Well, Black My Eyes!

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This post might not make sense to you if you’re not from the South, but I had a near calamity today.  I had a taste for black eye peas, so I got my trusty cast iron pot out and started washing peas.  Bud made a pass through and nearly swooned with happiness when he saw how lovely I looked washing peas next to the garlic, celery, and onion waiting on the chopping block.  There would be unhappiness in our home this evening if no peas and ham were forthcoming.  After seasoning and starting the peas, I went to the freezer to find the meaty ham bone I’d squirreled back a couple of weeks ago. Ham bones are a gift of nature.  I even knew a family who nicknamed their son Ham Bone.   I think to a Southern Cook, the ham bone is more important than the ham itself, a delicacy to be hidden from nosey freezer plunderers at all costs.  In fact, I have been known to threaten bodily harm when a home-wrecking guest asked Bud, not me for the ham boneafter a meal.  I put a stop to that hussy then and there!

At any rate, the precious ham bone must be retrieved at the perfect point of denuding.  Too much meat on the bone is wasteful.  Too little just leaves the pea soup a bit anemic. I knew I had the most darling ham bone hidden away in the freezer awaiting its rendezvous with my peas.  I reached in the freezer for my ham bone  and found………..nothing!  Well, actually I found ground beef and pork, chicken parts of various types, several kinds of sausage, vegetables and fruit a plenty, but no ham bone. I panicked.  Earlier in the week, I’d asked Bud to get the frozen meat trimmings and scraps to the trash.  God forbid?  Had he mistaken my foil-wrapped ham bone  for scraps. Worse yet, had he sneaked it out to another woman? I was almost too shattered to look, but finally found my ham bone shoved to the back of the bottom shelf behind a bag of ice.  Never has a ham bone been so welcome.  The peas breathed a sigh of relief when I dropped the bone in.

Our marriage was saved.

2 1/2 cups black eyed peas
8 cups water
1/2 tablespoon salt or more to taste
1/4 tablespoon black pepper
1 medium onion (whole)

1/4 c diced celery if desired
Nice ham bone 

1/4 teaspoon vinegar (or pepper sauce)

Simmer all ingredients in large cooking pot on stove top burner on medium heat. Use cast-iron pot if you have one.

Cook 40-60 minutes or until peas are tender. Do not allow water to evaporate entirely. If peas are dry they will burn quickly.

Serve with hot cornbread.  It is against the law to throw the pea soup out.  Have it for lunch tomorrow is ver cornbread.

Great Food

imageFor a hearty, satisfying breakfast, give this a try, homemade biscuits and sausage gravy.  Please note, I made no claims about calorie count or fat content, I just said hearty and delicious!  I simplified instructions for new cooks.

Linda’s Sausage Milk Gravy

Scramble one pound of breakfast sausage in skillet and brown slightly.  Sprinkle with 1/2 cup flour.  Stir and smooth as it browns.  When sausage is not quite brown enough to serve, stir in 1 cup water to stop browning.  Stir until even consistency about like yogurt.  Stir in enough canned evaporated milk to get slightly thinner than gravy consistency.  Simmer 5-10 minutes, scraping skillet periodically to avoid burning until biscuits come out of oven.  It will get thicker as it simmers.  Taste before you season.  May be seasoned well enough from sausage.  If too thick, stir in a little more milk.  If you get it too thin, simmering will thicken.  Serve over hot biscuits.

Substitution:  Can make this gravy in bacon drippings.  Stir flour in hot (not flaming drippings.) Lower setting to medium.  Scrape bottom of skillet constantly with metal spatula as mix browns to mix well.  When the mix is smooth and slightly darker than mocha stir in about 1 cup cold water, stirring and scraping constantly.  Will steam and thicken quickly.  Add water or milk to dilute to gravy consistency. Whisk frequently and allow to simmer 5-10 minutes for smooth gravy. Season to taste.  May not need much salt.  Bacon is salty.  I like bacon gravy brown.  Adding milk to dilute makes gravy white, but you always need use water to gravy first to preventing scalding and curdling of milk.

Bud’s Biscuits(12 biscuits recipe can be easily doubled or tripled)

Get these in oven before you start gravy.

We use self-rising flour, but if you have all purpose, stir in 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon salt for each cup flour and mix well.

2 cups flour

1/2 cup shortening

8-10 ounces evaporated canned milk dilute or concentrated to your taste.(save remainder of can for gravy.)

Pre-heat oven to 400 and grease baking pan. Cut shortening into flour.  You can use spoon or pastry blender.  When it is well-mixed and you don’t see big, separate lumps of shortening.  Mix in about 7-8 ounces of the canned milk, if you need to, add just a bit more till mix resembles stiff mashed potatoes. Mix will not be smooth.  Be sure to mix in extra milk a bit at a time if you must.  Dough has to be stiff enough to roll out.  Dust flour over top of biscuit dough and turn onto lightly floured surface. A clean smooth dishtowel, wax paper, or bread board work well.  Knead three or for times till dough well-dusted.  You can get ready to bake one of two ways.  Either roll dough out about 1/2 inches thick, with rolling pin, folding about four times to make layered biscuits and then roll to 1/2 inch thick, cut and bake.  The other option is flour your hands, pinch off dough about 3/4 quarters the size of your palm, dip in a bit of flour dust and roll three or four times.  Put in pan smooth side up.  Butter tops and bake at 400 degrees on middle rack till tops are starting to brown.

After biscuits cool, save left-overs in ziplock bag.  They are great for about three days.  The gravy reheats well, too.

 

Southern Fried Catfish

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Deep-fried catfish is a favorite at our house.  Brush catfish with prepared mustard.  For two pounds catfish, I put one cup cornmeal, one and a half teaspoons of CajunSeasoning, and one-half teaspoon onion powder in a quart bag and shake till well-coated.  Best fried in a deep cast-iron skillet.  (I am extremely partial to cast-iron.)

There is an easy trick to getting the oil to just the right temperature.  As the oil gets hot, drop a wooden, strike anywhere match in the heating oil.  It will ignite at exactly 375 degrees, the perfect temperate for deep-frying.  The corn-meal battered catfish sear over when dropped in the hot oil and absorb much less oil.  In a matter of minutes the will be crisp and golden brown.  Put them on a rack to drain for maximum crispness.

Tonight, instead of the French-fries we so admire, I served the fish with oven fried okra,  I just bought the frozen breaded type,  sprayed it with cooking spray, and baked it at four hundred degrees til crisp.  I opened a jar of home-canned bean soup to go along with it.

For dessert, we had a very simple peach crumble.  To four cups frozen peaches, I stirred in three-quarters cup Splenda Brown Sugar, two tablespoons corn starch, and half a teaspoon cinnamon.  I poured in a bowl and topped with a crumb mixture of one-half cup oatmeal.a dash of cinnamon, one-fourth cup Splenda Brown Sugar mixed with three teaspoons butter.  I baked at 350 degrees till top is brown and crumbly.

This was an easy, delicious meal.