Showing posts from 2014

Gravy basics

In case someone who doesn't cook stumbles upon my blog... a word about gravy. 

Gravy doesn't come from a packet of powder or a can. To make gravy, brown your meat in a pan. A heavy pan, preferably cast iron works best. Browning is accomplished by washing, thoroughly drying and salting the meat, then searing/frying the surface of it in a little fat - that means, lay it in a hot pan, with the pieces not touching each other and leave it there, not moving it around, until it has visibly browned, then turn over and brown the other side. Once browned, remove the meat or push it of the sides of a very large pan. You can then brown some onions in the fat and meat drippings if you like. Push the onions to the sides of the pan. 

Once that is done, add a little more fat if necessary (and it will be with lean meat). Cook a tablespoon or two of flour (depending on how much gravy you want to make) in the fat until it smells cooked/nutty, not like raw flour and slightly brown. Then, add either…

The importance of a palate

About an hour ago, Hank Shaw (author of Hunt, Gather Cook) reminded me of something.  He Tweeted something about cooking with venison fat.  I not only grew up being told, but everything I've read up to his point, told me that venison fat had an undesirable flavor.  I'm an adventurous eater, but I never gave it a try - and, it seemed like a waste.  Hank said that some deer fat is really good (he didn't give many details, but did say pre-rut, fat and young).  This was a major head slapping moment for me.  I know how to render fat from other animals and I'm just slightly more of an animal fat fan than Bill Cosby. ("Praise the lard!")  So now, I have new fat with a familiar flavor....

Suddenly, hundreds of recipes came to mind.  I could use deer fat in recipes that include the foods a deer eats.  I could use deer fat to flavor other foods.  I could infuse deer flavor in whiskies.  Everything from  mushrooms and ramps to deep fried nuts to infused bourbon... even p…

Robert Toombs on Southern Hospitality

I'll be passing through one of my favorite towns later this week: Washington, Georgia.  I am reminded of this great quote by fellow UGA alum, the Confederate Secretary of State, Robert Toombs: "If a respectable man comes to town, he can stay at my house. If he isn't respectable, we don't want him here at all."

Stay "unreconstructed" y'all...

Surf Fishing tip: fish the tides

This is a very basic tip, but I've been really surprised how many folks have been out fishing at the wrong time and doing nothing more than wasting bait and getting sunburned.  At first, I thought that they just enjoyed fishing but, all week, I have been hearing complaints that "no one is catching anything."  I've caught fish and landed them every day but one and even on that day, I had fish bite but couldn't land them.  The reason is very simple: I fish the tides.

Each day, I go out two hours before high tide and fish until two hours after.  Sure, it is inconvenient, but that is when the fish are biting.  I have caught fish before, at other stages of the tide, but on a beach like Holden's, high tide is really the only consistent time when you know the fish will be feeding near shore.  At high tide, bigger fish come in to eat smaller fish, small crabs and shellfish whose shells get broken in the surf.

Beyond that, I've just been using the right bait and ta…

Surf Fishing Day 4: chopper blues and monsters in the surf

Day four at Holden Beach - my big, flat feet are sunburned, I'm tired but having a great time.  I've been fishing each high tide.  I go out about two hours before high tide and come in about two hours after.  The action has been moderate.  I've been landing small bluefish every day but yesterday.  The blues have been very fun to catch and to watch.  The come tearing along the shore, chasing finger mullet - toothy little torpedoes, jumping in the air, flipping and dancing on the waves.  All of them that I have caught have been in the 12 to 15 inch range - perfect for eating.  

Those who do not care for bluefish probably dislike it because it was handled improperly before they ate it.  Bluefish is no only an oily fish, but it spoils quickly after being caught.  All of this can be solved through proper handling and cooking.  Immediately after catching the fish, hold it firmly by the back, with a towel.  If it is a keeper, remove the hook (I use an old large pare of needle nos…

Day 2 - surf fishing at Holden Beach, NC

It is really too early in the season, by at least a month, but I did have a little luck yesterday.  I saw a lot of fish - spots, large blues and even a huge sailfish or marlin that jumped a couple of times about 200 yards out.  The pelicans and gulls were catching lots of fish. I spent two hours yesterday having my bait (shrimp) stolen by pinfish.  I finally caught one and cut it up for bait.  I caught two small blues on a double (spot) rig.

I'm trying to get used to two new rod and reel combinations, and am making an absolute fool of myself.   I mostly got the hang of the 9 foot surf rod yesterday - most casts 50-75 yards.  Starting out though, I was having trouble casting even 30 yards and had some major bird nests on the reel with the 30 lb braid  line I'm using.  It is a new rod, old reel and I'm far more used to mono filament line.  The braid feels very light.

Today, I'm going to try to use the 13 foot rod and big reel.  It is a ridiculously big, heavy, "Hatter…

That's What I Like 'Bout the South!

A great Southern anthem... and it s all about food!Written by Andy Razaf in about 1930.

Razaf was born in DC, after his parents fled Madagascar; he was nephew ofQueen Ranavalona, III.He also wrote "In The Mood", "Ain't Misbehavin'", and several other swing standards of the big band era.
Here is Bob Wills' Texas Playboys version, because BOB WILLS IS STILL THE KING!You've got to hear Eldon Shamblin's guitar break on this one...

Aside from being a great songwriter, he sure knew his food (Is it any wonder that Fats Waller, a legendary eater and drinker, recorded so many of his songs?).... makes me hungry just to listen!:
Won't you come with me to Alabamy Let's go see my dear old mammy She's frying eggs and broilin' hammy That's what I like about the south
Now there you can make no mistaky Where those? never shaky Ought to taste her layer cakey That's what I like about the south
She's got big ribs and cand…

Delicious Turtle Meat!

It is said that turtle meat contains the flavors of 7 different meats.  I have identified 5 - veal, fish, pork, chicken and crawfish or crab... not sure about the other 2... maybe raccoon...  All I can tell you is that turtle meat is amazing.  I was a big fan of the original, Japanese version of Iron Chef.  I recall that Chairman Kaga said that his ideal meal would include turtle.  In the South, the turtle most eaten is the common snapping turtle.

This critter is easy to catch, can be quite large and has a long history in American, especially gourmet, food.  Turtle soup is the classic dish, but turtle can be prepared a variety of way.  Pan Fried turtle may be the best meat I have ever tasted. 
The first regional (and one of the first) cookbooks written and published in America was the Virginia Housewife by Mary Randolph.  She was related to Pocahontas, Thomas Jefferson (America's first gourmet) and Robert E. Lee.  Mrs. Randolph devoted a section of her classic book to preparing and …

Field Pea Gravy

Does anyone recognize this:

That is the king of potlikkers, field pea gravy!  The best field peas are the Dixie Lee variety - an heirloom cowpea, passed down for a few hundred years in the South.  When you cook fresh field peas (with green "snaps"), you boil them with pork seasoning (fatback, bacon grease, or even just lard) and salt.  At the bottom of the pot, once most of the peas have been eaten, is field pea gravy.  Just as fat, proteins and flavors from meat, when combined in a pan with flour and water form good brown gravy, so do the field peas.  In this bowl, you can see the fat glistening in the light.  With the fat and water, proteins and starch from the peas have combined to form one of the richest gravies imaginable.  With a couple of pieces of fried cornbread, it is a meal on its own.  Never throw away the potlikker from your beans or peas!  Not all can stand on their own as a gravy, but most can be part of a good pea or bean soup with the addition of some chicken…

A Crisis

When you read the old cookbooks - pre 1950s, but especially those from the 1700s and 1800s - you realize how much we have lost.  We are not only using fewer ingredients in in more limited ways, but the variety of foods available to us has decreased.  The quality and the variety of our food has depreciated.  Our ancestors had an array of meats and vegetables, many of which are unknown to the common contemporary grocery store.  We may be more modern, we may be more international in our tastes, but we have not progressed; we have regressed.  We have moved from a cornucopia of foods produced by the sweat of the brow and the bounty of the earth, to a dearth of  a few meats and a handful of common vegetables of questionable freshness and doubtful nutrition.

My favorite light breakfast - liver pudding and tomato biscuit

No, that is not a hamburger!  This is a homemade biscuit, a slice of a garden grown Cherokee Purple tomato and a large helping of liver pudding.  The biscuits were made with lard and patted out by hand (no one in my family ever rolled out and cut biscuits).  The tomatoes were grown by a friend in eastern NC - Cherokee Purple is an old, heirloom variety that has incredible flavor.  The liver pudding is the Pender's brand.  Pender's is very good, but Scottish Packing is my favorite commercial brand.  Homemade liver pudding can be much better than anything store bought, but I doubt that two families use the same recipe. 

Liver pudding is, basically, pork liver, lean meat and fat, salt, pepper, herbs and/or spices cooked, ground fine and formed into a pate'.  I like a little sage and a lot of crushed red pepper in mine.  As far as I'm concerned, the best liver pudding is always in a natural casing.  Adding cornmeal or rice meal to the mixture is somewhat controversial.  Som…

Wild Grapes

Wild grapes are fairly ubiquitous throughout the South, except for the high elevations of the mountains. These were picked on the roadside last week, in Moore County, NC.  Unfortunately, I didn't know the land owner and couldn't pick more than a handful.  These are my favorite eating grapes when they are a bit riper.  When ripe, they are sweet, tangy and a bit tart, turning a very deep purple, almost black.
Small black grapes... what dose that remind you of?  If you answered pinot noir, you are right.  Although these grapes are of an entirely different family than pinot noir, at this semi-ripe stage, they make an excellent wine that is similar to a good pinot noir.  In fact, the wine made from these grapes is far superior to the pinot noir I'm drinking this moment - a California wine I was unfamiliar with and bought on sale this afternoon.  The wine made from these grapes, at this stage, is slightly fruity, low alcohol, sparklingly acidic, slightly tannic, pale red and has …

Real North Carolina Barbecue

A barbecue pit depicted in A Southern Barbecue, 1887, by Horace Bradley  - from Wikipedia

Real North Carolina barbecue is a dying art.Real North Carolina barbecue is either pork shoulders or a whole hog cooked very, very slowly over hardwood coals.The coals come from real wood – predominately oak and hickory – which are burned down to glowing embers and shoveled under the pork.It takes about 10 hours of this difficult physical labor to cook pork shoulders and up to twenty four hours to cook a whole hog.The result is amazingly tender, smoky (but not over smoked), succulent, salty pork which may be complimented by vinegar based sauce.Down East, the sauce is only vinegar and spices; the further west you travel, the more tomato paste or ketchup is added.
Barbecue Pit at Lefler's Place in Pee Dee, NC - note the wood ready to be burned to coals on the right, before being shoveled into the pit on left
Pork shoulders or whole hogs cooked using a gas or electric heat source is just roast pork…

Mission Statement

Although this blog is brand new as of today August 1, 2014, its genesis was actually about 10 years ago.  My uncle had recently passed away.  He lived our family's farm with my grandmother.  Shortly thereafter, my grandmother had a heart attack and needed constant care.  My mother returned to the farm to care for her and I withdrew from classes at my beloved University of Georgia and moved to the farm to help.

It was November and the first frost had brought its flavor to the greens.  The three of us had visited the type of greens field that used to be quite common in the rural south - an honor garden.  This was an unattended field of collards, mustard and turnips down a back road.  You picked what you wanted and left the appropriate amount of money in a box by the road.  The only watchful eyes were the chickens pecking through the field, doing their job of pest control, before returning to roost at the farm several acres away.  We filled the back of my pickup truck with heads of co…