Upside Down Peach Cake

Peaches! My favorite fruit on this entire earth. I have yet to have any luck planting peach trees here on the farm. No luck, as in I killed two of them. Probably because I brought them home and then failed to put them in the ground for several months. Not my best plant parenting. Luckily, we are a stone’s throw away from the great peach producing state of South Carolina which actually out produces Georgia in peaches. This year I received a text from a friend that one of her other friends would be making a trip to a nearby peach farm and was willing to take orders. Between myself, my mother, and my mother-in-law we ordered two and a half, twenty-five pound boxes. I was in peach heaven!

We enjoyed a few fresh ones and froze the majority for future use, but one recipe that I absolutely had to make before the summer was over was this fantastic variation on Pineapple Upside Down Cake. I love it so much and will likely never make the traditional tropical version again if I have the option. Give it a try and see if you agree.

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 Upside Down Peach Cake

11 tbps unsalted butter, divided
3/4 cup light brown sugar
3-4 large peaches, peeled and sliced
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs, room temperature
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 tbps baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup whole milk

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Preheat the oven to 350 F. Using a 10” cast iron skillet, melt 3 tbps of butter over medium heat. Stir in the brown sugar and let melt until it melts and bubbles to make a sticky, thick syrup.

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Remove from heat and allow to cool five minutes. Place the peaches in the pan in a circular pattern.

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In a large mixing bowl, beat 8 tbps of butter with the sugar until fluffy. Beat in the vanilla then the eggs.

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In a separate bowl, mix the flower, baking powder, and salt. Stir half of the dry mixture into the wet mixture. Stir in the milk. Stir in the remaining dry mixture and stir just until mixed. Pour the batter of the peaches spreading it to the edges of the pan.

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Place in the preheated oven for 60 minutes or until the edges of the cake pull from the sides and a knife poked into the center of the cake comes out clean (pushed only through the cake portion, not the fruit).

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Allow the skillet to cool for 20 minutes before flipping it over onto the cake plate. Allow to cool slightly and then serve while still slightly warm (with vanilla ice cream as a bonus treat).

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Pimento Cheese

It took me a good couple of years to create the perfect pimento cheese recipe to fit my tastes. I searched and searched cook books and blogs for that tasty blend of smooth cheesy goodness and sharp pimento flavor. Alas, I was unsuccessful. Instead what I present to you here is a recipe that I built piece by piece during my search. For me what makes this recipe perfect is as much the technique as it is the ingredients. I want pimento cheese to have a smooth texture and consistent flavor in each bite. I loathe tasting chunks of sharp cheddar or bland cream cheese in a spread. I believe that use of the electric mixer for this recipe is key.

PIMENTO CHEESE

8 oz cream cheese at room temperature (Not the end of the world if you forget to set it out and it is still firm from the fridge. You will just have to blend with the mixer longer.)
1 cup finely grated mild cheddar cheese (MUST be fine grated and MUST be mild)
1 cup finely grated  monterey jack cheese  (again, MUST be fine grated)
(Note: Two cups of a mild colby jack blend works well here, just make sure it is finely grated)
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp black pepper
1 fresh pimento
1-2 fresh jalapeno peppers (option)
(Note: For this particular batch I used dehydrated pimentos and jalapenos from our Spring 2015 garden. Dehydration removes many of the oils from hot peppers giving them a much milder flavor when re-hydrated. I am not a fan of super hot heat in this recipe, but using the dehydrated peppers gives the perfect balance of jalapeno flavor and just a hint of heat. Below are photos of the dehydrated peppers when they first hit the water and then about two hours later.)

 

Dice the pimentos (and optional jalapenos if using – removing the seeds to reduce the heat if desired) in a food processor and pulse until the peppers are very finely minced and blended well.

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Place the pepper mixture along with all other ingredients in an upright stand mixer with the paddle attachment (a hand held mixer would work just as well). Blend on low to medium speed until all ingredients are well incorporated and you can no longer distinguish the individual ingredients except for the bits of pepper.

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Serve immediately with crackers, fresh veggies, or on sandwich bread. Place left overs in a resealable container and place in the fridge.

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Happy Homesteading and God Bless!

Jennifer

Spring Ducklings

Spring is just around the corner which means chicks and ducklings are starting to appear in the local farm supply and feed stores. I am of the opinion that there is not much in this world that is cuter than a baby duck. This also means I cannot be trusted to enter one of these establishments unattended this time of year. I did just that last week and brought home seven ducklings labeled “mixed ducklings”. I was able to avoid the bin of fluffy, yellow, pekins ducks; but this group of ducklings that I knew to be four khaki campbells and three mallards was calling my name. I heard them. Clearly.

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Now, I don’t recommend giving into the cuteness of a duckling unless you are well prepared for the long term commitment of caring for them. And be aware that they are MESSY, MESSY, MESSY. I knew we had all the needed supplies for a good set up at home so justifying my poor decision making skills that day was easy. Now I am back into the routine of raising ducklings just like this time last year. Let me share that routine with you now, but first look how cute they are when they fall asleep in a heap!

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Since the outside temperatures at night are still quiet chilly and we have two outdoor farm cats, I elected to set up the brooder for these guys inside our utility room. I use a shallow rolling storage tub which they will outgrown quickly, but hopefully not before the cool nights are past us. I also use a heat lamp both clamped and tied to a shelf next to the brooder. I absolutely do not trust a clamped heat lamp to not fall and risk injury to the birds or fire to the house. Heat lamps are always either tied directly to a secure structure or placed directly on top of wire brooder tops where falling is not a concern. I also double check they they are not too close to anything plastic (including the tub itself) to cause melting or fire.

I use a towel for bedding in lieu of shavings as it is easier to clean. Twice a day I shake the towel out in the yard and toss it in the wash putting a fresh towel down in the brooder. In the morning I do this along with refilling the feeder and water while the ducklings enjoy a shallow bath in the tub. Pine shavings were what I first used for bedding, but I found these more cumbersome to clean up after plus they are ONE MORE THING we have to buy from the feed store when we go that route.

Water is very important for ducks. While they do not have to have a pool or pond to live happily, they do need access to water deep enough to bath and keep their nostrils cleaned out. They clean their nostrils by dunking their head under the water and blowing outward. It is extremely entertaining to watch along with all their other swimming antics. Ducklings should never have access to swimming water unattended. They tire easily and so should be placed in water shallow enough to stand in. Indoor bath tubs are great because of the slight slant they have towards the drain. This allows for one end to be shallow enough to sit/stand in while the other end is deep enough for them to float and swim. They have yet to grow those waterproof feathers the adults have so if they are in water too long they can become soaked and catch a chill which can be dangerous for a duckling. This also means you’ll have to dry them off completely with a towel before returning them to the brooder.

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All in all it probably only takes me fifteen minutes twice a day to care for the ducklings. Not much at all, but absolutely necessary if they are to survive and thrive. I love having a flock of ducks in the yard. They are beautiful and so much fun to watch. Not to mention the benefit of duck eggs when the hens reach laying age. They are also delicious as a meat source, but I enjoy them too much in the yard to ever consider them as anything other than a beloved pet. They also help tremendously with yard bugs including fleas and ticks. I highly recommend them for a homestead farm.

Happy Homesteading and God Bless!

Jennifer