Janel Johnson


Restoring yellowed artwork with Corel Draw
I'm a big fan of the old style of botanical illustration. Sadly, many of the older botanical illustrations were painted or printed on paper that has yellowed or discolored in some fashion, muddying the colors of the original illustration. With a lot of tinkering, I've come up with a method to remove the yellow color from scanned images while preserving the original colors. I started with images from Franz Eugen Köhler’s Medizinal-Pflanzen, downloaded from plantcurator.com. When I first started trying to restore the color in these images, I adjusted the hue, white balance, contrast, etc, b..
Open (Ware) House
Reese and I would like to welcome our friends and supporters to visit our warehouse on September 22nd from 4pm to 8pm. We will have samplers of bitters and tiki goodies, prototypes of some fun new toys, and lots of odds and ends that aren't available in our web stores...
The shelf life of spices
I am often asked how long will our spices last and it varies from a few months to several years.  The shelf life of spices is determined by four main factors: volatility, temperature, surface area, and storage containers, all of which influence the interaction between spices air. Many spices get their flavor from volatile compounds that will eventually evaporate. Many of the bitter herbs on the other hand get their flavor from alkaloids that are not volatile and they retain their flavor much longer. The more volatile the flavor compounds are, the more quickly their flavor will fade if sto..
Use and care of reagent bottles
General use, care, and how to open a stuck stopper.Many of our kits include reagent bottles for steeping and storing bitters. This type of bottle has been used to store chemicals for at least 150 years, though the idea for the ground glass stopper dates back to the late 1700s. The combination of glass bottle and stopper makes the container very resistant to chemical corrosion with a few exceptions. Very strong alkali should not be stored in these bottles because the alkali can cause the stopper to corrode and fuse to the neck of the bottle. Also, hydrofluoric acid should never be stored in gla..
Who was Ira Remsen?
Ira Remsen grew up in New York and graduated from the Columbia University College of Physicians before going to Germany to study chemistry.  During his years in Germany, he learned the value of observation and experimentation in teaching chemistry. When he returned to America to teach chemistry, he was appalled at the lack of laboratory instruction and the inadequacy of the available textbooks.Remsen wrote a new textbook, “Theoretical Chemistry,” and translated important German works to English,as well as publishing papers on the results of his own lab work.  This attracted the atten..
Toasted Tiki Buttered Rum
Reese and I have been working on developing a tiki kit that will soon be available exclusively through UncommonGoods. We've been making plenty of great tiki drinks to test our recipes but with the cold, wet weather this week we were in the mood something a little warmer than the usual frosty tiki drink. I've developed a variation on my favorite hot buttered rum recipe that takes advantage of the bottles of tiki mixers in our bar. Toasting the butter gives the drink a rich flavor reminiscent of molasses cookies.Toasted Tiki Buttered RumHeat in a small saucepan over medium heat:1 tablespoon unsa..
Hibiscus Grenadine Recipe
If you've never had homemade grenadine, you're in for a treat. Unlike the commercial stuff, which is little more than corn syrup and food coloring, this homemade grenadine uses real pomegranates and dried hibiscus flowers. If you can't buy fresh pomegranates, bottled not-from-concentrate juice (such as POM) can be substituted. The hibiscus and pomegranate juice give this grenadine and deep, garnet red that will give any drink a brilliant crimson hue.Hibiscus "flowers" are actually the fleshy red calyx that remains after the petals fall off. The fruit with its fuzzy black seeds is usually remov..
Tonic Syrup Recipe
zest from 3 limes zest from 3 lemons zest from one grapefruit 1 cup sugar 3 cups water 1 1/2 tablespoons cinchona bark 1 teaspoon gentian root 1 1/2 tablespoons citric acid 2/3 cup chopped lemongrass 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt 2-3 cups rich simple syrup or other sweetener equivalent.Optional spices: 6 juniper berries 4 whole cardamom pods 6 whole allspice berries 2 teaspoons lavender 1 piece star anise 1/2 teaspoon quassia barkFor dry tonic, omit simple syrup and reduce citric acid to 1 teaspoon.Stir zest and sugar together, let sit, covered, overnight. In a saucepan, bring all ingredients excep..
More Tiki Recipes
Additional recipes for the Tiki Mixers Kit. Pimento (Allspice) Dram:12 oz rum1/3 cup allspice berriesSteep allspice berries in rum for 10 to 15 days. Strain and sweeten with brown sugar simple syrup (1.5 cups sugar to 1 cup hot water)  Cinnamon and vanilla syrups:1.5 tablespoons cinnamon chipsOR2 vanilla beans 1 cup water1 cup sugar Place cinnamon or vanilla in a small saucepan with the sugar and water. Bring to a boil, then simmer for two minutes; stirring to dissolve the sugar.  Remove from heat, cover, and let sit for two hours. Strain out the cinnamon or vanil..
New Recipe: Falernum
Now that spring is peeking out from behind the clouds and snow it's time to start thinking about warm weather cocktails. With that in mind, I'm introducing a new set of kits to help you show off your DIY skills at the next backyard luau. First up is falernum, a rum based liqueur flavored with almonds, lime, ginger and cloves. Read about falernum's history in this Smithsonian article.Falernum Recipe:16 oz rum (use a mid-grade lightly flavored rum, not the cheap stuff and not a dark rum like Meyers) Zest from 8 to 9 limes 1" by 2" piece of ginger 1 cup sliced almonds 30 wholes clovesOptional Spi..
Bitters Recipe Book
Download our cocktail bitters recipe book here...
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