So, despite my usual pattern of not particularly participating in the posting of holiday stuffs when tis the season, I’ve changed my ways for this years holidays. Partially because I’ve decided I really like holiday foods and I have too many recipes I need to share with you to NOT post. And partially because sometimes I get to partner with amazing businesses during the holiday season. And this year that business is J. Q. Dickinson Salt-Works, a sea salt company based out of West Virginia.
So your next question is: “Sea… salt? West… Virginia? No sea I see…” with lots more mental dot dot dots than I can really write here because that’s annoying. SO to answer your question, the Appalachian mountains harbor an ancient sea deep beneath the surface. A now very salty ocean that J. Q. Dickinson Salt-Works has access to through wells. My mind was blown when I learned that little tidbit. Yep, the mountains here are basically Middle Earth. I may be planning a trip to rescue Gandalf from The Deep later this winter (gotta have snow on the trek to make it look more epic).
The Dickinsons (Nancy and Lewis, a brother and sister) decided to re-open the family salt business on the same land where their ancestors harvested and made salt for 150 years — they’re 7th generation salt makers. Which makes this salt, and their company, about as rich in heritage as an American company can be. It’s amazing to see some of the treasures left over from the late 1800’s and early 1900’s that hang around the family property, in barns and houses still standing — dusty 100 year old jars of salt with batch numbers hand-scrawled on paper labels; pictures of the Dickinsons great great great grandparents and their co-workers standing in a line wearing wide waist high pants held up with suspenders, caps tilted, eyes intense and full of life.
You know what else is cool? Their salt is the only salt made in the USA from a brine aquifer. Which gives it a unique, clean taste yet complex mineral quality, an expression from the earth from which it came. I’m obsessed with their salt. When they offered to sponsor this Friendsgiving Virtual Potluck I was super stoked and may or may not have asked for a lifetime supply of salt in exchange for organizing everything. They sort of laughed it at that and then I was like “No, seriously.”
I’m not getting a life-time supply of salt BUT I did get to gift a ton of awesome bloggers salt! And I get to gift a handful of you guys salt too, every day this week! Not to mention all of the salty, Thanksgiving-style posts I’m bringing you all week. Including these pumpkin cheesecakes. Which, I must say, are totally sweet and silky and spot-on with autumn flavor. I called them “pumpkin” but I made them with Hubbard squash (the blueish squash leaning against that pretty pie pumpkin in the photos). Which, fun fact, a lot of commercial pumpkin products are made with! It tastes the same, if not a pinch sweeter than your average pie pumpkin. But, yo, feel free to use real pumpkin. Cuz it’s almost Thanksgiving and that’s how we do.
So this J. Q. Dickinson Virtual Friendsgiving Potluck is pretty rad. There are some truly amazing foods happening on the internet because of it. Check out their awesome, salty posts!
And keep an eye out for posts as part of the potluck from these ladies later this week!
- Oat Almond Crust
- 2 cup rolled oats (or oat flour)
- 1 cup almond meal
- 4 tablespoon maple syrup
- 4 tablespoon coconut oil, melted
- ¼ teaspoon good quality salt
- Kefir Custard
- 2 cups goat milk kefir (cow and coconut also work)
- ¾ cup or 5 ounces chèvre
- 1 cup coconut sugar
- 2 cups pumpkin or hubbard squash puree
- 6 farm fresh eggs
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- Seeds from 1 vanilla bean
- 8 ounces dark chocolate
- 3 tablespoons coconut sugar
- coarse sea salt like J. Q. Dickinson Sea Salt
- Preheat the oven to 350F. Line two large muffin tins with muffin or cupcake liners. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a food processor, add oat flour and almond meal and pulse a couple of times to combine. Add maple syrup, coconut oil, and sea salt. Blend for 30 seconds. The mixture should be pliable (not sticky) and hold together when you squeeze a handful together.
- Remove the dough from the food processor and roll into a smooth ball.
- Pinch of a golf-ball sized amount from the dough ball and roll into a ball between your hands. Press into a flat disc -- about 1" to 1.5" -- to fill the bottom of your muffin tin liners. Place in a muffin liner, and repeat until you've filled all of the muffin liners with mini crusts.
- Bake for 10 minutes, then remove and let cool completely before filling with the cheesecake mixture.
- In a large bowl, combine the goat milk kefir, chèvre, squash puree, coconut sugar, eggs, vanilla bean, and cinnamon.
- Using a hand blender (or a really strong whisking arm!) blend everything together until you have a smooth emulsion -- this step is most important to get the coconut sugar and cinnamon well mixed (no one wants ugly brown lumps after working so hard!).
- Pour the cheesecake mixture into each muffin liner, filling ¾ of the way full.
- Bake for 25 minutes on the middle rack, until the cheesecakes have puffed up and become golden and no longer jiggle in the center.
- While the cheesecakes are baking, melt the chocolate in a double boiler with 3 tablespoons coconut oil or ghee. Use a spatula to mix it all together.
- Once the cheesecakes are done baking remove them and let cool completely (I admit I stuck mine in the freezer for 20 minutes! Although you could do a longer cool in the fridge at 40 minutes). The cheesecakes will "fall" as they cool, flattening out.
- Remove from the freezer or fridge once cool, then top each cheesecake with ¼" of chocolate. Or whatever! It's up to you, really, depending on how much chocolate you like. But I'm pretty sure no one ever said "oh no, that's too much chocolate. I WON'T EAT THIS." So, ya know, have at it.
- Let the chocolate set -- stick the custards in the freezer for 10 minutes. Then remove from the freezer once half-set, sprinkle on a liberal amount of sea salt (depending on your preference) and stick in the fridge to set completely until serving them (at least 10 minutes further).
- These cheesecakes are best within the first 24 hours you make them, but they'll keep for up to 3 days in the fridge or a week in the freezer (in an air tight container).