When autumn arrives later this week and summer quietly slips away, it might be time to give thought to our warm blooded, feathered flying friends who rely on good things to nibble on as the days grow cooler and gardens are put away for another year. While many birds take annual flights to other parts of the country, others prepare for another round of what Wisconsin weather offers by relying on us to keep them happy and healthy with bird-like backyard banquets to continue throughout the months ahead.
And so it is, for the first time here, instead of offering outdoor picnic recipes for beans and wieners and apple pie, I encourage you to stir thoughts of providing food for hungry birds. If you’ve been a bird feeder for years, you have your own ideas and ways of providing what is necessary when the season shifts to cooler temperatures. But for those who haven’t enticed birds in the past to feed in the backyard, let’s begin by understanding what our state bird, the robin, is hoping you’ll supply when there aren’t any worms in the ground to devour.
Robins don’t care about beans and wieners, but they do love apples and to keep them happy, you should prepare this apple recipe to place in a location away from cats and squirrels. Discovered in Adele Porter’s book, “Cooking for the Birds: Recipes to Attract and Feed Backyard Birds,” it is one of 26 recipes described as being “fun to make.” As a reminder for everyone who enjoys feeding birds throughout each year, it is also in response to my bird-feeding friend, Sharon McDowell, who once provided me with a gift package of beautiful bird-seeds as an old Scandinavian tradition to spread on the doorstep Christmas morning for good luck in the new year.
Appl-icious crumble pie
Half an apple
1 cup cornmeal
1 tablespoon thistle seed
1 tablespoon millet seed
1 tablespoon sunflower chips
½ cup suet base
½ cup grape jelly
Slice apple into thin wedges and cut them in half. Set aside for later. Combine cornmeal, thistle, millet and sunflower chips with suet base in a mixing bowl. Use your hands to work into a crumble. If mixture is too stiff, simply warm it in the microwave. Press mixture into the sides and bottom of a mini-pie pan. Place in the refrigerator and cool until hard.
Place jelly in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir until melted. Remove from heat. Pour melted jelly into the cooled pie shell, filling it half full. Arrange apple slices in a circle. Chill in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight.
Optional garnish: crumble extra mixture on the top and place a cherry in the middle. To release pie from the pan, turn it over and tap the bottom. If the pie doesn’t come out easy, place the very bottom of the pie pan in a sink of shallow warm water for 30 seconds and then try again. The pie may be served in the pan, also.
Hungry robins will love this, and so will cardinals, mourning doves, orioles and others.
If you happen to live near a farm or a wooded area, this recipe will attract wild turkeys, ring-necked pheasants, bobwhites and blue jays.
4 cups of nuts: acorns, hickory nuts, peanuts
4 cups cracked corn
4 cups popped corn (hold the salt and butter)
Combine ingredients and place in a large bowl or pail. Before you place the goulash outside, you might consider making a tent-like wildlife-watching blind so you can watch the birds by becoming part of the habitat. Be resourceful and creative by using material you have at home like old sheets, blankets or a tent.
Place your blind near existing cover rather than in the open. Camouflage your blind with natural materials similar to those in or near your backyard habitat. Pour the goulash onto a raised ground feeder, or sprinkle part of the goulash directly on the ground. Be aware of the time of day that birds are most likely to visit. Wild turkeys venture to feeding areas like this at dawn, sunrise and at dusk.
And now, back to your own cravings, if you still have apples and the apple peeler handy, why not try something you will enjoy with a recipe from “The Best of Byerly’s” cookbook, compiled by Byerly’s home economists for their exceptional grocery stores in Minnesota. It is described as being “simple, but sublime to serve warm or chilled.”
1 ½ cups chopped, peeled apples
¾ cup granulated sugar, divided
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon, divided
½ cup chopped pecans
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ cup flour
6 tablespoons butter, melted
½ pint whipping cream
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
Generously grease 8- or 9-inch pie pan.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Spread apples over bottom of pie pan. Combine ¼ cup sugar, ¼ teaspoon cinnamon, and pecans; sprinkle over apples. Beat egg, remaining ½ cup sugar, baking powder, flour and butter until thoroughly combined. Spread batter over apples. Bake until crust is golden brown (35-45 minutes). Whip cream until stiff peaks form; beat in powdered sugar and remaining ¼ teaspoon cinnamon.
To serve, cut torte into wedges; top each with a dollop of whipped cream.
Peach Torte: Substitute chopped, peeled peaches for apples. Omit cinnamon. Substitute almonds for pecans. Add ¼ teaspoon almond extract to whipped cream.
Pamela Wright, Sun Prairie, made the pumpkin fudge recipe that appeared here last year during the holiday season. Although she carefully followed the instructions, the fudge never hardened as expected. A short time ago, I happened to find another pumpkin fudge recipe in the cookbook, “In the Kitchen with Olga,” compiled and printed in 2004 by an Illinois food columnist. The reader who shared the recipe was Barbara Buck.
3 cups sugar
¾ cup real butter
2/3 cup evaporated milk
½ cup canned pumpkin
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
Over medium heat, stir constantly with wooden spoon until the mixture reaches the soft ball stage (forms a soft ball when dropped into a cup of cold water). Remove from heat.
7 ounces marshmallow crème
6 ounces vanilla chips
6 ounces butterscotch chips
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup pecans or walnuts
Stir until chips are melted. Quickly pour into a buttered 9-by 13-inch pan and cut into small pieces. Makes a large batch.
Isabel Hubbard recently shared her own simple and tasty method of pickling cooked beets and cooked green beans. She saves the juices from bread and butter pickles, then submerges the cooked beets and beans.
Also, thanks to those of you who read the Sept. 6 column about visiting Burnstad’s European Café in Tomah and informing me that ,unfortunately, they have closed. Maybe someone who worked there will share their famous pecan pie recipe with us.
Recent requests: Shortcake recipe for strawberries.