Category: SFH Food Talk & Recipes

Comparing Apples to Apple Butter

“Once upon a time, Apples were a premier crop of Rappahannock County. Even before the creation of the county, apples were grown as a staple for families and as a cash crop.”


 

That is how the presentation Apples and Rappahannock County, researched and prepared by the Rappahannock Historical Society, begins its study of the history of  apples in our county.

Serendipity Farmhouse sits proudly at the center of the county’s historic apple growing and processing landmarks. When you look at the pictures in the presentation, many times you will see the very same views we have from our office window. The pictures allow us to look back in time and see that SFH was at the heart of what was a thriving county industry.

Although the county’s economy has changed and the days of the large prosperous orchards are long past, some excellent orchards remain to remind us of what used to be. One thing has not changed, though – an apple from Rappahannock County is apple worth eating. Yes, even those five old, poorly maintained Stayman apple trees here at SFH, when conditions are right, produce apples of unforgettable flavor and enjoyment.

So, in a quest to capture history and good flavor, members of the soon to be famous SFH Test Kitchen (SFH-TK) set out to find some of the fabled, quality apples of Rappahannock. Our research this year pointed us to Roy’s Orchard & Fruit Market , which is literally within walking distance of SFH.

It was a damp rainy day, with Autumn colors subdued by overcast skies. Up the long drive through the orchards we went and eventually found not just a single building selling apples. No Roy’s Orchard is a complex of several buildings with an array of products for sale, ranging from fresh apples and apple products to a large selection of local fruit and honey products.

Knowing that the objective of the SFH-TK was to make a uniquely Rappahannock apple butter, we looked through the apple bins, selecting the very best of each variety. When the selection was completed, we found ourselves holding a half bushel bag containing five different varieties of apples.

Upon returning to SFH, the SFH-TK staff conducted taste testing and evaluation of the primary ingredient for our new preserving effort. Each variety had it’s own signature flavor – sweet, tart, mild, lingering, aromatic, etc. It was an experience akin to partaking in a tasting at one our county’s fine wineries. There were not enough words to describe the flavors.

1115181557c (2)Our job was to combine these many flavors in a single product – G&G’s Apple Butter.* We had to consider each of the individual flavors to determine the proportions and balance of the several varieties. Some of this process was science and some of it was guesswork. In the end, however, the result was pure “serendipity”. This year’s batch of G&G’s Apple Butter was like no other.

The days since the preserving have been highlighted by apple butter on toast, apple butter on English muffins, and if Mr. Monte gets his way, it will be apple butter on ice cream. We can truly say the staff of the SFH-TK is satisfied with their work.

This year, we used an old recipe from our archives. It is no longer available at the Waywardseed.com website, but, through the marvels of the Wayback Machine, you can find the recipe here: Waywardseed.com – Apple Butter Recipe. Please note the important  SFH-TK modifications to the original recipe

Ingredients:

4 pounds apples ///SFH-TK uses 5 pounds///
4 cups sugar (based on sweetness of apples) ///SFH-TK uses 3 cups sugar///
2 teaspoons cinnamon
¼ teaspoon cloves

Directions: Chop apples into small chunks. Add apples and 2 cups of water to pan. Simmer until apples are soft. Press the mixture through a sieve or food mill. ///SFH-TK uses a blender because it’s faster and requires less cleanup///

1105181550a (2)Combine apple mixture and spices in a large sauce pot. Cook slowly until thick enough to round up on a spoon. Ladle into prepared jars and process for 10 minutes in hot water bath. ///SFH-TK processes for 15 minutes///

Yield: 5 pints ///SFH-TK uses 10 half pint jars///

* Note: G&G stands for Granny & Grandad’s

SFH Journal: 2018-11-04 through 07

Highlight 1: Recently, beautiful spouse and I had a painfully disappointing experience. We completely “destroyed” a wonderful piece of beef and some expensive fine, red wine by using a miserable excuse of a recipe that claimed that it would produce a delicious  “boeuf bourguignon”. We had planned to prepare this supposed delight while on our last RV trip. But, due to unforeseen circumstances did not prepare it until a week ago.  (See “Serendipity, we have a problem!”)

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Certified disaster on a plate

I won’t bother you with extraneous detail. Let me merely say that three absolutely essential ingredients were absent from the recipe: butter, bacon, and garlic. Butter starts my day, bacon lifts my spirits, and garlic makes life worth living! That wretched recipe has left me traumatized. (Julia Child would have wept.)

Motivated by pure indignation and outrage, I vowed that, 1104181410 (2)henceforward, butter, bacon, and most importantly garlic would always be available at SFH to add to recipes of this type. To that end, industrious and forward thinking wife planted nearly 20 cloves of garlic in our herb garden.

Highlight 2: I’m tired! I’m very tired. Over the last several days and two exceedingly long nights, I felt compelled to answer the call of civic duty and responsibility. I’ve gone to meetings concerning local issues, and with my dear sweet wife, I went to the polls at o-dark-thirty to vote in the national election. Last evening, we watched the news for hours as the election results rolled in. Here at SFH and at the homes of our children we hold fast to fulfilling our important civic obligation:

“Submission to authority and co-responsibility for the common good make it morally obligatory to pay to taxes, to exercise the right to vote, and to defend one’s country.” CCC 2240

1104181617a (2)Highlight 3: Oh, yes! Exceedingly thoughtful neighbors shared their bounty in oysters. Twenty-two tasty morsels from the Chesapeake Bay made their way to our grill and then to our table on  the 4th. Good neighbors are a blessing from God!

Weather: Alternating rain, sun, clouds. The yard is full of standing water again.

2018-11-04: High/Low – 57º/32º (Details – click here.)

2018-11-05: High/Low – 51º/46º (Details – click here.)

2018-11-06: High/Low – 62º/55º (Details – click here.)

2018-11-07: High/Low – 62º/41º (Details – click here.)

Plantings: Mark the date – November 4th – garlic, wonderful, delightful, versatile, essential garlic was planted.

Harvest: Reporting suspended until the first harvest of 2019.

SFH Journal: 2018-10-14 & 15

Highlight: What did you have for breakfast this morning? I hope it was something good. As for me, my breakfasts are usually pretty routine – cold cereal or oatmeal with coffee and Saturday is reserved for grits with butter and cheese.

This morning was different, however, because last week my beautiful and usually patient wife had an all out argument with four unworthy bananas. There they were, in the house for only a day or two, and already speckled brown and loudly declaring their over-ripeness. Now you have to understand that my wonderful spouse considers a banana virtually without worth very soon after it begins to turn yellow. I don’t know when, where, or how she developed that little taste quirk, but it’s very real. Many speckled bananas have met their untimely demise at her hands.

This time, however, dear wife, after sharing several disparaging thoughts with that worthless “bunch”, had a sudden change of heart. Within an instant, the kitchen shown with the light of mercy and kindness – she had a plan of salvation for those spoiling fruits. Without a moment’s hesitation, all four of them were placed gently into the refrigerator to await a mercy-filled fate.

Yesterday, those four old and completely brown bananas were brought out into the kitchen – they were to become the main ingredient of what was for me the world’s most tasty Banana Pumpkin Bread ever.

Wife’s skillful hands, following a recipe from allrecipes.com, gathered the needed ingredients; made necessary substitutions; and stirred the mixture with loving care. Roughly an hour later, there it was – beautiful to the eyes, filling the house with a most enticing aroma. Ah! The joy of having a wife who brings mercy to offending bananas and gives them a purpose for existence!

What did you have for breakfast this morning? I hope it was something good. As for me, I had a new SFH specialty – Banana Pumpkin bread, slightly warmed, with a bit of butter.

Thank you, dear Wife!

Weather: The cool weather is upon us.

2018-10-14: High – 55º (Details – click here.)

2018-10-15: High – 73º (Details – click here.)

Plantings: Nothing to report

Harvest: The harvest continues to slow, but we had enough okra for dinner last night.

2018-10-14: 10 okra pods and 3 jalapenos

2018-10-15: Nothing to report

The Great SFH Birthday Bash of 2018

Frolicking fun, intense sporting rivalries, plenty of good food, family sharing, and a host of wonderful experiences highlighted the great, stupendous, magnificent, unforgettable Serendipity Farmhouse Birthday Bash of 2018. The only downside of the day was that four grandchildren and one lovable daughter-in-law were unable to attend due to a minor sickness that had visited members of the family.

Before we get to the good stuff, let’s provide a little background and a few statistics. The purpose of the party was to bring the family together to celebrate the birthdays of respected son-in-law #2, honorable son, loving and adorable wife, and growing grandson #2. (Be it known that grandson #2 could have been born on his doting grandmother’s birthday, but, instead, chose to reveal himself to the world one day later. His ranking in the will, however, was not changed due to this nearly unforgivable error.)

Statistics:

Attendees: 13 (including cherished best friend)

Weather:   Temperature: 86º   Humidity: 62º   Precipitation: 0.0 inches

There was some sweat and some red faces, but no major sunburns, heat exhaustion, or other undesirable weather-related complications. And for once, the mosquitoes and gnats decided not to make a picnic of us.

Menu:  Hot dogs, hamburgers, brats, veggies, strawberries, blueberries, several types of salad, cherished friend’s fantastic baked beans, ice tea, assorted cold drinks, etc.

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Dessert:   The best gluten-free cake we have ever tasted, cupcakes, and a huge chocolate cookie cake

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The best gluten-free birthday cake ever. Yes, those are real flowers.

Games: Corn hole, charades, bubble catching, bubble biting, footraces, and assorted kick ball games. (Of course you remember, all attendees studiously avoided playing volley ball or badminton despite the fact that I had done such a perfect job of erecting the net.)

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And what would a birthday bash be without presents for the birthday people. Here’s a sampling of how that went.

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So, as is only right we did what was fitting for our birthday people. We lined them up and then …..

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We took a picture of the Birthday Banditos before handing out the blindfolds … I mean giving them all hugs, kisses, and/or handshakes.

 

 

 

SHF Journal: 2018-08-28

Highlight: Today, our weather history readings are coming from Culpeper, VA with a current “feels like” temperature of 100º. Normally, they come from Luray, VA. The current temperature in Luray is 98º with a feels like of 104º. The temperature and humidity readings are all over the place. The only source we can trust is Mr. Monte. Take a look at today’s feature picture. Notice the placement of the fan and the the cat.

0825181228_HDR_resized.jpgAlso in the midst of all the preparation for the great SFH Birthday Bash, I forgot to tell you that we pickled our first okra of the year. There were too many for three pint jars and not enough for four pint jars. Also, their sizes varied dramatically. The result is not aesthetically pleasing. Hopefully, the taste will be more satisfying.

Weather: Humidity and heat, need I say more?

2018-08-28: (Detailed Summary – click here.)

Plantings: Nothing to report

Harvest: The okra is finally coming in high quantity. We have several juvenile okra plants that are just about to flower. Meanwhile, our lone cherry tomato bush is beginning to wain.

2018-08-27: 12 okra pods, 4 cherry tomatoes

H2S2J2 – Salsa

Last year, we had Kickin’ Salsa, H-bomb Salsa, and H-bomb II Salsa. The names implied that we were experimenting with our home-grown hot peppers to add a little “kick” to the salsa. We cautiously added Jalapenos. Then we had Jalapenos mixed with Salsa peppers. Finally, we threw in a wee bit of Habanero pepper.

The results were good and then better. There were many compliments saying the salsa was just great. But, there were a couple hot pepper aficionados who claimed we hadn’t begun to push the envelope – the salsa is good, but it doesn’t deliver a punch. You know, something to remember … something that sets a standard of comparison.

Now remember, flavor is still more important than heat. We could just dump in a bunch of Habanero peppers and be done with it, but that would not satisfy the flavor criterion. Another point to remember – if it’s really a success, a recipe has to be repeatable, giving the same good results every time.

Having said all that, and knowing that you are aware that we didn’t have a single tomato to work with, we had to come up with an outstanding recipe for the 2018 canning year. Here’s what we did.

First, we swallowed our pride about our great tomato failure of 2018 and went across the street to our local CSA and bought 6.5 pounds of tomato “seconds” – enough to make five pints of salsa with the hope that there might be enough for a sixth pint.

Next, wise and discerning Spouse went to the remains of our beleaguered vegetable garden and harvested the best of our hot peppers. Our idea was to provide a cross-section of three entirely different flavors and heats, hoping that the combination would be complimentary and satisfying.

So, we prepared the peppers and the tomatoes. Then, following our tried and true Salsa recipe, we mixed all the ingredients and brought them to a boil. The difference was, that we added two full Jalapenos (J) at 2,500-8,000 on the Scoville Heat Scale, two full Serranos (S) at 8,000-22,000 Scoville, and two full Habaneros (H) at 150,000-325,000 Scoville. Then we continued with canning as we always do.

The initial taste test told us that we won’t be sending anyone to the hospital, but, in some cases, they may volunteer to go on their own. We certainly found the initial results to be quite satisfactory. However, there is no real telling how well we did until the freshly preserved salsa has a chance to age and mellow in the jar for a while.

In recognition of our ratio of hot peppers to this batch of salsa, we have named it H2S2J2 – Salsa. In a few weeks or so we will fill you in on the first tasting of our new creation in the soon to be famous Serendipity Farmhouse Test Kitchen. – Who knows, after eating our H2S2J2, it might be time to cash in our (corn) chips at the Great Salsa Casino in the Sky.

El Camino Del Monte – Cooking with Gas

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El Camino Del Monte with electric, water, and sewer hookups in place
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Propane Stove Test

By 2:50 PM on the first day of the El Camino Del Monte shakedown cruise, electricity, water, and sewer were all hooked up and functioning normally. Earlier, at the dealership, we had tested out the propane heater and knew that worked. Now it was time to open the propane tank valve and test out the stove. As expected, the stove worked perfectly.

Although there were several more items to test, we felt that it was now time to start preparations for our first meal aboard our home away from home. We had cleared the water lines and knew that water would be needed, not only for cooking, but also for washing dishes. So, we turned on the hot water heater of very recent unhappy experience. (See El Camino Del Monte – Water Works? or Waterworks?) Our RV has both propane and electric hot water heaters, we opted for the electric, knowing that the propane heater was still quite soaked.

CurryOur menu called for an old family standby – S&B Golden Curry with beef on Japanese-style sticky rice. Although the meal is based on a store-bought mix, over the years, we have adapted the meal with our own selection of spices and sides (e.g. cayenne, curry powder, corn chips, dill pickles, and cheddar cheese). Don’t expect to find this combination anywhere in India or Japan. The only place you will find it is at our house or in the homes of our clan.

Now the two master chefs of the soon to be famous Serendipity Farmhouse Test Kitchen had moved to their new mobile facility. The show was now on the road and cooking with gas.

0805181639 (2)Beautiful Spouse did most of the meal prep with the stew beef, onion, and spices. I tackled the technical task of testing out another new piece of technology. Our regular rice cooker is too bulky for use in the RV. So, we purchased a miAroma mini digital rice cooker to save space.

I followed the simple directions closely – add rice, add water, push a button. Minutes Mini Rice Cookerlater we had just enough sticky rice for two adult sized servings of curry rice. The product worked as described. What we didn’t know until we opened the box and pulled out the directions was that the rice cooker could also be used to prepare several other dishes including: cake, soup, pasta, omelettes and more – perfect for RV living.

Now remember, nothing goes perfectly on a shakedown cruise, especially for yours truly. Despite our best planning and preparation, we forgot a key ingredient for our curry. This oversight almost brought tears to my eyes.

Lesson Learned: Never, ever, not now, not ever forget the fresh garlic!