Tart Cherries, My Cookbook.

tart cherries

During the last month of my pregnancy, I was obsessed with the idea of tart cherries.  As I mentioned before, last year was a wash for finding any and I was hungrier than ever to find some.  Just after my new addition, I got several pounds of fruit from neighbors, and just last week I had the opportunity to buy a bulk quantity of Door County tart cherries as I did two years ago from Cherryland's Best.  Perhaps the best thing about buying a pail of tart cherries from them is that they are already pitted, and swimming in their own juice.  I appreciated that extra bit of work was already done, especially since it seems that whenever I try to tackle something that could require some attention, one very small, fairly new human being seems to need my undivided attention.  And I am the mama who will stop everything to oblige.

Fortunately, the day of the cherry drop off I was blessed with a sleepy boy who napped away the afternoon as I worked my way through the 27 lb. pail.  I broke 2 quarts in my haste of getting the quarts of whole cherries into the hot water bath (but to my defense, those cherries were chilly!), but somehow I was also blessed with both the patience to clean up my mess of epic proportions and the perseverance to continue on to the bottom of the pail.

That day yielded 6 quarts canned in extra light syrup, and one small and very sweet batch of a Black Forest sauce I found in the Ball Preserving book and added some almond extract to.  It is going to be very good on some chocolate cake or vanilla ice cream.  It didn't really gel up like I expected, but it is great as a medium thick sauce with chocolate and unsweetened coconut, and some of the cherry brandy that I made last month with neighborhood cherries.

I started to turn 2 lbs. into drinking vinegar, which when mixed with selzer water is my favorite cocktail these days.  It is sweetened with the same sugar I'm trying to reduce my consumption of, but I make concessions for it because I'm not drinking kombucha right now - and the vinegar fools me well enough.  Vinegar is also a detoxifying agent, but I suspect not in the same way as kombucha (let me know if you know otherwise)...  It appears I do crave some fizzy drink with tart/sour kick almost every afternoon.  At least it is something I've made myself.

tart cherries, vinegar.

soaking in vinegar.

To make tart cherry drinking vinegar (or any fruit flavored vinegar), I combine the ratio of 1 lb. fruit to 1 cup raw cider vinegar (Bragg's).  Let it steep for 5-7 days, strain it, then measure the liquid.  For every cup of strained vinegar, add 3/4 to 1 cup of sugar depending on taste.  I heat it very gently so the sugar dissolves, but well below the temperature of pasteurizing the raw vinegar, then cool and store in re-purposed glass bottles.

I cheated somewhat and froze the remaining cherries in 1 1/2 lb. bags with some of their juice.  I then tucked the remaining near-quart of cherry juice in the fridge - with the consideration of making cherry jelly, but then noble declination when I'd realized I'd already exceeded the number of jars of sweet preserves I want on my shelf this year.  I'll just drink it, or maybe freeze it in ice cube trays to keep other drinks cold and pink.


I spent the weekend out at my Parents farm, both boys and husband in tow.  Just before I left the city, the day of the cherry drop off in fact, I got the first copy of my cookbook in the mail.  It hit me as being real - that I wrote and photographed a book that was actually going to be for sale.  And even better was the feeling that came when we found my name on Amazon, and I found out my husband was checking it twice a day every day since, checking up on my "rating" which is in the hundreds of thousands, but it doesn't matter because him being so proud of me is the best feeling ever.

the cover.

The book is a small thing, almost pocket sized, but very readable with some of my most favorite concoctions in it.  Some are recipes that have appeared on my blog, but some are new things I developed especially for the book.  I was happy to also include several lacto-fermented recipes, like this Cilantro-Raisin Chutney which could be my favorite thing ever.  Or one of my favorites, anyway.

It will likely be available in September, but is already available for preorder on Amazon.  I will also have copies for sale on my site, or you can order directly from the publisher, Peter Pauper Press. I will update this site and the CakeWalk Facebook page when I know more!

As I hold that little book in my hands, I keep thinking that if I never had kids I wouldn't be looking at it.  I may still be working 60 hours a week somewhere, having never discovered the mysteries of sourdough, bubbly ferments, long cooking slow food.  I might never have owned the preservationist title, and instead rested on the laurels of my Mom and Gram rather than embracing the lifestyle I now have:  one of hard work at home that was definitely inspired by them and their love of taking care of family.  

Those little boys that entered my world, they made so many things crystal clear for me, but there is more to come that is still hazy.  Where I'm heading next with an infant in tow, I do not know.  It's a good feeling to provide for them in tangible ways, and what an amazing feeling to write things into existence that I hope people use and are inspired by!

Babies and Brandy.

brandied tart cherries
brandied tart cherries.

More than two weeks have floated by, after the birth of my second son.  He was born swiftly and smoothly on a beautiful Summer evening, 7 years to the day after his older brother.  To say that you can fall head over heels in love with another human being so quickly is an understatement of epic proportion.  He fits into our family in a way I couldn't have anticipated, and the darling boy even let me bake bread the day after I arrived home.

Physically, I feel like I can do anything.  Recovery time has also been fast, much faster than with my first son - and I feel like I have all of the energy I need to make up for lost time in the kitchen.  Grains have been sprouted, ferments set to bubbling, farmer's markets attended, and the only area I feel lacking in is actual meal planning.  Sporadic baby interruptions just before the dinner hour have slowed me up a little, and "piece catch" meals hit the table in great thanks to my freezer, garden basil, and last minute imagination.  When I was first married and working full time, I recall I used to actually plan meals in a little notebook... and I'm thinking it might not be a bad idea to bring that method back.

But meanwhile, things are good in my world.  Babies have a way of making everything feel fresh and amazing.  Kind of like a fresh bottle of brandy.  Before the comments of nursing mothers and alcohol come flooding in, I'm not actually drinking the brandy - and to be honest, despite brandy being the most often purchased liquor in my state, it's really not even my favorite.  But used to cook with or inoculate fruits?  It might just be my favorite thing ever.

Dorie's brandied chicken.
click the photo for the recipe.

Alcohol in general is still not on my grocery list.  On the continuing path to our household economic recovery, (and fresh off the path of 9 months of abstinence anyway...) I can't see spending a red cent on something as trivial as alcohol - especially since it isn't really a necessity.  But my parents were here for a Sunday dinner when my newest babe was just 5 days old, I knew I had to have them try one of my favorite chicken-in-a-pot recipes from Dorie Greenspan's Around my French Table.  It's a recipe that calls for Armagnac, which is a spirit that I find completely wonderful, though prohibitively expensive to me.  Fortunately, if you enrich the much cheaper brandy with dried prunes and cook it with chicken, the flavor is stellar nonetheless. My Mom and Dad visited the first liquor store they have probably been in since before I was born to get me a bottle of brandy for the dish, and I've been making good use of the rest of the bottle in the days since that chicken was earnestly devoured.

brandied raspberries

My neighbor has a tart cherry tree in her back yard.  She generously offered them free for the picking, and another neighbor graciously offered to pick some for me, since we were in the midst of a heatwave.  The cherries were deliciously deep red, tart, and perfect, and I instantly knew I had to make brandied cherries.  The last time I made them was maybe 3 years ago, and I still have a handful of faded cherries submerged in liquor stashed in the back of my fridge.  I couldn't remember what ratio or recipe I used, so I went with one I found on Serious Eats.  The general ratio for that recipe was one part sugar (I used raw sugar), one part water (or cherry juice) to two parts brandy.  I didn't pit the cherries, and didn't bother to poke a needle through each one either:  I figured a bit of time on the counter and more time in the refrigerator would take care of any of that extra work for me - and I was right.  I let them sit out on the counter for a few days before transferring, and already the brandy was dark red and the cherries nicely spiked with flavor.

brandied raspberries

Some new friends recently transplanted back to the Midwest from Oregon stopped by yesterday to visit and thoughtfully brought me perfectly ripe raspberries.  I decided to try brandying the raspberries using mostly the same method, but using the ratio of 1 part each sugar (white granulated sugar in this case to preserve the true flavor of the raspberry), water, and brandy.  I packed the raspberries into clean pint jars, heated the sugar and water over medium heat until the sugar just dissolved, and then added the brandy off the heat.  Just standing overnight led to color saturated liquid that is less potent than the tart cherries, but so excellent tasting I can hardly wait to have an excuse to make a pound cake or some shortcakes, maybe even a "poke" type cake that can make use of the bright, spiked raspberry juice.  There are some words I hate using to describe food, and luscious is one of them... but these berries truly are luscious.

I might be silly to compare my new babe to a bottle of brandy.  But in a way, it fits.  When you don't have something for a long time, you can really appreciate it all the more, and that is how a second baby is for me.  I am reminded of how wonderful every new moment was with my first little son, and just what is is store for me with my second.  I marvel over impossible long eyelashes and tiny fingernails, I get to know all the expressions and nuances of a brand new personality, and savor each one for the fleeting moment in time I now know it is.  Like the bottle that empties too quickly, but lives on in what it has preserved, I document in both mental and physical photographs the new life I've been blessed with.  I will most happily decant both in the future and be able to feel as full of emotion as I am right now.


Daring Baker Challenge January 2012: Biscuits.

Audax Artifex was our January 2012 Daring Bakers’ host. Aud worked tirelessly to master light and fluffy scones (a/k/a biscuits) to help us create delicious and perfect batches in our own kitchens!

sourdough biscuits

Tireless is probably a more than apt description of our host this month. Since I have joined the Daring Bakers, I've looked forward each month to Audax Artifex's take on our challenges, his lightening fast completion times, and the phenomenally articulate recipe notes that he shares nearly immediately. For his hosting of a challenge, I would have expected something wildly complex, but instead he chose biscuits (called scones in Australia), and he really mastered them. Go have a look!

I started my testing of biscuits near the beginning of the month, and only did 6 batches, 10 short of Audax's 16. I fully intended on making his recipe at least once, but I got so sidetracked by sourdough that I never made it that far. In fact, I did my last full dessert biscuit application yesterday, not leaving myself any time to get to his original recipe. Maybe I was just so inspired by Audax's tireless approach to mastering a recipe that I figured I'd adapt a single recipe until I had it nearly foolproof myself.Link

sourdough biscuits
this batch didn't rise so high because I patted the dough thinner, about 1/2 inch.

I have made baking powder biscuits in the past. I know that you are supposed to be careful with the dough, not to beat it up, treat it with a lick and a promise and make sure that they touch each other when you pack them lightly onto a baking sheet. I have never made sourdough biscuits however, which I have to assume are the predecessor to the more modern baking powder version. The base recipe I found tasted so good on the first go (except that I used butter right out of the box... I would not be found messing around with butter flavored vegetable oil), that I varied my fats, baking temperature and roll-out method and found my favorite combination fairly quickly in only 6 batches.

The base recipe (by Phil Mahan) I used was designed for a camp cooking experince. It is extraordinarily simple, and it's very easy to make half batches of which is good when you can polish off a whole batch warm from the oven. I found it best to use sourdough starter (100% hydration) that I had fed about 4 hours prior. I also tried adding baking powder along with the natural leaven of the sourdough, and found no real discernible taste difference. The rise took about half as long, which was maybe convenient, but my personal feeling is to let the biscuit be naturally leavened. I think I am just still intrigued that the jar on my counter can lift dough, and if given the time, it does a stellar job of it.

ham and juusto

In my first trials, I mixed room temperature soft butter with sourdough starter, added my flour/salt/sugar mixture and basically "kneaded" it in a large bowl by folding it over onto itself until it formed a ball. I tried to do this purposefully, so I wouldn't beat up the dough, but with a sturdy hand so that the dough would come together somewhat swiftly. Then, I simply patted the dough out into a rough block about 1 inch thick. (I also tried patting it thinner, and they didn't rise as high.) Using a round cutter, I used the classic method of pressing straight through the dough and then twisting to cut out the biscuit. I gently pressed my scraps together, and even though they were not quite as pretty and didn't rise quite as high, they still tasted great - lightly sweet and still a little sourdoughy. They are a perfect match for sweet or savory, I don't think I'd change a thing to turn them into strawberry shortcake or drown them in gravy.

The original recipe I used for sourdough biscuits didn't call for traditional biscuit cutting, it called for forming the dough into balls. Not only is this faster, I found that they rose better too. After forming a batch of biscuit balls, I decided that something could easily make its way into the middles of round biscuits and stay put. The month wasn't long enough to try all of the ideas that popped into my head.

round sourdough biscuits

The first combination I tried was ham and a slow melting "baked" cheese called Juusto. I love this cheese, and it's actually made just down the road from my Parents. Not knowing if the biscuit balls would pop open on me, I was a little stingy with filling them. I remedied that yesterday when I decided on making a chocolate and tart cherry version. I packed them with as much filling as they could hold, pinched the dough firmly to keep it in place, then rolled it lightly between my palms.

homecanned sour cherries

This was the first jar of tart cherries I opened from last Summer. I got 27 lbs. of already pitted fruit from Cherryland's Best with a group of area food bloggers. I canned my whole cherries in an light syrup (1 part sugar to 4 parts water), and they tasted so good when I popped a few into my mouth, as good as they did the day I got them, reminding me exactly why canning appeals to me so much.

chocolate cherry biscuit forming

While the mixture of wrung-dry cherry and chopped chocolate doesn't look the prettiest, it makes up for it in flavor. The cherries are undeniably good, but I have to believe that part of the reason is also that I was gifted a block of Callebaut bittersweet baking chocolate. That chocolate gift was better than if someone gave me a piece of Stueben, though I treat it the same way by often admiring it's heft and smoothness. I do this for a positively certifiable amount of time. I then mixed a little cherry syrup with powdered sugar to make a pale pink glaze, and I could feel the pangs of sugar guilt running through my veins. I ended up eating 2 of them, hot out of the oven, glazed and sprinkled with cacao nibs. I didn't feel guilty at all. Well, maybe I did just a little.

chocolate cherry biscuit

I would venture to say that sourdough biscuits do taste best the second they come out of the oven, even though the unfilled biscuits I made were very good when toasted the next day. There are few things better than devouring something right after it comes from the oven, so I'd encourage you to plan it that way. When using well fed starter, I found 2 hours of rising time to be plenty. I also find it hard to get good color on these, even when I baked them longer they still barely blushed golden. It doesn't affect the eating though. Remember the recipe is easily cut in half.

Sourdough Biscuits (with Cherry Chocolate Middles) (adapted from Phil Mahan)
makes 12
  • 2 c. well fed starter
  • 1/4 c. soft butter, warm room temperature
  • 2 c. AP flour
  • 3 T. granulated sugar
  • 1 t. salt

Stir to combine flour, sugar and salt in a medium sized bowl. Butter a cast iron skillet large enough to fit your batch (a 5 or an 8 worked for me for half and whole batches respectively).

Measure starter into a large bowl and add butter. Using a spatula or the back of a spoon, mash the butter into the starter until it is no longer visible. Add the flour mixture, stirring with spatula or spoon for a few strokes to help it begin to combine. Then using one hand, begin to fold the batter onto itself until it begins to form a dough. Work quickly, gently, and thoroughly. Stop as soon as all the dried parts of the flour are incorporated, and the dough feels like a dough. (If you can tell it is too dry, add a tablespoon or two of water before you have worked the dough to completion. If the dough comes together and there is still some flour in the bottom of the bowl that didn't get worked in, just discard it and the batch will be slightly less in volume.)

Press the dough out to a uniform thickness, about 1/2 inch (aim for 1 inch if you are going to cut biscuits using the method described above). Cut into 6 pieces. Working with one piece at a time, put a good amount of tart cherry and chocolate filling (recipe below) in the center of the dough and fold up the dough around it. Pinch it tightly to completely enclose the filling, then gently roll the dough to form a ball. Place the biscuits, just barely touching each other, in the prepared skillet.

Let rise (covered with a towel) until nearly doubled in bulk, about 2 hours depending on the warmth of the room. Towards the end of the rise, preheat the oven to 375.

Bake for 20-25 minutes until tops are lightly browned. (You can brush the biscuits with butter about half way through the baking time, or upon removing them from the oven if you like.)

Tart Cherry and Chocolate Filling

  • 2 heaping cups of canned tart cherries (250 g.) drained, and pressed mostly dry, juices reserved for glaze if desired
  • 4 oz. (120 g.) excellent bittersweet chocolate, chopped finely

Mix to combine. That's it. Here's a picture of what it will look like. And you will probably have a little leftover, which you should eat right away because you can't stand waiting on the oven to produce your sourdough biscuits with cherry chocolate middles...

chocolate cherry biscuit interior

So, I'm just days away now from my month free of sugar - or really it was my month almost free of sugar. What little splurging I did do was definitely worth it. My goal of feeling committed to less sugar on a daily basis is going to stick I think. I have gotten out of the daily routine of dessert, which some may argue is heresy, but I feel great so I'll continue it. At least until my next Daring Baker Challenge.

Thanks again to Audax for his amazing effort and choice in a challenge this month. I promise I will try his non-sourdough biscuits, but I am so happy that I got obsessed with this version! I would never have considered sourdough biscuits, and now they are just another of the sourdough things that I can't live without. If you're coming to dinner and I forgot to plan a bread, you're getting sourdough biscuits, and you are going to love them.

biscuit test brunch

Preserving Sour Cherries.

I really never got addicted to sour cherries until 2 years ago. I popped a couple into my mouth at the West Allis Farmer's market, and my life was forever changed. I'm not really sure why I never ate them before, or sought to look for them. They were something rare, something I never grew up eating.

Last year, I missed the fleeting season altogether - in part because I didn't go to many farmer's markets because I joined a CSA, and in part because the season was not prolific due to our extremely rainy Spring. I made my last jar of tart cherry jam last longer than I should have but by the time July rolled around, I started perusing the Wisconsin Cherry Grower's site nearly daily, paranoid that I was going to miss them again and my memory of tart cherry jam was going to have to hold me for another year.

All of a sudden, there was a cherry explosion. I first saw tiny crates at the Farmer's market last Tuesday, little ruby drops of North Star and Montmorency varieties - gems that put Wisconsin on the gourmet foods map. There really is nothing like a sour cherry, nothing that approximates it's piquant sweetness, and popping the first handfuls into my mouth fueled my growing cherry appetite even more.

When Peef and Lo asked if I'd be interested in getting a substantial amount of cherries from Cherryland's Best, I originally thought I'd split some with another food blogger. But the longer our discussions went, the more we all decided that we could each manage to make 27 lbs. of cherries into something. The way I downed my first little basket, I wondered if 27 lbs. would actually be enough. I imagined myself to sleep by pitting cherries until my fingers hurt, waking early so excited for Wisconsin sour cherries and the task to preserve them all.

I was more than surprised when my cherries came in and they were "processed". A food grade, white pail heavy with already pitted fruits in their own natural, accumulated juices. I drove my haul back home, cracked open the pail, shoveled a handful of tart cherries into my mouth. I was so happy, and I didn't have to pit anything! As soon as I gave my Kiddo lunch, I portioned off my plan of attack. In less than 24 hours, here is what became of the 27 lbs. of cherries:

3 lbs. for the Sour Cherry Jam
2 1/2 lbs. for Limey Rum Sour Cherry Preserves (inspired by Linda Ziedrich, recipe below)
1 lb. for the Bachelor's Jam
3 lbs. for dehydration
2 1/4 lbs. for vinegar
7 1/2 lbs. for quarts canned in light syrup, one jar lost to explosion :(
2 lbs. for cherry crisp
1 lb for fresh eating
just shy of 2 quarts of accumulated cherry juice

I haven't done too much fruit dehydration, and I knew I would be shocked at how much moisture is lost in the process. Of the 3 lbs. of fresh cherries, the finished weight of dried cherries was under a half pound. They are sweeter, and would remind me of a dried cranberry if I didn't know better. After drying them, I put them in the freezer just to make sure any extra moisture doesn't cause them to mold on me. I'll likely use some in my Stollen this year.

bachelor's jam.
I first read about bachelor's jam last year, and was fascinated with the idea of it. Fruit is layered as it comes into season with sugar and kept submerged in alcohol (I used brandy) until ready to use. The "jam" comes from stirring up the boozy fruits and straining them out of the alcohol - each to be used as a separate component to holiday entertaining I'd imagine. I can't wait to make cakes topped with the fruit, to taste the finished alcohol that right now I can only imagine as being extremely sweet.


I feel like flavoring purchased vinegar is totally cheating. I also feel like I have failed miserably at making vinegars, the only success being the blueberry apple variety. The beautiful vat of Lemberger wine that was gifted to me became plagued with black mold, the rhubarb version met the same demise. I still love the flavor of vinegar, especially Bragg's cider vinegar, and put the fruit to steep as recommended in Pam Corbin's River Cottage Preserves Handbook. Next week, I'll strain it, sugar it, and reduce it - where it will be a clever addition to pan sauces and maybe even yogurt. (Note: I decided not to heat the vinegar past the warming point, just enough to dissolve the sugar. This way, the Bragg's vinegar remains raw and healthful despite all of the sugar. It is delicious mixed with ice and seltzer as a shrub.)

the beginning of Limey Rum Cherry Preserves.

Inspired to make more boxed-pectin-free jams this year, I have been devouring the recipes in Linda Zeidrich's The Joys of Jams Jellies and Other Sweet Preserves. Sweet Preserves are something that I never really understood: too thin to be considered a jam, they sit clumsily on toast or pared up with nut butters. They are achingly sweet. I made a strawberry preserves not too long ago that seemed good, but on the sweet side. I felt that when the heat of Summer subsided, they would taste better. But then I made this sour cherry version of preserves - and now my opinions have changed.

Yes, it is sweet. But the texture and viscosity is so lovely that I think it has sold me on the idea of preserves. I used (by weight) raw sugar, which when I smelled in in tandem with the sour cherry, made me think it needed rum. And lime. Instead of lemon, I switched to lime, and in short order, my first tweaked preserves were born.

after boiling 5 minutes, and sitting 12 hours. or maybe a tad longer...

This preserves starts 8-12 hours before the canning process takes place. The sugar combines with the fruit and coaxes the gorgeous juices into being.

Limey Rum Sour Cherry Preserves (adapted from Linda Zeidrich)
my yield: 5 half pints
  • 2 1/2 pounds sour cherries, pitted, any juices saved
  • 5 c. sugar (I used 958 g. of raw sugar, converted by this site)
  • zest of one lime (I use the small, "true" limes)
  • 2 T. lime juice, from the zested lime)
  • 1/4 c. dark, spiced rum
In a large, non-reactive pot, combine the cherries, lime zest, and sugar and let sit covered for at least 1 hour. The sugar should have drawn out some of the juice.

Heat the mixture over medium heat, stirring gently and occasionally, until sugar dissolves completely. Raise heat to medium high, and boil for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove pan from heat, and cover with a cloth. Let the pan stand at room temperature for 8-12 hours.

Set the pan over medium heat and add lime juice. Bring to a boil, and raise heat to medium high. Boil, stirring often (skimming any foam) until the syrup thickens a little. (I tested by using frozen plates - I boiled away for at least 35 minutes until I was happy with the thickness.) Remove the pan from the heat and carefully stir in the rum.

Ladle into half-pint jars. Add lids and rings, and process in hot water bath for 10 minutes.

Since I made these preserves early this morning, I used the skimmed foam (there wasn't much) with an equal part maple syrup for this morning's pancakes. For some reason, I still am not cherried out:

After breakfast, I debated what to do with most of the remaining cherries. I wavered between canning in extra light syrup or freezing, and the canning won out. There's something about seeing quarts of cherries on the shelf, I guess - and the bonus of having some light cherry syrup to contend with...

6 went in, 5 came out...

I talked to my Mom for a good amount of time today, and she was surprised I wasn't making any desserts. "No cherry pies?" I have a serious weakness when it comes to sweets. If I make them, I eat them, if I don't make them, I don't even really crave them. I asked my Husband if he would eat a crisp. "Like, an apple crisp?" he asked, oblivious of the huge white pail that was still sitting on the counter... "No, like cherry crisp," I stated, maybe just a tad annoyed. He said he probably would eat it, so that was the only extra push I needed to make it.

I forgot that I should never NEVER use tapioca flour to thicken pies/tarts/crisps and the like, since I absolutely detest the flavor it imparts. After the crisp baked the first time, I dismembered it crisp from filling and cooked the filling on the stovetop with more sugar to mask the flavor. I also added probably too much cinnamon. Then, I reassembled the crisp into a new, shallower pan, topped with additional crumble (I had only used half the amount the first time, and froze the rest), and re-baked for a half hour. I was much happier.

Have I eaten my fill of cherries yet? I'm not sure. I'm so thankful I have such beautiful preserves to take me through the winter, to give as gifts. And, I'm surprised that it didn't seem like so much work to get it all done in less than a day. Thank you Peef and Lo for thinking of me, and thank you Cherryland's Best for amazing fruit, and less work!

The Best of 2009: Personal Food Photography Favorites.

I think when I look back, the whole reason that I started food blogging was because I was taking all of these food pictures, and I was only showing them to the same 3 or 4 people. I've loved my kitchen for quite a few years, but only somewhat recently entered the digital age of photography. I like to think that I know what's going on with technology, but yet really, I'm in the dark ages. Until I got married, I never even had a computer in my home, and most people were surprised at how many computer-related things I knew for really not being all that interested in them.

A few months ago, we had to invest in a terabyte of extra storage, since I was taking thousands of photos in super high resolution. It seems ironic that food photos were eating up tons of space. I've since started shooting in smaller formats, but still have a day or so in the future I must devote to paring down the digital clutter. Digital clutter, it seems to me, is much worse than the physical type, since you don't see it and it overwhelms your computer before you know it. More than once everything has frozen up due to space issues, and I've frantically had to transfer things over and cross my fingers that I wasn't loosing anything.

That said, I've dug into the external hard drive storage to unearth some of my favorite food photos from each month of 2009. Since I started blogging in April, I have quite an online collection of photos both here and on flickr. The ones below are of die hard obsessions, and are compositions that appealed to me, if not to the larger photographic community.

Off we go:

Granola from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day.

Granola is absolutely an obsession with me, and its one that appears to have no waning in sight as we enter a new decade. Of the many varieties that I've tried and tweaked and eaten (I can not imagine the pounds of rolled oats I've eaten this year...) this one is still one of my most favorite. In fact, I made a batch today, in spite of the lack of freezer space. In addition to being obsessed with granola, I am obsessed with frozen granola. I love it mixed in with day-old oatmeal, sprinkled on top of a Wheatabix biscuit, sprinkled on ice cream or poured directly into my mouth from a ramekin. You really must try it.


Dorie Greenspan's Cupcake.

Yes, it is the same as the banner cupcake above. I made them for a Super Bowl party, which is ironic since the thing I love most in the culinary world is chocolate cake, and the thing I hate most would have to be football. I forgot that I took quite a few different shots of this ganache topped beauty, and I like how it appears that I was shooting in a glamorous white facility somewhere and not on my sunlit dining room table. I'm pretty sure I ate a lot of them myself, and like I've said before, it is truly a miracle I am able to maintain my current weight.


Nigella Lawson's Chocolate Granola.

I went through a DVRing craze of watching Nigella on Food Network near the end of last winter. While I can't say I've watched much Food TV lately, I guess when the holidays are over and the rush of January is gone, and the whole of winter and snow seems to be beating me into couch potato-ing submission, I do catch up on DVR'd obsessions. As I recall, I was also watching all of the Jamie Oliver's I had recorded as well - so I must have been feeling rather British at the time.

This granola
is so different than any of the others I've tried, and has the benefit of being the recipe to introduce me to brown rice syrup, which is seriously one of my favorite things. It's so good and not so sweet, and has the best crunch of any I've tried.



I started the blog this month, and it was just a couple weeks after unexpectedly loosing one of my uncles, who was quite young. I think a great silence fell over me, since though I was far away from him, I remembered him so well from when I was small - and my brother and I were regularly (and gladly) tormented by all of my Mom's brothers (she had 4!). He had such a natural ability to be funny. Not just funny - an incredible wit that goes unmatched to anyone I've ever met. I like to think that the Northwoods are missing the laughter that he brought to everyone who knew him.

Eggs will forever remind me of this, and for a good reason. They do embody the necessity and the circle of life. It seems like a cruel truth, until closer observation. There is such joy to be found in every part. God has given us this set clock to which all of us are bound, and there is no escaping it. Whatever you believe, "When the game is over, all the pieces go back into the same box" as a fortune cookie I had once said.

While it seems like a strange way of coping with something so unexpected, eggs for a week in April did help me, though I felt in no way able to help my family as much as I would have liked to.

Alton's English Muffins.

My boys went to Chicago, and I stayed behind to catch up on knitting and being alone. Of course, this found time led me to do some rare shopping and I bought some egg rings. (Read more about it here.) It took me three tries to get them to turn out properly, but they were very tasty and ready for their photo op...


Black Beans.

I think this is just a random picture from one dinner one night back in June... before I was aware that I would be obsessed with Rancho Gordo, I'm sure these were just regular Non-Gordo's. I am always amazed at the agriculture in our country, and that even if you are short on cash, you can step into any supermarket and buy a pound of beans for about $ .99. These were mostlikely from the bulk bin at my food co-op, so they may have cost slightly more.

I took this
related picture in November (with a Rancho Gordo variety), and one of my favorite flickr contacts left the nicest comments aboutthe respect due a black bean... you'll have to click over and read it.


Mango Salsa.

My first post back in April was about mangoes and mango salsa. I think I ate mango salsa or a mango crisp for so long that the last time I bought one I made it into salsa and then couldn't even eat it! This never happens to me very often, but I think a new category has emerged: Foods I'm Tired Of. They still are amazing, and I wouldn't want to offend any mangoes who happen to be reading this. I'm pretty sure it's just a phase, and maybe by next June, I'll be ready to devour them once again.



In a Saveur article from this fall, I read about a "real life Johnny Appleseed". I never gave so much thought to the "American-ness" of apples before reading this article, and having it explain how there are so many unique American varieties due to the unique way that apple trees are propagated. I think that each tree must then taste unique to itself, since that is why this sauce is the exact taste that comes to mind when I think of applesauce, since I've been eating it pretty much since birth.

The applesauce I made above was from my Gram's tree in Northern Wisconsin. I don't know the variety, but it is sweet and tart. I didn't add any sugar to it at all - and if you'd ask the Boy-O, I know he'd agree that it is plenty sweet. I had a great time being a whole season canner this summer, and looking back at all of the photos I have of my processing, reminds me of this everyday miracle of food preservation.

I am indeed still looking for someone to eat beets with, since this batch of fine looking noodles is still snuggled in the frozen depths of my deep freeze... I just haven't had the occasion to serve them. I may just have to invite a new food blogger friend over to indulge with me...


Tostadas de Salmon Ahumado and Rancho Gordo Christmas Limas.

Mostly Foodstuff's Majestic and Moist Honeycake

There are three photos for October, since I couldn't choose. GOP turned my eye to the amazing Rancho Gordo in October, and I am forever grateful. Sometimes, there is this thing called "perceived value" which can be an inflated idea of greatness that you inflict on something you really want to be wonderful.

But, dear reader, Rancho Gordo is not included in this definition.The day I placed my first order, I made the delicious smoked salmon tostadas, and the first cooking experience with said beans was this amazing Christmas Lima. They were so good, and only improved with refrigerated residence. I have the other half pound from this batch, and am going to have to make the same meal again.

And as for the cake, well this cake, is the cake of all cakes... at least for a cake lover such as myself. It is so wonderful, and only more complemented by Deena's post about it. I'll say no more, you must try it for yourself. Just look at it gleaming there, you know you need to turn on the oven and brew yourself a pot of coffee...


Turkey Sandwich with Spicy Dilly Beans.

This was a great use of the little bit of leftover smoked Thanksgiving turkey. These dilly beans are going to be a staple at my house from now on. I could easily eat as many of them as an actual side of vegetable instead of the one of a pickle that it actually is. It's spicy, and dilly: It's Foodinjars Spicy Dilly Beans! And by all means add that extra cayenne pepper.


I come from a teetotaling family, so the making of homemade hooch wasn't exactly the first thing that came to mind when I was completely obsessed with tart cherries this last July. Curiosity, however, is the mother of experimentation over here at Casa RCakewalk...

I poured a tiny little cordial cup the other day to see how it was coming along, since the recipe I used suggested letting it rest for several months. It's very sweet, I'll say that, but it's also very cherry. I'm for sure going to have to make a black forest type ice cream, I know this much. It also, strangely, didn't seem overtly strong - but I think the sugar was fooling me. At any rate, it made a very nice picture for the end of the year.

So, at year end, thank you to my small handful of loyal readers that inspire me to continue taking photos and ruminating on life (usually as it pertains to the kitchen) around my house. I've had more fun doing this than I ever thought, and I've met some interesting people who are amazing canners, cooks and bakers! It does seem like the year has evaporated on me once again, and sometimes I wish I could just put the lid on it to slow the process. But then I remember the eggs, and realize that it is all a part of the plan,and that each of these 3 grey hairs I recently noticed are par for the course.

Happy New Year!!!