Menu

Plasma Mary

Plasma Mary

A couple months ago, Rosie at 18 Reasons pinged me, asking whether I'd be interested in teaching a Bloody Mary class, accompanying a display of local illustrator Kelly Lynn Waters' delightful illustrations of Bloody Marys (Maries?) from restaurants and bars around town. The teacher they had initially lined up couldn't make it, leaving a gap. I'd taught two infusions and liqueurs classes there already, with another on the books, and so I suppose I'd acquired the ad hoc mantle of Mr. Booze. Without putting much thought into it, I replied that I would. 

Of course, there was one small wrinkle: I really don't like Bloody Marys. 

I do, however, like to challenge my palate from time to time and try to conquer my culinary disinclinations. (Still haven't gotten over that orange thing yet. That's a stubborn one.) So I took this as an opportunity to explore what really makes a bloody mary, and what exactly I didn't like.

On the surface, I should love them. They're savory, spicy, full of umami, and heaven knows my tomato consumption can be nothing less than epic. But in fact, it's the tomatoes that were the issue. Or, rather, tomato juice. More specifically, the thick, mealy goo that tastes like the can it's purchased in. Yes, that was surely the root of the problem.

I decided that for the class, we would explore a little of its history starting with its invention at Harry's New York Bar in Paris in 1921, peppering it with three versions of the drink. First, would be a straight-up classic version, using predictable ingredients like the aforementioned dreaded canned tomato juice. For the second, we'd juice fresh tomatoes, give it a little more spice and spike it with clam juice to make a Caesar, the official drink of Canada. Finally, I would solve the problem of the cocktail, eschewing tomato juice altogether for a thinner essence of tomato and an infused vodka, served up in a cocktail glass. This, I dubbed the Plasma Mary, since it lacked the thick redness of tomato juice and instead is a cheery, clear yellow. 

Read More

The even greater tomato canning of 2009

Canned tomatoes ┬ęDPaul Brown

Gluttons for punishment, we are. As I mentioned a couple weeks ago, we undertook our greatest processing and canning feat to date, dispatching with 200 pounds of tomatoes across two weeks. Thanks to our experiences over the past couple years, we’ve learned a few things that help speed the process and move things along.

For our purposes, as we were looking to get as much sauce out of the fruit as possible, two extremely large stock pots were of the essence. In addition, 23-quart pressure canners*
were required so we could process multiple batches in parallel. A 36″ range helped, but was not strictly necessary. Snacks and wine, however, were.

Whereas last year we merely scored the bottoms of the tomatoes and then blanched and cored them, this year we had an epiphany: If we cored the tomatoes first, then blanched them, the skins came away more easily, and we didn’t need to handle the slippery devils with a paring knife in one hand. Good-quality rubber gloves prevented our skin from cracking from the constant exposure to acid. Our ducks were in a row.

Our first day of canning by the numbers:

  • 100 lbs of tomatoes
  • 2 large stockpots and 2 23-quart pressure canners
  • 42 quart jars, lids and rings
  • 12 hours
  • 4 grown men
  • 3 underfoot dogs
  • 2 flaming kitchen towels

On the second Saturday, at our friends Nick & Russ‘s place in the East Bay, Nick mused on how we all enjoy this activity, and wondered how we as a society moved away from such labors. The answer, of course, is World War II.

Read More

The great tomato canning of 2008

Yes, kittens, it’s that time again. Time when the bounty of summer comes tumbling down all around us, when we must work like hell to preserve produce at its peak of perfection lest it slip through our fingers for yet another year.

We’ve not done as much canning this year as we have in years past. In 2006 in particular we frenetically canned everything that wasn’t nailed down. But based on last year’s successful tomato canning venture, we knew we had to do it again.

Last year, working with our friends Nick and Russ, we processed and canned 80 pounds of luscious heirloom tomatoes, netting six gallons of bright marinara sauce. This year, we upped the ante and went for 100 pounds. Gluttons for punishment, we are.

While we once again worked with ripe, organic heirlooms (luckily more ripe than our friends’ quarry), Nick this year opted for a variety that was largely based on beefsteak. This not only resulted in a richer color, but a sauce with more body as well.

Read More