Make It: Orange Bitter Pickled Beets and Fennel

Make It: Angostura Orange Bitter Pickled Beets and Fennel // stirandstrain.comThis post was made in partnership with The House of Angostura. Recipe and ideas are my own.

We are big fans of all things pickled around our house. My older kid’s first solid food was a bite of cornishon. She’d just eat pickles and olives all day long if you let her. My husband will sit and eat fistfuls of pickled spicy green beans. And if you left me alone with a jar of pickled cherries, I’m sure to finish the whole thing. So, when I started working with Angostura on some unique ways to use their products in food recipes, my mind at some point during R&D went to pickles.

Or rather, pickled beets. There’s still a part of my brain that, when I hear someone mention pickled food, it goes straight to a memory of a rather large, glowing jar of pickled eggs sitting on a counter. I can’t quite remember where this was, but I can very clear picture the jar. I had never eaten one, and my five year old self was repulsed at the idea of someone actually consuming one, but, honestly, I’d give one a try now. What I’m saying is, I’d eat most anything pickled. Pickling somehow magically transforms food into piquant morsels I will happily devour; that magic is your brine.

Make It: Angostura Orange Bitter Pickled Beets and Fennel // stirandstrain.comChanging up your brine means you can have pickled beets 5 different ways if you liked. Today I’m adding in fennel and dashing pouring in some Angostura Orange Bitters. Orange is a great pair to beets and fennel and the subtle spice was a nice change to my usual brine. You’ll find a few floral notes in there along with the zesty orange.

As any bartender will tell you, bitters are like salt and pepper for cocktails, and you can think of them similarly with food as well. I mean, you’ll probably also need to salt and pepper your dish, but bitters can be yet another way to season your food.

If you’re looking for a fun DIY food/drink project for this weekend, I hope you’ll try out these pickled beets and fennel and taste how a little Angostura Orange Bitters can bring the flavor! Enjoy!

Make It: Angostura Orange Bitter Pickled Beets and Fennel // stirandstrain.com3 large beets (about 1 lb)
1 head of fennel
2 cups white wine vinegar
1 cup sugar
3 garlic cloves, smashed
1-½ tsp white pepper, whole
1 tsp celery seeds
2 star anise
1 tsp yellow mustard seed, whole
1 tsp coriander seed, whole
½ tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
2 ounces Angostura Orange Bitters

In a medium stock pot, bring 8 quarts of water to a boil. Scrub beets and add to the pot. Boil for 30 minutes until tender. Drain the beets, reserving 1-3/4 cups of water. Once beets have cooled, peel and set aside.

Wash fennel and slice off stalks and 1/8” of the bottom. Halve, quarter, and then slice ¼” thick. Quarter cooled, peeled beets and place in a non-reactive, air-tight container. Add fennel slices and set aside.

In medium saucepan over high heat, pour in the reserved beet liquid, white wine vinegar, sugar, garlic, white pepper, celery seeds, star anise, yellow mustard seeds, coriander seeds, red pepper flakes, and orange bitters. Stir to combine and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and pour hot mixture over beets and fennel. Let cool to room temperature, cover and refrigerate. Let sit at least 4 hours or overnight before eating. Best within 3 days and will keep up to 2 weeks in the fridge.

 

If you’d like to learn more about Angostura and their products, please visit them at www.angostura.com

Cocktail Quickie: Aquavit & Dill Bloody Mary

My house is a house that loves a well made Bloody Mary. From home-made tomato water to every bottled version of tomato base under the sun, we’ve tried and tested a great deal of these. Some day I will get around to posting a listing of my top mixes, and those I beg you to stay away from. But it’s far from complete at the moment.

What am I drinking right now? My top favorite Bloody Mary mixes currently are McClure’s Spicy Mix, Lefty O’Doul’s San Francisco Original Mix, and Zing Zang’s Mix. One important factor is trying to find a mix where high fructose corn syrup is not the second ingredient or even exists at all. It’s added sweetener where sweetener need not be. All of these are around this ballpark. McClure’s has a taste all its own. Known for their pickles, this mix is kinda like drinking a spicy tomato pickle brine. I love it, however, it’s definitely not for everyone. It really has a nice bite too, because honestly, when a Bloody Mary mix says spicy, I mostly disagree with that statement. The other two mixes here are good to have around if you have a crowd that varies in levels of ‘heat’ they want in their drink. One can drink them as is, or doctor them up. I prefer these for cocktail making for that reason. They make a great base where the flavor can be taken in sudden and unexpected directions (for a Bloody Mary).

This post is mainly just that. A quick way to ‘doctor up’ if you will a pretty solid base into a more complex drink with just a few touches. Also, why I’m including it into the ‘quickie’ section here.

Your standard Bloody Mary will call for vodka, but if I have a bottle of Aquavit around, I will always substitute that liquor instead. Why? For me, it gives the drink more body, more meat. And there is a subtle caraway flavor that it also imparts on the drink that is a nice match for the briny, tomato base. And hand in hand with this Scandinavian liquor goes dill. I will also stick that in if I’m making the Aquavit version.

Players

One detail that you will see in restaurants and bars that many people will skip at home is rimming the glass with some house devised salt and/or pepper mix. For a satisfying Bloody Mary at home I don’t see the point in missing this. You can get a whole other layer of flavor just by quickly combining some spices and adding that to the glass.

If you think this is the part where I have you add a giant stick of celery to the drink, you’re wrong. Personal preference has me sit that ingredient out. I find the smell of fresh celery simply too overpowering and it ruins the flavors of the drink. However, a stick of cucumber? Oh yeah, throw one in. That flavor is a match with the dill.

I do a lot of eye-balling when I make this for myself, but for consistency I will give measurements here. As always, adjust for your taste, you gotta drink it.

2 oz. Aquavit
4 oz. Bloody Mary Mix
1/2 medium lime
1 sprig of dill
2-3 dashes of hot sauce (Tapatío is my preferred hot sauce)

For Garnishes:
1 tbsp of smoked sea salt flakes
1/2 tsp of fennel seeds
1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
cucumber slice
olive
small sprig of dill

Let’s make some garnishes first. For the skewer, peel alternate patches of skin from a cucumber lengthwise for a zebra stripe effect. Cut a round from the cucumber and slice in half for a half round. Cut a spear of cucumber and set aside. Add the half round, a small sprig of dill and an olive to a skewer. Set aside.

For the salt rim: Add smoked sea salt, fennel seeds, black pepper and some of the dill fronds into a mortar (bowl) and using a pestle (or end of a wooden spoon), crush all of the ingredients until they are all roughly around the same size, not quite a powder with some crunchy bits left behind. Pour out the salt mixture onto a saucer and set aside.

Cut the lime in half and use one half to rim a highball glass with the juice. Immediately dip the glass into the salt mixture, turning to coat the entire outside rim of the glass. Many debate whether to actually stick the whole rim into your mixture, or just turn the outside around in the mixture so nothing gets inside the glass. I’ll leave this step up to your discretion. Squeeze both halves into the glass, add dill sprig and muddle both just to combine and break up the dill a bit. Add ice cubes and build the rest of your drink by adding Aquavit, Bloody Mary mix, hot sauce, spear of cucumber and your skewer.

As I mentioned earlier, that salt mixture just adds another level to your drink. It has a nice smoky and sweet smell and tastes the same too. Fennel works well with both caraway and dill, and I find it a better addition than say, celery salt. If you’re going to make yourself a quick drink at home, why not spend a few extra minutes to give it an extra shot of flavor? This may seem like a lot, but it really just takes a couple minutes to put together.