Cranberry Doodle Bars

img_3006October has been a very wet month, many days with dark skies and rain slashing the windows. Even though we still need to work outside on the farm for a part of each and every day, these days also give us the enjoyment of cocooning in our home. Getting caught up on all the inside jobs that get left by the wayside as we enjoyed the long summer. Being inside more often, gives me more time to bake and experiment.

Cranberries are one of my favourite add-ins, they are so tart and fresh, and work well in sweets and savories.   Here I’ve mixed them into a version of Snicker-doodle cookie base, creating a perfect bar to have as you finish the last chapter of the book you’ve been reading, while the fire crackles in the wood-stove. Continue reading

Roasted Yam & Apple Salad

IMG_2284When we were first married, the farm was 50 acres of open grazing land mixed with woodlands. The driveway was built and we had a 40’ trailer to live in.  Our property was the larger half of old farmlands that had been divided in two.  We shared in a small herd of cattle ranging over both properties.

It was a very inspiring thing to look at what was essentially a blank canvas.  We drew plans of what we might have on the farm.  Where the orchard would go, a stable, cross fencing and so on, even where we’d build the house.  At that time we didn’t know that farms tend to have plans of their own.

Our first building was for storage, with three stalls for the horses (even though we only had one), an area for hay and a large room that could be heated.  This room became the pump house, the electrical shed, the milking parlour, freezer area and storage.  The first winter that we had this new space, we bought big burlap sacks of potatoes, carrots and onions.  We had beef in the freezer, eggs from our hens, and I thought how fortunate we were to have so much! Later our small orchard would start to give us fruit, and we could add that to our winter larder.  Those early winters gave me a real appreciation for eating seasonal foods.

Now we live in our farmhouse, with lots of cross fencing and not too many other buildings.  I have plenty of food storage, as we’ve needed to incorporate that into our home.  I try not to go across to town too often, and prefer to use foods that last well.  We have a large outdoor larder on the north side of the house, which except for in extreme temperatures in the winter & summer, can keep fruits and vegetables very well.   Continue reading

Emily Allen’s Fruitcake

034This is our family’s fruitcake.  My parents had it for their wedding cake; we had it for ours, and many cousins and other relatives have as well.  Pounds of it are made every Christmas, soaked in brandy and left to age.  It makes a great snack for hiking, boating & fishing on the west coast (would probably work on any coast), so extra is made to use during the rest of the year.  Often I still have a piece in the pantry from the year before, found when I’m cooking that year’s batch.

Emily Allen was my mother’s mother’s mother.  She lived in London in a big old house on Palmers Green (still stands today) with her husband and large family.  Pictures we have of the early years of the 20th century show them scrambling over seaside rocks or climbing over hills and dales (literally) with picnic baskets and sports equipment in tow.  Her recipes from that time are barely legible now, faded on well used and splattered pages.  Her recipe showed two forms, a dark fruitcake and a light fruitcake.  There’s only a couple of ingredients that create the difference.  Honey and cider for the light cake and molasses and grape juice for the dark cake. There was a scribbled note about black currant jelly, and she may have used it instead of the molasses. I wonder if it really is her recipe, or was it her cook’s?

We prefer the light cake, so that is the recipe I have written. If you want to try the other form, just replace the two ingredients.  I read a description of perfect fruitcake written by a monk in the 1800’s.  He suggested that there should be barely enough cake to hold the fruit together and when sliced thinly it should resemble a stained glass window.  This recipe meets both of these requirements. It easily cuts to ¼“.040

I don’t know if glacé cherries are the same now as they were a hundred years ago, but today’s version will have to do.  The rest of the ingredients are pretty ageless.  I used to make hundreds of pounds of this cake, selling it to make Christmas money. A 1# wrapped cake would sell for $10 in the 80’s.  I finally stopped when I realized that from late October to the last weekend in November (my latest date of production), that I’d made at least 2 batches if not 3 each day.  I decided I’d rather spend time with my family than make money to spend on them!037

I still like to make some 1# cakes for gifts, and enough 2# cakes to keep our extended family happy.

Note: mixed peel – be sure it is actually citrus peel and not preserved rutabaga.  This is an inexpensive alternative that finds its way into Christmas cake fruit mixes.  Also, when buying cherries, be traditional and stick with red.  Green & yellow aren’t acceptable.

Each batch makes 6# of baked cake. Continue reading