ow many stars is the sky? Thats how much I love you….
My Granny’s favorite goodbye, goodnight, birthday, christmas , easter, weekend, just for the hell of it blessing ( though she spoke no English so in Polish it would go something like “ile światła na niebie tyle mam serce dla ciebie”. Gran was a bit unhinged to tell the truth, am not sure if it was the war and watching the Nazis destroy everything around her or she was just born that way, regardless she inspired me in my potion making ( her skills at healing with plant life were legendary in our hamlet) showed me how to stitch like an elf using invisible thread and how to grow anything from scraps ( though I’m still trying to figure out how to propagate my married crush by planting his toenail clipping in the dirt).We were born on the same day, I was equal parts her baby and her little devil that she tried saving using both the Catholic sword and stories of bogeymen that lived around the corner just waiting to pounce on my naive, unsuspecting self.
Her bed time story characters ranged from the evil Baba Yaga who lived far in the woods and stood on chicken legs waiting to eat little girls or the big bad wolf in Little Red Riding Hood who also lurked in the dark forest waiting to gobble up pretty much anything that moved, including Granny. My Gran grew up in a small village in eastern Poland and am sure her Gran would tell her to stay away from those forbidden woods, so for her I would imagine she was carrying on the torch of fear and dread. Stay close to Grannie little girl, don’t wander off the path chasing butterflies or shadows of dreams that will just end up hurting you or worse eating you for dinner !
Christmas eve always brings to mind my Gran, the holiday that she went all out creating the feast of fishes, laid out on the table followed by a mountain of sweets and snowballs made from Advocat followed by a couple of her terrifying bedtime stories. In honor of my Gran Caroline I chose to loosely re-tell Grimm’s tail of Little Red Riding Hood, her love of Granny so profound that she was brave enough to venture into the woods to bring the old girl comfort , joy and good tidings….
How Red got her name and a stranger on the road
‘Once upon a time there was a dear little girl who was loved by everyone who looked at her, but most of all by her grandmother, and there was nothing that she would not have given to the child. Once she gave her a little riding hood of red velvet, which suited her so well that she would never wear anything else; so she was always called ‘Little Red Riding Hood.’
…….One day her mother turned to her and said “Little girl , I need you to take this basket to Grannie, she is very ill so I have packed it with a few of her favorite things , red wine , spiced cake and crisp red apples , they will surely revive her and make Grannie feel well again” So Little Red grabs her velvet cape bundled up tight against the wind and sets out with the basket of goodies into the woods. Little Red is a brave girl, obviously much more than her mother , she thinks nothing of the perils that lie in the woods, Grannie always told her “stay on the path Little Red and God will keep you safe” so she stays on the path and heads deep into the dark , black forest. “Snap!!!” she hears a branch break, “Oh its nothing” Red thinks but then she hears another and another and it suddenly occurs to her someone is following her. “Who’s there?” she calls into the shadows. A voice as oily as…well oil replies “nothing to worry your pretty little head with, I’ve just come to keep you safe . Prey tell what brings you to these neck of the woods my sweet?” Red peers into the dark , she can’t see yet her eyes still not adjusted to the light ” Come out” she asks ” Oh I dare not ” the voice replies “I’ve not eaten in a week and I’m all skin and bones, I’m afraid I’ll frighten you”. Little Red lets out a chuckle “Me scared, I’m not afraid of anything or anyone, I have cake in my basket that I’m taking to Grannie’s house , I’m sure she won’t mind if I break off a piece to give to you…here” she outstretches her hand . The Wolf, for it is he, smells an enticing blend of raisins , cinnamon, apple and little girl flesh that intoxicates him in one whiff, his nose leads him hungrily out into the pathway. Sidling up to Red he slowly licks the cake from her hand and becomes a wolf possessed, he has to find a way of finishing off this tasty morsel. “Where is Grannie’s house?” he asks coyly, Red points down the path ” There’s a quicker way for sure if you follow the Nasturtiums , you’ll get to Grannie’s in no time , this path winds far too much and will take too long” Red sighs ” I can’t step off the path, Granny says not to” she eyes the flowers growing in the bush and thinks to herself how lovely it would be if she could take some flowers with her. “For certain its safe little one, fear not I will stay close and keep you safe from harm”.
Little Red convinces herself she’s safe so off she skips into the thick of the wood picking flowers and leaves to make Granny the prettiest bouquet. Meantime Mr.Wolf bounces ahead on the path to Grannie’s house full of energy knowing that this night he sleeps sound with his belly full…..
With all the flowers Red has picked there’s plenty for both a handsome bouquet and refreshing drink methinks , something light and floral with a hint of peppery green, Nasturtium leaves are both grassy and lightly peppery , a great complement to say Irish whiskey or even gin , a pick me up drink for Grannie or the wolf.
The Pepper Pot
1 1/2 oz Irish Whiskey
1 oz juiced Nasturtium leaves ( add a 1/4 cup cold water to a packed cup of leaves and blend on high, strain)
3/4 oz fresh lemon juice
1/2 oz St.Germain
1/4 oz simple syrup
a dash of orange bitters
a handful of torn sorrel leaves ( add a lovely woody tartness)
Nasturtium leaves and flowers for garnish
Add everything to your shaker with 4 ice cubes and shake for 25 seconds, strain into a cup or tin filled with crushed ice and garnish with a straw , leaves and flowers.
The Secret Knock
……Red feels like she’s spent hours in the woods and gotten no-where, she’s a smart girl though she knows how to read the time by the angle of sun in the sky ( you know Granny taught her) the sun appears to be past noon and heading close to 3 of the clock, Red picks up her basket and bushel of flowers and heads back to the path, the wolf no-where to be seen, Red wonders where he could have gotten to and why he thought off the beaten path would be quicker than the path itself. She skips along and finally smells the wood smoke coming from the Hunter’s lodge, he regularly builds a fire where he smokes all manner of beasties, in the clearing just beyond the bonfire she sees the familiar thatched roof of Grannie’s red cottage , she can’t wait to help Grannie polish off those apples and cake , picking flowers makes for thirty work.
That sneaky wolf meantime has broken into Grannie’s, gobbled her up in one go and dressed himself in her nightgown , bonnet and glasses he just has time to stuff himself under the covers when he hears a knock on the door. Red knocks their secret knock ( I admit I had a secret ring on the doorbell with my Gran) but no reply comes from within the house , so Red knocks again, this time she hears a feeble “come hither my child .I’m too weak to move” . Red enters into the dark cottage ” Would you like me to turn on the lamps, its so so dark, I’m not sure I can see you Granny darling” Granny creaks back ” no my dear, keep it dark I have a horrible migraine, but come closer I can smell such delights in your basket, I am ravenously starving!”
She heads to the kitchen and locates a couple of plates and glasses then approaches Grannie’s bed where she is huddled deep under the covers, only a bonnet and glasses poking out from the blanket….and a giant pair of ears, Red’s hand shakes slightly as she pours the wine “My what big ears you have ” the wine sloshing out onto the floor….
Little Red’s mum would have been much better served in making something easier to transport on the journey to Grannie’s house than spillable wine, my suggestion would be these spiced wine Jello stock cubes similar to the Toddy cubes I made last year. Don’t be afraid they’re pretty easy to make it just takes a bit of time to prep so if you have the time try them out.
The Loving Cup
28 grams of Knox unflavored gelatin
1 cup of fresh squeezed orange juice
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1 cup armagnac or calvados
1/3 cup St. Elizabeth allspice dram
1 cup red wine such as pinot noir or Syrah
2 cups blueberry or hibiscus tea
1/3 cup cinnamon and clove simple syrup ( simple syrup that has been infused with ground cloves and Saigon cinnamon
2 heaped tablespoons of town sugar
sliced apples and black pepper for garnish
The trick to remember for any boozy jello shot is that 1/3 of your mix can be boozy and the remaining 2/3 should be a mix of juice or low ABV liquids, too much liquor and the jello will not set.
add the gelatin powder and armagnac/brandy and allspice dram to a bowl and allow the gelatin to bloom, meanwhile add red wine , lemon and OJ to a pan with spiced syrup and bring up to a simmer, once simmering take off the heat and pour into the bowl where the gelatin is blooming. Let sit for a couple of minutes and then stir in the sugar till dissolved.
Prepare your cube molds with a bit of vegetable spray which will help pop the Jello cubes out easily, wipe out any excess oil. For the molds I usually us the Tovollo silicon 1″ cubes molds.
Pour the Jello mix into the molds and allow to set in the fridge for at least 6 hours .
Once ready to drink, boil some water and steep your fruity tea ( I like blueberry but hibiscus just as tasty). Take three cubes and places them in a cup with an apple slice and a twist or two of cracked black pepper. Pour over the hot tea and stir to dissolve the cubes, should take about a minute.
I love the idea of these cubes because you can make a batch and have them in the fridge for a week or so, they’re also a bit of fun . Perfect with a slice of Christmas pudding or Stollen cake.
Dinner is served
…..Little Red looks at Grannie’s hairy hands as she takes the cup of hot wine and slice of cake, “But Granny, what big hands you have!” The Wolf’s eyes twinkle ” All the better to hug you with my dear ” Red stares alarmed as “Granny” devours the cake and almost eats the cup too, saliva dripping down her chin. “But Granny what big eyes you have ” the wolf licks his lips ” All the better to see you with little one”. He reaches for the rest of the cake and stuffs it into his ever widening jaw. ” But Grannie” Red quavers ” what big teeth you have” The wolf springs out of bed and bellows ” All the better to eat you with!!!” Red squeals and screams in the hopes the Hunter will hear her but the big bad wolf gobbles her up whole without even stopping to breath.
He throws himself back down on the bed a small belch escaping as he pats his firm round and still wriggling tummy, he looks around for something to wash it all down with, cake, apples , wine , little girls and red velvet make for a heavy meal….
My suggestion for Mr.Wolf would be something celebratory ( he did just now eat better than he probably has in months) and something with a powerful digestif, my friend over at Addiction Mixology makes an Aigre-Doux ( agrodolche in Italian or sweet and sour in Inglese) a combination of strawberries , vinegar, wine and spices are infused then aged in oak cask for six weeks, similar to a shrub but with more complexity , the vinegar makes this an excellent digestif helping to break down the heavy fats in humans and butter in spiced cake.
The Red Slipper
1 1/2 oz Old Tom Gin such as the one from Anchor or Barr Hill
1 1/2 oz Quady winery’s Elysium ( a mix of black muscat grapes with rose and litchi notes)
1 oz Addiction Mixology’s Aigre-Doux ( called Casanova’s naughty nightgown)
1 oz fresh beet juice
1 oz soda water
2 dashes Peychauds bitters
for garnish candied olives recipe just featured in LA Magazine , and apple slices pickled in beet vinegar ( you know the stuffing the jar)
add everything to your tin with a couple of ice cubes to chill down, pour via a funnel into your twist & sparkle , soda stream contraption or ISI gun, if using the ISI or Twist & sparkle charge with one C02 capsule and dispense into your chilled champagne flute, if using a sad stream just press the button to charge. Garnish with candied olives and fruit slice.
Sweet revenge and time for tea
…..As the wolf lies back his head sinking into the pillows he starts to dream he’s a factory worker stuffing little girls into giant pie crusts , still wearing Grannie’s bonnet in his dream it keeps slipping over his eyes , he grumbles and moves it out of the way , the scene in his head has changed and he’s standing next to a table axe in hand ready to cut open the wriggling pie, the bonnet slips once more only this time when he moves it out of his eyes the giant pie is now chasing him axe in hand swiping at his bushy tail! He wakes with a start beads of sweat pouring down his back , he tries pushing himself off the bed but something is pressing him down, the bonnet is still covering his eyes, his arms grow weak as he tries moving the cap off his head,the bonnet slips and he sees Little Red jumping out of his belly tugging Granny by the hand , he gets weaker and weaker and the last sight he sees before drifting off this mortal coil is the tall, strapping Huntsman, cleaver in hand dripping with blood readying himself to chop of his tail to fashion into a hat!
Red and Granny slump to the floor, the wolf’s belly was hot and they were squished in there with bits of cake and red wine, Granny exhausted passes out from the ordeal, but quickly the Huntsman is at hand, he mixes her a woodland potion , a life giver, a corpse reviver , she springs back to life and runs to the kitchen to make them all tea and they all lived happily ever after!
The Corpse Reviver cocktail became a morning tradition of revelers in the 1930′s, said to fix the body and put it back together again after a night of merry making, there are a couple of versions out there that can be found in Harry Craddock’s Savoy cocktail bible, since its Christmas I thought I’d make a festive version using Pannetone as the main flavor. Pannetone in case you were wondering a traditional Christmas bread eaten in Italy, with candied orange peel, spices and raisins, Germanic countries have something similar called a Stollen and us Brits have this heavy concoction called a Christmas Pudding, to each their own, I love a slab of Pannetone . My drink is a play on a sidecar.
2 oz Pannetone infused Hine brandy ( I chopped up one large Pannetore and infused it into a bottle of brandy for 24 hours, strain and rebotttle)
1 oz lemon juice
1 oz pierre ferrand dry curacao
2 drops of vanilla
2 drops of orange bitters
a splash of egg white
optional sugar rim as garnish
Add everything to your shaker with 4 ice cubes and shake for 25 seconds, strain into a chilled coupe glass and slurp, its as simple as that!