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Showing posts from 2015

Forgotten Feast: SNAILS.... Real "Slow Food"

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Due to the current el nino weather pattern, it certainly doesn't feel like December 28. The ditches are full of frogs, the birds are singing, mushrooms are popping up.... and snails are still active.  Few people in the south (actually, none I've ever met) eat snails, which is a shame.  Although the south is literally covered in the garden ravaging common brown snail, it is not native.  The common brown snail (Cornu aspersum) was brought here by early immigrants to be raised as food.



I am not sure where I first heard about eating brown snails.... obviously, I heard about escargot being served in restaurants most of my life - in fact, my parents carried canned escargot in their grocery store when I was a child - and several recipes appeared in the cookbooks on my mother's shelf.  Those snails though are larger and the shell prettier, so they make good restaurant fare.  However, I distinctly recall watching a program when I was around age 10, from which I learned that in many …

Glorious Fatback

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It seems that many folks I meet these days, under a certain age, say that they do not like vegetables.  This is incredible to me, because I'm some what of a vegetable fanatic.  Growing up on the farm and in rural communities, huge varieties of fresh vegetables are a part of life.  It has often been joked that mid-summer in the south requires constant vigilance because, the moment you turn your  back, someone leaves a sack of squash on your doorstep or slips it through an open car window.  When vegetables come into season int he south, they come in! Everyone with a garden and even a slightly green thumb is overwhelmed with produce.  Truly, our calendars would be more appropriately marked by frost dates, the peak times for vegetables and hunting seasons than by months.

Life in the south revolves around food.  So, when someone tells me they don't like vegetables, I have to enquire as to the root cause.  Invariably, it is because they have been raised on unseasoned vegetables.  Th…

Possum and "Ruralistic" Food Philosophy

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Several seemingly unrelated thoughts have been nagging at me over the past week in a disjointed fashion.  Oddly, or perhaps appropriately, enough they came together the other night as I dodged a possum.  I was passing through a very rural area, on my way home late at night when a huge possum walked into the road.  It was nearly medium dog sized!  I swerved and it turned back.  My first thought was that it would make someone a very good supper if it doesn't get run over before hunting season.  My thoughts drifted to memories of roast possum and sweet potatoes, a true southern meal that few in our era have experienced.  The fresh, cleaned and trimmed possum is slowly roasted with sweet potatoes so that the potatoes slowly become yams in the rendered fat.  The meat is rich and tender... hinting at both pork and chicken.  The gravy is actually indescribable.....

As I was pondering how just few people these days have ever tasted possum, it occurred to me that perhaps just as few have ta…

Air Dried Country Sausage

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When I was very young, my family made sausage at home.  My great grandfather raised hogs, had his own smoke house and was an artist with pork, of French Huguenot descent.  He smoked country hams and bacon, made sausages, liver pudding and head cheese, and rendered the delicious lard that helped make my family's cooking so very good.  After he passed away, at the age of 96, my grandmother stopped making her own sausage.  I was able to get her sausage and head cheese recipes though, and I will be sharing those on this blog in the near future.  Some of our distant cousins operated a small grocery store and made sausage in house, so that is where we bought our sausage for most of my formative years.

The great specialty sausage made by my family was air dried country sausage.  Air dried country sausage is very difficult to find outside of southeastern North Carolina and South Carolina.  Last winter, I learned that one of the few independent grocery stores that still made it in house wa…

Cane Pole Memories

When I was a child, perhaps nothing excited me more than fishing.  Even when the Atlanta Braves were having their miraculous winning years in the 1990's, the spectacle of Maddux, Glavin and Smoltz's artistry on the mound could barely pull me away from sultry evenings by the pond.  I did not have a dad around or any older male figure to instruct me on the finer arts of fishing.  I was in my late teens before I truly learned to use a spinning rod and lures.  My angling equipment of choice was the humble cane pole.  A length of cane between seven and ten feet, some light monofilament line of about the same length, a small hook and a cork or plastic bobber were all I needed for tackle.  A five-gallon bucket on which to sit and in which to bring home my catch, was my only accessory for bank fishing - I never had a boat.  A few worms dug in the morning dew, or caught crawling along after a rain was my only bait.  With that in tow, this skinny, southern kid whose skin would burn easi…

Southern Fried Bread

I've heard fried bread refer to to anything from Native American fry bread to pain de mie, to Yorkshire fried bread... even hush puppies. My family, being a rather volatile mix of Irish, French, English, Scottish and Cheraw Indian likely made all of the above and many of which i am unaware. My grandmother generally cooked two types, not including french toast. One was just called "flour bread". It was a simple biscuit dough made with self rising flour, milk and lard, cooked at a low temp on the stove top, in a seasoned or very lightly greased cast iron pan. You simply spoon it in like a big, thick pancake and turn it over to brown on each side. Once it is a medium brown with little black spots (much like pan fried chicken), it will be done on the inside. She would make this on mornings when she didn't have time to bake biscuits. The other, which was served at every dinner, was pan fried cornbread. This is just a medium/thin slurry of stone ground cornmeal, salt and w…

The Virginia Housewife

My favorite old cookbook - a timeless classic... the first cookbook published in America.  This book contains, among other wonderful things, the first southern fried chicken recipe ever published.  Here is the .pdf version for free from archive.org:
https://archive.org/details/virginiahousewi00randgoog

Real Grits Basics

Here are my basics: 1) Buy only stone ground real grits. Never, ever purchase instant grits, quick grits or any grits that are the consistency of cream of wheat. As the late and brilliant Lewis Grizzard said (paraphrased), "Southerners only serve lumpy, unsalted, instant grits, without butter to yankees as revenge for burning Atlanta." 2) Salt the cooking liquid generously. 3) Use only real butter as your fat. The cooking ratio is 1 parts grits to 2 parts liquid. The liquid can be plain water, broth or stock. I always use plan water for breakfast grits, shrimp stock for shrimp and grits, chicken broth for cheese grits, etc. For a breakfast for two or three people, bring 1 cup of water to the boil and salt it to taste. Add 1/4th cup grits. Reduce to a simmer and stir occasionally to prevent lumps (stone ground grits rarely lump). Simmer until the grits have absorbed about 90% of the water (so they don''t dry out on the plate). Stir 1/3rd stick of butter into the pot. …

How to follow the blog

Some of the "gadgets" on my blog don't seem to be working.  The only sure way to follow the blog is to click “Join this site” at the top right hand corner.   Thanks for your patience as I get things worked out.  I should soon be able to finish with the technical stuff and get back to the food!

Please follow my blog

In the 24 hours or so since I have relaunched this blog, I have received a good deal of much appreciated praise. Some of y'all seem to really like it and that is tremendously gratifying.  However, no one has officially "followed" the blog as of yet.  500+ folks have read it... but none have committed to receiving the very occasionally update by email.  If you like my blog, please follow it.  I promise not to fill your inbox with anything but the very occasional new post.  Once I get a few followers, google will do a bit to promote the blog so others can find it.  So, this is somewhat necessary for success. If you wish, you can also"like" the Facebook page for my blog: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Reclaiming-Southern-Food/1533612320202459?ref=bookmarks  Either way, I'd truly appreciate it!  As I stated before, if 100 people follow my blog I will keep going and if 1,000 people follow it I will write a cookbook.

Supper At My Grandmother's Table - butter beans and field peas

I do not recall a time when butter beans and field peas (heirloom speckled butter beans and dixie lee peas) were not a part of supper at my grandmother's table.  The dinner meal usually included two meats, three or four seasonal vegetables (greens, okra, squash, etc) in addition to beans and peas, rice or potatoes, fried corn bread or fried flour bread, tossed salad or a platter of fresh, raw seasonal vegetables including sliced tomatoes, cucumbers, banana or bell peppers and celery, two or three desserts which may include home made cakes, pies, puddings, cookies (usually tea cakes) or ice cream, jams, jellies, preserves or honey (from my great-grandfather's hives, which were by the swamp and produced honey as dark as molasses) to be spread biscuits still hot from the oven, a variety of pickled vegetables, chow chows or relishes, usually some sausage or country ham on a dish on the stove, left over from breakfast and some fried fatback, left over from seasoning vegetables.  Ea…

My convoluted, unproven, Faulknerian theory of Southern Food

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Southern Food is known as a regional style of cooking in America.  It is distinct.  It is often classified as ethnic - whether called southern home cookin' or soul food.  Newspaper and magazine articles extolled southern cooking in the early through mid-1900s as a distinct style of cooking.  Barbecue pitmasters, fried chicken cooks, biscuit champions, small country ham producers, the cake and pie recipes of countless southern ladies, a few colorful cajuns with big personalities and a knack for telling humorous stories and even the legendary Colonel in his white suite, became institutions.  In some ways, Southern food is more popular now than ever.
What, however, makes southern cooking unique?  The South is a collection of states that lie between the Mississippi River and south of the Mason Dixon Line, encompassing an area somewhat larger than the New England and Mid-Atlantic states.  The Southern states are at least as old as the northern states.  So, why is southern cooking distin…

Simple Bread

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Simple Bread
My loaf in the picture is a traditional kneaded bread - it is only southern in that it is my original recipe and I am southern. 
It is just 6 cups all purpose, unbleached flour, 1 and 3/4 tablespoons salt, 1 and a half cups water, dough starter and one packet of instant dry yeast... the only real trick is the the dough starter. 
Each time I make a loaf of bread, I pinch off a handful after it rises. I put the raw pinch of dough into a 12 ounce jar, fill it with cold water and put it int he fridge. It will keep for a couple of weeks. So, the water in the recipe is actually the contents of that jar (I count the dough starter as part of the water). 
I just tossed all of that together in my stand mixer an kneaded for 10 - 11 minutes. It can be done by hand, but the kneading time would be more like 16 minutes. It is a very firm, fairly dry, barely sticky dough - like pizza dough. Form it into a ball and dust it with flour. Let it rise in a bowl at around 80-85 degrees for two hour…