The Eggnog Party…

7BF94A29-9C64-447C-B51F-C08E9EF6669DWe could have called it a Fruitcake Party, though fruitcake rarely makes an appearance. We could have called it a Caroling Party. We tried that one year- no one wanted to go. Ever. Again. Come to think of it- we could have called it the Bourbon Ball. Okay, that’s a bit pretentious and we’re better at eating than dancing. The truth is- fruitcake, bourbon balls and eggnog tend to be … let’s just say- under appreciated holiday fare. For over two decades, we’ve been going to an Eggnog Party, hosted graciously in the home of friends; attended by families and friends who are loved and cherished as the ‘family we have chosen for ourselves’. It’s uniquely southern, so it’s a traditional party, with the dining room table set buffet style and yes, family china and silver makes an appearance.

7BF94A29-9C64-447C-B51F-C08E9EF6669DThe Eggnog Party is sort of an unorganized , uncategorized gathering of folks bound by generations of communal experiences. Besides the heirloom recipe for Eggnog- what makes this party so charming is the Program, the Favors and the planning for it- often months in advance. There are children of… all ages and highly anticipated by all. The Program always includes Readings for children and one or more Readings which embody the Season and always includes Music. Sometimes the program is as zany as The Sister Act, a goofy rendition of Santa Baby or an airing of jovial grievances through Festivus, which, by decree shall never be repeated again. One of our talented guests might sing Ave Maria or an old fashioned Christmas Carol which would have been introduced by a Reading of the history of the hymn – always accompanied by a classical Guitar. Last year a Reading of Dylan Thomas’s ‘A Child’s Christmas in Wales’…followed by the old Lullabye- ‘All Through the Night’ with a soloist, the haunting strains of soft music as the rest of us sang the sweet Chorus- that one definitely brought forth a few sweet tears. The favor that year had the theme of Angels.

Always, regardless of the theme, the program is a mix of the significance of the season and the joy of it too. Any gifts are token and quietly exchanged – to be opened later, since this party isn’t centered around gift exchange, instead its more about exclaiming, getting caught up, enjoying the program, the music and always the bubbling effervescent love and laughter. And my oh my! the food! A Christmas Ham and a thinly sliced fragrant Turkey. The sides always include a relish plate, our beloved southern casseroles, a cheese ball, roasted and salted pecans, cheese straws, tiny rolls and a buffet laden with desserts. Groaning might be a better word.

7BF94A29-9C64-447C-B51F-C08E9EF6669DOf course, there’s a silver punch bowl filled with a frothy full bodied Eggnog-

  • The creamy color of magnolias and gardenias,
  • Light as a feather plucked from an angel’s wing,
  • Thick with cream and
  • Freckled with fragrant nutmeg.

In the South, we tend to claim Eggnog as our own, since George Washington of Virginia enjoyed it and recorded a recipe for it. In the southern tradition of leaving out a critical bit- in Washington’s case he left out the number of eggs! Eggnog really isn’t southern at all- it’s British, it’s European, it’s American- yet what makes this recipe Southern is the ‘spirits’. We tend to replace ale or sherry with ‘brown whiskey’ … Kentucky Bourbon or Tennessee Whiskey- some add Rum, to honor our southern proximity to the Sugar Fields and Caribbean flavors. Take a sip of Suellen’s Eggnog and ‘darlin’ you’ll talk southern to me.’

 

7BF94A29-9C64-447C-B51F-C08E9EF6669DHere’s how you make this old classic which we know as Suellen’s Eggnog

  • 14 Large Eggs, separated
  • 1 pint Jack Daniel’s Brown Whiskey
  • 14 Tablespoons Cane Sugar
  • 1 Quart and 1/2 pint Whipping Cream

Separate eggs and reserve egg whites at room temperature. In a large mixing bowl, beat egg yolks until pale yellow. Slowly add whiskey, one silver teaspoon at a time, at first. Increase additions of whiskey beating continually until egg yolks and whiskey are combined thoroughly. Add sugar slowly, one silver tablespoon at a time. Whip cream and add slowly to mixture. In another bowl, whip egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold gently into whiskey mixture. Sprinkle with fresh grated mixture. Keep thoroughly chilled. It is preferable to ladle from a silver punch bowl. Enjoy!

This Eggnog is an adaptation of an old recipe from a Talledega cookbook, one county over from where we live. *Please note that an essential tool is a silver spoon. This isn’t a pretentious tool- old recipes tend to specify silver spoons since other materials could affect the taste, generally metallic.

I’ll admit, I sip only one small punch cup, it’s a thick, rich holiday mixture unlike anything else. Eggnog is also something I taste just once a year at this amazing party. If you’re wishing you had a less spirited eggnog, I’ve had good success slowly melting homemade ice cream, adding a bit of whipped cream on top with a grating of fresh nutmeg.

7BF94A29-9C64-447C-B51F-C08E9EF6669DHere’s the thing- I’ll always associate Eggnog with the exquisite color of creamy magnolias, strengthened with the years of friendships sustained for such a long time… soft strains of music, gentle laughter, so much love, genuine acceptance, concern freely expressed and the joy only this season can bring. Here’s hoping your gatherings are as spirited as Bourbon Balls, as nutty as a Fruitcake, as fragrant as a Gardenia and full of Comfort and Joy!

Love y’all, Camellia

* All photographs are obviously mine. Eggnog contains raw eggs, it’s best to use pasteurized eggs, and it should not be consumed by children due to alcohol content.

Pecan Pies…

Pecans are a cash crop in Alabama, indeed all across the South, folks love to have their own pecan trees. Pecan Pies are the iconic southern dessert, and while we wouldn’t turn down a piece of pecan pie any time of year- a pecan pie always makes her appearance on holiday tables. The truth is? It’s hard to imagine southern food without this wonderful nut. Some of my favorite cooks tend to enjoy- shelling pecans. Could I get a hallelujah for these fine ladies? I’ve had a few tell me they find it ‘relaxing’ to shell pecans… I wouldn’t know about that, it’s frustrating to me. To each his own. I do know this- to receive a bag of fresh shelled pecans is better than getting a bag of gold!

Now, I have to admit that I love pecans and pecan pies, though I also tend to restrict myself to baking the classic pecan pies for Thanksgiving and Christmas. And I love variations on the classic too. Chocolate Pecan Pie and Sweet Potato Pie topped with Pecans is amazing too. I’d never turn down either variation. Still. I rarely make all three at the same time. I made a classic pecan pie and a chocolate pecan pie for Thanksgiving this year. The classic is my husband’s favorite and I had a special request for the chocolate pecan pie. These pies are amazing and might just be one of the easiest pies to make! The wonderful thing about the classic pecan pie is that it can be pre-baked now and thawed and reheated any time during the holidays! I’ll admit to having one lurking in the freezer right this minute! I haven’t tried freezing the chocolate one…yet I believe it also would work well. And, even though, making your own pie crust dough is a wonderful thing…with all the busyness of the holidays, why would you unless you’re very organized and made up pie crust dough ahead…I’d say go ahead and use it! It’s the holidays! You want to put your very best out for family and guests! Here’s how we make Camellia’s Chocolate Pecan Pie-

You will need:

  • Single Pie Crust for Deep Dish Pie (unbaked)
  • 2 Tablespoons Butter (melted)
  • 3 Large Eggs
  • 1 cup Dark Corn Syrup
  • 1 cup Granulated Sugar
  • 1 Teaspoon Instant Coffee
  • 3/4 cup Semi Sweet Chocolate Chips (melted)
  • 1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Kosher Salt
  • 1 1/2 cups Pecan Halves
  • Prepare crust in a deep pie crust dish or 8 inch cake pan. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. For Filling Mixture- In a saucepan, on low heat, melt butter, then add chocolate chips to melt. Add Dark Corn Syrup, Sugar, Instant Coffee and Salt- combine well. Mix eggs in a small bowl and add to Filling Mixture, combining well. Stir in 1 1/4 cups of pecans, reserving a few to decorate the top of the pie, if desired. Pour Filling Mixture into prepared Pie Crust. Bake for 50-55 minutes until crust is lightly browned and filling is not completely set- *This is important- do not over bake the filling! When done, top the pie with reserved pecans in a circle to decorate if desired. Allow pie to cool completely on a wire rack.
  •  
  • You will need:
    1 Single Pie Crust for deep dish pie (unbaked)
    1 cup Dark Corn Syrup
    3 Large Eggs
    1 cup Sugar
    2 Tablespoons Butter, melted
    Pinch of Salt
    1 Teaspoon Pure Vanilla Extract
    1 1/2 cups whole pecans
    • 1 Tablespoon Bourbon ( if desired)
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare pie crust in deep dish pie pan. Line bottom of pie crust with whole pecans placed in concentric circles. Set aside to mix filling. Melt butter. In a mixing bowl, lightly mix eggs. Add corn syrup, sugar, melted butter, pinch of salt and vanilla extract. Combine well and pour carefully over pecans in unbaked pie shell. Bake at 350 degrees for 60-65 minutes, until pecans rise to top. Do not over bake. When pie is still hot sprinkle Bourbon over hot pecans (you will hear a sizzle!) Cool on a wire rack for at least one hour or until thoroughly cool and set. Keep chilled, before serving warm lightly if desired.

And, we’ve told you about another Pecan Pie that’s absolutely delicious!

It’s called Sweet Potato Pecan Pie… and is a wonderful twist on the classic pecan pie!

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We love to hear your stories and hope you will continue with the highly witty comments; of course your high praise when warranted and… In return, we will try to maintain high quality postings and avoid things, such as the questionable use of double negatives, the horror of dangling participles and the inexcusable use of ending a sentence with a preposition. Still. Occasionally we do admit to mangling the King’s English when we deem it appropriate for emphasis.

Just know this- we are so thrilled you’re here! Thank you for stopping by, and you’re always welcome to stay awhile. Soon we will be back with more delicious recipes, a few hints and pinches and hopefully a few laughs as well!

Love y’all, Camellia

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Getting Ready for the Holidays in the Kitchen…

Getting ready for the holidays is often overwhelming, there doesn’t seem to be enough time to get it all done- much less enjoy it! Thanksgiving is hands down my favorite holiday. It’s not about the perfect gifts. It’s really about being thankful for more things than one single day can contain. And let’s face it, getting ready for the holidays means good food and lots of it. So! I’ve put together a few things you can do quickly and easily while you’re getting celebration food ready for the holidays…

As far as you can- plan your holiday calendar for food and menus. Buy ahead, a bit each week instead of one huge purchase. Start with items that can be stored, chilled or frozen ahead of time. Note: Check out your seasonings and spices now- chances are they need to be replaced.

I also buy bulk pecans, almonds and cashews ahead of time. Pecans, cashews and almonds are stored in the freezer waiting to be toasted in the oven with butter and salt or even candied. Since nuts are often expensive- go ahead and buy them in advance. No southern cook worth her salt would be without at least pecans! Here’s how we’ve made Toasted Pecans

I make cheese balls ahead and freeze them- there’s always an event I’ve forgotten and believe me, they may not be the most exciting thing- yet somehow a cheese ball is always welcome! Speaking of cheese, I buy sharp cheddar in bulk also… Mimi’s Award Winning Pimento Cheese has never been turned down!

If you go ahead and chop celery and onion for making poultry stock or adding to dressing (we don’t actually say stuffing or cornbread dressing, yet for those who don’t know.. it’s made with cornbread!) anyway- put the whole batch in a large freezer bag. Take out what you need when you’re ready to use. I also make cornbread ahead of time, cool and freeze. These are such a time savers for me

If you serve a green salad with your meals, go ahead a week or so early and mix up homemade salad dressing and keep chilled, it will stay fresh about a week and that’s one less thing you have to worry about! And let’s face it, homemade salad dressing is always better!

Butter Balls aren’t named for turkeys… no butter balls will make your gravy silky and beautiful. They’re so easy to make, I keep them in the freezer almost all year round! And speaking of butter, the holidays require lots of butter! I buy it on sale if possible and freeze the excess.

Plan fun and easy treats- this is one of my favorites- Purchase donut holes, warm the donut holes, spear with long sticks. Then dip donut holes i your favorite fudge or caramel sauce, which may purchased as well. A platter of varied fruits, pound cake chunks and the donut holes makes a festive fun treat for children of any age!

 

I wish I was a wonderful yeast bread baker- I’m not. Still. In my area, there are wonderful rolls such as Millie Ray’s, Sister Schubert’s and even little Marshal’s biscuits! I buy ahead, freeze and bake fresh rolls for holiday meals and leftovers too! I’ve even been known to buy several pans of rolls, cinnamon rolls and orange rolls- stack them up, tie with a bow and it’s a wonderful gift or hostess gift!

Speaking of biscuits, Biscuit Mix is one of the 3 ingredients in Sausage Balls, which make an annual appearance! With one pound of sausage, one pound of shredded cheddar and 1 1/2 to 2 cups of biscuit mix formed into balls..baked at 350 until they’re done.. easy appetizer and! You can make up a double batch, freeze uncooked in a single layer on a sheet pan; stored in freezer bags- you’re almost ready for anything!

If you have one or two favorite casseroles or sides- double or triple the recipe and freeze or as in the case of Mimi’s Apricot Casserole– I double or triple the topping, seal in a freezer bag- set aside the other ingredients and foil baking pans so it’s ready to assemble and bake.

Green Bean Bundles seem to be a favorite side wherever they go. It’s just as easy to assemble them ahead of time, thaw slightly and bake until the bacon is browned and beautiful. There’s even a shortcut to get all of the flavor without even making one bundle! Place the green beans in a baking dish, cut bacon in pieces and scatter over the green beans, then add seasonings and bake as usual.

Simple Sugar Syrup is a must have for Southern Sweet Tea lovers. In a saucepan, using a 1/1 ratio of water and sugar, gently heat until the sugar is melted. That’s one cup of water simmered gently with one cup of sugar- in more plain English, darlin’ Cool and store in a tightly capped jar until you’re ready to use. Simple Sugar Syrup is also welcome for other sweetened drinks.

We all want our homes to have the scents of the holiday. There may be nothing that draws us in quite like cinnamon, cloves and warm scents… we’ve got that covered too as we get ready for the holidays. And no, it’s not a candle- it’s the easiest, most delicious Warm Punch you’ll ever make and your house will smell like a holiday home. Combine one large container of cranberry juice with one large container of pineapple juice- toss in a few cinnamon sticks and 4-5 whole cloves. * Feel free to float thin orange slices or wide strips of citrus zest, for a variation. Cover and on low heat, bring to a slow simmer. Your home will smell like it’s ready for the holidays!

The best advice of all for those wonderful holiday meals you’ll be making- is my grandmother’s creed- ‘Have a lot of a few things. Just make sure each thing is delicious.’ We will see you again soon- in the meantime… on your mark, get set, go! Getting ready for the holidays the kitchen!

Love y’all, Camellia * All photographs are obviously mine- with one glorious exception! Mimi’s Award Winning Pimento Cheese was memorialized by the very talented Becky Hadeed. Find her on Instagram @thestoriedrecipe .

Camellia goes to California…

92F087D9-4772-45B5-A170-9F5E254C5AF1Fall is a wonderful time to go to California! We’ve been at various times of year and I have to say when the weather is still hot as blue blazes here- California’s September weather is almost perfect. San Diego is perfect year round, yet San Francisco has generally felt  much cooler than I’ve expected whenever we go! This time, we did a multi-region trip. We flew into San Francisco and drove down the beautiful stunning Pacific Coast Highway to Monterrey, back up to beautiful San Francisco, then up to Napa and Sonoma Wine country where it was harvest time!

We went to Monterey for a family event, our daughter was getting a degree from Naval Post Graduate School, and while she’s a civilian I have to say the service was thrilling and you’ve got to know any southern lady of any age loves to see men in uniform! And the uniformed ladies were good looking too! Of course our daughter was the one in the pink dress I ‘had eyes for’ during the commencement service.

The Navy Band played everything from big band tunes to ‘chill bump’ military and national anthems. So impressive!

The school is in beautiful Monterey which is nestled on the Pacific coast, so of course we visited Cannery Row and Old Town Monterrey. The afternoon before, several in our family had gone on what looks and sounds like an amazing Whale Watching Tour!11117419-7D66-47F1-889F-4884C5536F38
The original drive down the Pacific Coast Highway entailed a stop at Half Moon Bay where we stopped and ate- what else? Fish and Chips! The flowers were brilliant!

On the way back up, I was again amazed by the farms, especially the pumpkins!  We drove into San Francisco, where … Location, location is the first thing!

We stayed at the historic and beautiful Fairmont San Francisco! It’s an amazing place! Not to mention, gorgeous too! That evening we were all interested in riding the historic and fun San Francisco Cable Cars! We went to Fisherman’s Wharf, ate at Boudin’s Bakery…famous for their sour dough bread, and Guiradelli Square, where …let’s just say- we indulged in chocolate!51DDBEEF-F659-4A77-986D-C6C6F7700B24
We had booked a full day Wine Country Tour with Gray Line, were picked up at our hotel; the ride over Golden Gate is always breathtaking and the scenery was simply amazing! This tour gave us stops at 3 wineries of different sizes, the smaller one started in the vineyards.

I’m not a wine connoisseur yet these small batch wines were delicious. The next winery tour started in the barrel room and ended in the tasting room. Our next stop was a short visit and lunch in Napa. From there up through the ever beautiful Sonoma, yet extra pretty due to harvest season. The last winery will be a name familiar to all… Sutter Home, where folks can stay…as all through this area, there are wonderful places to stay and fabulous art and restaurants, the French Laundry comes to mind…

After a full day, we just wanted something quick and delicious to eat! On previous trips we’ve made- there’s a hole in the wall pizza place called Uncle Vito’s ! So don’t worry about the calories- you’ll walk, climb, trudge back up the hills of SF to the hotel- some would call it ‘invigorating‘.

CCD24E1F-5272-4A55-8F1E-4F8DD01789C3On Sunday, of course we wanted to visit the sea lions! And the whole Pier 39 area… so fun, at the Ferry Building to graze thru the vendors and purveyors of California made or grown food! Amazing gift shops and beautiful sites to sit outside and eat or visit.

We were up for something quirky to do so we went to the Museum of Ice Cream. The pink hot chocolate was amazing! For the kid in me- it was truly fun! On up to China Town, we found an alleyway where fortune cookies are still made by hand- the aroma of fresh fortune cookies was a lure, the samples of warm crisp pastry was wonderful and the sight of watching Asian ladies make fortune cookies was unforgettable.B9548E1A-7849-4015-9288-1CFC58533CBD

Of course, we had to eat Chinese food in SF China Town too! Back at the amazing Fairmont, there was a wine and cheese tasting, we also peered through the glass to see the rooftop chef’s garden and beehives! There is also a beautiful terrace with beautiful plantings of amazing hydrangeas, palm trees and bedding plants- sofas and chairs for reading and relaxing too. 807C49C5-F5AC-4860-A638-65591F9A4550

Since we were tired and full- we had one more stop at the Fairmont to make- the Tonga Room, which is a complete surprise in such a formal setting- for all the world, visitors feel as they’re on a shipwrecked island! Even thunder and rainfall add to the dance music- no we didn’t dance, though we did have a few good laughs and made it an early night before flying home the next morning. In five days and four nights, we’d seen quite a lot of California and as we left, okay I’ll admit- I waved goodbye to the statue of Tony Bennett standing in front of the Fairmont Hotel where he regularly sang- ‘I left my heart in San Francisco’ I suppose everyone leaves a bit of their heart there- and thinking of things you wish you’d done- then looking forward to returning again to this beautiful City by the Bay

Love y’all, Camellia

For more information on the San Francisco Fairmont- go to http://www.fairmont.com

Check out half day or full day Wine Country Tours through http://www.graylinetours.com

6A50ABD1-189F-4781-98E8-5A41195ACCCCAlcatraz Island is the number one tourist sight in this area- we did not go on this trip however- I was able to capture it for you! And, you do need to book this tour in advance of your trip since it sells out quickly- visit http://www.alcataz.com for more information.

*All photographs are obviously mine, except the whale tour photo which was taken by- Mike O’Neill who generously shared it with us!

Beaches of Alabama

8CE602A6-47CD-47EE-988D-3AD9CD5D388DMaybe it’s the to and fro of the tide that pull us south to the Beaches of Alabama… Our hearts yearn for it. Perhaps Southern Saltwater flows in our veins; we need the Gulf’s infusion every now and then. To stand in the sea casting a line or in solitude as the ever patient Egret watching the horizon…

The ancient rhythm of the tides echo the soul’s heartbeat. White Sugar Sands gently scrub our bare feet of ordinary workday cares…

Gulf Breezes clear our heads to dream of sandcastles again; built in a day- gone the next.  Yet always worth the temporary wonder…4280158F-0438-4EBA-B088-1ACE439CBE38

‘Patience, patience, patience, is what the sea teaches. Patience and faith. One should be empty, open, choiceless as a beach- waiting for the gift from the sea.’ Anne Morrow Lindbergh

A sunrise walk. A perfect shell. Tiny sandpipers chasing seawater…running out, scampering back on twiggy feet while the ocean plays it’s foamy game. Beaches of Alabama- the jeweled land of Royal Reds, Brown Pelicans, Crystal White Sand, Sapphire Skies and Emerald Water.

We are like Boats waiting…Rocking our silent lullabies. Tethered, waiting to be set free- to sail away to the Beaches of Alabama. 04687649-5A23-40C6-B25F-A010BF0E832A

Stunning sunsets, breathtaking colors- then gently the air, sky and water turn to shimmering priceless Twilight’s Gold.

Take a child, a sweetheart, old friends or heartache to the Beaches of Alabama… patiently wait for the enchantment to begin…

‘Alabama just breaks my heart- it’s so pretty, it just breaks my heart into little pieces’ Michael Lee West

Here in our Sweet Home Alabama, summer vacations, we know- the Beaches of Alabama have their own special magic- a tonic all year round. Salt Air, Sunlight and Gulf Waters- refresh, renew, heal and restore…

Love y’all, Camellia

*All of these glorious stunning photographs are the sole property of Jeremy Miniard. We are perpetually grateful for his generosity in sharing them with us! Find Jeremy at jeremy.miniard.fineartsofamerica.com

*Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s quote is from her landmark work- ‘Gift of the Sea’. * The absolutely true quote…’Alabama is so pretty… it breaks my heart in tiny pieces’ by Michael Lee West is from her wonderful and zany book set in Alabama…’ Mermaids in the Basement.’ Both would be tremendous beach reads this summer!

*Beaches of Alabama was first written here on Camellia’s Cottage in July 2017 and has been slightly edited and updated. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

 

Camellia’s Southern Lemonade…

499FDD87-DCF8-4370-A106-5CB0841C9D0FLemonade was so common in the South that finding a recipe for it is almost impossible! We just knew how to make it- and when we did …it was usually for a picnic or a special occasion. Believe it or not even Orangeade was first made from real oranges. And then…it was mass produced. Local milkmen delivered small glass bottled orangeade and lemonade with a paper tab, that children drank at school and vacation Bible School alongside cookies which I still recall as a delicious combination! Only a few years later, mass produced lemonade and orangeade in wax paper cartons large and small were available.  With the space age came mass produced citrus drinks and powdered versions of fruit flavored  drinks like Tang or Koolaid; we loved those drinks too… anything to quench thirst in hot humid climates. Still. There’s nothing really to compare with homemade southern lemonade.

AD871F7F-F103-4839-AB18-019C22FD3E5FThese days, I find myself craving the real thing, real southern lemonade- I’ve conjured it up from memory and honestly, it’s worth the effort- and really? There’s very little effort to it, and believe me a pitcher of homemade lemonade will make anyday feel like a special occasion! Here’s how you make Camellia’s Southern Lemonade:

  • Zest of 2 Lemons
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup of fresh squeezed Lemon juice (approximately 4-6 medium size lemons)
  • 4 cups chilled water
  • Ice.
  • Mint leaves, lemon and lime slices for garnish are optional. Also optional- add a few maraschino cherries and a tablespoon of cherry liquid to make Pink Lemonade.

In a small saucepan, combine lemon zest, sugar and 1 cup of water. On low heat bring to a simmer until sugar has completely dissolved, to make a lemon flavored sugar syrup. Strain and chill. In a pitcher, thoroughly combine 1 cup of lemon juice and 4 cups of chilled water. Add chilled lemon sugar syrup, again, until thoroughly combined. Add plenty of ice and garnish as desired.499FDD87-DCF8-4370-A106-5CB0841C9D0F

Now y’all, the sugar syrup is easy to make- you can keep it in a glass jar with a tight lid in your refrigerator for at least a week, maybe longer…Believe me, you’ll be glad you did! Here’s hoping your summer is the best ever with lots of Real Southern Lemonade alongside a few nostalgic cookies!

Love yall, Camellia

* All photographs are obviously mine. * Koolaid and Tang are registered trademarks. *And, here’s a sneak peek at an upcoming Instagram image and short story- if you get a chance check out our feed there too! We’re having lots of fun!616FFD83-4940-47F3-A4C2-3A9A87ACAC0D

Mimi’s Potato Salad…

1C51F9A2-FDC4-4AD0-9C9A-8BEA42BBD9C3Mimi’s Potato Salad is, of course my favorite- though I have to admit that any Southern cook worth her salt generally has a recipe that is her family’s favorite too! And, it’s crazy, yet many southerners add potato salad to their meals almost all year round! Mimi didn’t. She considered it a Spring and Summer side dish or even put a scoop on a plate and with a few extras like tomatoes and crackers, she considered potato salad to be a light lunch or a cool supper.  Here’s the thing. Mimi was particular about her food and the way it was prepared and for what reason and why. She instilled things like this into my brain- I can still hear her now…

‘ Now, grate that onion! Who wants to bite down on a big chunk of onion in their potato salad!’ Then later she would say- ‘Grate those boiled eggs on the coarse side of the grater!’ Why? Boiled eggs can look unattractive if they aren’t perfect and especially unattractive all mixed up ‘with a mess of potatoes’. Also Mimi simply liked the look of the coarse grated boiled eggs! Don’t ask me why. I was just a simple soldier and followed my orders. BCBE8261-9C75-45F1-AD3E-07437867028F

Mimi’s Potato Salad was singularly simple with few ingredients.  Many southern cooks add other things to theirs, which is fine and also tastes wonderful. Still. If a recipe is the flavor from your childhood or family- I believe we tend to enjoy our own version the best! Mimi used russet potatoes, in spring, she sometimes combined new potatoes and russets, making sure they weren’t peeled yet were cut to approximately the same size. There’s an art to it- unpeeled potatoes hold their shape better, then it’s easy to slip the skins off after they’ve been brought to fork tender, definitely not overcooked! Cut the cooked and peeled potatoes into approximately the same size for the potato salad. (If the potatoes were overcooked? Start over. You don’t want mashed potato salad.)

4EB9992C-96BC-4B6C-9955-046200ADADFCWhile the potatoes are cooking, grate the onion and mix up the dressing of good mayonnaise, yellow mustard and spices. Now, Mimi’s rule for the celery was to either do a fine dice or thinly sliced. You might not want to bite down on a big chunk of onion, yet the celery gave her potato salad a subtle flavor with just the right amount of crunch and a pretty color. Again, I followed orders. My mother did too! Mimi boiled her eggs along with the potatoes- claimed the calcium from the egg shells made potato salad healthier. Who knows?  I do it too. Gently mix the potatoes into the dressing and chill. This made the potatoes firm up and gave the flavors time to develop. Here’s how you make Mimi’s Classic Potato Salad:

Mimi’s Classic Potato Salad

  • 1 1/2 pounds russet potatoes- scrubbed and washed
  • 2 large eggs – boiled, peeled and grated
  • 1 -2 stalks celery- fine sliced or diced
  • 1-2 tbs finely grated onion with juice
  • 3/4 – 1 cup good quality mayonnaise
  • 1-2 teas yellow mustard
  • 1/4 teas cayenne pepper
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Boil potatoes with skins on until fork tender, not over cooked. Allow potatoes to cool slightly, slip skins off of potatoes and dice into approximately 3/4 inch cubes or slightly larger. Finely slice or fine dice celery. Grate onion reserving juice as well. In a large bowl, mix together mayonnaise, yellow mustard, grated onion and cayenne, until combined. Add diced potatoes and celery, toss gently so as not to break cubed potatoes, add diced celery. Toss gently to combine. Chill. Flavors will develop. Serve with a sprinkle of paprika if desired. This recipe doubles well.

With the spring and summer get togethers in full swing, I think you’ll enjoy Mimi’s Potato Salad, feel free to put whatever you want to in it. Some like pickles or olives. I personally will still be following orders… I sure wouldn’t want to think Mimi was rolling over in her grave if I didn’t! Oh me…

Love y’all, Camellia *all photographs are obviously mine!

5 Ways to Enhance Southern Cooking…

Some of the finest cooks I have ever known often left out a step or two that enhanced their southern dishes. I’ve often thought about this as I’ve tried to hang on to the heirloom recipes so near and dear to my heart. Often, as I’m cooking a flash of memory streaks through my feeble brain and I can ‘see’ the dish being made and realize what  it was that made a subtle or distinctive difference in the recipe- whether ingredient or method. I rounded up a few and they are so easy…no recipe required!6256E696-714A-4C9A-B12C-764724EB3616

  1. Citrus elevates so many southern dishes, from appetizers to desserts- it’s hard to imagine cooking without it! Roasted Lemons are a sure fire way to add interest to your meal…soft and warm… squeeze the juice over almost any vegetable or seafood and it’s a sure crowd pleaser! Yet, the zest is often overlooked in my recipes. To add zest of any citrus, be sure and do it first before cutting or juicing! 0821AFAB-51D6-4CD5-84E7-578D793F6957Here, the zest of lemon is added to a mixture of chopped garlic, dried oregano, fresh thyme leaves- all warmed in a mixture of melted butter and olive oil- then lemon juice and a splash of white wine. Added before roasting chicken, fish or shrimp- it’s amazing! Even added to new potatoes, green beans or asparagus it’s wonderful. Any recipe that calls for citrus juice is greatly enhanced by the addition of citrus zest.
  2. Grow Your Own Southern cooks have been berated for years for their use of canned goods in many of our wonderful dishes, for instance while we grow and preserve our own tomatoes- we do often add a can of good quality tomatoes to chili or spaghetti sauce. 15BBD931-73AE-4DDF-869E-B504E8FBD513What rarely reported is that good southern cooks always add fresh, often home grown produce! Tomato Relish in this beautiful mixture of tomatoes, green onions, chopped garlic along with chopped basil. Combined with a bit of olive oil, red wine vinegar and allowed to sit while the spaghetti sauce is bubbling on the stove. This mixture is used as a cool topping much like salsa. You honestly won’t believe the flavor. And I’m here to tell you- in the summer when I make it- those tomatoes, green onions and basil are home grown!
  3. Flour Power Ever wonder about the name Butter Balls? Well, you’re looking at them and those little balls of flour and butter are rarely spoken of- yet, they elevate pan juices into a silky glossy sauce,8E1FB292-AADD-4EEA-ABEE-585ECECE4B22 While everyone else is wondering why your sauce or gravy always tastes a bit better than anyone else’s. Mixture ratio is one to one- 1 Tablespoon of butter to 1 Tablespoon of Flour and rolled into little balls. I generally do an 8 to 8 ration and make up a whole sheet pan of Butter Balls- place in a single layer in the freezer, when frozen place in a freezer bag and when your pan juices are ready- add 1 or 3 or 5! Believe me, these little simple pack real flour power and elevate your cooking from delicious to amazing! Also, while we’re talking about Flour Power– many wonderful southern recipes start with this fear inducing phrase- ‘First you make a roux’… and the truth is? if you get making a roux wrong- throw it out and start over! Okay. No more fear of making a roux! On a sheet pan, put less than an inch thick layer of flour. Put in cool oven set to 375 degrees… when the oven is preheated, check the flour it should be browning nicely… however, you will need to bake the flour for up to 20 more minutes! It needs to be a rich brown and will smell toasted and warm. Remove the sheet pan from the oven and allow to cool. Store in a tightly covered jar. This brown flour is your head start to elevating your spicy thick gumbos or even rich brown gravies! Mix the brown flour in some sort of oil- we use butter or bacon fat! Stir until all of the oil is absorbed and the mixture is even darker and thick, commence with the recipe with your quicker version of a roux.  Just look at that rich mahogany  color! That color is what you’re looking for when you’ve made a roux. 14F2CD01-CCF4-47FD-95D6-413367B915DB
  4. In a Pickle Almost every truly southern table is almost groaning with the addition of pickled this or that. Pickled Beets might be one of my all time favorites! Canned beets (yes, feel free to roast your own!) are mixed with thinly sliced sweet onion- Vidalia if available- and often in the summer months we also add homegrown cucumbers too! ACFE1C73-FC6C-4280-82F4-1771A802B7E7Pack them in a heat proof jar. Heat apple cider vinegar to boiling and pour the beets and onions. Cool down before adding the lid. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or overnight. They’re amazing with almost anything- let’s face it field peas, greens and summer squash with a side of pickled beets might be a match made in culinary heaven! And that’s not all! We tend to pickle almost anything that stands still long enough- especially our hot peppers! This is the best way to get that all important Pepper Sauce- so make lots!
  5. Turn up the Heat Folks outside the South tend to think the Southern diet is almost exclusively- fried. Not so, I rarely fry chicken… it’s a treat when I do- yet certainly not an everyday food.C6A4C3C6-BFC0-4EA4-B899-110105AA5302 And Fried Okra is a glorious treat, yet that also is an occasion. When I do? There’s a secret to that this as well. Please don’t batter okra and certainly not with flour- oh no, blend 2 parts self rising cornmeal with 1 part cornstarch! Read that again- dredge fresh cut okra (don’t rinse!) in a blend of self rising cornmeal and cornstarch! Get the frying oil hot! Add in dredged okra, but don’t crowd! Hot oil and self rising cornmeal give the okra that beautiful battered look, the cornstarch keeps it light and crisp!

Now, the next time you’re wondering if that dish ‘needs a little something’ or you want to save a bit of time- you may find these 5 ways to enhance southern cooking will work with almost any other cuisine too!

Love y’all, Camellia

* All photographs are obviously mine.

Classic Bread Pudding with Southern Creme Anglaise…

DA804797-249C-4054-B549-7500D007EAEDWith all of the beautiful cakes, the decadent chocolates and luscious pies, it seems to me that Bread Pudding deserves a place on the dessert table, especially at Easter. Many holy days serve symbolic food and Bread Pudding seems to be a teachable opportunity. It’s ‘the Bread of Life broken for you…’ It’s a rustic dessert- reminding me of that oft sung hymn ‘The Old Rugged Cross’ … Bread Pudding is a dessert made by hand with love, served humbly and simply among friends and family, even stretched to feed a crowd.

CA8ED1F5-2DD0-4A48-B944-2D64C56B64B7The Pudding and Sauce are enriched and softly scented- a very comforting combination. Wrapped in orange zest, cinnamon, vanilla and freshly grated nutmeg, the classic Bread Pudding is then dusted with unrefined cane sugar. Who would disagree that plain old broken bread is elevated to an entirely new life, beautifully sweet and dear. Just in time for Easter with its gloriously easy Southern Creme Anglaise… Here’s how you make – Classic Bread Pudding with extra easy Southern Creme Anglaise!00D687BD-B5D9-46BE-97A1-092186D06FB5

 

Classic Bread Pudding with Southern Creme Anglaise

A classic Bread Pudding made with a custard base that uses the old fashioned evaporated milk with whipped eggs and classic spices including orange zest. Served with a refreshing cool creme anglaise flavored with Bourbon giving the distinctive southern flavor associated with Bread Pudding. 

  • 4 Large Eggs (Whisked)
  • 1 Large can Evaporated Milk
  • 1-2 Teaspoons Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 1 Teaspoon Orange Zest
  • 1 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
  • 1/2- 1 Teaspoon Fresh Grated whole Nutmeg
  • 1 1/4 Cup Pure Cane Sugar (Plus more for top of bread pudding)
  • 5-6 Cups Torn Day Old Yeast Bread (* I used 1 dozen small yeast rolls )

Easy Creme Anglaise with Bourbon

  • 4 Scoops Vanilla Ice Cream (Full fat and flavor)
  • 3-4 Tablespoons High Quality Bourbon
  • 1/2+ Teaspoon Fresh Orange Zest
  1. For Bread Pudding- Whisk eggs until very well combined and slightly foamy. Add one large can of evaporated milk (not low fat) – whisk into eggs. Add spices, vanilla, 1 cup pure cane sugar and orange zest, then whisk to combine well. In a buttered oven safe bowl, pour this custard mix over torn Day old yeast bread. * Cover tightly and allow bread to soak up custard 4 hours or overnight. Sprinkle remainder of cane sugar on top of Pudding. Bake at 375 degrees for 1 hour or until puffed, golden and glistening with sugar crystals. Add more sugar and orange zest and a bit of melted butter if desired. 

For Easy Bourbon Creme Anglaise

  1. Melt four large scoops of high quality Vanilla Ice Cream. Do not use low fat! When ice cream has melted – Add 1 teaspoon fresh orange zest (if desired) and 3-4 tablespoons of high quality Bourbon. With a small whisk blend and keep covered and chilled until ready to serve over warm bread pudding. 

Please use full fat evaporated milk and for sauce. Creme Anglaise is typically a custard sauce made with milk, eggs and sugar…which coincidentally is the same base used to make the custard base for ice cream! Hard sauce is the classic sauce generally served with Bread Pudding- most southern hard sauce calls for Bourbon. This sauce is chilled and a refreshing option to top Bread Pudding. 

Now, about that sauce- a heavier warm hard sauce (denoting the alcohol) is generally served with Bread Pudding yet seems to be more suitable in the fall and winter. This sauce is cooler and more refreshing in Spring and Summer. And… The custard base of ice cream is strikingly similar to the famous Creme Anglaise- just be sure to use full fat ice cream!

Also, you may choose to omit the Bourbon and use pure Vanilla Extract ( one of the notes in bourbon), if you do, add Rum or Almond flavoring, adjusting the quantity to taste. The ‘sauce’ is wonderful on its own as well, if high quality ice cream is used. The Orange Zest adds a crisp citrus note for Spring;  and it’s worth noting that spices played a role in the Easter Story as well. This classic bread pudding has an abundance of eggs which are also plentiful now. Eggs are symbolic in  holy celebrations. And, I omitted the butter except for buttering the baking dish, if you prefer- melt a few tablespoons and pour over the pudding right before baking. If you don’t have access to raw cane sugar, use sanding sugar, you’ll definitely want the glisten when you pull the puffed and golden Classic Bread Pudding from the oven! Here’s wishing you a beautiful meaning filled Easter!

Love y’all, Camellia * All photographs were obviously taken by me.