Homemade Mushroom Soup…

832349B1-6BD5-40DE-9C71-42EED73E818AWe southerners love soups, stews, gumbos, cream sauces, gravies, and we also tend to use the freshest ingredients possible. Since a good part of our land is agricultural, we have access to all kinds of fresh food and food we’ve grown and canned or put in the freezer. That includes Mushroom Soup… you might be surprised how many of our traditional dishes include fresh mushrooms!

Still.  We also know part of our cuisine -often referred to as the ‘cream of soup dishes’ – has been made fun of, considered low rent even rejected out of hand as substandard by those stuck up cooks in other parts of the country! I would argue that any real southerner finds generational comfort in soup can recipes, namely our famous casseroles. Green Bean Casserole has been around for over 75 years and there are Classic Chicken Casseroles that spell comfort. As soon as we hear of a death- before the grave is dug… you can hear the cans opening! No self respecting southern cook would even think of having a bereavement spread without several soup can casseroles, they feed a crowd and offer comfort at a time when fresh food might be a bit too lively to offer. I mean, who in their right mind shows up with a bushel of bell peppers or cucumbers when the digestive systems of the bereaved need soft creamy food with a bit of Ritz Crackers on top?  Though-

I do need to add that we southerners don’t actually open a can of cream of mushroom soup, heat it and eat it like that! No, it’s a mainstay in our pantry, strictly used as an ingredient in those famous casseroles- and every southerner I know- who has the decency to send food to the bereaved- keeps her pantry and freezer ready for life’s unexpected trials and tribulations.

Still. When I make soup, I want it to be made from scratch. Last year, I fiddled around and came up with a Mushroom Soup recipe and it was good! I didn’t share it with you, because it wasn’ a ‘tested and tried’ recipe. With the cold snap we’ve been having and all of the holiday leftovers a distant memory- Soup of any kind just felt right. My grocery store had some good looking mushrooms and I basically had every thing else I needed to make Homemade Mushroom Soup! Here’s how I made-12C27364-54B8-4556-A58F-A62EE104C7FF

Camellia’s Homemade Mushroom Soup

You will need:

  • A drizzle of Bacon Fat
  • One Stick of Butter (1/2 cup)
  • 1 medium Onion finely chopped
  • 3 Garlic Cloves chopped
  • 4 cups of Whole Fresh Mushrooms – sliced (can be one type or several – your choice)
  • A few sprigs of Fresh Thyme
  • 4 Tablespoons of All Purpose Flour
  • 4-5 cups of good quality Chicken Stock – homemade if possible
  • Small Diced Ham – 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup
  • A couple of splashes of White Wine
  • 1 cup of Half and Half or Heavy Cream if you prefer
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • Use 1/4 cup of  powdery grated Parmesan Cheese only as a seasoning or thickener, but it’s worth keeping in the pantry! If the soup needs to be a bit thicker- this type of parmesan cheese is an excellent way to season and thicken the soup before adding Cream, just reduce the amount of salt a bit.

To Prepare Soup

  • In a large soup pot, pour a drizzle of Bacon Fat- okay I admit it- to be Southern Style- it has to have some pork! Also melt one half of the butter (half stick) over medium high heat.
  • Add finely chopped onion. Saute until onion is soft. Reduce heat to medium and add chopped garlic- be careful- garlic scorches easily, saute Garlic for no more than one minute.
  • Add sliced Mushrooms- I used a mix of Baby Portobello and White Buttons, also add the remainder of the Butter. Stir until butter has melted, then add fresh Thyme (leaves only) and diced Ham.
  • Cook until mushrooms are soft and moisture has cooked off.
  • Shake Flour over the mushroom mixture, stir to coat- then add White Wine. Stir often until liquid has cooked off. Mixture will be thick. *It will look like this- 97F6F54D-8448-4967-AAC8-50B7CE5FDE5B
  • Add 4 cups of Chicken Stock, bringing it to a bubbling simmer. Cook on medium until this mixture is thick and smooth- up to 30 minutes, stirring often.
  • *To thicken- use the powdered Parmesan Cheese. I use it as a seasoning or thickener only! Add up to 1/4 cup of  this type of Grated Parmesan Cheese stirring it until completely absorbed. Season with salt and pepper to taste. *I found when the recipe was tested, the extra thickening was needed.
  • *At this point the soup may be refrigerated! When ready to serve, bring thickened mixture to a simmer and carefully add Half and Half, stirring until absorbed into the Mushroom mixture. Serve immediately. *If you aren’t quite  ready to serve, the soup may be kept covered in the oven for a bit- at 170 degrees, no longer than 10-15 minutes.

Serving suggestion: Melt a half stick of butter in a cast iron skillet. Toss in a 16 oz. bag of Oyster Crackers and stirring  to coat. Remove from heat. Put skillet of Oyster Crackers in a cold oven set to preheat at 350 degrees. When oven is preheated- the Oyster Crackers will be buttery and toasted. Excellent accompaniment! 5845CDA8-3A6B-4435-83A2-A27FF7071738

Homemade Mushroom Soup is rich and hearty enough for a main dish, though I must admit a small cup would be an excellent first course. Homemade Mushroom Soup doesn’t aim to be a substitute for any of the famous soup can recipes we southerners also love, however it does bridge a gap between haute cuisine and the so called low rent dishes. Homemade Mushroom Soup is so good on chilly days- fresh but without the bite, that I’m reminded of a family’s beloved but protective family dog… When she runs out barking… they reassure folks…‘She won’t bite.’ Well…not hard.’

Homemade Mushroom Soup has lots of flavor from onions, ham, garlic, fresh thyme, wine and good chicken stock- comforting but surely not bland.

Love y’all, Camellia

*All photographs are obviously mine.

Rustic Scalloped Potatoes…

1DD6926D-75EC-4B8A-BCBF-0C07F639E406Scalloped Potatoes are equally at home at Sunday Dinner, a Covered Dish Supper, Bereavement Buffets or a Glamourous Holiday Meal. And let’s not forget- Scalloped Potatoes could play a supporting or starring role on one of our famous Vegetable Plates. Perhaps not a strictly southern dish, scalloped potatoes make a regular appearance as a satisfying side dish any time of the year. Not limited to just potatoes, I honestly believe southerners could scallop almost anything! After a quick glance through some of my reliable cookbooks, in addition to potatoes, I found- Scalloped Shrimp, Scalloped Oysters and even Scalloped Scallops! Scalloped Seafood is almost always combined with a subtly spiced cream sauce topped with bread crumbs then baked in a large flat scallop shells, sold by the stack for just such occasions. Vegetables are a southern favorite to scallop- Tomatoes may be at the top of the list to scallop (after potatoes) yet watch out!  Any vegetable that can be sliced into rounds can find themselves buttered, creamed and baked- Onions, Summer Squash, Eggplant, Zucchini, even Sweet Potatoes are often scalloped.42F7C380-BA3B-4558-9A8C-AC121E138B09

Okay. What is the difference between a Casserole, Au Gratin or Scalloped Potatoes? It’s the design and the cooking method. Sliced rounds- arranged in an overlapped manner create the scallop design, then the dish is baked using some sort of thickening sauce which doesn’t disguise the scallop design.  Some use the term – Escallop (my grandmother did!) instead of Scallop, yet it still is the same design and cooking method. Still. There’s always an exception to the rule… some experts use the verb – to escallop or to scallop as a cooking method of chopped meat(chicken is good example) or vegetables (corn is too small to create a design)- which is covered with milk or a cream sauce, dotted with butter, seasoned- often topped with cheese or a sprinkling of bread or cracker crumbs. In it’s simplest explanation- scalloped potatoes are a casserole with potatoes layered in a scallop design. Whatever it is- I have to admit, I’ve loved everything I’ve ever tasted which has been scalloped and served- hot!

5C1BEE43-713D-4F86-912F-BC53269015B3This week, at the last minute I realized I needed to send a covered dish to a potluck supper- no time to run to the store, I realized I had everything I needed to make Scalloped Potatoes! I added bits of chopped ham to the mixture- *this is often suggested in many southern recipes as a variation. Bacon or even Sausage is also added to many types of escalloped vegetables- just remember you’re not making hash! You’re adding flavor.  I chose to use chopped garlic chives instead of my usual finely sliced green onions.  I also wanted my Scalloped Potatoes to be a rustic version, so the potatoes weren’t peeled and weren’t thinly sliced as I would for a finer presentation! Now, let me stop here and explain- some recipes call for uncooked potatoes to be cooked in a thin cream sauce , however- I needed a quicker more reliable method that only works for Scalloped Potatoes, not other vegetables. My potatoes were cooked in advance; I didn’t make a cream sauce, because as my grandmother so wisely pointed out many years ago- ‘Potatoes have enough starch in them to create their own sauce!’ To her, adding flour created a flavor akin to paste- not good at all.  Oh, how I do run on… just let me tell you how I made:

1DD6926D-75EC-4B8A-BCBF-0C07F639E406Camellia’s Rustic Scalloped Potatoes

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Butter a 9×9 glass baking dish.
  • Microwave 3 medium size russet or Idaho potatoes. (slightly under baked is fine- overbaked is awful- throw them out and start again if that happens!)
  • Allow potatoes to cool down a bit, do not peel- slice into 1/2- 3/4 inch rounds.
  • Arrange potato slices in a scalloped pattern in prepared baking dish.
  • Meanwhile, chop a handful of baked ham (I used Smithfield® sliced ham)
  • Chop a handful of garlic chives. green onions or chives- *add a bit of chopped garlic- maybe one small clove- or a teaspoon of garlic powder mixed with green onions or chives- if you don’t have garlic chives or if you’re in a bind.DBA3B7AC-3A0E-484C-BDF9-D9D0DB4C819F
  • Dot with a generous amount of butter- maybe 12 pats or half a stick cut into slices.
  • Sprinkle ham and chives evenly over the potato slices.
  • Add a grind or two of black pepper and a pinch or two of salt- be careful, the ham is also salted!
  • Now, this is not an exact science, but pay attentionPour whole milk more than half way up the potatoes.  This probably close to 2 cups of whole milk.
  • Run the whole thing in preheated oven for 30-35 minutes or until most of the milk is absorbed. (Don’t overbake!)
  • Turn oven off.
  • *While potatoes are baking, you will need to finely grate- 1 cup of Sharp Cheddar Cheese. (Okay, I usually add more! But not so much that the scallop is hidden when it melts!)
  • *Some purists insist cheese must not be added to scalloped potatoes- I’m not a purist when it comes to Rustic Scalloped Potatoes!
  • With oven off but while it’s still very warm, top cooked potatoes with grated cheese- allow the heat of the oven to gently melt the cheese.
  • Serve immediately. 9 generous servings, 12 buffet servings.

*If sending Rustic Scalloped Potatoes as a covered dish, immediately cover tightly with foil. It’s also a good idea to surround the covered dish with clean dish towels to retain the warmth- though I have to say… even cold- oh my! it’s still good! Now, I don’t want you to think I don’t know how to make prettier designs or a finer, more glamourous dish of Scalloped Potatoes. Thinly sliced, artfully designed it is a beautiful dish. Great for anything other than the finest of food displays- Rustic Scalloped Potatoes are perfect for almost any occasion- offering extra fiber, more color and texture, and best of all- I’ll bet you have everything you need to make them on short notice and with very little effort you get great taste!  By the way- don’t you love reading… ‘ I need to send a covered dish to a potluck supper.’ ? You can hardly get a more southern sentence than that!

Love y’all, Camellia

*All photographs are obviously mine.

 

Southern Macaroni and Cheese…

9DAB44D7-5A97-4F75-9591-EFAA23D66764Southern Macaroni and Cheese sits warmly quivering on a plate when it’s been scooped out with Sharp Cheddar Cheese strands as thin as guitar strings, mingled with a rustic egg Custard clinging to an absurdly small amount of round elbows of macaroni. This is the iconic comfort food of my youth- well, if you don’t count a hot bowl of buttered grits. My mother, my grandmother, my great aunts and their double first cousins all made it basically the same way. Some were busy homemakers who took care of their families, paste waxed hardwood floors, sewed draperies, our dresses and even doll clothes; others were busy working women who also found time to cook- but with an amazing affinity to cook food fit to eat. My grandmother was a busy florist who also took care of my granddaddy and her son who was a disabled veteran- there was no time and certainly no reason to mess up extra pots and pans to make a fine Béchamel Sauce when baking a dish of macaroni and cheese. Could she make fine sauces? You bet she could- and did. I recently found, written in her own beautiful hand*, a cheese sauce so delicate, it was unbelievable.

DC22850C-036B-4EED-989F-09D1789D43D3Still. Nothing so delicately wrought as a béchamel sauce fit her idea of what a big hearted  dish of common elbow macaroni and red wax rind Rat Cheese, as they called it, coarsely grated along with a seasoned custard made with fresh eggs and whole milk; apparently her folks agreed. Fresh from a hot oven Southern Macaroni and Cheese wasn’t made with a sauce- No, our family’s macaroni and cheese was fine- more than fine…mouth wateringly divine. It was a work of obscure art, barely noticed on a plate lunch- Mimi’s was a perfectly seasoned custard base with a triumphant topping of a half pound of cheese laced with a smidgen of bread crumbs if she took a notion or had the time and inclination.  7D2D1ABC-13CD-40CF-BE05-154ADD8315CB

The absurd thing about these home chefs, is that very few wrote down their wonderful but commonly served recipes. I’m always frustrated when I’ve tried to re-create the old recipes including classic Southern Macaroni and Cheese. Though, guess what? I rarely write the recipes down either! Always tweaking, trying my best to make it taste like the well remembered comfort food. And mostly I do a decent rendition of an old heirloom rendition. So much is about feel, taste, texture- the type of pan and whether it’s properly seasoned …the pan and the recipe! Maybe grandmother’s old cheese sauce recipe provided a new clue- and so did a recipe from her cousin Ruth’s basic Macaroni and Cheese- wisely bound into a family cookbook! Both jogged my memory of Mimi’s near perfect palate when it came to seasonings. The sauce had dry mustard and I certainly recall the familiar pinch of cayenne pepper!

Chef Scott Peacock recalls his own Alabama mother’s Macaroni  and Cheese; he makes note of the fact that ‘mouse cheese’ isn’t as readily available these days and  modern cheddar cheese ‘needs the addition of… dry mustard to heighten the flavor.’  Well, there you go- surely, my grandmother must have added dry mustard and cayenne pepper! All of these years…who knew what one little pinch could do? Some southerners put a bit of grated yellow onion in the custard, I prefer the tops of green onion on mine!

1FF36D60-7A5C-46C2-857E-FD0886F55FAFWe Southerners love our Plate Lunches- a Meat and Three or a Vegetable Plate which almost always includes Macaroni and Cheese prompting that old corny saying-

‘Only in the South would Macaroni and Cheese be considered a vegetable!’

Ah yes, go ahead and make fun- we can take it- because we never ate a whole plate of Mac and Cheese and called it a Meatless Meal…okay, we can’t because those green vegetables had bits of ham or Salt Pork and the Okra might be fried in Lard! The point is, we never ate just a plate of macaroni and cheese! Vegetable Plates are almost augmented with Macaroni and Cheese, Squash Casserole or Scalloped Potatoes- cheese dishes are always a hit as a side on a plate lunch. We all have childhood memories of someone, anyone who could make a meal with bits of meat, cheese and vegetables. Southern Macaroni and Cheese was considered a side dish and anyone who ate a whole rich plate of Southern Macaroni and Cheese- could bypass the emergency room and be taken straight to Johns- Rideout Funeral Home!  Rich, yes. Whole Plate of it. No. Side dish, yes! So, here goes my latest and hopefully greatest rendition of Southern Macaroni and Cheese. I’ll call it mine because I still can’t be sure it is exactly our family recipe- just as close as I can get!

9DAB44D7-5A97-4F75-9591-EFAA23D66764Camellia’s Southern Macaroni and Cheese

  • You will need: 1 – 1 1/2 cups of cooked small Elbow Macaroni (please cook it first! and please do not add more than called for!)
  • 3/4- 1 lb. of Sharp Cheddar Cheese (grated- please do not buy it pre-grated!)
  • 2 large eggs or if you’re feeling generous you can add 3,
  • 1 1/4 cup of whole milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon of Cayenne Pepper, 1/2 teaspoon of Dry Mustard, 1/2 teaspoon Salt and a pinch or two of Black Pepper.
  • 4 Tablespoons Melted and cooled Salted Butter (plus more butter for buttering a 9×9 glass baking dish)
  • Scant handful of Bread Crumbs – unseasoned.

Method: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook and Drain Elbow Macaroni- don’t over drain please. Allow to cool. Butter 9×9 glass baking dish. Spread Elbow Macaroni evenly on the bottom of the baking dish. For uncooked custard base: In a mixing bowl, beat eggs slightly- add whole milk, 1/3 lb of the grated sharp cheddar cheese, cayenne pepper, dry mustard, salt and black pepper. Blend custard mixture very well. Pour custard mixture over the cooked elbow macaroni. Drizzle 4 Tablespoons of Melted Butter over all. Top with scant handful of breadcrumbs. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Remove from oven, briefly, the mixture will be puffed much like a soufflé so work quickly. Top with remaining cheese- there’ll be lots of it!  Bake at 350 degrees for an additional 10 minutes or until custard is set and the topping of crumbs and cheese is melted completely. (If the macaroni and cheese seems slightly soft- no worries…it will set as it cools.) Serve immediately! Serves 4-6 generously.

2873CAD0-CD65-45A9-A209-F98D20C1257CIf doubled, this will make a nice buffet dish but should be set in a covered chafing dish to keep warm. It is good with stronger meats such as beef or ham, though most folks won’t turn it down no matter what you serve it with! A vegetable plate practically begs for it!

My grandmother’s food was a gift- and so was she! She seemed to have radar and knew when I was feeling low. The phone would ring and she would not suffer my whining, instead she would regale me with what she had been cooking. I recall one day, she had cooked a small roast beef, pale green butter peas, tiny buttered yeast rolls, a side plate of sliced tomatoes, radishes and green onions along with her beloved ‘Mac and Cheese’ and planned to take some to work with her the next day. My spirits were always lifted by her calls and her cooking. Her wit, her strength and her many talents still amaze me. I hope you’ll try Southern Macaroni and Cheese, it isn’t southern style, it’s the real deal.

Love y’all, Camellia

  • * Johns-Rideout is a famous funeral parlor in the Birmingham, Alabama area. We joked quite a bit about it, the typical southern morbid humor! ‘John’s Ride- Out’ to the cemetery- umhm
  • *Quote from Alabama born chef- Scott Peacock- is from – ‘The Gift of Southern Cooking’ by Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock, page 184.  I’m always trying to improve and preserve the gift of Southern Cooking passed down to me!
  • *When the word hand was used – it is colloquial for handwriting, which was a highly prized skill- I hope it still is!
  •  * I loved making macaroni and cheese for my family, however, I must admit my children, being children- preferred the dreaded boxed macaroni with bright orange ‘cheese’. However- they’ve now embraced the wisdom of this future generation concerning great food-  They highly prize and value the Farm to Table movement, and use the freshest ingredients available in their own food.
  • In the wisdom of the past, at least one of our Founding Fathers and also an amazing American President- Thomas Jefferson, might have been the first one to record and exult in education and wrote often of fresh farmed food in his personal diaries and letters! Jefferson is also credited with popularizing Macaroni in the United States of America! He loved his life overlooking his highly prized University of Virginia. His beloved home and gardens Monticello in Virginia are still bringing lessons generations later. We’ll assume this Southern Gentleman ate Southern Macaroni and Cheese!
  • *photographs are obviously mine!

Egg Custard Pie…

9D879E52-F825-4B79-9CA1-533545189D57On Southern Dessert Tables, Egg Custard Pie is a Classic.  Custards were brought to the Colonies by the British and remained popular in the South, especially when boiled or baked in small custard dishes- From fancy Crème Brule to humble Banana Puddings- we do love our custards! When times were hard and cooking was done to survive- Egg Custards were thought to be comforting and necessary.  Filled with eggs and milk, ingredients on hand in most southern kitchens, Egg Custard Pies are rich but not overly sweet.  Some even thought, the sick and recovering should be fed Custards – to fatten them up! Leave it to the Southern Sweet Tooth to make a Dessert out of a Comfort Food! Some custards are cooked then poured into a baked pie shell. Cooked Custards may Scorch. Filling an unbaked pie shell with the custard mix- is a bit easier.  Custards aren’t hard to make, but then again…

  • An Overbaked Egg Custard Pie?  A telltale crack in the center.
  • Under-baked Custard? Too thin and wouldn’t set up. CF494A8D-61DE-4815-A268-94E1AD22EEF2

A Southern lady’s baking  skill was tested by her Custard Pies! Egg Custard Pies aren’t made that often any more- but we still have fond memories! I can hear it now…

‘Florigene could charm a bird out of tree just being who she was- but when she baked her Custard Pies- a whole flock of folks came around’

My mother in law, Eleanor, was famous for her Custard Pies- Coconut, Egg  and Chocolate Custard Pies. I wish I had kept count of how many times someone told her how much they loved her Egg Custard Pie- so Eleanor would surprise them with one! Quietly serving the pies to her family- I’m not sure we always appreciated her skill. Custard Pies seemed to be a favorite of hers. When she died, over and over folks whispered, ‘I loved Eleanor’s Custard Pies…’ More than a decade has passed since she crossed over from this life to the next, yet those pies are still remembered fondly. Recently, I had not one, but two friends exclaim over the virtues of  Egg Custard Pies- yet neither could recall when they had last eaten a homemade one. 

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As the holidays approach, I think of my mother in law so often. Before, it seemed like stepping on sacred ground- to try to bake Egg Custard Pie. In fact, I would not even try to replicate her famous pie. The recipe I used is not hers- I don’t have it. I researched old cookbooks and found several that seemed close- my adaptation makes two pies- one to keep and one to share. And I changed it up to be more like a deep dish pie, by using a cake pan instead of the more shallow pie plate. The ingredients are always the same- it’s the method and the measure that differs from recipe to recipe. Eggs, Milk, Sugar, Vanilla poured into an unbaked Pie Shell and baked, then chilled. Here’s what I came up with-

Camellia’s Cottage Egg Custard Pie 

  • Preheat oven to 375º
  • Line Two 8 or 9 inch Cake Pans with your favorite pie crusts.
  • In a mixing bowl, measure 2 cups of Sugar, a pinch of salt, 1 Tablespoon- All Purpose Flour and 3/4 teaspoon of freshly grated Nutmeg.
  • In another larger bowl, whisk 6 Large Eggs, beating until well combined.
  • Add dry ingredients to whisked eggs, mixing until well combined.
  • To egg mixture, add  2 cans of Evaporated Milk (not sweetened condensed) plus 1 cup of whole milk.
  • Then add  1 tablespoon of Pure Vanilla Extract and mix until all is combined well.  *The purists insist on straining this mixture- I didn’t. 647AFB91-AA01-4E1B-8C1E-7EA5147A6492
  • I poured portions of the mixture into a glass pitcher for ease of pouring the egg custard mixture into the Two Unbaked Pie Shells.
  • Grate more Nutmeg over the top of the Pie Filling.  *If pans are full- place them on a large sheet pan for baking.
  • Bake Egg Custard Pies for one hour- checking after 45 minutes to see if Custard is set. *Mine were baked in 8 inch Pie Pans and needed the full hour.  2A0EACEF-59C4-4A2A-9B90-67656897C1BE
  • Remove from oven to cool, the filling will be puffed but will settle.
  • Chill completely before serving so the filling flavors will be well developed.
  • Makes 2 Deep Dish Pies. 8c942e73-4c3a-4de0-bae0-cbcccf540837.jpeg
  • Keep refrigerated until serving. Any leftovers also should be kept chilled.
  •  *This is a rich but not too sweet pie. Approximately 8 servings in each pie.

My goodness, y’all! This Egg Custard Pie is good! And, next time- I might consider coating the top with granular sugar, then with one of those kitchen torches- Brule the top! Let’s just hope I don’t set the house on fire! This Fall, try making the comforting Southern Classic – Egg Custard Pie, for Sunday Dinner or even for the Holidays! Your Dessert Table will be even more popular!

Love y’all, Camellia9D879E52-F825-4B79-9CA1-533545189D57

*all photographs are obviously mine

Bighearted Cornbread…

2016-03-23 13.50.11Bighearted Cornbread is a staple of Southern food culture. Over the years we’ve taken some abuse about lovin’ our Cornbread- you know songs like ‘Jimmy Crack Corn and I don’t Care’ and ‘Just a Bowl of Butterbeans’ don’t exactly conjure up fine dining.  And Yankees have gotten hold of the Southern recipe and tried to improve on perfection by adding sugar- which is sacrilegious  where I’m from. Southern Cornbread is made with self rising cornmeal. I will say it again, my grandmother had rules when it came to cornbread. There are two basic types of Plain Southern Cornbread-

  • Egg bread is made with self rising cornmeal, sweet milk and eggs.  Egg Bread is higher and lighter, is more tender and has a mild flavor. Mimi’s rule was- Cornbread made with eggs paired well with any egg laying meat– chicken, turkey or fish.
  • Buttermilk Cornbread. Eggs aren’t added to Buttermilk Cornbread, it is leavened with self rising cornmeal and buttermilk. Buttermilk Cornbread is thinner, crisper and tangier than Egg Bread- therefore it can stand up to the big boys like pork, ham or beef.

Beyond the rules for Plain Cornbread, you will find out just how Bighearted Cornbread is! It takes to having stuff added to it like Cracklin’ Cornbread which is so amazing I’m surprised it hasn’t won top notch culinary prizes! (For the unitiated, cracklins are rendered pieces of pork fat) Cracklins are not smoked like bacon but little chewy bits of pork which are stirred into the batter before it’s baked right into Bighearted Cornbread. Eat Cracklin’ Cornbread and you’ll be happy as a dead pig in the sunshine. Just remember Cracklins’ aren’t Bacon- I’m not sure you can even get them outside of the South. Bighearted Cornbread will accept Crumbled Bacon too!IMG_1387

Now, darlin’ let’s just get this out of the way- Bighearted Cornbread Batter is stirred up either thicker for Hushpuppies, best with chopped onions added, or a more cake batter consistency for Corn Sticks and Corn Muffins. Cornmeal Patties (little fried corn meal cakes- similar to pancakes in shape, form) call for a thinner batter. Bighearted Cornbread will satisfy you no matter what shape it’s in! Old Timers are fond of teaching the Mathematical Equation-telling children, ‘Pie are square, Cornbread are round’– referring to square Fruit Cobblers and Iron-Skillet-Made Cornbread. I am the Third Generation Owner of the Family Iron Skillet. Blessed is the Southern girl who inherits an iron skillet! Cornbread is the Bighearted accompaniment to Spicy Chili, Hearty Soups, Beef Stews and of course Chicken and Dumplings. img_1842-edited

Cornbread is Bighearted enough to be made into Mexican Cornbread; a half recipe works well as a Topper to all manner of Mexican Casseroles. Adding weight to a Southern Vegetable Plate, Cornbread is a hearty addition. One of my favorite combinations is Bighearted Cornbread topped with Pepper Jelly; and for a special breakfast treat- Bighearted Cornbread, hot from the oven, is delicious slathered with Butter and Orange Marmalade! You’ll be grinnin’ like a possum! Cornbread is Bighearted enough to be made into a Summer Cornbread Salad- it’s so good and colorful -Crumbled Cornbread is added to Diced Purple Onion, Summer Tomatoes, Cucumbers and Bell Peppers with nothing more than salt, pepper and Sour Cream stirred in, then chilled. Cornbread Salad is a refreshing side to barbeque, fried chicken or even fried catfish!IMG_1276

Recently in one of my old Family Cookbooks I found a recipe for a Bighearted Breakfast Cornbread made with lots of Caramelized Onions, browned Hot Breakfast Sausage, Shredded Cheese, then topped with a half recipe of cornbread batter- baked in a hot oven until golden brown. I topped it with a Fried Egg with fresh cracked pepper and a Baked Apple on the side. It was to die for.

These are just a few examples of how Bighearted Cornbread can accept all manner of ingredients, adapt to the seasons and made into satisfying low cost meals. Bighearted Cornbread might not be the prettiest Belle at the Ball, but she’ll wrap her arms around you and say – ‘Welcome Home, Darlin’…

Love y’all, Camellia

The Cornbread Rules were expounded upon and the Basic Cornbread Recipe was featured in an earlier post entitled- Cornbread Rules, Sugah!

all photographs are mine for better or worse…