Friday, March 30, 2012

Shuck Beans: An Old Appalachian Tradition

Anybody else ever heard of or grew up eating "shuck" beans? The first time I tasted this unbelievably yummy delicacy was at my in-laws house, and my husband's stepmother (who is from Harlan, Kentucky) had been cooking them all day. She had purchased them at the local farmer's market (you cannot find these at the grocery store) but apparently folks used to make them from pole beans growing in the garden.

Oh. my. goodness. That's one good 'mess' of beans!

These shuck beans were out-of-this-world awesome. Especially delicious with cornbread. I decided I must learn more about where I could get these amazing beans. I quickly learned that shuck beans were an old southern tradition, a type of "greasy" or "half-runner" bean that had been dried in its shuck. Some people use plain old Kentucky Wonder beans too. To dry the beans, thread them with a needle and string them up to dry until they rattle in their shucks. They require a good soaking overnight and the next day they can be cooked down on the stove for at least 5-6 hours or longer with some type of salt pork or bacon. Some people will cook theirs with potatoes or various spices.

All I know is that I cannot wait for my pole beans and greasy beans to start producing so that by autumn I can cook my very first batch of shuck beans. Makes me hungry just thinking about it!

P.S. I will post pictures for you once I've made my first batch! 

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Grapevine Wreaths

I love a classic grapevine wreath.

They are so simple and if you have an abundance of grapevines and can make your own for free! Grapevine wreaths can dress up almost any room to bring a little nature inside. They are also easy to adapt to the changing seasons.

I usually don't decorate much for spring, but I couldn't resist walking around the yard today and clipping little bits of this and that to add to my wreaths. I used a few bunches of fresh creeping thyme, a few clips of forsythia, and some tiny wildflowers growing in the grass.

Spring is truly here in the Piedmont of North Carolina--my tulips are blooming, my pink peach blossoms have popped, and the Redbuds are looking brilliant in their shades of lavender and fuchsia. I never knew how beautiful Redbud trees could be in the Spring until I moved down North Carolina.

I used to hate Spring because it was often so cold and rainy, not truly warming up until May. But down here in the Old North State, Spring is one of the most beautiful and savored times of the year.

The chickens really enjoy Spring too....sometimes a little too much (like when I have to scold them for eating the buds off the azalea bushes or taking bites out of the pansy petals). 

Happy Spring,

Friday, March 16, 2012

St. Patrick's Day Treats

I've been in the mood to bake lately and what better way to celebrate St. Patty's Day than with a brown sugar pound cake and coffee with homemade Irish Cream?

I will admit, I am addicted to Irish Cream flavoring in my coffee. I hated it when Starbucks discontinued until I found Caribou Coffee who still carried it. Just recently, Caribou discontinued it as well. Nooooo!!!!! I was so disappointed. Where will I get my Irish Cream? Well, this recipe from 52 Kitchen Adventures is for real Irish Cream, different than the flavoring but it still tastes great in coffee.

Homemade Irish Cream:

1 cup heavy cream
14 oz. sweet and condensed milk
1/3 cup Irish Whiskey (I used much less in mine, adjust it to your taste)
2 tbsp chocolate syrup
1 tsp instant coffee
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract

Blend all ingredients together in a blender. Put in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to 1 month. 

Now for the cake part......not exactly how I imagined it would turn out. I had big plans to bake a Brown Sugar Pound Cake with Caramel Glaze using the recipe from Southern Cakes by Nancie McDermott. I have made this cake before, but this time I managed to ruin it by lazily using Pam spray instead of greasing the pan with coconut oil like I should have. So, for all you beginning bakers out there, DO NOT USE PAM SPRAY!  It is evil. It ruined my pound cake by essentially boiling the edges of the cake so that the cake stuck to the sides of the bundt pan.

Even as a crumbled mess, the brown sugar pound cake still tasted great with its caramel glaze (just not too pretty)!

Now if I can only remember to wear green this St. Patrick's Day.....hope yours is a fun one!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

National Register of Historic Places Workshop: Part 2

Welcome to the second part of the National Register nomination workshop! Be sure to check out Part 1 in this series of posts in case you missed it- it is very important! Today we will focus on the background research and documentation that is necessary to complete the nomination form.

In order to compose a proper history and description for your historic property's nomination, you must first do your research. This will involve physically investigating and documenting the site as well as research at your local library, archives, historical society and/or court house on the history of your property. Key topics you will want to be thinking about besides the architectural features and physical description of the property are:

- geographical features
-owner history
-architect or builder
-changes to the property over time
-construction methods
-form and style of the property
-historic contexts
-association with important events or people
-how unique or rare your property type and its features are to your region

For advice on how to to better discover your home's history (the methods of which can be applied to any property), visit this post.

Developing appropriate historic contexts is a very important part of the nomination. Whether that context be architecture, agriculture, politics, military, or an aspect of social history, it is critical that you provide enough historical background information to illustrate how your historic property contributes to a greater historic context. For more information on preparing the essays for various contexts, refer to National Register Bulletins 15 and 39.

Documenting your property with sketches and photography is equally as important as recording its architectural features in writing. You will want to take a liberal amount of digital photos, especially since you can always delete the unnecessary ones later. Take overall shots of the house from each angle, of each elevation, and be sure to capture architectural details as well as larger context shots.

It is a good idea to also sketch a floor plan of the property if you do not already have one available to you. If you are documenting a farm complex or group of properties that go together, sketch out a map of the entire complex property showing the relationship of the various buildings to each other and to other nearby geographical features.

I hope this has helped shed some light on the National Register nomination process. Stay tuned for future workshops that will focus on making a case for your property's significance and completing the nomination form itself. Have fun researching!