• A Visit To Brookside Orchids

    Just a few miles away from our “farm” there is a little secret. Tucked behind a farm stand and an equestrian center, lies a small, balmy haven of color, Brookside Orchids. We will do a full post on this amazing business, but in the meantime we visited to pick up a gift and couldn’t resist taking a few photos (and we do mean a “few”- there is so much more to share). Walking around in a warm, humid greenhouse filled with thousands of orchids and hanging plants is simply delightful. It feels like a dream. Here are some photos for the weekend…

    An orchid that evolved to look like a fly…cool.

    Bat Lily, not an orchid, but amazing to look at.

    We leave you with an orchid that smells like vanilla and licorice, It only flowers a few days a year, but it certainly draws attention when in bloom.

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  • Mojo Pork Shoulder Roast: Our Go-To Fall Roast

    Mojo Pork Shoulder Roast.

    A few years ago we hosted an “Orphans Thanksgiving” at our house. The guests were friends who, for whatever reason, didn’t connect with family for the holiday. It was a fun night, and keeping with the somewhat irreverent theme, we cooked BBQ Pulled Pork for Thanksgiving. Everyone loved it (sorry, but we like pork way better than turkey), but we all felt that, while tasty, the pork roast should be a bit more formal, like a true “roast”. With that in mind, we worked on a few recipes until we can up with this version of pork that uses a mojo-based marinade and cooks low-and-slow in the oven. Now it’s our “go-to” recipe when we host informal dinners, and holiday dinner parties. This dish is easy to make, but does take time and requires a few extra steps, but it is very much worth it- and the leftovers rock (more on this later).

    So what is mojo? And why pork shoulder, and not a loin or rib roast? Well, first, mojo is a Cuban-inspired marinade of garlic, herbs, salt, oil and vinegar. It goes incredibly well with pork and you can tweak the herbs to fit your tastes and even match the sides you plan to make. Many mojo recipes include sour orange juice for a more Caribbean flavor, but we omit it in this recipe so we can use apples and apple cider as a flavor base for a more “fall-themed” sauce. As for the pork shoulder, we use it because when cooked low-and-slow it is the tastiest and most tender cut of pork available. It’s also very affordable. And since we use a bone-out pork shoulder, we can rub the mojo into the outside and inside of the pork for extra flavor. This does mean you need to tie the roast, but it is worth the extra effort.

    Making the dish is easy, but is a 2-day project. It also has a few extra steps, but they make the difference between a “good” and “great” roast. On day one you make the mojo by chopping fresh herbs (thyme, sage, oregano and rosemary all work) and garlic and then mixing with olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Then you take your pork shoulder (untie it, if already tied), poke a bunch of holes in it and rub the mojo all over the pork. Be sure to cover all the pork, inside and out and push the mojo into all the holes. Then wrap the pork or place it in a large container in the fridge overnight, or up to two days, the mojo will flavor all the meat. The whole thing should take about 15 minutes.

    As for day two, remove the pork from the fridge and scrape off most of the mojo from the outside of the roast (the garlic will burn, yuk) and retie the roast (see Notes). Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Next, place a large, lidded dutch oven or heavy pot over medium high heat. Add some olive oil and brown the roast, about 5 minutes on each side until you get a nice crust. Then remove the roast from the pot to a plate or cutting board. Meanwhile, rough chop a few large apples and an onion. Add the apples and onion to the pot with a cup of apple juice or cider. Then place the roast on top of the apples and onions, put the lid on the pot and place the pot in the oven. Cook for 4-6 hours, or until the roast reaches and internal temperature of 190 degrees. And yes, you want a high internal temperature, it breaks down the collagen into the gelatin and makes pork shoulder so tender and “finger-licking-good”. Once the roast reaches 190, remove it from the oven and leave it alone for 1 hour. Then remove the roast from the pot and let it rest for at least 15 minutes on a large cutting board. Then the roast is ready to serve.

    As far as a sauce is concerned, the pork goes incredibly well with just applesauce. But you can also use the cooking liquid as a quick jus, or you can make a quick gravy. Usually we strain the apples and onion from the sauce, reduce it while the pork rests and make a quick roux to thicken the gravy. We put a teaspoon of Dijon mustard in the gravy to add some brightness and acidity. Good stuff and not much extra work.

    So, in the end, you get a tasty and tender pork roast that will easily feed 10-12 people. And while the process takes a few days, the active time is less than 40 minutes. A good return on the effort. And you do get a final bonus, the leftovers. We take any left over pork, cut it into small pieces and place it into a hot skillet with a dash of oil and a bit of chili powder and cumin. After a few minutes the pork crisps-up into something very much like carnitas. The next-day tacos are even more popular than the roast…. Continue reading

  • Cocktail DIY (And Bonus Cocktails): Pineapple And Raspberry Syrups

    Pineapple and raspberry syrups.

    One of the main things we enjoy about cocktails is how many ways we get inspiration to try new drinks. This week, Mixology Monday came back to life with an “Equal Parts” theme and we submitted a fun (and a little goofy) cocktail that we enjoyed, the Long Island Planters Punch. But what makes Mixology Monday really fun is trying other people’s creations. And now we have over 25 drinks to try (click here to see the lineup, very cool). One of our favorites, so far, is Shake, Strain and Sip’s Undiscovered Country a Corpse Reviver variant using pisco and Swedish Punch (it was a good excuse to finally buy some pisco). Another favorite is Chemistry of the Cocktail’s Shrunken Skull, a tiki drink with grenadine, but also works with raspberry syrup. Hmm….so now we have some pisco and a desire to make raspberry syrup. Anything else we can do?  Well, yes- since we had pisco, we had to make pineapple syrup to mix up some Pisco Punch, a true classic. (Like we said, “inspiration”, not necessarily “organized thinking”).

    Pisco Punch.

    Mountain Clover Cocktail.

    Unfamiliar with pisco and Pisco Punch? Pisco is brandy from Chile and Peru using local grapes from their wine industry. It is strong, a bit spicy and musky with hints or grappa (at least to our tastes). It is unique stuff and perhaps tough on its own, but very good in cocktails. And the most famous is the Pisco Punch, a simple combo of pisco, lemon juice and pineapple syrup. Cocktail historians have beaten the history of this drink to death (and beyond), but suffice it to say that in later 19th-Century San Francisco if you were blotto worse-for-wear, Pisco Punch had something to do with it. (Paul Clarke has a good, brief history piece here.) And there is a good reason the Pisco Punch was so popular, it’s really good. The musky notes of the pisco match with the sugar and funk of the pineapple and the lemon adds brightness and acidity. Pisco Punch is true cocktail alchemy, and it’s way-too-easy to throw these back…and a good reason to make pineapple syrup. And once you have pineapple syrup it works in other brandy drinks like the Brandy Fix or as a good substitute for simple syrup in Tiki drinks.

    As for the Raspberry syrup, it used to be a very popular cocktail sweetener, particularly before Prohibition. Used in dozens of drinks like the Clover Club, the Pink Lady and the Davis Cocktail, raspberry syrup adds great color and bright sweetness that’s lighter in flavor than grenadine. But, for whatever reason, grenadine took the place of raspberry syrup in many recipes during the later half of the 20th century. Happily, the cocktail renaissance brought raspberry syrup back from obscurity and there are plenty of DIY recipes, or you can buy it in stores. We decided to make our own, it’s easy and we still have raspberries. And after playing around with some classics, we made a Clover Club variant called the Mountain Clover with dry gin, lime juice, raspberry syrup and St. Germain. The light, bright sweetness of the raspberry syrup plays well with the gin and lime and makes for a very balanced sip. It looks like a grenadine-based cocktail, but is something very different. Worth a try.

    Making both these syrups is very easy. Both use fruit, sugar and water. The pineapple syrup uses a “cold” method and the raspberry a “hot” method, but the process is basically the same. Cut or mash-up the fruit, cover with a simple syrup, put it in a jar, let it sit a day or two, strain out the fruit (mash in a bit more of the juice) and bottle the syrup. (And keep the left over pineapple pieces to put on ice cream or toast, good stuff). Top with a bit of vodka or Everclear to extend the life of the syrup, if you like. Store in a tightly lidded jar in the fridge. And then prepare to make awesome cocktails.

    Continue reading

  • Simple Garden Recipes: Cinnamon Applesauce

    Cinnamon Applesauce.

    One of the great things about cooking from the garden and orchard is a constant reminder to stick to the basics. If you just spent “x” months growing something (or waiting “x” months to buy it fresh and local), you want to taste what you’ve been waiting for. And most of the time when we stick to the basics the quality and flavor of seasonal produce really shines through. Now, we are still big fans of “brined-balsamic-glazed-sous-vide-nut-crusted-finished-in-a special-artisan-brick-oven” dishes. But sometimes the ingredient speaks for itself. And this is very much the case for apples. We use them all kinds of ways, but in our house the two best preparations are eating out of hand and making cinnamon applesauce.

    And if you don’t think much of applesauce, we suggest you make some of your own (and be ready to change your mind). Homemade applesauce rocks. Good by itself, applesauce is great with pancakes or on toast, and is a common ingredient in many healthy desserts. And applesauce is easy to make (particularly if you have a food mill- more on that later, see Notes). also, if you buy in season, apples are tasty, plentiful and cheap. As for the varieties to use, Gala, Fuji, Jonagold, Jonathan, Golden Delicious and Melrose are all recommended, but most apples will work. We use our Gravensteins…we have a lot of them.

    Making applesauce is a simple process. Cut and core apples, add to a pot with water, sugar and spice, cook, mash, taste, adjust sugar/spice and serve. There are a few tools and tricks that do help, a food mill makes it easy to mash the apples with the skins on, otherwise you need to do it manually with peeled apples (not a big deal, but a time-saver). We also use date sugar for deeper sugar flavor, but white sugar works just fine. And, of course, we put cinnamon in our applesauce for extra spice to balance the sweet apples (and the kitchen smells great when cooking). And once the applesauce cools you have a tasty, healthy snack that will keep in the fridge for about a week.

    So how do we serve our applesauce? As we mentioned, it’s great on toast and pancakes and even better served with roast pork (yes, recipe coming). But mostly, our kids (bless them) will just grab some out of the fridge, pour it in a bowl and eat it. And then they ask, “are these our apples?” and when we say “yes”, they say “cool” and get back to eating. It may not sound like much, but for a home cook and gardener, it doesn’t get much better. Like we said, sometimes it’s best to stick to the basics.

    Cinnamon Applesauce:

    Notes Before You Start:

    • Most apple varieties will work for applesauce, but ask at your grocer or farmer’s market for best available varieties.
    • We use date sugar for a slightly richer, “darker” flavor, but white sugar works just as well.
    • A food mill is a tool worth having for all sorts of uses, but really makes applesauce a snap. They are cheap and available at most kitchen stores. If you don’t have one, peel the apples and then simply mash them in the pot. The texture will be a bit more rustic, but the flavor will be just as good.

    What You Get: One of the best ways to enjoy apples. A great dessert and/or side dish.

    What You Need: A food mill is a big help, but not required. No other special gear needed.

    How Long? About 90 minutes total, with about 10 minutes of active time. Most of the time is to allow the applesauce to cool. This can be an “anytime” dish, but mostly a fun weekend or evening project.

    Ingredients:

    (Makes 3-4 cups)

    • 4 pounds apples, cored and cut into quarters (peel the apples if not using food mill)
    • 1 cup water
    • 1/4 cup date sugar (or white sugar)
    • 2, 3-inch cinnamon sticks (or 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon)

    Assemble:

    1. Combine the apples, water, sugar  and cinnamon sticks in a large dutch oven or lidded pot. Cover and cook, over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally until the apples break down. About 15-20 minutes.
    2. Place the apples, in batches, into the food mill and process into a large bowl. Taste. Add sugar and/or water to adjust flavor and consistency (add ground cinnamon, if using). Serve warm, or allow to cool for one hour and store in jars. Will keep in the fridge for a week.
  • Surprises From The Orchard

    Indian Free peaches. Yum.

    Sometimes (all the time?) the garden and orchard throws you some surprises. We just spent months, with only middling results, fighting off the varmints from our peaches and nectarines (only passive measures, but one does get tempted to go “active”). Meanwhile, in the corner of the orchard one of our smaller trees had some peaches, but they seemed destined to stay hard and green forever. In fact, these were our Indian Free peaches, and they are a real treat.

    The Indian Free peach is a late-season heirloom peach, common in the northwest and known for resistance to leaf curl. It’s been a popular peach for centuries, Thomas Jefferson even had them at Monticello. And as Jefferson was quite a gourmet, we aren’t surprised, the Indian Free peach is incredibly tasty and very beautiful. Actually we should say the insides are beautiful, with lovely variegated red and white color. The outsides are somewhat less attractive with less blush tones and more dark patches. But beauty often really is skin deep.

    While the Indian Free’s appearance is somewhat undesirable (this and need for a pollinator make it perhaps a less popular commercial variety), the flavor is among of the best of any stone fruit we’ve tried. The Indian Free’s flesh is similar in color and flavor to a blood orange, with more tangy and “berryish” flavors than most peaches. And since we are big fans of blood oranges (see our early posts from last winter) we are instant fans of our Indian Free peaches. And while we could use them in cocktails or put up a few, we are just eating them…..quickly…

    Early Meyer lemons.

    Kaffir limes.

    Why didn’t the squirrels and wood rats go after the Indian Free peaches? We have no idea. We didn’t reinforce or weight the nets, and we waited until they were ripe (the varmints tend to go after the fruit a few days before we would pick). We could come up with any number of plausible explanations, but we have no real evidence of any changes in the orchard. We will chalk it up to dumb luck. Go figure.

    As for the rest of the orchard, the pears and figs are coming soon, and we are very excited. The Comice pears and the figs should be ready in a week or two (some concern that what we thought was a Black Mission Fig is a different fig variety, more on this later). And the “mystery” heirloom pears that grow on the side of the house are still at least a month or two out- these take a while. But once they are done, a new season begins.

    And that means citrus! Our Meyer and Eureka lemons, Kaffir limes and Cara-Cara oranges are off and running. Meyer lemon-based punches for the holidays are already coursing though our minds. And sorbet, and preserved lemons, and lemon curd….you get the idea.

    And as a last pre-holiday bonus, we leave you with pomegranates. We get just a few every year. Not enough to call it a crop, but just enough for a snack and some smiles….

  • Mixology Monday Cocktail: Long Island Planter’s Punch (LIPP)

    Long Island Planter’s Punch.

    One of the cooler things in the cocktail blogging world has to be Mixology Monday, an “online cocktail party” where cocktail enthusiasts submit and share cocktails to fit an ever-changing theme. Paul Clarke of Cocktail Chronicles and Imbibe! ran Mixology Monday for 6 years (Wow- thanks Paul!) and just handed off the reins to Frederic Yarm at Cocktail Virgin Slut. (BTW- a shameless plug for Frederic’s new Boston Cocktail book “Drink and Tell”- see here). So here is the theme:

    For this month, I have chosen the theme of equal part cocktails — those simple drinks where only one jigger is needed despite how many ingredients are added. These recipes have gained a lot of popularity as classics like the Negroni and Last Word have resurfaced, and variations of these equal part wonders have become abundant.

    LIPP as a “long” drink.

    Indeed they have. We have already posted on the Last Word and a very tasty variant with Apricot Shrub (that we made) based on a cocktail from Bar Terra. But seeing as how the Last Word has been revised dozens of times, we decided to look at other classic cocktails and see what we could do. We tried Corpse Reviver #2 variants with gin, grapefruit, Aperol and Lillet Rose’- good but better in unequal proportions. We also played with the Scofflaw, one of our recent faves, that included genever, rye, lemon, grenadine and dry vermouth. A very good drink, but the genever takes over so it was just a “genever scofflaw”. Ok, but not what we were after. But as a side bonus, we did make our own grenadine.

    Hard at “work” in the office…

    About that time, we decided that mining “classics” for ideas wasn’t going so well and perhaps another approach was in order. So if “classics” weren’t working, how about drawing inspiration from somewhat cheesier “less iconic” cocktails. And this very quickly brought us to the Long Island Iced Tea. We recently posted on the drink from Long Island, it is way better than it should be, and it uses roughly equal parts. But what to do with the homemade grenadine? Well, how about subbing the grenadine for Coke?  Kind of like Planters Punch (another semi-uncool cocktail) or a Bacardi Cocktail…and since the seasons are changing how about a little spice from a dash of bitters? (The rules allow it). And finally, the drink was boozy enough so we dropped the vodka, as we still had plenty of other spirits in the drink.

    Ingredients for Long Island Planter’s Punch

    And the Long Island Planters Punch was born. (And yes the LIPP is a riff on the L.I.R.R.- Long Island Railroad) The LIPP combines equal amounts of white Demerara rum (El Dorado), reposado tequila (Cazadores), dry gin (Tanqueray) , Cointreau (or another triple-sec), lime juice and grenadine, with a dash of Fees Old Fashion Aromatic Bitters (you can sub Angostura). And we garnish with a lime wedge for a little aroma and extra presentation. And one last note, if you can’t make your own grenadine, a “real pomegranate” grenadine will be much better, as the corn-syrup based versions are way too sweet.

    And the flavor of the cocktail? We like it very much. You get the lime juice, tequila and Cointreau up front and then the herbal flavors of the gin and sweet rum and grenadine fill-in and finally you get the spice of the bitters. A good sip, and just like the Long Island Iced Tea, it tastes much less boozy than it really is. And you can serve the LIPP as a cocktail or a long drink, it works either way. The LIPP is so tasty, we wondered if we should rename it and not mention its less-than-stellar cocktail forebears. But just as we still love our Dads, even though they mowed the lawn every Sunday in khaki shorts, black socks and sandals, we will proudly acknowledge the LIPP’s heritage.

    The Long Island Planter’s Punch (LIPP)

    Ingredients:

    (For 1 cocktail, double for a “long” version of the drink)

    • 1/2 oz. White rum (El Dorado Demerara)
    • 1/2 oz. Reposado tequila (Cazadores)
    • 1/2 oz. Dry gin (Tanqueray)
    • 1/2 oz. Triple-sec (Cointreau)
    • 1/2 oz. Fresh lime juice
    • 1/2 oz Grenadine (homemade- see below, or “real pomegranate”)
    • 1 dash Fee’s Old Fashion Aromatic Bitters
    • Lime wedge, for garnish

    Assemble:

    1. Combine all the liquid ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake thoroughly and strain into a chilled cocktail glass, coupé or flute. Garnish with lime wedge. Serve.

    -or-

    1. For a “long version” of the drink. Double the recipe and combine all the liquid ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake thoroughly and strain into a large tumbler, highball or pint glass filled with ice. Garnish with lime wedge.

    —-

    Grenadine:

    (Adapted from Cocktail Chronicles and David Wondrich)

    Notes:

    • This is a “cold-process” version of Grenadine. There are also boiled versions, but we prefer the fresher flavors of the cold version.
    • You can use superfine sugar to be sure the sugar will dissolve in the pomegranate juice. You will get a bit more sugar, by weight, so check the flavor of the grenadine after the first mixing before adding any more sugar.

    Ingredients:

    • 1 part white sugar
    • 1 part pure, unsweetened pomegranate juice
    • 1 tablespoon of vodka or grain alcohol per cup of syrup (optional)

    Assemble:

    1. Place the juice and sugar in a jar with a good lid and seal. Shake well until sugar dissolves in the juice. Taste and add sugar, by tablespoon, to balance flavor.
    2. Add the vodka or grain alcohol, if using. Store in the fridge.