Ravings of a Canadian Expat: Christmas Oranges

I was going to start this entry out with something like “This time of year, the topics of discussion in groups of Canadians living away tends to turn to food…”… but let’s be real, at least 80% of what we talk about in Canadian groups is food.

Foods we miss, foods we’re now cooking because we miss the source material, how COMPLETELY inferior American chocolate is, griping about how corn syrup is in everything here and makes stuff – soda, certain candies, etc – taste weird, etc. I don’t remember us being particularly food obsessed when I still lived at home, but man… take a Canadian out of Canada, and food is the great bonding experience.

Recently, I noticed that “Christmas Oranges” don’t really seem to be a THING in Minneapolis. Like, you can buy Cuties or Halos, but there doesn’t seem to be a culture of … well, them being particularly “holiday”.

When I was a kid, we’d get one in the toe of our Christmas stocking, and it usually ended up being my favourite part. I LOVED them!

As I grew a bit older, holiday season meant buying crates of Mandarin oranges. They were the same oranges I’d have as a kid – sold in boxes, imported from either China or Japan, and individually wrapped in green paper. There was always at least one completely moldy one in the bottom, but the rest were *gold*.

I would buy several 5lb cases at a time. At least one would end up consumed within a day or two – I’d crash on the couch with a book, and snarf ungodly amounts of oranges. I’d buy more than one case, as it was usually insanely cold (I’m from Winnipeg), and I liked to have enough to last me a week or so.

… December is the month where I am least likely to come down with scurvy… By a longshot! In addition to snarfing oranges by the case, I also enjoy to make things from them, such as:

Candied Orange Peels

Cuties Mead

Cranberry-Cuties “Christmas” Wine

Cuties Marmalade

I even juiced and zested a bunch of them to make a Cuties mousse last New Years.. Oh, it was amazing.

Anyway, I digress.

This past week, I decided that I NEED THOSE ORANGES. Cuties and Halos just don’t cut it, I wanted a bit of *home*.

My first stop was a group for local food bloggers. I explained what I was looking for, and a few people weighed in with suggestions.

I should mention that part of the problem with looking for oranges like I knew back home, is that when it comes to this sort of thing, oranges suffer from the same sort of thing that Sweet potatoes / yams do. Different products are sold as the same thing, the terms are used interchangeably, and people have wildly different ideas of what is meant when you say “yam” – and, in this case, “Mandarin orange”.

One blogger commented to say that it sounded like I was describing Satsuma oranges, and that she knew they sell them at a local coop. She then mentioned that they’re more abundant in January (not the case, back home!) – so I had to make sure that she wasn’t thinking SUMO oranges (another addiction of mine). She wasn’t, so I called The Wedge coop, and grilled their produce guy.

HE agreed that I was talking about Satsumas, but then referred to them as being “more tart”. What a let down – I never would have described Christmas oranges as being tart!

I posted a quick note about my mission to a couple expat groups, and asked for info on what they remember of the oranges back home.

I got in my truck and headed over there anyway, because when you need a mess of oranges, you NEED a mess of oranges. I was surprised to see that they had several types of oranges that looked good… so I bought a few of each. I bought a whole bag of Satsumas – I know myself, and if they were even close… a bag wouldn’t be enough!

As all of this was going down, the threads were blowing up – Us Canadians are VERY passionate about our Christmas oranges, as it turns out!

As it also turns out, the whole “oranges going by multiple names” thing got further complicated by regional differences in what constitutes a “Christmas Orange”.

People from everywhere except Atlantic Canada agreed – sold in boxes, with almost everyone specifically referencing the green tissue paper. MOST people agreed that they were imported from China and Japan, though a few pockets of Canadians apparently got theirs from Morocco! I’m 90% sure I’ve never seen an orange from Morocco, so I found this fascinating. We all knew them as “mandarins”.

On the East Coast, “Christmas Oranges” are sold in smaller, wooden crates, usually with a red plastic mesh holding them in. There is no green tissue paper, and they are known as “Clementines” – not Mandarins. From my time in Newfoundland, I was familiar with them. They were definitely different from what I knew back home: A bit harder to peel, not as juicy, smaller, and rounder. Still tasty, though!

Anyway, back to the mission.

I noticed that all of the oranges at The Wedge were from either California or Florida, and I remembered that basically all of the oranges I’d seen anywhere in Minneapolis tended to be the same. I guess there isn’t a big market for imported oranges here?

I decided to follow up on another suggestion, and headed to United Noodle – a large Asian grocery store. They would for SURE have Japanese or Chinese oranges, right?

Nope. Neither did Sun Foods, another large Asian grocery.

What they did both carry, however, were Halos. Halos are fine – and they’re actually pretty close to the Atlantic Canadian idea of Christmas oranges, packaging aside – but I really wanted my Mandarins!

So, I ended up with 6 different types of oranges (as well as “Limequats”, which had absolutely nothing to do with anything, but fascinated me nonetheless!), and wanted to do a comparison. Aside from the Halos and the last “Mandarins”, all of the oranges – and Limequats – were purchased at Wedge Coop.

Of course – if it hasn’t been obvious from this blog post so far – take my findings with a grain of salt. Due to the nature of naming conventions, there’s a good chance you could buy something that is called the same as one of these, and have it be something completely different. For that reason, I am including as much identifying information as possible!


Table below is pictured in order, left to right

Photo Sold As Details
Kishu Mandarin Tiny – about 1.5-2″ in diameter! Very easy to peel, loose skin, very little pith – which rubs off easily. Good balance of sweet and tart, leaning slightly towards the tart. Fairly juicy, seedless. Expensive, but fun. (They were obviously not Christmas oranges, but I couldn’t resist!)
Halos Halo is a brand name, not an actual variety. They’re very similar to Cuties, which we tend to prefer but haven’t seen in a while. Like Cuties, the variety of orange depends on the time of year. According to the Halo’s site (here), these were Clementines. Makes sense, given how similar they are to the Atlantic Canadian “Christmas Orange” – also sold as Clementines. These were not as easy to peel as I was looking for – skin comes off in small chunks. Also slightly more tart, and had no seeds. Readily available – it was all they carried in the Asian markets! Clementines also tend to be more spherical than what I was looking for.
Sunburst Tangerine This Florida orange was very smooth and shiny – a stark contrast to the rough, dimply skin of most of the other varieties. It was VERY difficult to peel by hand – probably better to slice. Thin, hard skin, with pith that is very attached to the segments. Has seeds, tastes like a pretty basic orange (not “Christmas” orange).
Algerian Mandarin These are called “Algerian”, but were grown in California! They were purchased at The Wedge, and is one of two oranges that were labelled as being Mandarins (not including Halos, which refer to their oranges as Mandarins on their site). This had a medium-thick skin that was very easy to peel, while not actually being loose/separated from the orange inside. It had a fair amount of sticky pith – harder to remove than some varieties. Tastes right, but the sticky pith is annoying. No seeds.
California Satsuma This was the “ugly” one of the lot – irregular, kind of squat shape, with very dimply, loose skin… AND IT WAS PERFECT. Very easy to peel, medium thick skin, only a small amount of pith that detaches from the segments very easily. Absolutely my favourite, and the closest to what I remember “Christmas”oranges being. Very plump and juicy segments, and among the sweetest of those tested. No seeds.
Mandarin After paying about $4/lb for the Satsumas, I saw 3lb bags of these “Mandarins” at Hy-Vee… and they looked very much like the Satsumas, just slightly larger. These were also very easy to peel – but had much more pith. Also has the thickest skin of all. The flesh isn’t has juicy as any of the other varieties, and has a gigantic grain to it. Has seeds.

So, as you can see… not only can the names be confusing (“Mandarin” was used for three wildly different oranges, none of which was what was referred to as “Mandarin” back home… which is “Satsuma” here!), but appearances can be deceiving, also: The Satsuma and second type of “Mandarin” looked VERY similar!

I’d asked this on my Facebook page, may as well as here too – the replies were FASCINATING (here):

1. Were “Christmas oranges” a thing where you grew up, and/or where you are now?

2. If so, what exactly does that mean to you? What was the actual orange called, what did it look like, was it easy to peel or not, how was it sold, where were they grown, etc. As much detail as possible, please!

3. Where was/is this (state/province, etc)

With 2017 being Canada’s 150th birthday, it’s about time I wrote the Canadian cookbook I’ve been planning for YEARS.

“More than Poutine” will be a Canadian cookbook like no other – written by a Canadian living away, it includes both traditional homecooking recipes, as well as homemade versions of many of the snacks, sauces, convenience foods, and other food items that are hard to come by outside of Canada!

High quality gluten-free versions of most recipes will be included.

The Kickstarter for “More Than Poutine is live, here. Please consider backing, and sharing the campaign with your friends!

Handpainted Eye of Sauron Holiday Ornaments!

He sees you when you’re sleeping, he knows when you’re awake… 😉

Last year, I designed and made an Eye of Sauron pen holder for a convention booth. After the event, I looked at it and thought “That would make a great Christmas ornament design!”… and here we are!

Perfect for any Tolkien fan on your gift list, this ornament will add a special something to any geek’s holiday tree – Lord of the Rings themed, or not. Go ahead, hang it next to a TARDIS, it’s all good!

Ornaments are all hand painted on plastic (I’m a cat owner. I can’t wrap my head around glass ornaments hanging from a tree!), are durable, and look great!

The “eye” is painted on both sides of each ornament, so it looks great from multiple angles.

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Due to the hand painted nature of these ornaments, no two will be alike – expect some variation from the photos shown. Order before December 12 for delivery before Christmas, US only.

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2.5″ Diameter Ornament

$12.00
Add to Cart

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3″ Diameter Ornament

$15.00
Add to Cart

saurondisk

3″ Diameter Disk

$15.00
Add to Cart

sauronset

Set of 10 2.5″ Ornaments

$95.00
Add to Cart

CCNow is our authorized online retailer for online orders.

Tolkien Fan? Be sure to check out these other posts:

The One CHEESE Ring
How to make a Hobbit Hole Cat Shelter
Caturday: Tolkien edition
How I Made that: Dwarf Wig
So I’m Dressing My Husband up as Thranduil…
The Two Week Thorin Costume!
Thorin Costume!
How to make Thranduil’s Crown
Smaug the Terrible… I mean, Terribly AWESOME.
I am Fire, I am FRUITY – Smaug Fruit Bowl
Smaug Costume
Doing the Elf Meme Thing…
Gandalf the Fabulous

sauronbottom

Festive Easy Fudge

The other day, I posted the instructions for how I make Candied Orange Slices, inspired by a Canadian Living recipe for a unique chocolate bark. I used my orange slices to make their bark, and it was fantastic, but….

I’m not a bark person, for the most part. I’m not really big on chocolate in general, and when I am, I prefer it not to be hard. Chocolate sauce on ice cream, fondue, fudge. It’s a texture/sensory issue, for me.

So, I decided that I would take the same ingredients that intrigued me about their recipe, and incorporate it into my basic recipe for quick fudge. I’ve always liked dried cranberries in it – hell, it’s been over 5 years since I posted my Easy Blood Orange Cranberry Dark Chocolate Fudge recipe!

… and it worked SO well. The semi sweet chocolate contrasts well with the sweetness from the candied orange and ginger, the crunch of the nuts contrast well with the chew of those two items and the cranberries. The bright flavour of the orange and heat of the ginger pops through in various proportions, with every bite of fudge tasting different from the last.

Also: it’s pretty! The yellow ginger, orange slices, green pistachios and red cranberries make this a very festive fudge – great to serve or GIVE for the holidays!

Enjoy!

Festive Fudge

1/4 cup chopped crystallized ginger
1/3 cup chopped candied orange slices
1/3 cup chopped dried cranberries
1/3-1/2 cup chopped pistachios
Pinch of salt
3 cups semi sweet chocolate chips (about a bag and a half)
1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk

Before getting started, line an 8″ square pan with parchment paper, or grease generously with butter. Set aside.

Combine ginger, orange slices, dried cranberries, pistachios and salt, mix well, set aside.

Combine semi sweet chocolate chips and sweetened condensed milk in a saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring frequently until chocolate melts and mixture is smooth. (Alternatively, combine in a microwave safe bowl and nuke for 30 second intervals, stirring between each, until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth)

Remove from heat, stir in remaining ingredients. Spread into prepared pan, chill until set.

To serve, use a very sharp knife to cut into squares.

Interested in Gluten-free cooking and baking? You’ll LOVE Beyond Flour: A Fresh Approach to Gluten-Free Cooking and Baking!

How many times have you come across a gluten-free recipe claiming to be “just as good as the normal version!”, only to wind up with weird textures, aftertastes, etc? Most gluten-free recipes are developed by taking a “normal” recipe, and swapping in a simulated “all purpose” gluten-free flour… whether store bought, or a homemade version. “Beyond Flour” takes a different approach: developing the recipe from scratch. Rather than swapping out the flour for an “all purpose” mix, I use various alternative flours as individual ingredients – skillfully blending flavours, textures, and other properties unique to each flour. Supporting ingredients and different techniques are also utilized to achieve the perfect end goal … not just a “reasonable facsimile”. Order your copy here.

Looking for even MORE fantastic gluten-free recipes? Beyond Flour now has a sequel: Beyond Flour 2: A Fresh Approach to Gluten-Free Cooking and Baking!

Imagine gluten-free foods that are as good – or better! – than their traditional, gluten-filled counterparts. Imagine no longer settling for foods with bizarre after-tastes, gummy consistency, and/or cardboard texture. Imagine graham crackers that taste just like the real thing. Crisp, flaky crackers…without the sandy texture. Hybrid tortillas that: look and act like flour tortillas, with the taste of fresh roasted corn! Imagine chewy, delicious cookies that *everyone* will want to eat! Imagine BAGELS. If you’ve cooked from “Beyond Flour”, you already know that these fantasies can be reality – it’s all in the development of the recipes. Order your copy here.

Peppermint Swirl Meringue Cookies

Back in October, I catered a party that had a Christmas theme. I designed the menu to be holiday themed, but with a twist – everything was gluten-free, in honour of the release of Beyond Flour: A Fresh Approach to Gluten-Free Cooking and Baking.

I included a bunch of seasonal favourites in the spread – gluten-free versions of my Nanaimo Bars, Mini Pumpkin Pies, Mushroom Turnovers, Fruitcake… and a big spread of cookies.

Among the favourites were these colourful Mint Meringue swirls. Cheap and easy to make, fun to pipe out, and they look so pretty on a holiday sweets platter. Melt in your mouth, too!

Enjoy!

Peppermint Meringue Swirl Cookies
(Makes about a gallon sized baggie worth of cookies)

6 egg whites
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
2 1/4 cups sugar
2-3 tsp peppermint extract (NOT peppermint oil)
4 large (or 3 normal and one large) pastry bags

Preheat oven to 350°F. Prepare cookie sheets by lining with parchment paper. (Do NOT use pan spray!)

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine egg whites, salt, and cream of tartar. Using the whisk attachment, whip on high until glossy peaks form. Slowly add in the sugar – a little at a time – and continue whipping until stiff peaks form. Turn off mixer, remove bowl. Gently stir in peppermint extract to taste.

Working quickly but gently, divide the meringue into three bowls. Dye one red, and another green, leaving the third bowl white.

Fit one large pastry bag with a large coupler set and tip of your choice – I used used a 4B, large star tip. Fill the other three bags with one each of the three meringue colours, taking care to avoid air bubbles. I like to tie them off with a little bit of twine, as it keeps things cleaner.

Cut about 3/4″ off the end of the three filled bags and CAREFULLY insert them into the fourth pastry bag, so that the three open tips insert almost all the way into the coupler (NOT all the way into the tip, though!)

Be gentle, you don’t want to squeeze meringue out of one or both of those bags yet!

Use the frosting bag as you normally would, piping small swirls of meringue out onto the prepared cookie sheets. I like to make them just over 1″ in diameter, and leave about 1″ between each little mound.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until just starting to get lightly browned. Remove from oven and allow to cool fully before transferring to an airtight container.

Interested in Gluten-free cooking and baking? You’ll LOVE Beyond Flour: A Fresh Approach to Gluten-Free Cooking and Baking!

How many times have you come across a gluten-free recipe claiming to be “just as good as the normal version!”, only to wind up with weird textures, aftertastes, etc? Most gluten-free recipes are developed by taking a “normal” recipe, and swapping in a simulated “all purpose” gluten-free flour… whether store bought, or a homemade version. “Beyond Flour” takes a different approach: developing the recipe from scratch. Rather than swapping out the flour for an “all purpose” mix, I use various alternative flours as individual ingredients – skillfully blending flavours, textures, and other properties unique to each flour. Supporting ingredients and different techniques are also utilized to achieve the perfect end goal … not just a “reasonable facsimile”. Order your copy here.

Looking for even MORE fantastic gluten-free recipes? Beyond Flour now has a sequel: Beyond Flour 2: A Fresh Approach to Gluten-Free Cooking and Baking!

Imagine gluten-free foods that are as good – or better! – than their traditional, gluten-filled counterparts. Imagine no longer settling for foods with bizarre after-tastes, gummy consistency, and/or cardboard texture. Imagine graham crackers that taste just like the real thing. Crisp, flaky crackers…without the sandy texture. Hybrid tortillas that: look and act like flour tortillas, with the taste of fresh roasted corn! Imagine chewy, delicious cookies that *everyone* will want to eat! Imagine BAGELS. If you’ve cooked from “Beyond Flour”, you already know that these fantasies can be reality – it’s all in the development of the recipes. Order your copy here.

Canada Day is Coming… Are You Ready?

As I race to get things ready to attend a convention next week, things are getting hectic around here! We have three major blog mentions this week, the first of which was on Fresh Juice. They featured my Canada Day watermelon carving not only on their front page, but the #1 spot of the featured section! Woo! Fresh Juice is the new sister publication of Canadian Living… the magazine I was raised on and totally adore!

I’ll link to the other two blog entries as they are posted, but I’m feeling inspired by my debut appearance at Fresh Juice – let’s do a round up of Canadian recipes, in preparation for the upcoming holiday. I’ve already Canadian-ed up the front page of my blog, but only so many recipes can fit. Let me do better justice to that now. Not only are there some fabulous recipes here, it frees me up to pack! Win-Win!

Enjoy!

Update: Our Blueberry Liqueur recipe was featured on The Huffington Post this morning.

Appetizers, Sides, etc

Honey Garlic Cooking Sauce
Honey Garlic Cooking Sauce
Caulcannon
Caulcannon
Poutine, The Way *I* do it!
Poutine, *MY* way!
Maple Leaf Watermelon Bowl
Maple Leaf Watermelon Bowl
Honey Dill Dipping Sauce
Honey Garlic Dipping Sauce

Main Dishes

The Best Shepherd's Pie
The Best Shepherd’s Pie
Gluten Free Tourtiere
Gluten Free Tourtiere
Gluten Free Cod au Gratin
Cod Au Gratin

Desserts

Mocha Nanaimo Bars
Mocha Nanaimo Bars
Clodhoppers
Clodhoppers
Pumpkin Spice Nanaimo Bars
Pumpkin Spice Nanaimo Bars
Butter Tarts
Buttertarts (Gluten free version here)
Cherry Nanaimo Bars
Cherry Nanaimo Bars
Maple Walnut Baklava
Maple Walnut Baklava
With 2017 being Canada’s 150th birthday, it’s about time I wrote the Canadian cookbook I’ve been planning for YEARS.

“More than Poutine” will be a Canadian cookbook like no other – written by a Canadian living away, it includes both traditional homecooking recipes, as well as homemade versions of many of the snacks, sauces, convenience foods, and other food items that are hard to come by outside of Canada!

High quality gluten-free versions of most recipes will be included.

The Kickstarter for “More Than Poutine is live, here. Please consider backing, and sharing the campaign with your friends!

Massive Post of Holiday Baking and Candy Making Inspiration!

Less than a week to go until Christmas, and still so many reasons to bake loom ahead. Hostess gifts for holiday parties… a good spread for your own holiday party. Christmas dinner. Last minute holiday gifts… New Years’ Eve!

If you’re sitting here, still not sure what to make, you’re about to be hit with the inspiration that you’re hoping for!

I have gone through all of my past blog posts and culled the absolute best recipes for the holidays – all linked here (click on the photos)! Cookies, Candies, Truffles, Bars, and Desserts.

Happy Holidays!

– Marie & Michael

PS: Be sure to take a photo of anything that you make from our recipes, and post it to our Facebook page! We love seeing what you come up with!

Now, on to the recipes…
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Secret Caker Voodoo for Fabulous Holiday Entertaining

Remember back in October, when my husband made a Cake Wreck ?
Well, it wasn’t just his ADD that had him “like a kid in a candy store” at the cake decorating supply shop.

You see, lay people tend to have NO idea just how many cool things available to cake decorators, to really finish off a cake. Aside from all of the wrecky goodness we could find (Naked plastic babies, creepy Barbie torsos, etc), cake supply shops are also well stocked with what I like to refer to as “secret caker voodoo”.

From super concentrated food coloring in every shade you can think of, to various tools, molds, trimmings, and … well, everything… yeah. The sky’s the limit. It was always fun to work with clients who’d really let me play. You know the feeling you had when you were young, and someone gave you a BIG art kit filled with all sorts of pastels, markers, crayons, and paint – all new, pristine, and in a variety of colors? THAT… only grown up, and slightly more refined.

Anyway, more to the point… some of this “secret caker voodoo” can be used in non-cake ways, with spectacular results. Your secret arsenal to make everything just a little more fabulous when entertaining. Let me tell you about my favorite stuff …. (more…)

Homemade Iced Tea Liqueur Recipe

Remember back in September 9th’s post about homemade blueberry liqueur, I said I was gonna post a whole series on making liqueurs, with the aim of getting it all done in time for holiday gift giving?

I got a little sidetracked. Whoops. In my defense, there’s been SO much going on here in the way of repairs. Getting my husband to photograph anything … well, it’s got to be a lower priority, what with winter coming!

So, let’s go with something super easy – iced tea liqueur!

You’ve probably seen a bunch of iced tea liqueurs on the market in the past two years: Jeremiah Weed Sweet Tea Vodka, Firefly Sweet Tea Vodka, Burnett’s Sweet Tea Vodka, Sweet Carolina Sweet Tea Vodka, Barton Long Island Iced Tea Liqueur, etc. 2009 marked the real explosion of “Sweet tea” flavored liqueurs on liquor store shelves.

For what mass produced offerings, they’re not bad. Expensive for what they are, but they get the job done.

Homemade sweet iced tea liqueurs not only taste a million times better, they allow you to have a lot of control over the flavors, and are only a fraction of the cost of the retail versions. Also, they are so ridiculously easy to make, I’m almost embarrassed to post a recipe!

While the infusion time needed for this liqueur is much, much shorter than any of the others, it really benefits from aging. If you’re looking to do a batch for holiday gifts, you’ll want to start it soonish.

Iced Tea Liqueur.

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Homemade Blueberry Liqueur

This time of year, I’m torn.

One one hand… I really hate the commercialization of certain holidays, and how THAT results in stuff like Halloween displays in Menards… in August. Christmas displays in September. It gets earlier and earlier every year. Also, really… The holiday season stresses me out. It means doing my grocery shopping at 5 am, to avoid the crowds and horrible bell-ringer-induced headaches. People body checking each other in order to get the perfect gift or the last box of cocoa on the shelf. Just.. yeah. I digress…

On the other hand, I love giving handmade gifts. There’s something really satisfying about putting the finishing touches on the presentation of your own handiwork, and seeing the joy on the recipients’ face. It’s something personal small-batch, unique, and… not pulled off a shelf at the last minute. You know. Special.

Thing is, a lot of hand made gifts require planning ahead. It does no one any good for me to give Christmas gift ideas in December, when they take 3 months to make. As my friend Karen pointed out yesterday, she always gets a laugh when newspapers publish recipes for making your own corned beef ON St Patty’s Day.

So.. I’m sorry. I know it’s the beginning of September, and I hate thinking “Holiday” this early just as much as anyone. In the interest of helping you give some awesome gifts this year, however, I’m going to write a few blog entries on homemade holiday gifts. Now.

Some will take only a couple weeks to make, others may take a couple months of wait time. Many are ingredient dependent, and best to start NOW. What’s the point of posting a recipe for fresh blueberry liqueur in mid December, for instance? Also, most liqueurs taste better (smoother) with a bit of aging,

So, let’s talk liqueur making. (more…)

Happy Thanksgiving!

Bring on the turkey and…

Pumpkin Pi(e)! Har! 🙂