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Scuppernong Jelly.

It’s that time of year again! Scuppernong picking season. Our vine is loaded down with lots of delicious grapes – one of the best harvests we’ve had in years. Coincidentally, it’s also one of the worst love bug seasons we’ve had in years, too. Huh, wonder if they’re connected in some way? Anyways, back to a more important subject 🙂

For those that aren’t in the know (let’s face it, not very many people outside the deep South have ever even heard of them), scuppernongs are a type of muscadine grape that is native to the Southeastern US. You’re probably more likely to have heard of muscadines than scuppernongs, especially if you’ve spent any time at all listening to country music (muscadine wine is a topic than many songwriters have waxed lyrical about, case in point, this song here or here or here or here or . . . there’s plenty more, but I’ll stop there). They’re known by various names, such as, sculpins, scupadines, scufadines, scupanons, etc. I grew up calling them scuplins (or scuplings, when I feel like enunciating).

What makes scuppernongs special from regular muscadine grapes (by the way, all scuppernongs are muscadines, but not all muscadines are scuppernongs, if that makes sense), is that they are a light greenish bronze color instead of purplish. Their taste is difficult to describe, but it’s similar to the grapes you would buy in the grocery store with a kinda of slight muskiness and tartness added in. The texture is also similar, but with a thicker skin and large seeds. When I was growing up, my cousins and I spent many a afternoon at my Granddad’s scuppernong vine enjoying skin and seed spitting contests. I was the youngest grandchild pitted against two older boy cousins and never managed to win (but I bet I could, now).

Drive down a country road this time of the year in my neck of the woods and you’ll see homes with scuppernong arbors in the yard and possibly even a homemade sign or two advertising the fruit for sale. They’re a hugely popular fruit around here with a deeply entrenched history in the South. Did you know, scuppernongs were first mentioned in 1524 in the logbook of Giovanni de Verrazzano while he was exploring North Carolina? Decades later, Governor Ralph Lane wrote to Sir Walter Raleigh, “We have discovered the main to be the goodliest soil under the cope of heaven, so abounding with sweet trees that bring rich and pleasant grapes of such greatness, yet wild, as France, Spain, nor Italy hath no greater. . .” Good stuff, huh?

Now, you may be wondering what you can do with scuppernongs. Well, you can make wine out of them (scuppernong wine was a particular favorite of Thomas Jefferson), preserves, baked goods, juice, syrup, jelly, or enjoy them fresh. One of my favorites is the jelly. . . warm biscuits just out of the oven with a little bit of scuppernong jelly is my version of heaven on Earth.

Which brings me to scuppernong jelly 🙂 So far, I’ve picked over 8lbs of scuppernongs this year, twice the amount I picked last year.

Of course, I just had to make some of those scuplins into jelly, right? It’d be a shame not to.

6lbs of washed scuppernongs*
1 box of pectin (plus a spare box in case you need it)
4 – 5 cups of sugar
*Our scuppernong vine produces the smaller variety, but I’ve seen some of the larger variety sold in stores in our area. If you use a larger scuppernong, you might want to reduce the amount you use. 

1) Place the thoroughly washed scuppernongs in a large pot and cover with water. Allow them to simmer for 20 minutes, all the while using a potato masher to pulverize the grapes. I consider this free therapy and a great way to work out all my frustrations, and you know me, I love anything free 🙂

2) Pour the cooked scuppernongs through a strainer into another pot. Use the potato masher to ensure you get as much of the juice as you can.

3) Bring the juice to a rolling boil for 5 minutes, then reduce to a simmer.

4) Add the pectin to the juice and stir well until it’s all dissolved.

5) Bring to a boil again and stir in the sugar, allowing the mixture to come to a hard boil (or about 220F on a candy thermometer) for a full minute. Test to see if your juice has jellied using the instructions in your pectin box. If it hasn’t, add more pectin, stirring well to prevent it from clumping.

6) Skim any foam off the top of the juice, then pour into sterilized jars and crew the lids on. Place each jar in a large pot with enough water to cover them completely. Bring to a boil for 15 minutes. Remove from the water and dry off the jars. And enjoy!

This recipe made 10 eight ounce jars of jelly for me.
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Pina Colada Cake

So, the other day, I asked on our Facebook page for suggestions on what kind of cake to make Grandma for her birthday this year. There were so many great comments and I came away with lots of ideas.
I finally narrowed it down to six possible cakes: Strawberry (with the layers being ombre colored), Salted Caramel, Cheesecake, Vanilla, Kitty Litter Cake (I came so close to doing that one just to see Grandma’s face lol, but I don’t know if we could have convinced her to actually eat it) or Pina Colada. I went back and forth over the weekend trying to decide between all of them, then finally I went with the Pina Colada cake. Let me tell you why 🙂
When I was growing up, my grandma was always ready for fun. Sure, she didn’t really like us grandchildren to make too much noise or track mud through the house, but most people wouldn’t and we did run a little wild at times. Okay, a lot!
And she was a little overly fond of threatening to get a switch on certain occasions (not that that switch was ever used on me. . . honestly 😉 ) But I digress. Together, she, and her sister, my Aunt Idell, were a force to be reckoned with. 
Grandma is on the left and Aunt Idell is on the right.
They were always on the go (Panama City, Fort Walton Beach, Defuniak Springs, Montgomery, sometimes all in one week) and up for an adventure. You never knew where they might take you. . . whether it would be the beach, a boat ride in the gulf, or the races, but there was a good chance that the trip would involve at least a little shopping. You might could say they were shopaholics before the word even existed 😉 
Of course, me being the baby (because really, at times, it felt more like I had two grandmas), I was allowed to tag along on a lot of those excursions. It was so much fun shopping with them (they favored bright colors and patterns, which were right up this girl’s alley). I was tasked with the job of keeping them informed about the best sales that were going on at their most favorite stores (which were, not in any particular order, Gayfers, J.C. Penney’s, and McRae’s). Huh, maybe that’s when my love of clearance shopping began? 
You’re probably asking what does all this have to do with this cake? Well, I promise, I’m getting to that.
Among their many trips, if they were in the area, they always made time to stop at a certain establishment for pina coladas. We’re talking a stereotypical hole-in-the-wall biker bar with music blaring that apparently, in the opinion of at least two grandmothers, made the best pina coladas ever
I was sworn to complete secrecy for many years about it lest my mom find out exactly where we went on those trips.
It’s been many, many years since their adventures, and Aunt Idell passed away a decade ago. But I thought it would be nice to give Grandma a little taste of those days. 

2 1/2 c cake flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 c vegetable oil
1 3/4 c granulated sugar
3 eggs
3/4 c sour cream
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp rum extract*
1 c crushed pineapple (drained slightly)
*You can easily use rum instead and that’s what I would’ve used except I didn’t decide what to make til yesterday which was obviously a Sunday.

1 stick of butter (softened)
1 (8 oz) pkg of cream cheese (softened)
3 – 4 c of powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 – 4 Tbsp of cream of coconut or coconut milk*
Toasted Coconut
Maraschino cherries (optional)
* Something I didn’t realize til recently, but cream of coconut and coconut milk are two different things. If you use cream of coconut, be careful not to use too much powdered sugar as the cream of coconut is sweet all on its own. By the way, I had trouble locating it when I went grocery shopping, but finally found it in one store on the international aisle with the Mexican foods.

The Cake:
1) Preheat the oven to 350F.

2) In a medium bowl, sift together the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and kosher salt.

3) In a large bowl, cream together the oil and sugar. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Once you’ve done that, add the sour cream and the vanilla and rum extracts, making sure to mix well.

4) Add the pineapple and mix until fully incorporated.

5) Add the flour mixture in thirds, making sure not to over mix.

6) Pour the batter into three 8 inch prepared cake pans (line the bottoms of the pans with parchment paper and grease the sides). Bake for about 20 – 25 minutes (give or take) or until an inserted toothpick comes out either clean or with only a few moist crumbs. Set aside and allow to cool.

The Frosting:
1) In a large mixing bowl, combine the softened cream cheese and butter and beat until smooth.

2) Add the vanilla extract and mix well.

3) Mix in the powdered sugar a little at a time adjusting the amount depending upon how thick you want the frosting. The same goes for the cream of coconut (or coconut milk if you use it instead). I’m honestly guesstimating on the amounts for both on this step. Refrigerate the frosting until ready to use.

Toasting The Coconut:
Spread the coconut out evenly on a baking sheet and place in an oven that’s been preheated to 325F degrees. Allow it to bake until the coconut turns a nice golden brown color, making sure to stir every few minutes. Set aside the toasted coconut and allow it to cool completely before using.

Assembling The Cake:
Once the cakes have completely cooled, spread the frosting between each layer, on the sides, and on top. Coat the sides and top of the cake with toasted coconut (Tip: Before you frost the cake, place parchment paper beneath the bottom layer to help keep the plate cleaner. Once you’re through, simply pull each piece of paper out and toss it.) I then used a plastic storage bag and a cake decorating tip to make small rosettes on top all the way around the edge. Finish the cake with a few maraschino cherries and enjoy!

Happy Birthday, Grandma!

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Old Fashioned Peach Cobbler.

Is there nothing more summery (or delicious) than enjoying a fresh, sweet peach with juice dribbling down your chin and all over your fingers. Nothing in my book.

Sister Dean, one of our neighbors and a close family friend dropped off a bag of very fresh peaches last week. After a few of them had been devoured (cause, you know, we’ve got to test them out, right 😉 ), I put a sign on them letting everyone know that the rest were off limits cause I’d be using them for something special. Alright, I didn’t go quite that far (I actually have had to resort to putting signs on pies and cakes in the past), but I did hide put them behind something in the refrigerator.

So, yesterday, after watching a Devious Maids marathon and catching up on the episodes I’ve missed lately (I love that show, don’t you? I’m dying to know who Flora’s killer is), I set out to make one of my favorites, old fashioned peach cobbler.

While I love the easier version of peach cobbler (you know, where the recipe calls for a stick of melted butter, a cup of flour, a cup of sugar, a cup of milk, and peaches, and you kind of dump them all together), having a crust made from scratch just makes cobbler so much more special.

Peach cobbler with fresh whipped cream.

2 1/2 c all purpose flour
1 tsp sugar*
pinch of kosher salt
2 sticks of cold butter (cut into small pieces)
3/4 c of ice cold water (or slightly more if you need it)
* I don’t really like overly sweet pie crust, but if you do add a little more sugar to it.

5-6 fresh peaches, peeled and cut into slices
3/4 c sugar
6 Tbsp butter
1/2 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp ground cinnamon
fresh ground nutmeg, to taste*
* I buy fresh nutmeg from Publix, then keep it in the freezer til I need it. Not completely sure how much was used in this recipe, but I would definitely say it was less than a 1/4 teaspoon.

1) Start by stirring together the dry ingredients for the crust (flour, sugar, and kosher salt) in a medium sized bowl. Then, cut in the butter by using a pastry cutter, your hands, or a food processor. Once that’s done, add the water and stir just until combined. You may need more or less water than called for, depending upon how dry the dough is. If you need more, add it a very small amount at a time.

2) Form the dough into a nice ball and cover with saran wrap and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes.

Peach Filling:
1) In a large saucepan on medium heat, combine the butter, peaches, sugar, lemon juice. Cook, stirring occasionally, just until the sugar has dissolved and the liquid begins to become syrupy. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Grating the nutmeg into the filling.

Assembling & baking the cobbler:
1) Divide the dough into two balls: one for the bottom crust and one for the top. Roll out the ball of dough for the bottom crust to about  an 1/8 inch thickness. Place in a small glass baking dish (I used a 9×9) so that it covers the bottom and up the sides. Trim off any excess dough.

2) Pour the cooled peaches and juice in the baking dish, making sure they’re evenly spread out.

3) Roll out the ball of dough for the top crust to about the same thickness. Cut into several one inch wide strips. Place on top of the peaches criss-crossed to form a lattice crust (see how to make a lattice crust here). Brush with the crust with melted butter and sprinkle with sugar.

4) Bake in a 375F degree preheated oven for about 30-45 minutes (give or take) or until the top crust is golden brown.


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Blueberry Cheesecake Ice Cream.

With how hot and humid this summer has started out, there isn’t anything more refreshing than a bowl of homemade ice cream. When our cousin, Eleanor, stopped by the other week and gave us a big bag of fresh blueberries, I just had to try out a recipe for Blueberry Cheesecake Ice Cream.

And it was the perfect treat! Cold, refreshing, and addictively delicious.

Blueberry Filling:
2 cups of fresh blueberries
3/4 c granulated sugar
1/2 Tbsp corn starch
1/2 c water

Graham Cracker Crumbles:
2 c Graham Cracker Crumbs
1 Tbsp granulated sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 c butter, melted

Ice Cream:
2 c heavy cream
4 c whole milk
1 1/2 c granulated sugar
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 pkg cheesecake or vanilla instant pudding

Blueberry Filling:
1) Combine the sugar and corn starch in a small saucepan. Gradually add the water, stirring until combined. Add the fresh blueberries and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to low and allow the mixture to simmer until it begins to thicken. Refrigerate until completely cooled.

Graham Cracker Crumbles:
1) Preheat oven to 350F degrees.

2) In a bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and cinnamon. Add the melted butter and use a fork to combine completely. Using your hands, pat the graham cracker mixture into a 9×9 glass pan (or really any glass pan of a similar size). Bake until lightly browned (about 15-20 minutes – give or take). Once out of the oven, allow to cool completely, then crumble and set aside.

Ice Cream:
1) Combine the sugar, whole milk, and heavy cream in a large saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium low heat until the sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract and cinnamon. Refrigerate the mixture and allow it to cool. Once cooled, whisk in the dry pudding mixture. Freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s directions.

2) In a large sealable container, layer the ice cream, graham cracker crumbles, and blueberry filling (in that order) at least two or three times. Use a spoon or rubber spatula to swirl the ingredients. Freeze until you’re ready to serve it.


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Lemon Blueberry Mini Trifles.

I love these mini trifles, so delicious, wonderfully tart, and they were a perfect dessert for Mother’s Day. And easy, which is the best part of course 🙂

1 Pound Cake (store bought or homemade), cut into bite sized pieces
1 jar of lemon curd*
1 (8 oz) package of cream cheese, softened
2 cups of fresh whipped cream, give or take
5 Tbsp powdered sugar, give or take
Blueberries, washed
1/4 cup of lemon juice, give or take
*Our town’s grocery store unfortunately didn’t have any lemon curd, so I made my own using the recipe for lemon cheese cake frosting, but cut in half. The recipe for it is below.

1) In a medium sized mixing bowl, combine the softened cream cheese and the lemon curd. Fold in about half of the whipped cream. Set aside.

2) In a small bowl, stir together the lemon juice and about 5 Tbsp of powdered sugar. Set aside.

To assemble:
Place a layer of pound cake into the bottom of a clear glass container of your choice. Drizzle a small spoonful of the lemon juice/powdered sugar mixture on top of the pound cake (this step can be optional, but to me it makes this dessert even better by making the dense pound cake a little moister and giving it a tarter taster). Then top with a large dollop of the cream cheese mixture. On top of that place several blueberries. Top with a dollop of fresh whipped cream.

This recipe made 4 mini trifles for us plus one larger sized one for later. For a patriotic look, you could easily use raspberries in addition to the blueberries.

Lemon Cheese Cake Frosting (halved)
4 egg yolks
3/4 c sugar
1 1/2 sticks of butter
Juice of 2-3 lemons
Zest from 1 of those lemons

1) Mix all of the ingredients together and cook in a double boiler until the mixture thickens (takes about 25 minutes or slightly longer). Make sure to stir constantly. Allow the frosting to cool before using (it will thicken even more after cooling).