Paladini Potpie

Adventures within The Crust!


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Dried Fuyu Persimmons

 

I’ve always thought of persimmons as that bitter or slimy fruit we use to make nominally good cookies once or twice a year.  They are sort of plump and heart-shaped.  Before they’re ripe they’re too bitter to eat; and after the first frost they ripen to a golden slime.

 You scoop out the pulp to make persimmon cookies.  I’m not a huge fan, but the cookies are okay…

 

Then a few years ago I discovered the Fuyu persimmons, also called Japanese persimmons.  (Note the difference in appearance of the two varieties.)

 Unlike “regular” persimmons, you don’t have to wait for Fuyu persimmons to freeze before you can use them.  They ripen in the fall and you can pick them off the tree and eat them like an apple. They’re sweet and crunchy and tasty! 

 

The problem – just like with most fruit – is that they all come at the same time.  What do you do with a hundred ripe crunchy Fuyu persimmons? 

Last year we came up with the idea of drying them, and discovered a yummy treat that will keep for a long time.

This is how we did it:

Wash and slice the persimmons.  You can slice in any direction but if you slice them horizontally you’ll see a pretty star shaped design in the center.

Lay the slices out on a cake cooling rack, and place in the oven at the lowest setting. (My lowest is 170°.)

It will take about 2-3 hours for them to dry completely.

Check as the persimmons dry, they will shrink in size and you can move them closer together on the rack, and add new slices to dry.  Remove the slices as they become completely dry and crisp.

Allow them to cool completely at room temperature.

Store them in an airtight container.  They will keep for months and they’re a great nutritious snack!


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Butter Night Part 2 – How We Make Butter

Butter Night has been a family tradition for more than 20 years. Every year we set aside a night to pour heavy whipping cream into quart jars and sit down to watch a movie while we shake the cream into butter.

You can read about how this tradition began in my last post, but today I’m going to tell you about the process of making butter.

You will need:

1 half gallon of heavy whipping cream (sometimes called manufacturing cream)

1 tsp. salt (this is optional – but we are all salt fiends)

Jars with tight fitting lids

Water, ice, a big bowl

FYI – A half gallon of cream makes about a pound and a half of butter (6 sticks) and you’ll have about a quart of skim “buttermilk” left after the fat has been taken out of it.

Pour cream into the jars, so they’re no more than halfway filled.  The less cream you put in the jar, the easier and faster it will turn to butter.

Close the lid tightly and start shaking the jar.  That’s all there is to it.

Be sure to close the lid tightly.

Once, years ago, we had butter night at my friend Robyn’s. Robyn and I home-schooled our kids together so we decided to watch “Squanto” and make Thanksgiving butter.  I was engrossed in the movie when Robyn’s little girl, Amber, came over and handed me her jar.  “How is this coming along?” she asked.  I didn’t take my eyes from the TV, but I took the jar from her and gave it a shake…not noticing that she had taken the lid off!  The mess was everything you can imagine.

We usually check the progress by the sound of it, rather than how it looks. When you first begin to shake it there is a thick glugging sound. There comes a point when it stops making any noise because the cream has turned into thick whipped cream… You can stop here if you want, and bring out the pumpkin pie and skip the rest of the steps…

But if you choose to continue to butter, just keep on shaking.

It will really be hard to shake, and it will feel like nothing is happening.

Persevere through this stage and you will suddenly hear a “thunk” and a “slosh.”  That is your chunk of hard butter bumping around in thin sweet buttermilk. (This is not the sour cultured kind of buttermilk you buy at the store.)

At this point we pause the movie and take our jars into the kitchen.

We’re very silly about our “traditional roles” in this part of Butter Night.  One or more of us usually bursts out singing “Tradition” from Fiddler on the Roof.

It’s the mama’s job to pour the buttermilk out of the jars and  into the original cream cartons to drink later. And then to plop the  chunks of butter into a big bowl of ice water in the kitchen sink.

It’s the papa’s job to squeeze the butter with his hands to get all the milk out of it.  Milk solids in the butter will cause it to spoil too quickly or become rancid.

We have to change the ice water a couple of times until it remains clear when you squeeze the butter.

Then we salt the butter.  I sprinkle the salt and John mixes it in.  Even after 21 years we ask ourselves, “How much salt do we put in?” We joke that it’s a tradition to not remember how much salt we use.  For our taste it’s about 1 teaspoon for ½ gallon of cream.

David’s “tradition” is to put the washed and salted butter into a smaller bowl and carry it from the sink to the counter.  He takes this job very seriously.  For many years he used the same red Tupperware bowl; and to this very day he carries bitterness in his heart because I threw it away.

Never mind that it had a big melted gouge on one side on the rim – it was his traditional butter-bowl!

 

 

We mold our butter in a little cast-iron muffin pan, but you can mold it in just about any kind of mold.  Or you can just let it harden in a little serving dish.

If you use a mold you’ll want to line it with plastic wrap so the butter doesn’t stick.

We take our little heart shaped butter patties “over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s house” for our contribution to Thanksgiving dinner. The family loves it, and they dutifully assure us that home-made butter is so much better than store-bought.  I’m not sure it really tastes any better but it’s a lot more fun!


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New Technology Leading to a Slippery Slope: Butter Night Part 1

 Throughout most of our kids’ growing up years we didn’t have television.  I like to think that’s part of the reason they grew up to be such bookworms. We liked to play games, but reading was our main family entertainment.  

However…the kids sure made the most of TV when we went to visit friends or relatives!

And, I must confess, I found myself paying rapt attention to things like commercials with dancing raisins! (Important, fascinating things.) I remember thinking it was as much for my own good as for my children’s that we didn’t have a TV.  How easy it would be for me to get sucked into watching things I didn’t really care about!

There were some good programs for sure – but so much junk.  John and I agreed that, for the most part, TV was a time-waster; and not worth the time wasted

Sometimes John said he wished we had a TV…so we could stop watching it and have more time.

 Then the early eighties brought The VCR, and the whole new concept of being able to choose what to watch on a television set. Video stores began to open up around town. 

 Our firm resolve was a little shaken.

 It would be fun to watch movies at home… I sort of vacillated on the whole idea. If we did have a television we could actually make choices about what to watch. We wouldn’t be limited to the networks and HBO.  But most of the time we really didn’t want one.

 And then, one fateful day, a friend got a new TV and offered us his old set.  We were pretty excited, truth be told, but I insisted we keep it stored in the garage except when we were going to watch a movie.

 In those days, you could rent a VCR player at most video stores, so it was very easy to watch movies right in the comfort of your own home! 

 All we had to do was carry the eighty pound television set in from the garage, and find someplace to set it up; and then drive to the video store and rent VCR player and a movie.

It seemed as if the Paladini family was poised on the brink of high technology.  Oh how I resisted!  I wanted my children to keep their love of reading. 

I wanted them to love old fashioned values… 

Old fashioned!  I had a brain storm!

We could have a special yearly movie night, and make butter for our Thanksgiving dinner!  We could shake the cream in quart jars just like the first Pilgrims did. That way my children would learn how cream turns into butter, and we could watch a movie at the same time! (“And not be wasting time sitting vacantly in front of the boob tube!” I added self-righteously to myself.)

Thus was born Butter Night!

 

Next post…Butter Night…the slippery slope continues…


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Palindrome Days and Ways

No matter how you look at it, today is 11-11-11.

 There is a lot of enthusiasm and significance swirling around today’s date. People are flocking to get married, and hoping to give birth to their baby today on 11-11-11. Especially, of course, aiming for 11 o’clock. 

I just think it’s cool because it’s a Palindrome Date. Sort of. 

 Somehow I missed the most recent  complete palindrome date. And darn it – It was only a few days ago on November 2!  That would be 11/02/2011… or 11/02/2011

 A palindrome is a word, or in this case, numbers, that can be read the same way backwards and forwards.

 It comes from two Greek words, palin, which means again or backward and dromos which means run or running.  

 So, a palindrome can run backward and forward.

 Obviously I love words that begin with “Pal” and as a word person – even before I was a Paladini –  I loved palindromes.

 When I was a kid we used to make them up with my dad, ranging from the simplest names of “Nan” and “Otto” to those immortal words spoken by the first man to the first woman in the Garden of Eden: “Madam I’m Adam.”

 I looked up what was supposed to be the longest palindrome in the world. It supposedly has 7,826 words.  It’s long, but it doesn’t really make any sense. 

A shorter one that makes a little more sense is this: “Soda-pop straws are sold, as part-encased a hot tin, I saw it in mad dog I met. Is dog rosy? Tie-dye booths in rocks.”  

 What’s the longest “sensible” palindrome you’ve ever heard?

 And does anyone know when the next Palindrome Date will be?


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Voter ID

John and I voted in our local election this morning.  We were voters #2 and #3 in the big echoing hall of the Methodist Church down the street. It was carefully set up with five voting booths and four friendly precinct officers.  

The officers sat side by side along a table, ready to check in voters. They check and recheck and get signatures and cross off names. But they are not required to ask for ID. That is ridiculous.

So ridiculous!  

It makes me mad every election.

 I had the opportunity to work as precinct officer during the last presidential election, and the potential for fraud made me simmer all day long. It still makes me mad.

 I’m a pretty honest person and here’s my story.

 About 15 years ago I found out that I don’t have a middle name.  I always thought I had one, and I used it and I believed it was official. (I have no idea how that first official document with a stated middle name came into being.)  But then, for some reason, 15 years ago I needed to have a certified copy of my birth certificate and discovered that I do not have a middle name. 

I was glad because I didn’t like the name very much, so I set about the process of removing it from documents and records. Easier said than done.

 One of the things I did was re-register to vote, changing to my name to the new version sans the middle name.

 Election day came, and off we went to the polling place.  My name was listed – twice – once with the middle name and once without.  I told the election officers and they tut-tutted about the oversight.  When I got home I called the registrar of voters and was told that  they would fix it.

 The next election I was still on the books twice.  Again I called the registrar of voters.

 Then once again.  I walked into the polling place.  There I was, once again, listed twice!  I smiled sweetly at the nice poll worker. “I’d like to vote under this name first,” I said, “and than I’ll come out and get my other ballot so I can vote under this name.” 

 “You can’t do that!” he sputtered.

I explained the problem I was having, and had been having, for the last three elections.  Somehow that day, those precinct officers managed to take care of the duplication. 

Since then we have come to know our precinct officers pretty well. They always recognize us. Now they know our name, and they know our kids and we always chat for a few minutes. By now I guess they know that there is only one Andrena Paladini in this precinct, but I still wish they were required to ask for a driver’s license or some kind of ID.