borken pecan pie

November 25, 2010

Pecan pie, from a recipe from my dear friend Jeanne McCanless. Jeanne passed away last week, and we are all thinking of her, and all that she shared with us, taught us, and gave us. She is someone who I am particularly thankful for today!

Here is her pecan pie recipe. Due to a slight spelling error it has turned into “borken” pie, which is how I will definitely remember it.

Utterly Deadly Southern Pecan Pie (Borken Pecan Pie)

4 eggs
1-1/4 cups clear Karo syrup
1-1/2 cups borken [sic] pecans
1 cup sugar
4 Tbsp. butter
1 tsp. vanilla

Boil sugar and syrup together three minutes. Beat eggs (not too stiff) pour in slowly the hot syrup, add the butter, vanilla and pecan meats. Turn into a raw pie shell and bake 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until set.

I didn’t follow the recipe exactly…which is typical. I was afraid to add the eggs right into the hot syrup, so I whisked the butter and syrup into the eggs, bit by bit.  I also added an extra 1/2 cup pecans…

The pecans came from my dad. I think that he got them at the Dutchman’s Store, and they are this year’s crop from Missouri. Yum!

Jeanne got the recipe from a coworker when she was a telephone operator. According to Jeanne’s son Jamie, they would actually have the pie on Christmas Eve, as it is super rich! It would be a treat all by itself.

firewood structures

November 25, 2010

We collected a lot of firewood this year.

My favorite structure to build is a beehive. I am not sure where this style of firewood stacking originated, but I first saw it in Brighton (IA…). There is a u-pick Christmas tree farm there and they have some very beautiful stacks of firewood.

The trick to building a beehive (in my experience) is to keep the logs tilting towards the center of the shape. I do this by laying small curved logs perpendicular to the rest of the stacked logs. This raises the outside edge, and seems to create a sturdy structure. The tops are formed by laying the logs closer and closer the center, until they meet. I don’t know how this would work on larger structures, but it worked well for my hives.

This is a circle house, inspired by some beautiful ancient ruins in New Mexico. I have plans somewhere down the line to put some sort of roof on it, but it might get used up first…

All the beehives and fences before the first snow. I can’t wait to see them covered!

honey, pears, and yeast!

November 13, 2010

A few months ago I had an excess of pears and apples, and an interest in making mead. My friend Brenda makes mead, and it is quite yummy! I called her up, and she sent me a box of supplies right away!!

The steps are simple, but they do need to be followed precisely. Sterilize everything within an inch of its life, except for the fruit peels, which contain natural yeasts. Chop up the fruit (I used apples and pears in one batch and pears and lemons in the other), mix with yeast, and stir in a plastic fermenting bucket. Then cap it with an air lock, and let it ferment. I left my bucket in the basement for about 2 months. (No pictures of the first steps…)

Yesterday it was time to start the second step. The racking process. It is my understanding that this process is to rid the mead of sediments. It is done initially to get rid of the fruits, etc., and can be done again at a later time to remove more sediments.

Step one was of course again to sterilize everything! I washed my plastic tubing, my airlocks, a big spoon for scooping out the fruit, and of course, two new glass gallon jugs.

Then it was time to open the fermenting buckets. The smell was sharp and a little yeasty, but not unpleasant. I carefully scooped out all the fruit, which had sparkly consistency, almost carbonated.  There were a few quite rotten looking pieces, but mostly they looked okay.

Next step was to set up the siphoning system. Very simple and effective workings of a plastic tube. I placed the bucket on the counter, and the empty glass jug on the floor, and siphoned the honey colored mead from the top bucket to the bottom. Everything worked well, until I managed to overfill my jar and spill mead all over the floor…

Now the mead is safely in glass fermenting jars, with airlocks in place. Back to the basement for another 6 (or 8, or 10?) months until the mead is ready to be bottled! I tasted the mead as I was siphoning, and it was actually rather pleasant. And the rich honey color of the liquid is lovely to look at!

40 days and counting

November 7, 2010

I was talking to my friend Emily a few days ago and we started discussing baking, and Christmas break, and I remembered that I needed to start another batch of grapefruit wine. I made (and blogged about) this recipe last year, and it turned out so well that I decided to make it again.

It is a recipe from Saving the Season, and originates in Southern France. It is a simple recipe. Place sugar in the bottom of several very large glass jars. Layer fruit on top, pressing down a bit as you go.

Add a little bit of chamomile and vanilla, and top with vodka and wine. Then let it sit for about 4o days before straining into bottles. The jars are mixed a bit and topped off during the first week.

This recipe makes me want to live near citrus trees so badly!!!

It is a little bit grim what happens to pumpkins. The seeds are planted, they spend all summer collecting energy from the sun, and nutrients from the soil and water, and then we eat them. Scrub, de-stem, seed, and bake in the oven in a tray of boiling water. Jay took the picture above in the oven with his camera that can capture lovely dark images!

I love my pumpkins. Jay came over today to see the harvest (which was rather small…) and we decided to make a pot of pumpkin soup. With a Long Island Cheese variety.

We cut the pumpkin in half, seeded it and saved the seeds. (I do figure that the purpose of the plant is to continue to create offspring, so my meticulously saving and planting the seeds does count for something after I cut open and eat the squash…)

We baked the pumpkin in a 400 degree oven until it was tender, and the top had browned.

(I is important to wait until the pumpkin is well done. The skin just peels off if you do!)

I mashed the pumpkin flesh with a fork, and added it to a mixture of sauteed onions and garlic, parsley, and a little bit of parmesan cheese rind ready on the stove.

After we mixed everything together the soup was pretty much finished. It was bubbling on the stove for five or ten minutes, and then we served it up. We garnished it with fresh parsley, grated parmesan, and toasted pumpkin seed oil (a real treat!).

We managed to find little spots on the table to eat. I was definitely knocking elbows with pumpkins throughout the meal, but it was fun anyways!

Pumpkin Soup (more like guidelines than a recipe!)


a smallish long island cheese pumpkin (or any pumpkin or winter squash) cut in half and seeded

a small onion

a few cloves of garlic

olive oil

a few sprigs (or more) of parsley

a bit of parmesan cheese rind

some more parsley, cheese, and pumpkin seed oil for garnish

salt and pepper


Bake pumpkin cut side down in an inch or so of water in a 400 degree oven.

Meanwhile, chop and sautee onions, and whole clove or two of garlic in olive oil over medium low heat. Add some salt, and then after a few minutes the chopped parsley and parmesan rind. Stir for about a minute or so, then add a tiny bit water and let simmer for a few minutes and then set aside.

The pumpkin should be about done here, and you can scrape it right from the shell and add directly to the soup. I used the water from baking pumpkin for the soup instead of broth or fresh water.

Stir everything well, and blend or put through a food mill if you like. Let the soup simmer for ten or fifteen minutes before serving.

Garnish with extra chopped parsley, freshly grated parmesan cheese, salt, pepper and toasted pumpkin seed oil (all optional).