Great Southern Cookbooks, Part Two–Real Cajun, by Donald Link (2009)

Real Food for Real People

There is only one thing to not like about this book, and that is I wish it was ten times longer. When you keep going back to the same cookbook over and over, you know it’s good. The “home cooking” part is the key here–these are recipes to use everyday.

Link has won a James Beard award, so home cooking may sound like an odd subject for such an accomplished chef. However, that is his strong suit, in that he cooks real authentic Louisiana food. He grew up in the region where people are comically referred to as “Coonasses,” as he notes in the book, which is a regional term for Cajuns.

The recipes? My favorites are the Chicken and Rice Soup, the Hush Puppies, the Hot Pepper Jelly, and the classic Cajun sausage, the Boudin. Cajun Boudin is mostly rice with liver and pork, but it is incredibly tasty. A Cajun seven course meal is said to consist of a Boudin, and a six pack of beer.

Strangely enough, Link is not of mainly French descent, but from German and regular Southern folks. That there are Cajuns of German descent is a surprise to many people from outside the South. And yes, those are the classic Cajun spices of Paprika and Cayenne pepper in the picture.

Germany's Most Beautiful Cow Is Dead

Sad news from Deutsche Welle, the Voice of Germany. The German cow who won more cow beauty pageants than any other, is dead at the age of thirteen. She actually won more than twenty bovine beauty contests, and was named “Lady Gaga.” I wish I could make this up.

Worse than that, this Holstein was born in France.

Cranberry Sauce with Pumpkin Pie Spice

How it Starts

Here’s what you do with that pumpkin pie spice that’s been in the spice cabinet for two years, other than poisoning a good cup of coffee with it. Cranberries make a formidable opponent for any seasoning mix, but it turns out to be a fair and delicious fight. Above is how it starts.

Ingredients

12 ounces fresh Cranberries

1 cup Water

Juice and pulp of one Lemon (we use Meyer lemons)

1 cup organic Sugar

Pumpkin Pie Spice

There’s not much to cooking this other than not letting it burn. Boil for 10-15 minutes, depending on how thick you want the sauce. After ten, it will look like this:

Moderately Thick

I wait until mine jells. Here’s the final result.

Be careful with the spice, as it becomes stronger after the sauce chills in the fridge. As a point of reference, cranberries actually grow in the South, in West Virginia, in the famous Cranberry Glades botanical area. Unfortunately, most of those berries are eaten by bears. I’ve been within ten feet of one there.

"Schnitzel Alarm" in Germany!

Achtung! There’s a schnitzel crisis in Germany, according to the authoritative website Deutsche Welle (that’s Voice of Germany). EU exports to China have caused a tripling of pork prices on the continent.

The cause–Swine Fever, which is killing pigs in China faster than an abacus can count. DW also reports that China plans to import three million tons of pork, much of it from the EU. And I have always loved sweet and sour pork.

So keep an eye on your pigs. Globalization is also a pig problem, and not just with Kapitalistenschwein (that’s capitalist pigs). According to the head of Germany’s Meat Association, “Sausage will definitely be more expensive next year.”

It’s time to invest in pork belly futures again.

Update! Denmark is considering building a wall along their border with Germany, to keep out the notorious wild German pigs, who may or may not be carrying Swine Fever–currently, there are no confirmed cases. The Germans have nicknamed it the “Boar-der Wall.” Now that is droll.

Sauerkraut Season

The Beginning, and the End Result

What with the fall cabbage harvest coming in, it’s time to turn that surplus into a German, and German-American, specialty. Namely, fermented sliced cabbage, better known as Sauerkraut.

Pictured above is a first day ferment, complete with fermentation lids, made by yours truly for next to nothing, and a nice quart I made last spring. My mother in law Agnes Olga would fiddle around with giant crocks full of cabbage, but not me. Give me a lid and an airlock any day.

Ingredients

One medium Cabbage, sliced

Salt

Caraway Seeds

Apple Wine (substitute any white wine)

This not exactly traditional recipe is kicked up by the addition of the wine. Among other things, it insures the fermenting cabbage will not be exposed to the air. Also, a bludgeoning tool is most efficacious when it comes to stomping down some fresh cabbage.

Stompers

The sliced cabbage needs to be crushed to release the water contained in the leaves. The big one does that, and the small one is used to pack the jars. A medium cabbage only makes two pints of kraut, if they are properly stomped on. Ferment for three to six weeks, depending on how sauer you like your kraut.

This is a great first fermentation project. That, and the final product tastes great on a good bratwurst.

Nutcracker v. Nutcrackers

Nutcracking Season is Here

Here are two classic nutcrackers. One dances every Christmas, and fights the Mouse King. The other one only cracks nuts, and doesn’t dance at all.

The military looking fellow did come from the Erzgebirge (Ore Mountains) in Deutschland, but he is mainly decoration, who could crack some hazelnuts, maybe, but not much more. That hundred year old fellow is another story. Archimedes himself would have loved this design. “Give me a place to stand, and a lever long enough, and I will move the world.” Or crack some nuts.

A Pecan was Harmed AND Eaten

I put the old fellow on a nice piece of oak, and made a spot for the pickers, as pecans are bad about sticking in the shells. And then there is the thing to bust open the pecan’s relative, the notorious hickory nut.

Hammer Down

Yes, that is a California made Vaughn 23 ounce framing hammer, and be ready to swing it to bust open a hickory nut, or a black walnut. Cooking can be a lot like work. Just don’t break hickory nuts on a nice countertop.

Beef Stew Al Fresco

Is Al Fresco related to Al Pacino?

This is nothing but a simple beef stew, but it was cooked in a cast iron camping Dutch Oven over an open fire, which always makes everything taste better. I will disclose the small wrinkles which add layers and layers to the dish. First, marry-nate some cubed up chuck roast, in red wine, salt, and pepper. I left mine in the fridge overnight, and then browned it in some home rendered lard, over some blazing heat.

The One Spoon

It helped that I had the One Spoon to cook with, which I got from a small fellow with furry feet. He told me it was the one spoon to rule them all, and in the darkness bind them. Actually, I made that monstrosity out of some Carolina Buckthorn, a weed tree if there ever was one. It’s almost as long as my Amish made fireplace poker. It does keep your hands away from the fire.

Deglaze

I threw in a whole chopped onion, cooked it, and deglazed the whole thing with some apple wine that was mysteriously sitting next to my fire pit, and the red wine marinade. Who would have guessed?

Milled Tomatoes

The next step is to add milled tomatoes, and cook for an hour or two. Throw a lid on that thing, to conserve heat.

This is Merely Medium Sized

I’ve always thought of Dutch Ovens as something like primitive pressure cookers, because it takes some serious steam to leak through that massive lid. The last ingredients are salt, pepper, carrots, and naturally, taters, precious.

Ready to Stew

It would take another good hour to finish this, so I just went back to work on my great American novel, which is closing to a finish. If only it was as good as this stew turned out to be.