www.hoorayforrain.com - Oktoberfest

Look at this pile of pretzels! I must admit that I did not make the pretzels for Oktoberfest this year. Our annual Oktoberfest party has grown so large that it just isn't feasible to make ALL the food for the party and actually enjoy the party too. So, this year we subbed out the pretzels to a local German bakery we discovered a few months ago. Best decision EVER. 

www.hoorayforrain.com - Oktoberfest

Don't worry, there was still plenty to do to get ready for the party. Here's my entire Oktoberfest menu this year:

I'm on the lookout all year long for interesting Oktoberfest recipes. You can see my collection of Oktoberfest recipes on Pinterest

Last but not least, here's my cute German husband in his lederhosen with Halley the Wunderpuppy, and a few photos I snapped while assembling the Zwetschgendatschi. 


www.hoorayforrain.com - Oktoberfest
www.hoorayforrain.com - Oktoberfest
www.hoorayforrain.com - Oktoberfest

Concord Grapes Recipe Roundup

Concord Grapes Recipe Roundup - www.hoorayforrain.com

In my yard, autumn means Concord grape season. During the 90's, one of the previous owners of our home planted a large grape arbor  in our backyard. It was so exciting to wait for the grapes to ripen during our first summer in our house. As soon as the grapes seemed full-sized, I would pluck one and taste it weekly. The first few were unbearably sour, as the grapes were still green and I was unaware that they would soon turn a deep purple. 

As soon as those grapes ripened to purple, they were unmistakably Concords. That first year, I had no clue what to do with  my bounty of grapes. I made a big batch of pickled grapes for cheese plates. The pickled grapes were good, but there were pounds and pounds left over. Luckily I got smart after that first season and started cooking my grapes down, which dramatically intensifies their "grapey" flavor. 

In the past few years I've made many quarts of grape juice, pints of grape jelly, and even grape fruit roll-ups and grape sorbet. Concord grape season came early this year due to Portland's hot and dry summer. I'm always on the lookout for interesting Concord grape recipes, and I thought I'd share some of the best looking recipes I've collected with you. 

Let's start with the basics. You can't go wrong with Concord grape jelly.
You can make the jelly without added sugar, too. 
Once you make your jelly, you can easily turn it into fruit roll ups!
Cocktail, anyone? How about a Concord Grape Aviation or a Cardamaro Concord Cocktail?
Or you can always stick with grape soda or a Concord Grape Shrub.
Don't waste your grape leaves, pickle them and make dolmas!  
How about Concord grape syrup for your pancakes? 
And don't forget dessert. It's so hard to choose between Concord Grape Popsicles, Concord Grape Sherbet, Concord Grape Sorbet, Concord Grape Tartlets, Concord Grape Sauce, and Peanut Butter Ice Cream with Concord Grape Coulis

What do you like to make with Concord grapes? 

Winter Solstice Brew

Winter Solstice Brew - Hooray for Rain

By the time the Winter Solstice comes, we're deep into December. The days are short and what little light we receive is muted and distant. Now more than ever, there is so much more to do than hours in the day. There's baking and shopping and wrapping and making of surprises for the ones we love. And we still must do all the activities of normal life that refuse to be ignored for an entire holiday season.

My cravings for comfort are stronger than ever. I don't want to leave my flannel duvet cover and coziest pajamas in the morning. I want soup for every meal. Tea before sunup, and after sundown. Hot chocolate. Anything that will warm you, either from the outside in, or from the inside out. 

Last December, I pulled out my beloved copy of jam it, pickle it, cure it to make marshmallows for hot chocolate. As I paged through the cookbook, I was reminded of another recipe that I'd always wanted to make, but never gotten the timing quite right. The recipe was for Winter Solstice Brew.

This was one of those recipes that you just know will be good. Brandy spiced with orange, cinnamon, vanilla, anise, and peppercorn. I marked my calendar for late October of this year so that for once I could get the timing right. It took mere minutes to prepare the ingredients, and then five weeks of patience.

The end result was a drink that feels like a cozy sweater for your insides. Sorry if that sounds weird, but it's true! The orange flavor was strongest initially, and the cinnamon lingered pleasantly. It's particularly good in hot apple cider. Treat yourself and your loved ones to the good apple cider in the refrigerated section of the grocery store, if you can.

I had a warm and cozy winter solstice this year, and I hope you did too. Happy holidays!

Winter Solstice Brew

Lightly Adapted from Karen Solomon's recipe in jam it, pickle it, cure it

4 cups brandy
2 star anise
2 cinnamon sticks
2 vanilla beans, sliced lengthwise
3 medium oranges
24 peppercorns

Wash and quarter your oranges, and divide them equally between two clean quart jars. Add one star anise, cinnamon stick, and vanilla bean to each jar. Add twelve peppercorns to each jar. Add two cups of brandy to each jar.

Cap the jars, and shake them once daily for two weeks. After two weeks have elapsed, strain the brandy through a sieve into a measuring cup. Squeeze the juices out of the orange quarters. Bottle the brandy into smaller vessels for gifting, or return to a clean, covered jar. Let the brandy sit for 3 weeks before enjoying.  

Hooray for Rain - Winter Solstice Brew

Oktoberfest Pretzels

Hooray for Rain - Oktoberfest

Let me tell you what happens when you casually suggest to your social butterfly of a German husband that you should host an annual Oktoberfest party. Said German husband JUMPS on the idea and begins shopping for lederhosen and beer. Year by year that party grows, almost exponentially. Before you know it, you are up to your ears in bratwurst, red cabbage, potato salad…and most importantly, soft pretzels.

This year, six batches yielding a total of 84 pretzels were twisted the day of our Oktoberfest party to please our hungry friends.  Each year it becomes more important to find ways to make those batches of pretzels as quickly as possible! The German husband did not seem to mind the test pretzels he was forced to eat in the weeks leading up to Oktoberfest. Major efficiency strides were made this year by adapting to a recipe without a significant rise time or a simmering baking soda bath.

Best of all, I had two amazing helpers to make the pretzel twisting go faster. Don’t worry, they were paid well with unlimited pretzels and beer. And bratwurst. And potato salad. And endless red cabbage.

Brianne and Lauren, the best pretzel twisters a girl could ask for.

Brianne and Lauren, the best pretzel twisters a girl could ask for.

At the end of the night, we had 4 pretzels left. Not too shabby.

Hooray for Rain - Oktoberfest Pretzel Recipe

Oktoberfest Pretzels

Adapted from Saveur and Alton Brown

Makes 12 – 14 pretzels.



1 ½ cups warm water

One package active dry yeast

1 ½ tablespoons barley malt syrup


3 tablespoons softened butter

21 ounces, or approximately 4 ¼ cups flour


2 tablespoons baking soda

1 cup hot water

Coarse salt


Preheat oven to 475 degrees.

Mix warm water, package of yeast, and barley malt syrup together in the bowl of a stand mixer, or other large bowl. Let the mixture sit for 8 to ten minutes until the yeast looks foamy. Add the flour and butter and mix until the dough comes together. 

Knead the dough by hand for 8 minutes or for 6 minutes in a stand mixer with a dough hook.

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface, and divide the dough into 12 to 14 equally sized pieces.

It took me a little while to learn the act of twisting a pretzel. Here's how I do it in pictures.

Roll out your pretzel dough into a rope. The ends should be a little thinner than the rest of the rope. Shape the rope into a U.

Hooray for Rain - shaping pretzels

Twist the ends around each other once.

Hooray for Rain - shaping pretzels

Take the ends and flip them down onto the base of the U.

Hooray for Rain - Oktoberfest Pretzel Recipe

This process takes long enough (even with fantastic helpers) that the pretzels get a bit of an informal rise.

Add the baking soda to hot water in a measuring cup or similar vessel. Mix until the baking soda dissolves. Brush the baking soda water solution onto the pretzels with a basting brush, then immediately shake coarse salt onto the pretzels.

Bake the pretzels on parchment for 12 minutes, or until they are golden brown.

Until next year, Oktoberfest.  Prost!  

Cocktail Cherries Three Ways

Hooray for Rain - Cocktail Cherries Three Ways

Hi friends! Remember when I went to Hood River and brought back a bunch of delicious Lapin cherries? A few days later I invited my friends Anna, Grayce, and Sara over to make cocktail cherries. I have always loved a good cocktail (or mocktail) cherry. As a kid, I loved having a Shirley Temple at special occasion dinners. As an adult, my tastes have evolved, at least a little bit, and now I adore Toschi’s Amarena cherries.

My friends and I branched out and made three types of cocktail cherries: maraschino, bourbon vanilla, and brandied. It was so much fun! Anna went on a cherry picking adventure of her own and brought over several pounds of sour cherries. Pitting cherries is kind of a pain, so I highly recommend inviting several fun friends to help you. My friends were cherry pitting champs!

Maraschino Cherries

First, the Maraschino cherries. We roughly followed the recipe of Amy Stewart, aka the Drunken Botanist, with a few slight modifications based on Sara’s previous experiences in making Maraschinos.

Maraschino cherries are traditionally made with sour cherries.


Pitted sour cherries

Maraschino liqueur

Lemon peel

Put a large saucepan on the stove and cover the bottom of the saucepan with sour cherries. Cover the cherries with maraschino liqueur. Bring the cherries and liqueur just to a boil, and then pour into jars. Make sure that all of your cherries are covered in liqueur.

We made a second batch and added 5 large pieces of lemon rind before bringing to a boil.

The verdict: Not surprisingly, these cherries were the most sour. The batch with lemon peel tasted slightly sweeter. Sara reports that they are delicious in an Aviation cocktail.

Bourbon Vanilla Cherries

We couldn’t find a recipe for bourbon vanilla cherries, so we made our own!


Pitted sweet cherries




Vanilla extract

Fill your jars with the cherries. Put two cups of sugar and ½ cup of water in your saucepan, and cook over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Add ½ - ¾ cup of bourbon, and 2 tablespoons of vanilla extract. Cook until bubbling, and then pour over cherries into jars.

The verdict: These cherries turned out delicious, but also very sweet. I was hoping that the syrup would be a bit thicker, as it is for the Toschi Amarena cherries, but I did not want to cook off all of the bourbon. Next time I make them, I  will cook the sugar/water/bourbon/vanilla mixture longer after adding ¼ - ½ cup of bourbon. Some of the alcohol will burn off, but I would imagine you can achieve a thick syrupy consistency, and a bit more bourbon can always be added right before jarring the cherries. But they were still delicious as-is!

Brandied Cherries

We used Holly & Flora’s lovely brandied summer cherries recipe as our inspiration.  


Pitted sweet cherries



Amaro aperitif liqueur

Orange liqueur

Cinnamon stick

Whole cloves

5-6 large pieces of orange peel

Fill your jars with pitted cherries. Put any juices left over from pitting your cherries in the saucepan. If you do not have much cherry juice, substitute a few tablespoons of water. Add ½ cup of sugar, a cinnamon stick, 3 whole cloves, and 5-6 pieces of orange peel. Cook until the sugar has dissolved. Add ½ cup of brandy, 1/8 cup of Amaro, and 3/8 cup of orange liqueur. Stir until the liquids are combined, then remove the cinnamon stick, cloves, and orange peels from the syrup, and pour the syrup over the cherries into the jars.

The verdict: This batch turned out great! These cherries taste balanced and complex, and are definitely the most deserving of being dropped into a Manhattan.

Final Thoughts

I managed to hold off for a couple of days before tasting the cherries, in order to give the flavors time to marry. Overall, I am very happy with the results of our cherry experiments. Anna was already inspired to make two more batches of sour cherries, one in heavy syrup, and the other in sugar and rye whiskey. YUM!

Cherry season is starting to wind down in the Northwest, so grab some cherries soon if you want to make your own cocktail cherries in 2014!

Hooray for Rain - diy cocktail cherries