Apricot Bread

Apricot Bread

2 sticks of butter, melted and cooled
1 C granulated sugar
½ C brown sugar, packed
4 eggs
3 C flour, all purpose
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 C almonds, sliced
8 oz dried whole apricots
1 TBSP lemon juice
2 tsp almond extract

Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease 2 9×3 loaf pans.

Chop the dried apricots into very small bits. Place in a small saucepan and cover with water. Add lemon juice. Simmer slowly until apricots well-hydrated, tender and most of the water has been absorbed or evaporated. Add the almond extract and stir. Cool completely.

Mix the butter and sugars well. Add the eggs and beat until well combined. Add the dry ingredients, including the almonds. Fold in the apricots.

Divide batter between the two pans. Bake for 55-60 minutes or until testing confirms the center is completely cooked.


All’s Pear in Love

Yesterday morning it was cool by July standards and foggy. A good time to attend to the pear trees. This is their second fruit season and I am blessed with an abundance of fruit on such small trees. Calling them trees exaggerates, embellishes. The Biscamp pear, a self-pollinating variety bore the most fruit; its reed thin branches heavy laden with large man-fist sized fruits.

Biscamp pear

The Pineapple and the Sug variety, more old-fashioned sand pears are meant to cross pollinate. It is unclear if these two trees even like each other. They had some kind of tree-sex because they each had one pear. One. Their fecundity is yet to be determined.

Sug pear Pineapple pear

I had hoped that planting the pears close to the Carolina Redbuds, the bees would work the five trees indiscriminately. I will have to consider better protecting these trees and their early spring buds from late freezes.

The pear trees needed a spa day. I shoveled a ring around each base, hand troweled the grass runners crisscrossing the ground and stealing the trees’ vital nutrients. I added six double hand-scoops of Black Kow manure to the base and worked it all in.

Weedy pear Neat pear

I then re-attached biodegradable twine and staked the branches wide to open up the inside of the trees. It is not meant to be a true espalier.

Biscamp staked Sug staked Pineapple staked

Then it was time to make my Granny’s conserve. By my Granny’s definition, a conserve was two (or more) fresh fruits cooked with sugar. The traditional culinary definition is cooking dried fruits and nuts which I think of more as a chutney. A conserve is slow cooked, chunky, sweet and has no added pectin. The literature on the Biscamp, the majority of the fruit I have to make my conserve, is said to be a “soft eating pear” supposedly like a Bartlett. After peeling and slicing…that is a liberal assertion. And thank God for it. I didn’t want a soft, fine grained eating pear. I wanted SAND pears.The Biscamp is as gritty as coarse sand paper but it is very juicy, even with still-green skins.

I have an Apple-Mate 3 that attaches to my kitchen counter and peels the pear skins. These pear skins have a tannin in them and hand peeling turns your fingers and nails brown for days. Plus the skins are TOUGH and attached to the flesh of the fruit. The Apple-Mate scratches the peels off perfectly. Final touches are made with a very sharp paring knife before chopping off the core and mincing in a Cuisinart. I am all about the gadgetry.

Peels20150719_091212In the pot

I embellish my Granny’s recipe which used canned pineapple, sand pears and sugar. Instead, I use fresh pineapple, sand pears, sugar, a split vanilla bean and a stick of cinnamon. The outcome is a conserve perfect on English muffin, bagel, sour dough toast, warmed and poured over ice cream, served over warm gingerbread cake or bread pudding or in a spoon: plain and simply perfect.

Eight jars

Jeweled pearfection


Apple Honey Challah

I love the recipe from Smitten Kitchen for Honey Apple Challah. I’ve made it a half dozen times, sometimes giving the loaves away to my Jewish friends celebrating the Sabbath or a holiday. I’ve made it with and without the apples. I prefer to make it in a three strand braid instead of the four strand knit that Smitten Kitchen uses. I’ve substituted butter for the oil and it is good, but the oil is best. I’ve used pecan oil and peanut oil as well as the standard vegetable oil. I used whole wheat flour for part of the flour, too. You can grate orange peel into the dough and it adds some depth. But following Smitten Kitchen’s recipe exactly is a sure fire winner. It never fails.

Honey Apple Challah

Apple Honey Challah


2 1/4 teaspoons (1 standard 1/4-ounce packet) active dry yeast
1/3 cup (79 ml) plus 1 teaspoon honey
1/3 cup (79 ml) neutral oil, plus more for the bowl
2 large eggs plus 1 large yolk
1 1/2 teaspoons (8 grams) table salt
4 1/4 cups all-purpose (530 grams) or bread flour (578 grams), plus more for your work surface


Apple filling
2 medium baking apples, cut on a mandolin into matchstick pieces

Squeeze of lemon juice, to keep them from browning


Egg wash
1 large egg
Coarse or pearl sugar for sprinkling (optional)


Make your dough: Whisk yeast and 1 teaspoon honey into 2/3 cup warm water and let stand until foamy, a few minutes.


With a stand mixer: In the bowl of a stand mixture, whisk together yeast mixture, oil, remaining honey (1/3 cup), eggs and yolk. Switch to dough hook and add 4 1/4 cups flour and salt. Use dough hook on a moderate speed until it pulls all of the flour and wet ingredients together into a craggy mass. Lower the speed and let the dough hook knead the dough for 5 minutes, until smooth, elastic and a little sticky.


Both methods: Transfer dough to large oil-coated bowl, cover with plastic wrap and set aside for 1 hour, or until almost doubled in size.


Add apples to dough:  Turn dough out onto a floured counter and gently press it down into a flat, oblong shape. Spread apple over the flattened dough. Fold the dough over the apples and knead mixing the apple bits into the dough. Upend your empty bowl over and set it aside for another 30 minutes.

Weave your bread:  Divide dough into 3 pieces. Weave them like a traditional challah. Transfer the dough to a parchment-covered heavy baking sheet or baker’s peel (if you’ll be using a bread stone). Beat egg until smooth and brush over challah. Let challah rise for another hour but 45 minutes into this rise, preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

Bake your loaf: Before baking, brush loaf one more time with egg wash and sprinkle with coarse sugar if you’re using it. Bake in middle of oven for 40 to 45 minutes. It should be beautifully bronzed. It is done in 40-45 minutes or when the center of the loaf should be 195 degrees.



The Soup

I wanted Italian Wedding soup, the kind with the tiny little meatballs, but I am so picky about pre-prepared food items with ground “beef”. I suspect what is labeled as “beef” is really various cow parts. So, I found an easy recipe on-line for an Italian Wedding soup [here] and made a quick run to The Fresh Market at lunch. I made a slight substitution of half the pork for lamb. When we go home, The Younger Son helped me hand roll all the meatballs (2 lbs of meat). I doubled the recipe so we’d have meatballs in the freezer to make the soup again if it was a hit. It was a hit. I think I’ll finely julienne the curly endive the next go around.

Italian Wedding Soup

w/ a side of Butter dipsAfter dinner, we cut the Halloween cake I made. I got the recipe from Williams & Sonoma in honor of National Chocolate Day, which was Monday. Yum.

Halloween Cake




Bacon Jam

With a day off work, I have a day to work around home. It’s 7:30 and I sit at my kitchen counter watching the sun rise and stream into the windows along the east side of the house. It is how I imagined the sun in the early morning hours although the reflection on the carnival colored glass mosaic tiles behind my range hood is far more stunning then I could have predicted.

With a fresh pot of coffee brewed, I assembled the ingredients for Bacon Jam. I first saw the recipe on Not Quite Nigella’s website. I have modified it for my own tastes and to include honey from Biddan Ridge’s hives. I need to include this on the menu for the Thanksgiving weekend gathering.

Bacon Jam

Bacon Jam

 1 lb bacon, chopped

6-8 cloves of garlic, chopped

1 large sweet onion

1 c strong black coffee

¼ apple cider vinegar

¼ c maple syrup

3 Tbsp Biddan Ridge Honey (or brown sugar)

1 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder

¼ tsp red pepper flakes

1 c water

Put all ingredients in a deep skillet EXCEPT the water and slow cook, uncovered for HOURS. After the first hour, add ¼ c water. Repeat each hour until it’s cooked down into a dark, rust brown concoction.

Let cool for 1 hour. Transfer to a food processor and pulse until desired spreadable consistency.

Makes 1 pint jar. Keep refrigerated. Spread on biscuits, crackers with cheese, burgers, as a base sauce for pizzas. Be creative.



Banana Walnut Bread

Banana bread Banana walnut bread

I bought a Nutrimill Classic, a grain mill made by Bosch, the same Bosch that makes drills and equipment in the cordoned off section of Lowe’s. I bought the mill so I could start grinding or milling my own flour. They call it super flour because it has all the true parts of the wheat and hasn’t been processed. I decided to start slow and easy….and to follow the instructions. Martha Stewart’s banana bread recipe is always a stalwart: steadfast and true. Here is the recipe as I have adopted it from The Martha Stewart Cookbook, Collected Recipes for Every Day.

  • 1 stick of butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup soft white wheat
  • 1/2 c hard red wheat
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup very ripe mashed bananas
  • 1/2 c Greek 2% plain yogurt
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 c chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 c shredded coconut

Mix the butter and sugar well, add eggs. Add dry ingredients and then bananas, yogurt and vanilla. Lastly add nuts and coconut. Bake at 350F for 55 minutes in a loaf pan sprayed with cooking spray.



Old Fashioned Fudge Bars

One vital goal that is paramount to Biddan Ridge becoming all that I envision is for the food we eat to be made from scratch. I want the land to grow some of our food. It’s why I have honeybees and have fruit and nut trees plant about the 3.55 acres. It’s why I planted an additional eight blueberry shrubs today and why I have worked to relocate and domesticate some of the blackberries that run wild and sprout up in all the beds.

Today, I made Popsicles or rather Fudgsicles. Cameron and I did research looking for pop recipes and discovered Martha Stewart’s Fudgsicle recipe. I made them this morning and set them to freeze all day. here is the recipe. I bought the mold from Amazon here.

Popsicle mold

Fudgsicles 100_8821


Totally Homemade

I picked the first growth of our cucumbers, grown from seeds for Ellen’s Family white pickling cucumbers.

Ellen's Family white cucmbers

The cucumbers look like yellow squash but smelled strongly like cucumbers. I used the recipe on the back of Mrs. Wages Pickling Lime and made Old South Cucumber Lime Pickles. I make my own pickling spice as a variation from the Rodale’s whole pickling spice. Mrs. Wages’ recipe calls for a lime brine instead of a salt brine. It was far more labor intensive with lots of soaking, rinsing and steeping.

Vinegar sugar syrup with spices

I will be pulling cucumbers off these vines for many more weeks. They are fat and healthy and seem very resistant to borers and pests plus the bees have loved the blossoms. I bought the seeds from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange.

Hot jars with pickles

Sealed jars