Camellia’s Cottage is on the cutting edge, y’all! Last year when we wrote about Pit Barbeque we told you about Butts to Go! Southern Living Magazine has just come out with their special edition The South’s Best 2017, including the Best Barbeque- congratulations go to our own Wade Reich’s Butts to Go for making the South’s Best 2017!
Three Barbeques, Two Fish Fries, One Pancake Breakfast, a Wedding and a Funeral- all in one day. No time to change in between…if this was a fashion blog I could tell you what to wear- a black dress. Fill a bag with accessories, several pairs of shoes, make up, a damp rag and deodorant. It got me through and we had the time of our lives! I don’t hold a world record on attending events- my husband probably deserves a medal. We’ve gone to so many Barbeques, we might claim expert status on tasting barbeque. Mastering a pit is an entirely different skill. Real Pit Barbeque is cooked 10-12 hours…this isn’t backyard grilling. There’s no doubt in my mind that American Pit Barbeque originated in the South- poor rural folks, fattened a few pigs- so fresh pork was cheap and available.
Alabama’s own -George Washington Carver taught the art of growing peanuts right here in Alabama;
It is a known fact that the closer you live to a Peach Tree, the better your life will be… Now, calm down- we don’t have ripe peaches here yet; though fruit tree farmers are anxiously watching the buds and blossoms, the wind and the weather in hopes of a big harvest of peaches and all of the rest of us are too. We cannot wait for the first peaches, to peel a peach and let the juices run down your arm while biting into a fresh peach the color of our sunsets is …well, it’s indescribable. We Southerners try to figure out a way to eat peaches all year round- Fresh, Dried, Fried and Pickled- we love peaches, we love the color, the smell, the flavor. We love Peach Cobblers, Fresh Peach Cake, Homemade Peach Ice Cream, Pickled Peaches and Fried Peach Pies. If it has a Peach in it, well it’s bound to be good! Some of my favorite childhood memories contain Peaches. My Uncle Charles owned a commercial Ice House- he would actually let us sit up in the Ice House on big blocks of ice to get cool in the summer, our shorts would stick to the blocks of ice while we were drinking icy co-colas and laughing amid a few watermelons and cases of bottled cokes he had put there to chill. The Ice Trucks would back up to the Ice House and load up for deliveries while we scooted out of the way; and Uncle Charles had a prolific Peach Tree. We loved going there. He had plenty of ice for cranking out Homemade Ice Cream and when the peaches were ripe, Uncle Charles would get out the ladder and pick ripe Peaches to go with it. You can imagine how good Homemade Ice Cream is with Fresh Peaches and my grandmother’s Pound Cake! Also, women in my family and our neighborhood would go to the Farmer’s Market and buy Peaches by the bushels to put them up so we could have them all year round.
Another one of my favorite Peach stories comes from a friend who told me her family generally had big peach crops from the few trees they had; they didn’t want to lose a single peach- her mother came up with a method to dry the peaches– setting up old screen doors on saw horses. The older kids helped prepare the peaches and laid them on the screens set in the sun, while the younger ones took turns fanning the flies and brushing off ants. The production took several days of turning and drying and fanning during the day, then covering the peaches with clean sheets at night. One year the peaches were ripe, but the weather wasn’t cooperating- so my friend’s mother came up with a plan- they would run the screens into her daddy’s old Station Wagon with the back seat put down and close up the peaches inside. No fanning flies, no ants, no weather problems, no covering and uncovering with sheets! They had perfect bags of dried peaches to enjoy throughout the year until peaches were ripe again. The added bonus was that the old station wagon smelled like peaches for months afterward! Ingenious. I. Love. Dried. Peaches. Almost as much as fresh peaches. There is almost nothing better than a Fried Pie made with dried peaches that have been stewed with a bit of sugar!
They are wonderful alone but made into a Fried Pie, well you haven’t lived until you’ve eaten a Fried Pie! We don’t put a bunch of powdered sugar or drizzle them with icing where I’m from. During Winter Holidays and Easter you could always count on Relish Tray that included Pickled Peaches. Pickled Peaches aren’t easy to find, I’ve been looking. I found a very old recipe for them- using the dreaded canned store bought peaches, I tweaked the recipe a bit and my Home Tester declares them to be just like he remembers- high praise since his mother and grandmother served them often, like my own did. Spiced Pickled Peaches
1 large can of cling peach halves (1lb. 13 oz. can)
1/4 cup of sugar
1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon whole cloves
1 teaspoon green peppercorns (use black if you don’t have green)
½-1 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg (please don’t use powdered!)
1 cinnamon stick
Pour syrup from can of peaches into a saucepan (reserving peaches) Add sugar, vinegar, spices and bring syrup to a boil, then pour over reserved peaches in a container with a top. Cover and cool. Refrigerate for at least 24 hours before serving. Wonderful on a Relish Tray served with baked ham, roast turkey or fried chicken. Warning: This does not make a large batch you may want to double or triple the recipe. And please don’t eat the spices!
I found Imported Fresh Peaches which looked more like nectarines to me at the grocery store, I took a beauty shot but passed them up in favor of waiting for fresh Alabama Peaches!
And what fun to find some Peach Colored Roses! My favorite were called Tropicana Roses- My Going Away Suit when I was married was a dark peach colored wool suit, my grandmother had made a Nosegay of Tropicana Roses for me. Sweet Memory. Is it any wonder I’m partial to Peaches? Southerners love our Peaches- Fresh, Fried, Dried or Pickled. Okay, so I’m gonna go eat me one of those Fried Peach Pies….
Love y’all, Camellia
*A Relish Tray is a southern name for a small platter of extras found on almost every Southern special occasion or Sunday dinner table.
*We say co-colas no matter what brand they are and we never say soft drinks or soda pop! My Uncle Charles had those little green returnable glass bottle Coca Colas® in wooden cases, we had a really wonderful game of looking on the bottom to see where the co-cola had been bottled, the one who had the bottle the farthest away from Alabama won! Hey, we could literally make fun out of nothing back then sitting in an Ice House on a hot summer day.
*A Going Away Suit- is another name for the garment a bride wore for her honeymoon.
*While Georgia does grow peaches, Alabama has her very own Peach Park near Clanton and across the South some of the finest peaches in the world are grown.
Spring is surely my favorite season…In February, we had early blooming Bulbs and Branches- then a cold snap in the last week or so. In the South, we always expect fickle weather, some downpours, a late frost or two and outright craziness. It’s been beautiful here for a few days, so what could be a better time than the first of Spring to get out and poke around, make some observations, snip some herbs, look for the bare spots and make some lightweight decisions? Here’s what I found…
It’s fun to make a Bouquet of Herbs, spread Clippings out, round up some errant Seed Packets and gather up some Passalong Plants. I found sweet faced Wood Violets, Pansies and Johnny Jump Ups- all edible flowers, they would be so pretty decorating a Cake or even a Spring Salad. The Mint is looking good, the Sage didn’t do so well and one of the new Rosemary plants may need to be moved. I sketched out a new place to grow hardy herbs- and moist or sunny places to put Basil, Mint and tender Lettuces depending on what they like best! The Dandelion’s flowers are bright but it’s the leaves that add a peppery flavor to Salads. The Red Camellia is still holding forth but the new Pink Camellias struggled with the drought last year. The Flowering Quince has just about had it for this spring and is beginning to leaf out, there are Bearded Iris Rhizomes we divided last fall- so many in fact- I know I’ll need to pass some of those along!
The tiny blades of Yard Chives- are fun to wrap up Tea Sandwiches like a little package or snip across a bowl of Potato Soup. The Mixed Lettuce and Spinach Seeds are up a few inches, time to plant some more and get a few pots of Basil Seeds started. I even found a few faux eggs hanging around! Wonder where they came from?? Of course nothing’s better than to sit down with a cup of Coffee with Pen and Paper to make a few notes for what the Cottage Garden’s been doing- it’s like welcoming back old friends and greeting new ones . Before the Garden Centers are a riot of color, see what you already have… I hope you’ll get out and Forage for Spring’s Facts and Fun in your yard. Let me know what your Garden’s been up to!
O Lord of Life, In these beautiful days approaching Spring- we are painfully aware of the human condition which cannot understand Your Divine Ways. Some of us bear the final grief of loss and loneliness standing by an open grave; and others bear a living grief which has no grave and sees no end to suffering and sorrow. We think of those-
whose eyes are glazed over by constant pain,
whose ears hear the deafening silence of inner rooms darkened by worry,
numbed by losses which came too soon,
who sit in speechless shock.
Will You enter those grief-filled rooms with the Comfort only You can bring, whispering Grace scented with Mercy and Great Love? Human sympathy and healing cannot mend broken hearts- cannot heal broken spirits. We ask You to reveal Yourself as the One Who has suffered, Who has felt forsaken and Whose Human Flesh gave up, as You exhaled Your Spirit into Your Father’s safekeeping. Fill us now, with Springtime Resurrection Reassurance, grant to us Faith which shines through our tears. We pray that we will do more than just endure- that we will seek our Rest in Your Loving Arms; lean into the full Divine Embrace You always offer. May our weary heartsick souls seek You often. And when we survey the Cross of Calvary, we are grateful for Your Divine Permission to cry out- ‘MyGod, why have You forsaken Me?’
Disease is the dull key,
Pain is a sharp chord,
Suffering is a sour note,
Death is the broken chords of the human experience.
We confess we have never been able to orchestrate more than somber funeral marches to the tune of human suffering. We do not understand it, we hate the sound of it- will You give us Comfort in knowing that farther along we’ll understand why- that one day when You have wiped away all of our tears and put an end to all human sorrow- we will finally hear how You added the Grace Notes, blended an Angelic Chorus and brought all of the unfinished songs, the bitter notes and broken chords of Life together into a Divinely Glorious Melody. Give to us now that Faith which continues to seek the twinkling stars through tear filled eyes. Grant to us a stubborn Hope when the darkest night holds forth. Fill us with an unshakeable conviction that You are the Eternal Embodiment of Springtime filled with Exceeding and Abundant Love beyond the confines of mere mortal existence. May we be forever sustained by Your Great Love, upheld by Your Immense Power and enabled to live in the steady Light of Your Eternal Peace. In the Name of Life Eternal, we make our prayer. Amen.
With sweet thoughts and prayers for those who suffer and sorrow now- On this blessed Lord’s Day, please know-
May Lamb’s Ears and Shamrocks frolic in your fields…May Ferns unfurl in soft Moss Forests like Irish Angel Wings…
May you find a lucky freckled Lad with bouncing Irish curls…
May your plate be filled with Irish Potatoes ‘neath tender Cabbage leaves…
May your Lace be fine as cobwebs and Linens soft and worn…
May light fill twinklin’ Crystal while Irish eyes are laughin’ on misty afternoons…Then sip cream-topped Coffee and hear a Celtic tune…
May your friendships be as Wild Irish Roses with memories so sweet…
And when this cobbled lane has ended and I walk the streets of gold- May you find the Irish Blessings and know I think of you.
Love y’all, Camellia
*The photograph of the sun rising- was taken by me- St. Patrick’s Day 2016, the beautiful photographs of roses are from Jeremy Miniard’s collection, find Jeremy at http://www.jeremy.miniard.fineartamerica.com, all other photographs are from Camellia’s Cottage community right here in Alabama and should not be used without permission.
Southern Pound Cakes are the standard bearer of civilized Southern Society. You can hold your head up high if there is a pound cake in the house, especially if you have perfected pound cakes made by your ancestors. It is considered treasonous to proclaim another person’s pound cake is better than your momma’s. The Southern obsession with good manners, genteel living and our thinly disguised ancestor worship may be summed up in the humble Southern Pound Cake. ‘This pound cake was mah momma’s recipe and her muhtha before her- why mah family’s been making pound cakes for at least 7 generations. If ah’m not badly mistaken it was one of her ancestors who brought the first pound cake over on the Mayflower or they surely would’ve starved to death!’ We can say that without shame or the benefit of DNA testing – because we know who we think we are! We know our pound cakes are the best if our mommas made it- the crumb must be microscopically fine, the texture must be moist, tender, baked to perfection and long lasting, just look at the texture-
Southern Pound Cakes are high in fat content- the term ‘livin’ high on the hog’– means you have an all butter Southern Pound Cake in the house! The Southern standard of excellence in pound cake baking is to carry on the all-important tradition of being able to entertain at a moment’s notice. To have a pound cake in the freezer or to send a pound cake to any and all joyous occasions and a Southern Pound Cake for uplifting sustenance during bereavement is an inherited skill. Bake a pound cake and you’re ready for anything life throws your way.
Bake a pound cake and you will hear– ‘Mah ancestral muh-thas were known to have beaus swarming from all the surroundin’ counties just to get one taste of those delectable pound cakes! Make a pound cake and men will flock around like a murder of crows!’ So, one of our closely guarded secrets is out– Men love pound cakes and will worship the women who bake them. Southern Pound Cake bakers don’t need dating advice or ancestry sites- we just need to have a third or fourth generation recipe for a Southern Pound cake! And…if you have several variations of that recipe- let’s just say…it’s very effective. Well before a Southern lady was rulin’ the world rockin’ the cradle, she was wielding a silver handled cake knife over an array of pound cakes!
We also know this to be a fact, if a Southern Belle is incapable of outrageous flirting or holding up her end of the conversation, when she sweetly says-‘Would anyone like a sl-eye-ce of pound cake?’ – all eyes will rivet toward the Belle with the silver cake server shining like new money. We southern girls invented the concept of the way to get to a man is through his stomach. My own grandmother’s pound cake recipe was delicious plain but- she had at least four killervariations! Recently we had a birthday at Camellia’s Cottage- the birthday boy wanted a Chocolate Pound Cake with Chocolate Glaze. Months before his actual birthday, he ventured very carefully into the sensitive subject of pound cakes-
‘Now you know I think your pound cake is the best in the worldbut I was just wondering if you evah make a chocolate pound cake? I was actually dreamin’ of one that had a chocolate glaze on top!’ The answer was quick and sure, ‘Why yes, GiGi made chocolatepound cakes for special occasions and always gilded the lily with a chocolate glaze!’ Because of his sincerity and genteel request, Ah’ve re-named this one- Deke’s Decadent Pound Cake– that boy was proud as punch of the chocolate pound cake of his dreams!
Chocolate Pound Cake is one of my grandmother’s variations- another variation was:
GiGi’s Coconut Pound cake. Grated Coconut was added to the batter- and always flavored with Almond Extract. After the tube pan was greased, instead of flouring the pan- the tube pan was coated heavily with finely gratedcoconut. This outstanding version came out of the oven with Toasty Coconut on the sides and bottom. GiGi’s Coconut Pound cake was wonderful during the Holidays alongside Southern Orange Ambrosia.
Another variation to the plain Southern Pound Cake is the substitution of Lemon Extract, then finished with a Thick White Lemon Glaze; sip a glass of lemonade or a long tall iced tea with Heavenly Lemon Glazed Pound Cake
Still another variation was a family favorite that I’ve never found in any Southern cookbook. The batter is GiGi’s plain pound cake- along with vanilla extract, then for the killer variation- Bourbon is added to flavor the batter. Grease and flour as usual except for the bottom of the tube pan- at least a half stick of melted Salted Butter is p0ured in along with 2 cups of pecans. Don’t get any ideas that this variation is like those Yankee Sticky Buns- this is a Southern Salted Pecan Pound Cake. A man will lay down his life for just one slice of the Salted Pecan, so ladies please don’t trifle with a man’s affections if you aren’t serious.
I must tell you that in civilized gatherings Strawberry Shortcake is made with Plain Southern Pound Cake, topped with lightly sugared fresh strawberries and fresh whipped cream, that’s the right way to make it. Do not use those dried out grocery store shells or Cat Head biscuits. To use a Cat Head biscuit with sugar on top for Strawberry Shortcake is just plain laziness.
Gigi’s Plain Pound Cake has 3 sticks of salted butter creamed with 3 cups of sugar, 8 large eggs added one at a time, 1 teaspoon of vanilla and at least ½ teaspoon of almond extract. Sift together at least three times- 1 ½ cups of all purpose flour and 1 ½ cups of cake flour, then fold the flour into the butter, sugar and egg mixture- do this as lightly as you can. Do not use a mixer to do this step.The batter will be thick. Prepare a tube pan with parchment paper on the bottom, then the sides and bottom are greased with butter, then floured. Scoop the thick batter in, smooth the batter out lightly and evenly before baking in a 325ºoven.Bake for one hour, test with a toothpick, just know that the pound cake will most likely need to be baked another 15 minutes. Let cool until cake pulls away from the sides on it’s own. Do not force the pound cake from the pan. Run a knife carefully around the tube. Remove the pound cake with the top side up. Cool completely on a wire rack.
It is tempting to eat a piece of hot pound cake- please note this is uncivilized, even uncouth; though eating a slice of pound cake for breakfast is an exceptional luxury. Now, you may have noticed that there is not one drop of Milk in GiGi’s recipe- butter is the only dairy product included. My grandmother collected recipes for Sour Cream Pound Cake and Cream Cheese Pound Cake but she never veered from her own perfect Southern Pound Cake. She believed that milk or cream in any form- made a pound cake tough which tended to make the cake dry out quicker. Also, I know she suspected that a Cream Cheese Pound Cake was made by some woman who had made an unholy alliance sometime during or after that unpleasant conflict with the Yankees. Since it is a well known fact that Philadelphia is the home of American Cream Cheese…do I have to spell it out for you? Though some women insisted that their Cream Cheese came from Philadelphia Mississippi, still we aren’t going to mess with GiGi’s ancestral pound cake recipe! Though I do have to admit that I have had cream cheese and sour cream pound cakes that are exceptionally good! By now, I am sure you are completely convinced that we are crazy in Alabama- well we are crazy, we’re crazy ’bout Southern Pound Cakes in all of their glory and variations!
Deke’s Decadent Chocolate Pound Cake
Now you know those are some beautiful Southern Pound Cakes!
Love y’all, Camellia
*photographs are obviously mine! A big thank you to Deke for letting me photograph a slice of Deke’s Decadent Chocolate Pound Cake!