Thursday, December 30, 2010

A 'wassailing into 2011!!...or... so long 2010!!

And so another year comes to a close....and it's time to make a Wassail Bowl.This is a traditional English drink partaken of at Christmas, New Years and sometimes in mid-January which can be traced back to as early as the 14 century. The name derives from the Old English "Wes hal" meaning "be in good health" and the wassail bowl was passed around from friend to friend and house to house to ensure everyone's good health for the coming year. Many times pieces of toast were floated in the wassail too...which is apparently where to "toast" someone with a drink came from. Apple Trees were also 'wassailed' with the same drink made from cider, usually around January 17th which was the old 12th being sprinkled around the roots to ensure a good crop the following season whilst the villagers would make a charivari with pots and pans to awake the Sleeping Tree Spirit and scare way demons and deposit toast among the branches (?). Here is the song that is sung as the custom is faded into obscurity there for a while but is now being revived - YEA!!!:

Old apple tree, we wassail thee,
And hoping thou wilt bear
For the Lord doth know where we shall be
Till apples come another year.
For to bear well, and to bear well
So merry let us be.
Let every man take off his hat,
And shout to the old apple tree!
Old apple tree, we wassail thee,
And hoping thou wilt bear
Hatfuls, capfuls, three bushel bagfuls
And a little heap under the stairs
Hip! Hip! Horray!
THE RECIPE: Read through first to make your decisions on how much of everything to put in...
3 small hard apples roasted 'til they burst and fluff...about 45 minutes in a 425F oven but check regularly the time will vary greatly with the type and size of the apple.
I would actually use 6 apples...see below

4 1/2 cups ale (or hard cider which I would use next time)...I choose one that wasn't too hoppy but whatever you are fond of...this equals about 4 bottles of beer.
1 cinnamon stick (I would now use 2...see below why)
3 crushed cardamom pods (I would now use 6)
1 whole freshly grated nutmeg...maybe 1/2 as much again of you like nutmeg
3 tablespoons honey( now I would use 4 tablespoons - I used Green Hive Raw Honey from Camden, Maine as I was given a Christmas gift of 5lbs by the lovely owners Magy and Clay King)
a goodly 2 inches of fresh ginger, grated (now I would use 3")
 4 strips of lemon peel
juice of one lemon (I would now use 2)
juice of one tangerine...not traditional but tangerines are so associated with Christmas and this time of the year I thought "Why not?" I would use 2
2 tablespoons sugar (now I would use 4)
scant 2/3 cup heavy/double cream
2 egg yolks

Warm the bowl you will be serving the wassail from...have ladle at hand...
1. Whip cream, sugar and yolks til thick but not solid, set aside
2. Pour chosen ale into stainless steel pan and add spices, honey and juices.
3. Bring almost to a simmer.
3. Take off the heat, strain to remove all the pods etc. and whisk in the cream mixture.
5. Pour into pre-heated bowl and add the I say below I would leave 3 apples whole and actually mash the fluff of 3 apples and add to hot ale as apple sauce to increase apple-iness of that I have hindsight!!!
6. You can keep the drink warm but don't allow to boil at the cream and egg mix will curdle...yikes!!

I have to be brutally honest here and say I have had my eye on this concept for quite the many years now and was intrigued by the idea of heating ale (or hard cider which I SHOULD have used in retrospect as I think I would have preferred that flavour and using it is not untraditional), adding spices, roasting apples, whipping cream and egg yolks and blending them all together into what I thought would be a divine adult beverage...alas it was not the flavour I thought it was going to wasn't as sweet, lemony, spicy or appley as I thought but if you like ale and hops then you're in for a treat. If I made this again I would use hard cider (I prefer the taste) more apples, 2 lemons, 2 more tablespoons of honey and twice the spices...but I do like my drinks very drinkable if you know what I mean, more like nice fruit juice...wimpy moi...and this was definitely a more mature flavour many an ale drinker would be thrilled with the imbibing of......

The ingredients and finished Wassail Bowl aka Lamb's Wool....the name deriving from the fluffy pulp of the roasted apples...which in this particular case did not fall apart and fluff around on the top of the drink as I think it probably should have done....actually it could have done with more apples I think and maybe pulp some of them into the drink and leave some whole like here...ah New Year's Eve!!

 An intriguing look don't ya think...actually it looks like a cup of tea with an apple in it!!

 The last couple of days have been cold enough to make ice shapes with various bowls, berries and dried out Pee Gee hydrangea flowers I have saved from this autumn. Earlier on, in another recent cold snap, I got very tricky and decided to try and make an ice wreath with glitter glue but that wasn't successful as I found out that the glue changes the consistency of the water and it makes it all bubbly, wrinkly and unattractive...not at all like the picture in my mind!!! Schucks!! I wanted to create a Buddha Ice Shrine out in the woods...which I did just a couple of hours ago...the Buddha face in repose was sculpted by James for Metaphor Bronze with the intention of making solid bronze plaques from the mold...isn't it beautiful??
The finished ice shrine glowing in the this point I was freezing and ready to come in and make my Lamb's Wool to warm me back up.

 Images of New Year's Eve Eve
 I do hope this next year brings you and yours prosperity, peace and much happiness.
Happy 2011

Monday, December 27, 2010

Blizzard 2010...still going...

Yea here comes the snow plough!! I have to admit I LOVE snowstorms/blizzards and I am particularly fond of seeing the snow plough go by...especially at night when I peek out one of the frosty windows like a 5 year old  - watching for the headlights loom out of the darkness, see the snow swirl ahead of the plough and hear that noise that sounds like a jet engine landing on the road outside our house.
Thank you snowplough drivers one and all!

 This was about 2 hours ago when I was out shoveling...since then the storm has picked back up and there's another 2-3" there now...the wind is howling and whipping around the house and we and the woofs are toasty and warm next to the flickering, humming wood stove...
how lucky are we?
Our maple tree readying itself for the tapping in the spring...which seems SO far away!

 James' sculpture "Leap,run,leaping" standing proud against the winds - with it's little friend the lonely red apple. a red shark swimming the snowy waters...

I love the curves the snow lines make whirling around the sculpture, I wish they were a little more defined here for you to appreciate as well as I did striding out there through the drifts.
 And again...the lonely red apple....

Friday, December 24, 2010

Last minute Golden Crimbly Cake...

Ta last minute Christmas Cake...isn't she pretty!!
Most Christmas (Crimbly as one would say colloquially in Blighty) are made months ahead and are well treated and ‘fed’ the occasional spot of whiskey or brandy…this little delight is made only a couple of days before…or today, Christmas Eve, or even tomorrow Christmas Day…the smell would be delightful coming from your toasty little oven.

Here is the recipe adapted from a Saveur article a few years ago about Truman Capote's short story called “A Christmas Memory” a delightful read for when you have a mo and a nice hot cup of tea. This cake is almost a combination of steamed pudding and regular fruit cake…very moist and heavy with fruits…YUM. The quality of the cake will depend almost solely on the quality of your dried fruits so try to find really nice plump ones, maybe at your local health food store or food co-op.
Assembling the ingredients

A goodly combination of dried fruits adding up to 2 1/4 cups/about 1lb …I used cherries, pineapple with low sugar (has more pineapple flavour) candied citron…YES I found this at the Belfast Coop, never had candied citron before but it is very nice...subtle, not so lemony and quite floral…(you could easily substitute candied lemon and orange peel), sultanas/white raisins and crystallized ginger but your favourite combination will do.

½ cup very strong, hot tea…or an alcohol of your choice, the recipe called for Grand Marnier, I prefer tea as that is more traditional for an English Christmas Cake.

¼ cup fresh squeezed lemon juice…about 1 good sized lemon.

To start the ball rolling put all the dried fruits together and toss in the tea and lemon juice and allow to marinate for at least 2 hours at room temperature to allow the fruits to plump and infuse.

Multiple Other ingredients:
¾ cup/4oz broken nutmeats…I used pecans

½ cup/2oz unbleached white flour

½ teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons ground ginger

1 teaspoon garam masala…a lovely Indian spice with a little kick…if don’t have this or don’t want to try it please use cinnamon and mace

1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

¼ teaspoon salt

½ cup/1oz white breadcrumbs

2 eggs whisked and at room temperature

½ cup/4oz (weight not volume) sour cream

½ cup/4oz sugar

1 stick/4oz butter at room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla essence/extract

1 teaspoons grated lemon zest

And so we begin: Pre heat oven to 350F
  1. Toast nutmeats in a low oven for a couple of minutes until fragrant.. be careful not to burn…they go very quickly when they go, leave to cool completely before you use them.
  2. Generously grease and flour a 6 1/2” (mine is 3” deep) diameter baking pan, 4 cup capacity, and cut a circle of parchment/greased proof paper to put in the bottom of the pan to help you extricate the cake at the end.
  3. Sift flour, salt and spices together and put in a bowl with the breadcrumbs…stir together.
  4. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  5. Gradually beat the eggs into butter and sugar mix, dribble by dribble until all incorporated.
  6. Beat in sour cream and vanilla.
  7. Fold in dry ingredients in two batches plus lemon zest.
  8. Fold in fruit and liquid mix until well blended, I actually found my mixture looked somewhat curdled because of the amount of liquid ingredients but don’t worry…it will all come together in the baking.
  9. Spoon into chosen baking receptacle cover with another round of parchment/greased proof paper and pop into your pre heated oven for about 1 hour and 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the very depths of the cake comes out clean…I didn’t cook mine quite long enough…I took it out at 1 ½ hours so I have added an extra 15 minutes for yours.
  1. Leave in baking pan for about ½ hour before unmolding.
  1. Cool before eating with a nice strong cup of tea or an adult beverage of your choice.

Before she goes into the oven...bad photo sorry!!

The inside of the cake...looking a little squishy in the middle so make sure yours is cooked all the way through.

Merry Christmas Everyone and Happy Baking!!!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Creating Limited Edition Holiday Reserve Packaging for Green Hive Honey Farm

WHAT a fun project!! Here is the finished packaging for Green Hive Honey Farm's Limited Edition Holiday Reserve luscious honey with honeycomb. There are only 120 jars available of this nectar, the last bounty of a wonderful season, packaged with a special label, gift tag, hand numbered with tissue cap. You can still order your jars, ready for the Holidays, by clicking HERE:
or by e-mailing Green Hive Honey to find out where Holiday Reserve is available for sale.

First we begin with a 20oz jar of honey complete with about 4oz of divine honeycomb...isn't it beautiful??...those bees are so clever! After James and I had packaged and extensively photographed this jar we then had the chance to taste the is very delicious, a tiny bit chewy at the end and surprisingly lemony...very, very good!! Can't wait to make something special with post coming when I have perfected this secret check back!!

Here are close ups of the actual artwork...I have darkened the label background colours and changed the yellow/orange hexagonal comb, honey lettering and the outlined bee to gold...a complicated and I have to admit very clever Photoshop palaver which involved many numbers of looks gold but is actually printed in normal ink colours.

Here is the tissue 'cap' artwork gleaned from the original hand painted watercolour artwork...James drew a large honey bee for me which I scanned and reduced and added three copies to a background of more golden honeycomb.

Each little tissue cap...and remember there are 120 of them, plus a couple of extras, were hand cut ready to be lovingly applied to their jars.

 This is the layout for the outside of the hang tag which on the inside has one of three different excerpts of poetry/prose about bees, see below, and a place to write TO: and FROM:. As you can see pictured below a gold medallion was added to the white space on the tag and is hand written with it's number in the series.
The final touches are an antique golden ribbon secured with another gold medallion printed with the graphic below....

But, for the point of wisdom, I would choose
    To know the mind that stirs between the wings
    Of bees...
    GEORGE ELIOT, 1868

We have chosen to fill our hives with honey and wax; thereby furnishing mankind
     with the two noblest of things. which are sweetness and light.

  The pedigree of honey
     Does not concern the bee;
     A clover, any time, to him
     Is aristocracy.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thankful for the beauty that was Fall/Autumn 2010

Visions of beautiful leaves from Fall/Autumn 2010...please enjoy this Thanksgiving Day!!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Steamed Cranberry Pudding with Green Hive Honey Sauce for Thankies!!

Oh no!!! I appear to have steamed up the whole neighbourhood!!
Actually this little delight only takes about 1/2 hour of steaming instead of the usual 3 hour puddings I make here on my blog so one doesn't have to wait until the cows come home for Steamed Cranberry Pudding with Green Hive Honey Sauce to be ready. This pudding is both bright and that possible, it is not very sweet but you can add more sweetness by either changing the fresh cranberries to dried sweetened ones or add a few tablespoons more of sugar or honey to both the pudding and the sauce? I have added more sweet than the original recipe, so that couldn't have been sweet at all, which is actually a combination of a couple of recipes from
"Good and Wholesome Honey Recipes" by the American Honey Institute...a goodly book with some nice old-fashioned recipes therein.

The jewel like pudding with it's crown of lemony honeyfied goodness on the top.
A celebration of my disorganized cooking method which involves covering every possible surface with every kitchen implement known to man and sticky powdery ingredients...all without tidying up first...I just have to accept that I am a messy worker both as a baker and an artist and that's an end of it!!
 I like the looks of the cranberries halved and ready to be tossed in the sifted dry ingredients...I suppose you could use dried sweetened cranberries if you don't like the brightness of fresh from the bog ones, I would even keep the quantity the same in dried as in fresh.
 And now for the recipe....

This makes enough for two nice sized puddings, I used two pudding bowls of 1 cup capacity, 4" diameter Mason Cash #54 if that means anything to anyone...a good sized portion for a hearty eater...big enough for two who are already full to the gills with turkey, gravy,
mashed potatoes and the rest...

First avail yourself of a double boiler and get the water up to heat, simmering in readiness:

1 tablespoon/ 1/2oz butter
1 1/8 cup/5ozs white flour
1 cup fresh cranberries halved (when you wash them in a big bowl of water you can discard the ones that sink...they are not good)
1/2 cup/4 fl ozs whole milk
1/3 cup/4ozs honey...of course I used raw Green Hive Honey as I just finished designing their label and their honey is divine!!
4 tablespoons sugar
1/2 an egg beaten...yes I know half an egg!...but I cut the recipe in half for just two puddings - one for me and one for James or we'd HAVE to eat two puddings each and that's just too much temptation.
1 teaspoon almond extract/essence
1 teaspoon ground ginger and 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 slightly heaped teaspoon baking powder

1. Sift dry ingredients together.
2. Toss the halved cranberries in the dry ingredients and then remove from the flour mix shaking excess off.
3. Cream the butter 'til nice and soft.
4. Add sugar and continue creaming.
5. Add honey in 3 batches and cream, cream, cream.
6. Add half of egg and CREAM.
7. Add a third of the sifted dry ingredients and alternate with a third of the milk until everything is added and you have a smooth batter.
8. Fill already buttered pudding bowls about 3/4 full and cover with waxed or parchment  paper rounds and secure with an elastic band.
  One of the puddings ready to be popped into the steamer for her 1/2 hour sauna.
During this time you can make up the sauce...see below below..
 Like two puddings in a double boiler...nice and toasty warm!! Good for a foggy day in Maine.
 Here's how your pudding will look when you remove it from the pan and then remove the will look a bit sticky and gluey but it's OK that's just the top. Use a toothpick to test for doneness...stick the toothpick deep into the pudding and if it comes out clean...with no uncooked batter remnants on it...then it is done.
After about 10 minutes out of the steamer cover the pudding with it's final receptacle and turn upside down to deliver if from it's pudding basin...and thus you have the little treasure seen below.
The Honey Sauce Recipe:
1/4 cup/4 tbsp/2 oz butter
1/4 cup/3oz honey
4 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp flour
1 egg
1/8 cup/1 fl. oz lemon juice (juice from an average half lemon)
1/4pt/2 fl oz UK whipping/double  cream whipped to stiff.

1. Melt butter, sugar and honey together in the top of a double boiler with gently boiling water.
2. Cream the flour with some of the egg until there are no lumps and add to honey and butter and whisk.
3. Gradually add the rest of the egg whisking all the careful not to let the mix curdle or overcook...keep water on a gentle boil.
4. When mixture has thickened slightly whisk in the lemon juice and continue to let it thicken a bit more.
5. Allow to cool.
6. Fold in the whipped cream and slather on recently steamed cranberry pudding!!! Cool sauce - hot pudding - nice combo!!

Happy Thanksgiving One and are some images from a foggy November day in Maine.

 See you after Thankies and we move on to Christmas!!! YEA!!!!