PawPaw Margaritas

All over the country, as summer is winding down and trees and plants are heavy with the season’s bounty on their branches and vines – pawpaws are ripening. They’re one of America’s few truly native fruits (not to mention they’re the largest fruiting tree in North America) – and folks don’t seem to know much about them. Let’s learn, shall we?

They’re probably hanging around all over during your neighborhood walks, or hiding in a clump of woods as you hurriedly drive by – a ghost of a long lost homestead that’s hanging around long after it’s owners have sold and been gone.

From the outside they kind of look like mangos. And honestly, the inside is pretty reminiscent of them as well. The flesh varies from pale to bright yellow, and contains a network of dark seeds like watermelon. The fruit has a smooth, rich, tropical flavor. And, a texture that I like to think of as custardy – that’s the best way to describe it.

Most folks just eat it as is, but you know me – any chance to margaritaize something, I’m down like a clown. I actually took the photos for this a couple years ago. My friend Rosie (of Pico Taqueria fame) had wanted to make them and get a photo for a friend who was writing an entire book on pawpaws. Rosie and her husband Dylan came over, we made homemade pizza and pawpaw margaritas, and did a photo session with them. Fun stuff.

The book turned out awesome, by the way. All kinds of great recipes and photography are featured in it’s pages. Lots of useful information about varieties and how to go about planting your own trees. Check it out on Amazon and order yourself a copy!

If you can’t find them out and about, check your local farmer’s markets. When I find them I’ll prep a bunch at one time, then portion out the pulp into smaller bags and freeze for use in the winter. It keeps it’s pretty color and rich texture, so that’s really the best way to go about storing it.

Pawpaw Margaritas

1 (8 oz.) bag pawpaw puree

1/2 cup margarita mix
1/4 cup mango nectar (usually found in Hispanic aisle of grocery store)
1 cup tequila
1/3 cup triple sec
1 cup ice
lime slices, for garnish
2 Tbsp kosher salt, for rim
2 Tbsp sugar, for rim

Rim your glasses. Combine salt and sugar on a small plate. Using a piece of lime, wet the rim of the glasses. Dip into the salt-sugar combo and set aside while you prepare the margaritas.

Place all ingredients in blender. Cover, and blend on puree setting for about a minute, until nice and smooth.

Pour into prepared glasses, garnish with a slice of lime, and serve.

Source: adapted from For The Love of Pawpaws, Michael Judd

We need good cocktails more than ever, y’all. Ive been going through my fair share of vodka – and crushes will always be my favorite way to put it to good use.

Orange Crushes are the gold standard, and probably the first thing that folks think of when someone mentions crushes. But honey, I’ve done crushed every fruit under the sun. Grapefruit, strawberry, watermelon, cantaloupe, coconut, lemon – I even wrote an article about my love for them in Chesapeake Bay Magazine last summer!

But in the times we are in, you may not have a plethora of fresh fruit available to turn into cocktails. That’s why I love these Cherry Lime Crushes – because I’ll usually have all the ingredients on hand. And, thats awful handy these days.

We are looking forward to some warm temperatures and sunshine this weekend here on our little island, I hope that you all get a taste of it too wherever you may be. And also, these crushes. Stay safe, friends!

Cherry Lime Crush

2 oz vodka
1 oz triple sec
1 oz marashino cherry juice
juice of 2 limes
splash of lemon-lime soda
marashino cherries, for garnish
lime slices, for garnish

Pour all ingredients into cocktail mixer and shake.

Strain into a cocktail glasses filled with ice.

Garnish with a slice of lime and a cherry.

Makes 2 cocktails.

Red Currant Mojitos

Last weekend I ran down to Virginia Beach. Had to exchange a Christmas gift, and do a bit of pantry restocking. Got the chance to visit the new Ikea – I had my youngest with me and he chose the Swedish Meatball lunch over chicken nuggets at Chic-fil-A. Winning as a parent, y’all. For real real.

Stopped by all the usual suspects of my food shopping spots, although now it’s harder because we also have a Wegmans – Hampton Roads has really been stepping it up lately. Anywho, I can never resist getting something that I don’t see very often when I’m down there. Last time it was Buddha’s Hand (I made an ahhhhmazing infused vodka), this time I saw fresh red currants and couldn’t pass them up!

Usually I’ll bake with them, or just use them for garnishes on things because they’re so darned pretty. Since trying to get back on the blogging bandwagon, I’ve been going through and looking at what I haven’t posted in a while – and one of those things was a cocktail…

I just so happened to have a handle of Bacardi that needs has been hanging around in the liquor cabinet (word to Robin at VA ABC who pointed out I could get a handle for the same price as a liter during a sale last year). So I thought, why not?

I love adding different fruits to my fav cocktails to make a new twist on an old favorite, and the currants certainly didn’t disappoint. They added the most gorgeous red hue to the drink, and added a lovely hint of tartness. I don’t like my drinks super-sweet, but if you do – feel free to add more simple syrup. Which is great in itself, actually. A splash of that in seltzer water is delicious, and waaay less sugar than a soda.

And if you can’t find red currants – you could use raspberries or blackberries. Or just keep it simple, as a traditional mojito with the lime and fresh mint. In any form, it’s sure to add a little brightness to a dreary winter’s day. Have a great weekend, everyone!

Winter has arrived in Westeros, and I don’t know about you guys – but I can’t wait to see where this final season takes us. While our clan has pledged our allegiance to the King in the North, I can’t help but have some form of love for the golden House of Lannister. So, to kick off the last and final episodes, I wanted to share a Game of Thrones inspired cocktail, in their honor.

I think you’ll find that this saffron spiked lemonade is just like the fair-haired family of Casterly Rock. Golden and sweet on the outside, equal parts sneaky and sultry just below the surface – but at the core, sinister at heart.

I know saffron is kind of a splurge. But, it’s great to have around in your spice cabinet – both for it’s subtle and unique flavor, as well as the rich yellow hue that it brings to the table. Also, cost be damned – a Lannister doesn’t worry about trivial things like price per ounce!

A basic simple syrup is infused and steeped with  with the red strands, then combined with freshly squeezed lemon juice and sparkling water, and a splash of vodka of course. It has been known to put the Queen Cersei into a golden haze on occasion, but lest she not forget: The North Remembers.

And, the time has finally come for the Lannister’s pay their debts.