PawPaw Margaritas

All over the country, as summer is winding down and trees and plants are heavy with the season’s bounty on their branches and vines – pawpaws are ripening. They’re one of America’s few truly native fruits (not to mention they’re the largest fruiting tree in North America) – and folks don’t seem to know much about them. Let’s learn, shall we?

They’re probably hanging around all over during your neighborhood walks, or hiding in a clump of woods as you hurriedly drive by – a ghost of a long lost homestead that’s hanging around long after it’s owners have sold and been gone.

From the outside they kind of look like mangos. And honestly, the inside is pretty reminiscent of them as well. The flesh varies from pale to bright yellow, and contains a network of dark seeds like watermelon. The fruit has a smooth, rich, tropical flavor. And, a texture that I like to think of as custardy – that’s the best way to describe it.

Most folks just eat it as is, but you know me – any chance to margaritaize something, I’m down like a clown. I actually took the photos for this a couple years ago. My friend Rosie (of Pico Taqueria fame) had wanted to make them and get a photo for a friend who was writing an entire book on pawpaws. Rosie and her husband Dylan came over, we made homemade pizza and pawpaw margaritas, and did a photo session with them. Fun stuff.

The book turned out awesome, by the way. All kinds of great recipes and photography are featured in it’s pages. Lots of useful information about varieties and how to go about planting your own trees. Check it out on Amazon and order yourself a copy!

If you can’t find them out and about, check your local farmer’s markets. When I find them I’ll prep a bunch at one time, then portion out the pulp into smaller bags and freeze for use in the winter. It keeps it’s pretty color and rich texture, so that’s really the best way to go about storing it.

Pawpaw Margaritas

1 (8 oz.) bag pawpaw puree

1/2 cup margarita mix
1/4 cup mango nectar (usually found in Hispanic aisle of grocery store)
1 cup tequila
1/3 cup triple sec
1 cup ice
lime slices, for garnish
2 Tbsp kosher salt, for rim
2 Tbsp sugar, for rim

Rim your glasses. Combine salt and sugar on a small plate. Using a piece of lime, wet the rim of the glasses. Dip into the salt-sugar combo and set aside while you prepare the margaritas.

Place all ingredients in blender. Cover, and blend on puree setting for about a minute, until nice and smooth.

Pour into prepared glasses, garnish with a slice of lime, and serve.

Source: adapted from For The Love of Pawpaws, Michael Judd

One of my favorite things about calling this beautiful place home is watching the seasons change in the salt marsh. From the vibrant green that the summer brings, to the flowering and browning in autumn, the golden hue of the dormant grass in the winter, and finally the vibrant green peeking through the base again in the spring. It’s a cycle that’s happened for eons, and I’m thankful I get to see those subtle changes everyday.

Another change in the fall that’s easier to take note of is the change of pickleweed (salicornia, sea beans, picklewort) from its plump bright green state – when it’s still so salty it’s a little bit sweet, to a vibrant reddish-fushia in the fall before it begins it’s slumber for the colder months – and it gets bitter.

We’ve brewed beer with it in it’s bitter state with our friends over at Black Narrows. In that case, the bitterness was welcomed. For other things you may want to use them for – you want them when they are green. Wonderful in salads, stir-fries, sauces – I made a mignonette sauce for oysters a couple years ago that was a big hit.

My favorite and easiest way to use them is in this super simple pimento cheese. The little salty, crunchy bites lend the perfect little something special to the creamy cheese spread.

If you’re lucky like me, and live close to a clean waterway system with salt marsh – look around. If you don’t – check out your local farmers markets. I’ve also seen them at fancy-pants grocers like Whole Foods or Wegmanns.

In the spring of 2019 I visited an estate sale here on Chincoteague Island. Upon entering I could tell this was my kinda lady. Beautiful kitchen equipment, lovely nautical themed linens, vintage Shore Stop drink coolers (growing up, EVERYONE had one to take to the beach). All my favorite books lined the shelves – Beautiful Swimmers, A Sand County Almanac, A Gift From The Sea, random Eastern Shore history books.

It was an older couple’s family beach house for decades, filled with treasures collected from a lifetime of loving this unique little spot I’m lucky to call home. I couldn’t help but feel an instant connection.

My favorite finds were two advertising items. The first is a full page ad for Old Bay Seasoning’s 75th Anniversary, that ran in the Baltimore Sun back on Memorial Day weekend of 2014. It’s framed in a really rustic nautical looking frame – I just love it. It is right at home in my living room!The second was a poster for the 1988 Crab Derby held in Crisfield, Maryland. Taped on the back is a copy of a check made out to Mrs. Joan Folio. She had entered her “Crab Bisque Chincoteague”  in their recipe contest that year, and took home the Grand Prize! Which, is truly an honor. My mom and dad live in Crisfield, so that made it special to me too.

I also had picked up a binder of recipes that she’d collected – that has every winning recipe from the Crab Derby going back all the way to 1963! I’m pleased to report that her Crab Bisque was in the binder as well. So when I got everything home and connected the dots I was stoked. I couldn’t wait to make her recipe.

I’ve made it many times since then, always meaning to snag a photo and share this story here on the blog – but it was always inhaled before I had the time to do so. It truly is the best crab soup I’ve ever had in my life.

It’s pretty much a standard cream of crab base- but the addition of lemon pepper seasoning really gives it a little something special. There’s a little bit of cheddar that also makes it stand out, giving it a nice bite. And there are no fillers – no bullshit onions or celery. Just CRAB.

I’d tried to look up Mrs. Joan in the past couple years – googling her name to no avail. If I’d found her I don’t know what I would have done – maybe just sent a postcard proclaiming my love of her bisque. I never found anything, but still continued to think of her often, and when I did – she would always bring a smile to my face.

Flash forward to last week when we steamed our first batch of crabs for the year. I made the bisque with the leftovers I’d picked, AND managed to get a photo. Sitting down to write this blog post I thought, “let me give it one more search”. And there she was, right at the top of the search results – her obit from August 20, 2020.She’d evidently struggled with Alzheimer’s since 2018, and COVID-19 is what brought her to meet her maker last summer. She was 86. Had a beautiful family with children and grandchildren. It was great to finally get to read about her, and see her picture – she was exactly the kind of person I’d painted a picture of in my mind. They even mentioned her love of Chincoteague in the article…

I never had the pleasure to meet Carol Joan Folio, but I have a pretty good feeling that we would have been fast friends. Estate sales always kind of make me sad, but it brings a smile to my face knowing I will give these things new life in our home. I hope it would bring a smile to hers too. Cheers to you, Joan!

Three weeks ago I contracted COVID-19. Seems like I caught it early enough, was able to quarantine in the bedroom, and not pass it along to Jon or the boys. It was a long 10 days being apart from my family, and thankfully I had a very easy time of it – slight fever and headache, and that was it.

Jon did a great job of taking care the boys and I, keeping up with their virtual school stuff and handling breakfast, lunch and dinner. Whatta man, ya’ll. He also made a trip to pick up some groceries that I ordered online from Walmart, easy food stuff to get us through the week. I added a Louisiana Crunch Cake to the cart not knowing exactly what it was, but having a feeling I could get behind it.

Over the course of the next week I ate the entire cake. Jon says that one of the boys had a chunk, but I think he’s just trying to make me feel better. I was hooked. But I am not the kind of gal who buys baked goods at the store – so I knew I wanted to make one at home…

Moist lemony cake topped with a crunchy coating of caramelized sugar and shredded coconut. It’s added to the bottom of the pan before adding the batter – and ends up on top once you flip and release. Speaking of which, this cake does beautifully. Bundts always make me nervous, as they do many bakers. I didn’t even have to tap this one, I was a happy camper. I topped with an easy, quick glaze and a little extra toasted coconut – just to make it extra pretty.

I’m gonna try to not eat the whole thing! Pray for me.