Seize the Strawberry!

I can say with some certainty that every book that I have read that is primarily about canning starts with the story of the author’s first strawberry jam. My canning story is much the same: take a slightly ambitious impulse purchase at the farmer’s market, add a few free hours on a weekend day and next thing you know, I’m trying to lift hot jars out of boiling water with tongs (and scalding myself.)

There’s some quality particular to the strawberry that seems to create a straight line from gallon bucket to sealed jar. For me, it’s all about not letting go–wanting to hold on to the flavor, the smell, the season. Fresh, ripe strawberries from the farm stand or the pick-your-own field are so supremely superior to the chilly, gigantic supermarket strawberry that I find myself, year after year, compelled to preserve a few jars and eat my fill along the way. When contemplating that gallon bucket, I face the possibility that I will have wasted my last opportunity to taste that ephemeral joy until next spring.

I may be a bit dramatic when it comes to food.

no regrets chicken

A few notes on strawberry jam:

  • Strawberries have enough pectin in them to not require adding any and adding more sugar only changes the flavor, not its preserved-ness. Keep in mind that I don’t have a problem with cooking my jams a little longer to achieve a sturdy gel, so if you’re looking for a barely cooked fruit jam, pectin will be the way for you to go.
  • Heed my advice: do not cook strawberry jam in a tall pot, it will overflow! Using a saute or preserving pan helps with jam making in a lot of different ways and with strawberry jam, it allows the foam room to spread out instead of up!
  • There are loads of different spins you can put on the recipe. I made one version from Saving the Season where you cook the whole thing in the oven and add some rosé at the very end.

Strawberry Jam

Ingredients and materials needed

  • 1 gallon of strawberries
  • 1 to 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 to 2 cups sugar
  • Saute or preserving pan
  • Jars, new lids, rings, a large pot for a water bath, any other canning tools you might prefer (jar lifter, funnel, etc.)

To begin, find yourself about a gallon of the best strawberries available. Like, able to smell them across the room best strawberries. Next, remove the leafy tops and slice them to a reasonable size for canning. I tend to err on the side of smaller for my slices because it makes the cooking process go a little quicker.

strawberry jam : hooch & home

You can immediately proceed from cut strawberries to cooking on the stove, but I like to take a few hours to allow the strawberries to macerate with some sugar in the refrigerator. So, mix the sliced strawberries (which should be about six to eight cups’ worth if you start with a gallon) with between one and two cups of sugar. As I said earlier, this is just the amount that I prefer–not what is necessary for preservation purposes. Not too sweet, still very much a jam. Either allow this mixture to sit in the refrigerator for several hours or proceed directly to the cooking stage.

Just before you are ready to begin cooking the jam, prepare your jars, lids, and rings for canning. Lots of information about sterilization and proper precautions can be found on the Ball website and elsewhere on the internet, even this very website! Once you are ready to begin cooking, add the strawberry-sugar mixture to a pan over medium to medium-high heat. Also add a tablespoon of lemon juice to help the flavors pop a bit.

I have also tried a recipe in which the strawberries are cooked over high heat in an effort to get all the water out of the berries ASAP and decrease cooking time. It was a stressful mess, so I tend to stick with the slow-and-steady mindset. Another option is to strain the juice off the macerated strawberries and begin cooking that down without the fruit added in, to decrease the amount of time the berries spend cooking. I believe I saw that approach in the book Canning for a New Generation, which I highly recommend for all kinds of canning purposes.

Cooking the jam:

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Step One: Warming the berries and juice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Step Two: Foam begins to form.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Step Three: Berries begin to break down and foam continues.

 

 

 

 

 

Step Four: Foam subsides and gel begins to form.

 

 

 

 

 

Step Five: Get a plate in the freezer to start testing your gel!

 

 

 

 

 

Throughout this process, you will need to stir quite frequently, especially as you get close to the end. I like to have my jars hanging out in some very warm water (after sterilizing them) so they’re all set for filling once the time comes.

Once you’ve made jam a few times, you’ll get to know when your gel turns the corner from sauce to jam just by sight and feel. Until you get to that point and even after you do, you will probably want to test your jam with the cold plate test: place a small plate in the freezer about ten minutes before you want to test, place a small amount of jam on the plate, put the plate back in the freezer for one minute, and then remove the plate and invert it to test how quickly the jam runs. Definitely give it a taste at this point as well! I have only ever undercooked a jam, so don’t worry about missing a magic window of time or anything like that. Thicker will almost always be better.

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Fill your jars, leaving 1/4″ to 1/2″ of headspace. Process the jars for five minutes in boiling water and remove to rest and cool on a kitchen towel. Any jars that haven’t sealed after cooling completely should be refrigerated immediately and consumed within about a month.

I have found that about a gallon of strawberries yields about four half-pints or two pints of jam. Half-pints make good gifts, but I prefer full pints in my refrigerator!


Strawberry Mojito

Making jam is long, hot work and this is the perfect beverage to cool you off after you put up a batch or two. I made it with jam, but fresh strawberries would work equally well–if not better!

  • 2 oz white rum (I use Bacardi)
  • 1 tbsp strawberry jam or several slices of fresh strawberry
  • 4 mint leaves, extra for garnish
  • 1 tsp simple syrup
  • 1 oz lime juice
  • 5 oz club soda or seltzer

Muddle the mint leaves with the simple syrup, adding the strawberries once the mint has broken down a bit. Add the rum and lime juice and shake over ice. Pour the mixture into a glass and add the soda and a fresh ice cube or two. Garnish with a sprig of mint.

strawberry mojito : hooch and home

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Preparing for Peaches

No matter where you are in the US, things are confusing right now. And while you may need to worry about who our next president will be, or whether you should take your summer clothes out of storage early or not, you can always count on the power of the peach to bring a smile to your face.

Just look at them. You can almost smell them they look so good. Wishing you had some peaches right now? If you read Melissa’s post on peaches this August than you may have some chillin in a dark place right now, ready to be eaten. But, if you are peachless, have no fear! Read on and prepare for the bounty we know summer will bring so that next winter you will be able to enjoy these jewels during your next snow storm or cold and rainy day.

A quick note on canning: canning is very easy and you should not be afraid of it!!! However, it is important to be careful and to be smart when canning. Ball Jar’s site has a wonderful explanation of how to safely can. Don’t forget: when it doubt throw it out!

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Peaches In Lavender Syrup (from Saving the Season)

What you will need:

  • 8 lbs of ripe peaches
  • 8 cups of water
  • 4 cups of sugar
  • 2 stems of lavender
  • paring knife
  • mason jars
  • fresh lids
  • canning pot (any tall stock pot will do)
  • Tongs meant to handle hot jars
  • jar rings

What to do:

  • READ UP ON PROPER CANNING TECHNIQUES!!! 
  • Place jars in canning pot, cover with water and simmer
  • Blanch peaches in batches in a pot of boiling water for 1 min
  • While peaches cool, boil water, sugar and lavender in large pot
  • When peaches are cool enough to touch, peel and cut in half using paring knife and remove pits
  • Save skins and any liquid peaches release while they are sitting and waiting in a bowl to be canned (see below for what to do with these!)
  • Remove jars from water and pack with peach halves seed side down (about three or four per jar)
  • Ladle syrup over peaches until almost covered
  • Tap jars to settle peaches and syrup and then fill jar with syrup (leave 1/2 inch of headspace)
  • Seal jars and process in boiling water bath for 30 minutes
  • When cool, remove rings and place jars in a cool place
  • On a snowy day, eat over vanilla ice cream and remember, summer is also coming🙂

 

Here at Hooch & Home we take Benjamin Franklin’s advice to “waste not want not” very seriously. The thought of composting those gorgeous peach peels was too painful so I figured it was time to experiment.

Benjamin Franklin’s Peach Liqueur 

What you will need:

  • Leftover peach peels and peach juice from canning peaches
  • 500 ml of vodka
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1.5 cups water

What to do:

  • Combine vodka and peach leftovers in a sealable jar
  • Let leftovers sit in vodka for 30 days
  • Strain vodka into another sealable jar
  • Combine water and sugar in small pot and heat until combined to make simple syrup
  • Once cooled add simple syrup to peach infusion
  • Let sit in dark corner for 30 days

 

There are so many delicious drinks that you can make with this liqueur but my favorite thing so far has been various mixing with Campari. The peachy sweetness is a perfect balance for the bitter flavor of the Campari. Below I mixed 1 oz of Campari, 1 oz of peach liqueur, 1 oz of gin and 1 oz of lemon juice. We pretended it was summer even though we were snuggled under blankets!

Tonight I used it to make a peachy negroni. I simply substituted peach liqueur for gin and kept the 1:1:1 proportions. The drink was sweet and the perfect thing to sip as I slip deeper into my denial about the cold weather that we are having.

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Can’t wait till peaches are back in season!!!!!

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Repotting Plants and a Spring Wind

Recent cold snap notwithstanding, spring has definitely arrived here in South Carolina and it looks like we’re going to get a few weeks to enjoy it before summer temperatures start creeping in. For many years, spring has been a time to plan for growing things and, although we don’t currently have the capacity to garden or really grow any food beyond herbs, I still take the time to pay some attention to my house plants and their growth. Many house plants will go through a growth spurt in the spring, so early in the season is the perfect time to repot them in preparation for the new growth.


Repotting Plants

Repotting container plants is an essential part of their care, in addition to regular watering and fertilization, and usually only needs to be done on an annual-ish basis. As plants grow and age, they deplete nutrients from the soil and mineral salts can build up in their stead. Refreshing the soil is a big part of why repotting is necessary, but giving plants more room to grow is just as important a reason. Quick-growing plants can become pot-bound, which means that the roots don’t have enough room to spread throughout the pot, instead circling around the root ball or poking out through drainage holes. This PennState Extension page has a lot of good information about repotting, how to determine if your plant is pot-bound, and what to do if it is. Quick shout out to agricultural extension agencies: you’re the best.

Hooch & Home : Repotting Plants

Since I can’t have pets, I have plants.

I have a lot of plants, so the first step for my repotting adventures is to strategize my pot plan and pre-water the plants. Because several of my plants are all about the same size, I needed to pick up some 10″ pots and some new potting soil before getting down to business. Luckily, several of my plants are also a size smaller than those, so I was able to reuse several pots as well. When choosing pot sizes, you first need to decide if you want the plant to grow larger. If you do, the pot should be just the next size up–you don’t want to scale up too far!

Hooch & Home : Repotting Plants

This is a Christmas cactus that is one of many descendants of the Audrey II of Christmas cacti. I am very proud that I have not only kept it alive, but that it blossomed for the first time about a month ago. Seriously though, this plant’s mom is e-nor-mous.

Anyhow, the second step is to prepare your new pot by adding enough soil that the plant will be level with the lip of the pot. Many people put a coffee filter or newspaper in the bottom to keep soil from falling out, but I don’t bother.

The third step involves an occasionally harrowing dance of tipping the plant upside down, while also trying to pull it from its pot. Brush some of the excess soil away from the root ball and inspect for any sickness. If the plant is pot-bound, you may need to cut away some of the roots to ensure a healthy future. Check out the extension page above for more info on this step in particular.

Hooch & Home : Repotting PlantsPlace the plant into its new pot, trying as best you can to center it. All that’s left to do now is to fill in the area around the root ball with new soil and pat it down a bit to make sure the root ball is stable. Oh, and give everyone a thorough watering to help them settle in to their new digs.

Hooch & Home : Repotting Plants

That plant on the right is so much happier in its new pot. It’s always surprising to me how different my plants look after repotting, like I can’t even fathom how they lived in such small pots after seeing them in their new homes.

Make sure to keep an eye on everyone in the days after repotting. That kind of trauma can be too much for some, but hopefully everyone settles in and gets back to the important work of growing.


Spring Wind

While spring has definitely arrived, she has brought with her some stiff winds that simultaneously make my apartment feel fresh and clean while also blowing in massive amounts of pollen. Alas. Since the temperatures haven’t quite warmed up to the point that I’m busting out the gin and tonic, I thought I’d experiment with some spring flavors in this warming, yet refreshing bourbon cocktail.

  • 2 oz. whiskey or bourbon
  • 0.5-1 oz. ginger liqueur
  • 4 oz. lemonade
  • Sprig of thyme to garnish

Combine the ingredients over ice, stir, garnish, and enjoy. If you are a big fan of thyme, muddle some in with the ginger liqueur or just bruise a few leaves between your fingers to get that flavor.

Hooch Home : Spring Wind

 

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Upcycling Cashmere and A Versatile Cocktail

This whole process started with a bit of absentmindedness after the whirlwind that was my Christmas holiday. I just so happen to like to bring my slippers with me whenever we head home to visit family for reasons of comfort and more comfort, but this time, they did not make the trip back South. My mom happened upon them and they happened upon her feet and then I happened to need some new slippers.

Cue the sound of my DIY, cheapskate brain: “Hey, I bet I could make some.” After some tentative googling and a few browses of Pinterest, I found this tutorial for making slippers out of a felted sweater. I remembered that Rob had a tragically moth-eaten cashmere sweater that he would willingly donate to the slippers cause and I headed to Goodwill to see if I could find any other wool to experiment on. Lo and behold, I found two more 100% cashmere sweaters for $5 each, and I walked away happy.


Felting Wool on Purpose

I know that while most of us have shrunk a beloved sweater on accident at least once, fewer of us have tried to do it on purpose. The process certainly isn’t complicated, but there are some tips to be offered!

Hooch & Home: Felting Wool

  1. Obtain your wool. In order to get the best result from your felting process, the sweater or other garment needs to be as much natural fiber as possible. 100% is best. Check the tags!
  2. Put your sweaters into a large lingerie bag or pillowcase. All I had was a king size pillowcase, but it worked really well to contain the renegade wool bits that the sweaters shed.
  3. Hooch & Home: Felting WoolWash the sweaters in hot water with laundry detergent. This is when the magic happens. Although agitation alone is enough to felt wool, the hot water and soap help the process along as well. If you don’t have access to a washing machine, this process can be done on in hot water on the stove…but that’s a little much even for me.
  4. When the cycle has finished, retrieve your sweaters from their case and inspect the result. The fibers should have shrunk considerably, although probably not far enough. I had to wash my sweaters three to four times before they were adequately felted. If you have access to a dryer, running the sweaters through a cycle will help speed up the process as well.
  5. When trying to decide if the wool has felted enough, test the fabric by pulling it and inspect the fibers. It shouldn’t stretch much and you shouldn’t be able to see the individual lines of knit wool. If felted enough, the fibers should have matted together to create your new fabric.

Once your wool is all felted up, it is ready to be put to all kinds of uses. My library has at least one whole shelf of books on felt crafts and ideas, so if slippers aren’t something you need, do some investigating and find something you do need or want. Although I must say, cashmere felt slippers are kind of awesome.

Hooch & Home : Felt on Purpose

Please excuse the haphazard hand sewing.


A Hooch & Home Bloody Mary

Felt is an incredibly versatile fabric, especially when you make it yourself….much like the Bloody Mary. I’m not a huge fan of the drink when made with its traditional vodka, but! part of what I do love about it is that you can make the cocktail with just about any base spirit. Except maybe whiskey. I mean…I’d be willing to try it.

Anyway, I love making Bloody Marys at home because there’s so much you can do to make this a fabulous drink that you love, without fear of messing up ratios or delicate balances–and you don’t even have to have bacon. And you can stay in your pajamas!

Hooch & Home : Felt on Purpose

I tend to stick to this basic recipe:

  • 3 oz. base spirit. Aquavit is my hands down, no contest favorite. Gin used to be, but I’ve converted.
  • 5-6 oz. tomato juice
  • a little salt, whether in the form of soy sauce or actual Kosher salt
  • a grind or two of black pepper
  • a hefty splash of some kind of pickle brine
  • a couple of dashes of some kind of hot sauce. Sriracha or Frank’s work well if Tobasco isn’t your jam.

Stir or shake until very cold, serving over fresh ice. Garnish with olives, pickled okra, dilly beans, celery, etc.

If the flavor is a bit thin, which is often my complaint, Worchestershire sauce usually solves the problem. If things are a little dull, add some lemon juice. Sometimes the tomato juice is acidic enough without lemon. And do not underestimate the importance of the added salt. Tomatoes have certain flavor compounds that are only unlocked in the presence of salt and alcohol, which is also helpful to keep in mind when cooking with tomatoes.

There are tons and tons of different combinations that work well with tomato juice and booze. Don’t be afraid to play around and see what makes you happy!

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Fusion

Hello Hoochers and Homers!!!! It’s been a little over two months since we last hooched and homed.  We’ve been occupied by weddings, graduations, trips, job searches, Netflix binges and generally trying to regain balance in our lives.  It’s taken an epic snowstorm, but sheltering in place is apparently just what I needed to get back to H&H.


Fuse Beads

This wintery weather is is the perfect time for a fun indoor project that is fun to do solo or in groups. Fuse beads bring back memories of camp, are easy to use, and sure to be a crowd pleaser. Like most of you, I had completely forgotten about fuse beads until my friend Shira, who I highly recommend if you are looking for a wedding photographer, brought them out while we lingered after a delectable brunch in her amazing South Philly apartment.

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What you’ll need:

  • Peg board (about 8 bucks on Amazon)
  • Fuse Beads (11 bucks on Amazon)
  • Clothing Iron
  • Parchment paper

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This project is simplicity itself. You create your design on a peg board. The sky is the limit!

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Next you put a layer of parchment paper on top of the beads and gently begin rub an iron back and forth over it. You’ll want to do this gently for a few minutes to make sure that the beads begin to fuse, but not for so long that they start to wilt and get too melty. If you are new to this it’s ok to keep checking and then continuing if need be. Then flip the peg board over so that the parchment paper is now between the beads and the table. Remove the peg board and fold the parchment paper over the exposed side of the design. Repeat ironing for another few minutes again being careful not to melt your design too much.

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Allow design to cool. Once your design has cooled you can turn your fuse beads into anything.

Continue reading

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DIY Dinner Life

I’m taking a brief break in my graduate school-induced hiatus from this here blog as a way to procrastinate on some major assignments that are due this week. Because graduate school! I’m graduating in LESS THAN FOUR WEEKS and then my brain will have room for crafting and home projects and cocktails once again.

Anyway, my life is mostly taken up by reading, writing, and thinking about what I’m going to eat and drink next, so I thought I might share some of my favorite recipes. Especially those that are #1 appropriate for winter times and #2 really excellent substitutes for eating out. One of the top reasons we are able to live as cheaply as we do is that we very rarely go out to eat (2x/month, if we’re doing well). One of the top reasons my cravings are still satisfied is that we make lots of international food. Also, we live in a small town, have few friends, and actually love cooking. Both of us! YMMV, obvi. I think if we lived somewhere that had more to offer culinarily-speaking, it would be more difficult to stay in as much as we do. This kind of lifestyle takes a lot of effort, but it works for us partly because we still eat fantastic food, have gotten used to the effort and planning ahead, and over time we have been able to see how much we save as a result.

Oh! Also, most of this happens to be vegetarian, if not vegan.

Indian: Lentil Tikka Masala from Naturally Ella

I’m actually on a quest to find the perfect chana masala recipe, but this one is a really excellent tikka masala. The first time we made it, we made a bunch of adjustments by accident: using an entire can of coconut milk instead of just a cup, using all of the masala paste we made instead of 1/3 cup, using a can of crushed tomatoes instead of 1 cup of stewed. Love you, Naturally Ella, but I really don’t want to open a can just to only use half. I always want more tomatoes. It is a spicy dish when you use all of the masala paste, but it is wonderfully warming and satisfying when served over rice or with chapati. Toasting and grinding whole spices is really worth it for this recipe.

Veggie burger: Olive Lentil Burger from Post Punk Kitchen

I love it when we have veggie burgers on hand because they satisfy my burger/fast food cravings and can be extra delicious. We’ve tried a lot of different recipes and I think there’s a chickpea burger out there somewhere that is also a winner, but I distinctly remember loving these. They’re very handy for camping days and I always wish we had made more. Roast up some potatoes and you’re all kinds of set.

Comfort food: Mushroom Bourguignon from Smitten Kitchen

I recently made this as a YAY I LOVE FALL dish and it was absolutely fantastic. I did make an adjustment to increase the broth quantity (beef is excellent, good quality veg will do) and add a cup of lentils to cook along with the sauce. Because apparently all we eat is lentils! I swear I haven’t had lentils in like a week. Anywho–the butter/flour/fork magic she details at the end is actual magic.

Broccoli is on sale: Roy Finamore’s Broccoli Cooked Forever from Food52

We’ve made this a couple of times now and I’m always so pleased. Basically you’re making broccoli confit and you best have some delicious bread or fancy crackers on hand for eating time. It takes a while, but it is the perfect dish for a cold and rainy weekend afternoon.

Smoky, tomato-y Italian: Tagliatelle con i Ceci

Tagliatelle con i Ceci

I found this video while searching for a copycat recipe for a soup we had in Perugia when we were there last spring. The video and the man who made it are an excellent example of just about everything I love about Italy. He measures tomato puree with an espresso cup! For those who have no Italian, this recipe from Food52 comes pretty close to the mark. Only difference is that we add a bit of bacon and don’t puree the chickpeas. Without the puree step, the recipe is more like soup, which we like. It’s top notch comfort food that takes very little time or effort.

Mexican: Spicy, Citrusy Black Beans from Simply Recipes

We found this recipe ages ago and have made it at least once a month since. It’s a great way to use dried beans and we eat them in tacos or over rice, with all the toppings. Is very good.

N.B. about dealing with dried beans: see this explanation for why we brine our beans when we soak them. We usually do two cups of dried beans at a time, soaked in two quarts of water and 1 1/2 tbsps of Kosher salt for about eight hours. We set the beans to soak in the morning and then cook them at night, rather than any kind of overnight wrangling.

Bonus MexicanSecret Ingredient Refried Beans

So this recipe is actually embedded in a recipe for sweet potato and refried beans burritos, but since I’m not the world’s biggest sweet potato fan, we tend to just make the beans portion. Of course we make the recipe using dried beans we’ve cooked up ourselves, but canned works too! Spoiler alert: the secret ingredients are soy sauce and mustard. We’ve used these to make homemade crunch wrap supremes (because sometimes fast food cravings crawl up into my brain and won’t leave) and also fantastic bean dip.

Asian Noodles: Dan Dan Noodles from Alton Brown

Once I had mastered this recipe, I began to riff on versions of Asian-flavored dressings + noodles + veg =❤ but this recipe gives you a good place to start. Ramen is a handy noodle because it is ubiquitous and cheap, but we tend to go for rice or soba/udon noodles now. When I make dressings or sauces like this, I tend to use the same theories I keep in mind when I make salad dressing: vinegar (rice), sweetener (honey), salt (soy sauce and/or miso paste), mustard, aromatics (garlic and ginger), and oil (usually a combo of olive, sesame, and chili).


Beverages

As mentioned above, I am finishing up my graduate degree and my brain can only do so many complicated things and cocktail decisions have fallen to the bottom of the list. That fact, combined with the fact that it has been Oktoberfest beer season, beer has been my go to beverage lately. And, since we’ve never really talked about beer on yon blog, I thought this might be a nice chance to share some of my favorites, aka what I would buy if I had the money. Many of these are regional to the South, but may be obtainable beyond the Mason-Dixon line.

Westbrook One Claw: Charleston, SC

This is a rye IPA and essentially a grapefruit in a can, but without the sweetness of other gross grapefruit-y beers. It was one of my gateway IPAs and I’m super not mad about it. Also, most other beers put out by Westbrook are pretty stellar.

Melissa loves Dale's

Hello! says the kitchen chicken.

Oskar Blues Dale’s Pale Ale: Brevard, NC

I like a lot of what Oskar Blues puts out, but their pale ale is a solid brew. I also give high marks to their Pinner Throwback IPA. Also, they just so happen to be located in an extremely convenient spot for stopping in their tap room after a hike on the Blue Ridge. If you’re ever in the area, it’s well worth an hour or two of your time.

Avery Brewing Ellie’s Brown Ale: Boulder, CO

I’m a big fan of brown and red ales, especially in the fall and winter, and I’ve seen this one in some widespread locales. Bonus points: the chocolate lab it’s named after is on the can.

Thomas Creek River Falls Red Ale: Greenville, SC

Greenville brewing ventures benefit from the town’s proximity to Asheville’s many excellent offerings and Thomas Creek is no exception. Like I said, I love a red ale. We had another truly exceptional red ale a few weeks ago in a make-your-own six pack, but I can’t remember the name or brewery :(((

That Mexican Hot Chocolate Stout that RJ Rockers won’t be selling commercially: Spartanburg, SC

A few weeks ago, I tasted a mere half pint of this ambrosia, which was brewed specifically for an event in town. It was the perfect blend of bitter and smoky and spicy, with only the barest sweetness. Sadly, I have a feeling this will be one of those things that I only had a few tastes of, but will remain seared upon my memory for years to come. Just like that single bite of mascarpone gelato I had nine years ago.


With all of that said, go forth and cook! And drink! And let us know your favorite recipes/brews if you feel so inclined!

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The Swinging Bachelorette

It’s been a while and we missed you. Please pardon our absence from the blogosphere these past few months. Things have been a little…hectic. And when not running around, planning parties or working, I’ve been indulging  in an unquenchable Gilmore Girls binge. It seems the only cure is to run out of episodes. But I digress. The party planning has been due to my sister’s upcoming wedding and it has given me an excuse to craft homemade party favors, try out new cocktails, and spend a lot of time with some fabulous women, including Melissa! Spending time with her in person was a fall highlight; we even found a geocache in the middle of the woods!

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Planning something like a bachelorette party is no easy feat, but with Melissa’s help I was able to plan a weekend that both made my sister happy and stayed true to our Hooch & Home sensibilities (homemade and affordable in case you forgot). We went hiking, toured the Vanderbilt Mansion in Hyde Park, stayed in a kick ass mansion on the Hudson, cooked dinners and enjoyed cocktails and got our last big fix of rosé for the season.
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And of course we needed party favors. When it comes to party favors I really believe in providing something useful, and for our relaxing girls weekend it seemed like something that pampered would fit the bill. Homemade body scrub is easy to make, affordable to make in large quantities and even better than the store bought stuff. As winter approaches, I highly recommend whipping up a batch of this and keeping it in the shower. It’s also great as a gift. In keeping with the ball jar theme we also did a fun craft resulting in a useful water bottle, and created a special cocktail just for the bride to be.


DIY Body Scrubball jar

What you will need:

  • Glass jar – I used a wide mouth short ball jar (as pictured).
  • Plastic lid for jar that won’t rust in the shower (as pictured)spin_prod_859594212
  • Salt – you can use Kosher salt or buy a more finely ground salt for a less intense scrub – no need to get fancy as table salt will do!
  • Oil – olive oil is amazing but you can play around with different options to see what works best for your skin
  • Essential oil of your choice (I love a citrus based one)

Instructions:

  • Fill jar halfway with salt.
  • Add oil until about 3/4 of the jar is full.
  • Add 1/2 tsp of essential oil of your choice, or more for a stronger scent. Remember, you can add but you can’t subtract.
  • Mix until oil and salt are fully combined. You will probably need to add more oil as the salt gets mixed in. You want to add enough oil so that all of the salt is  held together but not so much that the salt is swimming in it.

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The great thing about this project is that it’s really about your preferences and how you like your scrub. You can always add more oil or more salt until you find the right balance.

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DIY Water Bottles

Anyone who has been to my house knows that I love glass jars.  Tall ones, short ones, fat ones, and tiny ones.  I love them all. It began with my first read through of Food In Jars by Marisa McCellan. I had no idea glass jars were so versatile. You can keep anything in them! They are also way better for us and the planet than anything plastic, and then there is the whole canning thing. Maybe I have a problem…You can imagine my delight when I discovered that there are companies making special lids just for jars so that they fill even more of my vessel needs. I picked up enough of reCap’s wide mouth lids for all the ladies at the party, and the tall wide mouth jars that hold lots of water but still fit in cup holder.  That and some acrylic paint and we had ourselves a Saturday night craft project.

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What you will need:61ehz4-iraL._SL1200_

  • Acrylic paint
  • Acrylic paint brushes
  • Painters tape
  • Jar of your choice
  • reCap lid (as pictured and purchased on Amazon)
  • Oven

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How to do it:

  • If you want to keep some of the jar to remain clear, use painter’s tape to create a design or pattern. You can also use a stencil. Ulive has a great video with instructions.
  • Apply thin layers of acrylic paint to your jar in desired design.
  • After first layer has dried, add another layer if desired. It depends on how opaque you would like your design to be. If it looks streaky add another layer.
  • Place jars in cold oven.
  • Set oven to 375 and set a timer for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes turn off the oven and let the glasses cool with the oven.
  • Screw on lid and enjoy!

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The Balancelle 

One of my sister’s favorite cocktails is called A Porch Swing. Smitten Kitchen has a great version of it here. For a celebratory twist we adapted this cocktail by switching out Sprite with Champagne. We appropriately upgraded the name by translating it to French!

Ingredients for one cocktail:

  • 1.5 oz of Gin
  • 1.5 oz Pimm’s No. 1 liqueur
  • 4 oz  lemonade
  • Champagne or other bubbly (we used prosecco)
  • 5  thin slices of cucumber

When making individual drinks pour gin, Pimms and lemonade over ice in a tall thin glass. Fill to top with champagne. Garnish with cucumber.

Ingredients for a pitcher:

  • 2 parts Pimms
  • 3 parts gin
  • 8 parts lemonade
  • Champagne to taste
  • Cucumber

Mix ingredients in a pitcher. Stir with ice. Drink neat or with ice. Garnish with cucumber slices.

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Jalapeños For Days

Harvest time is upon us. Aggressive six packs covered with diabolically grinning pumpkins crowd out summer’s lighter ales. Fall fashions push summer’s free flowing garb to the sale rack. I fantasize about moving to a place where winter is not coming, and then go back to being in denial that my flannel will need to come out of hibernation sooner rather than later. The denial is all the more easily fueled by the peak of the produce season. The tomatoes have never been juicier or tastier, the corn fields sway on tippy toes reaching as high as they will get, and our jalapeño plant is producing peppers like its going out of style. It’s also taken over my planter box.

 This year I’ve been trending towards jam and other sweet preserves versus the pickling of years past. Preserving is much easier than I thought it would be, but I still like to commit to something until I get comfortable with it. So while I tried bourbon pickled jalepeños two years ago, this year I saved up my peppers until I had enough to make jelly. These combined with my friend Lana’s peppers made for a fun and fruitful evening! Who knows though. The plant is producing so much I will probably be able to pickle myself a pint of peppers!


Jalepeño Jelly with Powdered Pectin

This recipe is from Food by Carrie which also has a nice commentary on the difference between using powdered and liquid pectin.

Ingredients:

  • 8 large or 12 small jalapenos (12 oz)
  • 1 whole bell pepper, seeded (orange or red preferably)
  • 6 C sugar – pre-measured into a bowl (we used a little bit less – 6 cups is an insane amount of sugar)
  • 2C white vinegar, divided
  • 1 box powdered pectin (6 tablespoons from a bulk jar)

Instructions:

  • Remove the tops and most seeds of all peppers. If you like your jam more spicy leave more seeds. If you like it less remove all seeds! Also be very careful about touching the jalepeños! Lana was very sad after she rubbed her eye not knowing that there was still jalapeño oils on her fingers. This is NO JOKE! Use good soap and wash thoroughly after touching the peppers. If you begin to feel a burn douse your hand in vodka.  It really works! (Or just avoid all of this and wear gloves, which are easily found at your local grocery store!)
  • Place all seeded peppers into a food processor or blender with 1 cup of vinegar.  Blend.

  • Add peppers, powdered pectin and remaining vinegar into a sauce pan.
  • Bring to a rolling boil, add sugar all at once, then stir until melted.  Just like Carrie we found it helpful to use a whisk.
  • Bring back to a rolling boil for 1 minute, then remove from heat.
  • Some people add food coloring here. We did not feel the need.
  • Pour into hot jars, adjust lids, and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. CONSULT CANNING GUIDES BEFORE CANNING!!!!! This is also no joke. I used Ball Jars and Lana used Weck. It was the first time I had used Weck and they were easy to use but not compatible with my Ball funnel. Yes…there was jelly everywhere! You can also freeze the jelly or eat immediately! I highly recommend it on a sandwich of deli meat and cheese. Or a cheese sandwich. Or even on toast by itself!


Jalepeño-Spiked Bourbon Julep

I snuck two jalapeños away from our jam to make the fantastic simple syrup necessary for this cocktail. The recipe comes from Smoke and Pickles by Edward Lee. The book is full of amazing recipes that share the pages with Lee’s story of growing up the child of Korean immigrants in Brooklyn. His love of  Southern cooking and his Korean heritage produces amazing recipes. I highly recommend.

Ingredients (Makes one drink):

  • 4-6 fresh mint leaves, plus a sprig for garnish
  • 1 oz Jalapeño simple syrup (see below)
  • crushed ice
  • 2.5 oz bourbon (I used Berkshire Mountain Distillery Bourbon)
  • Splash of soda water
  • Jalapeño splice for garnish

My instructions are adapted from the recipe. I made the drink a few times and I think this is the best way to make the drink at home:

Put mint leaves at bottom of julep cup, or highball glass if you don’t have a julep cup. Add
simple syrup and gently muddle. Fill glass 2/3 with crushed ice and add bourbon and soda water. Stir well. Fill rest of the way with ice and garnish.

Jalapeño simple syrup:

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 jalapeño peppers, chopped (seeds and all)

In a small saucepan combine water, sugar, and peppers. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar. Turn off heat and let steep for 20 minutes. According to Lee this will keep in the fridge forever. So far mine has been in there for a few weeks and is doing great.

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Boozy Peaches, Part 1

Living in South Carolina in the summer is full of pluses and minuses, namely fresh peaches and devastating heat and humidity. But, the rational part of my mind knows that you can’t have one without the other and so I soldier on, comforting myself with air conditioning and icy drinks while eating all the peaches in sight. Hence, today’s post with a double dose of peaches and bourbon.

My summer canning priorities consist of peach slices, tomatoes, and pickles of various flavors. Out of those, the peach slices are perhaps the most important because of the joy they bring in the dark, cold days of winter. Each slice is like a slice of sunlight and a warm breeze when your toes are frozen and you’re covered head-to-toe in fleece and wool. I like to get fancy with my peaches and one of my favorite canning recipes is for pickled bourbon peaches. They have a very singular flavor that is great no matter the season, especially if some vanilla ice cream is involved.

Hooch & Home : Boozy Peaches

 

Our next post will have even more peach/hooch goodness, so stay tuned for that!


Pickled Bourbon Peaches

(adapted from Leena Eats)

Ingredients:

  • 4 lbs. peaches, peeled and sliced
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups white vinegar
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 cup bourbon (we use Benchmark)
  • Cinnamon stick/jar
  • 1/2 tsp./jar red pepper flake
  • 1/2 tsp./jar mustard seed
  • 1/2 tsp./jar black peppercorns
  • 2 cloves per jar
  • Citric acid/lemon juice

Also necessary: canning jars and all other equipment needed to process the jars in a boiling water bath. I like to use pint jars for these. Half pints are just too small for my tastes.

If you are new to canning, check out some of our previous posts or head to your local library/Google for the safe food lowdown. No matter what you do, it is always good to remember: “When doubt, throw it out!”

Procedure:

  • Blanch and peel your peaches. This is my least favorite step by far. If you don’t know, blanching involves: scoring the bottom of each peach with a sharp knife, immersing the fruit in boiling water for 30 seconds or so, then place each peach in an ice water bath to cool down. The peel should come right off!
  • Slice the peaches in half, remove the pit, then cut each half into slices radially.
  • Place the slices in acidulated water to keep them from browning while you work. You can make acidulated water by adding 1/4 tsp. citric acid or a healthy squeeze or two of lemon juice to a bowl of water.

Hooch & Home : Boozy Peaches

  • Prepare your jars, lids, and rings.
  • Prepare the boozy pickle by combining the vinegar, bourbon, water, and sugar in a saucepan over medium high heat. Bring the mixture to a boil.
  • Add a cinnamon stick and the appropriate spices to the bottom of each jar. The spices can be varied depending on the flavors you prefer, for example, I am not a huge fan of cloves or star anise, but I do like adding allspice berries. The mixture of pickle spices and winter spices keeps the flavors from being either too pickle-y or too Christmas-y. You do you!
  • Pack your jars with peach slices as tightly as possible. Add the boozy pickle to cover, leaving 1/2″ head space.
  • Use a chopstick or other long, pointy implement to release any air bubbles. Wipe the rim of each jar with a clean, damp paper towel. Cover with lids and rings.
  • Process pint jars in a boiling water bath for twenty minutes.
  • Remove from the water bath and place any jars that do not seal into the refrigerator (after cooling, of course!) and eat promptly.

I love giving these pints away as gifts because they are a little more special than your average jar of jam. They tend to get eaten a bit quicker, too!


Peach Basil Smash

I made this drink up after a day of canning peaches, as something to fortify us while we made fresh pasta for some of the best ravioli I’ve had in some time. It was on the sweeter side because the peaches I used were so beautifully ripe, but that sweetness wasn’t a bad thing. There’s a difference between the sweetness you get from sugar and the sweetness you get from fruit.

Serving the drink without straining it makes for quite the cup of vegetation, which is delicious but a little…chewy. Strain it into a martini glass or coupe for something a bit classier or strain it over ice for something a bit more refreshing and julep-y. Either way, it works beautifully!

  • 2 oz. bourbon
  • 3/4 oz. lemon juice
  • 3-4 slices of fresh, ripe as you can get peach
  • 3 basil leaves
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters

Muddle the peach slices, basil leaves, and lemon juice together. Add bourbon and bitters, and shake thoroughly with ice. Strain over crushed ice or into a martini glass and garnish with basil. If serving over ice, a splash of club soda is a nice touch.

Hooch & Home : Peach Basil Julep

 

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Clean Home & A Clean Martini

What is a clean home? This complicated, cultural, and even political question.  Does it have a smell? Who cleans it? How much power do the choices we make about cleaning have to change the world around us? Here at H&H we firmly believe that these choices do give you power, and we believe in wielding this power whenever possible; especially if these choices are better for the environment AND keep money in the bank.

For years I have been spending hard earned dollars on products that were either cheap and full of toxins, or all natural and quite pricey. That is, until my friend Danya asked if I wanted to join her in a diy adventure. After picking up the few items we didn’t already have, we set up shop on a recent Saturday in her magazine worthy kitchen. 

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It took no time at all to make the cleaners, and now with the right ingredients on hand, we can refill our bottles in no time when we run out. I got these glass bottles on Amazon. I’m a big fan and can recommend them for their low cost and excellent spray radius!


DIY All Natural Cleaners

The instructions for each spray are the same: using funnel, place all ingredients in bottle. Shake. Use! Shake some more. Use some more!

All Purpose Spray from Wellness Mama – OK to use on granite countertops!

  • 2 cups of distilled or boiled water
  • 1 tsp. Borax
  • 1/2 tsp. washing soda
  • 1 tsp. castille soap (Dr. Bronner’s makes lovely castile soaps)
  • 10 drops of essential oil

Floor Cleaner

  • 2 cups distilled or boiled water
  • splash of white vinegar
  • few drops of castile soap
  • few drops of essential oils

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Glass Cleaner from Whole New Mom:

  • 1/4 cup vinegar
  • 1/4 cup rubbing alcohol
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch
  • 2 cups water

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Danya’s spray next to her candle from the Hooch & Home candle making party!


Cleaning Up The Martini

Like many cocktails, the Martini has a much debated history. After reading up on what various sites have to offer, it seems like everyone can agree that the Martini began as the Martinez. According to Troy Patterson of Slate, the Martinez was basically a gin Manhattan. When ordered dry it would be served with dry French Vermouth instead of Italian Sweet Vermouth. Eventually the Dry Vermouth version got it’s own classification and was simplified down to a drink of stirred gin and dry vermouth. Somewhere along the way, some olive brine was added to create the Dirty Martini. In the words of Danya, this drink can taste “like an armpit” if misproportioned.

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For our clean house we wanted a clean Martini. One could debate the proportions of the classic clean Martini, but it is really a matter of taste. My bartender friend Trey says he pours vermouth over ice, and then drains the ice. He then stirs this ice with gin and serves that with an olive. Others stick to the original 1:1 ratio. I decided to go somewhere in the middle.

  • 2 1/2 oz gin (the consensus seems to be that one should use a dry gin. I used Green Hat which was all I had on hand)
  • 1 oz dry Vermouth

Stir with ice for about 20 seconds. Strain into glass (Although I recently received a beautiful jigger and bar spoon for my birthday, clearly my straining needs an upgrade!). Garnish with olive.

Turns out James Bond was a bit gauche when it came to his Martini. Stir, stir, and then stir some more.  Never shake! What are your favorite Martini proportions? Do you like to add anything extra? Are you a Martini purest?

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