Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Plan For Future Happiness: Tutti-Frutti

I've been gorging myself on berries lately; 'tis the season, after all. Blueberries with breakfast. Blackberries with lunch. And while I'd love to tell you about how you can set up jar after jar of preserved summer splendor, let's face it: I live in a tiny 1937 apartment, I have no storage space for such bounty, and my stove top lacks the oomph needed to efficiently get a big kettle of water boiling sufficiently to make preserving jams and jellies and whatnot a pleasant experience. Also, unless you've gone out and picked your own fruit, odds are you don't naturally have enough fruit on hand at any given point to do a proper day of canning. Favorite Recipes from Matinicus Island Maine has the solution for you: preserve the fruit you get as you get it, in a crock, no fuss, no muss.

Put 1 pint brandy into a stone jar, add various fruits as they come into market. To each quart of fruit add same quantity of sugar, stir mixture each morning until all fruit has been added. Strawberries, raspberries, apricots, peaches, cherries, pineapple are the best to use.

-- Mrs. Day's Mother's
Aaaaah, tutti-frutti. All fruits. Let's get this out of the way: Yes, you can purchase the fruit especially for this.

You can also use this as a way to keep the fruit that you bought too much of at the store that day you swore you were going to drop thirteen pounds before your high school reunion.

Strawberries should be washed and hulled; you needn't slice them up. Raspberries should be washed. Halve your apricots and take the stones out; you don't need to skin them. Peaches, on the other hand, you'll need to peel (it's not as hard as it seems, but it does involve a big pot of boiling water and a big bowl of ice water; ask if you have questions). Cherries should be washed, stemmed, and pitted. Pineapple should be purchased already cored and peeled.

Okay, the last one was a joke. Though I won't mind if you do buy it pre-prepared. But you can honestly do it yourself.

You can use other berries (blue, black), or other stone fruits (plums, plums, plums) (and nectarines). Use the juicy soft fruit that you have on hand.

All that stuff is easy. The stone jar might be a bit more difficult. If you're lucky, you'll have a big 5 gallon pickling crock at hand. I have one, and yes, you may be jealous. My mother-in-law gave it to me. Okay, she might have given it to us, but I've thoroughly claimed it. To do this recipe up right, you're going to need at least a 3 gallon non-reactive container. You also have to be able to disinfect the hell out of that beastie; fermentation is our friend here, but mold is definitely not. You're also going to want to keep this puppy in the dark, and keep it covered; bugs and vermin are also not our friends.

When is it ready? Well, one could argue that it's always pretty much ready. But if you want to make it extra super duper special, keep it fermenting away until Christmas time. Yes. Really. Even if you started it with the very first strawberries of March. December. And wouldn't you appreciate a taste of spring and summer in the bleak mid-winter?

Now, you might be asking yourself how to serve your tutti-frutti. Try it over ice cream. Try it under whipped cream. Try it whooshed up a bit in a blender with some cream cheese and yogurt to make a dip for gingersnaps. Try it on pancakes or pound cake or chocolate cake. Try it in a cake -- perhaps we can scrounge up a good old fashioned tutti frutti cake recipe from someone's grandma in one of these books.

When the fruit's all gone (or even before), use the syrupy liquid as, well, syrup. Your waffles will thank you.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Matinicus Islanders Don't Need Instructions: Grapenut Puddings

Today, two recipes, one key ingredient, and not a lot of instructions to get in the way. The Ladies Aid really do expect you to know what the hell you're doing in a kitchen... many of the recipes in Favorite Recipes from Matinicus Island Maine have only the vaguest sketches of a method to guide you.
Baked Grapenut Pudding

4 eggs
1 quart milk
1 cup grapenuts
1 cup sugar or sweeten to taste
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla

Bake like custard in moderate oven. Test as for custard. Serve with whipped cream.

--Carrie Ames
Got that? Good. That's all you're getting out of Carrie Ames. So, if you're not up for doing anything "like custard," hop on over to What's Cooking America to read up on Old-Fashioned Baked Custard. If you've ever made a creme brulee, you've made a baked custard. Is the recipe a bit less scary if I say "Bake like a creme brulee"? We're a long way from Matinicus in the 60s.

If the whole custard/creme thing is making you shy away from the potential wonder of baked cereal desserts, try this:
Grapenut Pudding

Put 1/2 cup minute tapioca in 3 cups cold water. Cook until clear. Then add:

1/2 cup grapenuts
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup raisins or dates
1/2 cup walnuts

Cook a few miutes -- Cool and serve with whipped cream.
This recipe isn't attributed to any particular Matinicus Ladies Aid member. Is it because the author knew her Grape-Nut pudding to be less decadent, less tasty than Carrie Ames's? Did they have a bet, and she who won a Grape-Nut Pudding Off got to have the glory?

Grape-Nuts was my favorite cereal when I was a kid. Yes, really. I love the sweet malty goodness of it. I love when the crispiness starts giving way to soggy soggy bliss. I love it hot. I love it cold. I love thinking of it as a big "screw you" to Kellogg and his comparatively insipid corn flakes. I think it's kind of cool that the ladies of Matinicus treat Grape-Nuts as a generic ingredient. I know the good people at Post cereals probably wouldn't share that glee, so be sure that you always respect brand trademarks.

Unless you're quoting a cookbook, of course.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Substitution Time: Joe Bunkers or Brambles

When I was a wee tyke, and my mom would make pie, my sister and I got to have the crust scraps. Sprinkled with cinnamon sugar, baked up, tasty as all heckfire. So, when I saw the recipe for Joe Bunkers or Brambles in Favorite Recipes from Matinicus Island Maine I knew it had to be featured here. I don't know if the name options are "Joe Bunkers" and "Brambles" or "Joe Bunkers" and "Joe Brambles." I'm going to be a rebel and say that you can call 'em any of the three, or even call 'em "Joes." Substitute the name you prefer. Substitution is going to be key for this recipe.
Joe Bunkers or Brambles

Make rich pie crust. Roll thin. Cut in large squares. In center of each square put in a spoonful of filling.

2 eggs
1 cup sugar
Juice and grated rind of 1 lemon
1 cup chopped raisins
5 or 6 Royal lunch crackers, rolled fine (If too moist take more crackers.)

Fold corners of square up to filling. 400° oven -- Bake until lightly brown.

--Carrie Ames
Now, you should know, there's no such cracker as a Royal lunch cracker anymore. They aren't being made anymore, and the first choice substitute is also not being made anymore. You can try your hand at making your own milk lunch cracker or buy the next best to the next best thing: the Vermont common cracker.

I'm here to tell you: the Vermont common cracker has next to no flavor. If this is what milk lunch crackers tasted like, I'm not at all surprised they're off the shelves. I had assumed that the crackers were a local type of Ritz cracker. I thought the recipe was for a sort of mini Mock Apple Pie. I'm a big fan of Mock Apple Pie, and a big fan of mini whatnots.

My advice: unless you're from New England, and have been raised to love (or even tolerate) the incredibly bland blandness of a common cracker, boldly substitute. Boldly substitute! Do the recipe as written, but crush up a bunch of Ritz crackers. Bring their buttery goodness to your Joes party.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Not the New Fashion: Old Fashion Pork Cake

I'm hard-pressed to come up with a suitable introduction to today's recipe from Favorite Recipes from Matinicus Island Maine. It's a war-time cake, though would work for any time the cows aren't giving milk or the ferry isn't bringing dairy goods over to your island. Other recipes for cakes like this include dried may do so if you wish. In this case, I back down off my "raisins aren't optional" stance.
Old Fashion Pork Cake

2 cups molasses
2 cups salt pork, cut fine
2 cups boiling water, turn over pork
2 cups brown sugar
2 teaspoons soda
2 teaspoons cassia
2 teaspoons cloves
2 teaspoons allspice
2 teaspoons nutmeg
2 teaspoons ginger
3 eggs
8 cups flour

Makes 4 loaves, bake 1 hour, not too hot an oven.

--Mrs. Raynes
Yes. Pork cake. Pork. Cake.

I think one of the reasons this is of the old fashion is the amount of ingredients. See that nice long list of twos? Easier to remember a recipe if you can just say 2, 2, 2, 2, 2; 1/4s and 1/3s and 1/8s and whatnot are much more fussy. I'd be willing to hazard a guess that it was originally two eggs, too; the third egg will make the cake rise a bit more, though, so stick to it.

With this entry, I'm going back and editing the publishing date for Favorite Recipes from Matinicus Island Maine from 1970s to 1960s. See, I found Verna Ames who gave us the Tomato Soup Cake recipe--I love the internet. She wrote back and said that she remembered the book being from the 1960s, and I trust her memory.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Glory, Glory, Halleluia: Glorified Apple Pie

It's a hot, sunny fourth of July here in Washington, DC. Chefly Husband and I took our dog down to the Palisades parade, bought lemonade from a lemonade stand, ate sausages off the grill, and shouted "votes for candy" at more than one passing politician. Yes, it's a right proper Independence Day! In light of that, we'll take a slice of Americana from Favorite Recipes from Matinicus Island Maine-- apple pie.
Glorified Apple Pie

Prepare McIntosh apples as for regular apple pie, and place on bottom crust. Mix 3/4 sugar and 1 package of strawberry jello. Add this to apples, put on top crust and bake as usual. Wonderful served with ice cream.

--Adella Ames
Baseball, hot dogs, apple pie, and Chevrolet, folks.

Adella Ames (yes, another Ames...the same surnames repeat throughout the cookbook. It's a small island, after all.) assumes you have a usual way of making an apple pie. I assume nothing of the sort.

You need pie crust enough for a bottom crust and a top crust. Use your favorite pie crust recipe; of course, if you have a favorite pie crust recipe, you probably don't need to be told how to make a pie. So, you know, feel free to use the pre-made crust in the refrigerator section of your local grocery store. I won't tell, and as long as you use the fridged stuff and not the frozen stuff, odds are no one will really notice you didn't make it yourself. Line your pie plate/tin with one of the crusts, and then put it in the fridge to stay nice and cold.

Next, take a big ol' mixing bowl, and put it near your apple peeling and chopping station. Don't have one? Of course you do. Any cutting board will do, and I'd recommend using a vegetable peeler to peel your apples, but if you want to pare your apples with a paring knife, more power to you. Extra style points if you get the peel off in one long spiral (though, again, if you're that practiced, you're probably not in need of a walk through of pie making). You'll need about 8 apples. Peel 'em, cut 'em into quarters, and cut away the seeds and core. The seeds and core go in your compost bin or trash bin, not the pie.

Use your handy dandy paring knife and cut the apple quarters into bite-sized chunks, and put the chunks in the bowl. Sprinkle on 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon. Sprinkle over that a couple tablespoons of flour -- the flour will help the pie set up, though I'm guessing that with the Jell-o, you're not going to really need it. I often forget it; it will still taste good. Squeeze in about half a lemon worth of lemon juice. Mix it all up, take the pie plate out of the fridge, and pour the apple mixture out into the crust, mounding it up in the middle if you have extra. Take a tablespoon or so of butter, and cut it into little chunks, and put those chunks sort of randomly over the apples. That's called dotting with butter. Now you know. At this point, you've prepared a pie "as usual," and can pick up with the instructions from Adella.

The top crust will need to be vented -- you need to make vents in it to let out the steam of the apples cooking. You can get all sorts of fancy, cutting out shapes, making a lattice out of strips of pastry, or whatnot, but for your first pie, I'd say just cut a few slits in the crust with your paring knife. Lay the top crust over the apples, and seal the edges of the two crusts together, either with your fingers or the tines of a fork (pressing down with the flat bit). A 350°F oven is your friend, and cook until your crust is pretty and brown and there's appley goodness coming out a bit.

Now you, too, have a usual apple pie method. You'll get fancier as you go, with the aforementioned crust treatments, egg washes, crumble topping, mixed fruits, etc., but this gets you going.

Happy Independence Day.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Favorite Recipes from Matinicus Island Maine, by the Matinicus Ladies Aid Society; Tomato Soup Cake

I love The Wine Lover's Cookbook but have to admit that after a week of glossy pictures, perfect binding, and lengthy descriptions of every little thing, I'm psyched to go a little more rustic. So, it is with more than a little bit of glee that I present Favorite Recipes from Matinicus Island Maine by the Matinicus Ladies Aid Society.

Matinicus Island is a small island off the coast of Maine, about the size of Rathlin Island in Northern Ireland -- the comparison might not mean much to you, but I had a heck of a wonderful day tromping about Rathlyn last summer. Anywho.

I've never been to Matinicus Island (or any other part of Maine), so have to assume that my friend Jeannette's grandparents went there at some point. I owe much of my cookbook collection to Jeannette's grandmother's pre-move book culling. Many of those books are comb- or spiral-bound fundraiser fodder, and old enough that the regional books still have some regional flair. Too often nowadays, collections from all over are woefully homogenized. Not so with Favorite Recipes from Matinicus Island Maine -- the recipes use both local ingredients and, vital for a remote island, canned goods. Yes, canned goods. Nothing wrong with a canned good or three! And, if you're on an island in New England during a winter storm, when boats aren't going out and ferries aren't coming in, what the heck else are you supposed to use to feed your family. Canned goods, for the win.
Tomato Soup Cake

8 tablespoons shortening
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons soda
4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons soda
2 teaspoons cloves
2 teaspoons nutmeg
1 can tomato soup
1 can water
2 cups seedless raisins and fruit

Cream shortening and sugar; then add soup and soda; then add the water gradually. Bake 1 hour in 350° oven. I use the candied can fruit.

--Verna Ames
We're back in the land of assuming you know how to cook, folks. If you're used to making cakes, you don't need step by step here, just the skeleton to show how and when you're adding the liquid to the mix. I'll step by step it a bit more for you:
Cream the shortening and sugar together in a big mixing bowl. Add the soup and the 2 teaspoons of baking soda -- though the recipe as printed calls for a total of 4 teaspoons soda, we're pretty safe in guessing it's just a misprint. The soup and baking soda are standing in for eggs in this recipe, so they go in when eggs would go in otherwise. Have you stirred in the soup yet? Stir, baby, stir. Then, add the water, and stir some more. Sift all dry ingredients together, and then add the dry mixture to the sugar/soup mixture, but not all at once. Add in a quarter of the dry, stir. Add another quarter, stir. You get the gist. Once that's all come together, add the fruit and stir some more. Ta da! Cake batter. Pour that into a prepared cake pan -- butter and flour it, or spray it with baking spray. Size of pan we'll have to guess at: I say try it in a 9 x 13, but that surprises you not in the least.
I think it bears saying it in its own paragraph: the soda in the ingredients list is baking soda. It is a dry ingredient, and is added with the liquids, not sifted in with the other dry ingredients (unless the aforementioned typo wasn't actually a typo -- if your cake comes out a little flat, add the extra soda to the dry ingredients next time). Baking soda, not club soda. All clear? Good.

This recipe is vegan-friendly, as long as you're grabbing a vegan-friendly tomato soup. No, really! Vegan cake! That will taste good! That you can serve to your vegan friends and make them feel pampered and loved, and you'll still want to eat it, too! If you're in/from the US, you might want to try this out for your Independence Day party this weekend.