mother wants fruitcake

I love my mother (the holy mothertude) but she is not so subtle sometimes when she does things like saying the other day:

Oh we took the last of your fruit cake out of the freezer from last year. We just love it so much.”

(She totally cracks me up with this so, bum knee and all, I knew I was indeed making fruitcake this year.)

And then my lovely stepfather said something similar in his very adorable, very British way.

So I called my mother back today and said “I decided I will be making fruitcake this year.”

The mothertude replies “I really wasn’t trying to get you to make it.

Now you know you can’t ignore mother requests at Christmas, right? So…I made two today and will make two tomorrow so I don’t have any of that candied fruit to store. Because face it, what else do you use it for except fruitcake?

I make white fruitcake. I saw somewhere once and then couldn’t find it again, where it was referred to as “grooms cake”. It’s made with good brandy or whiskey and it actually tastes good.

Normally I like to make my fruitcake more ahead of schedule than I am now, but it will still taste good.

The basis for my fruitcake recipe can be found in a 1959 edition of the Better Homes & Gardens Holiday Cookbook. But I have adjusted the recipe over the years based on personal tastes and recipe research and tweaked it a little.

This year I changed it again and I went back to only using almonds. And I didn’t use figs, I used chopped dates and golden raisins. I might change the second batch up a little, I will decide tomorrow.

I actually wrote about this a few years ago. (Follow this LINK to yes really…fruitcake.)

I will tell you I had blocked out what a mess your kitchen becomes making fruitcake.

Below is a photo of them going into the oven. I just took them out and they smell GOOOD! Try a white fruitcake…I promise you will like it!

Fa la la la la

more thanksgiving prep: laying it all out

Thanksgiving in our house is going to be smaller and much simpler than years past. I didn’t get to all the little ceramic turkeys to put on the table this year so the table just has the simple candlesticks and some greens in a vase. I still think it’ll look pretty.

My order arrived today from Harman’s Cheese in New Hampshire. I love my imported cheese, but for Thanksgiving especially it’s American made cheeses. Tomorrow for nibbles before our little feast, I will put out Harman’s cheddar with crackers with a Balsamic Onion Jam. The rest of the cheese will take us through the holiday season and well into the winter.

The table is mostly vintage. Pewter napkin rings I got years ago. No one likes pewter much anymore so I literally picked these up super inexpensively.

The napkins came from The Smithfield Barn. They are of a newer vintage from Ralph Lauren.

The plates are Steubenville Adam Antique from the 1930s. I bought them for our first Thanksgiving in this house. They came from Frazer Antiques. I remember they were on sale. I have looked for years since at these plates here and there, and never been able to even come close to the deal I got that day.

The placemats are vintage Pimpernal. They belonged to one of my dearest friend’s mothers.

We are having a simple menu. Yams, green salad with a simple vinaigrette, stuffing done outside the bird, homemade cranberry sauce, and the turkey. The turkey is from Loag’s Corner Turkey Farm in Elverson and was delivered by Doorstep Dairy. Doorstep Dairy is our milk delivery service and more. We have been a customer for a few years. They are terrific!

If you are local, Loag’s turkeys can also be purchased through local butcher shops like Worrell’s Butcher Shop in Malvern Borough. We also are big fans of Worrell’s!

I didn’t mention dessert. That I am actually not baking. Someone gave us a cheesecake. Not our normal Thanksgiving dessert, but my husband loves cheesecake!

My last piece of the puzzle is a vintage turkey platter. Also from the Smithfield Barn a few years ago. American made, true vintage, and I love it.

Holidays are about traditions. Thanksgiving is about the classics: turkey, friends, family.

Here is a poem from Ella Wheeler Wilcox:

Thanksgiving

We walk on starry fields of white
   And do not see the daisies;
For blessings common in our sight
   We rarely offer praises.
We sigh for some supreme delight
   To crown our lives with splendor,
And quite ignore our daily store
   Of pleasures sweet and tender.

Our cares are bold and push their way
   Upon our thought and feeling.
They hand about us all the day,
   Our time from pleasure stealing.
So unobtrusive many a joy
   We pass by and forget it,
But worry strives to own our lives,
   And conquers if we let it.

There’s not a day in all the year
   But holds some hidden pleasure,
And looking back, joys oft appear
   To brim the past’s wide measure.
But blessings are like friends, I hold,
   Who love and labor near us.
We ought to raise our notes of praise
   While living hearts can hear us.

Full many a blessing wears the guise
   Of worry or of trouble;
Far-seeing is the soul, and wise,
   Who knows the mask is double.
But he who has the faith and strength
   To thank his God for sorrow
Has found a joy without alloy
   To gladden every morrow.

We ought to make the moments notes
   Of happy, glad Thanksgiving;
The hours and days a silent phrase
   Of music we are living.
And so the theme should swell and grow
   As weeks and months pass o’er us,
And rise sublime at this good time,
   A grand Thanksgiving chorus.

I don’t know if I will write again between now and Thursday, so Happy Thanksgiving!

thanksgiving prep: cranberry sauce

First of all a shout out to Great Jones cookware! I am a really happy customer and bought three of their pots/pans. The one above is called “Saucy“. this is the pot I chose to make my cranberry sauce in this year. I will also note that I am not a compensated blogger, I am just telling you about certain things because I use them, buy them, like them.

Thanksgiving is going to be a little more simple for us because I am waiting on another knee surgery so I am limited in what I can do and should do. So today I made the cranberry sauce and Wednesday I will make the stuffing and the sweet potatoes and then all we will have to do is heat those up. (Yes,I am not doing the stuffing in the bird for the first time ever.)

Cranberry sauce is not hard to make. And basically it’s one bag of fresh cranberries, one cup of sugar, 2 cups of liquid. Today I used orange juice, and I forgot to add the orange zest although I had an orange waiting in the refrigerator. I also added cinnamon and ground mace to taste.

I brought the mixture to a gentle boil on low heat with a lid on the pot. If you don’t have a lid on your pot or a splatter screen your cranberry sauce will end up all over your stove!  I will note that I did have a little lift to the edge of the pot so steam was able to escape. I have these little silicone things called lid rests which are made for this.

I did stir occasionally as the berries were cooking so nothing stuck to the pan.

When my mixture was brought to a boil I used my potato masher to mush the cranberries. I then added two little packets of Knox unflavored gelatin, and stirred and stirred until dissolved and incorporated into the sauce. I like my cranberry sauce to be a little bit jellied so that’s why I do this. However, I am not a fan of canned cranberry sauce.

I put my cranberry sauce into three jars, and when it cools I will tighten the lids and refrigerate. I do not do a canning water bath on these– I just cook and jar and refrigerate.

These three jars will take me through the holiday season. Thanks for stopping by!



inspirational

San Juan Islands: Food for the Soul // REI Adventures & Tastemade // ( captions & subtitles) from KGB Productions on Vimeo.

I was watching the Today Show while getting dressed this morning and caught this piece on this woman who chucked a Wall Street career to essentially dig in the dirt. Her name is Audra Lawlor.  She lives on Orcas Island in the San Juan Islands of Washington State.

Every morning now I hear the beep-beep-beep of construction equipment as yet more developments are given birth to in Chester County. I found this woman’s story inspirational because this is about people saving the land, growing on their land, and getting their hands dirty from digging in the dirt.

We need more of that here. CLICK HERE TO SEE HARRY SMITH INTERVIEW AUDRA LAWLOR ON TODAY. This is inspirational.

dirt 3

Read more about Audra and her company in Saveur (excerpt below):

Saveur TRAVEL
This Orcas Island Jam Company Transforms Local Plums into Vibrant Seasonal Preserves
Girl Meets Dirt is on a mission to save the island’s legacy fruit trees and jar their bounty

By Beth Graham
June 12, 2019

If you’re driving the winding roads of Orcas Island in late summer, you can smell the ripening fruit all around. On one such morning last year, I stopped the car at my destination and met Audra Lawlor, owner of Girl Meets Dirt, who was surveying one orchard’s recent Italian plum harvest in tall rubber boots and a denim shirt. As we walked among the rows of trees with their full canopies spilling over onto the trail, Audra picked up a fallen plum from the ground and turned it over in her hand between us. “Before I got here, most of the fruit from these trees would have rotted on the ground,” she says. Lawlor and her team of five mighty women at Girl Meets Dirt harvested more than 2,500 pounds of Italian plums alone last season.

Some people leave their corporate jobs to rescue animals. Audra left Wall Street to rescue pink pearl apples and Orcas pears. Today, many of the island’s residents see her as the steward of the legacy fruit trees on the island, a 57-square-mile piece of the San Juan Islands, an archipelago that lies in the waters between Seattle and Vancouver, just barely on the U.S. side of the border….By the end of the 19th century, many inhabitants had made their way over to work the plum orchards and operate the prune dryers (barnlike structures where the fruit was set to shrivel up), and the economy was surging. The success allowed the building of docks for steamships, as well as a boon for jobs sorting, grading, and packing fruit for transport. It also led to an island that became far more orchard than anything else. The country lane that runs through the center of Orcas Island’s main village is still named Prune Alley.

Many of the legacy fruit trees—entire orchards of them—fell into disrepair during a period of economic downturn around 1915. It was in part due to the rise of railroads, improved irrigation, and heavy planting in nearby eastern Washington, which became a fierce competitor. Islanders began to ignore the fallen fruit, and tree limbs weakened with overgrowth. Thousands of trees were left to die, and the plum industry collapsed. It wasn’t until decades later, when the island began attracting new residents—those who sought out the area for its bucolic landscape—that the trees gained new stewards. Today, Lawlor and her company are working with fellow islanders to revive and utilize those trees that remain.

dirt 2

don’t gild the chili lily

Loved the West Chester Chili Cook Off. I won tickets from County Lines Magazine.

It was a beautiful day and it was a very pleasant crowd. Lots of kids with really amazing face painting from the kids’ activity corner….and although everywhere it said “no pets” there were….pets. Not that I minded because as a dog lover I saw some really beautiful and happy pooches.

About four of the chilis were outstanding, but a lot of the others just weren’t. Some for example, were just sweet. As in sweeter than a sloppy Joe sweet. And one chili would have been amazing if they left out the chocolate.

I cast my votes for three chilis I really liked. I don’t know who won. But as someone who cooks and who has been guilty of adding one ingredient too many to a recipe, I think with chili while you can get creative, you have to stay traditional.

Another ingredient too many in one chili today was kielbasa. The nicest people made it, but I had to throw it out – kielbasa is just the wrong flavor profile.

This was my first time attending this event and I will attend again! A super nice day!

pickling and canning and preserving or…what to do with green tomatoes.

I realized the other day that I had a lot of green tomatoes. My inner gardener knows they aren’t going to ripen in time. So this morning I harvested them.

I washed all of the green tomatoes and also harvested what was left of my chili peppers.

I then sorted them by size.

Meanwhile, I sterilized my canning jars.

Then I prepared the brine for the pickled tomatoes.

The brine wasn’t particularly complicated. It was pickling salt, pickling spices, extra mustard seed, a little bit of sugar, white vinegar, and water. I brought it up and left it on a low simmer.

Meanwhile I put a little bunch of fresh dill, a garlic clove, and some onion pieces in the base of each jar. To that I added the smaller tomatoes and the cherry tomatoes. And every jar also got a few chunks of cut up chili peppers.

The smaller tomatoes I either halved or quartered depending on the size, and the cherry tomatoes each got pierced from end to end like they were going to go on a skewer so the pickling brine is absorbed into them.

I ladled hot brine on top of each jar of green tomatoes. On top of that I laid another sprig of fresh dill and one more clove of garlic.

I then put the lids on the jars and placed them in a hot water bath for 14 minutes. The pickled tomatoes are now cooling on a table. When they are completely cool I will tighten down the lids and store them where I store other preserves in the basement.

Next comes the green tomato chutney. The brine pickling liquid that I use for this is comprised of a couple of cups of malt vinegar, pickling salt (but not much like a teaspoon and a half), 1 cup of sugar, cinnamon, a few tablespoons of diced crystallized ginger, nutmeg, a couple of tablespoons of mustard seed, a tablespoon of pickling spice, and allspice. To make it slightly different I also grated the rind of two limes I had and also added their juice.

I put that on low so the sugar dissolved add to that I added probably about 5 pounds of chopped green tomatoes, the remaining few chili peppers chopped up, five chopped fresh plums I had leftover, three chopped apples, one diced onion, I also added a little chopped fresh fennel I found had sprouted up in the garden because the chutney recipe calls for fennel seeds and I didn’t have any. Also, I added a little over a cup of golden yellow raisins as well. If I had had the green raisins I use with curry I would have added those as well.

I cooked the chutney down for about an hour maybe a little more, and then sterilized some more jars. I filled the chutney jars gave them their hot water bath and now they are cooling on the counter.

I still have green tomatoes left over unbelievably! I am guessing fried green tomatoes are in my future at some point.

I will note that I use the pickling salt for both the pickled tomatoes and the chutney because it keeps things from getting cloudy.

Happy Friday!

happiness is a meat order from your family’s butcher

Cappuccio’s on 9th Street in Philadelphia. That is the Italian Market to the rest of you.

This was the Saturday morning destination at least twice a month when I was growing up, even when we moved to the Main Line.

And yes, my family has been going here since before my grandfather Bill Zambelli put the abattoirs in this butcher shop.

Cappuccio’s was opened in 1920. Here is their story from their website:

Domenico Cappuccio was born on his family’s farm in Messina, Sicily during the late 1800’s. After his father passed away when he was in 2nd grade, Domenico was forced to leave school to help work the family farm. In 1910, as the rumblings of World War I began in Italy, Domenico decided it would be wise to join his brother in America. However, he was still drafted and this time would be asked to fight for the Americans.

Following his service, Domenico was offered a path to citizenship if he could find an American sponsor. After working several jobs in Southern New Jersey, Domenico ended up in Philadelphia’s Italian Market where he met a man who offered to provide him with sponsorship. This man, Charles Guinta, not only sponsored Domenico but gave him a job in his butcher shop and a place to stay above.

While working at the butcher shop, Domenico met his future wife, worked a fresh produce stand also in the Italian Market. After several years, Mr. Guinta felt that Domenico was ready to go out on his own and suggested he start his own shop down the street. After getting married, he took Guinta’s advice and opened up Cappuccio’s Meats at its current location. The couple would have three children, one of whom, Antoinette Cappuccio, would go onto run the shop with her husband Harry Crimi.

After Domenico retired, Harry and Antoinette Crimi took over Cappuccio’s Meats and continue to run the business today using the family’s traditional values with their son Dominic Crimi.

Now the funny thing about World War I bringing Domenico Cappuccio to the United States is it also played a role in my paternal grandfather’s life.

When my grandfather was a little boy, his mother who had emigrated to the USA as a young woman, took a ship back to Italy so her family still in Italy could meet her son. The problem was, World War I broke out when they were there and they had to stay with family in a little village until the was was over and Trans-Atlantic ship travel resumed.

My grandfather, a little, little boy, was called l’Americano by the villagers during that time. He went on to build a boiler company and factory. During World War II the company had to change it’s name to seem more American- people being suspicious of people born in other countries is sadly nothing new in this country. Both of my grandfathers (my maternal grandfather was Irish) were discriminated against.

But I digress.

Cappuccio’s is a familiar and well-loved place for me. Going there and to the Italian market with my father on weekends was sort of magical.

The ding of the bell on the door and you walk in and there was sawdust on the floor and sometimes sides of meat hanging from a hook in the window. I would sit on a barrel next to one of the front windows and watch everyone get waited on. The counters were wide and clean, knives in holders in between the counter sections.

Sometimes old Domenico would talk to me half in Italian and half in English. He had glasses with big black rims and a very sweet smile. Sometimes his daughter Antoinette who married Harry Crimi (who was close to my father’s age) would let me come back behind the sales floor.

My father and Harry would patter back and forth in English and Italian about whatever daddy was buying. I loved going there. I would watch as Harry would sharpen a knife to cut whatever we were buying. And then each item would get wrapped in butcher paper, marked, and placed in paper sacks, or a box depending on the size of the order.

As I grew up, I watched Harry’s son Domenick , who is about my age and whom I know as an adult, come up in the business. Now he runs the store!

A few weeks ago I got to thinking about the Italian sausage we used to buy there. My great aunts, grandparents, and my parents all made sauce (or gravy) with it. It is the best sausage you have ever tasted made the old school way with fennel.

I also started thinking about the other cuts of pork, beef, and lamb we used to get from Cappuccio’s. So I contacted Domenick and asked him if I could get an order – but it would have to be shipped or delivery because 9th Street is just a wee bit out of the way living in Chester County.

So Domenick said for me if I was willing to pay a delivery fee, he’d deliver.

My order got delivered a little while ago. All neatly and perfectly wrapped in brown butcher paper and bags with wire-tied tags with my name on it. Just like when I was a kid!

It sounds silly to some I am sure but this? This makes me happy. A piece of 9th Street in my freezer. And Domenick even bought me a bag of lamb neck bones- the best secret ingredient of any Sunday Pasta Sauce!

I mean no disrespect to my lovely local butcher, Worrell’s, but Cappuccio’s and me? We’ve got history! So I am going to be splitting my love going forward.

Cappuccio’s is an amazing old school artisanal butcher shop. They have been doing it the same way since 1920. Give them a try, and if you live closer to them then I do, go visit!

Cappuccio’s updates their Facebook page often. Seriously? Visit them, try their meats. You’ll be glad you did 😊

We had fresh grilled sausage for dinner. It was just as awesome as I remember it.