Camellia’s Celery Blossoms…

Celery is so common in Southern cooking that I would say it’s an unsung hero. What surprises me is that there are so few recipes where celery is the star! Oh yes, we must have in almost everything from soups, stews, casseroles and even our beloved salads from chicken , shrimp, mixed greens and even congealed- we tend to add the refreshing crunch of crisp celery. One of my favorite family stories is when my grandmother… who was meticulous in keeping her spice drawer up to date- tossed a handful of celery seed into her small kitchen garden and was rewarded by surprise! Her own home grown celery! She was delighted and never lived it down! I think she would have loved these fun appetizers!

 

Camellia’s Celery Blossoms

An excellent crisp appetizer of celery filled with a cream cheese mixture- great with Hot Wings or  a welcome appetizer anytime! 
Course: Appetizer
Cuisine: American

Ingredients

  • 1 Large Bunch Celery Organic if possible
  • 1 8 oz. Cream Cheese Softened
  • 1/2 Cup Sharp Cheddar Cheese Grated- not pre-shredded
  • 1 Tablespoon Finely Grated sweet Onion With juice included
  • 1 Teaspoon Garlic Salt
  • 1 Teaspoon Fresh Ground Black Pepper Or to tastes
  • 1 Tablespoon Milk
  • 1 Tablespoon Finely Chopped Green onion Tops Optional

Instructions

  • Separate Celery Stalks. Trim tops and bottoms of stalks and wash well, removing any heavy strings or bruises. While celery dries, combine cheeses and blend until smooth. Add remaining ingredients and blend well. Spread cheese mixture into center of each celery rib. Press 3 cheese filled ribs together with filling facing the center. Tie each celery bundle with kitchen twine or string. Chill filled ribs for at least one hour. * covered tightly this is a great make ahead recipe. Slice celery blossoms into 1/2 to 3/4 inch slices. Arrange on large edible leaves, such as cabbage or collard leaves. Serves 12-16. 

Notes

These celery blossoms are wonderful with Hot Wings. Any leftovers should be chilled. They are also a wonderful snack alone or served on a party cracker! 

Camellia’s Celery Blossoms are easy to make and a nice alternative to celery sticks on a vegetable platter or even alongside your favorite hot wings . A pretty and delicious appetizer, too! If you’re watching the Super Bowl or managing the food table during the game…I think you’re gonna love them!

Love y’all, Camellia

* All photographs are obviously mine.

* Health and Beauty Tip : Celery is loaded with fiber, high in Vitamin K, helpful in lowering cholesterol and of all things may reduce inflammation and inhibit the growth of certain bacteria in the intestines! That’s a lot of benefits, y’all ! And we all know healthy insides help us be good looking on the outside!

Camellia’s Cottage Cookies

Not a lot of cookies are made here at the cottage. Okay, I make shortbread cookies, they’re my favorite plain and also I’ve have experimented with add ins like pecans or orange zest, have even made a variation with brown sugar and pecans as a unique shortbread, but that’s about it for cookies. I do admit to enjoying bar cookies and the ease of making them,. yet I’ve wanted another cookie to add to my repertoire, if it’s a go to recipe that’s a bit different, with a crisp crumb and a bit of texture added, and of course loaded with southern flavors.

I ran across a cookie recipe- from a community cookbook that I’d kept for over 20 years- it called for walnuts and a few other things I knew would have to change before it would be a cookie I thought would taste good and be worth the time and effort. Now… the baker had called the recipe- ‘World’s Best Cookie’. Southerners do tend to exaggerate when it comes to making up a title for their recipes…everything is – Best, Delight, Divine or named, King or Queen– after Royalty or a famous ranch for all I know… Still. I wondered about this world’s best cookie…it did sound good, and except for the walnuts, had solid southern flavors. I’ve been clearing out my pantry for a fresh start to the new year and I had all of the ingredients on hand. You might have them too!

 I tweaked the old recipe and what do you know? It’s a really good cookie. World’s Best, who knows? Still. For me to put our name on it- well, it’s has to be good!

I’ve named these cookies simply Camellia’s Cottage Cookies… easy to make, even easier to enjoy and the easiest to share! Otherwise… well, let’s just say I was standing there eating them one after another thinking- ‘I’ve got to get these cookies out of here!’  Hope you’ll try them. As always…

Love y’all, Camellia

Camellia's Cottage Cookies

A truly good cookie that has everything but the kitchen sink- pecans, oats, coconut and even corn flakes! The butter makes the texture light and crisp.  It's a great after school snack or with all that fiber even a quick breakfast treat with a piece of fruit of course...
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Servings: 4 dozen

Ingredients

  • 1 cup regular or frosted corn flakes lightly crushed
  • 1 cup old fashioned rolled oats not quick or instant
  • 1 cup shredded coconut unsweetened is best
  • 3/4 cup coarse chopped pecans
  • 1 cup butter I use salted, if you don't add 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar may use light brown
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg- lightly beaten
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda sifted with flour
  • 4 cups all purpose flour

Instructions

  • In a large bowl, toss to combine- lightly crushed corn flakes, rolled oats, coconut and pecans. Set aside.  With a stand mixer, cream butter and sugars until light, about 4 minutes. Add beaten egg, mix well- then add vanilla and almond extracts, beating well. Slowly add vegetable oil until well incorporated. Remove bowl from mixer.
    By hand, carefully add mixture of corn flakes, oats, coconut and pecans. Then, add one cup at a time of the sifted flour mixture. Be gentle but mix well. 
    Drop by rounded tablespoons on ungreased sheet pans. Flatten each ball of dough with a fork dipped in water - making a cross hatch pattern.
    Bake at 350 degrees for 14-15 minutes. Check cookies after 12 minutes. Bake until lightly browned. Cool on wire racks. Makes 3-4 dozen.

Notes

I had frosted corn flakes in my pantry and they worked just fine! It's important to cream the butter, sugars, egg, extracts and oil in the correct order- and to do this with a mixer. Folding in the mixture of oats, flakes, coconut and pecans must be done by hand to have that wonderful texture. Depending on the size cookies you make- adjust the baking time accordingly. These are truly good cookies!

*all photographs are mine!

Dressing for Thanksgiving…

9496F288-14EA-488D-936D-44DEAE40EE38And so it begins… It came to me that Fall and Winter Holidays in the South begin and end with Cornbread. Yes, we eat it all year round, but cornbread is the one thing that sets the Southern cooking apart from other regions. Make the first pot of vegetable soup, chili or chicken and dumplings and while it simmers a Southern cook is making a pone of cornbread. As Thanksgiving approaches- Southerners are looking forward to their own family’s recipe for Dressing. Indulge me here- true Southerners don’t eat Stuffing- Ever. We might tolerate Stuffing, but count on hearing this if anyone makes Stuffing for Thanksgiving-

‘ Bless her heart, she didn’t make Dressing. Can you believe she made stuffing? I think her momma’s from New Jersey- no wonder. Now, Eugene- don’t worry honey, I’m making us a pan of dressing to go with our turkey.’

And no, we don’t call it Cornbread Dressing…if you ever find a dressing recipe that goes with Turkey- first be skeptical, then know- it might be called Cornbread Dressing– but y’all, we don’t say that! It’s Turkey and Dressing.  Or Chicken and Dressing. We don’t have time to specify the Cornbread– we know what kind of dressing we’re talking about, though I did find a precious recipe for Cornbread that specified – Iron Skillet Cornbread!

13A59A1E-5B2C-43E5-AB44-2B22277A9527Forget worrying about cooking the Turkey…there’s hotlines for Turkey! Not so with Dressing. It’s a generational thing. The recipes aren’t written down, okay… rarely. Thanksgiving Turkey and Dressing has…almost a mythical quality. Write the recipe down and you still won’t get the taste and flavor of the real deal. It goes by taste, texture and feel.

Now, I’ve eaten many many many helpings of dressing… okay maybe that’s one too many ‘many’s’ ….let’s just say I’ve eaten a lot of dressing and leave it at that. Some dressing I’ve eaten, I wouldn’t put out for a possum to eat- others were sublime, just not mine.  I still want the taste of my family’s – specifically my grandmother’s Dressing on Thanksgiving!  My momma made excellent dressing, she used my grandmother’s recipe-  it was moist, seasoned just right- even developed a better flavor with leftovers. Every. Single. Year. the family legend or horror story was recounted…

Mimi told about the year they went to Texas for Thanksgiving with my uncle Chester. Chester might have owned an oil well or two- but he might have been married to a Yankee, maybe of Italian descent- she committed a cardinal sin. Uncle Chester’s wife added Oregano instead of Sage to her Dressing. Like I said, every single year- Mimi would exclaim-

‘Can you believe Chester’s wife put Oregano in that dressing? It wasn’t fit to eat! I thought I would gag, had to spit it out into my napkin and excuse myself from the table!’

Could I add here? I never even knew Uncle Chester’s wife had a given name! The only time Mimi brought up Uncle Chester’s wife was in connection with that awful dressing loaded with oregano.

Real dressing can’t be made in one sitting. Last week, I baked two pound cakes, one for the freezer and one for a bereavement table- and three pones of cornbread. All three pans of cornbread also went in the freezer for the upcoming holiday, this week. Now please note: it’s not just cornbread in the dressing… there’s white bread crumbs (slices of bread which has been left to dry out a bit before they’re crumbled up in with the cornbread. Now, because I’m superstitious and Mimi’s grandchild- I add a few crushed saltine crackers and – this is importantat least one Biscuit is also crumbled up in the cornbread portion of the Dressing. Please don’t laugh- I can actually tell if the biscuit is left out!9496F288-14EA-488D-936D-44DEAE40EE38

All of the cornbread, bread crumbs and (added quirks) mixture must be tossed together, then one must carefully add the dried sage, a bit of thyme, salt and pepper to taste. I have to stop here- this is a point of contention. Normally, I prefer fresh herbs- just not for Dressing. I once ate dressing with so much fresh sage- it had a green tinge to it. Not. Good. Much better to go with the old formula of dried herbs. And yes, I almost had my very own- ‘oregano moment’ with that fresh sage dressing! I still break out with a bead of sweat across my brow thinking about it

Then, there’s celery and onions. We might need to explain here- some add celery and onions in without cooking them, some saute celery and onions in butter,  I personally add the celery and onions to my homemade chicken broth and cook them gently until just warmed and softened, then, I also add a bit of fresh celery for texture.  Peculiar right?

Dressing takes a lot of broth. For our family dressing- at least 3-4 cups of broth is required, preferably homemade broth- I make sure to have extra store bought broth on hand.  Then there’s the Custard part (which some fine Southern Cooks do not add to their Dressing), I do- I make a custard of up to 6 eggs and 2 cups of whole milk stirred together, then poured over the cornbread, seasoning and broth mixture. This is left to soak over night in …usually one large pan and maybe one or two other smaller pans (these are for leftovers or emergency extras). My family actually believes that I can’t make a small amount of dressing. They are right!

After soaking for a number of hours or overnight- the whole thing is baked at 350 degrees for 45 minutes to an hour. sometimes a bit longer- it will be slightly puffed and golden. It’s moist on the inside and has a bit of crust on it- overbake it? And the Dressing is dry. Oh lord, when is some smart Southern Cook going to set up a hotline for Dressing?

The whole thing is totally worth the effort and I honestly wish I had this recipe for Mimi’s Dressing written down…but, y’all-  it’s just a few days before Thanksgiving and I’ve got a sweet potato casserole, a strawberry jello/ pretzel salad (yes, I know it sounds awful, but it’s not), cranberry sauce, gravy base (you can never have too much gravy), a few casseroles and side dishes, rolls. mashed potatoes and…I don’t know what all; not to mention that Turkey to bake. At least the pound cake is already baked!

I’m apologize for not having a beauty shot of my Thanksgiving Dressing- it will be made fresh and hot for our meal. And, I have to say… we’ll all be very grateful!  Now, I know it might sound crazy to folks who don’t live in the South– just remember down here, there’s no Stuffing- oh no, we’re Dressing for Thanksgiving!

Love y’all, Camellia

*Photographs are obviously mine.

*Sorry no recipe, maybe I’ll try to get one written down! But if you try to make Dressing with sweet cornbreadthe taste will be all off and you’ll regret it for the rest of your life.

Sweet Potato Pie…

9CA703A3-6DFD-471A-858B-1A5F67E01411Sweet Potatoes… baked, mashed- candied or casseroled- Southerners do love their sweet potatoes. And while we eat them all year round, the fall and winter holidays – all the way through our traditional New Year’s Day meals of Turnip Greens and Blackeyed Peas tend to feature Sweet Potatoes to signify good fortune in the coming year. Last week, I found some beautiful sweet potatoes from Mississippi at my local grocery store- firm, no blemishes and the color was amazing, so you know they found their way into my buggy. I knew just what I wanted to  make- a Sweet Potato Pie- one with all of the holiday flavors I associate with sweet potatoes. Somehow sweet potatoes have always been associated with good memories.

My grandmother scooped the orange pulp from their shells- filled them with mashed spicy buttered sweet potatoes and topped them off with snowcaps of marshmallows- oh my! I can still remember the aroma when they were pulled out of her oven.

I also recall one of her double first cousins- one of nine children- who recalled his momma’s sweet potato biscuits; and another cousin told of  one memorably cold morning when he was sent to school with a baked sweet potato in one coat pocket and a sausage biscuit in the other- it kept him warm on his walk to school- he exclaimed that it still remained one of his all time favorite meals.

B5020501-338D-4227-8F81-AE679B73EDB1With the famous Southern Sweet Tooth- it’s no wonder sweet potatoes made their way into sugary pecan topped casseroles and pies- oh yes the pies… Okay. I did a small but significant survey of truly southern folks- who at least had a southern grandmother or two- and yes, it was unscientific – even so of the sampling in my survey- There was one main question…

‘Do you remember eating pumpkin pie when you growing up?’ The most memorable answer was: ‘No, punkin’ pie has a whang to it.’ A whang to it? He went on to tell me that they always grew a few punkins for the kids but mostly pumpkins were ‘fed to the hogs, if the possums didn’t get ’em first.’ Please don’t ask me what it means to have ‘a whang to it’– these are things that can’t be described, you just know. Still. If I ever heard that something had a whang to it- I didn’t eat it. No ma’am, I didn’t. Sweet Potato Pie is the Southern version of the more universally known Pumpkin Pie. So! I set out to make the best Sweet Potato Pie I could…  I believe this version is the combination of traditional spices and aromas we all love with a old timey twist on the crust. Here’s how you make it-A7A52AC8-42E5-410D-86A5-DB3CDE708411

Camellia’s Sweet Potato Pie

For the Pie Crust: Make your favorite pie crust or use a prepared 9 inch pie crust. *This is an important step to me- if making your own crust- add a tablespoon or two of cornmeal to the pie dough ; if using a prepared pie crust – brush egg yolk all over the crust including edges, then finely sift cornmeal over the crust- pressing slightly.

4E207F95-3D44-4FF1-81F8-D651D1E7C7B8 I’m not sure why the cornmeal is a necessity for a very good sweet potato pie, yet there’s something about the addition that enhances the sweet potato pie- perhaps it strengthens the pie crust; is just a tradition or adds a subtle flavor but do not miss this step! Chill the cornmeal enhanced pie crust while making the sweet potato filling.  *Preheat oven to 450 degrees, after the sweet potatoes are baked and while making the sweet potato pie filling. This is an important step- oven temperature will be reduced in the midst of baking.

For Sweet Potato Filling:

  • Bake 2 lbs of sweet potatoes. *Please do not use canned sweet potatoes for the filling if possible, the quality of the pie depends on the quality of the sweet potatoes. I baked mine coated with butter.
  • Peel baked sweet potatoes, removing any stringy fiber, before mashing using a light hand- you don’t want mushy sweet potatoes! At this point when sweet potatoes are done, remember to preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  • Spice Blend: 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon of ground ginger, 1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg. I prefer a generous grating of fresh nutmeg. Sprinkle spice mix, a pinch of salt and the zest of one Orange over mashed sweet potatoes.
  • Add 1/2 cup of melted butter, 1/4 cup of brown sugar and 1/4 cup of granular sugar. Mixture until light and smooth.
  • Beat 3 large eggs until lightened- add to spiced sweetened sweet potato mixture. Then-
  • Add 1/2 cup of fresh squeezed orange juice and 1/4 cup of half and half or whole milk and 3 tablespoons of good Brandy.
  • Mix very well- mixture should be a light, rather airy filling.
  • Pour filling into chilled prepared pie crust.
  • *I sprinkled the edges of my pie with raw sugar for a decorative effect.
  • Bake for 10 minutes at 450 degrees.
  • Then reduce heat to 350 degrees and continue baking for 25-35 minutes until the pie is puffed and firm.

F3AA21F5-CE47-4E00-B4DB-937BE2BFBF2EThis is a very good rich fragrant Sweet Potato Pie. Indeed it is my favorite mixture- some add a pinch of ground cloves but I find ground cloves can easily be overdone so use just a pinch. A good sherry or pure vanilla extract can be substituted for the Brandy- again this is personal taste. Fresh Orange Zest and Juice is necessary as well- you may also substitute lemon juice and zest, though I find the orange lends a milder and warmer flavor than lemon juice especially in the fall and winter months..

A7A52AC8-42E5-410D-86A5-DB3CDE708411Okay, I’d like for you to make Sweet Potato Pie like I do- you’ll have a superior pie I think. Or go ahead and use grandmomma’s recipe- even my Great Aunt Trix made a good sweet potato pie, though maybe not as good as this one! Sweet Potato Pie is an iconic Southern pie- one that even our most famous pastry chefs are still making- I hope it will become one of your favorites, too!

Love y’all, Camellia

*All photgraphs were obviously taken by me.

Tipsy Treats…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love y’all, Camellia

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

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

Stuffed Peppers…

4999EA0F-E943-4858-BCF6-0BDF3A460741Southerners love their peppers, most tuck at least a few plants in their gardens even if it’s in among flower beds. Peppers generally love the Southern climate- some old timers say the hotter the weather- the hotter the peppers! I’m not sure about that, I do know that we once planted mild banana peppers close to jalapenos and those highly prized for their pepper sauce- long skinny cayenne pepper pods; well, I’m telling you those sweet banana peppers were hot as fire! I loved them. Usually our Bell Peppers are small, mainly good in salads or chopped along with onions and celery for our trinity to begin making jambalayas, gumbos, even tomato sauces.

f6e4696a-57d5-4cd7-86fe-525312f45f27.jpegThis year we planted a few plants of Poblano peppers- they’ve been seriously good and a bumper crop of the big beautiful peppers are just the right size for Stuffed Peppers. I’ve eaten stuffed peppers all of my life and loved them.  I have to admit- Before I learned to cook stuffed peppers- I tended to think they were an exotic dish because southern cooks which can be on the eccentric side, had a way  of  majestically saying… ‘Ah’m makin’ Stuffed Peppers’…   it just seemed like a special treat and -they truly are. Now, let me get real here- if something sits still long enough a southern cook will figure out a way to stuff it!

  • Stuffed Eggs, Stuffed  Shrimp, Stuffed Pork Chops even Stuffed Squash Blossoms- now that’s an adventure!

I’m running on and on- though I do want you to know, it’s not hard to make Stuffed Peppers.  The beauty of this dish is, of course presentation and taste- Still. Feel free to stuff a few or enough to feed a crowd, which we all know is the real beauty of any recipe.  Cook Stuffed Peppers right away or prepare, seal and freeze. Stuffed peppers always call for good ingredients- but the real secret to cooking stuffed peppers is the same for meatloaf- I think… low and slow. If you don’t have time, I’d say don’t make them! Okay, still there might be a way to overcome this.  If you have an oven with a timer- it is possible to take stuffed peppers from the freezer, put them in the oven, set the timer  and heat at 325 degrees allow for 2 hours before your meal and you might get away with it. So here’s how to make –

Camellia’s Stuffed Peppers

  • You will need Unblemished fresh and clean – 4-5 large Bell or Poblano Peppers   – carefully cut peppers in half, Remove seeds and membranes without damaging the pepper halves. *I think Stuffed Peppers make a wonderful presentation if the stem portion remains intact on at least one half and also keep the filling intact.
  • For the Filling you will need: 1-1/4 pounds of ground chuck mixed with diced onion, 3/4 cup of crushed saltine crackers, 1 teaspoon of garlic powder and a pinch or two of black pepper-you may use bread crumbs, instead of crushed crackers- if so- add a pinch of salt. If you dare and I do! add 1/2 teaspoon or more of red pepper flakes and one beaten large egg.
  • *Note: some folks add small diced celery and even carrots- I do not. The mixture will be moistened by the pepper shell, therefore it doesn’t need the extra moisture.
  • Carefully combine ground beef mixture. Do not overwork the filling.
  • To stuff: Each pepper half will use approximately 3/4 cup of filling spooned in and pressed down a bit.   *Optional: I had some fresh oven roasted tomatoes preserved in oil- so I drained them and topped the uncooked stuffing. *You may wrap tightly and freeze at this point. C7F89F23-89C9-4A9A-80A0-9139EF8EBBB3
  • This is not optional: Cut uncooked bacon into one inch pieces topping each stuffed pepper with 1-2 small pieces.
  • Now, this is important! Before baking- preheat oven to 325 degrees. Very low oven temperature is key.
  • Top each Stuffed Pepper with a generous amount of good ketchup. Bake low and slow- mine were done in 2 hours.
  • Allow to stand a few minutes, then skim off fat and juices. Serve. Makes 4-5 generous servings, allowing 2 pepper halves each.

It’s actually wonderful to serve Stuffed Peppers on a buffet- they taste good even at room temperature. I also think Stuffed Peppers can be changed up with different spices- such as an Italian mixture served simply with garlic bread and a green salad. If you have the patience, stuffing Baby Bell Peppers would be wonderful appetizers. Of course, one of my favorite combinations for Stuffed Peppers includes the Three Sisters – Corn, Beans and Squash. Corn supports the Bean vines, Squash are planted at the base in a ring around the corn- each has a purpose. Comically and practically- prickly squash leaves deter varmints like raccoons since they don’t like stepping on the leaves. Native Americans taught us how to companion plant these ‘three sisters’  which are a wonderful combination of sides for Stuffed Peppers.

 

Since the weather is still very warm here- I chose to make cool Shoe Peg Corn Salad, a cheesy Squash Casserole and Speckled Butterbeans cooked with bacon drippings, a bit of hot vinegar-y pepper sauce and crumbled bacon on top.

In the winter, Stuffed Peppers are so good cooked amid a bed of shredded cabbage and onions- of course cornbread and dried beans  are also so good. Now, before I leave the fresh vegetable sides, I’d say there’s almost nothing as satisfying as shucking fresh corn, picking fresh summer squash and shelling butterbeans… Well okay- unless it’s feeding your loved ones a meal  like this.

Love y’all, Camellia

*All photographs are obviously mine.

Blue Ridge Apple Cake…

7ECB0501-3C50-43AC-B545-D905918E6B0EIt might come as a surprise that the Appalachian Region is apple growing country. Settlers from Scotch Irish descent brought apple seeds with them to grow in the new land… with the help of Cherokee Indians apples became widely grown. With temperatures dipping into the 20s and highs in the 80s – the plateaus produce apples from late July on into late fall. Some heirloom varieties grown in the Appalachians are still considered excellent. My home county is at the tail end of the Appalachians and almost all old home places had at least one or two apple trees, it was encouraged as a way to make property more valuable and of course as an extra food source! The uses for apples is legion, from-

  • Feeding livestock (especially our beloved pork!),
  • Jams and jellies, brandies and butters,
  • Pies and cakes, stuffed and baked or tucked around a pork roast,
  • Dried for use in the famous mountain Apple Stack cake, a simple pan of Fried apples and one of my personal favorites- Fried Apple Pies.
  • And of course, as an afternoon snack!D295386C-0568-431E-915C-0729DD474408

The beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains, in the southern part of the Appalachian Region, is one of those apple growing regions. In the upper western corner of Georgia, the entire area is a popular tourist attraction and apple picking territory. Beginning to ripen now, a few days ago, I bought some Blue Ridge Apples; I was especially glad to find these. The skins aren’t tough and thick, this current crop of apples aren’t overly sweet, have good texture and are a beautiful deep red- just perfect for a quick breakfast, a lunchbox treat or an afternoon snack.

Fresh Apple Cakes are legendary in the South, the mere mention of one is followed by swoons. Any southerner I know loves a snack of apples and peanut butter; a nutritious lunch for almost any school kid is a peanut butter sandwich and an apple!  I couldn’t resist coming up with an easy apple cake- snack size with the addition of peanut butter…well, let’s just say I surprised myself! These Blue Ridge apples don’t even require peeling, the whole cake can be made from common pantry ingredients and from start to finish, in about an hour, including bake time, you’ll have a Blue Ridge Apple Cake!

7ECB0501-3C50-43AC-B545-D905918E6B0EHere’s how you make-

Camellia’s Blue Ridge Apple Cake

You will need:

  • 2 cups of Flour
  • 2 cups of Brown Sugar (firmly packed plus more for topping)
  • 1 teaspoon of Ground Cinnamon plus more for sprinkling
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 stick of chilled Butter cut in small pieces
  • 1/2 cup of Creamy Peanut Butter (plus more for topping)
  • 1 cup of diced apples (Blue Ridge if possible) plus more (thinly sliced) for topping
  • 1 carton Sour Cream (8 oz)
  • 1 teaspoon of Baking Soda
  • 1 Large Egg lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Combine flour, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt. Cut in small pieces of Butter until crumbly. Add Apples and Peanut Butter- this mixture will continue to be crumbled in texture. E965B79B-25D5-45C4-B348-E0DFEA7838FB

Press half of the mixture in the bottom of a glass baking dish (9×9) as you would for a crust. Combine baking soda and sour cream. Mix well. Add in the slightly beaten egg. Add this mixture of sour cream/baking soda and egg into the remaining crumb mixture. Stir gently to combine. Pour this mixture over the top of pressed crumbs. Decorate the top of mixture with thinly sliced apples. Sprinkle additional cinnamon and brown sugar. Put small dollops of extra peanut butter on some of the decorative apple slices. Here’s how it comes together-

*Variation: Add a sprinkling of chopped peanuts if you want to guild the apples! Bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes. Cool then, cut into squares.

Yield one nine inch square coffee cake- approximately 9-12 luscious squares.

I know I said to cool the cake, but it is very good slightly warm! Cover tightly. Blue Ridge Apple Cake keeps very well,  and retains it’s moisture. The Appalachian region continues to be one of the poorest regions in our nation, it is wonderful to be able to support the farmers there in such a delicious way!  And… Alabama is a state where George Washington Carver’s research has provided many folks, like me! with a love of parched peanuts, roasted peanuts and oh yes! Peanut Butter! Blue Ridge Apple Cake seems like a match made in heaven with the combination of Apples and Peanut Butter!A406F262-7E0F-4C7D-9EA5-7BCB288C33DA

Love y’all, Camellia

*all photographs are obviously mine! September 14 is also National Peanut Day! You have permission to eat all the peanuts you want!9805E26D-6241-459B-8DEE-F5B1A2AFBBA0

Summer Blueberry Scones…

EC69DB75-C9C3-4C5B-B483-0D756B6C3163I made a batch of Summer Blueberry Scones, tender buttery- with a hint of orange and dripping with a sweet glaze.  Easy to make, these scones might make my ‘Summertime and the Living is Easy’ recipe list. We’ve had a bumper crop of blueberries- which frankly surprises me. We’re not really a blueberry growing or even a blueberry eating bunch here.  There’s a beautiful and bountiful blueberry farm just a few miles down the road here- I hope they’ve had a bumper crop too…

A3624DB1-5061-4E0E-AB93-6BFF069DAEF3When I think of iconic Southern fruits- it’s strawberries, blackberries, cantaloupes, apricots, plums, peaches, watermelons and further south- bananas, fresh coconuts and citrus fruits seem to fill the memories of my life.

  • Strawberry Shortcakes, Blackberry  and Peach Cobblers,
  • Cantaloupes in big orange slices perfect for every meal,
  • Watermelons in my uncle’s Ice House,
  • Banana Puddings and Apricot Casseroles were also beloved –
  • Then at Christmas, Cranberries made an appearance and the utterly delicious but simple Ambrosia my grandmother made was full of Oranges and Fresh Coconut.
  • Dried Apricots, Apples and Peaches tended to show up on the breakfast table or in the form of Fried Pies…

I only recall one little girl who loved blueberry syrup on her pancakes and it wasn’t me! When ladies began making those cream cheese ice box pies- they did open up cans of strawberry or blueberry pie filling to spoon over the top. All of that changed when blueberries became something of a sensation for all of the health benefits folks read about. Back then, we were given several blueberry bushes- that frankly never did much good. And my husband came up with a concoction which we still love- that he dubbed Blueberry Surprise which consists of fresh blueberries topped with sour cream and a generous helping of brown sugar- hey! don’t knock it! I’m not sure why it works but it’s also great with mixed berries- like strawberries and blueberries for a quick, cool, easy dessert. And you can’t beat a bowl of mixed berries after a heavy meal.

This year… from two sort of spindly blueberry bushes- we’ve gotten several quarts of blueberries, most are in the freezer. To my surprise, another half pint were picked over the weekend and were used to garnish a coconut cream pie and tossed in a citrus salad, the rest were put up in a small freezer bag.65C51387-D229-4F7B-9BFC-9A93AEEEA22A

I know it’s gonna sound like heresy to some- but I’m not a big fan of blueberry muffins; blueberry pie wouldn’t be my first pick, I do like them on cereal but give me strawberries or bananas any day of the week.  So, what to do with all of the bounty? Ah… I recalled Afternoon Tea at the Grand Hotel in Point Clear, Alabama. For decades, we’ve been privileged to stay at this historic southern hotel- which serves a complimentary Afternoon Tea with cookies as big as a lap baby’s face and small scones with a selection of teas- from open mahogany tea chests, along with coffee for those who prefer it to tea. Afternoon Tea at the Grand Hotel is an easy affair that seems to bring out genteel qualities in even the children who partake. With these memories dancing around in my head, I thought I’d make a batch of Summer Blueberry Scones… it might have been a mistake because I barely got them photographed before I realized I hadn’t exactly been genteel in my consumption of the scones! In fact, I had to put most of them safely out of reach. If you’ve got a cup of fresh blueberries and bit of time… maybe you’ll try – 962C44B8-A3AA-4754-9CA1-ACCB65885348Camellia’s Summer Blueberry Scones

These are easy- so you will need a biscuit baking mix- I prefer Pioneer Baking Mix®; I’ve been to their mill in San Antonio Texas and my family used it regularly- however, any biscuit baking mix will do I’m sure-

  • In a large mixing bowl stir together 3 cups of Biscuit Mix- (no sifting required),
  • 1/3 cup of Sugar and 3/4 stick of very cold Butter cut into small cubes.
  • Just toss or stir gently.
  • Then, very carefully toss 1 cup of frozen blueberries and 3 tablespoons of diced candied orange peel in with the mixture. *If you don’t have this ingredient- the zest of an orange or even a lemon will work just as well.
  • And, don’t worry about cutting in butter- just toss the cubes together to mix. Make a center well, add one large beaten Egg and 3/4 cup of whole milk.
  • Gently work the dough with your hands to just get the mixture moist.
  • Turn half of the mixture out onto a large piece of plastic wrap and work dough into a ball; turn out onto a silicone mat or parchment lined baking sheet. *No buttering the pan- there’s plenty of butter in the dough!
  • Gently now,  pat each dough ball into a 7 or 8 inch round at 3/4 inch thickness.
  • Score the rounds into triangles. No need to even get out a biscuit cutter!E38BE16D-A578-4B70-BB5B-33F4C130B51C
  • *Always remember to use a very light touch with biscuit or scone dough for a light tender result.  I sifted a bit of the baking mix on top of the dough rounds for easier scoring.
  • Put the unbaked scones in the refrigerator to chill.
  • Preheat oven to 375-400 degrees.
  • Put chilled scones in the hot oven for 18-20 minutes or until lightly browned.
  • If desired, make a simple glaze of 2 1/2 cups of powdered sugar and up to 1/4 cup of milk, being careful to add half of the milk- stir, then add a bit more until it is the right consistency.
  • Glaze Summer Blueberry Scones while they are still warm. Allow to cool a bit before cutting into triangles-  if you can stand to wait!
  • Makes 16 medium size scones.  Aren’t they pretty?

EC69DB75-C9C3-4C5B-B483-0D756B6C3163Well, I’m ashamed to admit I ate more than one in the afternoon- then called on another one to be my supper! I saved the leftover glaze and put most of the rest in the freezer, to warm up for another Afternoon Tea or breakfast or for unexpected company or…I don’t know, maybe your blood sugar’s running low or you feel a Sinking Spell coming on or when you think you’re just gonna die unless you have a little something to clear your head. Summer Blueberry Scones will feed the hungry, lift sagging spirits, give a hungry child an after school treat or you might need to bring a genteel touch to life!

Love y’all, Camellia

*All photographs are obviously mine.  See what I mean by spindly? 5F27E495-27E6-497D-8D88-E9DD9BCB4E31

Bighearted Gulf Shrimp…

EFC3C453-03A8-46F1-A586-5FD8D90EACF0Anyone who has ever seen the Blessing of the Fleet, especially a fleet of Shrimp Boats has seen a very moving sight. Folks in the Coastal Southern States have relied on Big Hearted Gulf Shrimp as a wonderful part of our economy, so of course we love the ever versatile shrimp, our own if possible! In secluded Bon Secour Bay, Shrimp Boats still haul in beautiful shrimp from the Gulf waters of Alabama- the very translation of Bon Secour is French for good help, assistance or comfort. I can attest shrimp is a good comfort food! The best way to buy shrimp- is right off the boat, wrapped with ice and butcher paper; since fresh shrimp freezes very well- most is frozen right away, as soon as possible off the boat or even frozen on shrimp boats!

Please don’t ever insult this Majestic Crustacean by comparing someone or something to a shrimp! Shrimp come in all sizes- from salad shrimp which are tiny to extra large or jumbo that are almost as big as a man’s hand! Southern cooks have a way of using whatever size we can get! Most of us can’t imagine a Southern cookbook without recipes for Shrimp! Shrimp are among the most versatile of ingredients- not just in southern cuisine but many other cultures too. Bighearted Gulf Shrimp tend to be sociable, enjoy the flavors known as Italian, Greek, Asian and of course Creole! Shrimp is equally at home in-

  • Casseroles or Chafing Dishes
  •  Appetizers- tiny tart shells to large impressive Shrimp Cocktails
  • Swimming around a mound of rice in Gumbos and floating gracefully in creamy Bisques gumbo
  • A mere garnish on the rim of a Bloody Mary or added to a Garlic Butter Sauce atop a juicy steak
  • Pickled in a big jar or  chilled-gracing a cool Summer Salad
  • A hearty Poor Boy piled high, tossed with all manner of Seafood Sauces for Pasta
  • Cozying up in a big Spanish paella, having a big time in Indian curries and
  • Low Country Boils or rolling around in a sticky pile of Asian Stir Fry…

We have to admit Shrimp is internationally beloved and Bighearted indeed! I decided to look into just three of my vintage Junior League Cookbooks- in-

  • Jubilee! of Mobile, Alabama fame… there were in excess of 40 recipes! Including Coquille St. Jacques-  which combines scallops and shrimp in a delicate sherry laced cream sauce which would be perfect for a Dinner Party. A robust Jambalaya with a note that said ‘Keep adding seasoning until you’re afraid to add any more.’ Don’t you love that? B6FB9A66-776D-4AA7-9E85-5DE6E6341B84
  • There’s even instructions in Jubilee! for Boiling Shrimp in Gulf Water- you can’t get anymore fresh than that; in fact, when buying shrimp… the rule of thumb is that the freshest shrimp smell like that fragrant blend of sea air, marsh grasses and fresh salty gulf water. When boiling shrimp, a word to the wise… the worst thing you can do is overcook! Bring highly seasoned lemony salted water to a rolling boil, drop the shrimp in for two minutes…no more! Turn the heat off and by the time you’ve removed the shrimp…they’re pink, beautiful and done!
  • In Morgan County Alabama’s Junior Leagues’ Cotton Country… again there are close to 40 recipes which either feature shrimp or include a combination such as Connie’s Curried Shrimp which includes a comment- ‘Once tried, you’ll make it over and over again’, Shrimp Florentine, Shrimp Etouffee and one I loved the sound of… Shrimp Le Maistre, with this notation- ‘The prayers of many a hostess are herewith answered. Mixing time is almost nil, frozen shrimp works beautifully (though of course, if you’re up to peeling it, of course fresh may be used). This casserole may be served on rice, wild rice, in patty shells or individual scallop shells with scattered crumbs. Too, Shrimp Le Maistre is good for the cooks who like to play with ingredients. Try adding a glug of sherry and sliced water chestnuts- then leave the eggs in the refrigerator.‘ Okay y’all, Shrimp Le Maistre is the very definition of Bighearted and a Casserole to boot! Morgan County’s Cotton Country tickles me with the comments! For Shrimp Etouffee- the comment says ‘Straight from the Louisiana Bayou’.8D1D429C-2177-4F8A-AE08-666E821604FA
  • Speaking of Louisiana… from Monroe, Louisiana’s Junior League’s Cotton Country there are 45 recipes for shrimp including a shrimp mousse, a shrimp pate (similar but not exactly shrimp paste), Shrimp Croquettes, Barbequed Shrimp- which aren’t really put on a grill at all! Don’t miss- Shrimp Sizzle- for shrimp which are– after they’re marinated- the shrimp are ‘sizzled’ on a charcoal grill. The Shrimp Sauces range from Butter to Herbed, a White Sauce and the range of sauces which use peppercorns are Black, Pink or Green.

EFC3C453-03A8-46F1-A586-5FD8D90EACF0Of course, in all of my southern cookbooks- there are always renditions of famous southern Shrimp Cocktail sauces. Truthfully, I just want these sauces to be simple- Red Chili Sauce (a thick ketchup- Heinz® is my favorite), lots of fresh lemon juice and as much horseradish as I think folks can stand… I personally want Cocktail Sauce to make my eyes water- it’s tears of happiness! There are many ways to prepare Bighearted Gulf Shrimp…however, the best of all may be – ‘straight off the boat’ or as near as possible- quickly boiled with a bag of Old Bay® or Zatarain’s® shrimp and crab boil (a bag of dried spices- the fragrance makes the whole house smell good!) add a couple of big fresh lemons cut in half and plopped in the water! ‘ Peel and Eat Gulf Shrimp’ is bighearted enough to be eaten with drawn butter and lemon and of course spicy Cocktail Sauce.

4D36E9B4-0CCE-4533-9D0A-F85438585693Now that your appetite for Bighearted Gulf Shrimp is whetted… I’ll leave you with an old standby here at Camellia’s Cottage- now, it’s served with rice- so get that cooked before you start- it’s so quick and easy…when the shrimp’s done, you’ll be ready to serve it with the rice! Spicy Shrimp doesn’t call for fancy ingredients and I’m still not sure why it works, yet it’s almost no fail. So here goes…

Camellia’s Bighearted Spicy Shrimp 

  • You will need one pound of 36-40 raw shrimp- peeled, deveined with tails left on to make it pretty.
  • In a large pot- melt one stick of butter.
  • Add 2 cups of a zesty Italian dressing (this is important! do not shake the bottle to blend- instead pour off most of the oil that rests on the top! then measure out 2 cups of remaining dressing. * For you purists- make up your favorite Italian dressing, just reduce the oil called for in your recipe)
  • Next, add 1/4 cup of Lowry’s® Seasoned Pepper- not seasoned salt!
  • Add 2 teaspoons of crushed red pepper flakes if you dare! Adjust to taste. I do not add salt while cooking Spicy Gulf Shrimp. Adjust salt if necessary after it’s cooked.
  • Last add 2 heaping Tablespoons of chopped garlic. * I generally add a Tablespoon of Paprika for a pretty color, but unnecessary. 87509402-57E8-4CE9-BE66-0C143DDC170A
  • Stir and bring this spicy mixture to a bubbling boil. Put raw shrimp in the mixture and gently stir until shrimp are pale pink in color… they will continue to cook even as heat is turned off.
  • * Warning- do not leave the pot, do not answer the phone, do not glance away… Spicy Gulf Shrimp will not take more than 4-5 minutes if that!!
  • Turn heat off- put a generous squeeze juice from a whole fresh lemon into the mixture and gently toss shrimp.
  • To serve: Surround a mound of rice with the shrimp and sauce. I always chop a few green onions tops for a garnish.

Dip garlic bread into the spicy sauce, it’s wonderful- we southerners call that sopping! A big fresh salad is great alongside in spring or summer- or in fall and winter… steamed broccoli is a very good side dish. Serves 3-4 hungry folks. This recipe may be doubled. *If there are any leftovers, mix the rice with sauce- mix with salad greens; cube leftover garlic bread and toast lightly for croutons! Oh my, it’s so good! Here’s how it came together…

Bon Secour Bay is on the Eastern Shore of Mobile Bay, I hope some day you get down there to experience it. Stay at the Grand Hotel just up the road, past Magnolia Springs in beautiful Point Clear, Alabama. And whatever you do, please give Gulf Shrimp a try at least once in your life- found from down around Galveston, Texas all around the Gulf of Mexico, even down to Key West! Nothing could be finer than Bighearted Gulf Shrimp! Love y’all, Camellia

* all photographs are obviously mine. *We acknowledge that some folks have sensitivity to shellfish or outright allergies to it; and that some cultures have dietary restrictions.

Mobile Bay-point clear* This beautiful sunset was taken from the Grand Hotel, an historic hotel which is operated by Marriott® See how beautiful it is? the whole area is sheer coastal beauty…Fairhope, Point Clear, Magnolia Springs and Mobile Bay!

Picklin’ in the South…

B9B19BD4-F8BE-439A-9A81-50B3940E1710Pickling is certainly not new, it’s hard to even figure out the origins of pickling and preserving for it seems humans have been trying to preserve their food …well forever. Maybe. Some of the finest pickles I have ever eaten aren’t Southern at all, though my first taste of them might have been. Long gone, Browdy’s Delicatessen in Mountain Brook, Alabama gave me my first taste of a real Kosher pickle- cucumber and green tomatoes were pickled with such skill that I can still recall how wonderful they were… Carnegie and Katz’ Delis in New York City came close though. Still. What is unique to Southern Picklin’ isn’t about how to pickle but what we pickle in the South. Everything you see on this plate, for instance can and has been pickled!DBAB65F1-541A-49FF-9D73-D51A3C05552E

The array of what we pickle and preserve makes its way to almost every meal. The Center Plate, the Relish Tray, the glistening bowls of Pickled Peaches, Pickled Peppers or deep red Crabapples just make a meal look extra special. And for the ordinary meals, the bottles of dressings and sauces we’ve all come to expect to season everything from barbeque to seafood to lowly fresh or cooked greens, the toppings for biscuits and cornbread could have their origins in the isolation and poverty prevalent from the late 1800’s through the Great Depression until after World War II, in the 1940’s. Until then, food was often scarce and what there was of it couldn’t be wasted- pickling provided a way to extend foodstuffs and create a variety of flavors to otherwise monotonous meals.

And this could be unique to the southeastern corner of the United States- southerners will pickle almost anything and everything, in salt, sour, sugar, spicy…hot! or a blend of several notes! I cannot possibly name every kind of things we pickle, but here is an astounding list:

  • Beets, Baby Corn and Quail Eggs and any other egg too!
  • Shrimp, Green Beans, Peppers of all kinds!
  • Okra, Peaches, Watermelon Rind- oh yes that’s right!
  • Pickled Pig’s Lips and Pig’s Feet too! (no, I haven’t eaten either but I do have a recipe for both!)
  • Cucumbers, Green Tomatoes, Summer Squash and Blackeyed Peas!

I’m sure that’s just getting started on a much longer list in my region of the country. I have to mention one mix of pickled vegetables because we call it – Hurricane Mix… eaten in copious amounts one summer at the beach, when we were almost caught in a hurricane … because of time and circumstances, we still call it that! The mixture has it’s origins in the Caribbean and is commonly known as jardinière pickles- filled with cauliflower, peppers, carrots, onions and garlic. There’s a similar mix from Italian kitchens too, but to us- it’s just Hurricane Mix! When refrigeration became widely available, Southern Cooks took the chilling process as a great advantage; instead of the arduous and lengthy process of processing in the old time way- Refrigerator Pickles became one of our favorite ways to make sure we could have all of those wonderful and varied flavors on our dinner tables! Most refrigerator pickles will stay fresh at least 3 weeks (some indefinitely) and take just a few hours or days to make!

9E7FA77A-7244-42BC-9491-04C3A9FBAD06It’s not unusual to see this type of pickle on our favorite vegetable or lunch plates- even a Bloody Mary with a pickled green bean, a large shrimp, pickled okra, brown sugar bacon and a hot pepper is a simply gorgeous drink- spiked or not! So refreshing with spicy tomato juice, a generous amount of lemon juice and rimmed with salt! Probably our all time favorite refrigerator pickle here at Camellia’s Cottage is Pickled Beets! Almost no cooking at all. A variation is made with the addition of fresh cucumber slices, the flavor is subtly changed, but is just as delicious. Here’s how to make:

EF93FEFE-9AF4-46BE-8917-7E3CCFF7F1C9Camellia’s Pickled Beets 

  • You will need:  one 15oz. can of Sliced Beets one yellow or sweet onion sliced and separated one cup of white or apple cider vinegar.
  • Open can of sliced beets, drain well. Slice onion and separate into individual rings or pieces.
  • Put drained beets and onion in a medium size bowl or jar that has a lid.
  • Heat vinegar to a gentle boil.
  • Carefully pour over beets and onions, gently tossing. (If there is not enough vinegar, you may need to boil a bit more.)
  • When cooled, cover and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.
  • Serve on a lettuce cup, if the meal is special- otherwise just load it on the plate!
  • Makes 6-8 servings.
  • *Variation: Thinly slice a cup of fresh young cucumber and add to the beets and onions before pouring hot vinegar over- increase vinegar by 1/4 cup or more. B9B19BD4-F8BE-439A-9A81-50B3940E1710

Pickled or Preserved…this is the way the South makes any meal sing out sweet, spicy or sour notes in such a beautiful way! One of the best grace notes we can think of!

Love y’all, Camellia

*All photographs are obviously mine. *Cajun Chef® is a registered product used at Ruby Slipper Cafe’s breakfasts and their loaded Bloody Mary-Ruby Slipper Café -yum! Pickled green beans! Find Ruby Slipper at www.rubyslippercafe.net

*Old South Watermelon Pickles® have been made since 1947 in Alma, Arkansas and are wonderful drained, wrapped with bacon, baked until bacon is crisp- served as an appetizer. Even the renowned food writer, Julia Reed, a native of Mississippi, recommends this appetizer. She is a contributor to Vogue® Magazine and most recently, Garden and Gun® magazine!

*We’re mighty proud of Wickles Pickles® are made right here in Dadeville, Alabama! Their pickled okra is delicious- in fact, their complete line of pickles is wonderful!

*This is not a paid advertisement- it’s just good eating! and reading, too!