Fresh fruit tart or pie can be made with a pie crust or cookie crust and has a creamy filling with fresh fruit on top. It can be served with or without the glaze. Along with fresh fruit recipes, this week’s column looks back at the muscadine pie and other foods served at Callaway Gardens.
Photo by ANN CIPPERLY

By Ann Cipperly

Fresh fruit is delicious by itself, or it can be used in making breads, pies, cakes, jellies and jams, as well as adding a fresh, sweet taste to salads. Try several recipes while fresh fruit is at its peak of flavor. The season will be ending soon for some fruits and just beginning for fresh figs and muscadines.

The best dessert I have eaten with muscadines was Virginia Callaway’s Muscadine Pie. The pie is probably still served at Callaway Gardens.

A great deal has changed at Callaway Gardens over the years, and some of it is sad to see with the Sibley Horticultural Center and the vegetable garden gone. At one time, the television show, Victory Garden South was filmed at Callaway’s vegetable garden.

Years ago, I was invited to attend an end-of-season taping of Victory Garden at Callaway and to stay for the cast party afterward. Virginia Callaway’s Muscadine Pie was served with whipped cream. It was perfectly baked and tasted delicious.

The vegetables and fruits at the garden were once served in the restaurants at Callaway. Our favorite restaurant for years was the Georgia Room, which was located at the inn. The Plantation Room was the largest restaurant, while the Georgia Room was tucked to one side of the inn and was fine dining.

We went for every occasion and anytime we could. First, we could stop by the Vintage Green at the entrance of the inn. Steve Hollis was at the piano, and the servers would break out singing as they were serving.

We would listen to the music until it was time for our reservation at the Georgia Room. Hector Gizi was the food service director at that time, and his influence could be seen on the menu. Hector was once the personal chef for Winston Churchill.

The Georgia Room was elegant with white table cloths and a rose or other flowers arranged in the center of the table. Once we were seated, the server would bring their cheese spread and cracker bread to the table to snack on as we looked over the menu.

The menu at the Georgia Room was prix price, and the dinner was served in courses with choices for the appetizer, entrée and dessert.

For an appetizer, the choices were seafood crepes or chilled citrus fruit cup. We always ordered the crepes filled with an assortment of seafood in a cream sauce. They were superb.

Champagne sherbet was served as the intermezzo before the entrée to cleanse the palette.

Among the entrée choices, the filet mignon with goose liver Rossini was our favorite. A bouguetiere of fresh vegetables from the garden was served as the sides. In the European tradition, a green salad tossed in a light lemon dressing was served after the entrée.

Dessert choices included cakes, fresh fruits and cheese plates. At the end of the meal, ladies were presented with a long-stemmed rose.

All of the dishes were first-rate. Director Gizi’s menu was a tradition of the prestigious international gourmet food society, la Chaine des Rotisseurs, that Callaway was a member of at that time.

We have many wonderful memories of Callaway over the years. While the Georgia Room is gone, maybe we will ride over to Callaway soon and see if Virginia Callaway’s Muscadine Pie is still being served at the restaurant in the Country Store.

The founder of Callaway Gardens, Cason Callaway, was an industrialist who built an empire in textiles. Cason and his wife, Virginia, spent weekends at a log cabin in Blue Springs, near Hamilton, Georgia.

While at Blue Springs, Cason discovered a shrub with red-orange blossoms. When he learned it was a rare Azalea Prunifolia, the plum leaf azalea that grows within a 100 mile radius of Blue Springs, he purchased the land to preserve the plants.

Cason turned over the textile business to his younger brother and spent more time at Blue Springs. He began building what would become Callaway Gardens. When Virginia asked her husband for a magnolia tree for her birthday, he surprised her with 5,000 trees!

At one time Cason thought of selling lots for his friends to build homes, but he realized it was too beautiful to share with just a few people. The idea of a public garden began to grow. He dreamed of a place where families could come to enjoy the beauty of nature and have fun together.

Originally called Ida Cason Gardens, Callaway Gardens opened in 1952. The following year, Robin Lake Beach opened. Every year 10,000 to 20,000 plants were planted.

Cason built the chapel as a memorial to his mother, but he never saw it completed. He died in the spring of 1961. Virginia continued to live at Blue Springs until her passing in 1995.

Callaway Gardens grew to become one of the top resorts in the country. It is still a beautiful, peaceful place to visit with family. There is a lot to see with the Day Butterfly Center, Virginia Hand Callaway Discovery Center, Robin Lake Beach, pioneer cabin and restaurants.

As muscadines come into season, you might just find a delicious southern pie to savor. Meanwhile, look for muscadines at the farmer’s market and bake Virginia Callaway’s Muscadine Pie at home.

Virginia Callaway’s Muscadine Pie

9-inch pie shell and extra pastry for lattice topping

½ gallon ripe muscadines

Mash muscadines. Separate hulls from pulp. Strain to remove juice, leaving pulp and seed. Cook hulls in juice until tender, adding a little water, if needed.

Let the mixture simmer, then add:

Juice from ½ lemon

¼ cup flour

2 to 2 ½ cups sugar

Dots of butter

Put this mixture in a 9 inch unbaked pie shell and place lattice crust across top. Bake in a 400 degree oven for approximately 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 375 degrees and bake for another 30 minutes. Serve

with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, if desired.

Callaway Gardens Cheese Spread and Cracker Bread

For many years, the Georgia Room at Callaway Gardens was our favorite restaurant. When you were seated, they served this wonderful cracker bread and cheese spread.

This would be good served with fresh fruit, especially figs. You can serve the Cheese Spread with purchased crackers rather than making your own.

Cheese Spread

2 lb. cheddar cheese, finely grated

1 tsp. horseradish

1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

1 tsp. sherry

Pepper to taste

6 oz. cream cheese, softened

Combine all ingredients and mix until smooth and spreading consistency. Correct seasonings. Serve with Cracker Bread.

Cracker Bread

4 pkg. yeast

1 qt. water

1 tsp. salt

8 cups flour, about

Melted butter

Sesame seeds and/or grated Parmesan cheese

Dissolve yeast in warm water. Add salt and flour to liquid until dough is suitable for rolling. Roll out paper thin and place on a sheet pan.

Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and brush dough with melted butter. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and Parmesan cheese. Return to oven and bake 10 minutes longer or until golden brown.

To store, cool, then wrap sheets in plastic wrap. Stack and store in a dry place.

Figs with Goat Cheese and Honey

½ French baguette, sliced

Olive oil

4 oz. soft goat cheese (chevre)

1 pint fresh figs, sliced

2 Tbsp. honey

Brush bread slices with olive oil. Place under the broiler for a few minutes, just until bread starts to toast.

Spread goat cheese on toasts and top with a few slices of figs, then drizzle with honey.

Place back under the broiler for a minute or two until the honey is just starting to bubble, being careful not to burn. Serve.

Fresh Fruit Tart or Pie

You can use just one fruit for the topping or a variety.

Use a baked pie crust or make the cookie crust.

Cookie Crust:

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup sugar

2 egg yolks

2 cups all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar; add egg yolks. Slowly mix in flour. Pat dough into the bottom of a tart pan or pie plate that has been coated with nonstick spray. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown. Cool. Crust can be made a day ahead.

Filling:

2 cups whipping cream

½ cup sugar

1 cup sour cream

Whip cream; add sugar. Fold in sour cream. Spread over cooled crust. Chill. Cookie crust can be prepared two days ahead.

Topping:

Select just one of your favorite fruits such as peaches, blueberries or raspberries or decorate the top with a variety of fresh fruits.

Arrange fresh fruit over filling. Serve as is or brush on glaze. The glaze adds sweetness and a glossy look to the fruit.

Fruit Glaze: (optional)

1/2 cup sugar

2 Tbsp. cornstarch

3/4 cup orange juice

2 Tbsp. lemon juice

Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Cool. Brush over fruit.

Southern Fruit Cobbler

After trying several recipes, this one is the best. It is easy and always taste good.

1 stick butter

1 cup self-rising flour

1 cup sugar

1 cup milk

4 cups blueberries, blackberries, peaches or other fruit, sweeten, if desired

Vanilla ice cream or whipped cream, optional

In 11 x 9 x 2-inch pan melt butter. In a medium sized bowl, add milk, sugar and flour; mix thoroughly. Add to melted margarine and stir.

Pour fresh fruit over this mixture but do not stir.

Bake for 30 minutes or until golden. Good served plain or with ice cream or whipped cream.

Blueberry Cheesecake with Pecan Crust

Pecan Crust

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 butter

1/2 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine all ingredients and press into the bottom of a 9-inch spring foam pan. Bake for 18 minutes.

Cheesecake Layer

24 oz. cream cheese, softened

1 cup sugar

4 eggs

1 tsp. vanilla

In an electric mixer, beat cream cheese with remaining ingredients until smooth, about five minutes; pour over crust. Bake for 40 minutes or until set. Pour sour cream layer over top.

Sour Cream Layer

1 cup sour cream

2 Tbsp. sugar

1 tsp. vanilla

Combine all ingredients and spread over cheesecake. Bake for 5 minutes. Cool; top with Blueberry Glaze.

Blueberry Glaze

3 Tbsp. cold water

1 Tbsp. cornstarch

2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries

Combine water and cornstarch, mixing until smooth. Add blueberries and cook until thick. Cool. Spread glaze over cheesecake. Chill until ready to serve

Peach Pound Cake

3 cups flour

1 tsp. baking powder

½ tsp. salt

2 sticks butter, softened

2 cups sugar

4 eggs

1 tsp. vanilla

2 cups chopped fresh peaches

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease 10-inch Bundt pan with butter and sprinkle with sugar, shaking out the excess. Combine flour, baking powder and salt in bowl. Cream butter and sugar in a mixing bowl until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Fold in vanilla and beat well.

Add flour mixture gradually, beating constantly until blended. Fold peaches into the batter. Spoon into prepared pan. Bake 60 to 70 minutes or until golden brown. And a wooden pick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool in pan for 10 minutes. Invert onto a wire rack to cool.

Peaches and Cream Shortcake

½ cup unsalted butter, softened

½ cup sugar

1 egg

1½ cups all-purpose flour

1½ tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. vanilla

4 cups sliced fresh peaches

Filling

16 oz. container sour cream

2 egg yolks

½ cup sugar

½ tsp. nutmeg

1 tsp. vanilla

Topping

1½ cups heavy cream

¼ cup powdered sugar

Fresh peach slices for garnish

To make the cake, cream butter and sugar; add egg, beating well. Combine flour and baking powder; add to creamed mixture, beating until just mixed. Stir in vanilla.

Pat mixture into a greased 9-inch spring form pan. Arrange peach slices on top.

Combine filling ingredients; pour over peaches.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 50-55 minutes or until edges are lightly brown. Cool and then chill.

Remove from pan. Whip cream and add sugar. Spoon whipped cream over top. Garnish with fresh peach slices.

Pat’s Blueberry Cream Pie

¾ cup sugar

¼ cup cornstarch

½ tsp. salt

2 ½ cups milk

3 egg yolks

1 tsp. margarine

2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries

1 tsp. vanilla

9-inch baked pie shell

1 cup whipping cream

¼ cup confectioner’s sugar

Mix sugar, cornstarch and salt in saucepan. Beat egg yolks; add milk. Pour milk mixture into sugar mixture. Cook over medium heat, stirring until thick. Remove from heat; add margarine and vanilla. Add blueberries. Cool, stirring occasionally. Pour into pie shell.

Whip cream; add confectioner’s sugar. Spread over pie; chill.

Blueberry Poppy Seed Brunch Cake

A Winner of the Pillsbury Bakeoff

Cake:

2/3 cup sugar

½ cup butter or margarine, softened

2 tsp. grated lemon peel

1 egg

1½ cups all-purpose or unbleached flour

2 Tbsp. poppy seeds

½ tsp. baking soda

¼ tsp. salt

½ cup sour cream

Filling:

2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries, thawed, drained on paper towels

1/3 cup sugar

2 tsp. flour

¼ tsp. nutmeg

Glaze:

1/3 cup powdered sugar

1 to 2 tsp. milk

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour bottom and sides of a 9 or 10 inch springform pan. In a large bowl, beat 2/3 cup sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Add lemon peel and egg; beat 2 minutes at medium speed. Lightly spoon flour into measuring cup; level off. In medium bowl, combine 1 ½ cups flour, poppy seeds, baking soda and salt; add to batter mixture alternately with sour cream.

Spread batter over bottom and 1 inch up sides of greased and floured pan, making sure batter on side is ¼ inch thick.

In medium bowl, add filling ingredients; spoon over batter. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 to 50 minutes or until crust is golden brown. Cool slightly. Remove sides of pan.

Glaze:

In small bowl, combine powdered sugar and enough milk until glaze is of drizzling consistency; blend until smooth. Drizzle over top of warm cake. Serve warm or cool. Makes 8 servings.