Sunday, May 13, 2012

Paul Virant: From smoke to firewater

Kentucky Burnt Apples
Photo credits: Jeff Kauck © 2012
Paul Virant's The Preservation Kitchen: The Craft of Making and Cooking with Pickles, Preserves, and Aigre-doux  is not your typical canning recipe book. Yes, it contains directions for how to make pickles and jams, fermented sauerkrat and cured meats, but it's purpose is intentional in its "cooking with" title and key section labels: First "In the Jar," then "At the Table."

Virant wants the home cook to be as creative in using these recipes as he is in working them into the offerings at Vie Restaurant in Chicago, where they accompany cheese and crackers, glaze entrees and add zing to cocktails. Not surprisingly, they also play a key roles in desserts.

His jar-to-table concept - or in this case, jar-to-bar - is especially well illustrated in the following recipes for Smoked Apple Butter and Burnt Kentucky Apples.

Smoked Apple Butter
Recipes reprinted with permission from The Preservation Kitchen: The Craft of Making and Cooking with Pickles, Preserves, and Aigre-doux by Paul Virant with Kate Leahy, copyright © 2012. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc. 

Makes about 7 pints

Golden apples
10 pounds
4536 grams
Lemon, juice and strips of zest
2 ounces
57 grams
31/2 cups
11/2 pounds
680 grams

Core and halve the apples. Put the cores in a pot with the juice and zest from the lemon. Cover the cores with 4 cups water and bring to a boil. Decrease to a simmer and cook for 1 hour, then strain and discard the solids.
Meanwhile, prepare the smoker. Remove the lid and the large center cylinder. Open the vent in the charcoal basin, ensuring that the holes aren’t blocked by bits of charcoal or ash. Place the center ring down and the charcoal chamber on top of it.  Fill the chamber halfway up with hardwood lump charcoal.
Put about 3 sheets of crumpled newspaper at the base of a heavy-duty chimney starter. Place the chimney on a grate or a heat-proof surface that allows air to flow into its base and light the paper on about 3 sides. After 5 to 10 minutes, the charcoal should start to catch fire, begin to glow red, and turn ashen around the edges.
Dump the contents of the chimney onto the unlit charcoal, using metal tongs to pick up any pieces that stray to the sides. Once the smoke subsides, place three 3- to 5-inch chunks of wood on the charcoal.
Reassemble the smoker: Return the center cylinder (which should be fitted with a water bowl and two grates) on top of the charcoal basin. With a heat-proof pitcher gently pour water through the grates into the bowl, trying not to splash the coals underneath, until it is nearly full. Once the smoke has subsided, about 5 minutes later, put the apples, skin side down, on the top grate and cover with the lid, ensuring that the vent is open.
Smoke the apples for 2 hours between 225˚F and 250˚F, checking only periodically to ensure the coals are still burning (the less you open the lid, the more smoke stays with the fruit). After 2 hours, the apples should be golden brown and tender.
In a large pot, stir together the smoke apples, the strained apple broth, and the sugar. Cover and bring to a boil. Decrease to a simmer and cook gently for 1/2 hour. In batches, puree the apples until smooth, Return to the pot and cook to 200ºF, about 20 minutes.
Scald 7 half-pint jars in a large pot of simmering water fitted with a rack—you will use this pot to process the jars. (Depending on the apples, you might have enough for an additional small, 4-ounce jar.) Right before filling, put the jars on the counter. Meanwhile, soak the lids in a pan of hot water to soften the rubber seal.
Ladle the apple butter into the jars, leaving a 1/2-inch space from the rim of the jar. Wipe the rims with a clean towel, seal with the lids, then screw on the bands until snug but not tight. 
Place the jars in the pot with the rack and add enough water to cover the jars by about 1 inch. Bring the water to a boil and process the jars for 10 minutes (start the timer when the water reaches a boil). Turn off the heat and leave the jars in the water for a few minutes. Remove the jars from the water and let cool completely.

Kentucky Burnt Apples
Makes 1 cocktail
11/2 ounces bourbon (such as Buffalo Trace)
3/4 ounces apple liqueur (such as Berentzen)
1/2 ounce cane syrup (such as Depaz)
1 ounce lemonade
1 tablespoon Smoked Apple Butter 
Wheat beer
In a tumbler or pilsner glass, stir the bourbon, apple liqueur, cane syrup, lemonade, and apple butter well. Top with a splash of beer and a few ice cubes.

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