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.

Thanksgiving Sausage Bites with Cranberry Mustard Dip

Thanksgiving Sausage Bites with Cranberry Mustard DipThanksgiving involves a lot of food. But even when I know how much will end up on the table, I like to put out a little nibble for guests before the main event, while we finish cooking the turkey, have a few friendly drinks and settle in with each other. Sausage balls are one of my very favorite snacks at any time, and a great childhood memory for me and my brother, so when I can add that type of delicious nostalgia to the spread, I like to make the most of it.

This version has an immense amount of Thanksgiving appeal. They are packed with fresh sage, which just smells and tastes like the holiday. Nutty gruyere replaces the traditional cheddar to amp up the autumn flavor and cream cheese keeps them rich. I couldn’t resist adding another seasonal touch with a cranberry mustard dip, which, by the way, is also a great spread on leftover turkey sandwiches.

And of course, they also make a great breakfast for the holiday weekend.

Thanksgiving Sausage Bites with Cranberry Mustard Dip
Yields 30
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For the Sausage Bites
  1. 8 ounces cream cheese
  2. 1 pound sausage meat
  3. 4 ounces grated gruyere cheese
  4. 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh sage
  5. 2 teaspoons baking powder
  6. 1 teaspoon poultry seasoning (like Bell’s)
  7. 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  8. 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  9. ½ teaspoon black pepper
  10. ½ teaspoon celery salt
  11. ¼ teaspoon sweet paprika
  12. 2 cups all-purpose flour
For the Dip
  1. 2 cups fresh cranberries
  2. ½ a red onions, chopped (about ½ cup)
  3. ½ cup honey
  4. ½ cup water
  5. ½ teaspoon ground mustard
  6. ¼ cup Dijon mustard
Instructions
  1. Place the cream cheese, sausage and gruyere in the large bowl of a stand mixer and leave to come to room temperature, about one hour. This makes the dough easier to blend.
  2. Using the paddle attachment, blend the sausage and cheese mixture a few minutes to break everything up. Add the sage, baking powder, poultry seasoning, salt, garlic, pepper, celery salt and paprika and blend until everything is distributed through the sausage. Add the flour and blend until everything comes together in a ball, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
  3. Roll the dough into golf-ball sized balls and place on the prepared baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 – 20 minutes, until the balls are golden brown and cooked through.
  4. The uncooked balls can be placed on a waxed paper lined tray and frozen until hard. Transfer to a ziptop bag and keep in the freezer for three months. Cook from frozen, increasing the cooking time by about 10 minutes.
  5. Make about 30 balls
  6. For the Dip
  7. Put the cranberries, onion, honey, water and ground mustard in a large pot and cook over medium high heat until the cranberries burst and the onion is soft, about 10 minutes. Stir frequently to scrape down the sides of the pan and to prevent catching on the bottom.
  8. Let the mixture cool slightly, then transfer to a blender or food processor. Add the Dijon mustard and blend (holding the top of the blender with a tea towel) until you have a smooth puree.
  9. The dip will keep cooled and covered in the fridge for one week.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Sweet Potato Fruitcake

Sweet Potato FruitcakeI adore fruitcake. Some think that a controversial opinion. But I couldn’t have Christmas without it. Every year, on the weekend after Thanksgiving, I make my classic Fruitcake. To be honest, I start in the summer by making bourbon Cherry Bounce to soak the cake, and I pour a good dose over every couple of days until Christmas. My mother and I are sometimes the only ones who eat it, but I simply can’t imagine the holiday without it. So when I came across a recipe for sweet potato fruitcake in a community cookbook, I had to make it. It was one of those old recipes with very few specific measurements and spotty instructions, so it took me awhile to get it right, but I did and I love it.

My favorite thing about this fruitcake is fruitcake for Thanksgiving! I get the immense pleasure of extending fruitcake season, which makes me very happy. This cake is colorful and beautiful on a cake stand on the Thanksgiving dessert spread. The sweet potato adds a lovely, earthy note and is a great counterpoint to pies and fluffy cakes. The cake keeps well for up to a week in an airtight container, but it doesn’t have to be made weeks ahead. The color and texture is a lighter than the traditional version, but no less rich and flavorful.

Fruitcake lovers unite!

Sweet Potato Fruitcake
Serves 10
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Ingredients
  1. 1 ½ cups grated sweet potato (from about 1 large potato)
  2. 2 cups granulated sugar
  3. 1 ½ cups vegetable oil
  4. 4 eggs, separated
  5. 4 Tablespoons hot water
  6. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  7. 2 ½ cups sifted cake flour
  8. 3 teaspoons baking powder
  9. 1 teaspoon mixed spice or pumpkin pie spice
  10. ¼ teaspoon salt
  11. 1 pound chopped candied fruit
  12. 2 ½ cups chopped pecans
  13. ¼ cup bourbon
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 250. Spray a tube (not a Bundt) pan with baking spray (such as Baker’s Joy).
  2. Beat the sugar and the oil in the large bowl of a stand mixer using the paddle attachment until pale and combined. Beat in the egg yolks until combined. Pour in the hot water and vanilla extract and beat until blended. Add the sweet potatoes and beat just until combined. Beat in the flour, baking powder, salt and spices until blended, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Remove the bowl from the mixer and stir in the candied fruit and nuts. Set aside.
  3. Beat the egg whites to stiff peaks in the small mixer bowl using the whisk attachment. Fold the whites into the batter in the large bowl using a sturdy spatula. This takes a little elbow grease, but don’t be too harsh, you still want the eggs whites to retain some air. Make sure the get the batter from the center of the bowl combined with the whites as well. Fold until the whites have completely disappeared into the batter.
  4. Scrape the batter into the prepared tube pan, making sure it is evenly distributed and the top is flat. Pick up the pan and drop it on the counter a few time to knock out any air bubbles.
  5. Bake the cake for 2 ½ hours. A tester inserted in the center should have a few crumbs clinging to it. When you remove it from the oven, immediately drizzle the bourbon over the top, very slowly. Leave to cool completely (even overnight covered with a towel) before removing it from the pan. The cake can be kept for a week in an airtight container.
Notes
  1. You can grate the sweet potatoes on a box grater or use the food processor grating blade. But then you have to clean the food processor.
  2. I separate the eggs putting the whites in the small mixer bowl and the yolks directly into the sugar and oil.
  3. My market sells mixed candied fruit during the holidays and I use that to make things easy. You can also make up your own blend of candied fruit (cherries, lemon peel, orange peel, pineapple etc.) and chop it finely, or toss it with a little flour and pulse in the food processor.
  4. The cake may crumble when you slice, but it can be easily pressed together and the taste is still delicious!
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Sweet Potato Buttermilk Chess Pie

Sweet Potato Buttermilk Chess PieI adore sweet potato pie, but I admit I was a latecomer to its joys. I think as a young person, I thought it was a trick to make me eat vegetables. I mean, who puts potatoes in pie? I always avoided the marshmallow topped casserole at Thanksgiving, because I just couldn’t imagine the sweet, sugary combo. I don’t remember when I discovered the pleasure of sweet potato pie, but I have spent many years chasing a signature recipe. I’ve tried it with condensed milk, evaporated milk, a roster of spices, nuts, crumb crusts, bought crusts, bruleed toppings and all manner of things. Now, a classic Southern chess pie I have always loved and I have great memories of little miniature chess pies as a special treat in my childhood. Chess pie was one of the earliest dishes I learned to make. So eventually, coming around to the idea of a sweet potato chess seemed only natural. And now, this is my go to sweet potato pie.

Buttermilk is my secret weapon for about everything. It gives this pie a little tang which is a great complement to the rich sweet potates. The buttermilk crust adds an extra layer of flavor as well, and also makes a tender crust. I don’t go overboard with the spices on this one, just a teeny whisper of nutmeg. The lemon really adds balance, but I have also made this with an orange to good results.

Sweet Potato Buttermilk Chess Pie
Serves 6
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For the Buttermilk Crust
  1. 1 ¼ cup all purpose flour
  2. 1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
  3. 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  4. ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold and cut into small pieces
  5. ¼ - ½ cup buttermilk
For the Filling
  1. 2 medium sweet potatoes, about 1 pound
  2. 4 eggs
  3. 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  4. ½ cup buttermilk
  5. zest and juice of one lemon
  6. 1 Teaspoon vanilla extract
  7. 1 ¼ cups granulated sugar
  8. ¼ cup light brown sugar
  9. 2 Tablespoons cornmeal
  10. ½ teaspoon nutmeg
For the Pie Crust
  1. Place the flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse a couple of times to combine. Add the butter pieces and pulse just until the mixture is crumbly. Add ¼ cup of buttermilk and pulse until you have a shaggy ball of dough, adding more buttermilk if needed. Remove the dough to a sheet of plastic wrap and knead to pull together, then pat it into a disk and wrap tightly. Refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour or up to overnight.
  2. When ready to make the pie, take the dough from the fridge and let soften slightly. Preheat the oven to 350. Spray a 9-inch pie plate with cooking spray. Roll the dough on a lightly floured counter into a 12-inch round disk. Carefully fit the crust into the pie plate. Prick the bottom all over with a fork, then line the crust with foil or parchment paper and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake for 15 minutes, then remove from the oven and cool. Remove the pie weights.
For the Filling
  1. Prick the potatoes all over with a sharp knife and microwave fro 10 minutes until soft when pressed. When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, but still warm, cut in half and scoop the flesh into the bowl of a food processor. Process until you have a smooth puree, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. You should have about 1 cup of puree. Leave the puree to cool.
  2. When the puree is cool and the pie crust is also cooled, add the eggs, melted butter, buttermilk, lemon zest and juice and vanilla to the sweet potato in the food processor. Blend until smooth, scraping down the sides as needed. Whisk the granulated sugar, brown sugar, cornmeal and nutmeg together in small bowl, then dump it all at once into the bowl and process until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl to make sure everything is completely combined. Pour the filling into the prepared crust
  3. Bake the pie for 30 minutes, the sprinkle a little nutmeg over the top and return to the oven. If the crust is getting very brown, shield it with foil. Bake a further 15 – 20 minutes until the center is set. Remove from the oven and cool completely on a rack.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Watermelon Barbecue Sauce with Country Ribs

Watermelon Barbecue Sauce and Country Ribs

I have several Southern community cookbooks that have recipes for watermelon barbecue sauce. I love the idea, and I have made every one of those recipes, but the results were never what I had hoped for. No watermelon flavor, or sickly sweet, or just bland. But the idea appeals to me so much that I have continued to tinker with the concept for years, and I finally hit on it. With a pile of fresh in season tomatoes on the counter as I chopped up yet another melon, I decided to try fresh tomatoes instead of bottled ketchup and that has made all the difference. I little hint of tomato paste adds the depth needed in a sauce, but the acidity of a fresh tomato balances everything nicely. Rich Southern cane syrup is perfect with sweet watermelon, adding a complexity to such simple ingredients. I realized the other recipes I tried just had to many ingredients – spices and herbs and all manner of things. So I whittled the ingredient list down to use as much fresh summer produce at possible, good Worcestershire sauce creates layers of flavor without masking the watermelon sweetness. I’m really crazy about the end result.

So when I perfected the recipe, I set my mind to figuring how to use it. I settled on pork country ribs, which are not ribs at all, but boneless cuts of pork shoulder that stand up well to slow cooking and the hearty sauce. But I can attest, this sauce works in any way you would normally use a barbecue sauce. Brushed on grilled chicken breasts, slathered on pork tenderloin, as a sauce for wings or stirred through pulled pork.

Watermelon Barbecue Sauce and Country Ribs
Serves 6
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For the Watermelon Barbecue Sauce
  1. 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  2. 2 Vidalia onions, diced
  3. 4 cups chopped watermelon, from about 3 1/2 pound melon, seeds removed
  4. 1 tomato, about 12 ounces, diced
  5. 2 Tablespoon tomato paste
  6. 4 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  7. 4 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  8. 3 Tablespoons cane syrup or honey
  9. salt and pepper to taste
For the Ribs
  1. 4 pounds boneless country style pork ribs
  2. half an onion, sliced
  3. salt and pepper
For the Watermelon Barbecue Sauce
  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepot and cook the onion until glassy and soft and beginning to brown, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook a further 2 minutes. Add the watermelon chunks and the tomato and cook until soft and beginning to release some liquid, about 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the tomato paste, stir and cook a further 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and leave to cool a few minutes, then transfer to a blender (you may need to do this in batches). Remove the vent from the top of the blender and hold the lid down with a tea towel. Puree until smooth, then pour the sauce back into the pan through a sieve, scraping as much liquid through as possible. Stir in the vinegar, cane syrup and Worcestershire sauce and cook until thickened and reduced almost in half, about 30 minutes, stirring frequently. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  2. The sauce can be cooled, covered and refrigerated at this point up to three days.
For the ribs
  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking dish that fits the ribs comfortably with foil. Season the ribs all over with salt and pepper, then lay the sliced onions on top. Roast for 30 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees. Carefully drain off any accumulated fat from the pan, then pour over all but one cup of the barbecue sauce. Turn the ribs to coat in the sauce with tongs and return the pan to the oven. Roast for 30 minutes, then turn the ribs again and cover the pan tightly with foil and return to the oven. Roast for a further 30 minutes.
  2. Heat the remaining sauce in a small pan. Serve the ribs with the extra sauce to spoon over.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Lady Pea, Corn and Tomato Salad with Basil Vinaigrette

Lady Pea, Corn and Tomato Salad with Basil Vinaigrette

I adore lady peas. They are as lovely as their sweet name suggests. These tiny little gems are creamy and pack a flavor punch for their diminutive size. And during the summer, when the lady peas are abundant, I use them in whatever way I can, braised in butter or in a beautiful Sunshine Succotash. This fresh salad is perfect for a late summer supper, featuring the stars of a Southern summer farmers’ market in a fresh basil vinaigrette. It is light and fresh and looks beautifully colorful. I have served this several times this summer, with a cold fried chicken supper and as part of a fresh summer vegetable meal alongside seasonal green beans, sliced tomatoes and watermelon. It’s a great salad to keep in the fridge over a summer weekend to go with sandwiches or to serve in a dainty lettuce cup.

Sometimes I find tiny “currant” tomatoes that are about the size of pearls. I love to use those in this salad when I can. Otherwise, look for small tomatoes and cut any larger ones in half. Red onions add a nice pop of color and bite, but diced green onions would work just as well.

Lady Pea, Corn and Tomato Salad with Basil Vinaigrette
Serves 6
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Ingredients
  1. For the Vinaigrette
  2. 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  3. 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  4. ½ teaspoon salt
  5. 1 cup loosely packed basil leaves
  6. ¼ cup white wine vinegar
  7. ¾ cups olive oil
  8. For the Salad
  9. 2 cups fresh lady peas
  10. 5 ears fresh corn, husked and cut from the cob
  11. ¼ cup finely diced red onion
  12. 1 ½ cups small cherry tomatoes
For the Vinaigrette
  1. Place the lemon juice, mustard, salt and basil leaves in the bowl of a small food processor or blender. Pules to chop up the basil, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the vinegar and pulse to combine. With the motor running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil until you have a nice emulsified dressing. Store the vinaigrette covered in the fridge for up to three days.
For the Salad
  1. Rinse the lady peas, then place in a pot and cover with at least 2 inches of water (you’ll add the corn later, so there needs to be room). Bring to a boil, skim off any foam, then reduce the heat, cover the pan and cook for 20 – 30 minutes, just until the peas are tender, but still have a little bite. Add the corn kernels, stir, cover the pot and cook a further five minutes. Drain the peas and corn and rinse with cold water. Leave to drain completely, then place in a large bowl, add the onion and stir to combine.
  2. You can prepare the salad up to this point, cover and refrigerate for one day.
  3. About an hour before serving, add the cherry tomatoes and toss to combine. Pour over the dressing and stir to coat everything and evenly distribute the dressing. Taste and add salt as needed.
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Country Ham Butter for Corn on the Cob

Country Ham Butter for Corn on the Cob

Beautifully fresh, sweet and juicy corn on the cob is one of the great glories of a Southern summertime. There something sentimental about it – a throwback to summer camp and family cookouts, spreading butter over the hot cobs and sprinkling them with salt, juicy kernels bursting at every bite and the butter dripping down your fingers, even when you use the little plastic corn-shaped picks. I always come home with more corn from the farmers market than I intend to. Corn with evocative names like Silver Queen, Bread and Butter and Peaches and Cream, yellow and white and particolored. I enjoy it straight, or cut from the cob, and I put up little baggies of kernels in the freezer for a taste of summer in the winter. I love the squeaky sound of the husk being pulled back from the cob, because I know the reward that comes makes the effort worth it.

When I invite friends over for a summer cookout, or head to a lake house for a water weekend, I always want to serve fresh corn with the burgers and hot dogs. Seasoned butter is a special treat for corn, and this version could not be a better companion to Southern corn. Salty country ham, tangy green onions and a little kick of mustard add dimension to a perfect cob. This butter is also delicious melted into simply cooked field peas, or frankly spread on a warm biscuit.

Country Ham Butter for Corn on the Cob
Yields 3
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Ingredients
  1. 2 ounces country ham, center cut (1/2 a large slice or a few biscuit slices)
  2. 4 small green onions
  3. ½ teaspoon black pepper
  4. ½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened
  5. 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Instructions
  1. Pulse the ham and green onions in a food processor (I like to use a mini version) until you have a rough paste. Add the pepper, butter, and mustard and blend until smooth. Scoop the butter onto a length of waxed paper and shape into a log. Refrigerate until firm.
  2. Slice of pieces of the butter to melt over warm corn on the cob.
Cooking Corn on the Cob
  1. Go traditional and boil the husked ears of corn in a large stock pot which will fit your corn, standing on end is fine, covered with an inch or so of water. Bring salted water to a boil and drop in the husked cobs. Cook for 5- 8 minutes, on the low end for just picked fresh corn, a little longer if you’ve had it for a day or two.
  2. For corn on the grill, I use two different methods. One is to husk the corn and microwave 3 cobs at a time on a microwave safe plate for 3 minutes to soften the kernels, then place the cobs directly on the grill for about 10 minutes until lightly charred. The alternative is to peel pack the husks, but do not remove them. Remove the silks, lightly brush the kernels with olive oil and fold the husks back up over the cobs. Place on a medium-heat grill for about 15 minutes until the husks are charred.
  3. I’ve also tried the microwave trick – cut about an inch of the top of each silk end to expose the cobs and microwave for 4 minutes. Cool for a few minutes, then slip the corn out of the husk. This does make the corn easy to husk, but I think the corn can come out a little tough, and you do need to do it one cob at a time.
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Fresh Fig Mousse

Fresh Fig MousseI adore figs, and during their short growing season here, I really try to make the most of them. I make jars and jars of Fig, Bourbon and Vanilla Bean Jam. It is one of my signature preserves now, one people always ask me for. My Fresh Fig Cake with Buttermilk Glaze is a summer favorite as well – it’s a wonderful way to incorporate figs into baking. And of course, I eat the figs on their own, maybe with a little country ham wrapped around them, sometimes then thrown on the grill.

I saw a recipe for a simple fig mousse in an old community cookbook and honestly couldn’t believe I hadn’t thought of the idea before. I tweeked and modernized the recipe a little, so it is now a very simple and refreshing summer dessert with a real touch of elegance and panache, with the added bonus that it needs to made ahead so it is ready and waiting. Figs in their natural state are so pretty, that a simple slice of pink flesh with delicate purple tinge makes an absolutely beautiful garnish on the soft pink, marbled mousse. This mouse can be served frozen, or just chilled until firm – I like equally either way. I prefer to use darker purple figs for the rich color, but if brown are all you have access to, they are delicious as well.

Fresh Fig Mousse
Serves 6
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Ingredients
  1. 1 cup halved fresh figs (about 8) plus more for garnish
  2. 3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  3. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  4. ½ cup confectioners’ sugar
  5. 1 cup heavy cream
Instructions
  1. Place the fig pieces, lemon juice, vanilla and powdered sugar in a blender and puree until smooth, scraping down the sides of the carafe as needed.
  2. Whip the cream in an electric mixer until it forms stiff peaks. Gently fold the puree into the cream a little at a time, making sure the cream and puree are combined. Spoon the mousse into eight small or six larger glass bowls or ramekins and smooth the tops.
  3. You can freeze the mousse, each covered with plastic wrap, for up to two days and serve frozen or slightly softened, or you can cover the dishes with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator until firm, about 4 hours or up to one day ahead.
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Peach Julep Jam

Peach Julep JamThe joy of summer peaches! There is nothing like a fresh, local, juicy peach. I eat them up during their season.I bake with them and But they are just so good, I try to preserve them as well for a fresh taste of summer any time of year, spiced, pickled and jammed. My obsession with the peach and bourbon pairing is well documented, from Peach Butterbourbon Sauce to Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Peach Bourbon Sauce, so it had to make it into my jam repertoire as well.

I didn’t make a batch of this jam last peach season, and I regretted it all winter, so it was the first peach preserve I made this season. It’s a rich, deeply flavorful jam packed with fresh peach flavor and garden mint with a hit of bourbon for depth and kick. I have already made my way through a jar, even thought he peach season is going strong, I just can’t resist. I love this spread on English muffins, but it is also delicious with tangy goat cheese on a cheese plate or on a bruschetta. This even works well as a glaze for a pork roast or tenderloin.

For a step-by-step guide to canning, click here. This makes 5 – 6 half pint jars. I always like to have an extra jar or two sterilized and ready justin case.

Peach Julep Jam
Yields 6
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Ingredients
  1. 3 pounds peaches, to make six cups when peeled, pitted and chopped
  2. 1/3 cup lemon juice
  3. 3 cups brown sugar
  4. 2 cups granulate white sugar
  5. 5 Tablespoons bourbon
  6. 1 large bunch mint
Instructions
  1. Put peaches and lemon juice in a large pot and bring to a boil. Lower heat, cover and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Mash with a potato masher or an immersion blender. I like to leave a few chunks of juicy peach.
  2. Bundle the mint together and tie with kitchen string so none of the leaves are free. Add both sugars, bourbon and mint to the peaches and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Cook until thick and set, about 20 – 25 minutes. Remove the bundle of mint.
  3. While your jam is cooking, get a boiling water canner or big stockpot of water going and place a small ceramic plate in the freezer. When the jam is almost ready, pour some boiling water over the lids to your jars to soften the seals and set aside.
  4. When the jam 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.
  5. When the jam has met the set test, fill the jars. 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. 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 jam, scoop it into a refrigerator container and keep in the fridge for up to a week.
  6. When the jars are processed, leave to cool on a towel on the counter.
  7. The processed jars will keep for a year in a cool, dark place. Don’t forget to label your jars!
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Beer Shrimp Boil with Beer Sauce and Homemade Shrimp Boil Spice

Beer Shrimp Boil Summer officially kicks off with Memorial Day, and it is the perfect time for outdoor gatherings with big groups of family and friends. I think a shrimp boil makes a nice switch from the classic burgers-and-dogs grill fest. I have a big outdoor table on my patio, and this has become a favorite way to entertain. I simply cover the table with brown paper and scoop the boil ingredients onto it. Everyone gathers around the table, eats with their hands, leaving the shrimp peels and corncobs behind. When we’re all done, I just roll up the paper and take it straight to the garbage. It’s easy, fun and about the least amount of clean-up I’ve ever done after a party.

For an interesting twist, I make my own spice mix for the boil, add beer for an extra hit of flavor and serve a tangy beer sauce for dipping on the table. Don’t bother with a fancy, expensive beer, you’re basic Bud works fine, but serve a good, ice-cold local beer to drink. Corn, sausage and potatoes are the classic ingredients in a shrimp boil, but the last time I did this, I found some gorgeous artichokes and fresh asparagus, which made for a very nice addition. A friend recently clued me in to the idea of adding raw peanuts to the boil to make spiced up boiled peanuts, and I’m definitely going to give that a try. I also put some hot sauce on the table for the spicy folks and a few baguettes from a local baker. Put the beer sauce in shallow bowls spread across the table. Its great for dipping shrimp and potatoes or asparagus or artichokes, or slathering on the corn.

Here are my instructions for a shrimp boil, which easily feeds 12 people:

I use a 22-quart water bath canner on an outdoor burner, but you can use any very large stockpot and a burner on a grill, or do it inside on the stove. You can also divide the ingredients between two stockpots if you don’t have one big enough. I use a frying basket to scoop out the cooked food, but a large metal strainer with a long handle will work (protect your hands with an oven mitt around that hot boiling water). Grill tongs and a large slotted spoon come in handy too. If you happen to have a special shrimp boil pot with a straining basket, lucky you!

Line your outdoor table with brown paper, which you’ll find at a big box store in the mailing supplies section, or several layers of newspaper. Put several rolls of paper towels on the table, accessible to all the dinners. You’ll need lots of paper towels! If you need to do this indoors, scoop your ingredients into big bowls.

1 six pack or 3 (40-ounce) bottles lager beer 1 recipe Shrimp Boil spice (see below)

4 lemons, cut in half

3 heads of garlic, the tops cut off to reveal the cloves

2 pounds of smoked sausage cut into one-inch pieces

4 corn cobs into three pieces each (or thaw frozen corn cob pieces)

2 pounds very small red potatoes

4 artichokes (optional)

4 pounds of fresh, beautiful shrimp with the peels on, but heads removed

1 pound asparagus spears (optional)

3 pounds of beautiful, fresh peel on, head-off shrimp

Pour the beer into the pot, and add enough water to fill the pot halfway – remember you will be adding lots of food to the pot, so don’t fill it up. Stir in the Shrimp Boil Spice, the lemons and garlic heads (and the artichokes if using) and bring to a boil over medium heat. This can take up to 30 minutes, so leave your self plenty of time. If it comes to a boil before you’re ready to cook, just turn it down to a simmer until ready to go.

When the liquid is boiling, drop in the sausage and potatoes and bring back to a boil. Boil for about 5 minutes then add the corn. Boil for another ten minutes, then test a potato to see if it is tender all the way through. When the potatoes are tender drop in the asparagus, if using, then the shrimp and give everything a good stir. Cook just until the shrimp are pink and cooked through, about 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and scoop out all the delicious food onto your table and dig in.

Beer Shrimp Boil

For the Beer Sauce:

1.55 ounce jar ground mustard powder

½ cup beer

3 green onions, white and light green parts, chopped

1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1 Tablespoon hot sauce (I like Crystal)

2 cups mayonnaise

Put the mustard and the beer in the carafe of a blender. Blend for a few seconds to combine. Drop in the onion pieces and add the Worcestershire, hot sauce and mayonnaise and blend until completely smooth and combined. Transfer to a bowl, cover and refrigerate for several hours to allow the favors to blend and mellow. This is best made a day ahead, but can be made up to two days ahead.

For the Shrimp Boil Seasoning:

2 tablespoons celery salt

1 tablespoon dry mustard

2 teaspoons ground black pepper

2 teaspoons ground ginger

2 teaspoons sweet paprika

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

1 teaspoon ground mace

1 teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon ground allspice

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

Combine all the ingredients in a jar with a tight fitting lid. Cover the jar and shake until all the spices are blended. This will keep covered in an airtight container for up to a week.

Beer Shrimp Boil

Buttermilk Brownies with Bourbon Caramel Frosting

Buttermilk Brownies with Bourbon Caramel FrostingNothing is quite so simply satisfying as a good brownie. Even the plainest, unadorned chocolate bite can fulfill the needs of any sweet tooth craving. But the simple brownie can also be a brilliant canvas for creativity, taking on stir-in surprises, creamy frostings or decadent drizzles. Serving a plate of brownies at a party or to family and friends always gets a lively response. So I like to mix it up sometimes – take the simple brownie concept to a new and indulgent level.My penchant for baking with buttermilk comes into play here, making these rich chocolate treats tangy and ultra-moist. I add some Southern flair with a rich frosting of caramel set off with a good kick of bourbon.

These brownies are easy to make – they only use one pan and the 13 by 9 inch size makes sure there are plenty to go around (even a few to squirrel away for yourself). You can use the same pan for the caramel, but I have found that transferring it to a mixer makes for a smoother, fluffier icing over beating it in by hand. The rich, buttery notes of the caramel, enhanced by a generous tot of earthy bourbon, is a revelation. I’m sure I’ll find many uses for it.

Buttermilk Brownies with Bourbon Caramel Frosting
Yields 20
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For the Brownies
  1. 1 cup (2 sticks) butter
  2. 1 cup water
  3. 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  4. 2 Tablespoons bourbon
  5. 2 cups granulated sugar
  6. 1 cup all purpose flour
  7. 1 teaspoon baking soda
  8. ½ cup buttermilk
  9. 2 eggs
For the Frosting
  1. ½ cup (1 stick) butter
  2. ½ cup heavy cream
  3. 4 Tablespoons bourbon, divided
  4. 1 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
  5. ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  6. 3 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
For the brownies
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Line a 9 by 13-inch brownie pan with parchment paper or non-stick foil.
  2. Place the butter, water, cocoa powder and bourbon in a large saucepan and cook over medium heat until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth. Remove from the heat and let cool for a few minutes. Stir in the sugar until combined, then add the flour and baking soda and stir until thoroughly combined. Measure the buttermilk in a 2-cup jug, then beat in the eggs. Add this to the batter and stir until combined. The batter will be thin. Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 30 – 35 minutes until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Leave to cool in the pan.
For the Frosting
  1. Place the butter, cream, 2 Tablespoons of the bourbon and the brown sugar in a large saucepan and heat over medium heat until the butter is melted and the sugar is dissolved. Bring to a slow boil and cook for 3 minutes, then remove from the heat and leave to cool slightly.
  2. Pour the cooked caramel into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and add 1 cup of the confectioners’ sugar. Beat until smooth, then add the remaining 2 Tablespoons of bourbon, the remaining 2 cups of confectioners’ sugar and the salt and beat until smooth. Spread the batter over the cooled brownies and leave to set for at a few hours.
  3. Cut the brownies into generous squares
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/