On Cooking Southern: Easy Shortcuts Make Tasty Last-Minute Tailgate Fare

SOUTHERNISM OF THE WEEK

A bubble off plumb: What the world is like right now in the wake of natural disasters and human interference with the natural order of things.


Hallelujah! Summer is finally gone with the wind that blew in this past week.

I, for one, am ready for the cooler weather which is always a signal that we’re in the midst of football season. Let’s face it, after weeks of hurricanes and floods and tornadoes and global conflict, we’re all in the mood for some old-fashioned hometown football. And for some of us, it’s all about the tailgating. After all, adversity is more tolerable when diluted with football and food and friends and family.

My fledglings are returning briefly to the nest for the Rebel-Tiger matchup in Oxford. Our Grove tent will be garnished with both Ole Miss and LSU banners. There might even be some upholstered “lawn furniture” at our tent in homage to family members from the Bayou, bless their hearts. A second-generation mixed household, we have learned to embrace the strong streak of tacky running through our comingled veins. We’ll also be flashing red, blue, purple and gold Christmas lights from the balcony at the house.

My freezer is already stocked with lemon squares, salted caramel brownies, chocolate no-bake cookies, spinach dip and other goodies. A hoarded free-range turkey from Zion Farms is headed for the gumbo pot.

And I’m washing and prepping my 4- and 8-ounce Mason jars to fill ‘em up with individual fruit pies. We’ll also be serving soft cheeses and crackers with homemade sweet pepper relish, and smoked turkey mini-biscuits drizzled with homemade fig and mandarin orange marmalade.

Laissez les bon temps rouler, and Hotty Toddy to us all. 


FIG AND MANDARIN MARMALADE

My fig tree, purchased at Mid-Town Market a few years ago, finally put on enough figs to survive the raccoons and possums this year. What a treat!

12-15 fresh figs, quartered
1-1/2 c white granulated sugar
2 mandarin oranges, peeled and segments separated
Juice of 1 lemon
2 T water

Place figs and oranges in medium saucepan and lightly crush with a potato masher. Add sugar, lemon juice and water and bring to a low boil on medium heat, stirring to break up the fruit. Simmer about 20 minutes, stirring frequently, until liquid reduces by a third and mixture begins to thicken slightly.

Ladle hot mixture into sterilized canning jars, filling to 1/8-inch below lip. Seal with hot, new lids and rings. Simmer covered by an inch of water in a hot water bath for 15 minutes. Remove to a rack to cool. The lids should pop when they form the seal. Makes up to 2 jars. If mixture doesn’t completely fill the second jar, refrigerate it and use fresh for up to 2 weeks.


MINI SMOKED TURKEY BISCUITS

6-oz pkg of Deli style Swiss cheese (8 slices/pkg)
Fig & Mandarin Marmalade
Smoked turkey leg meat
Durkee’s Sauce (a Memphis MUST for turkey)
2-inch mini biscuits

After 45 years, I have conceded that Southern Biscuit Flour Formula L biscuit mix beats homemade and other mixes for flavor AND timeliness. Go ahead and give in; the mix is sold at Walmart, but often is sold out. Drizzle the biscuits with melted butter as soon as they come out of the oven. Cut the Swiss cheese into 28 circles using the biscuit cutter. Reserve remaining cheese for future use.

Slice the biscuits while warm and slather one side with Durkee’s. Position Swiss cheese circle over the Durkee’s. Slather about a teaspoon of marmalade on the other biscuit half and layer with turkey. Press together and serve immediately or refrigerate or freeze until ready to serve. Warm slightly after refrigeration.


CANNING JAR FRUIT PIES

Use half-pint jars if baking to serve immediately, or 8-ounce jelly jars filled to 1 inch below the lip if freezing, unbaked, for later use. If using homemade or canned cooked filling, simply ladle the filling into the crust-lined jar. For blueberry, I do not make up my own scratch filling — I mix a cup of fresh blueberries into the filling to make it thicker. This recipe makes up about 6 jar pies.

Wide-mouth half-pint jars
2 refrigerator pie crusts of choice
Fruit filling of choice

Cooked Apple Filling:
1 tsp cornstarch dissolved in 1 tsp water
1 stick butter
1 bag (6-7) Sweet Tango apples
1 c white granulated sugar
1 T cinnamon
1/4 c water

Cooked Peach Filling:
1 tsp cornstarch dissolved in 1 tsp water
1/2 to 3/4 stick butter
1 qt frozen, or 2 qt fresh peaches
White granulated sugar to taste (at least 1 c)
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/8 tsp almond extract, optional

Dissolve the cornstarch in water in a cup and reserve. Melt butter in a medium saucepan and add the fruit, sugar and other seasoning ingredients. Cook on a low boil, stirring, until liquid reduces by almost half and fruit softens and blends.  Stir in dissolved cornstarch and simmer another 5 minutes to thicken. Remove from heat to cool.

Lightly roll out 1 circle of dough between sheets of waxed paper. Use a pizza wheel to cut strips or making pie-top lattice, or use a jar lid to cut out circles for tops of the pies.

Lightly roll out the second pie crust and use pizza wheel to cut into pie wedges (about 8 or 10. Line each jar with the wedges, overlapping as needed. Press the wedges together in ungreased jar, up to about one-fourth-inch below the jar lip. Each crust will make up approximately 5-6 jars.

Ladle filling into crust-lined jar, spiking gently to remove air bubbles. Fill to one inch below top of the jar. Top with dough circle or lattice strips. Use tines of fork to crimp the edges against the top of the jar. Pierce circle tops with knife to vent steam and embellish with additional dough cutouts such as leaf shapes. Brush dough tops with egg wash (egg beaten with a small amount of water). Sprinkle with sugar while wet.

Mini-pies may be sealed (jar lids screwed on tight) and frozen at this point, for baking at a later date.

To bake: Preheat oven to 375˚F. Place jars on cookie sheet and bake on center rack for about 45 minutes, until crust is browned and center is bubbling. To bake from frozen, place jars on cookie sheet and put on center rack of a cold oven set to 375˚F. Bake about 50-60 minutes.


Laurie Triplette is a writer, historian and accredited appraiser of fine arts, dedicated to preserving Southern culture and foodways. Author of the award-winning community family cookbook GIMME SOME SUGAR, DARLIN’, and editor of ZEBRA TALES (Tailgating Recipes from the Ladies of the NFLRA), Triplette is a member of the Association of Food Journalists, Southern Foodways Alliance and the Southern Food and Beverage Museum. Check out the GIMME SOME SUGAR, DARLIN’ website and follow Laurie’s food adventures on Facebook and Twitter.

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