Native Moonshine

Tecate Cypress Bourbon V2_edited-1

Last year, I gave you my tried and true shortbread recipe. This year, I experimented with a new fun project: Tecate Cypress-infused bourbon.

Infused whiskeys and bourbons are all the rage of do-it-yourselfers and of artisanal restauranteurs. The idea is to take stems, greenery, berries, flowers or other plant parts and allow them to transfer flavor to a favorite spirited liquor.

Before you think about trying this at your place: warnings and caveats!

Caveat One: Never put anything in your mouth that you think you have the slightest chance of being allergic to. We are not suggesting that this is 100% safe for you. Call the Poison Control Center Hotline (which I did before I started my experiment) and talk to one of their experts. Call 1-800-222-1222.

Caveat Two: Don’t forage wild plants. Please grow your own, and forage your own garden, or ask permission to pick from someone else’s garden.

Caveat Three: Drink responsibly.

Caveat Four: You may not like these sorts of flavors, so test this out in small batches before you go using up all your expensive supplies.

Here is what I did. I took a small sprig of Tecate Cypress (Cupressus forbesii, now called Hesperocyparis forbesii) – about seven inches long and stuffed it into a quart Mason jar and filled it with bourbon. I set it on my counter in my kitchen and let it seep. Every once in a while I took a sip to see how it was coming along. Many online resources say this takes about two weeks, but after about eight days, I felt the flavor was strong enough to make an impact.

If I had found the flavor to be too strong, I would have simply diluted it with more spirits.

But it is just fine. It tastes slightly resinous. Just like it smells. I love it. For our family get-together on New Year’s Day, we swap under $10 gifts and the theme this year is to bring a gift that has a connection to wherever the person comes from. So, my little Mason jar of Tecate Cypress Bourbon is gonna be a hit, I am sure. I do plan to put a cute label on it, in the holiday spirit, excuse the pun.

If you see any members of my family before the gift exchange on the 1st, don’t let on. This is a surprise.

California Native Sage Shortbread

I love shortbread – crumbly and rich – it is perfect for the holidays. Now that most of you have recovered from the Thanksgiving feasts, it’s time to start on making some treats for all the upcoming parties and celebrations.

This recipe is not too sweet and you can use any of several varieties from your garden. I love hummingbird sage (Salvia spathacea) for this.

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Ingredients

  • 3/4 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup granulated white sugar
  • 1/4 cups packed light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Five California native salvia leaves, grown organically, washed and dried
  • Extra granulated sugar for sprinkling on top, if desired

Directions

Pick five to seven sage leaves. All California native sages are edible for culinary purposes. Sage is not commonly considered to be a plant that people are allergic to, but be safe. Ensure you (and other consumers of this treat) are not allergic to any herbal materials before using.

Wash the sage leaves under cool tap water and pat dry. Chop into small mince and hold aside.

Preheat the oven to 300 – 325 degrees. I like to use a cooler temperature and cook for longer – easier to avoid burning the bottom or edges that way.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and the two sugars until they are nicely combined. Add the vanilla. Sift together the flour and salt, then add them to the butter-and-sugar mixture. Add chopped sage. Stir in by hand, at first. Once the mixture is lightly combined, mix on low speed until the dough starts to stick to itself in a ball. Scrape out the dough onto your work surface which has been dusted with flour. Shape the dough with your hands into a thick, flat disk. Wrap or store in a container and chill for 30 minutes.

Bring the dough out of the refrigerator and, before it starts to warm up, roll the dough 1/2-inch thick and cut into 3 by 1-inch finger-shaped rectangles. Place the cookies on an un-greased baking sheet and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the edges begin to brown.

Watch carefully to avoid burning, especially if you use the higher temperature. Pull the sheet from the oven and place on a cooling rack. Allow to come to room temperature.

Serve warm from the oven, room-temperature or chilled, whatever is your preference.

Alternatively, you can press the dough into a round pie tin, score the dough with a knife and then break into pie-shaped wedges once they return to room temperature.

Cooking with Native Plants

What’s growing in your garden? It’s December and the miner’s lettuce (Claytonia perfoliata) has sprung back to life all over my yard! I pulled some out where it was unwanted and thought ‘if only there was a soup I could put this in’. I went online and found a Lettuce Soup by Epicurious. Now I’ve tried the recipe using Miner’s Lettuce and it tastes great! Here you go:

Miner’s Lettuce Gourmet Soup
This soup is a great way to use lettuce in the winter! Any kind of potato and any salad greens, but I’d recommend Miner’s Lettuce!
Yield: Makes 4 servings / Active Time: 25 min / Total Time: 35 min

INGREDIENTS

Miner’s Lettuce

1 cup chopped onions, scallions, and/or shallots
1 garlic clove, chopped
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 teaspoon ground coriander
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
3/4 cup diced (1/3 inch) peeled potato
8 cups coarsely chopped miner’s lettuce (3/4 lb)
3 cups water Continue reading