Friday, June 26, 2015

Yes, She Can Bake A Cherry Pie Charming Billy....

The cherry tree has exploded with sour cherries again and this year is harder than most to get them off because of my work schedule.

I've been sending the boy out every day but as anyone that has a teenager knows, what you envisioned them doing is rarely what they do. He does a respectable job but we literally could fill bucket baskets with cherries.

I went out last night after work and in less than an hour had picked an entire Pyrex mixing bowl full. I can't just leave them. After all, I planted these trees so that we could have produce from our own land.

It's also a nice conversation starter with the neighbors who walk down the road. We got talking about cherries, then chickens....

My cherry pickin chickens....

And in mentioning the chickens, I keep a chicken bucket for any of the narly cherries. The chickens love their special treat.

But after picking all these cherries comes the second part of the process, how are we going to preserve them? After all, I still have tons of cherries from last year even after sending a bunch home with my parents on their last visit so clearly I don't need to freeze any.

And I have jelly up the ying-yang.

So this year I came up with a couple of different ideas.

Small Cherry Pies.
We've all seen and maybe made those little mini cupcakes but what about tiny pies? These would be great popping them into the mini muffin pan and baking off 24 of these for the holidays  or the next time your child tells you at 10pm that he needs a dessert for the school bakesale or class. How about back to school? Wouldn't these be absolutely darling in your child's lunchbox?

I used my Betty Crocker pie crust and just popped them into each muffin tin. Docked it and put it in the freezer. Then once frozen, made the filling and filled each little pie with another Betty Crocker pie filling recipe. Froze again then popped them into a freezer bag for later baking.


Normal Cherry Pie
I always make a couple of pies to put in the freezer for the holidays or when the mood strikes for a pie. They always come out perfect and who has the energy to do yet another dish when life gets so busy.

Individual Cherry Cheese Cake

I was thinking along the lines of doing a black forest cake but Oreo crumbs were more expensive than graham cracker, so graham cracker won out. Again breaking out the mini muffin pan, I took one stick of butter and a cup of graham cracker crumbs and adjusted the measurements, now more butter, now more graham crumbs, until l I had the texture of fine sand. I pressed a bit in the bottom of each mini muffin cup and baked for 9 mins at 350 degrees. I let it cool and made the following three ingredient cheesecake filling.

3 Ingredient No Bake Cheesecake Filling (Makes a lot)

1    small can sweetened condensed milk
2    8oz cream cheese
1    tsp or more to taste, flavoring. Rum is good as is vanilla

Mix together until fully incorporated. Put on top of each muffin tin of graham crackers and make sure to leave space for the cherry pie filling. Use your favorite recipe

Dried Cherries:
I got this idea from "Home Made in the Kitchen" (on Amazon currently for $. 01)** by Bluestein & Morrissey. (I highly recommend this book and bountiful kitchen for anyone who likes crafting and food... and foodcrafting). Their method, however,  left a lot to be desired. They essentially have you put the cherries in a 140 degree oven for 14 hours! First, I've never met an oven that goes below 170 and after 18 hours, my cherries were slumped but still juicy. I finished these off in the dehydrator which I think I'll go directly to next time but the idea was solid.


These would be great as a snack in themselves or put in any place you'd use raisins such as cereal, granola or cookies. They are tart and tasty! This is where the majority of the cherries are going to from this point out. These would be fantastic in oatmeal chraisen (Cherry raisins) cookies.

Chocolate Cherry Bread
This is another entry from Homemade in the Kitchen. I made several. Perfect for those office Christmas gifts.

Cherry "Pop Tarts" This was an idea from a book that escapes me at the moment . I was a mite too generous and mine turned out like mini pies. I got four when I was supposed to get six and honestly after using the recipe in the book, there was no way to get these in the toaster without the fear of destroying the toaster. Back to the drawing board with this one.

Cherry Pit Pie Weights I wish I could claim this ingenious idea but alas I can't, I read it in the aforementioned book whose title I can't remember. Instead of wasting rice or beans, or buying pie weights, use the pits for pie weights. After cleaning these up I put them in a warm oven until they were cool. Now I can use them for any pie I have to blind bake.

This weekend will be the last of the cherry picking... after this they are fodder for the birds.

But it's nice to know that our land is bearing food to feed the family. Feel like a modern day pioneer...

* Graphics courtesy of the Graphics Fairy website.


***Bonnet is Google Images.


Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Hey Buddy, You Want to Smoke?

Do You Smoke?

No, not we're talking about anything to do with nicotine, we're talking a smoker, like this:

We used some reward points and basically got this unit free.

It's really wonderful and no more difficult to use than an electric stove.

Essentially you first choose which wood you want to use. We typically buy this from Tractor Supply Company by the bag but for a sample pack to try what you like, or like me you went too early and this is all they had, they sell these for about $5.

In your smoker you will discover one container with a lid. That is where you put your wood.

 In the other metal container you put your water. Then just heat up your smoker for about 10-30 mins.

If you are going to do heavier pieces of meat, start them first and closer to the smoker. Because of their denseness, they will take a lot longer to get done.

I found that hamburgers take me maybe 20 mins in the smoker and the same or less with shrimp.

I let the roasts go for about three hours and they were still too rare for my taste. I would allow at least 5-6 hours for those.

I love the smoker for the lovely taste it infuses into the meat but also because it's a lot easier to use than a grill so I can access it all by myself without help.

It's my new essential summertime tool!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Chickens on Parade!

After approximately eight hours over two weekends of work, the chickens have a temporary house and can finally be moved, albeit not for as long as we hoped, to their "summer cottage".

My husband had purchased this coop as a surprise for me last year and after a year in the garage, we finally put it together.. and not a moment too soon. The girls have made it quite clear that they feel that they are a little cramped in their current accommodations and would really like something a bit more roomy. I've got a few shelves from my store bought "greenhouse" covering their current home and this is a gridded shelving so needless to say, I have chicken heads peeking through the grid to look around.

Think "Whack-a-Mole"...                                        

                  It's quite humorous....

Anyway, we set this up in between two of my rows of tomatoes. As soon as I moved this chicken tractor, the quality was apparent.. as in, lack of. The frame began to separate and I had to pound the frame back in place. We bought this as a kit off of Amazon and I'm not a fan. Worse purchase I think we've made in a long time, but we had no clue, the reviews were good...

From this at 2 days old.....
To this in six weeks time! Chickens grow fast.


A "chicken tractor" for those not familiar with the concept, is essentially a movable coop that you can place anywhere you want. This is perfect for fertilizing various places like my raspberries, the fruit trees and the vegetable garden. I was shocked and how, in a few hours time, the girls really weeded and tore up all the small weeds that had bounded up with the rains we had. I have built in gardeners!

"I don't know Chica, do you think it's safe?"
After we got the coop brought up, my son and I clipped one wing from each chicken so that they cannot fly away. Yes, chickens can fly but not very far, more like a hop/fly type of thing. We got them into the coop and it was about half an hour or so before anyone was brave enough to poke their heads outside of the coop.

Why am I so captivated with these silly girls? They are so totally silly.

Then, as though someone had pushed her, one of my intrepid girls flew out of the hutch with a great amount of indignity and walked around muttering to herself. Then she hotfooted it back into the hutch. Soon, all the girls gingerly started making their way down into the yard of their new home each one making darn sure they could race into their home at a moments notice.

The first night I just didn't have the energy to move the hutch over the doubled up chicken wire I brought out so they spent the night back in their home.

Needless to say, I had some very tired but satisfied chicks.

They weren't happy about coming back inside though.

The next day we put the girls back outside and by the afternoon and it was clear from the beginning, the girls were very comfortable in the yard. They stretched out on their sides with their claws leisurely stretched out in all their chicken glory.

They even dug little divets in the dirt to lay in.

Enjoying life in the "yard"...

I think they like their new home.

Unfortunately, I tried to move their home to the doubled up chicken wire I laid on the ground so no one could dig up underneath the hutch and kill them and as soon as I did, it started separating again!

They are very used to me taking pictures of them by now.

Never buy a coop online, just not worth it. At least this one wasn't!

So the girls spent another night inside.

::Sigh:: Back to work on the hutch.....

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Cobblestone House & The 1850 Lunch

The lilacs are finally in bloom.

It's rare when I treat myself.

Like many busy parents, I save up all my vacation time for the unexpected. The sick child, the mid-day appointment or some emergency repair (think furnace) to the home that I have to be there for. Occasionally, I'll save up a week all year round  to visit the family back home for Christmas. Rarely do I take the day off just for a "mental health" day.

But sometimes the stars come into alignment and an opportunity presents itself that seems be custom made for you. This is what happened this week.

Hurd Market is a 200 year old family farm located just a hop, skip and a jump from the Farmhouse in the Field ( Sue and Amy Machamer honor their farm family heritage by not only continuing the fruit business created by their predecessors but by redefining it to create an unique farm experience for their visitors. Their farm market is exquisite and for years I've secretly wanted to attend one of their luncheons but just could not justify taking one of those coveted days off for something so self-indulgent.

In getting one of their annual "newspapers" last week I saw something I could not resist, they had a "Cobblestone Luncheon".

Local history and a luncheon that dates from that time...oh yeah, I'm in. Our lunch was served in the manner of the time with each portion being served on it's own plate. We were told that the land around this area had made the pioneers of this land rather affluent and they had wanted any visitor to the area to know that they were just as cultured as anyone in Paris or anywhere else.

Our lunch was delicious and made with products grown on the farm. Now I'm not one of those people who constantly photographs the food they are about to eat, but this was so pretty I just couldn't resist.
These recipes were out of a 100 year old local
cookbook for Orleans County.

Our 1850's menu featured:

First course: Oat bread with butter and raspberry preserves
Spring salad (watercress, dandelion greens, dill, wild violets) with boiled  dressing.

Second course:
Chili braised port roast with apples and carrots
Aspargus boiled in cream

Third course:

 "Pie Plant" pie... i.e. Rhubarb
Some of the best I've ever had and I've had good pie..

The meal was served in their "barn" which was so pretty. Prettier than any barn I've personally be acquainted with...


I love the history of the common person throughout history. Sure wars, heros, dates and events are important to the development of a culture but in between spectacular events, people lived everyday lives which, it could be argued, built this country every bit as much if not more that the big proceedings

Unbeknownst to me, I was not aware of how unique the area in which I lived was.

Apparently 13,000 years ago, Ridge Road was a giant beach marking the southern end of what was then called "Lake Iroquois" now, Lake Ontario. This lake was the result of melting glaciers whose deposits make the land very fertile and perfect for farming and stone fruits. This is the reason you'll find fruit trees all over this region.

Lake rolled cobblestone set with a distinctive raise "V" pattern.

The lake also created little cobblestones through it's rolling action and deposited them all over the area as well.

Bottom cobblestones showing the inverted "honeycomb"
When settlers first came to this area called the "Black North" due to the extensive forests, they built log cabins like they had elsewhere to clear the lands. (The "Black North" by the way is a restaurant on the edge of Lake Ontario.)  Eventually, they discovered that stylish homes could be built with the surrounding cobblestones and the cost of materials was simply the labor to gather the free cobblestones. Rubble walls were built with veneers of cobblestones anywhere from 1 to 2 feet deep. Local masons would imprint designs into their work and no two cobblestone houses are the same.

 After about three runs, the mason would have to let the house cure for a period of two weeks before the work would be hard enough to put on another three runs. It took 3-4 months on a good year to get a house done.

Amazingly enough, this was apparently a fairly exclusive phenomena for the surrounding area. 95% of the cobblestone houses in North America reside in western NY with a sprinkling of some in Colorado and Ontario. We toured the oldest cobblestone church (built in 1834) in North America. This was in use on and off for about 40 years and had been revamped several times.

Just to demonstrate that trompe l'oeil is nothing new.


Gaines, NY

We visited the cobblestone one room schoolhouse that had been in operation until 1953.


Visiting alumni of the little schoolhouse, came in and signed their names on the board. If you look closely, you'll see students that attended back in 1914 & 1916!

The music lesson.

Your calculator, Mr. Abacus!

The county historian also allowed us to tour the Wade house that had briefly been owned by Horace Greeley.  The couple that "owned" this house couldn't sign for the mortgage and Mr. Greeley was apparently a relative who signed for it.

The husband died and Mr. Greeley had to take ownership for a bit of time.

This was set up as a middle class home.

When this house was constructed, the kitchen was originally in the basement.

Horsehair couch from 1850.

Wallpaper from the Victorian time period was not all soft colors and frilly patterns as people seem to believe and immulate. The red wall paper is close to what I have in my house. In many ways, the amount of pattern and the colors can be very garish.

The kitchen set up for ironing the pleats in shirts and that blue bottle is the 1850's equivalent of a fire extinguisher! If a fire started on the stove, you pitched that at the stove as hard as you could.

Getting ready to make lunch..

The dining room set for lunch...

Another gentleman in the area was had a cobblestone house that had been in his family for well over a hundred years plus and was revamping it to his grandparent's time. It was absolutely beautiful and really a wonderful place to see how people would have actually lived.

Some beautiful quilts were on display...

Beautiful small Star of Bethlehem quilt in the master.

Broken Sugar bowl quilt

The "visitor's" room or a place to lay out the dead! Ewww!
People were definitely a lot more comfortable with death in those days.
Beautiful satin log cabin on the bed.
Large view of the master.

Half doll lamp over the bed.

An Edison phonograph. Not sure if that is what is was called but
it was amazing to hear a vaudeville performer who's been dead
over 90 years.

The dining room is ready for supper..

The parlor...

Horsehair chairs with embroidery.

Isn't this amazing!


This was such a fun and fulfilling day. It's so incredible to think that this was in my backyard the entire time and I never knew it. I guess the lesson here is too look around your own community and you'll discover amazing things about the communities that you live in. There is so much history to take in, perfect for a day trip or a staycation. I know this summer I'll look around more closely to find more local opportunities!