Last year, when delving into the history of holiday carols, I found myself asking a question that I’ve wondered about since my youth: What exactly is figgy pudding?
The traditional English dessert is mentioned several times in the popular carol “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” (Now bring us some figgy pudding and bring it right here), referring to the caroling traditions of 16th century England where Christmas treats and drinks were given to carolers by wealthy well-wishers as a thank you for the songs. Often, these treats included puddings.
After a bit of research, I discovered that figgy pudding is actually more cake-like in form. It is similar to modern-day Christmas puddings and plum puddings, and—like it or not—is a cousin to the unjustly maligned fruitcake. But, don’t let that keep you from trying this delicious, boozy dessert. (Yes, classic figgy pudding includes a good dose of rum and brandy—perfect for warming chilly carolers.)
Thanksgiving is a holiday rich with memories, traditions, and foods we only eat this time of year. For about two days leading up to Thanksgiving dinner, I can guarantee that there is nearly always something either going into or coming out of my oven, and aromas both sweet and savory waft throughout the house.
Our friends at Local Palate share a love of food and storytelling through their magazine, recipes, and blog (look for more on their revamped website and a Q&A in the coming weeks). You can find quite a few delicious seasonal recipes in their catalogue (conveniently sorted by holiday), including this offering from North Carolina-based chef Vivian Howard.
“This combination of turkey, cranberry, pecan, and sorghum, will make you hide your gravy boat for a year or two. All joking aside, these components, when paired with a green bean dish and side of sweet potatoes, would compose a perfectly balanced Thanksgiving plate all by themselves. And if turkey’s not your thing, this profile works beautifully with chicken, ham, or duck.” – Chef Vivian Howard
BUTTERY TURKEY WITH WARM SORGHUM VINAIGRETTE and CITRUS SWEET POTATOES WITH PECAN CRANBERRY RELISH
–From Chef Vivian Howard of Chef & the Farmer in Kinston, North Carolina, star of the PBS show A Chef’s Life, and featured on the November 2014 cover of The Local Palate magazine
This post originally ran on November 12, 2011. I’m making the pie again today for our guests who will arrive in the coming days.
Happy Thanksgiving week…we’ve got lots to be thankful for.
My daughter Maggie has been decorating the house for Thanksgiving this last week. In fact, she went directly from Halloween to a strange mixture of Thanksgiving and Christmas rolled into one. (Yes, our holiday tree us up and mostly decorated.) All this festiveness—along with the sound of too loud holiday music and too many left-over pumpkins—has moved us directly from unicorn costumes to Thanksgiving delights.
My friend Stacy orders tamales from Texas to celebrate the holidays. I have an uncle that believes pilgrims would have preferred steaks and potatoes so he spends the day grilling. At the farm, we eat a load of Gulf seafood in Low-Country Boil style off of a wooden board across the tailgate of the truck. I am also somewhat of a traditionalist at heart and delight in the staples—no Thanksgiving comes without dressing. (Gulf Shrimp + Dressing—you don’t know what you are missing until you have tried it!) However, despite the fact that most consider it a staple, I’ve never been one to put a pumpkin pie on my holiday table. I actually have always had a strong dislike for the most revered of Thanksgiving desserts. Then, I tried this recipe.
We have reached that time of the year when, even in Alabama, we have to accept that winter has arrived. While there are many things to celebrate during colder months, the early frosts are the hardest to embrace. So, we were excited when guest contributor Jesse Goldstein offered up a bit of a tropical concoction for this month’s cocktail post. Enjoy:
Although I hesitate to admit it, I once thought of Curaçao as the blue stuff that went into supposed “fancy” drinks. Of course, this was in my early college years back when I felt very grown up ordering Rum and Coke. What I’ve learned over the years is that Curaçao isn’t always blue, has an amazing history, and, when made properly, is worthy of even the most discerning palate.
This month, we offer our second installment on creative cocktails from Jesse Goldstein on the often overlooked of beauty lavender as a flavor. Hopefully you will be inspired to experiment with your own infusions to create spirits with complex, but delicious, flavors.
While the idea of infusing herbs and botanicals into spirits may seem to be more popular these days than taking a “selfie”, the practice is nothing new. Take Chartreuse for example: infused with more than 130 botanicals, Chartreuse has been made by the Carthusian Monks in the French Alps since 1737. But just because infusing is an old idea does not mean that we can’t continue to interpret (and reinterpret) the process to create flavors that are fresh, modern and, most importantly, breathtakingly delicious.
The flavor of lavender has never really caught on in this country, though for centuries it has been used around the world as an herb and condiment. (Please watch Juliette of the Herbs.) While it often finds its way into an abundance of scented candles, lotions, and soaps, all too rarely does it find a home in our food and drinks.
Today we welcome Jesse Goldstein, one of Nashville, Tennessee’s resident cocktail experts, as a regular contributor to our Journal. Jesse will be sharing stories of Southern culture and the spirits that surround it. Look for a cocktail recipe each month—including traditional mixed drinks and their modern interpretations.
One of my favorite things as a kid was going to the local volunteer fire department potluck suppers with my family. The quilt-covered folding tables were loaded with all sorts of casseroles, gelatin-based “salads”, and sweets that I would never get to eat the like of at home. One of my ultimate treats was what most people in the South like to call “church punch.” This version was made with a combination of ginger ale, pineapple juice, and sherbet and was like drinking pure sugar from the little waxed paper cup. I remember pretending not to love it for my parents’ sake but secretly savoring every sip of the sugary nectar.
Luckily our tastes change as we grow older. These days I prefer my salads without colored gelatin and cringe at the thought of how sweet that punch was. But there is something wonderful about the convivial aspect of a big bowl of punch and there’s no reason it can’t be brought forward to today with a recipe you would be proud to serve—to adults, that is.
Punch has an incredible history that goes back hundreds of years. Long before the invention of the cocktail, spirits were consumed socially in the form of punch. Made in large batches, punches were ideal for celebrations of all sorts. Times have changed, but punches still have a place at a party. All my friends know I’m a big fan of cocktails, but I personally prefer making punches when I’m entertaining. A good batch of punch takes time, effort, and the investment of good spirits that good friends are worthy of.
It takes a special kind of food to require it’s own specific food transportation system. Anyone who has ever attempted to serve – and certainly travel with – deviled eggs knows that eggs resting on an ordinary plate will end up smashed, flattened, or in the floor. I personally have at least 3 different deviled egg plates – one plastic, one ceramic, and a “fancy” glass one for special events. As a child, I would rush to the buffet table at every church dinner to get the biggest egg. As an adult, I ration out only one on my Thanksgiving dinner plate, but have been known to sneak extras when no one is looking.
My grandmother’s were always my favorite growing up, perhaps because they were made with dill pickle relish and an extra spoonful of mayonnaise. I avoided my aunt’s because she made her eggs with sweet pickles, which I strongly disliked. Our neighbor (who called them “angel eggs” to avoid association with wickedness) topped her eggs with paprika, which seemed elegant, colorful, and exciting. But—at heart—the deviled egg itself is not particularly fancy and has many incarnations. These days, I like them all.
The basic deviled egg is hard boiled, shelled, and halved. Each half is filled with a scoop of the hard-boiled yolk mixed with ingredients like mayonnaise, mustard, and pickle relish and served cold. Each family seems to have their own variation that might include vinegar, paprika, chili powder, or even kimchi or Sriracha chili sauce.
The last day of summer is officially September 22nd, but Maggie started back to school weeks ago. As the long days wind down, we must begrudgingly say farewell to peach season. This year, I found myself with an abundance of peaches throughout the summer. Whenever I swiped the last one from the counter to eat in my oatmeal, another batch would show up on my doorstep. Into the house that bag would come. The moment of anticipation and joy of standing over the kitchen sink—house perfectly silent—and biting into the soft flesh, savoring the moment as juice runs down my arm…for me, this is the essence of summer.
All peach lovers know that peaches develop their sweetness and flavor while on the tree. Once they are picked, they just get softer and juicier. Stay away from peaches that are firm and look for those who yield slightly to gentle pressure. To test firmness, don’t poke the fruit with your fingertip; hold the peach in your whole hand and squeeze gently. Peaches that are green around the stem are not yet ripe; shriveled skin means the fruit is too old. The best test for a peach’s flavor is its smell; a peach will taste almost exactly how it smells.
You can store firm peaches at room temperature. Once they begin to turn soft, put them in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator and plan to eat them soon. If you find yourself with too many peaches, you can freeze them (peeled and sliced) and keep them for up to 6 months.
James Beard award-winning chef and restaurateur Anne Quatrano is enthusiastic about food and community—passions I admire and write about often here on our Journal. Around her home-base of Atlanta, Georgia, she is referred to “Queen Anne” and is the city’s “undisputed Grande dame” of the farm-to-table movement according to The Local Palate. It makes sense; Anne owns and operates six of Atlanta’s most celebrated restaurants, including: Bacchanalia, Quinones at Bacchanalia, Star Provisions, Provisions To Go, Floataway Café, and Abbattoir.
Anne was raised in Connecticut and attended culinary school in California, where she met her husband and business partner, Clifford Harrison. After school, they relocated to the East Coast, but decided to journey to the South in the early 1990s. Anne had family from Georgia, and Atlanta seemed like the perfect Southern city to make their home-base, as it was becoming a cultural and culinary hub at the time. Although they work in Atlanta, they live on Summerland Farm near Cartersville, Georgia, a property that has been owned by Quatrano’s family for five generations. Anne makes the 80-mile roundtrip to commute to Atlanta every day, because she “can’t imagine living anywhere else.” Summerland is where she and Clifford grow and source food, host gatherings, and delve into true Southern hospitality.
Much to our delight, Anne has released a book of recipes celebrating the South, sustainable food, and life on the farm. Summerland: Recipes for Celebrating Southern Hospitality focuses on eating seasonally, and each chapter is associated with a specific month, kicking off with September—perfect timing. I’m looking forward to trying her October cocktail, the Mint Julep. Anne notes that “many people think of the mint julep as a spring or summer drink, associated in particular with the Kentucky Derby. But the brightness of the mint with the warmth of the bourbon is just as appropriate for the fall.”
A few months ago, I spent a couple of days with friends at Gray Bear Lodge in Hohenwald, Tennessee. While there—in addition to the yoga sessions, sauna time, tub soaks, and hikes—I was treated to a (mini) juice cleanse for a few days. And though I recommend consulting your doctor before embarking on your own juice cleanses, I must say that I walked away from the experience feeling healthy and refreshed.
I returned from my trip, bought a juicer the next day, and it has changed my life. Diann from Gray Bear walked me through the juicing regimen which always seemed a bit complicated and demanding for me. She taught me to: simplify, use ingredients that I like, experiment with combinations, and taste as I go to come up with an array of variations. “Plus,” she says, “once you have the raw ingredients on hand (and the juicer out and running) make enough for a few days.” While that might not be as good as juicing and drinking right away, this is real life, right?
After a few weeks, I also discovered that these fresh fruit and vegetable juices also lend themselves to delicious cocktails. (However, it should be noted that fresh juice cocktails don’t maintain all of the health benefits of fresh juice alone.) During Vivian Howard’s recent dinner at The Factory, we used my juicer to create the Cucumber Ginger Limeade cocktail that opened the evening. Since the dinner, there have been several requests for the recipe. Break out your juicer (but juice—and drink—responsibly).