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!

Camellia’s Peach Cobbler…

2B4D3DFE-7190-4BCD-B195-353C858BA799When we see Chilton County Peaches have arrived … we know something special is about to happen! The first peaches of the season are generally not Free Stone peaches- which are far easier to peel, slice and eat! The early peaches are still delicious and thin skinned- so, leave on some of the peeling when eating or cooking with them.  While a bowl of fresh peaches is perfectly wonderful, making a Peach Cobbler was on my feeble mind!6EB3CD5F-00D5-4436-B3C5-C27A62D52840

Now, I have to complain a little… the cobblers I see in perfectly good magazines or cookbooks aren’t the way we made cobblers! No ma’am… ours had a top crust and scraps of pie crust dough were hidden in the fruit mixture to thicken the whole thing up! You can see how’s it’s done for a BlackBerry Cobbler…it’s the same method regardless of what kind of fruit Cobbler we make-1449EB81-495A-4C27-88F5-2403B2149A8E

Those globs of biscuit dough you see on other folks’ cobblers might be alright to some, yet I can tell you without a doubt- Mimi wouldn’t have let it pass from her kitchen to her table! Believe me, when cobblers are made like this- you won’t have time to take a beauty shot before someone has started serving it up!406B5D1B-F55D-46F2-9886-637FF175CB44

Here’s how to make- Camellia’s Peach  Cobbler

  • 8 cups of fresh peaches- cut in uniform size pieces  (6 cups peeled and 2 cups unpeeled)
  • 1 cup granulated Sugar mixed with 3-4 Tablespoons Corn Starch
  • 1/2 – 3/4 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 stick Butter (melt 3/4 stick- cut 1/4 stick in small pieces) plus more to butter the baking dish
  • Pie crust for single crust pie
  • Pure Cane Sugar ( for dusting top of Cobbler)

In a medium bowl, toss fresh peaches with sugar/corn starch mixture and allow to macerate for several hours. * preheat oven to 350 degrees. There will be excess juice- drain and reserve juice. In a buttered oven proof 1 1/2 quart glass baking dish put macerated peaches and 1/3 of the reserved juices. Add spices and gently combine. Roll out single crust dough 1/4 inch thick. Cut dough to size of baking dish leaving 1 inch excess. Trim extra crust into pieces; with a fork or spatula submerge dough pieces. Dot mixture with butter. Set aside. Place pie crust round on top of peaches, cut slits in top so that steam can escape. Pour cooled melted butter over top crust. Then sprinkle pure cane sugar over crust. (Granulated Sugar may be substituted) On a parchment covered sheet pan, place unbaked Cobbler to catch any juices that might overflow during baking. Bake Cobbler for 45 minutes to one hour, until bubbly and the crust is browned and golden. Allow Cobbler to sit until cool, as fruit filling continues to thicken as it cools.


If you’re wondering why that Cobbler is so pretty and pink- it’s those unpeeled peaches! Serve with whipped cream or an all time favorite- a scoop of good vanilla ice cream! Cobblers are wonderful all year round, yet when the peaches are ripe? It might be the easiest and best dessert for any occasion!

01C44C29-11CA-4629-80C7-597024457180Now, if you’re in Alabama, head for Clanton, and start looking for a water tower shaped like a big ol’ peach! The Peach Park is an exit or two down the highway, you’re in Chilton County- where these beautiful peaches were grown…in fact in farm stands all over the state you’ll find Chilton County peaches! I love them almost as much as the ones pulled from my Uncle Charles’ peach tree!

Love y’all, Camellia

* All photographs are obviously mine!

Mimi’s Potato Salad…

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

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

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

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

Mimi’s Classic Potato Salad

Course: Salad
Cuisine: American
Keyword: potato

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds russet potatoes- scrubbed and washed
  • 2 large eggs- hard boiled, peeled and grated
  • 1 -2 stalks celery- fine sliced or diced
  • 1-2 tbs finely grated onion with juice
  • 3/4 - 1 cup good quality mayonnaise
  • 1-2 teas yellow mustard
  • 1/4 teas cayenne pepper
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  • Boil potatoes with skins on until fork tender, not over cooked. Allow potatoes to cool slightly, slip skins off of potatoes and dice into approximately 3/4 inch cubes or slightly larger. Finely slice or fine dice celery. Grate onion reserving juice as well. In a large bowl, mix together mayonnaise, yellow mustard, grated onion and cayenne, until combined. Add diced potatoes, grated boiled eggs and celery, toss gently so as not to break cubed potatoes, gently to combine. Chill. Flavors will develop. Serve with a sprinkle of paprika if desired. This recipe doubles well.

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

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

Company’s Coming Meatloaf…

CEE71049-4A59-4EA9-98E5-FAF5CB6AC69AIs meatloaf a weeknight or budget meal? Do you serve it when company’s coming? Our ‘Company’s Coming Meatloaf’ is easy enough to make during the week and special enough for a nice meal too. I happen to think that guests are pleasantly surprised to be served a beloved dessert like ice cream sundaes or a comfort food such as spaghetti, macaroni and cheese or… meatloaf. Dinner guests are expecting a fancy meal and instead you serve them the unexpected! Company’s Coming Meatloaf is a meat and potato lovers dream, it looks pretty and tastes amazing! Here’s how you make Company’s Coming Meatloaf:

Company’s Coming Meatloaf

This deeply savory meatloaf frosted with mashed potatoes and melted with sharp cheddar is easy for everyday meals, pretty enough for guests! 
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Meatloaf

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 Pounds Lean Ground Beef 80% lean
  • 1 Cup Sweet Onion Finely Diced
  • 1 Cup Celery Finely Diced
  • 1 Cup Mushrooms Diced (plus more for topping)
  • 1 1/2 Cup Bread Crumbs Crushed Garlic Bread crumbs if available
  • 2 Large Eggs Lightly whisked
  • 1/4 Cup Ketchup
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Ground Thyme
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Ground Sage
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 4 Cups Mashed Potatoes Thick in texture
  • 2 Cups Sharp Cheddar Cheese Finely grated

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line baking pan with parchment paper. In a large mixing bowl, place lean ground beef and the next 8 ingredients. Add salt and pepper, then combine, mixing llightly. Shape into a 2 inch thick rectangular shape on baking pan. Cover meatloaf with bacon slices. Bake at 375 degrees for up to 1 1/2 hours - checking after 1 hour, then fifteen minutes until bacon is done. Remove from oven to rest, scraping up meat juices from baking sheet. When meatloaf has cooled, Frost with mashed potatoes and top with  finely grated sharp cheddar cheese. Run back in 375 degree oven until potatoes are heated through and cheese has melted. (Potatoes May spread, when done - simply allow to cool a bit and smooth into a pleasing shape. Decorate with reserved and sliced mushrooms - and either parsley or fresh sage leaves if available. When meatloaf has cooled down, with a long spatula you may remove to a serving platter with a long meat spatula or...decorate the rest of the baking sheet with garnishes. 

Notes

Make mashed potatoes as you normally would-  making sure they are firm. Also, a great use for leftover mashed potatoes. It is desirable to add garlic powder to mashed potatoes. This meatloaf doesn’t require sautéing onions, celery and mushrooms since they are diced finely. If you use a baking pan that is of a smaller size such as a jelly roll pan- it will serve beautifully. Surround with a cooked green vegetable Great meatloaf for the meat and potatoes crowd! 

016A8F3E-11E2-4987-89E8-1E32C14F8BEDI believe wrapping the ground beef mixture with bacon before baking the meatloaf, adds moisture and flavor that elevates weekday meatloaf whenever you serve it! Forming the meatloaf on parchment rather than baking in a loaf pan allows any excess beef or bacon fat to dissipate. Allow Company’s Coming Meatloaf to rest for 8-10 minutes before frosting with mashed potatoes so that any juices will be reabsorbed into the meatloaf. Top with shredded cheddar cheese and run back in the warm oven to melt– then add sautéed mushrooms if desired for decoration. 3A536A1E-4223-4640-8328-D006E1B5BBB8

Alongside a simply dressed green salad and a good yeast bread, corn muffins or even biscuits, Company’s Coming Meatloaf is a welcome sight here at the Cottage any time! I hope you will enjoy it as much as we do!

Love y’all,

Camellia * All photographs are obviously mine.

Mimi’s Apricot Casserole…

68EC57BA-C757-4420-A815-1D1420C5828CMy grandmother loved apricots- fresh, canned or dried. Mimi made an apricot casserole that wasn’t really a dessert, it wasn’t a savory casserole. What it was – is still one of my favorites! For years, I didn’t make it- couldn’t find a recipe, for sure not Mimi’s Apricot Casserole. In my collection of old cookbooks, perusing one day, I ran up on an Apricot Casserole! I knew the recipe was close to Mimi’s , yet I had watched her make it – so I knew the recipe I had found could be tweaked and what do you know? First time out? The flavors of Mimi’s classic Apricot Casserole filled me with such wonderful memories!  And really, isn’t that why we all come to the table?EC0203A0-F496-4164-911B-507D095B86E8

Mimi's Apricot Casserole

An unusual  and old recipe- a wonderful buffet side dish, can be served warm or at room temperature. Goes well with ham, turkey or chicken; yet also is wonderful topped with whipped cream and eaten as a dessert!
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: American

Ingredients

  • 1 stick butter (melted) plus more for buttering the pan
  • 3 16 oz. cans apricots in heavy syrup drained but not rinsed
  • 1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 sleeves ritz party crackers roughly crushed

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9x9 glass baking dish. Mix together brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and ritz party crackers. *I use a bowl, however sometimes I crush the crackers in a large freezer bag, then add brown sugar and spices.  Blend well. Pour melted butter over spiced cracker crumbs and mix gently to combine.
    In a well buttered 9x9 glass baking dish, layer one can of drained apricots face down. Cover with 1/3 of crumb mixture. Repeat with second can- a layer of crumbs and end with the third can of apricots ending with a generous layer of the buttered crumbs.
    Bake in a 350 degree oven for 20-30 minutes until brown and bubbly. Serve warm or at room temperature.   9-12 servings

Notes

Note: If you have dark brown sugar on hand instead of light- just use one cup and add 1/2 cup of granulated sugar. For a buffet or a larger crowd, this recipe doubles and triples well.  

Shared memories and shared flavors comfort us. And speaking of comfort food- Mimi’s Apricot Casserole is perfect for a bereavement buffet, it’s not overly spicy, it’s mildly sweet and tends to go well with other casseroles, salads and also with the main meats- baked ham or turkey, even fried chicken. The casserole is delicious hot or at room temperature which is great for any buffet.

 

Fresh apricots weren’t readily available during Mimi’s lifetime and we don’t see them often even now, so she always used a high quality canned apricot for this casserole and I also continue to use canned apricots, with the addition of party crackers, brown sugar and spices- it’s unbelievable that such simple things combine for a delicious unique dish. So, Mimi’s Apricot Casserole is one of those delicious heirloom side dishes we can enjoy year round! I’ve even enjoyed it as a dessert, topped with whipped cream or a scoop of ice cream! I hope your Spring and Summer activities are shaping up nicely! And, maybe you’ll have just the right occasion for Mimi’s Apricot Casserole!

Love y’all, Camellia

* All photographs are obviously mine.

Classic Bread Pudding with Southern Creme Anglaise…

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

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

 

Classic Bread Pudding with Southern Creme Anglaise

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

Ingredients

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

Easy Creme Anglaise with Bourbon

  • 4 Scoops Vanilla Ice Cream Full fat and flavor
  • 3-4 Tablespoons High Quality Bourbon
  • 1/2+ Teaspoon Fresh Orange Zest

Instructions

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

For Easy Bourbon Creme Anglaise

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

Notes

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

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

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

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

Mimi’s Award Winning Pimento Cheese…

80DB15D0-3FF3-49C8-BB76-D2BB0F852A13Mimi never knew her pimento cheese won an award, it would have thrilled her, yet I don’t think she’d have been too surprised. Anyone who ever tasted one of her Tea Sandwiches would have agreed. Her recipe for Pimento Cheese was highly prized. Mimi kept a bowl of pimento cheese made up most of the time. My job was to grate the sharp cheddar cheese, in a little cheese grater with a handle which I turned in amazement. It’s still one of my favorite kitchen tools.

44EB0E2F-C33C-4B48-BA4A-28647A0D9AC4The grated cheese was as fine as angel hair- Mimi’s Pimento Cheese was devilishly spiced, I’m not sure she ever wrote down the recipe but I can still see her now, conjuring up a mixture that’s pure Southern Soul in a bowl. It’s only sharp cheddar cheese, a jar of pimentos and mayonnaise- the spices make Mimi’s Pimento Cheese memorable. Cayenne, Red Pepper Flakes and what we call Pepper Sauce, the brine from a jar of hot peppers that we use to spice things up and even pour over turnip greens or blackeyed peas. Pepper Sauce is one of those secret ingredients that even now, mostly only real southerners know. Go to a local meat and three in small towns across the South and you’ll see a small bottle of pickled hot peppers with a hole in the top of the bottle- a shaker if you will. The bottle’s not there for anyone to actually eat the peppers- no, it’s for the brine, the ‘sauce’ . Pit masters add pepper sauce to their barbecue sauces, old wisened cooks hardly even think about adding pepper sauce to their cooking. Pepper Sauce isn’t the same as ‘hot sauce’ that fiery red hot sauce shaken over… well, lots of things. Mimi added several drops of hot sauce to her Egg Salad but never in her Award Winning Pimento Cheese! So! Here’s how you make it!

Mimi’s Award Winning Pimento Cheese

The classic and highly prized southern classic- Pimento Cheese. Spicy with cayenne pepper and sharp cheddar cheese, is wonderful for tea sandwiches, picnic sandwiches and as a dip for crackers or celery sticks. 
Course: Appetizer
Cuisine: American

Ingredients

  • 12 Ounces Sharp Cheddar Cheese Finely Grated * Do not use pre- grated!
  • 1 Small Jar Pimentos - partially drained Do not use ‘diced’
  • 1/2-3/4 Cup Good Quality Mayonnaise * look for lemon juice in the ingredients
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
  • 1 Teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes
  • 1-2 Teaspoons Brine of pickled hot peppers * clear vinegary liquid only

Instructions

  • On the fine side of a box grater, shred sharp cheddar cheese.. In a medium sized bowl, put grated cheese. Add brine of hot pepper to fill partially drained jar of pimentos. Add cayenne pepper to pimento jar also. Scoop Mayonnaise over grated cheese. Pour spiced pimentos over Mayonnaise and add red pepper flakes. Stir gently to combine. Mimi’s Pimento Cheese will occasionally need additional mayonnaise- add a bit at a time to desired consistency. Chill, until ready to use. Spread thinly for tea sandwiches. 

Notes

Mimi’s Pimento Cheese is a time tested recipe - she often used extra sharp cheese, please do not try this recipe with pre- grated packaged cheese. Fine Grated Cheese is best, however you may like a chunkier Pimento Cheese and a food processor will work well for that.. It is wonderful molded with an indention in the center filled with red pepper jelly or strawberry jam, then surrounded with party crackers...it’s a crowd pleaser! For Tea sandwiches, a thinned out version (do this with more mayonnaise bit by bit) spread thinly on loaf bread, crusts removed,  cut into desired shapes with a serrated knife. Pimento Cheese is used to top burgers, to make grilled cheese and many other uses. Mimi would probably have disapproved, still,  enjoy it however you wish! 

Now a word of caution, don’t use pre-grated cheese, it won’t work! And don’t even think about using a milder cheddar cheese, use sharp or even extra sharp cheddar. The flavor depends on it! Finely grated is best, I never saw Mimi use even a medium grate. Still. It’s not just about ingredients- it’s about the Method too! And if you have a recipe for Pimento Cheese that contains Cream Cheese? Well, Mimi would have been horrified. Don’t use it. Period.

Now- this is important- don’t buy diced pimentos, buy pimentos. And don’t get fancy and add roasted red pepper. Okay, not if you want the Award Winning taste. You may add an extra small jar if you like, though one will do.  Just partially drain the jar of pimentos, leave them in the jar, fill up the jar with the pepper sauce, add the cayenne pepper- screw the lid of the jar back on the pimentos and gently shake before adding to the grated cheese and mayonnaise.

Now, about that mayonnaise- Mimi made her own for years, until she found brands of store bought mayonnaise that contained lemon juice in the ingredients! This is a must! Truth be told she didn’t always add red pepper flakes, yet when she did? Mimi thought they gave her Pimento Cheese flecks of color that she liked to see.  The sharp cheddar, the cool mayonnaise and pimentos are the perfect balance for the heat of the pepper sauce and the spices! Trust me on this.

Now, about that Award… Several years ago, I was cajoled out of Mimi’s recipe, this friend also had a recipe for another famous Pimento Cheese- which was also entered in this fairly high fallutin’ private contest. The competition was fierce, the folks who attended had fine credentials. By all accounts it was a well orchestrated event. I have to say, I wasn’t one bit surprised  her pimento cheese on first place. After all, it was Mimi’s and her Pimento Cheese has always been First Place to me!

Love y’all, Camellia

* All photographs are obviously mine. As you can see, I couldn’t resist making up a few Tea Sandwiches…

Camellia’s Tomato Soup…

0DD6894D-C3D1-438F-9055-3CED4FFF4668Tomato Soup is iconic, especially when it’s homemade and if you use fresh tomatoes or … like I did last summer, I halved small Roma Tomatoes, then a quick freeze in a single layer on a sheet pan, bagged and kept them in the freezer, for such a time as this! Camellia’s Tomato Soup is almost as easy as opening a can and my oh my! Far more delicious! Served simply with a grating of Parmesan Cheese or any Cheese you please served with crisp oyster crackers or the equally iconic Grilled Cheese, you have an easy delicious meal!

910A386C-397E-4717-AFAB-4E8FE44AC7DCSpring is a wonderful time of year to make this Camellia’s Tomato Soup since some days are still cool. And, let’s face it, who wants to spend hours in the kitchen when you can be outside! Okay, I know the pollen is coating everything with sneezy yellow powder. Still. You can’t beat warm spicy  tomato soup for seasonal allergies either! Here’s how you make- Camellia’s Tomato Soup!

Camellia’s Tomato Soup

Perfect all year round, especially in the spring and fall, when the weather may be cool. Serve with the classic grilled cheese sandwich or for a fresh cool taste- serve with grated cheese- your choice, a bit of red pepper flakes, celery sticks and crisp saltine or small oyster crackers. 
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American

Ingredients

  • 4-6 Cups Small fresh Roma tomotoes/ halved May use large cherry tomatoes
  • 2 Cups Chicken Stock
  • 1 Slice Bacon Uncooked
  • 1 Tbs Fresh Thyme leaves- chopped Reduce amount if using dried Thyme
  • 1 Tbs Chopped Garlic Finely chopped
  • 1 Large Onion sliced thickly Separate into rings
  • 2 Tbs Chili Sauce or Tomato Paste * chili sauce is a prepared product similar to ketchup
  • Fresh cracked Black Pepper To taste
  • Red Pepper Flakes To taste
  • Kosher or sea salt To taste

Instructions

  • In a large covered pot place halved Small Roma Tomatoes, add 2 cups of chicken stock, drape piece of bacon across tomatoes- begin on medium high heat to bring stock to a boil, add chili sauce or tomato paste, sliced onions, chopped garlic, salt, red pepper flakes, thyme and cracked black pepper. Stir gently to combine.  Cover pot and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce heat to medium high and simmer for up to one hour or until soup has thickened

Notes

If you prefer, the skins of the tomatoes may be removed or blended into a smoother consistency. I’ve found this unnecessary as the skin is very thin and tends to add a rustic delicious quality to the soup. The bacon fairly melts into the soup also. And, if the fresh thyme leaves only are used...there is also no need to remove the stems. 

Here’s a beautiful version of a Grilled Cheese to go alongside Camellia’s Tomato Soup. Tip:  Feel free to get creative, with grilled cheese sandwiches almost anything goes-  Here, I used two types of cheese, American and Swiss, put a few slices of pickled jalapeños, dipped the whole sandwich in a mixture of whisked egg, topped with grated Parmesan, then fried in melted Butter!45A0D467-02DE-41FC-A2C6-4989CBE73D88

A plain grilled cheese works too! Also, the Tomato Soup practically begs for garnishes, I have topped this soup with crumbled bacon and made cornbread croutons; or a drizzle of pesto for an Italian version. For a TexMex version- add a dollop of salsa and one of sour cream, add chopped onions and chunks of avocado is delicious with crisp corn tortilla chips- umhm soo good! I hope you’re enjoying Spring, filled with hope and good food!

Love y’all, Camellia

* All photographs are obviously mine.

0DD6894D-C3D1-438F-9055-3CED4FFF4668

Mimi’s Macaroni and Cheese…

B9307548-5C4F-417D-ADC4-F1859960544FMimi’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. 531AED76-DFC2-4543-8839-11416A2EE89F

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.

716C20DC-9567-49C7-8028-75ABA3400DE0Look 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-

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. 
Servings: 6

Ingredients

  • 6 Eggs Large
  • 1/3 Cup Whole Milk
  • 2 Cups Freshly Grated Sharp Cheddar Cheese Plus more for topping
  • 1 3/4 Cups Cooked Pasta (Elbow, Linguine, Small Shell)
  • 1/2 -1 Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper Spice is to taste
  • Red Pepper Flakes Optional
  • 1/2 Stick Butter More for buttering the baking dish

Instructions

  • 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!

Mimi’s Macaroni and Cheese

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!

Love y’all, Camellia

* All photographs are obviously mine.

Camellia’s Strawberry Cobbler…

D6DAEABB-F18C-45D7-8262-B633FA42A02BAs 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. A4051FF8-E743-468A-AEC2-078415677988

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!6EC8E3E1-5551-4D99-A20B-83BD2CDA6AE4

Here’s how you make- Camellia’s Strawberry Cobbler…

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...

Ingredients

  • 4 Cups Strawberries Cut in chunks and slices
  • 1 Pie Crust For single crust
  • 2 Cups Granulated Sugar Divided, plus more for topping
  • 2+ Cups Water
  • 3 Tablespoons Corn Starch
  • 1/4 Cup Strawberry preserves
  • 1 Stick Butter No substitutes

Instructions

  • 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!

Love y’all, Camellia

*All photographs are obviously mine.