Appalachian Favorites- Cole Slaw

This weekend, I went to a family wedding, southern style. It was beautiful, touching and entirely way too much food, as usual. For the reception, the family of the groom provided a feast of pork or chicken barbeque, chips and cole slaw and, of course, wedding cake. That called to mind the summer dinners we had when I was young and continue to have at any excuse, like weddings!

Cole slaw is such a versatile dish. It can go with sandwiches, like hot dogs and hamburgers, with fried chicken, even with a more formal dinner. And, for me, summer is the perfect time.

When I was young, my parents grew cabbage in the garden. Each summer, we harvested huge heads of cabbage and cole slaw was usually on the menu at least once during the hot days of summer. I used to help grate the cabbage, more often helping myself to the touch but tasty  core of the head. Here is the recipe, as my family make it.

Cole Slaw

1 head of cabbage (medium), grated or cut finely

2 carrots, finely grated or cut

3/4 cup mayo

1 teasp. salt

1/2 teasp. pepper

1 tablespoon sugar

Combine all ingredients, chill in refrigerator at least an hour before serving.

 

Appalachian Favorites- Canning veggies

Usually I use this spot for talking about all of the food I grew up with that I love. Today, though, I’m going to talk about one of the things that come to mind when I think of summer. Canning!
My parents, grandparents and neighbors always had a garden. In fact, folks that didn’t have a garden in our area were rare. Even if it was a tiny plot for tomatoes, it was something you saw in every back yard or empty field. When I was young, I remember my dad hired a neighbor, Mr. Gibb Mills, to plow the area marked off in our back yard for a garden. Usually, I think my dad and grandfather shared the expense. Their gardens were side by side. Later, when gas powered roto-tillers came on the market, that was used, but I still remember sitting in the yard watching that old man with his mule (or maybe it was a horse) as they plowed straight rows.

I also remember the canning. Just as my parents and grandparents shared expense in plowing, they shared the work, too. Hoeing, weeding, seeding and fertilizing, all of the chores were shared, usually in the evening when the air was a bit cooler and the day’s work was done. My grandmother and mother also shared the canning duties. I remember, again when I was pretty young, when my grandmother would have my grandfather build a fire in their gravel drive, where she’d set a big zinc tub. In it, the beans, pickles and beets would steep and boil, being kept watch over by Mom and Ma, and sometimes other relatives. I’d play nearby and yes, be intrigued by the whole thing. I never got burned by the fire, amazingly. I guess one of the things they kept watch over was me. In later years, we’d can inside with big granite-ware canners and then with a pressure canner that my mother finessed.

As I grew up, I helped with picking, cleaning and preparing the veggies. We’d have beans, pickles, beets, tomatoes and vegetable soup mix (usually done with the last of the crops in the late summer). I’ve always loved the taste of home canned foods much more than store bought. Still do.

Today, I still can, but on a much smaller scale. I grow tomatoes behind my house (I live in the suburbs now) and this year grew squash and cucumbers (my beans and okra met a rabbit fate). I also canned some veggies I bought from some neighborhood farmers. I still love the act and when people question me about it, I have to tell the truth. I love the taste and I love the tradition. Below is a photo of the small batch of pickles, beets, tomatoes and tomato juice that I canned this past weekend.

What about you? Do you remember the days when you spent your evenings in the garden? Did your family can foods? And what about now? Do you can?

Appalachian Favorites- Lettuce and onions (or kilt salad)

It’s been a few weeks since I posted, sorry. Life and all. Anyway, it’s the middle of the summer, at least here in the south. And when it’s summer it’s time for salads. When I was growing up we had a garden every year. Each person had something they were looking forward to during the growing cycle. For me it was the cucumbers. I’d go out to the garden and pluck a cucumber from the vine, wash it or rub it down to get the dirt off (I was a kid, so sue me) and then eat it, warm and fresh from the garden. My sister did the same with the tomatoes.

We planted leaf lettuce each spring and had it until the hottest part of the summer. Several times a week my mother would send my sister and I out to the garden for lettuce and onions. We’d pinch the fresh lettuce leaves off and gather the green onions. Then my mother would make a fresh salad with these two ingredients. But what made the salad special was the dressing. It was hot bacon grease.

Now don’t cringe. It wasn’t a lot. My mom would cook a couple slices of bacon, then remove them. Then she’d pour the grease over the lettuce and onions, “killing” them or wilting the lettuce. It was just oily enough, not too greasy. And the bacon and salty flavor made the salad wonderful. Usually we ate it with either pinto bean soup and corn bread or with green beans.  Nowadays, we use oil when we make this salad. It’s healthier but not nearly as tasty.

Here is the recipe, such as it is.

Lettuce and onion salad

Loose leaf lettuce (about 1/2 lb.), washed and drained

3 green onions, chopped

2 slices bacon

Fry bacon to crisp. Remove bacon from pan. In glass or heavy plastic bowl, mix lettuce and onions. Pour bacon grease over lettuce, making sure to evenly distribute it over the salad. Serve immediately.

Appalachian Favorites- Pinto Bean Soup and Cornbread

Sorry I’m late in this recipe. Stuff came up. But since I’m late, I’m going to give you a two-fer.

When I was young, I had several favorite meals, unfortunately most had grease as a major ingredient. But my favorite meal then and now was soup beans and cornbread. Now, I have to identify the soup as pinto bean soup, since apparently people from other parts of the world don’t recognize soup beans.

I admit, I don’t do this soup well but my mother and sister make the best soup I’ve ever had. They each do them different ways. My mom uses a pressure cooker and my sister cooks the beans in a dutch oven on the stove. I’m going to give you the stove top recipe.

Pinto Bean Soup

1 lb. pinto beans, soaked overnight and rinsed, drained

Salt to taste

Oil (4 Tablespoons) Old fashioned way- a chunk of fat back bacon.

Place in dutch oven or large soup pot (3-4 qt. size) and cover with water til it reaches about 2 inches above beans.  Add salt to taste (start with a couple tablespoons) and oil. My sister uses olive oil, my mother vegetable oil. This replaces the bacon that we grew up with, thanks to health consciousness. Your choice. Bring to a boil over high heat, turn to low and cook between 2 to 4 hours, depending on freshness of beans.  Watch to see if you need to add water as the beans plump. When almost done, you can turn up the heat and cook the soup down to your desired thickness.

My mom uses the pressure method. She puts the ingredients in the pressure cooker, seal it and start on medium high heat then adjust heat as needed til beans are done. The cook time is reduced to about 30 minutes. After the beans are done and the cooker is unsealed (be careful if you aren’t familiar with this procedure), cook the soup down to desired thickness over medium high heat.

 

Cornbread

About 2 cups corn meal

1/2 cup flour, self rising

1/2 cup to 3/4 cup milk or milk and water combined (can use buttermilk in place of the milk)

baking soda

optional- 1 egg

2-4 Tablespoons vegetable oil.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a cast iron skillet, place oil in skillet and heat on stove top over medium heat til hot. Combine ingredients, pour into hot skillet (this helps make the crunchy crust). Place skillet in hot oven, bake about 15 minutes or til top is cracking and firm when pressed (or you can use a toothpick to see if it comes out clean when pushed into the bread). Turn out onto a plate.

 

Serve the beans with favorites- chow chow, onions, pickled beets, hot peppers and so on.

Appalahian Favorites-Pineapple Upside down cake

This weekend I spent with my family. In my family, each Memorial weekend, we spend decorating graves at local cemeteries. It may sound maudlin to some, but it’s a way to revere relatives, to pay homage to our fallen and to show our love for the continued memories that give us comfort and pleasure.

This weekend I also got to make my first pineapple upside down cake. I confess, I used a short cut but it was still delicious and I way overdid the eating part. Wanted to share this favorite summer time dessert with you all. Hope whatever you did this holiday weekend, you spent the time making memories or sharing memories with family.

Pineapple Upside down cake

1 pkg. yellow cake mix (CAUTION- you’ll only need one half of the cake mix for the cake, I made another small cake for freezing and using later)

1 can (15oz.) crushed pineapple (can also use sliced pineapple if you want the classic look with cherries in the middle of the ring)

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup margarine or butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Drain pineapples, saving the juice. Prepare cake mix according to directions with the exception of the water- substitute pineapple juice for all or part of the water required. In an iron skillet over medium heat, melt margarine and then mix brown sugar into the butter. Pour crushed pineapple or arrange the rings on the brown sugar. Pour one half of the cake mix on top of the fruit and sugar mixture. Bake at 350 degrees in oven until golden brown and clean when a tooth pick is inserted (about 1/2 hour). Serves six to eight.

 

Favorite Appalachian Recipes- Fried Apples

Fried Apples

I love this dish. My mother traditionally makes this as a part of a breakfast but I think it would be great for any meal. When I think of my childhood, often the fried apples came in the fall, but I love it all year round. Mom served it with fresh baked biscuits and butter. She also made eggs, bacon and so on, but often I’d just eat the apples and biscuits. I still make these often and they are a perfect meal.

Fried Apples

4-6 apples, peeled and sliced (most people prefer slightly tart apples, I like the gala apples)

1 Tablespoon vegetable oil

2-3 Tablespoons margarine or butter

4 Tablespoons to 1/4 cup white sugar, depending on taste

1/8 to 1/4 cup water

After you peel and slice the apples, place them in a heated frying pan with the oil.  Cover and heat over medium high heat til apples start to become translucent and soften (not too soft). Add sugar and water, cover and steam cook. When the apples are almost tender, add the margarine. If you prefer you can caramelize the sugar by uncovering the apples and reducing the liquid. Or you can slightly reduce the liquid and have a sugar syrup to serve with the apples. Serve hot with toast, biscuits. Serves 4-6 people.

Favorite Appalachian Recipes- Southern Potato Salad

Potato Salad is a ubiquitous dish, it seems almost every region or country has some version of it. This is my family’s.

During summer dinners, we had potato salad often, monthly if not more frequently. And I never could decide which I liked best, warm and just made or chilled from the fridge.
Here it is:

Southern Potato Salad

8-10 medium potatoes (my family used russet a lot), boiled

3 hard-boiled eggs

2-3 stalks celery or 1 Tablespoon celery seed

1/2 cup diced onion

1/2 cup pickle relish or dill pickle (to taste)

1 cup mayonnaise or salad dressing

1/2 cup yellow mustard

Salt and pepper to taste

Peel potatoes and dice into 1/2″ cubes. Peel and dice hard-boiled eggs into small cubes. Chop celery into small pieces and if you choose dill pickle, dice small. Combine all ingredients, including mayonnaise and mustard. Mix well. Salt and pepper to taste. Chill in refrigerator. Serves 8-12 people.

Favorite Appalachian Recipes- Deviled eggs

Since it’s a few days after Easter, I thought I’d do an Easter dinner recipe. When I was young we hid Easter eggs. Not the plastic kind, the old fashioned, hard-boiled eggs, dipped in food coloring and vinegar dye and then hidden by my father. I have a photo of my brother and myself on one of those egg hunts and I’d just found an egg. I was running and had a huge smile on my face.

After we found all the eggs (my mother kept count so there wouldn’t be any surprises when the grass was mowed), the eggs would turn up in the Easter dinner my family shared in the form of deviled eggs. If some of them had a small amount of pink or green dye on the white of the egg, it was just fine with me. I love deviled eggs and when I eat them today they bring back memories of spring and summer family dinners and picnics.

Hope you like this simple recipe. No bells or whistles, just the simple ingredients.

Deviled Eggs

1 dozen eggs, hard boiled (about 15 minutes of solid boiling), cooled

2-3 Tablespoons mayonnaise

1 teaspoon yellow mustard

1/2 to 1 teaspoon pickle relish (or chopped pickles)- I vary using dill and sweet pickles, so you can choose, to your taste

salt and pepper to taste

Peel eggs. Slice lengthwise in half. Gently remove the hard boiled yolks and place in mixing bowl, set aside white halves. Mash yolks with fork or spoon. Add mayonnaise, mustard and pickle relish, add salt and pepper to taste. Mix all ingredients til blended. Spoon into each white half egg and refrigerate til serving. Can sprinkle paprika on tops if desired. Serves a large family (at least 12 servings).

Favorite Appalachian Recipes- Fried Yellow Squash

Okay, I know. I’m putting a lot of fried foods on the blog, but I love these recipes and even now, use them but with less oil. I use oil spray rather than the amount of oil in the recipe, but it’s not as good as the old fashioned one is.  Don’t let the idea of eating squash prevent you from trying this recipe. The end result is slightly sweet, with a mild taste that is summer itself.

My parents always planted straight or crooked neck yellow squash in our garden so this dish was common during the summer.

Fried Yellow Squash

2-3 straight or yellow crooked neck squash, washed and sliced in medium thickness slices ( I love using the young squash but you can use more mature squashes if you want, just check and make sure the seeds are not too big)

1 cup corn meal mix (or 1/4 cup flour and 3/4 cup corn meal)

salt and pepper to taste

1/4 cup vegetable oil (my mother used shortening, but we switched to oil years before I left home)

In an iron skillet, heat oil over medium high heat. Meanwhile, place slices of squash in a bowl with cornmeal mix and toss to cover. If the squash is dry, you can dip it in milk first before putting it in the mix. Put in hot oil, Fry, turning the slices as they brown. Watch the heat of the skiller, as it may get too hot, turn down heat as needed. If needed, add more oil.

Serves 4 (or 2 when I’m eating).