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    THE NIBBLE’s Gourmet News & Views

    Trends, Products & Items Of Note In The World Of Specialty Foods

    This is the blog section of THE NIBBLE. Read all of our content on TheNibble.com,
    the online magazine about gourmet and specialty food.

Archive for Beverages

JULY 4th: Spicy Hot Lemonade Recipe

red-hot-lemonade-fresno-melissas-230

Jalapeño lemonade becomes red, white and
blue with the addition of some blueberries.
Photo courtesy Melissas.com.

 

It’s easy to make a special July 4th drink. Just “heat up” a pitcher of cold lemonade with bright red jalapeño slices. Toss in a few blueberries and you’ve got a red, white and blue theme.

For less heat, remove the seeds and the white connective tissue.

Don’t want any heat? Replace the jalapeño with bright red cherries.

Start with a can of frozen lemonade, or make your own with fresh lemons (there’s a link to the recipe below).

  • For a different type of heat, substitute slices of fresh ginger for the jalapeño.
  • For a zero-calorie drink, use non-caloric sweetener.
  • For a low-glycemic drink, use agave nectar instead of sugar.
  • A shot of vodka or gin turns lemonade into a splendid cocktail.
  • You can also use this recipe to make fresh limeade, orangeade or grapefruitade.
  • After July 4th, varying the garnishes makes the recipe “new” each time.
  •  
    MORE LEMONADE IDEAS

    Try this homemade lemonade recipe. It’s so much better than store-bought.

    Or, take advantage of peach season to make this yummy peach lemonade recipe.

     
      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Homemade Flavored Seltzer

    homemade-raspberry-seltzer-oregonraspandblackcomm-230

    Homemade raspberry seltzer. Photo courtesy
    SpoonfulOfFlour.

     

    If you like flavored seltzer, here’s how to make an even more flavorful version of it, courtesy of the North American Raspberry and Blackberry Commission. The inspiration came from fruit grower Cheryl Ferguson of Plum Granny Farm in King, North Carolina.

    You can use fresh or frozen and leave the drink unsweetened, like commercial flavored seltzer. Or, add sugar to turn it into…soda pop.

    You can use different fruits; although tender berries dissolve the most easily into syrup.

    RECIPE: HOMEMADE FLAVORED SELTZER

    Ingredients

  • 1 cup water
  • Optional: 1 cup sugar
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen raspberries (or other fruit)
  • Seltzer or club soda, chilled (club soda has added salt; see glossary below)
  • Optional: squeeze of lime or lemon juice
  •  

    Preparation

    1. BOIL water. If using sweetener, add the sugar and stir to dissolve.

    2. ADD raspberries and stir. Cook 3 to 5 minutes. Strain out seeds or purée as desired. Let cool (store in the fridge in a closed container).

    3. MAKE drink: Add 2-3 tablespoons of raspberry syrup to a glass (more if desired). Add cold seltzer water and optional lemon or lime juice. Stir gently and serve straight up, or over ice.

     

    THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN CLUB SODA & SELTZER

    A Glossary Of Sparkling Waters

    Any effervescent water belongs to the category of carbonated water, also called soda water: water into which carbon dioxide gas under pressure has been dissolved, causing the water to become effervescent. The carbon dioxide can be natural, as in some spring waters and mineral waters, or can be added in the bottling process. (In fact, even some naturally carbonated waters are enhanced with more carbonation at the bottling plant.)

    Carbonated Water

    In the U.S., carbonated water was known as soda water until after World War II, due to the sodium salts it contained. While today we think of “soda” as a carbonated beverage, the word originally refers to a chemical salts, also called carbonate of soda (sodium carbonate, sodium hydroxide, sodium monoxide). The salts were added as flavoring and acidity regulator, to mimic the taste of a natural mineral water.

    After the war, terms such as sparkling water and seltzer water gained favor.

     

    fruit-salad-soda-polarseltzer-230

    No time to make your own flavored seltzer? Just toss in fresh fruit. It will infuse very slightly. Photo courtesy Polar Seltzer.

     
    Except for sparkling mineral water, all carbonated water/soda water is made from municipal water supplies (tap water). Carbonated water was invented in Leeds, England in 1767 by British chemist Joseph Priestley, who discovered how to infuse water with carbon dioxide by suspending a bowl of water above a beer vat at a local brewery. Carbonated water changed the way people drank liquor, which had been neat, providing a “mixer” to dilute the alcohol.

    Club Soda

    Like the original carbonated water, club soda is enhanced with some sodium salts.

    Fizzy Water

    Another term for carbonated water.

    Seltzer or Seltzer Water

    Seltzer is carbonated water with no sodium salts added. The term derives from the town of Selters in central Germany, which is renowned for its mineral springs. The naturally carbonated spring water—which contains naturally dissolved salts—has been commercially bottled and shipped around the world since at least the 18th century. When seltzer is made by carbonating tap water, some salts are added for the slightest hint of flavor. And that’s the difference between seltzer and club soda: Club soda is salt-free.

    Sparkling Water

    Another term for carbonated water/soda water. It can also refer to sparkling mineral water, which is pumped from underground aquifers. Note that not all sparkling mineral waters are naturally effervescent. Many are actually carbonated from still mineral water. Some are lightly carbonated by nature, but have extra carbonation added at bottling to meet consumer preferences.

    Two Cents Plain

    Another word for soda water, coined during the Great Depression, when plain soda water was the cheapest drink at the soda fountain.

    MORE TYPES OF WATER

    Check out our Water Glossary for the different types of water, including the difference between mineral water and spring water.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Cucumber Water, Cucumber Vodka

    cucumber-herb-water-230

    No more bland water at the table. Photo by
    Maria Bacarella | IST.

     

    When warm weather brings a bounty of fresh produce, we want to fresh produce it everywhere—including in our water glass. While any fruit or vegetable can be infused into a glass or pitcher of water, we especially enjoy cucumber and fresh herbs like thyme or rosemary.

    The simplest addition of a slice of cucumber and an herb sprig turns a nondescript glass of water into a special drink. You can layer on flavors as you like: a slice of lemon, lime or apple, for example.
     
    HOW TO MAKE CUCUMBER WATER

    1. ADD half a cucumber, cut into 1/8″ slices, to a two-quart pitcher. If it’s a waxed cucumber, use a carrot peeler to remove most of the waxy peel before slicing, but leave some decorative “stripes” by peeling the cucumber vertically, leaving long strips of peel at 1″ intervals.

    Variation: Look closely at the photo and you’ll note that both slices and strips of cucumber were used. Although it’s easier to eat the slices, the combination of slices and strips adds visual interest.

     
    2. CUT a lemon and/or lime into 1/8″ slices, removing the seeds. Add to the pitcher, along with sprigs of fresh rosemary or other favorite herb.

    3. FILL the pitcher with water. Refrigerate for 4 hours or more to chill and let the flavors infuse. When you’ve drunk up all the water, you can refill the pitcher and re-infuse the same cucumber and lemons, although you’ll get a lighter infusion.

     

    CUCUMBER VODKA

    Summer also reminds us that it’s time to break out the cucumber vodka. It’s a trending (and welcome) flavor, produced by organic distillers such as Crop Harvest, Prairie, Rain and Square One, as well as conventional brand such as Effen, Pearl and Skinnygirl.

    (Note to gin lovers: Gordon’s makes Crisp Cucumber Gin, but you may have to get someone to bring it back from England. We haven’t been able to find it in the U.S.)

    To make flavored vodka, natural flavor essence is added to the distilled vodka (which can be made from a variety of grains, including corn, rye and winter wheat). The fresh aroma of cucumber is a result of the same process used to capture the aromatics of flowers and other plants in natural fragrances.

    We love what the essence of crisp, cool cucumber does to vodka. Cucumber vodka gives a contemporary spin to familiar cocktails like the Bloody Mary, Gimlet, Tom Collins and Vodka Tonic. We drink Square One cucumber vodka straight up (and our food bucket list includes arranging a taste test with the other brands).
     
    CUCUMBER VODKA COCKTAIL RECIPES

    These recipes are courtesy Prairie Organic Spirits.

    Garden Cocktail

    Ingredients

  • 2 ounces cucumber vodka
  • 2 one-inch cubes seedless watermelon
  • 1 diced lime (bitter ends removed)
  • 1 ounce agave nectar
  • 1 cucumber slice
  • Salt
  •  

    bottle-cocktail-squareone-230

    Cucumber adds a crisp touch to vodka. Photo courtesy SquareOne.

     

    Preparation

    1. LIGHTLY salt the rim of the glass.

    2. COMBINE all ingredients in a shaker. Shake with ice and pour into a rock glass over ice. Garnish with a slice of cucumber.

     
    Cucumber Mary

    Ingredients

  • 2 ounces cucumber vodka
  • ½ cup tomato juice
  • Squeeze of fresh lemon
  • Worcestershire sauce to taste
  • Hot sauce to taste
  • 1 thick cucumber slice, notched
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE vodka, tomato juice, lemon, Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce in a shaker.

    2. SHAKE with ice and pour mixture (including ice) into a highball glass. Add cucumber to the rim of glass and serve.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Agua Fresca, The Latin American Cooler

    lychee-cooler-230

    A lychee agua fresca, or cooler. Photo
    courtesy Melissas.com.

     

    For summer entertaining, try a menu of aguas frescas.

    In Spanish, agua fresca means fresh water. In culinary terms, it refers to a variety of refreshing cold drinks that are sold by street vendors and at cafés throughout Latin America. They’re also available bottled in food stores, and are made from scratch at home.

    A traditional agua fresca is an infused, sweetened water, flavored with fruits and/or vegetables—often a more complex layering of flavors than lemonade and limeade. It is nonalcoholic and noncarbonated—in the U.S., it is called a cooler.

    The recipes can include a combination of fruits or veggies, flowers, herbs and/or spices, cereals, seeds, even almond flour. Agua de horchata, a very popular recipe, is made of ground raw rice spiced with cinnamon.

    Other popular flavors include:

  • Fruits: banana, cantaloupe, guava, mango, orange, papaya, passionfruit, pineapple, strawberry, watermelon
  • Sour fruits: cucumber, lemon, lime, tamarind
  • Flowers and herbs: hibiscus, sorrel
  • Grains, nuts and seeds: alfalfa, almond flour, barley, chía (often blended with vegetables), oats, rice
  •  

    Here are some recipes to start you off:

    RECIPE: MANGO OR WATERMELON AGUA FRESCA

    Ingredients

  • Very ripe mango or seedless watermelon
  • Water
  • Sugar, agave or other sweetener
  • Fresh lime juice
  • Optional garnish: lime wedge, berries or other fruit
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PURÉE equal parts mango/watermelon and water. ADD sweetener and lime juice to taste.

    2. CHILL and serve over ice with optional garnish.

     

    RECIPE: PINEAPPLE AGUA FRESCA

    Ingredients

  • Ripe pineapple
  • Coconut water
  • Sugar, agave or other sweetener
  • Chopped lemongrass
  • Optional garnish: lemongrass stalk
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PEEL and core pineapple(s). Purée equal parts pineapple and coconut water, with lemongrass to taste. Add sweetener to taste.

    2. CHILL and serve over ice with optional garnish.

    RECIPE: LYCHEE AGUA FRESCA

    Ingredients

  • Lychees
  • Water
  • Sugar, agave or other sweetener
  • Fresh lime juice
  • Optional garnish: whole lychee
  •  
    Preparation

     

    watermelon-cooler-230

    Watermelon agua fresca, a watermelon cooler. Photo courtesy Melissas.com.

     
    1. REMOVE seed from lychees. Purée lychee fruit. Strain and add water. Add sweetener and lime juice to taste.

    2. CHILL and serve over ice with optional garnish.
     
    AGUA DE HORCHATA

    Horchata (pronounced or-CHA-tah) is a drink that was introduced to the Caribbean and Latin America via Spain, and different versions were created in almost every country. But the drink has its origin in ancient Egypt.

    Chufa, or tiger nut (Cyperaceae cyperus esculentus) is one of the earliest domesticated crops and was widely grown in Egypt and Sudan. They are not nuts per se, but pea-size, tuberous roots of a plant of the sedge family. The crop was brought to Spain during the rein of the Moorish kings (700 B.C.E. to 1200 C.E.)

    In Mexico, rice became the base of choice. If you’re curious about a drink made of ground raw rice, look in a Latin market for bottled horchata, or make your own with this recipe:

    Ingredients

  • 1 cup uncooked long-grain white rice, rinsed
  • 1 cinnamon stick, broken into pieces
  • 8 cups water
  • 1/2 cup sugar, or to taste
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon, preferably Mexican, for garnish
  • Optional garnish: cinnamon stick
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the rice and cinnamon stick in a blender with 4 cups of water; pulse to coarsely grind. Transfer to a large bowl and add another 4 cups water. Soak at room temperature for 3 hours.

    2. PURÉE the rice mixture in a blender in batches, until smooth. Strain through cheesecloth or a fine sieve into a pitcher. Mix in the sugar; chill.

    3. TO SERVE: Stir the horchata well and pour into ice-filled glasses. Garnish with a dusting of ground cinnamon and an optional cinnamon stick.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Coconut Water Ice Cubes

    coconut-water-DeasySetiawatiWidjaja-DRM-230

    Coconut water with coconut water ice cubes
    and a lychee garnish. Photo © Deasy
    Setiawati Widjaja | DRM.

     

    If you enjoy coconut water—or the flavor of coconut in general—you can add a subtle touch of it to your favorite beverages via coconut water ice cubes.

    Use them in juice, iced tea, ginger ale and lemon-lime sodas (and of course, in coconut water itself). It’s an easy way to add a little something-something while cooling your drink.

    Or, try them in a cocktail, like this one, which builds on the ingredients of a Mango Margarita:

    Ingredients

  • 3 ounces blanco tequila
  • 1 oz clear orange-flavored liqueur
  • 1 oz fresh lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons light agave nectar
  • 1-1/2 cups chopped fresh mango
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE ingredients in a blender. Cover; blend until smooth.

    2. ADD coconut water ice cubes; blend until smooth. Pour into glasses; garnish with mango or lime slices. Makes 4 drinks.

     
    TO MAKE COCONUT ICE CUBES

    Simply pour 1-1/2 cups of coconut water into standard ice cube tray and freeze.

    For extra fun, buy some silicone ice cube trays in fun summer shapes, and freeze cubes into flowers, stars, suns, trees and sea life.
     
    MORE ABOUT COCONUT WATER

  • Coconut Water Overview
  • Types Of Coconut Water
  • Coconut Water Health Benefits
  • Coconut Water Nutrition
  • Reviews Of Coconut Water Brands
  •  
    MORE TASTY ICE CUBES

    Make tea ice cubes, coffee ice cubes, lemonade ice cubes, etc.

    When they melt, they don’t dilute your drink.

     
      

    Comments

    FOOD HISTORY: Whipped Cream

    Today is National Strawberries and Cream Day, a dish that no doubt dates to a prehistoric day at the dawn of dairying, when fresh cream was poured over the wild strawberries of summer.

    Milk-producing animals have been domesticated for thousands of years, long before the ancient Egyptians believed that cows and bulls were earthly manifestations of their gods. They bred cows for milk and the cheese it yielded, as well as for meat and as field animals, to work the fields and power grain mills and irrigation works.

    The strawberry was mentioned in ancient Roman literature, in reference to medicinal use (it was used to treat depression!). It took until the 1300s for the French to realized its potential; in the 1300s, they replanted wild berries that grew in forests, in their gardens. Charles V, France’s king from 1364 to 1380, had 1,200 strawberry plants under cultivation in his royal garden.

    By the 16th century, strawberries and cream took advantage of the newly popular whipped cream, often sweetened for desserts. It was called milk snow in English, neve di latte in Italian and neige de lait in French.

    The French term crème fouettée, whipped cream, appeared in print in 1629, and the English “whipped cream” in 1673. The term “snow cream” continued in use through the 17th century.

       

    Eton mess strawberry dessert

    Strawberries and whipped cream. Photo © Studio Barcelona | Fotolia.

     

    In early recipes through the end of the 19th century, naturally separated cream was whipped, typically with willow or rush branches. The resulting foam on the surface was skimmed off and drained, a process taking an hour or more, and was repeated until enough cream had been skimmed. (We’d never complain about hand-whipping with an electric mixer!)

     

    strawberries-cream-tbd-230

    A thought for National Strawberries and
    Cream Day. Photo courtesy SXC.

     

    By the end of the 19th century, the industrial revolution had produced centrifuge-separated, high-fat cream. Now, cooks could buy the cream and whip it directly, without tedious hours of skimming it from the milk.

    Pastry chefs went to work containing a myriad of whipped cream desserts, shaped in molds, flavored with chocolate, coffee, fruits and liqueurs. Flavors folded into the cream or poured over it were called crème en mousse, cream in a foam. Other terms included crème fouettée, whipped cream; crème mousseuse, foamy cream; mousse*, foam; and crème Chantilly, Chantilly cream†.

     
    *Modern mousses are a continuation of this tradition. Source for this article: Wikipedia.

     
    Some people use the terms crème Chantilly and whipped cream interchangeably. But there is a difference:

  • Crème Chantilly is sweetened whipped cream.
  • Whipped cream is not sweetened (and in fact, is a better choice than Chantilly to accompany very rich desserts, where extra sugar in the cream is overkill).
  •  
    We’ll follow American tradition and use the one term, “whipped cream,” unless differentiation is required.

     
    MORE WHIPPED CREAM

  • How to make classic whipped cream.
  • Flavored whipped cream recipes: Bourbon Whipped Cream, Five Spice Whipped Cream, Lavender Whipped Cream, Salted Caramel Whipped Cream, Spice Whipped Cream
  • Savory whipped cream recipes: with lemon peel for fish and seafood; bourbon for grilled meats; grated Parmesan cheese for soup, meats, fish; horseradish for beef, smoked salmon, vegetables; herbs or spices for other recipes
  •  
    †The name Chantilly (pronounced shon-tee-YEE) was probably chosen because the Château de Chantilly in northern France had become known for its refined cuisine. There is no evidence that it was invented there, although its creation is often credited, incorrectly, to François Vatel, maître d’hôtel at the Château in the mid-17th century. The terms “crème Chantilly,” “crème de Chantilly,” “crème à la Chantilly” and “crème fouettée à la Chantilly” only become common in the 19th century.

      

    Comments

    PRODUCT: Pink Grapefruit Perrier

    lemon-lime-grapefruit-bottles-230

    Perrier in lemon, pink grapefruit and lime.
    Photo courtesy Nestlé.

     

    While we watch our food miles, we occasionally treat ourselves to a bottle of Perrier Sparkling Natural Mineral Water.

    When flavored Perrier first became available, we gave it a shot. The verdict: dreadful, tasting like lemon or lime soap.

    So we would have been the last customer for the pink grapefruit flavor, recently found in our area. But a friend—aware of our fondness for both sparkling water and grapefruit—brought over both a standard 750ml bottle and a package of slim cans.

    Surprise: It tastes good.

    Fans of grapefruit—feel free to try it and enjoy it.

    PERRIER HISTORY

    The spring from which Perrier is pumped and bottled has been used as a spa since Roman times. It is in the town of Verges, near Marseilles, in the South of France.

    The source was long called “Les Bouillens,” boiling waters, because of the way the spurts out of the ground, like boiling water.

     

    The source’s unique balance of minerals provides its unique taste. Perrier is naturally carbonated from volcanic gas pockets that are trapped deep within the limestone rock. It is given more carbonation at when bottled.

    In 1898 Louis Perrier, a local doctor, bought the spring and operated a commercial spa at the site. He also bottled the water for sale.

    He later sold the spring to St. John Harmsworth, a wealthy British visitor with a marketing savvy, who renamed the spring Source Perrier and bottled the water in distinctive green bottles shaped like Indian clubs.

    Today the brand is owned by Nestlé, and is currently sold in five varieties: citron, lemon, lime, unflavored and pink grapefruit.

    Since 2002, other lines of Perrier have been introduced in France:

  • Eau de Perrier, in a blue bottle, which is less carbonated than the original line.
  • Perrier Fluo (for “fluorescent”), targeted to younger consumers, with fluorescent labels in trendier flavors such as ginger-cherry, ginger-lemon, orange-lychee, peppermint and raspberry.
  •   

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Flower Ice Cubes

    chandon-flower-ice-cubes-230

    Put edible flowers in your ice cubes. Photo
    courtesy Chandon USA.

     

    For Mother’s Day, spring and summer entertaining, parties, showers and Valentine’s Day, make your drinks stand out with flower ice cubes.

    It couldn’t be easier: Just place edible blossoms in an ice cube tray, fill and freeze. Use the floral ice cubes in cocktails or soft drinks.

    Not all flowers are edible; many will upset your stomach (or worse). But there are quite a few to choose from. Here’s a list of edible flowers.

    Flowers have been eaten since before Egyptian times. Here’s more about edible flowers.

    Want to grow your own? Sure, but be sure to grow the flowers with no chemical pesticides. More about growing edible flowers.

     

      

    Comments

    EARTH DAY: Water Bottle Crisis

    Every year 68 billion plastic water bottles are consumed in the U.S. The majority of them end up in landfill. Divided among the population, this means a per capita consumption of some 30.8 gallons of bottled water.

    According to the International Bottled Water Association, the U.S. bottled water per capita was up 5.3% in 2012, the last year for which statistics are available. The data comes with enormous consequences:

  • Too few plastic bottles make their way to the recycling bin: just 1 in 4.
  • The environmental footprint of plastic bottle is calculated in millions of oil barrels.
  • There is a direct human impact: making plastic requires chemicals that known to be hazardous to health. Not every water bottle is BPA-free.
  •  
    Plus:

     

    bottle-partial-angle-230

    It’s very refreshing and popular, but 75% of the bottles end up in landfill.

     

    rubbermaid-water-bottle-filter-230

    The replaceable filter in Rubbermaid’s
    traveling water bottle. Photo courtesy
    Rubbermaid.

     
  • Tap water, the easy and cheaper solution, is actually a safer option than spring water or mineral water, even when bottles are BPA-free. Municipal water is regulated and tested frequently. There are no government controls on bottled mineral and spring waters.
  •  
    Source: Green Glass Company

    How can you help? Drink from the tap!

    You can add a water purifier device to the tap or install one under the sink.

    You can buy special water bottles with built-in filters. Both of these water bottles have replaceable filters:

  • Rubbermaid water bottle’s filter lasts through 100 bottle refills.
  • The Brita Soft Squeeze Water Bottle’s filter is good for 300 16.9 ounce refills.
  •  
    Celebrate Earth Day by picking up one.

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Strawberry Iced Tea

    For Easter or Mother’s Day, Strawberry Iced Tea is delish!

    The recipe is from Shangri-La Tea Company.

    RECIPE: Strawberry Iced Tea

  • 2 cups whole frozen strawberries
  • 32 fluid ounces brewed tea
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 box fresh strawberries
  • Mint leaves
  • Ice
  •  
    Preparation

    1. BREW tea and cool to room temperature.

    2. BLEND frozen strawberries in a food processor until smooth, then strain

    3. MIX together pureed strawberries, tea, desired amount of sugar and lemon juice

    4. Serve over ice with fresh strawberry garnish.

     

    strawberry-iced-tea-shangri-lateacompany-230

    Toast a special occasion with strawberry iced tea. Photo courtesy Shangri La Tea.

     

      

    Comments

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