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Sunday, December 23, 2012

Boiled Fresh Peanuts and Other Southern Recipes

http://www.wikihow.com/Boil-Green-Peanuts
One of my favorite snacks.

http://www.foodnetwork.com/food/cda/recipe_print/0,1946,FOOD_9936_6459_RECIPE-PRINT-FULL-PAGE-FORMATTER,00.html
Chow-Chow pickle relish -- I like to garnish my beans and field peas with it.
http://community.southernliving.com/showthread.php?3750-Looking-for-old-time-chow-chow-recipe
Southern Living magazine has some of the best recipes.
http://www.mtnlaurel.com/recipes/752-southern-sweet-chow-chow-relish.html
This recipe uses cabbage instead of tomatoes, but includes instructions for how to make the "pickling liquid".
http://pickyourown.org/SouthernChowChow.htm

CREAMED CORN

12 ears of fresh sweet corn
a few slices of salt pork bacon
cream or whole milk
butter
salt and pepper

Remove the kernals from the corn; slowly brown the bacon, then remove it from the pan to cool; pour off the fat and allow it to cool for use in other recipes (like, piecrust).  Add the corn to the hot pan, along with the butter; stir and cook for a few minutes (you might need to lower the heat a little bit, so as not to burn them).  Add enough cream or whole milk to just barely cover the corn and then reduce the liquid to about half as much -- by then, your corn should be tender enough to eat.  Add salt and pepper to taste (may be added along with the cream or milk, too).  Garnish with the crumbled, crisp salt pork bacon.

COLLARDS

Purchase or pick an armload of fresh green collards; wash them thoroughly in cold, clean water.  Remove the thickest, toughest parts of the stems (about half of each stem) and then stack your leaves.  Roll each stack of leaves tightly to form a cylinder, then shred them by slicing crosswise.  Slowly brown a few slices of salt pork bacon; set the meat aside to cool; pour off the fat to save for other recipes.  Add the leaves to the hot pan and slowly add about a cup of cold water to create steam.  Cover the pot and steam / simmer the leaves for about one hour, stirring and checking occasionally to make sure the pan doesn't dry out and the leaves don't burn.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  When the leaves are just tender enough, turn off the heat and add the juice from one jar of small peppers.  Let it sit for a few minutes to continue warming on the stove, then serve garnished with crumbled, crisp salt pork bacon.

This is the type of peppers to buy, for the juice (for the Collards recipe).  It's very hot, spicey, so be careful if you don't like that kind of flavor.
 
THE PROPER PROCEDURE FOR PREPARING CHEESE GRITS
 
The reason most people hate grits, is that they make the mistake of following the cooking instructions provided on the packages by the manufacturers.  If done that way, you will invariably wind up with a runny, gritty, flavorless mess.  And because they're so delicious when done correctly, I have chosen to share my own recipe here.  Grits are actually approximately the same thing as polenta, yet I find the usual directions for polenta equally lacking in common sense.
 
First choose some high-quality grits, preferably yellow and stone ground (if you can find them).  Whatever you do, never purchase "instant" grits!
 
In a large saucepan, mix 1 part dry grits to 3 parts COLD water.  (Most intructions call for only 2 parts water, and they suggest stirring the grits into boiling water -- that's wrong, because you need more water in order to allow the grits to simmer long enough to soften up just right; and when you stir dry grits into boiling water, you seriously risk ending up with lumpy grits.  Nobody likes lumpy grits.)
 
Then, add about 1 tsp good salt (I like natural sea salt) and bring the pot to a full boil on high heat, stirring constantly.  A wire whisk or long cooking spoon will work just fine for the job.
 
Once boiling, immediately reduce the cooking flame down to medium and keep stirring as the grits begin to thicken up.  As they thicken, continue reducing the heat until it is finally on low.  The idea is to keep them boiling, without burning them.  It will take about 5-10 minutes to thicken it up that much.  When it begins to splatter so much that you are in fear of getting burnt by it, cover the pot and turn the heat completely off.
 
Leave them to sit covered on the warm stove burner, for about 5-10 minutes.  This allows them to gradually and slowly absorb more of the water, which is essential for successfully making soft grits.
 
Now it is time to add your shredded cheese or a blend of cheeses (as you prefer).  I like extra-sharp cheddar or swiss cheese, but any kind is fine as long as they melt fairly easily.  When I cook 1 cup of dry grits, I usually add around 1-2 cups of shredded or chopped cheese at the end; but you may adjust the amounts to your own taste.
 
Stir the cheese(s) into the grits, and leave covered again, for about 5-10 more minutes on the warm stove burner.  By then your cheese should be well melted, and you can stir the pot one last time and serve them for breakfast with eggs and bacon -- or, for dinner with fried fish or shrimp. 
 
Some other favorites:
 
Chicken Perlieu or Chicken and Rice
Fried Chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy
Chicken and Dumplings
Lox (Smoked Salmon) and Bagels (I know, it isn't exactly "Southern" -- but I love it)
 
Too many to mention; if I'm not careful, I'll end up with an entire cookbook here, lol.

SPICY BUTTERED POPCORN, MY WAY

First melt 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) of butter; then stir in 1 tablespoon of paprika and 1/2 tsp (more or less, to your own taste -- I like mine pretty hot) red or cayenne pepper (powdered).  Set aside while you pop up a batch of fresh popcorn.  I like mine done in an air popper, because with the butter topping I feel it doesn't need any more oil in the recipe.  The air popper can only pop a maximum of 1/2 cup of popcorn at a time, which is about the right amount for the topping.  I catch the popped corn in a large bowl, then immediately sprinkle it with some salt (preferably natural sea-salt for me); then stir the spicy melted butter again, and drizzle it all over the warm popcorn.  Quickly grab a couple of large long-handled spoons and 'toss' the butter with the popcorn, until it is fairly evenly coated.  Then sit down and enjoy.

This is one of my favorite salty snacks, better than chips in my opinion; but just one precaution:  always be prepared to floss your teeth after eating popcorn (even if you rarely do so at any other times)!  Flossing is important though, so most of us floss regularly anyway, right (I hope so)?


GRANDMA'S IRON SKILLET CORNBREAD

First, render the fat out of a few slices of salt pork bacon; then set the crisp, golden brown bacon slices aside for use in other recipes (also makes a yummy snack!).  Pour off the excess hot bacon fat (ie lard), and likewise save for use in other recipes (ie biscuits, piecrusts, pan-frying, etc).  After the oil cools down, store it covered in the fridge.  With a pastry brush, spread the remaining grease around your ~12-inch skillet (~2-inches deep).  Set the hot skillet aside to cool just a bit, and set the oven to 400 degrees (BAKE).  While the oven is preheating, mix your cornbread batter:

1 heaping cup of White cornmeal
1 heaping cup of unbleached white flour
1 tablespoon of baking powder
1/2 tsp of baking soda
1 tsp of salt
3 tablespoons of sugar

Mix these dry ingredients first, then form a well in the center and add the liquid ingredients all at once, before stirring:

2 fresh eggs
2-3 cups fresh buttermilk

Begin with just 2 cups of buttermilk, and add more as needed to achieve a very moist, but not runny, batter.  For fluffier cornbread (and the same advice applies to pancakes), do not add any oils to the batter.  I never add oils to either cornbread or pancakes, and they turn out awesome that way.  (I figure there is enough oil in the pan, to make it good.)  One more suggestion: stir the batter only just enough to mix it up; do not over-beat the batter (makes the cornbread, biscuits, or pancakes for that matter, tough, if you do that).  The cornbread batter should resemble a slightly heavy cake batter, when mixed.

Poor (or scoop) the batter into the warm skillet; spread it out a little bit; then bake on the middle rack in the oven at 400 degrees for the first 10 minutes; then lower the heat to 350 degrees for about 20 additional minutes (times may vary due to altitudes, etc.).  When done, the cornbread should be light golden brown on top, golden brown on the bottom and around the edges, and the batter should be cooked through (but not dried out) in the center.

Test the center, by lightly pressing with your fingertips; it should bounce back up -- if it sinks at all, you need to bake it a little while longer.  After removing the pan from the oven, immediately spread some pure butter over the top of the hot cornbread, allowing it to absorb a little.  That will keep your cornbread nice and soft, so it won't become crunchy or dry.

 
 
HOW TO COOK BACON IN THE MICROWAVE OVEN
 
First, select a good quality, cured, sliced bacon.  I prefer mine thick-sliced and wood-cured (Maple or Hickory).  Prepare a heavy-duty paper plate lined with a couple of layers of paper toweling.  Then lay out approximately 6-8 slices, evenly spaced in two layers (criss-crossed) on top of the paper towels.  Next, lay another paper towel over the top of the raw bacon slices and then top it all off with another paper plate 'lid'.  Thus, you will not get any grease inside your electric appliance.  Cook the bacon for about 3 minutes at regular setting (or, High); take bacon out and open the lid to release the steam, checking for done-ness at the same time.  Usually, you will need to replace the lid and cook for another 1-3 minutes for crisp bacon.  Sometimes I prefer mine a little less than crisp... depends on my mood and how I plan to use the bacon in recipes, as a side-dish, or for a snack.
 
 
SWAMP CABBAGE
 
Swamp Cabbage is a delicacy made from scrub Sabal Palm (or Palmetto) trunks.  First, you have to find one just the right size: the trunk must be around two feet or less in length, when trimmed.  Then, you check for rattlesnakes before chopping the scrub Palm down.  This involves removing the fronds first, usually.  Then, you have to peel all of the tough bark away from the heart of the palm.  This is the same delicacy known to many as, "Hearts of Palm".
 
Once you have the tender palm heart free of all the casing, take it into the kitchen and rinse in cold, clear water.  Cut into pieces as you prefer, usually bite-sized.  You may use the Swamp Cabbage raw (in salads), or you may steam it lightly with a little bit of butter for a tasty side dish.  In Florida, on the Gulf Coast, the popular way to serve Swamp Cabbage added to a bed of lettuce, is with a small scoop of Peanut Butter ice cream right on top.  Trust me, it is heavenly...  Grandma always served hers cooked as a side dish, and that was fabulous, too.
 

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