Apple and Pumpkin ‘Toddy’

A toddy is a hot alcoholic beverage, usually made with bourbon. This hot drink is alcohol-free (though by all means, toss in a shot of your favorite moonshine if you wish), so it’s not really a toddy. I just like the connotation of toddy. I make this with apples I’ve juiced, which still contain some of the apple solids, giving the juice a cider-like texture and flavor. While this drink is good with just apples and pumpkin (or other winter squash), the citrus lightens the flavor. Great for après-ski or watching snow fall…

4 c apple cider or apple juice
1 c pumpkin or other winter squash purée
1/2 orange or lemon or tangerine or clementine, seeded and sliced or chopped
cinnamon, ground ginger, ground nutmeg, and/or ground clove, for garnish, optional

1. Bring all ingredients to a gentle simmer in a saucepan. Simmer for 5 minutes or so. Pour into mugs or heatproof glasses, garnish with some wintry spice.

Quince Brandy

Last year I posted a recipe for Quince Eau-de-Vie, a heady concoction of quinces, vodka, and sugar. Here is another version, this time made with brandy and without sugar, so the drink retains more of brandy’s characteristics. I recommend using cinnamon sticks and vanilla beans here as they infuse better than ground cinnamon and vanilla extract. Feel free to experiment with spices. Black peppercorns, whole cloves, fennel seeds, whole allspice come to mind. When you strain the infusion, you don’t have to discard the quince pieces. They’re great eaten on their own or with ice cream as an adult treat.

4 medium quinces
2 cinnamon sticks, about 3″ long each
2 vanilla beans
4 whole star anise
1 liter (not top shelf) brandy, or as needed to fill jar(s)

1. Wash quinces and wipe the fuzz off. Cut into quarters, leaving the peels and cores intact. Or you can peel and core the quinces, chop the quinces, and then put everything into the infusion jar(s). Put into an appropriate sized jar or jars along with spices. Cover with brandy, leaving an inch headroom.

2. Leave for about six weeks before straining and rebottling. Will keep for a long time, if it lasts that long…

Quince Eau-de-vie

A wonderful after-dinner drink. And a wonderful way to preserve that wonderful quince flavor. I thought the eau-de-vie would make good Christmas gifts, but after my first sip, I decided it was just too good to share…

2 – 3 quinces
1 c sugar
2 c vodka

1. Grate or finely chop the quinces–peel, cores, seeds included. Put into a large jar, quart-size at least. Add sugar and vodka and tightly cap jar. Shake well; don’t worry if the sugar isn’t all dissolved, it will over time.

2. Place jar in a cupboard or similar space, out of direct sunlight. Every other day, for two weeks, shake the jar well. If you’re sure of the seal, invert the jar now and then.

3. After these two weeks, shake the jar once a week for another month.

4. Strain the liquid, preferably through cheesecloth. Transfer to a clean bottle. It will keep indefinitely,  but why would you want to…

Peach Bellini

A wonderful and festive summer drink. “Peach Bellini” is actually redundant, as a Bellini is always made with peaches. However, as most puréed fruits can be used in this drink, one could say Raspberry Bellini, much as one says vodka martini, to distinguish it from the original. There may be names for these other concoctions–a strawberry variation is known as a Rossini. In any case, these are delish. To make this drink nonalcoholic, you could add a combination of apple or white grape juice and a splash of seltzer or club soda. The Italian sparkling wine, Prosecco, is traditional, though champagne and similar sparkling wines are also used.

peach purée (from peeled, pitted peaches)
Prosecco, or other sparkling wine

1. Put about 2 T of peach purée in a champagne flute or wine glass. Fill glass with Prosecco. Stir.

Blueberry ‘Soda’

This is a really tasty soda alternative. You can control the amount of sugar–if the fruit is really sweet, cut back on some of the sugar. Other fruits to consider are strawberries, peaches, nectarines. Make sure they’re sweet enough to eat on their own. Check out the recipe for Sour Cherry Syrup on our blog, based on a Persian recipe

The syrup is ripe for canning–10 minutes in boiling water, follow traditional canning instructions (you’ll thank me in January).

2 c or so fresh blueberries
1 c sugar
1 c water
8 – 10 fresh basil or mint leaves, optional
4 1/2 t fresh lemon or lime juice (though bottled juice will work in a pinch)
1/8 t ground ginger or cinnamon or nutmeg
pinch of salt

1. Combine blueberries, sugar, water, and fresh herb, if using, in a saucepan over medium heat and bring just to the boil. Stir to dissolve the sugar. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for about 5 minutes.

2. Remove from heat and allow to cool some. Strain in a fine-meshed sieve. Allow to drip for a while; don’t press the berries or some of the seeds will make their way into the syrup. Reserve blueberries for another edible use.

3. Pour the contents into a bottle or jar and store in the fridge.

4. To make soda: Using a 1:2 ratio, 1 part syrup to 2 parts carbonated water, combine in a glass, and fill with ice. You could add a splash of vodka, white rum, or white wine if you like.

5. To make your own carbonated soda: Using the 1:2 ratio, put into a glass bottle or jar with a tight-fitting lid (I like to use a mason jar with the metal lid and rim) and add a pinch of active (baking) yeast. Seal and shake to dissolve yeast. Allow to carbonate at room temperature for 1 to 3 days (hot weather will speed carbonation). Test each day for carbonation: when you unscrew or open the lid you should hear a little hissing sound, or pour out a small amount into a glass and check for bubble. Be sure to tightly seal the “mother” bottle.  Store in the fridge and drink within a few days, as the carbonation can build up in the bottle…

Peach Wine

Of the five peaches in the recipes, one will be needed in five days time–so set aside a less than ripe peach to ripen until it is needed. I imagine one could do this with blueberries, raspberries, and other summer fruits–perhaps 2 to 2-1/2 c of berries for the wine, and half cup or so for serving.

4 ripe peaches, washed, fuzz rubbed off
1/4 c sugar
2 – 750 ml bottles of dry white wine, or still rosé wine
1 ripe peach, peeled, pitted, and sliced, for serving

1. Pit and thinly slice the 4 ripe peaches. In a large bowl, toss the sliced peaches with the sugar until the sugar is dissolved. If you have a large glass container, such as a 2-quart jar, transfer the peach mixture to this container. Pour in the wine. Stir. Cover and chill for 5 days. If you don’t have a large glass container, pour the wine into the bowl containing the peaches. Stir. Cover and chill for 5 days.

2. After 5 days, strain the peach wine through a fine sieve into a pitcher or other large glass bottle. Serve chilled or over ice, garnished with the remaining peach slices. You can dispose of or compost the peach slices that had been in the wine if you like, but they’re quite tasty on their own.

3. The peach wine will keep, covered and chilled, indefinitely.