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Archive for Food Facts – Food History

RECIPE: Individual Spinach Soufflés With Sun-Dried Tomato

Fresh Spinach Souffle
[1] This spinach soufflé is made with sautéed whole spinach leaves (photo courtesy Bella Sun Luci).

Fresh Spinach
Fresh spinach, rather than frozen chopped spinach, gives the soufflé its pizzazz (photo curtesy Good Eggs).

Sundried Tomatoes In Bowl
[3] Sundried tomatoes should look like this: bright red and moist. If yours start to dry out and turn color, place in a container topped with olive oil (photo courtesy Bella Sun Luci.

Bella Sun Luci Sundried Tomatoes Bag

[4] Sealed bags keep give the sundried tomatoes a long shelf life (photo courtesy Bella Sun Luci).

 

July 16th is National Fresh Spinach Day. You can make your favorite spinach recipe (dip? salad?) or make these individual soufflés as first courses or sides.

If you’ve only used frozen, chopped spinach in soufflés, this recipe delivers a more intense spinach flavor.

Why use sundried tomatoes in summer, when there are fresh, local tomatoes to be had?

Because the intensity of sundried tomatoes better complements the soufflé than the more subtle flavor of fresh tomatoes. You can substitute the sundried tomatoes with cherry tomatoes, if you like.

A BRIEF DIVERSION TO SUNDRIED TOMATOES

Sundried tomatoes are a stock items in our pantry. You can use them at every meal: in omelets, with cottage cheese and yogurt, in green salads, as a garnish for proteins (marinated in olive oil), in a winter Caprese salad. You can also:

  • Make tomato soup (recipe).
  • Enjoy caprese salad or caprese pasta salad year-round (recipe).
  • Add them to potato salad (recipe #1), recipe #2).
  • Make a dip or spread (recipe).
  • Add them to braised greens (recipe).
  • Top pasta and pizza.
  •  
    Plus, use them as a plate garnish when the plate needs a color lift. Marinate them in olive oil (including flavored olive oil, like basil or chile) for a bright red, flavorful splash of color.

    We love the soft sweetness of the sealed packages from Bella Sun Luci. When we’ve purchased sundried tomatoes from an open bin, even though we place them in a sealed container, we find that within a week or two, they begin to lose their succulence and color. They’re on the road to turning brown, tough and dry. A factory-sealed package is better.

    RECIPE: SPINACH SOUFFLÉ

    This recipe will taste even better if you grate the parmesan freshly, from a wedge.

    Ingredients For 4 Souffles

  • 1/2 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups baby spinach, de-stemmed (reserve four or more perfect leaves for garnish)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • Pinch salt
  • 8 large eggs
  • 1 ounce heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon grated parmesan
  • Salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, or more to grease the ramekins
  • 4 pinches of flour
  • Garnish: 4 plump, bright red sun-dried tomatoes
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT a conventional oven (not convection) to 350°F. Heat the olive oil in sauté pan, and cook the garlic until it’s a light yellow color. Then add the spinach and a pinch of salt, and sauté until just cooked.

    2. DRAIN off any liquid, remove to a bowl and set aside until it cools to room temperature. As the spinach cools, prepare the egg-cream mixture. Beat the eggs with 1 ounce heavy cream, 1 tablespoon grated parmesan, salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste.

    3. COMBINE the cooled spinach with the egg-cream mixture; blend well. Grease the ramekins and sprinkle a pinch of flour onto the butter. Divide the soufflé mix among the ramekins. Top each with a sundried tomato.

    4. PLACE the ramekins into a baking dish and add WARM water, so the water is 1/4 to 1/3 of the way up the side of the ramekins (i.e., a bain-marie or water bath). Bake 7-9 minutes, until the eggs puff up.

    5. REMOVE from the oven, garnish each with a spinach leaf and serve hot.

     
    THE HISTORY OF SPINACH

    According to Mediterranean food expert Clifford A. White, spinach comes from a central and southwestern Asian gene center. It may have originated from Spinacia tetranda, which still grows wild in Anatolia.

    The plant, which does not like heat, was successfully cultivated in the hot and arid Mediterranean climate by Arab agronomists through the use of sophisticated irrigation techniques.

    The first known reference to spinach dates to between 226 and 640 C.E., in Persia. Over trade routes, spinach was introduced to India and then to ancient China in 647 C.E., where it was (and still is) called “Persian vegetable.”

    The first written reference to spinach in the Mediterranean are in three tenth-century texts. It became popular vegetable in Provence, and by the 15th century was common in Provençal gardens.

    It traveled north, and Europe became a spinach-loving continent.

     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Authentic Greek Salad Recipe & The “American” Greek Salad

    Authentic Greek Salad
    [1] The real deal: an authentic Greek salad from Little Cooking Tips. Here’s the recipe.

    Greek Cobb Salad
    [2] We love how Dishing Delish has arranged the Greek salad ingredients like a Cobb salad. Here’s her recipe for the Best Greek Salad Dressing.

    Deconstructed Greek Salad
    [3] We also love this deconstructed Greek salad: an appetizer on a romaine wedge. Here’s the recipe from DeLallo.

    Creative Greek Salad

    [4] All the ingredients of an authentic Greek salad, with some creativity in assembly, from Stix | NY.

     

    Our favorite luncheon salad is a Greek salad, most often homemade, sometimes at a diner or similar casual spot.

    We follow the latter’s recipe: romaine, tomatoes, feta cheese, cucumber, green bell pepper, red onion, kalamata olives, peperoncini (the italian spelling; pepperoncini is the English spelling), and hopefully, a couple of grape leaves and pita or crusty bread on the side. For seasoning, a sprinkle of oregano and cruets of oil and red wine vinegar.

    We’ve been known to substitute balsamic vinegar for the conventional acidic red wine vinegar, and add fresh basil or other herb when we have it.

    We especially love a Greek salad in the summer, when the seasonal tomatoes are a joy in of themselves.

    THE AUTHENTIC GREEK SALADbelow, from Chef Amanda Cohen.

    Bloggers Mirella and Panos of Little Cooking Tips says: “The authentic horiatiki [Greek salad] is a very specific salad, with very specific ingredients.

    The Authentic Greek Salad Ingredients

  • Tomatoes (not cherry tomatoes; whole tomatoes, cut in wedges)
  • Cucumbers (peeled and sliced)
  • Red onions (thinly sliced)
  • Green bell peppers (thinly sliced)
  • Kalamata olives (whole, not pitted)
  • Traditional Greek Feta (in a big slice or chunk, never crumbled)
  • Extra virgin olive oil (for dressing)
  • Dry oregano
  •  
    The above exist in any authentic horiatiki you’ll be served throughout Greece. There are only two optional ingredients in addition to the ones above:

  • Capers (added mostly in horiatiki salads that are served in Greek islands)
  • Red wine vinegar (for people who want extra acidity).”
  •  
    There is no lettuce, no stuffed grape leaves, no peperoncini, no radishes, no anchovies—nothing that isn’t in the bullet points above. Here’s their authentic horiatiki recipe (photo #1).

    Of course, there are other popular salads in Greece, including:

  • Lahanosalata, cabbage slaw, dressed with olive oil, lemon juice and garlic.
  • Maintanouri, parsley salad, usually used as a condiment.
  • Marouli, lettuce salad with onion and dill.
  • Pantzarosalata, boiled, sliced beet, sometimes with the beet greens, dressed with olive oil and red wine vinegar.
  • Patatosalata, potato salad with finely sliced onions, dressed with olive oil and lemon juice or vinegar.
  • Revithosalata, chickpea salad.
  • Roka salad, arugula/rocket (roka) dressed with olive oil and red wine vinegar or lemon juice, sometimes with added anchovies.
  •  
    Cypriot salad, native to the island of Cyprus, has similar ingredients to the horiatiki, exchanging the oregano for flat-leaf parsley.

    The other ingredients in Cypriot salad: finely chopped tomatoes (not sliced, as in horiatiki, capers, cucumbers, onions and feta cheese, dressed with olive oil and lemon or red wine vinegar.

    The bell peppers and olives: lost in translation.
     
    THE HISTORY OF GREEK SALAD, HORIATIKI

    Horiatiki is primarily a summer dish, using lush tomatoes off the vine. Since lettuce only grows in Greece during the cooler, winter months, a horiatiki salad does not include lettuce (source).

    And while horiatiki is ubiquitous in Greece, it is a relatively new combination. Some of the ingredients are thousands of years old, others as new as the last century.

  • Bell pepper—all peppers, including peperoncini and hot chiles—are new world produce. Pepper seeds were brought back to Spain in 1493 after a member of the Columbus expedition tasted hot chiles and called them “pepper,” after the heat of the black peppercorns used in Europe (the native name for the category is chilli). From there the pepper spread to other European, African and Asian countries. It may have gotten to Greece in the 16th century.
  • Feta cheese may be the oldest ingredient in the salad. References to Greek cheese production date to the 8th century B.C.E., and the items used to make cheese from sheep’s or goat’s milk, described in Homer’s Odyssey are similar to those used today’s handmade feta [source].
  • Lettuce was first cultivated in Egypt for food around 2680 B.C.E. Romaine lettuce was bred on the Greek island of Cos, an alternative word still used for romaine [source]. Romans usually cooked their lettuce, and the plant became known as Roman lettuce due to the Roman belief in its healthful and healing properties.
  • Olives have been cultivated in Greece for thousands of years. Kalamata olives are just one variety from a specific region. Greece produces both green and black olives, in addition to the purple kalamata. Here’s more about Greek olives.
  • Onion’s origin cannot be established for certain. The wild onion is extinct so botanists lack the markers used to track its origin and spread. Traces of onions recovered from Bronze Age settlements in China indicate that onions were eaten as far back as 5000 B.C.E., and may be a point of origin. Archaeologists, botanists and food historians point to are central Asia or Persia as the site of early cultivation. Onions have been cultivated for at least 7,000 years, and were probably simultaneously domesticated around the world [source].
  • Tomatoes didn’t arrive in Europe until the 16th century…but not planted until 1818 in Greece. They were brought back by from the New World by the conquistadors in 1529, but as a member of the Nightshade family were first thought to be poisonous. They were used as houseplants and not eaten for another two centuries. In Greece, they weren’t widely cultivated until the early 20th century [source]. Here’s the history of tomatoes.
  •  
    Now, on to a salad from one of America’s great vegetarian chefs, Amanda Cohen of Dirt Candy, in New York City.

    Her “American Greek salad” is layered with some ingredients that no Greek chef has likely thought of (photos #5 and #6).

    RECIPE: AMANDA COHEN’S GREEK SALAD

    “This recipe, while it might look intimidating, makes this salad a party on your plate,” says Chef Amanda. “Sumac and za’atar give this recipe its zip. Sumac is a dried berry with a bright citrusy flavor, and za’atar is a vibrant, intensely herbal seasoning. You can find them at any Middle Eastern or Indian grocery store.

    “You can always leave them out, but this salad is a lot more fun if they’re invited to the party.”

    In addition to sumac and za’atar, this recipe invites pickled onions and fried onion rings with a preserved lemon drizzle.

    Thanks to Wüsthof for the recipe. Wüsthof is Chef Amanda’s cutlery of choice; and THE NIBBLE has more than a few in its knife rack, as well. Brush up on your knife skills with these Wüsthoff videos.

     

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

    For The Pickled Onions

  • 1 large red onion, very thinly sliced
  • ½ cup lime juice
  • ¼ cup kosher salt
  •  
    For The Dressing

  • 3 cups extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup red wine vinegar
  • ½ cup fresh oregano
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons garlic, minced
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  •  
    For The Salad

  • 1½ cups plum tomatoes, diced
  • 1½ cups hot house cucumbers, diced
  • ¾ cup fennel, very thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh dill, chopped
  • 1½ tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons fresh oregano, chopped
  • 1 cup sliced black olives
  • 1 cup crumbled feta cheese
  •  
    For The Preserved Lemon Mayonnaise

  • ¼ cup chopped preserved lemons, seeds removed
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  •  
    For The Mushrooms

  • 2 trumpet royale mushroom
  • 1 can (12 ounces) seltzer water
  • 8 cups canola oil
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup panko crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon sumac
  • 1 tablespoons za’atar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  •  
    For The Garnish

  • 1 teaspoon sumac
  • 1 teaspoon za’atar
  • 2 tablespoons toasted pistachios, crushed
  •  
    Plus

  • Pita or crusty rustic bread
  •  
    Preparation

    1. MAKE the pickled onions. Massage 1 tablespoon of the salt into the onions. Keep massaging until liquid starts to seep out of the onions and then squeeze all of the liquid out. Wash the onions a few times and repeat a second time. Then, add 1 tablespoon of the salt and ¼ cup of the lime juice to the onions and let sit for a few hours. Squeeze all of the liquid out of the onions. Repeat the above sequence. When ready, onions should be a bright pink color. If they are not, repeat the process again.

     

    Amanda Cohen Greek Salad

    Amanda Cohen Greek Salad
    [5] and [6] Chef Amanda Cohen’s take on “the best Greek salad” (photos courtesy Star Chefs).

    Vertical Greek Salad
    [7] Daunted by Chef Amanda’s recipe? Then take on this one, served at Death Ave in New York City. Just stack on a piece of toasted rustic bread and serve.

    Wusthof Serrated Chopper

    [8] One of our favorite Wüsthof knives: the serrated chopper, available at Williams-Sonoma.

     
    2. MAKE the dressing. In a blender mix the garlic, mustard, red wine vinegar, lemon juice, lemon zest, salt and black pepper. Slowly stream in the olive oil. Add the oregano and blend until it is broken up into small pieces.

    3. MAKE the preserved lemon mayonnaise: Place all ingredients in blender and blend until very smooth. Put the mixture into a squeeze bottle.

    4. MAKE the salad. In a bowl mix the tomatoes, cucumbers, fennel, herbs and olives. Add the feta and adjust the salt levels.

    5. MAKE the mushroom rings: Slice the mushrooms into ¼” thick rings and punch the centers out, leaving about ¼” for an outer ring, so that each ring is ¼” thick and ¼” wide. Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed pot until it reaches 375°F.

    Mix the flour and the seltzer in a bowl. In a separate bowl mix the panko, the salt, the sumac and za’atar. Dip the rings in the seltzer mixture first and then dip them in the panko mixture. Fry in batches for about 2-3 minutes each. When done, the mushrooms should be golden brown on the outside.

    6. ASSEMBLE: Toss the salad with the dressing; taste and adjust the salt level. Divide the salad onto four plates. Place 4 onion rings on top of each salad. Squeeze a few lines of the preserved lemon mayo across the salad. Garnish: Sprinkle with the sumac, za’atar and the pistachios. Place a tablespoon of the pickled onions on the side of the plate. Microwave the pita and you’re ready to eat!

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Homemade Ice Cream Sandwiches & An Ice Cream Sandwich Social

    Ice Cream Sandwiches
    Adapt the concept of an ice cream social to a DIY ice cream sandwich social (photo courtesy King Arthur Flour).

    Vanilla Milk
    This vanilla milk is made with honey. Here’s the recipe from A Well Fed Life. You can use your sweetener of choice (ours is Splenda).

    Coffee Milk

    An easy way to make coffee milk: Just add coffee syrup, as in this recipe from Cocktail Crafty.

     

    July is National Ice Cream Month. In our neck of the woods, gourmet ice cream sandwiches have been the rage for a while.

    What makes them “gourmet,” beyond the super-premium ice cream, is the sandwiching—usually homemade cookies in chocolate chip, chocolate chocolate chip, oatmeal, peanut butter and snickerdoodle.

    When we make our own cookies for homemade ice cream sandwiches, we make chocolate-dipped graham crackers. When people ask what they can bring, we assign them a batch of cookies.

    There’s plenty of time to invite friends and family for a casual ice cream social* this weekend or next. You set out the fixings, and let guests make their own sandwiches.

    Then, make up your menu:

  • Cookies: 3″ diameter, plus mini-cookies if desired*
  • Waffles, quartered*
  • Ice cream
  • Sprinkles, mini-chips, chopped nuts
  •  
    Limit the cookie, ice cream and garnish choices the first time out. See what gets consumed most; then you can vary the choices next time.
     
    UTENSILS

  • Ice trays/bins for ice cream
  • Scoops, spoons, spatulas for ice cream
  • Large plates or trays for adding garnishes
  • Paper plates and napkins
  • Tablecloths
  • Trays
  •  
    BEVERAGES

    What beverages go best with ice cream sandwiches?

    Youngsters might clamor for soft drinks, but coffee and tea, hot and iced, go best.

    You know your guests: Are they insistent on beer and wine, or would they be happy with an iced coffee—with a shot of vodka or coffee liqueur?

    Consider these options, each of which can be enjoyed plain or with a shot:

  • Iced coffee
  • Iced tea
  • Vanilla milk and/or coffee milk (recipe follows)
  •  
    RECIPE: VANILLA MILK or COFFEE MILK

    Ingredients Per 8-Ounce Glass

  • 1 cup milk (0%, 1%, 2%) or nondairy milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon sugar or substitute
  • For coffee milk: black coffee to taste
  • ________________

    *To estimate how many cookies or waffle quarters you’ll need, multiply 2 cookies/sandwich times 2 sandwiches/guest.

     
    ICE CREAM SOCIAL HISTORY
     
    An ice cream social is a party where people come to eat ice cream.

    Ice cream socials date back to 18th-century America, long before the dawn of electric freezers—not to mention electric ice cream makers. The ice cream was hand-cranked.

    While a laborious undertaking, ice cream socials were very popular, traditional gatherings. According to Wikipedia:

  • The first ice cream social in America was in 1744, when Maryland governor Thomas Bladen served ice cream for a dinner party.
  • The first ice cream social in the White House was in 1802 by President Thomas Jefferson.
  • When ice cream became more available to the middle classes in the mid-1800s, schools and churches began to host ice cream socials. Those held outdoors by the well-to-do became known as ice cream gardens.
  • Some churches and communities still hold ice cream socials today, but an ice cream social is an easy party to throw at home—no “community effort” required.
  • If you have neither garden nor other outdoor space, you can still host a delightful ice cream social.
  •  
    ICE CREAM TRIVIA: THE FIRST FLAVOR

    Many people would guess that vanilla was the first ice cream flavor, but that is far from the case.

    You have to think back to the origins of ice cream, around 2000 B.C.E. in China, when the first ice cream was made from snow, flavored with fruit syrups.

    The concept reached the Middle East via traders, and Alexander the Great brought it to Greece after conquering Persia in 331 B.C.E., where it became a treat for the nobility, who had the servants to fetch snow and ice from the mountains and turn it into dessert. The shaved ice and snow were combined with fruit toppings, honey and nuts—the first sundae, perhaps.

    Vanilla, which originated in Mexico and was used to flavor the cacao drink, didn’t become a flavor in Europe until the 1600s. As in Mexico, only the wealthy could afford it.

    Thomas Jefferson is credited with introducing vanilla to the United States in the late 1700s. He became familiar with vanilla at the court of King Louis XVI, while serving as U.S. minister to France (from 1785 to 1789). When he returned to the U.S., he brought 200 vanilla beans with him, and his cook had learned to make ice cream.

    Here’s the history of vanilla.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Grown Up Snow Cones

    Remember your childhood summers, and how happy a snow cone made you? The rainbow snow cone (photo #3) was our personal favorite.

    Alas, when one’s palate evolves, those overly-sweet syrups from street vendors no longer bring pleasure. And the day-glow colors? Sheesh!

    One way we’ve worked around this is to make adult snow cones with a better syrup like Monin or Torani—still pretty sweet—combined with a matching liqueur, in a 1:1 proportion.

    If you have an ice crushing machine or a snow cone machine, it’s a great idea for a casual summer cocktail party.

    And then, there’s the iced coffee snow cone, a riff on one of America‘s favorite warm-weather beverages.

    We adapted this recipe from one by Nuggets Market—12 locations in northern California.

    You can have a family-friendly iced espresso, or add Kahlúa or your favorite coffee liqueur.

    Instead of coffee, you can make a variation with chai concentrate (we use Original Oregon Chai Tea Latte Concentrate), or with strong-brewed tea.

    Serve them in a vessel of choice. Since we never got around to buying paper cones, we use a rocks glass and a spoon.

    RECIPE: ESPRESSO SNOW CONES

    Ingredients For 2 Servings

  • 2 shots espresso or chai coffee mate
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons Coffee Mate (flavor of choice, e.g. cinnamon, hazelnut, vanilla)
  • 4 cups shaved ice
  • Optional: coffee liqueur
  • Garnish: whipped cream, chocolate shavings
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the 2 espresso, vanilla extract, Coffee Mate and optional liqueur, and let chill in the fridge for 10 minutes. Once the mixture is chilled…

    2. SHAVE the ice. Fill a blender halfway with ice cubes and use the “crush” setting. Don’t fill the blender more than halfway or the top ice won’t get crushed.

    3. FILL the serving cups one-third full with whipped cream. Add the ice, pour the espresso mixture over ice, top with whipped cream and chocolate shavings.
     
     
    THE HISTORY OF SNOW CONES

    Snow cones are the oldest form of ice cream—if you substitute a bowl or cup for the a cylindrical cone, which came much later (the history of ice cream).

    The original “ice cream,” made in China some 4,000 years ago, consisted of flavoring snow with syrup. Fast forward to the 1850s, and you have ice shaved from large blocks into a paper cone or cup, topped with syrup.

    Shaved Ice In 11th Century Japan

    In 11th-century Japan, kakigori, a shaved ice dessert, is believed to have already existed. It was made from ice harvested in winter and stored in ice houses: a luxury available only to the wealthy nobility.

    Ice was shaved into a metal bowl and eaten with a sweet sap from vines, hydrangeas, and ivy, with some golden syrup on top.

    Around the 19th century, with the ice-making technology of the Industrial Revolution, kakigori was finally affordable to the general public.

    The first kakigori shop was opened in 1872. The ice was flavored with fruit syrup, and optionally topped with adjuki beans and sweetened condensed milk.

    Kakigori became a common treat, leading to modern versions of Japanese shaved ice and Hawaiian shave ice [source].

    Snowballs In 19th Century Baltimore

    On the other side of the world, in the U.S., historians trace the snow cone to Baltimore in the 1850s. When blocks of ice first began to be manufactured commercially, ice wagons would transport the huge blocks from factories to businesses—not just locally, but interstate.

     

    Espresso Granita
    [1] An espresso snow cone, a fun alternative to iced coffee (photo courtesy Nuggets Market).

    Snow Cones
    [2] Classic snow cones: super-sweet, in day-glow colors (photo courtesy La Estrella Bounce).

    Snow Cone

    [3] Favorite childhood treat: a rainbow snow cone (photo Katlin Cockrell | Pinterest).

    Snow Cone

    [4] A Baltimore specialty: egg custard snowball with marshmallow topping (photo Scott Suchman | Baltimore Magazine).

     

    On hot days in Baltimore, on the route from New York to Florida, children would run up to the ice wagons and ask for small scrapings of ice. Mothers began to top them with syrups, and called them snowballs.

    One of the easiest toppings to make at home was egg custard, a simple mix of eggs, vanilla and sugar (hold the cream!). It gave the “snow” a creaminess, closer to ice cream than the bright-colored fruit flavors that subsequently became popular.

    Sources name Baltimore as the home of the “egg custard snowball,” where it remains a prevalent summer snack (photo #4—it’s now often topped with melted marshmallows).

    By the 1870s, Baltimore theaters would sell snowballs in warm months. According to Wikipedia, “Signs in theaters instructing patrons to finish their snowballs before coming in to the second act are the earliest tangible evidence of snowballs.”

    Around the city, snowballs were served on newspaper, but in the classy theaters, butchers’ boats were used. In the 1890s, patents for electric ice shavers were filed as Baltimoreans sought faster alternatives to hand-shaved ice.

    Snow Cones In Texas

    As the recipe spread, the name evolved. Plop the shaved ice into a paper cone or cup and call it a snow cone.

    In 1919, Samuel Bert, who would invent an ice-crushing machine the following year, sold snow cones at the State Fair of Texas. But ice continued to be largely hand-shaved until Ernest Hansen of New Orleans patented the first block-ice shaving machine in 1934.

    According to Wikipedia, during the Great Depression, snowballs became more readily available around the U.S. A cheap treat, they were nicknamed Hard Times Sundae and Penny Sunday.

    Hansen’s ice shaver produced ice that had the consistency of snow, unlike the other ice shavers, which produced rough, crunchy ice (think granita)—a true snow cone [source].

    With milk rationing during World War II, snow cones became a go-to icy treat.

    Today’s snow cone syrups, available in dozens of flavors, have one thing in common: They’re all made in vibrant—not necessarily natural—colors.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Pimm’s Cup, The Classic British Summer Drink

    Pimm's Cup
    [1] A bottle of Pimm’s No. 1 Cup and an approximation of the original drink, with a Mason jar standing in for the tankard. Here are recipe variations from Brit.co.

    Pimm's Cup
    [2] A modern interpretation, with so much fruit that it rivals sangria. Here are more variations from Chilled Magazine.

    New Orleans Pimm's Cup
    [3] Here’s the recipe from Joy The Baker.

    Pimm’s Ice Pops

    [4] Fans have turned Pimm’s Cups into ice pops and Jell-O shots. Here are recipes from Brit.co.

     

    Gin and tonic may be the British cocktail best known in the U.S., but we’d like to introduce you to Pimm’s Cup.

    Pimm’s is a line of liqueurs, called fruit cups* in the U.K., first produced in 1823 by James Pimm (1798–1866).

    A tenant farmer’s son from Kent, he studied theology in Edinburgh, but moved to London in his early 20s and became a shellfish monger. Not long after, he opened Pimm’s Oyster Bar in London, which grew to a chain of five restaurants.

    He served oysters with a “house cup,” a gin sling with his proprietary mix of liqueurs and fruit extracts. (Slings were a category of drink that, at the time, combined a spirit with soda water or ginger ale).

    The English gin of the time was not the smooth, botanical spirit we enjoy today, but a rough drink that had departed from its Dutch roots. It was often distilled into a crude, inferior but cheap spirit that was more likely to be flavored with turpentine than the juniper berries of the Dutch jenever from which it evolved.

    So Pimm, ahead of the curve, doctored the rough gin with a “secret mixture” of liqueur, herbs and fruits. He served it in a small tankard known as a No. 1 cup; hence, the name of the drink: Pimm’s No. 1 Cup.

    Reddish-brown in color with subtle notes of spice and citrus fruit, the Cup was a big hit. He sold bottles to other establishments.

    In 1851, he expanded the line† to include Pimm’s No. 2 Cup, made with a Scotch base; and Pimm’s No. 3 Cup, made with a brandy base. He initiated large-scale distillery production to supply his wholesale customers.

    ________________

    *A fruit cup, also known as a summer cup, is a traditional English long drink, most commonly based on gin, with the addition of a soft drink such as lemonade or ginger ale. The drink is a summer drink, garnished with fresh fruit (apple, cucumber, lemon, lime, orange, strawberry) and/or herbs (mint, borage). Other classic British drinks include Dubonnet Cocktail and Regent’s Punch.

    †Over the years, under subsequent owners, Pimm’s created other cups, some using spirits other than gin. After World War II, Pimm’s No. 4 Cup, based on rum was invented; followed by Pimm’s No. 5 Cup, based on rye whiskey. Cups 2 and 5 were discontinued, and Pimm’s No. 6 Cup, based on vodka, debuted in the 1960s. There have been special editions, such as Winter Cup and a Blackberry & Elderflower variant of No. 6 Cup. The first shot was the best: Pimm’s No. 1 cup remains the overwhelming favorite.
    ________________

    PIMM’S CUP HISTORY: FROM FRUIT CUP TO DIGESTIF TO BRITISH STAPLE DRINK

    In 1840, Pimm created what is today known as a Pimm’s Cocktail, as a digestif—a drink that purportedly helps with the digestion of food. It was conceived as a tonic to aid the digestion of customers who had eaten too much (which must have been a common problem among those who could afford it, given the proliferation of digestif liqueurs and wines).

    He combined his No. 1 Cup with lemon juice and a topper of ginger ale or sparkling lemonade, served over ice with mint and fresh fruit—and thus an iconic British drink was born.

    In 1865, the year before his death, Pimm sold the business and the right to use his name to a Frederick Sawyer, who sold it in 1880 to Horatio Davies, a future Lord Mayor of London. A chain of Pimm’s Oyster Houses was franchised in 1887. Today the brand owned by spirits giant Diageo.

    Sidebar: The Scoop On Digestifs

    Taking a liqueur after a meal has long been thought to aid digestion due to its alcohol content. While it may seem to skeptics a opportunity for another drink, there’s some truth to the tradition (but note that heavy-alcohol drinks like brandy and whiskey have an adverse effect on digestion).

    A smaller amount of alcohol stimulates the stomach’s production of the enzyme pepsin, the enzyme that helps digest proteins. It also increases secretions of the pancreas and gall bladder, which similarly break down food for use as energy.

    In actuality, it’s the bitter herb- and spice- based digestifs that work best to help digestion. Ingredients such as caraway seed, fennel seed and savory are thought to be especially beneficial to digestion. If you want an after-dinner drink with benefits, look to Chartreuse, Fernet Branca, Jägermeister and Kümmel.

    Fortified wines such as cream sherry, port, madeira and vermouth are traditional digestif wines; but these days, take a trip to the medicine cabinet for Alka-Seltzer, Pepto-Bismol, Tums, etc., the best cure(s) for what ails your digestive system.

    In our opinion (since we’ve had the drink but don’t know the secret Pimm’s Cup formula), a Pimm’s Cocktail is more of a pleasant summer sipper than a digestif.

     
    RECIPE: PIMM’S CUP COCKTAIL

    There are actually two approaches to Pimm’s Cup Cocktail.

  • The first is the original English style, a long drink combining Pimm’s No. 1 Cup and carbonated lemonade or bitter lemon.
  • A Pimm’s Royal Cup cuses chamagne or other sparkling white wine instead of the lemonade.
  • Pimm’s Winter Cup combines No. 1 Cup with warm apple cider (which is an alcoholic beverage in the U.K.).
  •  
    Garnishes include as much sliced fruit as you like. The conventional fruits are apples, cucumber, oranges, lemons and strawberries, plus herbs such as borage or mint (for a modern twist, try basil).

    Ginger ale is a common substitute for the carbonated lemonade or bitter lemon; but we very much like Sanpellegrino’s Limonata, which has less sugar than other carbonated lemon drinks.

    The second approach was devised in New Orleans. It uses regular lemonade, a top-off of 7-Up or Sprite, and a cucumber garnish. If this sounds more appealing to you, here’s the recipe.

     
    Ingredients For A Pitcher

  • 1-1/2 cups Pimm’s No. 1 Cup
  • 1 navel orange, cut crosswise into thin slices
  • 1 lemon, cut crosswise into thin slices
  • 3/4 cup firmly packed mint leaves and tender stems
  • 1-1/2 cups carbonated lemonade, ginger ale or lemon-lime soda, chilled
  • 1 cucumber, cut lengthwise into 8 wedges
  • 3 cups ice
  • 1 apple, quartered, cored, and cut into thin slices
  • 1/2 pint strawberries, halved
  • Ice
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the Pimm’s, the apple, orange and lemon slices, and mint in a large pitcher. Chill until ready to serve.

    2. ASSEMBLE: Add the soft drink and stir gently. Pour over ice in tall glasses. Garnish with cucumber, strawberries, or as you wish.

    PIMM’S CUP PARTY BAR

    Pimm’s Cup is one of the two staple drinks (along with Champagne) at the Wimbledon tennis tournament, the Chelsea Flower Show, the Henley Royal Regatta and the Glyndebourne Festival Opera. It is the standard cocktail at British and American polo matches. It is also extremely popular at summer garden parties in the U.K…so why not enjoy one in your own garden?

    You can make it by the pitcher, fully garnished. Or, just mix the liquid ingredients and the sliced apple, lemon and orange, let guests garnish their own with the other fruits and herbs.

    You can find more Pimm’s cocktail recipes at AnyoneForPimms.com.

     

    COCKTAIL CATEGORIES

    If you like to understand what you consume, here’s a partial taxonomy of cocktails. The list of categories can be quite extensive—frozen drinks, mulled and other hot drinks, nogs and other egg- and dairy-based drinks, layered drinks, etc. But here are some basics, starting with this basic divider:

  • Short Drinks are served in short glasses, called lowball glasses or rocks glasses, even though they may not contain rocks (ice). A short drink can be on the rocks or straight up (no rocks/ice).
  • Tall Drinks are served in highball glasses, also called collins glasses after the Tom Collins, an early, popular tall drink. Tall drinks typically are served with rocks and contain more mixers, usually in a 1:3 or 1:4 proportion.
  •  
    The differences between categories and sub-categories can be as minor as switching lemon juice for lime juice.

    While this may seem like splitting hairs, remember that in the days before broadcast media, people had more time on their hands. One of our favorite examples of this is nouns of multitude.

    1. Ancestral Cocktails. These are the original, early 19th century cocktails. These can sound generic, such aw “whiskey cocktail” and “gin cocktail.”

    The goal, back in the day, was to make spirits more palatable by sweetening it, with a teaspoon of sugar or a sweet liqueur. Often, aromatic bitters were included for complexity, and the drink was served either straight up or on the rocks. Two enduring examples are the Old Fashioned (without the muddled fruit and club soda found so often in today’s bars) and the Sazerac.

    2. Champagne Cocktails. These are fizzy cocktails, made with champagne or sparkling wine. The champagne can be the principal ingredient, as in the Champagne Cocktail; or can be used to top off a sour or other drink, such as a French 75.

    These drinks, originally served in coupes like champagne, are now largely served in flutes or other narrow glasses.

    3. Highballs. Simple highballs combine a spirit and a carbonated mixer (club soda, cola, ginger ale) plus ice in a tall (highball or collins) glass. Pimm’s Cup and Rum and Coke are examples.

    Replace the mixer with juice or liqueur to make a complex highball: a Dark and Stormy or Screwdriver, for example.

  • A Buck or Mule combines a basic spirit and citrus juice with ginger ale or ginger beer. The Moscow Mule is an example.
  • A Collins is a highball with added lemon juice and sugar, such as a Tom Collins (a.k.a. a gin sour with club soda).
  • A Fizz is a short drink straight up: a complex highball with a different preparation. The spirit and any other ingredients, except for the soda, are shaken with ice and strained into a rocks glass, then topped off with soda. Examples include the Ramos Fizz and Silver Fizz.
  • A Rickey retains the club soda, eliminates the sugar, and substitutes lime juice for the lemon juice. The most popular is the Gin Rickey.
  •  
    4. Juleps. A julep combines a base spirit with sugar, fresh mint and ice. The Mint Julep, made with bourbon, is the best known today; but in earlier eras, juleps were also made with most other spirits.

  • A smash is a julep with middled fruit, and optionally, mint or other herb. Whiskey Smash is an example.
  • A cobbler is a julep with wine or sherry as the base spirit.
  •  
    5. Sours. Add lemon or lime juice (sometimes, grapefruit) and sugar to the spirit and you have a simple sour. They are usually shaken with ice and served straight up in a rocks glass.

    In some sours, an egg white is added for body and a foamy top, as in the Daiquiri and Whiskey Sour.

    Add another sweet ingredient—liqueur, fortified wine or syrup—and you have a complex sour. Examples include the Cosmopolitan and the Margarita.

    If you love details like this, check out our…

    WHISKEY GLOSSARY: The different types of whiskey and related terms.

     

    Old Fashioned
    [5] From the Ancestral group, an Old Fashioned (photo courtesy Angus Club Steakhouse).

    Tom Collins
    [6] From the Highball group, an Tom Collins (photo courtesy Tanqueray).

    Whiskey Sour
    [7] From the Sour group, a Whiskey Sour (photo courtesy The Mercury | Atlanta).

    Mint Julep

    [8] From the Julep group, a Mint Julep (photo courtesy Distilled | NY).

     

      

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