Saturday, September 26, 2009

Red Sky Trading Company

Though the weather has finally shifted here, and apple picking, pumpkin patching, and molasses-making excursions have been planned, I have been nostalgic for Vermont lately, homesick for a Northern fall. I came across this picture, taken by my mama, a little over a year ago, of me at one of my favorite roadside stands, Red Sky Trading Company in Glover, VT. Should you find yourself in Vermont's Northeast Kingdom, perhaps attending a Bread and Puppet show, swimming in Lake Willoughby or beseeching Galway Kinnell for a poem, you MUST stop at Red Sky Trading along Rt. 16 in Glover. This put-your-money-in-the-coffee-can shop housed in a small red barn vends the dearest vintage kitchen items: aprons, tumblers, pyrex and melamine, flour sifters and cherry pitters; AND the most delicious homemade baked & canned goods: relishes and preserves, creampuffs and cheesecake, the best cider donuts I've ever had and of course seasonal fruit PIES. See here for more information and here for photos. The self-serve set-up and grandma's kitchen aesthetic makes feel as though you've happened upon some ginghamed treasure nostalgic dream.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Cantaloupe Pie: An Experiment

I was sorting through some old recipes the other day, and came across this card for Cantaloupe pie, from the Pie of The Month Club. Once a month, members of the club receive a quirky, historical, and/or rare pie recipe on a postcard with original pie art. Heather gave me a membership a few years ago, and perhaps one day Sue Anne, Pie-of-the-Month Club Maven, will post here herself!

I had half of a large cantaloupe in the fridge, so I decided to give it a try even though (as Sue Anne says on the card) the idea of cooking a cantaloupe sounded a little strange, as melons' most attractive attributes are their refreshing juicy coolness. But you don't know until you try. Here's the recipe from the POTMC...

Cantaloupe Pie:
9" pre-baked crust (used recipe at right)
1/4 c. flour
3 eggs, separated
3/4 c. sugar
2 tblsp. butter
6 tblsp. sugar + 1/2 tsp. vanilla for meringue
1 large, VERY RIPE cantaloupe or muskmelon

In a medium saucepan mix half the sugar with melon and cook until melon is tender and mash-able. Mash the melon to a lumpy pulp. Mix flour with remaining sugar, add beaten egg yolks and butter. Add to mashed melon and return to heat briefly until just starting to bubble. Remove from heat. In a clean bowl, beat egg whites until frothy. Add 6 tblsp. sugar and vanilla and keep beating until stiff peaks form. Pour warm melon filling into pie shell. Cover completely with meringue, sealing to edges. Brown in oven (10-20 min at 325 F). Cool. Cut. Eat.

The meringue set up nicely, but it took some effort to mash the cantaloupe and the butter sort of congealed (insert "can't elope" joke here).
I invited Neale and Emily to come over for dinner followed by a cantaloupe pie taste test where we documented our first bite reactions:Neale's first bite...don't let this face mislead you, the man had seconds! Emily's (W.) first biteMy first bite. PEZ?

Despite the trepidation in our expression, we all agreed that the flavor was great, but it was strange to be eating cantaloupe warm, especially still in chunks. Our consensus is that cantaloupe pie would make an excellent icebox pie, with the melon pureed, and the whole shebang chilled for an hour or two.

We followed our experiment with some bananagrams.

Monday, September 14, 2009

So Many Plums

Among the treasures Dan and Jane inherited from the previous owners of their 1950s ranch (including a "sausage formula" tacked to the wall in the basement), was a half-dead but very productive Italian plum tree.

Last year, a friend made plum wine with the plums, and the year before someone made prunes. This year, they've been giving a lot away, eating some raw, making pancakes and preserves. Last night, Jane and I decided to do a little baking.

Dan had collected some wild blueberries and huckleberries. We sprinkled them on top of plums tossed with cinnamon for a beautiful crisp. The wild fruit gave it a delicious tartness.

Then we decided to try for a rustic plum tart. The Italian plums are a good choice for tarts because they are naturally drier than regular plums, so they don't create a ton of juice during baking. I had made several rustic apple tarts last fall, but could never get the crust flaky enough, so I was glad to have Jane's expertise. We used a food processor to make the dough (very basic recipe), and Jane rolled it out while I watched, still a little nervous about the crust. Jane had a tart pan, so we first formed the dough up against the fluted edges, then arranged the plum slices that had been tossed with ginger and cinnamon. At the last minute, we decided to fold the edges over the plums, finished it with egg glaze and a little sugar. Thus, I decided to call the tart semi-rustic, as it started as a fancier french-style tart, but ended up a tiny bit more rustic.

After a chili dinner provided by Mike, we decided to eat both the crisp and the tart.

Yummm!!! I was particularly amazed by the tart and its perfect crust. Here is a pic of Dan and Jane in the TEZ (Tart Enjoyment Zone). Mike and I aren't big ice cream eaters, so we had to use our old freezer-burned ice cream, but no one cared.

And this morning we ate the leftovers for breakfast of course!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Wild Apple Pancake Fever

Up in the U.P., there was a wild apple tree.
I wanted to make a pie, but staying in a little cottage, didn't have much.

Just these apples, pancake mix, butter, cinnamon and maple syrup.
The pie crust wouldn't stay together, no matter what I did.

So what we caught was wild apple pancake fever!
A pie, spread out across a cookie sheet, puffy like a pancake and gooey like a pie. Weird and delicious. Kind of a failure, kind of a victory!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Mom's Apple Pie

My husband and I recently took a fabulous trip out to Napa Valley/Sonoma/San Francisco. It was a whirlwind trip filled with good wine, great food, driving along Highway 1, and spending time with the love of my life. I had heard about a little place in Sebastopol, CA called Mom's Apple Pie. While it was about 30 minutes out of our way leaving Sonoma wine country, my husband agreed to the adventure.

We drove. We turned around twice. We snaked our way through tiny towns in Northern California that made me drool. We started seeing acres and acres of apple orchards and I knew we were close. What could be better than a fresh apple pie from the orchards in wine country? And what could be more fun than adding a stop at a cute pie shop owned by a sweet lady named Betty?

I was so excited to try one of her fresh-baked pies right from apple-growing country. Made from Gravenstein Apples near the Sonoma Valley, Mom's apple pie was sweet and tart and bursting with cinnamon. I also LOVED her flaky crust. She had a beautiful selection of pies ranging from rhubarb to raspberry to lemon meringue to blueberry to cherry to peach - anything you could dream of! Just look at the perfectly formed meringue...

Enjoying my delicious apple pie, I was definitely in the PEZ. And I'm positive it would be great breakfast pie the next day. I highly recommend this side trip if you are ever in the area! And I am loving the link on here to Pie of the Month Club - they have a great map of Pies Across America!

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Remembering Summer, Through Pies

It's early September, and up in Vermont I know friends are feeling the start of fall. I mistook the cooler weather this week here in North Carolina as the end of summer, but here we are again today with a high of 91 degrees, and highs in the 80s forecasted for the rest of the week. Perhaps it's premature to announce the end of the season, but I must say, I'm anxious for fall with its saturday visits to orchards for doughnuts, cider and apple-picking, leaves-a-changing, lots of Brit psych folk on the stereo, and sweater weather. In any (dessert) case, here are a few pies I made earlier this summer:

Twin open-top blueberry pies with berries picked by Nathalie and me, for ROCKBY 2009, Marina's music festival birthday party at Rokeby.

Another blueberry (bloobz) pie, I made for a burrito cookout during an August Baltimore visit. It was maybe the best blueberry filling I've ever made because it set up so well. I used this recipe, but added a half cup of flour or so to the filling. The crust, however, was a struggle, because of the heat!
And finally, peach-basil pie I made for a Folklore grad student cookout here in North Carolina. The basil came from Josh's herb garden in our backyard. The filling recipe I used was:

Peach-Basil Pie
3 lbs. peaches (maybe more)
1/4 c. lemon juice
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
2 Tblsp. corn starch
1/8 c. julienned fresh basil/lemon basil (I used a mixture)

 In the future, I would probably make a basil simple syrup (like in this pie) instead of just putting in the julienned basil leaves. I thought having a little leaf amongst the peaches was mildly unpleasant, but everyone else said they thought it was peach skin (it was dark). Please enjoy these last days of summer pie possibilities!