Sweet Tea…

Southerners love their Sweet Tea! I couldn’t resist updating this from last summer! One of my all time favorites to write- I laughed all over again…

Camellia's Cottage

Southern LivingKeep It Sweet

Every now and then, Sweet Tea just gets to me…at a picnic earlier this summer- I drank at least three big red Dixie cups full of it- then took a big blue Dixie cup home with me- to help me cool off in the car on the way home… I had the cup swathed in a paper napkin, to catch the drips.  It’s been so hot, I rubbed my neck with the cool damp napkin- probably had sweat beads on it.  Then, I put that blue Dixie cup on my forehead and turned the air vent full blast on me to cool me off…Picnics are fun, but hard work- fanning flies, setting out pans of food, making sure a trail of ants doesn’t wind it’s way over to the Key Lime Pie or up the side of the Coconut Cake. I thought about that beautiful teething baby running a low grade fever, her daddy was in bed with vertigo and…

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Summer Corn Salad…

IMG_3157Bubbled or Brewed, Souffle’d or Stewed. Roasted or Raw, Fresh or Fried…Corn nourishes the South. When Settlers bringing domesticated hogs stepped onto land in what is now Virginia and met Native Americans bearing corn- Southern Cuisine was born.

From Pig to Pone, Pot to Plate- take Corn from the Southern Pantry and more than half of our delicious diet would collapse in despair!

Corn feeds our livestock and our families all year round. If you’ve never rustled down a row of sweet corn, well, you’ve missed one of the great joys of summer. The first ripe ears of corn are a sight to behold, the most highly prized Summer Corn of my youth was White Corn- Yellow Corn was preferred boiled or roasted on the Cob. The merits of white cornmeal versus yellow cornmeal continues on- I have to admit I still prefer White Corn, White Grits and White Cornmeal. Someone jokingly told me recently that if you preferred Yellow- chances are you’re either a Yankee or an Aristocratic Descendent of Carpetbaggers, who  probably sneaked in yellow seed corn! Actually I’m glad they did! Yellow Corn is wonderful! I’ll admit that Yellow Corn on the Cob and in Shrimp Boils can’t be beat, but that’s getting off on a tangent…Before Summer Corn gives way to the dried and ground Cornmeal of Autumn, I’m  thrilled to bring you a Southern dish that won’t have you breaking a sweat to prepare. (Besides Southern ladies don’t sweat– we perspire delicately.) Summer Corn Salad. IMG_3162

Because of the heat and humidity, Garden Lettuce wilts before Spring has barely sprung. Try to grow lettuce in our climate and it will just up and bolt on you! Therefore, many of our Summer Salads are based  on Seasonal Vegetables, like Summer Corn Salad- now, this salad is so familiar that I have to confess- I don’t own a cookbook which records how to make it, though I’m sure someone somewhere did put pen to paper for it.

Camellia’s Cottage Summer Corn Salad

  • In a large bowl, take 3 fresh shucked ears of White Corn – cut kernels and scrape juices from the cob. (Do not cook, y’all- it will ruin it.)
  • Add additional vegetables to the large bowl of Cut Corn.  All vegetables should be chopped in small dice. IMG_3157
  • Chop- 1/2 of a good sized Purple Onion
  • Seed and chop in  either one large or preferably two small pickling Cucumbers (I leave the skin on- but peel if you prefer before chopping- no need to seed small summer pickling cucumbers)
  • One large Summer Tomato- cut and chopped.
  • One medium Green or Yellow Bell Pepper, cut and chopped. Do not overdo the Bell Pepper, try to keep the added vegetables in the same quantity- about 3/4 to one cup.
  • *If you like a little extra zing, like I do- add chopped and finely diced Jalapeno Pepper to taste, I used one half of a large jalapeno.
  • Dressing *Before mixing the corn and other vegetables together- In the bowl, add on top of the vegetables-  4oz of Sour Cream, 1 teaspoon of Garlic Powder; squeeze the juice of a medium size lemon on top of the sour cream. Add fresh cracked Black Pepper and Salt to taste.
  • Gently stir and combine all of the ingredients, being careful not to break up the tomatoes.  Summer Corn Salad is best if refrigerated several hours or overnight- keep covered until it is served. IMG_3162

The best thing about Summer Corn Salad- besides the fresh taste is no cooking required! This is a wonderful side dish with anything from Pit Barbeque to Fried Chicken, Country Ham…oh! and let’s not forget Fried Fish or as a great addition to a Southern Vegetable Plate. I hope you love Summer Corn Salad as much as I do! Oh, lordie- Pig to Pone…now that’s corny.

Love y’all, Camellia

 

The Church Cookbook Mystery…

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It was one of those evenings in the hours after twilight- a cloud covered waning full moon when crickets sang and lightning bugs fly closer to the ground…the perfect night to scan through a few cookbooks I had found in a claustrophobic flea market stall. Two cookbooks, instinctively I knew I would know and love- another was a mystery to me. Why I would even be drawn to put one dime down for it- yellowed but not worn- the front cover had faded just enough to make the stuffed apples look seriously unappetizing…but that old familiar streak of electricity zinged up my left ankle and my right eyebrow twitched as I held the cookbook. A Church Cookbook Mystery! Here’s the confession- I read old local cookbooks like novels– I read the names of people, places and foods; before I know it- I have made up a story about a Cook or two within the pages… This time was a little different;  it is a Birmingham area United Methodist Church Cookbook, published over 40 years ago in 1975. The cookbook shall remain mysterious and as nameless as Mrs. Fleck’s Nameless Cake on page 108. I knew no one from the cookbook- but let’s just say I developed a fond affection for the Cooks, the Church but not all of the recipes. I mean really, do I want to cook Slumgullion? I don’t think so! But yes, oh my yes- I would love those ‘Cracklin’ Corn Pones’… I found myself wondering why they compiled this cookbook, it gave off a desperate vibration to me.  Was it to raise funds for a playground, new pews or to finish the church basement into a soup kitchen/homeless shelter/secure meeting rooms- an all purpose expansion? What? and why? and more important Who were these ladies?  There was an appreciation page, a cover page with information on Circle Meeting times and General Assembly times, but no Mission Statement page. It was almost too sparse in titles and ingredients for a regular cookbook. It seemed like a Church in a Struggle.

IMG_2671The recipes are mostly forthright with plain names like – Pound Cake, Meatloaf, Pecan Pie, Squash Casserole, Coleslaw- with a rare flowered up exuberant name here and there.  I had the feeling that these ladies spent so much time working, cooking and washing dishes there wasn’t much time for frills. I found recipes for

  • Corn Dogs for 200 servings
  • At least five Armed Forces Service Recipes for 100,
  • Spaghetti Italian Style that fed 150
  • Chili Con Carne from Lodge 808 for 75 servings

What puzzled me was that there was a mixture of fine food, old time basics, budget or quick recipes and surprisingly recipes for Bath Salts, Modelling Clay, Bubble Bath and Finger Paints, no doubt for the children’s activities . The names of the ladies were either Mrs. or Mae- I began to feel like the Mrs’s were the Church Mothers- the girlish names were still a puzzle to me.  And there was a definite sense of Church Humor goin’ on… I imagined the meeting for the gathering of the recipes-  a Church Mother presided- wore sensible block heel shoes, a dark fitted serge suit with short pressed sleeves and a modest skirt just below the knees, a bit of a ruffle blouse at the neck and peeking out of the sleeves to disguise the landslide of flesh on her aging neck, knees and elbows. As she took the podium she thanked the ladies for their submissions, reminded them of the need to include Recipes to promote Faith and Bible Study, in fact she would bring her own Version for their Edification! She meant business too, but then I’m getting ahead of myself. So, recipes were added-

  • Angel Food Cake,
  • Heavenly Hash,
  • Trinity Biscuits,
  • Christening Day Seafood Casserole (always some sort of seafood – what with the water and all),
  • Lemon Divinity Pie,
  • Baptist Pound Cake,
  • Presbyterian Punch,
  • 300 Degree Church Casserole (*Put in before Sunday School, ready after church, not the temperature of the Devil’s Doorknob!),
  • Divinity Candy,
  • Grand and Glorious Punch
  • In fear and trembling- a few submitted Devil’s Food Cake or My Mother’s Devil Food Cake (whose gonna disqualify yo’ momma’s cake?)

Now, whoever submitted Witch Stix might have held her hand up as if to testify on a stack of Bibles, her recipe was for the children! She must have been persuasive! The Church Mother truly did mean business- she included a Scripture Cake. IMG_3139Now, I’ve seen these recipes before in Church cookbooks but always the church ladies are kind enough to translate- Not this tough bird!

Scripture Cake

  • 1 1/2 c. Judges 5:25
  •  2 cups Jeremiah 6:20
  • 1 1/2 c. 1 Kings 4:22
  • 2 cups I Samuel 30:12
  • 2 cups Nahum 3:12
  • Season to taste with II Chronicles 9:9
  • 1 cup Numbers 17:9
  • 1/2 tsp. I Samuel 14:25
  • 2 tsp. Amos 4:5
  • 6 Whole Jeremiah 17:11
  • Pinch of Leviticus 2:12

*Beat Judges 5:25 until creamy; gradually add Jeremiah 6:20 beating well. Add Jeremiah 17:11, one at a time. Mix together  I Kings 4:22, Amos 4:5, Leviticus 2:13 and II Chronicles 9:9 ; reserve small amount; gradually add balance to Judges 5:25 mixture. Add Judges 4:19 and I Samuel 14:25. Mix I Samuel 30:12, Nahum 3:12 and Numbers 17:8 and coat with reserved portion of I Kings 4:22 mixture; then add to batter, mixing well. Bake 45 minutes at 325 degrees. Leave cake in the pan until it cools. To store, wrap tightly in foil.


And no, I haven’t baked it! I think I’ve figured it out though…as we say- ‘Curiosity killed the cat.’  I did a little research on the church- it is over 100 years old! A member of the congregation died in 2016 at age 94. She never married or had children but there were scores of family members, one of which contributed to the church cookbook. Her name was Mary Elizabeth. She attended Birmingham Southern- a Methodist University in Birmingham, not very far from her neighborhood church. She may not have attended at an early age. After a career working for the U.S. Army, she retired from Alabama Department of Revenue. Mary Elizabeth would have been in her early 40’s during the Civil Rights Movement, yet may not have even lived in Alabama at the time. It seems her forbears pulled themselves up by hard work and Mary Elizabeth’s surviving relatives became well educated and successful. I have a strong suspicion that this UMC Church was a mixture of folks who were:

  • Service workers,
  • Domestic Help or Cooks-
  • Some may have been Educators,
  • Small Business owners or
  • Laborers in the Iron Works or Steel Mills in Birmingham.

Some of the recipes indicate a level of poverty for their membership.  Maybe Mary Elizabeth attended college on the GI bill. Her age tells us that she lived through the Great Depression, World War II, the Korean War and the Viet Nam era, the Space Program, certainly the tragedy of 911 and maybe, just maybe those Armed Forces Services Recipes were sent in by this amazing lady, Mary Elizabeth. Her dying request: ‘in lieu of flowers make a donation to my church…’

All Cookbooks have a story to tell… this church faltered shortly after the cookbook was written, perhaps the congregation was struggling to keep it going… however, in a few years they re-opened their doors and continues to thrive! I’m not sure this whole cookbook will remain in my collection but there are several recipes that I wouldn’t give up for the world! And to:

  • Mae, Erline, Lois, Jessie,
  • Vivian, Rosalie, Dora, Estelle,
  • Gaynelle, Ruth, Winifred, Cassie,
  • Anne, Ottalie, LaFaree, Ora, Willie Mae,
  • Beulah, Bennie, Maybelle, Thelma,
  • Vista, Cadie and all the Church Mothers… Bless your hearts, I thank you, your hard work lives on…

The Church Cookbook Mystery was just the right thing to do on a summer evening in the hours after twilight…with a waning full moon covered with clouds as crickets sang and the lightening bugs flew closer to the ground…Now, you know I made up the story about the Church Mother, but it could have happened just that way!

Love y’all, Camellia

p.s. The Mystery of  the Scripture Cake is solved …what else? A Fruitcake!

Banana Pudding…

IMG_3129Banana Pudding…just those two words conjure up good memories and good flavor. Southerners are known for having a Sweet Tooth anyway;  our desserts, cakes, pies, candies and puddings are iconic, like Banana Pudding.  However, we don’t always agree on the method, the ingredients or even the temperature of a good Banana Pudding. Purists insist that a vanilla custard must be made from scratch, that the bananas must be slightly ripe, there must be a meringue topping and it should be baked and served hot. Some believe only bananas must be in the pudding, some add pineapple and for others adding pineapple is a near mortal sin. For years in my own household, one family member never took a bite without saying, ‘You didn’t put pineapple in this, did you?’ Well, I never did- however, I do recognize that adding pineapple is an Ah-quI’rd Taste! My mother made wonderful traditional Banana Puddings with cooked custards, I loved watching her layer it up, and then topping it off with the meringue- I always said- ‘Add more peaks!’ because those tips would brown and taste oh so good! My grandmother’s sister, our Aunt Mary Sue made wonderful Banana Puddings, however- I could never duplicate her recipe. As my skills became better, I could make a decent custard yet I still returned to a recipe from a double third cousin on my momma’s side of the family. I don’t take many shortcuts in cooking…but that recipe has the superior advantage- it uses Sweetened Condensed Milk, which adds the cooked flavor of a real custard. Also, this Banana Pudding is not baked, and let’s face it- when the weather is stifling- who wants to stand over a hot stove! I have tweaked that Banana Pudding recipe several times…and even added one tweak to it just for all of you Meringue lovers! IMG_3128

Camellia’s Cottage Banana Pudding

For Custard: 

  • 1 small box of Vanilla Instant Pudding Mix (4 serving size)
  • 1 small box of Banana Instant Pudding Mix (4 serving size) Empty these mixes into a deep mixing bowl and whisk the two flavors together
  • In a quart glass liquid measure- Mix 1- 5 oz. can of Evaporated Milk with 1-14 oz. can of Sweetened Condensed Milk, add enough whole milk (19 oz.) to make 4 cups of liquid. This combination gives the pudding mix a true cooked custard flavor!
  • Carefully pour the liquid into the pudding mixes, then whisk for at least 3-4 minutes until thick and smooth.
  • Let the mixture rest 4-5 minutes in the refrigerator.

Assembling the Banana Pudding:

In a large bowl, arrange vanilla wafers on the bottom and up the side one layer. Add enough Custard mixture to cover the vanilla wafers generously.  Cut a Banana in slices to cover the Custard, layer with more vanilla wafers, then generously cover the banana slices and wafers with more of the Custard pressing firmly. *This is important, if you create enough thickness with the mixture, then gently press out the air pockets, the banana slices will not become brown or soften as quickly.

If you have enough Custard mixture left, do another layer of vanilla wafers and end with Custard. (do not add more bananas to the last layer)  *If you want more bananas,  slice them when served. Now cover with plastic wrap, which touches the Custard so that it won’t dry out. Chill for several hours.  This Banana Pudding makes 8-10 generous servings. IMG_3121

To gild the lily, I made individual Meringues to top each portion! Use your favorite meringue recipe- reduce the sugar by 1/4 cup.  I add a pinch of salt to my meringue mixture. Whip the egg white/ cream of tartar/sugar mixture until almost stiff peaks- add 1/4 cup of Marshmallow Crème and finish whipping. *Here are a few tips for making Meringues for a topping for pies, tarts and banana pudding- the Marshmallow Crème was added to the meringue mixture and created a soft chewy center, though regular meringues would be just as good! Bake meringues on plain dry parchment paper. Most folks bake meringues; then leave them in the oven overnight- this isn’t really necessary, instead- put meringues in a cold oven as it heats up to 250 degrees- bake for one hour. The meringues should be creamy in color and not too brown. Turn off the oven, and leave for 1-2 hours. Remove from oven and cool completely. Pull the Meringues off the parchment paper and finish cooling on a wire rack. Serve with Camellia’s Cottage Banana Pudding!IMG_3127  I hope you enjoy our Banana Pudding ; I rarely make use of prepared mixes, but in this case it truly does taste homemade. It’s worked now for 3 generations, so it’s tried and true!

Love y’all, Camellia

* Name brands of the ingredients I used are clearly displayed but this is not a paid advertisement for any particular brand, as always- use the best ingredients you can find; it does make a difference in the final outcome.

Summer Vegetable Stands…

IMG_0151I’d be lying like a cheap rug if I said I didn’t love a good farmers market or roadside vegetable stand-  I like ’em for the folks who run them and the folks who are shopping as much as I love the fresh summer vegetables. It’s a good place to shop sort of slow…visit, listen and learn. Some of the best easy fresh vegetable recipes have come straight from the farm stands. And honestly, great advice- I asked one farmer ‘How are your tomatoes doing this year?’ He said, ‘They ain’t doin’ no good- too much rain, cold nights- them maters hate that- won’t get ripe fer not enough sun. But the ones we are gettin’ seem to taste good.’ Well, there’s my answer for why the tomatoes at Camellia’s Cottage aren’t bearing as in previous years! I bought a couple of green ones and several ripe slicing tomatoes. Another wonderful thing about vegetable stands, is the folks who work and shop there love food as much I do- you don’t see any dirt dauber waistlines at a farm stand- no, there are more elastic waist pants and house dresses, than couture. These are not gentrified folks- they are gentle hearted, home-cooked food loving people, no pretense, no bamboozling or nerve wracking price haggling, just good fresh food and clear prices. I bought a bag of small tender yellow crookneck squash, wanted some pattypans, they said they weren’t ready yet. Recently, I stopped at a small farm stand, it looked like rain, and the heat was stifling- I cracked my windows just a bit- didn’t want my vegetables to get steamed before I could even get home! I saw red hot peppers, rosy cheeked peaches, white webbed luscious cantaloupes, dark velvety blackberries, firm green tomatoes alongside plump red tomatoes and gen-u-ine Vidalia onions. IMG_0149

There were bell peppers as big as the Green Giant’s fist and prickly fresh okra- just right for a bowl of country popcorn- that’s a big bowl fried crisp with a mixture of white cornmeal with corn starch added for stabilizing the crunch- one of the great tips I got years ago.  While I was picking out some Kirby cucumbers, I heard two ladies having fun with each other; laughing like hyenas-

‘So glad to see y’all back this year, how’s it goin?’ the answer- ‘Aw hon, it’s just another day at the Asylum’. ‘I know what you mean! I thought if it don’t stop raining, Herbert Ray’s gonna have me declared certifiably insane!’

 A big F-150 pickup pulled up, two ladies in sensible shoes and loose dresses got out- flushed from the heat with hairnets on, followed by a big fellow who had wheeled and parked the truck just right to load…The vegetable stand owner hollered out- ‘What can I get y’all?’… ‘Well, we’ve come back to get another two pecks of those Clanton peaches! We got 15 pounds of sugar, so while we’re at it we thought we’d put up some extry for the church kitchen to keep on hand!’ Now, really, you have to love it- The fellow with those hairnet ladies had his big brown arms folded over the bib of a generous pair of overalls- he just wanted to load up the peaches so he could get back to his rat killin’. Like most men, had a one track mind.  As the rain began to gently drizzle, friends huddled under cover of a blue striped canopy gossiping-

‘That Mizriz Smith, cute as a button but she don’t miss nothin’….’Don’t you know it!’…’Some hoodlums drove thru the neighborhood, whoopin’ it up, screeching their chrome rimmed tires- makin’ that car gyrate up and down, boom box howlin’…when that car back fired! Back fired I tell you!’… ‘What did she do?’… ‘Well, she didn’t take it sitting down, I’ll tell you now…She ran out waving her broom yellin’ – The nerve! The gall! Now, you’ve done it! What are y’all doin’ anyway?  Ah am in the awkward position of havin’ to call the law! And you know every call you make up there goes out over that po-lice radio! This whole town’ll be lookin’ for y’all!’ Course they couldn’t hear a word she said what with that boom box’… ‘You’re right, she don’t miss a thing! A regular neighborhood watch she is!’

IMG_0150I bought several green bell peppers and couldn’t resist the Vidalia onions- sweet Jenny Lee told me she’d started using the milder white wine vinegar instead of distilled or cider vinegar- those sweet Vidalias don’t need to be overpowered by strong vinegar- I’m going to try it! By the time I got down to the end of the little stands… the new potatoes and peaches were picked over, I said I’d pass on the Ice Box Melons but I smelled the stem end of a heavy medium size cantaloupe and bought it…I wanted a pint of cultivated blackberries to make a Roly Poly, but I heard someone say they don’t have as much flavor as wild blackberries- so I took a pass. The wind was whipping up and it was beginning to actually rain. Time to get on home….you have to love Farmers Markets and Summer Vegetable Stands! Like all southern tales, this one is part truth, part myth and part outright lies! Well, except for those food tips…Names have been changed to protect the innocent!

Love y’all, Camellia

  • Adding corn starch to cornmeal for coating okra before frying has the effect of Tempura- it absorbs the excess oil and stays crisp longer! White Wine Vinegar or Champagne Vinegar has a milder flavor and does actually bring out the flavor of sweet onions like Vidalias, for a wonderful refrigerator pickle! A Roly Poly is like a cobbler but it is made on top of the stove in a pot, with small sweet dumplings- without the crisp crust- it is an old timey- thick fruit pudding made with soft fruits and berries, topped with a scoop of ice cream and served with shortbread cookies, it is a rare treat!

Gratitude…

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Have you ever gotten a line or two of a song in your head and just couldn’t stop thinking about it? That happens to me occasionally…for instance recently, I kept thinking about this line…‘I hope Life treats you kind..’ from Dolly Parton’s famous song, ‘I Will Always Love You’. Dolly wrote the song when she left the Porter Waggoner Show. Later, Whitney Houston elevated this same song to unbelievable heights and popularity. Country and Pop music fans loved that song! It’s a song about leaving, heartbreak, loss, bittersweet memories and to some extent betrayal.  A sad song really.IMG_0155

Often, when a line from a song or a portion of Scripture stops me in my tracks… I want to sit with it a while…contemplate it. With Dolly’s Song… I let the words run around in my head, moving on to that line about ‘Bittersweet memories…’ Ultimately, in the privacy of my own home- I broke out singin’ it- loud….no, I did not sound like Dolly or Whitney- more like a bad version of Willie Nelson, in case you’re wondering. Then, there was a Scripture, I was reading a devotional recently and a portion of a verse just hopped off the page and stopped me in my tracks-I wanted to sit with it awhile- here it is:

 ‘…the same night in which He was betrayed, He took bread; and when He gave thanks….’  First Corinthians 13:23-24.

 Jesus was betrayed…He shared a meal, He gave thanks. Think about it. Betrayal and Gratitude are puzzle pieces that rarely seem to fit. I wondered, what if it said-

  • ‘And after she lost her job…she gave thanks’  or
  • ‘And after he was put on hospice, he gave thanks…’ or
  • ‘After she was abandoned, she gave thanks…’
  • ‘After his father had beaten him, he gave thanks…’

Think of any emotional damage that causes human suffering. Sit with loss, betrayal, abandonment, physical illness, abuse and heartache for a while. Think of them as Gunshots to the Soul. Now, insert those grave wounds into that same Scripture… Does hosting a meal and giving thanks follow heartache? It hardly seems possible. And yet…there is a deep truth in there. Suffering isn’t convenient- a gap opens up, right in the midst of Living. The Betrayal occurred right in the middle of the Last Supper that Jesus would have with his closest friends;  He continued living, He turned to what remained of His life; gave thanks and resumed the meal. I must be honest here, I am not a big fan of telling folks to count their blessings when they are in the midst of suffering– it seems to add an unnecessary burden onto an already wounded spirit. However, for myself…I have found when I am able to allow light to come into my suffering- turn to what remains- the good that life still offers- it takes the form of gratitude and the healing begins…IMG_0152

Life is hard; it never permanently gets easier. Bad things still happen to good people. Promises are broken and some dreams die.  You cannot go back and make Life different. If you look at the photograph, you will see Crepe Myrtles blooming at the back of our yard. There is a gap between the trees- where a clump of beloved dogwoods used to be- they died this year and were cut down.  I mourned the loss- this area is a Memory Garden. The loss of the dogwoods seemed to be a metaphor for what has already been a year of difficulties-among them, the loss of two sweet friends and my mother. As if to drive the heartache/ gratitude connection home, the crepe myrtles are blooming their heads off! Meanwhile I’ve been staring at the Gap- the Loss. These trees have never bloomed so profusely before this year, maybe the dogwoods were blocking our view! IMG_0156

I took photographs of the heavy blooms hanging down close enough to be at eye level- midst the most incredible blue sky with puffy white clouds- the fragrance was faint and lovely. I had stared so long and so hard at what I had lost, feeling the dogwoods had betrayed the Memory Garden… having bittersweet memories… I realized I was missing the near and present loveliness!  ‘Life was treating me kind…’ Thank you, Dolly. The day after the photographs were taken, to further emphasize the point of the Scripture from First Corinthians which I had been contemplating for days…one of the big crepe myrtle branches heavy with blooms broke.  ‘And the same night He was betrayed, He took bread, and after He had given thanks, He broke the bread…’ Wouldn’t you know? In the sun-filled blue skied day, the truth of Jesus’ actions broke through my mind…instead of dwelling on one more bad thing-I decided to cut the blooms from the broken branch and make something of it! I’m so thankful I did! IMG_3105

Just look at the planter shaped like a woman’s head! She’s surely grateful  for the glorious flower-dy hat she’s wearing! Turns out the broken branch isn’t a mortal wound… Life does go on, bright blue skies mingle among the cloudy days- enjoy what you can and when you think of it? Give thanks to God… He will always love you! Have a blessed Lord’s Day!

Love y’all, Camellia

p.s. Be honest now, you’re humming Dolly Parton’s tune aren’t you?

Fried Corn…

IMG_3093The closer you live to a Corn Field the better your life will be. When corn is ripe, you can literally shuck it in the field and eat the sweet corn kernels right off the cob. Like most Southerners, I prefer White Cornmeal, White Hominy Grits and White Corn for most Casseroles, Soups or Souffle and in Fried Corn . One of the thrills of driving to Gulf Shores, Alabama in the early summer  are the homemade road signs- ‘Silver Queen Corn’… which ripens sooner in South Alabama than just about anywhere. I love to go to Farmers Markets and hear folks asking- ‘Now, when did you say this corn was picked? This morning? It’s probably almost dried out by now…‘ We do love our fresh corn, white or yellow. Hands down, my favorite summer meal is:IMG_3092

  • Fried Chicken,
  • Hot homemade Biscuits,
  • Fresh Ripe Summer Tomatoes- sliced please…
  • Fresh Green Beans and –
  • Fried Corn.

If your mouth is watering, you must have some Southern blood running in your veins somewhere. To my feeble mind and my favorite memories, this meal was top of my list of Southern Comfort Food. I would guess, unless you are at least three generations Southern, you may have never tasted this delicacy called Fried Corn. A famous chef, who returned to his home state of Alabama to open a restaurant planned to serve upscale dining with a down home Southern twist. One thing the chef planned to serve was Fried Corn. He purchased fresh white corn from the Farmers Market only to find that it didn’t taste quite the same as he recalled. As the story unfolded, he discovered that the Fried Corn of his youth was made from field corn, now grown almost exclusively for livestock feed, not for human consumption! Well, it’s even rarer to find field corn now that a whole lot of livestock is grass fed. This very accomplished chef now grows his own field corn! White Field Corn might be heirloom by now…I do know that field corn was dried and saved – to use a seed corn the next year. After I read the chef’s account, I asked a farmer’s wife, who happens to put up with my stupid questions because she’s a true friend- ‘Does anyone grow Field Corn any more?’ She could not think of a soul who still grows it to sell at our local Farmers Market! Nowadays we have to satisfy ourselves with hybrids, like Silver Queen, in our favorite white corn recipes and we have to add a slurry of Corn Starch to the skillet of Fried Corn to make it come close to our childhood memories.IMG_3090

Fried Corn is a Southern delicacy. It’s not the same as Creamed Corn, it’s not even close to Corn Casserole much less a Corn Souffle… no, it is made with very finely cut corn, the scraped juices from the cob and pan drippings- from panfried chicken or smoky bacon, then finished with a generous amount of butter. That’s right, no milk or cream in Fried Corn. Blessed is the cook who knows the old family recipe or owns an old Southern Cookbook with the heavenly recipe for Fried Corn! If you have a well seasoned Iron Skillet even better!

Camellia’s Cottage Fried Corn

  • 4-6 ears of the freshest white corn you can find- on the cob still with tight green leaves and black silks.
  • 3-4 slices of Thick Cut Bacon- fried crisp and set aside Reserve 1-2 Tablespoons of Bacon Drippings in the skillet.
  • 1 Tablespoon Corn Starch stirred in 1/2 cup of water to make a slurry.
  • Salt and Pepper to taste.
  • 1-2 Tablespoons Butter

Shuck the corn, cleaning off the silks. *Fried Corn depends on double cutting the corn kernels off the cob. In a large bowl, with a sharp knife, with the stem end standing in a bowl, with a downward motion, slice the tips of the corn kernels off the cob- it will resemble a square cob- cut the ‘corners’ off, then cut the remaining kernels off the cob, scraping the natural juices from the corn (this is the corn’s natural corn starch. Cutting the corn in this manner is critical to Fried Corn. Add Corn Starch Slurry to the finely sliced corn. Place bowl of corn, a large spoon and a potato masher, directly by the stove, to be ready to fry the corn.

Heat the Iron Skillet with reserved Bacon Drippings until the Skillet is as hot as the Black Bells of Hell. Meanwhile, not leaving the stove, quickly pour corn and slurry into the hot skillet and drippings, you should hear a sizzle. Reduce heat to low.  Stir until corn begins to thicken, use a potato masher to press even more juices out of the kernels.  Simmer until the corn is thick and tender.  Usually 10-12 minutes. Add Butter, cover the skillet and turn off heat, until ready to serve. Salt and pepper to taste. IMG_3091

Crumble Reserved Bacon as a garnish if desired. Oh my goodness! If you don’t try another thing this summer, quick! Go buy some fresh plump white corn and make a batch of Fried Corn. I love to ladle some into a bowl and chop a fresh tomato on top. Sweet, salty, smoky, buttery- what more could you ask? Eat it like a warm summer soup, great on a rainy day or any day! And the next time you’re having Fried Chicken…well, enough said… IMG_3093

Love y’all, Camellia

*photographs are obviously mine…