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07/25/2016

~ Peachy Keen Barbecue Sauce for Poultry or Pork ~

IMG_9443Peach cobbler, peach pie, peach melba, peach shortcake, peach ice cream --  peachy keen. A perfectly-ripe peach is the apple of everyones eye.  Announce that you're serving a fresh peach dessert for dinner and everyone shows up on time.  When the peaches on our backyard trees ripen, things in my kitchen move fast for a few days.  It's damn-the-torpedos, full-speed-ahead, all-things-peaches.  They trickle in at first, pile up at the end, and, after picking, I only have, at best, 24-48 hours to get 'em in their juicy, ripe prime.  It's a drippy, sticky, tricky situation.

PICT0696While I like fruit desserts as much as the next person, I like savory fruit sauces just as much, and, peaches lend their sweet and tart flavor to barbecue sauce, which complements poultry or pork, amazingly well.  I make peach preserves every year, so I have them on-hand in my freezer all year long  -- it's a delicious way to make use of an overabundance of peaches in a hurry.  Peach preserves, combined with little bits of sweet onion star in my peachy keen barbecue sauce.

IMG_9360Peach preserves:  The star of my Peachy Keen Barbecue Sauce!

IMG_93871  13-ounce jar peach preserves, preferably homemade, or the best available

1/2  cup very-finely diced yellow or sweet onion

1/2  cup Dijon mustard

1/4  cup honey

2  tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1/4  cup firmly-packed dark brown sugar

1/4  teaspoon ground ginger

1/4  teaspoon ground mace

1/4  teaspoon dry English mustard

1/8  teaspoon ground allspice

1/8  teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8  teaspoon ground cloves

1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/8  teaspoon fine sea salt

1/8-1/4  teaspoon cayenne pepper (Note:  I use a generous 1/4 teaspoon.)

IMG_9381Step 1.  Measure and place all ingredients, as listed, in a 3-quart saucier.  If you don't have a saucier use a 2-3-4-quart saucepan.  

What is a saucier (sauce-ee-ay)?

Sauces are liquids that usually require a good deal of whisking and IMG_9390often reduction.  Whisking is tough if you are trying to maneuver around the corners of a traditional stockpot or chef's pan w/straight deep sides.

In French cooking, a saucier is the title of a chef who devotes his or her career to making sauces.  

The French also came up with a vessel, of the same name, to make whisking easy.  Saucier:  a shallow, wide-bottomed pot with rounded sides.  Reduction is quicker and easier because of the larger surface area, as:  the larger the surface area, the faster the liquid evaporates.  The high-quality saucier I am using is stainless steel with a cooper core and is made by Anolon.  

IMG_9394 IMG_9396 IMG_9400 IMG_9405~Step 2.  Place  saucier over low heat.  Using a large spoon, stir constantly, until  ingredients are thoroughly combined and peach preserves and sugars are melted.  Adjust heat to medium-high to simmer vigorously, whisking constantly to avoid scorching, for exactly 3 minutes.  Sauce will be nicely thickened.  Remove from heat, cover and allow to cool for 1 hour prior to serving warm.

Note:  For a smooth texture, place in a blender or a food processor and blend or process.

IMG_9406~ Step 3.  Transfer cooled sauce to a food storage container, cover and refrigerate indefinitely. Reheat prior to serving by placing the container in the microwave for 1-2 minutes, stopping to stir about every 30 seconds.  This sauce freezes well too, so: feel free to make a double batch and portion it into small containers to have on hand all the time.  Brush sauce onto grilled poultry, pork or vegetables just before removing food from the grill. Serve additional sauce at tableside for dipping or drizzling.

Peachy keen with just enough sweet 'n savory heat:

IMG_9450Peachy Keen Barbecue Sauce for Poultry or Pork:  Recipe yields 2 generous cups.

Special Equipment List:  3-quart saucier w/lid, or a 2-3-4-quart saucepan w/lid; cutting board; chef's knife; large spoon

IMG_9365Cook's Note:  My recipe for ~ Perfect Peach Preserves from the Bread Machine ~ can be found in Categories 8, 9, 20 or 22.  The bread machine does all the work, which leaves my hands free to prep subsequent batches.  They can be refrigerated for several weeks and frozen for several months too.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2016)

07/23/2016

~ Perfect Peach Preserves from the Bread Machine ~

IMG_9365'Tis the season for fresh berries and fruit, and I especially love the fresh fruit and berries Joe grows right here in our backyard.  That said, besides apples, fruit and berries don't have a particularly long shelf life. During the first three weeks of July, I've frozen our sour pie cherries and blueberries in 2-pound bags -- enough to make 20 cherry pies and 10 blueberry pies during the upcoming year.  These two fruits are easy to freeze, and, they freeze really, really well.

Peach freezing is not for me.  The end doesn't justify the means.

PICT0696Peaches can be frozen, but they are quite a bit trickier and messier than cherries and blueberries.  They must be peeled, pitted, halved and/or sliced.  To keep them from discoloring, they need to be packed in a sugar-based syrup or fruit juice.  I did this a few years ago and not only did I not enjoy the lengthy process, I wasn't particularly wowed by the defrosted end result -- not disappointed, just not wowed.  They were fine for spooning on ice cream, stirring into yogurt or processing into a smoothie, but they surely did not produce a superb pie or a galette.  

If this gal going to take the time to peel, pit and slice 2 bushels of peaches, this gal had better end up with a peachy-keen product at the end.

PICT1243Peach preserves proved to be the way for me to go.  I experimented with a few different recipes until I hit on a flavor combination that had my family asking for preserves every morning. I didn't end up with big final batch of them that first year (because of my experiments), but what I did end up with, I put in containers and froze.

PICT1252Freezing peach preserves worked great and it's oh-so-much-easier than canning -- another foodie sport I am not fond of.

I also discovered another time-saving "good thing":   My bread machine has a jam cycle on it. Once the fruit mixture is in the bread pan and placed in the bread machine, all I have to do is turn it on and in about an hour the preserves emerge perfectly cooked.  The bread machine controls the temperature and does all of the stirring for me, which frees up my hands to prep another batch.  

The bread machine method is particularly convenient for fruit, like peaches, that don't ripen at the same rate of speed, meaning:  you can do small batches over a period of a few days.  This is also perfect for those of you who only want to make a few cups of preserves. 

PICT1306 That said, if you are a purist and make a lot of jellies, jams, preserves, marmalades or chutney and conserve, you might want to consider a maslin pot.  This 10 1/2-quart pot is ideal for long, slow methods of food preparation.  It has a heavy bottom and wide, sloping sides which reduce the possibility of scorching and promotes evaporation.  Its heavy loop handle and helper handle make transporting and transferring a large quantity of hot food easy and safe. This pot is fantastic for jams, soups, stews, chili, etc. (about $190.00).

PICT11984-5  cups peeled, pitted and diced peaches

1 1/2  cups sugar

2  tablespoons peach brandy

1  teaspoon almond extract

PICT1223 ~ Step 1. Prep the peaches as directed and place them in a large mixing bowl.  The size you dice your peaches should be determined by how chunky you like your preserves.  I dice my peaches into 1/2" pieces.

PICT1232~ Step 2.  Add the sugar, peach brandy and almond extract to the peaches.  Using a large rubber spatula, stir until the sugar is completely dissolved and the mixture is soupy.

PICT1235 Transfer the mixture to the bread pan of bread machine into which the kneading paddle has first been attached.

PICT1239~ Step 3.  Insert the pan into the bread machine and close the lid. Plug the bread machine in and press the menu button to select the jam cycle.  Press the start button.  

When the cycle is complete, open the lid and carefully remove the pan from the machine, making sure you are using a pot holder or wearing an oven mitt as this is very hot!

PICT1248~ Step 4.  Using a large slotted ladle or spoon, transfer preserves to 2, 2-cup containers, allowing most of the excess juices to drizzle back into the pan. If you are freezing the preserves, leave 1/2" of headspace in each container, for preserves to expand as they freeze.

~ Step 5.  Now that all of the precious fruit has been placed in the two containers, ladle or slowly pour the excess juices into the two containers, again to fill each container to within 1/2"  of the top of each container.  You will most likely have some excess juice leftover, and, how much is 100% determined by how ripe and how juicy, meaning:  how firm or how soft the peaches were. Partially cover the containers with their lids and set aside to cool completely, about 2-3 hours. Cover and refrigerate until preserves are well-chilled before freezing -- overnight is best.

Preserves can be stored in the refrigerator for several weeks.

IMG_9360Preserves can be frozen for several months. 

IMG_9374Perfect Peach Preserves from the Bread Machine:  Recipe yields 3 1/2 cups of preserves.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; paring knife; chef's knife; large rubber spatula; bread machine; large slotted ladle or spoon; 2, 2-cup size freezer-safe containers w/tight fitting lids

PICT1212 Cook's Note:  What is the difference between jelly, jam, preserves and marmalade?  It boils down to the end product.  Jelly is made from fruit juice and is gelatinous.  Jam is made from pulp, pureed or mashed fruit and is more spreadable than jelly.  Preserves are made from diced, chunked or whole fruit and is looser than jam, spoonable rather than spreadable.  Marmalade is usually made from citrus fruit, sometimes contains chards of rind and has a consistency somewhere between jelly and jam!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2016)

07/20/2016

~ Plantation Cake: A Very Southern Vintage Cake ~

IMG_9315I first came across this recipe in a stack of recipe cards held together with a rubber band.  They were in a plastic bag full of newspaper- and magazine-clipped recipes that my late grandmother collected.  I don't recall her making the cake, but, at some point in her life she must have, as she took the time to write it down in her own hand.  It's an unpretentious, yellow cake made of butter or margarine, sugar, flour, eggs, vanilla, home-canned peaches or pears, pecans or walnuts and buttermilk or sour cream.  It sure sounded good to me, and, its name was intriguing enough for me to give it a try.  It worked great and it was easy to make -- I couldn't have been happier.

I alway say, "every recipe has a story or a history", and in the case of this one, it has what I believe to be both.   It's living proof that, if you love to cook, and, even if you don't, if you find or are given a plastic bag full of old, out-dated looking recipes, that someone in your family or someone elses took the time to collect, read each one or pass them along to someone who will.

All recipes matter!

IMG_9323I assumed my grandmother's sister-in-law Yula, who spoke slowly, in a deep voice with a heavy Southern drawl, and hailed from somewhere in North Carolina, gave her the recipe back in the 1940's or 50's, as, Yula died when I was five or six, which was in 1960-1961.  In my mind, Aunt Yula's Southern heritage + peaches, pecans and buttermilk = a Southern recipe -- and that's what I told everyone.  This cake is perfect to take to picnics, potlucks, tailgates, and, funerals too.

It's so easy you don't even need an electric mixer to make it!

IMG_9334This makes perfect sense considering that the family bakers that came just two generations before me, especially in the rural and farm communities prior to World War II, had no electricity, and, they baked in wood- or coal-fired ovens under spartan conditions.  I'd be willing to venture an educated guess that this recipe was originally baked in and served out of a cast iron skillet.

IMG_9244Fast forward to 1999.  I was 44 and came across a recipe for Plantation Cake a second time.  This one was in print on page 54 of James McNair's Cakes cookbook.  This well-known Southern-heritaged cookbook author writes that a friend from New Orleans gave this "venerable favorite" recipe to him.  His friend's version called for adding a can of fruit cocktail (which was popular with the World War II era generation) to the butter-cake batter, and topping the cake with a sweetened condensed milk frosting while the cake is hot.  OMG!  

In true James McNair-style (I have all of his books), he gave the cake "a tropical treatment by combining the best of plantation crops: pineapple, macadamia nuts, vanilla, sugar and coconut."

IMG_9248For the topping:

1  6 1/2-ounce container macadamia nuts, very coarsely chopped

1/2  cup + 2 tablespoons firmly-packed light-brown sugar

1/4  cup salted butter, cut into small pieces, at room temperature (1/2 stick)

For the cake batter:

1  20-ounce can pineapple chunks packed in juice, chunks diced & juice reserved, 2 cups diced fruit & 1 cup fruit juice

3  cups all-purpose unbleached flour

1 1/2  cups granulated sugar

1  tablespoon baking powder

1  teaspoon sea salt

3  large eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten

2  teaspoons butter-rum extract

1  teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the icing:

1  14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk, not evaporated milk

1  generous cup sweetened, flaked coconut

IMG_9255 IMG_9258~ Step 1.  To prepare the topping, in a small bowl, using your fingertips, combine the brown sugar, chopped macadamias and softened butter pieces.  A sticky but grainy and chunky mixture will have formed.  Set aside.

IMG_9250 IMG_9259~ Step 2.  Drain  the pineapple chunks through a mesh strainer that has been placed over a small bowl to reserve the juice.  Cut each chunk of pineapple into 3-4 smaller pieces, adding them to the juice as you work.

IMG_9264 IMG_9268 IMG_9269 IMG_9272~Step 3.  In a 1-cup measuring container, using a fork, lightly beat the eggs.  In a large bowl, stir together the flour, granulated sugar, baking powder and salt.  Add the pineapple and juice, beaten eggs and extracts.  Using a large rubber spatula, stir until a thick cake batter forms.

IMG_9275 IMG_9276~ Step 4.  Transfer batter to a 13" x 9" x 2" baking dish that has been sprayed with no-stick cooking spray and give the dish a few back-and-forth shakes across the countertop to smooth the batter out.  Sprinkle the nut topping evenly over the top.

IMG_9286 IMG_9289 IMG_9290~Step 5.  Bake on center rack of preheated 350 degree oven for 35-40 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean when inserted into the center.  While cake is baking, place the condensed milk in a 2-cup measuring container and set aside.  Place the coconut in a 10" nonstick skillet over medium heat and toast, stirring the coconut constantly, until lightly-browned, about 3-4 minutes -- watch carefully as this can and will burn quickly.  Remove from heat and transfer to a plate to cool.

IMG_9294 IMG_9297 IMG_9302~ Step 6.  Remove cake from oven and place on a wire rack to begin cooling. Place the condensed milk in a 2-cup measuring container and heat in the microwave until hot and bubbly. Drizzle the hot condensed milk over the hot cake and top with the toasted coconut.  Allow cake to cool completely prior to slicing.

Plantation cake going into oven to bake 35-40 minutes:

IMG_9285Three hours later  -- baked, topped, cooled & ready to slice:

IMG_9306Plantation Cake:  A Very Southern Vintage Cake:  Recipe yields 12-16 servings.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; mesh strainer; 1-cup measuring container; fork; large rubber spatula; 13" x 9" x 2" baking dish; 10" nonstick skillet; wire cooling rack; 2-cup measuring container 

IMG_8661Cook's Note: For another great  All-American retro canned-pineapple cake from the World War II generation, try my tropical-twisted recipe for ~ Pineapple Coconut and Rum Upside Down Cake ~.  It too is perfect for all sorts of occasions and you can find it by clicking into Categores 6, 9, 10, 19 or 20.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2016)