Mike's Cooking, Brewing and Recipes Page


Cooking

Tips

Measuring ingredients. I picked up a small scale at a farm stand's going-out-of-business sale. It's made parts of my cooking a lot easier: weighing is substantially quicker than volume measuring for various things, and is usually more accurate. The volume-to-weight conversions that I use most often (and yes, my scale does measure in both ounces and grams):
Ingredient Volume measure Weight equivalent
Flour (all-purpose, white) 1 c 4 oz
Flour (cake, white) 1 c 3 oz
Sugar (brown) 1 c 220 g
Sugar (white) 1 c 220 g
Raisins 1 c 200 g


Brewing

Tips


Recipes

Also see Rei's Random Recipes, some of which I helped invent.


Entrees


Mincemeat Pie

This is not the usual mincemeat pie you'd have for dessert. Notably, it includes beef, and contains no candied fruit or peel.

Ingredients for one pie:

Mix the raisins, allspice, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, brown sugar, and brandy together in a bowl; set aside.

Cut the beef into small (15mm x 15mm x 5mm) pieces. Coarsely chop the onion; saute until it turns transparent. Add the beef; salt and pepper lightly. Brown the beef while preparing the apples.

Peel, core, and slice the apples. Add the apples and brown sugar mixture to the pan with the beef. Coat the apples and beef well with the brown sugar mixture. Set the filling to simmer; stir occasionally.

Preheat oven to 450 F. Fit one crust into a 9" pie dish. Once the oven is hot, use a slotted spoon to transfer everything but the liquid from the pan into the the bottom crust in the pie dish. Boil the remaining liquid until reduced by at least half (or more if there's a lot); pour the liquid over the filled pie.

Wet one finger and wipe it around the edge of the bottom crust. Put the top crust on and pinch it down. Trim the excess. Poke holes in the top crust with a fork.

Bake at 450 F for 10 minutes; reduce the heat to 350 F and bake for another 35 minutes. Shut off and open the oven, and let the pie cool in the oven for 10 minutes. Slice and eat. Serves 4.

Notes:

  • This recipe scales well.
  • See below for my comments on apple peeling.
  • Most mincemeat recipes call for canning the filling and leaving it for at least two weeks before using it in a pie. I don't have a canning setup, nor do I particularly want one, so I've omitted this step. If you try canning the filling, let me know how it turns out.
  • If you use dark raisins instead of golden raisins, reduce the amount, as their flavor is stronger.
  • I've had mincemeat pie like this in a restaurant with walnut gravy on top. I have yet to find a recipe for walnut gravy, nor do I know where to begin in inventing one of my own. I'd welcome any pointers you might have.


    Chili

    Warning: this recipe makes a ridiculous amount of chili. I had to cook it in a 4 gallon stock pot, as it wouldn't fit in a 1.5 gallon Dutch oven. There is no tomato in this chili; there are both meat and beans.

    Ingredients for a whole lot of chili:

    Soak the beans in the water for 12 hours.

    Cut the beef and pork into 3/4" cubes. Coarsely chop the onions. Mince the garlic. Fry the bacon in whatever pot you're using. Once it's crisp — or it will be once it cools — take it out and let it cool on paper towels. Do not drain the fat. Saute the onions in the bacon fat until they start to turn translucent. Add the garlic, saute briefly. Add all the beef and pork. Sprinkle with smoked salt. Saute until browned on the outside.

    While the meat is browning, drain the beans, reserving the soaking liquid. Top off the soaking liquid to 6 c with water and dissolve the boullion cubes in it.

    Pour the chicken broth over the meat. Add the beans. Stir in all spices. Crumble the bacon into the pot. Chop the celery; add it to the chili. Set the pot to simmer for at least two hours.


    Salads


    Cucumber-Pecan Salad

    Ingredients: Cut the cucumbers into 5-8 mm slices. Quarter the tomatoes; cut into 5-8 mm slices. Finely dice the cayenne pepper. Coarsely chop the basil, parsely, and pecans. Add all ingredients to a salad bowl. Toss. Serves 2.

    Notes:

  • All measured numbers are estimated.
  • This was an experimental salad, mostly made on the "what's available now?" theory. It came out amazingly tasty.
  • Carrot tops make a fine substitute for fresh parsley.


    Desserts


    Apple Pie

    Ingredients for one pie: If you're dealing with a refrigerated commercial pie shell, take it out and let it warm on the counter. Put the bottom crust in an ungreased pie pan. Set your oven to 450 F.

    Mix the brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cornstarch together in a bowl. Set aside. Peel, cut, and core the apples; put the pieces in a bowl. Add the brown sugar mixture, stir to coat, making sure there are no large lumps of brown sugar.

    Pour the filling into the bottom pie shell, try to pack it as densely as reasonable without damaging the pie shell. Wet one finger and wipe it around the edge of the bottom crust. Put the top crust on and pinch it down. Trim the excess. Poke holes in the top crust with a fork. Wet your hand and wipe it over the top crust, just enough to get the top damp so the sugar will stick. Sprinkle a good-sized silverware spoonful of white sugar on top. Put in the oven. After 10 minutes, reduce the oven temperature to 350 F, bake for another 35 minutes. Let cool on a rack.

    Notes:

  • A mechanical apple peeler-corer-slicer is an amazingly handy device to peel, core, and slice the apples. Spike the apple on the end of the threaded rod, turn the crank, and you have a spiral-cut, peeled, cored apple. Clean up the bits of peel it missed, check the center for seeds, cut the apple into quarters, and you're done. Quick and easy.
  • I'll usually make a large number of pies at once. My largest mixing bowl is just big enough to easily stir one pie's worth of filling without slopping everywhere. I'll mix up one batch of filling, load the pie shell, put the pie in the oven, and immediately start the next pie. (Yes, I have lots of pie pans.)
  • This pie recipe inspired the Spiced Apple Pie in the game Asheron's Call.


    Non-pudding

    Ingredients: Pour the yogurt into a mixing bowl; add honey, stirring well, until the yogurt is slightly sweet. Pour the sweetened yogurt into shallow dessert bowls. Sprinkle nutmeg evenly over the top of the yogurt, until there is a substantial amount of nutmeg on top. Do not mix in. Grate chocolate on top of the yogurt, so that it mostly covers the nutmeg, but no more than double the amount of nutmeg. Again, do not mix in. Cover tightly, put in the refrigerator for at least an hour, preferably overnight, before serving.


    Note:

  • I've never tried this with cocoa powder; if you do, let me know how it comes out.


    Ice Creams and Sorbets

    All the following recipes require an ice cream maker of some sort. I have a Kitchen Aid mixer with the manufacturer's ice cream maker attachment. A friend gave me a Cuisinart ice cream maker that I swap off with, so I always have a freezer bowl in the freezer.

    At minimum, freeze the freezer bowl according to manufacturer instructions. I've gotten best results when I chill everything I can beforehand, including putting the mixing bowl in the refrigerator and freezing whatever container I intend to store the finished ice cream in.

    Recipes:


    Bourbon Vanilla Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

    Ingredients for about 3 cups: Mix all the ingredients except the chocolate chips together until the sugar has dissolved. Pour into the ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer's directions. In the last minute of freezing, add the chocolate chips.

    Transfer ice cream immediately into your chilled storage container and put in the freezer for at least two hours, preferably overnight.

    Notes:

  • After much experimentation, one shot of bourbon in this much ice cream is the most that can go in and have the ice cream still freeze mostly solid. Alcohol acts as antifreeze; more alcohol leaves the ice cream semi-liquid even when frozen overnight.
  • This recipe inspired by Bourbon Sugar Cookie Crunch Ice Cream at Not Eating Out in New York.


    Raspberry Cocoa Nib Ice Cream

    Ingredients for about 3 cups: Dissolve sugar in dessert wine. Pour dessert wine mixture and cream into the ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer's directions. During freezing, chop the cocoa nibs into small pieces. In the last minute of freezing, add the chopped cocoa nibs.

    Transfer ice cream immediately into your chilled storage container and put in the freezer for at least two hours, preferably overnight.

    Notes:

  • If you don't have a local supplier of cocoa nibs, you can mail-order them from Taza Chocolate.


    Honey Honey Mead Ice Cream

    Ingredients for about 3 cups: Dissolve honey in mead. Pour mead mixture and cream into the ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer's directions.

    Transfer ice cream immediately into your chilled storage container and put in the freezer for at least two hours, preferably overnight.


    Lavender Ice Cream

    Ingredients for about 2 cups: Infuse the lavender in the cream -- in the refrigerator -- for about five days. Strain the cream into a mixing bowl; do not press the lavender to get the last cream out, as the whole mix will turn bitter. Stir in the honey until it is dissolved. Add the liqueur. Pour cream mixture into the ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer's directions.

    Transfer ice cream immediately into your chilled storage container and put in the freezer for at least two hours, preferably overnight.

    Notes:

  • I get my lavender at the local Penzeys store. They keep it in back; it's not on display, so make sure to ask for it at the counter.


    Ginger Ice Cream

    Ingredients for about 2 cups: Coarsely shred the ginger and infuse it in the cream -- in the refrigerator -- for about five days. Strain the cream into a mixing bowl; press as much cream and juice of the ginger as possible for extra flavor. Stir in the honey until it is dissolved. Add the rum. Pour cream mixture into the ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer's directions.

    Transfer ice cream immediately into your chilled storage container and put in the freezer for at least two hours, preferably overnight.

    Notes:

  • I've found that a ricer is a good first-pass sieve for the ginger. It also does a fine job pressing the last cream, and a fair bit of juice, out of the ginger.


    Mimosa Sorbet

    Ingredients for about 2 1/2 cups: Mix orange juice and sugar, heat until dissolved. Thoroughly chill sweetened orange juice and champagne.

    Pour champagne and sweetened orange juice into the ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer's directions.

    Transfer sorbet immediately into your chilled storage container and put in the freezer for at least two hours, preferably overnight.

    Notes:

  • This recipe inspired by Berry Mimosa Sorbet at Cooking for My Peace of Mind.


    Guinness Chocolate Chip Sorbet

    Ingredients for about 2 cups: Mix Guinness and sugar until dissolved. Pour the sweetened Guinness into the ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer's directions. In the last minute of freezing, add the chocolate chips.

    Transfer sorbet immediately into your chilled storage container and put in the freezer for at least two hours, preferably overnight.

    Notes:

  • I initially tried this recipe with no sugar at all. It was far more bitter than I expected, so I melted it, added sugar, and re-froze it. Turns out, cold dulls sweet more than bitter.


    Dark and Stormy Sorbet

    Ingredients for about 2 cups: Mix ginger beer and dark rum. Pour ginger beer/rum mixture into the ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer's directions.

    Transfer sorbet immediately into your chilled storage container and put in the freezer for at least two hours, preferably overnight.

    Notes:

  • Maine Root Ginger Brew is a high-test ginger beer. I'm a big fan of it. However, if your taste runs to something less potent than "I will kill you now with ginger", you can try others, such as Gosling's.
  • If you want a stronger sorbet, this will still freeze with a ratio of 12 oz ginger beer to 4 oz dark rum.


    Lemon Sorbet

    Ingredients for about 2 cups: Dissolve 1/2 c sugar into 1 c water. Zest the lemons into the sugar water. Juice the lemons; pour the juice into the sugar water. Add the limoncello to the sugar water. Top up with more water to just over 2 c. Pour the lemon/sugar/water mixture through a strainer into your ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer's directions.

    Transfer sorbet immediately into your chilled storage container and put in the freezer for at least two hours, preferably overnight.

    Notes:

  • I initially made this with the juice and zest of four lemons, which made for a ridiculously strong lemon sorbet.


    Soft Drinks


    Home Brewed Ginger Beer

    Ingredients for one gallon: Clean any excess dirt off the ginger; slice 1-2 mm thick. Zest the lemons. Put the ginger slices and lemon zest into a blender with one quart of water. Set aside.

    Pour two quarts of water into a pot; add sugar and cream of tartar. Remove the white pith from the lemons (you need not get it all, but try to get most of it). Slice the peeled lemons 1-2 mm thick, add the slices to the pot. Cover and put the pot on high heat.

    Blend the ginger and lemon zest until the ginger is no more than small chunks, the largest 2mm on a side. Do not puree the ginger into pulp; if you do it will end up stuck in your teeth later.

    Once the pot boils, pour in the ginger mixture. Return to boil; let boil 15 minutes. Take the pot off the heat and cool to below 100 F.

    While waiting for the pot to cool, rinse and sanitize the one-gallon container. Pour the chilled quart of water into the gallon container. Proof the yeast according to package directions; use some of the warm liquid from the pot instead of sugar water if you like. Once the liquid in the pot is at or below 100 F, filter (a standard kitchen strainer will do) the contents of the pot into the container, add the yeast, top off with water to make up for what was lost in boiling, and fit the fermentation lock.

    Let the ginger beer ferment 4-24 hours to multiply the yeast. The time depends on how much sugar you want left and how active your yeast is. If you're using a brewing fermentation lock and getting more than one bubble per second, you have enough yeast. (Also note that you may never get one bubble per second!) Your ginger beer will be cloudy throughout the fermentation; that's normal.

    Rinse and sanitize the soda bottles. Remove the fermentation lock, fill the soda bottles from the gallon container. Don't filter the ginger beer; in addition to catching all the ginger, the filter will also get rid of a lot of yeast. The glop suspended in the bottle should settle in the refrigerator. Close the bottles tightly. Let stand for 2-12 hours to carbonate, until the bottles no longer give easily when squeezed. Put the bottles in the refrigerator. Drink within 4 weeks to avoid exploding bottles.

    Open bottles carefully; they are under a lot more pressure than any normal bottle of soda. You may want to bleed off some of the pressure occasionally, though note that this can cause the bottles to erupt unless you're quick to reseal the bottle. Bleeding off pressure will almost always bring the settled yeast off the bottom as the carbonation comes out of solution. The cure for this is multiple bleedings off, until there is little to no yeast dislodged from released carbonation.

    Notes:

  • Chilling one quart of water ahead of time makes the quart in your fermenter much colder, so it can help counter the remaining heat from the liquid in the pot. It also protects your fermenter from thermal shock if you pour too soon into a glass fermenter.
  • If you don't want carbonated ginger beer, this makes a fine ginger drink without carbonation. Leave out anything to do with the yeast. Instead, put the ginger beer into your storage containers straight from the pot. The advantage: no exploding bottles. The disadvantage: no carbonation.
  • I've never tried this with bread yeast; I have no idea how it will turn out. It should work; the purpose of the yeast is to provide carbonation, rather than alcohol. Whether the bread yeast will leave off-flavors is an open question.
  • Despite the presence of yeast fermenting sugar, this is a non-alcoholic drink. Refrigerating the ginger beer after such a short time arrests the yeast before it makes much alcohol. The yeast has, however, made enough carbon dioxide to carbonate the ginger beer. Important: the yeast will keep fermenting in the refrigerator, but a lot slower than it would at room temperature. Eventually the ginger beer will turn alcoholic; similarly, the pressure in the bottles will keep increasing until the sugar runs out or the bottles explode.
  • I'll try a longer boil with this recipe to see how the ginger flavor changes.
  • You might consider adding a bit of lime syrup to a glass of ginger beer, either carbonated or still.


    Limeade

    Ingredients for one gallon: Wash the limes. Zest each lime into a quart of water. Let the zest soak in the water in the refrigerator for a few hours.

    Meanwhile, juice the limes. Strain the juice into a container; mix in the sugar. Put the sugared lime juice into the refrigerator.

    Strain the lime-zested water into the sugared lime juice; discard the zest. Top up with enough water to make one gallon. Refrigerate overnight. Serve.

    Notes:

  • This recipe scales easily.
  • A microplane grater makes an excellent zester.

    Lime Rickeys

    Ingredients for one rickey: Wash the lime, cut in half. Juice each half into a pint glass. Drop one of the juiced halves into the glass, discard the other half. Pour in the lime syrup, stir. Drop in the ice cubes, fill to 12 oz with carbonated water. Stir briefly to mix, drink immediately.

    Notes:

  • I've made an alcoholic lime rickey by adding one or two shots (1.5-3 oz, 3-6 T) dry gin or vodka to the mix, and reducing the carbonated water.


    Lime Syrup

    Ingredients for about 3 1/2 c: Wash and zest the limes. Juice the limes. Mix the zest with the lime juice, water, and sugar in a pot. Put the pot on high heat until it has boiled for five minutes. Pour the syrup through a strainer to remove the lime zest. Chill.

    Notes:

  • This recipe makes enough syrup for about 7 lime rickeys. The actual quantity depends on how much juice you get from each lime and how much water boils off.
  • You might consider adding a bit of lime syrup to a glass of home-brewed ginger beer, either carbonated or still.
  • This recipe scales well: mix the zest and juice of two limes for every cup of sugar and cup of water.
  • The leftover lime zest is candied! If you have any use for candied citrus peel, save the leftover zest. It also tastes fairly good eaten straight.


    Alcoholic Drinks

    Limoncello

    Ingredients for 500 mL limoncello: If you're using low-quality vodka, run the vodka through a Brita filter at least three times. This filtering will remove a surprising amount of the bad flavors in the vodka.

    Zest and juice the lemons; put the zest in a jar and cover it with the vodka. Seal the jar. Store out of the sun at room temperature. Let soak for at least a month.

    Save the juice in the refrigerator if you're going to make simple syrup based on the juice. In a sealed container, it'll keep for a month or more.

    After you're done soaking the zest in vodka, pour the vodka through a strainer into your storage bottle. Discard the zest. Pour in simple syrup, leave sit for another month or more.

    Drink small quantities over ice.

    Notes:

  • There are lots of useful limoncello-making details at Limoncello Quest.
  • Since my first batch, I've filtered my vodka, no matter what the quality. It makes less difference with a good quality brand like Smirnoff (which is what I usually use) than it does with a bottom-of-the-barrel brand like Cossack (genuine Somerville vodka!), but every little bit helps.
  • If you're using stronger alcohol, the limoncello will need to sit longer to mellow after mixing in the simple syrup.
  • Use fat, fresh fruit for the zest. H-Mart seems to have excellent citrus no matter what time of year.
  • A microplane grater makes an excellent zester.
  • Get the zest into the vodka fairly quickly -- the stuff in the zest that provides the flavor is volatile, and zest has a lot more surface area to evaporate those volatiles.
  • The simple syrup is the detail that makes a surprisingly big difference in the result, especially if you substitute four limes for four lemons. Simple syrup is easy: equal parts water and granulated sugar, heated until the sugar dissolves, then cooled back to room temperature. But the limoncello comes out much better if you use at least some fruit juice for the liquid instead of water. (I suppose it's no longer "simple syrup" if there's fruit juice in it.)
  • You will almost certainly need more juice than what the initial set of lemons or limes provide if you're going with a 100% fruit juice syrup. You'll need even more if you're going to try to avoid the cloudy solids. Juice that fruit at the same time as the stuff you take the zest from, and save it to let it settle as well.
  • For lemon-based limoncello, a simple syrup of half lemon juice, half water or straight lemon juice goes over quite well.
  • For lime-based limoncello, far and away the best flavor came from a simple syrup of 100% lime juice (when compared against one that was half lime juice or contained no lime juice at all). Lesser quantities of juice in the syrup had a flat, bitter flavor.
  • If you're using lemon or lime juice and you've saved it from juicing the fruit, you'll have cloudy solids mostly settled to the bottom of the juice. While they don't appear to taste like anything, or have any texture, they settle out and look odd in the bottle. I've yet to find a way to filter them out in any reasonable time (they're fine enough that they clog coffee filters, and a strainer is way too big), so I've worked around the issue by having more fruit juice than I need, and using a turkey baster to draw off the clear juice. I use the cloudy juice for something that doesn't need the look of things, or which takes kindly to being shaken up before drinking, like lemonade.