Diane C. McPhail’s Southern Menu for Your Book Club Meeting
- Salted pecans (homemade—so easy)
- Finger sandwiches
- Pimento cheese
- Egg and olive (just add chopped olives to your egg salad)
- Big Mama’s Bread & Butter Pickles (see recipe)
- Fresh fruit and berry mélange
- Rice Pudding (see recipe) or shortbread cookies topped with fig preserves
- Sweet tea with LOTS of lemon
Big Mama’s Bread & Butter Pickles
A Note from Diane C. McPhail: My Big Mama learned this from her mother, who is Emily in my novel. Nothing in the store comes close!
- 12 t o15 sliced pickling cucumbers
- 3to 4 regular onions (depending on size), sliced thin
- ¼ cup coarse salt
- 2 to 2½ cups cider vinegar
- 2 to 2½ cups ordinary sugar
- ½ to ¾ teaspoon turmeric
- ½ teaspoon approximately celery seed (may use a bit less)
- 1 tablespoon approximately mustard seed
- Combine sliced cucumbers, onions, and salt.
- Cover with 4 cups of cracked ice.
- Put a weight on top. You can use a plate that fits down in the container and set a gallon jug of anything on top.
- Let stand for about 3 hours.
- Rinse and drain.
- In a large pot, combine vinegar, sugar, turmeric, celery and mustard seed. Then add the cucumber and onion mix.
- Bring to an almost boil, but do not let come to full boil.
- Spoon into thoroughly clean washed-and-dried jars, and seal.
- On a cookie sheet or large baking pan, put sealed jars in oven at 225 degrees. Leave for about 15 minutes.
- Turn off oven and allow pickle jars to cool in the oven before storing. Store in cabinet or refrigerator.
A Note from Diane C. McPhail: Big Mama’s readjusted recipe. Chicken plays a critical role in Emily’s story in The Abolitionist’s Daughter. I doubt she had time to make it quite this way, but she did love buttermilk. My Big Mama could fry chicken! In fact, she could do almost anything and did. Her recipe called for those basic ingredients in the first section below. I have added some of my own favorite seasonings in the second section.
- Whole chicken, cut up
- Garlic salt
- Plain flour
- My additions:
- • Mixed seasoning salt
- • Dried rosemary
- • Willie’s Hog Dust seasoning
- Cut the chicken into regular pieces. The tips of the wings can be removed to make little drumsticks. It is helpful to cut each breast in half, as it makes for a more manageable size that will cook more evenly with the other pieces.
- Sprinkle pieces with all spices and toss evenly. My mama did this in a paper bag. She also did not measure spices. It was “a pinch of this and smidge of that.” Suit yourself!
- In a large bowl, pour buttermilk (Big Mama churned her own) over the chicken and turn the pieces to make sure each one is thoroughly covered.
- Let sit refrigerated (Big Mama had on old-time icebox) for 4 to 6 hours or overnight.
- Again in paper bag (do you even have one?), mix generous amount of regular flour with another smidge and pinch of the spices as desired. Shake each piece in the flour until coated and set aside.
- You can choose how you fry the chicken. In a large skillet with about an inch and a half of oil, turning the chicken as it cooks, or with deep oil in a pot large and deep enough to hold all the pieces submerged. Either method, cooking time will be about 20 to 25 minutes.
- Remove to drain and cool about 5 minutes. Call your crew to the table. Be prepared for rapid disappearance of the chicken and requests for how soon you can fix this again!!
A Note from Diane C. McPhail: This soup is served in one of the scenes in The Abolitionist’s Daughter. My aunt Bernice learned this from her mama back in Webster County. I loved it growing up.
- Corn, maybe 4 to 5 ears, shucked
- Green onions, washed, optional
- Water to cover
- A couple of smoked ham hocks
- 2 to 3 carrots cut up
- 4 to 5 stalks of celery chopped
- A few sprigs of parsley
- Garlic to taste, chopped
- Chopped green onions to taste
- Chopped bell pepper, red or green
- A couple of pounds of fresh tomatoes, peeled, seeded, chopped
- 1 bay leaf
- Cut kernels from corncobs, then scrape the cob to “milk” it and save all juices.
- In a large pot, cover corn cobs and onions with water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer about an hour.
- Remove from heat and let cool until you can remove the cobs and squeeze the residue down into the broth.
- Next add the ham hocks and all the other ingreidents, and anything else you typically like to throw in your soup!
- Bring to boil, then reduce heat. Cover and simmer for about 2 hours. Skim off any fat. Serve with cornbread and enjoy!
- 1½ cups cooked rice (just use your leftovers!)
- 2 cups milk, divided
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 egg beaten
- ⅓ cup of white sugar
- 1 to 1½ tablespoons real butter
- ½ teaspoon vanilla
- Combine rice, 1½ cups milk, and salt. Cook and stir in saucepan over medium heat for 15 to 20 minutes until thick and creamy.
- Add rest of milk, beaten egg, and sugar, stirring continuously.
- Continue stirring another couple of minutes until egg is set.
- Remove from stove and stir in butter and vanilla.
- Serve sprinkled with nutmeg.