Archive for August, 2011

Scenes from the 127 sale

Road trips can be such fun. Cooler full of snacks, a tank full of gas and vaguely remembered directions.

This weekend we loaded up and hit the road to see what kind of treasures we might find at the 127 Sale. The 127 Sale is the world’s longest yardsale, running from Gadsden, Alabama to Hudson, Michigan. After going for the first time last year, I knew there was no way I was going to miss it. 
I mean where else can you plunder for goodies in a 100-year-old barn?

As usual, we kind of just went to see what we could find, and left there wishing we had brought a trailer!   
Just for the record, they only thought I was ready to leave at this point. I ended up spying eight precious vintage wood+metal school chairs at a sale on the side of the road and had to sweet talk them into turning around. What’s the fun if you’re not having to make a pit stop at the local hardware store to buy additional straps? 
Yeah, I got a lil’ hillbilly in me.
Photos by {Blue Eyed Yonder}

Posted 8/9/11, Topic: Vintage Finds

Women are from Venus, Grapes are from Mars

After picking our fill of figs at The Happy Berry Farm, we decided it would be a sin to leave with out at least trying some of their delicious Mars grapes. We noticed the dark clusters of grapes hanging from the vines as we drove into the farm. The vines were loaded.

We snipped to our heart’s delight and came home with a gorgeous bushel of Mars grapes. Just look for the darkest clusters and pluck a berry or two for a quick taste test. 

These grapes are super sweet, however the skins have a slightly tart flavor that balances it out nicely. If you’re ever in Six Mile, SC stop by The Happy Berry and say “hi” to the sweet Miller family for me.

Photos by {Blue Eyed Yonder}

Posted 8/5/11, Topic: Eats

Liquid Gold

“She can make buttered toast taste like a delicacy.”
That’s what my Aunt Gina always says about Mema. It’s true, even the simplest things taste better when Mema makes them. Of course she’s so modest about her cooking. Always critiquing it, saying how she could have made it better. Like I said, I think she overdosed on humble pie. She always tells stories about her mother’s cooking, about the way her biscuits would turn out, how her cakes would taste. I can’t even imagine the dinner spreads they must have had. 
I wonder if it’s normal to always compare your cooking to the generations before you. There always seems to be such a tremendous, yet joyful, burden to feel you have to carry on the traditions, the recipes, the secrets. You often wish those women were still around so you could ask them, what did you use to put in that peanut butter dessert?, how do you get your biscuits to rise so perfectly?, what’s really in your turkey dressing?
Questions we’ll never know the answers to. The only thing we have are the memories and, if you’re lucky, some faded recipe cards. It’s up to us to continue to make their recipes, work to perfect them in the same way.
I think that’s why doing things the old-fashioned way is so important to me. I couldn’t bare to think those delicious dishes and memories could be lost. That’s why you’ll probably never see me opt for the “quick” solution. I wouldn’t dare show up at a family reunion with a bucket of KFC under my arm. Lord help us.
It’s not only that homemade food tastes so much better, it’s that I feel a little part of those women are with me in the kitchen each time I work hard to make a special dish. I’ve had lots of epic fails, but I like to think they may have had those too. If they were watching me, I’m sure they’d let out a little chuckle every now and then. Like the time I dumped a pot of fresh chicken stock into the collander to strain, only to realize I didn’t have a pot under it to catch the broth. Or the time I baked a sour cream pound cake, only to pull it out of the oven and watch it deflate before my eyes. Or this week when I cooked fig preserves way too long and ended up with something more like figgy hard candy. (Ugh, that one still hurts.)
Mistakes are part of the fun of cooking. Lessons learned, dishes improved. You just have to keep at it. I made an additional three batches of figs until I got the hang of it. Papa always calls Mema’s fig preserves “liquid gold”. They’re really something else! Only special guests get the fig preserves placed on the table during breakfast at their house. Maybe one day my children will think my buttered toast is something to talk about, and it just might be if I smother it with figs as delicious as Mema’s “Liquid Gold”.
Photos by {Blue Eyed Yonder}
Mema’s {Liquid Gold} Fig Preserves
2 quarts figs (halved)
6 cups sugar
2/3 cup water
juice of one lemon

Begin by rinsing the figs and removing the stems. Slice figs in half length-wise, leave any small (or tiny) figs whole. In a large pot, combine sugar and water over medium-high heat and stir until the sugar is combined with the water. Add figs and stir them into the sugar mixture. Heat the mixture until boiling. You want a good roiling boil that does not fade when stirred. 

Reduce heat to medium-low and allow to simmer for approximately 30 minutes (33 minutes was the magic time for me, but cooking times will vary). The simmer should be very bubbly and create a foamy layer on top of the figs. Stir frequently to prevent figs from sticking to the bottom of the pot. Keep an eye on the figs and once they get very soft (limp) and the juice thickens a bit to resemble a light syrup add the juice of one lemon and cook for one minute longer. 

Remove from heat and immediately ladle fig mixture into prepared mason jars, fill to 1/4″ from the top and seal tightly with lids. I did not process my figs in a water bath, the heat from the figs was enough to cause the jars to seal. If for some reason the jars do not seal, simply store in the refrigerator.

Makes 4 pints.

Posted 8/4/11, Topic: Eats

The Happy Berry

It’s funny the places a blog can take you. 
A little while back during my week of blueberry bliss, I had a sweet comment from Zoe about her family’s farm in Six Mile, SC. The farm is called The Happy Berry, isn’t that sweet? They grow blueberries, blackberries, grapes, figs and several other yummy treats. So this past weekend, we decided to take a little drive across the state line for a visit to The Happy Berry.
The farm is nestled in the quiet town of Six Mile, near Clemson. A rustic, “tenant house” sits atop a hill where they sell jams, eggs, and berries right off the front porch. 

For this trip I was on a mission for figs. It’s so funny how many people turn their noses up at the mere mention of a fig… I guess they’ve never had the pleasure of tasting delicious homemade fig preserves or never really gave the fruit a second thought. Nevertheless, I had my mind set on coming home with lots of figs to make tons of preserves, or “liquid gold” as my Papa calls them.

The figs grow on trees and you want to look for the ones that have started to sag. You can tell by the bending of the small stem at the top of the fig. We slowly made our way down the row, reaching under the large leaves to find the ripe beauties. The air was buzzing with bees hard at work. I moved one branch and a bee swooped right down and stung me on the temple. Ouch! Good thing I’m not allergic. I guess he didn’t want to share his lunch.

We picked for a while and ended up coming home with around 20 pounds of figs. So as you can imagine, I have been busy, busy chopping, boiling, stirring, and packing. We’ve tried two different recipes, Mema’s “Liquid Gold” and Ginger Fig Preserves. I’ll share the recipes a little later this week.

We had such a great time at The Happy Berry. We enjoyed walking through their farm and enjoying the country air. It’s always fun to visit new places, you never know what you might find.

 Thanks Zoe for letting me know about your family’s farm. It’s always great to connect with new people and share in the places they hold dear to their hearts.

Posted 8/3/11, Topic: Blog


Photo by {Blue Eyed Yonder}
I’m knee deep in figs over here. 
After yesterday’s failed attempt at fig preserves, I was bound and determined to get it right today. I’m happy to say, I think I’ve finally got it! I’ve got a sink full of sticky pots, fig stems scattered about and a counter lined with fig-filled mason jars. 
I’m not through figgin’ yet, I’ve still got another flat of figs to cook. Whew! Hard work, but the pay off will be totally worth it. Stay tuned, I hope to post my tried-and-true recipe this week.

Posted 8/2/11, Topic: Eats

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