Wednesday, March 28, 2012

As Good As The Real Butter Beer

Last December I went with my husband to Florida where he was attending a Business Conference.  We rented a vacation home for a week and my parents joined us to keep me company while Bruce was at his meetings.  One of the days we were there we visited Universal Studios and “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter”. 
At the entry gates of Hogsmead
The Hogwarts Express with the Conductor.

It was the most amazing themed attraction I have ever been to! (Sorry Disney).  There were only 3 rides, but the Hogwarts ride was the best and longest ride I have ever been on, it was amazing!  Even though there were only 3 rides, we spent the entire day just in this section of Universal Studios, where they had recreated the village of Hogsmead as described in the books.  There were so many shops and things to see that the time passed quickly.  We had lunch at “The Three Broomsticks” and of course we had to have the famous butter beer! 
In front of The Three Broomsticks Restaurant
Now if I had ever written a book, especially a book of fantasy, I think I would worry about someone creating an actual item that I had in my book, and I wonder if Ms. Rowling worried about what the butter beer would turn out like.  Well, it is wonderful!  Really, it is one of the best drinks I have ever had! ( I know I am using that phrase a lot but…).   I wanted to have as much as possible because I knew it would be a while before I got to have some again!  You could have it either of two ways, frozen/slushy or just cold.  Bruce had it frozen and I didn’t.  It was quite sweet, so it was more like a dessert than a drink to have with our lunch.  I can still taste it in my memory!
About ready to taste for the first time, Butter Beer!  YUM!!!
When I got home, my mom sent me a copy cat recipe that tastes almost as good as what they had at the park.  She found it in an article by Heather Witherspoon (McClatchy Newspapers), along with a few other “Harry Potter” recipes in addition to the Butter Beer.  I made it for my family one Sunday night when they were all over for dinner, and then I also had it for the neighbors when our street had our Christmas luminary and dessert night.  Everyone that tried it LOVED it!  I slightly tweaked it when I made it for my family to make it a bit easier and it was just as good.  I will put her recipe here then explain the variation that I made:

Butter Beer

1 c light or dark brown sugar
            2 T water
            6 T butter
            ½ t salt
            ½  t cider vinegar
            ¾ c heavy cream, divided
            Four 12-ounce bottles of cream soda

In a small sauce pan, over medium heat, combine the brown sugar and water.  Bring to a gentle boil and cook, stirring often, until the mixture reads 240° F on a candy thermometer (I just did the drops in cold water until it forms the soft ball stage).  Stir in the butter, salt, vinegar, and ¼ c. of the heavy cream.  Once the mixture has cooled, stir in rum extract (this is not a typo, I know it is not listed in the ingredients, so I just added 1 teaspoon and it was sufficient.  You may want to add more to according to your taste). 

(*see below))  In a medium bowl, combine 2 T of the sugar mixture and the remaining ½ c of cream.  Use an electric mixer to beat until just thickened but not completely whipped, about 2-3 minutes.  To serve, divide the sugar mixture between 4 tall glasses (about ¼ c per glass).  Add ¼ cup cream soda to each glass and stir to combine.  Then continue to fill each glass to the top with the cream soda, and then spoon some of the whipped topping on top of the soda. 

*(Here is where I changed the recipe)
My alternative:  Instead of following the recipe at this point, here is what I did.  I had 12 ounce cups.  I put 2 tablespoons of the sugar mixture into the cup, 1-2 tablespoons of un-whipped heavy cream and mix those in the cup until combined.  Then pour the cream soda into the cup.  It makes its own foam, just like when you make root beer floats, so you don’t need that extra step of whipping up the flavored foam. 
Looking up at Hogwarts from Hogsmead

The Village of Hogsmead

The Frog Choir from Hogwarts singing "Bubble bubble, toil and trouble..." See, Shakespeare is EVERYWHERE!!!

So, try this delicious treat on your Harry Potter fans and it will tide you over until you have a chance to try the real thing when you go to “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter” at Universal Studios in Orlando Florida. 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Need An Excuse to Watch 5 1/2 Hour of Pride and Prejudice? Bottle Citurs!

We moved to Arizona in 1982 when my husband came to ASU to get a graduate degree.  We loved it so much that we never left.  However there is something that has bothered me throughout the many years we have been here that I couldn’t get the answer to until this year.  The question was, “how do you bottle or preserve all the citrus that grows here?” 
Having "fun" sectioning the Grapfruit.  This is where the 5 1/2 hours of "Pride and Prejudice comes in!
Over the years I had contacted the County Extension Service, did research in recipe books and on the internet, checked in my Ball Blue Book (the Bible for home canning), but never found any instructions or ideas EXCEPT for orange marmalade (not a fan).  I was lamenting out loud again last year when I saw all my citrus going to waste.  Of course my husband insisted that he could find the answer and I assured him that there was no way and that I had checked every possible place for an answer and that it just wasn’t possible.  He grinned and confidently told me he would find one. 

Well, much to my frustration, he did find some!  And not only did he find some, he found video instructions and also informed me that Ball had come out with a new version of their Ball Blue Book (mine was 20 years old), that had the instructions on how to bottle grapefruit segments and citrus juices.  Don’t you just hate it when that happens!  I didn’t stay mad long because I was so excited!  I had to wait a few months but last week I had 4 of my daughters over (#5 lives in North Carolina), and we bottled my citrus!  First we did the grapefruit sections, then orange juice and ended with grapefruit juice.  Here are the directions for the segments from the Ball Blue Book: 

Grapefruit Sections
            2-2 ½ lbs of grapefruit per quart

Wash grapefruit, drain.  Peel grapefruit, cutting deep enough to remove white pith.  Cut membrane away from pulp for each section; lift out the pulp without breaking the sell structure.  Discard seeds.  Make a light syrup; keep syrup hot pack grapefruit into hot jars, leaving ½ inch headspace.  Ladle hot syrup over grapefruit leaving ½ inch headspace.  Remove air bubbles.  Adjust two-piece caps.  Process pints and quarts in a boiling water canner. 

Softening the lids in hot water. 

I mixed the yellow and pink grapefruit because I liked the look of it in the jars. 

Bruce also found a youtube video of someone canning the segments if you want to watch it.  Here is the link: 

I will post the juice process in a few days so stay tuned! 
A few of many jars

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

My Birthday Tree, One Year Old Now! (should I give it a name?)

Last year about this time, I went to North Carolina to visit my son, David and his wife Suzi and their kids, Abby and Tyler.  When I got there, Suzi and I decided to go on an impromptu trip to Charleston SC since neither of us had been there and we know/hoped that they would only be in North Carolina for another year. 
When we were in Charleston, we did a tour of the city and I found a tree there that was in bloom and I fell in love with it. 
Sweet Suzi and the kids in Charleston

Lunch at Bubba Gumps
  It is a flowering peppermint peach tree and it is GORGEOUS!!!  The blossoms were beautiful but they also had 4-5 different colors of blossoms on one tree!  I have never seen anything like it. 
My first glimpes of this AMAZING  tree- the flowering peppermint peach tree!
When we got back to our hotel, I did a search on the tree and found that it was “zoned” to grow in zones 6-10.  Well, fantastic, Arizona is Zone 9, so I knew I had to get one.  Well, I did.  I ordered one for my Birthday present from my husband and son.  They were relieved not to have to go shopping for me (hehehe).  I had to order one since there weren’t any in the Phoenix area.  I got it from Willis Orchards in Georgia.  It came, I planted it, and the wait began! ( )

Well, it has been almost a year and my first blossoms are out!  It was so exciting and beautiful.  I have literally been out talking to my tree for the entire year, coaxing it through the long hot AZ summer (I did put a shade clothe over it for some of the hottest months), kept it company throughout the COLD winter (yes it is cold for me!) and now I have my reward!  Just look at these “baby” blossoms! 
so precious!

the magenta blossom

all together

My tree just starting to get it's blossom and leaves! 
I hope everyone that comes by and sees it will want one and plant it so all of Mesa will have these beautiful trees everywhere! 
I do know that they are prone to fungus, at least that is what I have read, but I am willing to baby this tree because it is worth it for even 3-4 weeks of these beautiful blossoms! 
I found this picture on the internet and the tree is approximately 20 years old. 
Spread the word about this tree!