I see lots of recipe for using up leftover Halloween candy. I’m not sure I see the point, as just eating it straight is generally fine with me. Mind you, not in one sitting, but over time, stashed in drawers and cabinets. But I do want to make my contribution with this creamy, rich hot chocolate. Make it as soon as the little monsters come in from the trick-or-treating chill, or as a special after school treat later in the week.
You must use soft candy that will melt, and nuts are too chunky. Milky Way, Rolo, Kisses, Reese’s, Hershey’s Milk or Special Dark all work beautifully. The final product may not be a chocolaty brown depending on the type of candy used, but it will still be delicious. Using the blender makes a creamy drink with everything smoothly combined, plus it creates a nice foamy top.
Halloween Hot Chocolate (Liquid Candy)
¼ cup heavy cream
1 cup milk
1 ounce chocolate candy (4 mini-size squares)
Combine the cream and milk in a small saucepan and heat over medium just until bubbles form on the surface. Do not boil.
Unwrap the candy and place in the carafe of a blender. Pour over the warm milk and leave for a few seconds to soften the candy bars. Vent the blender lid and carefully hold it with a folded tea towel. Blend until smooth and frothy. Serve immediately, or pour back into the saucepan and reheat gently if needed.
Makes one serving, can be doubled or tripled
Pink and pretty and refreshing. Okay, a little girly. But this lovely summer sipper will cool you off with a little sophistication. The pink wine available in the US has come a long way from “white zin” and the eighties wine bar, and I urge you to seek it out. It is a crisp summer wine and there are great, affordable versions from France like La Vieille Ferme and South Africa such as Mulderbosch.
I like the attractive little balls of melon, but if that’s more work than you are willing to do, cut the melons into small cubes.
Melon Rosé Sangria
½ cup sugar
4 sprigs of mint
2 cups fresh melon balls (watermelon, honeydew, cantaloupe), juices reserved (plus more for garnish)
¼ cup elderflower liqueur (such as St. Germain)
1 750 ml bottle rosé wine
2 cups lemon-lime soda
Bring the water and sugar to a boil in a small saucepan. Stir until the sugar is dissolved, remove from the heat and drop in the mint leaves. Leave to cool.
Place the melon balls and reserved juice in a large pitcher. Pour over the liqueur and leave to sit for about 15 minutes. Add the rosé and mint simple syrup and gently stir. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Before serving, add the soda and gently stir. Serve over lots of ice with a sprig of mint and a few melon balls in each glass.
Serves 6- 8
It is hot out there! It’s hot every summer in the South, but it still seems to be one of our favorite topics of conversation. And we always talk as if it is some sort of surprise. “Can you believe how hot it is? It might hit 105° today!” But somehow we manage. Our homes are air-conditioned, our porches have fans, and our clothes are made of seersucker and light linen. We love a good cold meal, like tomato sandwiches, pimento cheese and cold wedge of watermelon.
Our primary tool for keeping our cool is endless pitchers of cold sweet tea, and after five o’clock, icy mint juleps, served in chilled silver cups, cool to the touch with a bracing drip of cold condensation. Tea is refreshing, bourbon is revivifying. Combine the two in a minty punch and you’ll have a whole new outlook on life. Try it in a julep cup, but a plastic cup is just fine. You may not even mind the heat!
Sweet Tea Julep
7 cups water, divided
2 cups sugar
1 cup loosely packed mint leaves (plus more for garnish)
3 family-sized black tea bags
1 ½ cups bourbon
Stir together 4 cups of water and the sugar in a large saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Remove from the heat and add the mint leaves and tea bags. Leave to steep for 10 minutes, then remove the tea bags. Leave the mint leaves in while the mixture cools to room temperature.
Strain the tea into a pitcher. Stir in 3 cups of water and the bourbon. Chill, then serve over lots of ice, garnished with mint sprigs.
Makes about 9 cups
I was in a very fancy grocery store and saw a lovely, beautifully wrapped box of hot chocolate-on-a-stick. My first thought was “I can do that.” And those babies with their cellophane and ribbon and fancy label were selling for $10 apiece. Yea, I can do much better than that.
These pops are basically block of chocolate ganache on a stick. You can flavor the chocolate, coat the cubes in powdered sugar or colored sugar and use any number of ideas for the stick. Serve these at a holiday party, for kids or adults, or wrap a few in cellophane of your own and give them as gifts.
Hot Chocolate Pops
8 ounces semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate (60 % cocoa)
8 ounces milk chocolate
1 cup heavy whipping cream
Line an 8 ½ by 4 ½ inch loaf tin with non-stick foil, waxed paper or plastic wrap, leaving some overhang.
Break up the chocolate into very small pieces and place into a shallow bowl. In a small saucepan, heat the cream over medium heat until it just comes to a boil.
When the cream is hot, pour it through a sieve over the chocolate and leave to soften for a minute. Stir the mixture vigorously until all the chocolate is melted and smooth. Scrape all of the chocolate into the prepared loaf tin, smooth the top, and leave to cool, then refrigerate for about an hour until just firm. Gently remove the loaf using the overhanging wrap and cut the block into eight 1 ½ inch cubes. Run your knife under warm water before each cut. Insert the desired stirrer into the center of each cube, making sure they will stand up on their own. Gently return the block to the loaf tin and refrigerate until completely firm.
The pops will keep in the fridge for a week, but bring them to room temperature before using.
If you’d like, you can coat the cubes of chocolate in powdered sugar or colored decorating sugar.
For Hot Chocolate:
Bring the pops to room temperature. For each cup of hot chocolate, heat 1¼ cup of milk over medium heat until bubbles start to break on the surface, just before it boils. Pour into a mug and add a hot chocolate pop. Stir until the chocolate is melted.
1 teaspoon peppermint extract or
1 Tablespoon amaretto or
1 Tablespoon Kahlua or coffee liqueur or
½ vanilla bean or
2 cinnamon sticks
For flavored pops: Stir one of the flavor additions into the cream before heating it. If using vanilla bean or cinnamon sticks, heat the cream with the add-in, leave to infuse for 1 hour, remove the solid, then reheat the cream and continue.
Wooden popsicle sticks or heavy skewers
I always think it’s nice to start off the Thanksgiving celebrations with a special cocktail and a few nibbles. It sets a convivial mood and keeps everyone occupied while the last touches of the meal are being tended too. Frankly, I like to have everyone’s hands busy while I am trying to get the food on the table so they stay out of my way!
This lovely little tipple is redolent of fall, with a hint of woodsy rosemary and sweet juicy pear. I love to have the rosemary simple syrup around to sweeten other cocktails or a cup of tea, so make whole batch. The elderflower liqueur is optional, but adds a secret floral undertone that really brightens the drink. I love this as a sophisticated martini, but you could also up the amount of simple syrup and serve it over ice topped with soda as a long drink. And increase the amounts as much as needed to serve your guests.
Rosemary Pear Martini
For one drink:
1 Tablespoon rosemary simple syrup*
2 Tablespoons pear vodka (such as Absolut Pear)
½ Tablespoon St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur
½ cup pear juice (such as Ceres or Looza)
Place all the ingredients over a handful of ice in a shaker or pitcher. Shake or stir well. Strain into a martini glass.
For a pitcher:
¼ cup plus 2 Tablespoons rosemary simple syrup
¾ cup pear vodka
3 Tablespoons St. Germain Liqueur
3 cups pear juice
Place all the ingredients in a pitcher over ice. Stir well, then strain into martini glasses.
Makes 6 drinks
*Rosemary Simple Syrup
In a medium saucepan, stir together 1 cup sugar and one cup water. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve, and drop in a handful of rosemary stalks. Stir to submerge the rosemary and boil for 3 minutes until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat, cover the pan, and leave to cool. The syrup can be kept in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.
Makes 1 cup
When tomatoes are is season, or growing on my vines if I’m lucky, I preserve them in any way I can think of. I make sauce, tomato soup base and just plain old puree and stack them up in ziptop bags in the freezer. Sometimes I can whole tomatoes, but now I’ve learned you can freeze them whole for later cooking. This year, I’ve been looking for a new and different idea, and I set my mind on Bloody Mary mix. I know many people are very happy with, even prefer, the standard bottled mixes. But I think once you give a real, homemade version a try, you’ll be hooked. Packed with fresh, in season tomatoes and lots of flavorful vegetables, it’s a very special treat. A little warmth from the banana peppers and ginger set this blend apart.
I made a few adjustments to my standard recipe to make it suitable for canning, so a few lucky folks on my list will be getting some for Christmas (let the competition begin). And how much of treat will fresh tomato Bloody Marys be at a holiday brunch? You can also make this for serving as soon as it’s chilled, or pack it into ziptop bags or freezer jars to store.
Stick with the basic quantity of vegetables, sugar and lemon juice for storage, but feel free to add more hot sauce, Worcestershire, or stir in a spoonful of prepared horseradish. Remember, you can always add a dash of hot sauce when you’re mixing the drink. To make a Bloody Mary, fill a tall glass with ice, add vodka, top with the mix and stir. Pepper or lemon vodka add a nice twist if you are so inclined. After storage, the mix may get a bit thick, just thin it out with a little water, it can handle it. I like to garnish a good Bloody Mary with Pickled Asparagus or Dilly Beans, but the traditional celery beautifully complements this mix.
Homemade Bloody Mary Mix
After storage, the mix may be a bit thick. Just thin it with a bit of water, and of course, vodka.
8 pounds plum tomatoes, quartered
3 green peppers, seeds and ribs removed chopped
3 carrots, diced
3 ribs celery, diced
1 small onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 bunch Italian parsley leaves, torn
1 –inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
3 small or 1 large banana peppers, seeds removed, chopped
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup lemon juice
1 1/2 tablespoons salt
Generous grinds of black pepper to taste
½ Tablespoon hot sauce (I like Crystal)
1 tablespoon Worcestershiresauce
Place all the chopped vegetables in large Dutch oven. Add a splash of water, cover the pot, and cook until the vegetables are mushy, 30 – 40 minutes. Stir occasionally, breaking up the vegetables with the back of a spoon. When everything is mushy, leave to cool for a few minutes.
Working in batches, carefully puree the vegetables in a blender. Fill the blender half full, vent the top and hold it tight covered with a tea towel. When each batch is done, press it through a fine sieve, extracting as much liquid as possible. Discard the pulp left behind. If you have a food mill, this is a great time to use it. Return all the extracted liquid to the pot. Add the sugar, lemon juice, salt, pepper, Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce. Bring the mix to a boil and boil for 3 minutes.
You can now cool the mix, pour it into a pitcher, chill it and use it right away, or can it in quart jars for long term storage. You can also cool it, pour it into ziptop freezer bags or freezer jars and freeze it for up to six months.
To can the mix, clean and sterilize the 3 (like to have an extra, just in case) quart jars. I do this in the dishwasher, timing it so the jars are still warm when I am ready to pour the mix in. While your Bloody Mary mix is cooking, get a boiling water canner or big stockpot of water going. Here are step-by step instructions for processing in a canner. When the mix is almost ready, pour some boiling water over the lids to your jars to soften the seals and set aside.
I like to ladle the hot mix into a large measuring jug for easy pouring. Fill each of your warm, cleaned jars with the hot mix, leaving a ½ inch head space. Dry the lids with a clean paper towel and place on the jars. Screw on the bands, then process the jars for 40 minutes in a boiling water bath. If you have a bit of extra mix, pour it into a refrigerator container and keep in the fridge for up to a week.
Makes 2 quarts (plus a little extra)
To make a Bloody Mary, fill a tall glass with ice, add 2 ounces vodka (or as much as you like) and top with Bloody Mary Mix and stir. If the mix is thick, add a bit of water to thin it out.
Cherry Bounce in Progress
Cherry season is beginning, or at least fresh cherries are showing up in the markets here. We don’t grow cherries locally, so when I start to see them at the grocery, I buy them up. I love cherries, so I try to make the season last as long as possible. I bake with the beauties, make preserves, and frankly, just leave a basket on the counter and eat them throughout the day. But a classic Southern way to preserve them is in Cherry Bounce, which is worth making for the name alone.
This is not an immediate results recipe. It requires a little patience, but very little work. Start your Cherry Bounce now, while the cherries are fresh and gorgeous, and by the holidays, you’ll have a special treat. Decant the liquor into decorative bottles for gifts, or serve small glasses after a Thanksgiving dinner or with a Christmas cheese plate. And Cherry Bounce makes a mean Manhattan. If you make fruitcake and soak it in brandy, try Cherry Bounce instead for a real treat.
Use a bourbon you would happily drink, but not a top of the line, very expensive bottle. You can increase this recipe as much as you’d like.
1 pound fresh red cherries (such as Bing)
1 cup sugar
5 cups bourbon
Run a large jar or glass airtight container through the dishwasher to sterilize. Wash the cherries well and remove the stems. Discard any bruised fruit. Layer the cherries and the sugar in the jar and leave to sit for about an hour. Pour over the bourbon, seal the jar and shake occasionally to help dissolve the sugar. Some cherries will float in the beginning, but they will sink to the bottom. When the sugar is dissolved, leave the jar in a cool dark place for at least 4 months to infuse.
When ready to use, you can simply pour out what you need of the liquor, or you can strain out the cherries and decant the bounce into decorative bottles. The cherries are edible, but still have pits. You can eat, them, use them to garnish a cocktail or spoon some bounce and cherries over ice cream for a boozy dessert, just remind those you serve it to about the pits.
This weekend marks the unofficial beginning of summer. That means vacations and swimming and long, lazy days and all sorts of good things. But, for my part of the world at least, it also means heat and humidity. So a tall, cool drink is always in order.
There is just something so refreshing about tangy lemonade, and at this time of year, with the mint plants beginning to take over the garden, a little zing from the leaves adds a nice little summery twist. Serve this from a fancy cut-glass pitcher or an old gallon pickle jar, from fine crystal goblets or mason jars, whatever your mood. And if you add a little splash of something from a bottle, I won’t tell…
Freshly Minted Lemonade
I like a few chopped mint leaves floating in the lemonade, but you can put them all in the syrup if you prefer.
6 – 7 large lemons
½ cup fresh mint leaves
1 cup sugar
8 cup water
Chop the mint finely, and set aside about a tablespoon full. Scrub the lemons clean, and with a vegetable peeler, shave off thin slivers of the peel from one lemon. In a saucepan, stir together the sugar and one cup of the water. Stir well, then drop in the lemon peel and chopped mint and stir again. Bring to a boil, and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Take the syrup off the heat and set aside to cool and infuse.
Meanwhile, juice the lemons. I like to zap them in the microwave for about 15 seconds, two at a time, to help release as much juice as possible. You want about 1 cup of juice. Pour the juice into a large pitcher. When the syrup has cooled, strain it through a fine sieve into the pitcher, pressing on the solids to extract as much syrup as you can. Stir the juice and syrup together. Add the remaining water – start with 6 cups, taste, and see if you want to dilute it a bit more. Remember, you will serve this over ice which will dilute it a little as well. Stir in the remaining chopped mint. Keep the pitcher chilled in the fridge. Serve in tall glasses over lots of ice.
Makes a nice big pitcher, about 9 cups
I have an unruly privet hedge. I know it can look a little shaggy and overgrown. I know my neighbor doesn’t like it. Landscapers have tried to clean out my hedge, make it neat and groomed. But at the end of April every year, and again, briefly, in September, that privet is wildly overrun with honeysuckle. And I adore honeysuckle. I stand in the driveway in the evening and just inhale the magical perfumed air, in the brief season before the heat is too oppressive, the mosquitos too bothersome or the humidity to intolerable. I invite people over for an outdoor dinner just so we can sit and bask in the fragrance. It is the smell of the South, the smell of my childhood, the scent of all good things. I pick off a few yellow blossoms, pull out the stamen and suck on that little honeyed drop of nectar, still, just like when I was a kid and delighted in catching fireflies, checking the yellow reflection of buttercups under my chin, blowing dandelion poofs into the wind. When running around the neighborhood was fun, not cardio. Now I know all the places in town with overgrown honeysuckle hedges, and route my driving errands so I can ride with the windows down and get a good whiff.
But honeysuckle season is short, just those few weeks, right around my birthday. I have longed to keep the season going, I’ve bought perfumes and candles to mimic the smell. They’re nice, but not the same. This year, I had an idea, as I sat on the patio inhaling the sweet air. One of my favorite English flavors is elderflower cordial. It seems old-fashioned, in the loveliest of ways, to me. Like cotton lawn dresses on wide swaths of grass, parasols and hardback novels, sipping small glasses of homemade cordials. I love the image, and I bring back a bottle of elderflower cordial from England each year and try to create my own private reverie. I don’t know that elderflowers grow anywhere near my home. I am not in fact sure what an elderflower bush (or tree?) looks like. But I have seen recipes for the cordial in those amazing books that teach you how to bottle strawberries and make your own hedgerow wine. So sitting in the dusk, breathing in the ethereal scent, I wondered. Could I adapt an elderflower cordial recipe for honeysuckle? The answer, as it happens is a resounding yes. So now I have bottled my spring, to be enjoyed in the hot and humid days to come. I’ll pour a nice measure over ice, top it with sparkling soda or tonic and dream of my honeysuckle days.
Use this lovely cordial to make a refreshing drink topped with soda or tonic, use it to sweeten ice tea, or drizzle it over fresh summer fruit.
4 cups honeysuckle buds, lightly packed
2 cups sugar
2 cups boiling water
1 teaspoon citric acid*
Gather the honeysuckle blossoms, and shake them in a colander or lay them out on a tea towel. Pick through the blossoms removing any green leaves, stems, brown, wilted buds or bugs. Place the sorted blossoms in a large bowl. Using a vegetable peeler, peel off strips of the yellow (no white pith) lemon peel in strips and place on top of the blossoms. Cut the lemon into slices, discard the stem ends, and drop the slices in the bowl. Toss around to combine.
In a saucepan, bring the sugar and water to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. When the sugar is dissolved, pour the boiling syrup over the blossoms and lemons in the bowl. Stir in the citric acid, cover the bowl with a tea towel, and leave for 24 hours undisturbed.
The next day, strain the cordial through a sieve lined with cheesecloth into a large bowl or measuring jug with a pouring spout. Pour the strained cordial into bottles or jars.
Makes about 16 ounces of cordial
*Citric acid is a natural preservative. It is also called sour salt and can be found in the kosher section at the grocery.