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Recipes and ideas for creating mocktails

Watermelon Limoncello Mojitos for Ferragosto

Watermelon-Limoncello Mojito

Watermelon-Limoncello Mojito

Ferragosto is an Italian national holiday where the Italians escape the dog days of August and take a rest from the labor of the harvest season.  It is a family holiday rivaled only by Christmas, and many Italians head for the beach for a week of relaxation, friends and good food.  With respect to food and drink, it appears that watermelon often plays a starring role.  At HeathGlen Farm, we thought a pitcher of  watermelon Limoncello mojitos for Ferragosto was an appropriate crowd-pleaser, and oh-so-easy to make ahead of time.

A (little) History of Ferragosto:

The Italian festival called Ferragosto is celebrated on 15th August which dates back originally to the Romans.  Ferragosto was later incorporated into the Catholic faith, and then tweaked even later by Fascism and today is a relevant part of  popular Italian culture.

The ancient Roman Ferragosto was linked to the Consualia, effectively incorporating August festivities in Italy which celebrated the harvest to provide a suitable period of rest, necessary after the hard labour of the previous weeks.

The Catholic Church then added a celebration of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (the elevation of her sinless soul and incorruptible body into Heaven), to the Ferragosto holiday.

Ferragosto’s Connection to Fascism

Somewhere around the second half of the 1920s, the Fascist leisure organizations set up the “People’s Trains of Ferragosto” where the train fares were discounted enough that it gave less well-off social classes an opportunity to travel.  It was during these “people’s trips” that the majority of Italian families had, for the first time, the chance to reach seaside and mountain resorts, as well as see art in Italian cities.  The discounted offer was limited to 13, 14 and 15 of August, and consisted of  two options: the “One-Day Trip”, within a radius of 50 to 100 kilometers or the “Three-Day Trip” within a radius of about 100–200 kilometers.

Ferragosto Today

Today, Ferragosto is still honored, primarily as a feast day and a holiday to escape the heat.  Most Italians take at least a short holiday, if not the whole month of August, and head to the beach or the mountains for family time and parties.  Food and drink is, of course central to the festivities, with huge meals, even in the hottest temperatures, central to the festivities.

My research did not uncover any particular dish that was traditionally associated with Ferragosto.  All of the available photography however, included watermelon, so that is what I went with for our Ferragosto celebration.  Apparently restaurants in Southern California celebrate the holiday with a full Porcetta roast.  Sounds like a plan for next year’s celebration.

Pitcher Watermelon Limoncello Mojitos Recipe:

Prep for Watermelon Limoncello Mojitos

Prep for Watermelon Limoncello Mojitos

Ingredients:

  • 1 6-8 lb. watermelon, to get 3 cups strained juice
  • 1/3 cup fresh mint
  • 1/2 cup rum
  • 1/2 cup ginger lime syrup, or simple syrup of your choice
  • 1/4 cup Limoncello
  • 1/3 cup fresh lime juice
  • melon balls and fresh mint for garnish

Preparation:

  1.  Cut the watermelon into large slices, saving the end piece to make melon balls.  Lay the slices flat on the cutting board and cut off the rind.  Using the melon baller, scoop out enough melon balls to allow two as a garnish per each drink you will serve.  Cut up the remaining melon slices into large chunks that will fit into the blender or food processor.
  2. Pack a 1/3 measuring cup with fresh mint and add the mint and enough melon chunks to fill the blender.  Blend into a puree (it does not take long).
  3. Strain the watermelon-mint mixture into a bowl or large measuring cup until you have 3 cups.  Keep blending more melon chunks and mint and straining until you have 3 cups.  You can puree the entire melon and reserve some out for mocktails for the non-drinkers also.
  4. Add to a pitcher:  3 cups of the melon-mint mixture, the rum, ginger lime syrup, and Limoncello.  Cover with plastic wrap and chill in refrigerator for 2 hours or overnight.
  5. Remove melon mixture from refrigerator and stir in the fresh lime juice.  Pour mixture into a tall glass of ice and garnish with melon balls and a mint leaf.

 

 

Cinco de Mayo: Horchata Cocktails and Chili-Lime Peanuts

Horchata Cocktail with Chili-Lime Peanuts

Horchata Cocktail with Chili-Lime Peanuts

Cinco de Mayo is here and although margaritas are the typical celebratory drinks, a spirited Horchata is my favorite drink for this “Mexican” holiday that we love so much in the US.  There are a number of variations for an “authentic” horchata, depending on whether you favor the Spanish version or one of the many Mexican versions.  Most of the recipes however, are quite sweet.  This Mexican version of the base horchata is made without the sugar, so that you can create individual cocktails, adding your favorite simple syrup to the drink at the sweetness level you prefer.  It is a dreamy, creamy drink that is one of my favorites, and it works wonderfully as a cocktail or as a mocktail.

Most research cites El Salvador as the origin of the Mexican version of Horchata, although the ingredients vary throughout Mexico and Spain.  In some countries the drink is tan and made with milk, some countries substitute moro seeds or jicaro seeds for rice, and Spain prefers tigernuts over almonds.  Ingredients that are common to most recipes however, include sugar, cinnamon and vanilla.  The recipe below includes the sugar, cinnamon and vanilla in the form of a simple syrup added to a rice and almond horchata base.  I’ve used rum as the spirit, but brandy would make a nice cocktail also.  This one brings out the m-m-m from me each time I make it.

How to Make the Horchata Base

** Note:  this is easy but make it early as it needs to sit for quite a while before straining

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Horchata de Mayo Cocktail

Horchata de Mayo Cocktail

Horchata de Mayo Cocktail:

  • 2 oz rum (or brandy)
  • 1/2 oz vanilla liqueur
  • 1/2 Chai Spice Syrup
  • 4 oz horchata base

Combine all ingredients in a tall glass of ice. Stir and garnish with a cinnamon stick and a hot red pepper

Chili-Lime Spanish Peanut Appetizer:

The perfect foil for a rich, creamy Horchata cocktail is a bowl of light, somewhat spicy, spanish peanuts.  These are a cinch to make and pair well with the drink.  Recipe is from Serious Eats

Ingredients:

  • Chili Lime Spanish Peanuts

    Chili Lime Spanish Peanuts

    1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (2 or 3 large limes)

  • Freshly grated zest of one lime
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 4 cups shelled unsalted peanuts

Directions:

Preheat oven to 250ºF. Whisk lime juice, lime zest, chili powder, salt, sugar, and cayenne pepper together in large bowl. Add peanuts and stir until evenly coated. Scrape nuts onto large, rimmed baking sheet. Bake until nuts are fragrant, dry, and beginning to darken, about 30 minutes

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