Sunday, July 27, 2008

Gluten Free Blueberry Pie

You look Marvelous!

Gluten free blueberry pie: it is the height of summer. I like a sweet crust with a somewhat tart filling. The taste of the fruit should be bold, not simply a vehicle for sugar. In this pie, I used high bush blueberries (the big ones). Wild blueberries are smaller and have superior taste, but when you have just picked over 10 pounds of high bush, you don’t quibble over variances in taste. I sweetened the pie with honey, which when mixed with the blueberries and a touch of cinnamon, creates a surprisingly floral taste.

This gluten free pie crust is exceptional. I use it for all of my desert pies. Because it is a bit sweet, it complements a less sweet fruit pie filling. The crust roles out well enough to create a lattice top pie, but lets be honest, it is still gluten free and requires some patching (but it does patch easily and beautifully). Also, in all honesty, the Queen is a busy lady. I don’t usually bother with fancy crusts. However while making a hurried pie a few weeks ago for the King’s birthday, I made a promise to the Princesses that at the next pie making I would make enough crust for their own pie creations. The princesses like to add extra sugar and cinnamon to their crusts and are perfecting the single blueberry pie.

Gluten Free Blueberry Pie Recipe
Pre-heat oven to 425°

The filling:
6 cups blueberries
½ cup honey
¼ cup tapioca flour
½ tsp cinnamon
1Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp butter (optional because I always forget this step)

Mix first five ingredients. Set aside.

The Crust:
½ cup cornmeal
1 cup white rice flour
½ cup cornstarch
¼ cup sugar
½ tsp xanthum gum
¼ tsp salt
12 Tbsp cold butter
2 eggs
3 Tbsp cold water

Mix together first 6 ingredients. Grate butter into flour mixture and fluff together with hands. (The Queen prefers grating cold butter when making crust instead of wrangling pea sized chunks of butter as most recipes suggest). Stir in the eggs. Add water one tablespoon at a time. Mix with hands. Role out the crust on a white rice floured surface. Line 9” pie pan with crust. Add filling and dot with butter if you remember. Top with basic crust or lattice if you’re feeling sassy (or have princesses who are pestering for a bit of extra dough). Bake 35-40 minutes.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

We be Jammin'!

Okay, people, put away your fear and preconceptions, today is jamming day!

Canning in general has a bad reputation. Is this you image? A woman (perhaps barefoot and pregnant?) slaving away the day in a hot, steaming kitchen with sweaty, vinegar coated hair pasted to her face. This isn't a prerequisite to canning. A person of any gender, in any state of reproductive development, may preserve food of small or large quantity to enjoy in the months when the garden (or local farms) are under a weight of snow and ice. I won't harp on this point, but with the cost and dwindling supply of petroleum, eating local makes a lot of sense. It can also be fun, rewarding, and a healthy way to eat. (The Ball Jar company should hire me as their spokeswoman.) There is one more thing that I want to say about canning: it doesn't have to be a herculean endeavor and you don't have to can enough to feed your family for 10 months. Yesterday morning I canned 5 jars of raspberry jam in an hour. No big deal. No great quantity. Yet now we have five jars of jam that we don't have to purchase from the store and they don't have to be shipped 3,000 miles from a Californian organic food source (and I might smugly add they surpass the quality of store-bought). Don't let anyone ever tell you that small steps don't matter.

So how did I do it? As Queen of the Meadow, I began with 2 quarts of a purple raspberry aptly named Royalty. Purple raspberries are a cross between red and black. As they ripen they begin red and are edible at this stage, but get better as they turn a shade of purple.

I use Pomona's Pectin which allows me to make jam quickly (you don't have to stand over the stove for hours, pregnant or not) and to use little or no sugar. Without pectin you have to add gobs of sugar in order to get the jam to thicken. This pectin also has a "Jam Hotline" phone number on it. I have called and spoken with "Pomona" as she stood in her kitchen shuffling through her papers to find me other recipes not listed on the box. I felt so cool - in a retro sort of way - to speak with the pectin lady on the phone.

There are clear, concise recipes in the pectin box (as well as in the most preserving book) so I'm not going to give exact details here (email me if you want this recipe). I just want to give you a sense of how easy it is.

You have three pots on the stove: one for boiling/sterilizing jars, one for boiling/sterilizing lids, and one for the fruit. You boil the jars and lids to sterilize them and then let them sit in the hot water. That's done. You boil the fruit and then add your sugar and pectin mixture and boil a few minutes more. That's done. You take the hot jars out of the water, fill them with hot cooked fruit, and put on the hot lids. Done. Then you boil the full jars with the lids on for five more minutes to seal the lids. ALL Done!

I actually used honey instead of sugar for my jam, but you can also use any kind of alternate sweetener - sucanat, stevia, or juice concentrate. Honey definitely adds its own flavor so you have to use a strong enough flavored fruit so that it does not over-power the taste of the jam.

Next week: the wild blueberries!

Taylor Red Raspberries for Breakfast!

In the middle of July the raspberries begin to bear! About five years ago I planted a row of 12 Taylor Red raspberries and 12 Royalty purple raspberries. Taylor begins bearing about a week before Royalty and are one of the best tasting raspberry. In my college days I worked on a large scale berry farm and tasted many varieties - Taylor is the best, although they are more susceptible to some diseases than other berries. My plot has done great so far.

For some reason the raspberries are not decimated by birds like the uncovered blueberries patch. A bird may fly out of the thick brambles when I arrive to pick, but it is usually just one and takes only a few berries. The blueberries usually have a small flock surrounding them.

There is nothing better for a summer breakfast than cereal with raspberries. My husband and I are both gluten intolerant so what I like is cooked rice cereal with maple syrup, almond milk, and Taylor Reds with the dew still on them.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Make Way For The Queen

It is a universal law. The number of children and toys on a staircase is in direct proportion to the size of the laundry pile that a mother is carrying up the stairs. I have encountered this law numerous times and I have tried to refrain from being snappish or haughty when I explain to my daughter that playing at the bottom, or the middle, or the top of the stairs is problematic for a mother who cannot see above her laundry load. But perhaps a tinge of superiority escaped the voice of mother-reason because now when I encounter my daughter at the bottom, or middle, or top of the stairs (in accordance to the law) she steps aside, throws out her arm and shouts, “Make way for the Queen!” The first time took me by surprise but as her shouts of “Make Way For The Queen!" grew to a ritualistic quality, so too did they grow on me. I could get used this.

And I did. From my vantage point in the middle of a meadow at the end of a winding dirt road off of another dirt road, there wasn’t a lot of competition for the royal position of Queen. Perhaps it is just a puppet monarchy because the birds and the bees of the meadow seem to do as they please (I’ll leave the children out of this for the moment), but I’m okay with symbolism.

The meadow is my home and while I do orchestrate some garden beds, dominion over the earth has been proven to be an urban legend debunked by Snoops. My Queenly duties entail visiting with foreign species dignitaries like the yellow warbler nesting in the Rosa rugosa, providing a royal presence to maintain the morale of the black flies, and negotiating peace talks among the feuding children.

And now, my dominion has spread to fulfill the role of royal historian and documentarian of my meadow queendom.
All are welcome to take a glimpse at these royal lives. Just be sure that you Make Way for the Queen!