Friday, February 02, 2007

Food Porn Friday!!!

Peek-a-Boo Peach Brandy
This photo is a repost from 2005. I thought on this cold drizzly day, that it might be a good time to talk about the love/hate relationship between the folk of this area and "spirits" and a few disjointed musings and stories.

This is how I made this brandy...

"Peek-a-boo Peach Brandy is made by layering sugar and peaches in a large crock or jar. You stir the mixture for the first seven days for about 3 minutes to release the fermenting gases. On the seventh day, add the juice of four lemons and a box of raisins. You wrap the jar in a paper bag and hide it in a cool dark place. Check in about 21 days and decant and bottle if you wish. It will result in a potent spirit by Thanksgiving at which you can "peek" at it and enjoy some. You can add some moonshine(or vodka) to make it even stronger and more potent. The left over fruit is really wonderful spooned over vanilla ice cream. By Christmas, it should have quite a kick to it."

My brother made this according to the way my mother used to make it this past year and I believe it turned out quite well. He did not vent the gases and buried the jars. None of the jars exploded though he did say that one of them didn't seem to ferment properly. The sugar was not dissolved. Mother always just hid the jar in a paper bag in the bottom of a washstand that the TV always sat on. By Christmas, it was perfect.

Mine turned out really well and had quite a kick to it. I'm afraid that I got into it early and got quite tipsy.

The Hidden History of Apples in America

One of my neighbors has one of the original apple trees in his yard. Once, long ago, this area was completely covered in homesteads with apple orchards. This amazing old tree is the size of a live oak. It's so old, I don't think I've actually ever seen apples on it, but people "scrumping" them as children. The tree is on the old Alvin Hall homeplace. People don't realize how big apple trees can actually get. Most of our current varieties are dwarf or semi-dwarf.

There are many things that people make out of apples here. Apple butter, apple jelly, apple stack cake, apple pie, apple sauce....it goes on like Bubba Gump's shrimp list. But it still doesn't truly account for the preponderance of apple trees and the history of apples in the area going back to when this was the original western frontier.

When I read Michael Pollan's The Botany of Desire and his amazing essay on the apple, it suddenly made sense. Apples were brought here to make hard cider and applejack. Plain and simple, there were no wheat fields and beer was unavailable. No doubt, apples are a healthy snack but you can only eat so many of them. And you can make hard cider even out of the "spitters"...those pippins that have nearly inedible fruit.

And this area is rich in distillation history, obviously. It most likely started there...with the apple.

Liquor Never Passed My Lips!!!

I hear this a lot.

Yet, the elderberry "cordial" I make is very popular as a "cough" medicine. I make it by mixing up a strong elderberry syrup and sometimes I steep some horsemint or wild ground mint in it for the cough syrup. Then I cut it about half with moonshine. It's very tasty. And potent.

I soak my famous white fruit cake in the plain elderberry cordial. I am, of course, a heathen Episcopalian. When I told my mountain friends that I'd made a really big one of these fruitcakes, liberally dosed in moonshine, for my church's coffee hour one advent Sunday, they were scandalized. Even more so, when I told them there wasn't a crumb left of the 10 pound cake.

My grandfather used to soak his fruitcakes in his own homemade blackberry wine. I've played around with the blackberry wine, but it's so delicious, I never seem to be able to keep it around too long. I may give it another go this season if they haven't completely razed my new blackberry spots up on Faith Mountain. They have these really big water cooler jars at Lowes that look very promising for this.

But, it seems that under certain circumstances, liquor may indeed pass one's lips as long as it is called something else.

Discussing the Merits of Fine Wine at the Hall Family Reunion.

I was honored this year by an invite to the Hall Family Reunion held yearly on Hall's Top. Friend Scott invited me.

The Hall family is huge and is spread out all over the country, but they make the annual pilgrimage to Hall's Top each year. A spread of covered dishes stretches the length of a football field at the site of the old church. I can not begin to describe the variety of foodstuffs available. Every little twig and branch of this enormous family brings enough food to feed an army. And like some reverse action of the loaves and fishes...it's gone pretty damn quick.

I, unfortunately, made us a tad late. Won't make that mistake again.

I got cornered by a quirky but charming old gentleman and his wife while Scott was trying to fill up his six foot nine frame with banana pudding. The old fellow was quite talkative, and she was very quiet. Seemed like she had spent a lifetime trying to get a word in edgewise and had finally just admitted defeat.

They had come up from south Georgia, I believe. We discussed exactly how they were related to the Halls. Seems he was born up here on the mountain and his family moved away. Asking how someone is related to anyone here is like asking a hypochondriac "How are you feeling today?" It's a loaded question and you better have the time to listen to the answer.

I was a captive audience since Scott was still indulging his lust for pudding.

I think the conversation came around to wine via talking of religion. He shared with me that he was an "evangelical". I'm not sure exactly which sect he was from. I may have even asked him about his church. Probably in an attempt to get away from the convoluted familial relationships that were making my head hurt.

I think I said...and this was what got me into trouble..."Well, I'm an Episcopalian and we have wine in church for communion."

I may have even gone so far as to say that I thought the self-control involved in moderation required one to exercise their free will in a more stringent way than simple abstinence.

And then I probably totally gnawed my foot off by talking about my own wine making experiments.

So, I really deserved the earful I got on the evils of alcohol.

Not quite ready to give up yet...since I hadn't reached the point his wife was where she knew that resistance was futile...I said, "Well, I don't know, I had some really nice wine when I was traveling in France. They even water wine down for children at meals there."

He pauses and says, "Well, now...I take that back. Sacramental wine is okay. There was a Mogen David plant near where we lived up in New York, and I suppose that wine is okay. They had some really good wine. For sacramental use."

I didn't know what to say to that. I'm wondering if he knows what the MD stands for in MD 20/20. I'm remembering the widely varied sacramental uses of MD 20/20 that involved brown paper bags.

His wife and I exchanged knowing glances as I finally understood.

Scott finally rears his head out of whatever vat of banana pudding he has located and notes that I am in need of rescuing.

He makes our excuses for us and we go join the singing.

Which is divine and transcendent as usual, and completely sober.

********************************************

A wonderful book on the Appalachian wine making tradition is The Foxfire Book of Appalachian Wine Making. It has some wonderful colorful stories in it. I love the one about where they tried to make pumpkin wine. It didn't turn out so well.

9 Comments:

  1. Anne Johnson said...
    Never heard of this one. My grandparents were hard-core Baptists. They canned peaches, but not to make into booze. Sounds good though.

    I like Food Porn. I may start a Friday Kitten Porn.
    erin ambrose said...
    apples.....its the same here with the old apple orchards. every old, melting, falling over adobe house you see has an equally old apple orchard next to it. sometimes plums. and come fall the whole valley is drowning in apples and their related products. bitter sweet little high mountain apples.
    someday if i can ever remember to leave the land with my camera i'll get a picture...we can compare notes.
    cheers
    seejanemom said...
    Oh, heavenly hell, Rosie, where to start?

    When I saw the Ball jar with the fruit, I knew what it was before I read a word.

    My Southern Baptist Grandmother, who attended God's own sleeping quarters, the First Baptist Church of Sleepy Southern Hometown, always made what she carefully admitted was --little "b"--"brandied" fruit.

    She would use plain old canned FRUIT COCKTAIL for this process, carefully wrapping the SINGLE jar (she was never given to excess) in a ratty recycled snip of brown sack and hide it carefully in the basement behind the other, more respectable home canned items--watermelon rind pickles, tomato and okra soup base, bread and butter pickles and the like.

    After she visited and worried it for the requisite gestational period, she would bring forth the thickest, most decadent syrup onto our Thanksgiving table. The liquid was reserved for my grandfather and the other gentlemen assembled. (Most likely mixed, as you suggested, with the contents of another brown wrapped bottle my Grandmother pretended to ignore.) The more ladylike and ironically more POTENT bits of "cocktail" (!) were served as a foil to her BOILED CUSTARD, which would save your very soul from Hell all on its own.

    We little ones were each allowed EXACTLY TWO bits of fruit for our bowls of rich cholesterol, I always got my cousin Suzanne's bits because she couldn't bring herself to refuse it and hurt my Grandmother's feelings. Her well heeled courtesy regularly guaranteed me quite the "happy" Thanksgiving.

    And who can blame Scott for gorging himself on banana pudding? Its the TIRAMISU of the South, honey!

    Thank you for YET ANOTHER wonderfully simple observation that centered me YET AGAIN for the brief moments I have visited. You best be careful, I'll be on your doorstep with all my earthly goods if you keep writing this way. ;)
    Anonymous said...
    Seejanemom,

    Yer gonna have to go to the end of that line, Darlin', unless Rosie is taking reservations for a place in line now.

    Glad to see Southern Episcopalians, even in the small town mountains, still are holding up their end of the stereotype. Tsk tsk.

    Sober, for now, in the other Hartford,

    JB
    seejanemom said...
    Oh, the HONEY...How dare I forget about the "mustard" of a PROPER country ham biscuit. I AM too far from home. See? I learn something OLD from your site everyday! Your "freakishly low cholesterol" could not, WOULD NOT, withstand the boiled custard, but then I am at a loss as to understand your resistance to Smithfield ham. Bringing my appetite next Friday!

    A sincere THANK YOU for coming to visit. ;)
    Rosie said...
    Oh, JohnieB...somebody has to uphold the stereotype! We have to prove that we can, indeed, have a female presiding bishop AND a gay bishop and still be the adorably repressed individuals we've always been without descending into the depths of guitar playing, vernacular spouting silliness that Vatican II spawned in the Catholic Church. Don't go to Ethiopia, my bretheren! Stay and have a casserole!

    Jane...my freakishly low cholesterol was indeed challenged when I had my laying flock in full gear. I do a creme brulee with goat milk and farm eggs that will knock your socks off. My sister's flan recipe is also killer. I have a deep and abiding love for egg based custards. There is also an old fashioned raw egg nog recipe I use that has a dozen eggs in it and heavy cream. You keep the whites seperate and peak half of them to fold into the mix. With fresh grated nutmeg, of course.
    seejanemom said...
    Oh, Rosie...I need a CIGARETTE...

    Yeah, raw egg dishes are a luxury I await when I establish a laying flock, which I hope to do in addition to my goat(s).Too nasty to dare with store bought'n eggs.

    When will you write the cookbook?

    Do you have a RECIPE LINK I'M missing?

    If you don't---GET ON IT. This is TORTURE...teasing of the worst kind.
    Rosie said...
    Hey Jane,

    There actually already is a cookbook. It's called "Our Kin Cooks". I self-published it for my brother and sister a few years back. I have five versions of one poundcake recipe that is written in the hand of each generation of women in my family going back to 1810. My mission...given to me by my sister who wants to give the thing as Christmas presents...is to get it in a more easily accessed form and up on CafePress this year. It's graphically very heavy and needs some reorganization before I see if my old mac can handle putting it into .pdf form. It keeps crashing MS Word. It stands at about 200 pages right now.
    seejanemom said...
    EXCELLENT.I shall save my pennies...and my calories...until such time.

    Just excellent.

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