Mimi’s Macaroni and Cheese is a wonderful memory in my life. Southern food is like that. Southerners have a strong emotional attachment to the methods, the flavors, the ingredients in our heirloom food. My grandmother’s recipes surprised me. As I became more aware of the cultural influences on Southern food, I realized her heritage influenced her food choices. Depending on where our ancestors came from, who their people were and the food that was available to them in this country. It depended on who raised the food or who cooked the food, too. If you look at the ingredients in her Macaroni and Cheese, you might note that her family probably had lots of chickens and probably raised dairy cattle too. There’s lots of eggs, butter and cheese, she always used these in her version.
I also know her uncle managed a large family farm. Mimi knew that French Huguenots were part of her ancestry. Her cooking, whether she knew it or not, is decidedly similar to rustic French cooking. The method for making Mimi’s Macaroni and Cheese is like a soufflé made with eggs rather than with a cream sauce. Béchamel is a more refined sauce of French cuisine, heavier I would insist.
Look at the close up- Mimi’s Macaroni and Cheese is light…almost fluffy from the eggs- yet with deep flavor of strong cheddar cheese and includes the spiciness of cayenne pepper, even red pepper flakes if you choose. The spicy heat in this recipe is also found many southern recipes, especially in the Coastal South. Okay. I’m sorry to be getting into a primer on the history of southern food! Without further ado, here’s how you make Mimi’s Macaroni and Cheese-
This version of the classic Macaroni and Cheese has a light, spicy cheesy quality almost like a soufflé and is in fact best baked in a soufflé dish.
2CupsFreshly Grated Sharp Cheddar CheesePlus more for topping
1 3/4CupsCooked Pasta (Elbow, Linguine, Small Shell)
1/2 -1TeaspoonCayenne PepperSpice is to taste
Red Pepper FlakesOptional
1/2StickButterMore for buttering the baking dish
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Generously butter an 8 inch soufflé dish or 8x8 glass baking dish. In a deep mixing bowl, whisk eggs lightly with whole milk and cayenne pepper. (May add cracked black pepper and a pinch of salt also). Gently add shredded sharp cheddar to combine. Add cooked pasta, combining well, but with a light hand. Pour mixture into a buttered soufflé dish. Bake for 45 minutes or until puffed and golden. (less time for a more shallow baking dish) Serves 6 generously.
It must be said, Macaroni and Cheese was never served as a main dish. Our famous vegetable plates usually included Macaroni and Cheese, it was served along with Baked Ham and fresh Green Beans too. Macaroni and Cheese is an iconic southern dish. I love Mimi’s version of Macaroni and Cheese- it’s loaded with cheese, it’s low on pasta and doesn’t have the creamy texture many modern recipes do. I won’t argue you down if you prefer your family’s version of Macaroni and Cheese. Though, I do hope you will try Mimi’s version!
While you’re at it- hold on to the recipes of your memories. Mimi’s Macaroni and Cheese and other Heirloom Recipes were a motivating factor-when I began writing this blog! Good food, good memories and gracious southern living. You know, in the South- we never say ‘goodbye’ – We say… ‘Y’all come back.’ I think the southern food, was always the reason they did. Now, let me know how your mommas and grandmommas made theirs!
As soon as I see little wild strawberries springing up in the yard, I start thinking about making a Strawberry Cobbler! Now, you know I love almost any kind of Cobbler, though in the Spring, it just seems festive to bake a fresh Strawberry Cobbler.
There was a Strawberry Pie, famous in the 60’s that was basically a pie crust, a thick glaze with big fresh strawberries and loads of whipped cream, that will always hold a sweet place in my heart, just like fruit cobblers evoke certain memories that are always good! Well, this Cobbler, is a bit different from the other cobblers I make, because it does have a glaze-y looking filling very similar to the aforementioned restaurant pie.
The difference is…when it’s baked, the glaze acts as a thickener and the strips of pastry act like dumplings- which gives it that juicy cobbler look- the glaze makes it richer gives the Strawberry Cobbler a brighter, prettier look! And…the sugary buttered pastry top- makes it pretty and gives more texture to the Cobbler!
Here’s how you make- Camellia’s Strawberry Cobbler…
A beautiful and easy spring dessert, filled with a thickened sauce and fresh strawberries- topped with a sugary crust! Perfect for any occasion! Top with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, it’s a dream...
4CupsStrawberries Cut in chunks and slices
1 Pie CrustFor single crust
2CupsGranulated SugarDivided, plus more for topping
Hull and cut strawberries into slices and chunks, discarding ant bruised areas. Add 1 cup of sugar over the strawberries, set aside. In a medium saucepan, heat water, cornstarch and strawberry preserves whisking and bringing to a low boil,. Add 3/4-1 cup of strawberries , 1/2 cup of sugar and 1/4 stick of butter into the cornstarch mixture, lower heat and stir often until the mixture is thickened. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter a square glass baking dish. Roll out pie crust, cutting the sides off to make a square roughly the size of the baking dish. If desired, with a heart shaped cookie cutter, cut a heart shape in center of crust. Working quickly, add fresh strawberries to cornstarch mixture and toss lightly to coat berries. Pour into prepared baking dish. Dot with butter. With the strips of pastry, mix into the berry mixture like ‘dumplings’. Taste mixture for sweetness, if needed, sprinkle more sugar over filling before topping with large square pastry, which has been buttered. * do not crimp pastry edges- it will cook freeform on top of the cobbler. Sprinkle pie crust with more sugar. Bake at 375degrees for 45- one hour. Allow to cool, filling will be very hot! Serve with a good quality ice cream, if desired. 6-8 generous servings.
Right now, grocers are beginning to get in the smaller spring strawberries- Look for them, they make almost every dessert extra special! Spring Strawberry Cobbler was on my list to test when I realized it was Pi Day too! Well, for all you mathematicians out there, in this case, Pi R are Square!
And… think you aren’t a math whiz? If you’re a baker, believe me you are! So, Happy Pi Day, from someone like me- who could eat pie every day! Especially, Strawberry Cobbler with a big ol’ scoop of ice cream!
Holiday Parties are rarely sit down affairs… the best gatherings are winter buffets with pickup foods that are easy to pick up and eat and if utensils aren’t required that’s even better! I hope it goes without saying that I love Southern Food. While we generally have iconic pick up foods on hand such as cheese straws, deviled eggs, pimento cheese, toasted pecans, ham biscuits and even tea sandwiches with simple fillings can be assembled in just a few minutes. Still. Some of my favorite southern foods don’t exactly come in pick up form. Southern flavors like sweet potatoes, macaroni and cheese and so many wonderful casseroles. My personal favorite is Squash Casserole; made with summer squash and yellow onions steamed together- bound by eggs and cheese into a wonderful dish that is beloved by all, but certainly not a dish that’s easy to serve for a Winter Buffet. Several years ago, we hosted a party which highlighted southern foods– specifically local cheeses, produce, even preserves, nuts, fruits and honey. A few years later, I decided to have a party at home with even more of my personal southern favorites- Pickled Shrimp to Ham Biscuits to Banana Pudding, Pound Cake and Fried Pies… For this party, I experimented with a sheet pan frittata – which I called Summer Squash Squares. To be honest, I wanted to include foods that made the buffet taste like a sit down dinner. That meant getting creative with the taste of a casserole in pickup form!
Summer Squash Squares were a personal favorite for me that night and I think the guests enjoyed it too! Easy to make, good hot or at room temperature and best of all- no forks required! Here’s how you make a Pick up Food with a Southern Flair!
Camellia’s Squash Party Squares
8-10 cups of sliced Yellow Squash
2 cups of thin sliced Yellow or Spanish Onions
Salt and Pepper to taste
4-6 slices of Hickory Smoked Bacon
1 small carton Sour Cream
2 cups of shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese
1 cup of green onion tops or scallions
1/2 cup of Self Rising Flour
Optional- parsley for garnish
Steam yellow squash and onions in a small amount of salted water- generously adding black pepper while steaming. Drain squash and onions very well in a colander and allow to cool. On a large sheet pan, oven fry hickory smoked bacon at 350 degrees for 7-8 minutes or until done. Remove, drain on paper towels. Set aside. Drain almost all of the bacon drippings from sheet pan- leaving enough to oil the sheet pan. *Cook bacon on the same sheet pan as the squash squares will be baked on! Chop bacon into medium size crumble.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, whisk eggs, add carton of sour cream, 1 and 1/2 cups of sharp cheddar cheese and green onion tops; fold drained squash and onion in carefully- sprinkle flour over mixture and gently stir. Carefully pour the mixture into oiled sheet pan. Sprinkle chopped bacon evenly over top of squash mixture. Bake 30-35 minutes, until edges are lightly browned and center is set. Do not overbake. Remove and sprinkle the top with reserved 1/2 cup of shredded cheese. Allow to cool and cut into 2 inch squares. Garnish with additional green onion tops if desired.
Summer Squash Squares were served here at the cottage in 2018 for Thanksgiving and transported well as my contribution to a Christmas gathering which was a Winter Buffet, and the name was shortened to Squash Bites! Easy, pretty and quick enough to make for a New Year’s Eve party, a casual football party and would even be appropriate for a bereavement buffet. During the upcoming chilly and dreary months ahead…why not have a few friends over for a Sunday Supper or a Winter Buffet? Okay, okay… I know folks are ready for a break from holiday food now… but surely there will be those days when we just wish the fog would lift! And a Winter Buffet may be just the answer for lifting the spirits and a good excuse to gather again!
Love y’all, Camellia
*All photographs are obviously mine.
*Summer Squash Squares are also wonderful cut in a larger ‘luncheon size’, with a simple side salad, a bowl of soup or a few slices of ham- makes a satisfying light meal. Leftover squares may also be stored in the freezer and reheated successfully. And… I do also think Summer Squash Squares would be truly delicious all year round!
I hope your 2018 holidays have been happy, and I continue to be humbled that you read and follow Camellia’s Cottage! Follow us on Instagram! We’ve been posting content that doesn’t always make it to the blog! And…
We’re planning now to bring you more and hopefully even better content in 2019! Wishing you all a safe and Happy New Year’s Eve!
Southerners are a peculiar bunch of folks. Eccentric? Colorful? Quirky? We tend to revel in it. We accept it, enjoy it even. Of course we disagree and have our own opinions- yet the one place we find common ground is the Table. Kitchen, picnic or dining table.. put real southern food on the table and it has a settling effect. it helps us remember our ancestors, our upbringings and our rural roots. Food also helps us detect who’s fromhere and who’s not by the food they eat or know about. I have a list. Now. this is by no means complete, just a starter list…
I would say if you’ve heard of all of them- you’ve probably been here for several generations- if you can barely make it out? Well, bless your heart- it might be a blessing or a curse depending on your perspective. Don’t stress out too much as you read through the list. See how many you recognize and yes, you do get extra points if you have actually eaten these foods- regularly.
Grits– no darlin’ you don’t eat these with sugar- or even milk…no! that’s cream of wheat! Butter, salt and pepper, please.
Corn Pone. This would be on the advanced level. Points will not be taken off if you crumble or sop with Corn Pone- either is acceptable.
Salmon Croquettes. We will consider you kinfolks if you know what this one is!
Pepper Sauce– this comes in a narrow necked bottle, hot as fire and vinegary. Extra points if you know what to douse with it.
Sorghum Syrup– if you have some in a can that looks suspiciously like a small paint can – and a homemade label? it’s authentic.
Cat head Biscuits. No explanation necessary- extra points if you can name a few other types of biscuits too.
Sawmill Gravy– extra points if you know several other gravies are.. Red Eye Gravy, Tomato Gravy – whoa extra points for Chocolate Gravy. If you know what White Meat and Gravy is- well, don’t bother coming to the front door like a visitor- come on in through the back door like home folks!
SquashCasserole. Now, this is a tricky one. Hint: it doesn’t have butternut or acorn squash in it. No- ma’am.
Cracklin’ Cornbread. Again this is advanced level of southern food knowledge.
Pot Likker – only third or fourth generation southerners know what this is. Last but not least-
Fried Pies… yes ma’am, I’m talkin’ about genuine southern fried pies… apple or peach will most likely top the list and no, we don’t call them ‘Hand pies’ or ‘Turnovers’ either, we’ll let other regions of the country call them that!
A genuine fried pie is.. I believe a distinct southern delicacy. Made mostly from dried fruit, preferably you own but no points are deducted if you use store bought. The dough has… shall we say, evolved. But here is a very old recipe for the dough:
2 cups sifted plain flour (that means all purpose) 3 tsp. baking powder 1 tsp. salt 1/3 cup of solid shortening or lard.
Mix with pastry cutter until the texture is like cornmeal.
Add 2/3 cup of milk and mix into a soft dough.
Divide dough into 6 large or 12 smaller balls. Roll or pat each ball on a floured surface to make circles.
Fill with prepared dried fruit or fill half of the dough circle; fold dough over filling/ seal the edges- crimping with a fork dipped in flour. Fry pies in a heavy iron skillet in hot Crisco until golden brown on both sides. Drain.
*This recipe is from my grandmother’s family cookbook and it is from an anonymous source.
Apple Filling: In a medium saucepan place 6 ounces of dried apples. Season with 2-3 Tbs. of cinnamon sugar (or 1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon and 2-3 Tbs. of sugar), a grating or two of fresh nutmeg.
Almost cover the dried apples and spices with water, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until the water thickens to a syrup and the color is a beautiful copper color, but the apples aren’t mushy. *I generally take a potato masher and lightly mash apples (or peaches) to absorb some of the syrup. Here’s what they look like:
Any remaining dried fruit is wonderful on hot buttered biscuits. Refrigerate leftovers. Now, here’s the evolution of how many Fried Pies have been made for decades- in the 1930’s canned biscuits became available and were widely in use after World War II – and some folks tend to truly love them, even using them in place of homemade biscuits, I’ve never really made the switch with the exception of using them as dough for frying. The texture is truly perfect for making Fried Apple Pies or any other type of fried pie for that matter. The dough is stretchy and tends to hold up better for me than my efforts at using the old way that my grandmother’s kinfolks used. Here’s what they look like filled:
My mother in law was one of the best southern cooks I’ve ever known and was particularly well known for her Fried Pies. She personally made fried pies for the dorm used by the Marching Southerners of Jacksonville State University here in Alabama when our daughters were students there- needless to say our daughters were very popular band members! The dough she used was from canned biscuits. It might be an acquired taste but I prefer it to this day! And they truly fry up beautifully!
I tend to make up the dried apples, chill and then roll out the dough, put a little more than a tablespoon of prepared dried apples; and make the fried pies. At that point they do better if chilled before frying. I also freeze on a sheet pan and store frozen in freezer bags until you’re ready to fry! Also, I don’t use solid shortening, preferring instead to use a mere 1/3 inch of vegetable oil in a medium high skillet per dozen Fried Pies! *If you’re making more you may need to add a bit more oil. A 6 ounce bag of dried apples makes enough for 20-24 fried pies! Some dust their fried pies with confectioner’s sugar, I don’t. ‘It just don’t seem right’. Fried Apple Pies are a treat year-round, however in Fall and Winter they seem to be one of those vintage homemade treats that brings on such fond memories of our mothers and grandmothers!
Love y’all, Camellia
*All photographs are obviously mine. Photograph of cooked dried apples has not been enhanced- look for that color if possible for your dried apples! *Any canned biscuit dough will work, with the possible exception of the flaky layered type! *Now, if you need any help with those other classic southern foods, don’t hesitate to ask! I’d be curious to know just how well you did on the quiz!
Southern cooks aren’t known for carefully measuring spices… we just pinch and sprinkle until we hear the hints and whispers of our ancestors – ‘Add another pinch, okay, that’senough’. Our spirits tell us- even God surely loves Southern cooking…especially Sunday Dinner. For decades now, I’ve been cooking Sunday Dinner- it’s not like weekday lunches or suppers- when the call goes out ‘It’s ready! Come on in while it’s hot! Y’all come eat!‘ No, on Sundays, folks still use the southern term- ‘Dinner’-for the midday meal. I know it’s strange but down here.. lunch is dinner and dinner is called supper. Go figure, it’s just how we talk. This weekly meal is my effort of bringing my family together- whoever is around and will come… with no TV blaring and no phone calls and cellphones down, please. There’s no phone call or talk show that can’t wait until Sunday Dinner is over… in fact, rarely a meal is eaten here at the cottage with any of that background noise. My momma used to say- ‘Cutthat TV off, it’s so loud I can’t hear myself think!’
On Sundays, I step up to the fiery kitchen altars and cook. Call it a sacrifice, I call it devotion. Usually, it’s familiar food… I don’t think I have to tell you this…this special meal has it’s roots in my ancestral soil. Southern food is what we long for – all. week. long.
Sometimes it’s as simple as a Chicken Pie with tiny carrot coins and early peas. Lemon dressed Spring Greens, small Cucumbers and Cherry Tomatoes fresh from the vines, a side of cool salad- that’s what I fixed this past Sunday. Other times Sunday Dinner is more involved-
Fried Pork Chops, Gravy, Biscuits, Mashed Potatoes and Squash Casserole, maybe flat Green Beans and sliced Tomatoes. Or if the shrimp is fresh.. Jambalaya and cornbread.
Whether elaborate or plain and simple meals- on Sundays- Dessert always makes it’s way to the table. Maybe a cobbler or fresh berries with shortcake and whipped cream or plain sugared berries with our favorite summer berry topping- a dollop of sour cream and a generous sprinkle of brown sugar, especially after a heavy meal.
I could go on and on with this… but I’m getting ahead of myself. While I finish up the cooking- another comes in and pulls out the goblets for Iced Tea and if the table needs a few finishing touches….I appreciate the help. Then perhaps the best ritual of all is the one who settles in his seat- knowing we won’t eat a bite until he says…‘Y’all wantme to say the blessing?’ We always say- ‘Yes’ .
That’s the thing about Sunday Dinner- we’re on our best behavior. Okay- we say the blessing at other meals- yet somehow it’s different, more reverent on Sundays. The blessing is said, the dishes are passed- there’s no boarding house reach- quiet requests like-
‘Pass the peas, please’
‘I think I’ll haveanother roll…maybe another helping’
‘Could you pass the butter?’
‘When you can, pass methe salt and pepper.’ ‘
Thank you, oh, you’re welcome’… words that are so nice to hear.
Far from the bustling crowds, as they say- after a long week…Sunday Dinner calms the soul, truly it does. It wouldn’t be authentic to say that Sunday Dinner here is a high culinary experience unless you haven’t run up on one in a long time…the love of Southern Food is what we all have in common- and that makes for an uncommon experience.
The southern cook has a tendency to be concerned; is the food she’s cooked is up to her usual high standards- she might say…
‘That cornbread didn’t turn out as good this time,seems dry’ or
‘How in the world did I get these beans so salty…
hand it here, let me see what I can do with it.’
Or maybe the dish comes to the table with warnings…
‘ Now, y’all watchout- that casserole just came out of the oven and it’s hot as fire’ or
‘Now, don’t y’all add a drop of hot sauce to my jambalaya until you taste it- I added cayenne and red pepper flakes! It’s already as hot as the hinges on the devil’s back door!’
As the meal winds down; you have to sit up a bit straighter so your stomach can manage the load you shoveled in, so you can eat just a bite of dessert; yeah, right…. Words that are music to the Sunday cook’s ears are…
‘That was soo good…’‘
I enjoyedmy dinner’ …
‘Let me help you rinse these dishes’ …
Those words are a surefire way to get a response…
‘Wouldn’t you like to take some home with you? Maybe for your lunch tomorrow, keep you from having to cook.
Go ahead take some of those extra cucumbers home too!’
Sunday Dinner or any Southern meal for that matter, is a table loaded with ancestral foods…it has an effect on folks. They can disagree on everything under the sun- but set ’em down to eat? Something mystical occurs… I can’t explain it, I’m not sure how the alchemy happens… yet I’ve seen it so many times- there’s no denying folks become gentler, easier to get along with… agreeable that’s the word. Gracious, quiet murmurs and kind. Eating our ancestral foods, with common spices and well understood combinations- well now, that is a life altering experience if there ever is one. Hopefully, by God’s grace… I’ll be able to take part in the making of Sunday Dinner until I’m promoted to Glory.
Unless you were raised in a thicket of Loblolly pines by a passel of possums- as a Southerner you’ve eaten your fair share of casseroles. I cannot recall the first time I tasted a casserole, though I do recall the first time I ever watched a casserole being made. I was about four years old, our neighbor cooked for her aging mother on Fridays- she let me ‘help‘. My feet didn’t reach the floor of her kitchen table- yet we always started the morning drinking a cup of coffee- yes, you read that right. My coffee was full of cream and sugar- which to this day I would rather prefer to drink black! Still. I was polite and didn’t make a fuss because when the cooking got under way…well, it was an amazing thing to watch. Her kitchen was fully equipped. Her freezer held an enormous amount of fruits and vegetables she had put up in containers right beside those aluminum ice cube trays that had a lever to release the ice. Miss Margaret, also had a pantry lined with lacy paper edging the shelves- there were rows and rows of pickles, preserves and an enormous amount of canning jars full of tomatoes and other fine things. Her living room might have been filled with doodads, even a Kewpie Doll her husband won for her at the county fair, an upright piano with a crocheted scarf across the top with even more doodads- but her kitchen ran like a well oiled machine. When Margaret was making a casserole, I remember how much I liked the word, I even said it under my breath until I could pronounce casserole just like she did. From then on, my ears perked up when I heard the word and saw an oven proof baking dish. Did I make a lot of them as a kid. Not really, but as an adult, I’ve made my share and eaten even more.
Now, here’s something you need to know about Southern Casseroles, our cookbooks will have a whole section in the index for casseroles– I have one cookbook which has recipes for 97 casseroles! Oh, southern cooks might pretty it up by calling the humble casseroles by different names-
Au Gratin, Puff, Fancy,
Gourmet, Luxury, Escalloped,
Layered or Delight-
Though really, casseroles are only gussied up potatoes, grits, noodles or rice. crushed crackers and maybe chicken or ground beef. Casseroles often have mysterious, exotic and foreign names like-
Mexicali, Spanish, Creole,
Sicilian, Tetrazzini, Polynesian, Parisian or-
Hawaiian. (Okay, I know that’s not foreign but it sure sounds exotic!)
What about Oriental Green Beans? Southerners thought Oriental or Asian was an exotic dish because it had soy sauce, ginger and chow mien noodles!
We even call a green bean casserole- French Bean Casserole, when the only ingredient in it even remotely ‘French’ were beans cut ‘French style’…
Southerners also love to entitle their casseroles with divine or royal names…
Imperial, a la King, Regal,
Supreme, Divine, Angel or Heavenly.
* A word of caution: If a casserole is required for bereavement food– please do not take ‘deviled‘ anything, it sends the wrong message…
‘Deviled Peas’ , ‘Deviled Imperial Crab’,
‘Beef Diablo’ or ‘Deviled Creole Shrimp’ …
You may get away with stuffed eggs but please do not say- ‘Now, Ruth Ann-you bring the Devilled Eggs!’
It’s just not fitting for a funeral! Now, there are a few recipes with appropriate names, like:
Heavenly Hash, Bye Bye Chicken and possibly Wild Rice with Lonesome Doves- though, I would recommend dropping the wild rice and substituting fluffy white rice, and for heaven’s sake- go easy on the cayenne pepper-
Maybe change the name to ‘Ascension Doves on a Cloud of White Rice’ served in a chafing dish would be more appealing.
Be ever mindful of the unsettled minds and delicate constitutions of the mourners. While we do have a flair for the dramatic, we wouldn’t want to serve anything inappropriate!
At it’s heart, the Southern Casserole really is a way to stretch simple ingredients to feed a crowd and then throw in an unusual ingredient to give it some crunch or zing. Casseroles are generally easy to assemble and bake. If the recipe says- ‘May be assembled and chilledfor up to 24 hours before baking’ well, that’s a busy cook’s dream! Now, to be fair, some casseroles are more involved– take more skill to prepare. In one of my favorite cookbooks- Cotton Country from the Junior League of Morgan County Alabama, there is a quote… ‘Beautiful- delicious -The girl who really loves to cook will find this great fun; thegirl who doesn’t- will meet her Waterloo’ … I have to admit ‘Breast of Chicken- Deluxe’ – a chicken casserole with Rice Collette, a Sherry Sauce and Bing Cherries might be a Waterloo for me and I love to cook!
Now, a few more things before I tell you how to make Summer Squash Casserole… please don’t think all Southern Casseroles use canned ‘cream of’ soups…though I will say- some of my favorites do! A whole lot of casseroles rely on milk and eggs, a white sauce or even a meat sauce combined with cheeses and other wonderful things. Southern Casseroles run the gamut from fruit to vegetable to seafood and meats to full blown, all out meeting your Waterloo skills!
I recently ran a very quick poll on Camellia’s Cottage community of guinea pigs! Here’s a very skimpy short list of the all time favorites…
Hash Brown Casserole (Tater Tot came in a close second to this!)
Sweet Potato Casserole (which might have been number one!) and …ta da!
Summer Squash Casserole is always welcome at Camellia’s Cottage! Made from fresh steamed yellow crookneck squash and mild Vidalia onions when in season! It has no canned creamed soup…just milk, eggs, cheese and a generous amount of sharp cheddar cheese! Here’s how you make-
Camellia’s Summer Squash Casserole
To steam the squash: In a medium saucepan, slice 5-6 Yellow Squash- discarding the tip ends and stem ends. Slice a medium sweet onion and separate into rings. Toss gently. Add 3/4 to 1 cup of water , then a teaspoon of salt and a teaspoon of black pepper. Cover and steam on medium heat until tender. (Some add bacon drippings of a small amount of diced ham and do so if you wish. Summer Squash steamed like this is wonderful on its own!)
Drain Steamed Squash and Onions. Place in buttered oven proof bowl or dish.
Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. Grate 1 1/2 cup of sharp cheddar cheese. You will need 6-8 saltine crackers crushed.
Whisk 2-3 large eggs, 3/4 cup of whole milk, a pinch of cayenne pepper. Fold in 3/4 cup of grated cheddar and a few crushed saltine crackers- reserve the remainder of the cheese for topping. Pour mixture over Steamed Squash and Onions. Toss very gently.
Bake for 20-25 minutes until puffed and brown around the edges.
Meanwhile, crush 5-6 saltine crackers and strew over the top of the baked squash. Top with the remainder of the grated cheddar cheese.
Return to the oven and bake until melted and bubbly or…(like I did on this occasion) until the cheese and crackers are crunchy… a few minutes should do it.
This isn’t necessary- but I do like to make up a Spice Mix of 4 tablespoons of sweet paprika and 1 teaspoon of cayenne or red pepper flakes…to sprinkle over dishes like this Summer Squash Casserole! Feel free to name the Spice Mix- Deviled Paprika. Keep the spice mix labelled and on hand to sprinkle over stuffed eggs or egg salad…anything that could use some color and extra zing!
Serve and enjoy!! Here’s a tip! *I have added a few more eggs and a bit more cheese…poured the mixture onto a buttered sheet pan and made this same recipe for a squash frittata! Cooled, then cut into squares- it’s a wonderful appetizer..Yum! Also, feel free to adjust the amount of cheese- it’s all up to your personal taste.
The Farmer’s Markets now have yellow crookneck summer squash or you can use frozen yellow squash- we love this casserole year round here at the Cottage. Steamed or Casseroled Summer Squash is wonderful with Grilled or Fried Pork Chops, Pickled Beets, Sliced Tomatoes or a crisp Salad and those Cheddar/Chive Drop Biscuits make it a meal!
Folks will be grinning like a passel of possums when they see a Summer Squash Casserole! I suspect Southern Casseroles will be around for as long as folks like to gather for Sunday Dinners, Reunions, Decoration Days, Homecomings or Homegoings! Bless the cooks who bring casseroles! And as always…
Love y’all, Camellia
*All photographs are obviously mine.
*Cotton Country of Morgan County, Alabama is a wonderful Junior League cookbook- if you can find one, you’ll love it! Mine is part of collection of classic Junior League Cookbooks published by Favorite Recipe® Press through Southwestern Book Company and I purchased mine on Amazon.com – well worth the price for it’s priceless recipes and remarks, if you can find one! Chicken Breast Deluxe with Collette Rice and Sherry Sauce is a recipe from Cotton Country submitted by Mrs. Claude Carter.
Biscuits and Cornbread are iconic Southern quick breads- made from scratch in a short period of time. Both lend themselves to wonderful variations. Drop Biscuits may have been the easiest of homemade breads, but cracklings added to cornbread- well, it’s from a time not all that many can recall, yet- Cracklin’ Cornbread was and is considered a delicacy.
The first time I recall eating a drop biscuit was when my momma realized she had forgotten to make bread for supper- which was well underway. Drop Biscuits in their purest form are made with a sticky biscuit dough and dropped from a spoon onto a greased sheet pan, then baked. The result is a unique biscuit with a bit more crunch than a normal biscuit due to it’s rough irregular shape, these Cheddar Chive Drop Biscuits are a double variation because ours are made in a cake pan; the result is a tender savory biscuit. Yet, they would be just as good dropped and baked separately on a sheet pan. Here’s how to make:
Camellia’s Cheddar Chive Drop Biscuits
You will need 3 cups of baking mix- do not pack, just lightly filled measures. (I used Pioneer® Baking Mix) 1 1/4 cup of milk 1 cup of finely shredded sharp cheddar cheese 1/3 cup of chopped chives or green onion tops and room temperature Salted Butter.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease pans with butter. Line a baking sheet with parchment.
Gently mix milk into baking mix. Add grated cheese, again- stir lightly (add an extra tablespoon or two of milk if the mixture is too stiff)
Lightly stir in chives or onion tops.
On parchment lined baking sheet, using a medium sized serving spoon, drop heaping spoonfuls onto pan leaving space between. You should have 18 biscuits. Sprinkle the tops with a bit of baking mix and put the sheet pan in the freezer for 10 minutes until firm but not frozen.
In greased baking pans, gently turn over and place floured side down. 9 drop biscuits in a circular design placing them close together and very lightly flour the tops.
Butter the tops of the biscuits.
Bake for approximately 15-18 minutes (time may vary- for dark pans like mine- baking time was 18 minutes) *I baked one pan of 9 biscuits and tightly covered the other pan to be used at another meal. Biscuits will be light in color when done- please don’t over bake!
*Variations are endless- bits of cooked sausage or ham, different types of cheese, chopped jalapenos- or make them sweet with the addition of dried fruit or cinnamon and sugar. Baked in a pan these drop biscuits resemble scones or yeast rolls in texture but have the flavor of biscuits. Yum! Make smaller drop biscuits for luncheons or parties for a real treat.
*Travel Tip: Pioneer Baking Company was founded in 1851 by a German pioneer, C.H. Guenther, his baking mixes were a boon for working folks and pioneers since everything but the liquid was included and could be cooked in wood stoves or campfires.
Today, if you go to San Antonio, Texas, make sure to go to the Guenther House on the grounds of the Pioneer Baking Company. The house is a restored treasure and the food- oh my! the food is wonderful- a must see and do in San Antonio! An American treasure, where you will find more than just his baking mix- there are waffle and gravy mixes that are wonderful too! Get there early, there’s always a line! Breakfast there is a real treat- just one of their light fluffy biscuits buttered with pepper jelly is divine. If you can’t go there, be sure and try their products!
As a side note- in case you’re skeptical of the German contributions to Southern food, it is believed that Chicken and Dumplings were introduced by Germans who devised a chicken stew with a thin dumpling laid on top, then steamed. Early Germans who came to this country in the early 1700’s contributed in so many ways to American cuisine! Who can imagine a more iconic dish than Chicken and Dumplings!
Cracklin’ Cornbread may disappear if we don’t keep making lard in this country and saving the bits from the bottom of the rendering pots! I know folks who recall hog killings- and the big black iron pots in which lard was rendered from the fat and pork skins, tended mainly by the womenfolk, while the men were handling the larger portions- like hams, shoulders or sides of bacon.
You simply cannot make authentic Cracklin’ Cornbread without genuine cracklings- recently I could only find one grocery store which stocked cracklings in my area. Cracklings aren’t bagged Pork Skins that we all enjoy. Here’s how they look –
Cracklings need to be kept chilled or- if you don’t plan to use them often, cracklings freeze well. When times were hard, a pan of cracklin’ cornbread and a bowl of pot likker provided enough vitamins and minerals for survival. I like my cracklin’ cornbread on the thin side, not a big hunk, it’s crispier and has more flavor. The cracklings will become soft and chewy. Here’s how you make-
Camellia’s Cracklin’ Cornbread
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Put an iron skillet with bacon drippings in the pan to heat while you’re mixing the cornbread.
You will need: 1 2/3 cup of cornmeal mix. *This is cornmeal pre-mixed with baking powder, salt and baking soda. If you don’t make cornbread as often as I do, keep the cornmeal mix in the freezer. 3/4 to 1 cup of cracklings 1-2 large eggs and enough milk to make a loose mixture- approximately 1 1/2 cup of milk or maybe more.
Carefully pour hot bacon grease into the mixture, then quickly and carefully return to the hot iron skillet.
Bake for 20-25 minutes until the cracklin’ cornbread is golden brown. Serve hot and buttered.
Great with soups, stews, vegetable plates-loaded with candied yams, peas or beans and turnip greens- fried okra would be good too! Here’s what I served with my Cracklin’ Cornbread and Cheddar Chive Drop Biscuits- a variation of Jambalaya!
We’ll have to wait for another day for that recipe! We learned how to make cornbread from Native Americans who were thought to mix up the meal with water and bake hoe cakes over an open fire. Leave it to Southerners to figure out how to make cornbread in all of its many variations! I never add any extra ingredients to crackling cornbread, but I do love Mexican Cornbread filled with cheese, corn and jalapenos. Imagine! Just the wonderful variations in Iconic Southern Foods named here- which had their origins in many different cultures- German, Native American, Mexico, Africa, Great Britain and Jambalaya? French Canadians!
Southern food is our history on a plate or in a cast iron skillet. History that is hard, devastating and not ever easy to talk about… yet over stoves, sinks and community tables… our differences fade and our pasts come together like an amazing spice blend- each one adding an ingredient, method, heat or even madness stirred into a combination that’s not just fit to eat– it’s a smorgasbord, an amazing feast for the soul and the senses. Southern Food is a melting pot of what we call- Home Cooking.
Love y’all, Camellia
*Pioneer® Baking Mix is registered product, as are Hormel® Cracklings. This is not a sponsored post by either of these fine companies. *All photographs are obviously mine.
So, how can you tell if it’s Blackberry Winter? It’s hard to pin it down and for sure, it won’t be on your calendar as National Holiday or even in the Farmer’s Almanac… to be precise and we do like to be precise- Blackberry Winter is a cool spell, when Spring temperatures dip almost to frost levels in Spring…even late Spring… Sometimes not… okay- so it’s not precise- here’s the real way to determine Blackberry Winter- it occurs when the blackberries are in bud and bloom.
There will be chilly nights, maybe even a few days and nights of nippy weather! The South has fickle weather almost all year round- so some may say,
‘No, it’s too early for Blackberry Winter’ Or- ‘Youknow, we always have more than one Blackberry Winter, if the frosts kills the first blackberry blooms’…
Still. Blackberry Winter comes at a time- when there’s not a ripe blackberry to be found anywhere – except…in the produce aisle, surely forced in a greenhouse or in the frozen fruit section. Whatever or however I find these berries- for some reason- a Blackberry Winter throws a longing on me for Blackberry Jam and hot buttered Biscuits, like my Uncle Roland used to make OR… I’m longing for a Blackberry Cobbler. So, when we had a Spring cool snap a few days ago, I had to make one!
Before I tell you how I made it, let me say- when you make a Cobbler, I’m sure you like it best your way and it’s fine with me! However, until I was an adult, I never knew cobblers could even have biscuit topping. The term cobbler is obscure, some thought the topping resembled cobbled streets- some believed the topping referred to the work of a shoe repairman known as a cobbler. With that in mind- the Southern Cobblers I know and love were always pie crust topped- with sugared fruit, the fruit juices, butter held together with thin dumplings made of pie crust dough. That dough was ‘nailed into’ the fruit to thicken and bind the fruit and juices under a single pie crust on top.
Of course, the top crust is best buttered and sugared for good color and taste! Here’s how you make:
Camellia’s Blackberry Cobbler
You will need-
Pie Crust Dough for a single crust 9 inch pie (scraps are used in filling) Make your favorite dough or purchase a ready made crust- flat rolled.
4 cups of fresh or frozen plump Blackberries (I often use a mix of both)
1-1/2 cups of Granulated Sugar plus more for sprinkling over the top of crust
2 Tbs. Corn Starch
Zest of 1/2 medium Lemon (save the lemon for another purpose if so desired)
1 stick of Salted Butter* at room temperature- *you may not need the whole stick! It is used to generously butter the pan, to dot the berries before they cook and for smearing on the top crust! ** Southern recipes generally call for salted butter, you may use unsalted just add a pinch of salt to the sugar/ corn starch mixture!
Several hours or the night before– place 4 cups of Blackberries in a bowl. Combine 2 Tbs of Corn Starch and 1- 1 1/2 cups of Granulated Sugar- gently combine with 4 cups of Blackberries. Allow to chill until the sugar has dissolved completely and berries are soaked until natural juices have formed (blackberries are tart – so give them time to fully soak).
Ready to bake? Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Butter generously a 9×9 square glass baking dish.
Line a clean baking sheet with parchment.
Sprinkle lemon zest over the berries and combine.
Pour blackberries and juice into baking dish.
Cut the unbaked chilled pie crust into approximately an 8 inch square saving scraps! Set aside large pastry square, keep chilled.
Cut pastry scraps like short ‘dumpling’ lengths and even distribute into the berry mixture.
Dot berries and pastry dumplings with butter.
Sprinkle with more granulated sugar.
Carefully place large square pastry onto berries, cutting slits in pastry for steam to escape while baking.
Dot pastry top with more softened butter and sprinkle top crust generously with more sugar!
Bake for approximately one hour or until filling thickens and the crust is a beautiful golden brown! *Parchment lined baking sheet may increase cooking time by up to 15 minutes. Start checking after 55 minutes up to 1 hour or longer.
The cobbler’s berries will be hot right after baking! Allow to cool. Makes 4 generous servings. Top with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and get ready to swoon!
This recipe can be doubled using a larger pan. Any larger? The cobbler just won’t turn out with the same crust and thickened fruit! Okay, is anyone ready to have more than one Blackberry Winter? I know I’m ready for Spring and more cobblers– blackberry, sweet potato, strawberry, chocolate, apple, blueberry…Oh my! Yum!
Love y’all, Camellia
*Photographs are obviously mine!
**We don’t have blooms quite yet, but certainly buds! So who knows? We may have another cool snap or two!
If you’re in the South- the warmest language is the Food. Spicy? ‘Yes ma’am.’ Fried? ‘I liketa died.’ Baked? ‘Well, doesn’t that take the cake?’ Oh yes! the best drawls of all come out when sugah is involved! Our Southern Sweet Tooth is legendary, right up there with fresh vegetables. In fact, I’d venture to say- the slowest drawls can be found at Farmer’s Markets- especially where jams, jellies, syrups, pickles and home baked goods are sold! When fresh fruit starts showing up at roadside stands or farmer’s markets- Southerners have been known to work themselves to death- figuring out how to eat and preserve as much as possible! Especially peaches, blackberries and strawberries! It’s a funny thing, now you can get these fruits almost all year round but somehow they just don’t taste the same.
One of my vivid childhood memories is the excitement I felt as an old rattletrap truck sputtered into our neighborhood- windows rolled down as a farmer called out these distinct words… ‘Strah-behries- strawbehries! Getcher strah-behries!’ My job was to run toward the road waving my skinny arms so the truck would stop! Meanwhile my sister would take out running to the house calling out for our Momma. Dressed in flowered Housedresses or cotton Dusters that snapped up the front or starched Shirtwaist dresses, ladies would hurry out- Aprons Sashes flying, Change Purses in hand, Sensible Shoes stepping up to the Strawberry Truck. The man would lift up the plywood sides of his ol’ truck and the sweet aroma of fresh strawberries would waft out on the breeze; inside we could see-packed like jewels were sweet strawberries. I could hear paper bags being filled, or woven market baskets handed out as money changed hands. We knew something especially delicious was at hand!
Now, I have a confession to make here- my family wasn’t known for baking very many Layer Cakes- My great aunt Mary Sue made a layer cake called Lemon Cheese Cake which wasn’t anything like folks think of cheesecakes at all! No, we ate strawberries with pound cake, as a topping for shortcake or homemade ice cream. Strawberries showed up in hot bubbly cobblers or topped cool pies; we loved them just sugared and sliced in a bowl with whipped cream too- so… the first time I had a true Strawberry Layer Cake- it was a revelation!
I think the first Strawberry Layer was from a bakery called the Electric Maid on Southside and most recently a wonderful bakery called Edgar’s near Cahaba Heights….until a darling friend named Kim made several for our family and I’ve come to love them! Sooo… I have a confession to make- this is my very first attempt at making a Strawberry Layer Cake! Another confession is that, I baked it with the help of Mr. Duncan Hines. I mean, if you’re not a layer cake baker- why do all of that sifting and measuring if it’s really the Icing you’re after? The strawberries were the first local ones I’ve had this year- smallish. I have a test- if the wild strawberries are growing in the yard, I know the ones sold in the stores are probably local!
The first order of business when I buy fresh strawberries is to Slice and Sugar them, which is nothing more than hulling the sweet green cap and slicing some of the berries making sure to cut away the soft bruised spots- pour sugar on top and proceed to slice another layer ending with sugar. Cover and chill until ready to use. This wait time is important because the sugared strawberries put off a beautiful sweet red juice. ( I always use it or even drink it! Add the juice to lemonade for a precious Pink Lemonade!) The sweetened strawberry juice is helpful when making shortcakes or trifles and this Layer Cake! I used the sugared strawberry juice in Mr. Hine’s cake mix instead of the suggested amount of water! Extra good! Well…without further ado let me tell you how I made –
Camellia’s Strawberry Layer Cake
You will need two quarts of fresh strawberries. Reserve roughly one pint of the prettiest berries for decorating the cake- I recommend keeping the whole berries in a cool dim place. For the layer cake and frosting- instead of slicing the strawberries– I did a rough medium dice then, sugared the berries generously with granulated sugar- toss to coat and chill several hours or overnight. *The sugar should be completely melted, this does not require cooking.
For cake layers, butter two 8 inch cake pans- line the bottom of the pans with parchment paper (also buttered) and lightly flour. I did use real butter for flavor! Make cake batter according to mix directions- substituting sugared strawberry juice for the water! (Mine called for butter or margarine- I always use butter!) Divide evenly into the pans. Bake according to directions.
Allow cake layers to cool completely! Remove parchment and reserve, while making the icing.
Strawberry Cream Cheese Icing
Sift 6 !/2 cups of powdered sugar in a bowl and set aside.
1 cup of diced and sugared strawberries drained- Bring to room temperature also-*for all of you serious cooks out there- the word is macerated – I prefer ‘diced or sliced and sugared’ strawberries- sounds delicious!
2 sticks of Butter softened to room temperature
16 ounces of Block Cream Cheese softened to room temperature.
2 teaspoons Pure Vanilla Extract
*Now, I might have taken a short cut on the cake layers but not here on the Icing! Use the best and freshest ingredients possible- roomtemperature butter and cream cheese and sifted powdered sugar is essential here!
Using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment- not the whisk! blend vanilla extract, cream cheese and butter until smooth and well blended. Add sifted confectioner sugar gradually until smooth. Remove mixing bowl and fold in by hand- the drained diced and sugared strawberries. Blend until berries are incorporated. The Icing is a beautiful pink! *You may need a bit less or a bit more powdered sugar, just make sure it’s sifted so there are no lumps! This frosting is enough to frost 2 layers. Use reserved whole strawberries for decoration. Keep Iced Cake Covered and Chilled so that it slices easily.
Okay y’all…this cake wasn’t as good as our friend Kim’s, who is an expert- but it turned out very well if I do say so myself! Still. I have a long way to go before I master the art of layer cakes! Let’s see…I want to learn how to make my sweet mother in law- Eleanor’s Famous Coconut Cake, my Great Aunt Mary Sue’s Lemon Cheese Cake and oh yes! I’d love to learn how to make a perfect Southern Caramel Cake. Hold the phone. I’ll probably just stick to what I know…still, a girl can dream… Strawberry Layer Cake was a fun way to kick off Spring!
Love y’all, Camellia
*photographs are obviously mine
* Duncan Hines® Strawberry Cake Mix was used for this cake- it calls for butter/margarine instead of oil, I would recommend using butter. *Also, I do not recommend adding fresh strawberries to this cake mix- as the batter might not have the right consistency. *The greenery on this cake came from our garden- we do not use pesticides or chemicals. The greenery was washed, placed flat between two layers of damp paper towels for use in decoration only- all parts might be edible but not necessarily tasty! Remove from sliced cake before serving. * I also recommend using whole berries for decoration and they can be put on the plate when serving.
When it comes to early Spring, Southerners are still thinking Greens…no, not events and color coordination or updating our wardrobes. No, we’re thinking about –
Spinach, Kale and Cabbage.
In the land of Beauty Queens, Festivals, Farmer’s Markets, Scenic Drives, Coastal Delights and a long growing season- what we eat may be our favorite topic, and Greens are almost always on the menu! We talk while we eat- about food and crops; frost or drought- maybe we talk about who’s sick, if they got well and of course who died and when- then… we always want to know how well folks ate after the service. If it’s true that ‘you are what you eat’…Southerners would be tinged with shades of Green.
Greens- We know how many ways Greens are fixed, and most of us know how they’re supposed to be cooked! In fact, in the South, we watch in horror when folks who’ve never even heard of Salt Pork, Fat Back or Ham Hocks, sit there and try to tell us how to fix Greens! I love to see someone with a buggy full of big bundles of Greens at the grocery store! I whisper- ‘I’m goinghome with you!‘
It could be that cut and come again Turnip Greens kept the South from starving. Greens are the legacy left to us by Survivor Chefs. It hasn’t always been easy being green. When fields were laid fallow, abandoned, destroyed by natural disasters or hordes of insects, war or unrest- the foragers and those who grew or sold cut and come again crops of Greens kept starvation at bay. Leaving the turnips in the soil, the tops would replenish quickly. The tailgate of an old truck farmer would sputter along through neighborhoods or park on the side of the road, pulling in like the truck’s looking for a place to choke out and die. He’d sell a whole load- while working under the hood, so he could get back to the farm.
Southern Farm Tables have always been laden and bountiful. There might not be much meat- but always, fresh or preserved vegetables ruled the table, in great steaming bowls or casseroles. These days. the Farm to Table movement, showcases seasonal vegetables in amazing ways- you can bet Southern Greens take the starring role! Well, if you don’t count desserts. Still. A humble Mess of Greens is always welcome and make a fresh appearance almost year round. Served at country clubs or country kitchens, if you give a Southern Gentleman, a Good Ol’ Boy or a Redneck- the menu for a Blue Plate Special – he never struggles over what to order- ‘I’lltake Turnip Greens.’ Count on it.
In the South, Dinner is eaten in the middle of the day- Supper might be a bowl of Greens swimming in Pot Likker, dotted with bits of Ham and a fat wedge of Cracklin’ Cornbread. A meager meal- no… a favorite way to end the day. Humble Greens aren’t saved just for New Year’s Day, even though we’re superstitious enough to believe Greens mean Money, especially if you eat them or dream about them… I’m taking no chances! We eat Greens every chance we get!
Nowadays, we call Dark Leafy Greens- powerhouse foods, then put them in Smoothies or Juices- I’ll take Pot Likker any day. Turnip Greens, when they’re cooking, emit tart, sweet, pungent vapors…Even when there’s nothin’ much left in the house but a few dried beans, a bit of salt pork, a cup or two of cornmeal- an onion and if you’re lucky a sweet potato or two in pantry… you can make a meal. And always, always, if Greens are on the menu, there will be Pepper Sauce, so hot it will make your cheeks pink and set your tongue on fire- dousing the Greens.
Now, if’ you’re not well versed in the art of Southern Greens- don’t go thinking we cook them down into a mushy mess- No. Think Steamed Cabbage with Meat Loaf, Stuffed Peppers, even Corned Beef with a side of field peas and fried okra. Or, recently, there was a warm spell, so I fried some Pork Chops, baked Sweet Potatoes and added Wilted Spinach Salad with a tart warm onion-y dressing poured over the greens; Crisp Bacon crumbled on top and wedges of bright yellow eggs. Turnip Greens aren’t cooked to death as some folks think… Fresh Greens have some texture if you cook them right and for sure they aren’t greasy. Here’s how you make them:
Camellia’s GreensSouthern Style
*Prepare the Greens: Rinse and drain.
For Turnip Greens: 3-4 lbs of roughly torn Greens- Turnip or a blend of Mustard and other tender greens- Remove any damaged or yellowed leaves and cut away thick veins or stems, though I do use smaller stems for texture.
For Collard Greens: (If using Collards-don’t blend with other types since they are sturdier greens.) Use 2 pounds- *Make sure bruised or yellowed leaves, tough stems and ribs are removed. *For faster cooking, roll collard leaves, then slice in very thin strips)
For Steamed Cabbage: Take a large head of Cabbage, core and thinly shred with a knife.
For Wilted Spinach Salad, remove large stems and bruised or damaged leaves, place in a large salad bowl. Do not cook! The hot dressing will slightly wilt the greens. Recipe for Wilted Spinach Salad follows below!
*All Greens, whether cooked or eaten raw in salads- are treated the same way to prepare. A word of warning: Unless you buy washed greens, you may have to rinse turnip and mustard greens several times! *Rinse Greens and drain, but do not worry if they are still damp. (Damp Greens do not hold or absorb as much fat!) You will need:
3 slices of Bacon or Salt Pork.
One large Sweet or Yellow Onion- sliced or diced.
1/4 to 1/2 cup of Pepper Sauce or Apple Cider Vinegar.
Fry bacon or salt pork in a deep Dutch Oven to cook Greens or a skillet if making the dressing for Wilted Spinach Salad. Remove Bacon and reserve. Pour off excess fat- leaving approximately 3-4 Tablespoons in the Dutch Oven. Saute Sweet or Yellow Onion in reserved Bacon Fat, until onions are almost browned and opaque.
For Cooked Greens: Quickly add Prepared Greens or Cabbage to the Hot Dutch Oven and toss to coat. Salt generously.
You may need to add a small amount of liquid to sautéed greens- approximately 3/4 cup of water- please do not drown! Reduce heat.
Simmer Greens, stirring and tossing occasionally. When Greens have wilted, add Pepper Sauce or Apple Cider Vinegar. This step is critical to Good flavorful Greens– the vinegar-y pepper sauce dissipates the pungent odor; but more importantly adds a wonderful flavor which makes up the famous Pot Likker.
Once the Greens have been tossed and turned- Cover the Dutch Oven and TheCooking Down phase begins… for Greens: I tend to cook down Cabbage until tender, Collards are a sturdy green and require more cooking time, Turnip Greens cook down fairly quickly but count on steaming about 30- 40 minutes. Stir occasionally to make sure they aren’t scorched- need more liquid or to test doneness.
Granted, some Southern Cooks let their greens steam longer- I think this is personal taste. Cabbage generally does not give off as much liquid as the Dark Leafy Greens.
Reserve the Pot Likker, you may want to use it again- but after one use- discard. Most of us want some of the famous liquid in our bowl of Greens! please note! *PotLikker is the remaining liquid in the pan with Cooked Greens.
*Some folks make a heartier Pot Likker by cooking a Ham Hock in 2 -3 cups of water in a separate pan before cooking their Greens. When I make Greens with Ham Hock, I generally pull off the bits of ham, saute the ham in the bacon fat before adding the greens. If you do make the heartier Ham Hock Stock-use some of the Ham Hock liquid if needed.
*Variation for Turnip Greens: You may also cut up peeled Turnips into a small dice and cook with the Ham Hock. Strain out the cooked turnips and add some of the Ham Hock liquid when the greens are cooked, toss in diced turnips gently with the Greens.
*Variation for Steamed Cabbage: Add a cup or less of diced cooked ham while onions are sautéed in Bacon Fat, OR you can proceed with the Ham Hock Liquid if so desired. Pot Likker isn’t a product of Steamed Cabbage- though the remaining liquid is very good!
*Collard Greens benefit greatly from steaming in the Ham Hock Liquid since they are a sturdy green and require a longer cooking time. Ham Hock adds more flavor, especially if you like Collards very tender.
To Serve Cooked Greens: Drain Greens, reserving that wonderful liquid. Crumble Bacon or Salt Pork on top! Ladle in Bowls or Serve as a perfect side for almost any southern meal!
Camellia’s WiltedSpinach Salad–
Don’t cook spinach! Instead, place prepared and drained Spinach leaves in a large bowl.
Boil a few large Eggs, then peel and set aside with the fried Bacon. *If you have some Spring Onions, chop them and toss with Spinach Leaves.
*For Wilted Spinach Salad Dressing:
Fry Bacon, set aside to drain. Reserve drippings
In a large skillet- Saute Onions in bacon drippings
Add 3 tablespoons or more of Pepper Sauce or Apple Cider Vinegar to the sautéed onions and bacon fat until heated through. Do not add water!
This makes a Wonderful Warm Dressing for the Spinach leaves. Pour the hot briny onion dressing quickly over the fresh spinach leaves, tossing as they wilt slightly. Garnish with crumbled Bacon and wedges of Hard Boiled Eggs, it’s a scrumptious Southern Chef Salad!
Southern Greens are what our ancestors tended to think of as a Seasonal Tonic, high in fiber, vitamins and minerals- they are seriously good for you! I tend to enjoy cooked greens from early Fall to early Spring. The weather is so fickle in Early Spring, that a bowl of greens or steamed cabbage tends to hit the spot like a bowl of Soup! Fresh greens, such as Spinach, Spring Garden Lettuces hit the spot from Spring until it’s too hot and they bolt or go to seed! And coleslaw is great year round! It was drilled into my head from an early age, that to have a balanced meal- you must have a green vegetable on the plate!
Our Southern Mothers were fond of telling their daughters- ‘Eat your greens- they have B for Beauty Vitaminsand those greens have minerals to make you strong!’
The South does tend to have an inordinate amount of Beauty Queens, y’all! The men tend to be good looking too! We love our Greens…dark and leafy, shredded Cabbage, Spinach cooked or in salads and our Green beans, Asparagus, Broccoli, Early Peas, Baby Limas, Cucumbers, even Poke Salat all make up a critical part of the Southern Dinner Plate! Now, about that Poke Salat- that’s sort of dangerous eatin’ but Cracklin’ Corn Bread?…umhmm, the only danger there is making yourself sick eating too much!
We’ll just have to wait until another time, for that! But Greens, oh my! At home on a plate of Barbeque, at a Catfish Fry, on our Famous Vegetable Plates, Church Suppers, Potluck Suppers or even Holiday Meals… Greens are always welcome!
Love y’all, Camellia
*Poke Salat is a foraged Green, since a portion of it is poisonous- I’ll probably never tell you how to make it, but those who know how- and I’ve eaten it a time or two…it’s delicious!
*Many Southern cooks use other and different techniques, I love them all! We tend to enjoy any and all methods, but almost always you will find a bottle of little pickled peppers in vinegar on Southern tables as a condiment, essentially for dousing Greens or even Barbeque, and that flavored vinegar is what we call Pepper Sauce!