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Archive for December, 2011

It’s CHRISTMAS!! HUZZAH!

More than two decades ago (1987), the lovely Julie Andrews
did a Christmas special in Austria with several of my favorite
performers: John Denver; Placido Domingo; and The Kings
Singers. Titled “The Sound of Christmas,” it was filmed at
many of the same locations that were used in the making
of one of my all-time favorite movies, “The Sound of Music.”
She even sang atop the same mountain (which was covered
in snow this round)! Ahh, it was great fun to watch, to see
it all, again (the von Trapp house, the convents, the church
where Maria and the Captain were married, the streets
of Salzburg, etc.).

Of course, at the time of the initial airing, I taped the show
(on a VHS cassette, don’t you know!), and then at this time
every year since, I’ve pulled it out and watched it yet again
(and yes, I STILL have a VCR!). I simply love it. (And those
old commercials are a hoot and a half!)

I figured the best way to share some of it with you was
to find (hopefully) a few clips on youtube. I did, but many
were either too short or too long or had someone’s name
written across the screen or whatever. And then I had
to choose. dagnabit. I’d tape my copy, but am not sure
that’d work too well. In any event, here’s one favorite,
featuring Julie’s now-gone marvelous voice. I hope you
enjoy it as much as I do, each and every year! HUZZAH!

Wishing one and all a very Merry Christmas!

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I apologize for not posting anything lately. I’ve been
SUPER busy. I’ll be heading over to the Israel Crane
House again tomorrow (Saturday, December 10) and
Sunday (December 11). You see, the House is included
on the Essex County Holiday Historical Houses Tour,
and I’ll be cooking at the hearth. There’ll be a wide
array of festive food on display, as well (most all of it
for sharing with visitors, BTW). And that is what I’ve
been doing all week…making this vast assortment
of delectable goodies. Seriously, every day I was
elbows-deep in one dish or another!

Unfortunately, I haven’t time to write; even now,
I’m scurrying to finish things. So you’ll have to wait
for all the details. In the meantime, however, here’s
a photo of one of the dishes I’ve been working on
for this weekend at the Crane House: a lovely
Potato Pumpkin. HUZZAH!

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I’ll be heading over to the Israel Crane House
again this coming Sunday (Dec. 4) to do some
more hearth cooking. I was just there exactly
four weeks ago (Nov. 6), but I tell you, it sure
seems like it was much longer! In any event,
I’m eager to return to the Crane kitchen.

Now, as you may recall, one of the dishes
I made last time was a pumpkin pudding.
When all was said and done, I found that
I had a small amount of leftover cut-up and cooked pumpkin. So
rather than make yet another pudding, I decided to dry it and
use it as a demonstration of preserving food for the winter. But,
wait a minute. In order to dry pumpkin, wouldn’t it normally be

cut up into little pieces, threaded on a string, and then hung
up to dry by a hearth or some other place? Just as is done
with apples or squash?

Why yes, that’s correct! And so unfortunately, I had a slight problem.
You see, the pumpkin in question had already been cooked slightly
AND mashed, as well as cut up. Oh no! There’s certainly no way
to string squishy pumpkin. So, I guess I was out of luck. There’d
be no drying of any pumpkin for me.

Ahhh, not so fast, dear readers! There IS another historic method
of drying pumpkin (or any squash, for that matter). All anyone need
do is follow the instructions Mrs. Lydia Child gives in the Appendix
of her cookbook The American Frugal Housewife (1833; 12th edition).
To wit:

Some people cut pumpkin, string it and
dry it like apples. It is a much better way
to boil and sift the pumpkin, then spread
it out thin in tin plates, and dry hard
in a warm oven. It will keep good all
the year round, and a little piece boiled
up in milk will make a batch of pies.

So that is what I did! Of course, once again, I did this at home,
using my modern equipment. In fact, I used my toaster oven,
as I didn’t want to fire up my stove’s huge oven just for a little
pumpkin drying. I did two batches. Both were done the same
way, except that one was strained through a sieve, and then
the other was put in the sieve merely to allow all the water
to drain out (it was then immediately spread out into the pan).
Time-wise, each took roughly seven to eight hours to dry.

Of course, the REAL trick will be trying it out by making a pie
or two. Supposedly, “a batch” can be made by boiling just
a piece of the dried pumpkin in milk. I’ll have to try it and
let everyone know how well (and if?) it works!

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after hours and hours…

and hours and hours of drying:

the second batch, which remained in one piece:

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