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Homemade Apple Cider

15 Oct

As I mentioned in a previous post, I am excited about fall this year.  So the apples from the CSA every week have given me plenty of opportunity to embrace that.  Apple butter?  Check!  Homemade pectin to use in future canning?  Check!  Now, homemade apple cider – the finest of fall beverage treats (excepting, maybe, the pumpkin spice latte).  In my opinion, there is nothing as homey, comforting, and warming as a nice hot mug of apple cider, resplendent with cinnamon, apple, brown sugar, and citrus flavor.  The star anise and clove flavor lingers a bit in the background, highlighting the other flavors in a way that is difficult to describe.  Like the heady musk of fall leaves and the bring orange of pumpkins, the flavors of the cider forcefully conjure up the feeling of fall.  It’s so easy to make it at home and makes the whole place smell absolutely wonderful.

Homemade Apple Cider

About one dozen apples, any variety, washed and quartered

1 Valencia orange, quartered

1 lemon, quartered

1/2 cup brown sugar

3-4 3″ cinnamon sticks

2 pods star anise

1 tsp. cloves

Water to cover

Place all ingredients in a large stock pot.  Add water to cover.

Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Boil, uncovered, about an hour.

C0ver and reduce to a simmer.  Simmer for about two hours.

After about two hours, use a potato masher to mash up the apples a bit.  Uncover and reduce another 30 minutes to an hour, until deep golden brown and spiced.  Taste, reducing as necessary.

Strain through a fine mesh strainer or cheese cloth into a pitcher.  Reduce for another half hour over medium heat to maintain a bare simmer.  Store in the refrigerator, reheating as necessary.

Watermelon Agua Fresca

16 Aug

Every year for the Fourth of July, Zak and I visit one of his best friends in Amagansett, New York.  We always have a great time.  One of the highlights for me each year is a trip to La Fondita for tacos and watermelon agua fresca.  La Fondita is known as having killer fish tacos (per Serious Eats – you can even see the agua fresca in the background!).  I was too enamored with the idea of soft shelled crab tacos to test their claim to fame.  One of my favorite things about the place, though, is their watermelon agua fresca, which is to die for.  The liquid from watermelon is combined with water and sugar to produce a delightfully refreshing summer beverage.

So when we got watermelon two weeks running from the CSA, I knew I would have to create my favorite Hamptons beverage.  This yielded about 1 and a half gallons of the stuff, which we drank in short order.

In other news, Zak and I are getting married on Saturday, so I’ll be taking off from posting for a few days to finish final preparations and recover a little bit, especially since I start law school classes back up on Monday!

Watermelon Agua Fresca

2 medium watermelons, removed from rind, seeds removed and cubed, rinds saved

3-4 cups water

1/2 cup sugar

Place watermelon in a large bowl.  Don’t worry if you don’t get all of the seeds.  Using the back of a knife or large spoon, scrape remaining moisture from the watermelon rind.

Using an immersion blender, puree the watermelon.  Strain through a cheesecloth or a paint strainer bag, being sure to squeeze the remaining pulp thoroughly for any excess moisture (mine went from the size of a football to the size of a baseball).  Discard pulp.

Add water and sugar.  Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary.  Serve chilled.

Basil and Watermelon Cocktail

1 Sep

This is a flavorful, pretty, and unique cocktail.  I went light on the alcohol, here, so there was just a hint of lime and gin.  The real star of this drink is the delicious watermelon juice, which is sweet and unbelievably refreshing.  The juice, on it’s own, is a delicious treat.  However, by highlighting the juice with the fresh, herbaceous flavor of the basil, it really brought this cocktail to another level.  This cocktail is basically the essence of summer distilled down into a glass.

The watermelon juice described below is also an excellent way to use up an abundance of watermelon.  Having received one the past three weeks running with our CSA, I was beginning to get a little weary of slices of watermelon as a snack and wanted to try something new.  Though removing the seeds from the watermelon can be a bit time consuming and tedious, creating watermelon juice (which can be drank straight as-is, as a component of this cocktail, or in any other fashion you can conceive of) is well worth it.

Basil and Watermelon Cocktail

Watermelon Juice:

Yield: About 8-10 cups

1 1/2 small watermelons, seeds removed, cut into 1″ cubes (about 10-12 cups)

Working in batches, puree the watermelon in a food processor.

Strain through a fine mesh strainer.

Refrigerate 2-3 hours until very cold.  Enjoy as is or continue to make the cocktail.

Basil and Watermelon Cocktail:

1/4 cup basil leaves, loosely packed

1 shot lime-flavored gin, or to taste (I used Seagram’s that I obtained from my awesome aunt and uncle who just moved to Arizona and left me their liquor collection)

1 cup watermelon juice (see above)

Ice

Place basil leaves at the bottom of a cocktail glass.  Using a muddler or back end of a wooden spoon, muddle the basil.  Place ice in the glass.  Top with gin and watermelon juice and stir to combine.  Garnish with a basil leaf.

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