Classic Southern Jezebel Sauce…

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

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

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

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

Classic Southern Jezebel Sauce

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love y’all, Camellia

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

 

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

Camellia’s Spring Tomato Tart…

EAA1A2A5-F5EF-4157-8D82-E423F01FD20EI’ve said it before- the closer you live to a Tomato Vine, the better your life will be. As soon as the weather begins to warm up, southerners start dreaming of summer tomatoes. Camellia’s Spring Tomato Tart is an early start on summer- while we wait for our tomato vies to bear. Tomato sandwiches are on our minds. Simple sliced summer tomato slices make an appearance on almost every southern plate. We do everything we can, to preserve the taste of summer as long as we can. I think planting cherry tomatoes offers a head start on the taste only a fresh tomato offers, and yes- the closer you live to a tomato vine the better your life will be. 93018598-28BA-415C-8D2F-F188B0491246

I believe that fresh tomato pies are a distinctly southern dish. When colorful heirloom cherry tomatoes showed up in my grocery store last week… well, after a bit of testing, we came up with a spring version of Tomato Pie- here’s how you make- Camellia’s Spring Tomato Tart.EAA1A2A5-F5EF-4157-8D82-E423F01FD20E

Camellia’s Spring Tomato Tart

Using cherry tomatoes, this Spring version of the classic southern favorite, Tomato Pie, is light refreshing and delicious. Served with a mixed green salad and crumbled bacon for a luncheon or as a side for Spring and Easter Dinners, Camellia’s Spring Tomato Tart is a beautiful addition. 
Course: Main Course, Side Dish

Ingredients

  • 1 9 inch Prepared Pie Crust Rolled, not in pie crust pan.
  • 1 Pint Cherry Tomatoes Halved-Mixed colors preferably
  • 4 Ounces Gouda Cheese Freshly grated, may use Swiss
  • 4 Ounces Sharp Cheddar Cheese Finely grated
  • 2 Ounces Parmesan Cheese Grated
  • 1 1/2 Cups Green Onions Tops Chopped
  • 3/4 Cup Mayonnaise
  • 1/4 Cup Sour Cream
  • 2 Ounces Cream Cheese Room temperature
  • 1-2 Teaspoons Chopped Garlic
  • 1 Tablespoon Prepared Pesto
  • 1-2 Teaspoons Dry Basil Crumbled
  • 1-2 Teaspoons Red Pepper Flakes
  • 1-2 Teaspoons Cracked Black Pepper To taste

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Unroll prepared pie crust in a lightly buttered springform pan. * the pie crust should come up the sides about an inch or less. With a fork prick bottom of crust. Bake 15-16 minutes or until lightly browned. While crust is baking, combine grated Gouda, cheddar and Parmesan cheeses. Sprinkle a teaspoon of red pepper flakes and 1/4 cup of green onion tops over cheeses and toss to combine. Place on warm crust and allow to sit until filling is ready. *Do not put filling on cheeses and warm pie crust. Mix mayonnaise, sour cream, softened cream cheese, chopped garlic  and pesto until combined; mix in more red pepper flakes, 1/2 of remaining green onion tops, dry basil and cracked black pepper. * Salt is not added until Tomato Tart is served. Complete melting cheeses in tart Shell by returning to 400 degree oven for 3-5 minutes. Remove from oven. Allow to cool slightly. Smooth Filling over melted cheese while still in springform pan. Carefully remove filled tart and top generously with halved cherry tomatoes, * Discard an juices from tomatoes before topping tart.Top tart with additional green onion tops, a sprinkling of dried basil and cracked black pepper.  Cut in wedges with serrated knife.  Serves 4-6 generously. 

Notes

We found - a 10 inch springform pan is the best and easiest to use for this tomato tart. The tart shell may be baked in a shallow 9” baking pan, however, this tart does not lend itself to a deep dish pie.

Perfect for Brunch, a ladies luncheon or even as a side dish on the Easter table, Spring Tomato Tart is great on its own for a meatless meal, however, ours was served with a mixed green salad with lots of crumbled bacon. Also wonderful alongside ham, roasted fish or shrimp-this tart is beautiful, cool and delicious. Easy enough to assemble that you’ll find time to get the ground ready for those summer tomato plants! Welcome Spring with an early Tomato Tart!

Love y’all, Camellia

* All photographs are obviously mine.

*Tip: For easy, quick assembly, we decided to use prepared pie crust, prepared pesto and pre-grated cheeses may be used as well. It makes an easy weeknight meal, if you blend the cheeses and the filling ahead of time and store in the refrigerator. You may, of course, make your own piecrust or grate your own cheese. Here’s another photograph of how ours came together- .

Lemon Squares…

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

Lemon Squares...

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

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

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

Love y’all, Camellia

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

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

Camellia’s Classic Cheese Straws…

If there was a manual for Camellia’s Academy of Fine Arts for Polite Society, there would be an entire section devoted to the proper menus for afternoon teas, bridal showers, various receptions and occasional celebratory parties. And, you may count on Classic Cheese Straws making an honorary appearance on each and every menu. Southern Cheese Straws have been the subject of hot debate for decades…every town has at least one sweet soul who takes great pride in producing the very best cheese straws. Okay, it’s not a hot debate, it’s more like a warm undercurrent. Someone remarked recently, ‘Why, I haven’t made a cheese straw since Captain and Tennielle sang Muskrat Love, I never could get them to crisp up like Gaynelle always could.’  I can’t say I blame her!

Here’s why:

  • Some say it’s too humid right now for making a decent cheese straw.
  • Others think it’s because a certain baker never shared her grandmother’s recipe on her momma’s side, I think it was a deathbed promise.
  • Then, some recipes survive, however the oven temperature tends to vary or a critical ingredient is missing.
  • Even the fact you must be in possession of a proper cookie press has mysteriously been left out.
  • In fact, it must be said-  Blessed is the bride who receives a fine metal cookie press at her kitchen shower and-
  • Far more than blessed is the southern hostess who has inherited her great aunt Bessie’s cookie press which had her famous cheese straw recipe hidden inside the tube.

I’m not exaggerating here. Classic Cheese Straws are highly prized and the one who literally pressed on through the ages- surviving even ‘Muskrat Love’ persists until this day! Still. I’m not going to tell you my cheese straw recipe is the best, I could get into a lot of hot water! I am going to tell you that this recipe is one of my favorites. And! I personally love southern cheese straws so much that I generally make a double recipe at least twice a year and they’re squirreled away in my freezer. I pull out what I need, put them on an ungreased sheet pan and allow them to thaw slightly and bake as directed. Winter is a great time to make cheese straws, but as my friend who probably does make the best cheese (because she does have a genuine handed down recipe) told me recently…’They won’t get crisp if you bake them on a rainy or humid day’. I agree. Try this recipe- I haven’t left anything out.

Join me in keeping this wonderful tradition alive- it’s an heirloom recipe. It’d be a shame for polite society if the tradition didn’t survive, especially if you live, like I do,  where cheese straws are always welcome and the sugar cane still grows.

Love y’all, Camellia

 

Camellia's Classic Cheese Straws

An old classic cheese straw for teas, showers, receptions or parties!
Course: Appetizer
Cuisine: American

Ingredients

  • 1 pound extra sharp cheddar cheese grated= *do not use pre-grated cheese!
  • 1 stick salted butter if you use unsalted add 1/2 teaspoon of salt to sifted flour
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2-1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika

Instructions

  • In a food processor, grate sharp cheddar and chilled stick of butter- doing this in batches if necessary. Put cheddar mixture in a large bowl, covered with plastic wrap and leave overnight to soften- do not refrigerate at this stage. Sift together flour, cayenne, paprika and salt (if using unsalted butter). With clean hands, mix dry ingredients into softened cheese and butter- mixing very well until mixture is smooth.  On ungreased sheet pan, in batches, put dough through a cookie press with a star tip in approximately 4 inch strips. (If you don't have a cookie press- the dough can be rolled with a bit of extra flour and cut into narrow strips.) Placement is approximately 1/2 inches apart. When sheet pan is filled, chill the pressed dough briefly to retain better shape as they bake.
    Preheat oven to 350. Bake 15 minutes, checking after 12 minutes. Cheese Straws should be dried out but not browned. Remove to a wire rack to cook. Keep in an airtight container. Makes 4-6 dozen.   

Notes

The best cheese straws are put through a cookie press, using the star plate. If you choose another design, adjust cooking time.

* all photographs are obviously mine. Williams Sonoma sells a wonderful sturdy cookie press. I also found several good all metal cookies presses sold on Amazon. *Camellia’s Academy of Fine Arts for Polite Society does not exist- though it’s crossed my mind…

Alabama Pralines…

B707ECBF-D6AF-486E-BEEA-F7D6FF44D5F1If you’ve visited any great southern cities, particularly coastal cities such as Charleston, Savannah and New Orleans – chances are you’ve been drawn into a Praline Shop. We southerners call this sweet confection – Praw-leens,  we’ll know right away you aren’t from the south if you call them Pray-leens.  Since we’ve gotten the correct pronunciation out of the way, let me just say, however you pronounce Pralines, you will either love them or say- they’re too sweet!  Eat enough pralines in your lifetime and you will become a praline critic- I complain that some pralines are too grainy- the sugar isn’t smooth enough or sometimes the pecans aren’t toasted enough to suit me. Yet even as I criticize-  I  will stand there and eat a praline until all of the sugary morsel is gone… Every. Single. Time. Why is the South so famous for Pralines?

  • We seem to have a corner on the market of the famous pecan candy.
  • The infamous Southern Sweet Tooth is on full display in that little patty of a   praline.
  • The South grows an abundance of Sugar Cane and we do love our homegrown Pecans.

Still. Food historians tell us that pralines have been made for 100’s of years in the South- getting their start in New Orleans. According to John Egerton’s tome, called Southern Food– he quotes the Picayune Creole Cookbook written in 1901- Pralines are, ‘dainty and delightful confections that have, for upwards of 150 years, delighted…generations of New Orleans…’ Wait a minute! In 1901 they were saying Pralines had been made for 150 years? Crazy, now it’s over 250 years! Egerton goes on to explain that a  French diplomat named Cesar du Plessis-Praslin gave his name to a confection of ‘caramelized almonds and sugar’. Could we pause a minute.. I need to say a prayer of praise- ‘Lord, I’m thankful those Creoles swapped out toasted pecans for the almonds!’ Okay, let’s resume… I want to use my best words to describe pralines-

They are small puddles of caramelized sugar, rich with real butter and thick cream stirred in great copper vats. The fragrance of pralines spills out of candy shops onto sidewalks luring tourists As they watch confectioners with wooden paddles stir the roiling hot sugar to perfection before adding vanilla and exquisitely toasted pecans. On cobbled streets and sidewalks-folks watch in amazement as the hot sugary mass is carefully poured into small patties which become the delectable mass of Southern sweetness, we call Pralines.

4CD9B390-63E7-4059-8A51-EDC222D010DBAlabama isn’t widely known for her pralines- the sweet confections of my youth spun sugar more often into Divinity, Peanut Brittle or a plate of Chocolate Fudge; all of which depended on the weather for success. Humidity is the enemy of granulated sugar in cooked candies. Sugar will do weird things like turn grainy or stiff or sit there and sulk- weeping. I know this to be true- I’ve rarely found a perfect day and  have made enough mistakes to throw out whole batches of candy that weren’t fit to eat.  Recently, I found, a yellowed and fragile newspaper clipping with a recipe for Alabama Pralines stuck in my grandmother’s cookbook. I don’t recall that she ever made them. Perhaps she was unskilled at candy making…though she did revel in making a white mass of sugar studded with pecans into Divinity- only on a crisp, cool and dry day sometime before Christmas.  I recall Mimi saying-

‘Edna Earle brought her divinity. It was hard as a rock- I almost broke a tooth trying to eat a piece! You’d think she’d at least check the barometric pressure before she tried to make divinity!’

Will you allow me to go off on a short tangent? I didn’t have a soft cuddly grandmother…no, she was funny, opinionated, had high standards and might have been the best cook I’ve ever known.  The women’s rights movement in the 1960’s never made much of an impression on Mimi. Why? She’d always been in charge of the men in her life.  Mimi was a spicy Southern Spitfire. Still. To find an unmarked recipe for Alabama Pralines in my grandmother’s cookbook intrigued me. I’ll admit I’m no stranger to making candy-

B3E430F2-2101-4333-A94A-CB3D14962C14Toffee and Caramel are two successful favorites…I’ve rarely attempted making Divinity, for fear it might turn out like poor Edna Earles. I’ve tried making pralines a time or two and failed. Anyway, when I decided to make these Alabama Pralines, it was on the absolute worst day for making candy. It was hot and humid- dark clouds threatened rain. I thought this recipe would surely fail. I made them because of one change from the other recipes I’d tried… the Alabama Praline recipe doesn’t call for granulated sugar! Okay, my sweet tooth had flared up too. It didn’t hurt that I had all of the ingredients and a bit of free time. I am happy to report- the recipe for Alabama Pralines not only worked but as most real deal recipes will tell you- pralines can be stored in the freezer. Now, that’s important because faced with a dozen glorious pralines? Let’s just say- they need to be frozen for health and safety concerns! I know you’ll want to make a batch of-

Alabama Pralines 

  • Toast 3/4 chopped pecans and salt. *Here’s how I do it. Put the pecans on a small baking sheet in a single layer- don’t be shy with the salt. Place the salted pecans in a cold oven, setting the temperature to 350 degrees- when the oven has reached 350 degrees- the pecans are toasted perfectly! Set aside and cool. Meanwhile…
  • Over low heat- Melt one stick of Butter- no substitutes and
  • 1/3 cup of light brown sugar- packed.
  • Cook butter and brown sugar over low heat for 3 minutes- stirring constantly
  • Gradually add 2-3 Tablespoons of Half and Half- (you may substitute evaporated milk or heavy cream) Please don’t add milk to the hot sugar and butter mixture all at once lest it bubble up too much! Now-
  • Still on low heat, bring the butter/ brown sugar/ milk mixture up to a boil.
  • Remove from heat- add 1 Teaspoon of Pure Vanilla Extract stirring completely
  • Add 1 cup of sifted confectioner’s sugar-( I had to add another 1/3 cup to my mixture- this could account for the humidity of the day) Beat confectioner’s sugar in well. If the mixture is too thick, you may add a tiny bit more milk
  • Add salted toasted pecans. Stir in well.
  • Drop from heaping tablespoon into glorious puddles on a cookie sheet lined with silicone mat or wax paper until cool.
  • Wrap in wax paper or parchment paper. Yield – one dozen. *When cooled and wrapped the pralines may be stored in the freezer in an airtight container.

Oh my, I hope you’ll try these Alabama Pralines. I would not double the recipe since candy making is a science and the cooking time may vary to get the right consistency. This recipe’s use of confectioner sugar- created a smooth praline-there was no graininess at all, the toasted and salted pecans offered a welcome relief to the oh so sweet praline mixture. Best of all-  no huge copper kettle or wooden paddle required!  Amazingly, the original recipe also says you can pour the praline mixture into a buttered glass baking dish, cool then cut into squares like fudge! I didn’t try that, I wanted to see if I could actually pull off the dropping into buttery puddles! F9BDBF25-017C-4D1F-89B0-402CBB61FA92

I hope you’ll try making a few batches of Alabama Pralines…apparently they remain fresh in the freezer for 6-8 months. Why, if you make them now… Alabama Pralines can be your effort toward Christmas in July! I’m guessing mine won’t last that long! Oh me…

Love y’all, Camellia F7AF9421-91F6-4B68-BC79-34C5BB48972F

* Crushed pralines are a wonderful topping for ice cream.

*John Egerton, a southern food expert, in his landmark work- ‘Southern Food’ subtitled ‘at Home, on the Road, in History’ (copyright 1987) is one of my all time treasured books, find his remarks about Pralines on page 325.

*All photographs are obviously mine

Finding Peaceful Sanctuary…

‘Now the Lord of peace Himself give you peace by all means. The Lord be with you all.’ Second Thessalonians 3:16

IMG_3645

In this time of national tragedy in Las Vegas, the ongoing damage from flood waters in the U.S.Virgin Islands, and our beautiful island of Puerto Rico, our wonderful states of Texas and Florida as they continue to recover; there are also natural disasters and unrest around the world. When we observe these tragedies, it is human nature to feel a heightened sense of confusion and helplessness. It is important to find peaceful sanctuary in your faith, the verse from II Thessalonians has been a comforting companion for me, so often. I hope you will share your affirmations with me during these difficult days.

I also find peaceful sanctuary in nature, the roses have been uplifting and glorious. I find peaceful sanctuary in beautiful communal spaces, like St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans where we visited last week.

Acts of kindness no matter how small go a long way. When we extend understanding to one another, light a candle or two, share a meal, find language to calm and soothe others- we can stave off feelings of personal helplessness.

Here in this small public space we call Camellia’s Cottage -we believe in offering peaceful sanctuary whenever we can- a place of peace from the world’s upheaval.

  • We believe in promoting goodwill
  • We believe in community
  • We believe in the power of comfort food
  • We believe in lifting spirits whether by the old wise ways or gentle wit and
  • We believe in the strength of human kindness and the power of genuine prayer.

I hope you agree, it is important to find and offer peaceful sanctuary by all means humanly possible wherever you are.

Love y’all, Camellia

  • verse from KJV of the Bible
  • *photograph obviously taken by me in St. Louis Cathedral, on Jackson Square in New Orleans, Louisiana