Guest Road Tripper Kathy Witt takes us to charming Augusta, Georgia in her latest travel piece. Always glad to have you, Kathy!
Mention Augusta, GA and thoughts immediately leap to the Masters Tournament. After all, this small town charmer on the banks of the Savannah River has been home to the famous golf tournament for nearly 90 years. But Augusta is also a vibrant artists community, culinary hotspot and urban playground with adventures aplenty for foodies, history buffs, arts aficionados, nature and outdoor lovers, music fans and more.
In Augusta’s walkable downtown, browse the boutiques and vintage stores along Artists Row. Catch a show at the Imperial Theatre, a former vaudeville hall that James Brown once used as rehearsal space. Speaking of the Godfather of Soul, follow the story of the world-famous soul singer who called Augusta home on the new James Brown Journey. The walking tour takes visitors to locations that played a key role in Brown’s life, each marked by vinyl artwork and a QR code that opens into an audio tour narrated by his family and friends.
A Walk Along the Savannah River
The Riverwalk serves as the front porch of Augusta and one of this Georgia city’s most popular parks. Destination Augusta
Wander along Augusta’s Riverwalk, a multilevel brick trail meandering along the banks of the Savannah River to ornamental gardens, children’s playgrounds, historical monuments, museums including the Morris Museum of Art and Augusta Museum of History, the Jessye Norman Amphitheater where live concerts are performed, and several restaurants.
The Augusta Canal National Heritage Area (www.augustacanal.com) is an outdoor enthusiast’s mecca, with hiking and biking on the historic canal’s towpath, fishing from the canal banks and paddling and kayaking in its lazy waters. Cruises aboard a replica open-air canal cargo boat glide visitors into the past, floating by Georgia’s only remaining 18th century houses and 19th century textile mills; on wildlife expeditions, spotting otters, heron and even the occasional alligator; and into dreamy nights on moonlight music cruises.
Boat tour tickets include free admission to the Augusta Canal Discovery Center. Located in a former textile mill, the center features exhibits, orientation film and gift shop.
The historic 112-year-old Partridge Inn (www.partridgeinn.com), part of the world-class Curio Collection by Hilton, recently underwent a multimillion dollar renovation. The result? A luxurious escape with all the amenities, but one that keeps the hotel’s historical charm and character intact. The hillside oasis offers 140 rooms and suites, each beautifully appointed and some with balconies, top-tier dining with its 8595 restaurant and Six South rooftop bar, lounge and bar areas and outdoor swimming pool and courtyard.
Augusta is developing a reputation for fun and funky downtown culinary hotspots serving everything from vegan/vegetarian comfort food like Ube (sweet purple yam) pancakes topped with maple icing and toasted walnuts and paired with a mimosa at the Bee’s Knees to gourmet small plate fine dining accompanied by a sublime wine list at Craft & Vine.
The new and already popular Edgar’s Above Broad brings rooftop dining to Augusta’s dynamic downtown foodscape, with a seasonal tapas menu and tantalizing craft cocktails – like the Imaginary Friend (the house mule with strawberry-infused vodka and a ginger beer topper) – served in a fun setting with putting green, bocce ball and sweeping downtown views.
For wildlife lovers, there’s nothing better than an outing to Phinizy Swamp Nature Park (www.phinizycenter.org), located just minutes from downtown: great blue herons, red-shouldered hawks, river otters and the elusive alligator go about their business in natural woodland and wetland settings sheltered by Bald Cypress, Water Oak, Sweetgum trees and spread out over thousands of acres. Scenic and serene, it has a steel and wooden bridge crossing over Butler Creek and providing occasional glimpses of turtle and river otters – the place where dragonflies, damselflies and even the rare Mayfly are known to buzz about.
A wooden boardwalk with covered observation deck is the perfect spot to catch busy woodpeckers, warblers and hawks and the Pond Trail peeks into the pine forest for glimpses of waterfowl and wading birds. The Phinizy Swamp Shop and Visitor Center is open Saturdays and Sundays and has natural history exhibits, observation hive with active bee colony, Kids’ Corner, park info, souvenirs and snacks.
To learn more about Georgia’s second oldest city, pick up a copy of Tom Mack’s book, 100 Things To Do in Augusta, GA Before You Die (Reedy Press). Mack personally ate at every restaurant, shopped at each venue and visited all the cultural attractions included in the book. Readers will find detailed descriptions of each venue as well as Mack’s insider tips to help them get the most out of a visit to Augusta.
A visit to Augusta, GA simply would not be complete without sampling a true Southern pimento cheese dish. From The Partridge Inn’s restaurant, 8595, here is Executive Chef Thomas Jacobs’ Fried Green Tomatoes and Pimento Cheese recipe.
Green Tomato Recipe
1 C all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp blacken seasoning
1/4 tsp fine-ground black pepper
1/4 C buttermilk
2 large eggs
1/2 C panko breadcrumbs
1 C yellow cornmeal
2 large green tomatoes, sliced 1/4-inch thick
Line a baking sheet with paper towels and top with a cooling rack. Set up a dredging station with 3 shallow bowls. In the first bowl, add the flour, salt and pepper, and whisk to combine. In the second bowl, beat the buttermilk, eggs and blacken season together. In the third bowl, stir together the cornmeal and panko.
Working in batches, dredge both sides of the tomato slices in the seasoned flour, shaking each piece to remove any excess.
Dip the tomato slices into the egg and buttermilk mixture. Then coat the tomato slices in the breadcrumb/panko mixture evenly on both sides. Place the prepared tomatoes in the basket of an air fryer and spritz the top with olive oil. Air fry at 400°F for 5 minutes, flip and spritz with olive oil, and continue to air fry for 3 additional minutes, or until golden brown. Serve immediately.
1 C shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese
1 C white cheddar
1/2 C smoked Gouda cheese
1 C Tomme Cheese
8 oz cream cheese, softened
2 1/2 C mayonnaise (Dukes preferably)
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp ground cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp onion powder
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
4 oz diced pimento, drained
salt and black pepper to taste
Place the cheddar, white cheddar, Gouda, Tomme and cream cheeses, mayonnaise, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, onion powder, minced jalapeno and pimento into the large bowl of a mixer. Beat at medium speed, with paddle, if possible, until thoroughly combined. Season to taste with salt and black pepper.
Add pimento cheese on top of fried green tomatoes.
About Guest Blogger Kathy Witt
Writer and author Kathy Witt is a member of SATW Society of American Travel Writers and the Authors Guild
Wondering what fork to use when serving bourbon isn’t a question we commonly ask, but authors Peggy Noe Stevens and Susan Reigler are entertainment and bourbon experts who travel frequently conducting seminars and tastings. The impetus for their book stems from being constantly asked how to go about hosting the perfect cocktail or dinner party starting from table setting to pairing the best foods and bourbons.
Now Stevens and Reigler are the type of Kentucky women who if they were going to tailgate at the Kentucky Derby wouldn’t bring a cooler filled will take-out from the deli counter of the local grocery store to be served on paper plates and eaten with plastic dinnerware. This type of Kentucky woman brings great grandmother’s silver serving dishes and great great Aunt Mabel’s fine China. And, of course, the food would be equally well turned out though not necessarily fussy or hard to make.
Despite the elegance of it all, Stevens and Reigler don’t want anyone “to work their fingers to the bone planning and executing.”
After all, they say, “the best form of bourbon etiquette is simple to make people feel comfortable.”
The following recipes are from Which Fork Do I Use With My Bourbon.
Dark and Bloody Mary:
1 teaspoon salt, pepper, paprika mix
2 ounces bourbon
2 large lemon wedges
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 can (6 ounces) tomato juice
To prepare the seasoning mix, combine in a mortar (or spice grinder) one part each smoked sea salt, smoked black pepper, and smoked paprika (the authors suggest these should all come from Bourbon Barrel Foods–bourbonbarrelfoods.com). Finely crush with a pestle and shake together in a jar.
To a pint glass or a large mason jar filled with ice, add the bourbon, squeeze and drop in the lemon wedges, and add 1teaspoon of the seasoning mix and the Worcestershire sauce. Shake. Add more ice and the tomato juice. Shake again.
Garnish with a long straw and baby corn, large pitted black olive, and cherry pepper, all on a stick.
Combine all the cocktail ingredients in a shaker. Shake on ice and double-strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with a sage leaf.
Macerate 1 pint of dates with rich syrup (1 pound of “sugar in the raw” and ½ pound of water, heated and stirred until the sugar dissolves).
Susan’s Tuna Spread:
Author Susan Reigler came across this recipe forty years ago in a small spiral-bound book of recipes by James Beard that was included with her purchase of a Cuisinart food processor. She always gets raves when she serves it. Spicy and tangy, this is not your bachelor uncle’s bland tuna fish salad.
2 5-ounce cans albacore tuna packed in water, drained
⅓ cup mayonnaise
¼ cup tightly packed fresh parsley sprigs
Juice of 1 lemon
1½ tablespoons coarsely ground black pepper
Combine all the ingredients in a food processor and blend briefly.
Bourbon Pineapple Poundcake:
1 cup brown sugar
¼ cup bourbon
1 to 2 fresh pineapples, quartered and sliced
in thick strips
1 pound cake
Preheat the oven to 175 degrees. Mix the brown sugar and bourbon until it forms a thin paste. Lay the pineapple strips side by side in a baking dish.
Brush the brown sugar mixture thickly on the pineapple strips. Put the dish in the oven and allow the mixture to melt over the pineapple until warm.
Lay the pineapple strips over slices of pound cake and ladle any extra juice over each slice. Serve immediately.
Woodford Reserve Chocolate Bread Pudding:
12 cups stale French bread, diced in 1-inch cubes
1 quart whole milk
3 eggs, beaten
1¾ cups sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon
6 ounces dark or bittersweet chocolate, chopped in large chunks
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Place the bread cubes in a large bowl and toss with the milk until the
bread is moistened. Soak for at least 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Whisk together the eggs, sugar,
vanilla, and cinnamon and pour over the bread-milk mixture. Fold
together until well mixed.
Fold in the chocolate chunks and mix until evenly distributed. Pour
into a greased, deep 13- by 9-inch pan. Drizzle the melted butter over
the batter and cover with foil.
Bake for 30 minutes covered and then for another 10 to 15 minutes
uncovered, until the pudding is set and firm in the middle and golden
brown on top. Serve warm with Bourbon Butter Sauce.
Special guest blogger Kathy Witt, author of the soon to be released Cincinnati Scavenger:The Ultimate Search for Cincinnati’s Hidden Treasures, shared a new post.
High atop Beech Mountain in North Carolina and hidden within the trees is the somewhere over the rainbow: the Land of Oz. It is as magical as the world L. Frank Baum created in his classic Oz book series that was brought to the screen in the 1939 Academy Award-winning movie. And it is where those looking for their heart’s desire find the Yellow Brick Road.
The Land of Oz opens only during its annual events, including Autumn in Oz (www.landofoznc.com/autumnatoz), a festival featuring an interactive theatrical experience, with performances by the beloved Scarecrow, Tin Woodman and Cowardly Lion and frights compliments of the Wicked Witch of the West and her band of Winged Monkeys.
From the twister that rocks the Gale’s Kansas farmhouse to the Emerald City, visitors experience the story brought to life as the Yellow Brick Road unwinds through the site of the original 1970s theme park.
Autumn in Oz takes place over three weekends: September 9-11, 16-18 and 23-25, 2022. Admission tickets are $55 (www.showpass.com/o/land-of-oz-theme-park). Rounding out the fun are live performances, face painting, craft and memorabilia vendors and food and beverages for purchase. Add-on experiences: Scenic Lift Ride ($15), a round-trip chairlift ride to the park from Beech Mountain Ski Resort; and exclusive access to the Over the Rainbow Observation Deck ($6), for unparalleled views from the top of Beech Mountain on a site that has not been open to the public in more than 20 years.
The Klonteska Condominiums at 4 Seasons at Beech Mountain (www.beechgetaway.com) are homey and comfortable and have spectacular views of the mountains. Two-, three- and four-bedroom units feature private, covered balconies for taking in those views, plus gas-log fireplace, equipped kitchen and large whirlpool tub in the master bath. Located in downtown Beech Mountain, the condos are close to shops and restaurants, and a short and scenic drive to the Land of Oz.
Eat: When it comes to restaurants, Beech Mountain is all about the local experience, from the always-bustling Famous Brick Oven Pizza with live music, arcade and air hockey to the cozy and iconic Alpen Restaurant & Bar, a traditional European inn.
Locals and visitors alike find Fred’s General Mercantile (www.fredsgeneral.com) irresistible and can while away a couple of pleasant hours browsing its shelves. The store was established by Fred Pfohl in 1979 when the original Land of Oz Theme Park was still open. Pfohl worked summers at Land of Oz while attending Appalachian State University. When he and his wife, Margie, decided to build the store, Jack Pentes, who designed the theme park, prepared the blueprints.
Visitors come to Fred’s for fresh produce, stuffed animals, clothing, hardware, ski gear rentals and more. They also come to enjoy made-to-order breakfasts – the Fred Muffin is a fan fave – at Fred’s Backside Deli, as well as hot and cold sandwiches, grilled burgers, soups, salads and other lunch fare and sweets including cakes, pies and cookies.
Before heading to Autumn in Oz, stop in at the free-admission Beech Mountain History Museum (www.facebook.com/BeechMountainHistoricalSociety), a true jewel of a museum operated by Beech Mountain Historical Society volunteers. Inside is a diorama of the original Land of Oz Theme Park along with related memorabilia and the volunteer guides love to share the Oz chapter of Beech Mountain history. Also here is the definitive backstory of the park – Tim Hollis’ photo-rich book, The Land of Oz. Museum hours during Autumn in Oz are 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Thursday-Sunday.
Tim Hollis visited the Land of Oz on a rainy day in the summer of 1975, returned while working on his book, The Land of Oz, and then again for the book’s launch in 2016.
“The park is a unique opportunity to live through the plot of the movie,” he said.
Hollis also has a museum in his hometown of Dale, AL. Among the thousands of cartoon characters, board games, lunch boxes, Christmas and Halloween collectibles and more at the Tim Hollis Pop Culture Museum is “The Wizard of Oz” memorabilia: toys, games, coloring books, the 40 original Oz books written by Baum and his successors – even a smattering of park souvenirs. The free-admission museum is open by appointment only with 48-hour’s advance notice. Call 205-648-6110.
For more information, Autumn in Oz and Beech Mountain, visit Beech Mountain Visitors Center, www.beechmtn.com.
Fred’s Backside Deli’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Pie Recipe
9-inch pie crust
1/2 C sugar
1/2 C brown sugar
1/2 C flour
1 1/2 sticks of room temperature butter
1 C semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 C walnuts
In a large bowl, combine the first six ingredients and then fold in 1 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips and 1 cup of walnuts.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and bake at 350-degrees until a toothpick comes out clean. (Fred’s motto is, “If you can smell it, it’s about done!”)
About Special Guest Blogger Kathy Witt
Kathy Witt is an award-winning travel and lifestyle writer who writes a monthly syndicated travel column for Tribune News Service, is a regular contributor to Kentucky Living, Georgia and Travel Goods magazines and RealFoodTraveler.com as well as other outlets like County. She is the author of several books, including Cincinnati Scavenger (Fall 2022) Secret Cincinnati andThe Secret of the Belles, Her book, Perfect Day Kentucky: Daily Itineraries for the Discerning Traveler, another travel-themed book, will be released in Fall 2023. Kathy is a member of SATW (Society of American Travel Writers), Authors Guild and the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.
I remember the first time I heard the word victuals. It was uttered by Jed Clampett—only he pronounced it as “vittles”–on that great TV series from The Beverly Hillbillies+ which ran from 1962-1971 and told the story of a family who had moved from Appalachia to, well, Beverly Hills, California. The Beverly Hillbillies, now in syndication, is televised daily around the world and the word victual, which means “food or provisions, typically as prepared for consumption” has become a go-to-term in the food world with the rise of interest in the foods of the Mountain South region of our country. The joke at the time was that the Clampett were so out-of-step with all the wonders of Beverly Hills and that included their use of the word victuals. But the joke, it seems, may have been on us as we deal with the overabundance of processed foods and yearn for authenticity in our diets. You know, like victuals,
In her book, Victuals: An Appalachian Journey, with Recipes(Clarkson Potter 2016; $16.59 Amazon price) winner of James Beard Foundation Book of The Year and Best Book, American Cooking, author Ronni Lundy showcases both the heritage and present ways of southern cookery in this part of the United States and also shares the stories of the mountain. Lundy, a former restaurant reviewer and editor of Louisville Magazine, highlights such roadways as Warrior’s Path, the name given by English settlers to the route used by the Shawnee and Cherokee traveling for trade, hunting and, at times, to prepare for battle. Describing the towns, villages and hamlets along these routes, Lundy shows how an amalgam of immigrants some willing (Scots, Germans) and some not (African) brought with them foodways and how they merged with other ethnic groups and the foods available in the region.
The author of ten books on Southern food and culture, Lundy’s book, Shuck Beans, Stack Cakes and Honest Fried Chicken, described as the first first regional American cookbook to offer a true taste of the Mountain South, was recognized by Gourmet magazine as one of six essential books on Southern cooking. Lundy also received the Southern Foodways Alliance Craig Claiborne Lifetime Achievement Award.
To gather the stories, recipes, traditions, and foodways, Lundy traveled over 4000 miles through seven states. Along the way, she did a lot of stopping and eating. Each chapter in her book delves into an identifying food of a region or its heritage–think salt, corn, corn liquor, and beans. And, in many ways, reconnecting to her own roots. Born in Corbin, Kentucky, she remembers shucking beans on her aunt’s front porch.
“They taught me how to break the end and pull the string down and break the other end and pull the string back on the bean,” Lundy says. “I would watch them thread it up on a needle and thread, and they would hang that in a dry place in the house…We developed these things, like drying beans for shuck beans, or drying our apples so that we could through the winter make apple stack cakes and fried apple pies. We’d have dried beans on hand, cure every part of the hog.”
Roasted Root Vegetable Salad with Bacon & Orange Sorghum Vinegar
“Delicious root vegetables love the cool of both spring and fall in the mountains. Gardeners love the twin harvest,” Lundy writes in the introduction to this recipe. “The root cellar is where such vegetables were stored in plenty of mountain homesteads, although some folks kept them in baskets and bins in a cool, dark place in the house. In fact, folks with larger houses might close off “the front room,” as the living room was more commonly called, to conserve on heat when the weather got cold. That room might then become an ad hoc fruit and vegetable cooler.
“My mother kept the Christmas fruit in the front room until company came, but not vegetables. We ate them too fast then—boiled, buttered, and salted or eaten raw with salt. Today I make this lovely salad first in the spring, then again as autumn splashes the hills with the colors of the carrots and beets.”
3 medium yellow beets, trimmed and scrubbed
3 medium red beets, trimmed and scrubbed
2 large carrots, cut into 1½-inch pieces
1 teaspoon olive oil
4 red radishes, thinly sliced
½ small red onion, thinly sliced and separated into rings
4 slices bacon, cooked
Orange Sorghum Vinegar (see below), to taste
Drizzle of bacon grease, to taste
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Wrap up the yellow beets in a large piece of aluminum foil. Do the same with the red beets, and place both packets on a baking sheet. Roast until the beets are tender at the center when pierced with a knife, about 1 hour.
Meanwhile, on a separate baking sheet, toss the carrot pieces with the oil. Season with a sprinkle of salt. Roast the carrots for about 25 minutes, until tender and caramelized.
When the beets come out of the oven, carefully open the packets to release the steam, and let the beets cool. Once the beets have cooled, gently rub the skins off and cut the beets into wedges.
To assemble the salad, lay the red beet wedges on the bottom of a large shallow serving bowl. Lay the roasted carrots on top, and then the yellow beet wedges. Throw in the sliced radishes and red onion. Break up the bacon slices and scatter the pieces on top. Season with salt and drizzle with the orange sorghum vinegar. Toss ever so gently. Give it a taste and determine if a drizzle of bacon grease is needed. Serve.
Orange Sorghum Vinegar
Makes ¾ cup
½ cup white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons sorghum syrup
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
Pour the vinegar into a small glass jar with a lid. Add the sorghum and shake or stir until dissolved. Add the orange juice and shake or stir to combine. Use as directed in recipes, and store any that’s left over, covered, in the refrigerator.
Sumac Oil Flatbread with Country Ham & Pickled Ramps
makes two large flatbreads (serves 4 to 6)
“In early mountain communities, one farmer might own a valuable tool or piece of equipment that was made available to family and neighbors as needed,” writes Lundy in the introduction of this recipe. “There was often a trade involved, although more frequently implicit rather than directly bartered. If you were the man with the sorghum squeezer and mule, you could expect to get a couple of quarts from your neighbors’ run. If you loaned a plow, you could count on borrowing the chains for hanging a freshly slaughtered hog. Or when your huge cast-iron pot was returned, it might come with several quarts of apple butter.
“With a little of that same sense of sharing, Lora Smith and Joe Schroeder invested in a traveling wood-fired oven for their farm at Big Switch. In their first spring back in Kentucky, it rolled over to a couple of weddings, as well as providing the main course for the Appalachian Spring feast. Joe says plans are to take it to a couple of music festivals down the line to both share and perhaps sell enough pizzas to pay the gate.
“Music makes a good metaphor for what happens in this recipe. Lora adapted a fine flatbread recipe from acclaimed chef and baker Nick Malgieri for the crust, then added some local color. In the way that European mandolins and violins were transformed by new rhythms and melodies into something purely mountain, the use of sumac-scented olive oil, tangy country ham, and pungent pickled ramps makes this a dish that tastes distinctly of its Kentucky place.
“If you have access to a wood-fired oven, bake away there according to how yours works. The directions here are for a home oven.
“The flatbread slices are even better when topped with a handful of arugula, mâche, or another bright, bitter green that has been drizzled with Orange Sorghum Vinegar (see recipe above).”
2 cups all-purpose flour
⅔ cup stone-ground yellow cornmeal, plus extra for rolling the dough
½ tablespoon salt
2½ teaspoons (1 envelope) active dry yeast
1 cup warm water (110°F)
¼ cup olive oil, plus more for greasing the bowl
6 ounces country ham, sliced about ¼ inch thick and cut into bite-sized pieces
¾ cup Will Dissen’s Pickled Ramps (page 000), at room temperature
¼ cup Sumac Oil (recipe follows)
Combine the flour, cornmeal, and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Pulse a few times to mix.
Combine the yeast with ¾ cup of the warm water in a medium bowl. Whisk in the olive oil. Add this mixture to the food processor and pulse to combine; then let the processor run continuously for about 10 seconds, or until the dough forms a ball. You may need to add up to another ¼ cup of the warm water at this point if your dough is not coming together.
Transfer the dough to a large, lightly oiled bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow the dough to rest for 20 minutes.
Move the rested dough to a floured work surface and flatten into a thick disk, then fold the dough over on itself. Do this several times. Return the folded dough to the oiled mixing bowl (you might have to oil it again first). Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Set oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat it to 350°F.
Sprinkle a floured work surface with a little cornmeal. Transfer the risen dough to the surface and divide it in half. Working with one piece of dough at a time, gently press it into a rough rectangle. Roll the dough out as thin as possible, aiming for a roughly 10 × 15-inch rectangle. Transfer the dough to a prepared baking sheet. Repeat the process with second half of the dough.
Pierce the dough all over at 1-inch intervals with the tines of a fork. Divide the country ham evenly between the two portions of dough.
Bake the flatbreads until golden and crisp, 20 to 30 minutes, switching the baking sheets’ positions about halfway through cooking.
Remove to racks and let cool slightly. Divide the ramps and sumac oil evenly between the flatbreads, and serve.
sumac oil makes about ¹⁄³ cup
Native people gathered the crimson berries of the sumac plant (not the noxious, poisonous white-berried variety, of course) to dry and grind them into a powder that gave a delicious lemony flavor to fish cooked over an open fire. They and the settlers who followed also used the sumac to make a drink akin to lemonade. You don’t have to gather berries and make your own; you can buy good-quality ground sumac at almost any Mediterranean or Middle Eastern market and some natural foods stores.
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoons ground sumac
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sweet Hungarian paprika
Whisk all the ingredients together in a small bowl. Use immediately.
Slow Cooker–Roasted Pork Shoulder
“Thrifty homesteaders knew how to cook all cuts of the hogs that were slaughtered in the winter,” writes Lundy. “The shoulder, slow-roasted with fat and bone, produced a richly textured, deeply flavored meat worth smacking your lips for. Modern mountain cooks use the slow cooker to create the same effect that roasting in a woodstove, kept going all day for heat as well as cooking, once provided.
“I buy pork from one of several producers in my neck of the Blue Ridge who pasture their pigs and process them humanely. They also tend to raise heritage pigs that naturally come with more fat, and the cuts I favor reflect that. The last roast I cooked like this weighed about 3½ pounds at the market with a top fat layer about an inch deep. I trimmed that fat to ½ inch and the roast was then about 3 pounds.”
½ tablespoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 3-pound pork shoulder or butt, bone-in
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon sorghum syrup
1 small yellow onion
1 tablespoon cornstarch
Rub the salt and pepper into all sides of the roast, including the top fat. Place a heavy skillet over high heat and as it is warming up, place the roast in the skillet, fat side down. The heat will render enough fat for browning the rest of the roast without sticking. When there is enough fat to coat the bottom of the pan well and the fat on the roast is turning golden brown, flip the roast over and brown the next side.
Brown all sides of the roast. This may entail using tongs to hold the roast to brown the short edges, but it only takes a minute or so and is worth it since it will intensify the flavor. You may also need to spoon some of the rendered fat out of the skillet as you are browning—the point is to sear the meat, not deep-fry it.
When the roast is browned all over, place it in a slow cooker. Carefully pour off the grease from the skillet. Add ½ cup of water to the skillet and deglaze it. Remove the skillet from the heat and add the vinegar and sorghum, stirring to dissolve the syrup. Pour this mixture into the slow cooker.
Peel the onion, quarter it, and break apart the sections. Scatter the pieces around the edge of the roast in the pot. Cover, and cook on the high setting for 30 minutes. Then turn to low and cook for 4 hours.
The pork roast will be well done but meltingly tender when the inner temperature is 165°F. Remove it from the pot and allow it to rest under a tent of foil while you make the sauce.
Strain the pan juices to remove the onion pieces. Degrease the juices and pour them into a small pot set over medium-high heat. In a small bowl, whisk the cornstarch with ½ cup of water to form a slurry. When the juices in the pot begin to bubble, whisk in the cornstarch slurry. Continue to whisk as the mixture bubbles for about a minute and thickens. Remove from the heat.
To carve the roast, begin on the side away from the bone to yield larger, uniform pieces. Pass the sauce on the side.
Buttermilk–Brown Sugar Pie
“Pies were the Mother of Invention because necessity required that they be made from whatever was on hand. In the summer there was no dearth of fruit that could be gathered—often by small children who would eagerly do the work for just reward later.,” writes Lundy. “In the winter dried apples, peaches, and squash could be simmered into a filling for the hand or fried pies beloved in the region. Vinegar pie was as tasty as, and easier to come by, than one made with lemon, and apple cider could be boiled to make a tart and tangy filling. Buttermilk was enough to turn a simple custard filling into a more complex delight. And using cornmeal as the thickener in these simple pies added character as well as flavor.
“My cousin Michael Fuson introduced me to brown sugar pie. It was his favorite, he told my mother when his family moved from Corbin to Louisville and he began spending time in her kitchen. “Well, honey, then I’ll make you one,” she said. That my mother could make brown sugar pie was news to me. Mike was as generous as a homesick teenaged boy could be and allowed me an ample slice before consuming the rest on his own. It was, I thought, one of the loveliest things I’d ever eaten. But then I made a version of my own with buttermilk instead of cream, and the sum of these two pie parts was greater than the whole of all pies put together.”
Makes one 9-inch pie
Single unbaked pie crust (use your favorite recipe or 1/4 batch of Emily Hilliard’s Pie Crust below)
1 1/2 cups (packed) light brown sugar
1/4 cup very finely ground cornmeal*
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs, at room temperature
4 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
3/4 cup whole buttermilk, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place the crust in a 9-inch pie pan and refrigerate it while making the filling.
In a medium bowl, combine the brown sugar, cornmeal, and salt. In a large bowl, beat the eggs until frothy. Beat in the melted butter. Add the dry mixture and stir vigorously until the brown sugar is dissolved. Add the buttermilk and vanilla. When all is well combined, pour the mixture into the pie crust and bake for 45 minutes, or until the center is set (no longer liquid, but still tender to the touch).
Allow the pie to cool until just barely warm before slicing. I like to drizzle about 1/2 tablespoon of buttermilk over my slice.
Whisk the flour, sugar, and salt together in a large mixing bowl. Using a pastry blender or fork and knife, cut in the butter. Make sure pea-sized butter chunks remain to help keep the crust flaky.
Lightly beat the egg in a medium-sized bowl. Whisk in the ice-cold water and the vinegar.
Pour the liquid mixture into the flour-butter mixture and combine using a wooden spoon. Mix until the dough comes together in a shaggy mass. Be careful not to overmix. Use floured hands to divide the dough in half and then form into 2 balls. Wrap each ball tightly in plastic wrap. Let them chill in refrigerator for at least 1 hour before rolling out.
Note: if you cut this recipe in half, it will work for a two-crust pie.
When my daughter was in high school, I drove her and a friend down to Gulf Shores, Alabama for spring break. While we were there, a friend insisted we go to Lucy Buffet’s Lulu’s Gulf Shores, a bayside beach restaurant. I was pretty sure, no make that positive, that this would be some kind of not-so-good-but-my-brother-Jimmy-is-a-major-celebrity type of place. The good thing, I thought when we sat down in the very crowded main dining room was that we could see dolphins frolicking out in the water from our screened in, over-sized window. That would make the bad food worth it.
Okay, so I totally misjudged what Lulu’s was all about. The food was delicious, whatever was fried was done just right—not greasy or heavy—and there were plenty of other options on the menu that were delicious like the crab melt, Crazy Sista’s Juicy Pot Roast Sandwich (yes, indeed, pot roast), gumbo, Lulu’s Jerk Chicken Quesadillas and, of course, this being the south, fried okra and fried hushpuppies (both of which were wonderful). I was given a copy of her cookbook, Crazy Sista Cooking: Cuisine & Conversation with Lucy Anne Buffet (Grand Central Life & Style) that included a foreword by brother Jimmy. Crazy Sista is Lucy Anne’s nickname. Now Buffet also has restaurants in Destin, Florida and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and several other cookbooks including LuLu’s Kitchen: A Taste of the Gulf Coast Good Life andGumbo Love: Recipes for Gulf Coast Cooking, Entertaining, and Savoring the Good Life.Many of the zippy recipes are the same with new ones added. For the fried oyster recipe Dave requested, I included Mama’s Favorite Oyster Loaf. Instead of oysters, you can use fried shrimp or even fried veggies instead.
The recipe calls for making a lot of the ingredients such as her Sweet and Sassy Icebox Pickles and Lulu’s Crazy Frying Cornmeal. I’ve included those recipes, thinking you can plop the pickles in the refrigerator and eat them at other times and save the left over cornmeal mix as well. But if you’re in a hurry, feeling lazy or just want to make it simple, you can just find comparable ingredients at the grocery store. And since it’s good to have an accompaniment, I’ve included Lulu’s recipe for Sweet Tomato Pie.
4 (8-inch) New Orleans-style French bread or 1 baguette, cut into four pieces
2 to 3 tablespoons butter, softened
Mayonnaise to taste
2 medium tomatoes, sliced
Sweet and Sassy Icebox Pickle slices (recipe below)
Hot Pepper Sauce
Preheat oven to 200 degrees.
Fried oysters (see recipe below)
Preheat oven to 200 degrees.
Fry oysters in batches and place cooked oysters in oven to keep warm.
Slice bread horizontally, about three-fourths of the way through, leaving one edge intact.
Spear a little butter on inside surface of French bread and toast. I like to place mine face-down on a warm skillet or grill.
Spread mayonnaise on toasted read.
Layer lettuce, tomato slices and pickles on bottom side of the bread. Top with fried oysters, using about eight oysters per sandwich.
Add a few dashes of hot sauce to taste.
Cut into halves or quarters depending upon the bread you’re using and serve.
Sweet and Sassy Icebox Pickles
1 (1-gal.) jar whole kosher dill pickles, drained, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
4 cups granulated sugar
4 cups packed light brown sugar
1 cup apple cider vinegar
2/3 cup peeled, halved, and sliced fresh ginger
1/4 cup prepared horseradish
1 tablespoon crushed red pepper
1 tablespoon mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
4 medium-size yellow onions, thinly sliced
20 garlic cloves, sliced in half lengthwise
8 cinnamon sticks
Place all the ingredients in a big ol’ stainless steel bowl or large plastic food-safe container with an airtight lid. Using your hands, toss well. Cover and chill overnight. The pickles will reduce in volume, so the next day you can place in a very large jar or several small airtight containers for easier storage.
Refrigerate at least 1 week before using, turning topsy-turvy every day. Pickles are ready when sugar has dissolved and all dill flavor has vanished. Store in refrigerator up to 3 weeks.
Perfect Fried Oysters
Make Lulu’s Crazy Crying Cornmeal (recipe below) or use regular cornmeal.
6 cups peanut oil or enough to fill a skillet, about 2 inches deep
1 quart oysters, drained
Heat oil in cast iron skillet to 355 degrees or heat until a little flour flicked into the oil sizzles
Taking a few oysters at a time, dredge through cornmeal mixture coating thoroughly.
Gently drop into hot oil. Fry until golden brown turning once or until they float to the top. Drain on paper towels and serve immediately.
Lulu’s Crazy Frying Cornmeal
2 cups all-purpose white cornmeal
2 tablespoons Creole seasoning
1 tablespoon black pepper
½ teaspoon salt
Combine all ingredients and mix well.
Sweet Tomato Pie
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Pastry for 1 pie crust
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon sugar
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 tablespoon sour cream
1 tablespoon honey mustard
1 cup shredded Parmesan
4 green onions, including the green part, cut into 2-inch pieces
4 large red tomatoes, in 1/4-inch slices
1/2 teaspoon each kosher salt and coarsely ground black pepper
1/2 cup fresh basil, cut in ribbons
2 cups shredded Gruyere or Swiss cheese
Heat oven to 450 degrees. Sprinkle flour over work surface and roll pastry dough to fit a 7-by-11-inch baking dish, making sure dough comes up the sides of the dish. Poke bottom of crust with a fork in several places. Bake for 9 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Let cool. Reduce oven temperature to 400 degrees.
In a cast iron or heavy skillet, heat butter and olive oil over medium heat. Add onions and sugar; sauté until onions are very brown and caramelized. Add garlic and stir constantly for 1 to 2 minutes or until garlic is cooked through and tender. Remove onions and garlic from skillet and let cool.
Using a food processor, process cream cheese, mayonnaise, cream, sour cream, mustard, Parmesan and green onions until well mixed.
In the cooled pie crust, layer half the onions, cream cheese mixture, sliced tomatoes, salt, pepper, basil and Gruyere. Repeat. Bake for 35 minutes or until pie is bubbling and top is browned. Cool for 15 to 20 minutes before slicing.
Serves 4 to 6
1 (750-milliliter) bottle Pinot Gris or any other crisp light white wine
1/2 cup peach-flavored vodka
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 fresh pineapple, chopped into cubes
1/2 lemon, cut into wedges
2 fresh strawberries, chopped
1/2 mango, chopped into cubes
1 (8-ounce) can ginger ale
In a very large pitcher, combine the wine, vodka, sugar, and fruit. Stir well. Let the ingredients steep in the fridge for 2 to 24 hours (the longer, the better).
Add the ginger ale and ice cubes about 30 minutes before serving.
Place a strainer over the mouth of the pitcher and pour to order. Garnish with any leftover fruit, such as more of the pineapple, lemon, strawberries, and mango.