Piccalilli Pepper Relish

Canned PiccalilliRelish

There is an American tradition of pickling and canning that goes back to the early settler days. Because of the seasonal uncertainty of food sources and the lack of refrigeration, it was really important to extend the bounty of the summer and fall harvests by putting up and preserving meats and vegetables. Pickling and brining foods provided special relishes, chutneys and sauces to liven up the monotony of winter meals. In the South, that meant chow-chow, a relish made of cabbage, onions, green tomatoes and cucumbers. In the North and Midwest, that meant chutneys and piccalilli, a sweet pepper relish that was a mix of pepper and green tomatoes derived from the English version of Piccalilli, which was a variation on an Indian Pickle.

Today, Piccalilli Pepper Relish is still a great way to use up all those sweet and hot peppers that start overflowing in July and August. It has a sweet and sour tanginess that is great as a condiment for pork roast or fried chicken, or greens. Like any good relish, you can also put it on hot dogs and in deviled eggs. You can really use it as a table condiment the same way you use salsa or ketchup.

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Eating Dandelion greens – the bitter, delicious truth

Dandelion Greens

The fact that I can forage for dandelion greens in my urban backyard is a testament to both the tenacity of the plant and my laziness as a landscape gardener. As soon as the weather starts to warm up here in Georgia, I can see that distinctive yellow flower popping up all over my backyard. I’m not one to seek perfection in a lawn, so I rather like the little addition of color back there. Dandelions also provide something that most people choose to ignore – edible dandelion greens. Dandelions are loaded with calcium, iron, vitamins A, B1, B2, B6 and lots of other micronutrients. So…here are the basics on eating dandelion greens.

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Baja-Style Fried Catfish Tacos with Slaw

Baja-Style Fried Catfish Tacos

Baja-style fish tacos have become increasingly popular over the last 10-15 years. The grilled fish wrapped in tortillas make a great summer dinner. When it’s cold out and the hubby isn’t too keen on getting outside to grill, we make a Southern version – Baja-Style Fried Catfish Tacos with slaw.

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Thanksgiving podcast appearance!

Winter Squashes - butternut, kabucha, pumpkin & golden nugget

Today at noon, I’ll be a guest on Wiseheart Woman’s blogtalkradio podcast. The host, Lisa Capehart and I will be talking about “New Healthy” alternatives to Thanksgiving food favorites.

“New Healthy” Food Ideas for Thanksgiving Podcast

Go to Wiseheart Woman’s blogtalkradio site to listen LIVE at noon EST on Monday, November 18th or to hear the archived broadcast when you get a chance. 

UPDATED: Here is the link to the archived show:
Wiseheart Woman blogtalkradio The “New Healthy” Thanksgiving 

Here are links to my blog posts about each of our discussion topics:
– Thanksgiving cocktails
– Fresh Green Bean Casserole from scratch
– Pumpkin Pie from Scratch
– Making Pie Crust from lard

Cranberry Cocktails

Thanksgiving cocktails with cranberries – Cosmopolitan, Champagne & Chambord and Cranberry Margarita

Muscadine cocktail – using wild grapes for a fall cocktail

Muscadine Cocktail with boiled peanuts

 If you live in the South, you have probably have had your share of muscadines and scuppernongs, our native wild grape. In Georgia, a walk through the woods in late summer and early fall will usually yield at least a handful of the Southern wild grapes to enjoy. You can often find them along the ground, where they’ve fallen from their high perch in the trees.  I usually eat them where I find them, but sometimes we’re lucky enough to come upon low-hanging vines that make picking a couple of pints an easy chore. They are fragrant, juicy and sweet. Like pears or apples, the muscadine signals Fall in the South. They are my inspiration this week for a Southern Fall Muscadine Cocktail.

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Pickled Shrimp – a traditional Low Country appetizer

A Bowl of Pickled Shrimp

For about half the year, starting in June, we have access to beautiful, fresh shrimp from the the Gulf and from the Georgia coast. If you’re lucky enough to live in Savannah or Brunswick, you can get down to the dock in mid-morning and get them fresh off the boat. If you come across a couple of pounds of big, fresh shrimp, you should try this traditional Lowcountry party food – Pickled Shrimp.

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Quick Refrigerator Pickles – easy garlic pickles

Quick Refrigerator Pickles

Even though I grew up in the South with a mother that liked to cook, she was a modern woman who worked full time. She did not have a lot of extra time to can fruits & vegetables or put up preserves. But one thing she did do was keep cut pickles in the refrigerator during the summer. Her version of a “quick pickle” was to slice the cucumbers (often from my dad’s garden) and put them into a bowl with water and a bit of salt. The salt water kept the cucumbers  crisp and the fridge kept the slices nice and cold. Those pickles were meant to be eaten in a day or two. It was an easy thing to do in the morning before heading to work. Then, when she got home from work and had to pull together dinner, it was easy to pull out those cold, salty cucumber slices to serve with sliced tomatoes and green onions from the garden. That and some beans and cornbread were dinner.

That salt brine has to be the simplest way ever to make a refrigerator pickle. I’ve used it many times myself. But in the last few years, I’ve been wanting to play around with making “real” pickles. There are two different ways to pickle cucumbers – refrigerator (or quick) method and the canning process method. I felt intimidated by the whole canning process, so I opted to try the quick refrigerator pickle.

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Summer Vegetable Succotash

Southern Summer Vegetable Succotash

Not to point fingers or anything, but there are a lot of people who think Southern food is just about eating pig and frying things. Not that there is anything wrong with some pulled pork or an occasional piece of fried chicken, but I think that it’s the side dishes that make the Southern table different. And no matter what Food Network might be showing you, most Southerners do not just eat deep-fried macaroni & cheese for dinner. We are blessed with a very long growing season, so we have access to lots of great vegetables most of the year. Most Southern cooks know how to cook veggies – green beans, cream corn and squash casserole, etc. One vegetable dinner I make in the summer is a Southern summer vegetable succotash. It’s a great way to use up all those veggies in your CSA box this week.

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Low Sugar Blackberry Jam

Low-Sugar Blackberry Jam

My family loves blackberry season. We can’t wait for the blackberries to come in every July so we can start our month-long ritual of berry picking and blackberry jam and cobbler-making. After three bug-bit, thorn-scratched excursions this weekend, we have already picked two gallons of wild blackberries. It’s not really a problem, but the berries are starting to get backed up in my fridge. It’s time to get serious about jam making. So, this week, I’m pulling my canning jars out of the closet and I’ll put up my first batch of low sugar blackberry jam for the summer.

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Carolina-style Low Country Shrimp Boil

Fresh Gulf shrimp, ready to boil

Last month, my sister-in-laws came for a visit and brought with them 5 pounds of beautiful, jumbo shrimp, fresh off the boat in Ocean Springs, Mississippi that morning. Squeee! What a treat! To do justice to that treat, we decided to get out the turkey fryer and do a little cooking outside – a Carolina-style Low Country Shrimp Boil!

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