Tuesday, February 9, 2016

The Ultimate Decadense...Bar None!

Even though Chocolate Fondue is only a generation old, it seems that any type of fondue has been all but forgotten. A type of think ganache, chocolate fondue is the perfect Valentine's Day treat for your loved one. And guys, there is absolutely no excuse for having this ready for your gal on this special day because it is super simple to make.

 

Valentine's Day Fondues

Find, below, two of my all time favorite fondues. There truly is no better "sweetheart" dessert to enjoy WITH your loved one then decadent fondues. When you see the chocolate dripping down her chin or watching her have to lick the chocolate from her fingers......let's just say there is a reason why melted chocolate is perfect on Valentine's Day. And these recipes are foolproof, for that man who would much rather have a wrench in their hand than a whisk.

Mexican Hot Cocoa Fondue


1(12-ounce)can, or 1 1/2 cups, evaporated skim milk
1/4 cup red hot cinnamon candies, optional
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon each cinnamon and chili powder
2 cups dark chocolate chips *
Cake pieces, marshmallows or fruit

Simply heat whisk and heat the first six ingredients in a saucepan over low heat until scalding hot, stirring almost constantly when it is starting to get hot to prevent scorching. Place the chocolate chips in a large bowl. When the milk mixture is scalding, pour over chocolate, stirring once to allow milk to coat chocolate. Let sit for 3 minutes, stir until chocolate is melted and pour into bowl. Serve with skewers and your choice of cake, marshmallows or fruit.

* Use whatever chocolate you desire, as long as it is broked into small pieces to melt. I find that at least 72% cacao chocolate works best for a strong chocolate flavor.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Fondue

Your loved one crave peanut butter? Than this is the smoothest. Rich and oh so delicious, go ahead and add a little more milk at the end if you truly want this to drip down her chin!

3/4 cup evaporated skim milk
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup chocolate hazelnut spread *

Add all ingredients to a saucepan over low heat and stir frequently. When chocolate has melted and fondue is smooth, transfer to a bowl with skewers and dipping items.

 

* Nutella is great here, but other alternatives(some are better tasting than Nutella)are Hershey's Chocolate Hazelnut spread, Natural Choco-dream, Noccialata or Barefoot and Chocolate

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Root Cellars and Ye Olde Yankee Stores

There are two things in life that tug at my curiosity to harken back to the past, old country stores and root cellars, with each related to one another.


My son in the middle of my families early 19th century root cellar.

Old country stores, in particular, Ye Olde Yankee general stores were always filled with hogshead barrels of crackers, meat, codfish and pickles. There would always be a wheel of true, aged Cheddar cheese ready for the store keeper to cut a wedge for the customer whose hands were full of crackers and pickles just plucked from the wooden barrels before him.

Of course what would a country store be without that barrel of soft and hard cider laying on its side to draw from and quench with.

Then there were the old root cellars that every single household had, whether you were well-to-do or not. Cider, meat, vegetables, fruit, pickles and cheeses were kept in this cool dungeon of a room.

Here in New England, these root cellars were more often(at least in the countryside) merely a cellar underneath your home that was lined with large rocks and boulders that were removed from the original plowing of the fields. When homesteading, the flat rocks were used for rock walls, to show as boundary lines for your property. The small and medium sized rocks were used to line your water well.

My son clearing debris from a rock lined water well, dating from 1838

Once you hand dug the cellar hole according to the size of your home, you would line it with large boulders so that it would be strong enough to hold the house up without shifting or sinking. Once the floor was layed, with a trapdoor leading down into the earthy dungeon, then the rest of the home was built.

My son standing inside our Bailey family root cellar in Maine, constructed ca. 1786
During the fall season, all sorts of things were put into the cellar hole, as mentioned, because the temperature remained constant throughout most of the year. Here are some articles and references regarding cellar holes of old.

 
In the May 30, 1715 Boston News-Letter, a certain man was ready to sell his "fine, bottl'd Sydar from his Sydar Cellar" for 3d per quart.

On April 6, 1784, the New Brunswick, New Jersey Political Intelligencer offered a farm for sale that contained "a very excellent garden, well paled in, with a root cellar at the bottom."

Ben Franklin wrote in Poor Richard's Almanac during the mid-18th century about using cellars to store wine:

"Begin to gather Grapes from the 10th of September(the ripest first) to the last of October, and having clear'd them of Spider webs, and dead Leaves, put them in a large Molasses-or Rum-Hogshead; after having washed it well, and knock'd one Head out, fix it upon the other Blocks, on a Stand or in the Cellar."

A method of perserving "winter apples" was offered by Samuel Dean in the 1790s as:

" I gather them about noon, on the day of the full of the moon which happens in the latter part of September, or beginning of October. Then spread them in a chamber or a garret, where they lie till about the last of November. then, at a time, when the weather is dry, remove them into casks, or boxes, to the cellar, out of the way of the frosts; but I prefer a cool part of the cellar. With this management, I find I can keep them to the last of May, so well that not one in fifty will rot...In the Autumn of 1793, I packed apples in the shaving of pine, so that they scaresely touched on another. They kept well till some time in May following; though they were a sort which are mellow for eating in December. Dry sawdust might perhaps answer the end as well. Some barrel them up, and keep them through the winter in upper rooms, covering them with blankets or mats, to pervent freezing. Dry places are best for them."

As mentioned, meat of all types was stored in barrels and placed in root cellars. Found in the New System of American Cookery Found Upon The Principles of Economy, 1807-By A Lady:

"Chop fat and lean pork and season it with sage, black pepper and salt, you may add two or three pimentos. Half fill hogs guts that have been soaking and made extremely clean; or the meat may be kept in a very small closely covered pan, and so rolled and dusted with a very little flour before they are fried. Fowls, including pigeons, are trussed, plucked, gutted and either roasted or boiled. It was then cooled and put into a barrel, covered with melted fat and a lid in the root cellar. "

Here is an old recipe for pickling cucumbers.

"Use small cucumbers and place in a pan with salt and water, strong enough to bear an egg. Pickle them for a day, drain and place back into a pot with vinegar, mace, cloves, nutmeg, peppercorns, races of ginger and long peppers. Simmer, without boiling, until green all the way through. Cool and tightly cover, storing in the root cellar.

To Collar beef. Soak beef in ham brine for a couple days then dry it. Roll it into a hard collar with salt and ppepper, tie it tightly and soak in fat or wine before handing it down into the cellar."



My, how times have changed! My children now would never eat the way our forefathers did. Their favorite item on the fast food restaurants menu? The pickles! I can't even buy store bought pickles anymore because they love these sour circles.

 

Thin Sour Dill Pickle Slices

1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar or white vinegar
2 tablespoons pickling salt
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 pounds pickling cukes *
2 teaspoons dill seed
1 tablespoon peppercorns

In a saucepan, add water, vinegar, salt, sugar and garlic powder. Bring to scalding, whisking well. over medium heat. When spices have dissolved, remove from heat to cool to room temperature.

Slice the cucumbers as thinly as possible, I used a mandolin to mimic the fast food pickles, only because that is what my children wanted.

Place the dill seeds and peppercorns in a large bowl, followed by the sliced cucumbers. Pour the pickling juice over the top. Make sure you have enough to cover. Grab a couple heavy, large plates that is able to fit inside the bowl yet cover as much of the pickles as possible. This will keep the pickles submerged. Place a kitchen towel over the bowl, making sure it doesn't touch the liquid, and set aside. Let cucumbers sit in the brine for 8-9 days, tasting after 7 to halt the brining process at your preferred taste level.

Skim any foam that may rise on a daily basis. The liquid will become cloudy, but that is what you want. When ready, transfer pickles to jars with lids and there you have it.

* Or the same weight in a long, thin English cucumber.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Food From The Waltons




I well remember The Waltons and luckily, our children can enjoy this wholesome series because of the reruns broadcast on various television channels. There were many attributes that stood out on this series, inviting me to sit down every single week and watch it reverently.

The biggest draw for me was John Boy(Well, if you don't count on my love affair with Erin only in my mind), and his fervor to become a writer. Even though I was only 9 or 10 years old when the first episode aired, I was enamored with his character and the written word.

My father instilled three words to me every single time I asked jim a question... "Look it up!". I was constantly looking up words in an old, tattered dictionary I found in a dump site as a child, and I still have that same dictionary!

Anyway, as I got older and started working for my Dad and Mom in their restaurants, I continued watching this series up until the end, and even the reruns into my 20s, and ultimately today. As the show and cast changed, so did my reason for watching it.

I began to realize that the acting was phenomenal. And part of the reason was the realism, right down to the supper table.

I know, I know! Mother Walton(Olivia)apparently never actually ate anything(although I could swear I once saw her put a fork of something in her mouth at the table) but everyone else acted as though the food was hot, great tasting and edible.



I think one of my favorite food related scenes was when John Boy ate one of Martha Corin's sausage patties that had a good, extra 'bite' of pepper, much to the chagrin of Grandma. I could almost, actually taste it myself!

I also remember one episode where Grampa Walton(Zeb) was doing his usual schtick with Ike Godsey at the store when he took the cover off a gallon jug of pickled eggs and reached in to grab one.

I know that there have been two Walton's-themed cookbooks printed and I don't know how accurately they depict either Virginia cooking, or what the families such as the Waltons(or Hamners)enjoyed during the particular era the Walton's was based, but I would like to add my take on that jar of pickled eggs on Ike's counter.

And speaking of books, I read my friend Mary McDonough's book, Lessons From the Mountain, and believe it or not, I loved it. As many of you know, I am kind of a nerd and exclusively read nonfiction, historical books, but Mary's book IS a nonfiction and it was directly related to someone who I thought was so cute as a child. So I ordered it and was quite enamored with Mary's writing ability and openness in this autobiography. She has a new book out now, entitled One Year. Although it is a fiction, if her writing is equal to that of her first book(and the cover is enticing and beautiful by the way), I just may grab that as well.

In the meantime, enjoy these recipes as a spin on the classic, and timeless, pickled eggs from Ike Godsey's General Mercantile Store.



"Virginny" Pickled Eggs

(Yes, I know! Sounds like something Granny from Beverly Hillbillies would say, not 'Grampa' or Grandma Walton). Virginians cook simply, comfortingly(is there even such a word?) and with family traditions brought to the table. I adore this simple preparation that truly bursts with flavor and with so few ingredients. Many people may prefer using white vinegar in their pickling sauce, and by all means substitute it. But because I am a Yankee through and through(that just may have some Virginians swearing now), I much prefer the flavor of apple cider vinegar in every bite.

2(15-ounce)cans sliced beets in juice
1 cup apple cider vinegar
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon white pepper
1/4 teaspoon each dried ginger, allspice and cinnamon
10 hard boiled eggs, peeled

Add everything, except eggs, in a large saucepan over high heat until boiling. stirring often so sugar dissolves. Remove from heat to cool slightly. Meanwhile, add your eggs in 2 or more mason jars, or appropriate container, leaving a couple inches head-room on top. Evenly divide pickling juice to each container, making sure eggs are completely covered. Continue cooling an additional 60 minutes. Put a lid on each container, remove to refrigerator and cool completely. Let steep for at least one day before enjoying but I strongly recommend at least 3 days for the flavor and color to penetrate even deeper into the egg, These will last between 3-4 weeks chilled.

 


Yellow Mustard Pickled Eggs 

Although these eggs will come out yellow, you can enhance the color by adding 1/2-1 teaspoon turmeric along with the spices if you have it handy. If not, the flavor is perfectly spot on. Enjoy these eggs with cooked, spicy sausages, some baked ham or they go great sliced and sitting on top of roast pork. For a colorful appetizer dish, make these with 'Virginny' Pickled Eggs, sliced and served side by side. Some cubed ham and sharp Cheddar cheese rounds this finger platter off nicely.

2 cups apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup prepared mustard
1/2 cup apple juice
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon celery seed
1 tablespoon mustard seed
1 teaspoon salt
1 small onion, diced
10 hard boiled eggs, peeled

Add everything, except eggs and onions, in a large saucepan over high heat until boiling. stirring often so sugar dissolves. Remove from heat to cool slightly. Meanwhile, add your eggs and onions evenly in 2 or more mason jars, or appropriate container, leaving a couple inches head-room on top. Evenly divide pickling juice to each container, making sure eggs are completely covered. Continue cooling an additional 60 minutes. Put a lid on each container, remove to refrigerator and cool completely. Let steep for at least one day before enjoying, These will last between 3-4 weeks chilled.

 

Spicy New England Pickled Eggs 

 
These eggs most remind me of Ike's. Although not seen on the show, most of the stores in Virginia as all of the East Coast would carry pickled pigs feet and a jar of pickled sausages as well, next to those. These have also been a staple in Ye Old Country Stores throughout New England for generations and I am happy to bring you a recipe that will remind you of that 'biting' first taste of the general store pickled eggs from days gone by.

2 cups apple cider vinegar
1 cup apple juice
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon whole peppercorns
1 1/2 teaspoons pickling spice
1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons minced garlic in oil
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and sliced
1 sliced red bell pepper
10 hard boiled eggs
1/2 small onion, diced

Add everything, except eggs and onions, in a large saucepan over high heat until boiling. stirring often so sugar dissolves. Remove from heat to cool slightly. Meanwhile, add your eggs and onions evenly in 2 or more mason jars, or appropriate container, leaving a couple inches head-room on top. Evenly divide pickling juice to each container, making sure eggs are completely covered. Continue cooling an additional 60 minutes. Put a lid on each container, remove to refrigerator and cool completely. Let steep for at least one day before enjoying, These will last between 3-4 weeks chilled.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Summer Sausage...sigh.........




I don't think there is a year that goes by without someone giving me a big ol' log of summer sausage. Although sort of greasy feeling on the tongue, I do enjoy the flavor however. It is just you can only slice off so many rounds of it to eat with cheese and crackers. So let's take this meat and use it in a recipe that will do it, and the recipe, justice. But first, let's take a second and see exactly what is this sausage that is just as stable on your pantry or cupboard shelf, as it is in the refrigerator.

Summer sausage, regardless of the brand, is high shelf stable because of its cured, fermented meat. This results in a lower pH level, which does not allow for much bacterial growth, much the same as chorizo.

It differs from chorizo and salami, though, because it is considered semi-dry, with the latter being dry. Semi means that it loses about 15% of its original moisture(with salami and chorizo losing about 25%).

And yes, you can freeze this sausage if you can't use it all up in short manner. Simply wrap tightly and freeze for months on end.

You can also find a lower fat version with Turkey Summer Sausage.

Either way, use it as you would any smoked or dry cured pork and/or beef meats.

Here is my favorite way of really bringing out the flavor of this timeless "meat roll".

 







Summer Sausage Jambalaya
 
 

2-3 ounces fresh green beans, snipped
6 ounces ground turkey
2 teaspoons minced garlic in oil
1 onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 rib celery, rinsed and diced
6 ounces summer sausage, casing removed and cut into 1 inch cubes
1 1/2 cups cooked white rice
1(15-ounce) can tomato puree or sauce
1 cup beef broth
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon crushed, dried thyme
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Salt and cracked(or ground)black pepper to taste

Cut green beans into 1-inch segments; set aside. In a large saucepan, add turkey and garlic, breaking up with a spatula or wooden spoon. Cook over medium heat until done throughout. Add onion, pepper, celery and green beans. Stir to combine and cook until the green beans are just barely starting to soften, about 8-10 minutes. Add sausage, rice, tomato puree, broth and seasonings. Mix well, bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, partially cover and simmer 5 minutes. Serve immediately.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Yup, Going Against The Grain.....(or hops).....




I have, for years, pushed to keep liquor out of cooking because my pleasure in life is for everyone to enjoy each and every meal prepared. But, of course, their comes a time when an adult pleasure is warranted, especially in cooking during the colder months here in New England. Heck, even Benjamin Franklin said "Beer is living proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy." Not to mention that the original beer brewers were us Yankees.

Find, below, a useful guide to popular types of beer and at the end, enjoy a winter dish I think you will find extraordinarily perfect using beer.

Because of the craft brewing explosion in the past couple of decades, we are inundated with beer styles in liquor stores and neighborhood specialty shops. Today, the wide array of flavors run from the crisp and slightly hoppy pale pilsners to the creamy, sweet malt-flavors of English style brown ale. I truly remember the days when the only beer you could find was the monotonous American lager, so our choices were few and far between.

Now, not only are we poised to make a decision of what to drink, but which one to eat. Let me explain.

As the variety of beer flavors and styles mushroom, so have our options for pairing them with food, as well as adding these hoppy spirits to a variety of recipes.

Chefs everywhere are even expanding their menus and offering pilsners with truffles and caviar, a sweet stout with raw seafood, pale ales with stout, red meat and throwing out that cliche aperitif in lieu of porter ale to accompany desserts.


Here is a chart to help you identify the flavor components of some of the most widely brewed beer styles, example of which can be paired and cooked with any meal these days.

When choosing what beer to either drink or cook with, keep in mind the varieties of flavor, some subtle while some outstanding. For example, if you want a good stout beer but don't mind that "heaviness" that often accompanies it, drink cream or milk stouts, But if you enjoy stout but don't want to "fill up", try a bitter, less sweet stout. My favorites of each are listed both on the chart and below that accompanies the chart. I think you will find it quite usefull the next time you take that trip to the beer store.


1. Boulder Stout, Mackeson's Milk, Left Hand Milk and Sam Adams Cream Stout

2. Willoughby Peanut Butter Cup Coffee Porter, Hill Farmstead Everet, Night Watchman and Double Decker

3. Southern Pecan, Red Hydrant Ale, Turbodog and Newcastle Brown Ale.

4. Bigfoot, Old Foghorn and Old Backus Barleywine

5. Check out http://spencerbrewery.com/ for the best, and the only brewery in the US that is allowed to make this great alcohol. Certainly there are other, original and imported trappist beers, but don't bother!

6. Allagash White, Big Bison Ale, Russian River and New Belgium Abbey Belgian-Style Ale

7. Allagash White, Hop Sun, Pyramid Crystal Wheat Ale and Circus Boy

8. Goat Rancher, Andy Gator and Anchor Bock

9. Sun King, Hanger 24 and Sam Adams Pumpkin Oktoberfest

10. Sam Adams Double Bock, St. Victorius and Autumnal Fire

11. Gulden Draak

12. Scaldish

13. Dogfish Head Raison d'Etre

14. EKU 28

15. Black Sun and Portsmouth Black Cat Stout

16. Bitter Esters Dry Stout

17. Guiness Extra Stout

18. Palo Santo Marron, Coffee Bender and No Crust

19. Firestone, Sweetwater 420 and Stone Pale Ale

20. Maine Beer MO

21. Three Floyds Zombie Dust

22. El Toro, Camerons Cream Ale and Old Atyle(pabst)

23. Jack's Abbey Leisure Time Lager, Ballast Point Fathom IPL and Mama's Little Yella Pils

24. Abita Amber

25. Baba Black Lager

26. Samuel Adams Black Lager

27. Guiness Black Lager

28. Litovel Schwarzbier Premium Dark

29. Three Philosophers

30. Aventinus Weizen-Eisbock

31. Scaldia



Winter Stout Roasted Roots

 
Not only are you going to become enamored with the flavor of potato and cauliflower together in an awesome recipe, but one bite of carrots and parsnips roasted in stout will keep you wanting more. My favorite vegetable dish of all time, and I am sure you will love it as well. If stout isn't your thing, look at the chart to determine what beer best piques your interest.

1 pound each parsnips or rutabagas
1 pound turnip
1 cup cream stout *
1 teaspoon crushed, dried thyme leaves
8 cups vegetable broth or water
2 pounds potatoes
3 cups cauliflower florets, uncooked
6 ounces(about 2 cups)baby carrots
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
Salt and black pepper to taste
Nonstick cooking spray

Peel and cube potatoes, place in a medium saucepan along with cauliflower florets. Cover with broth and cook, on medium, until potatoes are soft, about 15 minutes. Drain well and mash with butter, salt and pepper: set aside.
Meanwhile, peel parsnip and turnip, placing in another saucepan with carrots and remainder of broth, adding water if needed to cover. Boil over medium-high heat until fork tender, about 15 minutes. Drain well and transfer to a large bowl. Toss vegetables with beer, thyme and salt and black pepper.
Preheat oven to 375-degrees F. Spray a 2-3 quart casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray. Line the bottom and sides with mashed potato mixture. Add cooked turnip mixture in the center and bake 35-45 minutes, or until the top is starting to brown. Remove from oven to serve immediately.

NOTE: This recipe is great done a day ahead of time as well. Simply line the casserole dish with potatoes, cover and keep in refrigerator. Keep remainder of cooked vegetables with beer and seasonings in the bowl and cover to refrigerate. When ready to roast, toss the turnip mixture well and "dump" into the center of the potato mixture. Add an additional 15 minutes to the cooking time.

* Or substitute 1/2 cup soy sauce, 1/2 cup apple juice, 1 tablespoon brown sugar and 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, whisked well.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Chess Pie, Cheese Pie, Jes' Pie, Chest Pie....Which is it?

This is one of those times when the name of a dish is directly associated with its' origination. One of my favorite name 'justifications' is that it all began with the fact that these pies were kept in a chest, or pie safe, in the early years, hence the alteration of chest to chess. Although this makes the most sense and I love the idea of it, this is quickly discounted because ALL pies and pastries were kept in either a pie chest, safe, buttery, shelf or where-ever there was room to set it.



The other, rather simplistic and comical, explanation is that when someone was asked what kind of pie was being made or eaten, the retort was a short "jes' pie", or Chess Pie over time. As we all know, names are changed for any number of reasons through the generations, but this is an all too easy of an answer when there is no obvious answer.
This is a very old front of a pie safe with holes punched out for ventilation.
 
So that leaves us with one remaining name, Cheese Pie. To preface what I am about to explain, let me just say that I adore Southern cooking and all the pomp that goes with any dish that originates there. I have frequently denoted dishes that are said to have started in New England, but have since been proven to be truly Southern. Chess Pie is just not one of those dishes, although we can thoroughly thank them for popularizing it.



Back in the Puritan era of New England, the 'rich' households often made cheesecakes, although far different than what we are accustomed to today. A Robert May, and English chef, printed a cookbook in England called The Accomplisht Cook, 1665. In it, he gives a cheesecake recipe using the same ingredients and preparation method housewives of New England used in the 17th century. And bearing in mind that most of the original settlers in New England were English, it goes without saying this dessert followed. Cakes of all types were commonly made as soon as the Puritans arrived on these shores, including cheesecakes.

It wasn't until the mid-1700s that Chess Pies are even mentioned down South in any printed material, journal or otherwise.

There is one misunderstood theory as well. There was no cheese in a cheesecake prepared during this time. Lemon cheesecakes, and thusly Lemon Chess Pies, were identical in all aspects, including the omission of cheese, which didn't come until the mid-1700s. So why were they called Cheese Cakes? That is for another article.

Now to play devils advocate. Most of the Southern colonies weren't populated until after the New England colonies, so this should be taken into consideration as well. But be that as it may, cheese cakes were made before Chess Pies, although both recipes were identical in preparation from the beginning.

To make a long story short, Chess Pie was so named because cheese cake was baked in a pie tin(or coffyn as originally named) with a single pasty crust. Over time, the name cheese became chess(be it through misspelling or mispronunciation), which is quite easily understood. And going from the designation cake to pie is understood just as easily. After all, one look at a cheesecake and you may even think it should be called a pie.

One thing I have found peculiar, with no explanation at all, is the must-have addition of cornmeal to all chess pies. Since the very beginning, cornmeal, in any amount, is a staple in these pies. Many recipes through the years only put a token amount while others overdo it. Sure, it may have helped to thicken it many generations ago when ingredients were a little different, but today it really isn't needed. But I do add cornmeal to keep this dessert classic. I do, however, change it up a little in the Chocolate Chess Pie, as you have noticed. I use it as a base for the crust instead of the filling.
New England is the birthplace of both cheesecakes AND chess pies, but(as mentioned)the South truly deserves recognition for making the pie famous.

Here are 3 recipes for Chess Pies that I am sure will win you over, regardless of what side of the Mason-Dixon line you reside.

 



Chocolate Peanut Butter Chess Pie

Such a moist and filling Southern favorite. An indulgent pie that mimics the texture of a fudgy brownie with the taste of chocolate pudding and all served in a crispy, peanut butter crust. Treat yourself!

Crust:

1/2 cup cornmeal
1/4 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons peanut butter
4 tablespoons milk
Filling:
1 cup chocolate chips
6 tablespoons butter or margarine
6 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup cocoa
1 tablespoon constahch(haha, a little Yankee humor here-cornstarch rightfully)
4 egg whites
6 tablespoons milk

For the crust, combine cornmeal, flour and salt in a bowl and blend. Add peanut butter and mash it into the flour mixture with a fork. Add milk and continue blending with the fork until everything is blended. With you hands, gather dough into a ball that holds together. Place between 2 large sheets of film wrap and roll until it is large enough for your pie tin. After lining the pie tin, crimp edges if desired; set aside.

In a medium saucepan, add the chocolate chips and butter. Melt over low heat, stirring to combine. Remove from heat and set aside. Preheat oven to 325-degrees F. In a large bowl, mix sugar, cocoa and cornstarch together. Pour in the warm melted chocolate mixture and beat until thoroughly combined. Add egg whites and milk, beating on high speed until smooth. Pour into prepared crust and bake 30-32 minutes, or until firm when touched in the center. The pie will puff up when baking but settle down upon cooling. Remove from oven to cool slightly before serving warm or chill completely if desired.

 

Christmas Cranberry Chess Pie

Although this pie is perfectly fine without the addition of figs or dates, I wanted to add a little Christmas cheer with flavors we don't enjoy but once a year. This pie is the perfect "pantry pie", which is how they were kept many generations ago, sitting on the pantry shelf.

Crust:
2 cups crushed gingersnap cookies
3 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted
Filling:
4 tablespoons butter or margarine, room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cornmeal
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 cup whole-berry cranberry sauce
1/2 cup chopped figs or dates
3 eggs
1/4 cup milk

In a small bowl, mix the crushed cookies with melted butter. Transfer to a pie tin and press firmly on the bottom and sides; set aside.

Preheat oven to 325-degrees F. In a large bowl, with an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar together until creamy. Add cornmeal, cornstarch, eggs and milk. Continue beating until well mixed. Stir in the cranberry sauce and figs. Pour into prepared crust and bake 36-38 minutes, or until firm to the touch in the center. Remove from oven to enjoy warm or cool completely before serving.



Tangy Lemon Chess Pie

Some say that Chess Pie was originally made with lemons. So I upped the ante and added the flavor of lemon with juice and curd. Lemon curd is an intensely flavored 'preserve' type spread that is available in all supermarkets.

Crust:
2 cups crushed vanilla wafer cookies
3 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted
Filling:
4 tablespoons butter or margarine, room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon cornmeal
1 1/4 cups lemon curd
1/2 cup chopped figs, dates or raisins
1 tablespoon lemon juice
4 egg whites

In a small bowl, mix the crushed cookies with melted butter. Transfer to a pie tin and press firmly on the bottom and sides; set aside.

Preheat oven to 325-degrees F. In a large bowl, with an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar together until creamy. Add cornmeal, cornstarch, eggs, milk and lemon juice. Continue beating until well mixed. Stir in the lemon curd and chopped figs. Pour into prepared crust and bake 36-38 minutes, or until firm to the touch in the center. Remove from oven to enjoy warm or cool completely before serving.

 

May's recipe for Lumber Pie

Take some grated bread, and beef-suet cut into bits like great dice, and some cloves and mace, then some veal or capon minced small with beef suet, sweet herbs, fair sugar, the yolks of six eggs boil'd hard and cut in quarters, put them to the other ingredients, with some barberries, some yolks of raw eggs, and a little cream, work up all together and put it in the caul of veal like little sausages; then bake them in a dish, and being half baked have a pie made and dried in the oven ; put these puddings into it with some butter, verjuyce sugar, some dates on them, large mace, grapes, or barberries, and marrow being baked, serve it with a cut cover on it, and scrape sugar on it.

Robert May, The Accomplisht Cook, 1665.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Plum Pudding, Christmas Pudding, Hard Sauce.....

There is only one place in all of America that these words relate to during the Holiday season, and that is New England.

The preparation of any Christmas Pudding(aka Plum Pudding) always started on the first Sunday of Advent, universally referred to as 'Stir up Sunday' by our colonial ancestors. They were gently reminded by their minister, while attending Sunday meeting, when he began to preach, "Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people....". Nobody would ever have attempted to serve Christmas Pudding without letting it sit for at least 3 weeks in order for all the fruit flavors to mingle all together.

But even before the popularity of Plum Pudding, was the, now forgotten, Plum Soup. In the early days, Plum Pudding was slowly cooked and stirred much like mincemeat, but then bagged in muslim and set in a large copper kettle to simmer for hours on end. The richer folks would use elaborate plum pudding molds. Plum Soup was the still liquidy mixture before being bagged and steamed.

Another forgotten dish was Dumb Cake. As the men were dragging in the monstrous Yule log, the single girls of age in the household were busy making and baking this fruit-laden cake. They were forbidden to talk while preparing and baking it. Once made, baked and cooled, she would then stay up until midnight when her future husband was to walk into the kitchen and turn the cake.

The earliest example of Plum Pudding being served, that I can find, is when King Henry VIII served it during his reign, 1509-1547, but most assuredly it was made far before. It was made with true plums at that time as well, only deviating to raisins around 1700 here in New England.

By the mid 1700s in New England, Hunting Pudding was a popular type of boiled pudding. So named because it was often carried by the husbands as they spent days on end hunting for their Holiday feast.

Of course, one may think these types of puddings are too heavy(much like fruitcake), some may think too time consuming to prepare. Others will instantly think of all the fat and calories that must follow such a rich classic.

Well I have Yanked™ TWO great Christmas pudding recipes without upsetting the great balance of taste and texture for a dessert all of our New England ancestors enjoyed, and one we should embrace as well.



Old Fashioned Christmas Ginger Pudding with Bog Sauce
 
 

Such a fantastic Christmas Pudding, serve this delicious classic with a much lighter version of hard sauce below. Although traditional hard sauce has a ton of butter and powdered sugar, I think you will find the pudding is elevated in a delightfully fruity way using Bog Sauce instead.

1(10.5-ounce)empty coffee can, 1 quart measure
Oil to grease
3 tablespoons butter or margarine, room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup eggnog
1 1/4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon each baking powder and baking soda
1 cup ginger preserves, divided
Boiling water
Bog Sauce, recipe below
1/2 cup whole berry cranberry sauce

 
Use your can opener to remove any lip on the open end of the coffee can, keeping one end intact. Being very careful, place some oil on a napkin or paper towel and liberally grease the inside of the can; set aside. In a large bowl, beat butter, sugar and egg until creamy. Add eggnog and continue beating until smooth. In a separate, bowl, blend flour, baking powder and soda. Add to butter mixture and beat, on low, until smooth. Fold in half the preserves Transfer to prepared can, it should come halfway up. Gently tap the bottom on the counter to even out. Place a foil over the top, held by an elastic. If your coffee can came with a plastic lid, use this in place of the foil.

Place in crockpot, pour boiling water to come up about a third of the way, cover and turn the crockpot on high. "Steam" for 2 1/2 hours, or until it is firm in the center when you remove foil or lid. If you find the water boiling, simply reduce heat until it is just barely simmering.

Remove from water and let cool for a few minutes without removing lid or foil before transferring to refrigerator to completely cool while still in can. Open both ends and run a knife around the inside to loosen. Push pudding out with a flat-bottomed glass or tumbler. Slice pudding in any fashion you desire with warm Bog Sauce for dipping.
For the Bog Sauce, place remainder of preserves and cranberry sauce in a small saucepan and heat, stirring well.

Enough for 4 servings.

 
Note: If you would like to serve this warm, it is best to cool completely first, then remove from can. Then just simply microwave, covered with film wrap on a plate, until hot throughout.

 



Dark Chocolate Steamed Pudding  
 
 

A much lighter version of the infamous Plum Pudding of old, yet just as flavorful. Who says you need fancy molds and steamers to create a delicious steamed pudding? Not me!

1(10.5-ounce)empty coffee can, 1 quart measure
Oil to grease
3 tablespoons butter or margarine, room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg
3/4 cup plain yogurt
1 cup flour
1/4 cup cocoa
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons dark chocolate chips
Boiling water
Creamy Peppermint "Soft" Sauce, recipe below

 

Use your can opener to remove any lip on the open end of the coffee can, keeping one end intact. Being very careful, place some oil on a napkin or paper towel and liberally grease the inside of the can; set aside. In a large bowl, beat butter, sugar and egg until creamy. Add yogurt and continue beating until smooth. In a separate bowl, blend flour, cocoa baking powder and baking soda. Add to butter mixture and beat, on low, until smooth. Fold in chocolate chips Transfer to prepared can, it should come halfway up. Gently tap the bottom on the counter to even out. Place a foil over the top, held by an elastic. If your coffee can came with a plastic lid, use this in place of the foil.

Place in crockpot, pour boiling water to come up about a third of the way, cover and turn the crockpot on high. "Steam" for 2 1/2 hours, or until it is firm in the center when you remove foil or lid. If you find the water boiling, simply reduce heat until it is just barely simmering.

Remove from water and let cool for a few minutes without removing lid or foil before transferring to refrigerator to completely cool while still in can. Open both ends and run a knife around the inside to loosen. Push pudding out with a flat-bottomed glass or tumbler. Slice into desired sizes and serve with Creamy Peppermint "Soft" Sauce.

Place 1 cup Greek-style yogurt, 1/4 cup honey and 1 teaspoon peppermint, spearmint or mint extract to a bowl and beat until smooth.


Enough for 6(1-inch thick)slices

 

Note: If you would like to serve this warm, it is best to cool completely first, then remove from can. Then just simply microwave, covered with film wrap on a plate, until hot throughout.


FYI: According to a BBC news article from November, 2011, the world's oldest Plum Pudding was found intact 112 years after it was first made and canned. A woman from Poole, England says that it had been in her late husband's family for years with the message "For the Naval Brigade, In the Front, With Miss Weston's Best Christmas. New Year 1900, Wishes".
The lable on the can itself suggests "This pudding is ready for use by may be boiled for an hour if required hot." And if you are wondering, it is not edible because of the deterioration of the can. But nonetheless, quite remarkably well preseved. It is now being conserved at the Portsmouth(England)Historic Dockyard.