I am a member of a Facebook Page aimed at people who love food and love to cook. One of the common postings is about having had biscuits and gravy for breakfast, especially biscuits and sausage gravy.
It’s a popular meal and almost everyone has something to say about how they prepare it and/or how they consume it. I prefer mine, for example, as a single split buttermilk biscuit with just a minimal amount of gravy containing a mild sausage. On top, I like a sunny side up farm egg with salt and pepper.
One member wrote about making a tomato gravy and serving it on toast. I tried making it and served mine on a biscuit. If I were to do it again I’d fry up a couple of strips of crisp bacon to crumble on top of the gravy.
Sometime in the early 1990s my wife, my son, and I were in the French Quarter of New Orleans and finding ourselves hungry we tripped into the closest restaurant to us; a very old place called the Old Absinthe House. As first-time visitors to NOLA, we didn’t have a clue that we had stumbled into one of the oldest and most famous bars in America. The Absinthe was where Andrew Jackson met the pirate Jean Lafitte to ask help in repelling the British invasion of the lower Mississippi and New Orleans. Lafitte agreed and history was made.
Just about everyone has a story about their grandmother’s pies. Well, I’m no different and story-wise, I’m lucky enough to have two.
My grandmother Chapman was known to adults as Mrs. Annie and to us kids as Mama. She lived in Greenville, SC and during several summers I’d got a chance to stay with her for a week. She was a stereotypical looking grandma of the Granny Clampett style. She was very loving and kind with only two faults. One was her fervent fundamental Pentecostal religion and the other her firmly held, but mistaken, belief that my favorite pie was her version of lemon meringue.
I hate gardening but when I was a kid we did grow a neighborhood garden. I don’t know who taught us because no one in my family, or my friend’s, raised gardens. But, we dug up a patch of dirt in a neighbor’s side yard (with their permission) and grew the typical veggies which got distributed around the neighborhood. My point is, somewhere I learned the basics and if I had to I could in part feed my family. That is a skill that every person should have regardless of how big a concrete jungle they live in. In our rush to teach higher mathematics, science, etc. maybe we’ve hurt ourselves by placing basic life skills on the back burner. As food prices continue to soar and the economic realities continue to get grimmer it wouldn’t hurt to begin once again teaching people how to fend for themselves a little more. There is certainly a place in our public schools for teaching children home economics, basic electricity and mechanical skills, and how to supplement their family’s nutritional needs.
I am an example of what I’m talking about. I’m a product of “higher” education and spent my career writing on a blackboard with a piece of chalk. But, I learned enough in high school wood and metal shop that I was able to help build my home, keep it maintained, repair a broken light socket and countless other necessary chores. Wonder how much money that bit of “lower” education saved me in the course of my life?
The 2nd G3 Blues, Brews & Stews Winter Festival is history and will go down as being a huge success. I’ll have more details later but here are the winners of the chili and stew cook off. Out of about 20 entries the top 3 in each class were:
1st Place, Denise Shope, Adena Greenfield Medical Center, (Bountiful Chili)
2nd Place, Holly Ellinger (Washington’s White Chili)
For many decades it was thought that former slave, Abby Fisher, had written the first cookbook by an African-American, What Mrs. Fisher Knows About Old Southern Cooking, was published in 1881. In 2001 it was learned that a free black woman named Malinda Russell had published Domestic Cook Book: Containing a Careful Selection of Useful Receipts for the Kitchen in 1866.
Much of the food America loves has its roots in the poverty enslaved blacks endured for centuries in the American South. Known today as soul food it made use of those food stuffs the white slave masters saw little value in. Protein came from beans and legumes and the occasional lesser cuts of pork and poultry. If you could still find a small traditional grocery serving a mostly black population in today’s South you’d likely see coolers stacked with ox tail, pig knuckles, tails, ears and feet, salted fat back, chicken feet, necks and rooster combs. Add to that large bags of rice, red beans, and corn meal you’d have the basis for countless recipes that still keep people moving and enjoying comfort today.
I came across an article titled, 8 Ridiculously Cheap Superfoods. First on the list was beans and it made me think about John Steinbeck’s novel, Tortilla Flat. Briefly it is a story about Hispanic cannery workers in Monterey, California during the 1930s. A female character being, a little too free with her favors, ended up with a batch of kids belonging to several men in the barrio. To feed them the woman would glean the nearby bean fields following harvest and her children lived on a diet of mostly re-fried beans and corn tortillas.
For reasons I don’t recall the barrio men decided it was their paternal duty to see that the kids got better fed and they figured out a way to get large amounts of fresh fruits and vegetables. While their intentions were pure the children’s digestive tracts were not ready for these strange foods and they quickly fell victim to acute diarrhea. Good health returned just as quick when the kids returned to eating beans and cornbread.
Kelly Schradin hails from Leesburg, resides near New Vienna, and teaches biology at Southern State Community College. Although we’ve never formally met I’ve come to know a lot about her love of gardening, canning, cooking and most things food related. Our paths crossed in a Facebook group called What’s for Supper and seeing a photo of what she’s prepared for supper each evening gives me reason to sit down at my computer each evening. I know Kelly has lots of fans but none are more loyal than my wife and I. We’ve even offered her free room and board if she’d come live with us and do our cooking.
Between teaching and doing all the things she loves, Kelly also maintains a blog that focuses on her interest. After discovering it I decided I had to create a link and help share her talents and creations with as many of the world’s foodies as possible. Her site, GrowCookPreserve, can be visited by clicking HERE.
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Saturday night the Hillsboro Uptown Business Association (HUBA) held its second annual barbecue contest in conjunction with the Festival of the Bells. While there were not as many entrants this year the public turnout was vastly improved due to changing the hours of the contest.
Last year the contestants were up all night manning their smokers and the meats were judged at around noon. The temperatures at the time were hovering around 100 degrees and the humidity even higher. Combined with other festival events conflicting with the bbq judging there weren’t many people who showed up to sample the results.
When I first delved into the mysteries of smoking meat my two greatest challenges were doing pork ribs and beef brisket. I failed miserably with these two barbecue standards. My ribs resembled rib jerky and my brisket shared too much DNA with gum rubber.
Long ago I figured out how to properly do pork loins and shoulders. The secret is simply taking your time and keeping the temp below 225 degrees and allowing enough time to get the internal temp to about 200 degrees. Ribs are a different beast, however, because they are so thin. I really don’t know what I’ve done, other than keeping the heat under control and closely monitoring them, but my last four batches of ribs have been wonderful.
Every thing I read about smoking brisket stated that it required about twenty hours on the smoker. But, when watching barbecue shows on TV I heard other “experts” saying they only cooked theirs for ten hours, or less. I was never willing to sit up all night tending a smoker so I turned to shortcuts such as boiling the brisket until fork tender and then putting it on the smoker. The result was pretty good but I always felt like I was cheating.
Today, I took a different path. I devised a means of creating real oak wood smoke inside my Weber propane grill and used it to cook an eight pound brisket. I rubbed the meat down with salt, pepper, and Cajun rub and placed it inside the grill, fat side up, at about 200-225 degrees. After about an hour I ceased putting wood chips in my smoke box since the meat stops absorbing smoke after about thirty-minutes.
I put the brisket on at 2:00 p.m. and took it off at around 6:30 p.m. when it had reached an internal temp of 180 degrees. When inserting the thermometer it appeared to be plenty tender so I let it rest for twenty-minutes and made a test slice and checked it for moisture and tenderness. It was perfect. I’m simply amazed that I got such a good brisket with less than five hours on the grill.
I’ve heard several news reports lately about the rising price of beef but haven’t been to the store to check things out. Today, stopping at White’s Meats in Bainbridge, I came face to face with the new reality.
I had Jeff cut me an eight pound brisket for the smoker and while I was waiting I surveyed the steak section of the display case. T-bone was bringing $8.99, NY strip $9.99, and filet mignon a whopping $15.99 a pound. At $2.99 a pound for brisket I think that’s about as close to steak as we’ll be getting this summer. Thankfully there are still some cheaper cuts and we have a good smoker.
My son and I just got back from a trip to North West, Florida and pretty much lived on a diet of barbecue and seafood. We spent much of the time off the Interstate system seeking out yard sales and local BBQ joints on the way to the Gulf Coast and coming home. At the coast, I especially, honed in on consuming local sea creatures, fried, steamed, and grilled. I even managed to get down a sample oyster on the half-shell.
As many of you know I have for years been on a quest to find the best pulled pork on earth and the search has been very enjoyable and made for some good memories and tales of conquest. But since it began, back in the mid-80s, much of the luster has been lost. There are several reasons for this and the newness rubbing off is probably a major factor. Other reasons have to include there only being so many ways to smoke a hog, the increase in the number of BBQ joints, and, to twist a phrase, that we have gotten pretty damned good at pulling our own pork.
The one thing we both agreed on is that Wilber’s Barbecue in Goldsboro, NC remains our personal, all-time, favorite with Hill’s Lexington BBQ, north of Winston-Salem, NC, running a possible close second. We also agreed that good BBQ never came out of a big chain restaurant with a modern building just off the Interstate. The best que is found in old concrete block buildings with knotty pine walls, oil-skin covered tables, and a big pile of burning hickory logs out back from which the glowing embers are used to convert swine into swell.