LeSophie credits Orangette with the clafoutis craze in foody/ie and crafty blogland, but I was inspired to mention to Laura that we use our recently picked blackberries in a clafoutis rather than in a cuppa cobbler as I first suggested because of Alicia's recent post on Blueberry clafoutis: cup of flour, cup of fruit, cup of sugar, cup of butter; bake at 350 for 30 minutes or so until appears done. It's the standard cobbler recipe I remember my step-mother teaching me. My mom usually created more complex pies and tarts, and so I never learned something so simple and quick from her.
Laura and I picked at least 6 cups of blackberries at the Farm Monday evening. We brought them to the kitchen, extracted bugs, leaves, and stems, then rinsed berries good before covering and tucking them atop the fridge so that no berry thieves might find and avail themselves of them. Our plan was making cobbler Thursday night, the night we usually meet for all things crafty/quilty at the Farm. But plans changed and we decided to make clafoutis in Laura's kitchen Thursday night.
Wednesday night I returned to the Farm; I live closest to it. I picked up our berries, which were unmolested from their perch. I opened the bags to combine them into one container and discovered FUZZ. Oh no. At least half had to be thrown out because a funky fungus.mold spread along their tops. It was white and spider-webby. I removed all best as I could, rinsed berries again, and placed them in my fridge with a cover over their new bowl.
Emails containing links to recipes and pronunciations of clafoutis pinged back and forth between Laura and me. We decided to use as a starting point, a strawberry clafoutis recipe from another blogger, Clothilde Dusoulier (Chocolate & Zucchini), found at NPR.
Laura baked our clafoutis in her convection oven, hoping that we could cut the 40 minute baking time in half, yet, that was not the case. After twenty minutes, the batter and berries were very jiggly. Back into the oven it went. Around 35 or 40 minutes the center was more solid and Laura removed it from the oven to let it cool.
A bit later, we sprinkled confectioner's sugar atop it and dug in. Laura found it different. But she liked it. I just liked it. That's all. The fruit rose to the top. Neither of us realized that would happen, but then neither has read a great deal about clafoutis and what is does, exactly. Ours wasn't as custardy as Orangette's, but could be next time, I'm sure. It was definitely eggy. Its consistency I found pleasing to my palate. It was more as Alicia described hers: "a big, custardy blueberry pancake, really, with more custard than pancake," except substitute blackberries for blueberries.
Here's our modification of Clothilde's recipe:
1/4 cup butter
3cups fresh blackberries
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
A pinch of salt
3 large eggs
3/4 cup milk
1 tsp. almond flavoring
1 tsp. vanilla
Oven at 350. Grease dish with a small amount of the butter. Melt remaining butter and reserve for later use.
Mix flour, sugar, salt, and cornstarch in mixer. Crack and add eggs one by one, making sure they are well incorporated between each egg. Add melted butter, milk, almond flavoring, and vanilla and mix well.
Arrange berries in baking dish in a single layer. Drizzle batter over berries.
Into the oven it goes for about 40 minutes. You can make these in 6 ramekins, but decreased the baking time to 30 minutes.
Remove from oven and let cool, preferably on a wire rack. Then sprinkle with confectioner's sugar and eat.
A glass of milk accompanies this to a T.
Our second night in the Daytona area we drove less than a mile and crossed the St. John's River to dine at Aunt Catfish's. Ian's parents and I ate there at least 11 or 12 years ago when I accompanied them on a trip to Florida to buy their first time share. We took Barbara's niece Chris and her son Jakob, who lived in Port Orange, to dinner there. And I remember it was okay. Good key lime pie. But that's about it.
We tried eating there our first night, but the wait on Saturday night around 8 pm was 2 hours. Luckily, I suggested we call around 4 pm Sunday night for reservations. That worked like a charm and our wait was minimal. We noticed right away that since our last visit, the interior was remodeled and its appearance is more upscale along the lines of a chain, and not the family-owned establishment that it is. Their menu seemed much grander, as well. Choosing what to order from it was difficult and time-consuming especially after the waitress informed us they were out of rock shrimp.
Finally decided to do a pirates platter which let me chose two entrees for $17.99, which came with access to the salad bar; very good, especially for the pickled beets, which I love. I went with the wonton crusted shrimp and fire roasted oysters. And good choices they were. Picked greens for my side and was not disappointed with those either. It was the first time I ate wonton-crusted shrimp. It's terrible that I've since forgotten what kind of sipping sauce they were accompanied by. The fire roasted oysters were divine. I shared one with Tom, my FIL. He approved. Their hushpuppies were okay; onion in the batter, but not near sweet enough for me. The waitress recommended them when I asked, but she doesn't eat them herself; said they were a popular order though. Skipped dessert since those delicious cinnamon rolls came with the meal. Divine. I should have ordered a half dozen to take with us, but didn't.
It's likely I could have eaten every meal here and left well-fed and satisfied. We didn't make it back, though. One surprising thing was finding a bottle of Country Bob's sauce along with their condiments (which they kept in tackleboxes on their outdoor tables ). Several weeks, or even months ago, one of the owners of Country Bob's contacted me about trying his product. I gave him my address and he sent us two bottles. I haven't written anything about them yet because I was plagued with a terrible sinus infection that lasted for 2 or 3 weeks and left my nose so stopped up that nothing tasted or smelt as it should. Look for that coming soon.
First, if you have a horse, saddle it, and ride it into the blackberry patch. Horse hide is tougher than human skin. Avoiding scratches is key to a satisfying and productive blackberry picking experience.
If there is no horse available, then you must venture into prickly bushes on foot. Thus, proper footwear is essential. Cowboy boots work well. They protect legs from prickles and possibility of snake bites. Apparently East Tennessee copperheads like to hang out in the very edge of the woods, the very edge in which blackberry bushes flourish.
While it may fulfill your romantic notions of blackberry picking and rural frolics, do not wear a sundress or sandals. A big straw sunhat is a good idea though. The bulkier the better, for it will keep blackberry vine prickles away from your face and neck as you plow throw bushier and more impassible thickets.
Junebugs love blackberry bushes. While it is sensible to be alert to any buzzing, or rattling nosies you may hear whilst deep within a bush, confirm the identity of the creature making the noises. What at first thought might be a big bumblebee, could in fact be a harmless junebug. They do not sting, though their legs can be prickly, but not near as prickly as blackberry vine and leaves.
My grandmother said that one thing they did for fun in summertime was catching Junebugs and tying string to one of their legs and then having them fly in circles above her head. Junebug on a string sounds like something that might entertain children for a few short moments, at least. Perhaps the novelty would stun them into awe. But one never knows with today's generation of uber-savvy over-saturated children.
Do wear dungarees, or long pants of a heavy material. Do wear long sleeved shirts no matter how much you desire a tan or to remain cool before the sun sets or tucks behind a cloud. Bloodied arms are never in vogue, despite the trendiness of private cutting.
Wear gloves to prevent your fingers and hands from staining, as well as to protect delicate fingers from the prickliness of vines and bushes. In fact, beware the leaves themselves, for they feature fine pricklies all their own. If protection from stabs is not a concern for you, then do consider taking along a bandanna or stained handkerchief on which to wipe your hands free of staining blackberry juices. Alternately, this bit of cloth can prevent you from staining your face should you need to wipe sweat from your brow. In a pinch, this cloth can be tied at its corners to carry more of your blackberry bounty. Or may even be used as a tourniquet should one sustain a snakebite.
As for how to contain and carry the berries you pick, a lightweight mental bucket is the best option, yet keep in mind, should you be ahorseback, that the bucket may not rest easily whilst hanging from your saddlehorn and could tip over and disperse the fruits of your labors. And yet, using plastic grocery sacks, or even thin cloth for that matter, may prove difficult. Blackberry bushes are incredibly thorny. Once enmeshed in a clump, extracting anything from within proves difficult. Plastic grocery sacks puncture ans rip easily.
A machete helps one insert and extract herself from blackberry entrapment, and is recommended. Also, stout boots, besides offering protection from a variety of claw, tooth, or thorn, do double duty for tramping down offending bushes, but that kind of footprint is too lasting, too destructive, and cuts into the bounty of next year's blackberry crop.
A tip about the difference between blackberry and raspberry bushes: Blackberry bushes grow in the sun, raspberry bushes in the shade. Blackberries usually ripen a week or two prior to raspberries.
We didn't get to near the number of restaurants that I hoped on our vacation at Daytona Beach Shores last week, actually closer to two weeks now. I forgot to print off my list of places to visit and we didn't have wifi, alas. That was a real bummer, but I didn't miss pcs or the internet all that much.
First night we were there, we visited Publix with Ian's parents and stocked our larder with breakfast and snack foods. Can't say there's a Publix nearby us. There used to be. In the refrigerated case I found Publix brand snickerdoodle cookie dough and pointed it out to Ian. That went in our basket, and nibbling on that every other day or so was quite the treat. Now just have to find a Publix near us.
Also that first night we dined at Crabby Jack's, just a half mile or so from where we stayed. The restaurant is smack dab in the middle of a pier. So the interesting, but slightly unhygienic thing to keep in mind, was that fishermen and fisherwomen would walk by tables dragging their coolers filled with bait and with their poles and lures a dangling. It added ambience. Not that the place lacked that at all, mind you. Ian and I agreed that it was the best ambience of any place we ate in Florida.
Our waitress was helpful, fun, and efficient. Instead of stocking the tables with condiments in the center of the table, each table featured a tacklebox in which one could find salt, pepper, sweeteners, hot sauce, and ketchup.
I had the oyster po boy and tried their special broccoli slaw. The slaw was different, but not as flavorful as I hoped. So much time has passed at this point that I can't be more specific about it. But I tried one of my MIL's fries, and they were perfect. Ian got popcorn shrimp, not because he likes shrimp, but because they're heavily breaded and he doesn't enjoy seafood like the rest of us. Their menu was pretty typical of the beach. And so there were no disappointments and the only surprise was the broccoli slaw.
Totally disappointed that we didn't eat at Wade's of Spartanburg on our drive to Florida. This is a tradition. Wade's is a meat and three; nothing fancy, but hot and tasty comfort food. Always lots of veggies on the menu, but I love their fried fish. I think it's flounder. And their sweet potato souffle is to die for. I usually have it in lieu of dessert, but their peanut butter pie? It's to die for, as well. Drove up to Wade's and the line was out the door, at least twenty deep. Just couldn't wait. I used Navigator on my phone to see hat was nearby. It's really helpful in that you know how close you are to other restaurants, but other than that? No clue about whether they're any good.
Ian came up with a brilliant idea: The Beacon. I'd seen in profiled on Food Network several months ago as part of Guy Fieri's show Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives. The Beacon was established in 1946 and has the distinction of being the US's second largest drive in.
What I remember about the show is the African-American guy who calls out your order to the kitchen after you tell it to him. His voice boomed the entire time we were there. The kitchen is immense. The best part of waiting for your order to arrive at the counter is the amount of time you get to watch all the cooks at their stations. One of the grills has at least 30 or 40 burgers frying. At another station, the hush puppy guy dipped out batter with a scoop and flung them into the deep fryer.
Most folks order burgers a-plenty. That signifies with fries and onion rings. I asked for the small flounder a-plenty and got an amazing amount of food. Really, enough for two or three people to share. I hated wasting much of the food, but I simply could not eat it all. The trick of surviving the Beacon is knowing what you're doing. And I didn't. I grew easily flustered as I moved my tray along the queue. My fish dinner took a bit to come out, so there were lots of other folks whose food appeared before mine did and so they'd bypass me and grab their plates.
One of the guys asked me two or three times what I ordered. At one point he set something next to me, but in a take out box, and I mistakenly thought it was mine. He corrected me when I tried to run off with it. I told him I was tired, hungry, and confused. Couldn't add "with child" to that list because the bump wasn't obvious. Just looked like a woman who likes her fried food.
Wish I'd had time to really study the menu beforehand, because I was at a loss for what to order. After we had our food and were sitting at the table, I had time to look it over carefully and found a plethora of organ meats. Well, just two, but that was enough: Gizzards and livers.
Been trying to decide whether to write one long post about the good, bad, and the ugly I ate in Florida last week, or to separate 'em out into 5 or 6 posts. Hope to decide soon. Was mentally blogging whilst vacationing, but lack of ready access to wifi curbed that.
In the meantime, want to share shots of our tomato plants. We've babied them, and tied up their lengthening arms when they threatened to stretch out into the yard. When we came back from Florida Ian was afraid Beefsteak was a goner. It's limbs grew so much, so quickly, that there were rips in them. But we tied them up and they seem to be thriving anyway.
Keep referring to Beefsteak as Beefeater. Yup, you know what's on my mind. How I'd dearly love a beefeater and tonic. But alas, cannot imbibe alcohol in my state.
Mr. Stripy? Oh Mr. Stripy we thought you'd never produce any tomatoes, you're so slow. But yellow flowers appeared and I knew that soon little tomato buds would soon follow.
Hate that I have to wait so long to harvest tomatoes from my own container garden. We planted these on May Day.