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Posts Tagged ‘Southern Cooking’

Strawberry Shortcake Pie

April 28, 2012 12 comments

Earlier this week I went with a friend to pick fresh strawberries at a local farm. We each picked two gallons of berries! Putt planned to dry most of her strawberries (yum). I had other plans for mine: I removed the hulls and froze a large bag of whole berries for future smoothies, margaritas, and mojitos; baked a pie; and ate plenty of them plain, only washed. They were all delicious!

Today, I made my first batch of  homemade strawberry jam. Or is it preserves? What is the difference between preserves and jam? That might be a future blog post. I originally planned to make a quick and easy freezer jam, because I’m a little intimidated by canning. But then I realized I’ve canned pepper jelly, so this is probably about the same.

I made eleven jars of jam:  eight regular, one jar of jelly (the last jar had no pieces of fruit, so I think that is jelly), and two strawberry habanero. It sounds like a strange combination but I think it will be good on cream cheese and served with crackers. I love hearing the sounds of the lids popping. I can hear them as I type. I would include the recipe in today’s blog, but I just followed the directions inside the box of Sure-Jell fruit pectin (http://www.kraftbrands.com/surejell/howto_cookedjam.aspx). Everything worked out fine until I was cleaning up the kitchen: somehow, a tiny Mason jar fell down into the garbage disposal. I didn’t realize this until it was too late. Yep, little bits of glass all in the disposal. I think Matt and I will try to fix it this weekend. This will be the second one we have repaired (never stick flower stems down a disposal, it will likely clog it!). We never had a garbage disposal growing up, so that’s my excuse for my disposal accidents.

We support local farms when we can. We are fortunate to have several wonderful farms in North Alabama and Southern Tennessee. If you live outside the area, I hope you will support your local farms and farmers markets. Here’s some information about three of our favorite farms that provide local, fresh, and delicious strawberries (among other things)!

Brown Farms: Their farm is in New Market. Directions from Huntsville: take North Parkway/231 North, turn right on Joe Quick Road, turn left on Walnut Grove Road and follow the signs to the farm (it will be on your left). If you can’t make it to the farm to pick your own or buy fresh berries, you can buy their strawberries at local Star Market Supermarkets (the one in 5 Points usually carries them this time of year). Address & Phone: 384 Walnut Grove Rd New Market, AL 35761, 256-828-0710

For more information about Brown Farms:  http://www.pickyourown.org/ALhuntsv.htm

Dennison’s Family Farm: This farm is a little further away in Elora, TN. They sell already picked strawberries at the farm or you can visit one of their cute little strawberry “houses” in Madison (across from City Hall in front of Hartlex Antiques on Hughes Road), Fayetteville, and Winchester (please call for exact locations). They also have a community supported agriculture (CSA) program if you are interested in trying one. Address & Phone: 98 Milner Switch Road, Elora, TN 37328, 931-937-8162

For more information about Dennison’s Family Farm:  http://dennisonsfarm.com/ or info@dennisonsfarm.com

J. Sparks Farm: I’ve only visited this farm once, but I got a behind-the-scenes tour with the owner’s sister. It is a nice farm, and it is a little easier on the knees picking the strawberries standing up since it’s a vertical hydroponic farm. The strawberries (and lettuce) were wonderful. I’m not sure if they are growing strawberries this year, but I hope to see them back at the Greene Street Market at Nativity when they open for the season next week, on May 3rd! Address & Phone: 312 Esslinger Drive, Gurley, AL, 256-776-9881

For more information about J. Sparks Farm:  http://www.jsparksfarms.com/

My public service announcement for local farms is over. And now back to the blog…

Today’s recipe is not healthy, vegan, nor is it gluten-free*. It is a once in a while splurge-worthy dessert – Strawberry Shortcake Pie. Actually, for us, it is a once every 5 year splurge. It’s a fairly simple recipe and it’s not the most outrageous dessert I make, but for some reason, we just don’t have it very often. I’ve known my husband, Matt, since 2007.  I baked this pie for him the first time in May 2007 and haven’t made one since. I figure we are good until April or May of 2017!  Wow, that sounds like a long way away!

I guess this recipe originally came from a magazine because my mom pasted an old clipping into her photo album cookbook. At the bottom of the recipe, it says, “continued on page 120.”  Page 120 is not included in her cookbook. I’ve always wondered what was on that page! I’ve stayed fairly true to the original recipe, only made a few changes: 1) My pie plate is 9.5” instead of 9” so I increased the crust ingredients just a bit; 2) I omitted the red food coloring, I think the glaze is perfectly lovely without the added coloring; 3) Changed the name, instead of Strawberry Glazed Whipped Cream Pie it is now the Strawberry Shortcake Pie (it reminds me of the homemade shortcakes I made as a child); and 4) I sliced some of the larger strawberries, whole berries make slicing the pie challenging.

Strawberry Shortcake Pie

Shortcake Crust:
1½ cups biscuit mix (I use Bisquick)
6 tablespoons butter, softened
scant ⅓ cup boiling water

Preheat oven to 450º F. Place biscuit mix and softened butter in the bottom of a 9.5” or 10” pie pan. Pour in the boiling water. Stir mixture with a fork until it forms a soft ball and leaves the side of the pan. Don’t overwork the dough or you will end up with a tough crust. Use your fingers to pat the dough evenly over the bottom and sides of the pan. If you are good at such things, you can press the dough over the rim of the pie plate and then form the dough into a neat, decorative design on the edge. I’m not so good at that, so I just use my finger (or a fork) to make an indentation on the top edge of the crust. Use a fork to dock the crust – poke holes along the sides and bottom of the crust to allow steam to escape and keep it from puffing up. Bake 10-12 minutes until it is golden brown. If you have pie crust shields, you might want to use them to keep the edges from over-browning, but it’s not necessary. Just check the crust after baking about 9 minutes to make sure it turns golden and does not burn.  Remove crust from the oven and let it cool.

Strawberry Filling:
6 cups fresh strawberries
½ cup water
2½ tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon butter

Fresh whipped cream, optional garnish

Wash and drain the strawberries. Save a few pretty ones for a garnish. Remove the hulls from the rest. Crush 2 cups of the strawberries and set aside. Cut the remaining 4 cups of strawberries into halves, quarters, or slices (whatever you prefer; I just don’t like slicing into a pie with large, whole berries). In a medium saucepan, stir together the water and cornstarch. Mix well. Add the sugar and stir in the 2 cups of crushed strawberries. Bring mixture to a boil and cook until clear, about 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in the butter. Strain the mixture using a strainer, chinois, or a clean piece of cheesecloth. Arrange the 4 cups of strawberries in the cooled pie shell. Pour the warm glaze over the strawberries. Make sure all the strawberries are covered with the glaze. Refrigerate several hours until set. Garnish with whole strawberries and fresh whipped cream. Serve. This is not a pie that ages well. It is best to make it the day you plan to eat it. It gets a little soggy and isn’t as pretty the following day. It still tastes delicious. Yes, I’ve had leftover strawberry shortcake pie for breakfast the next day! Makes 8 servings.

*Healthier Version: I think this could easily be made gluten-free by using the gluten-free baking mix from King Arthur Flour of Pamela’s Products. I just haven’t tried it yet. Also, I noticed at Publix there is a “new” Gluten-Free Bisquick. I have not tried it either. I stuck to the original Bisquick because I wanted the taste from the childhood. You could also make your own crust; a crumb or nut crust would be delicious. Or even use a spelt crust (I saw them recently at Garden Cove and Earth Fare). To make it vegan, I think margarine or coconut oil could be used to make the crust (just gotta check the biscuit mix to make sure it is vegan). The rest of the recipe only has 1 tablespoon of butter to make the glaze “glossy!” I think coconut oil or margarine would make it plenty glossy.

Refrigerator Pickles

April 19, 2012 5 comments

We make and eat lots of refrigerator pickles (sometimes known as cucumber/onion salad) at our house. They are quick, easy, versatile, and it’s a great way to use extra cucumbers. I learned how to make them from my Mom. I think she learned how to make them from Nanny, her grandmother. We had a large garden growing up and we had loads of cucumbers. There are just so many bread and butter pickles one can eat, and then it’s time to make refrigerator pickles or cucumber/onion salad.  Whatever you call it, it is tasty!

 

Refrigerator Pickles

3 cups sliced cucumbers (about 4-6 small cucumbers)

1 cup sliced onions (I use 1 small red onion and 1 small white onion)

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon black pepper

pinch of cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes (optional)

1½ cups white vinegar

I like the cucumbers and onions sliced very thin so I use either a mandoline slicer or a food processor. But hand-slicing works great too (and there is less equipment to clean!).  I usually leave the peel on the cucumbers, but you can peel them if you prefer. 

Mix the cucumbers and onions in a larger container with a tight-fitting lid (I use a large Pyrex container or a large Mason jar).  Sprinkle with the salt and pepper.  Pour in the vinegar.  Mix well. You can eat them immediately but I like to refrigerate them for several hours (or even several days). I just shake (thus, the tight-fitting lid) or stir them every day.

 

Variations:
– Add cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes.

– Add sugar, stevia, honey, or agave to cut some of the tartness.

– Add fresh garlic for an added flavor kick.

– Add thinly sliced green or red bell peppers.

– Add jalapeño pepper slices.

– Add fresh herbs (parsley, dill, chives, etc.).

– Mix it up with different onions: white, Vidalia, yellow, purple (or even shallots).

– Try different vinegars: apple cider, white vinegar, or even a splash of balsamic or red wine vinegar.

– Drain off most of the vinegar and stir in some sour cream or plain yogurt and dill for a creamy side salad.

 

Welcome to The Flaming Pot Holder

July 30, 2011 25 comments

Evolution of the Flaming Pot Holder:
I’m not a chef.  I simply love to cook. The Flaming Pot Holder is my attempt to record and share recipes with others. I adore cookbooks, even collect them, but I rarely use them. I don’t like being confined by a recipe, although I like the inspiration cookbooks provide. Friends sometime ask for recipes; however, I usually don’t have anything to give them. With this blog, I will attempt to write my recipes, take a few photos, and share both good and bad results.

This first post has been the most difficult. My husband, Matt, set up my blog site weeks ago. But I’ve been overcome with writer’s block.  So I haven’t posted anything for fear that it might not be good enough. Then I realized this is an evolving project and “perfection is not attainable” (thank you Vince Lombardi and Tin Cup – probably the only sports references you will ever see on this blog).  Best case, I finally record my recipes, folks enjoy the recipes, and I meet some fellow cooks along the way. Worst case, well, there really is no worst case.

This blog is called the Flaming Pot Holder because of my penchant for setting things on fire. Even “flame retardant” pot holders! Part of this is because I cook with wild abandon (messy) and part of it is that I am accident-prone (klutzy). Not a good combination.

Eventually I would like to branch out and include other things in the blog, like restaurant reviews, product recommendations, and healthy tips.  But for now, it will be enough to record my recipes so I can make them again or share them with others.

My Parents – Where it All Started:
My parents gave me the greatest gift when they plopped me on a chair in the kitchen when I was four.  The first thing I remember “cooking” was a salad. I got to tear the lettuce. Hey, I was four, it was a big deal!  I’m sure it was iceberg because I remember the sound the lettuce made when I tore it into pieces (plus, that’s typically what you ate back then in Alabama). It took me a few years to learn knife and oven skills. But by the time I was six, there was no stopping me. I caught the cooking bug!

Much of my cooking knowledge comes from my dad. He was a wonderful cook and rarely used a recipe. His gift was his ability to taste something, analyze it, and then replicate it. We had loads of fun doing this. It sounds kind of dorky, but looking back, this was a great bonding experience for us.

My mom was also a great cook, although she didn’t understand the allure of the “food detective” stuff.  She was more of a recipe-follower. The exception was when she cooked comfort food. When she made cornbread, Parker House rolls, purple hull peas, fried green tomatoes, stuffed grape leaves(!), creamed corns, and country fried steak she just mixed things together, and it typically worked. Long before those celebrity Southern chefs popularized it, Mom’s philosophy was, “If you add enough butter, most anything tastes better.”

I asked Mom for recipes, but she didn’t have many recorded. When I was younger, Mom told me to watch her cook and I’d figure out her “recipes.”  I watched for years, but never learned to make her cornbread. Mom died rather suddenly in December 2009 so I was never able to document her exact cornbread recipe.  Since she died, I have tried several times to replicate it, and this week came darned close. It seems fitting that this is my first blog post, on my 45th birthday, in honor of my mom.

My First Recipe – Mom’s Southern Cornbread:
1/4 cup butter (Mom would’ve used a whole stick, but that’s just not healthy!)
1 large egg
1 to 1-1/2 cups buttermilk
2 cups Martha White® Self-Rising White Corn Meal Mix (with Hot Rize®)*

1. Preheat the oven to 450º F.  Melt butter in a 7-9” ovenproof pan (preferably a well-seasoned and well-loved cast iron skillet). It takes about 5 to 8 minutes for the butter to melt and for the pan to heat (that’s how you get the nice crust).

2. Beat the egg in a medium bowl. Stir in about 1 cup of the buttermilk. Stir in the corn meal mix. Gently swirl the butter around to grease the sides of the pan. Then carefully pour the melted butter into the mixture. Stir to combine. Batter should be smooth and pourable. If it is too thick, gradually add some more buttermilk and pour into the prepared skillet or pan. Don’t overbeat or the cornbread will be tough.

3. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown.

*I specify a brand name because this is part of Mom’s recipe that I remember and she was adamant about it.  I tried some other brands of cornmeal/cornbread mixes, and they were NOT the same.

Typical Disclaimer Stuff:
This blog is for my personal enjoyment. I am not an expert. I am just starting out with writing a blog. Typos might happen. This is bad because in another life, I am a Technical Writer. If you notice a mistake, please let me know so I can correct it.

As is evident by the name, cooking can be dangerous. Please use common sense when cooking with flames, fuel, and hot stuff (Even cold stuff, for that matter…who knows, you might drop a frozen turkey on your foot. Not that I would ever do anything that clumsy.).  The writer is not responsible for damages of any kind, including loss of life, limb, or happiness if something doesn’t turn out like expected. Blah. Blah. Blah. Think this is enough “legalese” to cover myself (I hope).