Pickled figs, you say?

While most of us would consider it a fruit, the fig is actually a flower that has inverted into itself. The first trees were introduced to North America by Spanish missionaries who brought them to plant at missions they were founding along the Pacific coast—these actually became known as Mission Figs. Later figs, a different variety, came from Turkey. They originated in the Mediterranean and are related to mulberry trees and Osage orange (or hedge apple) trees—even rubber trees!

Figs are highly perishable and will ferment if conditions are too damp. If picked or purchased before they ripen, the figs should be kept at room temperature and away from direct sunlight. Once they become ripe, they should be kept in the refrigerator—but they will only stay fresh, even there, for about two days.

Unless you preserve them . . .

pickled figs, from North Carolina: An Appetizing State-- a cookbook by the North Carolina Museum of History Associates
Figs do not store well and have a shelf life of only a few days. If you want fresh figs, your best option is to plant a fig bush. If you want them year-round, you’ll need to pickle some! Photography by Tony Pearce.

Figs have a better taste if you pick them when they are soft, but if you are planning to preserve them, they will hold together better if they are less ripe. One way to preserve them is to pickle them. And, the best pickling recipe is, of course, Kay’s—which is available in our cookbook, North Carolina: An Appetizing State.

Kay's Sweet Fig Pickles, from North Carolina: An Appetizing State-- a cookbook by the North Carolina Museum of History Associates

Perfect Peach Recipe

While peaches may not be the most  popular flavor for cobblers, pies, or tarts—that title still goes to that plain ol’ apple concoction according to all surveys—they do rank near the top for mixing with other fruits: raspberry-peach, peaches and blueberries (especially with a dash of ginger), and even peaches with strawberries being top contenders!

Still, peaches remain one of the more popular ingredients in North Carolina’s Sandhills, especially around Southern Pines and Pinehurst, from where fresh picks were once shipped up and down the East Coast. By the way, if you think Georgia is the top grower of peaches in the South, guess again: South Carolina actually earns that prize. Tar Heel growers don’t pay much attention, though, because we can brag about raising the best!


Charlie’s Peach Cobbler, another “best”, was submitted by cookbook co-chair Charlie Silver who is the primary cook in the Silver household and contributed as a cookbook sponsor. His cobbler is pictured in a piece of rust stoneware pottery made by Rebecca Plummer and Jon Ellenbogen of Barking Spider Pottery outside Penland (Mitchell County). A selection of their pottery is available in the Museum Shop.

Peach Cobbler Recipe, from North Carolina: An Appetizing State

Peaches in Season

Peaches were first cultivated in China thousands of years ago, but by the mid-1700s, peaches were already so plentiful in the colonies that many people thought of them as native fruits. Today, North Carolina peaches are typically available from the end of May or so through August and have become a symbol of summertime freshness.

Platters like this one by North Carolina artisan Doug Dacey are available in the Museum Shop.

North Carolina’s peach industry is unique in that roughly 90 percent of the state’s crop is sold on the fresh market, direct to consumers, just days after being picked ripe off the tree. Tree-ripened peaches are usually sweeter than commercial peaches that are picked, packaged, and shipped from surrounding states.

In 2014, North Carolina grew 1,100 acres of peaches, which produced 4,380 tons of fruit. Granted, most were likely used for pies and cobblers, or jams and jellies, but others were used for such “exotic” dishes as Carol’s Peach and Brie Quesadillas, a family specialty that was submitted by museum docent Carol Taylor. Served with a lime honey dipping sauce and plated on this porcelain pottery platter—made by Tar Heel crafter Doug Dacey—the meal is certainly as refreshing as any peach dessert!

Peach and Brie Recipe

Cooking up holiday traditions at the Museum of History

Around this time of year, we all look forward to certain family traditions—like catching a local production of A Christmas Carol or gathering for that time-honored family photo. Traditions give us something to look forward to from year to year. They can also serve as a way to pass a legacy from generation to generation.

But you say, “Our family doesn’t have a tradition . . . What should I do?”

Sometimes we’re so engrossed in the “now” that we don’t realize something has already occurred, naturally, over the years and has become, already, a tradition. For example, food is almost always a part of a holiday. From planning a menu to tracking down ingredients to preparing the food to setting your table—food is one part of every holiday that can’t be escaped. To help out, we’ve now made it easier for you—with our new cookbook of historic proportions!

Okay, it may not  be “historic proportions,” but this cookbook is indeed filled with stories and history of the great state of North Carolina and with delicious recipes that will make your mouth water. Our recommendation for starting a new tradition in your family: First, pick one new recipe (or a meal plan) each year, and tackle it. Next, bring in a family member and get them involved in the fun. Then, share with the family. What could be more exciting than embarking on something new? It’s yet another tradition that can be both fun and challenging.

The North Carolina Museum of History Associates cookbook, North Carolina: An Appetizing State is now available in the Museum Shop—and just in time for last minute shopping. Copies are $29.95* and can be gift wrapped for free. Visit the shop, or call 919-807-7855, to place your order today. Or, purchase your copy online at ncmuseumofhistoryshop.com.

*Plus state and local taxes. Members receive a 10% discount. Shipping fees may apply to mailed copies.

An Appetizing State, Foreword by Van Eure, Angus Barn, Raleigh

Traditions, Christmas trees, and bounce!

Much like the family cooking traditions featured in North Carolina: An Appetizing State, this evening will find many families flocking to another family tradition—the annual tree-lighting ceremony at the State Capitol. We are pleased to feature a shot of inside the Capitol in our cookbook with a beautiful full-page photograph by Emily Chaplin. Chaplin, originally from Charlotte, took this picture last year in the Capitol rotunda as part of a series photographed for the December 2014 issue of Our State magazine.

2013 Capitol Christmas tree trimmed with the  goodness grows theme.  Photography by Emily Chaplin.
2013 Capitol Christmas tree trimmed with the goodness grows theme. Photography by Emily Chaplin.

In addition to sharing this beautiful image, the cookbook also contains a recipe for Cherry Bounce that is rumored to have played a role in the location of the Capital City. We couldn’t resist sharing the recipe, and the story, too.

Cherry BounceOrder your copy today in the Museum Shop or by calling the Cookbook hotline at 919-807-7855. Leave a message and we’ll call you back!

Museum Shop Member Sale

Find that special one-of-a-kind gift for the holidays! The Museum Shop has one of the best selections of North Carolina pottery, books, and gourmet food items. The Associates Annual Members Sale starts today and goes until Sunday, December 7. You can also pre-order a copy of our delectable new cookbook—North Carolina: An Appetizing State.

NCMH_cookbook 2014

This picture of the Cornmeal Pecan Sandies features a Westmoore Pottery cookie jar which is available in the Museum Shop. As an added bonus when you pre-order our cookbook you will receive a delicious recipe from the book so you can start that holiday baking! We couldn’t resist sharing one of our recipes with our blog followers so they can start cooking.

Cornmeal Sandies

A grateful Thank You to those who volunteer

On this Thanksgiving day, we’re thankful for the giving of our volunteers that made this cookbook possible. Below is another sneak peak of a layout design highlighting an artifact from the Museum. The book’s collection of recipes has been laid out with all the necessary ingredients on one side and the cooking instructions opposite. Our committee has been given the same treatment. The dedicated volunteers were the “ingredients” for the success of this book, and the “instructions” lists their contributions to help us dish out the best possible cookbook to represent North Carolina.

Revised Cookbook Committee

Enjoy this book with your friends or even for yourself! Member price is $26.96 and non-member price is $29.95. Click on the cookbook page image above to reserve your copy today!

Order your book today and stop by the Museum Shop on or after  December 20 to pick up your pre-packaged copy. There will be limited shipping before Christmas due to the arrival date of the book but a recipe gift card can be sent to your gift recipient with the cookbook to follow after Christmas. If you would like to order several cookbooks to be shipped, call the Cookbook hotline at 919-807-7855. Leave a message and we’ll call you back!