In the Kitchen: Krupnikas

Dear Constant Reader,

Elsewhere on social media someone was lamenting that she had a bottle of vodka that was too weak* to use for disinfecting and too cheap to drink. I suggested making a cordial. You don’t want to use good vodka** for that.

Cordials are alcohol infused with fruit, herbs, and/or spices, sweetened, and sometimes diluted. Some cordials need to sit for a long time, like cherry bounce, to get a good flavor. However, krupnikas, Lithuanian*** spiced honey vodka, can be made in a matter of minutes and served right away.

I flavor mine with cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, and lemon peel. You could also use fresh ginger slices, cardamom seeds, caraway seeds, vanilla (slice the bean lengthwise, scrape the seeds, and add the whole thing), orange peel, peppercorns, &c. Feel free to experiment!

3/4 cup water
1 1/2 cup honey
4 cinnamon sticks
4 strips of lemon peel (just the peel, no white pith)
3 cloves
some fresh grated nutmeg
2 1/2 cups vodka

Put the water, spices, and peel in small saucepan and bring to a boil. Stir in the honey and return to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the vodka. Serve hot immediately or let cool. Once it’s cool, remove the spices, and pour into a bottle through a coffee filter-lined funnel. Store in a dark place. It lasts about forever.

Į sveikatą! — To your health!

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page. Or you can just tip me if you liked this.

*Alcohol needs to be 70% for disinfecting purposes — that’s 140 proof!

**If you have decent vodka, use it in cocktails. If you have excellent vodka, stick it in the freezer and drink it in tiny icy-cold shots with at least two other friends accompanied by ever more extravagant toasts and some snacks like pickled herring on black bread.

***I am, at least in part, of Lithuanian descent. Bet you didn’t know that!

Published in: on 28 March 2020 at 6:23 pm  Leave a Comment  
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In the Kitchen: Cherry Bounce

Dear Constant Reader,

It seems you all like my cooking posts best (at least according to my site stats), so I’ll endeavor to give you more!

This latest recipe is very vintage — it dates back to at least the 18th century! As you, dear Reader, know well, early summer brings cherries to The Manor and a desperate attempt to use them and preserve them. This year I was determined to try Cherry Bounce, a cordial popular in colonial days. It was said to be a favorite of George Washington.

Cherry bounce is made with cherries (or any stone fruit, though you’d have to change the name…), sugar, and liquor. Washington liked his with brandy, but you can also use rum or whiskey or vodka. Each adds its own characteristics to the bounce. Sometimes the fruit is used whole, sometimes it’s pressed for its juice. You can also add spices or even fresh herbs. For a lower proof, add some water. I’ve seen so many variations.

We used a very simple recipe that’s much like my Christmas fan dance: Sugar Rum Cherry. I wanted to use rum, as it’s very New England and also my favorite spirit. I decided not to add any spices as I feared the results might taste like cough syrup (based on an unfortunate experiment with raspberry cordial once).

Take a big glass jar with a lid. Add a pound of sugar and then a little rum to dissolve. Add a pound of cherries and mash them a bit. Pour a quart of rum over it all. Let it sit in a sunny place for a week, then store in a dark place for at least a month. Strain the liquid and pour into bottles.

We made two versions, each with 2 pounds of sugar, 2 pounds of cherries, and a 1.75 L bottle of rum. The first was a white rum and we put the cherries in whole and then bashed them around with a spoon after the rum was added. The second was gold rum and we bashed the cherries into the sugar with a potato masher before adding the rum.

We let the jars of bounce sit for a week in the pantry and I would stir them every day to make sure the sugar stayed in solution and further bruise the cherries. Then we stashed them in a cabinet for about 2 months. I strained out the cherries and poured the bounce back into the jars. The white rum bounce is pretty clear, but the gold, where the cherries were crushed, has a lot of sediment. I need to find some attractive bottles to decant the bounce into. When I bottle it, I’ll strain it too (coffee filters work well for that).

So, how does it taste? Very good. It’s intensely cherry. I think the white is actually more cherry-flavored than the gold. The gold has more of a boozy taste. And they’re both quite strong. It’s a nice dessert tipple to be drunk out of wee glasses. I’m sure some creative sort could come up with a cocktail that uses cherry bounce.

I was going to toss the cherries, assuming they had given up all their cherry goodness and no longer tasted like anything. However, upon sampling, they still taste like cherries and very much like rum. I pulled out all the whole ones and froze them. They’ll be great over ice cream. Maybe I’ll even flame them like cherries jubilee.

Martha Washington’s original recipe, if you want give it a try:
Extract the juice of 20 pounds well ripend Morrella cherrys. Add to this 10 quarts of old french brandy and sweeten it with White sugar to your taste. To 5 gallons of this mixture add one ounce of spice such as cinnamon, cloves and nutmegs of each an Equal quantity slightly bruis’d and a pint and half of cherry kirnels that have been gently broken in a mortar. After the liquor has fermented let it stand close-stoped for a month or six weeks then bottle it, remembering to put a lump of Loaf Sugar into each bottle.

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page.

Published in: on 9 October 2018 at 11:02 am  Comments (1)  
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Friday Tip

Dear Constant Reader,

Happy Friday! Here’s your tip:

To keep your lip makeup intact, drink with a straw.

Because I was a Girl Scout, I like to be prepared. Since I wouldn’t want to assume that any given venue would have straws for the showgirls, I carry this stainless steel straw in my gig bag. I even made a little cloth sleeve so the straw stays clean when I’m not using it (just visible in the lower left corner of the photo).

M2Like this tip? There are lots more in Miss Mina Murray’s Little Book of Better Burlesque.

These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page.

Published in: on 26 May 2017 at 11:12 am  Leave a Comment  
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In the Kitchen with Scratch

Dear Constant Reader,

Please vote for The Boston Babydolls every day!

For The Bod of Avon wrap party Scratch promised “some genuine Elizabethan delicacies, a Shakespeare-inspired cocktail (probably hot), and some genuine English beer.”

As it turned out, the beer was a challenge. Our local liquor store has a vast selection of beers from small New England breweries, which is normally a good thing. And plenty of German and Irish imports. And many varieties of hard cider. But Scratch wanted English beer. We finally found some Newcastle brown ale.

The cocktail was inspired by the gossip’s bowl, mentioned in both Romeo and Juliet and A Midsummer’s Night Dream, a hot beverage of ale & cider with roasted apples floating in it. Scratch’s version was soft cider, Shipyard Applehead beer, Jack Daniels (it was supposed to be bourbon, but the Maker’s Mark was mysteriously absent from the liquor cabinet), lemon juice, honey, grated fresh ginger, grated fresh nutmeg, all warmed together. The drink was garnished with dried apple rings (homemade).

The food was a fun project. It had to be Elizabethan, not weird (my offer of pickled herring & fruit pie was struck down), easy to make for a group, and basically finger food. Also, mostly savory because we knew guests were going to bring stuff and a lot of it was going to be dessert.

The first item was hedgehogs. No, not actual hedgehogs, but small meatballs that look like prickly little beasts. The original recipe is in Middle English and involves a pig’s stomach and spit roasting. This is Scratch’s very loose interpretation. As he tends to cook in a loose interpretive style, I don’t have a formal recipe for you.

He started with about 2 pounds total of ground beef, pork, and veal (heavy on the pork) and seasoned it with the Elizabethan quartet of spices (cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and clove), emphasis on the ginger, plus black pepper and salt. Then the meat was formed into little footballs and garnished with 2 currants for eyes and slivered almonds for prickles. Then baked until they were done (about half an hour at 350°F).

Ta da!
Aren’t they cute! And tasty too.

The second dish was Puffes, On the English Fashion, from A New Booke of Cookerie by John Murrell (published 1615).
Take new Milke curds, presse out the Whay cleane, take the yolkes of three Egges, and the white of one, fine Wheat floure, and mingle amongst your Curdes. Season it with Nutmeg, Sugar, and Rosewater, mingle all together. Butter a fayre white paper, lay a spooneful at once upon it, set them into a warme Oven, not over hot, when you see them rise as high as a halfe peny loafe, then take Rosewater, and Butter, and indale them over: scrape on Sugar, and set them in the Oven again, until they be dryed at the tops like yce. Then take them out, and serve them upon a Plate, either at Dinner or supper.

2 pounds “country style” cottage cheese, allowed to drain for several hours
2 egg whites
6 egg yolks
1 cup flour

These were all beaten together. Scratch wanted a savory dish, so instead of nutmeg, sugar, and rosewater, he seasoned them with chives, dry mustard, salt, pepper. They were dropped by spoonfuls on greased foil on a baking sheet and baked for about 15 minutes at 350°F. Because they were savory, he didn’t bother with the sweet glaze in the original.

They really puffed as soon as they came out of the oven, but by the time I snapped this, they had fallen.

Besides the historic treats we also provided crudites & dip, goat’s milk cheddar & crackers, hummus, salt & vinegar crisps (okay, really potato chips). I know guests brought stuff but I only remember Alissa’s corset cookies, Evie’s pigs in blankets, Red’s quince goo deluxe (another story for another time), and Devora’s enormous avocado.


Published in: on 4 March 2013 at 10:17 am  Leave a Comment  
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Friday Tip!

Dear Constant Reader,

For the last Friday Tip of 2012, I thought it should be something topical.

For every glass of booze, have a glass of water.

By staying hydrated, you’ll help stave off a hangover. Also, you’ll probably consume fewer alcoholic drinks over the course of the evening — good for your waistline and your wallet!

Now I want to share a somewhat contradictory story. Once upon a time I was a student on a tall ship. After several days at sea, we anchored (and that’s a story in its own right) at a small town in Nova Scotia. It being our first night in a port, a number of the crew and trainees went to a pub. (Your humble correspondent was on the 8-12 watch and had to stay on board.) My friend DK was conscientiously drinking one glass of water for every glass of beer. The next day, he was terribly ill. Since he & I were the only students not to suffer from seasickness, there was a theory that he was “landsick” (it happens).

Turns out that the water was heavily chlorinated and if he’d just stuck to beer, he probably would have been a lot less sick. About the incident, he realized he should have taken W.C. Fields advice on water (which I will not share, as I am a lady and my mother reads this blog — you can look it up).

However, this is no excuse to ignore my excellent advice! If you’re some place where the water quality is dubious, order bottled water.

Wishing you a happy & safe New Year’s Eve and no hangover to start your 2013.


Published in: on 28 December 2012 at 9:43 am  Leave a Comment  
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Friday Tip!

Dear Constant Reader,

Yesterday I wrote all about cocktails made with sparkling wine. I highly recommend you always keep a bottle in your fridge, chilled and ready to go, because you never know…

However, if you are caught ill-prepared and need to fetch a bottle from the cellar, you can chill it in a very short time with this simple Friday Tip:

Put the bottle in an ice-water bath with a generous handful of salt. It will chill in about 10 minutes.

You can do this right in the bucket. You do have a champagne bucket, don’t you?

Just before serving, gently turn the bottle upside down to chill the wine in the neck.

You wouldn’t want the first glass to be tepid, after all the trouble you’d gone to for a chilled bottle.


Published in: on 7 December 2012 at 10:00 am  Comments (1)  
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A Bit of Sparkle (of a different sort)

Dear Constant Reader,

I’ve had bubbly on the brain lately. Maybe it’s the upcoming holidays. Today I’d like to share with you some of my favorite sparkling cocktails.

Remember, you don’t need top-shelf bubbly for these, since you’ll be adding mixers. And when I say “bubbly”, I mean sparkling wine, not restricted to Champagne (which is a very specific type, made in the Champagne region of France). There are plenty of very good sparkling wines from all over the world.

The classic sparkling brunch cocktail is, of course, the Mimosa. I’ve been to a number of restaurants where the idea of a Mimosa is a glass of bubbly with a splash of orange juice for color. A proper Mimosa is equal parts of champagne and orange juice. There is also the Buck’s Fizz, which is two parts orange juice to one part bubbly and maybe a touch of grenadine.

I’m very found of the Bellini, which is sadly hard to find made properly. A true Bellini is made with 1 part white peach puree and 2 parts Prosecco. A splash of cherry or raspberry juice is optional, but not unwelcome.

One place where I diverge from tradition is the Kir Royale, traditionally made with 9 parts Champagne and 1 part crème de cassis. I like to substitute crème de violette.

Speaking of floral liqueurs, I adore St. Germain, the elder flower liqueur. I know it’s oh-so-trendy today, but I tried it not long after it first became available and I’ve been smitten ever since. I was introduced to it at The Last Hurrah at The Parker House where they served a French 77 (a play on the French 75 — gin, lemon juice, simple syrup, and Champagne), made with St. Germain, lemon syrup, and bubbly.

My friend Sarah recommends The Gilded Lily: 1 oz St. Germain, 3 oz prosecco, 2 fresh ripe strawberries, 1 small pinch fresh ground grains of paradise, which I have to agree is fantastic.

More often than not I just have a simple St. Germain cocktail — St. Germain and equal parts of sparkling wine and sparkling water, over ice, with a lemon twist. So light and refreshing, it’s perfect for a post-show tipple.

What’s your favorite sparkler?


Published in: on 6 December 2012 at 11:13 am  Leave a Comment  
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