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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

Figgy

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

Pucker Up, Part II

Grab your juicer and get your lemon squeezin’ hand ready, we’re taking life’s lemons and making more lemonade today!
You’ve got to admit, there’s just something about homemade lemonade. That fresh-squeezed taste makes all the difference. If you love lemonade, but usually stick to the Country-time, Minute-Maid or Crystal Light varieties, promise me you’ll give real homemade lemonade a try. Pretty please? Your smackers will thank me.

While you can’t beat the refreshing taste of yesterday’s Rosemary Lemonade, I have to admit the Strawberry Basil Lemonade was a real show stopper. Everyone dug around in the ice to find the “pink” jars. 
Fresh lemons, fresh berries, fresh basil – I’m pretty sure you can’t go wrong.

Photos by {Blue Eyed Yonder}

Strawberry Basil Lemonade
adapted from Lux Eco Living

Ingredients
Basil simple syrup:
4 cups sugar
2 cup water
2 bunch basil, washed and cleaned
2 lb strawberries washed, hulled, and sliced ½ inch thick

Lemonade:
4 cups lemon juice- about 30 lemons
4 cups basil simple syrup
4 cups cold water
strawberries, raspberries, sliced lemons and basil for garnish

For the basil simple syrup, combine sugar, water, basil, and strawberries in saucepan. Stir over medium heat until sugar is dissolved, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and refrigerate until cool. Strain.

Pour fresh squeezed lemon juice, basil simple syrup, and cold water in 3 equal parts in to mason jars. Add strawberries, raspberries and basil as garnish. Place jars on ice until chilled. Makes about 12 pint sized mason jars.

Posted 7/21/11, Topic: Eats

Pucker Up, Part I

Lemons, lemons, lemons. I’ve had lemons on the brain lately. I mentioned that I juiced sixty lemon halves – why? For lemonade of course!

A summer party just isn’t complete without the tangy goodness of homemade lemonade. I made two different flavors, Rosemary Lemonade and Strawberry Basil Lemonade, and served them in pint sized mason jars. Just throw the jars on ice and you have a refreshing, icy cold treat. Guests can just grab a straw and enjoy.

Photos by {Blue Eyed Yonder}

Rosemary Lemonade
adapted from Herbal Gardens

Ingredients:
3 cups water
3 cups sugar
3 cups lemon juice
Grated rind of two lemons
Four sprigs of fresh rosemary
Cold water
Lemon slices, rosemary sprigs and raspberries for garnish

Combine the water and sugar in a saucepan and bring the mixture to a boil over high heat. Boil the liquid three minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the lemon juice, lemon rind and rosemary. Refrigerate the mixture at least one hour or until very cold. Strain the mixture into a storage container.

Fill the mason jars about a third full with the lemon syrup, add water to the top of the jar, stir and place jars on ice until chilled. Makes about 10 pint size mason jars.

Stay tuned… tomorrow I’ll share the other lemonade recipe that had everyone smacking their lips for more.

Posted 7/19/11, Topic: Eats

Season’s Harvest: Lemons

1. 2.

I have to admit, my entire life I’ve bought lemons and have picked them out based on their shape and coloring. I guess I just looked for ones that looked picture-worthy. I didn’t really think about any other criteria being that important.

After juicing 60 lemon halves (oh yeah, talk about a sore hand) I have come to find out that all lemons are not created equal. Here are some handy dandy tips for selecting the juiciest and best pucker-worthy lemons:

1. Choose lemons that are no more than 3 inches from end to end that are heavy for their size. 
2. The skin should be taut and thin; avoid those with very hard skin. 
3. The lemon should give slightly when pressed. 
4. Avoid wrinkled, dry-skinned, or dull-colored lemons, those are past their prime.
5. Store lemons in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for two to three weeks.

Now you guys will be able to find the best lemons in store! Squish those babies up and make some lemonade.

Posted 7/19/11, Topic: Eats

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