Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Molasses Crinkles

It's the day before Christmas, and I'm finally done with the baking, and almost with the wrapping (still waiting on the UPS guy to bring the final batch of goodies from Amazon, thank goodness for Prime!) The last bunch of cookies has been dropped off, the last pie delivered, to the dear 94 year-old clan patriarch up the road, who I adore.

And happily, I am left with a few of these tasty cookies to keep for just us. They're Molasses Crinkles, from the book Sweet, Sweet Sorghum, by my friend Rona Roberts, and you can find her recipe for them on her blog Savoring Kentucky.

The recipe is actually derived from an old one by Betty Crocker, but if you make it with sorghum instead of the usual cane molasses, the cookies come out with a more earthy, subtle flavor, rather than the smack-you-in-the-face thing that normal molasses does.

And the best part, at least as far as I am concerned, is that they remind me of my mom, who loved a good molasses cookie. So here's to moms everywhere, and Christmas, and cookies. And may God bless us, every one.

Molasses Crinkles made with Sorghum

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Sorghum Caramel Sauce

Sorghum Caramel Sauce

I know, enough with the sorghum already, right? But when I posted about the sorghum caramels on Facebook, my friend J asked if she could thin the recipe down to use it as a caramel sauce on ice cream.

I suppose you could. But hey, when have I ever turned down an opportunity to work with sugar and butter and cream? So here it is J, a sorghum caramel sauce for you! I thought I had one in a book I just got, but nope. So I whipped one up for you:


1 Cup white Sugar
1/2 Cup sorghum
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
2 Pinches of good quality sea salt*
1/3 Cup heavy cream

Things you can whisk in at the end:
1 tsp vanilla or
2 tsp. bourbon or
Some other thing of that nature.


Place the sugar, sorghum, and butter in a large, heavy saucepan under a medium high heat. Stir constantly as butter and sugar melt. Let mixture bubble in pan for a couple of minutes or so, getting nice and frothy and bubbly, stirring regularly. Turn the heat down to medium lowish, and slowly whisk in the cream. The caramel sauce will be, as they say, to die for. Serve over goat milk ice cream, or whatever else your heart desires, storing it in the fridge. If it hardens up, warm the jar in a bowl of warm water to thin it out before serving.

* I love the Fleur de Sel from Le Tresor at The Saltworks, just lovely stuff.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Sorghum Caramels

These are so easy to make it's positively indecent. I modified a recipe from an old cookbook I love by Susan Hermann Loomis titled Farmhouse Cookbook (you can imagine why I love it), which is just a basic caramel recipe. However I substituted Bourbon Barrel Foods Sorghum for the usual dark corn syrup, and while the caramels are still cooling, if the scrapings from the pan are any indication, the result is going to be spectacularly good.

(Edited later to add: And oh my yes, they are redonkelously good. Splendiferously good. So good I almost didn't want to pack them up and send them off to the people I was mailing them to, good. But I did. Pat me on the head someone, please.)

Caramels in the pan, waiting to be cut and wrapped.


2 Cups Sugar
1/2 Cup Sorghum (replacing dark corn syrup, which I will never buy again.)
1/2 Cup whole milk
4 Tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1 Cup heavy whipping cream
1 Teaspoon vanilla extract


Butter a 7 x 12" baking dish.

Place all the ingredients except the vanilla in a large heavy saucepan (at least 3.5 quart), stir, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.

Reduce the heat to medium, and cook at a slow boil until the mixture turns golden and reaches 246 degrees on a candy thermometer, some 20 to 30 minutes. Stir gently but regularly in the center of the pan. Stir, stir, stir. This is important. Boring, but important.

Once the temp reaches 246 degrees, quickly whisk in the vanilla, remove the saucepan from the heat, and pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish.

When the mixture has cooled, cut it into 1/2" squares with a lightly buttered sharp knife (easier to cut that way) and wrap them individually, either in waxed paper or aluminum foil. The caramels will keep about two weeks if stored in an airtight container in a cool place. Makes approximately 36 pieces.

The finished product,
looking less glossy than they should
because I left waxed paper on them overnight.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Sorghum Chocolate Pecan Pie

And here's the follow-up to my last blog post, the finished piece and the recipe with my own fiddles and wrinkles and notes added. Thanks again to the folks at Bourbon Barrel Foods for their splendid product and the recipe to start with, that being the obnoxious editorial type that I am, I couldn't help but mess with. 

Sorghum Chocolate Pecan Pie
1 unbaked pie crust1
1 cup Bourbon Barrel Sweet Sorghum2
¼ cup melted butter
1/3 tsp. salt
3 eggs, slightly beaten
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup pecan halves
1 cup dark chocolate pieces, loosely chopped3

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Put the sorghum, butter, eggs, and vanilla into a large bowl. Add the sugar and salt. Mix together gently with a spatula. Then beat together for about two minutes with a hand or stand mixer on medium speed until well mixed. Gently fold in the chocolate and the pecan halves. Pour into an unbaked pie crust (note a glass or ceramic pie pan works best.) 

Bake at 450 for ten minutes then reduce heat to 350 and bake for another 25 to 30 minutes or so. Note that it will still seem a little wiggly, and won't be completely set until after it has cooled a bit (it still continues to cook after you take it out of the oven.) 

Check the crust edges at about 15 minutes into the second thirty to see if you need to use pie protectors, or use foil to protect the edges as needed. You may wish to put a sheet of foil over the entire top for the last 15 minutes, shiny side out.

Let the pie cool on a rack for at least two hours before cutting.

1) Flouring both sides of the pie crust is helpful for pies high in sugar such as this.
   1201 Story Avenue
    Suite 175
    Louisville, KY 40206
    3) I prefer to use Callebaut Intense Dark chocolate when I have it in the house but it’s expensive and you have to mail order it, so instead I usually use nine to ten squares of Ghirardelli, half 60% cacao, and half 72%, which you can get at most good grocery stores.

(Also note, if you're local to Williamstown, you can buy sorghum from the very friendly folks at Edmonson's Grocery.)

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Search for Sorghum

This past weekend I made a pie. Not a big deal you'd think. I make pies from time to time. I actually made two. One was my signature Chocolate Chess Pie, about which I have blogged on my historical food blog, Peacock With Stuffing. I was making these pies to take them to the annual Eastern Star Christmas Dinner, (Eastern Star being the woman's side of the Mason's Lodge to which my husband belongs.) The other pie was a new one for me, a Chocolate Pecan Pie, which I decided I'd make with Sorghum, a lovely syrup made with cane sugar, rather than the corn syrup commonly used to make pecan pies.

Sorghum, being rather particularly a Kentucky food, seemed more appropriate to use than corn syrup. Besides, corn syrup is just, well, rather yucky. And I found this great company in Louisville, Bourbon Barrel Foods, from which I could mail order this lovely stuff. A tin of it had arrived in good time, I had the recipe from their website to work from, and I was all set.

Except, well, I am persnickety, and a pain in the ass in general. I badgered the poor dear intern who runs Bourbon Barrel Food's Facebook Page with questions about the recipe. What kind of chocolate? Melted? Chips? Bakers? (Horrors.) She politely and in a timely fashion replied that she used chocolate chips. I tossed that aside and decided to get Ghirardelli, in at least a 60% cacao, and wound up getting two bars, one 60% and one 72% and using some of each to get the one cup of chocolate called for in the recipe. If I'd had time I would have mail ordered some Callebaut Intense Dark, but I didn't, so oh well.

Then there was the question of timing on the cooking. The recipe is vague. For how long should it cook? And should I cover the pie crust? (I did, I have those lovely pie crust covering things from King Arthur Flour that do such a good job.) I wound up cooking it almost too long, and it wound up almost but not quite burned, and I'm not going to post the photo in this blog post because, well, it twernt pretty. And besides, I'm going to do a follow-up post. But it tasted splendid.

But the interesting part was at the party. As I brought my pies in, I fully expected my Chocolate Chess Pie to be the hit. It usually is. It's my signature pie, and as it is somewhat obscure (although I have recently been told it's very common in Louisville), I expected everyone to oooh and aaaah over it. Nope. Not a peep. It sat there, at least for a while (eventually it was eaten.) But once I told people the other pie was a Sorghum Chocolate Pecan Pie, that thing flew out the door of the kitchen. One guy actually took two pieces, put them on a plate, and didn't even eat them, just jealously guarded them all afternoon. I think he took them home.

But the part that you could have knocked me over with a feather about came later. One of the older ladies came up to me, introduced herself, and get this, asked me for my recipe for my pie. I thought I was going to fall down. I was honest, said it was not my recipe, and told the several ladies who had gathered where I had gotten it from. But you have to understand. My husband and I moved to the extremely rural area in which we live here in Kentucky about ten years ago from Minnesota. Neither of us is originally from Minnesota, but that doesn't matter, we are known as "those people from Minnesota." And for me, that Yankee girl, to have the local matriarch of the Thompson clan (and clan they are!) ask me, me! for my recipe, is a thing of wonder indeed.

Later, one of the other ladies asked me where I got my "sargum." I told her, BBF. She said, "Oh, you can get it at "X Local Grocery Store." Hmm. I had no idea. So after the dinner (it was still early afternoon) we stopped by and bought a jar. Oddly, it did not say Sorghum on the label, rather Molasses, but the man who owns the place (a local legend with whom I would never want to argue, as I am Not From Here), insisted it was the real deal.

I brought it home, and compared it to what was left in the bottom of the can from BBF. Not at all the same color. Hmm again. The next day I called the number on the jar of the "Molasses that was called Sorghum", and spoke to the man who made it. He was vague and unhelpful, and even said he didn't know what sort of cane he made his syrup from. Hmmm a third time. I found that suspicious. So I mail ordered some more Sorghum from a third source, and once it arrived noted it was dark, but not as dark as the "Molasses that was called Sorghum" but not as light as the lovely stuff from BBF.

So today I broke down and got a case from BBF. And am going to make a whole suite of pies, and do some taste testing and recipe tweaking, and when I do I'll post more pictures and an update. And I know some friends and foodies who'll be getting some real Kentucky Sorghum for Christmas this year. Because this stuff rocks, and I am obsessed. So much so that when I wake up in the wee hours of the morning (as I do from time to time) I find myself thinking about Sorghum. And that just ain't right. But it sure is sweet!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Feed Dee Bees

Yesterday I noticed that there was a mob (and I do mean a mob, at least 25 or so) of honeybees all over the hummingbird feeders. I have two feeders out now, one with "bee guards" that keep the bees from drowning in the feeders, and one without, because the hummers seem to dislike the bee guards. I got the feeder with the bee guards because I generally get a lot of "sweat bees" who climb all the way into the feeder and drown, which makes me sad.
My older feeder, with no bee guards.

The hummers are tiny creatures, and seemed daunted by the swarm of bees. So I did some googling and found that one can move honeybees away from hummer feeders by feeding them. The ratio of sugar to water is much higher for bees than hummers. Nectar for hummingbirds should be made at a ratio of 4:1, four parts water to one part sugar. For bees, you can go 2:1 or even 1:1, depending on the time of year. I opted for a 2:1 ratio.

The new feeder, with bee guards.
As always, I boiled the water (to kill any molds or fungus) then mixed the sugar in. For the first batch I added some red food coloring, but then once I had the bees moved, left it out (and am using a red plate instead to attract them.) They drink a ton, but I figure they need it, we're supposed to have a high of 103 today with a heat index of 110. The thermometer on the back porch in full sun was reading 108 at 11 am, and I imagine it will only get higher!

Here's my set-up for the bees, I put rocks in the plate so they'd have someplace to land and tiptoe down to the syrup, didn't want anyone drowning in it. Not sure how long I should feed them for (have a query in to a friend who keeps bees), but for now, will keep making sugar water and adding it to the plate until some rain falls or they go away.

Using plates and rocks to feed the bees.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Cowboys and their Stack

I was trying to describe the term "stack" to someone not long ago, and went looking for photos of it to pass along a link. What came up first in Google made me cringe it was so wrong, so here I am writing a post about it (and will also be creating a page on our website too.)

Stack, for those of you who don't ride Western, relates to the length of your jeans. In order to have your jeans fit correctly when you're on your horse, they need to be overlong when you're not on your horse. The act of being in the saddle shortens the length of your pants leg, and without proper "stack", you wind up looking silly as can be once you're a'horse.

Here's what jeans with proper stack length look like when the rider is standing on the ground:
The right amount of "stack" in your jeans.

And here's what that (the correct) amount of stack looks like when you're in the saddle:
Stack gives your pants the right length while in the saddle.

So while the first photo may look rather strange to the uninformed, it's really quite the right length in order to keep your pants from sliding too high when you're riding. If I had one, I'd post a shot of "what not to look like when you're in the saddle", but don't have such a pic, and am not going to stage one. And for what it's worth, real cowboys don't wear silver buckles they haven't won or earned. That's for folks who are "All hat and no cattle."

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

My Review of Easy View Mealworm Feeder

Originally submitted at Duncraft

Invite bluebirds with their favorite food Insect-eating bluebirds adore mealworms--for themselves and also to feed their nestlings. Bluebirds prefer eating inside a protected feeder, away from more aggressive birds. Our specially made feeder has a deep, triangular base to hold plenty of mealworms a...


By PathfindersFarm from Williamstown, KY on 5/16/2012


5out of 5

Pros: Easy To Set Up, Well-made, Durable, Attractive, Easy To Clean

Best Uses: Year Round

Describe Yourself: Midrange Shopper

I just love this. Sturdy, well-made, easy to see birds who use it. Just perfect.


Monday, April 30, 2012

Raw Milk Cheese Giveaway!

Check out this delicious sounding raw milk cheese giveaway on the Food Renegade's website!

Raw Milk Cheese Giveaway

And if you don't follow the Renegade, get on the stick and do it! Great info on getting back to eating the way our grandparents and great-grandparents did: whole foods, fresh unpasteurized dairy, real eggs, produce from the garden. She's a breath of  fresh air, and an inspiration to the rest of us! Check her site out, and enter the contest at the link above.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Nutcracking Nuthatches!

This morning I was able to catch on film something I've seen a number of times before (but never had a camera readily available until today.) We have several feeders on our back porch, and I have my desk by the window so I can look down onto them and watch the birds when I am working.

Today I caught a Nuthatch using part of our porch to hold a black oil sunflower seed in place so that it could crack it open to get at the meat inside. I feel very luck to have caught this wonderful behavior on film!

Here's the Nuthatch perched on the porch railing:

He (or she?) grabs a sunflower seed, and jams it into a nailhead hole in the railing:

Then using his long sturdy beak, he pounds at it until the shell is removed:

And then pecks out the white nut meat inside:

Amazing use of avian intelligence (and our aging porch railing) to get at the inside of the seed! Nuthatches are brother B's favorite bird, and I thought he'd like to see this series of one of those clever birdies in action today. This one's for you B. XOXO

Monday, January 2, 2012

Chicks, Hens, and Daylight

A box of chicks ready to be shipped.
The green stuff is "Grow Gel" that
keeps them hydrated during the trip.
A dear friend of mine commented about a Facebook post this morning, asking me "There's a chick season?" She had thought I was hatching and shipping chicks out to customers now. While in theory, I could, I choose not to this time of year. Here's my reply to her (hi Zen!)

Yep, there's a "chick season." Egg production ebbs and flows with the length of daylight, which also coincides with temperature. Hens, especially in natural environments, usually take a break in laying when the days get short and it gets cold (it makes no sense for them to have chicks then, natch.)

They lay more in the spring, as the days get longer and it gets warmer. If I wanted to hatch now, I'd have to put lights on in their coops to give them a minimum of 14 hours of daylight a day. I choose not to do that.

Hens are born with all the eggs they will ever lay stored up in their tiny newborn chick ovaries. As they grow, their laying pattern will be dictated by their genetics and their environment. If they are bred for production, as in the common White Leghorn or Golden Comet or Black Star, they will start laying sooner, at around four months, and will provide the best "feed to lay ratio" of any breed of chicken. This means that they produce the most eggs for the least amount of feed, which is why they are commonly used by large production farms to lay eggs for commercial markets.

A White Leghorn in with
some Buckeyes in the snow.
We have about six White Leghorns, left over from A's 4-H project this past summer. Those girls lay up a storm, and at this point, when the light is lowest and temps are cold, are still laying. We're glad of that, as it means we don't have to buy grocery store eggs (we're spoiled, I admit.)

Our heritage birds, the Buckeyes, start laying a little later in their lives (at about five months), and lay between 150 and 200 eggs per year (as compared to a Leghorn, which can lay up to 300 or more!)
They have all but stopped laying at this point. I don't mind, as I feel it's a good thing to give them a rest, and I want to keep the hens as long as possible. If you put lights on birds, you force them to use up all their available eggs that much sooner, and they become "spent" hens at age two or three. I like to keep my Buckeyes until they are four at least, as an older hen will lay a larger egg, and that will produce a larger, healthier chick. So I don't force my birds to lay when they'd rather not. It just seems more "natural" to me that way.