Huckleberry harvesting

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I found this unpublished post this morning, and why not? I’ll post it now. Prime huckleberry picking is in August, so plan ahead. I’m not eager to share our perfect spot, but you’re welcome to bribe me. Who knows, in the right mood, I may share.

While campering near Mt St Helens last summer, huckleberries were the motivating factor for our destination. We had heard about huckleberry fields filled with crowds of eager pickers, car lined roads to navigate, so we weren’t holding out hope that we would be successful in our goal of coming home with enough berries for a pie. But miracles do happen, and we arrived at a spot where the only other creatures in the vicinity were the black bears that live in the nearby forest (well, we didn’t actually see any… but I’m sure they were keeping a close eye on us).

Silence. We spent two days and a night here. Alone. And pick huckleberries we did! These are small, tasty berries, much smaller than a blueberry and take hours to fill a tiny container.

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Sweet Hood Strawberries

Hood Strawberries

We have the best strawberries here in Oregon! Pretty sure we can attribute this to the climate… lots of rain, cool nights and warm sunny days. These are perfect conditions for growing the sweetest strawberries (the weeds in my yard seem to thrive in them as well). The berries stay on the vine and ripen slowly, allowing the sugars to surge before harvest. But these lovelies don’t last long after they’re harvested, which means you won’t see them in stores across the country. They’re very difficult to ship. I guess you’ll just have to visit Oregon to try them!

The window for Oregon strawberries (especially my favorite variety… Hoods), is so short. Sometimes I blink, and miss their quick visit. On a sunny afternoon last week, I coerced my teen into taking a drive out to a local farm with me. She had just finished high school exams for the year. I thought it might be a good way to bring her stress down a notch. An hour in the sun, talking and laughing, and before we knew it, our thoughts were lighter, and our buckets were full of these sweet red gems.

Then there was this pie…

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This recipe is scribbled in a very overcrowded notebook with my other 15K or so favorites. It feels right to finally archive it here.

Strawberry Pie (recipe from my pie-baking Mother)

1 9-inch pre-baked pie crust (see detailed instructions below)
4 cups of fresh, sweet strawberries, hulled and washed immediately before use

Add about 3 cups of whole strawberries, (or however many will fit) in one layer on the bottom of the pre-baked pie crust.

In a small saucepan, bring to boil:
1 cup of crushed strawberries
3/4-1 cup granulated sugar
3 Tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 cup water

1. Boil the above ingredients for 2 minutes, or until the mixture has thickened. Add 1 Tablespoon butter. Mix and let cool.

2. Pour the glaze over the whole berries in the pie crust. Refrigerate for about 2 hours. Serve with whipped cream or ice cream.

Pie Crust (makes 1 9-inch crust)
1 cup flour
1/4 cup cold, unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/4 cup shortening
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/8-1/4 cup ice cold water

1. Add the flour, salt and sugar to the bowl of a food processor and blend for a few seconds. Add unsalted butter pieces and pulse 4 times. Add shortening and pulse 4 more times. The mixture will look like coarse cornmeal and the butter and shortening bits no larger than peas. Add cold water and blend just until dough begins to stick together. Do not over blend.

2. Remove the dough and place it in a mound on a piece of plastic wrap. Flatten into a 4-inch disk, wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour before rolling out.

3. Sprinkle a little flour on a flat, clean work surface and on top of the disk of dough you intend to roll out. (My favorite rolling surface is a pastry cloth, but I also have a Silpat that works pretty well too). Using a rolling pin, apply light pressure while rolling outwards from the center of the dough. You have a big enough piece of dough when you place the pie dish over the dough and the dough extends by at least 2 inches all the way around.

4. When the dough has reached the right size, gently roll it onto the rolling pin. Place it into a pie plate, and simply unroll. Do not stretch the dough. Finish the edges by pressing against the edges with your finger tips or a fork.

To pre-bake the dough:

Once your crust is in the pie dish, freeze it for at least a half hour, until well chilled. This is an important step in pre-baking. Otherwise the crust will slip down the sides.
Preheat your oven to 350°F. line the chilled pie crust with parchment paper, wax paper, or aluminum foil. Fill at least two-thirds full with pie weights – dry beans, rice, or stainless-steel pie weights. Bake with weights for 20 minutes. Remove from oven, cool a few minutes and carefully remove pie weights. Poke small holes in the bottom of the pie crust with a fork and return to oven (without the weights) and cook for an additional 10 minutes, until the crust is golden brown. Cool completely before filling.

Gather ye apples

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Two weeks ago torrential rains drowned what remained of our veggie garden, and our lone apple tumbled from the tree before ripening. Yay for local farms! A short drive out of the city and we are surrounded by an abundance of fresh fruits and veggies. And look! A large box of Golden Delicious apples from my sister-in-law.

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We’ve been busy with home improvements and fall cleaning projects …  painting, grout cleaning, gutter and roof cleaning and repairs, tree trimming. The next big project begins later this week when we demolish our kitchen for a few upgrades, new countertops, faucet, and replacement of a crumbling cast iron sink. After we recover from that, a mudroom redo will begin. I’ll definitely miss my kitchen during the next few weeks, but I’m so looking forward to giving it a fabulous housewarming, with homemade fall and winter foods, when it’s done.

In the meantime, I need to do something with all these apples.

Visions of apple tarts were dancing in my head. I began searching through my recipes, but only came up with one even though there’s photographic evidence of others. Two criteria were in order: easy and tasty. Google found a recipe at Smitten Kitchen that sounded like a winner.

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The dough: I used my go-to tart dough recipe from Ina Garten, and the combination freeform/tart pan technique from Chez Panisse’s Executive Chef and owner, Alice Waters (through Smitten Kitchen). I like the way the sides are fluted, but the top of the dough wraps the apple wedges protectively into its folds.

Gather up 6-8 apples. I used Golden Delicious for this because that’s what I currently have the most of, but Gravenstein or Granny Smith’s would also be great choices. Slice the apples in half and remove the core and peeling.

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Place the halves face down and slice into strips. Hold the sliced halves together and place them into the pastry. Save the cores and peeling you’ve removed for a glaze to be applied after baking.

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Fold up the edges of the dough and brush the entire top surface with 2 Tablespoons of melted butter. Sprinkle 2 Tablespoons of the sugar on the dough and the other 3 Tablespoons on the apples. Toss a teaspoon of cinnamon onto the apples as well. Because there’s nothing better than the smell of apples and cinnamon baking together. And finally, dot another Tablespoon of butter on top.

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Bake in a preheated 400°F. oven (on a pizza stone if you have it) for 45 minutes. Turn the tart every 15 minutes so it browns evenly.

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I love the way this crust turned out! Freeform, but structured enough to hold up in a hot oven.

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Serve with a scoop or two of vanilla ice cream.

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French Apple Tart

Pastry (Ina Garten’s recipe)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 sticks cold unsalted butter, diced
1/2 cup ice water

Place the flour, salt and sugar in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Pulse for a few seconds. Add the butter and pulse 10-12 times, until the butter is in small pits the size of peas. With the motor running, pour the ice water into the feed tube and pulse just until the dough starts to hold together. Dump onto a floured board and knead quickly into a ball. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least one hour.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. At this point you can either: grab a sheet pan and line it with parchment paper or a Silpat mat; or a round 11″ tart pan with a removable bottom.

Roll the dough out to 15 inches. If you’re using a sheet pan, you’ll want to use a ruler and knife and trim the edges. Place the dough on/in the pan of your choice and refrigerate while you prepare the apples.

Apple filling (a slightly modified version of Alice Water’s recipe through Smitten Kitchen)
6-8 apples (you can use Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, Gravenstein, or any other semi-tart apples)
5 Tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter (2 Tablespoons melted, 1 Tablespoon cold)

Peel the apples the cut them in half through the stem. Remove the stems and cores with a sharp knife and a melon baller. (Save the cores and peelings for the glaze). Slice by placing the halves cut side down. Place the entire sliced halves on the dough in a ring 2 inches from edge if going galette-style, or up to the sides if using the tart pan. Keeping the halves together helps when you lay them out. Then you can just lightly tilt them and they’ll fan out. Continue inward until you reach the center. Fold dough hanging over pan back onto itself; crimp edges at 1-inch intervals. Brush melted butter over apples and onto the edge of the dough. Sprinkle the apples with 3 Tablespoons of sugar, sprinkle the dough edges with 2 Tablespoons of sugar. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon cinnamon onto the apple filling and dot with 1 Tablespoon of butter.

Bake in center of oven until apples are soft, with browned edges, and crust has caramelized to a dark golden brown (about 45 minutes), making sure to rotate tart every 15 minutes.

Make the glaze: Put reserved peels and cores in a large saucepan, along with 1/2 cup of sugar. Pour in just enough water to cover; simmer for 25 minutes. Strain syrup through cheesecloth.

Remove tart from oven, and place onto a cooling rack. Let cool at least 15 minutes.

Brush glaze over tart, slice, and serve.

Eat a Peach Day

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Apparently there’s a designated national day for just about anything now, and today is National ‘Eat a Peach Day!’

During these late August days of summer, gardens in and around Portland look dry and desert-like with brightly colored fruit falling from yellowed, strained branches. We can’t possibly gorge ourselves on enough fresh fruit to make a dent, and since I don’t have the time to preserve by canning, I simply wash, slice, place on cookie sheets, freeze, and then package into sealed containers for longer term freezing. This way we can still enjoy some of those sweet fruits in smoothies or desserts into the cooler months.

What’s that you say? You’re looking for ways to enjoy peaches today? Glad you asked!

I’ve recently made a couple easy desserts using peaches that I’m excited to share with you.

First up is a super quick and easy peach cobbler…

PeachCobbler

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Then there’s this yummy peach and blueberry galette…

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Of the two, the galette requires a bit more preparation, so if you’re into immediate gratification, or just limited on time, go with the cobbler. Served warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, both are delicious!

FRESH PEACH COBBLER
from Southern Living

Ingredients:
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup all-purpose flour
1-2 cups sugar, divided
1 Tablespoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
1 cup milk
4 cups fresh peach slices
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
Ground cinnamon and/or nutmeg

Preparation:
• Melt butter in a 13 x 9-inch baking dish.
• Combine flour, 1 cup of the sugar, baking powder, and salt; add milk, stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened. Pour batter over butter (do not stir).
• Bring remaining 1 cup of sugar, peach slices, and lemon juice to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly; pour over batter (do not stir). Sprinkle with cinnamon and/or nutmeg, if desired.
• Bake at 375°F. for 40-45 minutes or until golden brown.
• Serve cobbler warm or reheat before serving.

 

PEACH AND BLUEBERRY GALETTE

Pate Brisee:
Ingredients:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/4 to 1/2 cup ice water

Preparation:
• Pulse flour, salt and sugar in a food processor to combine. Add butter; process until mixture resembles coarse meal, about 10 seconds. With the machine running, add ice water in a slow, steady stream through the feed tube until dough just holds together (no longer than 30 seconds).
• Shape dough into a disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least 1 hour (up to 2 days), or freeze for up to 1 month.

Filling:
Ingredients:
6-8 cups fresh fruit
1/4 to 1/3 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
1 large egg and 1 Tablespoon of heavy cream (for egg wash)

Preparation:
• Roll dough into a 16″ circle about 1/8″ thick. Transfer onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
• In a small bowl combine 2/3 cup sugar and 1/4 cup flour. Sprinkle the sugar mixture onto the pastry to within 1 inch of the edges. In a large bowl, combine the fruit and 1/4 to 1/3 cup sugar; toss gently.
• Place fruit onto the pastry circle and sprinkle with lemon juice and dot with butter. Fold up pastry edges to form a lip.
• Beat 1 egg and add a tablespoon of cream. Brush the dough with the egg wash and sprinkle with sanding sugar.
• Place prepared galette into the refrigerator for about 15 minutes prior to baking.
• Preheat oven to 375°F.
• Bake until edges are golden brown and fruit is bubbling and cooked through, about 1 hour.
• Let cool on a wire rack for about 15 minutes, then transfer the galette to the rack to cool completely.