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Archive for August 16, 2015

TIP OF THE DAY: Sipping Rum

Rum is a new world spirit, initially distilled by slaves on Caribbean sugar cane plantations. The distilled rum can be drunk in its clear state (white or blanco rum), or aged in oak barrels for various lengths of time, the process of which creates the different types of rum.

Why is one blanco (or añejo, etc.) better than another? If the aging time is the same among different rums, the quality factors include the type of the sugar, yeast, and still and aging barrel and how long the fermentation is, and the quality of the still.

Clear rum is mostly used for mixed drinks; among the more popular are the Daiquiri, Hurricane, Mojito, Piña Colada and Rum and Coke (Cuba Libre).

Light rum, also used for mixed drinks, is aged briefly or not at all. As with other grades of rum, the longer it is aged (Añejo, Extra Añejo, etc.) the more complex it becomes.

For National Rum Day, August 16th, here’s an explanation of how rum is made, courtesy of Cruzan Rum (there’s an infographic at the end of the page.

1) Molasses, a by-product of refining sugar from sugar cane, travels from the sugar plantation to the distillery. There it is diluted with water—often spring water from local aquifers.

2) Yeast cultures, often proprietary, are added to the molasses to start the fermentation. The yeast convert the sugars in the molasses to alcohol.

   

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Cruzan Single Barrel Rum, a fine sipping experience. Photo courtesy Cruzan.

 
3) The alcohol is distilled into a clear rum distillate. Light rum, also called clear, crystal, silver and white rum, is bottled immediately. rum which is then aged for a brief or extensive period.

4) Distilled rum to be aged goes into oak barrels, which are laid down in warehouses to age for a minimum of two years; some are aged for twelve years or more. As much as half the rum can be lost to evaporation, which is why, along with the cost of carrying the inventory, older rums are that much costlier.

 

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Dark rum on the rocks. Photo courtesy Baccardi.

  5) After barrel aging, the rum is charcoal filtered and diluted to 80 proof; it is then bottled.

See the infographic below.

SINGLE BARREL RUM

The finest rum for sipping is single barrel rum. If you’re looking for that ultimate experience, look for award-winning Cruzan Single Barrel Rum. It’s made from a proprietary blend of vintage rums that have been aged for up to 12 years,

The term “single barrel” refers to the process: After its initial aging, the rum is handpicked and blended before it is barreled for a second time in new American oak barrels. It is slowly aged again, bottled and individually numbered, one cask at a time.

The resulting spirit well-rounded, mellow and full-bodied, with a balance of caramel sweetness and oak from aging. The finish is smooth and buttery (the latter also from the oak.

Single barrel rum is best enjoyed sipped neat or on the rocks. Cruzan’s is just $29.99 per 750ml bottle.
 

 
HOW SINGLE BARREL RUM IS MADE

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FOOD FUN: Corn Custard & Popcorn

Before the summer corn fades away, make corn custard—and for fun, serve it with a side of popcorn. It’s not just for Thanksgiving, a traditional time for corn custard (also called corn pudding and corn casserole, even corn soufflé; but the latter should be an airy soufflé, not a custard dish).

But by Thanksgiving, fresh corn is a distant memory, and canned or frozen corn must be employed. So make hay—or corn custard—while the sun shines on fresh summer corn.

Corn custard is typically served as a side, but you can make an first course with it, along with optional garnishes. In this recipe, we make individual corn custards that are better for a first course.

Or, you can place them in the middle of your green salad, as part of the salad course.

Prep time is 20 minutes, inactive time is 15 minutes, cook time is 1 hour 10 minutes (total time 1 hour 45 minutes). This recipe was adapted from one by Nealey Dozier on FoodChannel.com.

RECIPE: CORN CUSTARD

Ingredients For 8 Servings

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted, plus more for greasing
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 large eggs plus 1 yolk
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1-1/2 cups fresh or frozen sweet yellow corn (thawed if frozen)
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    Turn summer corn into corn custard, with a side of popcorn for fun and fiber. Photo courtesy KITCHENiNC | Boston.

  • Plate garnish: popcorn
  • Custard garnishes: bacon crumbles and snipped chives, jalapeño, chopped fresh or sundried tomatoes
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    Take advantage of fresh corn for this recipe. Photo of bicolor corn courtesy Good Eggs.

     

    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 325°F. Lightly coat 8 individual soufflé dishes, ramekins or Mason jars (4 to 5 ounces each) with butter or cooking spray. Place in a shallow baking pan or on a cookie sheet (preferably with a rim).

    2. ADD the sugar and eggs to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or with an electric hand mixer), and beat until light and frothy (approximately 3 minutes).

    3. ADD the flour, salt and baking powder and beat for an additional 3 minutes, until the mixture is airy and foamy. Fold in the heavy cream and milk until thoroughly combined.

    4. STIR the corn and melted butter together and divide evenly among the ramekins. Pour the batter over the corn mixture, filling each dish almost to the top.

    5. BAKE the custards for 60 to 70 minutes, rotating the pan once, until the filling is set and the top is golden brown. Remove the ramekins and cool on a wire rack for at least 15 to 20 minutes before serving, to allow custard to firm up.

    6. GARNISH the custards as desired, and garnish each plate with popcorn.

     

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Avoid Grill Toxins With Organic Grilling

    August 16th is National Bratwurst Day. Before you throw some brats on the grill, here are tips on organic grilling from Maria Rodale, CEO and Chairman of Rodale Inc., a publisher of health and wellness magazines, books, and digital content*.

    Not surprisingly, she’s committed to organic living. This article is adapted from a larger article:

    AN ORGANIC GUIDE TO GRILLING

    Grilling in America needs an organic makeover—independence from exposure to conventional grilling toxins, says Maria. We need to apply that spirit of revolution to our health and the environment and take it organic every time we fire up the grill!

    Sure, you can find throw a grass-fed, certified-organic steak or an Applegate Farms organic hot dog on the grill. But there’s more to organic grilling than just what you cook.

    Organic grilling is a complete process that minimizes toxic chemicals from beginning to end, as it maximizes flavor and healthful benefits for you and the environment.

       

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    Avoid toxic charcoal briquettes; use organic charcoal. Photo courtesy Hillshire Farms.

    Here Maria demystifies the grilling process and detoxifies it as much as possible. Her tips are safe and simple.
     
    *This article was originally published on June 24, 2015 on Maria’s Farm Country Kitchen blog.
     
    STEP 1: USE ORGANIC GRILLING MATERIALS

    You can use any grill; Maria uses a Big Green Egg charcoal grill with certified-organic charcoal. Big Green Egg sells organic charcoal, as do other companies.

    Whatever the brand, always use charcoal that’s made from natural materials like wood (look for “lump charcoal,” bamboo or coconut). You can use wood logs instead of charcoal; just make sure you have time to let them burn down a bit first. Avoiding toxic briquettes is the most important organic choice you can make for the environment and for your health.

  • To start the grill, you will need a chimney starter, which lets you light the charcoal without poisonous lighter fluid. A chimney starter and organic charcoal solve most of your toxin problems.
  • Everything else you need: paper to stuff under the chimney, matches, organic food to grill, tongs and a silicone hot pad. Maria recommends tongs that are long, non-locking and without plastic parts.
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    STEP 2: PREPARE THE GRILL

    Make sure your grill is in a safe place, all your materials are handy, and the grill is clean enough.

  • Never use a wire cleaning brush to clean your grill. Those little wire bits can break off and get stuck in your stomach. Instead, use a heavy-duty sponge, a wood grill scraper or a natural-fiber scrub brush.
  • When the grate is clean, rub it with some high smoke point oil on the grill—Maria likes coconut oil but canola, peanut, soybean, sunflower and others are fine—to keep your food from sticking.
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    STEP 3: LIGHT THE FIRE

    First, remove the grill grate. Put a few pieces of crumbled dry paper (or one piece of newspaper) at the bottom of the chimney; then load the charcoal on top. Spread a bit of charcoal around the sides, too. Light the paper on fire underneath.

  • Keep checking to make sure that it’s burning hot enough. For example, in damp weather, it might take a few tries to get the paper burning hot enough to light the charcoal.
  • You will know if it’s caught fire when you see smoke coming out of the top of the chimney and/or feel the heat.
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    Put some shrimp on the barbie… Photo courtesy The Smoked Olive (try their terrific smoked olive oil!).

     

    STEP 4: WAIT

    It will take 10 to 15 minutes for the charcoal to get hot enough. You’ll know it’s ready when you can see red coals glowing through the chimney holes.

  • During that time, make sure all your food is ready to be put on the grill.
  • When the fire is hot enough, grasp the handle of the chimney with a hot pad and dump the burning coals into the grill.
  • Remove the chimney, which will be burning hot, to a safe place, out of the reach of anyone (adults as well as children).

     
    STEP 5: GRILL!

    Put the grill grate back on the grill. It will need a few minutes to warm up, so don’t rush. Spread some oil on the grill to prevent sticking and add the food.

  • You can use aluminum foil if you want, but it’s not necessary. The important thing is to give the food the time it needs to cook properly.
  • Remove the food from the grill onto a clean platter and get ready to dig in.
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    ADDITIONAL GRILLING SAFETY TIPS

  • Keep a squirt bottle or squirt gun handy in case the fire gets too hot. This is especially important if you are using wooden logs—they can get really hot. If they do, give the grill a squirt. Most natural or organic charcoal doesn’t get super-hot, unless you use lots of it.
  • Don’t put cooked meat on the same platter you used for raw meat without washing it first. That’s just good food safety.
  • Don’t get distracted. You can’t grill successfully while trying to get the rest of the meal ready. You need to keep an eye on the food or it can easily burn (or not cook fast enough). If you have no other hekp, make sure all of the other items on your list are ready before you start to grill.
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