Coppers Gin

Type of Post: 
What's in my Glass?
Coppers Gin, neat over ice

Coppers Gin is made by Vermont Spirits in Quechee, Vermont. It is not yet in wide distribution; I found a bottle at their distillery/retail outlet in Quechee.

Vermont Spirits is best known for their excellent Vermont Gold and Vermont White vodkas,but they now boast a full line of artisanal spirits and an aged brandy is in the casks now!

I like it a lot. Coppers is on the soft, spicy side, closer to the Karner Blue Gin end of the spectrum than to the Gale Force Gin end. I thought I sensed a sort of fior de Sicilia vanilla-citrus angle, but it's more complex than that.

Coppers Gin made an excellent Martini 3:1 with the light, soft Dolin Dry Vermouth, and was not so good with Martini & Rossi. Try it also with Cinzano or Noilly Prat.

Coppers Gin is a very good sipping gin, of the sort that invites contemplation.

I'll keep the Coppers Gin in my cabinet for a summer gin.

Pot Roast

A German Sauerbraten dinner

This is really a class of braised beef, examples of which can be found in almost every non-vegetarian cuisine of the world.

The recipe below is full of generalities, because the details vary with the cuisine. For example, a Yankee pot roast is braised in a savory broth, an Italian Brasato in Barolo is braised in wine, and an Belgian Carbonnade is braised in beer.  A German Sauerbraten uses a savory broth, but adds vinegar to it. The herbs and spices also vary to reflect the cuisine. 

This recipe is really about technique, including one very important and counterintuitive one that is essential to the success of any pot roast, so be sure to read the Notes!

Naked Haddock

naked haddockWe love fresh haddock, simply baked with no crumbs or other distractions from its own exquisite flavor. Very fresh haddock is obviously essential to this dish!

I might have a bit of tartar sauce, and I like a Martini with Naked Haddock better than any wine.

Now that brings up something to think about. We are programmed by our culture to think about pairing wines and foods, and to think what's the right wine for a certain food. But sometimes the besst libation isn't a wine at all! So try a floral gin with haddock. You may find some old preconceptions crumbling.

Yankee Fish Cakes

Yankee Fish Cakes

This New England favorite is a classic accompaniment to Baked Beans. It's easy to make, and the uncooked mixture stores well for a few days, so you can easily make multiple meals from one recipe.

I searched through many recipes to find one that would have satisfied my mother-in-law, who was old Yankee on both sides back to the 17th century. This recipe is simple, so it relies on ingredients and technique. I used white boiling potatoes (not Russets), and frozen salt cod from my local fishmarket (not the kind that comes in a box).


Type of Post: 
What's on my Plate?

The Puzzle of Terminology

Flint Corn, of the variety Floriani Red

Our colonial forebears did the best they could to confuse their descendants about the role of corn in their foodways. In the first place, to the English settlers, corn was the word for any grain, including barley, wheat, oats, and rye. They did not know about maize, commonly known to us as corn. When reading old texts about food and farming, it's easier to think of "corn" as grain.

When the Pilgrims arrived in 1620, they soon learned that their "corn" did not fare well under New England growing conditions. They were lucky to be introduced to maize, which had long been cultivated by the Native Americans.

A Rhode Island Jonnycake with Honey

The colonists referred to the Native Americans as Indians, so they naturally referred to this strange Native American grain as Indian corn, or simply Indian. The colonial dessert called Indian pudding is called that not because it was made by Native Americans, but because it is made with Indian, their word for corn. A popular bread of the time made with both rye and corn was known as ryaninjun.

Types of Corn


Fiddleheads, SteamedFiddleheads are the still-curled young shoots of certain ferns. They are harvested for a brief time in early spring, so, like Shad Roe they are known in New England as a sign that spring has arrived. Fiddleheads are especially associated with the cuisine of Maine.

We celebrated a bounty of excellent new fiddleheads in April 2013 with our Fiddleheads Feast.

To prepare fiddleheads, just snip off the tips of the stems, rinse in cold water, and steam them for a few minutes. Stop the cooking by plunging them into ice-water. They should be al dente, still with some snap to them. 

Serve hot or cold, as a side dish or in a salad. 

Tango Cocktail

Tango CocktailI was reading an old occult-action thriller of the Weird Tales variety, The Brood of the Witch-Queen (1918) by Sax Rohmer. During a scene at a masked ball in Cairo, our protagonist says to his ailing companion:

"I prescribe a 'tango'" said Sime. "A 'tango' is --?" "A 'tango'," explained Sime, "is a new kind of cocktail sacred to this buffet. Try it. It will either kill you or cure you."

Naturally I had to mix up a Tango cocktail before continuing! 

This is a less sweet, equally complex version of Satan's Whiskers. The ingredients are almost the same, with more gin and less of the sweet stuff, and no bitters. 

I made this one with Silo gin from Vermont, reasoning that the apple taste of that fruit-forward gin would play well with the OJ and the triple sec. It was very good, but now I want to try it with one of those spicier gins from Maine, or the Nashoba Perfect 10 to see how they play with the sweet and dry vermouth combination. 

Mint Julep

Mint Julep and Photo by Richmond TalbotThe Mint Julep is a southern delight and a tradition for the Kentucky Derby.  At the race they use Old Times, but that's not really good bourbon and since the race is so commercialized now I figured my friends deserve better.

I boiled up the simple syrup the night before with mint from my garden.

Except for the ice, this drink is a little syrup in a tall glass of bourbon. The crushed ice melts on contact, reducing the liquor to something you can sip for an hour without getting hammered. Ice cubes leave too much room for liquor and don't melt enough to adequately water the drink while cooling it; the result is a drink that is too strong for its volume.

You might think "I like it strong" and you may indeed like it strong, but empirical evidence counts, too: I made a large pitcher of bourbon and syrup mixture and poured it over ice-filled glasses, emptying the pitcher and still facing demand for more. Try it with the crushed ice- it's worth it!

Calvados Cocktail

Calvados Cocktail
Richmond and Annette gave me a bottle of Calvados (French apple brandy) for my birthday. I love Calvados, but I seldom have enough to spare for cocktailian experiments. This surprise windfall enabled me to try a few forgotten cocktails from Ted Haigh's Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails
The Calvados Cocktail was an obvious starting point. It's delicious, in a very oddball kind of way. It finishes with an unbelievable blast of orange bitters that makes it spectacular... or just weird. Try it, and then decide for yourself.

Greek Easter Bread

TsourekiTsoureki, or Greek Easter Bread, is difficult, expensive, and delicious in an exotic way that takes it far beyond the realm of everyday cuisine.  It is worth learning, if you have the skill, the time and patience, and access to three peculiar ingredients.

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