Summer Tomatoes in the South…

70853A62-5688-42A3-8CFD-C0DAE8E348BFWe wait all year long for summer tomatoes. We long for them all year. There’s no end to what we do with summer tomatoes-

  • We put them in canning jars, freeze them and preserve them any way we can think of for winter soups, warm red sauces and hearty stews, so of course we’re trying  keep the memories of summer tomatoes alive.
  • And yes, we make fresh tomato soup with thin slivers of cool cucumber, snips of green onion, crumbled bacon and a drift of shredded cheese.6450DC56-D19F-4397-BB09-69BDFD262117
  • We consume vast quantities of summer tomatoes alongside Fried Chicken, Pork Chops and a personal favorite- Fried Catfish.
  • Who would turn down a vegetable plate of butter peas, steamed yellow squash, corn muffins, macaroni and cheese alongside thick slices of summer tomatoes?
  •  We stuff summer tomatoes with shrimp salad, egg salad, tuna salad or chicken! And it must be summer tomatoes or the taste just isn’t there!
  • There may not be a better savory pie than Summer Tomato Pie, my sister’s is the best I’ve ever tasted- a flaky pie crust oozing with fresh summer tomatoes, a sour cream and onion filling topped with thick and melting sharp cheese- well, I’m drooling just thinking about it!A2E3C53C-B1DF-4E1F-8726-FF4FE037F9F3
  • Let’s not forget mile high Club Sandwiches, grilled Hamburgers and of course the all time favorite Bacon, Lettuce and Tomatoes… as long as there’s a summer tomatoes on there- any of these are near perfection!E38C9809-2B2C-46E9-8DDB-338336A88517
  • Of course, we love Fried Green Tomatoes- now you may be able to get hot house green tomatoes all year round…yet, if they’re made with summer green tomatoes they’ll have that extra special flavor!E2C9EC81-455C-4901-89C7-EB479A3E1320

We consume all of these wonderful things and more… almost any mixed green salad is elevated by summer tomatoes, even the humble potato salad with cherry tomatoes is a cool refreshing lunch! 6A0BF5E2-9057-46E1-9489-B0B7C797DA8BBereavement buffets almost cry out for scalloped tomatoes and tomato aspic which are amazing made with summer tomatoes!

C5B80D0A-75AB-4CCC-9716-B9E97D59347BNow, if you’re from the South… and I mean truly from the South- there’s one particular delicacy which is the real reason we wait all year for Summer Tomatoes… Tomato Sandwiches! If you add anything more than loaf bread, mayonnaise, summer tomatoes with salt and a bit of black pepper- then you don’t really have a Southern Tomato Sandwich! I’ll let you all fuss and discuss which mayonnaise is best- to me as long as the ingredients include lemon juice on the label you’ll have good mayonnaise and no, we don’t call it mayo – say that and it might put you under suspicion!

0CC775ED-48DD-488F-98E7-CFCCDCBC6CF8Now, if you’re a true believer in a pure Tomato Sandwich- then you’ll know there’s a secret wish we all have had from time to time… to have one beautiful slice of tomato which will cover the whole slice of bread… Big Boy Tomatoes move over.. the new one to try is – ‘Mater Sandwich’ ! Of course it is! I’m here to tell you this one is a winner… never mealy or bland tasting… the ‘Mater Sandwich’ variety of home grown tomatoes is one you’ll want to try!  We’ve been picking and eating these for weeks! Now, if you’ll excuse me- I’m gonna fix me a Tomato Sandwich!

Love y’all, Camellia

All photographs are obviously mine! *Mater Sandwich tomato plants may be a registered trademark!

Bighearted Grits…

582010E0-2105-441C-8EEF-D9D6D3C38561Grits. Simple. Unadorned. In the South, if you truly grew up here, there is a primal instinct to crave Grits. People, outside of this region of the country, don’t understand it. In fact, grits aren’t commonly sold in grocery stores- much less in foreign countries. Oh you may be able to find stone ground yellow cornmeal or grits- those just aren’t the same as our hominy grits. I have friends who actually mail a bag of grits to family members in Los Angeles or New York City from time to time. Why? ‘Well she must be homesick, she’s begging me to mail her some grits!‘ is always the answer.

Now, to be fair, some of the great chefs have taken low class food like grits and elevated them to a delicacy. Grits- hominy grits were once known as breakfast grits for fishermen or laborers; this is now considered a fancy dish called Shrimp and Grits. Yet, if a poll were taken I would be willing to bet these same chefs in major cities outside of the South would never eat plain old hominy grits for breakfast! Here, field hands to fine gentlemen want- no, wait- they expect Grits for breakfast! From nursery food to sick beds to hearty men’s breakfasts and yes, even at fine ladies’ brunches, you will always find grits- maybe in a stoneware bowl or in silver chafing dish, we do love our grits. Listen, grits are always served on the savory side of the menu! As Deborah Ford and Edie Hand say in their ‘GRITS Handbook’- ‘Grits are eaten with butter, gravy or cheese- never sugar.’ That’s the rule, if you eat grits with sugar? Well, even with that famous southern sweet tooth? Do not. I repeat. Do not even think about adding sugar to grits! Add it to your old Cream of Wheat and we won’t say a word. Just remember- ‘nevah evah sugah!’

Y’all, trust me on this one- true Southerners crave Grits from their bassinets to their deathbeds. Grits are the ultimate southern comfort food, considered a healing aid even a cure for the sick- ‘ I knew he was real sick, when he turned up his nose at a bowl of grits!‘  If my grandmother ever said that, folks would start prayer at circle meetings.AE8BBD57-DB9B-43CB-93FB-A76DDD663716

Grits are like kinfolks, we sometimes take them for granted- yet finely made hominy grits are the unsung companion to many a fine meal. Grits are the ‘bighearted, open to embellishment’ relative at the Southern Table. Always bighearted enough to welcome additions graciously- butter, cheese, shrimp, crumbled sausage, ham and red eye gravy, crumbled bacon even eggs have been poached right in a scalding casserole of hominy grits. And- bighearted grits is able to stretch to feed a crowd! (just remember never ever add sugar!) There’s a limit to even the most generous among us! You will never find Grits on a dessert table so why would you ever even think of adding sugar? We southerners love our food, we talk about it- pass recipes down and around… what we may have lacked in fortunes- was more than made up for in heavy laden tables- generously shared, eaten heartily without shame or daintily with lively conversation- grits sit there and say nothing yet would be terribly missed if not among us.

Southerners get downright biblical about our food- someone once asked-

‘How many people will that pot of grits feed?

‘Oh honey, it will feed multitudes.’

 

Grits have served multitudes, down through southern history- using the basic ancient elements of fire, water, salt and corn. Southern cooks have a distinct, almost unnatural fascination with ancestral food, like grits. We rely on family recipes, our grandmothers’ ancient potions and mysterious cures. When modern medicine fails us- we offer Grits along with other soothing foods, chicken broth, weak tea and toast, ginger ale, soda crackers, mashed potatoes, scraped apple and rice. This curative diet was almost devoid of color- and considered to be easy for the old and young to digest.  In my southern childhood innocence, there was no doubt in my mind that Goldilocks interrupted the Three Bears and ate their bowls of grits! (What was porridge anyway unless it was a bowl of grits? No one bothered to correct this misconception!)

When we cook grits- we are communing with our ancestors. Even when I’m alone in my kitchen- the mothers, aunts and grandmothers are with me- informing me. To make bighearted grits- is like taking care of a family- Grits have to be watched, tended to, kept moving, stirred gently with languid patience, especially when they’re absorbing the hot water of life.F3185BD8-B4EA-49AB-947D-F509ACDF0EFB

You learn these things when you cook, when you’re the nourishing caretaker of a husband, of a family or a community. You learn how much effort it takes to get it right- all from making a pot of Grits. The humble bowl of grits is proof that whether in a rundown shack, a double wide trailer, a cabin on the lake, a high rise beach condo ol liker a country club- in the South we are all linked by a simple warm bighearted bowl of Grits. You either like grits or you don’t- I’m going to be suspicious of whether you really know how to make them if you don’t! Here’s how you make Grits and how you don’t!

  • Buy Quick Hominy Grits! this isn’t Instant- please don’t buy that mess!
  • Follow the instructions to a tee on the bag of quick hominy grits-
  • For 6 generous servings, it’s generally 8 cups of boiling water to 2 cups of hominy grits and salt- (some add milk, I don’t)
  • Stir the grits and salt into the boiling water- if you mess this up? Start over! Cover grits, reduce heat to low.
  • Cook five minutes. Serve hot! with lots of butter, cracked black pepper and salt- or add in whatever you like- just not sugar!!
  • *Remember now, buy quick hominy grits- not instant (ick) and certainly do not add sugar- that’s a recipe for disastrous horrible grits!

Surely you can’t deny the allure of hominy grits- the generous bighearted food of the South is what culinary dreams are made of! Oh me, maybe what we all need is a big steaming hot bowl of grits!

Love y’all, Camellia

*All photographs are obviously mine!

Classic Southern Jezebel Sauce…

A54C6890-9746-4AA3-B5BE-188C55748E6FSome of our most beloved Southern Sauces are as smooth as satin, others are cool as seersucker on a summer day. Then- there are Southern Sauces that are as hot as the devil’s back doorknob! Now, I’m not talking hot sauce in a shaker bottle- there’s one Classic Southern Sauce which stands out from the rest- it’s so mysteriously heated- who knows the original might have been conjured up in black cauldrons amongst gnarled roots in a swamp!  If you look for any recipe for Jezebel Sauce– It hides out in the delicate pages of Junior League cookbooks from sea soaked southern cities, Charleston to Savannah, Mobile and all the way over to New Orleans.

She’s mean as the devil – deceptively sweet with a murderous combination of horseradish and dry mustard that hits every tastebud in its wake.’  Yes, that’s Jezebel Sauce alright!

This Classic Southern Hot Sauce is so scandalous that genteel southern ladies have refused to even call it by wicked name of Jezebel. Disguised with gentle names like ‘Mustard Sauce for Ham’ or ‘Miss Lida’s Wild Boar Sauce’, the recipes rarely call it Jezebel Sauce! Well, I’m here to name names darlin’ and I’m gonna give you the basic recipe. I will repeat this again- just don’t be fooled by it’s sweet mild looks- it’s got a real kick!E94FBF25-C6A7-4BD4-A1D8-189947C3CCE0

Just know that any southern cook worth her salt will either have a change of heart, decide it needs a bit of this or that- and not even have the decency to tell you the precise measurements! If you ask me, they’re real Jezebels! Now, if you think that’s awful, try looking for Classic Southern Jezebel in modern cookbooks! This killer sauce might go by different or more suitable names for public consumption but don’t be fooled!  And please remember this is a not a mild mannered sauce! Here’s how you make –

Classic Southern Jezebel Sauce

  • 18 ounces of Apple Jelly
  • 18 ounces of Pineapple Preserves
  • 1 small can of Dry Mustard ( I use Coleman’s)
  • 1 small jar of prepared Horseradish
  • 1 Tablespoon Of Fresh Cracked Pepper (or less)

Combine all ingredients until blended well. Put in pint jars tightly sealed. Refrigerate. * Keeps indefinitely.

Please note: You must use dry mustard, not that yellow stuff for hot dogs! Even our own recipe is not precise… I have used 12 ounces of pineapple preserves and 6 ounces of apricot preserves.  Now, don’t go using  horseradish sauce, use prepared horseradish found in the chilled section of your seafood market with the grated texture you’re looking for and higher flavor.

Part of the fun of Jezebel Sauce is watching folks eat it for the first time- they taste the sweetness, then the heat of it moves all the way up- raises the eyebrows, then you’ll hear the whoosh of a sigh as it singes moustaches and often causes watering eyes! Don’t worry, they’ll survive… It’s hot but pleasantly so! And you can always adjust the black pepper! Hysterical.  Most recipes say-  ‘Cracked Pepper to taste.’ Really? After a full jar of horseradish and half a can of hot dry mustard,  you’re feeling guilty about the amount of black pepper? Shut the door, keep out the devil!

48879F4D-C997-4E29-A46C-8B731D762A9FI’m still convinced  Jezebel Sauce was originally made in cauldrons among the roots in a murky swamp! It could be true. Looks right at home to me…What about that killer phrase?  ‘Keeps indefinitely.’ Yet, it really does! Kept chilled there’s no worry and it’s so delicious, you won’t keep it long!

So…what does Jezebel Sauce go with? it’s great with-

  • Ham, Roast Pork, Beef or Wild Game.
  • It would be amazing to baste a ham with Jezebel Sauce before baking!
  • Some say it’s wonderful on black eyed peas.
  • Others serve it on Cocktail Buffets over a block of cream cheese.
  • Jezebel Sauce is a teaser on thimble size Sausage Biscuits or a sliver of ham in a soft tiny yeast roll for Brunch.
  • You might also recognize a similar sauce in a milder form served with Coconut Shrimp. Turn the heat up and this Jezebel is deceptively good as a dipping sauce for  fried chicken, and of course with fried fish and seafood of all types!

Jezebel Sauce is a Classic Southern Hot Sauce which is great for gift giving and always unforgettable. Our recipe makes a full quart- so there’s plenty to share. It’s one of those Southern recipes that’s a true secret sauce. You really need to try it at least once in your life. An easy no-cook mixture and a truly memorable Classic Southern Hot Sauce. Oh me! Talking about Jezebel has me feeling a bit guilty myself!

Love y’all, Camellia

* This is not a compensated post. And! All photographs are obviously mine! This post was derived from a blog post we did several years ago- it has been edited and updated a bit- enjoy! * Jezebel was a wicked queen found in the Old Testament just in case you needed a reminder!

 

The Fine Art of Doting…

Have you ever heard of Doting? Here’s what I think most folks believe it means….

  • She’s always doted on that child.’
  • ‘Well, you know his momma was always delicate, he’s doted on her especially now that she’s in her dotage.’
  • ‘ I tell you now, she doted on  that man, always making him his favorite foods, keeping him neat as a pin and making sure everything was just so.’ ‘
  • He loved that car, doted on it like it was a crying child- why he kept that engine so clean you could eat off of it.’
  • ‘Well, she was the baby of the family, so everybody doted on her.

Now, we’ve all heard of doting or I guess most folks have. When anybody talks about doting, we basically think it means –

  • ‘She waits on him hand and foot.’
  • ‘Works himself to death trying to keep her happy.’
  • ‘That child is spoiled rotten, I tell you- when she grows up- she’s gonna expect the world to be handed to her on a silver platter.’

Yet, that’s not really what doting means at all. The fine art of doting actually means … To care for tenderly, to habitually bestow fondness and love;  to regularly treat or speak to a loved one with kind devotion and gentle affection.9471982A-D073-455D-A8D8-E27596B7E00E

It’s a harsh world we live in- extreme sporting events, conversations or workouts. Flashing lights, loud music and never ending communication. We’re bombarded with products, information and technology. Calendars are packed, schedules overlap,  being overwhelmed is the rule not the exception. It’s time to bring back the Fine Art of Doting. Oh yes, it will take a bit of being unplugged and slowing down- however, these suggestions take very little time or effort.

Perhaps, due to our religious upbringing- phrases like ‘self-love’ are overridden by teachings about being selfless and thinking about others first. Still. How can you ‘love your neighbor as you love yourself’ if there’s not a certain amount of taking care of yourself? Here’s a few ways that aren’t selfish at all, and are also great for sharing with others!

  • Did you know that spending 15-30 minutes outdoors everyday is recommended for all round good health? I find just walking around my garden to see what I can see is my favorite way to get in some time outdoors. To my delight I recently found Ice Folly Daffodils and the precious- Snowbells! 
  • I love to garden, I think it’s a wonderful pastime- yet- to give a living plant, shrub or even a small tree to a bereaved family may be one of the most comforting things you can do. Here at the cottage, a memory garden was started after my mother in law died over a decade ago. We also have several living things planted to honor loved ones. Just as my grandmother’s spiderwort and hosta remind me of her every year- so do these bereavement plants.
  • My favorite apps on my iPhone are the calendar and timer! It’s one way I dote on myself- since I work at home… I set alerts for small tasks to get up from the laptop- or set the timer for 15-30 minutes to sit and read a book. And by all means set a bedtime alert- to get those hours of sleep everyone so desperately needs! Limit exposure to LED lighting, either by removing them from where you sleep or my favorite- wearing a sleep mask! I’ve also tried the app called Calm…it’s a short meditative pause. And since, we’re all told to limit screen time- and I’m loving the notification of how much time I’ve spent online!
  • Make a habit of putting the phone down when eating family meals or meeting friends- it’s so much better to create the habit of talking person to person! While you are online, learn something new, while spending the time wisely, I’ve been taking a free Winter Photography Workshop on Instagram offered by @thelittleplantation. I’m low end when compared to the amazing photographers in the class- but my oh my! What gorgeous photographs! Beauty in any form feeds the soul! Here’s one of my entries:
  • It’s no secret I love to cook- but what I appreciate even more than the cooking is gathering around a table of good food. Somehow, folks who might disagree on almost everything become agreeable and companionable around a table. Dote on yourself and your family by making simple meals, but don’t forget to set aside a time to load up the table with good food to be shared with others. Grazing boards are a wonderful simple way to eat at home or entertain- FBE7ECF6-4633-4B8C-875A-D9CE61D66E85
  • I’ll be sharing more skin care tips soon- yet I think we all can agree, winter takes it’s toll on everyone’s skin! Here’s a few things that help tremendously- Stay hydrated and get more water (I’ve a challenged another food blogger to make ‘pretty water’) It’s been a fun wsy to entice myself to drink more water… I find when it’s pretty I certainly drink more of it! Here’s a few of my entries. Adding citrus or fruits and vegetables flavors the water slightly and takes very little time. The best thing is-  I’m enjoying it.
  • Switching over to a ‘milk soap’ is a good move… When I worked for Oscar de la Renta fragrance and cosmetics, we had a product that always had a waiting list! It was Oscar’s Bubble Bath, which was non-skid and also had powdered milk granules in it- the lactic acid in milk products is one of the best skin softeners! You can certainly benefit from dissolving about 1/2 cup of dry milk while you run very warm bath water. Test adding granular milk for yourself and see whether your skin feels softer!  Goats Milk Soap is another way to soften skin, this one I found at www.sparrowssoap.com A7E96E71-09FC-4A40-9800-65A4AB01F5F0
  • And,  a new skin treatment that I’m loving… Its called- Dry Brushing it’s a whole body treatment that rids the body of flaky skin while also stimulating the lymph glands! Can’t wait to tell you more about it!8611396A-D832-427A-A45C-DC05C93C7F0A
  •  Now, I know we all love shopping, however, it’s a good practice to shop your closet first! Most people buy the same new things that they already have in their closet! This is good advice- especially since we’re in a transition season,  instead of clothes shopping- accessorize! If you’ve got the itch to buy? Shop for accessories. Here’s a few I’m loving lately! The ribbon badges were found on Amazon and the pearls…oh always pearls! Those pearls were a gift- and came from JCrew! EB3C8154-C3C6-4626-B2F9-BDE25A20A25D
  • Make a habit of dreaming a little… plan a household project or a vacation! Right now, I’m in the middle of making reservations and have an itinerary of all the things we hope to do in beautiful Colorado Springs! We’ll be staying at the beautiful Broadmoor Hotel. For sure, we’ll enjoy eating those mile high donuts atop Pike’s Peak! Who knows? Maybe we’ll even break out in a rendition of ‘America the Beautiful’ while we’re there! And I hope to take a short road trip to Garden of the Gods- with its amazing huge red rock formations.FD35DA87-FE43-4F5A-9515-55125F191638
  •  And..the dreams and plans don’t stop there… of course, I’m looking at a few dates and places to stay at the beach! Looking forward and making a plan for family beach time this summer, kicking off our shoes and feeling the sand between our toes!
  • Make a plan to update a corner, a tabletop or even a room. It’s always helpful to our mental health to look forward! My plan starts this spring with installing striped outdoor curtains, which were on sale last fall, in black, gray and white cabana stripe….to finish up a household project- our tiny screen porch!2316253C-581A-4ECD-AF65-EAE72D92C347
  • And finally, one of my very favorite ways to dote on others… Sometime, somewhere- when they least expect it- Send a surprise note or gift for no reason at all! This is truly the fine art of doting. A small plant plopped in a waterproof plastic bag then covered with a small burlap bag or even a lunch sack- tied with a pretty ribbon, is doting in many different forms- a small gift for a co-workers desk, a tiny reminder to a friend that she’s appreciated or even dote on yourself a little bit! The main thing is to surprise! Now, wait for it- you know, I have to give you something homemade!988986C5-5E7A-4524-B7C5-A0DA2310EB6E
  • I recently made a batch of homemade marshmallows for a much loved family in upstate New York- hopefully they will enjoy many cups of hot chocolate to chase away the chill! And – be surprised to get them! Don’t they look wonderful?
  • Now don’t forget to read below the recipe. A bit more on the Fine Art of Doting! Here’s how you make our very own Cottage Marshmallows! Though, it’s not much different from most marshmallow recipes, there is one tip you won’t want to miss! And these are easy enough to surprise your family too!

Cottage Marshmallows...

Homemade Marshmallows, a confection that’s fun to make and will delight - especially in winter to top a cup of hot chocolate! 
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American

Ingredients

  • 3 Packages Unflavored Gelatin
  • 1 1/2 Cups Granulated Sugar
  • 1 Cup Light Corn Syrup
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Salt Preferably Kosher
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoon Pure Vanilla Extract
  • Confectioners Sugar Mix with..
  • Corn Starch Ratio 1:4 with confectioners sugar being the 4

Instructions

  • In the bowl of stand mixer, combine gelatin with 1/2 cup of cold water. Allow to sit undisturbed while making the sugar syrup. In a small heavy saucepan combine granulated sugar, corn syrup and 1/2 cup of water. Blend corn starch and confectioners sugar in a bowl and set aside. On low heat, stir until sugar is dissolved, then do not stir anymore. Clip on a candy thermometer. Raise heat to medium high increasing heat gradually, until candy thermometer reaches 240 degrees. Remove from heat. The stand mixture should be fitted with a whisk attachment. Very carefully pour the hot sugar syrup, with whisk on low speed,  into the gelatin mixture. Raise speed to medium high, then higher as the mixture is incorporated. Mixture will become light and airy, generally tripled in volume after 12-15 minutes of continuous whisking. While mixture is whisking- prepare an 8x12 inch glass baking dish with a sieve dust confectioners sugar/ corn starch blend generously Slow mixer speed and add vanilla extract, blend well. Pour marshmallow mixture into pan, smooth top and dust generously with more of the confectioners sugar/ corn starch blend. * Corn Starch added to confectioners sugar helps marshmallows dry out better. Let mixture stand overnight uncovered to dry out. Turn out onto a marble surface or a board and with a serrated knife cut marshmallows into squares- whatever size you prefer ! But at least 1 1/2 inch squares. Toss in more confectioners sugar to coat all sides. * marshmallows can be tinted during the whisking process, however, I tend to think the classic white is the prettiest ! 

Marshmallows are best stored flat, covered with foil until ready to package. I prefer cellphane bags instead of plastic.

     

     

    852428A2-126A-4B61-BB99-199CACDDC185Now, you know I have a story… when I first began making homemade marshmallows… I was just tickled with myself and decided to take them to a holiday gathering… when I explained what this confection was… someone said- ‘Why bother?’ Actually the answer is in the handcrafted marshmallow- it’s soft and sweet, it melts in a cup of hot chocolate like a cloud and let’s face it- If anyone ever makes you a batch of homemade marshmallows? Well! that’s the Fine Art of Doting!

    Love y’all, Camellia

    *All photographs are obviously mine, with the exception of the opening photograph which was found on Pinterest with no attribution- if it’s yours? please let me know so I can give you credit! Amazon and JCrew are registered trademarks and this is not a compensated post for anything you see here!

    *Advertisements on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of Camellia’s Cottage.

    *Check out what we’re doing on Instagram, we’re posting everyday!

     

    ‘Can’t tell a lie’ Cherry Crumble

    63D8CAAD-C974-410C-B96E-2B2852568EE4When I was in grammar school, George Washington’s birthday was apparently an opportunity to teach students about our very first president, to have us do a coloring sheet of Washington’s profile or standing beside a cherry tree with an axe in his hand and to teach a basic value- truth telling.

    The way the story went… as a young man, George chopped down a cherry tree on his home property. Some teachers embellished it by saying how valuable the cherry tree was or that Washington had been told not to cut down this particular tree and in show of strength and prowess with an axe or as an act of rebellion, young George chopped down the cherry tree. I’m not sure exactly how the story goes, but I imagine the whole country became fond of cherry pies because of this famous legend.

    Allow me to digress here… I went to grammar school after oil lanterns and quill pens went out of style- the electric light bulb had been in use for decades by then… and we had heroes like Superman- who leaped tall buildings in a single bound and lo and behold-here he comes to save the day … Superman even hopped through windows in a swirling cape, tights and a rigged up superhero outfit as the announcer proclaimed that Superman was for ‘Truth, Justice and the American Way’. A holdover no doubt from patriotic reels during World War II.  I miss those old black and white yet colorful TV shows!

    Anyway, Truth was taught as a value though the retelling of George Washington’s youth– for when the harsh question was asked- ‘Who chopped down the cherry tree?’ George didn’t shift blame…he boldly said, ‘I cannot tell a lie, it was I who chopped down the cherry tree.’ Now, lest you think we as a nation were the only ones profoundly affected by the tale of George and the cherry tree- the nation of Japan, donated cherry trees that surround the Tidal Basin right in the midst of our capitol city- also named Washington! A celebration which is well attended every year- the Cherry Blossom Festival.

    18B77F99-E75A-4234-B4C4-6AC2A5BFCF3E

    So! Recently I concocted a humble cherry crumble and had to name it-  ‘Can’t tell a lie’ simply because… the cherry crumble was a failure on my part. I was trying to recreate my grandmother’s beloved recipe for Apricot Casserole by substituting sweet cherries! The failure was due to the fact that I didn’t calculate how many cherries would be needed and it just didn’t come out as I hoped it would. Still. I liked the flavor and the texture. And! Here it came to save the day! An heroic crunchy dessert topper for Sunday Dinner. I thought I would save this recipe for President’s Day weekend after we’ve all had lots of Valentine’s chocolate and need to get back to simple honest food. So here’s how you make Camellia’s Can’t tell a lie’ Cherry Crumble:

    ‘Can’t Tell a Lie’ Cherry Crumble

    To honor Our first President, George Washington- According to legend, as a young man, Washington cut down a valuable Cherry Tree. Rather than allow someone else to shoulder the blame- The young George uttered the famous line ‘I cannot tell a lie.’ This cherry crumble is a particularly good topping for ice cream. 

    Ingredients

    • 1 Stick Butter Melted
    • 2 Sleeves Ritz Party Crackers Crushed roughly
    • 2 14 ounce cans Sweet Cherries Reserve liquid from 1 can
    • 1/2 Teaspoon Pure Almond Extract
    • 1 1/2 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
    • 1/2 Teaspoon Nutmeg Freshly grated
    • 3/4 Cup Granulated Sugar Plus 1/2 cup sugar for reserved cherry liquid
    • 3/4 Cup Brown Sugar Packed
    • 3/4 Cup Sliced Almonds

    Instructions

    • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt one stick of butter. In a small saucepan, add 3/4 cup reserved liquid from cherries and add 1/2 cup sugar and boil gently to make a simple syrup. Add almond extract to this mixture. While syrup is cooling- add drained cherries.  Crush party crackers roughly, add spices and sugars, then pour melted stick of butter over the  crumbs. In a buttered deep dish pie pan or 9x9 baking dish, press one half of buttered cracker crumb mixture. Layer cherries and syrup over the crumbs. Top this with the rest of the crumb mixture and top with sliced almonds. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes until golden. Allow to cool.  Cherry Crumble is delicious over ice cream. 

    Notes

    If desired, more butter may be dotted over top of crumb and almond mixture before baking. Cherry crumble is a quick and delicious dessert any time of year! 

    Full disclosure, with the leftover crumble, I decided to try making an ice cream dessert with some of the crumble on the bottom of a loaf pan, vanilla ice cream layered on top, then added more sweet cherries and to finish, topped it with more of the cherry crumble. The sweet cherries may freeze, so if you decide to do this variation, here’s my suggestion: Slice the ice cream dessert ahead of time- to allow the cherries to thaw out a bit! Or.. omit the sweet cherries and save them as a topper! I can’t tell a lie about this- if I make it again, I’ll probably make the ice cream cake and add the sweet cherries as a garnish but- oh my! it did make a pretty dessert!

    I hope y’all are having a restful enjoyable President’s Day weekend. I also hope they’re still handing out coloring sheets and teaching about ‘Honest’Abraham Lincoln and ‘Cant tell a lie’ George Washington in schools- I personally colored his hair light brown with reddish streaks instead of the all white styled wig we see in his portraits. Oh me! I hope we won’t forget to tell the stories and be thankful for this nation and our historic heroes!

    Love y’all, Camellia

    • *All photographs are obviously mine.
    • *We’re still working on and updating this site, thank you for your long suffering patience! Just blame it on the tech challenged blogger!
    • *Soon, I’ll be posting that famous Apricot Casserole so you can try it or save it, with our new features- the WPRecipe Makerand the shopping app from Chicory.
    • *While this site is being updated, I hope you will follow us on Instagram- @brendawyatt7769 or click the icon link on this page…we’re posting something almost everyday over there!  And… any advertising you see on this page does not necessarily represent the views of Camellia’s Cottage!

    Lemon Squares…

    From the cradle to the grave, in the South- at every occasion of any importance – you can mark this down, a dessert, or two or more will feature lemon. Lemon desserts are legendary and iconic… Lemon Meringue Pue, Lemon glazed Pound Cake, Lemon Ice Box Pie, wedding cakes filled with lemon curd…even our sweet tea is laced with lemon juice! However, these Lemon Squares make a regular appearance on tea tables, at baby showers, holiday dessert tables, bridal teas, anniversary and retirement parties and yes, grieved though we may be for the dearly departed- we tend to consume Lemon Squares in quantities to comfort ourselves. How do I know this? Almost every dark suit and black dress that’s been anywhere near the bereavement buffet bears a sprinkle of a telltale streak of powdered sugar! On one occasion I helped with –  Lemon Squares were assigned to more than one trusted baker- but all agreed that Bennie Sue’s recipe should be used for uniform quality. Okay, I made up Bennie Sue’s name to protect the innocent. You know, there’s always at least one Bennie Sue in any southern community whose recipe is considered the gold standard. Rustic and humble in looks- not Bennie Sue, for heavens sake! No, the rustic and humble Lemon Squares- tend to take on a heavenly appearance with their light cloud-like dusting of powdered  sugar. I think even the formidable  Bennie Sue would approve of this recipe for Camellia’s Lemon Squares! 

    Lemon Squares...

    Cut in bar cookies or tiny squares, Lemon Bars are welcome any time. A shortbread type crust topped with baked lemon  curd and dustEd with a snowy powdered sugar topping - it’s a near perfect addition on dessert tables or as a stand alone confection. 

    Ingredients

    • 1/2 Cup Butter Softened
    • 1 Cup Flour Sifted
    • 1/4 Cup Sugar
    • 2 Large Eggs
    • Zest Lemon from 1 large or 2 small lemons
    • 3/4 Cup Sugar
    • 2 Tbs Flour
    • 1/4 teas Baking Powder
    • 3-4 Tbs Lemon Juice * Freshly Squeezed - use zested lemons
    • Powdered Sugar for Dusting

    Instructions

    • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine softened butter, 1 cup of flour and 1/4 cup of sugar for crust. Do not overmix. Press into an 8x8 glass baking dish for crust. Bake 12 minutes or until pale but dry. Do not overtake, crust will complete baking later. While crust is baking, make lemon filling with remainder of ingredients, except powdered sugar. Mix well. Pour mixture over partially baked crust. Complete baking at 350 degrees for 15-18 minutes or until Lemon Mixture is done. ( press lightly with your finger, if no fingerprint remains, the Lemon Squares are done. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and continue to cool. Dust again with powdered sugar.
      When ready to serve, for parties, cut into small squares. As a dessert, larger squares may be preferred. * Serving suggestion: When ready to serve, top with additional lemon zest for a pretty presentation and a tart fresh taste. 

    While they can be made year round, winter is a perfect time for Lemon Squares. Citrus fruit is fresh and abundant. And while we do make these lemon squares for special occasions, they’re the perfect ending for a Sunday Dinner, when they can be cut generously with no complaints!

    I do recommend using three small kitchen hand tools when making lemon squares- a wooden lemon reamer – less cleanup for just one or two lemons, a small hand held specialty lemon zester for those pretty little strands and curls that add a zip of flavor, done as a flourish right before serving and- a small fine mesh strainer in stainless steel to seed and pulp the lemon juice for the filling and again for the pretty finale- the sifting flourish of powdered sugar! And we do love to add a flourish, accessorize if you will. And if there’s one thing Southern women know how to do- it’s to accessorize! Oh me, hope you’ll try them some dreary winter day soon!

    Love y’all, Camellia

    Health and Beauty Tips: Citrus fruits including – maybe especially lemons,  are full of antioxidants, Vitamin C and those all important B for Beauty Vitamins. Some think that lemon juice even in a spa juice does help ease symptoms of the common cold. Here’s a Spa Water I made this week, with sliced ruby red grapefruit, oranges and lemon slices. if nothing else it sure was pretty- so pretty, I was enticed to drink more water! And that has to be good for your skin and keep you healthy and hydrated!

    • * You can find the small kitchen tools, such as the citrus reamer, the specialty lemon zester and the small stainless steel/fine mesh sieves-  at fine kitchen shops, including Williams Sonoma. (This is not a sponsored post) And! that pretty green plate? It’s made by Earthborn Pottery right here in Alabama!
    • We do have some ads now, to keep the lights on… Camellia’s Cottage does not guarantee the quality of any products or services in these ads!
    • *And… I just made up Bennie Sue’s name- to protect the innocent you know…
    • *All photographs are obviously mine!

    Camellia’s Bleu Pig…

    Camellia’s Bleu Pig

    Imagine showing up at your next gathering with a Bleu Pig! It does tend to create a sensation,   Okay, actually If you tell the hostess you’re bringing one, it creates mystery, curiosity and anticipation. Still. A Bleu Pig is versatile, a team player and welcome almost anywhere… including a silver tray or the fanciest charcuterie board.A Bleu Pig is a unique blend of sharp cheddar, bleu cheese and bacon – lots of it- a whole half pound of crumbled bacon rolled into a Cheese Ball or appetizer Cheese Logs. Of course, like most cheese appetizers, it’s wonderful with crackers and I especially like it served along with tart apples… a pig is known for loving apples, y’all- bleu or not. The Bleu Pig is also wonderful dolloped on  a grilled steak, a hot baked potato, melted on top of burgers, crumbled over a salad and yes, with party crackers on a cheese board! Okay, let’s be honest, some folks just don’t like bleu cheese… feel free to make yours anyway you like by changing out that bit of bleu cheese for another type, or go whole hog and make it with just sharp cheddar cheese! Here’s how you make a Bleu Pig…

    Camellia's Bleu Pig...

    An easy versatile cheese ball with cheddar and bleu cheeses and bacon, lots of it!
    Course: Appetizer
    Cuisine: American

    Ingredients

    • 1/2 pound extra sharp cheddar cheese grated
    • 1/2 pound cream cheese
    • 1/2 pound sliced bacon fried crisp, crumbled
    • 2 Tablespoons grated yellow (or mild) onion finely grated
    • 1/4 pound bleu cheese
    • 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
    • 3-4 drops worchestershire sauce to taste

    Instructions

    • Have all ingredients at room temperature, mix together cheddar and cream cheese together- add bleu cheese, grated onion, garlic salt and Worcestershire sauce together- mixing all loosely. Add crumbled bacon last evenly distributing over the cheese mixture and incorporate carefully. Shape into one medium size ball or 2 logs. Freezes well.

    *I enjoy serving this cheese ball for a crowd, however, I tend to make it up into logs. Allow to soften before serving. Slices from these logs are a perfect topping for grilled steaks or baked potatoes. *Note if you aren't a fan of bleu cheese- feel free to increase the amount of with cheddar or another type of cheese you prefer.

    • And a special treat, smear on a dark leafy green such as baby collards, roll and cut in cigar fashion, pile onto a platter or along with other offerings on a cheese board.

    A good many years ago- the famous Lee Brothers of Charleston inspired me by rolling up their Fresh Cheese in Collard leaves! I’ve never forgotten their unique appetizer – so, when a friend recently sent a big bag of baby collard greens to the cottage…I just had to…Wait for it…Make Bleu Piggies in Green Blankets! Turns out that might be my favorite way to serve a Bleu Pig!

    Love y’all, Camellia

    *All photographs are obviously mine!

    Find Lee Brothers here-

    Thank You Notes…

    e662cc3e-e8ed-4539-b3c8-8bce54b7c88aA certain type of Southern lady may be thought to be snobbish because she only joins small groups such as sewing circles, book clubs, altar guild or exclusive clubs with limited memberships. I’m here to dispel this ugly rumor. It’s not really about being exclusive, it’s more to do with her ancestor’s obsession concerning proper thank you notes!

    Recently, a southern mother was deeply concerned when her daughter signed up for speed dating…‘Marybelle, what were you thinking? Yes, darling I certainly want you to find a suitable match but speed dating? Just think of how many thank you notes you’ll have to write to find Mr. Right?’   Okay. I made that up but it could happen.

    Southern mothers do belong to one large group- the one which is simply horrified that cursive writing is no longer part of the curriculum. Penmanship speaks volumes. Fine penmanship, eloquent sentiments and a unique signature spell Culture with a capital C. Sloppy handwriting, fill in the blank notecards, preprinted sayings with a signature which has reverted away from fine cursive writing, not to mention being struck through with mistakes, misspellings and has ink blobs, well…this just reeks of being low and uncouth.

    Actually I’m exaggerating a bit here…today’s southern mothers are willing to accept neatly penned and simply worded notes of any kind as long as it’s not mass produced, pre-printed or electronic. Shiver. And! The best southern mothers try to make sure their offspring- male or female- stays well stocked with suitable stationary, pens and notecards with proper envelopes… Some mothers have even stooped so low as to include postage stamps. Save the precious children the price of a postage stamp and remember – metered postage is tacky. So are pre-printed well wishes, sympathy or thank you notes which only require a signature. Tacky is not an image builder. While monogrammed or personalized stationary is preferred- nice blank notecards are suitable for informal notes.

    49e6806f-7ea5-4c4d-8f23-083a51f5a079If the all occasion blank notecards are hand embellished- well, it’s better…anything that has a personal touch is acceptable when engraved is simply too formal. I personally received a box of beautiful notecards as a Christmas gift, also I had picked up several packages of informal blank notecards during the past year. With snippets of ribbons found while I was putting away holiday packaging, I decided a bit of embellishment was in order for the thank you notes I still need to write- in my cursive writing of course. Using a paper hole punch placed in strategic locations, I threaded ribbon and even hem tape through the holes and tied them in cute bows.

    78c0d6c5-2e97-48d0-8104-f2aee32d724cThat’s all there is to it. Still. I think they’re just precious. Oh my, how I do run on..Now. While I’m at it… and though it’s electronically transmitted– I hope my image won’t suffer too much for saying ‘Thank you’ to all y’all who have graciously followed this crazy blog in the last three years! You’ve made it so much fun for me, I hope we can continue to bring good things to your inbox in 2019 and hey! We’d appreciate it if you’d tell your friends about us too!

    Love y’all, Camellia

    *All photographs are obviously mine.

    *The hole punch I use is from a scrapbooking kit, however what you may need to embellish your own  notecards is a hole punch with a longer reach than standard hole punchers – like this McGill 2″ reach craft punch from Amazon

    Merry Ball Fudge…

    8DFD4493-DD67-439C-B6FE-1DF2E5A37A57Most of the iconic Southern Candies  are made in the wintertime- Divinity. Toffee. Peanut Brittle. Caramels. Pralines, Bourbon Balls and of course Fudge.  There’s are reasons for this winter phenomenon… some are scientific in nature, some are mythical and some are downright insane- we won’t go into that now, but here’s what you’ll hear at the desserts and sweets table… with lots of soulful shaking of heads and tsk-ing and sucking in of breath-

    • ‘Well, it’s finicky.’
    • ‘Have you tasted these pralines? Grainy.’
    • ‘Cooked it too long, it seized up.’
    • ‘Her Divinity is hard as a rock but she keeps making it like that every year.’
    • And maybe worst of all…‘It just won’t set up, I tried everything- I tell you it just wouldn’t set up- so I threw the whole mess out!’

    Now, apparently there were a few wise souls in my storied youth who could make a decent batch of fudge… My Aunt Trix made the classic Fantasy Fudge, My Aunt DawDaw favored Mamie Eisenhower’s Fudge –  DawDaw was such a fan of Mamie’s.. she trimmed her bangs real short- though it didn’t work on DawDaw’s low forehead. But the fudge was good. And… Aunt Mary Sue used Mary Ball’s Fudge recipe. It turns out that all three of those recipes are basically the same! All call for semi-sweet chocolate, sweetened condensed milk, pure vanilla extract and either marshmallows or marshmallow crème. How do I know this? I’ve seen it in black and white.  I’ve made them all too. These recipes are legendary.

    AEBF7E43-EA8B-47F2-B965-2DD63ECCD080 I was making a test run on Aunt Mary Sue’s dark chocolate fudge using the Mary Ball formula. Mary Sue was my favorite of the three aunts. The first batch was perfect. It was a cold crisp day after all… the humidity and the barometric pressure must have aligned. Still. Most recipes for fudge in old southern cookbooks tend to have a few variations… I was on the lookout for a variation that had some additions- maybe pecans or candied cherries- even almonds and almond extract….

    How in the world I veered off course is still a mystery. I must have started out on the Bourbon Balls page, run down to Mamie Eisenhower’s fudge and  ended up with something akin to a Fantasy Fudge on steroids!

    Let me break with my southern roots and say – I don’t like Bourbon Balls. Those crushed up vanilla wafers rolled in powdered sugar kind of bourbon balls. Never tasted one I’d write home about….however, this Bourbon Ball recipe I’d run up on wasn’t like the traditional ones at all! It was more like a fondant- a buttered powdered sugar base filled with pecans, candied oranges and cherries- and oh yes! Bourbon. That mixture was made into little balls then dipped in chocolate…sounded wonderful.

    Still. I wasn’t making Bourbon Balls. I was looking for a variation on fudge. I don’t know why but I followed the dipped bourbon ball directions- ‘ Soak the pecans in bourbon overnight.‘ Check. The next morning, I chopped the candied fruits then started in on another batch of fudge. I drained the pecans soaked in bourbon, folded them in.4C8E4EA3-06D2-4166-BDA8-612481440017

    I felt dizzy when the heat hit that chocolate mixture and those bourbon soaked pecans. Maybe it was the heat, humidity and the barometric pressure. Who knows? Still. Once you start a batch of fudge you can’t just stop. I was reeling, giggling and stirring like a whirling dervish, adding those candied oranges and cherries. Before I knew it… I’d made a batch of something befitting a finer name than Bourbon Balls or even Fantasy Fudge… Anyway, here’s how you make-19F76BAF-01A6-4150-AF61-B6988AFCEF22

    Camellia’s Merry Ball Fudge

    • 3 (6 oz. packages semi sweet chocolate chips
    • 1 (14oz.) can of sweetened condensed milk
    • 2 cups of miniature marshmallows
    • pinch of salt
    • 2 teaspoons of instant coffee or espresso powder
    • 1 1/4 cups of rough chopped pecans
    • 1/2 to 3/4 cup of Bourbon
    • 1 cup of candied cherries
    • 1/2 cup of candied oranges

    In a sealed jar, soak chopped pecans in bourbon overnight. Set aside. Line a 9×12 dish with wax paper. In a medium glass bowl set over simmering water, melt semi-sweet chocolate chips with miniature marshmallows, a pinch of salt, instant coffee and sweetened condensed milk until thoroughly melted and smooth. Remove chocolate mixture from heat. Drain bourbon soaked pecans, reserving bourbon. Fold pecans, candied cherries and candied orange carefully into melted chocolate mixture. Add 2 teaspoons of reserved Bourbon, mixing gently but thoroughly. Spread fudge mixture into wax paper lined pan spreading evenly. Chill until firm approximately 2 hours- no longer. On cool counter or cutting board, turn out chilled fudge and remove wax paper. If you prefer uniform pieces- remove rough edges as a cook’s treat. Then cut into equal pieces. (I like to use miniature muffin cup liners as candy holders for fudge pieces.) Store in a covered container at room temperature or chilled as necessary.  Flavor develops overnight. Makes 2 or 2 1/2 pounds of fudge.


    I had a good bit of trouble coming up with a name for this bourbon soaked pecan candied fruit studded fudge… I thought of-

    • Jubilee Fudge or
    • Fantasia Fudge,
    • Maybe Jewel Box or
    • Christmas Carousel since I felt like I’d been on a merry-go-round!

    Then, I recalled finer days…when ladies showed up in Plaid Taffeta, Velvet, Silk or Satin- with stockings swishing; bejeweled and well heeled- sometimes dyed to match. The men were starched and pressed, clean  cut and close shaved, four-in-hand tied, spit shined shoes as we like to say… smelling good with fresh comb marks… ah yes! There was always soft music playing,  a bit of dancing and cheerful laughter as the night wore on… Sometimes there are still Christmas, Camellia or Poinsettia Balls. So why not call my festive fudge – Merry Ball Fudge? I would say- try this fudge at your own risk, who knows how much the bourbon will develop between now and then? All I know is that it’s a very festive fudge- similar in flavor to chocolate covered cherries and not overly sweet either…but yes! It sure is festive!

    Oh my, like all southern tales, this one is part truth, part myth and part outright lies! Though Merry Ball Fudge is a real happy coincidence!

    Love y’all, Camellia

    *All photographs are obviously mine.

    P.S. For Basic Fudge- I won’t say foolproof since who knows what this fickle weather might do? The classic fudge omits the candied fruits, the bourbon soaked pecans and needs a few teaspoons of pure vanilla extract. Be sure to use pecan halves which have been salted and toasted- this always improves the flavor of pecans.  This is what a typical Mary Ball Fudge looks like: AEBF7E43-EA8B-47F2-B965-2DD63ECCD080

     

    Homemade Mushroom Soup…

    832349B1-6BD5-40DE-9C71-42EED73E818AWe southerners love soups, stews, gumbos, cream sauces, gravies, and we also tend to use the freshest ingredients possible. Since a good part of our land is agricultural, we have access to all kinds of fresh food and food we’ve grown and canned or put in the freezer. That includes Mushroom Soup… you might be surprised how many of our traditional dishes include fresh mushrooms!

    Still.  We also know part of our cuisine -often referred to as the ‘cream of soup dishes’ – has been made fun of, considered low rent even rejected out of hand as substandard by those stuck up cooks in other parts of the country! I would argue that any real southerner finds generational comfort in soup can recipes, namely our famous casseroles. Green Bean Casserole has been around for over 75 years and there are Classic Chicken Casseroles that spell comfort. As soon as we hear of a death- before the grave is dug… you can hear the cans opening! No self respecting southern cook would even think of having a bereavement spread without several soup can casseroles, they feed a crowd and offer comfort at a time when fresh food might be a bit too lively to offer. I mean, who in their right mind shows up with a bushel of bell peppers or cucumbers when the digestive systems of the bereaved need soft creamy food with a bit of Ritz Crackers on top?  Though-

    I do need to add that we southerners don’t actually open a can of cream of mushroom soup, heat it and eat it like that! No, it’s a mainstay in our pantry, strictly used as an ingredient in those famous casseroles- and every southerner I know- who has the decency to send food to the bereaved- keeps her pantry and freezer ready for life’s unexpected trials and tribulations.

    Still. When I make soup, I want it to be made from scratch. Last year, I fiddled around and came up with a Mushroom Soup recipe and it was good! I didn’t share it with you, because it wasn’ a ‘tested and tried’ recipe. With the cold snap we’ve been having and all of the holiday leftovers a distant memory- Soup of any kind just felt right. My grocery store had some good looking mushrooms and I basically had every thing else I needed to make Homemade Mushroom Soup! Here’s how I made-12C27364-54B8-4556-A58F-A62EE104C7FF

    Camellia’s Homemade Mushroom Soup

    You will need:

    • A drizzle of Bacon Fat
    • One Stick of Butter (1/2 cup)
    • 1 medium Onion finely chopped
    • 3 Garlic Cloves chopped
    • 4 cups of Whole Fresh Mushrooms – sliced (can be one type or several – your choice)
    • A few sprigs of Fresh Thyme
    • 4 Tablespoons of All Purpose Flour
    • 4-5 cups of good quality Chicken Stock – homemade if possible
    • Small Diced Ham – 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup
    • A couple of splashes of White Wine
    • 1 cup of Half and Half or Heavy Cream if you prefer
    • Salt and Pepper to taste
    • Use 1/4 cup of  powdery grated Parmesan Cheese only as a seasoning or thickener, but it’s worth keeping in the pantry! If the soup needs to be a bit thicker- this type of parmesan cheese is an excellent way to season and thicken the soup before adding Cream, just reduce the amount of salt a bit.

    To Prepare Soup

    • In a large soup pot, pour a drizzle of Bacon Fat- okay I admit it- to be Southern Style- it has to have some pork! Also melt one half of the butter (half stick) over medium high heat.
    • Add finely chopped onion. Saute until onion is soft. Reduce heat to medium and add chopped garlic- be careful- garlic scorches easily, saute Garlic for no more than one minute.
    • Add sliced Mushrooms- I used a mix of Baby Portobello and White Buttons, also add the remainder of the Butter. Stir until butter has melted, then add fresh Thyme (leaves only) and diced Ham.
    • Cook until mushrooms are soft and moisture has cooked off.
    • Shake Flour over the mushroom mixture, stir to coat- then add White Wine. Stir often until liquid has cooked off. Mixture will be thick. *It will look like this- 97F6F54D-8448-4967-AAC8-50B7CE5FDE5B
    • Add 4 cups of Chicken Stock, bringing it to a bubbling simmer. Cook on medium until this mixture is thick and smooth- up to 30 minutes, stirring often.
    • *To thicken- use the powdered Parmesan Cheese. I use it as a seasoning or thickener only! Add up to 1/4 cup of  this type of Grated Parmesan Cheese stirring it until completely absorbed. Season with salt and pepper to taste. *I found when the recipe was tested, the extra thickening was needed.
    • *At this point the soup may be refrigerated! When ready to serve, bring thickened mixture to a simmer and carefully add Half and Half, stirring until absorbed into the Mushroom mixture. Serve immediately. *If you aren’t quite  ready to serve, the soup may be kept covered in the oven for a bit- at 170 degrees, no longer than 10-15 minutes.

    Serving suggestion: Melt a half stick of butter in a cast iron skillet. Toss in a 16 oz. bag of Oyster Crackers and stirring  to coat. Remove from heat. Put skillet of Oyster Crackers in a cold oven set to preheat at 350 degrees. When oven is preheated- the Oyster Crackers will be buttery and toasted. Excellent accompaniment! 5845CDA8-3A6B-4435-83A2-A27FF7071738

    Homemade Mushroom Soup is rich and hearty enough for a main dish, though I must admit a small cup would be an excellent first course. Homemade Mushroom Soup doesn’t aim to be a substitute for any of the famous soup can recipes we southerners also love, however it does bridge a gap between haute cuisine and the so called low rent dishes. Homemade Mushroom Soup is so good on chilly days- fresh but without the bite, that I’m reminded of a family’s beloved but protective family dog… When she runs out barking… they reassure folks…‘She won’t bite.’ Well…not hard.’

    Homemade Mushroom Soup has lots of flavor from onions, ham, garlic, fresh thyme, wine and good chicken stock- comforting but surely not bland.

    Love y’all, Camellia

    *All photographs are obviously mine.