Saturday, November 30, 2013

The Art of Fine Cookery ~ Sugar Maple Pie

Although Maple Syrup was not really a product that North Carolina was ever noted for producing, there were definitely small pockets in the mountain regions where the sap was collected and boiled down. I love to think that Claire would definitely have known of the pleasures of Maple syrup and so did the Mohawk that they would have encountered in their travels. This is my "go to" pie when I want to bring a gift that I know will please almost everyone. The warm , buttery sweet flavor is exquisite and I wonder if  perhaps Mrs. Bug would have made this pie on special occasions for the household. Make sure that you serve it warm and with freshly whipped cream!

Below is the Mohawk Legend ~ "The Origins of Maple Syrup"

"Long ago, when human beings were new in the eastern part of Turtle Island, they barely lived through the long winters, their bodies and spirits weakened by the cold and dark.  Though they worked to gather and preserve enough food for the winter it was not enough to keep them well and strong. The Creator saw the sadness of the people so he decided to ask the tree nation if there was something which could be done to restore their happiness.  The leader of the trees, the maple, offered to give its blood to the people so they may be restored to good health.  So it was, that at the end of the winter months the sap flowed freely from the maple. The sap was dark and sweet, a syrup which the people drank after putting basswood tubes into the trees so the precious fluid went into their pots almost without effort.

Satisfied that the people were once again happy and strong the Creator left to attend to his duties in other worlds.

Some time passed before the Creator was able to return to this world. It was once again the end of winter with snow still on the ground.  He went to one of the villages only to find it empty, the longhouses cold with only ashes in the fire pits. He saw that there were tracks leading into the nearby woods which he followed.

Soon he came upon a maple bush and there, scattered about on the ground were the people, with wooden tubes connecting the maples and their mouths.  They were drinking the syrup from the trees until they could no longer stand. Even their dogs were laying on the ground,their paws raised to the sky with their own tubes into the trees.  The Creator saw that the people were ragged and the children uncared for.  He was very upset.  He aroused them from their slumber and said that he would change the way in which the syrup was to be taken from the trees. No longer would it flow brown and thick but he people would have to make offerings to the maples, tap its sap and then work to make it into syrup and then sugar.  By doing so they would come to appreciate this great gift. 

Since that time the Mohawks watch the maples and when they notice the sap is flowing during the last weeks of winter they will gather at the longhouse to celebrate this great gift which renews their bodies and lifts their spirits. In Mohawk, maple sap/syrup is called wahta ohses. The people are glad when this happens for they know spring is returning to the earth as the eldest brother (the sun) brings the warmer days."

Sugar Maple Pie
One pie crust to line an 8-inch glass pie plate ~ surprisingly, a prebaked gluten free crust really provides a nice contrast of texture, crunch and flavor for this particular pie!
2 eggs, room temperature
1Ž2 c. heavy cream 
1 2/3 c. packed brown sugar
1/3 real maple syrup (preferably dark amber)
2 tsp. unsalted butter, melted


Preheat oven to 350° F. Whisk together eggs and brown sugar until creamy. (I use electric beaters.) Add cream, maple syrup and melted butter. Beat until smooth. Pour into prepared pie shell. Bake at 350°
F oven for 55 – 60 minutes until crust is golden and filling still quivers. It will set as it cools. Very rich – serve with freshly whipped cream.

Note: a larger pie pan will require partially baking the crust. To do that, line the crust with aluminum foil and weight it down with pie weights. Usually 400 degrees for 10 minutes will be enough.

You need to make two. It's usually gone immediately.  

Thursday, November 28, 2013

" Lord That's a Good Horse " ~ A Proper Oat and Bran Mash



One of the most heartwarming parts of the book  "The Scottish Prisoner"  is when Jamie, begins to be able to enjoy the companionship of his illegitimate 3 year old son William, the young Earl of Ellesmere in the stables at Helwater, the estate where he has  been serving out his sentence for having led his clan to fight during the Scottish Rising. The interaction between father and son is delightful and it is absolutely wonderful to get glimpses of what Jamie Fraser must have been like as a young boy, especially with the horses; a passion that they both share. The time that they have together is precious.  In a few years William begins to resemble Jamie, who has earned his parole just in time to make the wise decision to leave Helwater to protect Williams true parentage from being discovered.  

There is a particular moment that completely enchants me and that is when they are in the stable together and Jamie asks William to help him make the hot bran mash. The description of the steaming hot ladles of water, the thick molasses being poured over the bran and the young Earl of Ellsmeres absolute joy as he tastes the mash,  takes me completely back in time to my earliest moments with horses. That and the scene where young William starts sucking on a horseshoe nail!

 I had an Irish trainer who made everything for our horses and ponies from scratch, even the liniments. I used to love to spend the night in her home as she lived above the barn and I could hear the horses all night long, snuffling, stamping and chewing. It was a wonderful environment to grow up in. Everyday in the winter we would get up early and make a steaming hot bran mash for the horses. We would take all of the buckets down, fill them and then pour water over the top, stir with a large wooden spoon and cover each one for 5 minutes with towels of Irish linen. Then we'd take the towels off , give the buckets one last stir and then serve. The smell was amazing and I always had to have a taste. 

To craft a proper mash is really an art and it was years later when I realized that all that I needed  to do was change a few of the ingredients and I would be left with the perfect winter breakfast for myself! A bran mash really serves two purposes. It's a warm comforting breakfast that's filled with plenty of liquid, emollient and fiber so it serves as a moisture source in a time when there is no fresh grass to speak of. It's very soothing on the stomach and helps keep the horses from having nasty bouts of colic which can be very common during the winter months when the air is dry. It brings a soft bloom to the coat  and helps to condition the skin.

A proper mash is a combination of love, hot water and fresh ingredients. I've never deviated from the first recipe that I learned which was given to me by my original trainer.  When I would make them at home for my horses I would use a scoop of fresh oat bran, a cup of dark molasses, 1 cup of whole oats, 1 cup of dried beet pulp (for fiber and sweetness) and a handful of chopped carrots and apples  to add  some love! Many people that I know add oil to a mash, but I don't. Instead I use a cup of flaxseed jelly. 

I find it interesting that flax seed has become such a trendy superfood because it's been used in horse feed for centuries to help keep a shine on the coat and ache out of the belly. I won't use ground flax, because as soon as it's ground it gets rancid almost immediately and loses 90% of it usefulness. Instead I take several cups of whole flax seed and two quarts of spring water and set it to simmer on the stove in a non-reactive stainless pot. In several hours you will be rewarded with a lovely gelatinous mixture of flax seed and water that you can use in your horses mash or your own oatmeal! 

Add all of the ingredients into a feed bucket and add very hot water and stir. The mixture should be somewhat soupy but still plenty soft, fluffy and thick. Cover each pail with a dishtowel and wait for five minutes. Uncover each pail, give each one a final stir and serve, but before you do, shut your eyes and inhale deeply! The aroma of a properly prepared mash is absolutely wonderful and there are not as many things that you can do for your horses that they will appreciate as much! You will be rewarded by the sounds of chewing, slurping and overall horselike contentment.  The friendly knickers you'll 
hear when they see you coming their way will just be frosting on the cake! 

I have absolutely no idea who to attribute this image to as I cannot find the original source.   

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Welcome to Milady's Pantry & Still Room ~ My Outlander Inspired Love Affair!

Well here you have it..I'm about to reveal to all of you my guiltiest pleasure! 

I am obsessed with all things Outlander. To be fair I'm also obsessed with all things Celtic, but in truth I've decided to finally come out of the closet. I check my Outlander apps at least 3 times a day and hunger for the latest pictures from the Starz Outlander Series which will be out sometime this spring. I embrace my inner Claire Beauchamp Randall Fraser on a daily basis and I swoon every time that I see Sam Heughan (who's playing Jamie Fraser) in his kilt. 

 For anyone who has never read these books I will say that if you love romantic novels full of heaving breasts, beautiful women & valiant men and loads of great 18th century sex then I'm wondering what you are waiting for. The initial storyline is fairly simple. A young army nurse named Claire Randall is on her second honeymoon in Inverness after having been separated from her husband Frank Randall as a result of World War 2.  An amateur botanist, she finds herself wandering the Scottish Highlands looking for unique plants. She comes upon a ancient stone circle, gets too close to the cleft stone and very quickly finds herself falling through time. She lands in Scotland in 1745 where she's quickly accosted by a British captain who is remarkably her husband Franks  six times great grandfather and then subsequently rescued by a band of cattle raiding Scotsmen that includes one fairly remarkable young, very red headed Scots warrior named Jamie Fraser. 

 Fast forward a bit into time and Claire finds herself forced to marry Jamie to protect herself from being taken and imprisoned by the English as a spy. One thing leads to another and although their marriage was at first forced, they fall quite passionately in love with one another although Claire definitely finds herself emotionally torn between both of her lives. The rest is chronicled in soon to be 8 completely amazing novels; each of which is at the very least 1800 pages long and generally takes Ms. Gabaldon at least three years to write if not more. This is the completely abbreviated version of the synopsis and I'm trying very hard to not give up any of the really juicy details! The stories are remarkable to me because they are the first romantic novels that I've ever read where the heroine was the absolute equal of the hero.

Both characters are strong, loyal, passionate and constantly getting into some sort of trouble. They are also completely drawn to each other and fiercely in love. Historically these books are dead on; The author really does her research. I'm not going to say anymore because I really want you to read them! You will fall madly in love with every character and find yourself wondering what they are doing every day. No this is not just me, nor is it the result of voices in my head. These characters have cast the same spell on hundreds of thousands of loyal fans; men as well as women. Did I mention that when Jamie & Claire are forced to marry that he's a 23 year old totally gorgeous and romantic virgin? Their wedding night is the stuff of dreams....

 I've begun this page partly as a result of this obsession and because Claire as a character completely fascinates me. She's a courageous woman who is part healer / part White Witch
(although she doesn't quite know it!) and she truly and passionately becomes herself as a result of her marriage to Jamie. She's an herbalist who provides all of the medicines, household items and literally brings Jamie back from deaths door several times. She's a passionate woman ripped from her place in the world and torn between two great loves although one is clearly her soulmate. She is thoroughly from the 20th century yet finds herself enjoying her new circumstances and her fiercely protective Scots warrior  , even without running water and hot baths! 

 As for me? I'm an Herbalist, Aromatherapist, Reiki Master and Certified Health Coach with a passion for white magic & fine horses. I love to craft gorgeous perfumes, healing elixirs, luscious natural skincare products and delicious jams, chutneys and spice mixes. I have a still room of my own where I make my own tinctures, tonics, home brews and teas!  

 I've been married to my own James Fraser for well over 30 years. He lineage is both Clan Keith & Clan Scott.  He wears the Clan Keith kilt and is just breathtaking to me in it. I've quite a strong suspicion that I was born in the wrong century so everything that I love tends to be full of tartans, bagpipes, mandolins and tapestry. It is my hope to give you a peek into my personal interpretation of Claire and Jamie's world through a celebration of passions, fashions, feasts, glorious music, healing remedies and more.   Above all , it's just a creative gift of love from me to me and hopefully the thousands of Outlander fans that I meet everyday on the Facebook  pages will enjoy it too!