Fall Spice Apple Brandy Punch

Sliced Fruit for Fall Spice Apple Brandy Punch

Of all the things that are great about the fall (and there are so many), the beginning of the holiday season and all the food and drink that is to be had certainly tops my list. One of our fall rituals is our annual block party/pig roast. We have a potluck afternoon buffet and it is a great opportunity to pull out my fall spices and fruit to make a crowd-pleasing alcoholic punch. This year, I had pears, apples, citrus, apple cider, cinnamon and a newly-made cranberry shrub to work with. I wanted to make something like a sangria, with the lovely pieces of fresh fruit, but using a stronger liquor instead of wine. So, I used Laird’s Apple Brandy and Rye as my alcohol base to make a Fall Spice Apple Brandy Punch. It was a big hit!

Even if it’s just a chance to pull out your mother’s punch bowl, party punches are a great way to make a batch of drinks ahead of time so that you are not stuck behind the bar mixing cocktails all night. You can make a punch early in the day, which gives it time for all the spice and fruit flavors to really come out…and helps you manage your party-planning time.

Cranberry shrub and Cinnamon syrup

For this recipe, you will need to do a couple of things ahead of time – the cranberry shrub and the cinnamon syrup. I would suggest doing this early in the week and having it ready to go in the fridge the day of the party.

Cinnamon Syrup recipe

If you haven’t done so yet, early in the day, make your cinnamon syrup. In a saucepan, add 1/2 cup water, 1/2 cup sugar and 2 cinnamon sticks. On a medium low heat, bring the water and sugar up to a gentle simmer. As soon as the sugar melts, cut the heat and let it cool. Place into an airtight container and refrigerate until use. 

Cranberry Shrub

Last week, I wrote an extensive post on how to make your own fruit shrub syrup. A shrub is basically fresh seasonal fruit and spices, macerating in a simple syrup with vinegar. The fruit and spices impart their flavors and color into the vinegar/sugar syrup, making a sweet and sour mixer to add to your cocktails or non-alcoholic drinks. You can go here to get the recipe for Cranberry Shrub.

A glass of Cranberry Shrub

A glass of Cranberry Shrub

Fall Spice Apple Brandy Punch

1 cup Apple Brandy (Laird’s)
1 1/2 cups rye whiskey
1 cup Cranberry Shrub (or, substitute 1/2 cup cranberry juice & 1/2 cup simple syrup)
1/4 cup cinnamon syrup (1/2 cup sugar, 2 cinnamon sticks)
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (about 5 lemons)
1 cup fresh apple cider
2 cinnamon sticks
1 teaspoon cloves
5 whole star anise
1 pear, 1 apple and 1 orange
1 medium size pitcher or punch bowl

Slicing pears for Fall Spice Apple Cranberry Punch

Slicing pears for Fall Spice Apple Cranberry Punch

Juice your lemons until you have 1/2 cup of juice. Place juice into your pitcher. Slice your pear, apple and orange into thin slices or small chunks, whichever you prefer. Place the slices into the pitcher with the lemon juice. Stir to coat the fruit with the lemon juice to prevent the fruit slices from browning.

Laird's Apple Brandy & Cranberry Shrub

Laird’s Apple Brandy & Cranberry Shrub for Fall Spice Apple Brandy Punch

Measure out and add the rest of the ingredients: Apple Brandy, Rye, cranberry shrub, apple cider, cinnamon syrup and spices. Mix and taste. If it is too alcoholic or too tart, add more cider or more cinnamon syrup. Place the pitcher into the fridge to chill and let the flavors come together.

Serve cold in highball glasses with ice or straight up. Be sure and add pieces of fruit to each glass for the full, beautiful fall fruit effect. You can also serve in a taller glass and add club soda or sparkling water if you want to lighten the mix.  Cheers!

A Pitcher of Fall Spice Apple Cranberry Punch

A Pitcher of Fall Spice Apple Cranberry Punch

 

Fall Spice Apple BrandyPunch

Fall Spice Apple BrandyPunch

 

How to make a shrub syrup

Cranberry Shrub Syrup

If you are into making cocktails at home, you have probably tried and mastered some of the classics-the Margarita, the Martini, the Manhattan. But if you’ve stretched your mixology skills beyond that, you’ve, no doubt, played around with various mixers to add depth and flavor to your cocktail creations. Luckily, there is now an amazing variety of fruit and spice-infused syrups, bitters and shrubs that can be found at any good liquor store or specialty food shop. What is a shrub, you say? Am I referring to a leafy bush? No. A shrub is a fruit-infused vinegar syrup. You may think adding vinegar to any drink would be odd, but the complex, fruity acidity of a shrub syrup adds a brightness and depth that is surprising and very pleasing.

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Making Hot Cross Buns at home – an Easter tradition

Hot Cross Buns

If you ever had to learn to play the recorder in elementary school, you probably learned the song “Hot Cross Buns”. “One ha’ penny, two ha’ penny.” You know the one. If you’ve never actually eaten a hot cross bun, they are a delicious, sweet yeast roll, made with currants, cinnamon, allspice and cloves, then marked with a cross of icing to celebrate Easter. Making and eating hot cross buns for Good Friday is an English tradition going back to the Tudors, after the small spiced cakes were outlawed for most of the year, excepting Easter week.  We carry on this tradition at my house and you can too. Here is a step-by-step guide on making hot cross buns at home. At the end of this post, I’ve also included instructions on how to make hot cross buns ahead of time, in case you are pressed for time during the holidays.

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Chocolate Truffle recipe – simple to make at home

Chocolate Truffles, ready to give

Oh my. Valentine’s Day is tomorrow and we are snowed in. No chance to run out for cards or flowers or chocolates. I’m going to have to improvise with what I have in the pantry. I do have some good chocolate, so I’ll make chocolate truffles. Here is a simple, step-by-step chocolate truffle recipe that you can easily make in a couple of hours.

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Thanksgiving podcast appearance!

Winter Squashes - butternut, kabucha, pumpkin & golden nugget

Today at noon, I’ll be a guest on Wiseheart Woman’s blogtalkradio podcast. The host, Lisa Capehart and I will be talking about “New Healthy” alternatives to Thanksgiving food favorites.

“New Healthy” Food Ideas for Thanksgiving Podcast

Go to Wiseheart Woman’s blogtalkradio site to listen LIVE at noon EST on Monday, November 18th or to hear the archived broadcast when you get a chance. 

UPDATED: Here is the link to the archived show:
Wiseheart Woman blogtalkradio The “New Healthy” Thanksgiving 

Here are links to my blog posts about each of our discussion topics:
– Thanksgiving cocktails
– Fresh Green Bean Casserole from scratch
– Pumpkin Pie from Scratch
– Making Pie Crust from lard

Cranberry Cocktails

Thanksgiving cocktails with cranberries – Cosmopolitan, Champagne & Chambord and Cranberry Margarita

Thanksgiving Cocktails with cranberries and more

Thanksgiving Cocktails with cranberries

Thanksgiving Day, to me, is the best holiday of the year. It’s low key. No pressure to buy presents or decorate. Just family, friends and good food. My sister and I both love to cook and hang out in the kitchen while the turkey is roasting. We divide up the cooking chores, put on some tunes and open up a bottle of wine and start chopping the onions and sage for the dressing and snapping the green beans. My sister especially loves champagne or sparkling wine, so we’ll often open up a bottle of something sparkly right away. And we might just add a little something to make it more festive. If friends are around, I’ll pour a fun cocktail or two. With a well-stocked liquor cabinet and some cranberry juice, you can make quite a few great Thanksgiving cocktails with cranberries and more.

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Gilroy Cocktail – a perfect drink for the holidays

Gilroy Cocktail

The holidays approach and it’s time to bring out the festive and the beautiful cocktails. First up is he Gilroy Cocktail. It is one of those delicious and pretty cocktails that everyone at the party enjoys. The Gilroy Cocktail has one ingredient that gives it a deep ruby color and it’s signature cherry flavor – Cherry Heering.

Cherry Heering

Similar to cherry brandy, Cherry Heering is a sweet, spicy Danish liqueur. It is made from crushed cherries and spices that are mixed with a neutral alcohol and aged in casks for five years. Distilled since 1818, It has a dark cherry color and flavor that adds a lot of depth to a cocktail. You’ll see Cherry Heering in the classic cocktail recipes, such as the Singapore Sling and the Blood and Sand.

Gilroy Cocktail Ingredients - Cherry Heering, Gin and Dry Vermouth

Gilroy Cocktail Ingredients – Cherry Heering, Gin and Dry Vermouth

Gilroy Cocktail

1 oz gin
1 oz Cherry Heering liqueur
1/2 oz dry vermouth
1/2 oz lemon juice (fresh, of course)
Shake with ice and pour into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.

Cheers!

Pumpkin Pie from scratch

Homemade Pumpkin Pie

Thanksgiving is in a couple of weeks and I’m already starting to plan for the annual feast. If your family is like ours, then the Thanksgiving holiday is a time when you put aside new recipes and return to traditional food favorites and guilty pleasures. Even though I love the turkey and the sides, the dessert is what I most look forward to. Pecan and Pumpkin pies are always a part of our holiday meals. Here is step-by-step recipe to make your pumpkin pie from scratch, starting with roasting your pumpkin and finishing with a whole wheat crust.

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Fresh Green Bean Casserole from scratch

Green Bean Casserole before the oven

A holiday food tradition at our house is Green Bean Casserole. Of course, being a child of the 60’s and 70’s, back in the day, my Mom would open up two cans of green beans, a can of Cream of Mushroom soup, mix them together and top with canned fried onions. Four cans, a little baking time, and she was done! I guess I can’t blame her for doing things the easy way, but now that I’m the cook for the holidays, I’m more than willing to trade convenience for taste. In that spirit, I’ve revisited that just-okay version and used fresh ingredients to make a homemade Green Bean casserole from scratch. Is it as easier? No, but it’s infinitely better tasting.

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Making Pie Crust with Lard

Pie Crust with Lard Uncooked

Sometimes, when I talk about an ambitious food project that I’m working on at home, I get the sense that people think I’m crazy. Am I that much of a food freak? Maybe I just have too much time on my hands, but I sincerely love good food and I’ve realized over the years that the best food comes from a certain amount of effort done in my own kitchen. I know I’m not the only one who thinks this. Many of my friends are like-minded – spending a lot of time, energy and love on their food. I hope that you’re one of those people, too.

One thing I love to do is make pies, including my own pie crust. A homemade pie crust has a flavor and texture so superior to a store-bought crust and is so easy to make, that I never even think of buying one. If you have cold butter (and/or lard), flour, salt and sugar, you can have a pie crust dough ready to put in the refrigerator in 10 minutes.

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