Archive for the 'etsy' Category

Etsy: A History of Homebrew

beer2A home-brewed ginger beer.

If you love beer and have ever toyed with the idea of brewing it yourself, head on over to Etsy! I’ve written up a brief history of homebrew, from colonial America to the craft beer trend, and I’ve dug up some of the best beginner’s brewers kits Etsy has to offer. Read it here!

Although I have dabbled in homebrew myself, I have to admit, I’m personally a much bigger fan of consumption than creation.

I want to give a shout out to two great resources I used while researching this post: The Oxford Companion to Beer, an excellent encyclopedic beer reference, and Ambitious Brew: The Story of American Beer an incredibly well-researched (and fun) investigation of the history of American beer. I highly recommend them both!

Etsy Kitchen Histories: Ancient Hot Chocolate

chocolate3Hot chocolate, frothed with a molnillo.

In my latest post for Etsy, I experiment with making hot chocolate–Ancient Mesoamerican style:

In both Maya and Aztec art there are depictions of elegant women pouring liquid chocolate between two vessels: one on the ground and one held at chest height. Pouring the chocolate back and forth aerates and froths the drink as it falls through space, like the waterfall in Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. A thick head of froth was seen as the sign of a fine cup of chocolate. The method seemed simple enough, so I placed one bowl on the kitchen tile, held one in the air, and gently poured. Chocolate spattered all over my floor.

Despite my best efforts, my chocolate wouldn’t froth. I found the answer to my problem in Mary Roach’s new book  Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal, all about the science of eating (it’s great!). In a footnote about spit bubbles, she explains froth is caused by proteins, which hold air into a liquid when beaten, like whipping cream or making meringue. Cacao has a little bit of protein, but apparently not enough to create a foamy head. The Mexican Cook Book Devoted to the American Homes,  written in 1947  by a Mexican woman, suggests adding eggs into the cacao mixture–for the express purpose of frothing:

Almonds are usually added to the home-made chocolate, as they give it a very good taste, and also boiled egg yolks, these with the primary purpose of having the chocolate froth up upon being boiled.

I didn’t try hard boiled eggs as she suggested, but I did add a raw egg white, and the concoction foamed easily. The 1947 book is a blend of pre- and post- Colombian chocolate making techniques; and while eggs were available to the Maya and Aztec (from wild birds (updated: or turkeys or Muscovy ducks)) I can’t say if they would have been used in chocolate making.

cacao2A cacao bean with the nibs inside.

The entire recipe is below, and it gives an interesting look into the process of making chocolate. You can read more about my chocolate making experiences on Etsy!

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Old Fashioned Chocolate a la Mexicana
From Mexican Cook Book Devoted to the American Homes, 1947
By Josefina Valazquez de Leon

1 1/2 pounds of Tabasco cocoa (a regional Mexican cacao)
10 ounces Maracaibo cocoa (Venezuelan cacao)
2 pounds of sugar.
4 ounces of almonds.
1/2 ounce cinnamon.
2 boiled egg yolks

Have the cocoa roasted in a frying pan as much at to suit your taste (some persons like it dark and others light). Once roasted let it cool down take the shell off to better it so there be no shell left on it. (This shell is saved to make refreshments, gruel and “champurrado“). In special metate for grinding the cocoa, the sugar is first ground together with the almonds (these latter slightly roasted and ground shell and all), adding also the egg yolks. After all this has been well ground is placed aside and fire put under the metate grinding the cocoa next, once roasted, of course. When it is well reground the sugar and the other ingredients are added and is again ground over until all of it is well mixed and formed into a paste which does not stick to the metate. Then one proceed to mould it…The paste is then poured on the moulds and pressed and rubbed with the hand so as to make it adquire (sic) a shining surface and immediately is marked with a knife in order to divide each mould contents into sixteen equal parts each of these parts being in turn equal to one ounce.

Etsy Kitchen Histories: Cookie Swap!

The original American Christmas cookie. Recipe here.

Need to  infuse a little new cookie blood into you holiday baking? Head over to Etsy, where I’ve instigated the Great Cookie Swap, encouraging users to share their favorite Christmas cookie recipes and the stories behind them. The post is infused with some of the best cookie recipes from across Etsy, and a little cookie history, too!

Christmas cookies have a long tradition in the United States. The New Amsterdam Dutch who settled along the Hudson River had an annual tradition of passing out New Year’s“koekje,” which means “little cake.” The first of the year was a time to visit your neighbors and share good tidings, and it would have been unthinkable to leave without taking a caraway and orange-flavored koekje for the road. Their Anglo neighbors repeated the word as “cookie,” and an American treat was born.

Go to Etsy and get inspired here!

Etsy Kitchen Histories: A History of Halloween!

Halloween costumes are just not as weird as they used to be.

Over on Etsy, I’ve got a history of Halloween with a focus on eating and treating. It’s a weird holiday when you really begin to think about it, right?

When Irish immigrants came to America in the 17th and 18th centuries, they brought All Hallows Eve traditions, which blended with American “mumming” traditions. Practiced on Thanksgiving and New Year’s, mumming involved parading the streets in rags or cross-dressing, playing music or making noise, and demanding food and drink from homeowners. Additionally, Harvest Festivals were celebrated in farming communities, which brought men and women together to shuck corn and dance. Women paring apples might throw an apple peel over their shoulders; when it hit the floor, it would reveal the initials of the girl’s future husband.

Learn more about Halloween’s origins here.

Halloween party decorations from 1924.

Etsy Kitchen Histories: Tiki Time

maitai1A Mai Tai with a few Tiki touches.

In a last toast to summer, I explore Tiki and all its accompanying kitsch on the Etsy blog.

Tiki is a Frankenstein combination of influences from the Caribbean, Polynesia, Hawaii and China. During prohibition, alcohol-starved Americans traveled to the Caribbean, experiencing for the first time rum drinks like the Mojito at infamous bars like Sloppy Joe’s. Post-prohibition, the first Tiki bars were opened in California by some of these Caribbean travelers. After World War II, soldiers posted in the Pacific brought back a taste for the exotic, and bars and restaurants began to reflect a luau theme. But the food served in these establishments was often cooked by Chinese immigrants, who served their own Cantonese fare

The post includes a recipe for a classic Mai Tai, which I promise is just the thing for this coming Labor Day weekend. Read it all here!

Etsy Kitchen Histories: The Ice Pick

ice1An ice block at the ready on the back bar at Stoddard’s Fine Food and Ale in Boston.

In my latest Kitchen History, I was inspired by the beautiful ice that has been appearing in historically-inspired craft cocktail bars across the country to purchase my own ice pick, freeze a block of ice and attempt to shape it into jewel-like cubes. I have questionable success.

You know when you think something is going to be really easy, and then you realize you’re in way over your head? I first got that feeling after watching Japanese ice ball carving videos online; it dawned on me that I was destined to puncture my hand.

Read the entire adventure here.

Etsy Kitchen Histories: What to Grill Today

grillingThis is a Dixie Dog

My latest Etsy article is essential a rant about the historic gender bias in grilling–with recipes!  Read it here.

Yes, it’s a pet peeve of mine — it’s gotten to the point where I threaten anyone who approaches the grill. But it’s not just personal paranoia. Do a search for “vintage barbecue” on Etsy and you will find men — cookbooks adorned with images of men grilling; photos, aprons, and even grilling utensils emblazoned with images of men. So what’s the deal? Why, historically, is cooking in the kitchen the realm of women, but grilling outdoors the realm of men?

DSCF5864The Dixie Dog is a hot dog stuffed with peanut butter and wrapped in bacon.

Etsy Kitchen Histories: The Indestructible Cast Iron Pan

pan_1

 

 

How to rehab cast iron in my latest on Etsy.  Read it here!

In fact, cast iron gets better with age and use: years of oil and scraping with utensils create a super-smooth, non-stick cooking surface. Vintage skillets by Lodge can sell for $100 — more costly than new pieces from the 117-year-old cookware maker. If you’re not interested in dropping a Benjamin on a pan, take my advice: go for the rusty pieces. You’ll find them priced at half — or even a tenth — of the cost of clean skillets of the same age and size. All it takes is a little TLC to get these pans back in working order

Kitchen Histories: The Velveeta Grilled Cheese

grilled_cheese
My latest Kitchen History post on Etsy is in celebration of April, which is National Grille Cheese Month.  I explore the secret–the and history–of the perfect grilled cheese.  Read it here, and you can read the archive of all my Etsy Kitchen History posts here.

When I was in elementary school, my mom would drive me to the neighboring township for sleepovers at my friend Kelly’s. One of my clearest memories from these visits was the lunch Kelly’s mom would prepare for us: grilled cheese. The cheese was creamier than any I’d ever had before, with a tanginess I couldn’t identify. Her method was a mystery, until one day I ambled through the kitchen while she got her ingredients ready…

This post deals largely with the history of Velveeta cheese, inspired by a vintage Velveeta slicer I found on Etsy.  Yesterday, I got a mysterious package in the mail, shipped overnight from Oregon.  Inside:

velveeta1

Yes, that’s a yellow wax seal stamped “Velveeta.”  There was a handwritten card that said “We noticed your love of vintage Velveeta cheese cutters and couldn’t resist diving into the vault to send you this little vintage gem.” It was signed “The Velveeta Team.”

velveeta2

velveeta3

In the box, there was a c. 1980’s “cheese cuber” and two pounds of Velveeta cheese. I couldn’t be happier.  It was such a sweet thing to do. And I’m simultaneously amazed that throughout history, man has created so many tools for slicing a semi-gelatinous foodstuff that is probably one of the easiest things in the world to cut.

But hell yeah I’m going to make some queso dip with this thing.

Etsy Kitchen Histories: Maple Sugaring

maple_syrupA golden jar of my parent’s homemade maple syrup.

“It’s sugaring time, it’s sugaring time!’ My mom chriped.  “My heart always gets glad this time of year.  I think it don’t want to do it ‘it’s cold, it’s muddy’ but then I head out there and the sun is shining and the birds are singing fee-bee feeb-bee!”  That was the start of the most recent phone conversation I had with my mom.  Yeah, she’s pretty cute.

My latest post for Etsy is all about the maple sugaring season–an annual event that might be entirely foreign to you if you’re not from New England, the Midwest or Canada, where sugar maples grow.  My parents tap their backyard maples on their four acres in semi-rural Ohio.  You can read all about it here.

The cold, snowy spring has been ideal for sugaring–my parents have collected almost 100 gallons of sap this year already. But some interesting research has recently been done into historic “sugaring seasons.”  Here’s a bit of food for though that comes via The Farm at Miller’s Crossing:

I recently read an article by Tim Wilmot, a specialist with the University of Vermont Extension and Proctor Maple Research Center in Underhill VT, which put this discussion into some perspective.

The entire maple syrup industry depends on temperatures. Maple syrup producers can only harvest when the mercury goes below freezing at night, then above freezing during the day. This freeze/thaw event forces the sap in the trees to run, which can then be harvested by the taps drilled into the trees.

Recent discoveries of old records indicate that in 1870 a normal tapping in central Vermont season began on April 1, and ended on May 7.
Fast forward 60 years, and the average start date in 1930 was March 13, with an April 15 finish date.

Fast forward again to the spring of 2012, and most serious maple producers were tapping in early January and finishing in February or early March!  Last year we actually were in the high 80’s in March.

Read more about Maple Sugaring on Etsy.