Little House in the Big Woods: Bread, Butter, and Honey

Book:
Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder, illustrated by Garth Williams
1971, Harper & Row
august
August is the month of first harvests. The 1st of August is Lammas, or Loaf Mass, when people used to bless loaves of bread made from the first crops.  Although this is in some ways the longest, sleepiest month of Summer, we are already looking forward to Autumn, and gathering in the rest of the harvest.grain1If you go out into the fields now you can see what is growing.  Around here it is oats and barley.

oats & barley
Top: oats. Bottom: barley.

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Nowadays we don’t usually see the full process that turns these grains into flour.  In Little House in the Big Woods, however, harvest, like everything else, was very hands on.  In the chapter entitled “Harvest”, it describes how Pa Ingalls harvested the oats.
harvest1

Pa Ingalls and Uncle Henry helped each other with their harvests.  They cut the oats with a tool called a cradle, tied each bundle with a band of oats, stood five bundles together and then covered with two more bundles, spreading the stalks to make a roof and shelter the five underneath.  This is called a shock (as in, “the fodder’s in the shock”.).  All this had to be done before dark when the dew would fall.
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The main drama of this chapter is how the disobedient Cousin Charley gets stung a by a load of yellow jackets.  However, I think the grueling description of the harvesting of the oats is more interesting.  In the next chapter, “The Wonderful Machine,” Pa sends for a newfangled horsepowered separator to help with the wheat harvest.  Pa, who is “all for progress”, is very pleased with this modernisation.

farmhouse cookery
Fodder in the shock! And a harvest picnic including bread & butter. From Farmhouse Cookery: Recipes from the Country Kitchen, The Reader’s Digest Association Limited, 1982

harvest2But while the oat harvest was hard work, I’m sure the result was much appreciated.
One of the best aspects of the Little House books, and one which is perhaps best enjoyed by older readers, is the detailed description of life back then.  It really is fascinating to see the hard work which used to go into every little part of life.  It provides useful perspective on our own lives.

Little House in the Big Woods is a fun and interesting read.  It is a bit long, with some technical/historical language, so it would be difficult for under eights to read on their own.  Reading with an adult would also be helpful to deal with some of the harsher realities of that time period.  For example, Laura’s family  lives with the danger of wild animals actually killing them, there is a quite detailed description of hog butchery, and there is also corporal punishment, when Laura is hit with a strap for slapping her sister.  But I think all of these things are not negatives in and of themselves, they just have to be discussed and put into the context of the time period and situation.

Personally, I am certainly not going to be harvesting my own grain anytime soon.  My family doesn’t usually eat bread, either.  But if you are going to, homemade is best, because you can choose what goes into it.  And more important than the bread, to my mind, is what goes on top.
LHBWspreadbook, bowl, butterOne of the nicest things to go on bread is honey, and that is also something that the Ingalls family harvested for the Winter.  In the chapter “Summertime”, Pa finds a bee tree, and comes running back to grab his ax, the two wash tubs, and all the pails and buckets they have.  He has to scare a bear away first, but he then is able to chop down the tree and split it open, and bring home lots and lots of honeycomb.  It should be remembered that store-bought sugar was a real luxury in those days, so everyone must have been very excited to have all that honey!

Laura is sorry for the bees, but Pa says that he has left lots of honey there, and there was another hollow tree nearby.  The bees would take the old honey, turn it into new, and store it up for the winter.
honeyIf you can it’s best to buy local, raw honey, that still has all of its goodness.  Honeycomb is a bonus!
honeycomb on toasthoneycomb on toast2Honey is really lovely with butter, and that is another thing which the Ingalls family had to make all by themselves.  This time it was Ma Ingalls who did all the work.  The chapter “Winter Days” describes what happened every Thursday, which was the day of the week for churning.  Because it takes place in Winter, the cream wasn’t yellow as it was in Summer (when the cows were eating fresh grass).  Because Ma liked everything to be pretty, she colored the butter with a carrot that she grated on the bottom of a pan that Pa had punched full of nail-holes for her.  She put the grated carrot into hot milk, poured it into a cloth, and squeezed the yellow milk into the crockery churn full of cream which had been put it by the stove to warm.  After that Laura and Mary eat the grated carrot as a treat!  Next, Ma scalded the wooden churn-dash, put it in the churn, and dropped the churn-cover on top.  She would have to churn for a long time, as the cream began to look grainy, and finally there would be a big lump of butter in buttermilk.  Ma then took out the butter with a wooden paddle, and washed it many times in cold water, working it with the paddle until the water ran clear.  Then the butter was salted.  Ma had a butter-mold with a strawberry and its leaves on the bottom.
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Laura and Mary watched, breathless…while the golden little butter-pats, each with its strawberry on top, dropped on to the plate…Then Ma gave them each a drink of good, fresh buttermilk.

I would love to have a butter-mold!  But even without one you can make butter at home.  And you don’t need a churn either.

Home-made Butter

Ingredients
1/2 pint heavy (double) cream
Salt to taste

Method
There are various ways to churn the butter.  You can use a mixer or a blender, but my preferred method is the good old-fashioned jar.  Just pour your cream into a jar which is big enough to leave at least a third of the jar empty.  Screw the lid on tightly and shake!  It’s a bit of a workout, but it actually only takes a few minutes before you will feel that the cream is not sloshing around anymore.  When you check, you’ll find the cream has thickened right up.  Keep going a little longer, and you will see the cream has become granular.
butter1-2.jpgThis is normal: those are actually tiny grains of butter!  Eventually they will coalesce into larger lumps and a milky-looking liquid. 

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You have your beautiful yellow butter!  Now it’s time to wash the butter, pretty much like Ma Ingalls did.  Pour off the buttermilk into another container.  Don’t throw it away!  You can use it in baking or just drink it (Note: this traditional buttermilk, so it is not sour like the cultured buttermilk you can buy in stores)!  Put the butter in a bowl and add cold water.  Swish and mash the butter around in the water with a wooden spoon.  The water will turn cloudy.  That’s OK, it’s the last of the buttermilk coming out.  Pour the water off and add fresh water.  You may have to repeat this a few times until the water stays clear.  butter3-4.jpg
Pour off the last of the water and your butter is done!  You can salt it to your own taste, then all there is left to do is shape the butter.  Since I don’t have a butter press or mold, I packed it into a silicone cupcake case and left it in the fridge to harden up.  In a couple of hours it was ready.LHBWspread1bread&honeyMaking butter may seem superfluous nowadays, however I can promise you that homemade butter tastes a million times better than store bought!  It is also a fun, easy Science or Home Ec project for kids that doesn’t take more than 20 minutes altogether.
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LHBWspread2

Make some bread to have with your butter and honey, and have a harvest feast.  It tastes even better when you have done the work yourself!grain3
beeRemember to thank the bees!  They need our help!

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Brambly Hedge: Honey Creams

Book:
The Four Seasons of Brambly Hedge by  Jill Barklem
1990, Philomel Books

dahliaWe are in the dog days of Summer.  The garden is a jungle, and the freezer is full of popsicles.  In The Four Seasons of Brambly Hedge, the Summer Story begins with a description of how the mice spend their time by the stream to keep cool.

 

BHSaBy the banks of the stream was the dairy mill, powered by the flowing water.  Poppy Eyebright looked after the Dairy Stump.
BHSb
BHSdFurther down the stream was the flour mill, run by Dusty Dogwood.

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The two meet walking by the stream and eventually get engaged.  What follows is the story of the preparations for the wedding, which is on Midsummer’s Day.
BHSe

Brambly Hedge Wedding Menu:
Cold watercress soup
Fresh dandelion salad
Honey creams
Syllabubs
Merengues.
Huge baskets of wild strawberries
Primrose, meadowsweet and and elderflower wine

The first drama of the story is when the groom (“Dusty by name, dusty by nature”) accidentally gets flour all over himself and his best man.  But of course, as in real weddings, once everything gets started those sort of things don’t matter.

BHSf
BHSgThe wedding is held on the stream on a bark raft.  The second drama is that during the reception the enthusiastic dancing causes the raft’s moorings to break and they drift in to the stream.  But this doesn’t cause alarm either, the dancing carries on and eventually they catch on some rushes and forget-me-nots and are able to tie up again.  When evening falls, the party breaks up and heads home  Poppy and Dusty slip away to the primrose woods, to a cottage surrounded by wild roses and honeysuckle, “the perfect place for a honeymoon”.
honeycream8Summer Story is a sweet little story and the perfect representation of an old-fashioned Summer wedding.  Like Spring Story, it is suitable for all ages and has very interesting illustrations.  The flour mill and the dairy mill pages in particular are fun to pore over, trying to see how they work.

Poppy and Dusty’s wedding menu of “cool summer foods” offers a lot to choose from, but I decided to make honey creams, because I had never heard of them.  It turns out most people haven’t!  In the end the only recipe I found was this one, which reveals honey creams to be a sort of ice cream.

honeycreams1Honey Creams

Ingredients:
4 Tbsp thick honey
4 egg yolks
Half a pint whipping cream
1 Tbsp honey liqueur (optional)

The original recipe calls for grated chocolate, but i didn’t use it because I don’t think they have chocolate in Brambly Hedge.

honeycreams2

Method:
Heat the honey in a pan until it is a bit runny.  Let it cool slightly.  Beat the egg yolks and drizzle in the honey, mixing until it is a bit thick and pale yellow. Whip the cream.  You could use pre-whipped cream or thick cream as well, depending on how light you want your creams to be.  I just put it in a jar and shook it until it was thick, which led to very set ice cream.

Whip together the egg yolk mixture and the cream mixture.  At this point you can choose whether to add the liqueur.  The original recipe calls for 4 Tbsp of whiskey, but I omitted that in case people wanted a less boozy dessert.  I divided the mixture in two and made a plain a version and one with 1 Tbsp of honey liqueur.  Divide into ramekins.  I used silicone cupcake moulds for ease of removal.  Freeze for at least 4 hours, until set.

honeycream7Without the booze, this is definitely ice cream.  I have never made a proper ice cream with egg yolks before, and the combination of the rich custard with the honey is delicious.  Be aware that this does contain raw eggs.  Here in the UK most eggs are safe raw, but be careful anyway.

The way I made them (without proper whipped cream) the honey creams are very dense, like those ice cream blocks you can buy for ice cream cakes, but they only take a couple of minutes to thaw enough to eat, and in fact melt pretty quickly, so if you are bringing these somewhere you will need a portable cooler.  They are very sweet and taste strongly of honey, so I might recommend only using 3 Tbsp honey if you don’t have a sweet tooth.  Both the plain and the liqueur version are equally nice.

You could add any topping you want; I added blueberries.  Overall they are an amazing and luxurious Summer treat, perfect for a day on the river.

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Take your ice cream outside and enjoy it in the Sun, preferably by a body of water, or even a paddling pool to rest your feet in.


 

 

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Summer Party: Fairy Bread and Bubble Tea

Book: 
Summer Party  by Cynthia Rylant; illustrated by Wendy Anderson Halperin
2002, Aladdin Paperbacks
Poem:
Fairy Bread by Robert Louis Stevenson
sprinklesSPb
How is everyone’s Summer?  We haven’t had many nice days here.  It’s been rather cold.  But Summer is fleeting and you have to make the best of it!  We have had a couple of barbecues and similar festivities.  One Sunday we even got out the pool but it was too chilly!

Recently I read a book about making the best of things.  Summer Party is about Lily, Rosie, and Tess (a pair of sisters and their cousin, all aged nine) who live with their Aunt Lucy for a year while their parents are travelling with the ballet.  They get to live in an attic and it’s all very bohemian and charming.
SPd
Although this is a short book, a lot of detail is put into every character.  Rosie is the most sentimental, Lily writes poems, Tess wants to be an actress, etc. Aunt Lucy has a flower shop, and her boyfriend Michael, who is from a wealthy family but is studying to be a botanist, always looks a bit shy and crumpled.

As the story opens the girls are all quite sad because when their parents get back they will have to leave their aunt and each other.  They are feeling very conflicted and weepy in the first couple of chapters.
But their aunt and Michael try to help them cheer up, not by ignoring their feelings, but by addressing them in an active way.  Their aunt says that a good way to do this is to find something to look forward to and make plans for the future.  The girls realise that they will be able to have reunions with each other and the whole family every year.  They are also encouraged to do something fun now, and so they plan a summer party.  The girls plan the food and the entertainment as well.  Lily writes a poem, Tess plans a song, and they make little funny fortunes to go at each table place.  Rosie wants to make “little vegetable people” although she eventually changes her mind, thinking they will wilt.
SPe
Here is their menu:
Pink lemonade with colored ice
Cookie cutter sandwiches
Lemon cookies
Fudge
A punch called the Cousins’ Crayon Concoction
SPcThe girls are nervous to see their parents after so long, but when they arrive everyone is happy.  The party is a great success, and at the end Michael proposes to Lucy.  Although everyone is still sad to say goodbye, the last line of the book is “There was so much to look forward to!
SPfThis is quite a fun little book.  It is not long, but it is a chapter book and might be difficult for under sevens to read on their own.  The subject matter is interesting and could be helpful in discussing with children how to deal with sadness, particularly that of a friend moving away, or themselves moving away.  The children’s feelings are acknowledged, and they are helped to think of things that they do have control over, such as making the party and arranging meetings in the future.  Aunt Lucy’s mantra of “Be brave.  Have hope.  Make plans for the future!”  is pretty good advice for that stressful situation (and many others).  Since we are moving house in a couple of months, it was certainly helpful for me to think about.

And if it is cold outside I think it is perfectly fine to have a Summer Party inside!  I was inspired by the cousins’ menu but made a few changes.  I didn’t make the little vegetable people, although that would be fun, particularly with children.  To make the cookie cutter sandwiches even prettier, I made fairy bread.  For anyone unfamiliar, fairy bread is just bread with sprinkles on top.  I made some the usual way (as in just one slice), and some as sandwiches with the sprinkles then added to the top.
SP_5
Cookie Cutter Fairy Bread Sandwiches

Ingredients
Bread of choice (I used Schär’s gluten free seeded loaf)
Sandwich filling of choice (I used Nutella)
Sprinkles of choice (these should be small and colorful.  Too big and they won’t provide even coverage)
Whipped cream
SPa
Method
First make the sandwiches (I figure you all know how to do that!).  Then cut out desired shapes using cookie cutters.  You may have to be very careful extracting the sandwich from the cutter if it is a complicated shape.  Don’t waste the crusts you cut off, just save them for bread pudding or something!  Then spread the whipped cream on the top of the sandwich.  Butter is traditional but I wanted something that would preserve the white color of the bread and also spread very easily, without being soggy.  You need a thin, even layer all over the top slice.  Then cover with sprinkles!

Yes I made Stegosaurus fairy bread.
Yes I made Stegosaurus fairy bread.

The second idea that I had was to attempt the Cousins’ Crayon Concoction.  Presuming this does not contain actual crayons, I wanted to create something that contained multiple bright colors, and the only way I could think to do that was bubble tea.
FullSizeRender_2
Cousins’ Crayon Concoction Bubble Tea

Ingredients
3 black tea bags or equivalent in loose tea
4 cups milk, almond milk or coconut milk
3 -4 Tbsp honey to taste
1 1/2 cups colored tapioca pearls or boba, preferably multicolored.

The uncooked tapioca pearls
The uncooked tapioca pearls

Method
First make the milk tea.  Boil a cup of water and steep the tea for 5 – 10 minutes.  Remove the teabags, add honey to taste, and let the tea cool for another 15 minutes or so.  Then add the tea and the milk (I used coconut milk, but if you prefer it not to taste coconutty, then use something different) into a large container with a lid.  As you may guess this makes a very weak tea, but I did not want the color of the tea to interfere with the color of the boba, so I intentionally made it pale.  You can make it stronger by using less milk or steeping the tea longer.  Put the tea in the fridge to cool for a couple of hours.  You could add ice and have it ready right away, but I prefer it this way.  While the tea is cooling make the boba or tapioca pearls (If you can’t find multicolored ones I would recommend looking in an Asian grocer or online, but any color will do).  Boil a large pot of water, add the pearls slowly, and stir.  In a minute or so they will float to the surface of the water.  Cover the pot and cook on medium heat for 3 minutes.  Turn off the heat and simmer another 2 -3 minutes.  Strain the tapioca and rest in cold water for half a minute, then strain out and roll in a little sugar or honey.

The cooked tapioca pearls
The cooked tapioca pearls

Next, take out your cold tea and give it a good shake. You can use a cocktail shaker, froth it with a mixer or just shake it in the jar.  Put a portion of tapioca pearls in the bottom of each glass and top up with the tea.

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And if you are me, you then add whipped cream and sprinkles, just because!


And lastly, the pink lemonade.  I used this recipe from last Summer, but I added 1 1/2 cups pureed strawberries.  You can use a blender, but if the strawberries are ripe you can also use a mortar and pestle.  I personally like to have a little strawberry pulp in there.
SP_strawberriesThe only thing to remember is that you might need less sugar if the strawberries are very sweet.

The full spread!
The full spread!

Enjoy your Summer party and remember, there is so much to look forward to!

sprinkles

 

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Evening in a Sugar Orchard: Maple Ganache

Book:
A Time to Keep by Tasha Tudor
1977, Rand McNally & Company.
Poem:
Evening in a Sugar Orchard by Robert Frost.

mar1Goodbye March!  Thankfully, it’s going out like a lamb, as it should, since it came in like a lion.
maplesyrup
March is sugaring season, when thawing days and freezing nights make the sap run in the trees.  Here is a beautiful poem about it by Robert Frost:
branchesThis poem can be read by anyone, but older children could really get into what Frost is doing with his use of language, rhyme, imagery, and his various references.  It’s also a fun poem to memorize and recite.  I particularly love the image of the sparks making constellations in the branches.  You could even go outside on a clear night and try to see  Leo, Orion, and the Pleiades.
TTKmar1Maple syrup is a wonderful and versatile sweetener which can be used in so many ways. In Tasha Tudor’s A Time to Keep, she shows what a big event sugaring used to be, with everyone pitching in to help, and then having a big open air feast at the end.  Many of you may not be able to  go sugaring, but if you can, you should!  I had to get mine from a bottle, but it was still great.  I used it to make a chocolate ganache.
tTKmar2ganache1
Maple Ganache

Ingredients
Dark chocolate
Cream
Maple syrup
Note: To make a thick ganache, chocolate and cream should be in a 1:1 ratio or equal parts. However, I substituted a quarter of the cream with maple syrup. To make enough to frost a small cake, I used two 180g (about 6 oz) bars of chocolate, melted, 270g (about 9 oz) cream, and 90g (about 3 oz) maple syrup.

Method
Melt the chocolate.  You can use the microwave, or you can rig up a double boiler by putting a metal or Pyrex bowl into a pan of water and bringing the water to a simmer, then putting the chocolate in the bowl, stirring occasionally until it is melted.  Remove from heat and slowly add cream and syrup, stirring until it is a glossy, even mixture.  Refrigerate for at least several hours, until set.  After this you can roll it into truffles, or eat it with a spoon.  Or refrigerate it only till cool, and frost a cake.
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Bring your cake to a sugaring-off party (and have sugar on snow for a treat)!
TTKMar3

Happy Spring!
Happy Spring!


The Willow Flute: Beef Daube and Butter Tea

Book:
The Willow Flute: a North Country Tale written and illustrated by D. William Johnson
1975,  Little, Brown and Company.

Goodbye Winter!  Many flowers are out now: snowdrops, crocuses, and daffodils.  The mornings and evenings are lighter.  Now when I have to get up before 6 am there is a slight brightness to the sky, which makes it a lot easier to drag myself out of bed!

crocusesHowever, it is still very, very cold — colder than it was in December (we’ve had a very weird Winter here).  So here is a book for cold weather that looks forward to Spring.

wf1The Willow Flute tells the story of Lewis Shrew, who lives in a great forest.  One March evening, Lewis puts on his “boots and his old overcoat, his muffler and his mittens” to go out into “the white woods” to gather twigs for firewood.

When he goes out into the woods and sniffs the air, the woods seem different, even though they are still covered in ice and snow.  But “a hint of springtime swirled in the wind.”  After gathering twigs, Lewis sits down to rest and falls asleep.  When he wakes he is disoriented by the night and cold, and he longs for his house and a cheery fire.

wf3Lost and scared to go out on the surface because of owls, he starts to tunnel under the snow.  His clothes are soon torn and he loses his muffler.

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Eventually he finds shelter in an abandoned cabin.  There he finds a willow flute and plays it.

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As he plays, the world begins to warm and thaw.  Rain falls and melts the snow, and Lewis can now see his own house.  It’s a very interesting moment when Lewis begins to play the flute, as the black and white illustrations begin to have color, starting with himself:

wf7 wf8
This is a strange little book.  The writing is simple and straightforward:
“He paused to breathe the good air.  The sun sparkled through the trees and caught on the wonderful flute; a robin landed in a pine tree and green things were thinking of growing.”

But the illustrations are idiosyncratic and striking, done in a very bold and graphic style in black & white, with the interesting choice to bring color in gradually with the arrival of Spring.  Older children could explore these stylistic choices in art, with the creative use of hatching and crosshatching, detail and negative space, and other techniques to create an interesting image with just pen and ink.

wf9
Another interesting idea would be to explore the story itself, as the author makes the interesting choice to not really explain many things — whose cabin is it?  How does the magic flute work?  What is the meaning of the cryptic sign (“The bird, whistle please”) which is on the cabin door?  Who put it there?  Why?  These could all be good prompts for creative writing.

This is a very interesting book in and of itself, and suitable for all ages.  I myself have certainly had the experience of going out of doors in late Winter and finding that something is subtly different — a hint of Springtime is in the air.  I have felt that this year already, but right now it is cold!  It may well be where you are too.  So here are some cold weather recipes.

Maybe my number one comfort food is beef stew.  Daube is a French version, which is cheap, healthy and super comforting.  I’ve added ox cheek, which is full of collagen to make it extra unctuous and amazing.

daube2

Beef Daube

Ingredients
5 garlic cloves, chopped, or 2 Tbsp garlic paste
1/2 lb stewing beef
1 ox cheek (optional, you can replace it with more steak or chuck, but it’s well worth it if you’ve got it!)
1 cup carrots, chopped
2 cups onions, chopped
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 Tbsp thyme
1 tsp rosemary
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 cup tomato paste
1 1/2 cup red wine

Method
Chuck all the ingredients into a large Dutch oven or casserole dish with a lid.  You can brown the meat and onions first, but I never bother, because who has the time?  Cover and put in the oven at about 300 degrees F (that’s about 150 C).  Bake for 2 1/2 to 2 hours (but check on it now and again to make sure the liquid isn’t drying out, and top up with water if it is).  Once the meat is fork-tender, it is done!  Serve on its own, or with egg noodles (I had mine with vareniki).

daube1
Since we could probably do with a hot drink, too, here is a recipe for Butter Tea!  Butter tea (or po cha) is common in Tibet and neighboring countries, and is a good alternative for people who want to try Bulletproof-type coffee but don’t like coffee!  It is very rich and nourishing.

buttertea1

Butter Tea

Ingredients
2 cups water
2 black teabags, or loose equivalent (I used chai)
1/4 tsp salt
1 Tbsp butter (yak butter is traditional, but if, like me, you haven’t got it, use some good yellow grass-fed butter)
1/2 cup cream or whole milk
1 tsp honey (optional)
buttertea2
Method
Boil the water and then steep the tea.  Steep for at least  3 minutes so it’s nice and strong.  Add the cream, salt, and butter.  If you have a churn or a blender you can use those, or shake in a jar.  But be careful — hot liquids can expand and leak!  Personally, I use a tiny whisk that I can roll between my hands — almost as quick as an electric mixer and I don’t have to plug it in!  I have found that the butter emulsifies wonderfully.  Drink while nice and hot!  Note: it may be an acquired taste for those not used to it.  You can add a teaspoon of honey, which changes it from salty to salty/sweet.  Not necessarily authentic, but this recipe isn’t very authentic to begin with!

buttertea3

Drink by your cheery fire, and think of Spring!

 

1 is One: Lemon Curd

Book:
1 is One by Tasha Tudor
1986, Aladdin Books, New York.
1isone1
Last Friday (August 28th) would have been Tasha Tudor’s 100th birthday, so I thought we’d have a cream tea on the weekend and read some of her books.
Tasha and her family were very much into having iced tea in the garden.

 


But we need some reading material.  1 is One is a little rhyming counting book.  It would be great for very young children, and useful for learning how to count 1 -20.


Adults and children alike can appreciate the beautiful and detailed illustrations, in both color and black and white.  The subjects of the pictures are simple and relatable.
1isone5


For our Tasha Tudor tea, we had iced tea, saffron buns, clotted cream and lemon curd.  I made a fancied-up version of iced tea to go with the occasion.
icedteaingredients
Iced Tea

Ingredients
2 fruity black teabags or loose tea in a tea ball
1 lemon
2 Tbsp honey or sweetener of choice
4 fresh mint leaves

Method
Add hot water to teabags.  Let steep for 5 minutes, then add sweetener to taste (you could use sugar, honey, or stevia.).  Cut the lemon into slices, and add the slices and a squeeze of lemon juice, as well as the mint leaves. Pour into a large jug, adding cold water to fill, and leave in the fridge for at least 4 hours.

icedteaingredients2

For the lemon curd I used this recipe, but roughly halved it.  I’m the only one in my house who eats dairy so it often makes sense not to make too much!

Lemon Curd

Ingredients
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2.5 Tblsp lemon juice
2 Tblsp butter
⅓ cup sugar
1 tsp lemon zest

lcurdmix
Method
Whisk together all the ingredients in a metal or glass bowl.  Place the bowl over the top of a pot or pan of water and bring to a simmer, whisking frequently to prevent curdling.  It may take about ten minutes.  Eventually the mixture will thicken enough to coat the back of a spoon. Add the butter and whisk well.  Transfer to a clean jar and store in the fridge.

lcurd3
Assemble your tea and eat in the garden (under a crab apple tree if you have one).  Hopefully it will be a delectable elevenish party!

Also read: A Time to Keep.
Also read: A Time to Keep.

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Two in a Tent: Clotted Cream

Book:
Two in a Tent by Molly Brett
1969, The Medici Society Ltd., London.

book & picnic
I’ve been away for a while, partly due to busyness, but also because we went on holiday!  We rented a car and drove down to North Devon, where we stayed in a tent.  When it came to what book to bring, Enid Blyton was a little too obvious, so I brought along Two in a Tent.

two in a tent in a tent
Two in a Tent in a tent!

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Two in a Tent  would be suitable for children of all ages.  It tells the story of Susan, who goes to visit her cousin David in the country.  They are allowed to sleep in a tent in the orchard by his house, they encounter lots of animals (which Susan invariably either misidentifies or is afraid of), and they even have an adventure when the orchard floods.

My copy evidently once belonged to a small child with an orange crayon.
My copy evidently once belonged to a small child with an orange crayon.

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Susan and David learn a lot about the animals they encounter.  The text includes a lot of information, so that it could be very useful in a unit about animals, biology, ecosystems, the countryside, etc.  It was published in 1969, so some of the information is not correct (don’t give hedgehogs milk!  And don’t take in baby deer!), but much of it is still factual, and the illustrations are extremely accurate.  Molly Brett’s artwork manages to be sweet, whimsical and yet almost scientific.  On the back cover of my edition, there is a guide to some of the birds and flowers in the book, if you have not identified them already.

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We two in a tent did some of the things David and Susan did (although we spent most of our time at the beach).  We didn’t make our own fire, but we did cook sausages.

We didn’t go on a “midnight march” (although we meant to), and I for one really enjoyed the “hot baths and supper” we had when we came home!

In Devon I was excited to buy copious amounts of clotted cream, which we had with yeast buns and jam.

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beach picnic2clotted creamOnce home, I was looking forward to using it in various ways.  However, I’m not sure how easy it is to find clotted cream outside the UK.  You could use extra thick double cream instead,  or shake double cream in jar for a couple of minutes until it thickens up, but it wouldn’t be exactly the same, so I thought I would put up a recipe for those of you who can’t get ahold of it.  Clotted cream is traditionally made by heating cream on very  low heat for a long time.  I looked around and found this recipe, which uses a slow cooker.  Ingenious!  I cut down on the amount of cream, because I already have two big tubs of clotted cream in the fridge!

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Slow Cooker Clotted Cream

Ingredients
3 cups heavy or double cream

Method
Pour the cream into the slow cooker and leave on low or warm for 8 – 10 hours.  It is a tricky business because you do not want the cream to go above 180 degrees F (82 degrees C).  My slow cooker tends to be quite hot, so I left it on warm.  Then, transfer the whole thing to the fridge (you don’t want to disturb the crust on top of the cream!) for at least 4 hours.  When it is chilled, scoop off the top layer, which should be thick, not runny.  I found that there was still some runny cream, but it tasted fine, so I scooped it all into a dish and then added the crust part of the cream back on top.

 

Done!
Done!

After a few more hours of chilling, the cream should all set up to proper thickness.

Enjoy in a traditional cream tea with scones and jam, or eat with a spoon (that’s what I did!).

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Lemon curd recipe to follow another day!

 

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Jelly from Indicknowle farm in Devon

Even if you don’t have an orchard, if you have a bit of garden, sleeping out in the tent is a fun activity for kids and adults.  You could make a fire and cook some sausages, and have a “midnight march”.  And if you can’t get to the beach, you could always set up a paddling pool!

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