Fool proof great tasting potato salad

While not a ‘true’ heritage recipe because I switched the mayonnaise with Miracle Whip, I don’t think my grandma would complain.

A few summers back I packed up the car to attend a family reunion on my in-laws side of the family. Being late September, the 18 hour leisurely drive up to Cincinnati Ohio was beautiful. From a marina on the Ohio River near downtown, we all boarded my brother in-laws 80 foot Pluckebaum house boat and motored westward down the river out of Ohio. The reunion was actually being held in Indiana on the Ohio River shoreline near the quaint town of Rising Sun. Across the river is gorgeous Kentucky farmland. What a setting for a 100+ person cookout. The beer flowed as freely as the conversation and snacks ranging from deer jerky to homemade chocolates were plentiful. We had arrived at the property around two in the afternoon and the cookout was set for six that evening.

Everyone had been asked to bring a covered dish. Now, I know of few dishes that will survive a 4 hour boat ride on top of an 18 hour road trip so using our trail cooking / boat skills, we made up our dish on the houseboat.

Now the houseboat has a full sized kitchen in it. I have a hard time calling the kitchen a ‘galley’ as most boats have because a floating house does not in anyway shape or form, resemble a boat. The vessel is not only eighty feet long but eighteen feet wide! That’s longer and much wider than most house trailers. Having stopped at a Kroger’s in Cincinnati, I picked up all the necessary items for the covered dish.

Earlier, I mentioned my boating skills. When I had a restaurant in the Florida Keys, I lived there on my boat. I set up the galley so that even when rough weather was up, I could still cook with ease. Cooking in the houseboat was so calm it was like cooking in my house!

Pulling out a large stainless steel stock pot I began boiling my water. Figuring ten pounds* of Red Potatoes should do about right, I whipped out my Kitchen Aide potato peeler and went to work. *(The recipe below is much smaller but will still feed from 6-8 people.)

After I completed my recipe, I kept the finished product right in the stock pot. To chill it down, I slid the pot inside a beverage refrigerator after removing all its shelves.

By six o’clock, my covered dish was perfectly chilled and waiting to be devoured.

Recipe;

1)      Wash your potatoes and place them in a pot of cold water. Cover the potatoes with at least 1 inch of water. Do not peel at this time. (peeling the potatoes prior to boiling will over saturate them with water and make them too soft.)

2)      Place 4 eggs in a pot of cold water and while uncovered, bring them to a boil.  As soon as the water begins to boil, remove the pot from the burner, cover and let stand for 17 minutes. Then pour out water and replace with ice cold water. Let stand for 1 hour. These will now peel quite easily.

3)      When potatoes are thoroughly boiled, test by piercing them. They should offer little resistance to your fork or bamboo stick.

4)      Place pot of potatoes under faucet and run cold water for 1 minute, leave it partially filled then pour in ice and set aside for 1 hour. After 1 hour your eggs and potatoes should be well chilled.

5)      When potatoes and eggs are well chilled, peel them. Normally just rubbing the skins will remove the potato skins.

6)      Slice 2 eggs into ¼ inch thick slices. Set aside as they are used later on top of the potato salad

7)      Chop into medium pieces the last two eggs and place them into a large bowl.

8)      Add these ingredients into the bowl then mix it all together;

-2 tablespoons of dill pickle juice

-1/4 cup of chopped up red onion

-one fresh celery stalk chopped into 1/8 inch thick pieces (1 tsp of celery salt may be used)

-1 tsp of paprika

-1 tsp of mustard

-1 cup of Miracle Whip

9)      Mix all ingredients together then add your potatoes and re mix it until the potatoes are well coated.

10)   Transfer the coated potatoes into a smaller bowl that you will use to serve the potato salad from

11)   Place egg slices on top covering the salad

12)   Sprinkle paprika lightly over the entire top

13)   Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until served

PHOTO’S

Wash 6-8 Red Potatoes but don’t peel until cooked and chilled.

Place 4 eggs in a pan and bring to a boil uncovered. Once it reaches boiling, remove from burner, cover and let stand for 17 minutes.

Bring spuds to a boil. until done.

To rest doneness. Pierce spud with fork or bamboo stick. I slide mine in on an angle until it reaches past the center. There should be only minor resistance felt.

When eggs have sat for 17 minutes, place pan in sink and fill with cold water. Pour ice in pan top thoroughly chill eggs. When cold, they will easily peel.

Cool spuds down the same way you cooled the eggs

let eggs and spuds cool for an hour then drain and peel both.

Slice spuds to desired size. Mine are bigger than most folks like… I like the taste of potatoes!

Slice all your eggs about 1/4 inch in thickness

Chop two eggs into smaller pieces to mix in with the spuds but leave two in slices for the topping.

In a bowl, add your ingredients including the chopped up eggs but don’t include the potatoes yet.

Mix all ingredients into the eggs and celery.

Add your spuds into the egg mix and fold them into the mix until well coated.

Decorate the top with the reserved egg slices and sprinkle with a fine layer of paprika.

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to eat!

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Those darn grey, mushy hash browns!

You can put lipstick on a pig but it’s still a pig!

Hash browns can test the sand of any trail cook or home chef. For years I fought with mushy, grey looking hash browns as I tried to get them to look like the greasy spoon would make down the road. It was pretty frustrating to be sure. In fact, I became so adept at trashing my hash browns that I switched to cooking only home fries!

I tried everything. I’d heard of folks pressing raw and cooked spuds through a mechanical ricer, micro waving ‘em before frying, boiling ‘em before shredding, using butter to fry in, drying them in paper towels and oven roasting ‘em before frying. I even found out my neighbor used to run down to the greasy spoon, get a herd of hash browns to go, then place them on his family’s plates alongside their eggs and sausages. He was smart, he admitted the elusive hash brown had defeated him and was now just going with the flow. None of those tricks worked for me and I bet you all found out the same thing too. No matter what I tried, I still ended up with a grey, sticky slop. Does this sound familiar to you? What was worse is that I grew up on an Idaho potato farm in Jerome so I out’a know how to cook them, right? Not necessarily, we grew the famous thick skinned, high glycerin, high starch Idaho russet potato. To make matters worse, by now I owned and was the cook in my own restaurant.

Since my restaurant did not serve breakfast, I was still ignorant of proper hash brown cooking. My break came when I stopped in at the greasy spoon up the road for breakfast one day and got into a conversation about cooking difficult recipes with its owner. I explained my hash brown problem and had to ask, “What in Sam Hill am I doing wrong? I’ve tried cooking them using every trick in the book and they are nothing like yours!”

He said it wasn’t necessarily the way I was frying them  but WHAT  I was frying that was the problem.

I responded, “But I’m frying potatoes, what should I fry instead, shredded watermelon rinds?”

“No! just change your potato, that’s all!”

He told me that what I needed instead of using a starchy russet potato, was to use a potato grown largely in the eastern half of the country. My answer to my problem he vowed was to use the waxy or thin skinned low starch potato.

“But every recipe I’ve read calls for russets and that the waxy potato is no good for frying. Now you’re telling me it is?”

“Yes, but only when it comes to pan and not deep frying. ”

I knew that choosing the right type of potato to cook dinners with can make or break a dish. For instance, making a stew and using a russet and not a waxy potato ends up being a mushy disaster. On the other hand, using a waxy potato to make mashed potatoes is useless. Why???

Potatoes fall into one of two categories — mealy or waxy.

Mealy potatoes (Some of the names you’ll see them under in the supermarket are Idaho’s, Russet,  Burbanks, Russet Arcadia, Norgold Russet, Goldrush, Norkotah and Long White.) have are thick skinned and have a high starch content, but they’re low in moisture and sugar.

Waxy potatoes (red, new) are just the opposite. They’re high in moister, high in sugar but low in starch and have a thin skin. You will find them sold as Round White, Round Red, Yellow Potato, Red skin Potato and Salad Potato).

There is a third type but I don’t use them much. These are an all purpose middle of the road potato. I choose to use the correct potato for the job and achieve great results rather than settle for an all purpose potato and achieve just, OK results. Some of these potatoes are named, Yukon Gold, Peruvian Blue, Superior and Kennebec.

An easy way to tell the difference between the two main types is; Waxy potatoes have a thin skin, Starchy or Mealy potatoes have a thick skin.

Waxy potatoes are an excellent choice for roasting, sautéing and boiling. They make great soups, casseroles, home fries and hash browns because of their tendency to hold their shape. Waxy potatoes are also used in cold potato salad and scalloped or cheddar au gratin potatoes. Their low starch content and cellular makeup helps them maintain their shape long after they’re cooked.

Mealy or starchy potatoes are best for baking and deep-frying. Because they’re low in sugar, they can be deep fried long enough to cook fully in the center without burning the outside with black streaks. They’re also the best choice for mashed potatoes because they fall apart easily when they’re boiled. Because they are a starchier potato with a loose cellular structure, they fluff up much better than a waxy potato.

So now that you have a head full of potato knowledge go ahead and make your perfect hash browns. Just remember, use the correct potato in all your recipes and you’ll be amazed at the difference it makes.

Oh, and about internet web sites on cooking hash browns. You will find almost each will start out saying “Shred a Russet potato…”  THEY’RE WRONG!!!

Here’s the recipe I now use for my hash browns. As verified by the photos, you’ll see they are no longer grey, mushy or gooey but just right!

                                         Restaurant quality hash brown potatoes are just below the photo’s

Peel your potatoes. I use red skins.

Shred them using a cheese grater

Put shredded potatoes into a large pot or bowl then fill with water

Aggressively swish potatoes around. Note the starchy water

Drain the potatoes using a colander and repeat process by changing water 3-4 times until water remains clear

After giving a final rinse (pictured above) use your hand to squash the potatoes to remove excess water

If you are adding onions ( I do) dice them up and add them to the colander of potatoes. Season with salt and pepper at this time

Verify that your oil is up to temperature. Place a shred or two near the edge where it is coolest. It should immediately and violently begin to bubble.

Carefully place a handful of shreds in the oil. Once partway cooked, you can add another pile to the other side

Flatten pile using a spatula

When crispy, your hash browns will flip, more or less, in one piece

Each pile is cooking but at different times. This allows more ‘doneness’ control over each

My herd of hash browns are done. I place them in my counter top convection toaster oven to keep warm while I continue to cook the rest of the breakfast. *

* Note on counter top convection ovens.

I purchased this Oster extra large convection toaster oven from Wal-Mart for less than $100. It uses much less electricity than my large oven. I questioned whether or not it could perform any where near as well as my Whirlpool ‘Gold series’ Accu-bake oven does. It does!

I bake prefect bread, muffins, pizza, flat breads and more in it. I rarely give a product endorsement but in this case I will. It is worth every penny I spent.

Ingredients:

3-5 medium potatoes (approximately 3 cups shredded).

1 medium sweet onion.

1/2 tsp. salt then salt further  to taste if desired when eating.

1/4 tsp. pepper then pepper further to taste if desired when eating.

Add at least 1-2 Tbsp. butter or margarine to vegetable oil. (hash browns should be cooked in oil 1/8 – 1/4  inch deep to cook completely all the way through).

Directions:

Wash and peel the waxy (not russets) potatoes.

Use a cheese grater to shred the potatoes then place the shredded potatoes into a large bowl or pot.

Fill the pot or bowl full of water, stir aggressively by hand and empty the water by pouring the potatoes into a colander. Repeat this process until the water remains clear when agitated. (three or four times) This will remove most of the starch which causes hash browns to become gummy, mushy and grey looking.

Rinse the grated potato under cool water one last time in the colander. Press down, shake and press down again to remove excess water. Fluff and repeat . (Too much water will cause to hash browns to stick onto the bottom of the frying pan).

Dice the sweet onion and add to the colander of potatoes, mixing well. Add the salt the pepper and mix again thoroughly.

Bring to temperature the butter and oil combination in a large skillet over medium high heat. When the skillet is hot, (not smoking) add the potato mixture. Once your potatoes are frying, turn the temperature down to medium. (Test your oil first by dropping a few potato sprigs into the pan. The sprigs should immediately and almost violently begin to bubble and boil).

Using a spatula, flatten  the pile of potatoes to desired thickness.

Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until the bottom gets pretty crispy; about 10 minutes.

Flip the hash brown with the spatula, if too big, separate it into equal parts. Allow the other side to cook until very crispy; about 8-10 minutes.

Repeat this cooking process until all the shredded  potatoes are used. Potatoes that are not thoroughly cooked will hold oil, make sure the top and bottoms are nice and crispy.

Remove them from skillet, place the photo perfect potatoes on your plate and enjoy ’em!

My Grandmother’s recipe for whole wheat bread

With it’s end slice removed, the texture of this homemade bread can easily be seen. It is absolutely delicious!

In an earlier post I had given the recipe for “The perfect loaf of homemade bread”.

In that recipe I used a combination of whole wheat and high gluten bread flour to imitate the rougher grainy flour of yesteryear.

My cousin in Idaho (after seeing my bread post ) wrote me to say that she had Grandma Edwards recipe and still often bakes it. She too had to adjust the flour mixture to imitate the rougher grainy flour that my Grandmother’s grain mill had produced. Sadly, she said the mills disc had worn out and would not grind any finer than a cracked wheat. By trial and error she finally accomplished what she had set out to do… reproduce as closely as possible the flour my Grandmother ground by a hand mill using wheat grain.

When I looked over the recipe, I realized how similar but how different t was from the one I had posted. I decided to bake up a couple of loaves to see what the difference really was. Was I surprised!

My cousin’s recipe was truly an exact reproduction of what old fashioned bread should be. Soft, yet with a true home ground whole wheat texture. It was so full of flavor I knew I had to post it. In the picture you will see the texture this recipe has produced. It is not flaky or crumbly. While soft, it still retains a firm body found in artisan breads. I know I will continue to be making many loaves from this recipe. Here is the recipe my cousin sent me.

2 ½ cups of whole wheat flour

1 ½ cups of bread flour

3 Tablespoons of sugar. Divide by setting aside 1 tablespoon of sugar to rise yeast

1 ½ teaspoon of salt

2 Tablespoons of melted butter

1 Tablespoon of dark Karo syrup

2 teaspoons of yeast

1 egg yolk

8 ounces of whole milk heated till very warm (If using skim or low fat milk, add two tablespoons of powdered milk.)

Directions

In your electric mixer’s bowl with dough hook, combine and mix together on low, both flours, salt, 2 Tablespoons of sugar  and (powdered milk if using it).

In a smaller bowl combine 8 oz of very warm milk, Karo syrup, melted butter, egg yolk, 1 Tablespoon of sugar and 2 teaspoons of yeast. Mix well with a fork and let stand until bubbles begin to form showing that the yeast is activated.

In your dry ingredient mixing bowl, create a low spot in the center and begin to add the wet ingredients while the mixer is on low speed. Continue adding wet mixture until dough begins to form into a soft spongy ball. After mixing for a few minutes, dough should not stick to your fingers when touched but should feel damp. Knead dough for 10 minutes using the electric mixer. After well kneaded, the ball of dough should feel very spongy. Remove dough and place on a lightly floured surface and knead by hand 10 to 15 times forming it into a ball. Place dough ball into a large greased bowl to rise. When dough is doubled in size, remove and press down lightly to deflate the dough ball. Shape into a loaf and place it into a greased bread pan, let rise until ½ inch higher than lip of pan.

Pre heat oven to 350 degrees now.

When dough is risen to the desired height, poke holes along the top of the center at 2” intervals no deeper than 1/4″ with a tooth pick to let gas build up escape while rising in the oven. Brush the top of the loaf of bread with milk and place onto middle oven rack in the center. Set a timer for 35 minutes.

Remove when done ( it should sound hollow when thumped) and brush the top with a coat of water this time. Let cool under a kitchen towel.

Chocolate cake, Homemade vs store bought

 

I recently had the opportunity to dine at what I call a “hoity toity” restaurant here in Florida’s Palm Beach district. While I didn’t get a glimpse of Donald Trump or Jimmy Buffett, I did get a taste of the food they eat on a regular bases while dining out.

I have no complaints about the food in general, in fact both the Sous Chef and Head Chef there are friend’s of mine and produce absolutely excellent dishes equal to any famous ‘Top Chef’. When I started my own restaurant in the Florida Keys a decade ago, both had volunteered their recipe knowledge and culinary skills in my start up .

The meal went well, my fellow dinner guest raved and wished they could get the recipes… until desert came.

While there were a number of choices, the ‘Old fashioned chocolate cake’ was pushed on us by our server. She exclaimed it was made from scratch by the Pastry Chef from an old passed down recipe. We didn’t doubt her so most of the table ordered the cake.

When it arrived on its small golden rimmed white china plate drizzled with chocolate and caramel sauce in fancy artistic patterns something seemed strange about it. It was perfect. I mean absolutely perfect.

I know some of you have had the chance to see or watch videos on how food is photographed. Rarely, if ever is real food used. Real food looks terrible through a camera lens. Nothing looks worse on TV than seeing a cheaply done commercial for some local restaurant using it’s own real food. The colors are off and meat becomes an object of unrecognizable origin. Pizza looks like a plastic Play-Doh disc a kid made.

This dessert had the appearance of the perfect stand in ones used by the professional food video industry. But… I figured since the much bragged about Pastry Chef made it from scratch, it may just taste as good as it looked.  Maybe he was just incredibly good. I figured wrong!

Partway through the silent dessert session, I looked up and glanced at my fellow dinners. Each face showed a different expression. Some looked puzzled, others like they had already over eaten and were eating only out of politeness and others took a bite or two and stopped and like me, looked at the others. I swear, the Old fashioned chocolate cake was nothing more than a Sara Lee job with fancy artwork drizzles over it. Finally someone spoke up loud enough for half the restaurant to hear. “This cake taste like crap!”

All at once everyone agreed and began putting in their own two cents. The server, upon overhearing our comments quietly made her way back to the kitchen. She returned moments later trailing behind the huffy looking Pastry Chef. He stopped and with mocking politeness asked if we had a problem with the desert. The look he gave us was saying, “You better say it was excellent or I’ll kill you with my wildly overgrown Scottish eyebrows.”

Figuring my fellow guest lives were in jeopardy, I flung myself at him as the sacrificial goat offering.

“We we’re just wondering about the cake,” I said, “Our server told us it was home made from a passed down family recipe of yours. Our taste buds say different  and wanted to know if you would tell us which food purveyor you used to purchase it.”

The Scottish eyebrows scrunched, quivered violently and as if having a life of their own, grew in size and became even more disheveled. He sputtered for a few seconds, then realizing we may just have a bit of food knowledge ourselves, turned and stomped back into the kitchen without uttering a word.

“Well,” I said, “I think I just offended Scrooge McDuck.”

The thing is folks, DON’T ever try and pass off an institutional premade food as ‘Home Made’, your dinner guest will know you’re trying to snooker ‘em.

To prove my point, Many ‘Home made’ recipes are not anywhere near as complicated as those premade ones. Ingredients used in many of the institutional recipes are not even readily available to the average cook.   I use ‘Cook’ instead of ‘Chef’ because I still hold that only a school trained cook should title themselves as a Chef.  But, that doesn’t mean cooks are less qualified by any means in producing a great dish. In fact the famous BBQ sauce maker, Stubbs, proudly proclaims on each bottle, “Lady and gentlemen, I am a Cook!”  But I digress.

If you question whether or not those strange sounding additives in an institutional recipe change the flavor, ( or are even good for you) I challenge you to make this old fashioned ‘from scratch’ chocolate cake and compare it to the taste, texture and post dining sugar / caffeine  rush of  the store bought variety. I think your Grandma would approve of the homemade one and you can honestly tell your guest, “It’s from scratch”!

“Andy? If you mention that hussy Sara Lee one more time, you’ll be sporting this spoon where the sun don’t shine!”

 

Real, from scratch, Old Fashioned Chocolate Cake*

Preheat oven to 350

Dry ingredients

1 ½ cups of all purpose unbleached flour

1 cup of granulated sugar

3 Tablespoons of cocoa powder

½ teaspoon of salt

1 teaspoon of baking soda

Wet ingredients

1 teaspoon of vanilla

1 Tablespoon of vinegar

½ cup of melted butter

1 cup of warm water

**

Directions

In a large mixing bowl, mix all dry ingredients until well blended. Set aside.

In a smaller bowl, using a fork, whip the wet ingredients together until blended.

Making a depression in the middle of the dry ingredients, slowly pour the wet ingredients into the bowl of dry ingredients. Mix the wet and dry ingredients together using the fork.

Do not whip, just blend them well.

Pour into greased and floured cake tins. (I still don’t trust the non stick stuff.)

Place in the ovens middle rack and bake for 30 minutes.***

When finished, remove from cake tins and cool on a cooling rack.

When cooled, use a bread knife to slice off the rounded top of one of the finished cakes. Use this shaved cake as the bottom layer. Place the rounded unshaved one as the top when frosting the cake.

* This chocolate layer cake recipe is from my collection of heritage recipes. Modern measurements have replaced the originals (eg; a tad bit of cocoa, a few spoonfuls of butter,  a scoop of sugar…)

** In the ‘olden days’, fresh eggs were not always available, especially out west. It was common to use vinegar mixed with milk to prevent crumbling. The vinegar soured and curdled the milk bonding the flour together.

*** Use a toothpick to determine doneness. Each oven bakes differently. When inserted into the middle of the cake, the toothpick should come out dry.

Cocoa chocolate frosting

10 Tablespoons of very soft room temperature of butter

5 cups of powdered sugar

1 ½  teaspoons of vanilla

15 Tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder

½ cup of milk (hold back 2 Tablespoons of milk and add as needed while mixing to achieve desired thickness)

Directions

Beat the butter in a large mixing bowl until fluffy. Slowly add ½ of the powdered sugar amount (2-3 cups) and mix well. Beat in 6 Tablespoons of milk and add vanilla. When well blended, add the cocoa powder and remaining powdered sugar. Beat well until desired consistency is found. If too thick, add the last of reserved milk as needed.

Apply to cooled cake ( ¼ inch in thickness) then chill cake until frosting sets up.

How to frost a cake ; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t1ZAcSazfvE

Moist, sweet creamed corn cornbread

I returned from my Western States adventure with mixed emotions. Oh, don’t get me wrong now, I had myself a great ‘Ol time. I went discovering, (read my blog at www.campfireshadows.com) gold prospecting, wandered around the desert and mountains… I just had a ball!

What I meant to say though, was after unpacking my vehicle, putting all my wash together, repacking all my outdoor gear etc, I stepped into the kitchen and stood there just looking. The one room I love to make a mess in was spotless, like no one lived here. It looked down right lonesome! My pots hung without movin’,  my stove had no drips on it, my sink was empty… dang it if I didn’t feel bad starin’ at it.

Well, bein’ a fella that doesn’t sit around mopin’, I opened the fridge to see what I had readily available for that evenings dinner. I wasn’t about to go out and fast food it, I did that travelin’ all the way back home!  Inside the freezer I still had some containers of chilli I could thaw out, all I needed was some of my cornbread mix to go with it.

I usually make a giant tub of corn bread dry ingredient mix and keep it in the freezer. When I want corn bread, I scoop out 3 cups of the dry mix and add a single batch amount of wet ingredients to it.

By 6pm I had a quart of thawed and heated chilli and my cornbread skillet ready to pop into the oven.

I use a cast iron skillet to bake my corn bread in. The thickness of the cast iron makes sure the baking is even and the sides brown the cornbread perfectly to a golden brown.

As I was maulin’ my meal, I wondered how many folks even eat cornbread anymore. I know the ones I know up in West Virginia eat it with nearly every meal. Someday I’ll post their Cornbread casserole recipe! But like most people, they follow the directions on the package and end up with a dry ‘Ol crumbly cornbread that when eaten, imitates you draggin’ yourself through the Sonora Arizona desert at high noon with no water! Dry!

Well my cornbread ain’t that way at all! Soft (almost cake like), sweet, pieces of real corn within it, and best of all…Moist!

Try this recipe out just once. If you don’t like it… well, if you don’t like it then your taste buds must be damaged to all get out from all that dry crusty stuff you tried draggin’ over your tongue with previous corn bread recipes!

Corn bread

Dry mix ingredients;

1 1/2 teaspoons of salt

2 teaspoons of baking powder

1 1/2 cups of all purpose unbleached flour

1 1/2 cups of corn meal

½ cup of granulated sugar

Wet ingredients;

2 large eggs

1 cup of milk or butter milk

1/2 can (15 oz size of can) of creamed corn. Use only half of the can then freeze the rest in a zip lock bag for future use

2 Tablespoons of melted butter

 

Directions;

              pre heat oven to 400 degrees

1-      Using a spatula, mix dry ingredients together well in a large mixing bowl.

2-      In a separate smaller bowl whisk together eggs and milk.

3-      Stir in melted butter and creamed corn into the milk and egg mixture. Do not whisk.

4-      Create a low spot within the center of the dry mix bowl and slowly pour and mix the wet and dry ingredients together

5-      Pour into a 9” cast iron skillet or round 9” cake pan.

6-       Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden brown and the cornbread springs back when lightly when pressed with the spatula.

* Photo by the author in his kitchen

Canned pickles and Coyotes

A friend of mine who can wrangle any horse, kick rattlesnakes toothless and train a wild coyote to howl cowboy ballads at Arizona’s desert moon, called me one day in a dilemma.

“I need to ask a question!, What the heck is the difference between pickling salts in a box and pickling salts in a sack? This recipe says not to use the one but the other! I am trying to can pickles and I don’t understand any of the terminology they are using. I’m not a gall dern cook! (Actually, there was a bunch of swear words said but gall dern it will have to do for now.)

I said I had never heard of a ‘sack’ of salts before but wondered out loud if they are like the small sacks of spices I use in my chili recipe.

I advised that making pickled eggs is a whole lot easier and I have a super tasty recipe that is easy enough for any beginner to make My friends response was…”I hate eggs!”

“OK, then back to canning pickles it is…”

After trying to understand my friends over the phone recipe I’d finally had enough.

“Hold on, if you are really determined to make your own pickles, even though it’s sooooo easy to just drive to the grocery store and pick up a jar of Claussen Dill pickles and much less frustrating, then I’ll blog my pickle recipe and you can take it from there, OK?

After a minute my friend said, “I see! So this is how you get people to read your blogs. You wait until they’re helpless then force ‘em to drag their dusty eyeballs over your ponderous (insert labored and dull here) writing.”

“You got it my friend, it’s the price you gotta pay… it’s either that or pickled eggs!”

“I hate pickled eggs… go ahead an’ write yer gall dern blog then!”

So in response to my dear friend who has wrangled many a sway back, kicked more rattlesnakes into having to buy dentures and has been known to perform duets with howling coyotes in the Arizona desert during full moons… this blog is for you!

INGREDIENTS;

4 lbs cucumbers (3-5 inches, fresh)
2 cloves of garlic for each jar (peeled)
2-3 fresh sprigs of dill for each jar
4 or 5 black peppercorns for each jar
1 small fresh hot red cayenne pepper or banana pepper for each jar (optional)
2 quarts of water
2 quarts of white vinegar
scant 1/2 cup of pickling or canning salt NOT TABLE OR ROCK SALT, these will turn your pickles dark

DIRECTIONS;

Set aside enough jars to hold all of your pickles

Cut the blossom end of the pickle off, about 1/8th inch. (like a cigar)

Soak freshly picked cucumbers in a tub of ice water overnight. (Do not use old cucumbers or the pickles will be rubbery). Wipe the pickles dry. Pack sterilized jars* with several sprigs of dill, one clove of garlic at the top and bottom and the cucumbers.

Boil the 2 quarts of water, 2 quarts of vinegar and 1/2 cup pickling salts for 5 minutes. Pour the boiling brine over the cucumbers to the top then place the lid over the jar top, Screw the jar lid ring on to prevent the lid from being knocked loose. Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes by placing the jars in a canning pot or large stock pot. Remove then let cool

Let jars sit in a dark cool place for 3 weeks to allow the pickles to absorb the vinegar, spices and salts.

*To sterilize jars. Boil 2 gallons of water. Meanwhile, fill all jars with hot tap water. Wait one minute and then the empty jars. Place dry towel in bottom of sink. Set hot but empty jars in sink. Pour enough boiling enough water into jars filling completely to the top. Wait 5 minutes then using hand protection empty hot jars and place upside down on a CLEAN towel. They are now sterilized.

Gods gift to Southerners, The catfish!


Reprinted from my book, Mawmaws recollections, observations and recipes. Free pdf download.

Did I mention fried Catfish yet? Nothin’s faster to make nor more delicious, I can smell it now!

Now I understand that many people think of catfish as a dirty ‘ol bottom feeding fish fit only for those who couldn’t afford (or catch) a Trout or Perch. The thing was, yes, it’s a bottom feeder, but y’all have to realize that most our streams an rivers back then was as clean as your tap water is today. Maybe I shouldn’t a said that, I hear there’s some pretty questionable tap water in some places. Anyway, it weren’t no Carp an besides most all Catfish today is farm raised anyway. I can’t understand why anyone would eat Talapia and not a Catfish. Talapi is raised to ‘clean up fish farm pods after Catfish,Trout, Salmon and other expensive fish foul it up with their poo. After the fish are harvested, Talapia are put in and ain’t fed, they eat the other fishes poo till the ponds clean, then they’re harvested!

As far as Catfish goes though, Northern or Southern, once bitten into, everyone agrees it’s dang good!

I always said that if you was able to starve in the South, then you must either have a bunch a marbles rollin’ round inside your head or you’s just plain too lazy to reach your hand out ten feet to get some edible substances. Remember Euell Gibbons? He wrote that book “Stalking the wild asparagus” in the early ’60’s. I still got my copy, still read it from time to time. He come through here one time asking folks for their recipes but he only wanted the ones made from local plants and nuts. Nice man from what I’s told. I hear tell he up an died of a stomach ailment. Ha! Must a been sumpin’ he ate!

Anyway, he showed how much food there really is around us all. We just have to recognize it. I assume the French an’ their uppity snails fit in there somewhere’s but God knows where. Catfish on the other hand is natures answer to those too clumsy to fish proper or for those bordering on being a vegetarian. It takes no skill to catch a Catfish. It takes more skill not too! An even if you’re not prone to eatin meat, why one look at a Catfish an you’d realize they’s so ugly they deserve to be eaten!

But, seeing them golden brown fillets sizlin’ in a iron skillit an having that delicious smell hit you smack in the nose makes you want to put an extra five in the collection plate to thank God for his gift of the Catfish.

Speaking of how easy they is to catch, I once caught one with my shoe! I was a youngster splashin’ in the pond near the house with my friends. I had my shoes up on a limb that over hung the shore a bit. One of ’em fell off, bounced on the ground and plopped itself right into the waters edge. Well, I walk on over and reached on down for my shoe. When I grabbed hold of it, my shoe tugged back at me! Frightened me to death! I screamed an not thinking yanked that ‘ol shoe up an outa the water in kind of a panic reaction sort a way. Out flew my shoe…with a big ‘ol catfish still trying to eat one a the tie strings on it. I got on outa’ there ’cause everyone told me how Catfish would sting ya up good if you touched ’em. I never did find out the truth in that.

Golden Pan Fried ‘Southern’ Catfish

“ If you say you can’t eat a Catfish because they’s so ugly, then why in tarnation would you eat rump roast!”

4-6 catfish fillets

¾ cup corn meal

¼ cup flour

¼ teaspoon of salt

½ cup milk

2 eggs, beaten

1/8 teaspoon of red pepper sauce

2 Tablespoons of oil

Preheat deep fryer or 5 qt sauce pan filled with 2 inches of oil in it to 375 degrees. Any hotter an you’ll burn and smoke up your oil.

Preheat oven to 275 to place fish in after frying to keep hot.

Rinse fish in water and towel dry.

Mix cornmeal, flour, and salt in a large bowl. Stir in milk, beaten eggs, pepper sauce and 2 Tbl oil until well blended.

Coat fish with cornmeal batter, shaking off any excess.

Fry two fillets at a time until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Keep fried fish warm by placing on a cookie sheet in the oven until all are cooked.

Broiled Catfish Fillets

(A healthier alternative than fried Catfish)

4 catfish fillets

1/2 teaspoon of garlic salt

1/2 teaspoon of lemon pepper

Lemon wedges for garnish on each plate

Sprinkle fillets with garlic salt and lemon pepper. Preheat broiler pan for 5 minutes. Coat with shortening spray. Place catfish fillets on broiler pan. Broil 3 inches from heat for 4-6 minutes until catfish flakes easily. Put some garnish like lemon wedges and stuff around them on a plate.