Thursday, December 5, 2019

Sour with Shrubs and Switchels

I’ve been putting up my Christmas tree this afternoon, and if it seems early to you to do that I’m working on the principles that if I’m spending money on it I want to get the maximum enjoyment out of it, and that I’ll spend the next week at least rearranging decorations to get them in the right place. I’m also away over New Year so it’s going to have to come down early.

This years tree currently smells of what I think might be fox pee and superglue - some decorations needed first aid. I’m also realising (again) that the red through to burgundy decorations I like so much in shops look quite oppressively dark together on a tree that’s backlit by a large window (which means I can never get a decent photo of it either). Silver and gold would look better but...

Mark Diacono’s ‘Sour’ brings just the right balancing acidity to where I’m at with decorating. It’s been an interesting year for cookbooks - not so many big name releases (though obviously there are a few of those around) but quite a few focused on specific flavours or ingredients which have been particularly good. ‘Sour’ is excellent.

I’ve always found Diacono an interesting writer, and in this book more than ever, a charming one too.   As well as being a book to cook from it’s a delight to read. If you saw it in a bookshop I’m fairly sure the cover design would catch your eye (Quadrille’s design team are producing the most beautiful books at the moment) but unfortunately I’ve not seen it in my local bookshops (small Waterstones, and a W H Smiths) which is a shame because this is a book that deserves a lot of love. I wrote a bit more about it Here.

Shrub is an old fashioned sort of drink which comes in two sorts, one is spirit based and liqueur like, or there’s a sweetened vinegar version (both are acidic in character). The shrub recipes in ‘Sour’ are of the second type which harks back to early American style cocktails. Shrub can take a bit of planning ahead to make - ingredients might need time to ferment, and the whole thing will want to mature a bit, but they’re also a really useful thing to have around to either add a bit of personality to a cocktail, or to have as an adult tasting soft drink.

The switchel recipes don’t take as long to make and are probably less useful as mixers (although worth playing with) but again an excellent, complex, non alcoholic drink. The combination of honey, apple cider vinegar, ginger, and lemon juice has a virtuous, healthy, kind of ring to it as well which is just what the season requires. I would give a recipe - but seriously, buy the book - you’ll be glad you
did, and there are a few other cracking good drink recipes in it too (the Zobo sounds amazing, and the cranberry sour recipe is a winner).

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