Sunday, June 28, 2015

Dining-In: A Culinary Tour of America-Macon, Georgia

The Location: Macon, Georgia

2013 Census: 89,981 people. 66.0% African American, 28.2% white. 2012 per capita income $14,446.

Macon was built on the Ocmulgee Old Fields, part of the ceremonial mounds built in the Mississippi River region. After the Mississippian culture was wiped out during the "Little Ice Age" prior to the 16th century, the Creek Indians settled in the area. During the early 1800's, the US government built a fort, around which the city was built. The city was chartered in 1823 and named after Nathaniel Macon, a North Carolina statesman who was one of the first people to settle in the area.

The city's location along the Ocmulgee River made it ideal for business. Cotton was the main export. Macon was in what is known as the "Black Belt," the region where cotton was grown and produced and picked by slave labor. In 1843, the railroad came to Macon, increasing trading opportunities.

During the Civil War, the city was used as an official Confederate arsenal and prison for Union army members who were captured. The city was spared, however, from Sherman's March to the Sea. Towards the end of the war, the city was captured by the Union Army in Wilson's Raid. After the war, Macon remained an economic and transportation hub for the entire state and developed a strong textile industry.

Macon was successfully desegregated during the Civil Rights movement of the 1960's, without any loss of life or violence. To this day it remains a well-integrated city. The first African American mayor, C. Jack Ellis, was elected in 1999.

Several musicians hail from Macon. Among them are: Little Richard, the Allman Brothers Band, and Otis Redding.

Cool Factoid: In 1836, the Wesleyan College was opened in Macon by the Georgia Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church. It was the first university in the United States to give degrees to women.

The Food: Glitter Peach Pie and Nectarine-Raspberry Tart

You cannot separate the connection between the South and the peach. Though it has had a long and illustrious history since its origins in China, the peach has long been synonymous with the Southern United States. Why is this? Well the answer is pretty simple, really. When the Civil War ended and slavery was outlawed, cotton was too expensive and labor-intensive for many Southern farmers to continue producing, so they looked to other commodities to grow. The peach required much less work to produce and the soil in the region was conducive to growing them. Many switched over from cotton to peaches, making the state a top peach producer. Peaches are also grown in several other states, in even larger quantities, in fact, but they will forever remain a symbol of Georgia and the South.

In its own way, the peach could be looked at as a symbol of freedom and the ending of slavery in the South. That is how I choose to look at it.

To be honest, this was a very last minute change-up in my blog schedule. I had another state and a different meal planned, but due to the heat wave Seattle is currently in, I couldn't handle the thought of doing something that required a significant amount of time cooking on the stove. So, I looked around my recipe cards for dessert ideas that would fit in with the blog and found these two recipes that would fit perfectly for Georgia, a state I had not yet featured.

The first item a peach pie, I made last night. The original name on the recipe card is "Top-Crust Peach and Cardamom Pie". But as you'll see in the pictures, I had good reason to rename it. As usual, I will write it out exactly as the card says, but will put my own alterations in parentheses.

Glitter Peach Pie
1 1/4 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup chilled butter, cut into 1/2" cubes
3 Tbsp. (or more) ice water (I found 3 Tbsp. to be perfect, but it depends on how humid it is in your area on the day you make it.)
2 1/2lb. firm but ripe peaches, peeled, halved, pitted, sliced 1/2" thick
1/3 cup sugar(I replaced the sugar with unsweetened applesauce and it turned out just fine.)
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
2 tsp. lemon juice
1/4 tsp. cardamom
1 egg, beaten, for glaze
1 1/2 Tbsp. Turbinado sugar(I replaced this with orange-colored edible glitter which I sprinkled on after baking)

Crust: Blend flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor. Add butter; using on/off turns, process until mixture resembles very coarse meal. Add 3 Tbsp. ice water; process using on/off turns until moist clumps form, adding more ice water by teaspoonfuls if dough is dry. Turn dough out onto lightly floured work surface and knead briefly just until dough comes together, 4-5 turns. Flatten dough into disk; wrap in plastic and chill at least 1 hour. Can be made 1 day ahead. Keep chilled.

Line large baking sheet with parchment paper. Roll out dough on lightly floured work surface to 13" roll.(I found I had to let it sit out at room temperature for a while before it was pliable enough to roll.) Transfer dough round to prepared baking sheet and chill 20 minutes.(I actually did not do this step. I just rolled it out and went right to the next step and it turned out fine.) Using 2 1/2"-3" heart-shaped cookie cutter, cut out shapes from dough, spacing close together (leave cutouts on baking sheet).(I did not do this, I put them directly on the pie filling which I had made while the dough was chilling. This turned out just fine.) If necessary, remove dough scraps, reroll while preparing filling.(I ended up rerolling the scraps about 6 times to use it all up. I slipped the hearts in anywhere I could put them. You can make them more overlapped than you think. The dough makes a lot.)

Filling: Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 400 degrees. Place peach slices in medium bowl. Add sugar(or applesauce in my case), cornstarch, lemon juice, and cardamom and toss to coat. Transfer peach filling to a 9" diameter glass pie dish.

Carefully arrange cutouts atop filling in slightly overlapping concentric circles, starting at edge and working toward center, covering filling completely. Brush crust with beaten egg, then sprinkle with turbinado sugar.(I didn't add sugar, but I still brushed the crust with the glaze. That's what makes it look so brown and shiny when it bakes. Don't skip that if you skip the sugar.)

Place on rimmed baking sheet. Bake until crust is golden brown, peaches are tender, and juices are bubbling thickly at edges, about 45 minutes. Transfer pie to rack and cool at least 30 minutes.
Makes 8 servings

This isn't in the recipe, but I used edible orange glitter to sprinkle over the top to make it more festive. It's just been such a festive few days that I wanted my pie to reflect that. Here is a close-up of the glitter on the crust:

It's subtle, but it looks more shimmery in person. I thought of several alternative names for this peach pie. I thought maybe Pride Peach Pie or Love is Love Peach Pie, since it has the hearts on it. But Glitter Peach Pie was the name my sister liked best and it does sound the most "me". This pie was fantastic. I may always have to make my crusts like this from now on because it's just so much fun! I did find that the cardamom didn't really stand out too much, so I would probably double the amount it calls for if I make this again. I have never made homemade peach pie before and wow, was it worth the effort! And really it wasn't any harder than making an apple pie. If you can handle that, you can handle this. I've always been intimidated with pie crust, but this one worked really well. It turns out I'm an awesome pastry cook and I never knew it before!

And because I can't seem to do just one item for my blog entries, and because I had received some raspberries that were too mushy to be eaten easily with the instructions to use them up, I decided to test out another recipe as well. And don't worry that it's nectarine when my theme today is peaches. Nectarines are peaches. They're the same species, they just have a slightly different genetic makeup. And so, I give you:

Nectarine-Raspberry Tart with Cookie Crust:
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup + 1 Tbsp. sugar(I used 1/4 cup + 1/2 Tbsp.)
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup cold butter
2 lb. nectarines, sliced 1/2" thick(about 7 medium nectarines)
1/2 pt. fresh raspberries
3 Tbsp. instant tapioca
1/2 cup sugar(I substituted 1/2 cup applesauce and it worked just fine.)
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. nutmeg

1.) Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Grease a 10" springform pan.(I'm not sure what you could use to substitute this if you don't have one. It's a very tall item so it wouldn't fit in a cake pan or pie tin without spilling all over the place.)
2.) To make crust, in a medium bowl, stir together the flour, 1/2 cup of sugar, and the salt. With a pastry blender, cut in butter until mixture resembles small peas. Press 2/3 of the mixture into the bottom of the pan, reserving the remainder. Bake the crust for 10 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
3.) To make filling, toss ingredients together in a large bowl and let stand for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to slightly soften tapioca. Spoon filling evenly over crust. Bake for 20 minutes.

4.) Remove tart from oven and sprinkle with reserved crumb mixture and remaining 1 Tbsp. sugar. Bake for another 25 minutes, or until fruit is tender and crumb topping is golden brown. Serve warm or at room temperature. Tart may be stored at room temperature for up to 24 hours.
Makes 10 servings.
292 cal.
10 g. fat

I actually ran out of time last night to make this so I made it this morning. It's super easy to make this and the flavor was amazing! Even though I cut back on a lot of the added sugar, it's perfectly sweet. The nectarines and raspberries don't need much help in the sweet department. I can see how you might want whipped cream or ice cream to go on this, or the peach pie, but I don't think it was necessary. It's sweet and delicious without anything else.

Both of these desserts just scream "Summertime!" to me. I used my small tabletop oven to bake these so they didn't really heat up my apartment. I was really impressed with both of these recipes. The next time you want to try something a little bit different, give one or both of these a try. You won't regret it!

City map

City pic

City Stats

City History

Civil Rights History

Peach History

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