A friend gave us a copy of "Piggin' Out: A Southern States Guide to Bar-B-Que Eateries." It is a directory of BBQ joints in the Southeast published by a retired dentist from Charleston, SC in 1999 that is still available. We keep our copy in the glove box of the traveling car. Call ahead to confirm that the BBQ joints you hope to visit are still in business.
We tried to reach the author and his publisher about the status of updates and a possible reprinting, but were unsuccessful. Hopefully the BBQ did not get the best of them. Copies are still available online.
Each year in June, our landscape is punctuated with brilliant orange daylily blooms. Some people call them ditch lilies; the botanists call them Hemerocallis fulva. They are a foolproof landscaping plant that thrives on neglect. They're also edible if you can beat the deer to them.
Ditch lily flowers are slightly sweet, with flavor and texture similar to maché. Unopened blooms can be eaten like okra or squash blossoms. Opened flowers are beautiful and delicious atop salads and slaws. I've read that some folks remove the stamens and serve chicken, egg, and tuna salad inside the flower cup; an elegant bread substitute for the gluten intolerant. Use your imagination.
Freshly Ground Black Pepper
We call for freshly ground black pepper in our recipes. It's an entirely different ingredient from pre-ground pepper. Freshly ground pepper is an aromatic, flavor enhancing spice; however, the aroma dissipates with time. Pre-ground pepper quickly devolves into heat without spice. Do a side-by-side smell/taste test for yourself using that container of pre-ground pepper that's been sitting in your cabinet for years. The difference is remarkable. As with salts, there is an incredible variety of peppercorns to sample from all over the world, each expressing its own terroir.
Many years ago we attended a Memorial Day cookout whose host's idea of entertaining was to invite everyone to come over, bring a side dish, and barbecue the chicken, ribs, and burgers she'd purchased. I gravitated to the grilling. At one point there were three charcoal grills going at once, each cooking something a bit differently. Then they started calling me "Grillatolah".
If you plan to do any traditional scratch peasant cooking, you must have heavy metal in your kitchen. As we use the term, it includes (but is not limited to) cast iron skillets, dutch ovens, and woks. Cast iron is versatile cookware. In a pinch, it can double as a defensive (or offensive) weapon!
Proper seasoning, maintenance, and use are important to achieving a nonstick surface in your heavy metal. The trick is to keep the cast iron cooking surface well-seasoned with oil. Clean only by hand with warm water and minimal soap. Soak in cold water to remove crusty bits. If the cooking surface does not bead water after cleaning, fry up some bacon or lardons to rejuvenate the seasoning. Alternatively, drizzle some olive oil on the cooking surface, spread thinly with a paper towel, warm slightly, then let cool. Wipe off free oil before storing.
Cooking with heavy metal can be quite rewarding. Sear meats and sausages on it, then deglaze with stock to imbue sauces, vegetables, stews, and braises with the delectable browned bits and juices from the searing. Deglazing with acids like wine and vinegar, and cooking tomato-based stews and braises depletes seasoning, so plan to re-season your heavy metal after making these dishes.
High Tech Teakettle
Our labels suggest optimum brewing temperatures for each of our teas. Proper brewing temperature and time are essential to releasing the full flavor and aroma of the tea leaves, particularly with sencha green. Achieving accurate below-boiling temperatures with a traditional teakettle requires time, attention, and patience. Now, modern technology has provided an elegant solution. The "Breville One-Touch Teakettle" heats the water to the proper temperature for the specific type of tea leaf (green, black, etc.), then electromagnetically sweeps an infuser through the water for the proper amount of brewing time for your desired strength of tea. When the time is up, the electromagnet removes the infuser from the tea. We can taste the difference with sencha green tea. It's fun to watch the electromagnetic infuser do its dance. Even better, you can program it to have your tea ready when you awaken in the morning.
John West Island
Before refrigeration, salt was a precious and important ingredient for food preservation. A learned local historian and friend told me there used to be a salt works on John West Island in the Guinea Marshes, at the tip of Jenkins Neck in the low country of Gloucester County, Virginia. He passed away before he could show me where it was.
As I remember him describing it, the salt works had a gate that was used to admit salt water at high tide. As fresh water evaporated, more salt water was admitted until enough salt was concentrated for harvestable crystals to form.
Loose v. Bag Tea
We have a strong preference for tea brewed with a nonreactive infuser or basket. To our taste buds, even tea bags made from ecologically (and/or politically) correct fiber impart an unpalatable flavor to the tea.
A few years back, a Governator (whom we shall not name) used the term "Girly Men" to provoke his opponents in the Legislature. Not long thereafter, we visited an Asian restaurant in which they served a jasmine tea with the twigs and leaves floating loose in the beverage. I think this was a riff on the Japanese tradition of matcha, in which a finely ground powder of green tea is ceremonially whipped into hot water to make the tea. But I called it "Manly Tea"; tea with texture and crunchy bits. The flavor was authentic; untainted by the essence of fiber tea bags. If, however, you prefer "Girly Tea" without texture, be sure to use a nonreactive infuser or a strainer to remove the leaves before serving.
My wife introduced me to dried porcini mushrooms. Earthy, woodsy, aromatic, umami. Wow! Paired with sea salt, they will elevate your cooking to another level.
Our dried porcini mushroom sea salt is best used in cooking. This enables the porcinis to absorb enough moisture to regain their texture and release their exquisite flavor and aroma. Use porcini sea salt to crush garlic and season grits, polenta, risotto, and pasta sauces (links will open in a separate window). A pinch is great when sauteeing or steaming vegetables such as asparagus, broccoli, and peas.
Wild asparagus is a special treat. Each spring it sprouts in fencerows, on ditchbanks, and on the banks above creeks and saltmarsh. Delicious sauteed, roasted, or lightly steamed and topped with some Lobsta' Buttah and fresh ground black pepper (link will open in a separate window). Delightful year-round if pickled with garlic and a hot pepper or two for wang. We have a patch along the marshlands. The deer eat most of it. If you (and the deer) let some of the plants grow to maturity, they'll produce red seeds that are attractive in the landscape. Mow about once a year after the foliage dies back and the seeds drop (but before spring sprouts emerge) to encourage your own wild asparagus patch.
Is a term the French use to describe how a wine takes on the distinctive characteristics of the ground and climate in which the grape is grown. Terroir also expresses itself in produce, grains, game, and seafood.
Each of our salts expresses its own terroir. The base salt for our three smoked sea salts hails from the Pacific Ocean. The base salt for the porcini mushroom sea salt hails from the Atlantic Ocean. The pink salt for the Herbes de Bubba Salt Rub is mined from a deposit in the Himalayan mountains that dates to the jurassic period of earth's geologic history.
The First Time I Heard the Word "Bubba"
Was in intermediate school. It was part of the patois used by working watermen (commercial fishermen) and their children. Several of the children disappeared from school after seventh or eighth grade; presumably to start crabbin' and oysterin'.