Dandelion Blossom Cordial Spritz

21 375x500 Dandelion Blossom Cordial Spritz

There’s a dandelion emergency pending, ya’ll. Our cheery yellow polka-dot pals are about to get the perkiness froze straight out of them tonight here in the mountains. So I suggest you run outside and pick as many as you can, just in case, because you don’t want to miss a chance to make this spritz.

51 312x500 Dandelion Blossom Cordial Spritz

I have a recipe in my Garden Supper Tonight book for Dandelion Honey, which I learned from our Bohemian friends, Martin and Denisa. They live in a little village  just north of Prague with their two kids in a fairy-tale cottage that sits on the edge of a forest that is enchanted with wild edible mushrooms. Martin plays, teaches, writes books about American Appalachian old-time music … in the Czech Republic. Listen to him play the banjo here to get you in a dandelion mood. In the photo below, he’s on the right playing his banjo and Denisa is playing the guitar. I could talk forever about this wonderful and talented family, but we need to get our dandelions tended to.

martin and denise 500x405 Dandelion Blossom Cordial Spritz

Here’s Martin’s voice describing the Dandelion Honey recipe that he and Denisa make every spring:

“This is a traditional recipe passed down from the old-world Europeans. We use it as a substitute for honey in any recipe that I’m trying to make wild.” What Martin means is that this delicate floral-flavored syrup tastes of the outdoors … an unmowed yard teeming with dandelions and wild violets, morel mushrooms laying in ambush in the woods, and cherry blossom petals swirling in the breeze, which by the way is a bone-chilling breeze at the moment.

To make the Dandelion syrup, you pick as many flower-heads as you can 100-200 is a good amount at a time. There are about 150 in this bowl.

13 485x500 Dandelion Blossom Cordial Spritz

Pinch the flowers out of the green lower leaves, and measure out the petals only. Don’t worry if you get some green leaves in with the petals. “They” say these will make your syrup bitter, but a little bitter is the taste of spring and it goes perfectly with a Prosecco spritz. The recipe particulars are below, but basically you infuse water with the petals overnight, strain in the morning, add sugar and reduce liquid by half. You can simmer it super slowly like Martin suggests, in order to keep the color pale; or you can do as impatient Barbara does and boil the heck out of it for 30 minutes and it’s light amber. Slow cook it if you want it to be the color of honey. A spritz doesn’t care as long as it’s not scorched.

41 348x500 Dandelion Blossom Cordial Spritz

The syrup will keep refrigerated for at least a couple of weeks. To keep for longer, make into ice cubes, which you can remove from freezer and plunk into your summer drinks. To make an alcoholic dandelion honey cordial, add a cup of vodka to every cup of cooled syrup. This will keep indefinitely in the refrigerator.

To make your spritz, pop open a bottle of chilled Prosecco, Cava, dry white wine, or fizzy water. Add a tablespoon or so of dandelion cordial to each glass, top with Prosecco, lemon wedge, a dandelion or mint spring and keep your fingers crossed that our fruit trees don’t get frostbit!

31 500x337 Dandelion Blossom Cordial Spritz

Dandelion blossom honey spritz
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Ingredients
  1. 2 cups dandelion petals from about 150 dandelion flowers
  2. 2 cup boiling water
  3. 1/2 cup sugar
  4. 1 small organic lemon (or orange), optional
Instructions
  1. Boil the water, stir in the dandelion petals, then turn off heat. Add the juice of the lemon and throw in the shell. Pour cooled mixture into a quart jar and refrigerate overnight. Next day, strain out the dandelion parts and to each cup of liquid, add a half-cup of sugar. Simmer until reduced by half. At this point it will start to bubble like crazy, stop at this point, or you will scorch your syrup. Pour syrup into a dish-washed or sterilized jar. Keep in the fridge up to two weeks or freeze into separate ice cubes.
  2. To make a Prosecco spritz, add a tablespoon of dandelion blossom honey to each glass of prosecco or other white wine or seltzer. Garnish with lemon, bug-free dandelions, and a mint sprig.
Log Cabin Cooking http://logcabincooking.com/
 

 

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Creasy greens! And a wild violet and creasy spring salad.

If you look down, Spring has arrived in our mountains.

11 500x333 Creasy greens!  And a wild violet and creasy spring salad.

If you look up, Spring looks like it’s a million years away.

1 500x333 Creasy greens!  And a wild violet and creasy spring salad.

But when the creasy greens start popping up in fields and roadside stands here in Western NC (usually mid March), eating officially gets pretty darned exciting.

2 333x500 Creasy greens!  And a wild violet and creasy spring salad.

In case you don’t know these slightly bitter, pungent, heavenly greens, you might want to order some seeds from here and plant them post haste. What we call creasy greens are actually upland cress …. watercress’s landlubber cousin. Only more of everything including vitamins and chew. I only have one patch in my garden, so I picked up a bagful at a farm stand en route to our cabin this week.

3 500x332 Creasy greens!  And a wild violet and creasy spring salad.

We ate them pan-seared with eggs and sausage for breakfast. Then, we had enough energy to do some spring cleaning inside and out.

6 500x333 Creasy greens!  And a wild violet and creasy spring salad.

It’s easy to clean when there’s no stuff. And it’s too dark to see into the nether-regions. No electricity = no vacuuming, just a broom and a mop.

5 500x341 Creasy greens!  And a wild violet and creasy spring salad.

4 500x311 Creasy greens!  And a wild violet and creasy spring salad.

And then once back home in Asheville, the creasy’s screamed SALAD!!!

122 500x351 Creasy greens!  And a wild violet and creasy spring salad.

10 500x346 Creasy greens!  And a wild violet and creasy spring salad.

Usually I’m not much of a salad dressing fan, but there’s nothing like a fresh-tasting creasy green and teensy green herb buttermilk salad dressing to top a spring green salad.

9 333x500 Creasy greens!  And a wild violet and creasy spring salad.

Right in front of the salad dressing and buttermilk are several baby elderberry plants which need a home. Who wants them? The variety is either a York or a Nova (not sure which plant they sprung from) and they will bless you with fragrant elderflowers for your summer cordials and cakes and deep blue-black berries that will strengthen your innards. You’ll have a crop next summer. They need lots of room and nothing else. Except you.

Creasy green buttermilk salad dressing with violets
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Ingredients
  1. 1 cup buttermilk
  2. A couple tablespoons sour cream, mayo, or greek yogurt
  3. One clove garlic, smashed
  4. A handful of fresh herbs such as parsley, chives, basil .. whatever is on hand
  5. A stuffed cupful of either creasy greens or watercress
  6. Violets from your yard or mine
  7. Squirt of lemon juice if it needs it
  8. Salt and pepper
Instructions
  1. Add all to blender and whirl. Adjust the salt and pepper to your liking. Drizzle over a fresh spring salad of crunchy bibb lettuce with red cabbage, chopped creasy greens and carrots. Don't junk up this salad!
Log Cabin Cooking http://logcabincooking.com/
 

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I baked you a pi for your birthday, Albert Einstein!

pi day 42 500x354 I baked you a pi for your birthday, Albert Einstein!

It’s 3.14. Pi Day. And Einstein’s birthday. And we’ll be celebrating around here shortly. This is a re-post from 2013, because this year’s pie is still in the mixing bowl, and-anyway, I already used up all my vast physics knowledge last year.  Ya’ll have a great pi day!

OK, I have a basic physics lesson for you that explains quite simply what pi and Einstein and winter squash pie have in common. Since I have successfully avoided most things physics and pretty much all things math during my lifetime, I have consulted with my three scientist offspring about today’s topic. Rita, who studies nursing at  Emory U in Atlanta, says to ask Wes. Annie, who is a medical physicist, says to ask Wes.  And that pi has to do with Einstein’s Field Equation of Relativity which looks like this:

e782a708f8a82b60f25eea21a9862ad0 I baked you a pi for your birthday, Albert Einstein!

Wes is a billion floors down in the atomic, molecular, optical physics lab at Kansas State U. where he shoots electrons with a laser and then makes up stuff about why they land where they land. Evidently he’s busy, so I will just fill in the blanks for you about what Einstein had in mind with his equation, that I’ll call “Rik” for short.

pi day 3 338x500 I baked you a pi for your birthday, Albert Einstein!

When Einstein was about 2, he let go of his ball and became obsessed with why it went down instead of up. Or maybe that was Richard Feynman. Anyway, when Einstein was about 9, he was struck out at a little league game because he was preoccupied with calculating the trajectory of the ball as it traveled toward him through the curve of spacetime. He used pi to calculate the curve. Of course. Well, he got benched after that and he had time to think about electromagnetic fields and linear momentum and stuff like that, and some of these things had something to do with pi. And then, as he was spacing out on the bench, his stomach started growling which reminded him about how a particle of pie would be so nice about now. So as he was walking home to get that piece of pie, he whipped up the geodesic equation which expains how if you drop an electron, it will not go straight down, it will go in the straightest possible line on the curve of spacetime and it will end up in Wes’ lab and he will zap it with a laser as soon as he finishes eating his pumpkin pie.

I think that about covers it, don’t you? Except for calculating the circumference of a 9-inch pie plate. You do that while I tell you about Mrs. Painter’s winter squash/pumpkin pie.

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A Snow Picnic + Brown Butter Cracklin’ Cornbread Crouton Topped Celery Soup

 20 333x500 A Snow Picnic + Brown Butter Cracklin Cornbread Crouton Topped Celery Soup

There’s about a one billionth of a percent chance that Asheville will see another snow event like last week’s anytime soon, but it is February, after all, and anything’s possible in these mountains. Just in case, I want you to be ready for a low-fuss wintery picnic with your adventurous friends next time you get a snow.

21 500x333 A Snow Picnic + Brown Butter Cracklin Cornbread Crouton Topped Celery Soup

Last week, we were happily home-bound due to 10 inches of snow and a very long unplowed driveway …

1 500x312 A Snow Picnic + Brown Butter Cracklin Cornbread Crouton Topped Celery Soup

The snow-topped picnic table was just hollering “PARTY TIME!!!”, so party we did on a sort of a moment’s notice. I found the makins for 2%-milk-of-celery soup, which is a good soup, by the way, for  a thermos picnic because it pours so evenly.

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Goofy St. Nik holiday breads

1 st nik and the guys 500x342  Goofy St. Nik holiday breadsIt’s beatnik Santa bread time. What started out two years ago as a wholesome gathering of friends just celebrating the German tradition of making St. Nicholas Day breads, has turned into an annual holiday doughboy mutiny.

Creating 400x500  Goofy St. Nik holiday breads

While we appreciate the European custom of making Santa-shaped sweet breads that are gifted to children to pay tribute to the good deeds of Bishop Nicholas some 700 years ago, somehow the dough just takes on a life of its own. And the breads end up looking like mermaids, chickens, crazed angels and goofy children … no disrespect intended! They’re supposed to look sort of like this:

5 St nik 500x457  Goofy St. Nik holiday breads

The real st nik 333x500  Goofy St. Nik holiday breads

 But, you see, there are raisins and nuts and seeds that are meant to be used for buttons and such.

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Buttermilk cornbread for stuffing and much to be grateful for this Thanksgiving

Sweater of resourcefulness1 306x500 Buttermilk cornbread for stuffing and much to be grateful for this Thanksgiving

I have a story that is so profound, that I’m afraid it will be diminished by the telling of it. So I’ve been hoarding it. And to be honest, this is nothing new because my career/life’s work was all about being a repository for people’s profound stories. So many tales of suffering, triumph, and resolve invariably ended with the need to make the world a better place for the learning of some malignant and often unjust lesson. I was a family therapist, and those tales are not mine to tell, but as it turns out, I have a little piece of one to share from those who want it told. It’s about being thankful.

antique corn1 472x500 Buttermilk cornbread for stuffing and much to be grateful for this Thanksgiving

It all started with corn. Italian corn. Just a month ago, I returned from visiting our daughter, Annie, who lives in the Italian Alpine town of Aosta. You can read her story here. Anyway, Annie’s obsessed with polenta as much as a human can be. So when I visited her in October, we went on a two week long polenta adventure across the far northern mountains and piemonte region. We called on antique corn experts, met with university academics, chatted with farmers & visited farms, ancient mills, and rural museums. There were Polenta sagre (festivals), a corn-husking party, lots of wine drinking, and accidental driving on blood-curdling half-lane gravel Alpine roads accompanied by screaming and cursing.

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Muscadine merriment + a perky salad for your Thanksgiving table

1 Muscadines2 333x500 Muscadine merriment + a perky salad for your Thanksgiving table

I know it might be too late now for Muscadines since it was a whopping 19 degrees outside our Asheville door this morning. But this celebrated southern native grape keeps well when refrigerated, and as of Monday, growers at the WNC farmer’s market still had some baskets stashed away. If you live around the Asheville area, you really should run over there this very second and grab them …  or be ready for their arrival next fall.  Since Thanksgiving is truly the only American holiday that celebrates our legendary native foods, deep purple Muscadines fit in nicely, bestowing a splash of vibrant healthful bling to the festive table.

21 500x333 Muscadine merriment + a perky salad for your Thanksgiving table

Muscadine grapes grow from West Virginia clear down to Florida, but North Carolina lays claim to the origins of this voluptuously-flavored southern belle. The bronze-skinned Scuppernong variety was discovered/found growing, by colonists in the mid 1500s. The term Muscadine refers to both the black cultivar (my particular favorite) and the greenish/bronze varieties, but most folks call the black ones Muscadines and the greenish bronze ones Scuppernongs. I’m no expert but there are a LOT of people who are, namely these North Carolinians and these.

I sauce the grapes and then water-bath can several versions of the innards. First wash, de-stem, and put them in a non-aluminum pot. This 5 quart pot holds about 5 pounds of grapes. Do NOT add any water. Squish the grapes however it suits you, the guts are green. Notice the matching pot.

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Ready, Set, Go!!! It’s Hart Square Cabin Village Time.

smokin hams1 500x333 Ready, Set, Go!!! Its Hart Square Cabin Village Time.

Grab your bonnet and pony up, it’s almost Hart Square time. If you enjoy visiting historic villages, you will not want to miss a visit to this one on October 26th (2013). Hart square, in little old Hickory, NC is home to the largest collection of historic log structures in the United States. Plus, you can’t even begin to believe the killer regional primitives inside the 70 plus cabins. Read more about Bob Hart’s story below and also in Our State Magazine and my post from last fall.

The 1840 “village” is only open to the public once a year; each building is hosted by costumed docents who are experts on their various crafts from sorghum making to doctoring, to chair making, spinning, cotton ginning, quilting, hearth cooking and so much more. The Catawba Historical Society is selling tickets to individuals beginning October 1, and they go fast. Do not dawdle if you are serious about attending. You’ll find ticket information below. I will be there with an old-timey picnic and my feller, Wayne, who will be appropriately attired to fiddle and frail porch-side with plenty of his talented pals. See you there!!

daniel boone man1 500x333 Ready, Set, Go!!! Its Hart Square Cabin Village Time.

hearth cooking 500x344 Ready, Set, Go!!! Its Hart Square Cabin Village Time.

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A lantern-lit life

cabin porch 500x333 A lantern lit life

Evidently, there are a LOT of folks out there who dream of living a simple, self-sufficient life in a rustic log cabin perched on the side of an Appalachian mountain. Water from the springhouse, a lantern-lit vintage farmhouse, food foraged, farmed, & fished. For some, it’s a longing, and for others it’s a matter of being prepared for an impending cataclysm. While my cookbooks reflect a time in America’s past when we all knew how grow our food, cook it with live fire and make our own soap; my readers aren’t who recently alerted me to this rather desperate yearning that so many have for this self-dependant lifestyle. It was the 223,000 viewers that read my rocket stove post (thanks to several popular homestead/survival groups) in one day a couple of weeks ago that gave me the heads-up.

rocket stove 12 333x500 A lantern lit life

Letters continue to pour in from Africa, India, Egypt, Poland, England, Iran, Mexico and countries I’ve never even heard of with stories of cooking on similar make-do stoves and lives lived in mountain cabins & huts in far-flung lands. This has been so much fun, I can’t help but ponder the whole homestead/survival phenomena and recollect about how I wandered down this mountain road myself, so long ago.

Road to cabin 500x333 A lantern lit life

When I was 21, and still in college in Blacksburg, VA, I moved into this pre-civil war era farmhouse with my then-boyfriend. It was 1976, the back-to-the-land movement was in full swing.

farmhouse blacksburg 500x385 A lantern lit life

Springhouse down the hill, outhouse out back, an ancient wood fired cookstove in the kitchen and one other wood stove to heat (or not heat) the rest of this big old house. No rent, just get up 5am to feed the cows before class in exchange for living here. One morning it was -9 outside and a bucket of water stood frozen next to the woodstove going full-tilt in the living room. But I was in love and didn’t notice. Ok I did notice that I was not ready for the love part, but I was ready to semi-homestead on my own. So, in 1978, I found this 300 acre farm in Pilot, VA, owned by a Va Tech professor (again, the cow-feeding rent-exchange) where I could do some serious growing up. 23 years old and very much alone.

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Wood-fired roasted tomatoes for the winter larder + roasted tomato and fresh corn chowder

 1 Home Comfort Wood Cookstove 264x400 Wood fired roasted tomatoes for the winter larder + roasted tomato and fresh corn chowder

I hope you can grow tomatoes … apparently I cannot. Anymore.

tomato blight 266x400 Wood fired roasted tomatoes for the winter larder + roasted tomato and fresh corn chowder

The blight of every shape and fungal form has come knocking on our moldy door this summer due to record rainfall in Asheville. Serious record rainfall. We are not the air conditioning type, but, sadly, we have become the dehumidifier type. I can’t even talk about it right now. Anyway, I’m super grateful to be able to buy a big box of organic Roma tomatoes from a local farmer who’s smarter than I. So we’re gonna roast them for the winter cupboard or freezer. First, let’s gather our ingredients.

3 Your ingredients 400x266 Wood fired roasted tomatoes for the winter larder + roasted tomato and fresh corn chowder

You’ll need paste tomatoes, fresh herbs, garlic, coarse salt, and olive oil. And a sheet pan and parchment paper, if you have it. Lay whatever fresh herbs you have on hand in as big a layer as possible on the sheet pan. Basil stems and creepy looking leathery late summer leaves are perfect as long as they are green and not brown. Basil, parsley, thyme, rosemary, oregano, etc. are all happy bedfellows with tomatoes and garlic.

4 Bed of fresh herbs 400x266 Wood fired roasted tomatoes for the winter larder + roasted tomato and fresh corn chowder

Cut your tomatoes in half and place them on the herbs, skin side down. Pack them in because they will shrink when you bake them.

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