In the South, we don’t get a nip in the air signaling Fall as other regions do- we see the signs of Early Fall by what is ripening– Figs, Pecans, Muscadines, Pears and Peanuts are just a few. Most Southern households of my youth kept Pickup Foods on hand for visitors or an afternoon snack- you know, just in case you feel your sugar drop or if you’re in a fog. A Pound Cake, Fresh Fruit, Roasted Pecans, Cheese Straws and perhaps a spicy snack like old fashioned Raisin Bars.
With early Fall upon us, we don’t want the heavy flavors of Winter but we do enjoy a change of pace as long as we don’t have to heat up the kitchen too much! Raisin Bars or a variation is found in quite old cookbooks- they are not very sweet, easy to make and quick cleanup. The method for making our Raisin Bars is unique and lends itself to variations.
Camellia’s Cottage Raisin Bars
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Sift 2 cups of all purpose flour, 1 cup of sugar, 1 tsp. ground cinnamon, 1/2 tsp. ground cloves and 1/2 tsp. of salt.
- Combine 1 cup of dried raisins, 1 cup of water and 1 stick of butter in a saucepan on low heat until butter melts. Add 1 tsp. of vanilla.
- Then add 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda, mixture will foam up.
- Quickly stir flour mixture into warm butter/raisin mixture. It will be a ‘wet mix’ and not a stiff dough.
- * If you use a large saucepan, these can be mixed in one pan!
- Spread immediately onto a buttered parchment lined cookie sheet with a low rim. Spread as thin as possible.
- *I used another piece of parchment to make sure the dough is pressed to the edges of the pan. Please make sure it is thin as the Raisin Bar Cookies will not be good if the dough is thick.
- Bake at 375 degrees for 22-25 minutes. Do not overbake.
- Dust with powdered sugar, then cut into bars while they are warm.
- Raisin Bar Cookies are not very sweet and lend themselves well as a Cheese Board addition.
- *Variations are numerous- these can be a ‘clean out the pantry’ bar cookie! Dried Cranberries and Walnuts instead of raisins is very good.
- Or make the bar cookies without raisins, adding 1/4 tsp. of ground ginger, a fine grating of fresh nutmeg and 1/4 tsp. of finely ground black pepper to dry mixture. After the dough has been spread in the pan, sprinkle chocolate chips evenly over the dough, and press in slightly before baking- this is an excellent combination! I am sure you can come up with even more additions!
Camellia’s Cottage Toasted Pecans literally take just minutes to make and if you don’t hide them they are gone in minutes.
- Melt 1/2 stick of butter in a medium saucepan. Swirl 2 cups of pecan halves in melted butter. Spread evenly on a baking sheet. Bake in a 250 degree oven for 30 minutes. Salt to taste. *Watch carefully during roasting. Pecans will be darker when they are toasted, but certainly not burnt! *Store cooled roasted pecans in tins, jars or airtight container- IF there are any left!
Pecans are literally eaten all over the world; yet by far, the Southern United States consumes more Pecans than any other region! In Alabama, from the Eastern shore of Mobile Bay toward Foley, there are old groves of Pecan Trees which are famous!
Figs were brought here by the Spaniards and while California is the largest producer. Spaniards helped settle the South, so we continue to be influenced by their food and flavors. Many old Southern Homestead Farms boast at least one Fig Tree; Celeste Fig Tree is an excellent and reliable variety that can be grown successfully in the South. The farm my husband grew up on had a very prolific fig tree close to the house. Southerners love fresh figs, dried figs and fig preserves- and fig leaves are so beautiful on food platters! One of my favorite Early Fall savory dishes is to nestle Figs, Sweet Onions and Apples around a Pork Roast. *Add garlic, apple cider, salt and pepper- this is a truly amazing main dish. The Flavors of Early Fall are in the air here at Camellia’s Cottage but we still want the Fresh Flavors of Summer.
The combination of Fresh Figs, Roasted Pecans, early Mandarins and cool Raisin Bars seems to be a perfect summer platter, along with a long tall glass of Lemonade, Iced Tea or even Wine, perhaps a cool Chicken Salad Sandwich or a bowl of Pimento Cheese and crackers- it’s a light refreshing Lunch or Supper of Early Fall Flavor!
Love y’all, Camellia
*We continue to pray for the wonderful Folks of lower Texas and along western portion of the Gulf Coast, this area and her people play a critical role in U.S. Oil and Gas production not to mention our beloved Texas Fruits and Nuts, Citrus, Gulf Seafood and more… please join us in sending good thoughts their way, and give to the American Red Cross and other recovery efforts if you can.