Easter Dinner – Honey Baked Ham

Make your own version of this Easter favorite!

Ingredients:

1 fully-cooked shank half ham , bone in (pre-sliced is best)

1/4 cup white sugar

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup honey

¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

¼ teaspoon ground cloves

1⁄8; teaspoon paprika

1 dash ground ginger

1 dash ground allspice

Directions:

First you must slice your ham, if it is not already sliced. Use a very sharp knife to cut the ham into very thin slices around the bone.

Do not cut all the way to the bone or the meat may not hold together properly as it is being glazed. You want the slices to be quite thin, but not so thin that they begin to fall apart of off the bone.

You may wish to turn the ham onto its flat end and cut around it starting at the bottom. You can then spin the ham as you slice around and work your way up.

Mix the ingredients together in a small bowl. (I like to make double this recipe for a nice large ham).

Lay down a couple sheets of wax paper onto a flat surface, such as your kitchen counter. Pour the honey/sugar mixture onto the wax paper and spread it around evenly.

Pick up the ham and roll it over the sugar mixture so that it is well coated. Do not coat the flat end of the ham, just the outer surface which you have sliced through.

Turn the ham onto its flat end on a plate. Use a kitchen torch with a medium-size flame to caramelize the sugar.

Wave the torch over the sugar with rapid movements, so that the sugar bubbles and browns, but does not burn. Spin the plate so that you can torch the entire surface of the ham.

Repeat the coating and caramelizing process until the ham has been well-glazed (don’t expect to use all of the sugar mixture).

Serve the ham cold or re-heat.

L.J.’s Honey Hot Fudge Sauce

hot_fudge_sauce_646

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you’ve heard me talk about my mother, L.J.

“L.J”. is short for Lois Jean. I didn’t know what her real name was until I entered grade school.

I adored her.  She was blonde, beautiful, smart, funny, irreverent, and a fantastic cook.

I grew up in Louisville, where cooking is an art form. My mother was legendary. Our friends and relatives still rave about her dinner parties and holiday buffets.

I’ve posted many of her recipes, the most popular ones on my blog. I’ll be posting her Easter Menu in a day or so.

But her Hot Fudge Sauce… She used to tell me it didn’t have any calories. I desperately wanted to believe her. It is so darn good!

I think of her every day and wish she were still around to help me tend my bees, garden and cook.

She lives on through her recipes though. Especially the one for Hot Fudge Sauce.  🙂

Honey Hot Fudge Sauce

Ingredients

1 12 ounce bag of  semisweet chocolate chips . (L.J. used Nestle’s but I like Ghirardelli.)

1/2 cup heavy cream

1/4 cup honey

Directions

Place the cream into a microwave glass bowl.  Add the chips and microwave for 2 minutes. (L.J. used a double boiler. Feel free to use one too!)

Remove from microwave and stir.

Add honey and stir.

Refrigerate until cold or reheat for hot fudge sauce.

Serve over ice cream.  Whipped cream may be added, but is superfluous. 🙂

The Full Pink Moon

13mar26_430

The March 2013 full moon will be out all night on March 26, shining in front of the constellation Virgo the Maiden. 

The moon turns precisely full on March 27 at 9:27 Universal Time (4:27 a.m. CDT in the central U.S.). In North America, that means the moon reaches the crest of full phase in the wee hours before sunrise on March 27. But no matter where you live worldwide, watch for the brilliant lamp of the full moon to light up the nighttime from dusk till dawn. Look for the moon low in the east at dusk – at its highest point in the sky around midnight – and low in the west before the sun comes up.

Photo credit: Aunt Owwee

For the Northern Hemisphere, this is the first full moon of springtime. We in this hemisphere call it the Pink Moon, to celebrate the return of certain wild flowers. Other names are Egg Moon, Sprouting Grass Moon, or Easter Moon. In most years, the Christian celebration of Easter falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon of the Northern Hemisphere spring. So tonight’s Easter Moon heralds the coming of Easter Sunday on March 31, 2013.

In the Southern Hemisphere, this is the first full moon of autumn. It’s the Southern Hemisphere’s Harvest Moon – the closest full moon to the autumn equinox. The Harvest Moon ushers in the year’s longest procession of moonlit nights, because the moon rises fairly soon after sunset for several nights in a row. If you live at middle or far southerly latitudes, look for the moon to shine from dusk till dawn for a few to several days in succession.

The first full moon to follow the March equinox faithfully shines in front of Virgo, the harvest goddess, to signal the change of seasons. Watch the March full moon shine all night from sundown to sunup.

The constellation Virgo. Image credit: Wikipedia

 

Welcome To Spring!

Welcome to the first day of spring!

festivalspringequinox

The vernal equinox occurred this morning (in case you felt something unusual happening…)

It’s the moment when the earth’s axis is not turned toward the sun (summer, for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere), or away from it (winter), but is aligned with the center of the sun.

vernal_equinox_rites_of_spring_poster-rf993d1661b41491c9c2a8ac9308185f4_2em9_216

The word equinox comes from Latin: aequus means equal, level, or calm; nox means night, or darkness. The equinox, in spring or fall, is a time when the day and night are as close to equal as they ever are, and when the hours of night are exactly equal for people living equidistant from the equator either north or south.

It also marks the date when gardeners begin their work for the growing season. Margaret Atwood wrote:

“Gardening is not a rational act. What matters is the immersion of the hands in the earth, that ancient ceremony of which the Pope kissing the tarmac is merely a pallid vestigial remnant. In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.”

The Return of Persephone

The Return of Persephone

People have celebrated the vernal equinox for centuries. For ancient cultures, the vernal equinox signaled that their food supplies would soon return.

Early Egyptians even built the Great Sphinx of Giza so that it points directly toward the rising sun on the day of the vernal equinox.

In Christianity, the vernal equinox is significant because Easter always falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox.

The word Ostara is just one of the names applied to the celebration of the spring equinox. The Venerable Bede said the origin of the word is actually from Eostre, a Germanic goddess of spring. It is also the origin of our word Easter.

Ostara

Ostara

Spring equinox signals fertility, both for plants and animals.  In medieval societies in Europe, the March hare was viewed as a major fertility symbol — this is a species of rabbit that is nocturnal most of the year, but in March when mating season begins, there are bunnies everywhere all day long. The males are so frisky that they get frustrated when rebuffed by their mates, and bounce around erratically. Hence the expression “mad as a March hare.”

For years I believed that special astronomical properties of the vernal equinox make it possible to balance eggs on end. This year I found out it is totally untrue.

It’s actually possible to balance eggs on end any day of the year. It just takes a lot of patience and determination. There’s nothing magical about the vernal equinox that makes it any easier to balance an egg on end.

Bummer!

Making Mead The Easy Way?

I received a lovely comment yesterday from Alicia over at Boozed + Infused (try her recipe for Caramel Apple Liqueur!), and it reminded me that I haven’t posted a mead recipe yet.

There is a very good reason for this.

Every mead recipe I have seen is so complicated that my head starts to hurt and I have to go lie down for a while. 

Mead is a delicious wine brewed from honey.

Delicious Mead!

The problem is that most mead recipes call for a lot of special equipment including an airlock and a glass carboy(My head is starting to hurt already…)

Special Mead-Making Equipment!

I figured there had to be an easier way. After all, people have been making mead for thousands of years.

I finally located a recipe that doesn’t require special equipment and is almost easy to make.  If I start today, I can have four bottles of mead ready by next Easter!

Ingredients:

1 Gallon of Spring Water (room temperature, do not get refrigerated)
3 pounds of honey – pure unprocessed
1 bag of balloons that are big enough to stretch over the mouth of the spring water jug
1 package of Fleischmann’s Yeast
1 box of raisins
1 Orange

If you would like to add a bit of spice to this recipe, you can add 1 or 2 cloves. But be careful, they are very strong so don’t put more than 2.

How to make the Mead

Pour about half of the water into a clean container then slice up your orange into eighths and put the slices, honey, twenty-five raisins, and the yeast into the jug. Pour some water back into the jug so the level is a couple of inches from the top then put the cap on it and shake it up well. If you can, you should shake it for a good five minutes. This will aerate the mixture. The yeast really needs lots of oxygen to grow vigorously.

Now poke a pinhole in the top of the balloon, remove the cap from your jug and put the balloon right over the mouth of the jug. Stretch the open end of the balloon right over the jug so that as the gases form inside the jug they will inflate the balloon. Put a rubber band or tape around the neck to keep it firmly in place -if it feels like it might come off. Leave it out on a counter for the first day so you can monitor it.

Somewhere between an hour and twenty-four hours later the balloon will start to inflate. This is a great sign. It means that your yeast is transforming the contents of the jug into wine. Gases are forming inside the jug and are escaping through the pinhole. This setup insures gases escape but no contaminants get into your brew.

If the balloon is getting big you may need to poke another hole or two in it. You don’t want it to burst. It would leave your mead open to contamination. Once you are satisfied that the gases are escaping and the balloon is not under unusual stress you can set the jug in a cool dry place like a kitchen cabinet or closet shelf. Check on it every day if you can just to make sure it is okay and the balloon hasn’t popped off.  If the balloon starts to age, just replace it with another balloon.

After two to three weeks, most of the fermentation will be done and the balloon will be limp. At this point you can taste a little bit to see how it is coming along but it isn’t really a tasty wine at this point.

It will need another couple of months to start to get delicious.   (At this point in the recipe, I had to lie down for a few minutes…)

Over time, as you check on it you will notice that the cloudiness disappears and it slowly clarifies and transforms into wine.

The orange and the raisins can stay in the mixture for the whole duration, but if you want to make the mead a little milder and help it clarify faster, you can transfer the liquid into another clean gallon jug and place the balloon on that one. This would be after the two to three week fermentation period is over. This process is called racking and it will move your mead along nicely.

Some Tips
You can make the honey easier to pour by letting it stand in a sink or bowl of warm water. And you can experiment with the flavor a bit by adding a cinnamon stick or a pinch of nutmeg to the batch when you add the orange. Don’t leave out the raisins. They are not there for taste. They are a necessary food for the yeast because honey is a bit low in the nutrients that yeast like. If the honey is a bit expensive you can cut this down to two pounds. Any quantity between two and three and a half pounds will work well, and the more honey you put the sweeter the mead will be. But the more honey you put the longer it will take to mature.

Finally
Be patient and taste your mead every few weeks. It should be really clear and delicious after a few months. It will continue to age and improve over a long period of time so the longer you wait, the better it will get. Try to wait six months if you can!

If you are struggling with waiting, then you should probably make another batch. (Or buy some at the liquor store…)

Good Luck!!

Pimiento Cheese And Benedictine

Looking for a different appetizer for Easter? Here are two delicious dips/spreads which are easy to make and absolutely delicious.

My beloved mother L.J. was a fantastic Southern cook. Growing up in Louisville, my brothers and I had the best packed lunches in town. Two of her specialities were Pimiento Cheese and Benedictine.

Pimiento Cheese

In the 1900s during the Great Depression, the pimiento pepper grew in abundance in Southern states. The state of Georgia was even known as the ‘Pimiento Capital of the World’.

It was the abundance of the pimiento peppers that sealed the deal for pimiento cheese to become a Southern staple. The basic recipe is extremely inexpensive using only grated sharp cheddar, mayo and pimiento peppers, which is why it was so utilized during those tough Depression years.

But now the spread is so popular that restaurants all over the country have come up with gourmet versions to put on burgers, use as fritters, in grits and stuff into a great summer tomato.

They even serve pimiento cheese sandwiches wrapped in green wax paper at the Master’s Golf Tournament in Augusta, Georgia.

Ingredients

4 oz. extra-sharp Vermont white or yellow cheddar finely grated (1 1/2 cups)
half a jar of pimento (3 oz.), drained, finely chopped (1/4 cup)
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
salt to taste
4 slices of good whole-wheat bread, crusts discarded (optional)
4 thin slices Vidalia or other sweet onion
1 cup watercress sprigs, tough stems discarded

Directions

1. Mash cheese, pimento, mayonnaise, and hot pepper sauce in a small bowl with a fork until well combined.
2. Season with salt to taste.
3. Cover and chill 1 hour for flavors to blend.
4. Spread pimento cheese evenly on bread.
5. Top with onions and watercress sprigs.
Cut each sandwich into triangles and serve.

Benedictine

This  famous cucumber spread was created by one of Louisville’s most famous residents, Jennie C. Benedict. Setting the highest of culinary standards, “Miss Jennie” was also a successful businesswoman, a writer who for a time served as editor of The Courier-Journal’s Household section, and an important community volunteer.

Miss Jennie was a wonderful cook and busy caterer.  Her most famous recipe is the one that keeps Miss Jennie’s name on Louisville lips. Benedictine.

Ingredients

· 8 ounces of cream cheese, softened
· 3 tablespoons cucumber juice
· 1 tablespoon onion juice
· 1 teaspoon salt
· a few grains of cayenne pepper
· 2 drops green food coloring

Directions

To get the juice, peel and grate a cucumber, then wrap in a clean dish towel and squeeze juice into a dish. Discard pulp. Do the same for the onion. Mix all ingredients with a fork until well blended. Using a blender will make the spread too runny.”

 

Honey Glazed Baby Carrots

Another Recipe for Easter Dinner!!

Ingredients

  • Salt
  • 1 pound baby carrots
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

Directions

In a medium saucepan, bring water to a boil. Add salt and then carrots and cook until tender, 5 to 6 minutes. Drain the carrots and add back to pan with butter, honey and lemon juice. Cook until a glaze coats the carrots, 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and garnish with parsley.

Honey Glazed Ham

Another lovely recipe for Easter!

Ingredients:

1 fully-cooked shank half ham , bone in (pre-sliced is best)

1/4 cup white sugar

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup honey

¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

¼ teaspoon ground cloves

1⁄8; teaspoon paprika

1 dash ground ginger

1 dash ground allspice

Directions:

First you must slice your ham, if it is not already sliced. Use a very sharp knife to cut the ham into very thin slices around the bone.

Do not cut all the way to the bone or the meat may not hold together properly as it is being glazed. You want the slices to be quite thin, but not so thin that they begin to fall apart of off the bone.

You may wish to turn the ham onto its flat end and cut around it starting at the bottom. You can then spin the ham as you slice around and work your way up.

Mix the ingredients together in a small bowl. (I like to make double this recipe for a nice large ham).

Lay down a couple sheets of wax paper onto a flat surface, such as your kitchen counter. Pour the honey/sugar mixture onto the wax paper and spread it around evenly.

Pick up the ham and roll it over the sugar mixture so that it is well coated. Do not coat the flat end of the ham, just the outer surface which you have sliced through.

Turn the ham onto its flat end on a plate. Use a kitchen torch with a medium-size flame to caramelize the sugar.

Wave the torch over the sugar with rapid movements, so that the sugar bubbles and browns, but does not burn. Spin the plate so that you can torch the entire surface of the ham.

Repeat the coating and caramelizing process until the ham has been well-glazed (don’t expect to use all of the sugar mixture).

Serve the ham cold or re-heat.

Honey Rosemary Roast Leg of Lamb

It’s almost Easter!  Time to start thinking about menus.

What better combination than honey, rosemary, and lamb! This is a delicious recipe, and perfect for any spring dinner.

Ingredients

1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons prepared Dijon-style mustard
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon lemon zest
3 cloves garlic, minced
5 pounds whole leg of lamb
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt

Directions

In a small bowl, combine the honey, mustard, rosemary, ground black pepper, lemon zest and garlic. Mix well and apply to the lamb. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator overnight.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C).

Place lamb on a rack in a roasting pan and sprinkle with salt to taste.

Bake at 450 degrees F (230 degrees C) for 20 minutes, then reduce heat to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C) and roast for 55 to 60 more minutes for medium rare. The internal temperature should be at least 145 degrees F (63 degrees C) when taken with a meat thermometer. Let the roast rest for about 10 minutes before carving.

A Celebration Of The Vernal Equinox

Today is the Vernal Equinox, a time to celebrate the renewal and rebirth in the world around us.

As Earth revolves around the sun, there are two days each year when the sun is exactly above the equator. These days — called “equinoxes” — occur around March 20 or 21 and September 22 or 23.

Equinox literally means “equal night,” since the length of day and night is nearly equal in all parts of the world during this time.

The March equinox marks when the northern hemisphere starts to tilt toward the sun, which means longer, sunnier days. In the northern hemisphere, the March equinox is called the “vernal equinox” because it signals the beginning of spring (“vernal” means fresh or new like the spring). The September equinox is called the “autumnal equinox” because it marks the first day of autumn.

People have celebrated the vernal equinox for centuries. For ancient cultures, the vernal equinox signaled that their food supplies would soon return.

Early Egyptians even built the Great Sphinx of Giza so that it points directly toward the rising sun on the day of the vernal equinox.

In Christianity, the vernal equinox is significant because Easter always falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox.

The word Ostara is just one of the names applied to the celebration of the spring equinox. The Venerable Bede said the origin of the word is actually from Eostre, a Germanic goddess of spring. It is also the origin of our word Easter.

Spring equinox signals fertility, both for plants and animals.  In medieval societies in Europe, the March hare was viewed as a major fertility symbol — this is a species of rabbit that is nocturnal most of the year, but in March when mating season begins, there are bunnies everywhere all day long. The males are so frisky that they get frustrated when rebuffed by their mates, and bounce around erratically. Hence the expression “mad as a March hare.”

For years I believed that special astronomical properties of the vernal equinox make it possible to balance eggs on end. This year I found out it is totally untrue.

It’s actually possible to balance eggs on end any day of the year. It just takes a lot of patience and determination. There’s nothing magical about the vernal equinox that makes it any easier to balance an egg on end.

Bummer!