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Posts Tagged ‘Southern food’

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 started our summer squash late this year, but we’ve still ended up with bushels of it.  Last year I posted about summer supper squash pancakes, and earlier this year I offered a can-less version of squash casserole.  Of course, you can always sauté squash with onions, but why not go a little crazy and come up with a few more variations?

Earlier this week we had squash roasted with sweet onions, pimento pepper, a little chile pepper, and strips of turkey ham.  The recipe is simple; just cut the onions into chunky slices (half the onion and then quarter and separate into leaves), toss with a little oil, and give them a head start them roasting at 400 degrees F while you cut the squash into nice chunks, the pepper into dice or slivers, and the ham into strips.  Once everything else is prepped, toss it in with the onion, season to taste, and roast for about twenty minutes more.  You can sprinkle fresh, chiffonaded basil or another fresh snipped herb across the top.  I served ours as a side dish with spinach oyster soup, balsamic fig and bleu cheese salad, and crusty grilled bread.  My husband said he could easily enjoy the squash dish as the whole meal. Of course, this squash dish with that characteristic Southern drawl used a lot of squash, but I still had a lot more.

What to do?  How about squash stir-fried with Asian flavors?  This dish is still based on onions and squash, but it’s definitely different from traditional Southern squash.  Begin by slicing a sweet onion into thin slices.  Stir-fry the onions in a blend of walnut oil, peanut oil, or vegetable oil and a tablespoon or two of toasted sesame oil.  While the onions fry, cut your squash into chunks and sliver some crystalized ginger (yes, the candy ginger!), about two whole pieces per small squash (yielding a couple of tablespoons or three of slivered crystalized ginger).  Add the squash and crystalized ginger slivers to the stir-fry along with a splash of good soy sauce and, if you want, a splash of hoisin sauce.  Sit fry until a few pieces of the squash start get brown goodness.  I served our Asian-flavored squash with citrus-glazed broccoli and ginger-sesame salmon.  

What’s next?  I’m thinking squash with scallops and grits and perhaps some yellow squash muffins on the side, with cheese to make them a savory addition to supper.  I’m also planning on trying the squash relish that reader Regina posted for me in the comments of this squash post.  And this fall without a doubt I’ll be making some squash dressing to go with chicken or turkey.

How do you use your squash bounty?  What’s the weirdest thing you ever did with squash that tasted good?

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This summer while visiting my dad, I had a chance to go to the heart of cast iron cookware in the United States:  the Lodge Outlet in South Pittsburgh, Tennessee.  (No, I do not have a relationship of any kind with Lodge; I just like their American-made, last-several-lifetimes products.) The Lodge Outlet is located on the edge of the Appalachian Mountains, near Chattanooga, Tennessee, and Birmingham and Huntsville, Alabama.  It’s right where Alabama, Tennessee, and Georgia come together.  Its location no doubt was influenced by its proximity to the Tennessee River and the iron-producing region of the South that stretches from Chattanooga to Birmingham.  Lodge has been manufacturing here for more than a century, and Lodge’s products will last for centuries if you take care of them, making them some of the most eco-friendly housewares available.

The outlet has cast iron galore!

And the outlet has accessories, like walnut chargers.

And they carry a lot of enameled cast iron now too, although I think it’s made in China instead of in the US like everything else in the outlet.  I love the colors, but I try to avoid Chinese products.

Except I may not be able to resist this casserole dish.  Resisting, resisting . . . .

The outlet room is less pretty (thus no photo), but it’s my absolute favorite, because everything is at a really good price.  It’s tempting, and you know you’re getting a good deal.  And then your cart will start to look like this:

And you may start to worry about whether you’re buying too much, but then you see this sign:

Great!  I’ll keep shopping.  And then you get to the check-out counter and discover if you spend six more dollars, you’ll get twenty dollars worth of merchandise for free.  And you do.  And then your cart looks like this:

I’m not a “shopper” by nature, but I have a really hard time restraining myself at the Lodge Outlet.

Some of the things I bought are for gifts, like these 2-and 3-quart Dutch ovens, which will be wedding gifts.  They were half price but aren’t seconds; Lodge is just changing the design slightly.  I love the idea of giving an enduring gift like a Dutch oven to a couple who likes to cook and eat; they can pass it down to their children and their children’s grandchildren.

I bought some things to keep too–shhhhhhhh.  Don’t tell Mr. Homesteader.  I’ve already used them around him, but I don’t think he’s recognized that they’re new.  Check out this great Dutch oven or skillet lid that doubles as a skillet itself but will also fit in the toaster oven, so I can make my deep-dish whole-grain pizza in the summer without heating up the whole house. Of course, I also really like small cast iron for when you’re not cooking for a whole crew.  Check out my papa bear lid/skillet with my new baby skillet and lid.I have used this little fry pan so many times since I brought it home.

It’s not only cute; it works well!

I can have a perfect over-easy fried egg on buttered toast in about 4 minutes, and I can come up with 4 minutes on all but my busiest work mornings!

The lid that fits the little skillet also fits this nifty little pot with legs.  I picked up two of them as my freebees, but I wish now I’d gotten more.  They’ll be perfect for making individual servings of the chili-cheese-cornbread bake this fall and winter.

Imagine lifting the lids on little bread puddings in these tiny cauldrons!

I also got two more of these wonderful cast-iron plates that work for fajitas, for starting fish on the stove top and then finishing in the oven, and for smaller versions of my thinner-crust whole-grain pizza.  I think these “plates” are indispensable, especially with the walnut charger, which makes it so easy to go from oven or stovetop to table.

And ultimately I could not entirely resist the enamelware.  I bought this trivet.  My kitchen is white with red accents, so this trivet is perfect!

And I got a couple of more things that were neither wedding gifts nor for me.  They’re a gift for one of you, my dear readers.  And they weren’t on sale or from the seconds area, but that’s okay, because months ago I said that a camping Dutch oven would be my first giveaway.  Watch for me to post it tonight or tomorrow morning!  I didn’t want readers to miss it in this long post.

Do you have a favorite outlet for an American-made product that warms the cockles of your heart?  Have you ever been to the Lodge Outlet?

If you want to know more about using Dutch ovens, check out this recent cook-off, this beginner’s recipe, and this roasted chicken recipe.

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader, including photographs.

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One of the reasons I hear from people about why they don’t like cast iron is that they prefer a non-stick surface.  A well-seasoned cast iron pan can actually do a better job of cooking products (and releasing them when it’s time for you to eat) than a standard non-stick pan.  Non-stick pans are also made with toxic substances that get released into your food and thus you when the pans get too hot or when they get scratched.  Give me a good cast iron pan any day!  They add iron to your food instead of petroleum products.

Today I’m using a medium-sized cast iron frying pan that I bought at a yard sale in Wisconsin in the 1990s.  I was yard saling with a friend, and after I gave up the first cast iron pan we found that day–priced at one dollar–, he said the next would be mine.  Sure enough, at the next place, there was this pathetic pan, a little rusty but overall just fine.  It was priced at ten cents.  I felt a little guilty buying it.  I’m pretty sure I cooked a few things for my friend in it over the years.  Anyway, it’s that ten cent pan you see here.

Let’s look at some cast iron basics:  frying an egg.  Begin  by getting your well-seasoned pan hot, and then add a little oil and a little butter.  No, I’m not talking lots of it.  If you use a good oil spray you can go with a few squirts.  Cast iron that’s been well cared for really doesn’t take any more oil than non-stick pans.  Crack your egg and drop it in the pan.Gather up the white that’s shifted to the edges and continue cooking until the white is mostly set.  

For sunny side up, reduce heat and cook until the yellow is set to your taste.  For over easy, flip (it’ll do so just as easily as if you had teflon), cook for a minute or two more, and serve.

No, this isn’t rocket science, folks.  It’s just making healthier choices for your family, one frying pan at a time.

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.  Short excerpts with full URL for this site and attribution to Ozarkhomesteader are welcome.  Please contact me for permission to use photographs.

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Every now and then I get a hankering for an old Southern favorite.  This week it was angel biscuits, also known as “honeymoon biscuits” because with yeast, baking, and baking soda, they are just about guaranteed to rise, even for novice bakers.  The original recipe featured ingredients we don’t use for health reasons–like lard or Crisco–but the recipe is easily adaptable.

makes about two dozen biscuits–or a bit more

Ingredients: use organic if you can

  • 2 1/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour (Yes, you can use a hard wheat flour, but your results will not be as good.)
  • 1/4 cup wheat gluten  (Gluten is only bad if you’re sensitive to it.  It’s just wheat protein, and it helps whole-wheat flour build flexibility.)
  • 1/4 cup sugar (okay to use a little less)
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) cold butter
  • 1 cup buttermilk or kefir (You really, really need this ingredient, although Alton Brown has tried a lemon juice-milk substitute on his show “Good Eats” that looked like it might work in this recipe.)
  • 1 big tablespoon of yeast, dissolved in 2 tablespoons of warm water (See here for why you want water the temperature of a good bath.

Method:

Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl.  Use a whisk to mix ingredients together and add lightness to the mixture. Now cut the cold butter in quarters, lengthwise, and then slice the butter thinly.  Work the butter into the dry mixture quickly, using a pastry cutter (shown here).  If you do not have a pastry cutter, you can use a fork, but it will take longer, and you’ll need to take breaks to keep the butter cold.

After you cut in the butter, the dry mixture should have a mealy texture.  Now stir in the dissolved yeast and buttermilk or kefir, just until you’re sure that the yeast is fully incorporated.  Stop.  Do nothing else except cover the bowl securely.  Biscuits, like pie dough, do not like to be overworked.  There is enough liquid in this mixture that the dough will sort of knead itself.Can you see the bits of butter?  That’s good!  Those will help build flaky layers when you roll out the dough.  Now walk away for several hours or even overnight.  Here’s another dough picture while you wait.  Mmmmmm:  bits of butter.

Okay, let’s assume you’ve given the dough a chance to rise a bit.  It’s relatively cold in our house right now (high 60s F), so I just left the bowl out overnight (securely covered).  Preheat your oven to 450 degrees F.  Now you need a bread board (or any clean surface).  Take out about a third of the dough.  Dust some flour on your bread board, and plop on the dough.  Add some more flour to the top of the dough (just a dusting!), and roll the dough about 1/2 inch thick–or maybe just a little thicker.

Using a round cutter (or old clean can, both ends removed, as you see here), cut out biscuits.  Scoop up the leftovers, reform them, and cut more.  

Put the biscuits on a shiny pan and bake on the middle oven rack at 450 degrees F for about 10 minutes (in other words, 9-12 minutes).  Oven temperatures vary, so please watch closely.Take the biscuits out of the oven.  Admire them.  Smell the combination of biscuit and yeast.

Think about whether you need butter.

No, no butter for me, thank you.  I’ll just add a slice of turkey ham steak and some apple butter.

Oh–you’re wondering what to do with the leftover dough?  Refrigerate it and use it.  It’ll keep well for about a week, getting more yeasty the whole time.  You could have another round of breakfast biscuits with sausage and red-eye gravy.  (From start to finish this morning with dough I left out (covered) on the counter last night, rolling out and cutting, and baking, I had biscuits in less than 20 minutes.  I’d have had them more quickly if I’d thought from the start to use the toaster oven instead of the big oven.)

Consider making smaller biscuits to fill with cream cheese and pepper jelly for appetizers.  Add slices of cooked bacon (or turkey bacon) and tomato with lettuce in the summer for a good Southern BLT lunch.  Serve biscuits with dinner instead of rolls.  You’ve got lots of options!

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.  Short excerpts with full links to this URL and attribution to Ozarkhomesteader are welcome.  Please contact me for permission to use photographs.

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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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