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Archive for Thanksgiving & Fall

TIP OF THE DAY: Holiday Champagne Alternatives

Whether for Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Year’s Eve, Champagne is a tradition in holiday homes; that is, holiday homes with means.

Champagne, by far the most famous sparkling wine in the world, is in the highest demand. But can only be produced on limited acreage, the region of Champagne, in northeast France.

The worldwide demand for Champagne has been increasing since the 1990s, as affluent consumers in Asia, Russia and elsewhere joined the demands in Europe and North America. Last year, about 312 million bottles were sold.

While that may seem a lot, worldwide, 3.2 billion cases of wine were produced (2013 figures). That’s 38.4 billion bottles (54%, red wine, 37% white, 9% rosé). The number one country for volume of wine purchased is the U.S. See more wine statistics below.

The demand for Champagne and the limited ability to produce more of it has upped the prices. The most affordable bottles are non-vintage Champagnes (blends of juice from multiple grape harvests), which make up the bulk of the market. It isn’t less good than a vintage Champagne; in fact, it best shows off the house style, since vintage Champagne by law can only include grapes from that vintage.

Not all years produce great grapes (not sweet enough, too sweet, etc.), so instead of creating a vintage Champagne, vintners reserve those wines and blend them them to create the precise flavor they seek.

You can buy good nonvintage Champagnes for $35 to $45.00. Our favorites are Louis Roederer’s NV Brut Premier and Champagne Pol Roger Brut Reserve.

Only Champagne connoisseurs—those who drink a lot of it and have the expertise to analyze what they’re drinking—can tell you if a glass of Champagne served blind holds a vintage or a nonvintage.
 
HOW ABOUT BUBBLY THAT ISN’T CHAMPAGNE?

By law, only sparkling wines made in the Champagne region can be called Champagne. This AOC designation ensures consumers that the food has been made in its original region, with specified ingredients and traditional techniques. It delivers a taste consistently and true to its nature.

Every other wine that bubbles is called “sparkling wine.”

These other wines offer bubbles at lower prices; and every non-expert wine drinker will be thrilled that its bubbly, from wherever. (Experts also enjoy these other sparklers.)

Head to your nearest wine store and check the prices. Don’t hesitate to ask the clerks for their favorites. Consider:

  • Australian Sparkling Wines, such as Yellowtail Bubbles (our favorite is the Yellowtail Bubbles Sparkling Rosé), and other brands (around $10).
  • California “Champagne”: Champagne-style wines made from California grapes by French Champagne houses (Chandon from Moet et Chandoon, e.g.) are pricier, but look for All-American bottlings like Robert Mondavi’s Woodbridge Brut and Domaine Ste Michelle Brut from Oregon (about $10.00).
  • Cava from Spain (for $8.00, look for Cristalino Brut and Cristalino Brut Rosé; Freixenet is $12.00).
  • Crémant From France’s Loire Valley: This wine is made in France with the same method, just not in the Champagne region. Crémant de Bourgogne, for instance, is made in the Burgundy region ($12.00-$15.00 for many bottles).
  • Prosecco from Italy (many around $9.00-$10.00).
  • Sekt from Germany.
  •  
    Sweet Sparkling Wines

    For dessert, go for a sweeter sparkling wine, such as:

  • Amabile and Dolce sparkling wines from Italy.
  • Asti Spumante from Italy (it’s sparkling Moscato).
  •  

    Sparkling Cocktail

    /home/content/p3pnexwpnas01 data02/07/2891007/html/wp content/uploads/cranberry kir royale oceanspray 230sq

    Freixenet

    Glass Of Cava

    [1] Sparkling wines are made all over the world (photo courtesy Grey Goose). [2] Check out the rosé and red wine bubblies (photo courtesy Ocean Spray). [3] freixenet-cordon-negro (photo courtesy Freixenet). [4] Cava, from Spain, is a popular, affordable sparkler (photo courtesy Food & Wines From Spain).

  • American sparklers, such as Schramsberg Crémant Demi-Sec from California. There are sparkling wines produced from coast to coast. There’s also Sparkling Gewürztraminer from Treveri Cellars in Washington State.If you want to celebrate with American wines on Thanksgiving (we always do), see what your store has to offer.
  • Brachetto d’Acqui (a rosé wine) from Italy.
  • Demi-Sec and Doux sparkling wines from France (including Champagne but also from other regions).
  • Dry Prosecco (a.k.a Valdobbiadene) from Italy (in wine terminology, “Dry” is a tad sweeter than “Extra Dry,” which is sweeter than “Brut)”.
  • Freixenet Cordon Negro Sweet Cuvée and Freixenet Mía Moscato Rosé from Spain.
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    WHO DRINKS ALL THE WINE?

    According to International Wine & Spirit Research, Europe and the U.S. consume the most volume, with 2013 statistics showing the big drinkers by volume to be:

  • U.S., 339 million cases
  • France, 296 million cases
  • Italy, 288 million cases
  • Germany, 274 million cases
  • China, 144 million
  • U.K., 133 million cases
  •  
    Per capita wine consumption shows the really big drinkers. In order, they are Italy, France, Switzerrland, Portugal and Austria.

    The biggest sparkling wine drinkers are the Germans, who drank 46 million cases of fizz in 2014. France came in second, at 30 million cases; and Russia, traditionally a large market for Champagne since the wine was created†, consumed 26 million cases. The U.S. was fourth, with 18 million cases, and the U.K. fifth, consuming 11 million cases—incredible given the difference in population of the two countries.
     
    HISTORICAL NOTES ABOUT CHAMPAGNE

    The region now called Champagne was settled by the Gauls around 500 B.C.E. When the Roman legions conquered the area in 56 B.C.E., they bestowed upon the land the name Campania (Champagne) because of the similarity between the rolling hills of that area with the Roman (now Italian) province of Campania (the word campania itself means “open country”).

    In the Middle Ages Champagne was a duchy, then a country. In 1284, Champagne was brought under French rule when Jeanne, Queen of Navarre and Countess of Champagne, Brie and Bigorre married the future King Philippe IV (she was 11 years old). When Philippe’s father died the following year, Jeanne became Queen of France at age 12.

    The wine grapes grown since Roman times were made into still wine†. In the 17th century, the process for making champagne was discovered and the vintners have been making bubbly since then.

    The best grapes are grown where a Tertiary period chalk plain overlaps a vast Cretaceous chalk plain that lies underneath the soil layer (it’s the same huge basin that creates the White Cliffs of Dover in England). The chalk provides good drainage and reflects the heat from the sun. The unique terroir creates the unique creamy, toasty flavor of Champagne wines.
     
    ________________
    †The original wines of Champagne, made since Roman times, were still wines. The first sparkling Champagne was created accidentally, when pressure in the bottles caused the corks to pop and sometimes, the bottles to explode. It was first called “the devil’s wine,” le vin du diable). The technique to master modern Champagne began in the 17th century, with Le Veuve Cliquot, the woman who did it. It was pricey, and became popular with royalty and nobility. The emerging middle class wanted their share, too.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Make A Cranberry Wreath…And A Mistletoe Ball

    Christmas Wreath With Cranberries

    Mistletoe Ball

    Bowl Of Cranberries

    Ocean Spray Cranberries Package

    [1] Make a cranberry wreath for Thanksgiving or Christmas, or [2] a cranberry and mistletoe “kissing ball” for Christmas (photos 1, 2 and 4 courtesy Ocean Spray). [3] Were cranberries served at the first Thanksgiving? No one knows* (photo courtesy Good Eggs).

     

    Sure, you can buy evergreen wreaths galore during the holiday season. But you can also have fun making your own, or as a gift for holiday hosts.

    A fresh cranberry wreath or mistletoe ball will last approximately one week. Replace the cranberries when they begin to soften.

    To extend the life of the cranberries, you can spray them with an even coating of shellac. Caution: For the safety of wildlife and birds, do not use shellac if you plan to hang wreath outdoors.

    To avoid staining, do not place fresh cranberries directly on lightly-painted surfaces or linens.

    CRANBERRY WREATH

    Ingredients

    For The Wreath

  • 1 12-inch evergreen wreath
  • 1 thin needle
  • 5 yards of strong cord or waxed dental floss, cut into five 36″ lengths
  • 1 12-ounce bag fresh cranberries
  • Hook for hanging
  • Optional: shellac
  •  
    For The Cranberry Ball

  • 1 five-inch Styrofoam® ball (or other size of preference)
  • Dark red acrylic craft paint (or other suitable for painting styrofoam)
  • 1-2 12-ounce bags fresh cranberries
  • 1 box metal pins with small flat heads, approx. 1″ long (approx 300 quantity)
  • 1 12-18″ length of 3/4″ wide red ribbon
  • 1 48″ length of 3/4″ wide red ribbon
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREPARE the wreath. Start with one 36″ length of thread and a thin needle. Knot one end of the thread and string the cranberries one at a time by piercing through the center with the needle. Secure the end of the thread with a large knot.

    2. REPEAT with the 4 remaining lengths of thread. To make stringing cranberries easier, use waxed dental floss or try waxing the needle and thread with beeswax.

    3. WRAP each strand around the wreath 3-4 times.

    4. MAKE the ball: Paint the Styrofoam ball with red paint and set aside to dry. Painting the Styrofoam ensures that any spaces between the cranberries will be less noticeable.

    5. ASSEMBLE: Lay the wide red ribbon over the top of the wreath with the ends hanging down into the middle. Pin each end of the ribbon to the ball so it hangs in the middle of the wreath. To complete, attach the 48″ ribbon at the top of the ball and tie a bow.
    ________________
    *There is no complete record of the food at the feast shared by the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag in 1621. Two letters written near that time mention wheat, corn, barley, waterfowl, deer, fish and wild turkey. The Wampanoag ate cranberries and they may have brought some, but there is no direct evidence that they did so.

    HOLIDAY KISSING BALL

    Ingredients

  • 5” Styrofoam ball
  • Dark red acrylic craft paint (or other suitable for painting styrofoam)
  • 24-gauge beading wire
  • Hot glue gun/glue sticks OR wooden toothpicks
  • 1-2 12-ounce bags fresh cranberries
  • Holiday trim of choice: ribbon, mistletoe, holly, ivy, bells
  • Hook for hanging
  • Optional: shellac
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PAINT the ball with red craft paint. Set aside to dry.

    2. CUT an 18″ piece of wire and fold it in half. Push the folded wire all the way through the center of foam ball, leaving a 1” wire loop extending at bottom of ball and 3” of wire extending at top.

    3. ATTACH the cranberries to ball with the hot glue gun or toothpicks, covering the ball completely. Twist the wires at the top of the ball into a simple hook for hanging. Use ribbon to tie the mistletoe and other trim to the wire above and below the ball. Hang with a hook.

    4. INSERT a pin through each cranberry and press into the styrofoam, placing the berries as closely together as possible. Continue until all areas of the ball are covered with cranberries. TIP: Completing a section of berries close together is easier than continuing a single row all the way around the ball.

    ABOUT OCEAN SPRAY

    Cranberries are native to America, and first cultivated on Cape Cod around 1816.

    Ocean Spray was formed in 1930 by by lawyer and grower Marcus L. Urann and two other growers. Since then, the Ocean Spray cooperative has grown to more than 700 grower families all across North America.

    The cooperative’s first product was jellied cranberry sauce, followed by original Ocean Spray Cranberry Juice Cocktail, hitting the shelves a few years later.

    Since 1995, Wisconsin has produced the largest crop of cranberries, currently about 57% of the U.S. total production. Massachusetts, originally the largest producer, fell to second that year, and currently produces another 23%-30% of the crop. The remaining U.S. cranberry crop comes mainly from New Jersey, Oregon and Washington.

    The U.S. is the largest producer of cranberries, followed by Canada, Belarus, Azerbaijan, Latvia, Ukraine, Romania, Macedonia, Tunisia and Spain.

    Here’s more cranberry history and details of the different product introductions from Ocean Spray, and great details from the University Of Wisconsin (for example, where does white cranberry juice come from).

      

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    GIFT OF THE DAY: Gingerbread Scone Mix

    November 21st is National Gingerbread Day…and also a reminder that it’s easy to make gingerbread scones with a $6.95 gourmet boxed mix from King Arthur Flour.

    We typically give small gifts to our Thanksgiving guests, and last year it was these scone mixes (this year it’s the Gingerbread Cake and Cookie Mix).

    The one-pound box makes 8 to 16 scones, depending on size. The mix is certified kosher by CRC.

    They’re whole grain, too, made with white whole wheat flour.

    The mix is certified kosher by CRC.

    The 1-pound box of mix makes 8 to 16 scones, depending on how you portion them.

    And you can use it to make gingerbread loaf, coffeecake, muffins, pancakes and shortcake.

    Get yours at KingArthurFlour.com.

    THE HISTORY OF GINGER

    Since ancient times, the Chinese and Indians used ginger root as medicine. Ginger originated in the tropical rain forests of Southeast Asia.

    By the first century, it had been introduced in the Mediterranean via India and became a popular spice in Rome. It fell from use with the fall of the Roman Empire fell, to return during medieval times as a spice for baked goods and other sweets.

    Ginger has been traded throughout history longer than most other spices. It was valued for its medicinal merits: it is a popular warming spice, a digestive aid, and sometimes used to treat flatulence and colic. Today, ginger is easily accessible in local grocery stores and throughout markets, but back in the 14th century it cost about the same amount as a live sheep or piece of livestock!

    Used as a medicine in medieval times, ginger became a popular holiday spice (it was too pricey to use year-round), most famously in gingerbread cookies.

    In 11th century northern European countries, it was used to flavor buttermilk drinks and over the next two centuries became used in cooking meats and in ginger pastes.

    During the 13th and 14th centuries, Arabs traders voyaging to Africa and Zanzibar planted the rhizomes, spreading the cultivation of the plant.

    Many ginger-flavored baked goods have evolved since then, from muffins to cakes. Today, we offer this recipe from King Arthur Flour for gingerbread scones: perfect weekend breakfast and brunch fare throughout the holiday season.

    THE HISTORY OF SCONES

    You may have heard two different pronunciations for “scone.” The word is pronounced “skahn” in Scotland and Northern England (rhymes with gone) and “skoan” in the south of England (rhymes with own), the pronunciation adopted by the U.S. and Canada.

    Which is the authentic one? They both are!

    Scones are traditionally connected with Scotland, Ireland and England, but exactly who deserves the honor of invention, no one knows for sure.

    Scones may well have originated in Scotland. The first known print reference, in 1513, is from a Scottish poet. However, in earlier eras, when communications were more limited, the creation of an actual item can have predated the first appearance of printed references by many years.

    Centuries ago, there weren’t newspapers that reported on the minutiae of life the way modern news sources do. There were no food columns in the local papers announcing that “McTavish Bakery has created a new griddle-fried oatcake called a scone—now available at 3 Sheepshead Lane.”

    In fact, there were few newspapers. Much of the population was not literate. So culinary historians rely on cookbooks and mentions in literature and other printed records. Given the perishability of paper, it is logical that many first-printed mentions of foods and other items may not have survived.

    What About The Name?

    One claim, probably not the best, says that scones are named for the Stone of Destiny at the Abbey Of Scone, a town upriver from Perth.

     

    Gingerbread Scones

    Gingerbread Scones

    Gingerbread Scone Mix

    Ginger Root

    Scone Pan

    [1] Triangle scones with icing. [2] Round scones with sparkling sugar. [3] Scones, pancakes, muffins and more come from one box of mix (all photos courtesy King Arthur Flour). [4] Ginger root (photo by Jan Schöne | SXC). [5] Long before baking pans were invented, scone dough was shaped into a round, cooked on a baking stone and cut into wedges. Modern bakers can use scone pans like this one from King Arthur Flour/

     
    It is a stone bench upon which Scottish kings once sat when they were crowned. The original was long ago removed to Westminster Abbey, and a replica stone stands in its place.

    Others say that the word derives from the Gaelic “sgonn” (rhymes with gone), a shapeless mass or large mouthful; the Dutch “schoonbrot,” fine white bread; and the closely-related German “sconbrot,” fine or beautiful bread. The Oxford English Dictionary favors the latter two.

    What About The Shape?

    Scones are related to the ancient Welsh tradition of cooking small round yeast cakes (leavened breads) on bakestones, and later on griddles. Long before the advent of baking pans, the dough—originally made with oats—was hand-shaped into a clarge round, scored into four or six wedges (triangles) and griddle-baked over an open fire.

    With the advent of stovetop and oven baking, the round of dough was cut into wedges and the scones were baked individually.

    Today’s scones are quick breads, similar to American biscuits. They are traditionally made with wheat flour, sugar, baking powder or baking soda, butter, milk and eggs, and baked in the oven—both in the traditional wedge form and in round, square and diamond shapes. This recipe produces a hard, dry texture.

    Traditional English scones may include raisins or currants, but are often plain, relying on jam, preserves, lemon curd or honey for added flavor—perhaps with a touch of clotted cream.

    Fancy scones—with dried fruit such as cranberries and dates, nuts, orange rind, chocolate morsels and other flavorings—are best enjoyed without butter and jam.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Turkey Napkin Fold

    Does someone in your family have a crafty streak? Let him or her do the napkin folding for Thankgsgiving dinner.

    You can find different looks online, but we like this simple-but-elegant version from Martha Stewart. Here’s how to fold it.

    Don’t wait until Thanksgiving to start folding. Test your skills and your napkins in advance. Linen napkins crease and fold well, cotton napkins and even large paper napkins work with many folds; polyester and permanent press napkins don’t fold.

    THE HISTORY OF NAPKINS

    How do you wipe your mouth and fingers during and after eating? Who doesn’t?

    Yet, in the history of civilization, the napkins we know were relatively late to the table (as it were).

    According to Melanie e Magdalena, it was a slow evolution, beginning with dough napkins! In ancient Greece, Spartans used lumps of dough to wipe their hands when eating.

    What happened to those lumps of dough we do not know, but we’re guessing they were turned into animal food…or bread for people.

    Napkins slowly evolved into new forms. Note that they were the property of the well-to-do, not poor citizens who were left on their own. If you closely watch dining scenes in period television and film, you may be able to catch the custom of the time.

  • In Rome, the maapae, was an early tablecloth: a large cloth that covered the surface of where the individuals eating were seated. They were also used to wipe mouths and for wrapping up leftover food to take home.
  • During the Middle Ages, hands were wiped on tablecloths, which evolved into a three-cloth spread over the table, creating a cloth surface 4-6 feet long and 5 feet wide. Over time, a basin with water for hand washing appeared. A servant would drape a cloth over the diner’s arm or shoulder to dry wet hands throughout the meal.
  • In France, a long cloth called a longiere was attached to the side of the tablecloth for communal use.
  • At the end of the Renaissance, in the 16th century, napkins were a part of refined dining. Sizes of napkins varied depending on the event.
  • In the 17th century, the standard napkin was 35 inches wide and 45 inches long (today, it’s 24 x 24 inches).
  • In the 18th century, the napkin size was reduced thanks to the widespread use of the fork by all classes of society. The napkin of the time was 30 inches by 36.
  • Matching linens debut: Around 1740, manufacturers began making matching tablecloth and napkin sets.
  • Paper napkins came to the U.S. in 1887, when John Dickinson, a paper mill owner in the U.K., brought his paper napkins to a company party in the U.S.
  • Paper napkins didn’t take hold in the U.S. until 1931, when Scott Paper introduced its line.
  •  
    Today, the napkin is made in a variety of sizes,and materials (cotton, linen, paper, polyester) and colors to meet every need:
     
    STANDARD NAPKIN SIZES

    Here are today’s standard sizes:

  • Cocktail napkin: 6″ x 6″
  • Lunch napkin: 18″ x 18″ or 20″ x 20″
  • Dinner napkin: 22″ x 22″ or 24″ x 24″
  • Buffet lap napkin: 27″ x 27″
  •  

    Turkey Napkin Fold

    Leaf Napkin Fold

    Thanksgiving Napkin Fold

    [1] A linen napkin can be creased and folded into a turkey (photo courtesy MarthaStewart.com). [2] This leaf fold napkin from Decozilla is a lot easier. [3] It’s a no-brainer to create a simple harvest theme like this (photo courtesy EcstasyCoffee.com).

      

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    RECIPE: Beet Marmalade

    Talk about memorable fall foods: This beet marmalade recipe from our colleague Hannah Kaminsky of Bittersweet Blog is an eye-opener.

    With its beautiful color and rich flavor, it’s a condiment that goes well:

  • As a spread with bread or crackers
  • On a cream cheese brick or goat cheese log
  • With grilled and roasted meats and poultry
  • Mixed into a dip with yogurt or sour cream
  •  
    The flavor is earthy yet sweet and zesty, with layers of flavor from the caramelized onions, orange zest and maple syrup. It may well convert beet haters to beet lovers.

    If you like to make food gifts, add this one to your repertoire.

    While the recipe specifies red beets for a ruby-color marmalade—a color that’s ideal for Thanksgiving, Christmas and Valentine’s Day—you can also make it with orange beets as a change of pace.

    You can make canapés, or put out the ingredients and let people assemble their own.
     
    RECIPE: BEET MARMALADE

    Ingredients For About 2 Cups

  • 4 medium red beets
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large red onion, sliced
  • 1 large orange, zested and juiced
  • 2 tablespoons 100% Grade B maple syrup*
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  •  
    For Serving

  • Crackers or crostini (toasted baguette slices)
  • Goat cheese log, sliced in fairly thin (i.e. not thick) circles
  • Boston lettuce or baby greens
  • ________________
    *Grade B is the darkest and most flavorful maple syrup. Here are the four grades of maple syrup. You can substitute what you have, as long as it’s 100% real maple syrup.
     
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 400°F. Wrap the beets completely in aluminum foil and roast for about an hour, or until fork tender. Let cool before peeling. The skins should just rub right off with a bit of pressure.

    Meanwhile…

     

    Beet Marmalade & Goat Cheese Recipe

    Fresh Red Beets

    Orange Beets

    [1] Beet marmalade on a cracker with goat cheese (photo by Hannah Kaminsky). [2] Red and [3] orange beets (photos courtesy Good Eggs | SF).

     
    2. HEAT the oil in a medium skillet over medium-low heat and add the sliced onion. Cook gently, stirring frequently for 30 to 40 minutes, until deeply caramelized and almost silky in texture. Add the orange juice halfway through, and reduce the heat if necessary to prevent burning.

    3. ROUGHLY CHOP the cooked beets and place them in a food processor along with the caramelized onions. Add the orange juice and zest, maple syrup and and salt. Lightly pulse all of the ingredients together until broken down and thoroughly combined but still quite chunky.

    4. SERVE warm or chilled.
     
    WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN JAM, PRESERVES & MARMALADE?

    Check out our “spread sheet”: a glossary of the different types of bread spreads and fruit condiments.

      

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