the fruit, but I kept the fragrant rinds for my own treat.

Guarapo de Pina – Venezuelan Pineapple Cooler

Yield: approximately  1 1/2  liters

This is a really folkloric recipe, using no yeast but the natural wild yeast on the rinds. So to make Guarapo, repress your civilized instinct and don’t wash the rind. Just cut away any spoiled or moldy spots.

Equipment:

A glass or ceramic jar with a 3-liter capacity, and a long-handled spoon.

A clean plastic soda bottle of 1 1/2 liter capacity

Make sure everything is well-washed with detergent and hot water.

Ingredients:

1 medium pineapple. Cut the peels off, keeping a little of the fruit on them. DO NOT WASH THE PEEL before cutting it away; you need the wild yeast on it. Trust me, it’ll be OK. Cut up the fruit, saving any juice from the process. Eat the fruit and put the unwashed rinds plus residual juice into the jar.

3/4 cup sugar

2 slices of fresh ginger root

2 liters water

Mix them all up together, stirring well to dissolve the sugar. Cover the jar with a clean cloth or a paper towel secured with a rubber band. Remember to push the rinds down 2-3 x daily; this is important to prevent mold forming as fermentation pushes the rinds up to the surface and they come into contact with air.

Let it ferment for 3-5 days. It will smell a little funky when fermenting. Just have faith and wait it out. When the liquid is a deep yellow color, clear, and pleasant-smelling (this will depend on the temperature in your kitchen), strain it –

and funnel it into the clean bottle. I  advise bottling in clean plastic bottles because fermentation will continue, even if you keep the guarapo in the fridge. It once happened that I opened a bottle that had been keeping cold for a couple of weeks, and the guarapo fountained out of it, ruining my plate of spaghetti, dammit.

Below is a photo of a batch I made last year, 4 days into fermentation. The head of foam is totally normal. It means that the wild yeasts are busy converting sugar into alcohol.

It’s somewhat alcoholic.  I can’t tell you how much ABV  because it varies from batch to batch. Not that I’ve ever measured. That would be, as they say in Caracas, anti-folklorico. The level of alcohol will rise as the guarapo keeps fermenting, but you can’t let it sit around for more than a week, or you might have lovely pineapple vinegar instead of guarapo.

It’s  a light, refreshing, fragrant drink.

Sep 142008
 

Fruit liqueurs are the essence of summer, poured out of a bottle. Spring’s strawberries, apricots, and cherries are long gone, but we consoled ourselves with hot-weather fruit: watermelons, peaches, and nectarines. Now the sidewalk displays outside greengrocer’s boast of mangoes, figs, new apples, the first tangerines.  Already a few pineapples and pomegranates appear, Shechechiyanu fruit for Rosh HaShanah.

Early September mornings are suffused with a softer light, and evenings fall sooner than just a week ago. In spite of the mid-day heat, summer’s drawing to a close. I always feel a little sad at the fading of a season, because of course it will never come back. Maybe that’s why I make a few liqueurs every year – to capture the sweetness of the past summer, to keep time in a bottle. Continue reading »

Sep 112008
 

We went out for lunch today, just my husband and I. The restaurant was Asian-fusion cuisine, with a decor meant to remind you of Japan, possibly, and a bevy of circulating waitresses. It wasn’t going to be authentic, I knew, but peeking at  the plates on neighboring tables, I saw the food would be pleasant, at least.

An item on the menu caught my eye. “Daiquiri with rum, coconut, or strawberry.” I have happy memories of Daiquiris from my teen years in Michigan. My folks used to blend them up on summer evenings, in the kitchen with the window open and a warm breeze blowing in from the garden. Dad and Mom would give me sips, and I would savor lime, balanced with a little sweetness, and heady rum. I loved to crunch the slushy ice, standing there in the kitchen while my smiling parents toasted each other and let me steal a little from their glasses. Giving in to nostalgia there in the Asian restaurant, I ordered a Daiquiri.

Well, it was a little sad. It was much too sweet. The ice was blended to chunks, not slush. And it was made with vodka.

See the little Stoli marker? I sent it back, and settled for a Coke. Disappointed, I really did have to pause and think. Silly to order a cocktail in an Israeli restaurant, even if the cuisine is supposed to be international. This is not a cocktail-consuming culture. It would have been more sensible to order a beer or a glass of white wine to go with my coconut and lemon-grass scented chicken. (Don’t know how good drinks are in bars – I don’t visit them.)

This trivial incident made me ask myself why I should expect life – and Daiquiris – in Israel to match any expectations of mine. Once more, I reminded myself to drop expectations based on my previous culture. Stay open to the myriad-faceted culture around you, I thought. Well, I’ve only been here 32 years.

But there was a happy ending: the owners took the price of the sad daiquiri off our bill, without our even asking them to. I’ll be eating there again.

*

Back in the 1930s, a journalist named Charles H. Baker took on a job as ship’s chef. How he and a young heiress on board met and courted, I don’t know. What is known is that Baker, now married and very rich, took off with his bride, traveling and sampling local food and drink wherever they went in a seriously hedonistic way. Baker wrote a two-volume set of books: The Gentleman’s Companion. One volume was devoted to exotic foods, the other to drinks exotic and mundane. His style was florid and complacent; he liked to drop the names of famous friends; and his old-fashioned male chauvinism makes me snicker – but his recipes are good till today. Here’s his recipe for daiquiris, as printed in The Gentleman’s Companion.

“The 2 originators were my friend Harry E. Stout, now domiciled in Englewood, New Jersey, and a mining engineer associate, Mr. Jennings Cox. TIME: summer of 1898. PLACE: Daiquiri, a village near Santiago and the Bacardi plant, Cuba. Hence the name.

“… The original Harry Stout-Jennings Cox mixture for the Original Cuban Daiquiri was: 1 whiskey glass ( 1 1/2 oz) level full of Carta Blanca, or Carta de Oro Bacardi Rum, 2 tsp of sugar, the juice of 1 1/2 small green limes = strained; and very finely cracked ice.

“Either shake very hard with finely cracked ice and pour ice and all into a tall flute cocktail glass, or put the same things into The Blender, and let frost into the delicious sherbet consistency we so admire nowadays…never use lemon juice. And remember please, that a too-sweet Daiquiri is like a lovely lady with too much perfume. Sugar should be cut down to 1 tsp. to our belief, and a Manhattan glass is less likely to tip over, in steady service!

“After some rather extensive carpenter work building Tropical Daiquiris Your Pastor has reached the following conclusion, betterments possibly, over the original Daiquiri mix…About 1/2 to 1 average small green lime gives acid aplenty. We always allow 2 ounces of rum. Delicate crowning touch: Sprinkle 3 or 4 drops of Warrick Freres French Orange Flower Water over the finished drink.”

*

And I found an interesting blog devoted to cocktails, with an entry on the bon-vivant Baker, here.

Salud!

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