Monday, 3 March 2014

Smoked Salt and Scotch Caramel Sauce

Everyone has at least one dusty bottle of something potently alcoholic hanging around at the back of a cupboard. Ours are to be found stashed under the stairs, alongside my pairs of ancient Trimm Trab, Air Max 95 and Stan Smiths that the Ewing periodically threatens to throw out. 

During our last clear out, these forgotten drinks included; anisette from San Marino; salted liquorice vodka from Helsinki; Valla Tallinn, a potent herbal drink, from Estonia; blood orange Geneva from a gin bar in Ghent; Bundaberg Red Gum Rum from Oz; port (several different bottles) from Portugal; Welsh whiskey from the Brecon Beacons; and Calvados from Normandy. And that's before you consider all the homemade redcurrant schnapps, sloe gin, creme de cassis and tayberry liqueur.

While we periodically dip into this, highly flammable, treasure trove - usually while attempting to make some more room for the next bottle bought back from a trip away - there's always one that remains steadfastly untouched.

In our case the unloved beauty is this bottle of Grant's Scotch, complete with a swig missing; an alcoholic boomerang that was inherited when over a decade ago, after I had moved out and my Dad was packing up the family home before moving away. As a consequence of his clear out I ended up with a random selection of Le Cruset casseroles, Wedgewood plates and crystal decanters to go alongside the various 'humorous' student mugs and mis-matched Asda plates that I had collected during my student days.

I was also gifted this this, already thickly dust-encrusted, bottle of booze, whose origins are still a mystery, as my Dad is resolutely a brandy man while my Mum used to prefer hitting the Tia Maria. I guess it was either given to them, or bought for guests. Whichever way, only a couple of fingers were ever drunk and so I became the lucky recipient when my Dad wanted to offload it.

Since then It's survived three moves, two boyfriends and a wife; clearly none of them cheap blended whiskey drinkers. Although, after having my curiosity piqued about the age of said bottle, I found a similar one of the World of Whisky website. They estimate it as an 80's bottling, and are selling a full bottle of the stuff for £59.00. Maybe I should have just topped it up with a splash of Thames tap...

I was finally inspired to use some of this, now close to a family heirloom, whisky while flicking through my Humphry Slocombe book one evening. Based in San Francisco, the HS guys make some of the best, and weirdest, ice cream I have tasted, and thanks to their handy tome, I've been having a bash at some of the recipes myself.

The sauce originally uses Bourbon, which I swapped for the Grants, and ordinary sea salt, which I swapped for the smoked Maldon. I also added a knob of butter for an extra glossy richness. It has quite a thin consistency, more like maple syrup than the kind of confection you find in a Mars Bar, and as such would be perfect on some Shrove Tuesday pancakes or, as seen above, drowning a bowl of ice cream and topped with a scattering of roasted peanuts.

I won't lie and say that making caramel is easy, but this sauce is as easy as any I've tried. It's a wet caramel (with water added to the sugar at the beginning). If you want some tips on making perfect dry caramel then this David Leibovitz article should tell you everything you need to know. 

You can add a spoonful of glucose syrup at the beginning if you're worried about any graininess in your sauce -  and definitely don't stir the mixture while the sugar dissolves. (Mine did go a touch grainy after I had added the whisky and was reducing it back down, but certainly not enough to dissuade the Ewing from eating it straight out the jar.) 

Smoked Salt and Scotch Caramel Sauce

1/4 cup water
3 cups sugar
1 cup whisky
2tsps smoked salt
1tbsp butter

In a heavy bottomed pan combine the water and sugar and stir.
over a medium heat cook until the sugar starts to liquefy and brown, about 10 minutes Tilt the pan so the caramel cooks evenly, but don't stir. You can use a pastry brush dipped in water to dissolve any sugar crystals that form on the side of the pan.
Once the caramel is a deep brown stir in the whisky, careful, it will splutter.
Continue cooking until the caramel returns to a dark brown and has slightly thickened (it will do so more as it cools).
Stir in salt and butter (if using).
Allow to cool slightly then strain into sterilised jars or bottles.
Store at room temperature.

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