Posts Tagged ‘Southern cooking’

bis2aWhen I stopped in Princeton, Kentucky, at Nancy Newsom Mahaffey’s Newsom’s Old Mill Store for some of her aged, hickory smoked country ham I saw this book on the counter and knew it was a keeper.  It was the 10 Year Anniversary Edition of Joseph E. Dabney, Smokehouse Ham, Spoon Bread, & Scuppernong Wine: The Folklore and Art of Southern Appalachian Cooking

 The writing  is  conversational.  The story is true and personal.  The food is down home.  The recipes are tested and ready.

The book is about the foods and lives of the people of the mountains in western Virginia, West Virginia, western end of the Carolinas, and the mountain plateaus extending to Georgia and Alabama.  While populationbisa and time have changed everything there is and will always be good eating and happy times in those mountains.  The book is an open invitation to visit, if not by travel then by taking to your own garden, orchard, and kitchen, and tasting food that can not be had anywhere else.

Some of the recipes I already know but there are many to be tried and named favorites.  My copy will have many food stains before the next owner clasps it to their hungry breast.  Now and then I plan to share my new favorites with Clarion Friends.  Charles Marlin





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01I am going to review a new food story and then go back to one not so very new.  I read food books for four reasons, identical to why any of us read and collect these books.  We read to be entertained, to be informed about people, places, and times, to collect recipes for future use, and formost to be inspired to hit the kitchen running with a new dish in mind.  Cheat us of any one or more of those purposes and the food book is not worth the shelf space.

Mark Kurlansky edited and illustrated a book long on title The Food of a Younger Land: A Portrait Of American Food–before the national highway system, before chain restaurants, and before frozen food, when the nation’s food was seasonal, regional, and traditional–From The Lost WPA Files. The WPA files Kurlansky used were the remains of a failed Federal Writers’ Project under Roosevelt’s New Deal Works Progress Administration.  The make work project named America Eats was closed down in May 1942 with the retooling of the nation from peacetime to war footing, before publication could bring shame to all involved.  The material is a mishmash so inconsistent in veracity it is irritating to read.  Kurlansky should have left it where he found it.

If you enjoy regional foods and regional food books then you will love John T. Edge, A Gracious Plenty: Recipes And Recollections from the American South, first published in hardback in 1999, and in paperback in 2002.  Both editions are available from amazon.com sellers at reasonable prices.  Even if the South is not your place you will enjoy the book.  Edge writes on page VII, “the best cookbooks are storybooks, their purpose as much to document the communal draw of the meal table as to show the curious cook how to bake a gravity-defying biscuit or stir up a tasty kettle of Brunswick stew.  When all the dishes have been cleared from the table, these recipes remain, a tangible link to a time, a place, a people.”  Amen.

The Edge book comes from the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi and is drawn primarily from regional and community cookbooks with those spiral bindings that always catch the inside corners of the pages.  If you come from a family that praised cooking then your mother, grandmothers, or aunts contributed to their church or club cookbook project.  These are working recipes fully tested by family and pride.

Sometimes I sit down to go over the recipes in just one section whether Appetizers, Beverages, Breads, Salads And Salad Dressings, Sides And Vegetables, Soups And Stews, Meats, Poultry, Fish And Seafood, Sauces, Preserves Jellies Pickles, Desserts, or Menus.  Or if I just want to enjoy the Southern story, the introduction, chapter headings, and shaded inserts read wonderfully on their own.  My preference is to sit down with on goal in mind and flip through until something catches my eye and seems right for the day.

And finally whoever was responsible for selecting and tying together the photographs knows how to hang a good exhibition.  Charles Marlin

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It’s a wonderful Southern taste but you will be happiest easing into it.  Try Pot Liquor put together with ready made ingredients from your local homogenized store.  If you like that, you can ease yourself along toward Potliquor made from your own garden, local farmer’s market, and favorite smoke shop.  Your at Potlikker when you keep the pot resupplied with fresh ingredients from one day to the next.  When cared for it never gets old, only better.

The ingredients are fresh or canned greens, smoked pork hocks or ham boon or smoked bacon, and vineger for dressing.  If you don’t know whether you prefer collard, turnip, or mustard greens, buy the seasoned mixed greens in the 27 ounce can.  Season to taste with salt, pepper, Frank’s Redhot Sauce, liquid smoke, or not.

If you are easing into this taste, add your well done bacon bits and liquid smoke to the pot containing your canned greens.  Simmer maybe twenty minutes and drain well the greens as you want to save the water in your pot for the Pot Liquor.  By squeezing the liquid out of your greens you make way for the vinegar dressing.  It will still be a little soupy so best served in a small side dish.  What’s left in the pot is your to enjoy as a hot soup immediately, the next day, or frozen for another time.

When you advance to Potliquor, you use fresh greens from your garden or the farmer’s market.  Put the greens through several cold rinses to get rid of all the grit.  Dice and set aside.  If you found a nice smoked ham hock, add ham hock, seasoning, and greens to boiling water.  If you are still using smoked bacon, take the bacon out of the skillet, cool, and crumble.  Add the fresh greens to the bacon grease for three or four minutes, then scoup up and put in the pot along with the bacon.  Don’t ask how long, just don’t rush it, maybe two hours on a low simmer.

You can play around with other ingredients such as Frank’s Redhot Sauce, garlic, cilantra, or even diced leeks if you clean them carefully.  Leeks are always gritty with sand and dirt.  If you are not willing to very closely inspect the ridge flap between the light and dark green of the Leek layers, you will be better off cutting that section out.  You are at Potlikker when you refresh the pot atleast once, and you won’t settle for anything but the best smoked pork available.

If you are in Clarion County you can try Hirsch Meats in Kossuth.  Call ahead at (814) 797-5206.  My favorite smoke shop is Willie’s Smoke House just south of Harrisville PA on Route 8 in Butler County.  They are closed on Sunday and Monday.  Call ahead at (724) 735-4184.  I go there for smoked baby backribs when I do Black Eyed Peas, and smoked chops when I make Navy Bean soup.  Charles Marlin

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Midway through making these hors d’oeuvres they may look like something Sherman stepped on marching through Georgia, but not to fear.  With these balls, Dixie never tasted as good.

6 ounces pork sausage

3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) butter, room temperature

3/4 cup grated or shredded Chedder cheese, room temperature

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

36 pecan halves

Gently cook the sausage but stop before any of it gets hard.  Drain, cool, and crumble.

With a spatula cream the butter and cheese together until smooth.  Gradually blend in the flour and salt to make a dough.  Crumble the sausage over the dough and mix in with your hand.  Chill until firm or about 20 minutes.

Make small balls no bigger than the end of your thumb.  The balls need to be big enough to press a pecan halve into the center, but no bigger.  You should get close to 36 dough balls.  Place on a cookie sheet.  Bake in the oven 20 minutes at 350 degrees.

Serve warm or store in the refrigerator.  Charles Marlin

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