Wednesday, April 28, 2010

old fashioned pie crust and mulberry filling

We found two beautiful mulberry trees on our new farm property. Since last week we have been harvesting mulberries and blackberries. (i think they are dew berries, but can't be sure.) 
Besides jelly, I have tried to make as many pies and cobblers as I can. Here is a great little pie recipe:

Makes 2 pie crusts:
2 1/2    cups of all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 stick of unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
1/2 cup of solid vegetable shortening, cut into 8 chunks
6-8 TBS of ice water

Combine flour, sugar, salt in a food processor. Pulse to mix.  Throw in butter and shortening around the flour and pulse in short bursts until it looks like small pebbles. Sprinkle 6 TBS of water and pulse until no dry flour remains and the dough just starts to pull away and make a ball.  If it is too dry (and this is important) add 1 TB more and pulse a few more times till added in.  You do not want a dry dough, it will crack when you try to roll it out.   Separate the dough onto two sheets of saran wrap and wrap separately.  Smooth out to form two round discs.    Let chill in fridge for about 1 hour.  When ready to roll out, let it rest on counter for at least 10 minutes.

Mulberry filling
3 cups of mulberries, washed
1 and 1/4 cup white sugar
1/3 cup flour
1 tsp lemon zest
1 tsp  fresh lemon juice
1/4 tsp cinnamon
pinch of salt
unsalted butter, 4 TB cut into 8 pieces
1 egg, a little water added
1 TB of white sugar

Preheat oven to 400 degrees ( at least 30 minutes, you need a good hot oven to start the pie)
In a large bowl, mix berries with sugar, flour, cinnamon, salt, zest and lemon juice.
Place mixture into bottom pie crust. Dot with butter.
Top with second crust.
Crust may be cut (i like to use a pizza cutter) into lattice strips. It makes a very pretty presentation.
Crimp the edges, cut slits into top crust. (if you don't lattice)
Paint top crust with egg and water mixture.
Evenly sprinkle sugar over top of pie.
Let rest for about 20 mins in fridge. (it will help pie crust retain its shape)
Bake in your preheated oven for 15 mins. Bake on a cookie sheet to avoid bubble spills.
Lower oven temp to 350 and bake for 40 minutes more.
At this point, I rotate the pie after about 15 minutes to cook evenly.
At end of baking time be sure the berries are tender by stabbing one with a fork, it will give easily. If it feels as though the berry is a little uncooked, let it go for another 10 mins.  If you think the pie crust will get too dark, wrap a piece of tin foil around the edge of the crust.

Test your pie before you finish cooking it. Partially cooked berries do not make for a good pie.
The last mulberry pie I baked cooked for only a total of 45 mins and the berries were still too uncooked.
I have added an additional 10 mins to  my personal total baking time. You will have to be the judge about the doneness of your filling. My oven cooks too hot. I bake my pie on the middle rack for this reason. It saves the bottom crust from burning but doesn't allow the berries to bake enough.
If your oven does not behave like mine, adjust the cooking time to fit.

Serve with sweet thick cream, homemade vanilla whipped cream, or vanilla icecream.

I hope you make wonderful memories for your children and family with your summer pies.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

berry heaven

Today was the first day that berries became ripe on our new farm property.

The late afternoon was perfect, slightly cloudy with a great soft southern breeze blowing through the trees, not too hot. As we approached the two mulberry trees in the overgrown wooded area, we could see the heavily laden branches, soft purple bullets hanging easily within our reach. My husband and I started with the low branches but soon had them all picked.
Mulberries are so unique, you just have to put your bowl beneath the branches and gently shake, the ripe berries fall into it, the unripe still clinging tightly.

When they were too high for me to pick, I left him to gather from the high branches and wandered off to look for blackberries and other wild herbs.
I picked honeysuckle branches filled with blossoms as I walked along, the fragance coming from the branches very intoxicating, soft and sweet. I love to make bath oils from honeysuckle so I'm very happy when they begin to flower.
I stopped every few yards picking off the blackberries clustered on pretty purple canes. They were just starting to ripen, so we only got about 2 1/2 cups.

About 2 hours later, despite our sunblock and hats, we were very hot, red faced and ready to leave.
(it was only 80 degrees today)
On the way home I asked my husband what he wanted to do with the berries we'd picked and he answered as I knew he would, "Jelly please." We had at least 5-6 cups of berries in our bowls which will make a nice amount of jelly.

When we got home a great recipe was found on All for blackberry cobbler . (it only required 2 1/2 cups of blackberries so I was in blackberry heaven.)
I think I'm going to get a bit of vanilla bean ice cream for the cobbler.

One of the best parts of the day was the fact that we only saw one little non -poisonous snake.
He didn't bother us and we didn't bother him.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

new salve

You know, I'm a culinary herbalist first. Yes, I love to cook with herbs. I love the beauty of all green things in food. The herbal aromas, mmm. The pretty plates it makes! It makes me very happy.

But...I wanted to know more. So, for the last two years I've been taking a wonderful class of study on the medicinals.
I've learned some of the medicinal side with my new lessons and... by experimentation. Most experiments come from neccesity.
My latest "necessary" came Saturday afternoon because I incorrectly lifted a very heavy flowerpot filled with very wet dirt and compost.
Gave myself the most incredible back strain. You know? The kind of ache that gives you spasms when you exhale? Owwww , Owww, Ow, Ow. O my... it hurts. I tried not to breathe because it meant I had to exhale. That's pathetic.
No time or inclination to go to the doctor, I thought to myself, "okay, you wanna practice what you preach? Make your own painkiller.
I searched my herbal pantry to see what I had. I came up with these ingredients relying on my memory of the lessons:
Lavender Oil
Ginger root, powdered
Valerian tincture, made this autumn
freshly ground red pepper, powdered
cocoa butter
bees wax, melted
Measured out all ingredients according to what I needed most .
Mixed all together and put into the food processer to emulsify.
(I am guilty of adding in about 8 powdered aspirin since I didn't have time to bark and dry out my willow.)

Here was my plan of treatment:
Took a hot bath with epsom salt, lavender blossoms, valerian tincture and lavender oil.
Made myself some chamomile tea with skullcap and valerian tincture. Sipped while in bath.
Applied the salve liberally.
I found that the powdered pepper and ginger root needed to be increased. (added more until I felt a bit of warmth on my skin.) After I applied salve I wrapped my back semi-tightly with a cotton cloth and put on a soft white cotton t-shirt . I tried to lay quietly on my back.

To my amazement, it was wonderful. The pain slowly decreased and I was able to fall asleep.
Turns out I was pretty right on track.
I knew that the lavender was a painkiller, valerian for sore muscles, ginger and red pepper (capsascin) are great for warming the affected area, bees wax and cocoa butter were healthy, soothing additions.

Had to really process it as oils and waters don't mix well. I may not have added everything I needed , but I used what I had on hand .

I've heard that acting on instinct is the mark of a good herbalist. It is also wise to use what is available and make use of the landscape around you. I'm sure that a good master herbalist would have known better or more effective herbs to make the salve with, but I used what I could remember . (and what the pain allowed, lol,)

I want to thank my fine teachers at Sage Mountain for helping me to ease my pain ....and be the herbalist I wish to be.


Please do not attempt to make herbal remedies unless you have real knowledge of herbs. I have made many mistakes over the years on myself. Before taking my study course I thought I knew a great deal. I was very wrong.
It is not a good thing to make any remedies unless you study all aspects of the herbs you grow. Much has to be learned . I have grown herbs for 20 years and still do not know all that I need to know. Be safe, take lessons from learned herbalists.