Slosh Hashana

Wednesday night marks the beginning of the Jewish new year, Rosh Hashana. Many of the traditional foods for the holiday, like apples dipped in honey, are sweet, symbolizing our wishes for a sweet new year. But my favorite food moment actually comes on the second night of Rosh Hashana. Not all Jews celebrate a second night, but those who do usually make a point of eating a “new” fruit – one that’s just come into season and we haven’t gotten to eat yet — so we can make the blessing shehechiyanu, giving thanks for the new and unusual experience.

Now my mom takes this as an opportunity to serve fruits that are well out of ordinary, like the golden star fruit or the dimpled passion fruit. But no matter what exotic produce she finds, there is always a pomegranate which my sister will have expertly deseeded in a bowl of water. Pomegranates, or rimonim as they are called in Hebrew, are in season right now in Israel, and have popped up in Jewish thought since Biblical times. They are ripe with symbolism; tradition holds that each fruit contains 613 seeds, which is the number of mitzvot, or commandments, in the Torah.

Most blog posts I’ve seen for Rosh Hashana offer a good apple dish or honey cake, but in honor of our second night tradition, I’m sharing a tasty cocktail featuring pomegranate molasses, honey and rum. You can find the molasses at most Middle Eastern shops for just a couple of dollars; I’ve heard that Whole Foods sells it as well. And while the rum isn’t exactly a symbol of the Jewish new year, it is sweet. Besides, if you’re hosting guests for both nights of Rosh Hashana, you might be ready to say shehechiyanu over a stiff drink.

Pomegranate Cooler for Rosh Hashana (with help from Martha Stewart)

Ingredients

1 ounce dark rum

1 tablespoon honey

2 teaspoons pomegranate molasses

5 mint leaves

Ice cubes

4 ounces seltzer

Directions

Stir together dark rum, honey, pomegranate molasses, and mint leaves in a small glass, crushing mint with the back of a spoon. Add ice cubes and top with seltzer.

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Genuine Ginger Beer

We don’t go out very often. I think it boils down to two basic things: 1. I have trouble justifying the cost of most nice meals when I know I can make it in my own kitchen for a fraction of the cost, and 2. When I make it in my own kitchen, I can season the dish to just my liking. When we go out, I become a mash up of Goldilocks and Meg Ryan from When Harry Met Sally. “Um, waiter, I’d like my porridge to be served in a medium, heated, bowl, but don’t fill the whole thing with porridge, leave room for a splash of heavy cream, and a dash of nutmeg, oh, and can I have a side of honey?”

Although not visible in this picture, this glass of homemade soda is very bubbly.

We met up with friends over drinks in Harvard Square last week, and the Moscow Mule — homemade ginger beer, vodka and lime — caught my eye. Or really, the homemade ginger beer did. I had been thinking a lot about homemade sodas lately. There’s a great raspberry one at Flour Bakery, and  Clover Food Lab has really neat flavors like vanilla bean and hibiscus.

So I ordered just the ginger beer. It was very tasty but much too sweet, and the truth was, could really have used some vodka to cut it. So I ordered a shot of vodka. Then it was good, but not quite there. It was missing lime. So I ordered some limes. Well, after realizing I had just deconstructed and reconstructed an entire drink, I figured I might as well order it the way it was meant to be. But the vodka in the drink overpowered its gingery sweetness. Third time was a charm when I ordered a glass of ginger beer, a shot of vodka and some limes. It was nice to finally have the drink taste just right, but not the most cost effective way to go about doing it.

And, I asked myself, if this bar serves homemade ginger beer, why can’t I?

I sifted through some recipes and was tickled when I realized I could. All I needed was to ferment sugar with baker’s yeast, generating carbon dioxide which would carbonate my homemade soda. Also, this way I could control how much sugar went into the soda.

The recipe I have here is a combination of a few recipes, and I highly encourage you to fiddle with it until it’s to your liking. I think a teaspoon of vanilla would work really well with this basic recipe; a couple of whole cloves or even a cardamom pod would be great, too. I happened on a sale of turbinado sugar last week, so I had that on hand for this recipe, but I would have ordinarily used brown sugar. White sugar would also work. It’s entirely up to you.

You can make the ginger beer and add the vodka and lime to it like the restaurant did, or add rum and make a Dark and Stormy. I’ve recently discovered that Marty’s Liquor has an overstock store in my neighborhood. It’s like Ocean State Job Lot, but for alcohol. With recipes like this one, I will be making frequent trips!

Homemade Ginger Beer

For this recipe, you will need a clean 2 liter plastic soft drink bottle with cap. Do not use glass, as the pressure from the fermentation could cause it to shatter. A funnel really comes in handy, as does a box grater for the ginger.

Ingredients

1 cup brown sugar

2 tablespoons freshly grated ginger root and its juices.

Juice of half a lemon

1/4 teaspoon granular baker’s yeast

cold water

Directions

Pour the cup of sugar into the bottle using the funnel

Add the bakers yeast through the funnel into the bottle

Shake to disperse the yeast grains into the sugar granules.

Grate the ginger and then place it into a measuring cup

Juice half a lemon directly into the measuring cup

Stir to form a slurry

Add the slurry to the bottle

Rinse the measuring cup and add the rinsings to the bottle, cap and shake to distribute.

Fill the bottle to the neck with fresh cool clean water, leaving about an inch of head space, securely screwing the cap down to seal. Invert repeatedly to thoroughly dissolve sugar.

Place in a warm location for 24 to 48 hours. Do not leave at room temperature longer than necessary for it to feel “hard.” The excess pressure may cause an eruption when you open it or even explode the bottle

Test to see if the carbonation is complete by squeezing the bottle forcefully with your thumb. It if dents, it is not ready.

Not quite ready, as I can still make an indent.

 

Once the bottle feels hard to a forceful squeeze, place in the refrigerator. Before opening, refrigerate at least overnight to thoroughly chill.

Filter the ginger beer through a strainer before serving.