5 Cooking Tips That Larry Now Admits To

Posted on April 09, 2015 by Kate Moynihan | 0 comments

My husband, Larry, was hunched over a newspaper recipe that his coffee clutch of senior cronies had ogled over earlier: Spicy Pumpkin Pie. I’m not sure what got his culinary vibes humming but this was the first time in twenty-three years I’d known my husband to whip up a pie from scratch. In fact, he’s mostly a can-opener or nuke-it-kind-of-guy. Yes, he can fry an egg and make a mean grilled cheese, but he’ll order take-out or frozen dinner when he’s left on his own.
   Needless to say, jumping into pie making was a big leap for Larry. But have at it, he was.
   “First, I need a 3 quart heavy saucepan to bring the maple syrup to a gentle boil, which pan is that?” he asked as he rummaged through the cupboard. Oh boy. I helped him find the correct saucepan and decided it was best to be out of reach for the rest of his cooking endeavor so I went downstairs.
   Shortly I heard him call from the kitchen, “I’m running to the store, I don’t have enough eggs. I’ll be right back.” I rolled my eyes. Earlier he had hefted armfuls of groceries into the house insisting he had everything he needed for his soon-to-be-famous pumpkin pie.

   I heard the garage door opener hum and he was off. Upon returning, instantly a loud yelp echoed from the kitchen. I rushed upstairs. “What’s the matter?” I asked.
   “I left the maple syrup on the stove. It’s been boiling the entire time I’ve been gone! Do you think it’ll still be okay?”
   We peered deeply into the pot. The clear brown liquid had reached a mighty rolling boil and was thick and darker in color. “If you want a ‘hard-ball’ candy stage,” I answered.
   “What’s ‘hard-ball’?”
   I quickly informed Larry about candy making. Refined cooks will use thermometers to determine when candy is cooked to the right temperature, but years ago, Mom taught me a simple way to test candy: Dip a tablespoon into the hot candy cooking on the stove, ladle a spoonful, and then drizzle the liquid into a cup of cold water. If the candy forms a limp ball, it refers to a “soft-ball” stage. Taffy, fudge and other chewy candies are cooked to a soft-ball stage.
   For “Hard-ball” stage, the candy is cooked a little longer and when tested in cold water, the chilled candy will roll into a firm ball and hold its shape. Peanut brittle and lollipops are cooked to a hard-ball stage.
   Larry snagged a coffee mug from the cupboard, splashed in cupful of cold tap water, and raced the cup to the stove. He swirled his maple syrup concoction with a wooden spoon and then lifted the spoon from the pan, letting the candy ooze into the cold water. We could hear the liquid crack as it hit the cold water.
   “When it snaps like a twig does that mean the candy is beyond hard-ball stage?” he asked.
   “I’d say it’s harder than jaw breaker,” I answered, thinking this candy could crack your tooth.
   Larry’s shoulders slumped. I picked up the bottle of maple syrup from the counter and said, “It looks like there’s enough to make another batch.” I could see his eyes brighten.

   Soon Larry was humming in the kitchen stirring up another batch of mapley-goodness. I noticed he was staying close to the stove this time. In no time he was ready to add the last of ingredients for the pie filling. “Do you think it might taste better with an extra splash of bourbon?” he asked.

   Larry was using bourbon from our downtown Holland neighbor, New Holland Brewery. They distill the brew on sight and even give tours of the inner workings. I was sure Larry had sampled a shot when he purchased the bourbon so I asked: “How spicy is the bourbon?”


 “Here, take a taste,” he said, pouring a splash of bourbon into a cup for me and one for himself.
  We threw back our shots. A warm burn hit the back of my mouth. “A bit smoky, I think,” I said.

   Larry poured another splash in his cup and took another swig. “It’s a little peppery and nutty,” he said, licking his lips. “This will make a great pie.”


I left him in the kitchen to finish his baking. After dinner he presented the pie. I must admit it looked luscious as the rich amber center looked firm and delectable and the crust was golden brown. Of course, for me, the beauty of the handmade ceramic pie plate wrapped around the pie would make any dish look appealing.

Larry sliced a wedge of pie for me. I slide a forkful into my mouth. Yikes! It was a bitter bite. Where was the sweet maple syrup, caramelized sugar and hint of cinnamon? I choked down the overpowering flavor of woodsy bourbon. “What percent of alcohol content do you think this pie has?” I asked.

  A scarlet flush crept up my husband’s neck. “I wouldn’t eat and drive,” he said.
5 cooking tips that Larry now admits to:
-Read the entire recipe before starting.
-Learn the terms: For candy making: soft-ball, hard-ball stage.
-Assemble all ingredients and tools before cooking.
-Measure with a measuring spoon.
-Allow enough time to dash for a store-bought dish to pass at the pot luck.



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