I'm P.C., and I have studied food and cooking around the world, mostly by eating, but also through serious study. Coursework at Le Cordon Bleu London and intensive courses in Morocco, Thailand and France have broadened my culinary skill and palate. But my kitchen of choice is at home, cooking like most people, experimenting with unique but practical ideas.

I live, mostly in my kitchen, in my hometown of Memphis, Tennessee.

Artichoke, Goat Cheese and Lemon Spread

 

Artichoke, Goat Cheese and Lemon Spread

Creamy artichoke dip has long been a staple a parties and gatherings.  Lots of mayonnaise and marinated artichoke hearts and gooey cheese.  It has never been a favorite of mine, because it is so rich and always tastes more of mayonnaise than anything else.  I set out to create a dish everyone would be intrigued by, but surprised to find it veered so from the classic.  I’ve seen recipes pairing artichokes and goat cheese, but wanted to add a lot of tang to complement the artichokes.  Goat cheese, lemon, capers and yogurt give this spread body and zip, with the added herbs for layered flavors.

I prefer using frozen artichoke hearts that have not been marinated or brined to keep their flavor up front.  This spread is so easy to prepare but gives such complex results it’s a real party trick.  It is wonderful spread on toasted baguette slices, but it can be dipped with hearty chips.  It’s good spread on a bagel too.

 

Artichoke, Goat Cheese and Lemon Spread
Yields 2
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Ingredients
  1. 1 (14-ounce) package frozen artichoke hearts
  2. 1 clove garlic
  3. 2 Tablespoons fresh oregano leaves
  4. 2 Tablespoons fresh parsley
  5. 1 Tablespoon capers in brine
  6. zest of 1 medium lemon
  7. 2 – 3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice, to taste
  8. 4 ounces soft goat cheese
  9. 6 ounces Greek yogurt
  10. ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
  11. salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Cook the artichoke hearts according to the package directions. Drain and leave to cool.
  2. Place the artichoke hearts, garlic, herbs and capers in the bowl of a food processor and pulse several times to break everything up. Add the remaining ingredients and process until smooth and spreadable. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Scrape the spread into a bowl, cover and refrigerate for several hours to allow the flavors to meld. Serve with toasted baguette slices or crackers.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/
 

 

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Butternut Squash Pickle

Butternut Squash Pickle

The beautiful orangey amber cubes dress up any autumn platter. This is a quick pickle, one for the refrigerator not the canning process.  Make it ahead of your holiday cooking as the flavor needs a little time to develop.

Cutting the butternut can be a little time consuming, but a little patience and sharp, sturdy knife will pay off.  I really prefer to have small pieces, and I admit I use my as-seen-on-TV onion chopper.  The small pieces are so versatile, making this a relish to serve alongside roasted turkey or pork, or a great topping for bruschetta or a sandwich.

Butternut Pickle

1 ½ pounds cubed, peeled butternut squash (1 large butternut, about 2 pounds)

2 ½ cups cider vinegar

2 ½ cups granulated sugar

1 Tablespoon pickling spice

2 cinnamon sticks

Peel the butternut completely, making sure to remove all the skin.  Cut the squash in half and scrap put all the seeds and fibrous insides.  Get it all out.  Cut the butternut into small cubes.   Place the cubed butternut in a large bowl

In a high-sided pan, combine the sugar and vinegar. Bring to a boil over medium high heat and add the pickling spice and cinnamon sticks.  Boil for five minutes. Pour the boiling syrup over the butternut in the bowl, cover with a clean tea towel and leave for 8 – 12 hours, which can easily be overnight.

Drain the syrup from the butternut back into the saucepan and bring it to a boil over medium high heat.  Boil for 5 minutes.  Add the butternut with the cinnamon sticks, bring to the boil and boil for five minutes.  Remove from the heat.

Spoon the squash into sterilized jars, pressing down lightly to fill.  Pour over the syrup, covering the squash in the jars.  There may be extra syrup; discard it.  Screw the caps on the jars, leave to cool and then refrigerate for at least a week, but up to a month unopened.  Once opened, use quickly.

Makes 2 half-pints

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Bacon Spoon Bread with Tomato Bacon Jam

Bacon Spoon Bread with Tomato Bacon Jam

When I think of really old Southern recipes, spoon bread always comes to mind.  I really have no particular knowledge of its history, its just that first time I ever had it was on a school trip to Colonial Williamsburg where it is served at Christiana Campbell’s Tavern by costumed and in-character servers. I assume everything else at Williamsburg is so accurate, that this must be a colonial recipe.  I love Williamsburg, and no small part of that is the food, and I have enjoyed the spoon bread on many subsequent visits.

Working on the theory that bacon makes everything better, I added a little bit to my classic spoon bread recipe.  The creamy, light cornbread-soufflé hybrid is perfect with the addition of a little crunch.  But it occurred to me that spoon bread could be taken out of the realm of simple side with the addition of a little saucy extra.  This bacon-onion-tomato mixture is one I have been whipping up with leftover bits and pieces for years, but finally decided was worthy of a recipe.

And no, I do not think this is too much bacon.  It is actually very well balanced.  But of course, these two dishes stand alone wonderfully well.  The spoon bread as a side with stick ribs or grilled foods or as part of a breakfast spread.  And the jam, which makes more than you need for the spoon bread, is wonderful on burgers or a grilled cheese sandwich.

Bacon Spoon Bread

6 strips of bacon

1 ½ cups cornmeal

3 teaspoons sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1½ cup water

2 Tablespoons butter

1 ½ cups milk

4 eggs

1 Tablespoon baking powder

Cut the bacon into small pieces and cook in a skillet until crispy.  Transfer with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain.  Reserve 1 Tablespoon bacon grease

Mix the cornmeal, sugar and salt together in the bowl of an electric mixer.  Bring the water, butter and 1 Tablespoon bacon grease to a boil in a pan.  Turn on the mixer and pour the boiling water into the cornmeal.  Beat until thick and stiff.  Let cool for about 10 minutes.

Measure the milk in a 4-cup jug, then crack in the eggs and beat well.  Beat the milk and eggs into the cornmeal mush, then fold in add the bacon pieces and beat until combined.  Beat in the baking powder until well blended, then scrape the spoon bread into the baking dish.  Bake for 30 – 40 minutes, until the center is set.  Serve immediately with spoonfuls of Tomato Bacon Jam.

Serves 4 – 6

Tomato-Bacon Jam

6 strips of bacon

2 pounds tomatoes, chopped

1 small white onion, finely chopped

½ cup white sugar

½ cup light brown sugar

3 Tablespoons cider vinegar

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon ground black pepper

Cut the bacon into small pieces and cook in a skillet until crispy.  Transfer with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain.

In a large, high-sided saucepan, bring the chopped tomatoes, onion, sugars, vinegar, salt and pepper to a boil.  Boil for about 10 minutes, until the tomatoes are soft and breaking down. Use a spatula or the back of the spoon to crush the tomatoes, though I like to give the jam a little whirl with an immersion blender at this point to create a rough puree.  Reduce the heat to medium-low, stir in the bacon pieces and simmer until the jam is thick and spreadable, about an hour or more.  Stir occasionally to prevent scorching on the bottom of the pan.  As the jam thickens, watch it more closely and stir often to prevent burning.  The jam will be done when you pull a spatula through to expose the bottom of the pan and the two sides don’t run together.

Scoop the jam into jars or a bowl and leave to cool.  The jam will keep covered in the fridge for more than a week.

Makes 1 pint

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Tomato Butter

Tomato Butter

I spend a great deal of time in the summer putting up gorgeous fresh tomatoes for winter.  Almost as much time as I do eating them.  Ziptop bags full of sauce and soup base.  Salsa, bloody mary mix and chutney in jars.  And this, my favorite tomato condiment.  I discovered recipes for tomato butter in several very old community cookbooks.  The kind of recipes that call for a peck of tomatoes and sugar, just sugar no measurements.  I was intrigued first by the name – I make lots of fruit butters, but had never thought about doing it with tomatoes.  Then I was drawn in by the addition of vinegar; I could see how a hit of acid would really balance the sweetness of the tomatoes and sugar.  So I set to work scaling this to a recipe more reasonable for my needs.  And I love it.

Tomato butter has a jam like consistency and a deep, glossy, rich red color.  It is sweet and tart, perfectly playing on all the attributes of a good tomato.  Try this on a hamburger, and you may never go back to ketchup again. It is excellent dolloped on a steak or a piece of fish. It makes a wonderful mid-winter BLT and it is an elegant addition to a cheeseboard. My favorite usage is spread thick on good bread bought from a local baker, a few thick sliced of creamy brie and some smoky bacon, toasted and pressed.  And I warn you, once you start making this, it may become an addiction.

Tomato Butter

5 pounds tomatoes, peeled

2 cups sugar

½ cup cider vinegar

First, place a small ceramic plate in the freezer.  You’ll use this this to test the set of the jam later. Then get your jars clean.  You will need 5 -6 half-pint mason jars (I always have an extra on hand in case I need it).  I clean the jars and the rings in the dishwasher, and leave them in there with the door closed to stay warm.  You can’t put the lids in the dishwasher, it will ruin them.

Chop the tomatoes and place them in a large Dutch oven with the sugar and vinegar.  Stir everything together, then turn the heat to medium and simmer until the tomatoes begin to break down and become soft, about 15 minutes.  Blend the tomatoes with an immersion blender until you have a smooth puree.  Lower the heat and continue simmering the jam, stirring frequently, until the liquid has reduced and the mixture is thick and spreadable. This could take anywhere from 40 minutes to over an hour, depending on how juicy your tomatoes are.  As the mixture thinks, stir more often and watch carefully to prevent scorching.

When the jam has cooked down and is thickened, pull that little plate out of the freezer and spoon a little jam onto it.  Leave to set for a minute, then tilt the plate.  If the jam stays put, or only runs a little bit, it’sready.  Also, run a finger through the jam on the plate if the two sides stay separate and don’t run back together, you’re good to go.

While you jam is cooking, get a boiling water canner or big stockpot of water going.  Here are step-by step instructions for processing jam in a canner.  When the jam is almost ready, pour some boiling water over the jar lids jars to soften the seals and set aside.

When the jam has met the set test, remove it from the heat. I like to ladle the jam into a large measuring jug for easy pouring. Fill each of your warm, cleaned jars with the jam, leaving a ½ inch head space.  Wipe the rimes of the jars with a damp paper towel to clean up any sticky spills. Dry the lids with a clean paper towel and place on the jars.  Screw on the bands tightly, then process the jars for 15 minutes in a boiling water bath.  If you have a bit of extra jam, scoop it into a refrigerator container and keep in the fridge for up to a week.

When the jars are processed, leave to cool on a towel on the counter.

The processed jars will keep for a year in a cool, dark place.  Don’t forget to label your jars!

Makes 3 – 4 (½ pint) jars, plus a little extra

I have also made this in the slow cooker.  To do this, place all the ingredients in the cooker and cook uncovered for 12 – 14 hours until set.  Puree the tomatoes when they are soft.

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Strawberry Mint Vinaigrette

Strawberry Mint VInaigrette

It’s always nice to whip up a simple, homemade dressing for a salad, and this one is really special.  A little sweet from the berries with the nice summery hit of mint.  And it’s a great way to use up some berries lingering in the fridge.  I love it on a salad of fresh butter lettuce tossed with slice strawberries, salty feta or goat cheese and crunchy pecans.  It also goes well with spinach, and is a nice dressing for a fruit salad too.

Strawberry Mint Vinaigrette

8 ounces hulled strawberries

1 small shallot, peeled and quartered

6 – 7 fresh mint leaves

¼ cup honey

¼ cup white wine or champagne vinegar

2 Tablespoons lemon juice

¼ cup vegetable oil

Place everything but the oil in the carafe of a blender and blend until completely smooth.  With the motor running, slowly drizzle in the oil until you have a nice, emulsified dressing.  Store the vinaigrette in a jar with a tight-fitting lid for up to three days in the fridge.  Shake well before using

Makes about 2 cups

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Sweet Tea Jelly

Sweet Tea Jelly

Canning is my summer time obsession.  From the first strawberries of spring to the last pears of fall, I spend my weekends putting up my famers market bounty.  Then the market closes for the season, I put the canner back in the pantry and shelf the jars for the next year.  But at some point, in the dark days of winter, I get the slight canning bug.  I don’t particularly see the point of making jams or pickles from grocery-store produce flown in from foreign parts. Then this idea struck me like a thunderbolt, I just had to try it out.  I can still find beautiful fragrant mint in winter, and anything with the summery flavor of a cold glass of iced tea is bound to appeal to this Southern girl.

I’ll be honest, I don’t do jelly much, in the summer my canning kitchen is practically a factory, preparing and cooking bushels and pecks of fresh fruits and vegetables, so I tend to go with quicker jams and butters.  But when I need a little winter canning fix I don’t mind the extra time of leaving the apples to release their juices overnight.

Sweet Tea Jelly is great on toast or biscuits, and amazing in the center of a thumbprint sugar cookie.  But for a little something different, use it as a glaze for chicken wings or a pork roast.

Sweet Tea Jelly

4 tea bags (for iced tea, like orange pekoe)

Big handful of mint leaves

6 cups water

2 ½ lbs golden delicious apples

2 lemons, juiced

4 cups sugar, more or less

½ cup mint leaves, finely chopped

Place the tea bags in a large measuring jug and add a handful of mint leaves.  Pour over 4 cups boiling water and leave to brew until dark amber, about 4 minutes.  Remove the tea bags and leave to cool.

Cut the apple, peel, core, seeds and everything, into small chunks and place in a large heavy Dutch oven.  Pour over the brewed tea with the mint and the remaining 2 cups water.  Bring the mixture to a boil, lower the heat to medium and simmer for 30 minutes, until the apples have broken down and are soft and mushy.  Use a wooden spoon or a potato masher to crush the fruit.

While the apples are cooking, line a sieve with cheesecloth, muslin or a clean 100 % cotton handkerchief and place it over a large bowl.  When the apples have cooked and you’ve mashed the fruit, carefully pour everything into the sieve.  Leave the pulp to drip juice overnight.  Cover the sieve and bowl with a tea towel, but do not press down on the pulp, or you’ll end up with cloudy jelly.

Place a small plate in the freezer to do a set test when the jelly is done.

The next day, discard the pulp and measure the juice produced.  You’ll have anywhere from 4 – 6 cups.  Pour the juice into a heavy, large Dutch oven and bring to a boil.  Stir in the lemon juice and ¾ cup of sugar for every one cup of juice. Stir until the sugar has dissolved. Stir in the chopped mint leaves. Bring to a boil and cook, stirring frequently, about 10 – 15 minutes, until the jelly is thick and streams in a sheet from a spoon lifted out of it.

When the jelly has cooked down and is thickened, pull that little plate out of the freezer and spoon a little jelly onto it.  Leave to set for a minute, then tilt the plate.  If the jelly stays put, or only runs a little bit, it’s ready to go. Also, run a finger through the jelly on the plate if the two sides stay separate and don’t run back together, you’re good to go.

While your jelly is cooking, get a boiling water canner or big stockpot of water going.  Here are step-by step instructions for processing jam in a canner.  When the jelly is almost ready, pour some boiling water over the lids to your jars to soften the seals and set aside.

When the jelly has met the set test, fill the jars. I like to ladle the jelly into a large measuring jug for easy pouring. Fill each of your warm, cleaned jars with the jelly, leaving a ½ inch head space.  Dry the lids with a clean paper towel and place on the jars.  Screw on the bands, then process the jars for 5 minutes in a boiling water bath.  If you have a bit of extra jelly, scoop it into a refrigerator container and keep in the fridge for up to a week.

When the jars are processed, leave to cool on a towel on the counter.

The processed jars will keep for a year in a cool, dark place.  Don’t forget to label your jars!

Makes 3 half-pints, or 5 4-ounce jars

 

 

 

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Rosemary Pear Butter

As autumn approaches, I start to feel a little panicky about the end of farmers market season.  I spend a huge amount of time in the summer preserving the bounty, through canning and freezing my favorite produce.  But when I start to realize that my source for all that fresh, local goodness is going into hibernation, I fret and worry.  My Saturday ritual will come to an end, and my weekday market trips will be over.  I’ll feel at loose ends, disjointed.  I won’t be quite ready to give up my canning habit, but also not quite ready to dig into my summer stockpile.  I’ll wait for the cold weather to really start.  In fact, when I am putting up squash and green beans and peaches, I often think of how good they will be at Thanksgiving.

Fall pears are my salvation.  My last gasp at famers market love. As the market season winds down, I find wonderful little hard green pears.  These gems are perfect for preserving, and the most rewarding and simplest way to do this is in the slow cooker.  A dash of local honey and the woodsy, surprising note of rosemary create a rich, comforting spread. This pear butter is decadent  on a piece of toast or a warm biscuit, but my favorite use is in combination with a soft, creamy cheese like brie, camembert or taleggio and some salty meat, like bacon, country ham or prosciutto, layered on a baguette or toasted in a panini.  Make a batch now and tuck it away, because this will take your post-Thanksgiving turkey sandwich to a new level. And what an amazing hostess gift if you are not holding the big dinner.  I have even spread this pear butter on a pizza base and topped it with goat cheese and prosciutto, maybe some sliced red onion.  Its uses are endless, and all the possibilities are delicious.  I preserve corn and tomatoes for a little summer in the winter, but it is equally as nice to have some fall flavor around in the spring.

Rosemary Pear Butter

The recipe easily doubles, but the second cooking time to reduce to butter may be a bit longer.

2 ½ pounds hard green pears

1 cup white granulated sugar

¼ cup honey

8 – 9 stalks fresh, fragrant rosemary

Core the pears, remove the stems and cut into eighths. Place the pears in the crock of a slow cooker as you slice, and when you’ve put in half the pears, sprinkle half the sugar in an even layer over the pears so all the exposed sides are covered.  Add the rest of the pears and sugar, making sure that any exposed pear flesh is coated in sugar.  This will prevent oxidation, which can affect the taste.  Cover the crock and leave for 5- 6 hours.  The pears will begin to release their juices, so you should have a nice amount accumulated at the bottom of the crock.

Drizzle in the honey and stir to coat the pears. Cover the crock, turn the slow cooker on low and cook the pears for 10 – 12 hours, which I do overnight.

When this cooking time is finished the pears will be dark brown and fragrant.  Remove the lid from the slow cooker and use an immersion blender to puree the pear butter. Tie the rosemary up in cheesecloth to create a nice little bundle that no rosemary needles can escape (I find a never-used, new knee high stocking is a great tool for this).   Submerge the rosemary bundle into the pear puree.  Leave the lid off the cooker and continue to cook on high for 2 – 4 hours stirring occasionally, until the butter has reached a thick, spreadable consistency.  To check this, spoon out a little of the butter and leave it to cool somewhat.  If it’s thick and spreadable and no thin liquid seeps out, it’s done.

Spoon the hot butter into hot, sterile jars and seal (see below). Process in a water-bath canner for 10 minutes.

Makes 2 half-pint jars, with a little leftover for immediate use

Here is how I can jams and butters:  Place canning jars and the metal rings (but not the lids with the rubber seal) in the dishwasher and run the cycle.  There can be other things in the dishwasher.  Timing here is important, as you want the dishes to be done when you are ready to can.  Right before you can, soak the rubber-ringed lids in hot water to soften the rubber. You want to remove the jars and rings from the dishwasher while they are still hot. Spoon your hot butter (or jam etc.) into the hot jar, leaving about ½-inch headroom, put on the lid and screw on the rings.

You can let the jars cool and store them in the fridge for a few months, but I prefer to process them in a hot-water canner for longer storage, and to make them shelf stable for gift giving.  To do this, bring a big pot of water to a rolling boil.  The pot needs to be tall enough that the jars will be covered by water when submerged.  If you do a lot of canning, a canning kettle with a rack is a great tool.  If you don’t have one, fold up a tea towel and place it on the bottom of your chosen pot then fill with water.  The towel will protect the jars.  Carefully lower the jars into the boiling water (a cheap jar-lifter is the best tool for this), cover the pot and process for 10 minutes.  Uncover the pot, turn off the heat and let the jars rest in the water for five minutes.  Remove the jars from the water and place on a tea towel on the counter to cool for 24 hours.  At some point, you should hear the lovely ping of the jars sealing.  To check if a jar has sealed, lightly run your finger over the lid, if it is flat with no springy indentation, it has sealed.  To check this, remove the ring and lift the jar by the lid.  If it stays put, you’re safe.  Store the jars in a cool place. If they don’t seal, store in the fridge.

Once opened, store in the fridge use up the jar as quickly as possible.

Here are step-by step instructions for processing jam in a canner.

The processed jars will keep for a year in a cool, dark place. Don’t forget to label your jars!

 

You might also like a Rosemary Pear Martini

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Fresh Pear Vinaigrette

My favorite simple fall salad dressing was created quite unexpectedly.  I was given a fancy bottle of white balsamic vinegar infused with pear.  That’s what it said on the label, but I never tasted any hint of pear.  It sat in my pantry for a while, unused.  But at some point, I was asked to bring a salad to a dinner, and had purchased a pear to cut up on top.  My forward planning got the better of me and the pear ripened so much waiting for its star turn that it was too soft to cut into nice chunks.  Scanning the pantry to try and rescue my salad, I saw that fancy vinegar and thought maybe I could use it and the soft pear to dress the salad.  This vinaigrette was the result, and it has become a firm family favorite.

This is particularly good on dark leafy spinach, and I love to add to the fall flavor by tossing the salad with dried cranberries and toasted walnuts, a little blue cheese, and if you have fresh pear, some nice juicy chunks.  And this is a great way to use up that last pitiful, lonely soft pear left in the fruit bowl.  Oh, and if you happen to have a bottle of pear-infused white balsamic, feel free to use it.

Fresh Pear Vinaigrette

Walnut oil adds a nice depth and nuttiness, but if you don’t have any, use all olive oil.

1 large ripe pear, peeled and cored

Juice of one small lemon

1 Tablespoon sugar

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon ground black pepper

¼ cup white wine or white balsamic vinegar

¼ cup walnut oil

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

Cut the pear into chunks and drop in the carafe of a blender with the lemon juice.  Purée, then add the sugar, salt and pepper.  Add the vinegar and blend well.  With the blender running, drizzle in the oils until you have a nice, thick emulsified dressing.

The dressing can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 8 hours.  Shake well before using.

Makes ¾ cups

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Smoky Bacon Pimento Cheese

I’ll make an admission here that may damage my Southern girl credentials.  I am not a football fan. I went to lots of high school football games, but football was the least interesting part of the event.  And I didn’t go to a college with a big football program.   I am, however, a fan of parties, and if football happens to be going on in the background, that’s fine with me.  I do understand how important football is for many people, and I admire the fine art of tailgating. I think any lack of football love on my part is more than made up by my love of Southern cooking.  So I’d like to make a contribution to the cause.

This is a bolder version of pimento cheese.  And what says Southern tailgate more than that?  The smoky richness of this spread is a great complement to dinner off the grill or a barbecue feast.  In fact, try melting some on hamburger or drop a dollop onto a pulled shoulder sandwich.  I’ve got your interest now, right?  But it is fabulous on crackers, even bacon crackers if you want to go all out, or just between two slices of bread.

Most cheese labeled smoked that you find in the dairy case at the grocery is actually “smoke flavored.”  I do not like this stuff at all; I think it has a weird metallic aftertaste, a discernible fakeness.  But look in the fine cheese section, or hit a gourmet or natural foods market and you will find naturally smoked cheddar cheese.  I like a combination of orange and white, but if you can only find one color, so be it.  And the same goes for bacon.  Look for naturally smoked bacon, not “smoke flavor added.”

Smoky Bacon Pimento Cheese

6 strips of smoked bacon

8 ounces naturally smoked orange cheddar

8 ounces naturally smoked white cheddar

1 (4-ounce) jar diced pimentos

1 cup of mayonnaise, more or less

2 teaspoons smoked paprika

1 teaspoon garlic powder

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

Cook the bacon until crispy and drain on paper towels.  Pat off as much grease as possible with paper towels. Finely chop the bacon.

Grate the cheeses together into a large bowl.  Stir it together with the bacon pieces and undrained pimentos.  Stir in the mayonnaise until you have a consistency that appeals to you, then add the paprika, garlic powder and Worcestershire sauce.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Scrape the pimento cheese into a serving bowl and chill for several hours to let the flavors meld.  The pimento cheese will keep covered in the fridge for up to five days.

Makes about 1 pound of pimento cheese 

 

Pimento Cheese: The Cookbook

Pimento Cheese: The Cookbook (50 Recipes from Snacks to Main Dishes Inspired by the Classic Southern Favorite) now available for pre-0rder on Amazon.

 

 

 

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Pickled Field Peas

Field peas are one of my favorite things about summer.  I freeze them in little baggies to pull out at the height of the winter blahs to remind me of the warmer months.  I always seem to remember them as warmer months, not miserable, stifling hot and humid. On Saturdays, when I am cooking and putting by my farmers market purchases, I put them on to cook with some piece of pork, garlic or onion and let them bubble away while I work.  But I also love them chilled in salads, so I decided to work on a pickled relish that would hark back to those fresh summer salads, chock full of farmers market ingredients, with a nice vinegary zing.

The peas need to be of roughly the same size.  I have found that tiny lady peas turn mushy and disintegrate, while larger butter beans are unevenly pickled.  Crowder, whippoorwill and the darker peas tend to turn the brine an unattractive color. You could add some zipper or cream peas, as long as they size is right. If you like a little spice, very finely dice a jalapeno or two and add to the mix, or put a whole hot chili in while cooking, then fish it out before canning.  You could also add a pinch of dried pepper flakes.

Pickled field peas are a great relish beside roast pork, but also make a great dip for corn chips.  In the middle of winter, you can pretend it’s summer by serving a scoop of this pickle in a lettuce cup as a salad.  Pickle black-eyed peas alone, and you have a perfect hostess gift for New Year’s, or a special treat to serve for good luck.

Pickled Field Peas

2 pounds fresh field peas, all about the same size – purple hull, pink-eye, black-eye or a combination

1 large Vidalia onion

2 green bell peppers

1 red or orange bell pepper or 1 pimento pepper

3 cloves garlic

2 cups cider vinegar

1 cup sugar

4 Tablespoons canning salt or 3 Tablespoons table salt

1 ½ teaspoons dry mustard

½ teaspoon sweet paprika

1 teaspoon celery seed

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

Put the peas into a large bowl of cold water and leave to soak for about 10 minutes.  Finely dice the onions and peppers (I use my as-seen-on-TV onion chopper to speed things up). Finely dice the garlic.

Skim off any floating peas, then use your hands to scoop the peas out of the water and place them in a 5-quart Dutch oven.  Let the water drip through your fingers leaving any debris and dirt behind. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes, just until slightly soft, but still with a bite.  Drain, rinse and return to the pot, which you should wipe out first to remove any scum.

Add the onions, peppers and garlic to the peas in the pot and stir well to distribute evenly.  Pour in the vinegar and sugar, stir well then add the salt, mustard, paprika, celery seed and pepper.

Bring to simmer over medium high heat, reduce the heat to medium and simmer, at just a gentle bubble, for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. While your peas are cooking, get a boiling water canner or big stockpot of water going. Here are step-by step instructions for processing jars. When the peas are almost ready, pour some boiling water over the lids of the jars to soften the seals and set aside. When the cooking time is up for the peas, immediately scoop into sterilized canning jars.  Top with a little extra brine to cover, leaving ¼ inch head space. Dry the lids with a clean paper towel and place on the jars. Screw on the bands, then process the jars for 15 minutes in a boiling water bath.   Refrigerate any extra peas, and discard any extra brine.

When the jars are processed, leave to cool on a towel on the counter.

The processed jars will keep for a year in a cool, dark place. Don’t forget to label your jars!

Makes about 7 half-pint jars

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