It’s hot, and when it is hot here in Hungary, we drink fröccs. It translates to spritzer, a mixture of wine and cool sparkling water which was invented in the cellar of Adam Fáy precisely 174 years ago and given its name by famous poet Mihály Vörösmarty, who happened to be there at the occasion. By the late 19th century the drink become widely popular, a staple that people of all walks of life drink in copious amounts with the same enthusiasm to this day throughout Central-Europe. Therefore, fröccs is a cultural thing that’s not to be taken lightly. If you ever visit the country during summer months and want to be de rigueur at all, read on!
We took to fröccs with the fervor of religious crusaders and after a long process of experimentation and sophisticated alchemy, today about 20 variations of the drink exist based on different proportions of wine versus water. Some puritans would scoff at the idea of diluting wine, but until a more refreshing drink is found, I will stick to my fröccs thank you. In short, it’s the best prescription to beat the heat. For all its variations and new-wave popularity, fröccs is here to stay so let’s get to know each other!
First, the wine. The belief that mediocre to awful wines can be made acceptable if some fizzy water is added is an inheritance of the Socialist era and should be forgotten for good. Although sweet, full-bodied, or barrel-aged wines are usually not recommended, quality is of great importance. Fruity, aromatic, and unoaked white wines and roses work best.
Next, the water. Chilled sparkling mineral water will do, but if you mean business and take your fröccs-drinking seriously, szikvíz or szóda (pron. soʊ’dʌ) as in common speech is the only acceptable way to go. Soda water is filtered, carbonated water in a special pressurized dispenser, known as the seltzer bottle. To describe the best temperature for both wine and water, we use the expression “cellar-cold” (8-15°C). Ice-cold water will ruin the experience.
Onto mixing proportions. Consult the infographic below so you won’t be lost. The wine bottle and soda water bottle signs stand for 100 ml, so for example a small spritzer is made from 100 ml wine and 100 ml soda water. Sacrilege alert! If you ever encounter bottled spritzer (which I never have, but I hear such horror exists), please resist the urge! I mean, how hard can it be to mix two ingredients? Besides, the essence of fröccs-drinking is that it’s made on the spot, and everyone has a personal preference.
But how do I take the liberty to impart wisdom on such an important topic? Practice what you preach, they say. Both my parents’ families had vineyards located on the sub-Mediterranean slopes of Balaton Highlands, so we’re used to drinking our own crisp Reisling fröccs. Nowadays it’s either my uncle’s mildly fruity white cuvée from the same, mineraly terroir or a delectable rosé from the country’s southern Szekszárd or Villány wine region. Grandparents from my mother’s side also manufactured soda water in the 60’s using the crystal-clear spring water from the well at their property and transported it to local taverns on a horse-pulled carriage. Therefore, I think it is safe to say that my family’s fröccs-culture is quite advanced. 🙂
Do you feel like incorporating this simple beverage into your hot weather drinking?
Ok, so we have safe, sterile jars and the fresh, beautiful produce to fill them with. No matter what recipe you decide on, there are a few principles that always apply when filling your jars. These include:
Controlling headspace. Headspace is the unfilled space above the food and below the lid. It is needed for the expansion of foods to be processed and for forming vacuums in cooled jars. Directions specify leaving 0,5 to 2,5 cm headspace. After wiping the jar rim clean, place the lid on and tighten.
Process times. To destroy microorganisms in your food, you must process jars for the correct number of minutes in boiling water or a pressure canner. Take into consideration that if you live more than 300 m above sea level, you will have to adjust processing times due to water boiling at lower temperatures as altitude increases. For determining proper process times, consult the set of tables provided by USDA here.
Cooling jars. After removing hot jars from a canner (preferably with a jar lifter – safety first!), cool them at room temperature for 12 to 24 hours. Don’t try to rush the procedure by putting jars in cold water! My mother even puts jars under thick blankets to further slow the cooling process.
Testing jar seals. When jars have cooled, press the middle of the lids with a finger. If the lid springs up when you release your finger, the lid is unsealed. You can also check by holding the jar at eye level and looking across the lid, it should be curved down slightly in the centre as vacuum pulls it inward. If a lid fails to seal on a jar, change the lid and reprocess the jar, or store the food in the fridge and consume within a few days.
Storing canned foods. Clean completely cooled, tightly sealed jars if necessary. Label and date them, and store in a clean, cool, dark and dry place. Avoid direct sunlight, dampness (may corrode metal lids) and accidental freezing and thawing (may soften food).
Identifying spoilage. Very important: do not taste food from a jar with an unsealed lid or food that shows signs of spoilage! Swelled lids are a sign of gas produced be bacteria or yeasts. Also look for unnatural color or mold growth, smell for unnatural odors.
Hope you find this useful! Play by the simple rules I posted in this blog series and you can enjoy the fruit of your hard work, both literally and figuratively speaking. 🙂
Summer, after all, is a time when wonderful things can happen to quiet people. For those few months, you’re not required to be who everyone thinks you are, and that cut-grass smell in the air and the chance to dive into the deep end of a pool give you a courage you don’t have the rest of the year. You can be grateful and easy, with no eyes on you, and no past. Summer just opens the door and lets you out.
The end of June marked the beginning of lavender season and the shrubs at my parents’ were ready for harvest. Bees and butterflies were not pleased when Sis and I picked the spikes, but would you just look at these!
I’ve also planted lavender along our driveway this spring, they seem to like their place. Even though it’s just their first season, they are full of flowers. We live a stone’s throw from my parents, but our plants start flowering a little later.
Anyway, the purple buds have been drying on the purpose-built screens and since we were getting very high temperatures lately, they were ready to be shredded from the stems in a matter of days. It took us girls some time and wine to finish, but the scent! Moths in the county went extinct that’s for sure.
The last few years we used to make bouquets, wands, and fill pouches with the flowers. Lovely as they were, making them was getting boring so we started looking for new ways to utilize the yield. One idea I particularly like is lavender syrup. Because summer is the time for endless pitchers of cold, refreshing lemonade, and adding a twist to a classic is very on-trend lately. Turned out that lemon and lavender are a match made in heaven: it takes the drink to a whole new level!
I was weary using lavender in a drink at first to be honest, for I could only associate it with beauty products before, but this syrup turned out so convincing that this season I’m flavoring other foods with the lilac buds as well. I have infused jams, honey, sugar and seasoning salts in mind, I’ll let you know how the experimenting goes.
Back to the matter at hand: making lavender syrup is easy peasy. I’ve shared syrup basics before so without further ado, here’s the recipe:
1 l water
1 kg sugar
15 g (3/4 cup) dried lavender flowers
10 g (2 tsp) citric acid
Make 1:1 simple syrup, turn heat off.
Add lavender flowers in a mesh bag and let soak overnight to infuse. Liquid will turn inky blue.
Remove lavender and add citric acid (this will transform color to rosé).
Bring to a boil, then pour into sterilized jars and seal hot to form high vacuum.
Makes 1,5 l syrup. Although it should not be necessary, I’d keep in the fridge after opening. Syrup has a decent shelf life.
Do you have lavender in your garden or on your patio? What do you do with the flowers? Flash out those ideas for me!
Also, have you noticed the recipe format? I am trying to improve my shortcoding and decided on embedding recipes with consistent formatting and an option to print from now on to make the experience better for you!
Adulting is hard. I remember how I thought some days were boring, but ever since I’m out of school, every summer just seems to fly by. I hope you pack these sunny weeks with adventures. To me, these following images bring up vacation memories. Cheers to another Friday and all the fun that’s awaiting us!
What we all need right now (spotted on Tumblr):
“Ancora imparo” wrote Michelangelo, at the age of 87:
Welcome to the third part of the series! This time, it’s all about ensuring the high quality of canned foods. You’ll learn how to select and prepare products to best maintain color and flavor in canned goods, become acquainted with acidity levels and basic packing processes. Let’s get started!
Food acidity. To decide on the suitable preserving process for your goods, you have to get familiar with the acidity of foods. Low-acid canned foods are not acidic enough to prevent the growth of bacteria, while acid foods contain enough acid to block their growth or destroy them when heated. Acidity may be natural, as in most fruits, or added, as in pickled food. Acidity levels can be increased by adding lemon juice, citric acid, or vinegar. The measure of acidity is pH; the lower its value, the more acidic the food. Foods that have a pH level of 4,6 or higher are considered low-acid. I find this chart useful:
Selecting products for canning. Either you buy from a grocery store, at the farmer’s market, or pick from your own garden, always examine food carefully for freshness and wholesomeness. Food products are mostly at their peak of quality within 6 to 12 hours after harvest, but apricots, nectarines, peaches, pears and plums can be ripened 1 or more days before canning. Keep fresh produce in a cool place, not exposed to direct sunlight. When preparing, discard moldy food, trim small diseased or bruised spots.
Retaining optimum color and flavor. Oxygen and enzymes are the enemy when it comes to looking good. Most fresh foods contain 10 to more than 30% air, and high quality depends on how much of that air is removed before the jar is sealed. Don’t expose prepared foods to air unnecessarily: while preparing a batch, keep peeled, halved, sliced or diced produce in a solution of 3 grams (1 tsp) ascorbic acid to 4 litres of cold water to prevent discoloration.
And now packing processes, or in other words, the methods used for preparing and placing food in a jar prior to sealing.
Raw-packing is the practice of filling jars tightly with freshly prepared, but unheated food. Such produce, especially fruit, will float in the jars, and the entrapped air may cause discoloration. The juice, syrup, or water to be added to the foods should be heated to boiling before adding it to the jars.
Hot-packing is the practice of heating freshly prepared food to boiling, simmering 2 to 5 minutes, and promptly filling jars. This method helps to remove air from food tissues, shrinks food, helps keep the food from floating, increases vacuum in sealed jars, thus improving shelf life. Use this process whenever possible! Within the storage period, both color and flavor of hot-packed foods will be superior to that of raw-packed.
That’s that for the day. In the next part of the series we are filling the jar!
Isn’t it funny how we wait long winter nights dreaming of summer, and when it is well under way we complain about it. Either if you are trapped in an office freezing with the air-con on full blast, or melting while running errands in the asphalt jungle, these cool hues might sooth you on such a sizzling first day of July.
Blue hydrangea table runner with candles (photo by Jay Anderson):
Find joy in the ordinary:
Dreams of white and turquoise at Mykonos, Greece (photo by Michela Ravasio):
Beach house vibes (Aqua artisanal stoneware by Serax):