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Archive for the ‘cornbread’ Category

Every year now it seems that newspapers, food blogs, and radio shows debate the merits of turkey or sides as the highlight of Thanksgiving dinner.  Personally, I’m all about the dressing–cornbread stuffing baked in a separate pan for those of you who don’t have Southern roots.  I’ll never forget the year that my sister, accompanied by my mother, ended up in the emergency room the night before Thanksgiving.  The task of making the cornbread for the dressing fell to my father.  He made the mistake of picking a sweet cornbread recipe and using that cornbread for the dressing.  It’s the only year that I didn’t pig out on the dressing.  Needless to say, it was genuinely disgusting.  (Sorry, Dad!)  That dressing is part of family legend.  So is our regular recipe, anchoring us to our ancestors like Americans’ gastronomy nationwide reflect their origins.

As I’ve moved around the country, I’ve discovered that asking the simple question “Dressing or stuffing?” can place a person’s ancestors faster than any other question.  If you want to get more specific within the South, you have to ask more detailed questions about the recipe.  For example, the Georgia dressing recipe that I grew up with included the traditional cornbread as well as a sage stuffing mix, celery, onions, broth, and eggs.  The result was a mixture as solid as canned cranberry jelly.  We could cut it into neat slices.  (I use an all-scratch method now that stays fluffier, and I like it much better, but don’t tell Mom.)    Mr. Homesteader grew up in south Arkansas, and his dressing recipe included chopped boiled eggs.  Those chopped boiled eggs seem pretty consistent across the flatlands of the state and can mark a delta Arkansan faster than any accent.  Newer recipes that are tasty include squash dressing.

I confess to an endless fascination with dressing and stuffing recipes.  I’ve always wanted to compile a catalog of regional variations.  Will you help me to start that catalog?  You can build the recipe catalog one of two ways.  For both cases, you’ll need to answer the following questions.  You can answer directly on the blog, but if you prefer not to tie your ancestry to your regular name here, you can send answers to my email (Ozarkhomesteader AT yahoo DOT com), and I’ll remove names before I post them under anonymous listings.  (And, yes, I’ll preserve your privacy and not share your information with anyone else.)  You may also email photographs in jpg format to that address, and I’ll upload them with this post.  Folks from outside the US are welcome to join in too!

1.  What’s the recipe?  This can be a precise recipe or a vague one, but it needs to include the key components (like boiled eggs, chiles, giblets, fruit, nuts).

2.  What consistency does the product have?  Can you slice it?  Do you spoon it?  Is it fluffy?  Can you see discrete pieces of bread?

3.  What do you call it?

4.  What place do you call home, as in where you learned the recipe?

5.  What is your primary regional and/or state influence in cooking?  For most people, we’re talking about where your mother and grandmother(s) originated.

6.  Do you have any relatives who aren’t from that region?  If so, from where are they?

7.  How long have you used this recipe?

I hope you like mapping food history as much as I do!  Join the fun, and spread the word so that we can get a good sample here.  Remember to include your food origins location!

Update, November 23, 2011:  Please continue to submit your recipes and memories of dressing and stuffing at your house for Thanksgiving.  We’ve still got lots of the country to cover!

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.

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I learned this recipe for vegetable soup from my Georgia grandmother.  She made it with whatever meat she had on hand, often pot roast.  My mother rarely made pot roast, so she cooked up ground beef.  I use whatever poultry I have on hand, but you could easily make this a tasty, healthy vegan soup that meets all your nutritional needs in one bowl by leaving the meat or poultry out.  This soup fits the old Southern “meat and three” (or meatless and three!) meal of beans, grains, and nutritious vegetables.  It is a bowl full of warm flavors.  You’ll want to make a big pot of it, because the flavors will continue to meld into something even more wonderful after the first day.  And if you think you’ve made too much, don’t fret!  This soup freezes well too.

All measurements are approximate.  As I’ve said before, use what you have!  By the way, I used frozen garden okra and beans and home-canned tomatoes.  The home-grown frozen and canned ingredients make this recipe even more frugal.

Makes at least 5-7 cups

  • one large yellow onion, diced
  • 1 cup okra, cut into thin slices across the grain and then chopped
  • 1 cup carrots, diced
  • 1 cup celery, diced
  • 1 cup beans (baby limas or “green” (wax, pole, bush) beans–if using “green” beans, cut into short pieces)
  • optional:  1/2 cup to 1 cup leftover turkey, chicken, or pot roast or browned ground meat
  • 1 pint to 1 quart tomatoes and tomato juice (start with less, add as you need or want)
  • 1/2 cup-1 cup corn, off the cob
  • salt and pepper to taste

Begin by dicing the onion and sauteing it in a heavy-bottomed pot.  While it sautes, prepare the okra.  Are you turning up your nose at the okra? Trust me on this one.  Okra, it is true, can be slimy and disgusting if improperly prepared, but we’re using it to thicken the soup.  It’ll add a mild flavor similar to a bell pepper, and if you don’t tell anyone there’s okra in it, they’ll never know. Once the onion gets a little  color, add the okra.  Turn the heat down to almost nothing, and put a lid on the pot.  Set the timer for an hour.  Stir occasionally, adding a small amount of water or broth as needed to cook the onions and okra into a soft mass.

Meanwhile, prep the rest of the vegetables.  After an hour, add the carrots and celery and a bit more water or broth to cover and cook on low heat about 10-15 minutes.  Now add the beans, the meat or poultry (if you are using any) and about half of the tomatoes and tomato juice.   Add more tomato juice and tomatoes if you’d like extra tomato flavor and/or juice. Simmer for twenty minutes to half an hour or even an hour, adding more tomato juice as the liquid cooks down.  Add the corn, heat thoroughly, and serve. You’ve got a delicious, rich, virtually fat-free meal, all in a big bowl.

We like this soup with traditional cornbread and bread-and-butter pickles (sweet and sour pickles with onion and mustard).  If you’re feeling decadent, a good sharp cheddar alongside tastes good but by no means is necessary.

Slow Cooker (Crock Pot) Directions

To make this recipe work in the slow cooker, I recommend pre-sauteing the onion.  I also recommend pre-cooking the okra.  You can put everything in at once, but you’ll risk folks recognizing the okra if you don’t pre-cook the okra.  Of course, if your family likes okra, it’s no big deal!  Just toss everything in, turn the cooker to low, and walk away for the day.

Copyright Ozarkhomesteader 2010.  Short excerpts with full links to this site are welcome.  Contact me for permission to use photographs.

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A few days ago I blogged about a Southern staple of healthy frugal food, beans and cornbread with greens.  Today I’d like to give you my Georgia grandmother’s cornbread recipe.

I learned how to make cornbread standing by my grandmother, in her kitchen.  As with so many of the foods she prepared often, she had no recipe for cornbread, so I insisted that we measure as much as we could after she eyeballed amounts.  She was particularly fond of measurements like “butter, about the size of a hen egg,” which confounded me until I became the recipient of her most treasured cookbook and discovered that that was the kind of measurement her well-worn nineteenth-century cookbook used. (Please don’t tell my mother I have the cookbook.  My mother thinks she got the most treasured cookbook.  I don’t think she knew about this cookbook.) It has been two decades since I transcribed this cornbread recipe.  At the time, I know I got more direction on how the mixture should look, but I did not write it down.  Nonetheless, this recipe produces a darn good cornbread.  If you do not have bacon drippings, you can use butter.  You could also use apple sauce if you want less fat, but it may produce a little stickier bread.  This cornbread is authentic; it was originally lacking completely in sugar, and it has no wheat flour to soften it.  The bread’s consequent hardiness makes it perfect for crumbling in beans or mixing with celery, onions, and seasoning in Southern dressing (stuffing for those of you who aren’t Southern).

Tools: one 10-inch cast iron fry pan  (Yes, you can use a 9-inch square pan, but the cast iron heat helps create the crust.)

Ingredients:

  • 2 to 3 Tablespoons bacon drippings (or butter or apple sauce–see note above)–about half of a large cooking spoon
  • 1 1/2 cups cornmeal
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (original recipe called for 3/4 teaspoon)
  • optional: 1 teaspoon sugar (not in original recipe but really does perk it up)
  • 1 egg (In all likelihood, she would have been using medium eggs.)
  • 1 1/3 cup buttermilk (My note says 1 1/4 “or more, if necessary.”  This was one of those measurements where she talked about appearance.  I think 1 1/3 or even 1 1/2 cup is closer to what you need.)  You could use Kefir if you cannot get good buttermilk.

Put the bacon drippings in your skillet and put the whole thing in a 425 degree (F) oven, to melt the drippings and get the skillet hot.  Mix the cornmeal, leavening (baking powder), salt, egg, and buttermilk in a bowl.  Pull the skillet out of the oven, and swirl the drippings to coat the bottom and a little of the sides.  Pour the melted drippings into the batter, stir the batter to incorporate the drippings, and then immediately pour the batter into the skillet.  Bake for 30-35 minutes, higher rather than lower in the oven.  When you take out the cornbread, flip it over and leave it in the pan upside down to cool.  Then flip it back to serve, or flip it onto a plate.  Cornbread is served in wedges, cut like pie slices.

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.  Short excerpts with a full link and reference to Ozarkhomesteader are welcome.  Passing off my grandmother’s recipe as your own?  not cool!

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Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader. Short excerpts with full links are welcome.

Beans and ham, beans and cornbread, navy bean soup, ham-bone soup, Senate bean soup:  no matter what you call it, this old Southern favorite that’s not quite soup, not quite vegetable stew can include pork ham, turkey ham, or no animal flesh at all.  The beans can be pretty darn healthy, really healthy, or phenomenally healthy.    Today I’m going to give you all three variations (smidgen of red meat for a low-fat bowl, ultra low-fat bit of poultry, or fat-free vegetarian) on classic Southern beans, any of which can be prepared on the stove top or in a slow cooker.  Oh, they are soooooo good!To duplicate the Southern experience, serve these beans with cornbread (to complete your vegetarian protein), good greens (like turnip or collard), and pickles, chow-chow, or tobasco.  My ancestors made these beans on the top of a wood stove or in a kitchen fire in a big cast iron pot in colder months.  They might have cooked them all day, slowly, on a March or April day after they’d polished off an Easter country ham and just had the bone left.  They might have gathered wild greens, or perhaps they had greens growing in their kitchen garden.  Regardless, these beans with cornbread and greens made great healthy, frugal cuisine then, just as they do today.  They are a classic case of “meat and three,” where any meat included is a seasoning, not the main focus of the dish, and they are a great choice for today’s environmentally and economically conscious culture.

makes about 7 cups

the vegetables:

  • ½ large yellow onion (a full cup diced, give or take a bit)
  • 1 cup  to 1 ½ cups (split) carrots, diced
  • 1 cup to 1 ½ cups (split) celery, diced

the dried beans:

  • 1 1/2 cups dried navy beans (the classic!), pinto beans (more like chili), black beans (think southwest), or another bean like Jacob’s cattle or Anasazi (I used navy beans, black beans, and Anasazi!)


the liquid:

  • 5 -6 ½ cups water, vegetable broth, chicken stock, or turkey stock (or 1/2 smoked turkey stock*, half water)

Use the larger amount for Anasazi beans, the lesser for most other dried beans.  (Anasazi beans need 4 cups of water for every 1 cup of beans, whereas other beans of similar size need 3 cups of water for every one cup of beans.  We’re adding ½ cup more liquid to make the beans a little brothier.)

optional animal products:

  • 1 ham bone
  • 2-3 slices pork bacon, diced, rendered, and drained of fat (save it!)
  • ¼ cup turkey ham steak, diced

Stove top method:

Measure, sort through for pebbles, and rinse the beans—something you should do with all dried beans.  Soak the beans overnight or at least all day in a very heavy-bottomed stockpot or a cast iron Dutch oven.  This recipe may be a bit too big for a 2-quart Dutch oven, but you could start with just a portion of the liquid and add the rest as the beans absorb it. You’ll need to cover the beans by at least double or possibly even triple the depth of water.  (You could easily start soaking the beans in the morning and then cook them in the late afternoon.)  Drain off  the soaking liquid and add the cooking liquid (water, stock), onions, half of the carrots and celery, and any animal product you are adding.  Simmer beans, covered, for 1 ½ to 2 hours (less for Anasazi, more for black, the full two hours for navy).  Stir occasionally, but if you’ve picked a suitably heavy pot, you shouldn’t have to worry much about sticking.  After the initial cooking time, add the rest of the carrots and celery and cook the beans for ½ hour to 1 hour to finish softening them.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Slow Cooker (Crock Pot) Method

Measure, sort through for pebbles, and rinse the beans—something you should do with all dried beans.  Add the beans, the chopped onion, half of the carrots and celery, all of the optional animal flesh and/or bone, and all of the liquid to a slow cooker (known often by the trade-marked name Crock Pot).  Put on the lid and set the slow cooker to low.  Let the beans cook all day.  An hour or so before supper (depending on the type of beans—more time for navy beans, less for black and Anasazi–and your slow cooker), add the rest of the carrots and celery and crank the slow cooker to high for about an hour to finish cooking the beans.  What if you come home and the beans are already soft?  You could turn off the beans, saute the carrots and celery, add them to the beans, and then turn on the cooker right before dinner to reheat it. Add salt and pepper to taste.

In order to get the best nutrition from these beans, serve them with whole-grain cornbread (recipe to follow in a future blog post) to make a complete protein (something you can get by mixing whole grains with beans).  Add gently cooked seasonal greens, like mustard greens, turnip greens, or collard greens—or you could even just make a side salad of healthy baby greens.  Serve with cucumber pickles like bread-and-butter or chow-chow (pickled vegetables).  Some people add pickle juice or tobasco hot sauce to the beans and greens.

*Smoked turkey stock. Did you smoke a turkey this year or get one as a gift?  Did you toss the carcass?  Don’t do that again!  For a great smoky stock, cover the smoked-turkey carcass with water, add aromatics (a stalk of celery, some onion chunks, herbs), and simmer for about two hours.  Strain off the bones, vegetables, and herbs then cool the stock.  Skim off the opaque fat that forms at the top.  Use your stock in soups and beans.  I recommend using it for no more than half of the liquid in a recipe, since it is quite strong.

Do you have questions about cooking with dried beans, Southern food, or vegetarian options?  I’ll do my best to answer them!

I’ve posted a traditional, hearty cornbread recipe.  It is all corn meal and minimally sweet, like people used to eat before every bread came to taste like dessert.

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Another post in the series “Living with and Loving Cast Iron”

Are you new to Dutch ovens but excited to try one for your next camp out?  The following recipe is so easy that I hesitate to even call it that.  It is also not my own creation but rather a recipe that’s been circulating for years.  This recipe is for the small 2-quart Dutch oven, but you can multiply it to use a bigger Dutch oven.

Begin by assembling ingredients:

1 small cornbread mix (I like Hodgson Mill’s whole grain mix when I use a mix instead of making from scratch)

butter or oil, eggs and buttermilk or milk to make the cornbread, according to the recipe

one or two cans of good chili (We use vegetarian chili, but you can use whatever you want.)

1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese

If you are using a camping Dutch oven outside, start your coals.

Begin by coating the Dutch oven lightly with oil.  If you are camping and want easy clean-up, you can coat with oil and then line the Dutch oven with aluminum foil and then grease the aluminum foil too. Now open the can(s) of chili and pour it into the bottom of the Dutch oven.  Sprinkle on the cheese.  Now mix up the corn bread according to package directions and spread it on top of the chili and cheese.  Take a knife and poke through the corn bread batter to the chili in several places.  You want them to get to know each other, but don’t marry them.

Now place your Dutch oven on top of about 5 coals. Spread about 8 coals on top.  Use more coals if you are using a larger Dutch oven. Every ten minutes or so, rotate your Dutch oven on the coals on the bottom and turn the lid (very carefully to avoid getting ash in the food!) on top.  Check periodically to see if the cornbread is browning.  After about 30 minutes, you’ll have an all-in-one meal for 2-4 people.

By the way, if you use powdered egg white and milk, you can keep the ingredients for this cornbread-chili-cheese bake on hand for months with no refrigeration.

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