Camellia’s Favorite Cheese Ball Recipe…

49653C9F-73D3-498D-8708-B1D4F2827009This Cheese Ball recipe is a real time saver. I love it because it keeps well chilled, is able to take on different shapes, even freezes like a dream! And ! A Cheese Ball  seems welcome at any occasion! After school goes back in session, football season begins, then tailgating and fall gatherings and holidays seem to come one right after the other! We all know we’re going to need ‘something to take’ or serve! And let’s face it- hardly anybody passes up Cheese and Crackers! This recipe lends itself to as many variations as you can think of! Change up the variety of cheeses, add walnuts instead of pecans, even add dried cranberries- it’s all up to you! now, you have to admit, these cheese balls shaped like big apples would be fun in the Fall! And while you’re at it- make up several types of cheese balls, logs or rings and save a few in the freezer!7C3C2ED8-11B4-4882-A204-2F35408015F5

Here’s how you make Camellia’s Favorite Cheese Ball-

  • One Pound Sharp Cheddar Cheese- grated
  • 8 ounce package Cream Cheese – softened
  • 1 small onion- finely grated with juice
  • 1 Tbs. Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans (optional)

In  food processor, mix cheeses. Add in Worcestershire, salt and pepper- blend well. By hand, add in pecans until well blended. Shape cheese mixture into 2 large balls and chill. May also shape into logs or into a ring. Chill.

  • Mix together 1 1/2 teaspoons mild paprika and 1/2 teaspoon cayenne. With a fine mesh strainer, sift over cheese balls or logs- even small appetizer size balls served with toothpicks! Serve with assorted crackers. If shaped into a ring, fill with strawberry, cherry or fig preserves. * Strawberry is my favorite!

*For variation, roll cheese balls in finely chopped pecans. Or as another variation- use 12 ounces of Sharp Cheddar and 4 ounces of Cheddar Jack and proceed as above. **These cheese balls freeze well, however- wait to sprinkle with paprika mixture before serving for a prettier presentation.0B3B06E0-84E5-4D1A-BCA1-8A2D2D828C32

One of my favorite ways to serve these cheese balls, is to roll them into apple shapes and cut small branches with a leaf or two attached- just make sure the branch is safe and pesticide free. Cheese balls are wonderful all year round on charcuterie boards,  though especially good for fall gatherings, tail gating, a Halloween buffets and all the way through the holiday season!

Love y’all, Camellia

*photographs are obviously mine!

 

 

Summer Tomato Cobbler…

28BCE555-D761-4B22-93D9-A97676BAA990Summer Tomato Cobbler is a new take on an already fabulous Tomato Pie! Last year, I shared with you how to make my sister’s tomato pie which has been declared by me and many others as the very best recipe for this unique delicious savory pie which is probably specific to Alabama! So why make a Summer Tomato Cobbler? Well…a classic tomato pie is juicy, oozing with cheese and the sour cream filling is amazing; so I wanted to see if making the same recipe into Cobbler form would make it easier to cut, hold it’s shape and also be served to a crowd. The result was the same flavors, yet with a taste all its own and I’ll admit- I want y’all to try both of these delicious pies! The Summer Tomato Cobbler is a bit easier to assemble and rustic- my sister’s Tomato Pie is a more refined and luscious one crust pie, yet both are sure to please especially when summer tomatoes are available! Actually, I’d never make either pie without vine ripe tomatoes!

87C53B8B-A4F9-4E6F-B41B-9A045CA737B5Here’s how you make Summer Tomato Cobbler- You will need:

  • 3 Summer Tomatoes- I used a mix of one ripe Chandler Mountain* Tomato, one under ripe tomato (even a green tomato would work) and one Roma Tomato. Cut these into at least 1/2” slices.
  • One single crust pie crust dough (I used prepared dough for test purposes which was flat and round to fit a regular 9” pie.)
  • 8 ounces of sour cream
  • 1/4 to 1/3 cup of a good mayonnaise
  • 1/3 cup of green onion tops
  • 8-10 fresh Basil leaves
  • 2 cups of finely shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese
  • 1/2- 3/4 cup of finely shredded Pepper Jack Cheese
  • Fresh cracked pepper and sea salt

To prepare Summer Tomato Cobbler-

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • You will need a 9×9 square glass baking pan.
  • Combine sour cream, mayonnaise and green onion tops, for the filling.  Set aside.
  • Blend together the finely shredded cheeses. Set aside.
  • On a lightly floured surface or marble surface- roll out prepared pie crust very thin- approximately 1/4 inch- into a flat round approximately 12” in diameter.  Cut center of dough into an 8×8 inch square. Save scrap dough to layer the Cobbler.
  • In the bottom of the baking dish, place half of the tomato slices to cover the bottom. * In a bottom crust tomato pie, the difference is that the tomatoes are peeled and drained- there’s no need to do this with the Cobbler.
  • Evenly place half of the Basil leaves over the tomatoes, lightly sprinkle tomatoes with cracked black pepper ( do not salt the tomatoes, the cheeses and filling add enough seasoning)
  • Dollop tomatoes evenly with half of the sour cream filling and 1/2 of the blended cheeses.
  • Top this layer with all of the scraps of pie dough.
  • Next, repeat second layer of tomatoes, following the same order as the first layer- yet topping with the 8 inch square crust carefully placing the dough right on top of the cheeses.
  • Press this square dough topper slightly to make contact with the cheese. *This is an important step! The cheese and dough bake together to make a wonderful top crust!
  • Lightly spread top crust with butter. Cut slits in the top of crust, then lightly sprinkle the dough with sea salt.
  • Bake at 400 degrees for approximately 45 minutes or until top crust is a beautiful golden brown and cheese is bubbly. May take up to one hour.
  • Allow Summer Tomato Cobbler to cool slightly before serving in squares. * Makes 9 generous squares.

1E2D4303-3A40-4451-858D-DFE1AAAC6149Take a look at that upper crust! It’s flaky yet dense with cheese flavor! And the tomatoes took on a roasted flavor! I’ll admit, I couldn’t stop at just one serving!

So, what did I serve with this Summer Tomato Cobbler? Fresh field peas, slices of mild sweet onions and jalapeño cheddar corn muffins! It was a take on the south’s famous vegetable plates! If you must have meat- this Summer Tomato Cobbler would go well with grilled fish, baked pork chops, stuffed peppers, meatloaf or a cool slice of ham! Other sides which would be a wonderful wilted spinach salad, a mixed green salad lightly dressed, even stuffed eggs would be delicious too!

28BCE555-D761-4B22-93D9-A97676BAA990Summer Tomato Cobbler would be at home for Sunday dinner, a ladies luncheon or on a summer buffet table! It’s also wonderful at room temperature! If you want to have a variation- Feel free to add crumbled bacon or finely chopped ham to your tomato cobbler! The main thing is to enjoy summer’s best bounty- the fresh tomato! And never forget- the closer you live to a Tomato Vine the better your Life will be!

Love y’all, Camellia

* I used prepared dough for testing purposes and because not everyone has the time or inclination to make pie crust from scratch- can I make my own pie dough? You bet I can! And I do feel it would be wonderful! I also think this cobbler might be absolutely fabulous made with green tomatoes too! * Chandler Mountain Tomatoes are highly prized- grown specifically in a mountainous region of northeast Alabama- right here in our own county!8B47A286-B10D-44F4-A499-9D1A73B5FD39

Puttin’ Up the Garden…

88720A63-524D-4A26-A6F4-B2F025138F29It’s that time of year when everything planted in the spring seems to be ripe now! Folks used to say- ‘everything’s comin’ in at the same time!’ When it comes to Puttin’ Up the Garden’ if you get a minute to sit down, you’re shellin’ beans or shuckin’ corn or lookin’ through bushels of fruits and vegetables to cull out the ones with bruises or bad spots! Those bits and pieces are used to make up meals during ‘Puttin’ Up the Garden’ time… And every single able body is put to work!

Why, my mother used to go to a beauty parlor where while the ladies’ waiting to get permanent waves or get a cut and curl… were snapping green beans or shelling lima beans! And… the men weren’t off the hook either! Years ago, my husband’s barber must have had a bossy wife because the men were also pressed into shelling peas service! They wanted everything ‘right ready to put up’ ! When someone bought a deep freeze,  it was an occasion and if you had more than one? Well… it would be full too! Canning and freezing were necessary chores! More than one lady would have a horror story about a pressure cooker explosion or a canning disaster… yet they pressed on. One of my favorite things about ‘everything’s comin’ in at the same time!’  is how creative folks got with the bits and pieces of vegetables-EF54ADD3-9EA8-4F51-ABD4-140551DAE2EC

  • Mixed fruits were either canned together, or my favorite frozen!
  • Thick soup mixes were made from extra corn, beans, onions, okra and tomatoes; onions and bell peppers were diced, bagged and frozen;
  • Let’s not forget all kinds of vegetables were either processed into Pickles or Refrigerator Pickles- cucumbers, green tomatoes and even Peaches!
  • Some things were dried too!  I have a friend who told of a bumper crop of peaches… the kids would either have to stand over the peaches laid out on big tables and fan the flies or they’d spread a sheet in the back of her daddy’s big station wagon! Don’t you know that car smelled like heaven?
  • Pecans are often shelled, then frozen (I keep them in my freezer all the time! They stay fresh much longer!) When pecan are needed- I toast them with butter and salt to bring out the flavor. Delicious!
  • Peanuts are either boiled.. yes! or dried in an even layer then ‘parched’  which is another way of saying…roasted in the shell.

Anyway, the point is, nothing was wasted- if something stood still long enough it was gonna be used up in one way or another!   Generally, because the season is warm and we don’t get heavy frosts, folks plant leafy greens and root vegetables to be harvested in the fall. I know I’ve got some spring lettuce seeds that I’ll be sowing as soon as the mornings are cool.66E21BDD-14CF-4E99-8DF2-521DFDEB8B89

Now, keep in mind- with all of summer’s flurry of activity – meals still had to be put on the table! As hot as it always is… cool salads and sandwiches are often made up for the midday or evening meal. Potato Salad stuffed scattered with cherry tomatoes along with saltine crackers is still one of my favorites; cool and easy pimento cheese, egg salad, chicken salad or our famous tomato sandwiches were easy to prepare and eaten quickly. Even soups or salads topped with Crumbled Bacon is quick and easy with no long cooking time to heat up the kitchen or take up valuable stovetop space!35CD2C7C-CA07-4DD2-8ED9-534B04E9E5D4

 

55A44958-63F9-4523-90DB-9DC8384D3029Combinations of extra vegetables were cooked, roasted or used for toppings. Grilled meats nestled with roasted and fresh vegetables are a new take, still with the thought of making use of every bit of garden goodness!

To this day I love my grandmother’s quick and easy combination of Zucchini, tomatoes and onions. She was ahead of her time using zucchini- her favorite vegetable stand was run by an Italian family- I recall the very day he convinced her to try zucchini! Here’s how she made Mimi’s Zucchini and Tomatoes

  •  One or two small zucchini, a tomato or two and thick slices of onions layered in a skillet or a glass bakcing dish with no water
  • Just covered loosely with a lid or foil.
  • Steamed with salt and pepper, then topped with shredded Cheddar Cheese while it’s hot-
  • You will not believe how this simple dish is so loaded with flavor!
  • This is a family favorite and one of the best examples of using small amounts of garden vegetables while the big lots are processed for the winter months.

I do love to make a batch of pico de gallo, yet my favorite mix might be an Italian style mixture made of basil, tomatoes, green onion and bell pepper with red pepper flakes for a bit of heat-mixed lightly with red wine vinegar and olive oil.. Top a warm batch of spaghetti and meat sauce with this mixture seems to cools it down for fresh flavor and summertime eating!  56A31DA8-D2FD-443E-B394-6BB755FDAC13

And while I’m at it- we generally have a bumper crop of hot and mild peppers. I make up pepper sauce with the slender hot types yet also love to dry them for my own red pepper flakes! E86E4D33-A76C-45C7-8B52-B7076A637023

And! If you love Stuffed Bell Peppers try this-

  • Don’t blanch the peppers-
  • Rinse and pat dry. Seed, core and slice them in half lengthwise…
  • Fill with a fresh ground meat mixture, similar to meatloaf – or any mixture you enjoy- an all vegetable mixture with rice would be wonderful too!
  • Place the uncooked stuffed peppers in a single layer on a sheet pan and freeze them! Place the frozen Stuffed Bell Peppers in a freezer safe bag and store for a few weeks.
  • No need to thaw, place them in a baking dish- at 350 degrees…
  • When the juices are flowing and the filling seems almost done- a squiggle of tomato sauce or ketchup on the top finishes them off.
  • From freezer to oven,  in less than 45 minutes you have a wonderful meal!
  • Hint: I often shred cabbage into the bottom of the pan and nestle the stuffed peppers in so they stay upright while cooking …the resulting cabbage is amazing!

EDD7042D-FD0B-4547-901D-B602B167B97F  And last but certainly not least is Shoe Peg Corn Salad… Simply made with several ears of corn cut from the cob, chopped or cherry tomatoes, purple onion, bell pepper and cucumber all small diced is a no cook salad that’s sure to please anyone! 3C813151-0A79-4973-A1A2-3F2FD7A9D150

Dressing Mix is easy-

  • Six or eight ounces of sour cream
  • Several tablespoons of mayonnaise with the zest and juice of a lemon
  • Cracked black pepper and salt to taste.

You can make up the dressing made right in the bowl- it’s a cool and easy side dish or even on it’s own with saltine crackers… it’s amazing! And the best part is- you don’t even have to turn on the oven to make it!

Here’s hoping while you’re putting up the goodness of your vegetable gardens, you’ll enjoy cool, fresh meals along the way! I know we are!

Love y’all, Camellia

*All photographs are obviously mine!

Summer Tomatoes in the South…

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

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

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

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

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

Love y’all, Camellia

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

The Glory Bower…

22B6237F-FFBE-463B-8F4A-1D051176A07FJust when the heat of summer slows me down to a southern drawl… a miracle happens. It sneaks up on me every year. When hydrangeas blossoms look like tight pincurls, and roses sit and sulk- fed up with the humidity; the porch ferns whine for church fans and ice water, even the impatiens lay down their heads and weep… that’s when the Glory Bower Trees quietly begin to bloom.

Hummingbird wings whir around her. Butterflies flitter on her pale green shoulders. Fat Bumblebees stir slowly around like plump fairy godmothers- coaxing the lacy summer ballgown onto Glory Bower. Her ladies in waiting, the crepe myrtles, have on raspberry or shocking pink corsages. When every other flowering thing closes up shop for harvest, the Glory Bower is just getting started; dabbed with a faint honeysuckle fragrance. Glory Bower is the real southern belle, never breaks a sweat, not one bead of perspiration. Glory Bowers put down deep roots- they’re my sweet homebodies, staying close to my windows so I can chaperone and gaze as the miracle unfolds.7E302FAB-3BE8-4229-9FF8-189F4DB356BF

If you ever find yourself wondering if Mother Nature stills performs miracles, just look to the Glory Bower- which blooms as fresh as spring, cool as a cucumber, sweet as honeysuckle in the scorching heat of summer. Wishing you a day filled with sunshine, the faint fragrance of gardenias, magnolias and honeysuckle and if you’re really blessed a faint whisper of butterflies, bumblebees and hummingbirds circling around a Glory Bower and who knows? Maybe an evening’s worth of a gentle rain…

Love y’all, Camellia

*All photographs are obviously mine. This post in a very edited form was first published as ‘Glorious July Miracles…’ right here on Camellia’s Cottage in July of 2016, photographs for this version have been edited as well and new ones added from this year’s Glory Bower. The proper name for Glory Bower is Clerodendrum, which we pronounce ‘Clair O Dendrum’. Since I live in St. Clair County, it seems to me… as much as I love this precious tree that it should be the official tree of my home county! The lacy blooms which attract butterflies, hummingbirds and bees in the heat of summer… fruits in the fall as a dark blueberry seed surrounded by magenta petals literally cover the Glory Bower then provides much needed food for the birds during our hot dry late summer and early fall. My original tree was rooted and given to me by an old gardener and I wouldn’t take anything for the ones who have sprouted around the cottage.

2E54E24D-A800-45F0-AD06-31F7BF2B987D

Aunt Mary Sue’s Lemon Cheese Cake

3AF218EB-F82A-4832-9094-8DAD05EB30A5My Aunt Mary Sue’s Lemon Cheese Cake was not a cheesecake, it was not a very well behaved cake nor was it a particularly beautiful cake. Mary Sue’s Lemon Cheese Cake was… a special occasion cake for our family, it was a cake we dearly loved and  a unique cake that frankly I have only found three other recipes for Lemon Cheese Cake! Believe me- I have tried! Lemon Cheese Cake may be specific to my home state, Alabama. All four recipes were recorded by Alabamians! Two famous chefs, who originated in Alabama-  Scott Peacock and Virginia Willis, fondly recall this delicious cake and included it in their cookbooks; then- I found a very similar cake named White Moon Cake in an obscure church cookbook that was compiled by church mothers, fairground workers, military cooks and domestic cooks.

So, what is Aunt Mary Sue’s Lemon Cheese Cake? It is a white layer cake, filled and frosted with a thick Lemon Curd. I fully believe the ‘curd’ was exchanged in terms- to ‘cheese’ since this recipe is well over 75 years old, perhaps older than that! Now, Aunt Mary Sue was actually my great aunt, she was my grandmother’s younger sister. I loved her, she was fashionable and had an incredible sense of humor- she was also the keeper of this recipe and the designated baker of Lemon Cheese Cake.  Mimi also, in a rare departure of recording recipes, actually wrote down the recipe for the Lemon Cheese Filling  and added my aunt’s shortcut of using a white layer cake mix – with a few tweaks Mary Sue apparently made. You need to know that Mimi was a purist when it came to her own baking, the recipes she wrote down rarely were recipes she never intended to use, and believe me- she never planned to bake a Lemon Cheese Cake herself! That was Mary Sue’s specialty. And! Here’s what I know for sure… Mary Sue’s recipe for the Lemon Curd or Lemon Cheese Filling has never failed, not even once! I’ve used it to make Lemon Curd without even baking the cake! So! Here’s how you make-8B48E839-FBE5-4F59-8592-2C4A16D68DB1

‘Aunt Mary Sue’s Lemon Cheese Filling’

  • Butter – 1/2 cup or 2 sticks
  • 2 cups granulated Sugar
  • 6 Egg Yolks (use large eggs)
  • Zest of 2 Large Lemons
  • Juice of 2 Large Lemons

In a double boiler, mix all ingredients over hot water (not boiling) until thick. Stirring often. This process may take up to 30 minutes. Lemon curd will generally thicken at 200 degrees F on a candy thermometer. Store tightly sealed until chilled.

* For filling and frosting a Lemon Cheese Cake, up to one extra stick of butter may be added, while Lemon Curd is still warm- cut butter into small cubes and add gradually. This recipe may be doubled, yet it takes a good bit longer- therefore I generally make two batches. To use the lemon curd or filling as an icing…it is enough to spread on two 8 or 9 inch layers and I suppose because the egg yolks were used in the filling- the cake was always a white layer cake. 425E2FAD-E423-4103-AE8E-F03A1C2D29A3

To assemble the Lemon Cheese Cake is a matter I’ve struggled with and apparently so did Chef Peacock and Chef Willis- they say to insert wooden skewers on the cake as it tends to shift and that is oh so true! And Chef Willis may have altered it a bit for a more stable cake.

What I did differently was- I put the two 9 inch layers of white cake in the freezer and actually iced the frozen layers with the lemon filling still chilled slightly.

Why did I freeze the layers? Well, my Uncle Charles had an ice house… his sister Mary Sue would keep the Lemon Cheese Cake in the ice box at home and if the special occasion was at Uncle Charles’ house- the cake was held in the Ice House until we were ready to serve it. I recall that the cake didn’t languish on the sideboard- it was cut into slices waiting to be served and I still recommend it that way. (It might also be wonderful made into one layer cakes as well, to avoid the landslide effect! )

Lemon Cheese Cake was almost always served with a seasonal fruit- strawberries or peaches were a summer favorite, in the winter when citrus fruits were available, Aunt Mary Sue’s Lemon Cheese Cake was served alongside a simple citrus ambrosia of orange sections with fresh grated coconut; this cake and my grandmother’s pound cake were our family’s favorites. I have to say, my grandmother kept a tight rein on who added dishes to the meals, so I strongly suspect that Lemon Cheese Cake was a recipe she and my Aunt Mary Sue may have learned from the cooks in the childhood home. How and why this cake hasn’t survived to become a southern classic may be due to the difficulty of leaving this wonderful cake on a sideboard to be admired otherwise it is a mystery to me! I’ve seen variations that come close, yet with the exceptions of these two wonderful chefs and the church ladies’ cookbooks whose recipes are very close to Aunt Mary Sue’s this is considered by me to be an heirloom recipe and one I’m thrilled to have. If you don’t make the cake- at least hang on to the Lemon Filling…it’s the best Lemon Curd I’ve ever tasted!

Love y’all, Camellia

*All photographs are obviously mine! *Some recommend straining the lemon curd after it’s made- I personally enjoy the lemon zest in it!

Bighearted Grits…

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

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

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

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

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

‘How many people will that pot of grits feed?

‘Oh honey, it will feed multitudes.’

 

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

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

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

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

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

Love y’all, Camellia

*All photographs are obviously mine!

Beaches of Alabama

8CE602A6-47CD-47EE-988D-3AD9CD5D388DMaybe it’s the to and fro of the tide that pull us south to the Beaches of Alabama… Our hearts yearn for it. Perhaps Southern Saltwater flows in our veins; we need the Gulf’s infusion every now and then. To stand in the sea casting a line or in solitude as the ever patient Egret watching the horizon…

The ancient rhythm of the tides echo the soul’s heartbeat. White Sugar Sands gently scrub our bare feet of ordinary workday cares…

Gulf Breezes clear our heads to dream of sandcastles again; built in a day- gone the next.  Yet always worth the temporary wonder…4280158F-0438-4EBA-B088-1ACE439CBE38

‘Patience, patience, patience, is what the sea teaches. Patience and faith. One should be empty, open, choiceless as a beach- waiting for the gift from the sea.’ Anne Morrow Lindbergh

A sunrise walk. A perfect shell. Tiny sandpipers chasing seawater…running out, scampering back on twiggy feet while the ocean plays it’s foamy game. Beaches of Alabama- the jeweled land of Royal Reds, Brown Pelicans, Crystal White Sand, Sapphire Skies and Emerald Water.

We are like Boats waiting…Rocking our silent lullabies. Tethered, waiting to be set free- to sail away to the Beaches of Alabama. 04687649-5A23-40C6-B25F-A010BF0E832A

Stunning sunsets, breathtaking colors- then gently the air, sky and water turn to shimmering priceless Twilight’s Gold.

Take a child, a sweetheart, old friends or heartache to the Beaches of Alabama… patiently wait for the enchantment to begin…

‘Alabama just breaks my heart- it’s so pretty, it just breaks my heart into little pieces’ Michael Lee West

Here in our Sweet Home Alabama, summer vacations, we know- the Beaches of Alabama have their own special magic- a tonic all year round. Salt Air, Sunlight and Gulf Waters- refresh, renew, heal and restore…

Love y’all, Camellia

*All of these glorious stunning photographs are the sole property of Jeremy Miniard. We are perpetually grateful for his generosity in sharing them with us! Find Jeremy at jeremy.miniard.fineartsofamerica.com

*Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s quote is from her landmark work- ‘Gift of the Sea’. * The absolutely true quote…’Alabama is so pretty… it breaks my heart in tiny pieces’ by Michael Lee West is from her wonderful and zany book set in Alabama…’ Mermaids in the Basement.’ Both would be tremendous beach reads this summer!

*Beaches of Alabama was first written here on Camellia’s Cottage in July 2017 and has been slightly edited and updated. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

 

Camellia’s Peach Cobbler…

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Love y’all, Camellia

* All photographs are obviously mine!

Camellia’s Southern Lemonade…

499FDD87-DCF8-4370-A106-5CB0841C9D0FLemonade was so common in the South that finding a recipe for it is almost impossible! We just knew how to make it- and when we did …it was usually for a picnic or a special occasion. Believe it or not even Orangeade was first made from real oranges. And then…it was mass produced. Local milkmen delivered small glass bottled orangeade and lemonade with a paper tab, that children drank at school and vacation Bible School alongside cookies which I still recall as a delicious combination! Only a few years later, mass produced lemonade and orangeade in wax paper cartons large and small were available.  With the space age came mass produced citrus drinks and powdered versions of fruit flavored  drinks like Tang or Koolaid; we loved those drinks too… anything to quench thirst in hot humid climates. Still. There’s nothing really to compare with homemade southern lemonade.

AD871F7F-F103-4839-AB18-019C22FD3E5FThese days, I find myself craving the real thing, real southern lemonade- I’ve conjured it up from memory and honestly, it’s worth the effort- and really? There’s very little effort to it, and believe me a pitcher of homemade lemonade will make anyday feel like a special occasion! Here’s how you make Camellia’s Southern Lemonade:

  • Zest of 2 Lemons
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup of fresh squeezed Lemon juice (approximately 4-6 medium size lemons)
  • 4 cups chilled water
  • Ice.
  • Mint leaves, lemon and lime slices for garnish are optional. Also optional- add a few maraschino cherries and a tablespoon of cherry liquid to make Pink Lemonade.

In a small saucepan, combine lemon zest, sugar and 1 cup of water. On low heat bring to a simmer until sugar has completely dissolved, to make a lemon flavored sugar syrup. Strain and chill. In a pitcher, thoroughly combine 1 cup of lemon juice and 4 cups of chilled water. Add chilled lemon sugar syrup, again, until thoroughly combined. Add plenty of ice and garnish as desired.499FDD87-DCF8-4370-A106-5CB0841C9D0F

Now y’all, the sugar syrup is easy to make- you can keep it in a glass jar with a tight lid in your refrigerator for at least a week, maybe longer…Believe me, you’ll be glad you did! Here’s hoping your summer is the best ever with lots of Real Southern Lemonade alongside a few nostalgic cookies!

Love yall, Camellia

* All photographs are obviously mine. * Koolaid and Tang are registered trademarks. *And, here’s a sneak peek at an upcoming Instagram image and short story- if you get a chance check out our feed there too! We’re having lots of fun!616FFD83-4940-47F3-A4C2-3A9A87ACAC0D