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by meg

I've followed Autumn's blog for a while now. She is my favorite kind of blogger--she focuses on straightforward (but never boring), seasonal food made from fresh ingredients, and her photography is simple and utterly gorgeous. She also has a knack for creating fabulous boozy treats, which I appreciate. Please visit Autumn's blog, Autumn Makes and Does, for more of her lovely and delicious creations.

I’m always the first to argue that “chop it up and cover it with booze” is one of the most underappreciated methods of preserving. Perfect for when you have a pot of tomatoes on the stove, are dripping with sweat, need to eat dinner, and still have a pile of X produce that you had intended to deal with hours ago. After turning to this strategy many times with varying degrees of success, I’ve picked up a few little tricks for what works the best.

Lately, I’ve been really into roasting/drying before infusing as a means of concentrating flavor and amping up complexity. This great Triple Sec recipe from my friend Julia, which features an infusion of oven-dried oranges, first planted the idea in my head. Baking the citrus prior to infusing not only concentrates the flavor in the fruit itself, but also shrinks it down enough that much more will fit in the jar. More fruit equals more flavor! I’ve also used this hack on figs, which don’t get dried down quite as much as the citrus, but do gain a lot of depth from roasting prior to infusing.

 

Most recently, when embarking on an infusion with a robust base spirit like mezcal, I turned to roasting to create a natural pear flavor that could stand up to the rich, smoky notes of the mezcal. Like tequila, mezcal is an agave-based spirit. Unlike tequila, it is made by roasting the agave hearts (also called piñas) in earthen pits, giving mezcal its signature smoky flavor. Infusing a spirit like mezcal that has a pre-existing flavor is a little different than a more standard, relatively flavorless base like vodka. Here, we’re looking for something to marry with mezcal’s multi-layered, roasty flavor and sweet pears are the perfect complement.

After carefully crafting this infused mezcal, I didn’t want to cover it up in a cocktail. Just short of sipping it straight, it really shines in a riff on the classic old-fashioned, swapping out bourbon for roasted pear infused mezcal. Although we typically think of darker spirits (ie: bourbon and scotch) for cool weather drinking, I think that full-bodied, toasty, mezcal makes for a perfect warming drink.

Other articles you might enjoy: Rosa de Jamaica, Spring on the Mountain, Hot Toddy

Roasted Pear Mezcal and a Smoky Roasted Pear Old-Fashioned
Makes about 2 cups of infused mezcal

Note: Mezcal joven is unaged mezcal, so it will look clear like silver tequila.
2 medium ripe pears, cut into 8ths lengthwise (I used Bartlett)
2 cups mezcal joven (I used Del Maguey Vida Mezcal Joven)

Preheat the oven to 375 F and arrange the pears slices on a parchment-lined baking sheet so that they’re not touching.
Bake at 375 for 50 minutes or until beginning to brown on both sides, flipping halfway through.
Let cool completely then transfer to a quart mason jar. Add the mezcal and use a lid to seal the jar.
Place in a cool, dark place for one week.
After one week, use a jelly bag to strain the mixture. Reserve the pears for another use or discard. Store the strained mezcal in a clean quart mason jar.

Smoky Roasted Pear Old Fashioned
Makes one cocktail

1/2 teaspoon white sugar
2 drops Angostura bitters
Splash of water, about 1/4 teaspoon
Ice
2 ounces roasted pear infused mezcal
Lemon peel (optional)

Add the sugar to an old fashioned glass. Add the bitters to the sugar. Then add the water.
Using a muddler, handle of a wooden spoon, or whatever you’ve got, stir and smash this mixture in the glass until the small granules of sugar are almost invisible.
Fill the glass with ice.
Finally, add the mezcal.
Stir the cocktail in the glass until the exterior is cold to the touch. Garnish with lemon peel if desired. Enjoy!

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