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Thursday, October 14, 2010

Rum Punched

As many of you know, my parents were born in Barbados. They each had 6 kids in their family, so I have lots of aunts and uncles and LOTS of cousins. My oldest uncle was Francis Edwin Wood Goddard (1916-1994). Great guy. My mom's father was Francis Wood Goddard (1890-1977). Wonderful guy. His father was Edwin Alleyne Goddard (1853-1943). Beats me what kind of guy he was, but I'm optimistic. Edwin's father was William Wood Davis Goddard (1820-1891), and his father was William Farmer Goddard (1800-1878) - my grandfather's grandfather's father. Regardless of whether or not they were nice, I bet they were no-nonsense, hard working, family men.  They were British colonists in early Barbados, one of the jewels of the empire. I wish I could hear how they spoke or see what they looked like.

If you continued through the family history I've researched you'd see several names which have been passed down, and I think that's pretty cool. My sister's middle name is Frances, for example, after our grandfather. No other Greggs in the bunch, but I'm okay with that.

The point of this brief history lesson?  I have a deep and rich West Indian heritage, and as you can probably guess I've been around quite a bit of rum punch in my life. Quite a bit.

The recipe we use is centuries old. There's no nouveau twist. No South Beach influence. It's simple, classic, and I wouldn't make it any other way. The best thing about our recipe is that you don't have to write it down:

One of sour
Two of sweet
Three of strong
Four of weak


One part lime juice
Two parts sugar
Three parts rum
Four parts water

The first way rhymes a lot better, and that's how you remember it. It's the greatest rum punch ever. What's more? It's how rum punch was first made. The Food Network show 'Good Eats with Alton Brown' did an entire episode on punch, and when he got to rum punch Alton told about the original way pirates made it.  I'll be damned if he didn't say the recipe was one of sour, two of sweet, three of strong, four of weak.  Alton said you should then add some spice, and we'll get to that in a minute.

So, start with a cup of lime juice, even if you buy a bottle instead of squeezing limes. Add 2 cups of sugar, 3 cups of rum (I last used an 8 year old Bacardi, but of course Barbados rum is preferred), and 4 cups of water. Wisk or stir until all the sugar dissolves, and you'll have yourself two and a half quarts o' punch.

Pour into an ice filled glass. The traditional way is to top it with a couple splashes of Angostura Bitters and then the spice, which is a little ground nutmeg. Again, that's not some foo-foo South Beach garnish. That's legit. Centuries old.  And while the end result is delicious, I must warn you that you should drink it in moderation.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Bring on Autumn

We've been killing ourselves in the yard all summer, and we're ready for things to go dormant.  Plus, it's football season (!), so we have much less time for weekend yard work.  But now it's officially fall, and like clockwork it's become a little cooler.  As I've stated in previous posts, I like to wing it in the kitchen.  I like to think about what I'm in the mood for, and then see if I can make it happen.  The end product of my inventiveness is sometimes inedible, but we have a Domino's in our neighborhood now, so there really are no losers.

About a year ago I decided to try to make a sauce for pork to go with mashed potatoes.  I thought a base of apples and dried cranberries sounded like a good start, so I got to it.  It was one of those dishes that really came out pretty good, so I posted a comment about it on Facebook, and Maureen Souza-Somethingorother, my friend of 30+ years, commented that it sounded like a good autumn kind of dinner.  That made sense to me.  Kind of Thanksgivingish with pork instead of turkey.  But that also meant that once the cool weather was behind us I felt like it would be kind of inappropriate or out of place.  Like salad at a tailgate party.

But it was really good, so I kept thinking about it.  For like 8 months I've been thinking about it.  But now it's officially autumn, and it's a little cooler outside, so I had no good reason not to make my grilled pork tenderloin and mashed potatoes with apple cranberry sauce and candied rosemary carrots.  Again the name is the shopping list.  Either I suck at naming dishes, or I'm phenomenal at it.

I think the best part of this meal is that it's pretty hard to screw up even without ever having written down a recipe.  The basics of it are simple and few, and the rest is wide open and subject to personal opinion.  I buy a flavored pork tenderloin - peppercorn this time, but I've also used teriyaki and mesquite with equal success.  I grill it over low heat turning it every 5 minutes or so until it's done, which in the case of pork is about 160 degrees, and which usually takes about 25 minutes.

While that's grilling I core two Granny Smith apples, chop them into bite size pieces, and open a 6-8 oz. bag of dried cranberries (craisins).  The apples and craisins go into a big saute' pan.  The next part has changed each time I've made this.  Most recently I added 1/2 cup of red wine vinegar, 1/2 cup of vegetable stock, and 1 cup of water, but I've done different amounts of each (including not adding any stock) with very little difference in the flavor.

I want the apples to soften completely.  I never peel the apples, but feel free if you're so inclined.  I cook the fruit and liquids over medium heat, and then I head to the pantry and survey Tammy's epic assortment of herbs and seasonings.  Salt and pepper, of course.  I always grate a lot of nutmeg, and I always use many shakes of dried rosemary.  This time I also used some of my homemade chipotle powder (see the Smokin' entry from earlier this year).

 I also use pancake syrup.

Tammy took a great photograph of these potatoes, but they were only props.  I just use the stuff in a box, because they taste fine to me.

I like to mash the apples at the end to make sure they're soft to eat (I used a potato masher, but that was overkill; a fork is fine).  If the sauce is getting thicker than you like, as mine was, just add more water.  It's really that simple.

Carrots.  Tammy cooked a bag of frozen baby carrots according to the instructions on the bag.  Then I dumped them into a pan with some water to soften further.  When the water got going well, I again added some pancake syrup to kind of candy them.  Keep tossing the carrots to coat them, and then I sprinkle a lot of dried rosemary to stick to the syrupy, gooey-ness.

That's it.  Time to slice the pork...

...and then serve it up.

Maureen was right.  That's autumn on a plate.