Summer Sips

Known as the signature drink of the region, a tall glass of iced tea in the South goes with just about every event- church suppers, family meals, ladies luncheons, and it’s just perfect for porch sitting on a sizzling summer day.

Summer Sips Iced Tea

Southern Sweet Tea

                                                                                    Ingredients

2 cups water                                                                                                                                                                   3 regular size tea bags or 1 family size (Lipton recommended)                                                                       1/2 cup granulated sugar                                                                                                                                            2 cups cold water

Directions                                                                                                                                                                    1.  Place 2 cups water in small saucepan or tea kettle and bring to a boil.                                                                                                                  2.  Turn off heat, add tea bags and steep for 3 to 5 minutes.  Remove tea bags and discard.                                                                                      3.  Add sugar, stirring until dissolved.  Pour into pitcher.                                                                                   4.  Add 2 cups cold water and stir; cool completely.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.  Serve over ice and if desired, with a slice of lemon.                                                                                                                             Yield:  4 cups

Combine 1/2 cup granulated sugar with the finely grated zest of 1/2 lemon.  Let sit at room temperature until slightly dry, about 1 hour.  Spread sugar mixture on a small plate.  Moisten the rim of glasses with a lemon wedge, then dip in sugar mixture before filling with ice cubes and iced tea.

 

Great for picnics and family reunions, homemade limeade is the perfect summer beverage.  Freeze it for frozen pops or slushies.  Recipe can be halved.

Summer Sips Limeade

REFRESHING LIMEADE

Ingredients                                                                                                                                                            2 tablespoons fresh lime zest                                                                                                                                 1 1/2 quarts fresh squeezed lime juice (approximately 20 juicy limes)                                                                                                                       3 3/4 cups granulated sugar                                                                                                                                       6 quarts cold water

Directions                                                                                                                                                                   1.  Add all ingredients to a 2 gallon container and stir until sugar is dissolved.  (You can make a simple syrup by heating the sugar with an equal amount of water, stirring until sugar dissolves.  Cool completely.)                                                                                                                                                                  2. Chill thoroughly before serving over ice with lime slices.                                                                        Yield: 2 gallons

 

Hot Southern summers are perfect for refreshing infused water.

Ingredients                                                                                                                                                                     1 Granny Smith apple, cored and seeded, thinly sliced into rounds                                                                   1 medium cucumber, thinly sliced                                                                                                                            4 to 6 sprigs fresh mint                                                                                                                                                1 gallon water

Directions                                                                                                                                                                      1.  Place all ingredients in a gallon container                                                                                                         2.  Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before enjoying

I love to keep this water in the refrigerator all summer.  Sometimes, I change and put berries in the water.

I’m not the biggest indulger of alcoholic drinks, but when summertime hits, all I want to do is sit on a shady porch or under a tree, with a good book and a deliciously iced boozy drink in hand.  These are a some of my go-tos:

Watermelon Spritzer

Ingredients                                                                                                                                                                    8 cups seeded and cubed watermelon                                                                                                                      1 cup good vodka  (I prefer Grey Goose)                                                                                                               1/2 cup fresh squeezed lime juice                                                                                                                          1/4 to 1/2 cup granulated sugar                                                                                                                                Ice cubes                                                                                                                                                               Lemon-lime soda

Directions                                                                                                                                                                   1.  Place watermelon in the container of a food processor or blender and process until smooth.  Pour through a fine wire-mesh strainer and discard solids.                                                                                         2.  Stir in vodka, lime juice and sugar.  Chill until ready to serve.                                                                       3.  Pour over ice in a tall glass three-quarters full and top with lemon-lime soda.  Gently stir.  Garnish with a watermelon spear and lime slices.                                                                                                                                                 Yield: 8 cups

Summer Sips Pepper Jelly Margarita

Pepper Jelly Margarita

Kick back with this potent yet smooth Mexican cocktail that’s the perfect balance of tangy, spicy and sweet.

For a festive look, zest the lime and add to the salt before dipping the rims of the glasses.  Store salt rimmed glasses in the fridge or freezer for up to an hour before serving.

To coat the rim of a glass: cover the surface of a small plate with a shallow layer of rimming salt or sugar (a cocktail rimmer is a great tool to use instead).  Moisten the outside edge of the glass rim with a wedge of citrus.  Holding the rim down at an angle, slowly rotate the outside edge through the coating ingredient, taking care not to get the coating inside the glass.  Gently shake off any excess coating.

Ingredients                                                                                                                                                           1 cup white tequila                                                                                                                                                         1 cup fresh squeezed lime juice                                                                                                                                 1/2 cup orange liqueur (Cointreau recommended)                                                                                               1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar                                                                                                                                      1/4 cup green pepper jelly

Directions                                                                                                                                                                       1.  Stir all ingredients together in a pitcher until sugar and jelly is dissolved.                                                                                                      2.  Fill a cocktail shaker with ice cubes and pour desired amount of mixture into cocktail shaker.  Cover with lid, and shake.  Serve immediately.                                                                                                             Yield: 3 cups

 

COOK’S NOTES:  Always add the sparkly ingredient last to keep the carbonation as fresh as possible.  Give the concoction a gentle stir to mix the flavors without overdoing the bubbles.

It’s not just for looks – garnishing adds fragrance and flavor to any cocktail.  Go beyond lemons and limes, and use fruit, vegetables and fresh herbs.

Decorative ice cubes are easy to make and add both color and flavor.  Filtered or bottled water will produce the clearest cubes.

*Citrus Cubes:  Using a paring knife, peel and segment lemons or any other small citrus fruit.  Place the segments in ice cube trays, leaving a little of each segment exposed, then fill with water and freeze.  Use with drinks that include lemon or other citrus juices.

*Zest Cubes:  Cut long, thin shreds of lime, lemon or orange zest or a mixture.  Arrange a few shreds of zest in ice cube trays, then fill with water and freeze.  Use in margaritas or other citrus-accented drinks.

*Melon Cubes:  Scoop balls of watermelon, cantaloupe or other melon.  Place the balls in ice cube trays, then fill with water and freeze.  Use in tropical-themed drinks or in drinks made with melon or melon-flavored liquer.

 

Sunday Lunch Tradition

My family has a tradition of always coming together for Sunday lunch and this has been the norm for as long as I can remember.  When I was growing up in Alabama, Sunday lunch was either at my Granny’s or at our house.  After we moved to Mississippi, Mother continued the tradition and cooked lunch every Sunday.  After she passed away, my sister-in-law, Cindy and I take turns.  It isn’t always fancy or a big meal but it’s the being together that’s important.

Sometimes the simplest meals are the most scrumptious, the ones that evoke memories of the soul- warming fare enjoyed around Mother’s table.  The recipes might have been fairly basic, but the flavors were positively heaven sent.

“My tastes are simple: I am easily satisfied with the best.” Winston Churchill

This past Sunday was my turn to cook and I turned to some old family favorites: roast beef, creamed potatoes with gravy, fresh green beans, stuffed eggs, fresh sliced tomatoes and cucumbers.  For dessert, the fresh peach and blueberry pie I posted earlier.  Of course, no southern lunch would be complete without cornbread and sweet tea, the staple of every good southern meal.

Sunday Lunch

Southern sweet tea is pure pleasure in a glass – black tea, sugar and water.  I like my tea sweet with lots of lemon.  General rule of thumb is 1 tea bag and 1 tablespoon of sugar per cup of water.  I use Lipton most of the time, but Luzianne is another great brand.  You can be fancy if you want — and by all means, feel free — but good old-fashioned honest-to-God Southern sweet tea is made with one of those 99% of the time. Boil desired amount of water in an appropriately sized pot.  Remove pot from heat and toss in your tea bag(s).  Steep for 5 to 10 minutes for medium brew or 15 to 20 minutes for strong brew.  Remove tea bag(s) and sweeten it while it’s hot, stirring until it all dissolves.  Chill it until it’s cold.  Serve over ice with a wedge of lemon on the side.

So let’s talk a little bit about green beans.  I cook mine the old southern way with smoked pork necks, water and salt.  Many Americans associate green beans with a holiday casserole or canned, mushy side dishes.  But, if you’re lucky, you get to taste these crispy, juicy delights at their finest mid-summer peak.

2015-07-18 Green Beans

The green beans referred to in Southern nomenclature are pole green beans, bunch beans and half runners.  Pole green beans, or flat beans, are 6 to 8-inches long and 3/4-inch wide, often referred to as Kentucky Wonder, my all time favorite.  they require diligent stringing and are tougher than other green beans.  Traditionally cooked long and slow with the peas inside being larger and more prominent.  Boy, could my Granny cook a mean pot of these!  Bunch beans are the typical green beans found in the grocery store, commonly known as Blue Lake.  Half runners are about 4-inches long and 1/3-inch wide with the peas inside barely visible.  My family never cuts the ends of the green beans; we always snap both ends, referred to as “tipping and tailing”.

Now that you probably know more about green beans than you really wanted to know, let’s talk about cornbread.  Good old southern cornbread, not that sweet cake-like thing the north calls cornbread and eats for breakfast.

Sunday Lunch cornbread

When making cornbread, you must use a cast-iron skillet, muffin tin or stick pan.  The cast-iron gives you the crisp crust that we southerners enjoy so much.  Crisp on the outside and moist on the inside.  To my family, you must use bacon drippings (grease – the rendered fat left over after cooking bacon.  No true Southern kitchen is complete without it stowed away.  we use it for all kinds of things but especially to season vegetables and making cornbread) to season your skillet and your bread.  One easy recipe is as follows:

SOUTHERN CORNBREAD

Ingredients                                                                                                                                                      1/4 cup bacon drippings                                                                                                                                              2 cups self-rising cornmeal mix                                                                                                                              1/2 teaspoon baking soda                                                                                                                                           2 large eggs, lightly beaten                                                                                                                                          1 1/2  cups buttermilk

Directions

1.  Preheat oven to 425 degrees                                                                                                                                 2.  Pour bacon drippings in a 9-inch cast-iron skillet and heat for 5 minutes in the oven                                                                                         3.  Combine cornmeal mix and baking soda together and make a well in the center                                                                                                  4.  Mix eggs and buttermilk together                                                                                                                          5.  Add buttermilk mixture to dry ingredients, stirring just until moistened                                                                                                        6.  Pour hot drippings into batter, whisking to blend                                                                                               7.  Pour into preheated skillet and bake for 27 minutes or until golden brown                                                                                                     8.  Turn onto a wire rack to cool slightly before putting on a serving plate

Just remember that food should always be welcoming.  I tend to cook things that are mostly uncomplicated yet rooted in tradition and full of flavor.  Cooking should be fun and enjoyable!

 

 

 

Summer Canning

Halleluah!  Jelly and jam making is finished.  At least until the pears come in then I will be making Pear Preserves.  Ended up with 19 jars of plum jelly and 12 jars of peach jam.  Today was my canning day (“puttin’ up” day – typical southern phrase) using the freezer method of crowder peas and butterbeans.  There are numerous types of peas grown in the south – field peas, purple hull, pink eyed, lady, just to name a few.  My family’s favorite is the silver crowder so that’s all daddy grows.   As far as butterbeans – there are green and speckled – we prefer the green but would never pass up a helping of speckled with cornbread.

I am grateful to have come from a family of canners.  Over the years, I have kept that family tradition by stocking my shelves and freezers with everything edible that stood still long enough to be shoved into a jar or freezer bag.  I’m sure my mother and granny would approve of my bounty.

Summer Canning Peas

I remember one time on a visit to Greg’s family in Plymouth, MA, we went to lunch at a little cafe downtown. There was a blackboard with the daily specials and it had peas, just peas.  The waitress comes over to take our order and I asked her what kind of peas they were; she looked at me like I was crazy and said “There’s only one kind of pea and that’s green peas.”  I knew then that they didn’t know or understand anything about good old southern food.  And no, I did not order the peas!

Summber Canning Butterbeans

If someone goes out of their way to find beautiful, seasonal field peas, like the crowder, the pink lady or the zipper cream, it usually means that they have been cooking form scratch in a family kitchen that never stopped cooking from scratch.  This is a really important distinction in the south!  While most of the population succumbed to the ease of Jell-o and instant gravy, many others are hell-bent on keeping their culinary traditions alive.  And that be me!!

Summer in the South

When I was growing up in Alabama, summer meant working in the garden, shelling peas and beans, canning, making jams and jellies and fresh fruit cobblers.  My grandmother, “Granny”, made absolutely the best peach and blackberry cobblers – and to this day I haven’t had a cobbler as good as hers.

Preserving the gardens bounty fed the family all year long.  Granny’s method was water-bath canning.  She had a pantry off the back porch and all the shelves would be full by the end of summer with everything from chow-chow to sauerkraut.

Mother chose the freezer method and was the jelly and preserve maker of the family.

Granny and Grandaddy also had a root cellar under the front part of their house where all the root vegetables, like onions, potatoes and beets were stored.  My brother, cousin and I always liked playing in the root cellar, especially in the summer, because it was always cool.

One of the beauties of the south is that we have two to three growing seasons and a cuisine that is as wide and deep as the south itself.  That is one good reason why vegetables have long been the stars of the southern plate.

I continue to carry on this family tradition of preserving the produce from my daddy’s garden and making homemade jams and jellies.

Daddy is 89 and continues to raise enough vegetables to feed us through the fall and winter months.  He grows Kentucky Wonder snap beans, silver crowder peas, green butterbeans, corn, okra, squash, cucumbers, and tomatoes.  He also has plum, apple, persimmon and pecan trees, blueberry bushes and muscadine vines.  He keeps me busy with his bountiful harvest.  And I love him for that – even though it is a lot of work.

I absolutely love and I mean love making jelly and jam!

Plum Jelly

Daddy’s plum trees have produced like crazy this year.  The first picking, he brought me 10 gallons and I had to make jelly.  The funny thing is that after I made the jelly, I gave him a jar and asked if he wanted more – his reply, “I have to try it first and if it’s as good as your mother used to make, I will get some more”.  Needless to say, he was back for another jar before the week was out.

Plums ripen from late May to early summer.  Using the fresh fruit gives a more concentrated and flavorful jelly.  Jelly is basically the same as jam except the cooked fruit has been strained to give a clear spread.  I use the basic recipe for making jelly that comes in the Sure-Jell premium fruit pectin package.

Stone fruits are at their peak in June and July and we have some wonderful peach orchards around here.  I am constantly going to the peach stands to pick up peaches and other goodies they may have.  Quiet often they have homemade peach ice cream for sale.  Yummy!!  Most often I enjoy a peach immediately, eating it in the car on the way home.  I usually end up with juice dripping off my chin, running down my arm and on my clothes as I sink my teeth into its sweet flesh.

Juice, pectin, lemon juice and sugar combine to create a classic peach jam.  The fruit is usually chopped very fine or mashed.  When making jam, always make sure the sugar is dissolved before bringing the mixture to a boil.  If not, the result will be grainy.

Peach Jam Summer

Whether you are making jelly or jam, use the exact amount of sugar called for because sugar affects how pectin works.  It bonds to the sugar for its thickening power.

Delectable spreads made from jellied or preserved fruits, herbs and peppers are irresistible additions to breakfast, tea, appetizers and entrees.  Jams and jellies can be spread on toast, English muffins or the southern favorite, biscuits with no added butter necessary.  The burst of flavor added with a dollop of a sweet or spicy seasonable spread can make your meal more delicious and memorable.

Store in the pantry, give to a friend!  A gift jar of homemade jelly or jam is always appreciated.

Remember to refrigerate the jelly or jam once the jars are opened.

In the next blog, we will talk about those famous, delectable southern biscuits.

Happy jamming and jelling!!

 

 

Bodacious Peach Blueberry Pie

“Heavens no – I couldn’t possibly!  Well, maybe just a little slice……..”

Bodacious Blueberry & Peach Pie

Why bodacious?  Well, according to Websters’ it means “very good, impressive, and unmistakable” and Peach Blueberry Pie is definitely those things, but the lemon/cinnamon double punch in this particular recipe it what satisfies Websters’ second definition – “voluptous.”  Just don’t get caught staring.

I have to admit, I love desserts.  But when peaches are at their peak and blueberries picked fresh from my own bushes – give me fruit desserts.  Warm, juicy fruit baked in a pie or topped with a crisp flavorful crumble – my oh my – one happy girl I am.

Blueberries and Peaches

Baking fruit, which condenses its sugars and reduces its liquid, is as old as time.  Fruit baked between two crusts is the most common pie found in the United States today, and apple is the most common fruit in use.  Pears, cherries, berries, grapes, raisins and stone fruits are baked into pies.  The varying sugar and water content in fruit means it requires both a sweetener and thickener in order to make a good baked pie, usually sugar and either cornstarch, flour or tapioca. With few exceptions, fruit pies are baked inside traditional American pie dough.  Pies are often categorized as single-crust pies (wherein there is only a crust on the bottom, or in case of a deep-dish pie, there is only a crust on the top); and double-crust pies, where a crust lines the top and bottom of the filling.  Decorative elements such as lattices or cut-outs are simply more beautiful forms of the double-crust pie.

This pie will rock your ever-loving existence.  I really don’t trust myself around this pie.  Nothing is better than growing and harvesting your own dessert!  Soooooo good!!!

Bodacious prebake

PEACH BLUEBERRY PIE

Ingredients                                                                                                 6 cups peeled fresh peaches, sliced 1/4-inch thick                                    1 cup fresh blueberries                                                                                 1/4 cup light brown sugar                                                                                  1/4 cup granulated sugar                                                                                            1/2 cup all-purpose flour                                                                               1/2 teaspoon kosher salt                                                                                   3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon                                                                      1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract                                                                   2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice                                                                        2 teaspoons fresh lemon zest                                                                          1/4 cup cornstarch                                                                                            1/2 (14.1-ounce) package refrigerated piecrusts                                    1 egg white, lightly beaten

Topping                                                                                                       1/2 cup all-purpose flour                                                                             1/2 cup granulated sugar                                                                              1/4 cup packed light brown sugar                                                                  1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon                                                                             1/8 teaspoon kosher salt                                                                             4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, diced                                                 1/4 cup coarsely chopped pecans

Directions                                                                                                   1.  Immerse peaches in boiling water for 30 seconds to 1 minute, until the skins peel off easily.  Immediately placed peaches in cold water.  Peel the peaches, slice them into 1/4-inch thick wedges and place in a large bowl.                                                                                     2.  Add blueberries, brown sugar, granulated sugar, flour, salt, cinnamon, vanilla,, lemon juice, zest and cornstarch.                                3.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter a 9-inch glass or ceramic pie dish and set aside.  Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and set aside.                                                                                                         4.  Unroll the pie crust and place in pie dish.  Brush the inside with the egg white.                                                                                                5.  For the topping: Pulse the flour, sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, salt, butter and pecans in a food processor until small chunks form.                                                                                                  6.  Pour peach mixture into the crust.  Sprinkle the topping over the filling and turn edges of pie crust over the topping.                                 7.  Place pie dish on the parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 1 hour to 1 hour 10 minutes or until top is golden brown.  Check after 30 minutes of baking to make sure crust is not browning too quickly.  If it is, cover the edges with strips of foil or a pie shield.                          8.  Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack for 30 to 40 minutes before serving.

Make sure to enhance the intercontinental dance with a heaping scoop of cool vanilla ice cream.

Remember – “Life is short, Eat the Pie!!!”