• Weekly Cocktail #16: The Caipirinha / Cherry-Lime Caipirinha

    Cherry-lime caipirinha.

    Our friend Alicia over at Boozed + Infused (a great blog on homemade booze) recently posted on the concept of “gartending”. As you might expect, gartending means you are making cocktails with ingredients from your garden. So now that it has a name, we can say that we have been happily gartending for some time. One reason we like cocktails as much as we do is that we can quickly enjoy the fruit and herbs from the garden in drinks. It is always fun to enjoy the fruits of your labor, and if you get to add a bit of booze…so much the better.

    As we noted earlier this week, we are happily harvesting cherries. We are eating them out of hand, mostly, and will be baking this weekend, but once we picked them our thoughts went to cocktails. And we made a cherry-lime caipirinha. And it was good. Very good. Good enough that we decided to post the recipe.

    Cherry-lime caipirinha and ingredients.

    The caipirinha is the national drink of Brazil. It is a simple, but delightful, combination of cachaca, limes and sugar. You simply muddle about 1/2 a lime with a few teaspoons of sugar to get the juice and oils from the limes and then add cachaca and ice. While the process is simple, you get a very tasty, complex cocktail that is perfect for summer. And keeping in the spirit of Brazil, there are few rules with the Caipirinha. It is quite acceptable to add in or change the fruit or even the base spirit and still call the drink a caipirinha. And since we had cherries and we like them with limes, the cherry-lime caipirinha was not far behind.

    If you are unfamiliar with cachaca, it is basically “Brazilian rum” but it is made from sugar cane juice rather than molasses (rum agricole, made from cane syrup is somewhere between cachaca and rum). Cachaca has an overt sugar cane flavor with some heat from the alcohol and what most would call “musty” and grassy notes. That may not sound all that good, but it works well in cocktails, particularly with fruit-driven recipes. We enjoy cachaca in cocktails like the Rose Pearl, but it does mostly end up in caipirinhas during the summer.

    As for the caipirinha, the name itself loosely translates to “country-bumpkin” or “hillbilly”. And if you have a few of these your behavior certainly might “deteriorate” somewhat. The caipirinha is a great drink, the only real downside is that it is mostly booze, but goes down very, very easy. Sometimes you want to enjoy a caipirinha but not act like one, if you know what we mean…;-) Consider yourself warned and happy Friday!

    The Caipirinha / Cherry-Lime Caipirinha

    Ingredients:

    • 1/2 large lime, cut into quarters
    • 4 cherries, pitted and cut in half (optional)
    • 2 teaspoons, or more, granulated sugar
    • 2 or 3 oz. cachaca
    • Ice

    Assemble:

    1. Muddle the fruit and sugar in a cocktail glass. Add the cachaca and stir. Pour the mixture into a lowball glass and add a lot of ice. Mix and serve.
  • Radishes With Butter And Salt (And Moments Of Perfection)

    Radishes with butter and salt, a perfect trio.

    Late post today. Our eldest and I went to the Giants game last night and stayed late to watch Matt Cain pitch the franchise’s first perfect game in 130 years. As we occasionally hint in the blog, all of us are lifelong Giants fans. We have seen Bonds’ home runs, All-Star games, Timmy’s Cy Youngs, World Series losses and (glorious) victory and everything in between. And there was nothing quite like the perfect game. Everything comes together in one game. A brief, brilliant spark of pure joy and surprise. And for the players it was the moment when the orchestra is perfectly in tune and the conductor is at his best. A sweet reward for a lifetime of effort.

    But in baseball, it is a lifetime of effort that is always filled with failure. Even the best baseball players fail, in some way, in almost every game. The best learn to accept failure and build more towards a lifetime body of work. That is what makes perfect games or championships so special. Not simply that you were the best on “X” day, but because the players must overcome failure to get there. Success is all the sweeter when reached through failure. You grow, you improve, you build.

    Mixed radishes, fresh from our garden.

    If you garden or cook (or simply raise a family) this should ring true. While you may not toil in the spotlight, gardening and cooking are a lifetime of successes and failures. And some you simply cannot control. The beds were perfect, you checked the soil, picked the right seeds and watered on time. But the blight or frost came anyway. Green became brown. Fail. You picked the perfect recipe, shopped on time, did your prep and cooked like a pro. But the guests came late, one of the kids sprained an ankle and the roast stayed in the oven too long. Medium-burnt. Fail.

    But after a few well-placed “words”, you start again. There is always the next meal, day, week, season and year. And when the successes come they are sweet, and they are shared with those you love. When the cocktail is tasty and the guests are happily chatting, the kids eat the (perfect) fish and the dessert made from the fruit that you grew has been totally devoured, then you have it. A perfect meal, a perfect day, a perfect moment. And well-earned. And well-remembered. Think of those moments, and we bet you have a few that stick with you, and those you love, to this day. Brief, brilliant sparks of love, joy and content. The glow from those sparks lasts a long time.

    In the garden, harvest is often that special moment. This week we have cherries, berries and radishes. More on the fruit soon, but as for the radishes we will give you a “perfect” recipe to enjoy any time. Fresh radishes with butter and salt. How do we know it’s perfect? Because pretty much every celebrity cook, cookbook author and blogger has posted a version of this recipe at some time or other. But since we actually grew these radishes, we (selfishly) think we can post on it too. And it is a very tasty, and easy, dish.

    And we are big fans of radishes, both as cooks and gardeners. In the home garden radishes are a great crop. They grow to harvest in 3-4 weeks (the name comes from the Greek Raphanus meaning “quickly appearing”), work in many climates and compliment many cuisines. Radishes grow in spring and fall, so we stagger our crop over a few weeks to get radishes though most of both seasons. And, frankly, they are hard to mess up. While gardening is filled with failures, crops like zucchini and radishes do offer the opportunity for a few “quick wins”- and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

    While we like quick-pickling radishes or using them for crunch and heat in salads, we usually just eat them out of hand. We enjoy their crunch and light, peppery heat (the kids like them too, so that is a big bonus). Serving radishes with butter and salt simply creates a more balanced dish. The sweet, creamy butter and the salt add more dimension to the radish. And all you need to do is slice some radishes and put some butter and salt into a few bowls and serve. This is a great summer dish- easy, but full of flavor.

    Continue reading

  • Orchard Update: The Cherry Harvest, Day #1

    Van cherries before harvest.

    Well after a longer wait than we expected, the cherry harvest is here! We are very, very excited, as this is the first real cherry harvest from our orchard. We netted the trees a few weeks ago and the extra work paid off. While the ants got a few of the cherries, the birds, wood rats and squirrels were kept at bay.

    Harvesting cherries is still a low-tech affair…

    Most of this day’s harvest was from the Van and Black Tartarian grafted tree. The cherries are mostly Vans. We planted the Van / Tartarian tree to pollinate the Bing cherry tree, but the bonus is another crop of cherries. The Vans look like Bings, but are smaller with slightly lighter color skin and flesh. They are sweet, but not too sweet, with a pleasant crunch.  We had a smaller crop of the Black Tartarians and they are really, really good. The Tartarians, not surprisingly, have deep purple color and flesh. The cherries are very sweet and incredibly juicy. The Tartarians are a pleasant surprise, the only bummer is that few made it out of the orchard- they were enjoyed straight from the tree. We will aim for more next year (perhaps another tree).

    Day 1: Vans, Bings and Black Tartarians.

    We also started on the Bing tree, which is dense with fruit on almost every branch. The cherries are ripening somewhat unevenly, so we will work the tree over the next few days. The Bings are a delight. There is a reason they are the most popular fresh cherry. They are big and sweet and one of the closest things to “natural” candy you can get. The kids think they are better than candy, and that says a lot. We had some off-season rain and concerns that it would cause the Bings to crack, but luckily all the fruit is in great shape. We will have fun picking the cherries for the next few days.

    Ready to eat. The Vans have the lighter color.

    While researching how to cultivate our Bings we ran across an interesting piece of history worth sharing. From Wikipedia:

    The cultivar was created as a crossbred graft from the Republican cherry in 1875 by Oregon horticulturist Seth Lewelling and hisManchurian Chinese foreman Ah Bing, for whom the cultivar is named.

    Ah Bing was reportedly born in China and immigrated to the U.S. in about 1855. He worked as a foreman in the Lewelling family fruit orchards in Milwaukie for about 35 years, supervising other workers and caring for trees. He went back to China in 1889 for a visit. Due to the restrictions of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 he never returned to the United States. Sources disagree as to whether Ah Bing was responsible for developing the cultivar, or whether it was developed by Lewelling and named in Bing’s honor due to his long service as orchard foreman.

    It seems a little bittersweet to us that Ah Bing was not allowed to return to the US. And regardless of who crossbred the cherry, it gives us a smile that Ah Bing’s work in the orchard survives and is enjoyed every summer.

    Eat out of hand, or make a cocktail. Cherry-lime Caipirinha, pretty good.

    Once we got the cherries in the house, they got a quick clean and rinse. We laid them out on the counter and ate quite a few. The kids enjoyed them and I even made a cherry-lime Caipirinha. Yum. For the next few days we will be enjoying the cherries in baked goods, perhaps ice cream, drinks and even a savory dish or two. Recipes soon.

  • Bonus Cocktail: The Aviation

    Aviation Cocktail.

    This week’s bonus cocktail is a surprise to us. The drink itself is not a surprise, the Aviation is a classic cocktail. But we are surprised it took us so long to post it. We enjoy Aviations as one of our “go to” cocktails at home, and one of our local bars makes a great one. So I guess familiarity bred a touch of contempt.

    But there is nothing contemptible about the Aviation. One of the true masterpieces of pre-prohibition mixology, the Aviation combines dry gin, lemon juice, maraschino liqueur and (sometimes) Creme de Violette, a violet liqueur. The drink is the creation of Hugo Ensslin, a bartender at the Hotel Wallick in New York. He first published the recipe in 1916 in the book “Recipes for Mixed Drinks”. And the recipe has been published, and tweaked, ever since.

    Aviation cocktail and ingredients.

    The basics of the recipe, dry gin, lemon juice and maraschino have been constant, but the ratios vary. And then there is the issue of the Creme de Violette. Creme de Violette is a violet liqueur that tastes a lot like violet candies. If you remember violet candy, you may also remember that some people love them, and some hate them. “This tastes like soap” being a common refrain for those in the “hate” category. For a while, this was a non-issue as Creme de Violette was almost impossible to find in the US. But our friends at Haus Alpenz, revivers of all forgotten liqueurs brought it back to life with Rothman & Winter Creme de Violette (remember the Allspice Dram in the Ancient Mariner). And this “new” Creme de Violette is good, sweet, floral and depending on your point of view, perhaps a bit “perfumey” or just downright soapy.

    The attraction of using the Creme de Violette is both the flavor and the light blue color it lends to the drink, if you use enough of it. The name of the drink, it is believed, comes from the pale sky-blue color that was so enticing in the early days of aviation. But this is where many mixologists differ.  The Savoy Cocktail book, David Wondrich and Gary Regan go without the Violette, the PDT cocktail book includes it. Paul Clarke suggests you simply make the Creme de Violette optional. As it is, we suggest you use the Creme de Violette very sparingly (just a dash, you will still taste it) or omit it altogether.

    Required summer reading.

    As a practical matter, very few people have access to Creme de Violette and there is no need to run out and buy it (of course, we did- but we are geeky that way). First, try the recipe without the Violette. You will lose the lovely color, but the botanical flavors of the gin, the bright, sour lemon juice and the sweet, earthy maraschino are a great combination on their own. This is a very tasty cocktail that works in any season and for almost any occasion. And most home bars have gin and lemon juice- and you should have Maraschino (Luxardo is fine) in your bar, as it is an ingredient in literally dozens of classic cocktails. So before you get the Violette, make sure you have maraschino liqueur.

    If you do have the Creme de Violette, you can add up to 1/4 ounce to the drink and the color will be quite beautiful. But unless you really like floral and perfumed flavors the drink might be soapy unpalatable. But a dash or two will add some pleasant flavor and aroma, if you like violets. One other note on the booze- the recipe specifically calls for dry gin. If you use a “modern” gin that features floral botanicals, like Nolet’s, the flavors may not play well together. Traditional London dry gin like Tanqueray, Beefeater or Gordon’s are the best choices for this drink.

    Few drinks look better in a cocktail glass than the Aviation.

    Continue reading

  • Morels With Asparagus and Cream (and Bacon)

    Morels with asparagus and cream (and bacon).

    This is a very good dish, but no need to avoid the obvious, this is not a particularly healthy dish. The photo says it all. Morels and asparagus bathed in a sauce of cream and bacon. We do offer some notes on how to make a lighter version of the recipe, but we view morels as “special occasion” food around here. When we get them, we don’t hold back. We just love morels. And rather than try to explain the flavor profile in great detail, we will share a description from our eldest child; “ooh, morels, yum- they taste like meat”. Yup, they do. Rich, and indeed “meaty” in flavor, morels have a great texture when cooked and taste like the umami-bombs they are.

    Morels are from the Morchella genus of mushrooms and are common in the United States and enjoyed in Europe and Asia. Morels are found in many forest environments, but on the west coast the Gray Morels are most associated with wildfires. The morels thrive in forest areas after a burn and in areas of “controlled burns”. As controlled burns and wildfires are common throughout the west in most years, we get our share of morels. Most go to restaurants or are dried for sale, but we do get fresh morels at the farmers market- and when we do, we grab them. But even in good years they are not cheap. Dried morels are a more affordable (and off-season) substitute.

    Ingredients, note the mix of morels and king trumpet mushrooms.

    As for the morels themselves, they are usually 1-3 inches in size and have a unique “sponge-like” cap and a hollow core. This makes cleaning the morels a challenge. Frankly, morels are dirty, buggy mushrooms. And as they often come from pine forests, a few pine needles may be stuck in there as well. While it may sound like sacrilege to purists, we suggest that morels be cut in half and thoroughly rinsed in water. The water will cook out with some extra time in the pan, but no one likes mud, bugs and pine needles in their food. It is also a good idea to inspect and clean each morel by hand before you cook them. This is time-consuming work, but since morels will be a special treat for most, it is worth the extra effort.

    Prepare your veggies.

    Now some will say that the morels should be served simply, with minimal additions, and that is great. But the morels play very well with other flavors, particularly earthy, sweet green vegetables like asparagus (fiddleheads are also good, if you can get them). And why not add some home-cured bacon, a touch of shallot, cream and some fresh thyme? And morels are really expensive, so we add some other meaty mushrooms (we use king trumpets) to the recipe to as well. And in a pinch, you can just use other mushrooms altogether. The flavors will still be good.

    Wash the mushrooms, you will be much happier.

    Bacon adds extra flavor, but you can substitute olive oil.

    Reserve the bacon pieces, but cook the mushrooms in the bacon fat.

    Making this dish is a simple one-pan operation. Most of the work is in prep. Clean and slice the mushrooms, asparagus and shallots and set aside. Cut some bacon into cubes or strips and brown, remove the bacon pieces and reserve, but keep the bacon fat in the pan. (You could skip the bacon and just use olive oil). Add the shallots and mushrooms and cook until they give up their liquid and it is mostly reduced. Add the thyme, then deglaze with some white wine and then add the asparagus. Cook the asparagus for a few minutes then add the cream, reduce for another minute, add the bacon and then check seasoning. Adjust seasoning as needed and serve. Continue reading

  • Versatile Blogger Award

    We are very grateful to be nominated for a Versatile Blogger Award by one of our favorite blogs, wifemeetslife.

    So here are the rules:

    • Thank the blogger who nominated you.
    • Nominate seven other blogs that you think are amazing.
    • Tell the blogging world seven things about yourself.

    Wifemeetslife features good recipes, gardening and a hedgehog. Yes, a hedgehog. IMHO, if the hedgehog makes the blog, you need to check it out…;-). Thanks Alison!

    As for the seven other blogs we like, the only problem is that there are way more than seven. One of the great surprises of blogging is how much we enjoy reading other blogs. Our cooking, gardening and bartending are much better, and the sheer volume of amazing photos out there is truly remarkable. As it is, here are seven blogs we love:

    • Promenade Plantings: A simply lovely gardening and cooking blog with a generous spirit. This may not be their first nomination, but still well-deserved.
    • The Boo Lion: Well-written, passionate cocktail blog all the way from Taiwan. And the drinks are good. We don’t miss a post.
    • Stefan’s Gourmet Blog: Great cooking and eating blog. Detailed, well-written recipes.  Stefan’s posts convinced us to get a sous-vide cooker. A good decision, it turns out.
    • Life in The Foothills: A blog about life in the country and a genuine appreciation for the land and where you live. Recipes, wildlife photos and scenes from the Sierra foothills, plus a fruit-stealing fox. Cool.
    • Sybarite Sauvage: Irreverent, funny writing that happens to include good wine reviews. Always gives you a smile, even if you don’t drink wine (oh, but we do…;-)
    • MaggiesOneButtKitchen: Great, and we mean great, baking blog. Amazing what she can do.
    • Mike’s Look On Life: Mike is a photographer with an eye for austere beauty that is unique and, at times, heartrending. Our guess is that his work will extend beyond the blogosphere, should he so choose.

    Oleander from the pasture. The quail like to hang out underneath.

    And seven things about Putney Farm:

    1. The blog truly is “us”. The parents both cook, bake, garden, mix drinks, write and take photos. The kids give “unfiltered” feedback…and plenty of it. The dog and cat try to keep the varmints in check, albeit with mixed results. A true team effort.
    2. We are proud (and sometimes tortured) fans of the San Francisco Giants.
    3. We love good, hand-made cocktails but still sometimes enjoy frozen margaritas from a machine. We are unashamed.
    4. We do make about 10 pounds of home-cured bacon every 2 weeks and share with friends. It goes pretty quick.
    5. Our kitchen is more than just a kitchen. Our garden is more than just a garden.
    6. We try to be grateful for every day. Sometimes we get caught in the weeds. Times with family and friends get us to open pastures.
    7. And we always like to leave you with a few photos….in this case a few from our pastures:

    Due south.

    One of many oaks.

    The bee boxes. Busy and happy with the heat.

    Flotsam and jetsam.