Friday, February 20, 2015

Ol' Timey Drankin' - "Scotchem." (applejack/mustard/boiling water)

Let us say that the Applejack Fairy has lately visited your home and bequeathed upon you a surfeit of traditional freeze distilled applejack. What to do with all of this heavenly apple-fluid? Well, you should drink it down by its lonesome as the good lord intended (mayhaps throwing back a stonefence or two for variety's sake)... But what then? If you delve into the history of applejack you will surely come across the old timey drink that was known as "Scotchem."

What is/was "scotchem" you ask? Twas a drank consisting of applejack, mustard, and boiling water, that's what... Fascinating. Simply fascinating. I was intrigued. What sort of hack, micro-regional, semi-literate, food blog guy would I be if I didn't give it a whirl?

As per usual with many historical beverages, there aren't a lot of measured recipes around for scotchem. I did find one abomination of a recipe entitled "Modernized Scotchem" that involved sweet cider and sprigs of rosemary... Needless to say I would like to punt the milk-drinking dilettante who came up with that drivel square in the beanbag. Instead, I interpolated what I thought was fitting for proportions utilizing the narrative of this passage that I had came across.

I didn't have any Coleman's English mustard powder lying around which was annoying as it is generally my preferred spicy mustard. I think that Coleman's would have most closely approximated the sort of stuff that barkeeps were using in scotchem way back when. Instead I went with normal "spice cabinet" type mustard powder.

The passage I sited earlier mentioned a "good dash" of mustard powder going into a glass of scotchem. The official verdict on a "dash" is 1/8th of a teaspoon. For a "good dash" I used closer to 1/4 of a teaspoon. This went into the glass (an old mustard jar, seemed fitting) first. On top of the dry mustard I added approximately 2 ounces of boiling water. I figured equal parts applejack and water made sense and as the drink is described as quaffable in one gulp, 4 total ounces seemed reasonable. I am going by my intuition for these proportions.

There she is folks. 2 ounces of room temperature applejack on top of the boiling water/mustard mixture.

Then she went down the hatch...

My thoughts? I thoroughly understand this drink. This is not a "cocktail" meant for exciting the palate. It reminds me of the Russian tradition of horseradish vodka (which I have made myself in the distant past). No one drinks horseradish vodka for the nuanced flavor. It is a ward against the cold. Scotchem is similarly a utilitarian belly-warmer. It is something that you take and not something that you savor.

Were I chilled to the bone on a wet October day and looking for a constitutional one hundred years ago? Well then, a glass of scotchem would have been just the thing. It burns a bit going down, hits the sinuses, and then lights a warm furnace beneath your ribcage. The blessed magic of alcohol combined with mustard pushes the chill right out of your body. Amazing really. People had an innate sense of the usefulness of tonics like scotchem in the past. We have lost this sort of wisdom.

In any event, I am harping on applejack lately. Drinking/producing applejack is one of America's (and the Northeast's especially) few truly indigenous traditions. There are craft movements behind no end of nonsense products, so why not applejack? Applejack reminds me of us Appleknockers. It is a rough around the edges beverage that creeps up behind you with its unsophisticated ways and gruffly makes you love it.

Sigh... Looks like the weather is about to break, but during the present cold snap you should come over to my humble abode and let me chase away your chills with a little scotchem...

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Super Bowl Post: From the Ground Up Homemade French Onion Dip

Something I like to do is to take foodstuffs that are commonly consumed in processed nightmare form and break them down into their components. Then I reimagine them made with carefully selected/crafted ingredients. I've done this sort of thing with our indigenous small hot dogs, teawurst, and egg nog. This year in honor of the Super Bowl I trained my sights on that game time classic -- French onion dip.

I am not ashamed to say that I will greedily gobble up some Lipton F.O.D. made from powder. A tub of Heluva dip will soon fall before my double-dip chip scooping attacks. But I do this full well knowing there is all sorts of food science nonsense going on in them. So I thought it might be fun to build a F.O.D. with every component lovingly handmade at home.

I started with 1 large white onion (ignore the second, my wife put it in a soup) and 1 shallot.

I chopped the onion/shallot fine and cooked them to a nice, deep brown in some butter and oil. I added about half a clove of minced garlic for the last 4 or 5 minutes. This is the result.

I put the onion mixture into the fridge to chill overnight. 

Next step was to start the sour cream. Sour cream is really one of the easiest dairy ferments to accomplish. I simply put 2 cups of Meadow Brook Farms heavy cream and a quarter teaspoon of mesophilic culture in a jar. Place the jar, lightly covered, in a warm place overnight (minimum 12 hours) and you have some beautiful, thick sour cream.

Next I made some stick blender mayo. I use 1 cup neutral oil, 1 egg, 1 or 2 teaspoons lemon juice, pinch of salt, and about a teaspoon of Dijon mustard. 

To put together the French onion dip I used --

1 3/4 cup sour cream
3/4 cup mayo
Onion mixture (1 large white onion and 1 shallot caramelized)
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
Salt to taste (I feel salt brings out the flavor, be agressive)

I mix it all together in a jar and hit it with the stick blender a couple times to disperse the onions.

The dip really needs to sit in the fridge for 4 or 5 hours to let the onion flavor infuse throughout the creamy mixture. And that is all she wrote.

"So Mr. Dave, how did it taste?" Well, it tasted very French onion dip-y... Did it knock my socks off? No, probably not. But is dip really ever supposed to blow your mind? But it was delicious nonetheless. As good as anything I've had from a store. The satisfaction of putting better quality ingredients into your body elevates this dip into a worthwhile endeavor. 

Something I have found with homemade dairy products is that your palate has to adjust to the differing natural thickness of things like yogurt, sour cream, cream cheese, etc... Most of us are so used to the artificially thickened (carageennan, gums, etc...) dairy products that we generally consume that the looser, richer mouth feel of handcrafted stuff can initially be sort of off putting. With this dip you don't have that oddly satisfying gelatin-y texture you get with processed dips. 

Anyhow, I am carting a bowl of this stuff to a friend's house as my Super Bowl offering. Hopefully people like it. Hopefully people don't mock me for spending the amount of time and treasure I did in crafting a version of the humble French onion dip... Sometimes these sorts of endeavors result in gold.

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