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I came across carrot relish as a folded, typed page jammed into my grandmother Rosemary’s old family cookbook.  Long ago, she worked as a typist and would sometimes type important notes or an errant recipe shared along the way. I called her to see if she could remember where this one had come from. She couldn’t.  “I haven’t made that in a long, long, long time. It’s been so darn long ago. Oh Golly! When I was first married I forgot to mark down who gave me what recipe. That could be an early one, I don’t know.” While its origin may be lost to the mist of time, carrot relish read as something I needed to try.

This recipe is very easy to make and the best results require a little patience:  at the beginning, slivering the green pepper and onion finely enough to not overpower the delicate flavor of cooked carrots; and again at the end to allow enough time for them to mature in the back of the fridge.  More on that in a moment.


4 cups sliced cooked carrots
1 slivered green pepper
1 slivered onion
1/4 cup oil (Crisco or Salad)
3/4 cup vinegar
1 cup sugar

Cook until sugar is dissolved. Refrigerate 24-48 hours.

Notes and Preparation

  • I used vegetable oil and red wine vinegar. I am sure olive oil and a white balsamic could be interesting, but I’d cut the sugar.
  • 24-48 hours is not nearly enough. Let sit in the fridge for at least 5 days. Otherwise the recipe is fine.

The Tasting

Carrot relish is similar to a chow-chow with oil adding something beyond, say, just pickling carrots.  I’ve read that ‘relish’ is really an American term, and this recipe, too, seems to be a unique hybrid of traditional European ideas on pickling and preserving carrots. I was disappointed, initially, with how bland this recipe was, but that was due to not letting the relish just sit for about a week. I think the extra time saturated the cooked carrots with brine and oil to draw out some of their sugars and enhance the flavor and contrast between sweet and sour.

The Verdict

These are delicious straight from the jar and work beautifully on something tangy or sweet like barbecue.  Greta had the ingenious idea of using taco night to feature ground turkey seasoned with a homemade sweet barbecue sauce, pepper and nutmeg. We packed the turkey into corn taco shells and added red onions, the pickled carrots, cheddar cheese and fresh cilantro.   Literally some of the best tacos I’ve ever eaten, and that’s saying something; we both bring our A game to taco Tuesdays.


My friend Dean and I have an arrangement: he hunts and harvests fresh venison and I cook new things for him to try. Greta and I love having wild game to cook with, and pushing the envelope in the kitchen is natural for us. My dad remembers his great grandmother preparing small game like rabbit when my great uncles had the chance to shoot enough for a meal (I hope for a future post to explore the old, great recipe for braised rabbit, Hasenpfeffer).

So with a venison roast from Dean, I decided to prepare the best dish for this cut: Sauerbraten. With days of marinating and slow cooking, it’s perfect for a tougher cut like a venison roast. Also, the distinct sweet and sour flavors goes great with game. We’ll be cooking a Pennsylvania Dutch recipe from Greta’s great-grandmother’s Partsch family cookbook.  The sides for this meal are Grandma Jeanette’s Amazing German Red Cabbage and a variety of roasted vegetables. Schmackhaft! 

For little history on Sauerbraten, we’ll start with the notes written below the recipe in the Partsch family cookbook:

…with its German ancestory quite clear from the name, this is thought to the the forerunner of that famous American staple, the pot roast. In the history of Germany, there has never been a lack of of wood for cooking fuel. Therefore, many kinds of slow-cooked meats, boiled, braised and pot roasted, have achieved a permanent place on the German table. Among beef dishes,  boiled beef with horseradish sauce, pot roast (Sunday favorites) and Sauerbraten are perhaps the most popular.

While it’s true to claim this dish as a forerunner of the American pot roast, it would be an error to assume it is pot roast’s sole ancestor. The Food Timeline rightly points out the Dutch Oven, English Bake Kettles, and the French Braise as other foods related to what later became the New England Boiled Dinner and then, the pot roast. The rest about the plentiful wood and slow cooking is spot-on; these techniques have much to do with making less desirable meats more palatable. While were on the subject, I should mention that Sauerbraten was once used as a recipe for horse meat (!) in parts of Germany. Just Food Now goes into some depth to explain why horse was once an important food source, if you’re interested in that sort of thing. I’m going to say neigh thanks…



3 lb. beef pot roast (I used venison here instead of beef, but game is not typically commercially available)
3/4 c. red wine
1 Tbsp. wine vinegar
1/4 Tbsp. pepper
2 tsp. prepared mustard
1 large bay leaf
1 tsp. thyme
dash of cloves
1 onion chopped
4 Tbsp. flour
2 Tbsp. butter
1 1/4 c. sour cream
1/4 c. gingersnaps (optional)

Sauerbraten may be prepared with top or bottom beef round, but boneless rump of beef is the best cut to use. Marinate meat in next 8 ingredients for 48 hours in refrigerator, turning it over from time to time. Simmer, covered in 350° oven for 1 1/2 hours, or until tender. (Option: Some sauerbraten recipes call for crushed gingersnaps; 15 minutes before the meat is done, add gingersnaps which have been crushed fine with a rolling pin.) Remove the meat and strain, saving the liquid.

In a saucepan, melt the butter. Stir in the flour. Cook until golden. Add strained marinade. Stir in sour cream. Heat, but do not boil.

To serve sauerbraten, slice and spoon some gravy over the meat slices. Serve with boiled or mashed potatoes or over parsley noodles. Serves 8 to 10. Additional dinner suggestions: red cabbage, orange beets and Black Forest cake.

Notes and Preparation

  • A word on the serving size. I cooked a 2 1/2 pound roast and it yielded about 5 generous servings. That 8 to 10 seems like a stretch to me.
  • I say the gingersnaps are absolutely essentialIt just isn’t sauerbraten without that flavor included. Find the fresh ones from the bakery section of your grocery store.
  • I would add the sour cream to the sauce until desired texture is reached; it is more or less a white gravy.
  • I skipped the noodles and mashed potatoes, but they would certainly be good.
  • Those additional dinner suggestions are all amazing, and I hope to eat/share each one in the future. Real Black Forest cake is the business.

Some meat cooking basics: always preheat the oven; let the roast warm to room temperature before putting it in the oven; check it around an hour by cutting to sneak a look and do not let it over cook. When it seems to be 90% to your liking, remove it from the oven and cover it on a plate with tin foil. Give it a good 5 to 10 minutes to let it settle and finish cooking. We want to ease to the finish line with a cut like this or it will end up too tough.

The venison roast ready for the oven.

The venison roast ready for the oven.

The Tasting

Insanely good. The sharp and sour marinade compliments the distinct taste of game without trying to mask it. The sauce retains the flavor of butter, gingersnaps, and clove.

Combining this dish with red cabbage is irresistible; it has an eye-popping sweet and sour quality that pairs beautifully with the meat. The roasted vegetables also impart a sweetness and saltiness that fits right in.

The Verdict

Dean said he’s eaten venison his entire life, and this was the best venison roast he’s ever eaten. I’m glad and I agree. This meal was a decent amount of preparation and effort, but the result is so completely worth it. Plus, the leftovers somehow tasted magically better.  We’ll call that Thanksgiving Dinner good.  It’s a top pick!

This is a solid recipe. It is no surprise that it’s been passed down through the generations.  I’d say you can’t screw it up unless you overcook it. If that worries you, a slow cooker would probably make it fool proof.

Helpful Links:

Here’s the recipe found in George Kappeler’s 1895 cocktail book (and is almost exactly the Old Fashioned I prefer):

“Old Fashioned Whiskey Cocktail
Dissolve a small lump of sugar with a little water in a whiskey-glass;
add two dashes Angostura bitters,
a small piece ice, a piece lemon-peel,
one jigger whiskey.
Mix with small bar-spoon and serve, leaving spoon in glass.”

See, a simplified balance of primary ingredients like this one was something very modern for its time: the Manhattan Club’s cocktail origin is traced back to 1874 and the martini probably originated in the latter decades of the nineteenth century too.  The accepted standard of the Old Fashioned cocktail was earliest mentioned in print in 1880, which is only 15 years before its inclusion in the aforementioned bar recipe book. So why call it an Old Fashioned anyway?

I believe it is possible to chalk up the proliferation of the standard Old Fashioned to some creative liquor marketing. Let’s begin with an aside in The Old Waldorf-Astoria Bar Book:

[The Old Fashioned] was brought to the Old Waldorf in the days of its “sit-down” Bar, and was introduced by, or in honor of, Col. James E. Pepper of Kentucky, proprietor of a celebrated whiskey of the period. It was said to have been the invention of a bartender at the famous Pendennis Club in Louisville, of which Col. Pepper was a member.”

The Colonel James E. Pepper was a third-generation whiskey distiller with a mission beyond the quenching of thirst. While Mr. Pepper’s granddaddy, Elijah Pepper, began distilling in Kentucky as far back at 1776 at Old Pepper Springs (back then it was part of a giant Bourbon “county” in the territory of Virginia), I suspect the family whiskey faced increasing competition by the time James took the helm in 1867;  For example two young, notable upstarts of that decade included Jasper Newton “Jack” Daniel in middle Tennessee and the Ripy brothers in Tyrone, KY producing Wild Turkey.

Something had to be done. The Colonel began to position Old Pepper as something inseparable to American History. He even went as far to nickname James E. Pepper Whiskey  “Old 1776.” I’ll quote directly from the fascinating James E. Pepper website:

“Old Pepper” bourbon becomes the favorite brand of noted Americans:  including President Ulysses S. Grant, Kentucky Senator Henry Clay, President Andrew Jackson, Vice President John C. Calhoun, President William Henry Harrison & statesman Daniel Webster.

President Abraham Lincoln once famously replied to some critics of Grant, “By the way, gentlemen, can either of you tell me where General Grant procures his whiskey? Because, if I can find out, I will send every general in the field a barrel of it !”

Just imagine James E. Pepper, a real Kentucky Colonel, traveling by private rail car to all points west and north to spin yarns and share a special recipe that used his family’s whiskey.  He became a genteel southern brand ambassador who sold his liquor with an image, historical stories, and an ace cocktail that was probably about as old fashioned as the day it was invented. This business of crediting his bartender as the old-fashioned’s inventor was in fact a ruse: David Wondrich reveals in his mixology must-read, Imbibe!, that this cocktail was mentioned in the Chicago Tribune a full year before the Pendennis Club opened its doors in 1881. So while we may never know its origin,  I believe we’ve found the colonel to thank for spreading the Old Fashioned across the land.

James E. Pepper Ad, 1940

Note the history in the ad and the Old Fashioned next to the bottle; both still used to sell whiskey almost 40 years after Col. Pepper died

It was a powerful bit of branding and possibly the distinction that he needed;  in 1879, Col. James Pepper moved his operation to a new distillery in Lexington, the world’s largest at the time. The company would continue to exist until 1958.

The Recipe

While once a simple mixture brilliant in its balance, the Old Fashioned became heavy and too sweet with ingredients like soda pop and fruit. A former king of cocktails with a sad tale of decline, and a bit to me like the king of rock ‘n’ roll: once brilliant enough to shake his hips on Ed Sullivan, only to inevitably become a bloated mess of sideburns, peanut butter and barbiturates. Just like Elvis, time left the Old Fashioned too soft to pull a punch and properly take care of business. Someone call Colonel Tom Parker!

Elvis in his later years, sagging under the weight of n'er-do-wells and astonishing belt buckles

Elvis in his later years, sagging under the weight of n’er-do-wells and gargantuan belt buckles

Jeffery Morgenthaler provides a link to the best recipe and advice I’ve literally ever seen for an Old Fashioned by Martin Doudoroff.  It would be a waste to reproduce it here other than to say: 1. I prefer bourbon but rye would be fine; 2. Yes to ice; 3. He’s right on about the bitters; 4. I always use a  slice of orange peel;  and 5. HALLELUJAH brother nothing else belongs in an Old-Fashioned. Remember, ginger ale or mashed up fruit might taste great with bourbon, but it tastes great as a punch or something and not as a true Old Fashioned.

My Preference

1 teaspoon sugar

a few dashes of barrel bitters- I prefer Fee Brothers Old Fashioned Aromatic Bitters for the cinnamon taste. Angostura is fine too.

good ice- If you can “taste” your water, buy a $1.00 bag of ice on your next grocery run. This is the most overlooked ingredient in a cocktail, and good, clean ice is essential here.

2 oz. bourbon or rye- A million choices. If you’re new to brown liquor, try something mid-range like a nice Bulleit Rye or Eagle Rare Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey. My gold standard would be Pritchard’s Double Barrel Bourbon. Tell Phil that I sent you!

1 twist orange peel- Just the rind, as big of a piece as you like.

Add the sugar to a rocks glass with a few healthy shakes of bitters. Combine with a tablespoon or so of cold water and swirl to completely dissolve the sugar. This should smell amazing. Add enough ice to chill the drink, but not so much as to overwhelm it. Add the bourbon and sit for a moment to chill.  Stir with a spoon. Wring out the orange peel over the surface to release the citrus oils and add the peel to the drink. 


The Old-Fashioned is a simple drink to make with a reward for following directions closely. The sugar unlocks the complexity of the bitters that linger on the tongue after a sip; the cold, cold whiskey is pronounced in flavor or spice without overwhelming or burning the mouth; and the citrus provides a nose that additionally smooths out the spirit.

I’d recommend an Old Fashioned to those interested in trying more whiskey and bourbon but are intimidated or unable to drink either neat or on ice. It may end up as your favorite; I can drink brown liquor any which way, but I still prefer this cocktail.

Helpful Reading:
1. Imbibe!
2. Museum of the American Cocktail
3. The Serious Eats Guide to Bourbon


There must be a million ways to brine a pickle on the internet. A world of customs, cultures, spices, and vegetables provide an endless variety of options and flavors. But for this, I didn’t need endless combinations. I need a place to start. The starter pickle. The training wheels to what would (hopefully) become an international tour of many, many future pickle-related taste tests.

It turns out that lots of our ancestors brought their pickles right along with them to the United States. As far back as the sixteenth century, New Amsterdam had the largest concentration of commercial picklers in the world. By 1659, the Dutch farmers in the New World grew tons of cucumbers in an exotic marsh land now known as Brooklyn, and sold them to dealers for pickles in market stalls on Fulton, Canal, and Washington Streets in the Village.

(photo courtesy of Ellis Island, the National Park Service, Statue of Liberty National Monument)

Scores of people arrived with pickles: The  influx of German immigrants in the mid-nineteenth century; the Irish fleeing the potato famine; Jews escaping persecution in Eastern Europe; Italians and Greeks leaving behind political and economic uncertainty. All of their descendants helped to set the pickle on its path to predominance today: 5,200,000 tons of pickles are consumed annually in the United States. They say that’s 9 pounds per person! Yeah well I doubt that I eat 9 pounds of pickles a year, but I imagine that somebody eats fast food on a daily basis, so… (This info is all part of the Pickle History Timeline from the New York Food Museum and it is totally worth checking out, especially if you’re still mildly interested in learning dubious facts about pickle consumption.)

The Recipe

Joe Wolf’s Quick Pickle looked like just the ticket. It is no more complicated than mixing the brine in a saucepan and pouring it over chopped vegetables in a jar. I’ve taken some photos of my ingredients, but you should head over to for the exact recipe. I did manage to score some pickle cucumbers. I believe they are more firm and better at tolerating the hot brine; I’ve read elsewhere that the wrong cucumbers may become mushy at high temperatures, and, well, nuts to that.


Total cost: $33.03

The cucumbers themselves were only $2.21. The spices are expensive but I have enough now to make plenty of these guys again.


Can you pour ingredients into a saucepan and stir until the sugar and salt dissolve? Watch this action-packed video of Mr. Wolf doing just that. Thanks! These do take about 15 minutes to make, and I’d put the difficulty right around cooking non-instant oatmeal.

The Tasting

These pickles are surprisingly sweet and have a full range of spices that put them in the approximate neighborhood of a store-bought dill pickle. I’d describe these as sweet- dill, and I found the sweet/sour vinegar contrast of these pickles immediately appealing. Greta initially found the bay leaf and coriander flavors overwhelming, so she would have preferred less of these two spices and more dill and garlic instead. I can see that. Also, these pickles have a sweetness that might pop a bit too much for my taste so I’d probably cut back on the sugar just a bit as well. Mr. Wolf mentioned in his video that these are ready to go after 15 minutes but do taste better after a day of flavors mingling in the fridge. I can confirm that this is true and well worth the wait of 24 hours.

We both agree that these pickles do have an absolutely perfect texture. They are crisp without feeling too much like a raw cucumber. I do not know yet how much of this is due to the special cucumbers, but I am pretty sure that I may never be able to eat an ordinary  pickle again. Texture is what makes these quick pickles something special.

Final Verdict

A top pick. An awesome start to dabbling in homemade pickle making. I’m looking forward to trying it again with other vegetables like carrots or cauliflower.

Helpful Links:


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