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Don't Waste That Christmas Tree: Turn It Into Spruce Beer
January 04, 2013
The holidays are finally wrapping up. So after you repack the twinkly lights, and the tinsel goes into the trash, what should you do with that once beautiful spruce standing in your living room? Why not drink it?
Well, not exactly as is. The needles, shoots, light-green tips and inner bark of the popular conifer have been used for centuries to brew forest-scented tea, soft drinks and beer. And it seems that fresh evergreen flavor may be making a comeback.
"Ancient Scandinavians and their Viking descendants brewed beer from young shoots of Norway spruce, drinking the beer for strength in battle, for fertility and to prevent scurvy on long sea voyages," according to the second edition of the Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America.
Indeed, the British Navy practically required spruce beer as a scurvy treatment, particularly after 18th century experimental nutritionist James Lind published his observations of sailors' recoveries. Spruce beer became a part of daily life for sailors, as Capt. James Cook's 1784 Voyage to the Pacific Ocean describes:
"Two of our men were employed in brewing spruce beer; while others filled the water-casks, collected grass for the cattle and cut wood. ... Besides fish, we had other refreshments in abundance. Scurvy-grass, celery and portable soup were boiled every day with the wheat and pease; and we had spruce beer for our drink. Such a regimen soon removed all seeds of the scurvy from our people, if any of them had contracted it. But indeed, on our arrival here, we only had two invalids in both ships."
While it's true spruce contains vitamin C, recent scholars have cast doubt on just how much of the nutrient would have remained in the brewed version to counteract the disease.
"Vitamin C concentrations in foods are now known to be dramatically altered by, for instance, boiling and drying. Specifically, when made by fermentation, spruce beer contains no vitamin C," according to John K. Crellin's book, A Social History of Medicines in the Twentieth Century: To Be Taken Three Times a Day.
Even so, for centuries beer drinking of all kinds was considered a better alternative than water, which tended to be contaminated.
This recipe for spruce beer appeared in the first American cookbook published, American Cookery: Or the Art of Dressing Viands, Fish, Poultry and Vegetables, by Amelia Simmons, published in 1796:
"For brewing Spruce Beer. Take four ounces of hops, let them boil half an hour, in one gallon of water, strain the hop water, then add 16 gallons of warm water, two gallons of molasses, eight ounces of essence of spruce, dissolved in one quart of water, put it in a clean cask, then shake it well together, add half a pint of emptins [baker's yeast], then let it stand and work one week, if very warm weather less time will do, when it is drawn off to bottle, add one spoonful of molasses to every bottle."
Spruce tips as food and medicine were also widely known to Native Americans and the American colonists. Before Colgate toothpaste, there was spruce resin to chew for dental hygiene. And Alaskan natives still sell spruce-tip jelly and syrup to travelers looking for something beyond blueberry.
Alas, the beer tradition pretty much died out as commercial breweries rose to prominence in the U.S.
But as more proof that everything old is new again, a handful of craft breweries are now developing their own versions of spruce beer, blending it with ingredients like molasses to mellow the flavor and create that "Christmas tree in a glass" sensation. You don't even need to gather your own spruce these days if you want to brew at home. Spruce On Tap will mail you some freshly frozen samples from trees native to Colorado.
And there's Rogue Spruce Gin from Oregon, infused with spruce, cucumber, angelica root, orange peel, coriander, lemon peel, ginger and more. Why spruce? Brett Joyce of Rogue Ales & Spirits tells The Atlantic: "It was obvious for us, in the sense that we're surrounded by spruce trees."
That's probably why the Vikings came up with drinking their spruce, too.
La Roca’s Spicy Shrimp Salad
Spicy Lemon Vinaigrette:
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 tsp Dijon mustard
8 tsp rice vinegar
4 tablespoons Best Foods mayonnaise
8 tsp fresh lemon juice without seeds
4 tsp lemon zest
8 tsp fresh orange juice, make sure the juice is sweet
4 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
4 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
4 tablespoons sliced Kalamata olives
1 tablespoons of capers
1 large Jalapeno, roasted, peeled and thinly sliced
Salt & fresh ground pepper to taste
Wisk all the ingredients in a small bowl, season with salt & pepper and set aside
40 cold large shrimp poached in white wine
20 sweet mini peppers de-stemmed, sliced in half lengthwise, and seeded (if needed)
2 ½ cups of feta cheese loosely packed / about 1/3 of a cup per person
Garnish with avocado & tomato slices
A Day Ahead
Leaving the shrimp with the shell on but removing the vein, marinate the shrimp in white wine making sure there is enough wine to cover the shrimp well. To the wine add about 1/3 cup of whole peppercorns and 6 bay leaves. It is best to marinate the day ahead but if you are short on time marinate for a minimum of 4 hrs.
Cook shrimp in the wine with the peppercorns, & bay leaves. Once shrimp begins to turn pink remove from wine mixture and set aside to cool. Once shrimp is cool remove the shell and butterfly the shrimp. Toss shrimp and sweet mini peppers with spicy vinaigrette and feta cheese and serve over a bed of lettuce.
Mama Bon says: Garnish salad with avocado & tomato slices! Buen Apetito
Senator Inouye's Sweet Sour Spare Ribs
This recipe was given to me by former state senator John Ushijima in 1950 when we were both in Law school at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.
Prep Time: 30 | Cook Time: 45 | Ready In: 75
3 pounds Pork spare ribs
1/3 cup flour
1/3 cup soy sauce
3/4 cup vinegar
1 cup water
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon salt
1 clove garlic
1 inch ginger root
dash of five spices (chinese five spice)
Cut spare ribs into 2" x 2" pieces. Marinate in flour and soy sauce for 30 minutes. Brown in cooking oil. Add the rest of ingredients and simmer for 45 minutes or until tender. May be served with chunks of fresh or canned pineapple.
Of all the foods people associate with Hawaii, Spam Musibi seems to be the most popular, with echoes of lau lau, tuna poke, and kalua pig trailing just behind. The terms Spam sushi and Spam sandwiches have been used but, no, get it right: It's Spam musubi!! The Hawaiians know the good stuff - trust me. Spam eaten this way is awesome. Give it a try...you will agree!
5 cups cooked short or medium-grain sushi rice
5 sheets of sushi nori seaweed
1 (12-ounce) can Spam luncheon meat
¼ cup Aloha Shoyu
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup Kikkoman Aji-Mirin
Cut Spam into 8 slices. Fry (with no oil!) until your desired level of crispiness is reached. Remove and drain on plate lined with paper towels. In another pan, combine soy sauce, mirin and sugar. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce to low. Add Spam slices, coating them in the mixture. When mixture has thickened, remove Spam from pan.
Now, work quickly and have everything else laid out for assembly, otherwise the Spam will no longer be hot and crispy by the time the musubi’s are assembled.
Cut the nori strips in half lengthwise, and lay the musubi-maker on the middle of the nori. Use a rice paddle or spoon to scoop a generous mound of rice into the mold. Use the musubi-maker handle to press down on the rice. Press hard. The last thing you want is floppy, unpressed rice.
Lay a slice of Spam on top. Add one more layer of rice, and one final press.
Press with all your might! You want this packed tight. The musubi is intended to be a portable treat. Hawaiians stuff it in their backpacks for lunch on the beach, take it on a hike or on a bike ride around the island. It is durable.
Once you've given it a firm press, hold the handle down with one hand, and use the other to pull the mold upward, thus unleashing the musubi.
Quickly wrap the nori around the rice (use a few grains of rice to stick the nori together at ends if necessary).
There probably won’t be leftovers, but if so, wrap each musubi individually in plastic wrap, so you may pop them in the microwave whenever you desire. Or if you have extra time on your hands, I sometimes put the entire musubi in a pan, over low heat, and fry on all sides, crisping up the nori. There is no wrong way to eat Spam musubi.
Herb Rubbed Sirloin with Lemon Butter and Guinness Battered Onion Rings
2 pound top sirloin steak
2 tablespoons of chopped fresh rosemary
2 tablespoons of finely minced fresh garlic
2 tablespoons of olive oil
Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste
8 ounces of unsalted butter
juice of 1 lemon
zest of lemon
2 tablespoons of finely minced fresh chived
2 tablespoons of chopped fresh parsley
Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste
1 sweet onion cut into 1/2? thick slices
1 cup of Guinness Beer
1 cup of milk
2 cups of all purpose flour
1 1/2 to 2 cups of canola oil
Koser salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste
Serves 3 to 4
Steak: Place all ingredients in a ziploc bag and let sit in the refrigerator for 20 to 30 minutes.
After the steak is done marinating, season both sides with salt and pepper and cook on the grill on high heat. Note: it will take 10-14 minutes on each side to achieve medium-rare in temperature.
Butter: Place the butter in a mixer and whip until it becomes whit and fluffy and then add in all other ingredients and set to the side.
Onion Rings: In a large bowl mix together flour, milk, egg, beer, salt and pepper.
Dip the individual onion rings in the batter and then fry them in the oil on medium-high heat until they are golden brown. Once brown, remove from the oil and rest on a paper towel.
To Plate: Place the onion rings next to the steak and place 1 tablespoon of lemon butter on top of the steak.
Olive and Herb Crusted Beef Tenderloin with Dijon Dipping Sauce
Beef Tenderloin makes an impressive centerpiece dish for a special occasion. Kalamata olives and fresh herbs create an earthy flavored crust to this tender melt in your mouth beef, the subtly pungent Dijon Dipping sauce adds a little zing!
1 3lb trimmed beef tenderloin, tied (even thickness)
4 large garlic cloves
¼ cup chopped fresh oregano (packed)
¼ cup chopped fresh rosemary (packed)
1 ½ cups Kalamata pitted olives, drained
½ cup extra virgin olive oil+ additional
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
Fresh ground black pepper
Dijon Dipping Sauce
1 cup sour cream
4 teaspoons Whole Grain Dijon mustard
4 teaspoons Dijon mustard
Fresh ground black pepper to taste
In a food processor, pulse garlic, add chopped herbs and pulse, add kalamata olives and pulse until all ingredients are finely minced. Slowly pour olive oil from the top while food processor is on. Add Worcestershire sauce, scrape down sides and blend until mixture is combined. Pour into a small bowl and set aside.
Prepare Dijon Dipping Sauce: Mix sour cream, Whole Grain Dijon and Dijon mustards until thoroughly combined. Add freshly ground black pepper to taste. Cover and refrigerate.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees with rack in the center.
Pat beef dry and season very generously on all sides with fresh ground black pepper. Place a heavy roasting pan on two burners on high heat. (You may also use a large skillet) Lightly coat pan with olive oil (about 4 to 5 tablespoons). When oil begins to simmer, place beef in pan and quickly brown on all sides, about 4-5 minutes total.
Transfer tenderloin to a clean work surface and generously coat with olive mixture on all sides. Transfer back to same oiled roasting pan and place in the oven. Roast beef until a thermometer inserted 2 inches into thickest part of meat reaches 125 degrees for medium rare, about 25 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board and let it stand for 10 minutes loosely covered in foil.
Slice beef into ½ inch thick slices. Serve with dijon dipping sauce.
*Olive Mixture (stir and bring to room temperature) and Dijon Dipping Sauce may be prepared one day ahead.
Linguine with Portabella Mushrooms (Gluten Free)
Among the things that are so spectacular about portabella mushrooms are their size. Simply roasting them and arranging them on a platter with fresh soft herbs and a drizzle of olive oil can make an impressive presentation. With such a beautiful vegetable, it might seem a shame to chop them up, but with flavor to rival their good looks, its worth it. There are smaller varieties of portabella mushrooms available; baby bellas and even cremini mushrooms. Sadly, along with being smaller, I think that they lack the complexity of flavor.
This pasta combines my love for portabella mushrooms with a kiss of white truffles. It is far from easy to procure fresh white truffles, but pastes, purees, and oils are not difficult to find and work quite well in making this an extraordinary sauce. It is a simple dish to prepare and can be an elegant first course made with fresh pasta if you are entertaining.
Mushrooms, particularly the asian varieties, provide the richest vegetable source of selenium. Selenium is a trace mineral that incorporates into proteins to create antioxidant enzymes that are essential to our health. The high selenium content is what has made mushrooms a super food for a cancer-fighting diet, and has proved to be a key component in the decreased risk and recurrence of prostate cancer. They are also a good source of riboflavin, niacin, and pantothenic acid and an under recognized source of potassium.
Serves 4 as a main course and 6 as a first course
For all of the ingredients, please use only those that are organic or pesticide free.
2 shallots, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 portabella mushrooms, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1/4 cup dry white wine or dry vermouth
1 tablespoon white truffle puree, if available (I used Urbani White Truffles Puree)
2 tablespoons white truffle oil, or more if desired
2 teaspoons chives, snipped with a scissor
16-18 ounces Bionaturae Gluten Free Linguine or favorite pasta of your choice
fleur de sel, maldon, or other finishing salt
freshly ground black pepper
parmesan cheese, grated (optional)
Fill a large stock pot with water and bring to a boil.
Heat olive oil in a large saute pan over a medium flame. Add the shallots and a sprinkling of salt, cook for a few minutes, and reduce the heat to low. Cook the shallots until they begin to caramelize. It will take another 5-10 minutes.
Add the mushrooms to the shallots. Turn the heat up to medium high and use a wooden spoon to mix the ingredients together. Cook for about 5 minutes until the size of the mushrooms decrease to half their size and begin to brown. Turn the heat up and add the fresh thyme and wine. Leave the heat high long enough for the wine to fully evaporate, about 1 minute. Reduce to a simmer or turn off.
Generously salt the boiling water to the point that it tastes like sea water. Add the pasta and set a timer for 90 seconds less than the recommended cooking time on the package.
While the pasta is cooking, add the truffle puree to the cooked mushrooms.
When the timer has indicated that the set amount of time has passed, the pasta will still seem to be undercooked. Add a ladle full of the pasta water to the mushrooms and drain the pasta into a colander. Immediately add the pasta to the saute pan with the mushrooms. Turn up the heat to medium low and toss the pasta into the sauce.
Add the freshly snipped chives (not used in the photographed recipe) and the white truffle oil. Continue to toss ingredients together in pan over heat for 30-60 seconds.
Season with fleur de sel and freshly ground black pepper and serve immediatlely with parmesan cheese for those who might want it.
PECAN PIE THUMBPRINTS
A few months ago I was brainstorming ideas of holiday cookie recipes. One of the first cookies that comes to mind when I think of holiday cookies is the classic thumbprint cookie. They are typically filled with some type of fruit jam or preserves, but I thought it would be fun to cross them with another classic holiday dessert, pecan pie. Once they were baked, I added a caramel drizzle. When the glaze had set and I finally tasted one, I was in cookie heaven.
These are easily one of the best cookies I’ve made, and I’ve made a lot of cookies. The cookie itself is so tender and almost flaky thanks to the combination of butter and cream cheese. The pecans in the dough and in the topping add a warm, nutty note and the caramel is the perfect finishing touch. These would be an ideal addition to any holiday cookie platter or in holiday goodie packages…that is, if you can bear to part with them.
Makes 2 dozen cookies
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
½ cup pecans, finely chopped
¼ teaspoon salt
2½ cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
¼ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup light corn syrup
1 large egg yolk
2 teaspoon vanilla extract (or bourbon)
Pinch of coarse salt
1 cup pecans, coarsely chopped
For caramel drizzle:
4 ounces caramel candies, unwrapped
2 tablespoons heavy cream, plus more as needed
To make dough, combine butter and cream cheese in bowl of electric mixer. Beat on medium-high speed until well blended, about 1 minute. Mix in sugars and beat on medium-high until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes more. Blend in vanilla extract. With mixer on low speed, mix in pecans, salt and flour just until fully incorporated. Cover bowl and transfer to refrigerator. Chill dough for about 30-60 minutes.
While dough is chilling, make filling. In medium bowl, combine melted butter, sugar, corn syrup, egg yolk, vanilla and salt. Whisk just until blended. Stir in pecans.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper. Scooping about 2 tablespoons of dough at a time, roll dough into balls. Place dough balls on baking sheets 2-3 inches apart. Use your thumb (or wine cork) to make a small round indentation in the center of each dough ball, about 1 inch in diameter. Fill each indentation with some of pecan filling mixture.
Bake cookies, rotating pans halfway through, until light golden and set, about 16-18 minutes total. Cool briefly on baking sheets, then transfer to wire rack set over wax paper or foil. Let cool completely.
To make caramel drizzle, combine the caramels and heavy cream in small microwave safe bowl. Heat in 20 second intervals, stirring in between, until caramels are fully melted and mixture is smooth. If needed, add more cream, 1 teaspoon at a time, mixture reaches drizzling consistency. Drizzle caramel over cooled cookies on wire rack. If caramel begins to harden, microwave for 10 more seconds and stir to rewarm.
Hot Chocolate Cookies
by ANGIE on DECEMBER 18, 2012
It’s about that time to start thinking about the cookies you’ll be making for Santa. This year, I thought I should make some cookies that would go good with Santa’s hot cocoa, something we also make every year for the jolly old guy. So I got to work in the kitchen, experimenting with chocolate and marshmallows. I wanted to make the richest, most chocolaty cookie that had a gooey, chewy consistency. Then top it with a big marshmallow and even more chocolate.
These cookies turned out just as I wanted – rich, gooey, ooey, chocoalty goodness. After they baked, I halved a large marshmallow, placed it on the warm cookie. Then I put the cookies under the hot broiler, just until the marshmallow had lightly toasted. At first, I had wanted to finish these cookies with a little chocolate syrup, but to make them not so messy, I opted for grated chocolate.
I also used my favorite flour, Gold Medal, in this recipe, because of it’s lightness and quality.
For the Cookies:
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup or 1 stick butter, softened
1/2 cup cocoa powder
2 packets hot cocoa mix
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
12 large marshmallows, cut in half
1 square semi-sweet baking chocolate, for grating
Heat oven to 350°. Cream butter and sugar together until light in color in stand mixer. Add eggs and mix well. Add cocoa powder, cocoa mix and vanilla. Mix well. Add flour baking soda and salt. Mix just until dough comes together. Refrigerate dough until chilled, about 1 hour.
Drop cookie dough by the tablespoon on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet. Bake for 10 – 12 minutes, or just until cookie is set. Remove cookies from oven and place marshmallows on top. Turn oven broiler on high and place cookies directly under broiler to lightly toast marshmallows. Remove when done and transfer to a cooling rack. Garnish with grated chocolate before serving.