Happy Halloween!

7FF6A75D-BACC-4F30-9D34-ADC866642DEAThe Pumpkins…

Have been picked. 48864312-4B54-47B2-8C1F-4949AB6A7837

The Treats…

18741288-56A6-47DC-BC09-0CD18C6720D8Have been made… A823409B-1FB8-4E49-8AC0-8D9C083EA62F

The Crows…

B69A0CD8-3DA3-49EB-B978-18E0BD071D13

Have paused to roost…

On Halloween night, when the Moon drops low… E11F506B-667E-471A-94E4-327986AC3A03

We’re hoping Royalty will stop by.

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Here’s wishing everyone a fun, safe and Happy Halloween!

E7E2934C-A221-426A-88EC-33A9CBDE251A Love y’all, Camellia

*Regardless how busy you are- Paperless Post is there to help you with some of the cutest holiday e-greetings you ever seen! While you’re waiting for Trick or Treaters…it’s so easy- you can send a few good wishes out- it’s not too late now or for any of your holiday or special occasion needs! 54330ACF-D5E4-40CD-90A7-E84B9382D0BB

* All photographs belong to the Camellia’s Cottage Community and should never be used without express permission granted. (the moonlit night was taken by award winning Jeremy Miniard! Find him at jeremy-miniard.fineartamerica.com *This is a compensated post by Paperless Post!

Homewreckers…

BDB6AC65-F5E4-437E-BA57-084BCB00E203An amusing dessert for Fall and even Halloween sounded fun, maybe something chocolate would be a good idea- I had seen a lot of wonderful and photogenic desserts, so mine had to be different. I thought of a confection I had made for a Holiday Bake Sale I hosted several years ago. Okay. Here’s the problem- I couldn’t find the recipe! I turned this house upside down looking for it! Homewrecking, if you will. When I made the first version of my confection, I’d decided to make an extreme version of Blondies. I planned to called them Blonde Bombshells- reminiscent of the beautiful blondes of the silver screen.

  • Jane Mansfield, Marilyn Monroe, Ingrid Bergman,
  • the Gabor Sisters, Jean Harlowe, Grace Kelly even Brigette Bardot-

Rich, talented, beautiful – a feast for the eyes… but wait a minute! Why not celebrate Brunettes! There was-

  • Ava Gardner, Natalie Wood,
  • Vivien Leigh, Elizabeth Taylor and more…

Why, they too were rich, beautiful, talented even warm and spicy. So, I made something like a Brownie but added warm spices like black pepper, nutmeg, cloves and cinnamon. Let me tell you- they were so decadent- a one inch square was… well, all anyone needed!  Still. I couldn’t find the recipe. All I knew, from the scribbled notes- there was a notation- ‘Base is like Katherine Hepburn’s Brownies’… the lost recipe for the brownie had a notation in one of my grandmother’s cookbooks or scraps of newspaper clipped recipes- I believed it was in a cookbook compiled by her double first cousins. No luck- but I did find a recipe purported to be similar to Katherine Hepburn’s Brownies in one of my community cookbooks by a lady named Maybelle, whom shall remain anonymous. 8E79A7D4-52D3-4930-B50F-1C12803E5F31

Could I just take a minute and say- There were certain things we were taught not to talk about di-rectly. Or in mixed company- even in polite society. Things like mental lapses were spoken of as being eccentric or colorful – Money- the haves and the have nots- whether you had money or you didn’t – had absolutely nothing to do with whether you acted right, had social graces and good manners – You could be poor as Job’s turkey and still be genteel. Marital problems? Ladies might read about it in True Confessions or a tabloid at the Beauty Parlor whispering among themselves in hushed tones then nervous giggling ensued. A ‘Homewrecker’ was rarely spoken of – those with refined sensibilities just didn’t talk about these unpleasant things.

The first time I ever actually recall hearing the word ‘Homewrecker‘ – my grandmother practically hissed the word- in her own home, mind you! To be honest, until I was out on my own I had the feeling that a homewrecker was someone who owned a small time wrecking company and ran one of those wrecking ball machines in dubious neighborhoods- someone who tore down houses…perhaps under the cover of darkness. Though, I vaguely recall believing homewreckers mostly lived out in Hollywood- since my dreamy eyed mother mentioned admiring Katherine Hepburn… my grandmother quickly followed that by hissing…‘Homewrecker’. It sounded unusual and perfectly scandalous.

I know now that Miss Hepburn apparently had a long running love affair with a married man named Spencer Tracy. Neither movie star looked like the type to run heavy equipment on a regular basis. Though Mr. Tracy was described as ‘powerful’ and ‘dynamite’– he was never…nevah! described as a homewrecker– and apparently he never … shh- D-I-V-O-R-C-E-D .  Thank you very much, Tammy Wynette.  Still. Miss Hepburn must have made some wonderful brownies; maybe Spencer Tracy was partial to chocolate. And y’all, for the record?

I long for that vintage civilized conversation– in polite company. Too much information and vulgar language in society has become one of my pet peeves; genteel, polite, kind and respectful conversation would be like a breath of fresh clean air. Don’t you think?   At any rate- down through time the recipe for Katherine Hepburn’s Brownies was touted as a dense rich chocolate confection filled with walnuts or pecans and for sure those brownies were socially acceptable. Just for fun- I adapted Maybelle’s recipe a bit, I added strong coffee, doubled the recipe and used Baking Chocolate instead of Cocoa, Butter instead of Oleo and of course no walnuts- I used Southern Pecans. So, stay tuned- you’ll see why I dubbed my new brownies- Homewreckers, just for fun and pure devilment!

4488E530-663B-4FAD-961F-81D1B72F97D5Camellia’s Homewreckers

  • You will need 4 oz. of Baking Chocolate – broken into squares
  • 2 sticks of unsalted butter (plus enough to butter the baking sheet)
  • 2 cups of sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  •  1/2 cup of sifted all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon of strong brewed coffee or 1 teaspoon espresso powder
  • 2 cups of pecans toasted with a pinch of salt and then rough chopped.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. On another baking pan- spread 2 cups of pecans and a pinch of salt. Toast pecans in the oven while it is preheating, they will be perfectly roasted, remove and chop coarsely. Set aside. Prepare a 10×15 baking sheet linws with parchment paper which has been buttered well. Set aside.

EB4EAB18-B784-4924-B892-D416393096A3*This is a one pot recipe! In a large saucepan, melt 4 oz. of Baking Chocolate (use the best you can find) with the 2 sticks of butter on medium low heat until just melted (be careful and do not scorch or you’ll have to throw the whole thing out and start over!). Remove from heat, then add 2 cups of sugar- stir until sugar is completely absorbed. Add 1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract  and 1 Tbs. of cool and strong coffee.

Break eggs into a measuring cup and stir until combined. Combine well with chocolate mixture. Then quickly stir in 1/2 cup of sifted all purpose flour until just combined. (Can you believe it? just one half cup flour in the whole thing!) Add in coarsely chopped pecans. Pour mixture evenly onto baking sheet.

8d48cfa5-4857-469d-96cb-1bdde2870e1e.jpegBake for 25 minutes or maybe less at 350 degrees. Test with a toothpick, if it comes out clean- they are done and no one will be mad if they are slightly underdone! These Homewreckers are soft fudgy Brownie Bars, if they are hard and dry? Again I say, throw them out and start all over! *note: These brownie bars will cut best if they are chilled in the pan- uncut. To be honest, I love to cut brownies in small pieces, dip the fudgy bottom in granulated sugar for an effect similar to the Electric Maid Bakery or several other fine baking establishments in the Birmingham area which have long shuttered their doors- they made a habit of offering their brownies dipped in white sugar and… I suspect to keep them from sticking together and making a mess.

Here’s the two secrets for very good brownies which are rarely shared- the perfect brownies or brownie bars have very little flour and are best undercooked! Please note again: Camellia’s  Homewreckers have just one half cup of flour in this whole pan! (you can make thicker brownies by baking in a 9×13 pan and increase the baking time just slightly)

Now, in an effort to make an amusing Halloween treat- I cut the chilled Homewreckers into 3×3 inch squares, using two of them, I filled the center with vanilla ice cream and topped it with hot fudge sauce- and a spritz of whipped cream on top- the ‘eyes’ aren’t the confectioner’s type but could be! *I double checked Katherine Hepburn’s Brownies – they don’t contain the strong coffee or espresso powder- her recipe calls for an 8×8 inch pan- mine for an 10×15 inch baking pan, they are surely thinner but do make sure not to overcook.  Imagine my surprise when I found an NPR segment citing a New York Times article with the recipe for Miss Hepburn’s Brownies- and the subtitle of the NPR segment was ‘A Recipe for Homewrecking?’(link to NYT article, posted on NPR is a segment called the Salt- an article written by Maquita Peters at http://www.npr.org)

Cooking and baking should be fun- and when you make your own rendition of any recipe- half the fun is naming the recipe! Be sure to share your rendition! By the way, if I ever do round up that recipe for Brunettes? You’ll be the first to know! As for this recipe? The only homewrecking these confections will create is maybe some scuffling over the last bite! Have fun making a batch of Homewreckers of your own- or Ghostbusters, whatever you call them- they’re good!  if you want to try your hand at coming up with a recipe for some Platinum Blondies or even some Fiery Redheads – I don’t know, maybe rich red velvet cookie bars vamped up with nuts and warm spices, just be sure to share the recipes!

Love y’all, Camellia

*All photographs are obviously mine. I must say- Katherine Hepburn was one of my all time favorite actresses! And she was neither a blonde or a brunette but a beautiful redhead!

*I believe True Confessions was a magazine but maybe it was a tabloid- please forgive my lapse. I haven’t seen a copy in years

 

Storm Art…

EF959F8E-EC91-4F0C-A7F6-A160946C6A03The South often finds herself in the path of storms… just recently Hurricanes Florence and Michael came blowing through leaving a path of destruction- it’s heartbreaking, takes the wind out of your sails when the sun comes out and shines a bright spotlight on the damage. The first time we went to New Orleans after Katrina- we took a tour through storm ravaged parts of the city and visited a museum with an haunting installation hanging from the ceiling, made of recovered dirt streaked bottles and hand blown blue glass hands reaching down as a reminder of the many hands who reached into the flood waters and rescued survivors along with recovery of bodies and debris. After that season of terrible storms along the Gulf Coast it wasn’t unusual to see Storm Art…street vendors and fine artists who made things of beauty from parts of the wreckage, somberly beautiful reminders of terrible times,  the will to survive and the determination to survive.

F00B3A49-1980-4532-8316-5AD8A5092771One, internationally acclaimed artist, Nall, who hails from Troy, Alabama created masterpieces from pieces of wood, bits of fine art gilded frames and beautiful prints collaged together in ways that evoked sad memories wrought into beauty. In 2016, while we were in Fairhope – a beautiful small town on Mobile Bay… strolling around the town we came upon an art gallery and wandered in to look around. Nall, himself was in residence- all alone with his tiny dogs.

 

We were enthralled by his art and his colorful eccentric personality as he spoke of his work and many other things with passion. Nall’s work was known to me- I had seen several pieces of his work hanging in the historic Grand Hotel on Point Clear nearby. I had admired it for years, never dreaming we would actually meet the man who created the Storm Art.  Now, I’m absolutely no Nall, however, I was inspired to create something- anything from a storm and make my own version of Storm Art. Sure enough, inspiration struck when, a year or so ago- a small tree was uprooted by a storm, in our yard. The mud was washed away from the trunk and it was sawed off to about table height. Then the drying out process took several months.

A6D82638-1BDE-4744-B3E3-ECA61A250F38With a small pot of silver and another of bronze glaze- I set out to make the uprooted stump into something useful and hopefully beautiful. A friend helped me find a lightweight tray to put on top- I loved this tray whether it worked or not. To tell you the truth, I wanted a thicker rim for the top and still hope to find one! While I’m not entirely satisfied now, when I do find the perfect top- this tray will be useful and beautiful. Still.  In an effort to finish my tree stump project- I’ve temporarily attached the tray and the result delights me.

DF77ADE9-E022-47D3-9D5E-4D540C7ECE81Nall would probably laugh out loud- oh, maybe not- he encourages budding artists with his workshops- such an incredible man. Yet, for now… my silvered tree trunk plant stand pleases me- with it’s jumbo fern…a touch of whimsy indoors which perks up the gray days and makes me have hope. Imagine. My Storm Art has become a plant stand!

9F228F00-09BA-400A-8EEC-54E4487B98E9I might not love the problems of storms… yet I can learn to love beauty born of trouble. Storm Art, if you will. Repurposing debris is an old art form…undertaken in the calm after a storm. Our hearts remain with those who are continuing to recover from recent storms and heartache.

Love y’all, Camellia

*You won’t want to miss seeing more art by Nall and reading more about him! You can find him at http://www.artistnall.com Amazing! We were inspired and honored to meet him!

*All photographs of Storm Art are obviously mine. A huge thanks to Nall, who gave me permission to take his photograph and the others in his studio- which in no way does justice to his fine art.

Sweet Spicy Snack Crackers…

One of our most popular snack recipes ever- Spicy Sweet Snack Crackers are perfect for any and all gatherings- from Tailgating to after school snacks and even treating the folks who’re answering the door to Trick or Treaters! These easy snack crackers are a hit any time but especially in the Fall, y’all. Stay tuned too- we’ve been on a Fall Break- but will have a new and… well, you’ll just and have to wait and see what we’ve been up to here at Camellia’s Cottage- in the meantime…here’s a quick, easy and delicious snack!

Camellia's Cottage

IMG_3290In the South, we’re known for hospitality, especially for our ability to offer pickup foods at a moment’s notice. ‘Y’all come over, no- we’re just having pickup foods’ … It could be as simple as parched peanuts…or quickly toasting some buttery salted pecans, even  pulling some cheese straws from the freezer and baking them off to put in a little silver bowl.  I have to admit having a little snack greatly improves conversation! We tend to keep a box or bag of a favorite cookie or cracker, but we do have our standards! The best is a little 1 inch square cheese cracker we’ve all been eating, all across this country since the 1920’s! It’s dangerous for me to be in the vicinity of a bright red box of Cheez-its®! IMG_3287

The all time favorite snack cracker of my lifetime- Cheez-its®, to my way of thinking can hardly be improved upon; now, with so many different flavors…

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Alabama Backroads Beauty…

Couldn’t resist sharing Jeremy Miniard’s Autumn photographic talent! He is our award winning photographer, who helped us get going in such a beautiful way! Alabama is a real beauty every season, when we have a cool crisp fall, it’s stunning! Now that the weather has cooled off, it’s making me believe it’s Fall, y’all! Enjoy!

Camellia's Cottage

75BEC44E-B2E7-4316-ABFA-802C59978E7FAlabama is a beautiful and unique state- we have mountains, rivers, lakes- all the way down to the most beautiful beaches and bays you can imagine! In the Fall, folks like to take a Sunday drive to see the colorful displays of autumn beauty or stay beside one of our Lakes, hike through the woods to see a Waterfall or stop at a Roadside Stand. When Mother Nature shows out and throws down carpets of gold, green and redand happily reaches her armsup to the sky with brightly colored leaves– it’s breathtaking when we have a beautiful Fall, y’all! Let’s get going on our Road Trip- through the Backroads of Alabama…

Off we go!

Let’s get over to the Rivers and Streams…

And take a look at these close ups!

And stop at a road side stand…jeremy-fall-30-marketYou can almost hear the singin’…. ‘For the Beauty of the Earth…’ ringing out…

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Fried Apple Pies…

75B4BD0B-9E57-402F-BC1F-298D2212D7E6Southerners are a peculiar bunch of folks. Eccentric? Colorful? Quirky? We tend to revel in it. We accept it, enjoy it even. Of course we disagree and have our own opinions- yet the one place we find common ground is the Table. Kitchen, picnic or dining table.. put real southern food on the table and it has a settling effect.  it helps us remember our ancestors, our upbringings and our rural roots.  Food also helps us detect who’s from here and who’s not by the food they eat or know about. I have a list. Now. this is by no means complete, just a starter list…

I would say if you’ve heard of all of them- you’ve probably been here for several generations- if you can barely make it out? Well, bless your heart- it might be a blessing or a curse depending on your perspective.  Don’t stress out too much as you read through the list. See how many you recognize and yes, you do get extra points if you have actually eaten these foods- regularly.

  • Grits– no darlin’ you don’t eat these with sugar- or even milk…no! that’s cream of wheat! Butter, salt and pepper, please.
  • Corn Pone. This would be on the advanced level. Points will not be taken off if you crumble or sop with Corn Pone- either is acceptable.
  • Salmon Croquettes. We will consider you kinfolks if you know what this one is!
  • Pepper Sauce– this comes in a narrow necked bottle, hot as fire and vinegary. Extra points if you know what to douse with it.
  • Sorghum Syrup– if you have some in a can that looks suspiciously like a small paint can – and a homemade label? it’s authentic.
  • Cat head Biscuits. No explanation necessary- extra points if you can name a few other types of biscuits too.
  • Sawmill Gravy– extra points if you know several other gravies are.. Red Eye Gravy, Tomato Gravy – whoa extra points for Chocolate Gravy. If you know what White Meat and Gravy is- well, don’t bother coming to the front door like a visitor- come on in through the back door like home folks!
  • Squash Casserole. Now, this is a tricky one. Hint: it doesn’t have butternut or acorn squash in it. No- ma’am.
  • Cracklin’ Cornbread. Again this is advanced level of southern food knowledge.
  • Pot Likker – only third or fourth generation southerners know what this is. Last but not least-
  • Fried Pies… yes ma’am, I’m talkin’ about genuine southern fried pies… apple or peach will most likely top the list and no, we don’t call them ‘Hand pies’ or ‘Turnovers’ either, we’ll let other regions of the country call them that!

DDDA03AC-D6A0-4EB7-97D6-44520BC3F094A genuine fried pie is.. I believe a distinct southern delicacy. Made mostly from dried fruit, preferably you own but no points are deducted if you use store bought. The dough has… shall we say, evolved. But here is a very old recipe for the dough:

  • 2 cups sifted plain flour (that means all purpose) 3 tsp. baking powder 1 tsp. salt 1/3 cup of solid shortening or lard.
  • Mix with pastry cutter until the texture is like cornmeal.
  • Add 2/3 cup of milk and mix into a soft dough.
  • Divide dough into 6 large or 12 smaller balls. Roll or pat each ball on a floured surface to make circles.
  • Fill with prepared dried fruit or fill half of the dough circle; fold dough over filling/ seal the edges- crimping with a fork dipped in flour. Fry pies in a heavy iron skillet in hot Crisco until golden brown on both sides. Drain.
  • *This recipe is from my grandmother’s family cookbook and it is from an anonymous source.
  • Apple Filling: In a medium saucepan place 6 ounces of dried apples. Season with 2-3 Tbs. of cinnamon sugar (or 1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon and 2-3 Tbs. of sugar), a grating or two of fresh nutmeg.
  • Almost cover the dried apples and spices with water, bring to a  boil, reduce heat and simmer until the water thickens to a syrup and the color is a beautiful copper color, but the apples aren’t mushy. *I generally take a potato masher and lightly mash apples (or peaches) to absorb some of the syrup. Here’s what they look like:B321E8F4-8460-4BDC-911E-23D49F70D019

Any remaining dried fruit is wonderful on hot buttered biscuits. Refrigerate leftovers.  Now, here’s the evolution of how many Fried Pies have been made for decades- in the 1930’s canned biscuits became available and were widely in use after World War II – and some folks tend to truly love them, even using them in place of homemade biscuits, I’ve never really made the switch with the exception of using them as dough for frying. The texture is truly perfect for making Fried Apple Pies or any other type of fried pie for that matter. The dough is stretchy and tends to hold up better for me than my efforts at using the old way that my grandmother’s kinfolks used. Here’s what they look like filled:

My mother in law was one of the best southern cooks I’ve ever known and was particularly well known for her Fried Pies. She personally made fried pies for the dorm used by the Marching Southerners of Jacksonville State University here in Alabama when our daughters were students there- needless to say our daughters were very popular band members! The dough she used was from canned biscuits.  It might be an acquired taste but I prefer it to this day! And they truly fry up beautifully!83ABAA90-2A3D-4188-9672-B5D2BE3CA36E

I tend to make up the dried apples, chill and then roll out the dough, put a little more than a tablespoon of prepared dried apples; and make the fried pies. At that point they do better if chilled before frying. I also freeze on a sheet pan and store frozen in freezer bags until you’re ready to fry! Also, I don’t use solid shortening, preferring instead to use a mere 1/3 inch of vegetable oil in a medium high skillet per dozen Fried Pies! *If you’re making more you may need to add a bit more oil.  A 6 ounce bag of dried apples makes enough for 20-24 fried pies! Some dust their fried pies with confectioner’s sugar, I don’t. ‘It just don’t seem right’. Fried Apple Pies are a treat year-round, however in Fall and Winter they seem to be one of those vintage homemade treats that brings on such fond memories of our mothers and grandmothers!

Love y’all, Camellia

*All photographs are obviously mine. Photograph of cooked dried apples has not been enhanced- look for that color if possible for your dried apples!  *Any canned biscuit dough will work, with the possible exception of the flaky layered type! *Now, if you need any help with those other classic southern foods, don’t hesitate to ask! I’d be curious to know just how well you did on the quiz!

Tipsy Treats…

B9A442C2-3947-45DD-8C68-32489223A84FFall and Winter Holidays will soon be upon us- folks are already decorating and frankly, I’ve been trying out a few old but reliable treats – you know, party food, maybe an easy dessert or two… I had just purchased some fresh shelled pecans, I thought of the classic tea time-Pecan Tassies and the famous Mississippi Mud Cakes of my youth.

While I was making them, I started thinking of two Southern cooks I knew- they were next door neighbors- both had large wonderful homes, both loved to cook, both were about the same ages and mostly ran in the same social circles- I say mostly because Mary Jim had grown up in the same area as her mother, grandmother, aunts and uncles- had close friends she’d known all her life- her neighbor Joy Nell wasn’t from here… you know what I mean. In the South, we tend to be close knit; when someone moves in from somewhere else- well, we’re nice to them but… I think you get the picture.

Joy Nell had moved from Tennessee- close to Memphis I think- but most of her family were from further north in Kentucky. Mary Jim was a classic honey blonde, who enjoyed Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Andy Williams. It wasn’t unusual to hear Mary Jim humming ‘Moon River’ while she cooked. Joy Nell was a natural brunette who’d enhanced her hair to a much darker shade- more like Connie Francis and Elizabeth Taylor. Joy Nell greatly admired Priscilla Presley. For one thing- Priscilla dyed her hair to match Elvis’ hair. Joy Nell’s hair was styled a lot like Elvis hair as I recall, pompadour like. She showed a bit more va va vroom when she cooked. Sometimes Mary Jim laughed  when Joy Nell belted out an Elvis song as she vacuumed, but thought it was just tasteless to hear Joy Nell cooking and singing along with Connie Francis….‘Where the Boys Are…’ Joy Nell seemed to get a bit dramatic, if you know what I mean.  Well, it just wasn’t done among Mary Jim’s friends, who were into planning bridal teas, bridge parties, served on the bereavement committee and altar guild. Mary Jim’s friends were involved in more sedate activities.

It must be noted- Mary Jim called on Joy Nell more than once to help with things like Cheese Straws, Tea Sandwiches and oh yes, Pecan Tassies. No one could match Joy Nell’s recipe for Pecan Tassies. Generous to a fault, Joy Nell contributed her recipe to garden clubs and Junior League cookbooks- especially her Pecan Tassies. The cookbook recipe, while very good- just never turned out quite as good as Joy Nell’s. No one could figure it out. ‘I made that recipe 4 times and not once, not once I tell you, did they ever hold a candle  to Joy Nell’s!’

Not one to be outdone-Mary Jim was determined to discover the mystery, she asked Joy Nell to show her how to make Pecan Tassies, the classic southern tea time pastry. She arrived in a starched white blouse, permanent press slacks and Italian loafers- only to find Joy Nell in a Ship and Shore® blouse tucked into bright petal pushers with highly decorated straw sandals she’d bought at the Straw Market in Nassau.

Sure enough, Joy Nell pulled out all of the ingredients, the exact ones from the latest garden club cookbook to make the pastry and filling; when to Mary Jim’s shock and amazement- Joy Nell brought out a mason jar of pecans soaking in amber liquid.  Joy Nell said she had a distant kinship to a famous Baptist preacher from Kentucky named Elijah Craig…I believe it was on her momma’s side… he was most likely a primitive Baptist because Joy Nell held up that mason jar like she was handling a rattlesnake! Mary Jim gasped what is that? ‘Why darlin’ I’m gonna measure out my pecans for the tassies!’ That’s right! the secret to Joy Nell’s tipsy tassies wasn’t just any ol’ pecans…no, honey they were soaked in Bourbon! 0FFB5ED5-EE0B-412E-9E49-7A8410CD336B

Before you could say Elijah Craig, Mary Jim started her own batch of cooking pecans…  famous for her Mississippi Mud Cake… Mary Jim renamed it Mississippi Mudslide! Between the two neighbors, I’m not sure the secret of either recipe was ever shared! I tried reproducing their famous recipes and they came close… Now, the truth is- you too can revolutionize- even your plain old Pecan Pie…just bake according to directions, when it’s hot- sprinkle Bourbon over the top of the Pecan Pie- the sizzle lets you know- the alcohol has burned off and the flavor is enhanced!

4B351217-216F-428C-A338-5EDC82B9E569Camellia’s Tipsy Tassies

Tart Shells:  Pecan Tassies generally a cream cheese crust, which generally consists of 3 oz of cream cheese and 1 stick of butter softened to room temperature- work in 1 cup of all purpose flour and chill. *You can make or buy your favorite pie crust… chill or roll into small balls and press into well greased mini muffin tins, feel free to use a small round cutter and fit into tins to form small tart shells.  (I generally use whatever I have or even purchased pie crust in the refrigerator section of the market.) These can be made in advance and kept in the freezer. Here’s what they look like:

3B7E9D8B-75CB-43FA-BF35-E051ECD96D2ARe-chill once tart shells are formed. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. I have excellent results when I partially pre-bake the tart shells for 3-5 minutes.  Filling: Soak 3/4 cup of chopped pecans in 1/4 cup of Bourbon until most of the liquid is absorbed. In a bowl, mix 3/4 cup of Brown Sugar, a dash of salt, 1 large egg- beaten, 1 Tbs. of melted Butter, drained soaked pecans with 1 teaspoon of remaining bourbon and 1 teaspoon of vanilla. Mix well. Fill tart shells 3/4 full of filling. Bake 20-25 minutes. *30 minutes may be required if you decide not to partially prebake tart shells. Makes 2 1/2 dozen Tipsy Tassies. These are not overly sweet- and actually make a wonderful addition to appetizer trays. For dessert tassies,  I often drizzle chocolate or caramel sauce over them for decoration and additional flavor.

1DD227EB-BD13-4C37-A0C4-E560107ABDCFCamellia’s Mississippi Mudslide

For cake base: You will need to soak 1 1/2 cups of rough chopped pecans in 1/2 cup of Bourbon until most of liquid is absorbed. *note: If you think ahead, you can keep pecans in a sealed plastic bag or jar of Bourbon in a cool location – ratio is 3 to 1.   The remaining Bourbon may be used again for more pecans. Shaking the jar occasionally to make sure all nuts are covered.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 16x11x1 baking Sheet Pan, dusted lightly with powdered cocoa. Set aside. Melt 2 sticks of Butter; add 1/2 cup of cocoa, stir. Add 1 teaspoon of instant coffee,  4 well beaten large eggs; add 1 1/2 cup of flour, a pinch of salt and mix well. Add 1 1/2 cups of Bourbon Pecans and mix well. Pour mixture in prepared sheet pan and bake 15 minutes. Spread 1 small bag of miniature marshmallows over hot cake. Let this set a while, the marshmallows should be melted slightly. Press marshmallows lightly with hands to make sure they adhere to warm cake before  *Some suggest running the hot cake and marshmallows back in the warm oven, being careful not to toast marshmallows. Others suggest allowing the cake to cool slightly then spreading the cake with one jar of marshmallow cream, instead of mini marshmallows. Neither method is necessary for a true Mudslide effect.)

AAAFD16F-0249-4AE0-A492-3727D297F46DWhile the marshmallows are softening- make Mudslide Glaze: Combine 3 Tbs. of cocoa, 1 box of confectioners sugar (16 oz. sift if necessary to remove lumps). Add  6 Tbs. of half and half (or evaporated milk or plain whole milk your choice) and 1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract. Mix until smooth. Pour thick chocolate glaze immediately over cake and marshmallows while still warm. Spreading as evenly as possible. Cool and cut into squares. Depending on size of squares- this makes several decadents dozens.  *Note – some wonderful bakers have told me that they occasionally take a shortcut of using a very good brownie mix, adding a bit more cocoa and the teaspoon of instant coffee, I add Bourbon pecans for a very good Mississippi Mudslide otherwise known affectionately as Mississippi Mud Cake. Some also make this cake with no miniature marshmallows just icing which is an extremely good cake as well.

8431415B-92EB-401D-96A6-E288B47D8FC3The secret ingredient these wonderful bakers rarely tell you is about soaking those pecans in Bourbon! Southern food is what binds us together and there are some good cooks who have a few tricks up their sleeves to make ordinary Southern food- extraordinary! And don’t expect to find these little tips in cookbooks- great Southern cooks barely think about it- they have that extraordinary talent of just knowing when something needs a pinch of salt, a hit of cayenne pepper or a sprinkle of sugar. Okay- you know this is coming… like all good Southern Tales… the story of Joy Nell and Mary Jim is part truth, part myth and part outright lies…the part about soaking those pecans? is the truth and nothing but the truth!

Love y’all, Camellia

*All photographs are obviously mine. *This is a work of humorous fiction… any resemblance of Joy Nell and Mary Jim to actual folks is merely coincidence. However, the recipes are real. Several of my older cookbooks do tell the secret of soaking pecans in bourbon and infusing dried fruits also, but it is a rare admission in Southern cookbooks!

*Elijah Craig was indeed a travelling Baptist preacher who was also a distiller of bourbon, as evidenced by his namesake Elijah Craig® Kentucky Bourbon! I just made that up about Joy Nell being distant kin but it could happen!  Maker’s Mark® is also fine Kentucky Bourbon.  I’m told it’s a good bourbon for drinking…I’ll take mine in Tipsy Tassies or on top of Pecan Pies thank you very much.