Sunday, June 30, 2013

Blueberries, finally!

It's the end of June, and finally we have the first ripe blueberries ready to pick! This has been a slower season than most. We usually start getting berries two weeks earlier than this.

Just turning ripe.
 Blueberries are a nutritional superfood, loaded with vitamins and antioxidants. Plus they are just delicious! We're very fortunate to live in a rental house that had these bushes established when we moved in. No work has been required on our part, and we get loads of these beautiful berries every summer!

Now I'm off to try to make a deep-dish blueberry pie. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. There's nothing in the world any better than fresh summer fruits!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Recipe--Blackberry Peach Dumpling Cobbler

As promised, here is a quick recipe for a delicious dessert that uses luscious fresh peaches and blackberries that are just becoming available this time of year. I adapted it from a recipe I found at this website Deep South Dish and it couldn't be easier (or yummier!).

Blackberry Peach Dumpling Cobbler


1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
 1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup butter
1/3 cup buttermilk
2 tsp baking powder
1 large pinch salt

6-8 fresh peaches
2-3 cups fresh blackberries
1 cup sugar
Juice of 1/2 lemon
3 tbsp corn starch mixed with 3 tbsp cold water

To make:
Peel and dice peaches and combine with the blackberries and sugar in a deep, oven proof skillet. Stir in one cup of sugar and lemon juice, and cook gently over medium heat on top of the stove, stirring frequently. Once the fruit is bubbling hot and the berries are bursting, stir in the corn starch/cold water mixture. Lower the heat to a gentle bubbling simmer and continue to stir frequently.

Meanwhile, mix the crust. Combine the flour, baking powder, 1/2 cup sugar, and salt in a bowl. Cut in the butter, then slowly pour in the buttermilk while mixing until a soft dough forms. Preheat oven to 375. When the oven is ready, drop small spoonfuls of dough directly on top of the hot fruit mixture, like so:


And then put the skillet into the hot oven for around 30 minutes (or until golden brown). This is what it looks like when it comes out of the oven:


Cobblers are famously unfussy and adaptable. Most of the measurements here are approximate. The amounts of berries and peaches (and how much sugar is added to them) is completely a matter of personal taste and the sweetness/tartness of the fruit you're working with. I didn't have buttermilk that day, so I substituted regular milk with a tablespoon of white vinegar mixed in. It worked out fine! Also, I've never really known the "correct" way to "cut in" butter, so my method is to use a cheese grater on a cold stick of butter. It may be weird, but it seems to work fine, especially on something as undemanding as cobbler.

This dessert was absolutely delicious, and would have been even more so had I had a scoop of vanilla ice cream to top it with. And it may have been even better the next day, once it was cold! I had it for breakfast with coffee---delicious!


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Farmer's Market goodies!

Last week while on vacation I made two separate trips to my local farmer's market. I shop there as much as possible in the summer, and it's one of my very favorite things to do.

 I'm a huge believer in eating local. It's better for the environment, since the closer to home food is produced the less fossil fuels are used to transport it. It's better for the local economy and small farmers, keeping the money in our community and out of the hands of big agribusiness. It's better for our health, since food that doesn't have to travel long distances can be picked when it's at it's peak of freshness and ripeness. And food that is in season and lovingly grown just tastes better! Our market is a wonderful resource for great food and for building relationships with the people who grow it.

Here's a little pictorial stroll through the Pee Dee farmer's market on a beautiful summer day!

Loads and loads of early tomatoes. Most are still coming from John's Island, SC this early in the year. 

Locally grown heritage pork sausages!
 Fresh eggs, cheeses, and other meats are available, too.
We still have rice plantations in South Carolina! How cool is that?
Pickles of all varieties abound....
...and this is the South. You have to have lots and lots of places to buy these:

Speckled butter beans, like the ones here,
 nearly killed me when I was growing up. My grandfather Lewis ("Pa") grew what seemed like acres of these, and expected the entire family to help him with planting, weeding, picking, shelling, blanching, and freezing the harvest. We always had enough to fill everyone's chest freezers with quarts and quarts of them to eat through the winter, but at the time everyone would have chosen to forgo some of the beans for less work in the summer! I'm not sure what was worse, picking them in the blazing heat of July (stooped over the low growing bushes) or shelling them afterwards. I well remember how sore and stained your fingernails and cuticles would be after a whole day of shelling, but the heat and insects and bending over involved in picking made that an equally distasteful job! My grandfather expected his children (my mom and aunt) and their children and spouses (my aunts, uncles, and cousins) as well as grandma to spend a couple of intense weeks in midsummer helping bring in his garden's bounty. No one minded things like corn, tomatoes, squash, onions, etc...but the butter beans and field peas....well, those were another story! Now, of course, I look back and admire his dedication to growing so much food for his family every year, as well as the fact that he continued doing so well into his old age. I never see butter beans without thinking of (and missing) my Pa.
 This high school girl had a sweet, outgoing personality to match her sunshiny smile! Lots of farmer's kids work summers at their family farm booth. Not only are they the most polite, mature, friendly kids you'll ever meet...there's not an iphone in sight. Amazing!

And oh, the flowers for sale!

I've watched this young man grow up. He's the grandson of farmers that I've bought vegetables from for years. In fact, I remember the day he was born. His grandfather was working alone in the booth that morning, and when I asked about his wife, he told me she was visiting their baby grandson that had just been born. The little guy is growing up fast! He was almost too shy to let me take his picture. I had to talk him into it. (Just look at that bashful sideways grin!)
Hyman Vineyard's booth. They sell local muscadine wines, as well as jellies, preserves, sauces, and juices. The wine is my favorite though! 
Seafood is brought in fresh from the coast, but only on weekends. Unfortunately I was shopping on a Monday!

The early peaches that are available now are juicy and divine. Tomorrow I'll post pictures and a recipe for the blackberry peach dumpling cobbler I made with fruit purchased on this market trip. It tasted just like summer!

As I was leaving the market (laden with goodies) I had to stop and take a picture of this beautiful afternoon sky.

And here is one final photo: most of my haul, piled on the kitchen counter when I got home:


Saturday, June 22, 2013

Midsummer top 10

Happy midsummer! Here, in no particular order, is my top 10 list of favorite things about this time of year.

1. Long days, short nights, and lingering twilight.

2. Summer garden creatures like fireflies, frogs, green anole lizards, dragonflies, crickets, bees, and butterflies.

3. The bounty of summer fruits, vegetables, and flowers available at the farmers market.

4. Sweet nighttime flower smells, like my neighbor's gardenias and magnolias.

5. Grilling out.

6. The smell of suntan lotion, and walking on the beach.

7. Thunderstorms!

8. Summer reading on long, lazy afternoons.

9. Iced tea, lemonade, daiquiris, and frozen margaritas.

10. The feeling of ease and contentment that seems to permeate everything this time of year, and the "school's out" feeling I still get (even though I'm a grownup!).

What are your favorite things about this time of year?

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Lovely Lynches River park

It has been a wonderful week off work for me, and the highlight was a one-night camping trip we took to nearby Lynches River county park. It's close enough (12 miles away) that we can easily go for a single night without too much trouble, and since Ginger the dog had never been camping before, we wanted to start her off with a very short trip to see how she would do. (She seemed to like it!).

Lynches River park is a true little gem hidden away in the middle of our boring little county. It has the beautiful river, of course, but also an educational/discovery center, cabins, campgrounds, a splash pad, archery range, a baseball field and playground, and lots of nature trails winding through the woods. The park is an excellent place to check out the flora and fauna of the Carolina Piedmont.

As they say, pictures are worth a thousand words, so here are some of the photos I took to share:

Spanish moss is everywhere
The river walk

A dog and her boy

Ginger beside Lynches river
Educational Discovery Center

A fenced off, old family graveyard from
before the days when this land was a public park.

Our trusty old tent.

Camp dog!

Crescent moon rising over camp.