Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Farmhouse Fall Fashion

So The Farmhouse got all gussied up and looking good for a photo shoot – a shoot to celebrate the glory of fall and how to decorate your home with these luscious colors. Rose hips, orchids, redwood, dogwood, dried hydrangeas, pumpkins and bittersweet all helped bedeck the halls…. Tables, sideboards, and mantels as well! Speaking of decking the halls, Christmas is now being donned and The Farmhouse will be ready for this special time of year shortly.

From this Farmer’s fall photo shoot to your home, I hope it has been a lovely season.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Not your Mum’s Mum

Chrysanthemum x moriflorium ‘Ryan’s Pink’ which also comes in shades and hues of yellow, lavender, and those in between, is a showstopper in the late autumn garden. Garden designer Ryan Gainey has dubbed several of the color ways as his namesakes and they are readily available through reputable growers and nurseries alike. Yet, what is so fascinating to me in the plant kingdom is the constant genetic turnovers that can take place, thus yielding cornucopias of different plants – the Chysanthemum genus of no exception.

From Ryan’s color series to ‘Dr. Rigdon’ and ‘Thanksgiving’ which bloom, well, about the time of Turkey Day, November can be a mass of blossoms and blooms from start to finish. Though kissin’ cousins of your garden variety mum, these daisy-like Chrysanthemums are not trained to be a round bouffant dans le jardin.

The typical mums we see in the fall are pinched and forced to blooms as they are seen but would grow like their powerhouse perennial cousins if allowed. Here is the trick: plant Chrysanthemums in the spring or early summer (or take your leftovers from the fall) in the garden and keep them trimmed back throughout the growing season. About mid to late summer, stop trimming the Chrysanthemums and let them bounce in to boughs of blooms that last well into the depth of autumn and into the holidays.

Husband and wife growers and friends of mine, Chuck and Chris Stewart of Madison, Georgia, have now developed a series of these Chrysanthemums still waiting to be named, yet I suspect they’ll have Tapestry in the name, in honor of their greenhouse operation. These new cultivars and varieties, the latter occurring naturally while the former is a contraction of the two words and bred intentionally, will be introduced to the garden market over the next few growing seasons. Shades of peach, apricot, creamy yellow, delicate orange, and coral pinks abound on these plants, often all hues on the same plant, and make for a delightful splash of fall color in the garden.

Mix these blossoms with fall foliage for bouquets and tablescapes, or cluster jars and bottles full of different shades for an autumnal homage to the kaleidoscope of color this season brings. Plant them with companions such as ‘Rachel Jackson’ aster, rosemary, artemisia, parsley, ornamental grasses and sages. Remember this Farmer’s moxy, plant in spring for a fabulous fall and plant in fall for a splendid spring. Chrysanthemums are of no exception! Fall is the garden’s swan song, and with notes such as these perennials, the season proves to be a glorious tune. From this Farmer’s garden to yours, I hope you too will plant and relish these fabo flowers in your garden.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Apple Tart


So I definitely cheated and took out “peach” and inserted “apple” in this post…that’s how simple and elegant this recipe is…just change out the fruit for the season and voila! Try it with pears too! {see peach tart}


Slightly rustic and simply elegant, this easy dessert is a mainstay in this Farmer’s kitchen!  The complement of basic ingredients with pretty fruit is what makes this dish so elegant.  Peaches in the summer, apples or pears in the fall, pecans in winter, and strawberries in spring, the dough for this tart is quite versatile.

Just shy of true pie crust dough, this tart dough is a perfect blend of the slightly sweet with just enough puff and flake.  North Georgia and North Carolina apples are the piece de resistance for this lovely dessert, and a glaze of apple or pear preserves adds a beautiful sheen to the tart and makes the perfect dollop for serving.

Fresh from the orchard apples are wonderful just about any way you slice them.  For this dessert, I leave the skin on, which helps hold the shape of the apple wedges.  Arranging from a center floret of apple slices and concentrically ringing the dough with the fruit is  beautiful if you roll the dough into a circle.  If you roll your dough into a more rectangular shape, lines of apple slices make for a great presentation as well.

With such wonderful access to autumnal produce, I’m constantly trying different recipes from this season’s bounty.  Apple crisps, cobbler, cakes, and applesauce….so many wonderful things to do with apples…this apple tart being a favorite of mine.  The dough and simplicity of the fruit is so good, and the glaze of preserves or jam dresses up the dish and adds a dose of sweetness to the tart apples if you use a tart selection.  Such a compellation of basic flavors and ingredients is always a winner.

Gather your garden goodness or the freshest fruits from the farmer’s market and make a peach, or plum, or apple or pear tart as homage to the season.  Store this recipe for tart dough in a handy place, for it can be used throughout each season and throughout the year.  From the orchards of North Georgia and North Carolina as well as this Farmer’s kitchen, I hope this apple tart becomes a favorite of yours!

Tart Dough 
2 cups of all purpose flour
½ tsp of salt
1 tbsp of sugar
1 ½ sticks of butter
½ cup of ice water

  • Combine the dry ingredients with your fingers in a large mixing bowl.  If using a food processor, then just pulse to mix.
  • Slice the cold butter into cubes and mix with hand mixer or pulse in food processor until the dough begins to clump into a ball and the butter is pea size or smaller.
  • Pour the ice water into the mixture, slowly, continue mixing simultaneously until ball of dough is formed.
  • On a floured surface, roll the dough into a large “pat” and chill for about an hour.
  • After chilling, roll or spread out the dough into your desired shape…the rustic feel of an imperfect circle or rectangle is what makes the simple elegance of this dessert so pretty.
  • Slice 3-4 apples into wedges and arrange on the dough to suit your own fashion.  Sprinkle with cinnamon, nuts, and sugar, about half a cup of each, depending on the sweetness of the fruit and your own sweet tooth as well.
  • Bake at 350 for about 45 minutes or until the dough is golden brown… Glaze with pear or apple jam or preserves and serve with a dollop of preserves as well.  Whipped cream ain’t bad either!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Mimi’s Apple Butter

Pilgrimages to the mountains this fall by my grandparents have yielded this Farmer with apples aplenty. Pies, cakes, and tarts have abounded this season and finally, after much persistence i.e. nagging and begging on my part, Mimi has made her Apple Butter. 

This delicacy has a longstanding place in my memory of warmth and delight, for Mema, Mimi’s mother, would make this and the smell and taste bring back memories of her. She would fill dough with this apple concoction and bake apple turnovers or fry apple fritters. Mimi has perfected the recipe and we use it on breads, biscuits, poundcake, or simply as dessert itself. I take only a spoonful at a time, yet, still, the jar keeps diminishing in volume. I suppose it is the spoonfuls throughout the day that cause the diminishment.  

This sauce is that good – you’ll find yourself sampling right off the stove and right out of the fridge… hot or cold, warm or cool, Mimi’s Apple Butter will surely become a favorite. With the holidays fast approaching, jar some apple butter to give to your neighbors, friends, and loved ones, that is, if you can bear to share!  

Mimi’s Apple Butter

**Cooks note…use a “mealy” flesh apple such as Staymen’s, Winesap, or McIntosh…the typical red apples at the grocery are usually pretty mealy. Throw in a Pink Lady or a Fuji or even a Granny Smith for a chunkier sauce and flavor texture. The latter apples don’t cook down like the Staymen’s and Winesaps thus leaving some texture to the sauce. Keeping with the mealy fleshed kinds alone will result in a smoother consistency.   

    12 cups of chopped cooking apples
    2 cups of sugar… depends on cook’s palette and sweetness of apples.
    2 Tablespoons of Cinnamon
    2 teaspoons of ground cloves or 8 whole cloves…again, more if desired. 
    2 Tablespoons of apple cider vinegar  
  • Add all the ingredients to a large covered pot or Dutch oven.
  • Stir well with a wooden spoon and cover with lid.
  • Cook on low heat for a couple of hours, stirring occasionally.
  • Remove lid after two hours and “cook down” or until most of the water has evaporated. Stir often and watch carefully for sticking.
  • Once your apples and spices have filled the house with their delicious aroma, you may “put up” your apple Sauce as you would any jam or jelly, following safety guidelines for canning.
  • If you plan to devour your apple sauce as we do, it will keep fresh in the refrigerator for a week… that’s if you can use will power that I don’t have! Enjoy! 

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Persnickety towards Persimmons? Don’t be…they’re Perfect!

Prominent throughout the Deep South and up through Virginia to Connecticut and back down towards Florida and west to Kansas and Texas, the common Persimmon, Diospyros virginiana, makes for a Farmer’s favorite with its growth habit, bark, leaf shape, and fruit color…that fabulous color holding the rank somewhere between terra cotta, salmon, apricot, and orange.

“Don’t you EVER bite into a green persimmon…it will turn your mouth INSIDE OUT!!!” That is what Grandmother, Mimi’s grandmother, my great, great grandmother would exclaim about this fruit. Tart and sour, the unripe persimmons are about as useful as a boar’s teat, but the ripe persimmons are lovely, flavorful, and quite delicious. “They’ve got to be DEAD ripe,” according to the grand dame Mimi herself.

Because of their extreme astringency, the persimmon will most often make you pucker, but once the sour cells within the fruit are “bletted" or partially rotted the fruit becomes much more palpable.  Killed by cold, the astringent cells actually rot somewhat and cause the fruit to take on a sweeter flavor, and, thus, the old adage that persimmons are not ripe until the first frost. There is a whole chemistry lesson here but I shan’t attempt to explain the how’s and why’s – just know persimmons most often become ripe after the first frost.

The persimmon I see most commonly throughout the South is that common persimmon, with ovular to globular shaped fruits clustered on the branches clad in pretty green leaves. Well, maybe more so clustered or scattered on the ground around the base of the tree, for once the fruit is ripe, these little morsels become a buffet free-for-all.  Wildlife may dine on this forest delicacy throughout the fall and you’ll find hogs, deer, squirrels, bear and birds taking part in this feast. Possums will scatter up the tree and gorge themselves on the delicious persimmons, thus why the tree is sometimes referred to as a “Possumwood Tree.”

For those of us who do not scavenge the forest floor for our daily sustenance, the wild persimmon can be a wonderful autumn treat for your table. Of course, your local farmers markets and even grocery stores carry varieties of persimmons this time of year, including the American persimmon’s cousin, the Japanese persimmon.

Since the Far East and the Deep South share similar latitudes and climates, we often can assimilate our native flora and transport plants with ease i.e. azaleas, camellias, and hydrangeas. Each of these has a native species in the South but also grow naturally in parts of Asia. The persimmon is prime example. Another interesting sharing point is art. Persimmons are often depicted in Asian art and styles as decorative motifs for wallpaper, porcelain, and paintings. The Native Americans depicted persimmons in their motifs as well, and fossilized persimmon trees have been found throughout North America. 
With a taste akin to an apricot, persimmons are perfectly paired with pork and chicken dishes. Marmalades, jams, and jellies can be made from the fruit; and dried persimmons are delicious in baked goods and granola. I think these trees and their fruit are just fascinating and worth reading up on (click here). 

While on your fall forays into the forest, gather a few persimmons for a treat. From this Farmer’s natural garden, the woods and fencerows of the Deep South, remember to not be persnickety towards persimmons.

Persimmon Jam
Just imagine this jam on an oven fresh biscuit! Makes 6 jars of jam.

3 cups prepared fruit (pitted and stem removed), about 5-6 average-size Japanese persimmons or about 2 dozen of the much smaller common persimmons
1 cup water
1 package pectin
½ cup lemon juice
6 cups sugar

1 teaspoon of cinnamon
½ teaspoon of grated orange zest

  • Prepare fruit by cutting into small pieces.
    Measure fruit and water and pour into large kettle or pot.
  • Stir in pectin and lemon juice.
  • Bring to a full rolling boil and boil for 30 seconds.
    Add sugar and bring the mixture again to a rolling boil for exactly 4 minutes, by the clock, and be stirring constantly.
  • Remove from heat and pour into sterilized containers.
  • Use as holiday presents or host and hostess gifts or keep it all for yourself! Ha!

Persimmon Marmalade
***Probably the easiest recipe. Quite elegant as well, served with ham, pork, biscuits, or bread.

  • Blend enough persimmons to make a quart of persimmon puree, about 4 cups.
  • Add a cup of sugar and a cup of pure orange juice and a teaspoon of orange zest.
  • Add a can of crushed pineapple and bring to a boil, stirring often and until the mixture is thick.
  • Pour into jars, seal, but do not put into a hot water bath.
  • Lovely gift for any occasion!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Italian Art, Southern Style

“For me, sculpture is not only a passion, a vocation, but a way to approach life, to externalize anguish, passion and hope – that which time gifts to every man.” -Giavonni Balderi
The Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts is a wonderful museum and a must see whenever in the Alabama capital city. Traveling exhibitions frequent the museum and one such exhibition that should not be missed features the sculpture of Giavonni Balderi, the famed Italian sculptor known for his exquisite marble pieces.

When a couple of my dearest friends and clients in Montgomery asked to host Giavonni for a dinner party, this Farmer was more than thrilled when invited to be a part. A menu of Southern classics with autumnal nods, flowers heralding the season, and an all-star guest list of some of Montgomery’s best architectural, theatrical, legal, and design talent were assembled… not to mention the host and hostess – a couple who are fabulous in their own right! What a glorious night!

In the host’s beautiful home on one of Montgomery’s fairest avenues, the color scheme for the party’s flowers was inspired by the brocade, tapestry-esque fabric of the host and hostess chairs. Deep corals, luscious lavenders, salmons and golds all intermingle in a marvelous pattern. Sumatra lilies, orange orchids, pomegranates, artichokes, and rusty backed magnolia leaves along with croton leaf accents filled the table’s center and set the stage for the evening. Bundles of wheat, lotus pods, and “petit chou” or baby cabbages were added to the autumn tableau, thus, forming a riot of color, texture, and perfume - de rigueur for the night.

The table was set with heirloom silver and china and mixed with gorgeous goblets of silver and Murano glass. Monogrammed linens, named place cards, and a menu at each place setting sealed the night’s cordiality with Southern grace. As honored as this Farmer was to be a guest, I still had to get going in the kitchen to provide the party with the evening’s sustenance. With the help of my Montgomery Mama’s as sous chefs, we put together an elegant array of Southern favorites to welcome our new Italian friends and then dressed for the party! What fun!

Braised lamb chops, roasted root vegetables, a West Indies seafood salad, and cheese tray complete with honey and pecans were a few of the highlights. My Apple Tart (recipe coming soon) with pears and roasted pecans and walnuts and vanilla crème fraiche ended the evening on a sweet note. The lively conversation and saluts continued and the dinner party was deemed a success. With the perfect setting, flowers, food, hosts and of course, perfect crowd, a night to celebrate art in Southern fashion was truly a delight. Giavonni’s words capture his work marvelously and I could not agree more; and from this Farmer’s table (or friends table), I wish you the best in your entertaining endeavors whether you’re celebrating art, the season, or just time with friends and family. Salut!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Pimento Cheese - this Farmer’s Style

It hit me hard. A craving for pimento cheese just came out of nowhere and wham! I had to have some. 

The mother of one of my good buddies from my childhood in Hawkinsville made the best pimento cheese… and that’s the recipe I wanted to try. I couldn’t remember exactly how she made it, so I tried to recreate hers. Low and behold, I came out with a version I’m quite proud of. Like any dish, simple but good ingredients make the difference, and with pecans falling, a fall spin on this Southern classic was born.

Toasted pecans make just about anything better…tomato soup, any dessert, salads, and now pimento cheese. That essence, that flavor of goodness from a toasted pecan makes my taste buds sing. A slight salting doesn’t hurt either. A few of these from the farm goodies tucked into my pimento cheese sandwich were quite good my friends, quite good.

Now on to my next pimento cheese condiment…Wickle’s Pickles. Those of us who attended Auburn or are from that neck of the woods know what I’m talking about. These Dadeville, Alabama exports are pickles with a kick and are super right out of jar or on a sandwich or burger. (Try my pimento cheese and these pickles on a burger…wow!) Many of the major grocers are now carrying this brand so go get some as soon as you can! Be sure to try them with my pimento cheese and toasted pecans too…yum!

One may ask as to why I’ve had to offer condiments with my pimento cheese. Well, not everyone in my family likes pecans or pickles in their pimento cheese, so I make a batch plain and then allow folks to amend to their liking. I’ll have any and everything from the aforementioned pecans and pickles to peppers, olives, or onions for my family and friends to use as pimento cheese accoutrements… just depends on the crowd!

Whatever you serve your pimento cheese with or on, one should master the basic recipe. Mine is as basic as they come but good. I also love Sarah Barry’s Spoonful version which isn’t a far cry from mine. Plain Jane Pimento Cheese – maybe – but plain yummo nonetheless.  From this Farmer’s kitchen to yours, get your pimento cheese craving satisfied!

This Farmer’s Pimento Cheese

1 cup of finely shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup of finely shredded sharp Vermont white cheddar cheese
Half to three quarters cup of mayo…depends on how “creamy” you like it
Half a jar of Lindsay’s pimento pieces with some juice
Squirt of lemon juice
Lawry’s Season All to taste…about a dash
Morton’s Nature’s Seasoning to taste…about a dash
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Cracked black pepper to taste
Cracked sea salt to taste

  • Shred the cheeses (this makes a difference too…the already shredded is fine but shredding your own really does make a difference) and combine with seasonings and mayo until blended.
  • Serve with the condiments of your choice, on crackers, or good bread. How easy is that my friends? 

    Monday, November 1, 2010

    Orange Ya Glad it’s Fall?

    Synonymous with autumn is the color orange. Pumpkin, salmon, persimmon, and rust abound throughout the garden and nature. From leaves to blooms to the fruits of the season, autumnal orange hues find favor with this Farmer. All I have to do is peruse around the garden and landscape and gather orange colored blossoms and fruit for an arrangement that celebrates the bounty of the season.

    Planting snapdragons in the fall ensures mountains of this fun flower the following spring for the Deep South. Bronze Liberty Classic snaps are simply stunning, for they start out salmon and then are throated with golden/orangey/terra cotta tints as the blossoms mature. This range of terra cotta to coral punctuates pansy and viola beds and spikes through glossy green parsley mounds for lovely fall color and spring delight. Since I’ve been planting them in the garden, I had a few stems to spare for an arrangement.

    Great Aunt Irene’s orange, gold, and white bowl from the Far East (different family lore places it in different regions of Asia, so the Far East shall suffice) just spoke for itself as the vessel of choice for a festival of flowers, paying homage to a splendid color. The snaps were a must and, thus, a pilgrimage through the garden commenced – the pilgrimage was now a hunt for orange flowers, fruit, and foliage.

    ‘Alabama Sunset’ coleus with its faded coral leaves and chartreuse edging glow with an orangey light and were added to the composition. Nandina berries, slightly copper and a tad rusty, were perfect for a punch. Pyracantha too was added to the fold of orange berries. Millet, picked right from an obliging field, anchored the rear of the arrangement and gave that earthen tone to ground this floral tableau. A few maple leaves tucked in for good measure gave a quintessential autumn element along with some rusty nandina leaflets.

    Pomegranates - ahhh pomegranates – stole the show as the center stage performers in this production. Partial to this fruit as they don my Granade lineage coat of arms, I am a goner for pomegranates. I’ve been growing a dwarf variety in my garden for a few years now, and small, orange tinted fruits filled with ruby red seeds and juice have been coming into season for the past few autumns.  A constellation of these stellar super fruits nestled into a canvas of familiar shades is sure to take center stage in any floral work of art.

    My tribute to orange began to take shape, sending forth glad tidings for this season. Using the coleus leaves and snaps as my base, I then anchored the back with the millet spikes. Using floral picks, I tucked the pomegranates into the oasis block inside the bowls and filled in with the nandina and pyracantha berries. Fanning from the edges and topping this nosegay like a feathered headdress, the maple leaves rounded out the chorus of oranges.

    Take a gander around the garden for a color that inspires you to compose your own honor to a favorite color. This season is a true cornucopia of offerings for arrangements, and I invite you bring these offerings into your home. Orange ya glad its fall? This Farmer surely is!
    Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...