For the dutch oven cookoff we made a whiskey sour cherry spoon bread. A not too sweet cake, rich with butter, and filled with fruit. Cherries soaked for a few days in whiskey and sugar.

We preheated the dutch oven, melted the butter, and then added the cake batter. Then we carefully spooned in the sour cherries.

Then lidded the dish, making sure not to get any ashes in the cake, and set it aside to cook.

We whipped cream with vanilla and powdered sugar to serve with the spoon bread.

A simple and satisfying dessert.

I have a jar of cherries on my porch. They are solar cooking in a broth of sugar and whiskey. I got sick of pitting all the cherries, and this recipe called for unpitted (and unwashed) cherries, whiskey, and sugar. I had all the ingredients, as well as a quart jar, so I made use of them.

To pick the cherries, which were on a huge tree, my friend Duncan helped me out. We backed his pickup truck under the tree (over the sidewalk) and placed an 8 foot ladder in the bed of the truck. I used a pail with a handle attached to my overalls so that I had both hands free for picking the cherries and balancing.

The cherries “cook” for a month, and are supposed to last up to two years.

I found the recipe (originally made with brandy) in a cookbook on preserving fruits and vegetables according to French tradition, without canning. I am not one hundred percent sure that I trust this method, and might not end up leaving them in the sun the whole time…not sure.

Cherries. My first attempt ended up with 8 jars of what my sister calls “Early Bird” cherry preserves.

I picked cherries in the rain, which was actually delightful. The rain washed the sticky ripe cherry juices off my arms as I picked, and the glistening cherries against the dark leaves were a treat to look at.

I brought the cherries home, set up camp on the porch (it had stopped raining) and pitted each and every cherry with my thumb. I have tried cherry pitters, but for small, ripe, sour pie cherries, the thumb works the best. After pitting the cherries, I put them in my jam cauldron layered with sugar. They sat for an hour (according to recipe) and then I heated the mixture to dissolve the sugar. Then the cherries rested again. Overnight this time. I woke up at 6 in the morning, with a clean kitchen, and heated the cherries and filled and processed the jars.

When I gave a nice little jar to my dad, I noticed, to my mild horror that there was a worm left in the jar…I guess organic means that worms get to enjoy the cherries as much as we do…and maybe I am not the best cherry worm remover.

I love the idea of strawberry pie. Fresh fruit, cream, and a buttery crust are all I need to be happy (for a few moments anyways). Oh, and maybe a sprig or two of mint, too.

Last night I got home with more strawberries than I knew what to do with. Well, not really, but there were a lot. Before bed, I mixed up a batch of pie dough. 1 1/2 cups flour, 1 stick butter, and a bit of ice water. I put the dough in the fridge over night, and this morning I rolled it out, pricked it, and popped it into the oven. I left the pie crusts on the counter to cool and ran off to work.

This afternoon, I came home and filled the pie shells with a whipped cream and yogurt mixture. It is one of my new favorites: very simple, fresh, and delicious. I used greek style hung yogurt mixed with sugar, lime zest and lime juice, and vanilla. To this mixture I added the whipped cream.

On top of the pies I added strawberries (whole around the edges, and sliced with sugar in the middle. I threw in a mango as well here. To garnish the pies I picked some mint from the garden.

All 6 assorted mini pies made it safely into town in my pie baskets.

When there are strawberries, there ARE strawberries. As with most fruits, if you choose to eat them when they are fresh, you have to eat a lot of them, all at once. This is of course how to make up for not eating them the rest of the year. (It is also a good way to get a stomach ache.) Pick them, eat them, can them, eat them, make pies, and eat some more.

My friend Bob has a huge garden, and the strawberries were ripe for picking last night. We went by, and picked tons! I came home with two turkey-roasting trays full (which is actually half full, as the fruits shouldn’t be layered too deep..). Last night I canned a batch of jam (and started crusts for pies).

Strawberry jam is a simple mixture of sugar, fruit, and lemon juice. I didn’t use much pectin, and the resulting jam was thin, which is perfect for things like pancakes and yogurt.

To thicken the jam a little bit, I boiled it for a while. You don’t want to boil the jam too much though, or you will over cook the fruit. hmmm..

green tomato tart

May 30, 2010

What to do when you get paid in green tomatoes?

At the end of a morning of playing music at the farmer’s market, we received a collection of  treats from many of the different vendors! Among the items was a bag of green tomatoes, and I took them home to try to make a green tomato tart. I had a recipe in mind that I wanted to try from Lee Bailey’s Country Desserts, one of my favorite cookbooks.

The crust was very simple, a mixture of flour, powdered sugar, and butter, pressed into the bottom of the tart pan. No rolling out, and it tasted delicious! I am going to remember this for other recipes…

Then I arranged apple and green tomato slices around, covered with lemon juice and dusted with a sugar and flour mixture. (You are supposed to use corn starch, but I didn’t have any.)

The recipe only called for three tablespoons of sugar in the tart. At the end you are supposed to add 1/2 a cup of blackberry jam. I didn’t have any blackberry jam, and wanting to use up something that I had in my cupboard I substituted a jar of spicy jalapeno pepper jelly. I wasn’t sure if it would go…green tomato, apple, vinegar, and the sharp bite of pepper, but it ended up tasting pretty good.

rose petals

May 22, 2010

Oh, I love making jam. And canning things. Especially when it involves picking rose petals. They smell lovely, and leave my hands smelling rose-like. And they are photogenic. I hadn’t really thought about that, until I found myself stopping to gaze at the roses, petals, and process of turning them into jam.

Rose petals are easy to pick. They fall off the bush, and in our case, there are plenty of them! The rose bush at the store is huge. Sprawling all over the place. When the front and back doors are open at the store, the roses waft through. Mmm.

Rose petals in the cauldron. They cooked over low heat for 30 minutes. The result was a mauve rose essence, and a clump of petals.

The inclusion of lemon juice brightened the color (and probably flavor too).

The lemon juice turned the mauve rose syrup a sharp, deep pink.

The petals re-added to the syrup, and simmered until the jam thickened. The lemon pips and pith help with thickening, and are contained in cheesecloth.

And, finished jam. I tried to cut corners and boil the jars in a smaller pot (as there were so few) but I ended up cracking one as I didn’t have a rack underneath. Not going to do that again…