We are three sisters united in our search for the divine - in food, libation, literature, art, and nature. This blog will capture the true, sometimes decadent, at times humorous, and every so often transcendent adventures of the Salvation Sisters.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Pineapple-Ginger Agua Fresca for a Crowd

by Michelle

"Este verano en la playa, tira agua fresca al sol, y se te refrescarán las ideas para el otoño". 
                                                                                                                         — Xavi Gabriel.

A trio of Agua Frescas (Horchata, Pineapple-Ginger and Watermelon)
can be conveniently prepared and chilled in advance of your party.
   I recently found myself traveling at a cruising speed of about 550 miles per hour on a flight from Colorado to Arizona. I casually watched the orange and purple tinged sunset from my window seat. When the sun slipped below the horizon, I pressed the overhead  light and settled myself into the reading comfort of the June release of Saveur magazine. After a hectic week in Denver, I lazily browsed the pages taking in the do-it-yourself Liquid Smoke brief and then moving on to study an article titled Campfire Confection, a version of S'mores made by preparing bourbon-flavored marshmallows. Um... yes, please.
   Then at around cruising altitude, when I popped my ear drums, I turned the pages to On The Spritz an article dedicated to the praise of the modern day Spritz—those wine-based effervescent cocktails that people love to enjoy at home but never seem to order at the cocktail lounge. By the end of the short article, and enticed by the happy photographs. I was ready for a Spritz, that's for sure.
   It didn't take long for me in my relaxed state to think about Maddie's graduation party and the trio of Agua Frescas that we prepared to complement the Mexican-themed menu. We added carbonated water, also known as club soda, to the refreshing homemade fruit juices. It didn't take too much thought before my mind contemplated what it would have been like to substitute cava or champagne for the fizzy water. I'll place my bet on delicious.
The drink buffet included Pineapple and Watermelon Agua Frescas,
dairy-free Horchata, "Not Too Girly" Strawberry Margaritas and chilled white wine. 
   The graduation was an all ages event so I had plenty of non-alcoholic beverages for guests to choose between. If it had been a smaller, adults gathering, substituting alcoholic bubbly for the tamer H2O fizz may have been tempting. Think Mimosa, but instead of the freshly squeezed orange juice, the flavor is watermelon or pineapple. Sounds great to me. Either way, you can't go wrong. Fruit forward agua frescas are a taste sensation. If you haven't had the pleasure of trying an agua fresca, well, don't delay, make one today.
Maddie seems pretty happy with the options at the toppings bar 
for the tacos. Her cousin, Sonora, is enjoying a vodka enhanced 
pineapple auga fresca during her meal.

Pineapple Ginger Spice Agua Fresca

   For the graduation party, I decided to make flavor-infused rich sugar syrups for the agua frescas. To sweeten the pineapple agua fresca, bring 2 cups granulated sugar and 1 cup filtered water to nearly a boil, stirring often, until the sugar is liquefied. Turn off the heat and add a handful of unpeeled minced ginger to the sugar syrup along with 2 star anise, 5 cloves, 1 cracked nutmeg (split with the aid of a mallet) and one vanilla bean split lengthwise and then finely diced. Let sit until the sugar syrup reaches room temperature. Strain the sugar syrup and discard the ginger and spices. Transfer the sugar syrup to a glass container with a tight fitting lid. Chill.
   I quadrupled the recipe and prepped four large pineapples which yielded nearly 5 quarts of juice. So, by the time I added the sugar syrup and the club soda, the yield was around 9 quarts.
   One final thought... the pineapple mixture took considerably more patience to prepare than the watermelon. Pineapple flesh is fibrous. Therefore, the blended fruit plugged the sieve after every significant pour. I had to rotate the sieve so that the pineapple juice could slip through the sides when the pulp clogged the middle. Granted, I made a pretty big batch so I had to rinse and repeat often. If you are not a patient person opt to make watermelon agua fresca which is faster to prepare.

1 large pineapple = about 4 cups fresh pineapple blended with 3 to 4 cups water
1 liter club soda, chilled
chilled honey syrup or flavored simple syrup, to taste

Adults might want to add a shot of vodka or light rum to their serving

electric blender
fine meshed sieve
Four pineapples yielded 5 quarts of juice. 
1. Puree the pineapple and water in batches in a blender. Note: After processing four pineapples to prepare the quadruple batch of agua fresca for the graduation party, I found that it worked best to fill the blender half full with pineapple chunks and add just enough water to cover the pineapple. Then, blend each batch of pineapple for a couple of minutes in the blender before straining.
2. Pour the puree through a fine-mesh sieve. Repeat with remaining pineapple.
3. Add the honey or simple syrup to the strained liquid a little at a time and taste as you go, adding just the right amount. Dilute with club soda, to taste. I add enough club soda until my taste buds can detect the effervescence of the carbonated water. Serve over ice.

My friend Valerie, captured this photo of me and my daughter,
Maddie during the graduation party.

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