24 June 2012

Apples are excellent - until you've tried... A Peach !

I was at a small roadside fruit & vegetable stand recently and came upon a nice hefty 1/2 peck of fresh peaches. I picked one up and gave it a gentle squeeze after taking a hearty draw of it's dusty sweet aroma. I knew immediately that they were destined to be transformed into single serving galettes. Paired with a cup of strong coffee provides one of the best morning meals I can think of, simple and slightly sweet. 

As I held it in my hand feeling its warmth and weight I realized that every time I come across a peach such as this I have the same memory. It is 1979 I am sitting in the back of the family car brushing my Aunt Barb's Crystal Gail-esque hair as she sits in the front seat next to my mother, as usual she snookered me into this task by telling me she would give me a whole $.25 ( I still have not seen one penny of that money to this day, but that's what makes it special I guess. )

We are traveling to a place we often visited, McCloskey's Farm in Jamestown, PA a roadside purveyor of fresh fruits & vegetables. Oh how I can see the bins of apples, plums & peaches, melons, onions & squash piled high. Being that we grew most of our own vegetables in a garden my parents had that was a large 1/4 acre at least we were here for the fruit. Peaches always being one of my favorites, I liked how the fuzz made my chin itch.

Slice peaches thinly and add some sugar to help sweeten, this will also pull moisture out and make a nice syrup to add to the tarts. This my all purpose crust I use for desserts as well as potpies and quiche, just omit the sugar.


1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 Tbs. sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1 stick cold butter cut into small cubes
1/4 cup + 1 Tbs ICE COLD Water

Mix dry ingredients
Cut in butter w/ a pastry knife until it looks like moist sand yet still has some chunks of butter visible.
Add water and combine w/ the back of a fork until it comes together.
form into a ball, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 30min.

Cut dough into quarters and roll out on floured surface ( do not over work the dough )

Fan out the slices on the dough leave an inch around the edge to fold up into a neat little purse. Brush with melted butter. Bake at 400 degrees for 30-35 minutes. As always these can be modified to your liking. Strawberries, blueberries and plums make great variations. In the fall apples and pears are the star. Serve w/ fresh whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream if you wish.

Three of the greatest women in my life ( besides my wife & three daughters ) are my mother & her two sisters, my aunts Barb & Mary. There has been no comedy trio or Vaudeville act that could begin to match the comedic, humorous and at times wit full revenge that these sisters posses. They were around so much as I grew up that it would be rude to not consider them more mother like. Aunt Barb & Aunt Mary have taught me that no matter how bad things can get in your life there is good somewhere in your future.

Aunt Barb was one of the first people I cooked for. I bragged that at age 8 I could cook as good as anyone I knew, I was staying over at her house and I made her breakfast. All she had was eggs and onions, so I made her an over cooked omelette with no cheese and way to many raw onions. I think she ate it only to make me feel good, if she haden't I may have quit cooking all together. She gave me the confidence to continue doing what I loved. I'm sure she would have loved to have had a peach galette instead.

My Aunt Mary is only 6-7 years older than I am, but I thought she was the hippest chic around. she had the look of an older Joanie Cunningham from Happy Days with the James Dean FTW attitude to go with it.  A teenager in the 70's and 80's she blazed her own path, albeit not always the straight one, which she would admit to if asked. But hey older kids to hang with how cool was that. She gave me my first rock albums KISS Destroyer ( I still have it ) & Billy Joel's Glass House ever since I have been a huge fan of music. She gave me the nerve to walk on the wild side from time to time over the years, and without knowing she has also taught me how to not let it consume me. She has said this to me one way or another over the years in a playful manner, but I always knew there was some truth to it..." learn from not only from your own mistakes, but from mine as well, because if you don't I will kick your ass. "

To my Mother, Aunt Barb & Aunt Mary I Love You...thanks for the memories I think of them often.

16 June 2012

Peter Piper picked a peck of... Pickled Eggs !?

 Where did pickled eggs originate & why? First the why. As with most food items these delectable treats were born of necessity for preservation purposes, before refrigeration many food stuffs were salted, brined, dried or smoked. In order to keep food edible during the winter months. Many believe that the British introduced pickled eggs to the New World, when in fact they are of German ancestry most likely brought by early German immigrants in the mid- 1700's, they were also a popular food item of the Hessian mercenaries fighting against the Colonials during the Revolutionary War. Many early recipes come from the Pennsylvania Dutch living in Southeastern & South Central Pennsylvania.

Pickled eggs to many people are an oddity that most snicker at. I admit, though I will sit and eat 5-6 of these at a time, even I can't make myself eat the plain white pickled eggs you find traditionally south of the Mason-Dixon. I mean no disrespect to these jars that occupy counter space next to the boiled peanuts and pecan logs, they serve a useful purpose in a region where food can be quite spicy. These preserved oval orbs cool the palate & the brininess helps enhance the flavor of slow hickory or fruit wood smoked pork.

This recipe for pickled eggs & beets I would normally save for around Easter because that's the time of year when I remember my mother making these the most. For some reason she seemed to only make them once a year, however they now have a spot reserved in her refrigerator and appear at least twice a month now thanks to my father. I remember getting excited when the first crock of pickled eggs would make their initial appearance, it meant to me that summer was around the corner, the garden would be planted and the fresh fruits & vegetables that my parents would coax from the soil would soon make it to my plate. I will be featuring many of these items over the next several weeks.

There are many variations of this recipe that have been made by my family over the years made with sugar, cloves, chili flakes or hot peppers. Try different flavor combinations, you will not be disappointed. The basic recipe is as follows.

Large container w/ lid
1 dozen eggs
2 cans of whole or sliced beets
1 medium sweet onion
Apple cider vinegar

Hard boil eggs and peel. I prefer to use older eggs as they tend to release their shells much better.
Add 1 can of beets plus liquid to container, add 1/2 of onion as well. Next place eggs in container. Add last can of beets & onion. Finally pour in enough apple cider vinegar to cover. Close lid and place in refrigerator for 24hrs. These eggs will keep for a couple weeks. Serve cold.

Food for me has the ability to instantly take me back to a time before cell phones, computers & social media. The mid 70's & early 80's were a simple time for me in Northwestern PA, yet far more advanced than what my parents experienced in the previous two decades. The sweet smell of a peach, the warmth of a tomato held to the cheek or the sound of peas dropping into a metal bowl while sitting on the patio shucking a bushel of pods. These sensations put me back in the moment. I can hear the sounds, feel the sun warming my skin and smell the smells.

I love these memories. I try and recreate them as often as I can, & I love my parents for providing them to me. Thank You Mom & Dad.