Butterfly at Iron Creek campground in Spearfish Canyon
Whatever plans we had for the weekend were thoroughly disrupted by the announcement of a rare bird in Spearfish Canyon. A lone Orange-billed Nightingale-Thrush, a native of Mexico and Central America, never previously recorded north of the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, is merrily bouncing around the Iron Creek campground in Spearfish Canyon. In the Black Hills of South Dakota. This is a stunning find. If you are familiar with bird people, you know what happens next: you and a few dozen other people spend every daylight hour possible in the canyon waiting for the bird to make an appearance. This particular bird preferred to be heard and not seen, but hear and see (glimpses) we did.
In case you think that I am making up the Orange-billed Nightingale-Thrush, a picture by Doug Backlund is posted here. The story of its discovery by Eric Ripma is here. Spearfish Canyon on Sunday was an interesting mix of bicycle racers, pre-Rally Harley riders, and birders from all points of the country.
Orange-billed Nightingale-Thrush photographed by Doug Backlund.
Between that and taking friends and prospective students on tours of the new building, there was little time left in the weekend for kitchen work. This is the sort of weekend on which our family cooks pulled out canned fruit from last year, made up a quick biscuit dough and put together a cobbler. A cobbler is much quicker and easier than a pie. This is another dish with a long history and a variety of aliases, including, as listed on this site, "cobbler, tart, pie, torte, pandowdy, grunt, slump, buckles, crisp, croustade, bird's nest pudding or crow's nest pudding." I particularly liked this line: "They are all homemade and simple to make and rely more on taste than fancy pastry preparation." We tend to use fresh fruit whenever possible.
After a long day of looking for a recalcitrant tiny bird that prefers to act as if it is in the witness protection program, a nice fruit cobbler is very comforting.
Fredericksburg peach cobbler
Pastry for a double-crust 8” pie
8 cups sliced fresh peaches
3 T all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
½ tsp. ground nutmeg
1 tsp. almond extract
1/3 cup melted butter
Combine the peaches, sugar, flour and nutmeg. Set aside until a syrup forms. Bring the peach mixture to a boil and cook over low heat for 10 minutes or until peaches are tender. Remove from heat and add the almond extract and butter, blending well. Spoon half of the peaches into a lightly buttered 8” square pan and top with an 8” square of pastry (about 1/8” thick). Bake at 475* F for 12 minutes or until the crust is brown. Add the remaining peaches and cut the remaining pastry in strips to arrange in a lattice design over the top. Bake for 10-15 minutes until lightly browned.
Sally's idiot-proof no-fail Texas cobbler1 stick of butter
2 cups milk
2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1½ tsp salt
3 t baking powder
Cinnamon, nutmeg, mace and/or vanilla to taste
Cinnamon sugar mix
At least 2 cups fresh ripe fruit (peaches, pears, berries, etc.) plus their juice
Preheat the oven to 350*. Place butter in a generous steel, enameled iron or glass baking dish (9x13 is good, but any nice big shallow pan in that general size range is fine) and put it in the oven to melt the butter. If you melt the pan, start over. Meanwhile, combine all other ingredients except the fruit. When the butter has melted, pour the batter over the butter and place the fruit on top. Bake for 30-35 minutes. The pastry will rise up and over the fruit as it bakes. At 25 minutes, sprinkle cinnamon sugar on top and return to oven for 10 minutes. Check crust to be sure it is firm, then turn off the oven and leave cobbler in the oven for another half-hour or so to set up.
Canned or frozen fruit does not work nearly as well in this.
Serving suggestions: if you don’t know how to eat cobbler, with or without ice cream, we can’t help you now.
Happy Monday and good birding to the Spearfish Canyon crew.