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An early Christmas present. December 4, 2008

Posted by ourfriendben in Ben Franklin, critters, homesteading, recipes, Uncategorized, wit and wisdom.
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Thanks to all of you, we here at Poor Richard’s Almanac—our friend Ben, Silence Dogood, and Richard Saunders—got an early Christmas present this year: We just passed the 50,000 visitor mark on our blog!!!

Alert readers will note that our Sitemeter shows 40,075 visits, and may think we need glasses like our blog mentor and hero, Ben Franklin. But we haven’t lost our minds or our eyesight—being Luddites, it just took us a very long time to think of adding Sitemeter to our site, and then we had to persuade a tech-savvy friend to set it up for us. Fortunately, WordPress also tracks visits to the site, and it’s through them that we know that Poor Richard’s has racked up 50,136 visits since we started our blog back in February. We can’t think of a better Christmas present! Thank you all for coming to see us, coming back, and commenting. We love you!!!

We remember promising when we reached 35,000 visits that we’d do something special to mark 50,000. So Silence is going to give you a sinfully rich-tasting yet surprisingly simple recipe that you’ll have no trouble finding time to make even during the hectic holiday season. Richard promises to provide a little-known fact about the Founding Father of your choice. (Let him know via the comments section who you’d like to know more about. He swears that even if 38 of you ask for obscure facts about, say, George Washington, he’ll dig up 38 different things. So don’t be shy! Who knows what we’ll all learn!) And our friend Ben will reveal little-known facts about Silence—just kidding, Silence! ow!!!—I mean, our friend Ben will, uh, er, um…

[Silence, breaking in] Our friend Ben will finally shut up?

[OFB] Grrrr! How about this: Our friend Ben will provide interesting facts about any creature, from your favorite dinosaur or trilobite to jellyfish and woodpeckers. You have only to ask, and I will answer! So okay, Richard and I are standing by, waiting for your calls, uh, comments. Meanwhile, let’s turn the post over to Silence so she can give you that recipe (and trust me, it’s a winner!):

Silence Dogood here. Cold weather calls for hot comfort foods, right? And what could be more comforting than a baked apple? But baked apples can get a little, well, boring. As a child, I loved caramel apples, and I still think of them fondly. But I don’t make them—too much melted-caramel mess, too much trauma to the teeth—and I don’t want a cold dessert when it’s cold outside, anyway. So I decided to go for the best of both worlds, a sinfully decadent caramelized baked apple. These luscious apples take an hour to bake, but ten minutes to make, so you can pop them in the oven as you’re getting supper ready and enjoy the tantalizing aroma throughout the meal, then serve them up for dessert. Ice cream lovers can top them with vanilla or caramel swirl ice cream, but we purists love them as is. Try them and see what you think!

          Silence’s Baked Caramel Apples

Buy one large, tart baking apple, such as a ‘Granny Smith’,  for each person. (Don’t use ‘Delicious’ apples, please—they’re only good fresh.)  Wash and core the apples, making an ample space in the middle of each, and compost the cores. (We always save one for our golden retriever, Molly, who relishes them.) Pour apple cider in the bottom of an oven-proof baking dish so it’s about 1/2 inch deep. Arrange the apples in the dish. Add a pat of butter and a teaspoon of brown sugar to the cider for every apple. In the hollow center of each apple, add another pat of butter, another heaping teaspoon of brown sugar, and raisins to fill. (We like a mix of raisins, but if you only add one kind, use golden raisins.) If you’re a nut person, mix broken pecan pieces with the raisins before stuffing the apples. And yes, you can add a pinch of ground cinnamon and/or cloves if you want; but much as I love both cinnamon and cloves, I think they complicate the caramel flavor unnecessarily in this case. Bake for an hour at 350 degrees F. and serve, pouring the thickened cider sauce over each apple. Yum!!!

By the way, you can use the leftover cider to make hot mulled cider by adding Gosling’s Black Label Rum (our favorite) to taste and a stick or two of cinnamon plus four whole cloves to a quart of cider (minus the amount used for the apples) in a pan. (Heat the cider with the spices, then add the rum once it’s hot and serve.) But don’t make this luscious drink the same night you make the caramel apples—that’s too much apple for anybody!

Enjoy these yummy apples, and again, thank you so much for bringing Poor Richard’s Almanac to this milestone. Y’all come back now, hear?!!

            —our friend Ben, Silence Dogood, and Richard Saunders



1. fairegarden - December 4, 2008

Hi group, many congrats on that milestone. Boy you get a lot of visitors! I tried to add mine up but the switch to wordpress from blogger really but a kink in the number crunching. That is a delicious recipe and I am thinking the rum cider one sounds really good too. Anything warm down the gullet with the cold wet weather we have been having, very unusual for us too. I would like to know some facts about Thomas Jefferson. He is my favorite president, no matter his sins. The gardener connection I think. And for OFB, I would like to know more about the pileated woodpecker. Thanks for all the fun stuff!

Thanks, Frances! Richard says: Mr. Jefferson’s sins could pretty squarely be blamed on his wife, who died young and much-beloved by him. She made him promise on her deathbed never to remarry. And he honored that promise, after a fashion. George Washington shared a love of plants and gardening with Mr. Jefferson, a predilection not seen again in the White House until Lady Bird Johnson accompanied her husband there.

As for the wonderful pileated woodpecker, here are some random observations: Pileateds are the largest woodpeckers in North America, reaching 16 1/2 inches long, unless you happen to see a (possibly extinct) ivory-billed woodpecker, which is 19 1/2 inches long. Both males and females have red triangular crests (“pileatus” is Latin for “crested”). Pileated woodpeckers live in wooded areas and are most common in the Southeast; we had a large family grouping living in the abandoned farmland across the creek from my family home in Nashville, which had grown up to young woods, and was thrilled and amazed to see pileateds coming in to our friends Cole and Bruce’s bird feeders outside Charlottesville, Virginia this October. My favorite bird field guide, National Geographic’s Field Guide to the Birds of North America, 3rd edition, confirmed what I saw there: that the wingbeats and flight pattern of the pileateds were crowlike, deep and slow. I thought at first I was watching crows, but had never in my life seen crows come to a bird feeder; then, suddenly, the light dawned and I realized that I was seeing a pileated woodpecker! Pileateds prefer dining on carpenter ants in fallen trees and stumps, but my favorite birdfeeding book, Birds at Your Feeder, confirms that they will occasionally come to feeders to eat suet and bird puddings. They also note that the piercing call of a pileated sounds like “something out of a Tarzan movie,” so I don’t think you’d have much trouble identifying it! (Note: They didn’t give a recipe for the fat-based “bird puddings,” but I’ll find one for you if you want to make some.)

2. Joy - December 4, 2008

Hello there peoples ! .. I bet Spiced Rum .. Morgans in particular would be very good as well ?
Congrats on the milestone too ! .. I don’t have a counter .. too much pressure ? .. I need low pressure and no pressure is even better !
Glad to hear Molly puts those apple cores to good use : ) .. what ever drops on the floor here is fair game to Emma .. Sophie is appalled with her at times .. go figure, she is a snob .. must be the Siamese in her ? haha
I have no questions today .. but will think of some soon !
Glad you got back home safe and sound : )

Thanks Joy! Our cats want to eat, or at least nose around, the most unexpected foods! Besides bread (especially pumpkin bread), they all love popcorn. I’ve heard that cats love tomato sauce, too—don’t tell Emma!—but they’re not getting any spaghetti around here!

3. deb - December 4, 2008

Our weather finally turned really cold. The apples sound like a perfect dessert following our chicken and dumplings this evening. Thanks.


They’re yummy, Deb! Go for it!!!

4. nancybond - December 4, 2008

The recipe sounds delicious — I aroma would fill the whole house! And congrats on your milestone!

Thanks, Nancy! The only thing better than how the baked caramel apples taste and smell is how easy they are. Try them and see!

5. deb - December 5, 2008

Silence, they have been in the over for about 30 minutes. They smell so good. The Monkeys are making me crazy asking when they are going to be ready.

Hope everybody loved them! I’m making some tonight for our Friday Night Supper Club!

6. Ratty - December 5, 2008

I just wanted to say congratulations. I was thinking about Thomas Jefferson and woodpeckers, but Frances already did those. She’s pretty good.

Thanks, Ratty! And yes, she is! Just for you, here’s another little tidbit about Mr. Jefferson: Did you know that his vast personal library—the largest in America at the time—became the basis of the Library of Congress? And about woodpeckers: When they eat, they balance themselves by flattening their tails against the trunks of trees. The folks who make birdfeeders have recently clued into this and started attaching their suet cages to long slabs of wood so it’s easier for woodpeckers to use them. Next time you’re in the market for a suet feeder, choose one with this feature and help your woodpeckers out!

7. Cinj - December 5, 2008

Congrats. What a great deal, I don’t think I’ve even topped 5,000.

I think I might just have to try that recipe. I stocked up on apples and I need to make something other than apple sauce with them.

No worries, Cinj! You’ll get there! And yes, try the recipe by all means—it’s a great way to get everybody to eat more fruit!

8. fairegarden - December 5, 2008

Hi Group, thanks so much for those tidbits. We have some resident pileateds in our small woods in the old neighborhood we live in. I know he/she is around when I hear that hyena like cry, and they fly low and slow, like you say. I got a photo of one in our pines that is at the top of my sidebar. I would love for one to come to the feeder and need more info on how to make something that will attract them, might as well put you guys to work! You may not have enough to keep you busy! HA

Okay, Frances, here goes! (And don’t forget to read my response to Ratty’s comment as to what type of suet feeder to buy for your woodpeckers.) Here’s a recipe for bird pudding, as given on the Bird Watcher’s Digest website (www.birdwatchersdigest.com):

1 cup melted lard or beef suet
1 cup peanut butter
2 cups quick oats
2 cups yellow cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar (optional)

Melt lard and peanut butter together on a low burner. Take off heat and add remaining ingredients. Spread on a cookie sheet and cool in the fridge until the mixture is hard enough to cut into squares. Store squares in freezer bags in the freezer until needed.

Note that another recipe on the same site adds 1 cup pulverized eggshells (ground in a food processor), 1 cup raisins, and 1 cup wheat germ to the basic recipe and omits the flour. This one suggests pouring the slightly cooled mixture into the empty plastic containers commercial suet cakes come in so they’ll be the perfect size for wire mesh suet holders. Ingenious, eh?

9. Laurel - December 6, 2008

Congrats on yet another milestone and thanks for the yummy recipe!!

Thanks, Laurel! And my pleasure. It’s so nice when they’re good AND easy!

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