Showing posts with label apples. Show all posts
Showing posts with label apples. Show all posts

Thursday, January 10, 2019

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "The Widows" by Jess Montgomery, Served with a Recipe for Spicy Cinnamon Fried Apples on Toast {and a Book Giveaway!}

Happy Thursday! It's been a few weeks since I did a book review and so I am very happy to be today's stop on the TLC Book Tour for The Widows, a historical mystery novel by Jess Montgomery. Paired with my review are some tasty Spicy Cinnamon Fried Apples on Toast inspired by my reading, and there is a chance to win a copy of The Widows at the bottom of the post.

Publisher's Blurb:

Kinship, Ohio, 1924: When Lily Ross learns that her husband, Daniel Ross, the town’s widely respected sheriff, is killed while transporting a prisoner, she is devastated and vows to avenge his death.

Hours after his funeral, a stranger appears at her door. Marvena Whitcomb, a coal miner’s widow, is unaware that Daniel has died, and begs to speak with him about her missing daughter.

From miles away but worlds apart, Lily and Marvena’s lives collide as they realize that Daniel was not the man that either of them believed him to be–and that his murder is far more complex than either of them could have imagined.

Inspired by the true story of Ohio’s first female sheriff, this is a powerful debut about two women’s search for justice as they take on the corruption at the heart of their community.

Hardcover: 336 Pages
Publisher: Minotaur Books (January 8, 2019)

My Review:

As you can probably tell by the number of historical novels I review on this blog, historical fiction is a favorite genre of mine, especially when it takes me into the past and to aspects of history that I am not familiar with. In the case of The Widows, I was transported to the Appalachians and rural Ohio coal mines in 1925 where I learned about the attempts to unionize the mines and provide the workers with fair employment practices and safer working conditions, all why trying to solve a murder and a disappearance in a book with two strong female leads, based on real-life women. The character of Lily Ross is loosely based on Ohio’s first female sheriff, Maude Collins, appointed after her husband was killed during a traffic stop. Jess Montgomery had her character face a similar circumstance but made the question of who killed Lily’s husband Daniel the main mystery the book is centered around. As she investigates his death, Lily discovers aspects of Daniel’s life hidden from her including Marvena Whitcomb, also a widow, with a past that intersects with Daniel’s. Marvena is leading the local miners and their families in battling Daniel’s half-brother and his mining company against their unsafe work practices, all too real to both woman as Lily’s father and  Marvena’s husband died in the mines while trying to rescue miners after a cave-in. Marvena’s character is also loosely based a real person, Mary Harris (Mother) Jones, the labor activist who co-founded the Industrial Workers of the World. Both lead characters are strong and doing what they need to do to take care of their families and communities. Lily steps into Daniel’s role of Sheriff while Marvena sells moonshine to support her daughter, Frankie. Marvena also spent time as a ‘working girl’ at the local boarding house, something her older daughter, Eula was doing when she turned up missing and Daniel was looking into her disappearance when he was killed, purportedly by Marvena’s brother Tom. Despite their dissimilar backgrounds, both women loved Daniel and find themselves working together and forging a relationship despite their differing backgrounds and economic levels.

I enjoyed the setting of the book and the way Montgomery wove the stories together, although The Widows isn’t a fast-moving mystery, it was absorbing and kept me engaged throughout. The mysteries—Tom’s death and Eula’s disappearance, were compelling, and while I guessed correctly about most of what happened, there were still some good twists to the story. I was interested in both Lily and Marvena’s characters and the fact it is a debut novel and is so well researched and written is impressive. I am happy to hear that The Widows is the first book in The Kinship Series and look forward to spending more time in the town of Kinship and its surrounding community. If you enjoy historical fiction, books set in rural Ohio and the surrounding area, stories with strong empowered female characters, mysteries, and learning more about American history, add The Widows to your TBR list. (You can enter a giveaway of a copy at the bottom of this post.) 

Author Notes: Jess Montgomery is the Literary Life columnist for the Dayton Daily News and Executive Director of the renowned Antioch Writers’ Workshop in Yellow Springs, Ohio. Based on early chapters of The Widows, Jess was awarded an Ohio Arts Council individual artist’s grant for literary arts and the John E. Nance Writer-in-Residence at Thurber House in Columbus. She lives in her native state of Ohio.

You can connect with Jess on her website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


Food Inspiration:

There is food to be found in The Widows, and often it helps to illustrate the difference in lifestyle for Lily and Marvena. While Lily's table is more bountiful--even what she cooks for the people in the jail's holding cells, Marvena is making due with less and its often food she gathers from the nearby woodlands--berries, greens, mushrooms, fiddlehead ferns, pokeweed, black raspberries, and the vegetables she grows in her small garden. Montgomery speaks in the afterward about the research she did to capture the experience of the Appalachians in Ohio in the 1920s from the scenes in the mines, life in rural communities, and of course the food. Lily's mother's Dried Apple Stack Cake is based on her family recipe. (Looking online for examples, the cake looked delicious but far too work-intensive for me to attempt to make this week.) ;-) My list of some of the food mentioned in the book included tinned milk, cheese, chopped steak, ice cream, coffee, biscuits and gravy, eggs, bacon, potato and onion, bologna sandwiches, an after funeral buffet of fried chicken, deviled eggs, ham salad, corn relish, and apple and peach pies, roasted chestnuts, peppermint and butterscotch button candies, good salt ham, fresh-baked bread, green beans and corn, black raspberry jam and apple butter, corn pone with sorghum syrup, buttermilk pie, broth and foot vegetables, muffins, tea--chamomile and sassafras (a favorite character Nana says, "Life is hard. Have tea."--something I agree with), squirrel stew with root vegetables, beets and spring peas, soup beans made with dried pinto beans, onion, bacon fat and water, taffy, cornbread, buttermilk, beef stew, deer jerky, carrots and green onions, fritters, a fried apple stack cake, canned peaches, pickles, and jams.

I ended up taking my inspiration for my book-inspired dish from a mention of apples fried up with brown sugar, butter and cinnamon that Lily serves to Marvena in the jail cell: 

"Marvena snatches the plate through the food slot, carries it back to the cot, sits. She eats a bite of good salted ham. She has to keep herself from moaning with pleasure and relief. Next she takes a bite of apples, fried up with brown sugar and butter and cinnamon. Fancy, rich food. Marvena hates to admit it, but Lily's a good cook. She clears the plate quickly."

Although I kept the brown sugar, cinnamon and butter of the many recipes I looked at, I decided to add a pinch of salt and some (Aleppo) chile pepper to my apples, just to make them more interesting, and to serve them on thick slices of toast.

Spicy Cinnamon Fried Apples
By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Serves 2)

2 Tbsp butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 Tbsp ground cinnamon 
1/2 tsp of your favorite chile pepper or cayenne (I used Aleppo pepper), or to taste 
tiny pinch of salt
2 apples of choice (I used Gala), cored and sliced
bread and butter, if desired, to serve 
Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat until it is melted and begins to bubble; stir the sugar, cinnamon, chile pepper and salt into the hot butter. Add the apples and cook until apples begin to break down and soften. (This can take anywhere from about 8 to 12 minutes depending on how thick you sliced them and how soft you want them--I like my apples to be tender but not mushy so mine took about 10 minutes.

Toast bread and butter if desired. Serve with the apples and their juices spooned on top. Enjoy!

Notes/Results: I love apples just about any way they can be served and this simple preparation didn't disappoint. I liked the combination of the sweet and slightly spicy sauce with a touch of tartness from the apples. The Aleppo pepper was present and give a little kick and warmth, but wasn't too spicy--just the way I like it (though the fried apples would still be perfectly delicious without it). Spooned over the toasted bread these apples made for a tasty after dinner snack. I made enough apples for another serving and will probably top my morning oatmeal with them. I will definitely make them again. 

I'm sharing this post with the Weekend Cooking event at Beth Fish Reads, a weekly event that is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share. For more information, see the welcome post.

***Book Giveaway!***

The publisher is generously providing a copy of The Widows to give away to a lucky reader (U.S./Canada addresses, please) here at Kahakai Kitchen.

To enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway below, leave a comment please (Because I like to read them!) ;-) telling me your favorite era(s) in history to read about and/or why you would like to win a copy of the book

There are a couple of other optional ways to get more entries to win: Tweet about this giveaway or follow me on Twitter (@DebinHawaii), and/or author Jess Montgomery (@JessM_Author), and/or Minotaur Books (@MinotaurBooks) on Twitter
(Note: You can still get the extra entries even if you already follow me, Jess Montgomery, and/or Minotaur Books on Twitter.)

Deadline for entry is Monday, January 21st.

Good Luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Note: A review copy of "The Widows" was provided to me by the author and the publisher via TLC Book Tours. I was not compensated for this review and as always, my thoughts and opinions are my own.  

You can see the stops for the rest of this TLC Book Tour and what other reviewers thought about the book here.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "Hiddensee" by Gregory Maguire, Served with a Recipe for Mulled Hard Cider (Glühmost) and Pear Toast with Pomegranate & Toasted Walnuts

Someone reminded me that it was just under six weeks to Christmas. Yikes! Today's stop on the TLC Book Tour of Hiddensee, (the new fantasy book by Greogry Maguire that brings the story of the toy maker that carved the Nutcracker to life) has some obvious ties to the holidays--like the famous Nutcracker Ballet that is a tradition for so many. I'm pairing today's book review with a snack (afternoon please--there is alcohol!) of Mulled Hard Cider (Glühmost) and Pear Toast with Pomegranate and Toasted Walnuts--two dishes that would be more than welcome at the holiday table.

Publisher's Blurb:

From the author of the beloved #1 New York Times bestseller Wicked, the magical story of a toymaker, a nutcracker, and a legend remade . . .

Gregory Maguire returns with an inventive novel inspired by a timeless holiday legend, intertwining the story of the famous Nutcracker with the life of the mysterious toy maker named Drosselmeier who carves him.

Hiddensee: An island of white sandy beaches, salt marshes, steep cliffs, and pine forests north of Berlin in the Baltic Sea, an island that is an enchanting bohemian retreat and home to a large artists’ colony– a wellspring of inspiration for the Romantic imagination . . .

Having brought his legions of devoted readers to Oz in Wicked and to Wonderland in After Alice, Maguire now takes us to the realms of the Brothers Grimm and E. T. A. Hoffmann– the enchanted Black Forest of Bavaria and the salons of Munich. Hiddensee imagines the backstory of the Nutcracker, revealing how this entrancing creature came to be carved and how he guided an ailing girl named Klara through a dreamy paradise on a Christmas Eve. At the heart of Hoffmann’s mysterious tale hovers Godfather Drosselmeier– the ominous, canny, one-eyed toy maker made immortal by Petipa and Tchaikovsky’s fairy tale ballet– who presents the once and future Nutcracker to Klara, his goddaughter.

But Hiddensee is not just a retelling of a classic story. Maguire discovers in the flowering of German Romanticism ties to Hellenic mystery-cults– a fascination with death and the afterlife– and ponders a profound question: How can a person who is abused by life, shortchanged and challenged, nevertheless access secrets that benefit the disadvantaged and powerless? Ultimately, Hiddensee offers a message of hope. If the compromised Godfather Drosselmeier can bring an enchanted Nutcracker to a young girl in distress on a dark winter evening, perhaps everyone, however lonely or marginalized, has something precious to share.

Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: William Morrow (October 31, 2017)

My Review: 

I jumped on this tour when I saw that Gregory Maguire was adapting the story of the Nutcracker both because of the story subject and because I hadn't picked up a Maguire book in a few years. I was a big fan of Wicked and Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister and I liked Mirror Mirror and Lost, but although I own them, I just never got around to reading his other works--something I intend to do one of these days.

Hiddensee is similar to the other books in that it is a secondary character that takes the lead and the bulk of the storytelling. In this case, rather than focusing on the Nutcracker, or even Klara, it is the toy maker, Herr Drosselmeier who presents the Nutcracker to Klara on Christmas Eve. Hiddensee leans to the darker side, as Maguire stories tend to do and takes us to the forbidding deep woods where the young Dirk was a foundling, raised by a woodcutter and his wife. It's not a happy childhood, nor is how he leaves it and goes out into the world, but his story is for the most part interesting (a few chapters dragged a bit for me), as is how the Nutcracker came to be and how he ended up as a gift to a young girl.

If you go into Hiddensee expecting lots of dancers and sugar plum fairies or even much of a Christmas story, you will be disappointed but if you enjoy a quirky, slightly dark story that aligns with Grimm's Fairy Tales and Germanic folklore you will likely get caught up in Dirk Drosselmeier's journey. Although it didn't win my heart as much as Wicked or Ugly Stepsister, I think it is a worthy addition to my Maguire collection. (And I do have to say that I love both the paper jacket--which is gorgeous and the printed book underneath--which is creepy/cool--check out the last picture of the post for a glimpse.)  


Author Notes: Gregory Maguire is the New York Times bestselling author of Confessions of an Ugly StepsisterLostMirror Mirror; and the Wicked Years, a series that includes WickedSon of a WitchA Lion Among Men, and Out of Oz. Now a beloved classic, Wicked is the basis for a blockbuster Tony Award–winning Broadway musical. Maguire has lectured on art, literature, and culture both at home and abroad. He lives with his family near Boston, Massachusetts.
Find out more about Maguire at his website and follow him on Facebook.


Food Inspiration:

There was a good amount of food in Hiddensee and it provided plenty of inspiration with things like mushrooms, ale, bread, chicken, sausage, stew, potatoes, lots of bread and cheese, red apples, figs, venison, carrots in honey, noodle pudding, sweet cakes,  pastries with gooseberry jam, wurst with soft yellow cheese, veal stew, potato dumplings, strudel, onions, shelled beans, strawberries, sauerbraten, black cherry conserve, bread dumplings, headcheese, pomegranates and walnuts, schnapps, gingerbread, fesenjan (Iranian stew), baklava, raspberry pastry, pork and apples, pickled onions, sliced apples in honey, veal with lemons and carrots, and thin-shaven potato in vinegar, boiled sweets,steamy aromatic cider, chicken and olive soup, pear toast and biscuits with honey icing, cabbage with fennel seed and caraway, soup, fish, whipped eggnog and pfeffernusse.

For my book-inspired dish, I decided to combine a few things. First "a cup of cider, aromatic and steamy" is given to Drosselmeier sounded so good that I decided to make a mulled hard cider. Then young Klara imagines a café where on the menu is "...chicken and olive soup. Also some pears on toast. And what else. Some biscuits with honey icing." I thought it would be fun to do the pears on toast but add some pomegranates and walnuts to it--as both play a role in the story and to use labne (yogurt cheese) as a base and drizzle it with honey. Together with the mulled hard cider, it makes a nice snack to enjoy with a good book.

There were a few different recipes online for Mulled Hard Cider (I learned it is called Glühmost and is more popular in South Germany and Austria, consumed in the winter months as a changed from mulled wine). The recipe that I liked best is from a blog called The Kitchen Maus where the blogger used to (she's been on maternity leave since last year) has a passion for making authentic German recipes. She has a good write up on it that I encourage you to read. I kept her recipe ingredients mostly the same--just making a few small changes to her quantities to my tastes and noted in red below. 

Mulled Hard Cider (Glühmost)
Slightly Adapted from Diony at
(Serves about 4)

4 cups (or two 16oz cans) of Dry Hard Cider (I used 3 12-oz bottles Angry Orchard Crisp Apple Hard Cider)
4 slices of lemon
2 cinnamon sticks
4 whole cloves (optional--I omitted)
2 star anise
1 (2-inch) piece ginger, peeled
(I added 1 cup apple cider) (optional)
honey to taste (I used 2 Tbsp)
1/3 cup of Orange Juice (optional)

Place all ingredients except for orange juice into a medium saucepan and bring to a low simmer over medium-high heat--being careful not to boil--so the alcohol remains. Reduce heat to low and let cider steep about 20 minutes. add the orange juice a few minutes before it's finished and allow it to warm up.

Pour the cider through a sieve and discard solids. Serve hot, garnishing with extra lemon slices, apple slices, star anise and/or cinnamon sticks as desired. 

Pear Toast with Pomegranate & Walnuts
By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Serves 2 as a snack)

2 pieces thickly-sliced good bread (I used cranberry-walnut bread)
3 Tbsp labne, yogurt, ricotta or cream cheese (I used labne)
1 ripe pear of choice
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp walnuts, toasted & chopped
2 Tbsp pomegranate arils/seeds

Toast bread until lightly browned. Let cool for a few minutes and spread with labne (or yogurt, ricotta, cream cheese...)

Core and thinly slice pear and brush the slices with lemon juice. Layer pear slices on top of toast and drizzle with the honey.

Sprinkle tops of toast with chopped toasted walnuts and pomegranate seeds and serve. 

Notes/Results: I may have to swap out my hot mulled apple cider tea for Glühmost. With the hard cider, it reminds me a bit of a warm apple shandy. Comforting and delicious with the cinnamon, star anise, ginger and lemon. Since the hard cider available to me is fairly sweet and I used both apple cider and orange juice, I reduced the amount of honey and it was a good level of sweetness for me. The pair toast was delicious--a nice alternative to my usual savory avocado toast--but not too sweet due to the fruit and tang of the labne. I will definitely make both of these again.

I'm sharing this post with the Weekend Cooking event at Beth Fish Reads, a weekly event that is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share. For more information, see the welcome post.

Note: A review copy of "Hiddensee" was provided to me by the author and the publisher, Harper Collins, via TLC Book Tours. I was not compensated for this review and as always, my thoughts and opinions are my own.

You can see the stops for the rest of this TLC Book Tour and what other reviewers thought about the book here.


Tuesday, November 7, 2017

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "The Austen Escape" by Katherine Reay, Served with a Recipe for "Black Butter" (Apple-Blackberry Preserves) from The Jane Austen Cookbook

Welcome to Tuesday. A good day because it puts us one day closer to Friday. If you are feeling the need to escape, you aren't alone. Whenever I need to get away, at least in my mind, I open up a good book like this week's stop on the TLC Book Tour--The Austen Project by Katherine Reay. A fun but thoughtful novel that takes place at a Jane Austen experience in a house in Bath, England. Accompanying my review is a treat children might have enjoyed back in Austen's Day, "Black Butter"--a tasty jam-like mix of apples and blackberry on toast with butter.  

Publisher's Blurb:

Falling into the past will change their futures forever.

Mary Davies finds safety in her ordered and productive life. Working as an engineer, she genuinely enjoys her job and her colleagues – particularly a certain adorable and intelligent consultant. But something is missing. When Mary’s estranged childhood friend, Isabel Dwyer offers her a two-week stay in a gorgeous manor house in England, she reluctantly agrees in hopes that the holiday will shake up her quiet life in just the right ways.

But Mary gets more than she bargained for when Isabel loses her memory and fully believes she lives in Jane Austen’s Bath. While Isabel rests and delights in the leisure of a Regency lady, attended by the other costume-clad guests, Mary uncovers startling truths about their shared past, who Isabel was, who she seems to be, and the man who now stands between them.

Outings are undertaken, misunderstandings play out, and dancing ensues as this company of clever, well-informed people, who have a great deal of conversation, work out their lives and hearts.

Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson (November 7, 2017)

My Review:

Being a huge Jane Austen fan and quickly becoming a Kathleen Reay fan (this is the third of her books I've read), I was excited to read The Austen Escape and snagged the ARC on NetGalley and reading it before even learning about the TLC Book Tour. Since that was a couple of months ago, I reread the novel to refresh the story (and the food) in my mind and I think I liked it even better the second time around. 

I go back and forth on whether a Jane Austen 'escape'--like the one in the book (where groups of people spend time living in the Regency period and pretending to be characterless from Austen's works) is a dream vacation or my worst nightmare. I would love to visit Austen's stomping grounds and see the museums, houses and countryside where some of my favorite characters interacted but I have never been much of a costume person--Halloween makes me twitchy--so I don't know that I'd readily enjoy that part. Mary Davies, the main character of The Austen Escape has some similar feelings and wouldn't be going if her father hadn't convinced her that her friend Isabel needed her, and if Mary hadn't needed a handy escape from a failed project and a censuring new boss at work--her usual happy place. That there is some baggage with Mary and Isabel's friendship is readily apparent--and when Isabel forgets who she is and settles right into the pretending, Mary learns some hard truths about their friendship. 

I liked Mary from the start, she is smart and has some good snark--something I always appreciate. She leans to the ordered and routine side of things so the changes to her life have her feeling out of her element. Isabel was harder to like. Although I warmed to her more and sympathized with her as her story and childhood were unveiled, there is a betrayal that I don't think I would be able to get over if I were Mary--not to mention the way she treated Mary even before things are revealed. Reay does a great job of setting the atmosphere of Braithwaite House and of Bath and of what a Jane Austen-themed house party would be like. For me the descriptions added a lot to the story and from a slower start, things really took off after Mary and Isabel got to England. The supporting characters are fun and there is romance, of course--it's chick-lit--but it is clean chick-lit so things are kept light. 
An overall sweet and entertaining read that is a great escape itself--perfect to enjoy over a 'cuppa' and a few biscuits (or maybe some toast and jam or 'black butter'). If you don't enjoy or know your Austen at least a little (there is a handy Austen character overview in the front of the book to help), The Austen Escape won't have the same charm and probably isn't your book--but if like me, you are a Jane Austen lover, you will likely enjoy the fun.


Author Notes: Katherine Reay has enjoyed a life-long affair with the works of Jane Austen and her contemporaries—who provide constant inspiration both for writing and for life. She is the author of three previous novels, and her debut, Dear Mr. Knightley, was a 2014 Christy Award Finalist, winner of the 2014 INSPY Award for Best Debut, and winner of two Carol Awards for Best Debut and Best Contemporary. Katherine holds a BA and MS from Northwestern University and is a wife, mother, runner, and tae kwon do black belt. After living all across the country and a few stops in Europe, Katherine and her family recently moved back to Chicago. 

Visit her on line at, or on Facebook or Twitter 


Food Inspiration:

This is not the "foodiest" of Reay's books (for that check out my review of Lizzy & Jane here) but there was food to be found in The Austen Escape. Examples include: Starbucks beverages, Chiles Rellenos, ice cream, tres leches cake, a martini with cilantro flakes, Prosecco, random casseroles, a Red Velvet cupcake, trout, takeout,warm nuts and chocolate in First Class, tea sandwiches and slices of glazed orange cake, toast spread with country pâté, cheese, cheese puffs, champagne, an dinner of endive salad, a light fish course, and beef tenderloin with lemon tart, coffee, tea, and other small desserts, burgers, popcorn, roast chicken, eggs, sausages, salsa on eggs and s'mores with burned marshmallows, a tray of cheese, cucumbers and a variety of cold meats along with a nineteenth-century version of egg mayonnaise and sticky toffee pudding for dessert, a salad of greens and pears, macaroni and cheese, pizza, hot cocoa, petit fours, soup, crumpets, scones, and ale, Celeriac Soup with Roast Hazelnuts and Hazelnut Oil, Smoked Salmon with Pommery Mustard and Dill Mayonnaise, Posh Kabob Wrap with Autumn Slaw and Yogurt, and a Maximum Burger with two patties and a fried egg, biscuits, Tamarind Jarritos, steaks, potatoes, and Caesar Salad, jars of jam, and nachos.

There was a mix of Austin Texas and Bath, England foods and some things that would have been enjoyed back in Jane Austen's day to pick from and I decided to pull out The Jane Austen Cookbook and see if anything called to me. I have cooked from this book before, making versions of the Raspberry 'Vinegar' (Cordial) and Marmalett of Aprecoks to pair with the film version of The Jane Austen Book Club so it seemed a good place to start. I am a bit limited in what I can make from this book as I don't eat meat (and too bad because don't Forcemeat Balls sound delicious?!) ;-) so I perused the fruit and dessert sections and decided on Black Butter--which basically turned out to be a preserve of apples (for their natural pectin) and assorted fruits and berries with the authors suggesting the black in the black butter may have come from a pairing of blackberries with the apples. Online it is called "a somewhat dark fruit conserve" which may also be how it gets its name. I happened to have some Honeycrisp (my favorite) apples on the counter and a bag of frozen blackberries, and with the mention of jam in the book (and given my love for the stuff), it seemed like a good pairing.

"My old piano teacher sent me three jars of jam every August. The day they arrived always felt like my birthday, and I practically licked each jar clean--all the while pushing aside, and yet cosseting, that little nudge, that pinprick, of the something lost that they evoked."

It was always the music. I could now name it and enjoy it. After my dinner with Dad I'd driven home and pulled my Lanvin shoebox from the top of my closet. I had also pulled the last jam jar from the fridge, sat on the floor, and thrashed a spoon around its farthest edges. It was delicious."

From The Jane Austen Cookbook by Maggie Black & Deidre Le Faye

The book notes that: "In one of Jane's letters we find references to "black butter" (perhaps blackberry and apple) being eaten by her family as a treat. We do not have a printed source for that recipe, but we do have one written only twelve years after Jane died for a children's dish. It comes from Meg Dodd's cookbook, originally published in 1829, and is given below

Black Butter
(For Children, a Cheap Preserve)
Pick currents, gooseberries, strawberries, or whatever fruit you have: to every two pounds of fruit, put one of sugar and boil till a good deal reduced. 
(M.D. 1829 edn, fac. 1988, page 435.)


For a modern recipe a mixture of some or all of the above fruits can be used. For each 2lb/1kg fruit, allow 1lb/450g white sugar. De-stalk and rinse the fruits, making sure none is mouldy. Mix them and heat gently in a pan until the juices start to run. Stir in the sugar until dissolved, and boil until very thick. Pour into small ht jars and cover as for jam. 

Note: This is a lovely old country preserve, almost unaltered, but shaped by the wise hand of Mary Norwalk. She says it is ideal for using up the odd bits and pieces in the freezer.

Deb's Notes: I made a couple of small changes--first I used about 1 lb (4 large) honey crisp apples and a 1 lb bag of frozen blackberries, which I defrosted and heated until juicy, added one large cinnamon stick and 1 Tbsp lemon juice and cooked over low for about 30 minutes to soften the fruit and release the juices. I broke up some of the larger pieces with a spoon, then brought the mixture to a boil and stirred in about 1/2 cup of sugar. (I didn't want it over sweet), boiled until the sugar was dissolved, then simmered for about 90 minutes until the mixture was reduced and quite thick. I scooped in into a small jar and allowed it to cool before serving on toast, spread with butter.

Notes/Results: A sweet and slightly tart jam with a pretty black-purple color. Even reducing to 1/2 cup sugar, it's a bit sweet for me. Thankfully the lemon juice and cinnamon stick help curb it slightly. I imagine a child would be in high-heaven with the sweetness, although they may object to the seeds from the blackberries. This definitely is more the texture of jam or preserves than butter, but you could blend it with an immersion blender if you wanted it smoother. I tend to prefer my jams and preserves to be chunky. I suppose in Jane's day they would have sieved it if they wanted a smoother consistency but that is far too much work for my laziness. It was quite delicious on a sourdough-style bread with a bit of (salted) butter and a cup of English Breakfast tea. I would make it again--although probably less sweet for me. 

I'm sharing this post with the Weekend Cooking event at Beth Fish Reads, a weekly event that is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share. For more information, see the welcome post.

Note: A review copy of "The Austen Escape" was provided to me by the author and the publisher via TLC Book Tours. I was not compensated for this review and as always, my thoughts and opinions are my own.

You can see the stops for the rest of this TLC Book Tour and what other reviewers thought about the book here.


Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Apple Jam on Bread with Cheese for Cook the Books August/September Pick: "Farmer Boy" by Laura Ingalls Wilder

I'm the host of this round of Cook the Books, a virtual foodie blogging book club where we read a foodie book and head to the kitchen to make a dish inspired by our reading. After seeing an online discussion on just how much food was in Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder, I was determined to reread this childhood classic and I chose it for August/September to share with my CTB friends. (See my announcement post here.)

Farmer Boy was never my favorite of the Little House books--something I attribute to having more of an affection for Laura and the Ingalls family than the boyhood of Laura's husband-to-be, Almanzo Wilder. It turns out that there are hidden charms in Farmer Boy, published in 1933 and taking place over a year in Almanzo's life as a young boy, about to turn nine. What isn't hidden is the food, Almanzo is a growing farm boy and loves to eat-A LOT. I'd even go as far as to call him (or his character in his wife's mind) a bit of a foodie with his appreciation of foods and flavors. I enjoyed this reread both for the food and because I appreciated the story more, hearing about life on the farm in upstate New York for the Wilder family. There is plenty of work for Almanzo and his brother and sisters but there is fun mixed in as well and although definitely a children's book, it is a classic bit of Americana that makes a nice escape. I have a feeling I'll be revisiting the other Little House books at some point for the sweet nostalgia.

The book is full of food descriptions and countless dishes like a lunch-pail with bread and butter with sausage, apples and apple turnovers, and pantry shelves stacked with big yellow cheeses, loaves of fresh-baked bread to spread with butter and jam, maple sugar, cakes and pies (pumpkin, vinegar, mince, custard, raisin, berry and especially apple pie with cheese), all manner of preserved goods--jams and jellies (crab apple, plum, strawberry, grape...), pickled cucumbers, beets, green tomatoes and spicy watermelon pickle, apple core vinegar, and dried corn and apples. There are baked beans, lots of meat--turkey, chicken, ham, roast pig and goose, spareribs, roast beef, roast pork with applesauce, sausages and pork-pickle (yikes!). There were baked beans, chicken pot pie, mashed potatoes, creamed carrots, crackling cornbread, mealy boiled potatoes with brown ham-gravy, mashed turnips, stewed yellow pumpkin, Almanzo's favorite apples 'n' onions, oatmeal and stacked pancakes, bird's nest pudding, doughnuts, ice cream, buttermilk and cookies, egg-nog, hot rye 'n' injun bread, baked-potato, fried parsnips, and cranberry jelly. Whew! I don't even know if I got it all!

For my book inspired dish I was first inspired by apples which were featured frequently and especially since I dislike pumpkin--so apple is my favorite fall flavor. I was craving the apple pie with cheese, but I don't bake and certainly didn't need a pie. I thought about making watermelon pickles or trying the vinegar from apple cores, but I didn't leave myself much time for pickling or fermenting. I do love jam and used up the last of my homemade chia jam and a jar of strawberry preserves--but those apples and that pie with cheese kept sticking in my head. 

Finally I put my some of my inspirations together and decided to make a recipe for Caramel-Apple Jam that I had pinned from Bon Appetit to try last year & didn't. I thought that taking the apple jam and putting it on thick slices of good fresh bread (in this case sourdough) then pairing it with a good sharp cheddar cheese (Tillamook--I'm an Oregon girl at heart) would give me the illusion of eating apple pie with cheese like Almanzo, but without having to bake. Sometimes I am a genius. ;-)

Caramel Apple Jam
Slightly Adapted from Alison Roman via

1 cup sugar (I used 3/4 cup)
3 lb apples (preferably of mixed variety), peeled, cored, cut into 3/4” chunks (I used HoneyCrisp, Fuji, and Gala apples)
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, seeds scraped (optional) (I used 1 heaping tsp vanilla paste)

(I added 2 tsp ground cinnamon)
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

Bring sugar and 3 tablespoons water to a boil in a large pot over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Boil, swirling pan occasionally and brushing down sides of pan with a wet pastry brush, until mixture turns a deep amber color, about 4 minutes. Add apples and vanilla bean (if using) and stir to coat. Some of the caramel will seize, but that’s okay because it’s just going to melt down again.

If you are feeling saucy and want to add spices like cinnamon sticks, ground clove, or fresh grated ginger, this would be a good time. Reduce heat to medium and stir occasionally to help the apples cook evenly and dissolve any pieces of caramel.

Continue to cook until apples are translucent and softened (some apples will hold their shape, but should still be softened), and most of the liquid has evaporated, 20–25 minutes. Add lemon juice and stir to combine. I like to break up any stubborn pieces of apple with a wooden spoon, but you can keep yours super chunky if you’re into that sort of thing. Discard vanilla bean and store apple jam in a glass jar or container in the fridge for up to one month.

Notes/Results: So pretty much just scooped out of the jar, or pan if you don't get that far, ;-) this apple jam is really delicious. Put it on soft, fresh sourdough bread with a bit of good butter spread on it, and it is even better. Pair those apple jam-topped bread slices with good, sharp cheddar cheese and it is sublime. Sweet apples and cheesy goodness with that bite from the sourdough bread to round things out--so good. I left the jam pretty chunky because the pieces of soft apple make me happy. I did think about melting thin slices of cheese on top of the bread with jam, but I liked taking bites of the solid cheese alternating with the thick bread and jam and think it wouldn't have been the same if it was melted. 

I ended up eating my photo props for dinner (it's pretty much an open-faced sandwich) and I was plenty full--but I think you could have a piece (or two) for a snack or dessert, or even call it breakfast. I stirred some of the jam into yogurt this morning and it was fabulous. I imagine it will go great on a peanut butter (or this homemade pecan-miso butter) sandwich, on top of oatmeal, on pancakes of waffles, or anywhere else you want to put it. I have a feeling I will be making more of this jam soon. 

I am slipping in a few days before the deadline on Saturday, September 30th, so if you missed this round and love food, books, and foodie books, join us for October/November when we will be The Patriarch by Martin Walker, a France-set foodie mystery, hosted by Claudia of Honey From Rock. I'll be rounding up the entries for this round on the Cook the Books site, a few days after the deadline.

I am linking this post up as my seventh entry for Foodie Reads 2017. You can check out the September Foodies Read linkup, hosted by Heather at Based on a True Story, to see what everyone is reading this month.

I'm also linking this post up to the Weekend Cooking event at Beth Fish Reads, a weekly event that is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share. For more information, see the welcome post.

Finally, since it's on bread as an open-faced sandwich, I am also linking up to Souper Sundays, hosted right here at Kahakai Kitchen. Each Sunday we feature delicious soups, salads, and sandwiches from friends around the blogosphere--please join in if you have any to share. Here's this week's post and linkup.