Here is a wonderful recipe for an all-purpose cleaning spray that smells great, and works really well. It is so popular in our house right now that ED deep-cleaned her bedroom just because she liked the fragrance of the cleaner so much! It’s scented with cinnamon and clove essential oils, which are also antiseptic.

Cinnamon and Clove Holiday Cleaner

Not only does this preparation clean, but the essential oils disinfect and provide a natural fragrance.

1/2 teaspoon each cinnamon and clove essential oils
1 teaspoon washing soda
2 teaspoons borax
1/2 teaspoon liquid soap or detergent
2 cups hot water

Combine the ingredients in a spray bottle. Shake to dissolve and blend the minerals. I like to spray this cleanser onto a surface , then leave it on for 15 minutes or so before I wipe it up with a rag, to give the essential oil’s antiseptic qualities time to work.

Makes 2 cups

Prep time: about 1 minute
Shelf Life: indefinite
Storage: Leave in the spray bottle, or store in a glass jar with a screw top.

Here are three super delicious, very easy ways to prepare tomatoes for on pasta. They all take advantage of fresh-from-the-garden tomatoes, and the last one also works well with canned tomatoes.

Pasta with Fresh Tomato Sauce

This is what I ate the night ED was born, twenty years ago on the 23rd. Sigh. It’s perfect for tomato season, when it can be so hard to stop what you’re doing outside to come in and fix dinner.

Put your water on to boil for pasta. I like angel hair or thin spaghetti; the rest of my family prefer something tubular. Whatever you choose, while it’s cooking, coarsely chop some good ripe tomatoes—for a pound of pasta, you want three or four cups chopped. Next add a generous glug of olive oil, and some finely minced (or pressed) garlic; minced fresh herbs—especially basil; salt and pepper, and some kind of vinegar. Not a lot of vinegar, but a good sprinkling. I usually use balsamic or red wine vinegar, and lately I’ve been using umeboshi plum vinegar, which I love so much, I use it on everything! Toss all this together—it should be juicy. Taste and add a little more salt or vinegar if you think it needs it. Next toss it with the hot drained pasta, and top with a bit of cheese—ideally feta, but grated romano will work. It won’t be hot, more like room temperature, but so nice on a hot evening!

 

Buttery Tomato Sauce

We just discovered this one this year, and it’s incredibly good! Especially with homemade butter and homegrown tomatoes.

While cooking a pound of whatever pasta you prefer, melt 6 or 8 tablespoons of butter in a saucepan on medium low heat. Add a few (4?) cloves of very finely minced garlic and cook gently (do not brown the garlic). Add a 1/2 teaspoon or so of lemon zest, a couple of tablespoons (maybe even 3 or 4) of lemon juice, and two cups of either diced big tomatoes, or halved cherry tomatoes. Simmer gently until the tomatoes are soft, and add a big handful of chopped fresh basil leaves, and salt and pepper to taste. Toss with the hot pasta and serve immediately.

 

Pasta all’Arrabbiata (Pasta ‘Angry Style’)

This time I’m not going to tell you to cook your pasta, because I’m sure you already know that. So don’t be surprised and shocked, when at the end of the recipe I tell you to toss the sauce with hot drained pasta. Because you knew that, right?

Put a good glug of olive oil in a skillet—I prefer a stainless steel skillet for this because of the acidity of the tomatoes. Heat over medium heat. Add one slivered medium onion, and two or three cloves of garlic, whacked with the flat side of a knife, and then chopped into a few big hunks. Saute for a minute or two, but before the garlic browns (nothing worse than the bitter taste of browned garlic), add an anchovy fillet or three, and a minced fresh hot pepper. (You’ll have to determine how much pepper to use, because it depends on your taste for hot food, and the heat of the pepper. For the four of us, a whole average-heat jalapeno or fish pepper without the seeds, is perfect.) Stir those around a little, and when the onions have started to brown just a little, deglaze with a small glass of red wine, and then add a quart of chopped fresh tomatoes. Cook for twenty or thirty minutes, until it’s pretty well cooked down, and add some chopped fresh herbs—oregano or marjoram or basil. Toss with the pasta, which should be pretty al dente so that it can absorb any extra juice from the sauce without becoming mushy. Serve with a generous grating of Romano or something equally sheepy.

This adapts very well for winter use, too—it’s one of our winter staples. Just use a quart of canned tomatoes instead of fresh, and red pepper flakes and dried oregano or basil. Please don’t skip the anchovies, though—they really make this sauce, without tasting fishy at all. As a matter of fact, you probably wouldn’t know they were in there, except they make it exceptionally wonderful, and it’s a little flat without them.

We’ve had a couple of days of much needed rainy weather, during which the girls and I have been catching up on some severely neglected housecleaning. In the spring and summer, when there’s so much to be done outside, our house can get a little…funky. Add some heat and humidity and it feels positively disgusting! So yesterday we scrubbed and vacuumed and did load after load of laundry.

A few weeks ago I made a batch of laundry soap from a compilation of recipes I had been collecting from all over the internet, notably here. It’s cheap, works really well, and smells great. I bought all ingredients except the essential oils at my local grocery store.

Laundry Soap (Makes three gallons)

1 Bar soap (I used Ivory, which was readily available in my little town)

1 Cup Borax

1/2 Cup Washing Soda

Grate the soap and boil it in a couple of quarts of water until dissolved. Add Borax and washing soda, stir until dissolved. Add enough water to make 3 gallons. I scented mine with some lavender and rose essential oils, and it smells lovely. Use 1/2 cup per load.

That’s it—ridiculously simple! I think in the future I’m going to either order Fels Naptha soap or maybe use Dr. Bronner’s bar soap.

These are two of my favorite recipes this summer. The first—Tomato Pie—was given to me by a lovely woman at a little restaurant on Edisto Island last fall, and I’ve been playing around with it all summer. The second—Chocolate Dulce de Leche Ice Cream is pretty much my own, and it’s Darn Good.

Main’s Tomato Pie

Grease a pyrex baking dish (I use homemade lard). Slice enough tomatoes to fill it. I like my Juliet canning tomatoes best for this, as there’s not as much juice, so it all holds together better. The big heirlooms are a lot sloppier, but taste great! Now sprinkle with salt to taste, and about the same amount of sugar. Toss in a couple of glops of mayonnaise—Hellman’s is good— and a few handfuls of saltine cracker crumbs, enough to sort of start soaking up the juices. Now mix in some chopped fresh herbs of your choice—my favorite is a combination of tarragon and basil. Bake at 375°-ish until it’s somewhat set up and bubbling hot—1/2 hour? Hour?


Chocolate Dulce de Leche Ice Cream

Mix 1 1/2 cups dulce de leche* with 3 cups heavy cream. Moisten 1/2 cup of cocoa powder with cream, smoothing out any lumps, then slowly mix in the cream/dulce de leche mix. Add 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, depending on how much you like the caramel/salt flavor combo. Freeze in your favorite ice cream freezer. Makes around a quart.
* Dulce de Leche is a caramel sauce. I hear you can A) find it in Mexican grocery stores, or B) make it by boiling unopened cans of sweetened condensed milk in a boiling water bath. I haven’t tried either of these, instead opting to make my own using our own Jersey milk. My recipe is 2 gallons of milk and 8 cups of sugar (notice the 1 quart:1 cup ratio), simmered until reduced and golden brown (Takes hours). If you make it with goat’s milk, you get cajeta.

I would like to use my atrocious dial-up (and it is atrocious) as my excuse for never getting around to answering comments, but if I am going to be honest with myself and you, gentle reader, then I am forced to admit that I’m Just Plain Slack. So sorry, and here’s a bit of catching up, starting with a recipe for:

Peach Bourbon Jam

6 cups peaches, washed, pitted and coarsely chopped (but not peeled)
1 3/4 cups packed light brown sugar
6 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 cup bourbon
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 package powdered pectin

-Combine prepared peaches with the brown sugar and lemon juice, and 1/4 cup of the bourbon, and let sit on the counter overnight, covered.
-Transfer peach mixture to a wide, nonreactive pan with a lid. Add remaining bourbon. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. The peach chunks will be translucent. Remove lid, add granulated sugar, and cook rapidly, constantly stirring, until it reaches a temperature of 220°. Remove pan from heat, stir in pectin, and boil for 2 minutes more. Ladle into jars and process in a water bath. Makes five(-ish) 8-oz jars.

This is just one of the many wonderful recipes in The Yellow Farmhouse Cookbook by Christopher Kimball.

Someone asked why we buy pullets instead of cockerels for our meat birds, and there are a few reasons, first being that pullets stay tender longer—lots longer, so there’s not quite so much pressure to get them into the freezer at just the right time—you get a little more leeway. Also the few you can’t catch at butchering time are still great for soup months later when you finally can catch them, unlike the cockerels, which get too tough for my taste. Another reason is that the pullets are the cheaper birds, in meat birds. They take a little longer to finish, but that’s fine with me, as I generally procrastinate butchering-type chores.

And a listing of the canned goods this year, though I must say that most of my friends and neighbors outdo me—I can’t ever seem to catch up with them! We canned 69 quarts and 1 pint of tomatoes. 4 pints, 6 half-pints, and 12 quarter-pints of peach bourbon jam. 13 pints of bread and butter pickles, 6 pints of mustard pickles, and 9 pints of okra pickles. I may still do more tomatoes, and I’ll definitely make some pickled hot peppers (jalapeno and fish peppers), and applesauce, and cider, and possibly ketchup. I must agree with tapsalteerie—it really is fun (though a lot of work, too). Right now I’m sort of between preserving projects, and I’m itching to make something!

I think that’s all the catching up I needed to do, though I have a nagging feeling that I’m forgetting something—if I remember it I’ll edit it in!

OK. So first, you put two cups of white corn masa flour in a bowl with a half teaspoon or so of salt. Add a cup to a cup and a quarter of water, knead until you have a pleasant dough about the consistency of PlayDoh. Now coarsely chop a few pieces of bacon. Fry in a skillet until bacon is crisp and all fat is rendered. Set bacon aside to drain on paper towels, leaving grease in pan. Now shape the masa dough into 3 to 4 inch-diameter patties, patting it down until it’s about an eighth of an inch thick—maybe 2 or 3 tablespoons of dough each. Fry these on both sides in the skillet of hot bacon grease. They’ll still be pale—maybe only lightly tanned—and soft in the middle. Set aside to drain on paper towels. Slice a really good heirloom tomato—preferably a Carbon, though whatever you have should work, as long as it’s perfectly ripe. Now on each little masa cake, spread a little mayonnaise—really (I hate to say it) Kraft is the best, though a homemade aioli might be ok—add a slice of your perfect tomato, and sprinkle with some of the cooked crumbled bacon. You’ll have to stand over the sink to eat this, but holy cow. Maybe the best thing I’ve ever tasted.

I’m really enjoying cooking breakfast at the Inn. It’s quiet (at least for the first two hours), not terribly difficult, and fairly profitable. This morning I made:

Baked French Toast

I started out by cubing yesterday’s leftover biscuits (recipe to follow); maybe a dozen-ish? Put them in a greased casserole-type oven-proof baking dish that must be about 9 inches square. Sprinkled the biscuit cubes with a bit of nutmeg and a couple handfuls of dried blueberries. Then in a bowl I mixed a half dozen eggs with maybe two or three cups of half and half and some heavy cream and a little brown sugar. Poured that over the biscuits, felt it needed more moisture, so I dribbled more heavy cream over it, and let it soak overnight. Then this morning I made a streusal type thing by mixing a stick or so of very soft butter with a half cup of flour and maybe three quarters of a cup of brown sugar so that it was almost a batter consistancy, and spread that over the stuff in the baking dish. I baked it for an hour at 375° or 400°, until it was pretty nice and brown on top. I often make these things for the Inn, and I never follow a recipe (can you tell?)—sometimes I use leftover bread, last week I used R*’s leftover Irish Soda Bread with pecans and no blueberries. It’s easy to make and people love it.

OK, here’s an excellent biscuit recipe:

Biscuits

Measure 3 cups of self rising flour into a bowl. The very best is King Arthur’s—it is unbleached and uses aluminum-free baking powder. Next, on the course holes of a grater, grate in 1 stick of very cold butter. The butter can even be frozen, which might not be a bad idea if you’re working in a very hot kitchen. Using your fingers, work the butter into the flour; be quick so the butter stays cold. You’re mostly just trying to disperse the butter evenly throughout the flour; it’s good to leave it in fairly good size pieces so that your biscuits will be flaky. Then pour in 1 cup of very cold milk or buttermilk, mix rapidly, turn out onto the counter and knead briefly and lightly until the dough looks fairly smooth; roll it out to about 3/4 of an inch thick, and cut out biscuits with a water glass. Don’t twist the glass! Just straight down and up; if you twist, your biscuits aren’t going to rise because you will have pinched the edges shut. Place them on an ungreased baking sheet and bake in a hot oven (450°) for about ten minutes, or until the tops are lightly browned. My friend J* over in Tennessee says her grandmother taught her that a real lady never lets her biscuits get brown at all—(pure white=virginal?)—but fortunately I’m from Georgia, not Tennessee; and not much of a lady anyway.

I finally finished the chutney! Canned it last night; got to bed around 1:00am. Fourteen pints—they’re beautiful. The recipe, as revised (a little) by me:

Fresh Peach and Coconut Chutney

Like I said earlier, we started out by removing the meat from four coconuts, and peeling off the brown membrane on the pieces, and cutting the meat into 1/2″-3/4″ chunks. Then I chopped ten onions, or about four pounds, and dumped them into the big pot with the coconut. Next I peeled ten pounds or so of peaches (by dipping them in boiling water) and squashed them into biggish chunks with my hands, pitting them, of course, at the same time. (All this is going into a big pot.) Then half a pound of fresh ginger, peeled and grated. Two quarts of white vinegar. Five pounds of sugar, and seven or eight jalapeno peppers, seeded and slivered (actually I think I used two hot red banana peppers, and four or five jalapenos). Cook until it’s the consistancy you like, which for me was pretty thick, almost like jam. John Martin Taylor, whose recipe this is, says he likes his pretty thin, because he uses it for the cooking liquid in recipes. Like shrimp. Mmmm! But I figured I’d be more likely to use it as a condiment, so I made it thick, and I can always thin it for cooking with. So I put it in fourteen clean pint jars, sealed them, and processed in a boiling water bath for twenty minutes. That’s it!

I also started :

Lactic Fermented Cucumbers

In a gallon glass jar I put a handful of black peppercorns, a handful of mustard seeds, several peeled cloves of garlic, and a handful of young grape leaves. Then I added a bunch of small to medium washed cucumbers. I didn’t have quite enough to fill the jar, but I’ll top it off in the next few days. Then I made a brine with celtic sea salt: two and a half tablespoons to a half gallon of our good clean spring water, and covered the cucumbers with that. Half filled a quart size clean ziplock bag with water, sealed it and pushed it down into the top of the jar before putting the lid on, to keep the cukes below the level of the brine. And now it’s sitting on the kitchen table, sort of oozing. I’ve got it sitiing in a bowl to catch the overflow. They won’t be ready for a while—I can’t wait! Have you ever tried Bubbie’s Kosher Dills? They’re available in health-food-type stores and gourmet markets; they’re a lactic fermented pickle to which I
am addicted! Maybe I’ll throw in a hot pepper or two.

No market today, for a number of different reasons. One is the Let It Grow doesn’t have any seafood this week (due maybe to Hurricane Alex? Not sure), and they don’t have much produce, and they’re nearly a third of the market. Two is that A* , for various reasons didn’t bake today, and she’s another significant little chunk of the market. Three is it’s raining. And four is that the NC Department of Agriculture is on the warpath, looking for uncertified cheesemakers. Yesterday they shut down a woman in Asheville who has been making and selling cheese for years. Turns out that, by an amazing coincidence they had been out to inspect Spinning Spider Creamery, the only certified small goat dairy in the area, that very morning! Chris Owen, the owner of SS, has made vague threats about turning the rest of us in ever since she finally got certified in the last year or so. Seems like just maybe, (and this is pure conjecture, since all evidence is strictly circumstantial), she’s foregoing competition in the old fashioned sense, which would be to improve her product, and is instead just trying to make sure there is no competition. Grrr. So I’m laying low, doing all my selling undercover, especially since they’re looking for (among others) “the person in Hot Springs selling the cheese with flowers on it”. Ahem.

Doesn’t it seem like we would have something better to do with our time? Than hunting down those nasty little illegal cheesemakers? Grrr, grrr, and double grrr.

YD has some sort of bug today—she has a fever and a headache. DH and I seem to have a much milder version of whatever it is—we both spent a goodly portion of the day laying around, and/or sleeping. ED says it was the most bored she’s ever been in her whole life!

Had two guy friends come up and do a bit of weedeating this morning. One is a farmhand over at Let It Grow farm—he went up the mountain, making a path and a mowed clearing for the moon viewing Sunday. The other is a really nice young guy–almost 16–who is our neighbor’s grandson. He cleaned up around the firepit, also in preparation for Sunday’s party; I think he’s going to come back tomorrow and do a little more. (We’re paying him 7 bucks an hour.)

We’re having one of my most, most favorite meals tonight; it’s very high in carbs and I don’t care! We’ve always called it Trenette con Pesto, though I think that’s not technically correct, because I think trenette is a type of pasta, and we’re using linguine. So maybe I’ll call it:

Linguine con Pesto

Make a batch of pesto, aiming for one and a half or two cups. I am reluctant to give a recipe for this, since it’s something made mostly by feel, but tonight I used lots of basil (maybe a quart and a half, loosely packed?); a good handful of parsley, just because it looked so green and juicy in the garden tonight; three or four cloves of garlic; a cup-ish of toasted pecans; coconut oil instead of olive oil, since I forgot to buy olive oil last week (heresy, I know); a squeeze of lemon juice; some celtic sea salt; and a cup and a half or two cups of grated parmesan. Blend until smooth.
ED went to help our neighbor pick beans today and came back with a peck basket-full. So she sat at the kitchen table and snapped me a quart of beans while I made the pesto. Then I cut up a half dozen of our Yukon Gold potatoes. I cut them in half lengthwise, and then in half moon slices about 1/8 inch thick. Meanwhile I’ve got a big pot of water on to boil, lightly salted, and when it does boil I dump in the potatoes and beans. When the potatoes are nearly tender (ten minutes? Fifteen?) I add 16 oz of dry linguine, and boil until it’s done. Drain and mix in the pesto. It’s helpful to mix the pesto with a little (1/2 cup or so) of the pasta boiling water so that it will coat the pasta. SO GOOD!

Even feeling lousy, YD beat DH 3 out of 4 games of speed, our family’s current favorite card game. Poor DH.

So, my friend A* is not only moving to a new house, she’s got a new place on the web! Check her out: Littlebear Holler
Welcome to the neighborhood, A*!

And finally, I must make note of a wonderful, glorious milestone: I finished the winter’s laundry. Yesterday. Finally washed the last of the wool stuff, flannel sheets and corduroy. Sunday, July 25th.

Tired, tired, tired! Not sure why…the heat? Weight loss? My fervent wish to be at the beach? Who knows…

Here’s a recipe:

Iced Cucumber Salad

Slice 4 or 5 medium size cucumbers into a bowl. (Thin slices.) Now very thinly slice a vidalia onion (in half rings) into the same bowl. Crack a couple of trays of ice cubes into the bowl and put into the fridge for an hour or so. When ready to serve, remove any remaining ice and drain well. Sprinkle liberally with white wine vinegar, add a little salt and a little black pepper. So simple, so cold, so good!

Oh, and a Moe update. He is currently wearing a goat bell so I can hear him when he comes in the house. Which he hasn’t done since I put it on him. He may have the last laugh, though: every time he moves I think there’s a goat in the yard!