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How to tell when peaches are ripe

August is National Peach Month, and I’ve got some good news and some bad news.

The bad news: the squirrels ate all the peaches from our backyard tree. The good news: Glenn Cook from Cider Hill Farm explained how to tell when peaches are ripe. (Wish I had known this sooner, because I might have gotten to my peaches before the varmints did.) Here’s what he said:

Peaches are harvested by ground color and swell. Ground color is the color under the red blush, which goes from green to light green to yellow when the fruit is mature. The swell is the filling out of the cheeks in the last day or two before it is ready to pick. Peaches put on a lot of size in the last few days before harvest. Peaches picked for long haul shipping and storage are generally picked a few days sooner than we would, to make them more firm and durable, but they often will not develop their full flavor and juiciness. If picked correctly, they will be firm with just a little give when pressure is put on them, but will ripen to a juicy softness in just a day or two. In our area, mid season peaches tend to have the best flavor, which we harvest from early August to the end of that month. Peaches can be kept in the refrigerator for about two weeks.

And here’s another tip, straight from the Spiker’s kitchen: Fruit flies just love peaches. We usually have three or four different fruits in our home test kitchen at any given time, but when peaches are on the counter they are also on the fruit-fly menu. So as soon as we bring peaches home (from Cider Hill or any other local orchard), we bag ’em in gallon-size zip bags. And as soon as they are just-right ripe, they go into the fridge.

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Spiker’s Shrubs at the new Boston Public Market

Heading into Boston to check out the fabulous new Public Market? Be sure to stop by Corner Stalk Farm’s booth and pick up a box of gourmet greens hand-grown in their pesticide-free hydroponic East Boston compound. You can also pick up Spiker’s Shrubs to splash on your greens (or in your favorite spirits, seltzer, or tea). Our Pineapple Basil Shrub features basil fresh from Corner Stalk.

Check out our Master Recipe for vinaigrette here. Spiker’s Pineapple Basil Shrub makes greens sing! (You can use any of our shrubs for a delicious vinaigrette.)

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Dad deserves a cheese plate with a Spiker’s Shrub drizzle

Spiker’s Shrubs in cocktails and mocktails are like salt and pepper. What many people don’t know is that shrubs are a powerful secret weapon in your kitchen pantry when it comes to sauces, dressings, and gravies.

For Father’s Day, we’ll be at Shubie’s on Saturday, June 20 from 1-5pm to show you how you can turn Spiker’s Shrubs into an incredible fruity-tart drizzle for cheese plates and appetizers.

Shubie’s has one of the most impressive cheese selections on the North Shore. To showcase this selection, we created a variety of plating suggestions to pair with our master “cheese drizzle” recipe. Just 3 minutes in the microwave transforms our cocktail mixers into a floral, fruity-tart glaze.

For example, the gorgeous Jasper Hill Harbison shown here is a creamy, gooey, luscious cheese wrapped in a ribbon of spruce bark. The woodsy, citrus, and floral notes are intoxicating. Just bring the cheese to room temp, scoop it onto a cracker or slice of baguette, and drizzle with one of our Spiker’s Shrub drizzles. Or try a drizzle with these other cheeses from Shubie’s:

Cloumage, a fresh cream cheese style which is like a cross between ricotta and cottage cheese. Made in Westport, MA.
Brebirousse d’Argnetal, an addicting, creamy sheep’s milk brie from France.
Colston Bassett Stilton, by far the best Stilton in the world. A much cleaner, purer taste than other blues. Great minerality and and not overly pungent.

Curious? Come to Shubie’s on Saturday, June 20, from 1-5pm. Pick up some shrubs, cheese, artisan crackers and other condiments to create a fantastic gift basket for your favorite dad, neighbor, or friend.

 

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Father’s Day: Shrubs and Bacon

Every year, you see websites pushing alcohol for Dads. Sure, my father liked his Scotch. But to push Harvey’s culinary hot button,  I knew he wanted more than a glass of Jack Daniels. He wanted cheese, bacon, and nuts.

Clearly, the folks at  Pamplemousse in Reading, MA are on the same wavelength, because on June 13 they’re hosting the ultimate pre-Father’s Day bash: Booze, Blues, Brews, and Bacon. 

We’ll be there to join in the fun. Find out how Spiker’s Shrubs can turn bacon into a thing of wonder at the breakfast table. (They can also make a mean cocktail, cheese drizzle, and more.)

If you can’t find something at this event, it’s time for a Hallmark card and one of those “I’ll clean the garage” lists. Dad might sigh and smile, but his inner baconator will be very disappointed.

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Coming soon to quench your thirst…

When summer heat and humidity start bearing down, we don’t turn to lemonade to quench our thirst. We want something bracing and refreshing. That’s why Spiker’s is rolling out a brand new shrub in time for Father’s Day, the Solstice, and any day hotter than 80 degrees F.

Introducing Spiker’s Pink Grapefruit Shrub, crafted from thinly sliced Ruby Red Grapefruit. We include some of the peel during the aging process to add the same welcome spritz and subtle bitter bite which our customers loved in Tuscan Tangerine shrub. Sadly, tangerines are no longer in season. But Grapefruit Shrub is more than a substitute; it’s a star in its own right.

Try it straight over ice and seltzer. Swirl it into iced green tea. Drizzle it over a salad with avocado and Wolf Meadow Farm’s Caciocavallo cheese. Visit Vena’s Fizz House in Portland, Maine to taste the latest mocktails crafted by Steve and Joanna Corman. And by all means, include it in your next mojito, margarita, or Pisco cocktail.

Look for Spiker’s Grapefruit Shrub starting June 19.

PS – If you can’t find Spiker’s Shrubs at a location near  you, please ask for us at your local specialty foods retailer, or drop us a note here to suggest the names of stores near you. We’re eager to grow our distribution network, and your feedback would be most appreciated. Thanks!

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Coming home to Cider Hill

When we launched our business in 2014, Cider Hill Farm was the first business we approached. They’re just down the street from us, but their location isn’t what motivated us. Cider Hill Farm is a leader in sustainable farming and community retailing. You will always find something fresh, new, and local on their shelves. And we will always want to be part of their mission.

Today — almost one year after we launched Spiker’s Shrubs and Cider Hill said “yes!” — we delivered a new crop of our 2015 shrubs.

We hope you’ll visit Cider Hill Farm soon and ask for Spiker’s Shrubs. But also be sure to explore their ever-expanding collection of small-batch specialty foods: honey, jerky, cheese, and more. Cider Hill Farm is a great destination no matter what you are shopping for.

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Food and Wine Fest at Shubie’s in Marblehead

We’re b-a-a-c-c-k-k-k! After the long, killer winter we’re thrilled to be sharing the floor at Shubie’s annual Food and Wine Fest with a select group of specialty purveyors. Stop by today from 1-5pm, and be sure to say hello to our first-of-the-season Strawberry Rhubarb shrub. New bottle size — a hefty 12 ounces — and a beautiful, fresh blend of two of New England’s favorite flavors.

PS – Be sure to say hello to our friends from Atlantic Saltworks, too!

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Strawberry Rhubarb is back in season

Coming to Cider Hill Farm and Vena’s Fizz House this weekend: the newest, freshest Spiker’s Shrubs release…first-season Strawberry Rhubarb. Who needs a pie when you can sip this awesome New England classic flavor combo in our new upsized bottle?!? (Even if you aren’t into rhubarb, think twice. In a sippable form, it’s so luxurious!)

Great alone in seltzer as a mocktail. Or try it in sangria, margaritas, and other favorite cocktails. It makes an incredible salad dressing splash, too. We love it on roasted sweet potatoes with a kiss of butter.

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Shirley Temple gets a mocktail make-over

In honor of this Sunday’s Love, Shirley Temple exhibit at the historic Wenham Museum, Spiker’s has teamed up with Vena’s Fizz House in Portland, ME, to craft an uptown version of the classic Shirley Temple mocktail.

The traditional recipe which combines generic grenadine with ginger ale is a snore, and we wanted to serve up a twist that’s refreshing and complex. Innocent, but also saucy/sassy. Kind of like little Shirley herself.

Here are our change-ups:

For starters, ditch the dreadful Red Dye #2 phony maraschino cherry and replace with Spiker’s Sour Cherry Plum shrub. It contributes the natural flavor of authentic tart red cherry pies and turnovers. And because it isn’t super-sweet, it balances out the drink just as you’d hope.

Next, seek out the best grenadine you can find. Liber & Co. makes a top-shelf version worth investing in.

In place of ginger ale, use Spiker’s Ginger Bite shrub plus mineral water or seltzer.

And finally, a few dashes of Jamaican Ginger bitters, Smoky Habanero Pepper Extract Bitters, and ghost pepper extract add the magic touch to bring depth and intrigue to your mocktail. “It’s all in the bitters,” Corman advises. He uses a similar combination for his Dark and Stormies, which people say are the best they’ve ever tasted.

Serve your Shirley Temple in a tall glass with ice and enjoy. And then, as America’s Little Darling might have said after a sip, feel free to say, “Oh – my – goodness!”

Shirley Temple gets a mocktail make-over

Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Total Time45 mins
Servings: 1

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger peeled
  • 2 fresh mint leaves plus extra for garnish
  • 1 oz Spiker's Ginger Bite Shrub
  • 1 ounce Spiker's Sour Cherry Plum Shrub
  • 1/2 ounce Liber & Co. Grenadine or additional 0.25oz Spikers Sour Cherry Plum Shrub
  • 1 drop each Jamaican Ginger Bitters, Smoky Habanero Pepper Extract Bitters, and ghost pepper extract.
  • 5 ounces your fizziest soda/seltzer
  • ice
  • 1 slices lime or lemon

Instructions

  • In a tall glass, place the mint leaf and ginger and muddle slightly.
  • In a cocktail shaker or small pitcher, combine the Ginger Bite and Sour Cherry Plum shrub, grenadine, and bitters. Add ice and shake/stir vigorously for 30 seconds.
  • Pour into the prepared glass and top off with seltzer. Stir gently to combine.
  • Garnish with a slice of lime or lemon, and a mint sprig.
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We’re bubbling with pride at being added to Vena’s Fizz House

The destination city of Portland, Maine has a special attraction worthy of a visit by lovers of mocktails, cocktails, bar paraphernalia, and a funky old-time vibe you won’t find too many other places. Vena’s Fizz House – a combination old-time soda, cocktail/mocktail bar and retail boutique — is one of only a few such establishments in the country, worthy of receiving Alton Brown’s nod as one of the top eight shopping finds in the country. (“…I’ve never seen anything like Vena’s before…”)

Spiker’s is proud to announce that Vena’s is now serving Spiker’s Shrubs as part of their artisan crafted mocktail and cocktail menu.  You’ll also find our bottles and mini-samplers on the shelves of their adjacent retail boutique, along with vintage-era glassware, more bitters than you ever knew existed, and all sorts of other exotic additives which escalate any drinks (with or without spirits) to something spirited indeed.

Time for a road trip! Hop in the car and head up north to a beautiful city and to Vena’s Fizz House, an unbeatable, memorable source of creative refreshment and great hospitality.

PS – Tune in to Chronicle/Boston in the next week or so to catch a feature of Vena’s, up close and personal.