While serving as guest speaker at Saturday's 60th Anniversary Luncheon Celebration for St. Mary's Medical Center Auxiliary of Hobart, reader Sarah Boyajian of Hammond asked me an interesting question.
"I've been a Times reader for more than 60 years," she said.
"I would like to know why we never hear much about anyone planting 'ground cherries' in gardens anymore. Many people have never even heard of them, even though they used to be so very common years ago. My mother always had them planted around the outside of her garden and we enjoyed them so much."
As I explained to Sarah, I fall into the same category of those she describes as the many who aren't so very familiar with what she describes as once a staple fruit-producing ground cover in many yards and gardens.
'Ground cherries' are a low growing, branching plant that produces a tanish-pink cherry that is encased in a small dry paper pod resembling a lantern, which is peeled back to reveal the tart cherry.
After talking with local greenhouses and nurseries, I discovered today, ground cherries are often referred to as "the forgotten fruit." However, the plant stock can be easily ordered. So, it's quite possible they could make a trendy comeback. I'm told by others that ground cherries make the BEST pie ever tasted.
On the subject of pies, this Saturday is the 8th Annual Pie Contest at Downtown Hammond's popular Bizarre Bazaar.
I'll be returning once again to judge.
The entry fee is $5 per pie (limit of two pies) when registered in advance with cash, check or money order or $10 per pie (limit two pies) on the day of the contest (cash only). The event is being held at at Harrison Park on Hohman Avenue, with registration starting at 10 a.m. and judging from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and winners announced at the main stage at 12:45 p.m.
Contestants can enter their unsliced pies in as many as two of the categories, which are flakiest crust, best savory pie and most unusual flavor or creative use of ingredient, in addition to the one overall best pie winner. Bring a copy of your recipe to the contest. For all seven years, I've always published the winning recipes in my column and cookbooks.
For more information, contact Karen M. Maravilla, Downtown Hammond Council president at (219) 937-3737 or visit downtownhammond.org to print out your pie registration form.
Besides cherry pie, another popular pie is peach pie. Peaches have been plentiful this season. Our neighboring farm wife down the road Joann Scamerhorn has been busy canning peaches from their cousin's tree. So today, I'm sharing her recipe, which she has based on her trusty "Ball Blue Book for Home Canning."
Joann's Home-canned Peaches in Medium Syrup
3 cups granulated sugar
1 quart of water
3 to 4 dozen peaches (depending on size of fruit and amount of waste)
Canning jars, lids and rings
DIRECTIONS: To make medium syrup, measure sugar and water into a medium sauce pan. Cook until sugar dissolves and keep syrup hot until needed, but do not allow to boil down. This will yield 5 1/2 cups of syrup. Expect to use 1 to 1 1/2 cups for each quart of peaches canned. Sterilize jars, lids and rings and keep hot until needed. If desired, to make peaches easier to peel, fill a large pot or roaster with water and bring to a boil. At the same time, prepare a cold water bath in sink. Place peaches in the boiling water bath for 1 minute and scoop out and place immediately in cold water bath. Cut peaches in half, peel and pit, also scraping the cavity to remove pink and red fibers, which would later turn brown once canned. Stand up one of the hot jars and fill with peach halves, packed with cavity side down and layers overlapping. Leave 1/2-inch of head space at mouth of jar. Cover peaches with the boiling hot syrup, leaving the 1/2 inch of head space at the mouth of jar. Using a knife insert into jar, scape inside of jar to release any trapped air bubbles. Secure lids and rings and tighten. Submerge jars into boiling water bath and process up to 25 minutes for quarts and 15 minutes for pints. Remove from bath and allow to cool and settle for 12 hours, before checking lids to assure they have sealed. Store in a cool dark area. As canned peaches set, the fruit will slowing sink and settle in the syrup. Makes 6 to 8 quarts, depending on size and amount of fruit yield after peeling and cleaning peaches once pits are removed.