If you’ve spent any amount of time at The Factory you know a thing or two about biscuits. There’s at least a dozen different recipes in the Alabama Chanin library, and Natalie can make some of the most flakey mouthwatering creations you’ve ever tasted with no measuring cup in sight, all while wrangling a six year old.
My grandmother had similar powers, but they must skip two generations as I haven’t quite mastered the technique. However, what I lack in skill, I make up for in appreciation. So when the opportunity to attend the International Biscuit Festival and Southern Food Writing Conference presented itself, my heart nearly leapt out of my chest. Storytelling, biscuits, Blackberry Farm = “Yes, Please”.
With the introduction of the Firefox Book Series on Monday, we began our two week discussion of modern homesteading.
Modern homesteading sounds like an oxymoron; I prefer to think of it as a simple lifestyle adapted to contemporary times. Technology has made leaps and bounds since the 1970s when the Firefox series was written. We do and make things differently now, but often times seek the very same outcome. We have traded in the act (art) of “making” in order to, well, “make” our lives easier. On Monday, we shared an article on Facebook that further discusses (criticizes?) the modern DIY movement.
Apple Butter, like most food, is a good example of this shift from making a product in the traditional way to producing in a more convenient manner. Apple Butter was a staple in my home growing up and my daughter has a new-found love of the spread.
Thank you to the Wall Street Journal for including me for their “In My Kitchen” series. “Crafty Cook Natalie Chanin” by Charlotte Druckman (who was a pleasure to work with).
Here you have the full interview (with a small disclaimer) and the recipes for the full menu we cooked that day:
“I GOT MY NICKNAME from biscuits,” said Natalie “Alabama” Chanin, the force behind the handcrafted clothing and housewares company Alabama Chanin, based in Florence, Ala. She earned the moniker a dozen years ago after baking her signature buttery discs for a group of hungry strangers while on vacation in Venezuela. “They called it ‘pan de Alabama’ [Alabama bread] and they’d call me that, too,” she said. That same generous spirit is one of the defining principles of her business practice—she recently introduced a line of table linens at a more accessible price point than the rest of her wares, and she makes it a point to employ local seamstresses and pay them a living wage.
A few weeks back I hosted a small outdoor Wednesday night dinner to welcome friends Nathalie Jordi and Brett Anderson to Florence (and to celebrate my new deck).
Last month, I had the incredible honor of hosting a studio visit from three amazing women who have inspired me for years. On a beautiful summer day, Rosanne Cash, Gael Towey, and Maira Kalman arrived in Florence for a two day sewing workshop and adventure. The idea for the trip was hatched on a spring afternoon in New York City and I can hardly believe that it actually happened. With incredibly busy schedules, these three women cleared their calendars, bought their tickets, organized their lives, picked up their daughters, and headed south. Gael Towey (an incredible woman who has shaped the look of modern life as we know it) wrote about their Alabama adventure for Martha Stewart’s “Up Close and Personal Blog”. I spent an amazing afternoon with Gael talking about all things design and inspiration… that post will be coming in the next weeks.
Magpie + RUTH, my son Zach’s catering company, made a fantastic lunch for us each day. The bread pudding recipe below was a favorite with the entire crew, our Alabama Chanin team, and the photo above a favorite with our Facebook followers.
The warm months in the south are a little extra-warm for us in the studio, so we are always looking for an excuse to cool down- even when having our afternoon coffee. What better way to cool down your afternoon coffee than with ice cream?
The first time I had an affogato was at a friend’s home during one of her “fancy” dinner parties. She always had a knack for making me feel special, pulling out her best dishes, even when it was just the two of us.
Last week, during a photo shoot at my house for our new Indigo + Carmine pieces, my son Zach took time from his busy day of new fatherhood and running his growing catering company to make us lunch: a simple, delicious pizza piled with tomatoes.
This summer has been hard on my garden. Many of my herbs have simply withered away, and my tomatoes have been scorched in the harsh sun. Between the drought and my absence in travels, I’m surprised (and thankful) I’ve managed to gather a few heirloom tomatoes.
From Alabama Stitch Book, page 94:
One day when I was feeling a bit down, my friend Jen Rausch called. She told me I was allowed 20 minutes of self-pity, but then I was to get up and get on with my work. A few hours later, Jen arrived at the office with a tray lined with a beautiful tea towel, which held a china bowl, a jar of warm soup, and some homemade whole-wheat crackers. I will always be grateful to Jen for that sweet gesture.
Today, I’m pairing Jen’s Whole-Wheat Crackers with Zach’s Farm Cheese for an afternoon snack at our photo shoot. These recipes are fitting for most any occasion and come with little prep-time.
JEN’S WHOLE-WHEAT CRACKERS
¾ cup vegetable oil
1 cup water
3 cups quick oats
2 cups whole-wheat flour
1 cup wheat germ
2 tablespoons sugar
½ teaspoon salt
Preheat the oven to about 300 to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Blend or beat the liquid ingredients, and pour them over the dry ingredients in a bowl. Mix, then roll out the dough on the bottom of two large baking sheets to the edges. Sprinkle with salt, and cut 2” squares. Bake for about 30-40 minutes or until crisp and golden brown.
Yield: Makes about forty 2”-square crackers.
My son Zach has a beautiful way of adapting traditional recipes in his cooking. For our studio lunches, he makes a salad with handmade, moist farm cheese crumbled on top. We also enjoy it (probably too much) with fresh baked bread and crackers.
Farm cheese got its name because all of its ingredients could be found on any farm. Many “well-off” households during my grandparents’ youth had their own farms, or at the very least, one cow to supply milk for the family.
This very simple recipe can be made with just a few ingredients from your refrigerator: milk, buttermilk, and lemon. My refrigerator is always stocked with organic milk. I have lemon, which I use for hot tea. And buttermilk often lingers after biscuit-making endeavors on the weekends.
The added convenience is farm cheese is fast and easy to make. It requires no special equipment, except cheesecloth.
Every summer in our part of the world is hot, so hot that you barely want to move. And this summer seems particularly, endlessly hot. By the end of August, we will all be looking forward to the coolness that comes with fall. Until then, Maggie and I are cooling off with afternoon dips in the pool, ice cream treats from our local shops, and recipes from People’s Pops: 55 Recipes for Ice Pops, Shave Ice, and Boozy Pops from Brooklyn’s Coolest Pop Shop - which can be compared to eating lightly sweetened, frozen fruit on a stick.
My friend Nathalie Jordi and her partners at People’s Pops started making their incredibly popular ice pops in Brooklyn, New York, during the summer of 2008. From their website, “We transform local, sustainably grown fruits and herbs into creative, delicious hand-made ice pops and shaved ice…” Check out their blog here.
Luckily for us, their book, the self titled People’s Pops, was released at the beginning of this summer season. Fitting their commitment to local, sustainable community, the recipes are organized by season, which makes it easy to select ingredients from the farmer’s market or right from the garden.
The book is a delight to the senses, filled with simple recipes using common popsicle ingredients like strawberries or cherries, and not-so-common ingredients like cucumber and violet, or honeydew and ginger. Jennifer May’s beautify photographs capture the popsicles’ textures and colors, and some of the many people who enjoy them. Reading through, it is hard to decide on which recipe to make first.