Friday, October 30, 2009

Candy Roaster Pie

As I contemplated candy roaster pie, and talked to people who've eaten it, I knew I would not use brown sugar, cinnamon, and other pumpkin pie spices, because I didn't want it to taste like pumpkin pie.

I was given a recipe calling for lemon extract, which intrigued me. Having never used, in all my zillion years of cooking, lemon extract, I was thinking about lemon juice/zest and how much to use. Then I thought of the mountain women, of a bygone era, making pies with these beautiful squash and it dawned on me that they probably did not have access to fresh lemons. Which is why they used lemon extract. And they would have gotten it from the Watkins man. I decided to go with that.

Candy Roaster Pie
2 cups candy roaster puree
3/4 cup sugar, separated
2 eggs, separated
2 Tbsp. flour
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. lemon extract
3 Tbsp. melted butter
1 unbaked pie crust

Mix together flour and 1/2 cup of the sugar. Beat together egg yolks and milk. Stir sugar mixture into egg mixture, then flavorings and butter. Beat well and pour into unbaked pie crust. Bake in preheated 350 degree oven until set, about 45-55 minutes.

Meanwhile beat the egg whites until stiff, then beat in the remaining 1/4 cup sugar. When the pie has set, remove from oven and spread the meringue over it; return to the oven and bake until browned, about 5-8 minutes.

Candy Roaster Squash Pie

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Candy Roaster Squash

Ever since I have lived in these mountains, almost 20 years, I've heard of the legendary Candy Roaster Squash. First from my husband and his family, who have lived here for generations. Also, over the years, many other native people. Everyone has talked longingly, as of a long lost treasure.

Unbeknownst to me, on a farmers market excursion, while I was enjoying the sunny, crisp day, and marveling at the variety and quantites of the pumpkins, squash, and gourds, and snapping photos of them, I took a picture of a bin of candy roasters. I didn't know. I can't possibly show Pritchard Parker every photograph I take, so he didn't know either. I just thought they were kooky looking things.

Several days later, when we were at the market together, and driving by the vendor with these squash, Pritchard Parker exclaimed excitedly, "They have candy roasters!", and slammed on brakes.

These rare heirloom squashes are huge, weighing up to 60 pounds. This one is about 14 pounds.

The pink skin of the candy roaster opens to a pretty golden orange flesh. I was surprised by the smell of it, almost cucumber-like.

After roasting the squash, I have puree which is very delicately flavored, much less stringy than pumpkin, and very juicy, for pie making.
Stay tuned. . .

Candy Roaster Squash on Foodista

Monday, October 26, 2009

Scuppernong Jam

On one of my many recent trips to the Farmers Market, to buy more apples, I spotted heaping baskets of Scuppernongs. The greenish bronze orbs were teeming with honey bees, and God, that smell! But I purchased my apples and went back home to make more apple butter.

That enticing grape-y aroma, however, would not leave my olfactory. It evoked memories of childhood, of sweltering, late summer evenings, biting into the tough skin of scuplins (that's what we called them) popping the very sweet, juicy, and refreshing pulp into my mouth. I could almost hear the buzzing of mosquitoes in my ears.

As I worked with the apples, I was thinking about those grapes, which is not fair at all to the apples. They should have had my full attention, but they didn't seem to mind.

Compelled, I went to the market again the next day to buy one of those baskets of scuppernongs. I couldn't resist. . .I was beckoned. I asked the farm worker to shoo off the bees before he placed the basket in the trunk of my Honda, which he gladly did. I took that beautiful, evocative, basket of grapes home. It was heavy!

For a few days, our home was redolent with the sweet yet musky aroma of those scuppernongs. You didn't even have to come inside to smell it. So it was no wonder that after days of making apple sauce and apple butter, then cooking those fragrant grapes, we would have a back yard visitor. A black bear!

While we do live in the mountains of North Carolina, we don't live in a rural setting, not even suburban. We live right in town and not where one would expect a bear. But there he was. I was comfortably sitting on the sofa, with my legs tucked under a lap blanket, reading. Pritchard Parker and Jill were back in the office working. I heard an unfamiliar sound and perked up my ears. What were P.P. and the dog doing? Then I realized it was coming from outside and got up to look. Yikes, about 2 feet from the back door, ripping through a bag of trash I had set out, was a big bear.

I called to my husband and, together, we watched out the window until he finished exploring the trash, then lumbered off and over the fence. P.P. went out to pick up the trash the bear had scattered and he said that bear smelled very, very bad. Tough luck for Yogi, the grape pulp was tucked away safely inside the freezer, until trash pickup day. I guess Mr. Bear was disappointed with us because we haven't seen him again.

Scuppernong Jam
5 1/2 cups scuppernong nectar
3 1/2 cups sugar, divided
1/2 tsp. butter (reduces foaming)
1 pkg. Sure Jell for less sugar

Make scuppernong nectar by washing, then cooking about 5 pounds grapes with 1/4 inch of water, 10 minutes, until the grapes are very tender. Press them through a food mill.

Mix together 1/4 cup of sugar with the contents of the Sure Jell packet. Add to the nectar along with the butter. Stir constantly over high heat until it comes to a rolling boil that doesn't stop bubbling when stirred. Add the remaining sugar, bring back to rolling boil and cook for exactly one minute. Quicky ladle into sterilized jelly jars, seal, and process according to directions in your area. (Check with your local Agricultural Extention Service). Makes about 7 cups jam.

Delicious on a hot buttered biscuit.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Cinnamon Toast Bread Pudding

In honor of her blog's second anniversary, my friend at Not Derby Pie is hosting October's Sugar High Friday event. Her theme? Toasted. A dessert featuring something toasted--nuts, coconut, marshmallows?

As I thought of this challenge, I contemplated toasted things, and acknowledged my favorite toasted thing--bread. Toast. Just toast. I love toast. I love the smell of toast. I enjoy it with butter and jam, cheese toast, garlic toast, toasted sandwiches, and the quintessential cinnamon toast.

I decided to make cinnamon toast bread pudding. For the cuteness factor, I bought a loaf of appetizer-sized, 3 inch square, very thinly sliced bread and proceeded to make tiny little cinnamon toasts.

Cinnamon Toast Bread Pudding
36 slices cocktail bread
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 cup golden raisins
18 pecan halves
3 eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups milk
2 Tbsp. sugar

Place little bread slices on baking trays and butter liberally. Mix together the 1/4 cup sugar with the cinnamon. Sprinkle over the breads. Toast in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 7 or 8 minutes, until lightly toasted.

In the baking dish, arrange 9 slices of the toast in a single layer. Sprinkle each slice with a few raisins. Add another layer of toast and top each one with a couple pecan halves. Add a third layer of toasts and top this one with raisins again. Finally add the fourth and last layer of toast.

Beat together the eggs, 2 Tbsp. sugar, and the milk. Pour over the toasts and bake at 350 for about 40-45 minutes, until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cut into squares, between the lines of toast, and top with lightly whipped cream. Top with some additional cinnamon sugar.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Blue Ridge Parkway

Several times each week, I drive on a 7 mile stretch of the Blue Ridge Parkway. I love it! There is no better place to see the seasons change and unfold. Right now, we are enjoying the golden, russet, umber, sienna, and maroon colors of autumn, with the brilliant, blue sky. What colors do you see where you live?

Soon all this glamour will fade to gray, brown, taupe, with white sky and flat light. Bonuses in the winter are the beautiful snow days. And the colors reflecting from the two and three feet long icicles clinging to rock faces. I enjoy seeing the nude limbs, branches, and twigs of the stately, yet now vulnerable seeming trees, stretching outward and upward, especially in an eerie, early morning fog. I might see a deer or a turkey or a fox.

Once again, spring awakening will come. The pastel pinks, yellows, blues, and greens will return. The hundreds of dogwood trees in the woods along the Parkway are subtle and exquisite, and will once again look like snow.

And finally, my beloved summer will arrive again. Summer, with its deep, green, full, and lush foliage, and bright, garish flowers. Ah-h-h, and the heat and humidity. . .

I said farewell to summer, a few weeks ago, and I am embracing fall now. We had our first frost yesterday. I'm digging out all my favorite sweaters and I made the bed with flannel sheets. Time for all those soups and stews I love making. And snuggling under a nice warm blanket, with my sweetheart.

This is the day I have been given and I am grateful.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Crockpot Apple Butter

This is the first time I have made apple butter and I couldn't be happier with the results. I made mine from fresh apple sauce made with fresh apples. Yes, apple butter starts with apple sauce. You can make your own apple sauce, as I did, or you can make your apple butter with canned applesauce.

Know that for a good apple butter, you will cook and reduce the apple sauce by half. I started with approximately 9 quarts of apple sauce, and finished with 9 pints of delicious and rich apple butter.

The amount of sugar and spices, varies according to your tastes. I like my apple butter less sweet, less spicy, and more apple-y flavored.

Apple Butter
9 qts. apple sauce
1 to 4 cups sugar (I used 1 cup)
2 tsp. to 2 Tbsp. ground cinnamon (I used 2 tsp.)
1/4 to 1 tsp. ground cloves, if desired (I did not)
1/4 tsp. allspice, if desired (I did)

Fill a 6 quart crockpot with apple sauce, to within 1 inch of rim. Stir in desired amount of sugar and spice. Set on low and cover with a spatter screen. Cook for 6 to 12 hours, until reduced by half. (I cooked mine overnight). Taste and add additional sugar and spice, if desired, then add the remainder of the applesauce and cook for 2 or 3 more hours.

Eat, freeze, and/or process in hot water bath. Enjoy!

Comparing Apples to Apples

The applesauce on the left was made with a combination of Cortland (red with very white flesh) and Granny Smith (green with green flesh) apples. The one on the right was made with all Gala apples with their combination of red and yellow skin and yellow flesh.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Unusual Apple Pie

This is a recipe from and is called "Apple Pie by Grandma Ople". Moshasmama, who submitted it states: "This was my grandmother's apple pie recipe. I have never seen another one quite like it. It will always be my favorite and has won me several first place prizes in local competitions. I hope it becomes one of your favorites as well!" The recipe has a five star rating on the site, with 2,473 reviewers. I couldn't resist. . .

Apple Pie by Grandma Ople

1 recipe pastry for a 9 inch double crust pie
1/2 cup unsalted butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
8 Granny Smith apples - peeled, cored and sliced

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Melt the butter in a saucepan. Stir in flour to form a paste. Add water, white sugar and brown sugar, and bring to a boil. Reduce temperature and let simmer.

Place the bottom crust in your pan. Fill with apples, mounded slightly. Cover with a lattice work of crust. Gently pour the sugar and butter liquid over the crust. Pour slowly so that it does not run off.

Bake 15 minutes in the preheated oven. Reduce the temperature to 350 degrees. Continue baking for 35 to 45 minutes, until apples are soft.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

North Carolina Apples

Apples help me forgive the autumn for interrupting my beloved summer. Lucky for us, we live in a region dense with apple orchards. Western North Carolina apples are the best and the Farmers Market is brimming with them at very reasonable prices.

The health giving benefits of apples are legendary. What other food shares the general truth of common wisdom set forth in an adage, "A_______a day keeps the doctor away"? Apples have no fat or sodium, are high in fiber, low in calories and carbohydrates. They are a significant source of potassium which helps regulate blood pressure and promotes heart health. Additionally apples are rich in antioxidants, flavonoids, pectin, phytochemicals, quercetin, and tannins (which helps prevent gum disease).

Did I mention delicious and versatile. The abundant varieties on the market nowadays is also exciting. So far I have experimented with seven.

Left to right, Gala has a striped red color and a snappy, sweet flavor. Mutzu, which is also known as Crispin, is a green fruit which ripens to yellow. It is a good eating apple and makes a first class cider. Rome is very round and handsomely striped to almost solid red. It has a thick skin and is a favorite for baking and drying. Honeycrisp is a mottled red color over a yellow background and really does have a honey-like taste. Golden Delicious is a standard all purpose apple. It has a golden yellow color and is firm, crisp, juicy and flavorful, but it does bruise easily so should be handled with care.

Cortland, left, with it's very white, crisp flesh, makes one of the best salad apples because it doesn't brown quickly. And that brings us to the Granny Smith everyone knows, which is green, crisp, tart, and stores very well.

I can't think of another food which can be used in so many ways: Apple Pie, Apple Cake, Baked Apples, Apple Butter, Apple Jelly, Applesauce, Candied Apples, Apple Cider, Apple Juice, Vinegar, the list goes on and on. Apples are delicious with pork and ham, cheddar cheese, autumn vegetables.

I have a lot of apple plans over the next few weeks.

Thursday, October 1, 2009


I seem to have migrated to, and stumbled upon, mention after mention, blog post after another, of Ratatouille. Of course, it is the perfect time of year to make it. I liked the idea of cooking all the vegetables separately, paying the fullest attention to each one, so that's what I did. Prepared this way, the Ratatouille was deliciously rich and intensely flavored.

10 Roma tomatoes, halved lengthwise
3 plump cloves garlic, sliced
2 large sweet onions, thinly sliced
1 large eggplant, cut into cubes
3 zucchini, sliced
Olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Fresh rosemary, finely chopped
Broth or tomato juice, optional

Place tomato halves on a sheet pan and drizzle with olive oil. Scatter the garlic slices over the tomatoes, sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast at 375 degrees for about 1 hour.

In a large pot, cook the onions in olive oil until very tender and beginning to turn golden brown. Remove from heat and keep warm. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, working in batches, cook and brown all the eggplant, then the zucchini in olive oil. Season each new batch with salt and pepper and add to the pot with the onions as they are cooked.

When the tomatoes are done, add them to the pot as well. Add fresh rosemary and heat through, adding cooking liquid if desired. I added about a cup of tomato juice to deglaze the pan.