Hot Pepper Vinegar

When I was growing up we always had homemade hot pepper vinegar. I know you can buy it at the store, but what’s the fun in that. In our case, my mom grew serrano peppers for hers. It was hot – no doubt about that, but we (meaning me and Fred), liked it that way. Fred would put it on things and you could see the sweat break out on his forehead from across the kitchen table – he and I sat at opposite ends of the table. It was always funny to me.

D&D_2792Collards, or any greens really, would not be right without good hot pepper vinegar. So as soon as some good looking skinny hot peppers show up at Bailey’s – well, there I am. I used finger hot peppers this time.

My mom made a simple version by just heating the vinegar and pouring it over the sliced peppers, but I’ve learned a few tricks I like from making pickles, so here is what I did this time.

Brine:
1 cup apple cider vinegar
2 Tbs sugar
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1/2 tsp black peppercorns
8 finger hots – Bailey’s

Heat brine (everything but peppers) until sugar dissolves. Pour over sliced peppers. Let cool and then refrigerate. Easy Peasy.

All this said, about three weeks ago, I purchased my own serrano pepper plant just to make this like my mom did. Now if the temperatures would only be normal for us for April. I mean honestly, it’s the second week in April and we’ve run the heater a little tonight. I just don’t get it – and I feel for people who live further north than us – which is pretty much everybody.

These peppers are called finger hots, but I’m not sure whose fingers they are supposed to be. I can only think witch fingers because the are green, skinny, wrinkly, and pointy at the end. And yes, they are hot. Yum.

UPDATE: 30 April – I have three serranos on my little plant and am over the moon excited. That’s kind of sad.

 

Sour Cream Drop Biscuits – MFC

This is the recipe I have used for years and years. It is from my mom’s very best friend -Mary Francis Christy. It is simple and so very good and the technique, you must admit makes it even better. I have made these for years and years when I just want a simple biscuit to go with my dinner and maybe a couple left over for breakfast the next day.

D&D_2680I do not have self-rising flour in the house often, unless I plan on some biscuits and in this case, I was not thinking ahead. If I don’t have self-rising flour, I do know how to make it out of all-purpose flour.

So here is the dead simple deal:

1/2 pint full-fat sour cream (full-fat – come on, you are making biscuits, right?)
8 Tbs unsalted butter, melted
healthy pinch of kosher salt
2 cups self-rising flour (or the make your own version w/A-P flour)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Mix all ingredients. Drop into greased muffin tin and bake until golden brown, 25 – 30 minutes, turning half way through.

You can also drop them onto an parchment-lined baking sheet, but the muffin tin thing is so much easier and they cook at the same time because they are the same size. Great, or what? Yep, great.

Sorry – since we are in the Biscuit Project, I really think these beat the drop biscuits from Cook’s Country. But you must understand – they are in Boston – that should tell you everything you need to know.

Although, I will allow that the technique here – baking the biscuits in muffin tins really makes a big difference. Cook’s Country – take note.

My mom and Mary Francis were like two peas in a pod. It was like having a local aunt, since all my real aunts live in North Carolina or beyond. I loved going to her house and I loved it too when she came to our house. Every time we just hung out in the kitchen and sort of saw what happened.

It is good to have people like that in your life when you are still impressionable – you know – what they now call tweens. But I’ve always been happier in the kitchen than anywhere else.

Creamed Beef on Toast

This is such a weird bit of food. My mom used to make this every so often for my dad. My sister and I were just along for the ride. I don’t think I’ve had it in 25 years or more, but it still brings to mind a great childhood food memory.

This is truly poor people food – you know stretch that beef as far as it can go. The story goes, in my family anyway, was that my dad got this to eat when he was in the Air Force. I wonder, but …. who is to say? Then I saw Trisha Yearwood make it – and it was her dad’s favorite too. Our food histories are really just too similar. Again, Southern, rural food. It’s always a good thing.

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1 pound ground sirloin
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups milk, more as needed, but it wasn’t
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 /2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
4 white bread slices, toasted

Saute the beef in a large skillet over medium heat, breaking it up and cooking until it is no longer pink. You can drain off the excess fat, but I didn’t because the sirloin was lean enough. Sprinkle the meat with the flour and stir over medium heat until the flour has coated the beef and cooked slightly. Stir in the milk a little at a time – kind of like you do with a roux to make macaroni and cheese. and continue to cook until the mixture becomes smooth and thickens to what you would like. Add the salt and pepper. Serve over toast. Freshly ground black pepper really makes it.

Source: My mom’s non-recipe recipe with encouragement from Trisha Yearwood. Both my mom and Trisha make this exactly the same, with one exception. We never, um, ever, put butter on it. But then again, my mom used margarine – ick.

Christmas Eve Buffet Cheese Ball

So I think this year, I might subject friends and family to my odd sense of nostalgia and hope I, the one who has this in my memory, am not disappointed.

For some reason, known only to herself (she never did explain it), my mother left me in charge of deciding the food for Christmas Eve. Not the making in all, or even most, cases, but the deciding. In our family which was rather large even though is was just my 3 siblings, me, my parents, and our older siblings kids, we opened presents from each other on Christmas Eve, so it was a night of perpetual snacking and in my case eating enough vanilla taffy to almost (almost, but not quite), make myself sick. Oh, and fudge too. And I don’t even like fudge (Groundhog Day.)

D&D_1499This was one of the things that I wanted every year and also made myself – not exactly difficult even though we had no food processor or mini chopper. You just did it the old fashioned way, by hand – no harm in that. I have no idea where this came from, but in my made-up back-story for it, it was a contribution to a local newspaper from some woman who would call herself by her husband’s name, you know what I mean. Instead of Mary Smith, she would be Mrs. John Smith, like she didn’t have an existence outside of him – yes, going off the rails here a bit, but that kind of thing just makes me slightly crazy.

Here for posterity’s sake.

8 ozs  cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar, room temperature
3 Tbs well-drained horseradish
1/4 cup finely chopped dried beef

Combine cream cheese, cheddar, horseradish until well blended. Make into a ball and chill. Roll in dried beef until covered. Chill several hours. Let sit at room temperature before serving. Serve with Triscuits or whatever crackers you like, but when I was 12, Triscuits is what I did. And everyone else did too.

Several questions arise – the first being do they still make dried beef in those odd little jars (not that I could tell, and I looked), where is it in the store if they do and what are my other options? I’m thinking pan fried proscuitto minced.
Also – only 1/2 cup of sharp cheddar. First, must be Cabot seriously sharp, but needs to be orange for color contrast and it will most certainly be more than 1/2 a measly cup. Please.
I will taste and check the horseradish level, but must be careful not to blow everyone’s palate. I tend to like just a click more horseradish than most people.

What I did make –

8 ozs cream cheese, softened
1 cup extra sharp cheddar, shredded at room temperature
3 Tbs well drained horseradish
1 cup minced dried cranberries
3 scallions minced
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Coating:
1 Tbs chives, minced
3 scallions, minced
1/2 cup dried cranberries, minced

Combine cream cheese, cheddar, and horseradish until well combined. Add in cranberries, scallions, and pecans. Roll into a ball and cover with plastic and chill until firm.

When ready to serve, mix coating ingredients in a wide bowl, and roll cheese ball in to cover, pressing in as necessary. Serve with crackers or toasted bread.

23 December 2017 – for Christmas Eve.
Never hurts to try something new, esp. if it is really good – and um, it was.

Banana Nut Bread

I just cannot stand bananas. It is the texture I think, but, let’s just say, ugh. But here I am making banana nut bread from my mom’s recipe again. Just like so many years before.

I miss that I can’t make it for my dad anymore. But this, to me, more that just about anything else, is Christmas.

It would not be Christmas without toasted (under the broiler) banana nut bread slathered in too much butter for Christmas Day breakfast/brunch. Sausage balls are the close second.

D&D_2576This keeps well. And if you make a loaf and split it and put half wrapped in two layers of heavy duty foil in the freezer you can pull it out in March and it is still amazing.  That is what I did for my dad – half a loaf to eat now and the other have to save for a couple of months. You can make this anytime of year, really, but – it is just Christmas. And my family’s tradition.

8 Tbs unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups mashed bananas
3 cups sifted all purpose flour
3 1/12 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 cup chopped pecans (I upped this – my mom only used 1 cup)

Grease and line a 9 x 5″ loaf pan with parchment paper and spray again with baking spray.  Sift the flour with the baking powder, salt and baking soda – typically, I do this on a piece of waxed paper. In the stand mixer, blend the butter and sugar together. Then add the eggs, one at a time until blended. Add the mashed bananas and blend until combined. Mix in dry ingredients. Add pecans and mix well.

Turn into loaf pan and bake at 300 degrees for 1 hour and increase temp to 350 degrees for 15 minutes.

21 December 2017 – post procedure – funny, that – that is a story for a whole different day.(said in the voice of River Song from Dr. Who – the Matt Smith version). Dear lord, I am a dork of the nth degree. And obviously, the drugs are still having an impact of sorts.

300 degrees 1 hour – turn 1/2 way through
345 degrees 15 minutes – turn
20 minutes more – check with long wooden skewer – damnation – perfect.
9 x 5 inch Williams Sonoma gold-ish large loaf pan

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Work Hack – good for breakfast or lunch as long as you have Kerry Gold butter.

Stupidly – Easy Chocolate Fudge

My mom always made fudge for Christmas. She would put them in her Christmas tins, and me, being me, do the same thing. I would have a bit or two, but – again – not a chocolate person – even then, as a kid. Well, it is what it is. D&D_2579

I have tried to recreate my mom’s fudge with not a whole bunch of success.  I do not like recipes that use marshmallow stuff (fluff, cream, um, whatever), or, heaven forbid, peanut butter – dear lord, who thinks either one of those things are a good idea. Also, all fudge needs nuts and as usually, I prefer walnuts.

While this made shite-loads of fudge (in my opinion), it was also pretty damn good and it recalls my mom’s fudge – and that was enough just to make me happy. So here it is – stupidly good, really easy, chocolate fudge.  Sometime, simple is just best. Yep.

4 Tbs unsalted butter
16 ozs semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate
1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
1/8 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Spray 8 x 8 inch baking pan with cooking spray. Line with parchment, with an overhang on two sides for easier removal from pan.

Place a large glass bowl over a pot of barely simmering water – do not let bowl touch water or get water in chocolate mixture. Combine all ingredients except walnuts until just melted and well combined. Mix in nuts – sorry – required.

Put fudge mixture into prepared pan and refrigerate until set – 4 hours, but best overnight. Using parchment sling, lift fudge out of pan and cut into small pieces (this is rich, so smaller is better.)

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Source: www.cookingforengineers.com via the New York Times

Sausage Balls – Cook’s Country

There are just some things I MUST have for Christmas and probably the two most important things for Christmas morning are toasted banana nut bread and sausage balls. My mom always made them both. For the sausage balls she used, as most people did at the time, Bisquick, but since finding this Cook’s Country recipe that is just not necessary. I never used it for anything but this recipe, so to not have to purchase it and make do with things I already have on hand – well, it just makes so much more sense to me.

So here’s to my mom and to Christmas morning. D&D_2573

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbs unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
8 ozs bulk hot breakfast sausage
4 ozs extra sharp cheddar, grated (1 cup)
3/4 cup whole buttermilk

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

In the food processor, pulse the flour, baking powder, salt, pepper an cayenne until combined. Add butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal about 12 pulses. Add sausage and cheddar and pulse until combined, about 8 more times. Place mixture in a nice sized bowl and stir in buttermilk until just combined.

Wet your hands and roll dough into 1 1/4 inch ball (about 1 Tbs each). Space evenly on baking sheet and bake until golden brown between 20 – 22 minutes, rotating baking pan halfway through. Transfer baking sheet to a wire rack and let cool for 5 minutes. Serve warm. With grape jelly. Yum.

You can make these ahead and bake, cool, and then freeze and just reheat in the oven at 200 degree for 15 or so minutes. Just test one and see if it where you want it to be for reheating.

24 December 2014

24 December 2016 – for Christmas Day brunch/lunch

22 December 2017 for Christmas Day brunch/lunch – 375 degrees convection- 20 minutes – turn 1/2 way through – perfection! Need to double next time and freeze half (after baking). They keep well in the freezer for a month or so. Also, grape jelly needs to be involved.

These are also excellent on New Year’s Day morning too. Pretty much excellent anytime, but you get the point.