fiesta de la gratitud: san benito

sunday special
notes from maggie's farm


he is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.  --epictetus

A few weeks ago, my husband, Tom approached one of those dreaded 'milestone' birthdays.  I dreaded it not so much for the *0 number that it was, but because there was a dilemma in how we might observe it.  Big party?  Night on the Town?  Biggie Present?  I mean it was the big *0 and everyone remembers how they celebrate those and now I was under pressure to do something fabulous but nothing over the top and with zippo budget for it.  

Now some weeks prior, at a retreat, I enjoyed meeting a church group of women from San Benito, in the Rio Grande Valley, deeeeeeeep down in Texas, close to the border.  Though we struggled to understand one another (and I embarrassed myself trying to speak Spanish), I enjoyed their company, and especially the tamales they so graciously made and shared.  They invited me to come down to the valley sometime, pushed a slip of paper in my hand, and then we went about saying our goodbyes and slipping off.  

As I unpacked the next day, I found the slip of paper.  It was a handwritten invitation that read:  

fiesta de la gratitud
15 de octubre
san benito

What I saw was October 15th.  Which was Tom's *0th birthday.  It was a sign, I thought!  (I see these signs..I'm like I Love Lucy of the Signs.  The stories I could tell you about the signs...)  And a plan was thus hatched, (the details of which will be shared later this week).  The short of the story is....naturally, we were in attendance at the 

fiesta de la gratitud
15 de octubre
san benito
 

And this was the beautiful day they shared with two strangers, united only by a common faith:



It was the best. birthday. surprise. ever.  EVER.  I was pretty darned tickled with myself.  And,  naturally, it inspired a home-cooked, birthday celebratory feast when we arrived, safely, home, the next evening. 

We'll be sharing the details, including the generous basket overflowing with rice and beans that was sent through our church to a local ministry in the Valley, later this week. 

 Meantime......

We'll see you tomorrow.

harvest cocktails: the pumpkin pie

thirsty thursday
notes from maggie's farm

...What moistens the lips, and what brightens thee eye?
What calls back the past like the rich pumpkin pie?
~John Greenleaf Whittier~ "The Pumpkin"

when all the precious little ghosts and goblins are tuckered out and tucked in, the last tricks and treats have been dolled out, and the witching hour is waning, why not a little treat for the big kids for a job well done?  my, oh my, it's time for 




the pumpkin pie.

1 oz amber rum
1 oz pureed pumpkin
2 oz cold milk
1/2 oz coffee liqueur (like kahlua) 

blend well.  add ice for a frozen version, if desired.
substitute apple juice for rum, and a splash of vanilla for kahlua,
if a nonalcoholic version suits your fancy, too.


bottoms up!

sunday supper inspired by chef virginia willis

sunday supper
notes from maggie's farm


Sunday supper is a favorite ritual around our home.  The most peaceful time of the week...the winding down, the mental preparation for the week ahead.  The two of us can be found working together in the kitchen, sometimes sharing a glass of wine, with favorite music in the background, preparing a light meal that celebrates the finest of life.  It's a special time, so rare that we both find ourselves at rest--not working, studying, harvesting, farmering, running errands.  A window of the week so fine it may just catch us dancing in the kitchen between dishes.  No wonder Sunday evening is my favorite time of the week.

Our meal may be inspired by the freshest of what we've harvested over the weekend.  Maybe something we've picked up at the farmers market.  Perhaps it is built around some local artisan meat or new cheese or other goodie we've found.  Today, we're inspired by Chef Virginia Willis, and our visit to this weekend's Texas Book Festival.  Chef Willis was a featured speaker in the Cooking Tent, sponsored by Central Market, and she whipped up a delicious meal.  More than that, she brought a warmth and enthusiasm to the task that made her feel like an old friend, and you an accomplished and capable cook.  We look forward to sharing more about her visit, her newest jewel of a cookbook, Basic to Brilliant, Y'all, and the details of the meal she's inspired--


Baked Camembert and Garlic Toasts with french butter pears and Scallion Marmalade

Mixed Field Greens with fresh herbs, mushroom, pancetta, and pear, dressed with Shallot Vinaigrette


as Virginia would say, 


what is a farm?

saturday special
notes from maggie's farm


what is a farm?

Do I have a treat for you today!  I am so honored to share with you a wonderful guest writer, Staci Ducharme, from Life at Cobble Hill Farm.  As bloggers seem to do, Staci and I connected somehow (was it Facebook?  did I like you?  did you like me?), and she has been a big supporter and encourager of this newbie blogger.  She has a delightful website and I encourage you to explore what she writes on backyard farming and voluntary simplicity.  Today, Staci gracefully tackles the question of what constitutes a farm.  

  
What Constitutes A Farm
by Staci Ducharme, www.LifeAtCobbleHillFarm.blogspot.com

I’ve recently received a couple of emails from people who don’t like the fact that we’ve deemed our backyard farm a “farm”. It’s funny because the word “farm” most often conjures up images of cattle grazing in a large field with a large red and white barn in the background. But in all honesty, the word “farm” can define any number of descriptions of property.

WSDA defines a small farm as one where the farmer or farm family participates in the day-to-day labor and management of the farm, and owns or leases its productive assets.
Merriam-Webster defines a farm as a : a plot of land devoted to the raising of animals and especially domestic livestock.

We are definitely participating in the day-to-day labor and management, we own the assets and our land is, in fact, devoted to the raising of animals. So, we will keep our property defined as a “backyard farm”.

I understand the confusion. There’s confusion about terms in all aspects of life. One day I was having a conversation with 2 acquaintances about voluntary simplicity. Person A was asking me what voluntary simplicity was. I answered that I believe everyone has to define it for themselves as my idea certainly may not be yours, but the general idea is:

Living within our means
Making our money work for us rather than working for money to support our lifestyle
Supporting local farmers, crafters, etc.
Being kind to others and the planet
Consuming less
Doing it ourselves when we can
Making do with what we've got
Being ourselves
Living consciously and savoring moments
Living healthy (food, exercise, relationships)
Making time (prioritization)
Practicing gratitude

I do believe that each person should set their own definition, or at least what each of these means to them.


After I answered, person A commented she is thinking of setting her own goal of striving toward simplicity. This upset person B since person A lives in what is best described as a “mcmansion” and lives an indulgent life, from the perception of others. After person A left, person B exclaimed “phony”. I understood the thought, but, as I explained to her, if she sets her own vision for “simplicity” how can we determine it as phony? It’s not up to us to judge others and their lifestyle choices.

In all honesty, some people could say the same about us. Jay and I are digging our hands into the homesteading lifestyle, however, we don’t intend to, for instance, ever live fully off grid or slaughter our own animals. To some people, you could not define our lifestyle as homesteading.

We still "indulge", as perceived by us - we have the wonderful Miss Sarah, our petsitter, during the week for our boys, we go out for meals from time to time, buy a latte or two at Starbucks, own 2 new vehicles (although we keep them until they stop running), spend money on hobbies we enjoy and go on vacation when we want.

The whole point is to become consciously aware of how you live your life and make choices for yourself and your family. Let's face it, tomorrow is no guarantee so enjoy every moment of today.

I'm enjoying my today, right now, drinking a wonderful cup of hot cocoa as the snow continues to fall all around me on my farm.

Staci lives with her husband and a menagerie of animals full of personality on a backyard farm in upstate New York.  She blogs about her chickens, her kleptomaniac cat Jackson, her bull-headed French Bulldogs, cooking and pursuing a "simpler" life at www.LifeAtCobbleHillFarm.blogspot.com.


Thank you, Staci. 
You are an inspiration as we strive to live a more simple, satisfying life.  

i have a cold.

feverish friday
notes from maggie's farm




yep, I have a cold.


Looks like I caught a cold. I know where I caught it. And he's feeling fit as a fiddle, now. But I am not.
I have his cold.


sneezing.  scratchy throat.  aching body.  fever.
yep, i have a cold.


so I do what I always do when i'm in peril.  i call in the experts.  
i go to the internet.



What to Drink to Help Fight a Cold
Ward off the coughing and sneezing with these immune-boosting beverages


Oct 19, 2011 @ 12:21 PM 
Posted by
Read more: http://www.thedailymeal.com

Coughs, sniffles, sneezes — if not already, chances are the sound of these will soon be playing like an unwanted soundtrack on loop in your everyday life. (Heck, at some point you'll probably join in the chorus.) Yes, the dreaded cold and flu season is upon us. And as much fun as a "sick day" may have sounded when we were little, truth of the matter is, there's nothing enjoyable about a perfect storm of congestion, sore throat, and fever. 
Research tells us that taking in fluids and keeping hydrated is essential when looking to ward off illness. Which begs the question: What exactly should you be drinking to keep a cold at bay (or, at the very least, help you feel better if you do happen to succumb to the symptoms)?
At the first sign of sniffles, most of us probably charge the juice aisle to stock up on value-sized cartons of OJ, or rush over to our favorite local juice bar for an extra-large, fresh-pressed citrus medley. Feeling stuffed up with a scratchy throat? Maybe you've already got a pot of tea brewing, a spoonful of honey at the ready. 
While perhaps the more obvious choices, they're certainly not the only options when it comes to drinks that can help give your immune system a boost.

  

so, i'm going to practice what i preach. i'm going to drink some warm liquids. 


and i'm going to bed.


with a tissue.

buttery mulled cider: a night under shooting stars

thirsty thursday
notes from maggie's farm


cider apples


when God had made the oak trees,
and the beeches and the pines,
and the flowers and the grasses,
and the tendrils of the vines;
he saw that there was wanting
a something in his plan,
and he made the little apples,
the little cider apples,
the sharp, sour cider apples,
to prove his love for man.

--unknown



When autumn finally hits Texas, we get pretty excited about it.  We know that even after the first sweet burst of cool breeze that signals sweater weather, we'll still see days in the 90's, known as indian summer to the rest of you folks, but just a Texas fall to us.  These gorgeous sunny days in the upper 70's makes a person almost forget the torture that was summer.  We celebrate.  A pot of stew or soup or chili or gumbo or chowder ('cause we are a melting pot down here, after all), pumpkins and mums on the porch, the unveiling of our favorite cool season clothes, and a warm mug of cider welcomes the loveliest days, the renewed joy of mother nature that is autumn.  


buttery mulled cider

Tonight, after the fall tomatoes have been covered, we'll be under a blanket of shooting stars on the front porch, with a steamy cup to warm us....

Warm one gallon of apple cider with 1/2 stick of butter (if you're feeling indulgent and buttery..make it the whole stick), 1 tablespoon star anise, 1 tsp whole cloves, a handful of cinnamon sticks, broken into 2-3" pieces, 1 tsp whole allspice, and one whole nutmeg.  (if you've already managed to pick up an autumn scratchy throat, 1 tsp of peppercorns will be welcome.  promise.)  You can keep this simmering on the stovetop, or utilize your slow cooker.  Whole spices keep the flavors bright and clear.  If you sneak a bit of brandy in, we won't tell.


What's the difference between apple cider and apple juice?
Let's go to the experts on that.....
Apple juice and apple cider are both fruit beverages made from apples, but there is a difference between the two. Fresh cider is raw apple juice that has not undergone a filtration process to remove coarse particles of pulp or sediment. It takes about one third of a bushel to make a gallon of cider.
To make fresh cider, apples are washed, cut and ground into a mash that is the consistency of applesauce. Layers of mash are wrapped in cloth, and put into wooded racks. A hydraulic press squeezes the layers, and the juice flows into refrigerated tanks. This juice is bottled as apple cider.
Apple juice is juice that has been filtered to remove solids and pasteurized so that it will stay fresh longer. Vacuum sealing and additional filtering extend the shelf life of the juice.
The flavor of cider depends on the blending of juice from different apple varieties. The term "flavor" refers to the palatability of a distinct apple juice flavor and the aroma that is typical of properly processed apple juice. Cider makers are most particular about concocting a blend that will create the desired flavor and produce the perfect balance between sweetness and tartness.
Cider needs constant refrigeration because it is perishable. It will stay sweet and unfermented for up to two weeks. (note from maggie: fermented cider is what is known as hard cider) Cider can also be frozen, but be sure to pour off an inch or two from the container for expansion during freezing.
A Nutritious Alternative: Although a glass of cider a day cannot guarantee good health, the sweet juice is a good source of potassium and iron. Apple cider is pure and natural with no sugar added. A 6 ounce glass has only 87 calories. Apple cider, like other juices, fruits and vegetables contains no cholesterol. Pectin, contained in apple cider, has been shown to keep serum cholesterol levels down.  courtesy of www.mass.gov

Join us tomorrow on notes from maggie's farm for smoky cider stewed beans with spanish chorizo, and a 
Festival of Gratitude.

And don't miss the stars tonight!

roasted fingerling potatoes with crisped capers in lemon chive creme fraiche

meatless monday
notes from maggie's farm

"I have made a lot of mistakes falling in love, and regretted most of them, but never the potatoes that went with them."
Nora Ephron, ‘Heartburn’

When my mother's family gathered around the dinner table, you could always count on two things.  There would be lots of girls— we women ruled the table.  And that table would include at least one potato dish.  At least one, and sometimes more.  But no special occasion would be celebrated without the hallowed mashed potato, buttered profusely, and accompanied by a bowl of sliced green onions.  Because we 'spud sisters', so self-named and proudly proclaimed, demanded potatoes.  REAL potatoes.  It wasn't until I was grown and out of the house that I even knew of or tasted instant potatoes. (It was a most unfortunate event.)      

So it will come as no surprise that I adore potatoes.  In fact, if life batters me a bit, the antidote is potatoes.  Most often that would be the coup de comfort: mashed potatoes, buttered, topped with green onions.  Which leads to a personal pharmaceutical theory--Potatoes: The Prozac of Produce. 
Realizing that one perhaps shouldn't live on mashed potatoes alone, I am willing to explore potatoes served-otherwise-than-mashed.  And in my explorations, this little version has become a most-requested dish.    
Fingerlings are personal favorites.  I love the crispy peel to potato ratio, and the concentrated earthy potato punch.  Roasting seems to elicit a slight sweetness and particularly complements them.  
Mashed, smashed, chunked or whole—the choice is yours—but anyway you slice them, pass the potatoes please.

roasted fingerling potatoes with crisped capers in lemon chive creme fraiche

Drizzle 2 lbs whole fingerlings with olive oil and season with fleur de sel and coarsely ground black pepper.  Roast at 375 degrees about 45 minutes, or until tender peels are crisped, and interior is fork-tender.  Meanwhile, prepare 1-2 T capers by draining well and pan toasting in ½ tsp olive oil, over medium to high heat until slightly crisped.  Drain on paper toweling.  

To 8 oz. crème fraiche (see note) fold in the zest of one large lemon, ¼ t fleur de sel, and 1T chopped fresh chives.  Thin, if necessary (you'll want the consistency to be a bit thinner than that of sour cream), with no more than 1t. fresh lemon juice.  Set aside.  Transfer roasted potatoes to a bowl, smash lightly, top with crème fraiche, and sprinkle capers atop.  Correct seasonings. 

Notes:
This can also be served cold.  Smash potatoes and allow to come to room temperature.  Fold in crème fraiche and capers.  Refrigerate to chill.

If unprocessed crème fraiche is not readily available, you can easily approximate with homemade crème fraiche,  which we will tackle tomorrow, on

Tips for Tuesday:  Making Homemade Crème Fraiche.


saturday night special--7, um 10, um, 12 things, and the versatile blogger award

saturday night special
notes from maggie's farm


The neatest thing happened!  I got this cool little award passed on to me from on of my favorite bloggers and jam makers, Lindsay of uncanny preserves and 100 Mile Locavores.  She's a powerhouse.  You're going to love her.  It's kind of a chain-of-admiration thing, where you link back to the one who granted it upon you, share some things about yourself that are likely unknown, share some blogs you follow, and then pass it on to another deserving blogger.  I'm so flattered to have been your awardee, Lindsay.

Lindsay  was one of our first readers and has always been such an encouragement.  I recently received my recent order of uncanny preserves jame from her (from Canada, which nearly threw a cog in our rural post office the likes of which hasn't been seen since they converted to gas-powered delivery), and I could, and should go on and on about this magic-in-a-jar, I'm waiting for another post.  Because it's just that good,friends.  You're going to hear about this again.

So I've been having trouble with the whole ten things you may not know about me thing.  I had a few-- I have a degree in education from Louisisana State University, I have a fabulous twin brother--Tom Perkins, IV, I'm a student at St Edward's University in Austin and I have no idea what degree program I'm in,  In all of my wildest dreams, farmer never showed up..... but my sweet fella pointed out that those are the knowns.  I'm supposed to come up with unknowns.  So, I pawned the job over on him, since he knows so darned much.  Well, he does.  He knows a lot about a lot.  And he knows a lot about me.  So, I turn over the podium to that yankee farmer, Tom.
1.  The best things that have happened in your life started with a prayer.
See how he is?  He knows a lot.  And it's true, and the best place to start.  Anything I've accomplished in this life had prayer as number one on the 'to-do' list.  See picture above.  Also, see yankee farmer, Tom.  And for further proof, if you're reading this, you are my answered prayer, too. Thank you.
2.  You are shy around strangers.
Shut up!  Scrape yourself off the floor, stop laughing, wipe those tears.  No, really.  It's true.  You don't know this because YOU AREN'T A STRANGER anymore.  My dad shares that he is the same way.  You'd never know it because we're both such hams, but that's our overcompensation--fake it till you make it.  Then, there's really no shutting us up.  But you know that.
3.  You love the Spurs.
Not the things on boots, (although they are very cool and jangly and who doesn't love something shiny and jangly on the back on one's heel?), the basketball team. I worried about this one because I didn't want to take anything away from my revered LSU Tigers (!) But Tom points out that most people know about this reverence already, since I rarely shut up about it.  He didn't say that last part, but we know it's true. In spades.  So...the Spurs:  It's true. I do.  I think they're the classiest guys with the (basket)ball.  And I love saying Manu Ginobili. 
4.  Hates frogs.
Yes.  HATE frogs.  Two reasons:  Unpredictable movements (you never know when you'll be looking at one, and then find it's jumped it's wet sliminess on top of your foot), and WARTS.  'Nuff said.
5.  Your favorite television show is 48 hours.
Yep.  Hands down.  Mess with the program and you've messed with my weekend.  Reruns?  I watch them, too.  Until I know the script better than correspondents Erin Moriarty, Troy Roberts, Susan Spencer, Peter Van Sant, Richard Schlesinger and Maureen Maher.  Yes, I did that by memory. Close second?  Project Runway.  Even though I can't get to my sewing machine for all the canned pickles and preserves stacked in front of it, it reminds me that I COULD sew.  Plus the drama!  And Tim Gunn.  I love you, Tim Gunn.  Tom knows.  
6.  You can play mahjong for hours and refuses to lose
Yeah, this is how I unwind.   For like four hours straight.  We will soon be going TV-less, (oh don't think I haven't made arrangements for the two, above) so make that 6 hours straight.  And if I come to the end of the game without solving?  I delete all the moves and start over.  And over.  And over.  Yep, refuse to lose.  Probably not Tom's favorite quality of mine.
7. You love water slides
Weeeeeeeeee!  How come water parks are so darned expensive?  And are so crowded with kids?  Best. way. ever. of making you feel 8 years old again.
8.  Your typical Saturday evening-- stargazing and good (?) music.
I remember the days of yore when I was dressing to go out the same time I'm now dressing to stay in.  After 48 hours, natch, I take a bath, slip into sweats, meet my guy on the front porch, soak up the stars and the tunes.  I call it ritual, which makes it seem more glamorous than routine.  We usually know all the words to our nearest rural oldies station's playlist.  Whoa whoa whoa it's magic.....
9. You have the most beautiful eyes Tom has ever seen. 
Stop it.  You're making me blush..  Replace that one with you have an awesome husband. 10. Although preparing a blog post is a lot of work. You are smiling the entire time and don't even realize it.      
That's probably because I just one a game of mahjong.  Or that I'm laughing at my own jokes.  Pathetic?  yes.  Still funny?  yes.    
11. Your husband is so proud of you and loves you so much..... I think he is about to burst.                
You snuck that one in there.  You're the best. 
I'ma have to add another one:
12.  Can't read directions. 
Because, according to Lindsay's blog, I was supposed to share 7 things, and here I've gone and listed 12 things.  Like Josh, on Project Runway, editing is not my strong suit.  Can you please point me to the next meeting of Oversharers Anonymous?  Thank you.  And by the way.  Joshua?  You get on my last nerve.  And my mother has the same silk flower you wore on your lapel tonight.  Sorry.  I said it. 
Now, the fun part.  I get to share some blogs with you!  First, I'd like to share the blogs of my fellow peers in my best. class. ever, Entertainment Journalism, taught by the clever, smart, and uber social Michael Barnes, entertainment columnist for Austin American Statesman and author of entertainment blog Out and About. Check out these sharp, and cool, students.  They help me see things with fresh eyes.

I know they're going to have some neat things to share.

The second part of this project is a a two-parter for me. I'm compiling a blog roll for this page, and I'd love your input. What are you favorite blogs? Which inspire you? Which inform you? Which make you go hmmmm, or ahhhhhh, or oooooooh, or what?? Is it your own? GREAT! Show your stuff. 

I'll be choosing ten to display, and to share this neat blog award with. If you have problems with the comment or email functions below (which I think have been cleared up, but who knows) please feel free to shoot us an email at frommaggiesfarm@gmail.com, or join the discussion on our facebook page, from maggie's farm. I've got a few in mind, already.  Can't wait to see what you've found!

supper salads: dressed for success, and unprocessed.

freestyle fridays
notes from maggie's farm


dressed for success

As you might imagine, we eat a lot of salads on the farm.  A lot of salads.  Due to the generosity of mother nature, there is salad for every season growing just outside the back door.  And no bottled dressing will ever grace our greens.
We don't need a melting pot in this country, folks. We need a salad bowl. In a salad bowl, you put in the different things. You want the vegetables - the lettuce, the cucumbers, the onions, the green peppers - to maintain their identity. You appreciate differences. Jane Elliot
October Unprocessed 2011
Why?  Well, because they aren't very good.  They just don't taste good to us.  If I've purchased one, I've purchased, and tossed, hundreds.  Yeah, no, not even the ubiquitious ranch (of which I've tried every one on the shelf. e.v.e.r.y. one. my friends.).  Is that un-American?  Am I branding myself here?  Are you thinking...hmph.  Nothing more than a salad snob.    Well, lemme share some of our favorite 'little black dresses' for our supper salads, and I think you'll agree that they are just too easy, too healthy, too economical to bother with buying the gallon bottle of Hidden-You-Know-Where again.  


raspberry walnut vinaigrette on spinach arugula salad with bacon, blue cheese, and more.


4 tablespoons raspberry vinegar
1 tsp honey
1tsp dijon mustard

6 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons walnut oil
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 tsp poppy seeds (optional)

Combine first three ingredients in blender and mix well.  As blender motor runs, slowly drizzle in oil in a thin stream until all is combined.  Correct seasoning. Serve over lettuce blend of baby spinach and arugula, crumbled blue cheese, whole fresh raspberries, slivers of red onion, blanched green peas, and nitrate/nitrite-free peppered artisan bacon.
To make a good salad is to be a brilliant diplomat--the problem is entirely the same in both cases.  To know exactly how much oil one must put with one's vinegar. Oscar Wilde
french potato and bean salad with olive and tomato, dressed with blue cheese aioli
aioli, from tips for tuesdays' post, this week. (see notes, below) 
steamed fingerling potatoes, whole
fresh, trimmed green beans, steamed until tender crisp
sliced black olives (great with oil-cured kalamata or nicoise olives)
whole cherry tomatoes
(additional options include cornichons, sliced radish, chopped celery, capers, or anything else you crave!)
This salad is inspired by my 'special mom',  Jerre Perkins (you might remember her from our Mother's Day post, and a fabulous potato salad she served for this year's Father Day dinner.  We've made the aioli by adding a clove of garlic to the bowl with the egg, and folding in a handful of minced parsley and crumbled blue cheese, to taste (or not, if you're not a fan) to the processor at the end when making homemade mayonnaise.  Correct the seasonings.  Toss with vegetables, serve warm, or chilled, if preferred.
Salad freshens without enfeebling and fortifies without irritating.  Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin
sensation salad 
juice of 3 small or 2 large lemons
1T white wine vinegar
1 small clove of garlic
1 cup of grated parmesan, asiago, romano, or pecorino cheese
1 T blue cheese (again, you say?)
1/4 c parsley
1c neutral-flavored oil
fleur de sel, and freshly ground pepper to taste
1t anchovy paste (optional)

Combine first 6 ingredients and processed until well minced.  As processor is running, drizzle in oil until all is combined.  Taste and correct seasoning.  (If anchovy paste is used, add it with the first 6 ingredients.) Best when refrigerated overnight to develop flavors.  Dress greens with some firmness--here we've used a favorite, butter lettuce, but combined with romaine for body.  Sliced radishes, cherry tomatoes, slivers of red onion make a simple salad that stands up admirably to the deliciously assertive flavors of this cheesy, garlicky dressing, a favorite in creole cuisine, where it often simply serves to dress a bowl of iceberg lettuce and a crouton or two.  We gussied it up a bit for its internet debut.  Try dressing cooked veggies, or dipping crusty french bread-- oh, who am I kidding, get out a spoon and eat it straight from the processor--I can eat my weight in this stuff.  Seriously.  It's fabulous.  Thank you, Louisiana.


"There was an Old Person of Fife,
Who was greatly disgusted with life;
They sang him a ballad,
       and fed him on salad,
Which cured that Old Person of Fife."

Edward Lear


Indeed.

the ark of taste, unprocessed-- apple cranberry shrub

thirsty thursday
notes from maggie's farm



I know you're thinking it.  What the he(ck) is a shrub?  She's drinking shrubs?  "Gladys, she's gone and ground up a bush and now she's saying it's a drink.  Must be farm fever getting to her, poor woman."  I couldn't blame you.  If you'd offered me a shrub a year ago, I'd have been a little confused, too  (although our landscaping needs are epic--I'd have said yes to whatever) After joining ranks with Slow Food USA, and the local Slow Food Austin,  I learned more about this endangered pre-industrial popular refreshment from the 18th century:

According to Slow Food USA Ark of Taste,

image courtesy of slowfoodusa.org
"Shrub is a colonial-day drink whose name is derived from the Arabic word sharab, to drink.  It is a concentrated syrup made from fruit, vinegar, and sugar that is traditionally mixed with water to create a refreshing drink that is simultaneously tart and sweet.  In the nineteenth-century, the drink was often spiked brandy or rum.
Ubiquitous in colonial times, the use of shrubs as a flavoring for tonic and sodas subsided with increasing industrial production of foods.  The entire shrub market was practically ceased until the Tait family in Pennsylvania revived the drink.  In addition to being available for commercial sale by the Tait’s, shrub is also served at establishments that stress historical connections to colonial times, like Williamsburg, VA, and City Tavern in Philadelphia."

Endangered?!??  Oh, my.  

We set out to reproduce this little taste of yesteryear ourselves.  Found lots of recipes which called for the fruit to macerate in sugar, however we wanted to keep it real, and there were no recipes without the processed sugar stuff.  So we did what we do around here, we pulled out our lab coat, and attendant lab rat (the husband) and got to work.  And we LOVE what became of our experimentation.  


apple cranberry shrub

In a non-reactive saucepan, combine 2 apples, chopped, core, peel and all, and 1 cup cranberries, chopped,  with 1 cup apple cider vinegar, 3/4c honey, and 1/2 cup water  Bring to a boil and reduce heat, allowing to simmer, uncovered, for 45 minutes.  Let cool to room temperature. Transfer to an airtight jar and seal.  Allow fruit to steep, refrigerated, for 3 days to a week.  

To serve, strain fruit, and combine at a ration of 1 part shrub syrup to 3-4 parts sparkling water.  Sweeten to taste with honey, if desired.

If you're a fan of kombucha, as we are, you'll love this effervescent cousin.  And if you were to, say, want to dress it up for cocktails, no harm in adding a little gin to it, perhaps in place of the sparkling water.  Champagne makes it a lovely, lively brunch punch.  And by all means, experiment with the fruits in season in your area (I know we will); we'll be playing with pomegranate and thyme next. Yeah, herbs, too. There's no end to the madness!

 We'll keep you posted, thirsty friends!




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