"My place, in the midst of this abundance of nature, is back in a mountain hollow on a bad dirt road surrounded by forest, wild blackberries, mountain critters, wildflowers, a few neighbors, and a passel of 'dawgs.'"
So writes Joan Aller, author of this season's must-have cookbook, "Cider Beans, Wild Greens, and Dandelion Jelly: Recipes from Southern Appalachia." [To buy the book from Amazon.com, click here. To buy the black-and-white, no-photos Kindle edition, click here.]
And it's not like Joan Aller is an East Tennessee native who's walked the Appalachian Trail with the likes of Bill Bryson or South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford. She's from the West, and might be living there still but for urban sprawl and environmental ugliness. So she first moved to Nashville, which is very much a city, and then further East.
Joan Aller is an artist by profession and fearless by nature. No soon had she painted her mailbox than she was off, photographing barns and bridges and learning the ways of her new neighbors. That led quickly to food --- and five years of research. At the end, she had gorgeous photographs of Southern Appalachia, luscious photographs of Southern food, and 8,000 pages of recipes and history.
The good news is that Ms. Aller and her editors put her work on a diet. The result is a 212-page book that was extravagantly handsome until my wife and I started dog-earing the pages. Silly us --- we want to cook almost everything here. Our only non-starters: Appalachian wine, root beer and --- no kidding --- moonshine.
See if just the names don't make you look at your watch to see if it's time for some meal or other: Kentucky "hot brown" (turkey-bacon-Colby cheese sandwich drenched in Tabasco-spiked milk gravy), Mississippi Sin (French bread, cream cheese, cheddar cheese, cooked ham, sour cream, accented with sweet onion, bell pepper and Worcestershire sauce), Butternut Squash Soup with Sweet Tea and Ginger, George Washington Carver's Sweet Potato Pie, Bourbon Sweet Potato Casserole, Corn Cob Jelly, And a dip made of equal parts chopped sweet onion, grated cheese and mayonnaise, baked for 25 minutes at 350.
And....but you see the problem --- with the possible exception of boring old blue cheese balls, this book rocks like the Allman Brothers.
But don't take my word for it. Try some of these....
I love bacon muffins
makes 1 dozen
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
one-quarter teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon bacon drippings
1 cup milk
2 large eggs, well-beaten
6 slices bacon, cooked until crisp, drained and crumbled
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Lightly grease a standard 12-cup muffin tin and place it in the oven to heat.
In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar.
Add the bacon drippings, milk and eggs, and stir to blend.
Fold the crumbled bacon into the batter and mix until blended.
Spoon the batter into the hot muffin pan.
Bake for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown.
Let cool on a wire rack.
Corn Relish Salad
serves about 8
3 cups cooked fresh corn kernels cut off the cob
1/3 cup sugar
2 medium tomatoes, finely chopped
1/4 cup chopped sweet onion
1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup vinegar
1 cup shredded Colby cheese.
In a large bowl, combine all of the ingredients and stir gently.
Cover and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight.
Stir well before serving.
Spiced Cranberry Pork Roast
2 1/2- to 3-pound boneless rolled pork loin roast
16-ounce can jellied whole cranberry sauce
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 tablespoons cold water
2 tablespoons cornstarch
Preheat the oven to 250°. Place the roast in a baking pan.
In a bowl, mash together the cranberry sauce, sugar, dry mustard, and cloves.
Pour the mixture over the roast and cover the pan.
Cook for 6 to 8 hours, until the roast is thoroughly cooked and tender.
Remove the roast from the oven, transfer it to a cutting board, and pour the juices into a saucepan. Skim off the fat.
Bring the pan juices to a boil over medium-high heat.
In a small bowl, combine the water and cornstarch to form a paste.
Slowly stir the paste into the pan juices and cook, stirring, until thickened.
Add salt to taste.
Slice the roast and serve it with the sauce spooned over the top.
Note: To make the roast in a slow cooker, place the roast in the cooker and turn the heat to low. Make the sauce as directed above and pour it over the roast. Cover and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours.
makes six 1-pint jars
6 pounds medium sweet peaches
2 3/4 cups cider vinegar
1 1/3 cups water
8 cups sugar
4 cinnamon sticks, broken in half
4 teaspoons whole cloves
Wash the peaches well, peel them, and place them in a bowl. (The easiest way to peel a peach is to dip the fruit in boiling water for 30 to 60 seconds. Remove from the water using a slotted spoon and put into a large bowl or pot of cold water and ice. The skins will easily slide off.) Cut out any brown spots. Traditionally, you leave the pits in, but you can halve them and pit them if you want.
In a large pot on medium-low heat, mix the vinegar, water, and sugar.
Raise the heat to medium and cook, stirring, until the sugar dissolves.
Add the cinnamon sticks and cloves to the pot and bring the mixture to a boil. Cover the pot and let it boil for 5 minutes, then uncover it and boil for 5 minutes more.
Add the peaches to the pot and bring the mixture back to a boil, and then turn the heat down to a simmer. Let the syrup simmer for 10 minutes.
Spoon the peaches into hot sterilized pint jars to about three-quarters full. Next, spoon the liquid mixture over the peaches, leaving 1/4 inch of headspace.
Make sure there is at least one piece of cinnamon in each jar.
Wipe the rims of the jars with a clean, damp cloth to remove any drips and seal the jars tightly.
Process the peaches in a hot water bath for 10 minutes, following your home canner manufacturer's instructions.
Note: Canned peaches have a shelf life of 1 1/2 to 2 years.
[Cross-posted from HeadButler.com]
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