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Food Travel to Door County, Wisconsin: Fresh from the Farm or Orchard, Part 2

feeding goat at door county creamery

The culinary list of amazing flavors and foodie finds continues to grow in Door County, a food travel destination that’s not on the way to anywhere, a fact that infuses the place with a relaxing vibe. We touched on some of the many fine, farm-to-table dining options possible in our first post, featuring enticing food, wine and cocktails.

In many ways, Door County is like Cape Cod, but without the big traffic jams -- or hurricanes. With more than 14 orchards featuring cherries and another ten orchards featuring apples, plus seven local wineries, three breweries, ten bakeries, three cheese factories, two smokehouses for whitefish, salmon and other lake fish, and four confectioners, buy local and eat or drink local comes easy, here.  Plan to stock your pantry.  There’s a cidery, distillery and ice cream factory, too. 

If you feel the need to cook, farmstands and well-stocked orchard markets -- more like overflowing, local food-product versions of Trader Joes -- pop up regularly along Highway 42, the main tourist route taken to the end of the peninsula, to the narrow water passage between Lake Michigan and Green Bay known as Death’s Door, and ferry jump off point to Washington Island. During the summer, farmers’ markets can be found in seven communities on either coastline as well. From deliciously crafted sandwiches to unique food products, wine, cheese, beer and cider, Door County is a cornucopia of terroir, a taste of place.

 brie sandwich door county creamery

Door County Creamery’s Goats, Cheeses and Agritourism

Experience the full “goat to gelato” story at Door County Creamery.  Farmer-entrepreneurs Jesse and Rachael Johnson offer a farm tour that starts with Jesse taking you behind the scenes of their small-scale cheese making operation in the small town of Sister Bay. 

Then it’s a short bus ride to the farmstead where you meet the entire herd of goats, including bottle feeding the baby Nigerian dwarfs and touring the milking parlor.   “We draw straws over who has to milk when it rains,” shares the affable farm manager, David Ruffle.  “The goats move in herds so you’ll need to go out and get wet eight times to get all the goats milked.”

 A personal cheese tasting with the cheesemaker herself follows.  The tour wraps up with your choice of sandwiches or a salad back at the Creamery Café. Pure bliss was their grilled triple cream brie, roast turkey, lingonberry, aioli arugula on a croissant bun. For an agritourism operation, few do it better.

 bier zot flight of beers

Bier Zot’s Beer Flight and Food Pairing, Plus Swedish Cuisine

Building a travel journey around new food experiences can provide the seed for something to try back on your homestead. If you’re into your hops, grains and yeast, then Sister Bay’s Bier Zot is transformative, with over 100 varieties of beers from craft and microbreweries from the world over.

“The ‘zot’ in our name is German for a little crazy and I guess you could say we are when it comes to beer,” laughs Ryan Castelez, the crackerjack bartender who guides you through this gastropub’s beer selection with poetic skill at narrating every type, style and story behind the brew. Even for those who don’t consider themselves beer drinkers, let Castelez make a suggestion and you just might be converted. 

Here, you don’t have to pick one brew.  Opt for the tasting flight with his recommendations, from aged to sour beers.  The menu, filled with sandwiches and light bites made from locally sourced ingredients, is designed to help guests pair the beers with each entrée. Yes, brats go with everything.  But we opted for the open-faced mushroom sandwich with a blend of five mushrooms, recommended to pair with the Rauchbier Marzen, a German beer known for its distinct smoky robustness.  We also sampled their aubergine Zacusca, a grilled eggplant with tomato, greens, shallots, basil chèvre and ground cumin on Naan bread that compliments the Saison Dupont, a classic Belgian farmhouse ale with both refreshing fruitiness and long, dry finish.

Besides partaking in a fish boil, few food travelers miss the opportunity to dine at Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant in Sister Bay for their Swedish pancakes, meatballs or lingonberries. Amazingly, servers call out your order to the cooks in the kitchen, with no written ticket system; the result: food quickly arriving to your table piping hot. While you might come for the meal, few leave without snapping some photos of the goats grazing on the sod roof.

 al johnsons goats on roof

A Feast of Local Food Products

“We bring it straight from the farm orchard to your hands,” explains Kristen Seaquist of Seaquist Orchards, producing cherries, apples and other farm fresh fare.  Odds are high you’ll meet Kristen or one of the other 14 family members working in this operation when you stop by their welcoming Seaquist Farm Market store in Sister Bay.  With more than 1,000 acres of cherries, Seaquist Orchards ranks the country’s largest single producer, adding up to great pricing on bulk frozen cherries for pie-making back home. 

With the peninsula surrounded by water on three sides, there’s no wonder that fresh and smoked fish can be picked up, direct from the fishery. Give a call to Bailey’s Harbor Fish Company and see what fish they are smoking the day before you head home. Charlie’s Smokehouse near the peninsula tip in Gills Rock has been around since 1932 and run by the same family.

Handmade chocolates, fudge and taffy fill the counter and bins at Door County Candy, along with a dose of nostalgia taking you back to a time when visiting a candy shop was indeed a real treat. And no trip to Wisconsin is complete without cheese; Renard’s Cheese delivers. Third-generation master cheesemaker Chris Renard makes both classics, like smoked mozzarella strings, as well as over fifty different flavor-infused cheeses. For a locally-inspired twist, try their cheddar with Door County cherries. Both shops are in Sturgeon Bay on the southern end of the peninsula. 

Door County Ice Cream Factory has been churning up homemade ice cream for over twenty-five years, all made with farm-fresh milk from local dairies.  “I make seventy different flavors and have twenty-nine rotating in the case at any given time,” beams owner Todd Frisoni. He started working at the store in high school when his family would come up from Chicago for the summer because it was a place he could walk to before he could drive. Lucky for Door County, Frisoni fell in love with the sense of place, purchased the business right after college and has been serving up summer memories ever since, even giving away ice cream cups off their float in the local Fourth of July parade.

Drinking Up Fermented, Distilled and Fresh Roasted Refreshments

Thirsty?  Door County has you covered. Get your morning brew at Door County Coffee and Tea Company, a family-run premier coffee roaster that crafts small batches to exact specifications in fun flavors like Cherry Crème, Raspberry Butter Crunch and Caramel Pecan Scones. “We use only the best beans, Specialty Class 1 Arabica coffee beans grown throughout the world where we know every farmer we buy from,” explains owner Vicki Wilson. “We know we’ll never be the biggest. But we can be the best.”

Looking for something local to wind down with while you watch the sunset?  Door County offers a range of options, all with tasting rooms with informative staff that will help guide you to your new favorite. Island Orchard Cider produces hard ciders with fruit grown on their farm on Washington Island, the ideal rocky limestone soil and climate for French and American cider apples used to create these hard ciders in the Normandy tradition. Their ciders are dry, crisp and complex. Our favorite was the Brut Apple Cider, tart and refreshing. It’s perfect for both a celebratory toast or lingering conversations as the sun drops down over Green Bay.

Savor Door County flavors in a glass at Door Peninsula Winery, where we’re partial to their Sweet Cherry Wine. Need local ingredients for your farmstead cocktail? Door County Distillery offers a wide selection of award-winning handcrafted spirits. Door County Brewing Company Tap Room and Music recently opened an expanded tap room, with 24 tap lines. Listen to live music from the long communal tables or move to the outside beer garden complete with fire pit, local food trucks and hipsters updating their Instagram.

 island orchard cider

Cabin Luxury with Fresh Baked Goods in the Morning

At Gustave’s Getaway, a meticulously restored 1887 log cabin nestled in the woods in the center of the peninsula, located roughly half way between Bailey’s Harbor and Ephraim, owner Annie Miller greets you at check-in with her homemade pecan rolls, kringle or other sweet treat made in her on-site bakery for breakfast in the morning, alongside peanut butter cookies to snack on at night.

Laura Ingalls Wilder never had it this good.  This cabin, nestled in the heart of an 80-acre farmstead, is meticulously restored, originally built with timber native to Door County. Four generations of Millers have homesteaded on the land and now, thanks to Annie’s vision, we can share a piece of this pioneer heaven with all the comforts of modern life. There’s an electric range fashioned from the original wood stove, a front porch with Adirondack chairs to kick back on, and cozy second floor beds to turn in at night. The full kitchen comes in handy after stocking up at one of Door County’s many orchard farm stores.

Lisa Kivirist, with her husband and photographer, John D. Ivanko, have co-authored Rural Renaissance, Homemade for Sale, the award-winning ECOpreneuring and Farmstead Chef cookbook along with operating Inn Serendipity B&B and Farm, completely powered by the wind and sun. Both are speakers at the Mother Earth News Fairs. Kivirist also authored Soil Sisters. As a writer, Kivirist contributes to Mother Earth News, most recently, 9 Strategies for Self-Sufficient Living. They live on a farm in southwestern Wisconsin with their son Liam, millions of ladybugs and a 10 kW Bergey wind turbine. Read all of Lisa's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

Cooking with Bone Broth

marinated meat

Bone broth is fast becoming known as a super-food. I gave the directions for making it in my last blog on bone broth. But getting it into family members is another step. I would like to share a recipe that almost everyone finds incredibly delicious.

Steak Stir-Fry

Ingredients:

1 pound grass-fed, pastured sirloin steak
1 organic onion
1 organic sweet red pepper (optional)
3 organic carrots
2 organic beets
1 package frozen organic beans
1 package frozen organic corn
a few stalks broccoli
6 large mushrooms
½ cup butter
1 pint homemade bone broth
2 tablespoons extra virgin coconut oil
3 tablespoons arrowroot

For the marinade:

3/16ths cup organic balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup organic olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon maple syrup
dash of dried mustard and sea or Himalayan pink salt

Directions

1. Make the marinade first.

2. Crush the garlic and set it aside for 10 minutes in order for it to make the medicine out of its two ingredients coming together.

3. Combine all other ingredients.

4. Add the garlic and stir well.

5. Cut the steak into bite-sized pieces and immerse in the marinade for at least two hours or overnight in the refrigerator. Stir well and often.

6. Wash and cut the carrots and beets into bite-sized pieces and cook in the bone broth in a medium pot on the stove for 1 ½ hours.

carrots and beets cooking

7. Wash and cut the mushrooms into bite-sized pieces and cook in the butter for about 15 minutes.

mushrooms cooking

8. Add the beans, corn and mushrooms about 15 minutes before the meal is ready to serve.

9. In the meantime, put the coconut oil in a large frying pan. Add the onion and pepper, cleaned and diced and cook for about 15 minutes or until soft.

onions in the stir fry

10. Add the meat and brown.

browning meat

11. Put all of the ingredients together and bring to a boil.

all together in pot

12. Put the arrowroot in 1/3 cup water and stir well. Add to the mix and cook until thick (usually less than a minute). Serve plain or over cooked noodles or rice.

served on plate

If you don’t have the vegetables mentioned here, you can use other ones. Celery, peas or summer squash can be substituted or you can add spinach, Swiss chard or beet greens for added nutrition and flavor. Different cuts of meat can also be employed. Use what you have and it is almost always beyond delicious. Bon appetit!

Celeste Longacre and her husband, Bob, have lived sustainably for more than 35 years. They grow almost all of their vegetables for the year and preserve them by freezing, canning, drying and using a home -built root cellar. Celeste ferments much of the couple’s produce and makes her own sauerkraut, kimchee, and fruit and beet kvass. She is the author of Celeste’s Garden Delights and writes a gardening blog for The Old Farmer’s Almanac. For more information, visit Celeste’s website, and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

Spiced Apple Marmalade with Rum

 

Like a pirate’s treasure, apple slices are suspended in rum and precious sweet spices. The combination of fruit, spice and dark rum is delicious and the inspiration for one of my favorite jams. Serve it with snacks or desserts.The jam is a wonderful addition to a cheese tray, added to a simple cheese dessert such as fresh mozzarella, any cheddar, even a wedge of brie or camembert.

Makes 7 half pints

Ingredients:

• 5 pounds of sweet apples
• 3 cups white cane sugar
• 1 ½ cups dark brown cane sugar
• ½ tsp sea salt
• 2 tbsp whole cloves
• 2 tbsp whole allspice
• 1 nutmeg
• 3 cinnamon sticks, 3 inches each
• 1 tbsp grated or chopped fresh ginger
• 1 cup boiled cider
• 1 ½ cups dark rum divided

Directions:

That clever peeler-slicer-corer gadget will work for this — just make sure you trim out crooked cores then cut the slices in half. Or, you can sit comfortably with good tools in hand, turn on some music and relax. It took me less than a half hour to do all 5 pounds.

1. Peel and core the apples. I peel then cut the apples into eighths. Cut off the point side of the wedge to remove the core. Put the cores into a 3-quart pot. Now, slice the apples about ¼-inch thick. Drop the apples into your jam pot as you go.

2. Crack the nutmeg, cinnamon sticks, and the allspice. Just put them inside a folded towel and tap with a hammer or meat mallet. Don’t smash them to smithereens, just crack. Add the whole spices and the ginger to the cores in the 3-quart pot. Add water to cover and cook for about 30 minutes. The water will reduce to a little over a cup.

3. Add the sugars and salt to the apples in your jam pot. Add the boiled cider, then strain the water from the cores and spices through a fine mesh strainer into the jam pot. This is your added pectin.  Bring your marmalade to a gentle boil and simmer for just a few minutes, then turn off the heat, cover the pot and leave it overnight.

4. In the morning, your marmalade will be swimming in juice as the apples have juiced out. Over medium-high heat, bring the mixture to a boil.

5. Meanwhile, set up your waterbath and when the water comes to a boil dip your clean jars, lids and the ladle and funnel. Set these aside upside down on a clean towel next to the stove.

6. When the apple mixture comes to a boil, add 1 cup of the dark rum, reserving the last half cup. Cook, stirring frequently until the marmalade temperature reaches 222 degrees. Watch carefully that slices don’t get stuck on the sides of the pot. Stir completely, reaching into the edges and all over the bottom.

7. When the marmalade is ready, ladle it into the sterilized jars, up to about the ½ inch mark. Now, carefully add a bit of the remaining rum to bring the level to ¼ inch from the rim. Wipe the rims, put on the lids and process in the waterbath for 7 minutes.

8. When you remove the jars, set them on a towel, leaving at least an inch between the jars so they cool and seal quickly. Make sure all the jars are sealed properly. Label the marmalade including the year and store in a cool, dark place.

Wendy Akin is happy to share her years of traditional skills knowledge. Over the years, she’s earned many state fair ribbons for pickles, relishes, preserves and special condiments, and even a few for breads. Read all of Wendy’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

Bringing the Farm Closer to the Table

The farm-to-table movement is an exciting change in the way we get our food. If you are new to this concept, the idea is to cut out the middleman, so a less-traveled product is delivered in a sustainable fashion. The fewer miles food travels, the fresher it is when it arrives at the final destination. In the restaurant world, farm-to-table and sustainability are popular, and I think that’s a good thing. During my restaurant explorations, I’ve found a variety of ways owners and chefs are embracing farm-to-table and want to tell you about two of my favorite examples in Maryland.

Why does farm-to-table and sustainability matter? The benefit of a restaurant growing their own produce and livestock is, this cuts out long shipping times. The fewer miles food has to travel to the restaurant the less money spent on fuel. Closing the distance food travels benefits air quality and food quality when restaurants have their own farms close by. As for sustainability, when farms don’t overtax the land we get better produce and livestock from land that can continue to produce food without the addition of costly chemical fertilizers.

Over on the Eastern Shore of Maryland is The Inn At Perry Cabin by Belmond and their restaurant Stars. At Stars, Chef Ken MacDonald embraces sustainability and the farm-to-table approach. Although Chef Ken tries to source his food products within a 150-mile radius, he takes farm-to-table even further. Enter Phal Mantha, the farm manager for The Inn At Perry Cabin. Phal has some two acres of prime land just steps from Stars restaurant. Phal and Chef Ken work together to provide guests with the freshest produce available anywhere. Not only does Stars have two acres of ground for growing crops, but also a greenhouse to grow vegetables and herbs year-round.

herbs and flowers

Herb and flower garden

This is the first year of Stars and the Inn having their own home-grown produce. I’ve been following their progress since first learning about the new program in April. Back then there was just the plan, but on a recent visit, I saw the fruits of Phal’s labor. Growing in the plot were thriving baby lettuces, three varieties of kale, chard, kohlrabi, and several more types of gorgeous green goods. All this produce is ready to decorate plates, adorn entrees, and add to salads. Come July 2018 I can’t wait to see fields of tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and whatever else Phal and Chef Ken have in mind for the restaurant.

Closer to my home is Cunninghams in Towson.  Upstairs is the main restaurant open for dinner, and their café and bakery downstairs is open for breakfast and lunch. Both the restaurant and café benefit from a close association with Cunningham Farms. These three farms are just a few miles north of Towson and supply Chef Jay Rohlfing with herbs, vegetables, berries, and over a dozen varieties of tomatoes for lucky dinners. Cunningham Farms also raise free-range chickens, lamb, and heritage breed pigs.

Sheep

Happy sheep at Cunningham Farms

Recently my wife and I dined on Cunningham Farms pork and lamb. I had the Berkshire pork rack (pork chop) with gouda mac and cheese that was delicious. I could taste the difference of responsibly raised free-range pork versus factory raised pork. The pork rack tasted more like the real thing then grocery store pork that seems almost like chicken breast. My wife had the braised lamb ragout over mascarpone polenta. The Katahdin sheep, raised at Cunningham Farms provide a rich, but not gamey flavored lamb the way most dinners like it. Some lamb is strongly flavored or mild enough to taste like beef that doesn’t fit the flavor profile I expect.

In September, I was lucky enough to visit Cunningham Farms and see for myself how the sheep were being raised. Farm manager Richard Cramblitt oversees Cunningham Farms and ensures the restaurant receives the best produce, eggs, and meats grown without chemical pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, or GMO (genetically modified organisms). I met with Richard on the Ivy Hill Road farm where sheep graze on 16 acres of healthy looking pasture.

The Ivy Hill Farm isn’t large enough to supply all of the restaurant's lamb, but they do provide some 50% the restaurant requires. Though not certified organic Cunningham Farms is good enough for me. I'm more interested in pesticide-free and herbicide-free food than certified organic. Few restaurants in Maryland can serve such pure foods as Cunninghams and Stars but I hope more will join the party.

Cunnighams farms

Vegetables at Cunningham Farms

Richard and I also traveled to the Bonnie Brook Farm near Monkton. At Bonnie Brook, I saw the last of the summer tomato crop, peppers, eggplant, and zucchini. Late harvest butternut squash, beets, and gourds were looking good also. The tomatoes were still making their way to Cunningham’s Café for BLTs and salads upstairs for the dinner menu. I was impressed with the condition of the rows of vegetables and how healthy the plants looked late in the season.

Both The Inn at Perry Cabin and Cunninghams are on the cutting edge of the change I see in our food culture. I believe more of us diners are demanding pesticide-free produce, responsibly raised pigs, lamb, chicken, and beef from restaurants where we dine. With all this excellent farmland in Maryland, I hope that more restaurants will join Cunninghams and Stars by starting their own farm projects. All of us will benefit when restaurants serve this level of fresh farm-to-table fare.

Kurt Jacobson is a food and travel writer with more than 20 years experience as a professional chef, in addition to being an avid amateur gardener. Read more of his writing at Taste of Travel 2 and find his food writing, including recipes, at Fast and Furious Cook.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

One Pumpkin, Many Recipes

long island cheese pumpkin

Many years ago, my husband and I came across the “Long Island Cheese” pumpkin – a flat, round, variety that looks a little bit like a Cinderella pumpkin but is light-colored. Its beautiful to look at, but even more beautiful to eat (we buy our seeds from the High Mowing Seed company here in Vermont). The flesh is not as dark as a pie pumpkin and is almost akin to a butternut squash.

Like any edible pumpkin variety, it is easy to chop up a long island cheese, drizzle it with olive oil, roast it (about 30 minutes at 400 degrees), and puree it (we use a food processor). Each long island cheese pumpkin will provide about 2 quarts of puree.

This year, when I roasted our first one, I set out to find or create our favorite pumpkin recipes and see how many I could make with this one batch of puree. I was able to make 5 delicious recipes from one pumpkin!

Pumpkin Sage Soup

There’s no better way to celebrate the fall than filling your kitchen with the warm smell of pumpkin spice. Here are the recipes we made in our “week of pumpkin” here at The Happy Hive:

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds: Roasted pumpkin seeds are a simple way to make the most of your pumpkin, and can be seasoned in a variety of ways. We’re partial to savory options, like the garlic version of this roasted pumpkin seed recipe from The Prarie Homestead. We also appreciate the detailed directions provided here to lead to a successful batch.

Pumpkin Sage Soup: While your seeds are roasting as an appetizer, you can make dinner for that night by throwing together a quick batch of easy pumpkin soup. We combined a couple of recipes from cookbooks in our kitchen with some online suggestions to come up with this tasty pumpkin sage soup recipe. It is a lighter, savory soup that takes advantage of the lighter quality of the long island cheese variety. 

Pumpkin Bread: Fall’s equivalent to summer’s zucchini bread, pumpkin bread recipes range from moist quick breads to hearty slicing recipes. We love this recipe from King Arthur flour that adds honey and whole wheat flour to the mix to make for a hearty and healthy pumpkin bread that is great to share with friends.

Pumpkin Scones: Scones are a favorite in our household because they are easy to make and offer healthier alternative to sugar-filled pastries. There are many online recipes that try to duplicate those available at chain coffee shops, but we wanted a recipe that was less sweet but equally satisfying. We ended up with a variation on a go-to recipe, with the added bonus of a yummy pumpkin glaze in this recipe for pumpkin spice scones.

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Brownies: The “piece de resistance” in our pumpkin adventure was dessert. Last fall, we had taken an urban adventure to eat our way through Montreal and had a decadent chocolate pumpkin brownie at a lovely place called Juliet et Chocolat. It was time to perfect an at home version. Building on a cream cheese brownie from America’s Test Kitchen, we create a pumpkin cream cheese brownie recipe that was seriously to die for, using the last ½ cup of our pumpkin puree.

pumpkin cream cheese brownies

So go ahead, cook your way through a large batch of pumpkin puree. And if you have other favorite recipes to add to this list, I’d love to hear about them. There are many more pumpkins in our root cellar waiting to be enjoyed!

Carrie Williams Howe is the Executive Director of an educational nonprofit by day, and parent and aspiring homesteader by night and on weekends. She lives in Williston, Vermont, with her husband, two young children, and a rambunctious border collie. Carrie has a PhD in educational leadership and is passionate about being an authentic, participatory leader in various settings. She is a contributing editor at Parent Co Magazine. Connect with Carrie on The Happy Hive Facebook page. Read all of Carrie’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

Create Some of Fall’s Favorite Recipes Using Dried Fruit

 

Sometimes our labor rewards us in leaps and bounds. Farms and homesteads alike have been busy preserving the blessed harvest of fall fruits of the season. What do you do when you have canned and preserved your fruit and still seem to have an abundance of fruit left? Why not dehydrate it! Apples, pears, berries, raisins, figs, and apricots are some of the most popular fruits to dry and will create new and exciting flavors in Fall's favorite recipes.

Some of the most delectable recipes have dried fruit as their special ingredient. In a previous article, it was discussed that the dehydration process minimally effects the fruit's nutrition. The unique flavors and new chewy textures can be a special addition to recipes. In fact, one of the benefits of dried fruits is when you reconstitute it, you can add a deeper layer of flavors. For instance, how does drunken bourbon soaked figs sound? If you want to take your recipe up another notch, consider adding a hard liquor like rum, brandy or even fruit juice can be used in lieu of water to reconstitute fruit.

8 Time-Tested, Delicious Family Favorites That Use Dried Fruit

Easy Homemade Granola

A favorite snack food for trips to the fruit farm or hiking on crisp days.

Makes 6 cups

Ingredients

2 cup regular rolled oats
1/2 cup flaked coconut flakes
1/2 cup coarsely chopped nuts such almonds, pecans or peanuts
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup honey or maple syrup
1/3 cup cooking oil
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
a dash of almond extract
a dash of coconut extract
1/2 - 1 cup of dried fruit of your choice (dried cherries, apples, bananas, cranberries, raisins, blueberries are a great choice)
1/4 c. chocolate chips (optional)

Instructions

1. Combine all the ingredients and stir thoroughly. Add to a baking sheet

2. Bake at 300° F for 20- 25 minutes, or until lightly toasty. The granola will crisp up more once it cools.

Sweet Wheat Berry Cranberry Salad

Wheat berries are a versatile whole grain and delicious in salads or side dishes.

Makes 8 servings

Ingredients

2 cups wheat berries
1/2 cup walnuts or pecans, chopped
1/4 cup dried apples, diced
1/2 cup carrots, shredded
1/2 cup dried cranberries

For Dressing:

1 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon orange juice
1 teaspoon honey
2 teaspoons cinnamon
salt to taste

Directions:

For salad: In a large bowl, mix together all ingredients.

For dressing: In a small bowl, whisk together ingredients for dressing. Pour the dressing over the salad and gently toss. Refrigerate the dressed salad to allow the flavors to meld before serving. Serve it cold or heat it up for a breakfast cereal.

Spinach Cranberry Salad with Goat Cheese and Walnuts

This is a favorite during dinner parties and a yummy lunch salad to take tow work.

For Poppy Seed Dressing:

Ingredients

1/3 cup white sugar
1/2 cup white vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground dry mustard
1 teaspoon grated onion
1 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon poppy seeds

For Salad:

8 cups baby spinach leaves, stems trimmed, washed, and dried
1 cup dried cranberries, cherries or diced dried pears work well with this
1/2 cup whole or chopped toasted walnuts
1/3 cup crumbled goat cheese

Directions:

For dressing: In a blender or food processor, combine sugar, vinegar, salt, dry mustard and onion and process for 20 seconds. With blender or food processor on high, gradually add oil in a slow, steady stream. Stir in poppy seeds.

For salad: Combine all ingredients until well incorporated and drizzle with dressing.

Whole Wheat German Pancake with Apples

This is a wonderful meal to make on a cool, crisp morning.

Ingredients

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 large eggs
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons sugar or 1 tablespoon maple syrup for a lighter version
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cups dried apples, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons powdered sugar (optional) 

Directions

Preheat oven to 425°F. Place butter in a large (11- or 12-inch) cast iron or ovenproof skillet and heat in the oven until butter is melted, about 3 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a blender, combine eggs, milk, sugar, cinnamon and salt. Blend until smooth. Add flour and blend again. Remove skillet from oven, swirl butter to coat the bottom and sides of the pan, and pour in the batter. Top with apples and bake until the pancake is puffed and browned and apples are tender, 18 to 20 minutes. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and cut into wedges for serving.

Cinnamon Apple Chips

We cannot seem to keep these on our pantry shelves. The kids love dipping these dehydrated apples in peanut butter for an afterschool snack.

Ingredients

3 apples
ground cinnamon
granulated sugar

Instructions:

1. Wash and thinly slice the apples. Spread the apple slices on dehydrator sheets making one layer and sprinkle liberally with cinnamon and sugar.

2.  Dehydrate until apples are crispy. Store apple chips at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Note: Similarly, you can make spiced pears using this same recipe. There is a recipe to follow for spiced pear cake.

Spiced Pear Cake

Ingredients

For cake:

1-½ cups dried spiced pears, sliced thin (see recipe for spiced pears above)
3 large eggs
2 cups sugar or for a healthier version substitute 1 1/2 cups of maple syrup
1 1/4 cups coconut oil
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup walnuts or pecans, coarsely chopped
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the caramel glaze:

1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup evaporated milk

Instructions For cake:

1. Reconstitute dried pears in 1 cup of water and allow to sit for 20 minutes.

2. Preheat oven to 350°.

3. In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs, 2 cups sugar, and oil until blended.

4. Combine flour, salt, and baking soda, and add to egg mixture, stir slowly until blended.

5. Fold in pears, chopped nuts, and vanilla extract.

6. Pour batter into a greased and floured 10-inch Bundt pan.

7. Bake at 350° for 1 hour or until a wooden pick inserted in center of cake comes out clean.

8. Remove from pan, and drizzle Caramel Glaze over warm cake (directions below).

Alternatively, if you choose not to make the caramel glaze, dust the cake with powdered sugar.

To make the glaze:

Stir together brown sugar, butter, and evaporated milk in a small saucepan over medium heat; bring to a boil, and cook, stirring constantly, 2 1/2 minutes or until sugar dissolves.

Jessie's Prune Cake

My great-grandmother made this cake and its a family favorite during the holidays.

1 cup prunes
1 cup vegetable oil
2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 eggs
2 cups sifted cake flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup chopped pecans
1 cup powdered sugar, optional

Instructions:

1. In a small saucepan, cover prunes with water, and boil until soft and mashable, about eight minutes. Drain water, then mash prunes on a plate. It's ok to leave a few chunks of prunes). Set aside.

2. In a medium sized mixing bowl, beat oil, vanilla and sugar well. Add eggs one at a time and whisk until combined. Set aside.

3. In a separate bowl, sift together flour, salt and spices.

4. Add creamed mixture alternately with baking soda and buttermilk. Mix well.

5. Add chopped prunes, and pecans.

6. Pour into a greased and floured bundt or tube pan.

7. Bake 1 hour and 5 minutes at 325° F.

8. Cool about 30 minutes.

9. Top with powdered sugar, if desired.

Apple Spice Muffins

Ingredients

7 tablespoons butter, softened
1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup dried apples, diced
2/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 egg
3/4 cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons vanilla

For streusel topping:

3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup flour
1 tablespoon water
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 cup butter, softened

Instructions:

1. Make the topping by whisking together the sugar, salt, flour, dried applies and cinnamon. Add the melted butter, stirring till well combined. Set the topping aside.

2. Preparing muffins:  Preheat oven to 350° Fahrenheit.

3. Prepare muffin tins by lightly greasing.

4. In a large mixing bowl, add flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices.

5. Add butter, egg, buttermilk and vanilla to mixing bowl and stir until incorporated.

6. Pour batter into muffin tins until 3/4 full.

7. Sprinkle streusel topping over batter.

8. Bake muffins for 20-25 minutes. Start testing for doneness at the end of the suggested baking time. Add an additional 5 minutes if muffins need more time.

These eight recipes are some that I commonly use and as you can see, dried fruit doesn't have to sit on the food pantry shelves for snacks. There are a myriad of uses for dried fruit in your recipes. What's your favorite way of using dried fruit?


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Swiss Chard: The New Kale?

Bright Lights Swiss Chard

Bright Lights Swiss Chard fresh from the garden

Growing up, I was never a picky eater. Many or our summer meals consisted solely of our day’s garden harvest and I willingly ate everything on my plate. When schoolmates turned up their noses at the home-cooked veggies featured in our rural school’s cafeteria, I was right there, ready to vacuum up their leftovers. But I never ate Swiss chard. I’d never even heard of chard.

One day at our local farmers' market several years ago, I overheard a fellow shopper say to a vendor, "Is that Swiss chard? That's the one I never know what to do with." I passed it by. I certainly didn't know what to do with it, and she made it sound hard. Really hard.

Then I found myself in a workshop at the Mother Earth News Fair. The incomparable Niki Jabbour was telling an overflow crowd about year-round gardening. As she listed her favorite vegetables, my ears pricked up at the mention of Swiss chard. How she praised it. She was particularly fond, she said, of Bright Lights chard with its multi-hued leaves and stems.

I decided to give it a go and ordered my own Bright Lights seeds for my spring gardening. Am I ever glad I did! In fact, chard quickly surpassed kale, my former go-to, as my favorite leafy green. I’d long been a big kale fan—it’s versatile, it’s nutritionally dense, it starts early and grows late. It can withstand frost and freezes. Harvest kale and it keeps producing. What’s not to love?

Well, cabbage worms, for one. No matter how diligent my husband and I were at pest surveillance, we always managed to miss a few of those always well-camouflaged cabbage worms. They can destroy a kale plant almost overnight. Swiss chard, on the other hand, hasn’t been on our cabbage worms’ menu. And chard has all the virtues as kale, except more and better.

Easy to Cook With

I would never disparage kale. It’s good raw or cooked. It makes delicious chips. And it’s a nutritional powerhouse. But so is chard, I discovered. When compared, chard regularly outstrips kale for its nutritional density. What’s more, you can eat every inch of chard’s colorful stems. Not only does that make chard a no-waste vegetable; it also makes preparation a breeze: give it a quick wash and a rough chop—stems and all, and it’s ready to use in your favorite recipe. That’s it. I can’t imagine why that farmers’ market shopper was flummoxed by chard. 

And the taste! No matter how many times we’ve said it, when Swiss chard is what’s for dinner, neither my husband nor I can resist exclaiming over its tastiness. Always tender, its soft texture practically melts in the mouth. Its flavor is mild with an ever-so-slight hint of citrus. It's a perfect addition to almost any meal.

In my opinion, the easiest and all-around best way to eat chard is sautéed in the tiniest bit of olive oil. It only takes a couple of minutes to cook. You can toss in some chopped onion for a more complex flavor profile, but it’s delicious plain. Preparing chard this way takes no longer than brushing your teeth.

But there are other just-as-easy ways to make chard a regular part of your diet. Chard is a mild, yet super-wholesome, ingredient in smoothies. Add it to some pan-fried potatoes for a nutritional boost. And when scrambled eggs are served on a bed of leftover sautéed chard, breakfast gets even more healthful.

I happen to love chard as a quiche vegetable, and when I serve my chard quiche to guests, it always gets rave reviews. (See here for quiche recipe).

If, like me, you’ve been scared off from Swiss chard, fear no more. Trust me, it’s an easy vegetable to grow and an equally easy—and delicious—one to prepare and eat.

Carole Coates is a gardener and food preservationist, family archivist, essayist, poet, photographer, modern homesteader. You can follow her Mother Earth News blog posts by following this link. You can also find Carole at Living On the Diagonal where she shares her take on life, including modern homesteading, food preparation and preservation, and travel as well random thoughts and reflections, personal essays, poetry, and photography.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.