Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Ten on Ten: August.

August 10 fell on a Sunday this year, a day I am usually busy teaching one-on-one conversational English (ESL) with Japanese people keen on learning it.  However, this is the busiest week of Obon travel season and my schedule was very light, giving me time to participate in the project.

I did not set my alarm hourly as a reminder so photo times are not precise.  Also, every photo is from my iPhone which does not perform well in low light.  Next month I am hoping to use my real camera.

Remains of kitty's brunch.

End of class.

Between typhoon rain storms.

Catching up online.



Dinnertime for kitty.

Still reading.  Rainy day.

Dinner - Choose your own adventure night.

A quiet evening; almost finished.

The Ten on Ten project originally began with Rebekah Gough at her blog, a bit of sunshine.  She explains it as, "a fun and interactive way for blogger's from all around the globe to document a snap shot of their lives too, once a month on the tenth taking a photo an hour for ten consecutive hours. Finding life and beauty in the ordinary things of our day to day!" 

Ginger: Simple Syrup.

Simple syrup is sugar and water, in equal parts, heated until the sugar granules are melted. Simple. It is the ideal sweetener for cold foods, especially beverages.

White sugar is default in simple syrup, though you can use brown sugars, raw sugar, and any other sweetened granule you desire. Experiment.

In a previous posting I shared information on making ginger vodka through infusion and mentioned that the ginger can be reused for other purposes. A recent experiment of mine led to a delicious ginger simple syrup using the ginger from a vodka infusion a couple weeks ago.

I had about a cup and half of leftover vodka ginger slices and about 1 inch of fresh ginger root that I peeled, sliced and added to that. In a small sauce pan I combined the ginger, 1 ½ cups of water, and 1 ½ cups of white sugar. On high heat I brought it just to a boil then immediately reduced the heat to simmer for about 5-10 minutes.

While giving it a gentle stir periodically I smelled and tasted until it reached my desired gingery-ness. I can't describe it exactly but you should know it when you taste it – a combination of “Yum!” and “Bam!”  Once you hit that point remove the pot from the heat and let it cool enough to where you can pour it through a strainer and funnel it into a bottle or jar. I prefer glass to keep the taste as pure as possible.

Ginger syrup in green sun tea - yum!

Simple syrup should be stored in the refrigerator and will keep as-is for a week, maybe two. However, an easy trick will preserve it for much longer: simply add a small splash of plain vodka to the mixture. I add about 2 teaspoons to a 10-14 ounce bottle. I just eye-ball it; add enough that it mixes thoroughly but not enough to make it alcoholic.  You don't need much and you cannot taste it unless you've added too much. Using this trick most of my simple syrups last almost indefinitely, or at least until they are gone.

Ginger: Gin-Gin Martini.

My earliest memories of ginger include the nose-tingling sensation of Vernor's Ginger Ale and my Mother's dinnertime warning to not eat any ginger slices hidden in the stir-fry.

My love of ginger grows each time I taste it used in a different way. If it's on a menu in any manner I will try it. Four or five years ago I went to a Seattle restaurant with a friend before attending the ballet and with a little hesitancy ordered their Gin-Gin Martini. It has been my favorite cocktail ever since.

I began making it at home using store-bought ginger vodka, first with a Polish rye version, Alchemia Imbirowa, and when I could not find that, Skyy Ginger Vodka. The Alchmia was decent but eventually it became unavailable; Skyy was better than nothing but certainly lacked a true ginger root essence, tasting more of ginger ale syrup than the real thing.

Dissatisfied with the ready-made options I decided to make the ginger vodka myself, not actually distilling it of course, but by simple infusion. It was insanely easy and I could not believe I wasn't making it all along.

Three simple steps to make ginger vodka:
1. Peel and slice a ginger root
2. Soak cut ginger in plain vodka
3. Strain

Three detailed steps to make ginger vodka (using a 1 liter bottle):

1. Find a piece of ginger root with maybe 6 or 7 inches of usable pieces; it is better to infuse too much than too little because you can always dilute it down to your preference. You don't have to remove the outer skin but it makes a more clear final product so I always do; use a peeler or a small knife (very carefully). Slice the root across the grain into discs about 1/8 to ¼ inches thick. This isn't science, you don't have to measure, but you want to take full advantage of all the glorious ginger flavor. Once cut you should have a hefty handful of sliced ginger, maybe 1 ½ to 2 cups.

2. Put the sliced ginger into a pitcher and pour the vodka in. Place the pitcher into a refrigerator for at least 2 days, I've left it in for up to a week. Soaking ginger in alcohol is actually one way of preserving it so I wouldn't worry about the time on the long end.

3. Using a mesh strainer and a funnel pour the infused vodka back into the original bottle. I store the finished product in the refrigerator, it just seems better. If you are infusing less than a bottle it is very convenient to use a coffee press because then you can skip the strainer and funnel and simply pour directly from the pitcher.

4. (Optional, but highly recommended) Save the ginger from your infusion and store it in the refrigerator, I use a glass bowl covered with plastic wrap. As I mentioned earlier, it is actually preserved and can be re-used. Most often I use it in strir-frys but it is certainly not limited to that.

Finally, you now have ginger vodka and can make your own Gin-Gin Martini. Yes, I know it is not technically a martini, but since it contains only spirits I let the term slide on this one.

Gin-Gin Martini

1 oz. Gin (Bombay Sapphire pref.)
1 oz. Ginger vodka (home-infused pref.)
1 slice of cucumber

In a cocktail shaker add ice and spirits. Shake or stir (pref.) until well-chilled, the colder the better. Strain into small cocktail glass. Place cucumber slice on the rim. Enjoy.