Sunday, April 17, 2016

Foremothers, not Forefathers!

I don't think I have ever seen the word foremothers in print in any history book....ever! And what a shame. The work they did, along with the end result of cooking over a literal fire, must have been something to be proud of. (I know I hold them in the highest regard.) Using what little they had or could reap, the bellies of all family members were content and ready for each new day.

And if I could name just 2 desserts that screamed New England, they would be Brown Betty and Buckle. Of course Grunts, Cobblers, Crisps and Charlottes are at the top of the list, but because these two recipes have been almost entirely forgotten, they hold a sentimental place in my culinary thoughts.

My, the smells that must have been wafting through each household back "in the day" when our foremothers were cooking. And I am talking about the wealthy AND the backwoods, log cabins. The chatter that graced each table when they sat around enjoying not only the fruits of their labor, but as a family unit to boot harkens those days to my thoughts all the time.

And labor intensive they were. In order to make the Buckle, the wild berries needed to be hunted down(although I am sure most households knew where the picking was)and gathered. Making it home before eating them first must have been the hardest chore of all.

Once home, then the cooking began. But if you think I am frugal, households of old were much more careful with using ingredients, especially flour, sweetener and eggs. That is why Buckle is made with just enough batter to hold it all together.

As for the Betty, apples were plentiful in the countryside's of New England and most families had them on their own property. They weren't much to look at, with scabs covering half the skin, but once peeled, no one knew the difference.

So with wishful thinking and a salute to our forefath......err, foremothers, let's take a culinary trip back in time and enjoy age old recipes.



Real New England Apple Brown Betty

Brown Betty. Yet another New England original. The origin of the name Brown Betty is in dispute everywhere you look. Some say it is from some English teapot, while others ramble on and on. Again, this is one of those simple names with an equally simple beginning. The term brown obviously refers to the color of both the apples(when baked) and the bread topping. Breads in colonial America were brown because of the wheat used. So when you add them to this dessert, it goes without saying that the brown color seen throughout is par for the course. As for the name Betty. There can only be one answer. Like the dish itself, it came from whoever first made it, with word(along with the recipe itself)being shared and passed on. Simple, delicious and a great dessert that has withstood time and palates.

3 cups diced, firm apples
1/2 cup raisins or dried cranberries
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup apple juice or cider
1 tablespoon molasses
Betty Topping:
3 slices bread, diced small
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3 tablespoons orange marmalade, optional *
Vanilla ice cream or whipped topping

Toss apples, raisins, cornstarch and cinnamon together well. Transfer to an 8-inch square baking pan. Whisk together apple juice and molasses and pour over the top. In a separate bowl, mix diced bread, cinnamon and marmalade so that all bread is moistened with marmalade, adding more if needed. Evenly sprinkle over the top of the apple mixture, loosely cover with tin foil and bake 15 minutes. Remove foil and continue baking an additional 15-20 minutes, or until the apples are softened and the topping is crispy. Remove to cool slightly before serving with ice cream or whipped topping.

* If you don't use marmalade or even your favorite preserves, you will need to substitute the same amount of melted butter or margarine.

Triple Berry Buckle 

Not at all what other sites tout as authentic Buckle. This is truly the way to do it, with just enough cake batter to hold together the rich, syrupy fruit that is bubbling up through the batter that "buckles" as it is cooking. Enjoy this classic New England dessert as it should be made.

3/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons brown sugar
3/4 cup milk
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon apricot preserves
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups(1 pound bag)frozen or fresh berries *
1 tablespoon cornstarch


Preheat oven to 350-degrees F. Mix flour, baking powder and brown sugar until blended well. Add milk, egg, preserves and vanilla, stirring until just combined: set aside. (Lumps are perfectly fine.) In another bowl, toss berries with cornstarch and transfer to an 8-inch square pan. Pour batter over the berries evenly without mixing. Bake 34-36 minutes, or until browned on top and the liquid is bubbling up as a syrup. You will not be able to test doneness by touching because of the berries. Remove from oven to cool slightly before serving hot or wait until completely cooled for an even sweeter dessert.

* Any combination of strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries and raspberries. As long as you use the correct amount, even one type of berry will work perfectly.