Photo courtesy of MyEquine.com at http://myequineathlete.com/
I'm already seeing early signs of fall with the Halloween and Holiday items already available at our local grocery. Speaking of our local grocery, as in "Kroger", have you noticed it's getting a make-over? They were painting wheat on the back wall and adding some kind of wood strips for decoration when I strolled through there after the Horseshow had started the other evening. I'm anxious to see how it turns out!
The produce area seems a little larger the new way they have laid it out, and I think remembering a plethora of caramel apple and pumpkin carving kits around the hoards of apples down that one aisle. My mind is already fixated on apples and pumpkins this year so far, and can hardly wait for the first bite of pie. I'm apt to savor every crumb and might just go ahead and make that apple pie this week, there's sure plenty of apples to choose from.
Dad planted "Sweet Sugar Pie Pumpkins" this year and I counted close to 30 lying down in his garden patch. I've been wondering if this summer's sporadic rain helped them along some. Seems his tomatoes are about done, but no worries, mine are just starting to bear fruit. I'll have plenty of late summer tomatoes, all from heirloom seed saving plants.
Fall is a great time to think about next year's growing season, I already have a winter squash collection of seeds strode across the knick knack shelf above my kitchen counter. Maybe it's me but there is just something about growing, harvesting, and eating from just a small, happy, patch of veggies, must be those small herb gardens I grew in my younger chef days behind the kitchens I worked in. So far I have faithfully and meticulously watered, directed the growth of the vines, pampered, and almost sit and watched my tomato plants grow this year. If nothing else, one thing is for sure, I'll have wonderful, homegrown, heirloom, tomatoes extended throughout the early part of the fall, just when those tasteless hot-house tomatoes start hitting the stores. The best part will be the payback to neighbors, friends, and parents whom faithfully shared their early ones with me this past summer.
I was given a winter "Banana Squash" this past meeting of "Weed'Em and Reap", it was huge, 3ft. long an about 8in. round. It was so big I had to bake it in two batches. It will make several squash pies if that's the case or enough soup to feed the hungry in our closest soup kitchen, wouldn't that be nice! Do we even have an every day feeding program around here, speak up please, if you know of one,that way we all can give a little to help, Thanks!
These fall type harvest veggies can be extremely useful if you're a fan. From pumpkins to butternut squash they are very versatile and can be used as a sweet or savory dish any time of year. It's probably rare for a family meal to include savory roast pumpkin as part of that meal; however it can be different from the normal broccoli, corn or green beans that are so convenient in today's world. There's just something about canned veggies I dislike, seems there are not any nutrients left after processing such commercially grown veggies. Fresh frozen are so much better, but yep, you guessed it, fresh out of the garden you can't beat.
Fall starts less than a month from now, actually "Tuesday September 23rd", you might be able to tell I'm over summer a little from the subtle look upon my brow. It's hard to think that summer came and went so fast. I barely had time to even think about it, must less have some watermelon, but that's okay, I'll still have a good tomato until Mr. Frost hits us with a cold snap. Maybe autumn will be mild enough to ease the electric bill a little and let us open some windows so that apple pie aroma fills our neighborhoods. I'm sure those days may be well gone, but wouldn't that be nice as well.
In a lifetime we have all seen a whole lot of different fall and autumn pie recipes, many with good tart apples and end of summer fruits like pear, pumpkin, and pecan. I'm always looking for a new and creative idea, or something a little different to cook up. Maybe a few fall test pies will spark a creative mood for you or me, and get us started for the holidays that will definitely be here before you know it.
Go grab some apples and make a few pies with a twist like an apple current with a crumbled Dutch top, or if you're brave, marinate those apples in a little brandy. Just be sure you taste test it, you will know if you added too much brandy when you sing your way through the rest of the baking process.
Growing up here, the "Horseshow" always made me think fall was setting in, us kids were out of school for 10 days or so and a few of those nights walking around the show were cooler than those humid nights we've had lately. I think the crowds have lessened quite a bit now, I no longer hear that familiar roar like I did as a kid growing up near the grounds.
While playing "Kick the Can" (<---click to see rules) and trying to be quiet, hiding behind a bush or so, you could hear the roar of the crowd and smell the hint of burgers and popcorn permeating throughout the air. Those were the days of 8-10 year old grandeur for me when everything seemed larger then life. When we got a little older we could try and sell the peanuts and popcorn but had to get in line way early to get picked. Oh, you wanted to get picked on the last weekend, those were the big money nights.You could walk away with maybe 40 bucks if you screamed "Popcorn, Peanuts Get Em' While There Hot" loud enough and walked up and down those bleachers 100 times or more. Not sure I could even attempt one round up those bleachers now, however I do recall the extra reward at the end of the night was a "job well done" and a couple boxes of leftover popcorn, only if you were one of the last ones cut for the night. Of course my biggest reward was a caramel apple I couldn't wait to buy with my earnings.
It's all over now though, summer is coming to an end, we have a new winning horse the first time since 1956 " I Am Jose" has done it again this year, the same as last year, and the days will now be getting cooler. So rest a month, sync into fall, and think holidays, they will be here soon enough. It's only less than 90 days til' "Turkey Day" you know!
I'm planning for nothing but the best in Holiday eating this year; it's always a treat to see what the family foodies come up with and we might be raising a few more of those foodies along the way. We are all good cooks and there's always something new to taste or at the least a new twist on an old favorite.
The holidays are the one time a year when I get "Brussels Sprouts" (Thanks Sis), and I know this might sound weird but I also get a hankering for German (or Austrian) food. To get German food though like "Weiner Schnitzel", which is actually Austrian, or "Strudel", you have to plan a weekend road trip to another state or big city to find it. Of course you can always just make some. With some beef and little ginger snap gravy you could have have "Sauerbraten" the recipe is simple. Maybe another blog for German food is in the near future.
I'm leaving you here with a few recipes to test as fall sets in; if you think and plan a little early it will be so much easier come time to dine. Relax a little, the crowd is gone, the only worry will be the traffic on N. Main as they widen our path to the grocery stores for apples and such.
Wish I had a few "Winesap Apples", they are the best in my book and would make my autumn flavors just a little bit sweeter!
Slow Cooker Apple Butter
(For Spreading on Dem Biscuits!)
There is none better, especially at breakfast time, then some good apple butter. I love the stuff, but a true "Southern Country Folk" do!
3 pounds Granny Smith Apple (or other cooking apples, "Winesap" if you can get some)
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup firmly pack brown sugar
a pinch of salt, (1/8 tsp.)
cinnamon, cloves, and or allspice, to taste ( note: It takes about a 1/2 teaspoon of all spices combined per pound of apples, go way easy on the cloves and allspice)
1/2 capful good vanilla extract or a small splash of brandy (extra can be overpowering)
1 3/4 cups apple cider, more or less, depending on time for cooking and desired consistency
Peel, core, and cut apples into small pieces (or grate them), but cutting is easier and less messy.
Place your apples in your crock pot and sprinkle your sugars, salt and spices.
Mix your vanilla extract into the apple cider and pour over apples.
With your crock pot on low, allow cooking for 12-14 hours. Stir on occasion during the first few hours to incorporate spices and equally distribute sugar as it dissolves. The apple butter should be a dark brown and smooth.
Note: To thicken the apple butter a little more, remove the crock pot cover the last hour or so for evaporation.
Apple Honored Baked Country Ham
You may have to adjust the balance of other ingredients on this recipe, depending on the size of the ham.
The best Baked Country Ham I have had is the one dad makes every year for the holidays. The brand of ham is also important with a "Clifty Farms" being the best for baking and Smithfield being way too salty and dry in my opinion only. However we all swear by the best "Country Hams" out there from "Binghams" in Cornersville to what we can get locally like a "Clifty Farms" which would be my first choice. On the notion of a good city ham you can't beat an "Elm Hill" for holiday sweet ham. Again only my experience and taste arrives me at my opinion on the matter and whatever you like will work for this recipe. Here is a link to see the structure for bone pulling on the Clifty Farms ham. http://www.cliftyfarm.com/slicingandstoring.html
1 bone-in sugar cured country ham, (about a 10 pound is perfect!)
2 quarts apple cider, apple juice can be used but it's much sweeter
2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns, (wrapped in some cheese cloth for easy removal later)
2 bay leaves
1 1/2 cups strained natural applesauce, "Did you strain it?", without cinnamon
2 tablespoon prepared horseradish, more or less, squeezed dry
3 tablespoon Dijon Mustard, (I like the "Grey Poupon Country Dijon")
Place ham fat flap up in a large roasting pan.
Add cider, peppercorns and bay leaf and enough hot tap water to come 3/4's up the side of ham; double cover with aluminum foil.
Place roasting pan with ham in oven, then turn oven on to 450 degrees bake for 2 1/2 hours, then cut oven off and allow oven to cool down completely.(3-4 hours) DURING THE FIRST BAKING PROCESS HERE "DO NOT" OPEN OVEN DOOR, THE HEAT WILL EXCAPE AND POSSIBLY DRYOUT THE HAM
Remove the ham from oven and drain reserving about 5 cups of the cooking liquid; remove the peppercorns and bay leaf and discard.
Remove the skin from the ham and trim any excess fat, at this point the bone can be removed if desired.
Combine applesauce, horseradish and mustard, rub glaze over trimmed ham.
Place your ham on a rack back in the roasting pan; pour reserved liquids into pan.
Bake uncovered at about 325 degrees for an additional 2-2 1/2 hours or until a meat thermometer reads 140 degrees plus. (Watch for top burning)
Remove from oven, cover ham completely with foil and let stand for at least 2 hour before slicing.
Notes: If you removed the bone chill overnight for easier whole slice slicing.
Before the glazing stage and while the ham is still warm you can remove the bone by folding a kitchen towel, placing the towel on top the ham to hold ham still and with a stout pair of clean pliers slowly wiggle and pull bone completely out. This may take a little practice! Just saying!
The Best Waldorf Ever
I have made a lot of Waldorf Salads in my life while working in fine establishments and country clubs, They have to be light and airy to me, if I had to describe them, and made with fresh roasted nuts.
I prefer fresh pecans and of course those Winsap apples, but they are hard to come by unless you live in the Carolina's or Northern Virginia and that's normally just in the early autumn time of the year.
In any case, any apple will do. Here locally and for this recipe I used Granny Smith for tartness and replaced the traditional walnuts with pecans.
3-4 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and sliced in 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 cup fresh orange juice, for soaking the apples, commercial juice is okay
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup sour cream
1 pint heavy whipping cream
pinch of salt, (about 1/8 teaspoon), more or less
dash of white pepper
1 cup pecans,more or less, roasted, hand broke into pieces after roasting
1/2 cup celery, finely diced
1 cup green seedless grapes, cut in 1/4's, or a combination of any seedless grapes for color.
1/4 cup golden raisins, more or less
1/8 cup Ocean Spray Craisens, more or less
In a medium bowl add your prepared apples and orange juice set aside. (Allow to soak at least 10 minutes or can be prepared a couple hours ahead of time and refrigerated until use)
In a separate larger bowl whisk the mayonnaise, sour cream salt, white pepper and taste for seasoning, set aside until you get the heavy cream whipped.
Drain apples patting dry with paper towels (I know this is asking a lot but it helps) reserve the orange juice and set those apples aside for a minute until you get the rest done. (here's where I eat a piece of orange soaked crisp apple....just saying!)
Add your prepared pecans, celery grapes, raisins and Craisens, to your mayo, sour cream mixture and fold to evenly coat
Whip the cream until creamy but with tight peaks (note: Do not over whip, you don't want butter, however a tight whip cream is your goal, so the salad is tight but light.)
Add your apples and fold with "half" your whipped cream, then fold in more of the whipped cream, tasting until the right flavor, seasoning, and consistency is achieved.
This salad should be chunky, fully coated and lightly seasoned, serve on lettuces or as a fresh bowl of "Waldorf Salad", garnished with additional toasted pecans and a few Craisens for color. Yum!