Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Bottled Cider

I should probably begin by saying how sorry I am not to have written. But I won't because I'm not. It's been a marvelously busy year and any of you who are still somehow faithful to this little blog have no doubt had many delicious things to keep you occupied in my absence.  

We had an enormous apple crop from our MacIntosh tree this year and we kept harvesting and harvesting until we had almost 80 pounds of apples. Absolutely organically grown--which includes all the critters that love apples as much as humans do.  So it was 80 pounds of apples that had to be washed and cut up and all that before it could go through the cider mill to become...cider.

That took a fair amount of time and I was still processing apples in the last few minutes before I was taken to the airport for three weeks of research and teaching in England and Scotland.  Going through security was a breeze compared to all that apples processing!

We ended up with 5 gallons of gorgeous and flavorful juice and we made it into apple cider. Hard cider, I mean.  It did its first couple of weeks in an ale pail, off-gassing merrily. Then it went into a glass carboy where it stopped off-gassing fairly soon and just sat there, fermenting quietly.

We bottled it yesterday and got almost 50 bottles of what will be a very dry hard cider with a kick like a Buncombe county mule.  It'll be ready to drink in about a month and will continue to get better for a few years.

We drank the last of the 2010 bottling a couple of months ago and it was very good indeed.

I also made an experimental batch that was 1/3 apple juice and 2/3 elderberry juice.  It is ruby red and pretty tasty. There's only a gallon of that, though.

What have you been doing? What have you been eating? How have you fared this summer and fall?

the very welcoming front doors of a local brewery

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Nettles. This time, tea.

Evening, friends! I harvested the first batch of nettles today.  They had a lot of dirt from backsplash after last week's heavy rain, so it took a couple of washes to get them clean.

Then I set a big pot of water to boil and when it was boiling, I used the tongs to jam the nettles in.  I removed it from the heat, put the lid on and left it to steep for several hours.

After that time, I poured it through a strainer and into a half gallon mason jar.  There was enough left over for a tall glass of fresh nettle tea.  Here are the pics...

Here they are--the dirty little darlings--waiting for their first washing.

the second washing-- I poured the dirty water into watering cans

Here's the greenish-gold final product...and my own glass was delish.

Nettle tea is a wonderful spring tonic. And summer tonic. And autumn tonic.  I also make a cream of nettle soup and that will happen sometime this week, I think.  You can add some honey to the warm tea, if you like, but I prefer it unsweetened.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Italian Grain Pie

I've only made this once before but my daughter brought her boy friend home for the weekend and I thought I'd do it as a tribute to a holiday we don't actually celebrate.  It takes forever to do but it's worth the time and effort.  It has a very unusual flavor, is dense and rich and definitely not for those who don't do gluten.  I'm going to post the pics first and the recipe after.

whole grains, soaking in water. this is kamut and a little brown rice

grain cooked, drained and cooling

 rubbing sweet butter into the flour for the rich crust

the crust has the yolks of three eggs, from local hens

crust divided into halves, ready to chill

lattice top on and ready for the oven

out of the oven and cooling

ready to serve, garnished with fresh violets

2 C plain flour
1/2 C sugar
pinch of salt
3 yolks
3 T cream
1 T cold water
stick of sweet butter, softened

Sift all the dry ingredients together, rub the butter in, add the yolks, then the liquid. Form two balls of dough, allow them to chill.

Let 3/4 of a pound of whole grains soak in fresh water for about half an hour.  I use kamut wheat, but this time I was 2 ounces short and added in the rice. Cook it in enough water to cover it for about an hour, until soft. Drain it. Put 1/2 whole milk in the same pot. Add 1 T sugar and bring to a boil. Put the cooked grain back in, stir it up and cook for 3 mins. Let the grain cool to room temperature.

Roll out one of the balls of crust and put it into a buttered pie pan.  Preheat oven to 350.

Combine the following:
1 1/2 pounds of ricotta cheese
1 C heavy cream
1 1/2 C sugar
6 yolks

Add to cooked grains.

Combine the following:
1 t grated orange peel
1 T cinnamon
1 T orange juice
1 T candied citron

Add to cooked grain mixture.

Beat 4 egg whites to stiff peaks. Fold them into the grain mixture. Pour into crust. Use the second ball of crust and make a nice lattice on top. Bake for 1 hour. Turn off oven and let the pie set for 1/2 hour in the warmth.

There was enough filling and crust to do a second pie, without the lattice top. I haven't worked out the amounts for a single pie, so plan to give one to a friend.  A very good friend.

Serve it warm, with softly whipped fresh cream.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Staying with the Cake Motif

I used to do decorated cakes all the time but haven't done much of that lately. But my dear sister-in-law asked me to help her with her daughter's wedding cake a few years back and since then I've helped with a few other food-related jobs.

This is the baby-shower cake for the same daughter a couple of months ago.  I keep all my pastry bags and couplers and tips in a white tin and throw that and some favorite spatulas into a bag when we're headed down to her place.

My personal preference is for a more dense and robust cake but I certainly enjoy wielding the pastry bag full of shortening/butter/powdered sugar icing.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Birthday Cake

I love old Grange cookbooks. I have one that is called "Our Favorite Grange Recipes" and it was compiled in the late 1960s. The cover features a drawing of a smiling farmer with a bushel basket of vegetables. The sub-title is "a Collection of Rural Recipes Which Have Made Grange Cooking Famous Throughout the West Since 1870."

That pretty much says it all.

The cake recipes run the gamut from what we'd call in the South "white-trash cooking" (lots of processed ingredients thrown together in a "creative" way) to old-school deliciousness. I chose Midnight Cake for my birthday and made a double recipe for four layers.  Here it is--

1/2 C butter
1 1/4 C sugar
2 eggs
1 t. soda
1 C hot water
1/2 C cocoa
1 1/2 C cake flour
1/2 t. salt
1 t. baking powder
1 t. vanilla

Cream butter, add sugar gradually, beat well. Add eggs and beat one minute. Add hot water to cocoa and mix until smooth. Add cocoa mixture to eggs and sugar. Sift together dry ingredients and add to creamed mixture, beating well. Add vanilla. Bake 20 mins at 350.

I used regular cocoa for the first batch and dark cocoa for the second which gave it a subtle variegated look when stacked. It is a very tender cake and you would be wise to let the cooked cake rest in the pans for 5 minutes of so and then cover your cooling rack with parchment or waxed paper before turning the layers out.

The icing also came from this book. It is the last icing recipe in the section.

Chocolate Fudge Icing
1 C light brown sugar
1/4 C milk
3 T butter
3 T cocoa
Boil the above ingredients for 3 minutes, remove from hear and add 1 1/2 C sifted powdered sugar and 1 t. vanilla. (and I needed an extra  T. milk to make the icing the right consistency). Beat until firm.

Then you have to ice the cake fast.  It took three batches to get the level of coverage I like for a four layer cake.  I'd do one--ice like a maniac.  Do another, ditto. And again.  Serve stingy little slices because it is very, very rich.

It is a very firm frosting--a good keeper,as they say. The taste is extraordinary--so unlike the crap frosting on grocery store cakes or the garbage that comes out of a can.

Next time--and there will be a next time--I'm going to do a sour cherry filling for the layers. Same icing. A slash of whipped cream on the slice, as you serve.  On the photo above, I rolled out some little dabs of this firm frosting and stuck them in a circle on top of the cake.  I broke up a bar of crystalized honey infused organic chocolate and stuck a piece in each dab.  Sifted a little powdered sugar on the top and it looked a little like a stone circle in a light snow.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Tamales and Candy

I have always loved tamales--from the time I was a wee child and my mother would buy Hormel tamales in that curious red sauce--the ones in a small glass jar?

Later I discovered that I could order tamales at Mexican restaurant, even if they weren't on the menu.  That was very good to know.

My best tamale experience until last week was at a small Latino Episcopal community in a neighboring county.  I knew the priest and we cooked up this idea to do a combined Day of the Dead/Samhain event with our two communities.  The event would be focused on sharing food and crafts, and building an altar together.

The church had a wonderful cob oven in their side yard and we built a fire to cook bread, pizza...and tamales.  They were incredibly delicious and the whole event was a fun learning experience.

My daughter is home from college and we decided last week to make some tamales.  We have lots of meat in the house from the holidays and we got a bag of masa and read the directions.  Instead of steaming them properly, we found a recipe that allowed us to stack the husk-wrapped tamales in a baking dish with 1/2 inch of water.

It didn't take long to make them or to cook them or to eat them.  They were pretty darned yummy and really easy but we determined that the masa mixture needed lard or some other animal fat for maximum taste.  We're going to try it again tomorrow with some rendered pork fat.

On now to candy.  My family traditions around the holidays always included odd, old candies--seafoam, boiled fudge, marzipan fruits.  My cousin Evvie--she of the Cold Oven Pound Cake (which I insist on called the Old Coven Pound Cake)--always made chocolate-covered bonbons.  I remember one year she got into a time crunch and I went out to help her with her candy.  It was a fun time--she was one of my favorite relatives ever.

After her death, I took on making these bonbons.  This year, I was doing so much baking and making that the bonbons never got their chocolate coating.  They are still bright and delicious. And this year, I finally rolled them into small enough balls to not get too much of their richness.

Here's the recipe--

14 oz coconut
2 boxes 10X sugar
1/2 C unsalted butter
1 can condensed milk
1 t vanilla
chopped pecans (optional)

Cream together butter, sugar and canned milk. Mix all the other ingredients by hand and roll into dime-sized balls. Dip in melted dark chocolate.

Easy. Fast. Surprisingly yummy.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

What? Where?

Did I starve last year?  Was there no food about which to write?

Erm.  No.  I published a book in June and started a blog about that.  I got a new blog platform at Witches and Pagans and did that.  I gardened like a maniac.  There were several deaths.

Blah blah. Blah.

I'm going to attempt to revive this little blog and be true to it. Because cooking and food preparation is so important to me and to all of us, I will also write about Appalachian cooking, subsistence farming, water, food sovereignty and other things that will fall loosely under this umbrella of Pagan Foodies.

I am hoping to inspire Peg to also return and to maybe add some more writers so we have a little more diversity of outlook.

Anyway, it's 2013.  Time to get serious about food, I reckon.

What are you cooking today?

coconut cake with a cooked frosting