Wednesday, June 25, 2014

foraged mixology in Austin

(photo by Emily Perkins, mixologist extraordinaire)

Austin, TX is officially one of my favorite cities!  Not just because of the fantastic food and inherent joy of the city, but because I met two talented local foragers (thank you Scott & Colleen) and an amazing, generous group of mixologists for the most recent Botany 22 event.

We juiced fresh guavas, pickled purslane with chile pequins, and created an Austin Bitters with dandelion root, unripe mustang grapes, pencil cactus fruit, and ok, a few more chile pequins.  (Hey, it's Austin...they like their heat!)  Then we got out The Botanist gin and made some magic.

Not only were the mixologists smart, funny, and irreverent (some of my favorite qualities), but they taught me a thing or two.  Like how bitters keep the raw egg whites in a sour from smelling like a wet dog and how increasing the proportion of sugar in a fruit syrup does more than just add sweetness; it actually intensifies and stabilizes the flavors of the fruit.

Thank you Austin, it was swell.  Emily, Justin, and the folks at Contigo, you have my gratitude and friendship.

San Francisco, here we come! 

Saturday, June 14, 2014

pickled milkweed florets

I've been experimenting with pickles, preparing for the workshops I'm teaching for The Botanist Gin.  I'm pickling bite-sized, foraged edibles to garnish a wild Gibson.

Last weekend I harvested milkweed florets, and after a quick blanch I made a brine of equal parts vinegar and water, then added fennel seeds, dried hibiscus flowers, and a bay leaf.

I used white vinegar so the green of the florets would shine through, but as the liquid hit the hibiscus flowers, their red color began to spread through the brine. 

No complaints.  The color may not be bright green, but the taste is tart, complex, and dare I say it, woodsy.  There.  I dared.