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Fred Tasker’s Christmas Mead Ode

One marvelous morning back in the Stone Age, even before the wheel was invented, a forgetful caveman left his stone cup of honey outside, and rain got in it. Then, in an even bigger miracle, some wild yeast floated down into it.
And presto! Fermentation happened, and mead was invented. Historians say it may have been mankind’s first alcoholic beverage.
I mean, they didn’t write it down or anything, but that’s what historians say.
Some of mead’s early fans were the Vikings. They toasted each other by drinking mead out of the skulls of their slain enemies. And later that night, to weaken the resistance of fair maidens to their advances.
Bacchus was the god of mead before he was the god of wine.
Julius Caesar drank it.
Queen Elizabeth the First had her own royal recipe for mead.
Chaucer drank it, and so did Shakespeare.  It’s probably responsible for their literary brilliance.
More recently, mead has been drunk after weddings.  Hence the word “honeymoon.”
On into the Middle Ages, mead remained the drink of royalty while the commoners turned to beer. These days we have a lot less royalty around, so a lot less mead is drunk.
You can still buy it in good wine shops, though.  It can be sweet or dry, sparkling or still, fruity or spicy. Some mead makers add grape juice, apple juice, herbs and/or spices.
Here’s a toast penned by the Bard himself, for the lips of Hamlet: “Doubt thou the stars are fire, doubt that the sun doth move, doubt truth to be a liar, but never doubt I love.”
Think he could write that without a flagon of mead?

Tasting note: Nonvintage Lurgashall Winery English Mead, West Sussex, United Kingdom: odd aroma of old charred oak, flavors of sweet honey and cinnamon, quite sweet, smooth.  Price: $11.95 per 375-milliliter half bottle.

Holiday Brisket

Brisket

When my daughter-in-law asked what she could make for our holiday dinner, I mentioned brisket.  She had never made one, but took up the challenge.  It was a great success and now she makes it for every holiday.  Here is Patty Gassenheimer’s Holiday Brisket.
Note: The amount of ingredients here is a guideline.  The onion and garlic powders are rubbed onto the brisket.  You may need more or less depending on the size of your meat.

3 tablespoons onion powder
3 tablespoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon salt
2 cups brown sugar
2 packages onion soup mix
1 large onion sliced
1 1/2 cups water
1 6-pound brisket

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place brisket fatty side up in a baking dish.  Rub both sides with half the onion powder, garlic powder and salt.  Mix the onion soup and brown sugar together and rub half the mixture onto the brisket, both sides. Sprinkle the remaining onion powder, garlic powder and salt over the brisket and finish with the remaining onion soup and brown sugar.  Add the onion and water to the baking dish.  Cover tightly with foil and roast 3 to 4 hours.  The meat should be very tender. Slice the meat and return the slices to the pan.  Cover and continue to cook another 30 to 40 minutes.   Serves 8.

Sour Cream Brownies as Heard on Linda’s WLRN NPR program

Nick Malgieri’s Sour Cram Brownies
From his latest book:
The Modern Baker: Time-Saving Techniques for Breads, Tarts, P9es, Cakes, and Cookies  (DK publisher, $35.00)

Makes one 9 x 13 pan of brownies, about twenty-four 2-inch squares

6 oz (1 1/2-sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces
7 oz bittersweet (not unsweetened) chocolate, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1 3/4-cups dark brown sugar, firmly packed
4 large eggs
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups walnut pieces, coarsely chopped
One 9x13x2-inch pan lined fully (bottom and sides) with buttered foil

Set a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees.  Put the cut-up butter in a medium saucepan and place over medium heat.  Let the butter melt, stirring 2 to 3 times, then allow it to bubble for about 10 seconds.  Remove the pan from the heat and add the chocolate in the hot butter and set aside for a few minutes so that the chocolate melts.  Use a small whisk to mix until smooth.

Place the brown sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer.  Beat in 1 egg on the lowest speed using the paddle attachment.  Add the remaining eggs, one at a time, beating smooth after each.  Add the sour cream, salt, and vanilla and beat smooth.

Remove the bowl from the mixer and use a large rubber spatula to mix in the chocolate and butter mixture.  Mix in the flour, followed by 1 1/2-cups of the walnuts.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.  Scatter the remaining walnuts on the batter.

Bake the brownies until they are firm, but still very moist in the center, about 30 minutes.

Cool the brownies in the pan on a rack.

Warp the pan in plastic wrap and refrigerate the brownies of several hours or overnight before attempting to cut them.  You might need to heat the bottom of the pan briefly over low heat to unmold the brownies, then invert them onto a cutting board and peel away the foil.

Fred Tasker’s Sherry Suggestions


Poor sherry. It’s the most misunderstood, misused wine in the world.

            If you ever watch a British drawing room comedy, or the antics of Niles and Frasier Crane, you see them picking a bottle off the shelf and pouring it into a thimble-sized glass. Wrong and wrong.

            Sherry is wine; when it’s opened, you have to keep it in the refrigerator.

            And sherry has marvelous aromas; to properly swirl and sniff, you should pour it into a regular white wine glass.

            But when you become familiar with sherry, it’s a marvelous drink. It comes in several styles, so it can be served as everything from an aperitif to a dinner wine to a dessert wine. Here are some of the styles.

·         Fino sherry: The lightest, driest sherry, made from the palomino grape, with a delicate, nutty flavor. In Spain, it’s the standard aperitif wine.

·        Oloroso sherry: It’s fuller in body and richer, but still totally dry, with walnut flavors. A good wine with dinner. It’s especially good with lamb. Oh, I have some nice memories.

·        Sweet sherries: For these they take oloroso sherry and add various amounts of wine from the Pedro Ximinez grape, which is picked, then laid out on mats in the sun to turn almost into raisins, raising its sugar content. Examples are Harvey’s Bristol Cream, Croft’s Cream Sherry and Old East India Sherry. These are the sherries I would drink with cookies, fruit tarts and so on.

·        Super sweet sherries: The sweetest sherries are made from the Pedro Ximinez and/or Moscatel grapes, which are also picked, laid on straw mats in the sun, and dried almost into raisins to concentrate their sugars before fermenting. These are so thick and sweet their favorite use is to be poured over really top-quality vanilla ice cream. Fabulous.

Visit Fred on his blog www.miamiherald.com/wine

 

Fred Tasker’s Wine Gift Suggestions

Every holiday season people buy gadgets for wine lovers – things that are mostly fairly useless, but so cute the wine lover says they’re just want he wanted, then puts away in a cabinet and never uses. Here are some of those gadgets, from the Wine Enthusiast Catalog.    At the end I’ll give the Website where you can find them.

*    A “Winesceptre” – a stainless steel cylinder you chill in the freezer, then plunge into your bottle of wine to instantly chill it. And there’s a little spout on top that aerates your wine as you pour. It’s $129.95.
*    A “Clef du vin” – a piece of mysterious metal alloy you dip into your wine to age its instantly, softening its tannins and improving its tastes. It’s $89.99. Tell you what. You buy it and try it and tell me if it works.
*    Wine tumblers. Why do wine glasses have stems, and why do wine lovers always hold their glasses by the stems? Easy. To keep our warm hands from warming the wine. So what do they make now? Wine tumblers, with no stems. I guess warm wine is OK now. One advantage: They’re easier to put in the dishwasher. They’re $12.95 for a set of two.
*    Blitzen Family Bottle Stoppers. Every wonder why one of Santa’s reindeers is named Blitzen? Well, according to this, it’s because he’s blitzed. As in drunk. This is a set of three cork and plaster wine bottle stoppers shaped like a drunk reindeer. You could even hang them on your Christmas tree. They’re $49.95 for a set of three.
*    Wine Master Pocket Wine Buying Guide. Are you ever stumped for the proper purple adjectives to apply to wine? This device gives expert ratings and reviews for 10,000 wines at the push of a button. Lets you know which wines taste of mulberries, iodine, red meat, leather and so on. It’s $39.95.

Linda’s Favorite Kitchen Gift Gadgets

LINDA GASSENHEIMER’S
KITCHEN GIFT GADGETS

BOTTLETOP BASTER
SUGGESTED RETAIL PRICE $3.99, WWW.JOKARI.COM, 1-800-669-1718
ONION KEEPERS
AVAILABLE AT MOST KITCHEN STORES. SUGGESTED RETAIL PRICE $7.99, SET OF 2, WWW.GOURMAC.COM, 1-800-243-7700.

HERB SAVER
SUGGESTED RETAIL PRICE $ 29.95, WWW.PREPARA.COM, 888-878-8665.

SPIN ‘N STOR SALAD BAGS
SUGGESTED RETAIL PRICE $3.99 FOR A PACKAGE OF 4, $11.75 FOR 12 BAGS, WWW.ARGEECORP.COM, 1-800-449-3030.

MICROPLANE 4-SIDED BOX GRATER
SUGGESTED RETAIL PRICE $34.95, WWW.MICROPLANE.COM, 1-800-555-2767

VEGGIECHOP
SUGGESTED RETAIL PRICE $29.95 AT WILLIAMS SONOMA

GRILL FRIENDS PIZZA PAN CRISPER
SUGGESTED RETAIL PRICE $25.00. MOST KITCHEN STORES AND AMAZON.COM

PIZZA WHEEL.
SUGGESTED RETAIL PRICE $12.99

FRENCH PRESS DOUBLE WALL GLASS COFFEE MAKER BY BONJOUR.  SUGGESTED RETAIL PRICE $79.99, WWW.BONJOURPORDUCTS.COM, 1-800 BONJOUR.

BONJOUR GLASS TEA MAKER.
SUGGESTED RETAIL PRICE $49.99, WWW.BONJOURPRODUCTS.COM, 1-800-BONJOUR

INFINITE CIRCULON INDUCTION BURNER
IT RETAILS FOR ABOUT $250, I’VE SEEN IT ON LINE FOR ABOUT $150.

INFINITE CIRCULON COOKWARE
SUGGESTED RETAIL PRICE $125.00, WWW.CIRCULON.COM, 1-800-326-3933.



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