Brandied Kumquats

DSCF3043.jpg

This recipe is a bit of a cheat, because it's not actually IN the Recipe Box. All I have from the Box is the title of the recipe, at the bottom of a torn-off piece of newspaper that included the recipe for Cinnamon Pecans that let me down way back in 2015. But I was immediately taken with the idea of Brandied Kumquats- I adore brandied cranberries and I positively relish citrus fruits, so I figured this would be totally up my alley.* What I didn't account for was the fact that I no longer live in Florida, the land of kumquats, where they grow so plentifully that people throw them instead of candy in parades, and instead I live in Scotland, where the only thing that grows between the months of September and May is neeps.

For the last two years and two months, ever since I found the name of this recipe in the Box, I've had my eye out for kumquats, and this week I finally found them, at the rich people supermarket, of course. I came home and googled recipes for brandied kumquats but none of them sounded like exactly what I wanted- a citrusy version of cranberry sauce, the perfect mix of sour, sweet, bitter and boozy. So I invented my own recipe.

I'm not really sure what to do with these now that I have them- I love the flavour enough to just snack on them, but I've also made a citrusy riff on an old-fashioned with them, adding a sliced kumquat and two spoonfuls of the sugared brandy to a glass of bourbon and serving over ice. I served some with pork chops and they were great that way too; I think they'd be lovely chopped coarsely and stirred into scone dough, or sprinkled on top of a cardamom bun, but I'm happy enough eating them straight from the jar or mixed into cocktails.

These will last forever in the fridge, so make them when you find kumquats and then use them to your heart's content!

DSCF3035.jpg
DSCF3040.jpg

*When I saw I love citrus, I mean it: one of my favourite snacks is citrus peel, and Judson finds it repulsive that my preferred method of eating an orange is whole, like an apple.

The verdict:

5 spoons out of five. These are slightly more on the sweet side than cranberries treated in the same way would be, but they still have that essential tartness and most importantly, the edge of bitterness from the peel and the alcohol. They work well in cocktails (I can't wait to try one as a garnish for a gin & tonic!) and even better as a side dish or topping to pork, pastry and more. Plus, they're a cinch to make- what more could you want?

One year ago:Toll House Marble Squares
two years ago: Happy New Year!

DSCF3039.jpg

The recipe:

Brandied Kumquats

the directions:

Prick kumquats all over with a wooden pick or the tip of a paring knife (you want AS MANY HOLES AS POSSIBLE, so don't skimp).
Heat kumquats, sugar and brandy over low heat, stirring constantly, until all sugar has dissolved.
Continue cooking for 3-5 more minutes until syrup has thickened and kumquats are softened.
If any of your kumquats are still stiff, poke them with a paring knife in the pot and keep stirring.
Leave to cool slightly in the pot, stirring occasionally.
As they cool, they'll become translucent.
After 30 minutes, add ¼ c more brandy and stir into mixture.
Pour mixture into a jar and refrigerate or use.

Will keep in refrigerator for at least one month, probably longer.

the ingredients:

1 lb (500g) kumquats, washed and stems removed
2 c (250g) sugar
½ c (4oz) brandy, plus additional for topping up

Cider Tea* & Cranberry Spice Punch

Cider tea, stirred with a cinnamon stick because i am extra.

Cider tea, stirred with a cinnamon stick because i am extra.

Another two-fer recipe coming at you today, just in time for New Year's weekend! Judson and I dropped the ball bigtime on making New Year's Eve plans this year (I still blame the fact that we were out of town for the first two weeks of the month), but we've scraped together a plan and will be heading to a pub down the street with friends (the same one where we watched the treacherous election last year), listening to live music and sipping hot boozy bevvies until midnight comes, when we'll all bundle up and walk outside to the golf course that fronts this bar, just in time to watch the fireworks over Edinburgh Castle. The best part? All of this takes place less than 5 minutes' walk from our flat, meaning we don't have to deal with public transit or walking anywhere on New Year's Eve- which is perfect since it snowed all morning today and the forecast is predicting it will freeze overnight and not warm up again until Monday.

These recipes, though, are perfect for whatever you have planned between now and New Year's Eve, and will even take you into Dry January with ease. If you're cosying up tonight to stay out of the snow, make yourself a warming cup of cider tea. Heading to a party on Sunday night? Bring along a pitcher of cranberry spice punch (booze on the side), and imbibers and tee-totallers alike will be stoked.

cider tea

cider tea

cranberry spice punch, after adding wine, next to the soup tureen we use as a punch bowl because we don't own a punch bowl.

cranberry spice punch, after adding wine, next to the soup tureen we use as a punch bowl because we don't own a punch bowl.

These recipes come from a AAA pamphlet, better known in the UK, ironically, as AA.** Because they come from the American Automobile Association, the whole list of recipes is formulated to be alcohol-free so as not to encourage drunk driving. If you're under the weather, driving, acting as the DD or not drinking for any other reason, these punches both stand alone really well. Make them without the optional booze recommendation below and you'll feel better in the morning for it. If you want to get your drink on, though, I've taken the liberty of providing alcohol pairings and recommendations to kick things up a notch. Having tried both of these both with and without alcohol, I can tell you they're both great recipes and I totally recommend them.

Happy New Year from the Recipe Box Project kitchen, enjoy your holiday and I can't wait to see you back here in 2018!

*Cider Tea is perhaps better called, in UK parlance, Cloudy Apple Tea, as it's not made with hard cider but with the type of apple juice Americans call 'apple cider,' here in the UK known in general as cloudy apple juice. If you can't find cloudy apple/apple cider, regular apple juice will work, too- just up your amount of cinnamon and nutmeg to give it a little extra oomph.

DSCF3012.jpg

**Also I'd like to point out that this newspaper insert comes from 1985 and the (extremely glamourous) people depicted on it are wishing us all Happy Holidays, not Merry Christmas. Looks like the War on Christmas has been going on a lot longer than Obama's tenure in office, eh?

The verdict:
the cranberry spice punch:

5 spoons out of five. I made a double batch of this for a party we held recently, and it was gone in a flash. I had to take quite a bit of liberties with the ingredients because frozen concentrated juice doesn't exist in this country or at least at my supermarket, but it was still delicious. I have a sneaking suspicion it would even be good warm, so tell me if you try it that way. Sans alcohol, it was refreshing but still felt seasonally appropriate for winter- a nice change of pace from all the heavy drinks served this time of year (looking at you, egg nog!). I would have loved the flavour of this as a kid, even as a kid who wasn't a fan of 'punch' in general. With the addition of a bottle of jammy red wine added to it, the colour brightened considerably and the flavour profile became distinctly more adult, with just a hint of bitter to offset the fruitiness.

The cider tea:

4 spoons out of five. I want to be clear: I'm only knocking a spoon off of this because even after living in the UK for 4 years, I still don't really like tea (unless I'm hungover). If you like tea, you'll love this- it works well with breakfast tea or ginger tea, and I think it would be good with Earl Grey or lemon tea as well, I just haven't had a chance to try it yet. It's totally scalable and you can easily make as little as one cup or as much as a pitcher. Quantities listed below will make 2 large mugs worth, but double it or quadruple if needed. This one works great if you're hosting a party to have in the crockpot or on the stove simmering so people can help themselves, and it will make your kitchen smell amazing. It's perfect in the morning if you partied a little too hard the night before, or in the evening with a good book snuggled on the couch. And if you add a shot of bourbon or amaretto to it, it's a perfect party drink, too.

DSCF3011 (1).jpg
DSCF0899.jpg

one year ago: crazy crust apple pie
two years ago: festive corn ring with creamed turkey

The recipe:

Cranberry Spice Punch

the directions:

In a small saucepan, boil water, sugar, cinnamon and cloves.
Reduce heat to simmer and allow to cook for 10 minutes until reduced and slightly thick.
Remove spices and chill simple syrup until ready to mix the punch.
When syrup is chilled, mix with remaining ingredients except the wine.
Taste and adjust according to your preference- my preference was a slightly increased amount of lime juice for extra punch, but your taste may vary.
If punch is too heavy, add sparkling water to lighten it.

If making an alcoholic variant, add in the bottle of red wine, ½ at a time, tasting as you go for strength and flavour.

the ingredients:

1 c water
¼ c sugar
1 cinnamon stick
½ tsp whole cloves
1 litre (32 oz) cranberry juice
½ litre (16 oz) orange juice
½ c lime juice for a slightly more sour punch OR ½ c lime cordial for a sweeter variant
OPTIONAL: 1 bottle of fruity red wine and/or ½ litre sparkling water

The recipe:

Cider Tea

the directions:

In a small saucepan, boil water, cinnamon stick, orange peel and ½ of a whole nutmeg.
When water has come to a rolling boil, remove from heat and add tea bags, then allow to steep without disturbing for approximately 5 minutes.
Remove spices and tea bags, then add cider/juice and honey.
Reheat to warm and serve sprinkled with additional nutmeg.

If making an alcohol version, add 1 oz bourbon or amaretto to each mug (don't add it to the pot if you've made a large batch or you'll cook it out- plus, serving it on the side allows your guests to decide if they want a boozy version or not).

the ingredients:

2 c water
1 cinnamon stick
Peel from ½ of an orange
½ of a whole nutmeg (other half reserved and grated)
2 tea bags of your preferred flavour (English Breakfast or Ginger recommended)
1 c cloudy apple juice (UK) or apple cider (US)
2 tbsp honey
OPTIONAL: 2 oz bourbon or amaretto

Yum Yum Punch

I talked about this last year, but it never ceases to amaze me how spring creeps up on Edinburgh. The flowers come in phases: first the snowdrops, then the crocuses, the daffodils, the tulips, and eventually the cherry trees all turn into fluffy pink candy floss cones—my favourite part. We’re not to cherry tree stage yet, but the days are getting so much longer, the sunlight is stronger than it ever is in the dead of winter, and the winds are calming down just enough to let you know that spring is really in the air.

So, of course, when we decided to host a wee dinner party for some friends, I had one thing on my mind: warm weather. It might not be summer here in Edinburgh yet, but if you live anywhere else in the world, you’re probably doing a fair amount of ‘sitting on porches sipping things’ right about now, and this punch would be a worthy addition to any porch party, dinner party, festival pre-game (Atlantans, looking at you!), or beach day.

This drink is basically a riff on a pina colada that allows you to make it without a blender, and makes the whole thing a little lighter… and less likely to give you a brainfreeze. Plus, the addition of ginger beer makes it a little less summery and perfect for the kind of interim spring weather we're having these days. Seriously, it’s just sunshine in a cup. We spiked ours with dark rum, but this would be equally good with light rum or even vodka—but do yourself a favour and spike your glass, not the pitcher, otherwise it’s harder to mix evenly.

Another recommendation I learned the hard way is that coconut cream has to be really mixed to incorporate well into the punch (when making a pina colada, the blender does this for you). I’ve amended the recipe a bit below to help make sure the punch stays uniform consistency, and to account for adding booze to it… if you choose. Another thing we ran into was the simple fact that we don’t own a punch bowl. We’ve gotten around this in the past by using a soup tureen (I know), but it makes a giant mess when people inevitably drip everywhere and I haven’t got a pretty ladle anyway, so we made this in a very tall pitcher and it was just fine. Plus, honestly, this isn’t the most beautifully coloured drink anyway, so you’re not missing out by having it a little more hidden.

Depending on how coconut-y you’d like this to be, you can add coconut water to cut it if needed, or, better, freeze yourself some coconut water in ice cube trays, then plop those coconut cubes into the punch to keep it from getting watery as it chills.

Since my freezer isn’t big enough to freeze an ‘ice ring,’ and, to be honest, I’m not really sure what one is, I used my favourite party-hosting trick and froze ice ‘pucks’ in a muffin tin with a wheel of lime in each—then just pop those into the punch and they look much prettier (and melt more slowly!) than plain old freezer ice.

To be clear, this punch is just as tasty without being spiked, but I’ve gone ahead and included directions for spiking it because when the weather is nice, there’s not a lot that’s nicer than a rum drink… even if your version of ‘nice’ weather is the Scottish definition of ‘I didn’t blow away yet.’

Best of all, as with all good drink recipes (boozy or not), this one is all about your own preferences, so add more pineapple if you want it, or leave out the ginger beer—this one’s all about you, baby!

The verdict:

4 spoons out of five. This is really tasty, but it separates if it’s not blended like crazy, so I’m knocking off a spoon for the amount of shaking/whisking I had to do to get it to stay together.

one year ago: Double-Crusted, lightweight Cheesecake

The recipe:

Yum Yum Punch

the directions:

Pour coconut milk and a bit of pineapple juice into a cocktail shaker (or blender) and shake or blend very well.
(Shake this a lot more than you think will be necessary, as this is what helps the coconut cream emulsify into the rest of the punch).
Pour into a pitcher and add the lemonade and the rest of the pineapple juice.
Whisk again, very well, until of uniform consistency.
At this point, if you want to, you can freeze some of the mixture in a muffin tin or ice tray to chill the drink later.
Chill punch very well and whisk again immediately before serving.
Just before serving, add ginger ale to punch to taste, stir very gently to incorporate, and serve in punch cups.
Spike each serving with a shot of rum or vodka as desired, but be careful! The coconut cream covers a lot of boozy flavour so don't make it too strong!

the ingredients:

9 oz coconut cream (like Coco Lopez, if you're Stateside-- NOT coconut water or coconut milk)
12 oz lemonade (NOT fizzy lemonade, if you're in the UK)
40 oz pineapple juice
32 oz ginger ale
Dark rum (or light rum or vodka) to taste
Optional: coconut water to taste; lime wheels to garnish; ice frozen in a muffin tin to chill
Note: the above quantities are totally just suggestions. I included those quantities because that is 1 UK-sized can of coconut cream, 1 Tesco-sized bottle of the first lemonade I found, etc. Basically, get yourself a container of each of the above and go to town.