The People’s Princess…

IMG_3366I read with interest several articles concerning the commemoration of Princess Diana’s passing twenty years ago.  Along with that, I never get quite used to it, but here at Camellia’s Cottage, unexpected things happen. A beautiful vase of White Roses was delivered here by a prince of a young man along with a cake iced with White Cream Cheese Frosting made by his beautiful mother. It was a sweet bereavement gift. Why, I felt like royalty!

IMG_0170I’m not sure what kind of cake the People’s Princess preferred (though I bet she would have loved this one!) yet I do know that a White Garden was planted at Kensington Palace to honor Diana and included White Roses, which were purported to be her favorite flower. Can I just say here, that while we live in an humble cottage not a palace, when the heavy fragrance of white gardenias, lemony sweet magnolias and the distinct scent of honeysuckle hangs in the air, I admit I too, love white flowers! White flower gardens are beautifully mysterious. White bridal bouquets, white orchids, white cotton boll wreaths, white spring bulbs and yes, white roses- all conjure up precious memories.

IMG_3364 For the People’s Princess, millions of flowers were laid at the gates of this same palace after Diana’s tragic death, it has been reported that the fresh flowers were donated to hospitals and nursing homes, the wilted flowers were collected and saved in a special compost pile. Now, 20 years later, the compost has been used to mulch the beautifully restored sunken garden at Kensington Palace, now planted with…

  • White Roses,
  • White Lilies,
  • White Tulips,
  • White Daisies and of course
  • Forget-Me-Nots- To honor Princess Diana all year round.

When her clothing was researched it became clear the People’s Princess had a preference for White Clothing- Crisp White Blouses worn with jeans and  Evening Gowns embellished with Pearls seem to have shown off Diana’s natural beauty like no other color.

Like millions of others, I have been fascinated by her life; not only a stunning beauty who adored her children, Diana was also kind and generous in public causes and by private means. Her sons recalled midnight visits to hospitals and hundreds of private notes to folks who were infirm or dying. These were unexpected acts of kindness. I found myself thinking of the White Roses which found their way as an unexpected gift to Camellia’s Cottage on the very day of Diana’s commemoration; I thought of the time and care freely given to bake a homemade cake, the extravagant bouquet of Roses, the good thoughts expressed and the private kindnesses. IMG_3365

We had received a lovely gift, along with so many other sweet gifts, notes, cards and calls. Of all of the human characteristics I hold dear-

  • Effervescent Concern,
  • Enthusiastic Love and
  • Extravagant Kindness are above all.

When we exhibit these qualities- we best reflect the nature of the King of Kings.  I have, thankfully been the recipient of them all! I am inspired to re-double my efforts to exhibit these qualities and plan to fully enjoy Life’s unexpected gifts! As two decades have passed, the People’s Princess’ legacy lives on in a beautiful white palace garden and shows up best when we Common Folk show love, concern and kindness.

Love y’all, CamelliaIMG_3366

* All photographs of White Roses are obviously mine.

Early Fall Flavors…

IMG_3356

In the South, we don’t get a nip in the air signaling Fall as other regions do- we see the signs of Early Fall by what is ripening– Figs, Pecans, Muscadines, Pears and Peanuts are just a few. Most Southern households of my youth kept Pickup Foods on hand for visitors or an afternoon snack- you know, just in case you feel your sugar drop or if you’re in a fog.  A Pound Cake, Fresh Fruit, Roasted Pecans,  Cheese Straws and perhaps a spicy snack like old fashioned Raisin Bars.  IMG_3350

With early Fall upon us, we don’t want the heavy flavors of Winter but we do enjoy a change of pace as long as we don’t have to heat up the kitchen too much! Raisin Bars or a variation is found in quite old cookbooks- they are not very sweet, easy to make and quick cleanup. The method for making our Raisin Bars is unique and lends itself to variations.

Camellia’s Cottage Raisin Bars

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Sift 2 cups of all purpose flour, 1 cup of sugar, 1 tsp. ground cinnamon, 1/2 tsp. ground cloves and 1/2 tsp. of salt.
  • Combine 1 cup of dried raisins, 1 cup of water and 1 stick of butter in a saucepan on low heat until butter melts. Add 1 tsp. of vanilla.
  • Then add 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda, mixture will foam up.
  • Quickly stir flour mixture into warm butter/raisin mixture. It will be a ‘wet mix’ and not a stiff dough.
  • * If you use a large saucepan, these can be mixed in one pan!IMG_3147
  • Spread immediately onto a buttered parchment lined cookie sheet with a low rim. Spread as thin as possible.
  • *I used another piece of parchment to make sure the dough is pressed to the edges of the pan. Please make sure it is thin as the Raisin Bar Cookies will not be good if the dough is thick.
  • Bake at 375 degrees for 22-25 minutes. Do not overbake.
  • Dust with powdered sugar, then cut into bars while they are warm. 

  • Raisin Bar Cookies are not very sweet and lend themselves well as a Cheese Board addition.
  • *Variations are numerous- these can be a ‘clean out the pantry’ bar cookie! Dried Cranberries and Walnuts instead of raisins is very good.
  • Or make the bar cookies without raisins, adding 1/4 tsp. of ground ginger, a fine grating of fresh nutmeg and 1/4 tsp. of finely ground black pepper to dry mixture. After the dough has been spread in the pan, sprinkle chocolate chips evenly over the dough, and press in slightly before baking- this is an excellent combination! I am sure you can come up with even more additions!IMG_3360

Camellia’s Cottage Toasted Pecans literally take just minutes to make and if you don’t hide them they are gone in minutes.

  • Melt 1/2 stick of butter in a medium saucepan. Swirl 2 cups of pecan halves in melted butter. Spread evenly on a baking sheet. Bake in a 250 degree oven for 30 minutes. Salt to taste. *Watch carefully during roasting. Pecans will be darker when they are toasted, but certainly not burnt! *Store cooled roasted pecans in tins, jars or airtight container- IF there are any left!  IMG_3351

Pecans are literally eaten all over the world; yet by far, the Southern United States consumes more Pecans than any other region! In Alabama, from the Eastern shore of Mobile Bay toward Foley, there are old groves of Pecan Trees which are famous!IMG_3355

Figs were brought here by the Spaniards and while California is the largest producer. Spaniards helped settle the South, so we continue to be influenced by their food and flavors. Many old Southern Homestead Farms boast at least one Fig Tree; Celeste Fig Tree is an excellent and reliable variety that can be grown successfully in the South.  The farm my husband grew up on had a very prolific fig tree close to the house.  Southerners love fresh figs, dried figs and fig preserves- and fig leaves are so beautiful on food platters! One of my favorite Early Fall savory dishes is to nestle Figs, Sweet Onions and Apples around a Pork Roast. *Add garlic, apple cider, salt and pepper- this is a truly amazing main dish. The Flavors of Early Fall are in the air here at Camellia’s Cottage but we still want the Fresh Flavors of Summer. IMG_3356

The combination of Fresh Figs, Roasted Pecans, early Mandarins and cool Raisin Bars seems to be a perfect summer platter, along with a long tall glass of Lemonade, Iced Tea or even Wine, perhaps a cool Chicken Salad Sandwich or a bowl of Pimento Cheese and crackers- it’s a light refreshing Lunch or Supper of Early Fall Flavor!

Love y’all, Camellia

*We continue to pray for the wonderful Folks of lower Texas and along western portion of the Gulf Coast, this area and her people play a critical role in U.S. Oil and Gas production not to mention our beloved Texas Fruits and Nuts, Citrus, Gulf Seafood and more… please join us in sending good thoughts their way, and give to the American Red Cross and other recovery efforts if you can.

Fried Okra…

img_3323.jpgFried Okra! This Southern Favorite has been around as long as anyone can remember and without exception is remembered fondly! So fondly that one friend named her precious little Dog, Okra. I’ve been told that a man who had a particular fondness for Okra named his two daughters Okra and Hibiscus! (Okra plants bear Hibiscus-like blossoms and are in the same plant family!) Those were brilliant names; a guarantee that everyone would love those girls! However, Okra is an acquired taste for anyone who was born outside of the South- there are whines that it is slimy (and it is slimy unless it’s fried)  Folks also wonder ‘Why anyone would eat Okra!’ Well, okra that is not fried, is used to thicken the finest gumbos, the best pots of vegetable soups, and a pod or two placed on the top of a pan of simmering Field Peas, Baby Limas or Speckled Butterbeans- makes the broth thicker with a distinct flavor that cannot be achieved by any other means. South Carolina touts Okra Soup- a comfort food for them, associated with being home… A friend who is an only child– (this is an important point)- had one grandmother who would fry up a mess of okra, put it in a large bowl and he would eat it like popcorn! Many have actually dubbed Fried Okra as Southern Popcorn. IMG_3320

The most difficult part of making Fried Okra is having enough fried okra to begin with, then actually getting a full platter to the table! Folks will actually stand in the kitchen while it’s frying and eat it right as it’s being pulled out of the hot grease! So, rule 1- Don’t let anyone in the kitchen when you’re frying Okra!

I believe the very best Okra is no longer than the average size pinky finger in length. *If it is longer, discard or cut the bottom part as larger Okra can be woody and tough.  And the quicker you fry it after it’s picked the better it will be!

Everyone has their own method of frying Okra, always in hot grease; How to bread or batter Okra before frying can be debated. All I can say is that I don’t like a heavy batter on Okra as it can get soggy. Actually, I don’t batter Okra at all, I don’t flour it, I don’t just dust it with cornmeal– I whisk a bit of salt with 1/3 part Corn Starch to 2/3 part Self Rising Cornmeal, soft grind and white meal. *Using Corn Starch is my grandmother’s secret! It makes Fried Okra stay crisp longer! IMG_3305

Camellia’s Cottage Fried Okra

  • Buy the freshest small Okra pods you can find.
  • To prepare Okra:  Cut the pods of Okra in 1/4″ to 1/2″ pieces
  • Dredge them in the Cornmeal/Corn Starch ( 1/3 part Corn Starch/ 2/3 part Cornmeal and pinch of Salt Mixture) immediately.
  • Don’t make the mistake of cutting the okra, salting it in prep time and letting it sit before dredging it in your choice of a Cornmeal Batter or dusting it in the Meal Mix
  • *Salt and Time cause the Okra to weep slimy tears!
  • Some say and I believe it- if you refrain from cutting the tops off of the Okra Pods and instead cut okra slices from the end of the pod toward the top- then discard the tops, there is less chance of weeping. IMG_3318
  • Fry the cut and dusted Okra in Hot Oil, Shortening or even Lard which is at least one inch deep in a Cast Iron Pan until golden brown and crispy (Okra doesn’t like to be crowded or it won’t be crispy! So plan to fry in small batches.
  • Drain on paper towels or even better a brown paper bag!
  • Season with additional Salt before serving as Hot as possible!

Now, if you want to make sure you have enough for folks to enjoy, buy lots of Okra at the Farmer’s Market!  Allow a whopping 1-2 lbs per person! *Any leftover Corn Meal Mixture and a few pods of Okra- add a whisked egg and a bit of water or milk and thinly sliced okra to make a loose batter which will in turn make wonderful Okra Patties! IMG_3322

You may be wondering what we eat with Fried Okra, the answer is actually everything… a few months ago, one of my dearest friends and I ate at a BBQ dive which also serves our beloved Southern Vegetable Plates! When I ordered my BBQ sandwich, my ‘choose any side’ was Fried Okra!

  • Oh yum, BBQ plates with cool slaw, fried okra and baked beans- wonderful combo!
  • Fried Okra is a wonderful addition to an all Vegetable Plate- Fresh Field Peas, Macaroni and Cheese and Sliced Summer Tomatoes.
  • Fried Okra is unexpected when tossed on top of Soup, Gumbo or Salad instead of Croutons! Fried Okra also makes a wonderful topping for Shrimp and Grits
  • A side of Fried Okra is  great with Chicken and Dumplings.  Alongside Meat Loaf, Pork Chops or Country Fried Steak with Gravy and Rice, Fried Okra is perfect!

In fact Fried Okra elevates any meal to a Southern Specialty! If you go to the Farmer’s Market this weekend, get some fresh Okra for Sunday Supper! Fried Okra, Country Ham, Butterbeans, yes Ma’am!

Love y’all, Camellia

Please join Camellia’s Cottage in praying for the residents and emergency workers of entire Coastal and Lower South which may be affected by Hurricane Harvey. * Fried Okra, Country Ham…is a play on a famous fraternity ditty *All photographs are obviously mine! *I use Argo Corn Starch but this is not a paid advertisement for the brand

The Perils of Leaving Home…

vintage old car pic- jeremy 1When Southerners leave home- they face certain perils that have to do with customs, language barriers, expectations and leading a sheltered life. I’m talking about travel within the continuous United States, not abroad. It’s a given that travelling abroad brings it own set of perils. Southerners-

  •  Talk slower, our conversations have a certain twang,
  • We tend to expect good manners, we like to wave and look folks in the eye, and smile smile smile-
  • And let’s face it a Southern lady is going to flirt, unless she’s dowdy, plain and prim- even then, another region might bring out her innate abilities. I know it’s unlikely, but still, it could happen.

I love New York, Philadelphia and Boston; have been to each of them several times and would go back in a New York minute, yet I know I will face perils, fall in a trap of my own doing.  New York is always the subject of much discussion among those of us who have actually left home from time to time.

I recall a friend telling me that she thought her taxi driver was a Sultan whose day job was to drive a cab but who surely had a bit part in the Broadway hit-Aladdin. Upon getting in the taxi, she squealed, ‘Harold Joe, ask this fine specimen of a man to take us to the Taj Mahal!’ The driver never spoke a word from airport to the hotel despite her exclamations the whole way! IMG_0266

Then, there is the issue of closet space in the hotel- there’s no room for her grandmother’s Humpback Trunk (just kidding but we do tend to seriously overpack) There is not even a hot plate for the Grits her mother insisted on sending. We need our space and our comfort food.

vintage old car pic- jeremy 2 Speaking of housing, a young friend was moving to New York with her college roommate, the girl said, ‘I’m hoping we can find a Co-Op somewhere in the Village.’ Let me tell you, where I’m from- a Co-Op is the ‘Seed and Feed, Barbed Wire, Bush Hog Parts, Bedding Plants and Chainsaw Blade Shop’ and is certainly not in a Village! Now,  why would anyone want to live in one of those? We understand the desire to go to New York to shop– however, the thought of moving there with all of that noise, sy-reens blaring all night (ambulances), underground subways- not to mention it’s cold as kraut; we cannot imagine actually living there full time! We warn our young, if they take a wild hair and want to leave home-

You don’t want to move off up there, you’ ll get mugged, lost underground on those subways, fall off the Brooklyn Bridge and not have a penny to your name to call your daddy to come get you!’

Then, we pull out the big guns and put the fear of God in them…‘It’s just isn’t done…a beautiful young lady running wild with no chaperone. It’s beneath you, I tell you- trashy.’ To be honest, if she’s got her heart set on moving, not a word we say will be heard. She will know we’re right, when those folks figure out that Mary Jim-

  •  Has to be waited on hand and foot,
  •  Stays on her high horse and
  • Flirts- Who would hire her much less take her serious?IMG_0483 (1)

No doubt the food is wonderful- just takes a bit of getting used to. Still. Take Carnegie Deli. The waiters aren’t given to dawdling while a Southern lady gets oriented, situated and tries in vain to spread out-tote bag on the next chair and coat neatly folded over the chair back- Oh no, you’re jammed in there like a sardine next to folks who would rather not be in such close quarters either. IMG_0401

At Carnegie Deli, the waiters have no patience for a Southern lady taking her own sweet time perusing the menu, either. Here’s how it goes-

  • ‘Hey Good lookin’ whatcha got cooking? (flirt) Why, don’t you look nice tonite? (cajole)  What would you recommend? Oh, Corned Beef? My daddy likes to fatten up his hogs and beef cattle with Corn but his daddy always thought Grass Fed Beef was better.’
  • ‘ Okay, lady I haven’t got all night here!’
  • Her nostrils flare, she stiffens her spine- The nerve, the very nerve, trying to rush her like that!’
  • ‘Whaddya have?’
  • ‘ I, sir, am a lady, however, I am willing to overlook your rude behavior being as how you are obviously  so overworked- I will have a corned beef- Harold Joe, are you getting loaf bread? I think, I’ll just go hog wild and get that rye bread! And sweet tea, please.’
  •  The waiter moves off in a huff, after shoving the little rack of sugar packets and yelling out near obscene language. When the corned beef sandwich is plopped down in front of her, it is huge…
  • ‘Well now, Harold Joe, how do you expect me to eat all this? I do believe there’s a whole side of beef on my plate! There won’t be room left for a slice of that gen-u-ine New York Cheesecake!’
  • The waiter sets down the bill in short order; she daintily slides over her daddy’s Black American Express Card-  He says, ‘Cash only Lady!’

She about dies. Now in the first place, unless a Southerner has established who your people are and knows a little something about your background, she goes by the looks of you;  your manners speak volumes about your character. And- Southerners get very uncomfortable discussing money…

  • He should be able to tell by her looks that money is not an issue and her credit is impeccable;
  • But to be so loud and bold about it, well.. it’s just a good thing Harold Joe has that big wad of cash in his billfold chained to his belt!
  • Determined she will not lower her standards- her voice goes up a full octave- ‘Darlin’ would you accommodate this gentleman as soon as humanly possible?’

The mode of transporting Southerners is essential, we tend to like Double Decker Tour Buses- we always ride on top so we can see everything, waving to our hearts content- just like Dignitaries and Beauty Queens in parades back home.  The peril of Tour Buses is with the earplugs– you won’t find a southern accent on any station- they offer French, Spanish and Mandarin Chinese- the Southerner ends up saying, ‘It all sounds Greek to me, I didn’t understand a word he said.’

It’s perilous for folks from the Lower Coastal South to go to the top of Skyscrapers- I heard one lady tell her husband she just knew they were up higher than Look Out Mountain, Tennessee. She felt faint right before her knees buckled.

IMG_0238Times Square is perilous too- there’s so much going on it’s hard to concentrate, not to mention the half naked traffic controller. He might have on patriotic skivvies and cowboy boots (Harold Joe is convinced he’s an undercover cop), but really! No self respecting Officer of the Law would be caught dead in a get-up like that in my part of the country! Broadway Shows are where we really shine…

  • Since a Southerner will pay an enormous amount of money for tickets to an SEC game-
  • Tell them they can get 50 yard line tickets (ahem, front and center  Orchestra theatre tickets) They will pay whatever the price…
  • We might not understand the ‘will call’ issue but we do love the playacting and the crazy characters on Broadway…Time's Square

After all, given the choice, we tend to love the most Bizarre Plots and Twisted Tales especially when a Skeleton clatters out of a Closet!  We will always  favor the Eccentric Aunt or the Crazy Uncle- Every. Single. Time!  Yes, there are perils associated with leaving home… then again, we subject ourselves to it over and over again! Now, you know I’m gonna say this… Like all good Southern tales, this one is part truth, part myth and part outright lies! Hopefully, good for a laugh or two!

Love y’all, Camellia

P.S. I love Philadelphia, time would not permit my southern experience with ordering Philly Cheesesteaks! I love Boston- it makes me laugh to hear those folks say- ‘Get in the CA’… not too estranged from a Southern accent- Hah-vahd Squah…just slays me! And, I truly love New York! One of my very dearest friends lives in New York ! Hello and love you Elizabeth!

And…I have mourned, truly mourned the closure of Carnegie Deli, but hey, there’s always Katz’s!

*Photographs are obviously mine (excuse the mixed tones!) However, the two beauties by the car, and the one in the driver’s seat- belong to Jeremy Miniard- I love those vintage pics Jeremy! http://www.jwminiard.fineartsofamerica.com Go say hey to Jeremy!

Barns of Alabama…

SONY DSCI always feel that Barns are like ladies- Caretakers of Domestication…

Some are Well Maintained-

Or Run down and Lonesome…

Some are Stunning Beauties,

Some are Serene- barn jeremy 28

Some are Falling Apart-

Some are Showing Signs of Wear and Tear, Some have Weathered Storms, a Tornado or Two…

Others are  Aging Gracefully, Silvered and Gray….

barn jeremy 8When I see a Barn…  If she’d tell me her Life Story-SONY DSC

I’d listen all day.

Love y’all, Camellia

*It’s always a good time for a Road Trip along the countryside, away from the hustle and bustle of life…SONY DSC

I hope you enjoy these outstanding photographs from Jeremy Miniard’s Backroads of Alabama…the beautiful Barns of Alabama. Photographs are the sole property of Jeremy – find him at http://www.jeremy.miniard.fineartsamerica.com

 

Icebox Pies…

IMG_3201When the weather is hot as blue blazes, our skin begins to glow (that’s the nicest way I can say it) and as the humidity rises so does our hair, inevitably  the Southern Sweet Tooth flares up- Cool Ice Box Pies are the perfect summer dessert. A few ingredients, easy to make- without breaking a sweat- an Icebox Pie is truly easier than making homemade ice cream.  Some have even figured how to make it without turning on an oven, just use a prepared graham crust.  I’d rather make my own pie crust mainly because I can control how much sugar and how deep the crust will be- and I like crust! But hey it’s summer- take it easy if you want to… In Alabama, it’s amazing but children are already back in school! Icebox pies are a sweet reminder of vacations– remember that Key Lime Pie you ate? And.. you’ll know you’re in a good place to eat out just by tasting their Ice Box Pies! There are all kinds of Ice Box Pies- some have cooked pudding or custard fillings-however…IMG_3295

Citrus Ice Box Pies are my favorite-

  • Pit Barbeque whines for relief with Lemon Ice Box Pie,
  • Seafood and spicy Mexican Food seem to whimper for cooling Key Lime Pie,
  • Sour Orange Ice Box Pie- is the perfect ending for Chicken dinners, a cool Chicken Salad.

Sweetened Condensed Milk is essential to Citrus Ice Box Pies. I guess the only ‘southern’ ingredient in them could be considered the plentiful citrus we grow down this way.. New Yorker Gail Borden Jr. received a patent on Sweetened Condensed Milk August 19, 1856 and darlin’ I’m celebrating! IMG_3296

In an effort to find a way to store milk safely (when you don’t have a cow nearby) he developed a method of evaporating the liquid and using sugar as a preservative which produced sweetened condensed milk. Southerners embraced the product wholeheartedly. Why,  teethin’ babies were comforted with a small square of cotton fabric soaked in it, thinned out? It was used a baby formula, in the sick room- sweet cool and creamy, condensed milk was considered a safe food supplement.  Straight from the can- well, let’s don’t go there because I could possibly eat the whole can! Gail Borden, Jr. spent some time working for a newspaper in Texas before he came up with his famous dairy products and has been credited with the phrase- ‘Remember the Alamo’ and I can tell you, a can of sweetened condensed milk will defeat a whole low calorie diet!  Of course, southern folks began making desserts, candies, cakes and pies- Oh my, what glorious pies originated from the humble can of Eagle Brand, we cannot live without it!

Sweetened Condensed Milk was originally sold by Borden to maintain the U.S. Army during all of that unpleasantness of the War between the States. Shortly, after the war -sweetened condensed milk, in a new and improved version became available nationally, it was especially embraced in the Southern States because of it’s long shelf life which has always been of concern here. Throughout our history, in the South, what we share in common is our love of good food.  Sweetened Condensed Milk was patented first in America and a short time later in Switzerland. Since then, it has been embraced literally all over the world!

You might be interested to know that Key Lime Pie first showed up on Southern tables in 1901. And just in case you’re thinking Ice Box Pies are a relatively new concoction, they’ve been around over 150 years!  Key Limes are not to be confused with Persian Limes- key limes are tiny- about the size of a quail egg; are more tart and almost yellow in color- Persian limes are the bright green limes of grocery produce department stores. The truth is most true Key Limes are imported from the Caribbean or for a very limited time in the Florida Keys and are very costly. Key Limes are no longer widely available and that’s a shame…Modern Key Lime Pie recipes call for the addition of Lemon Juice and Persian Lime zest to make a blend which tastes more like the real deal.

Sour Orange Ice Box Pies have an almost identical history- Sour Oranges were once found in the Alabama Sunbathing Capital, Orange Beach!  Sour Orange trees are little scrubby trees bearing.. a ‘pucker up baby’ Sour Orange flavor. Almost all of the Coastal South had some of these small citrus trees- the ones that survive are still not considered valuable- too little flesh and too many seeds…Sour Oranges can be found in specialty markets, but never on a large scale. To get that Sour Orange flavor-mix Equal Parts:

  •  Lemon juice, Orange Juice with Orange Zest and Grapefruit Juice to mimic the flavor of an actual Sour Orange.
  • I  like to add about a teaspoon of Orange Marmalade, 1/4 teaspoon of orange extract- even a dribble of orange blossom water is a nice addition!

IMG_3301Almost all Ice Box Pies start with a Graham Cracker Crust. Talk about an interesting product!  Evangelist and hard core prohibitionist, Sylvester Graham is credited with the first vegetarian movement in the United States in the 1800’s… He believed wholesome foods would result in wholesome living… Alrighty. Anyway, Honey Grahams® became the standard Graham Crackers that we know as the base for those chocolate-y toasted marshmallow-y fireside treats known as S’mores– and other, almost sinful desserts! Wonder what ol’ Sylvester would think of that?IMG_3302

And let’s not forget a wholesome ingredient in Graham Crackers- Honey. The finest- often called the gold standard of American produced honey, is Tupelo Honey. (not Tupelo Mississippi) For just a very few weeks along the Coastal South, the Black Gum or Tupelo Trees bloom- the catch? They grow in the swamps! Bee Hives are cleaned out completely, then hauled to the swamps, set on stands or left on anchored boats and checked daily. Some have called Tupelo Honey- the ‘champagne of honey’ which naturally has a slight lemon flavor. Tupelo-Gum-Trees_finchlake2000

The swamps of the Apalachicola River have the highest concentration of Tupelo Trees in the United States. Very close to Alabama’s Gulf Coast- the town of Apalachicola is only 3 square miles, an old and famous fishing village, but also right near the National Forest bearing the same name and the swamps! Needless to say, we’re proud of this Southern Honey! And yes, we do hope our Graham Crackers have a touch of honey, especially when we make our teetotalin’ Graham Cracker crusts!

I actually love the term ‘Ice Box Pie’  – it sounds old fashioned and better yet? Cool… Years ago, once or twice a week- the Ice Man delivered a huge block of Ice hoisted with big tongs and dropped it in the top of the old Oak Ice Box- set inside the house or a storm shelter- the ice would last…well, depending on the time of year- maybe a few days to a week. The time frame for the invention of the Ice Box was also in the 1860’s- Now come on, you thought all that was going on was that awful unpleasantness between the North and the South, right? Not so…Ice Boxes, Graham Flour Products and Sweetened Condensed Milk were finding their way into homes North and South! In fact, just fifty years later, when we were all united under the same flag, wearing the same uniforms– (Southern Ladies do love to see a man in uniform!) Sweetened Condensed Milk made it’s way once again to battlefields and mess halls uniting us all around a product that was safe, had a long shelf life and sustained us all. So, in commemoration of the American version of this sweet milk’s Birthday, August 19, I give you..IMG_3200

Camellia’s Cottage Lemon Ice Box Pie

Honey Graham Cracker Crust

Preheat oven to 350º

  • 8 graham crackers pulsed 8-10 times in food processor
  • 3 tablespoons sugar plus 1 teaspoon of Tupelo Honey (optional)
  • 3/4 stick or 6 Tbs. of melted butter

In mixing bowl combine graham cracker crumbs and  sugar. While the butter is still warm, add Tupelo honey. Add melted butter/honey mixture to graham cracker/sugar mixture and toss together until well combined. Do not overmix. Press into a 9 inch glass pie plate-or spring form pan- pressing crumbs on the bottom and up the sides. Bake until a warm golden brown- 10-15 minutes. Do not overbake.  Cool while making the Lemon Filling.IMG_3195

Lemon Filling

  • 1 can of Sweetened Condensed Milk
  • Zest of one Large Lemon (reserve some zest for garnish)
  • 1/2 cup of freshly squeezed lemon juice (no substitutes!)
  • 3 large egg yolks Fresh Grade A

Blend together condensed milk and egg yolks with hand mixer on low speed- add lemon  juice slowly, blending well. Beat until stiff enough to stand in peaks. Pour into cooled graham cracker crust. Garnish with reserved lemon zest. Chill for at least 6 hours or overnight.  Some folks like to add a meringue, I prefer Citrus Ice Box Pies without a meringue – the soft creamy, cool, tart and softly sweet dessert  seems perfect without embellishment! I am particularly sentimental about Lemon Ice Box Pies since it is the very first pie I learned to make, it’s just that easy!

As an extra note- if you don’t enjoy making pies yourself, should you run up on a Pit Barbeque Joint or a truly Southern restaurant… look for the glass refrigerator case, if they have Ice Box Pies, then you know it’s a great place to eat!  Love y’all, Camellia

*Lemon juice has the effect of ‘cooking’ the eggs, however use caution if a health condition such as pregnancy warns against the consumption of raw eggs. *All photographs are mine, except the photograph of Tupelo Trees which is from http://www.nationalforests.org and may be subject to copyright.

IMG_3298 *The Lee Brothers of South Carolina have an excellent recipe for Sour Orange Ice Box Pie which is only slightly different from mine. This wonderful cookbook can be found through major booksellers * How exciting to have an Eagle Brand cookbook- I’ve had mine for years and I believe they are still available at their website or on Amazon.com Check out http://www.eaglebrand.com and http://www.bordendairy.com/history for more information!

*I’m ashamed to say- I researched Graham Crackers and Tupelo Honey on my own and neglected to source the sites. *Eagle Brand® and Nabisco Honey Grahams® are registered trademarks- Tupelo Honey is a type of honey, if you find it- buy it! Camellia’s Cottage is not a paid advertiser. There are other great brands available as well, Graham crackers, sweetened condensed milk and Tupelo Honey have a long shelf life and should be part of any well stocked pantry!

 

Home Going…

IMG_3292My father in law would have loved his funeral last week… I know, I know…he was ‘absent from the body but present with the Lord’.  Still. If he could have been in the body, he would have loved his Home Going – all of it. But then I’m getting ahead of myself… Wallace Wyatt, Sr. was my father in law for decades, he lived to be 93 years old- he had a long, well lived life. He was born in Cool Springs, then made his life just a few miles over in Beaver Valley- in his beloved St. Clair County. A county older than the State of Alabama, where he served the people for 14 years as their Judge of Probate. I remember he told me once that being Probate Judge was the closest thing to the role of a pastor within our government- with duties ranging from adoptions, marriages, guardianships and of course the end of life business with wills and estates. He said that a good probate judge needed to know and love the people he served. He did. He passed this on to his son- ‘To know and love the people he served.’ This is the motto of a true public servant.

He was surprisingly well travelled for a home body. I recall when he and my mother in law went to Israel, they were in their sixties but both of them rode camels, one of the camels thanked him by spitting in his eye! For their 50th anniversary, one of his daughters asked my father in law if he had gotten their mother a gift- he replied, ‘Well, I bought her a pre-paid funeral plan!’ Of course he got her more than that! On their 60th anniversary- if you can believe it- the two of them went for a little anniversary trip to Cheaha State Park, the highest point in Alabama.  She would die less than two years later. I still miss her every day. Two days after his funeral, would have been their 73rd anniversary, he went to a far higher place to spend it with her. IMG_3249

Always a generous man, when he worked for Alabama Gas Corporation, he ran up on a young girl who was blind, her family told him she was learning Braille. He couldn’t get it out of his mind; so he talked to his Union Brothers about her. Those men raised enough money to buy her a Set of Encyclopedias written in Braille!

Mr. Wyatt was one the Tom Brokaw’s ‘Greatest Generation’– a World War II veteran, who got lost from his unit in France… it was an experience he rarely talked about. Someone at the funeral told me that- lost from his unit in a foreign country in the middle of a war was frightening enough but my father in law ran up on a Mortuary Unit. They fed him and furnished him a place to sleep with the living and the dead. The next morning, the soldiers told him he was welcome to join up with them, he graciously declined saying- ‘Well, you boys sure are nice and I appreciate what you’re doing; a mighty fine job of it too- but if it’s all the same to you, I think I’d ruther be at my own duties then do yours!’ Can’t say I blame him.

The last years of his life were spent at beautiful Veterans Home in our county- the Colonel Robert L. Howard Veteran’s Nursing Home. When he died, his body was prepared…then- while ‘Taps’ was played, his flag draped body was rolled down a long hallway lined with fellow Veterans- standing or in wheelchairs, gave him a final salute- some with arthritic hands.  This is called ‘The Walk’ and is a fitting goodbye to an Old Soldier; he would have loved it.FullSizeRender

His firstborn child was a ‘war baby’, Wallace Jr.(above) -Next, were his pretty girls- following soon after his son, Carol Jane, the next, Eleanor Kay was born 6-7 years later, the last was a late in life baby, Vicki Lynn. Then there was me, his favorite daughter in law. Really.

The first time I went to their home in Beaver Valley, newly engaged- I got ‘The Talk’… He explained, ‘Our family doesn’t believe in divorce, you’re in it for the long haul, just so you know.’ Sort of put the fear of God in me with his bright blue eyes- I nodded in perfect understanding. He restored perfect harmony by playing a stereo record – It was his favorite gospel music group- The Swanee River Boys. swanee river boys

I should say right here that I knew nothing about gospel music- does ‘Michael Row the Boat Ashore’ count? As the Swanee River Boys sang so smooth…I could not believe my ears! Mr. Wyatt alternately sang-All Four. Parts…

  • Bass,
  • Baritone,
  • Tenor and
  • High Tenor, have you ever?

Well, I can tell you now…I still have never heard anything like it.  What I was about to find in this huge family that embraced me… they all could sing or play. In fact I was told, if a baby was born Tone Deaf in the Wyatt family- they pinched their heads off at birth!

Can I just say right here? They (the entire clan) told me stuff like that all the time, for the shock value I guess or maybe they had detected I am practically tone deaf.  I’ll have you know, my children have perfect pitch! Needless to say, there was music at the Funeral for my father in law, last week- just enough and just what he’d like and I tapped my foot a time or two.

A full blown Wyatt event, family reunion, wedding or funeral closely resembles an Ant Bed, occasionally a Fire Ant Bed, depending on who’s there. Pine Forest Baptist was the host of the Ant Bed last week, for decades my father in law was a Deacon there. For the record he would have loved having so many members of his family and the folks that he claimed kin to at his Home Going. vintage women's shoes

He would have loved the ladies in sensible block heels, flats (me), cowboy boots and four inch heels- especially if they were toting a Crock Pot or a Casserole Dish- Oh my! He would have loved the food, do I need to describe it? Groaning Church tables loaded with Food were Begging for Mercy. That’s the most poetic way to describe it. The only thing that was missing was my mother in law’s Coconut Custard Pie.

Pine Forest Baptist is a small Rock Church nestled in a piney grove, the smell of pine always permeated the dinners on the grounds, surrounded by beautiful farmland. Then there was a growth spurt and a fine Trade School was built across the road….Several sent out directions to the funeral service- my favorite was:

‘Head north on 231 toward Ashville, at the crossroads right at the Trade School, turn right like you’re going to Rainbow City, Pine Forest is beside Dollar General on the right.’

Pine Forest was at capacity, there were fine suits and designer dresses, Versace ties, denim and sequins, work clothes and a few in Military Uniforms- My father in law would have loved it all.  His youngest nephew, Danny- the only one who has become a member of clergy was lined up to preach the funeral, three Nieces were asked to sing a favorite gospel song- ‘Unclouded Day’ , his Grandsons were the Pall Bearers and a handsome group that was! This is a family that can put on a funeral at the drop of a hat. My father in law would have loved-

  • hearing his Nieces sing for him one last time,
  • he would have loved Danny’s sermon,
  • he would have loved the Masonic Funeral Rites which were done in such a moving way by Brother Talley.
  • Mr. Wyatt would have loved hearing Taps at graveside and-
  • that the Flag which had draped his body was given to his son.

Yes, he would have loved his Home Going- but most of all- I know he would have loved hearing the recording with his old friend Buford Abner of the Swanee River Boys- the foot tapping upbeat- ‘When I Wake Up That  Morning’

Who knows? He might have been singing along- All. Four. Parts.  As his favorite daughter in law, I would have loved that. There will never be another like him. For sure. William Wallace Wyatt, Sr. was greatly loved. He will be greatly missed … May he rest in peace.

Love y’all, Camellia

*Okay,  I know you want to hear it- take it away Swanee River Boys! https://youtu.be/CVFWDnJtV88