Pear Honey

Great Pear

As far as is known, the Roman writer Pliny the Elder published the first pear recipe, where he stated that they should be stewed with honey. Modern pear honey recipes omit the honey, but I’m going old school all the way back to the Roman Empire. I’m bringing back the honey.

Ingredients

6 Bartlett Pears, peeled, cored, and sliced

1 Meyer Lemon

1/4 cup Honey

2 cups Sugar

My six pears cost a whopping two bucks at the Festhalle Farmer’s market, and the honey was local as well. My wife Melanie Jane grew that enormous Meyer lemon, and the sugar came from Sugarland, Texas: old school and down home.

I began with cooking the honey, sliced pears, and the complete interior of the Meyer lemon, minus the seeds. Hint: if you freeze the lemon first, and then cut it in half, the peel comes off all in one piece. Add the sugar, and get ready to go do something else.

A Saucier full of Pears

Cooking Time

2 1/2 Days (Correction: 2 1/2 Hours)

This would be an excellent time to go and write some on that novel that you have been putting off, which is something of a shameless plug, as I am half way through writing a novel that deals with food and mental therapy. To me, good food is the best therapy around.

Don’t forget to stir this occasionally, especially toward the end of the cooking, as it turns into pear syrup. After two and a half hours I brought out our most medieval potato masher, and turned this into the consistency of a really thick honey. All that was left was three half pints, processed in a hot water bath.

The Color You should Look for

It appears those Romans were pretty smart after all.

Southern Vegetable Soup

Southern Vegetable Soup, Just getting Started

Here’s an old family recipe, created out of the necessity of eating only vegetables. As it so happens, it turns out to be, and I am actually understating this here, unbelievably good. Our vegetables play well together.

I have Died, and Gone to Vegetable Heaven

Create your own version out of whatever you have, but this is ours. Using what you got is the secret to good food. Quantities are based on how much you have.

Ingredients

Chicken Stock

1 Vidalia Onion, diced

Butter Beans

Field Peas

Tomatoes

Okra. sliced

Sweet Corn, cut from the cob

Salt and Pepper

Except for the seasoning, ingredients are cooked in that order. This is truly a dish of high summer, when all these things are in season at once. I now mill my tomatoes in a food mill, so the okra seeds get to be the star. The kicker is when all this is cooked, add:

Wide Egg Noodles

The extra starch does some magical something or other, and adds a little who knows what. Wait, that’s called flavor. Ideally, serve with a hot piece of:

Corn Bread

We’re talking a real melting pot here, Southern Cucina Povera. We freeze some for the winter, and days when you think it will never be warm again. Freeze it without the noodles, and add those only when you cook it. This soup is the boss, the mac daddy, and the kiss my butt on twentieth street shut your mouth cheap talk at the table stopper. That last one is something of a Birmingham thing.

Creole Shrimp Boil

Laissez les Bon Temps Roulez!

This is something of an empty out the spice cabinet dish, and a boil can have everything from crayfish, shrimp and sausage, to artichokes and corn. Since this was for two, we stuck with the basics of shrimp, sweet corn, and new potatoes.

Shrimp Boil

Ingredients

For the Boil:

Water to cover the Ingredients (2 Quarts here)

1 teaspoon Thyme

1 teaspoon Oregano

Cayenne Pepper Flakes to taste

2 tablespoons Salt

6 Cloves

6 Allspice

2 Bay Leaves

1 teaspoon Dill Seed

1 teaspoon Fennel Seed

And anything else you like. Cover, and bring this mixture to a rolling boil. Turn it off, and let it steep for awhile. If you have a cold, stick your face down in the vapor. If it’s well seasoned, it will clear your head out.

For the Edibles:

4 new Potatoes (we have 2 Red and 2 Yukon Gold)

2 ears Sweet Corn (these are Silver Queen)

1/2 pound+ Shrimp, deveined (we usually use Gulf shrimp, but these are Florida Keys shrimp)

Boil the potatoes for 30-35 minutes, then add the corn. Cook for 8 more, and add the shrimp. In about a minute or two, the shrimp will curl up and turn opaque, which means they are done. Strain in a colander, and serve in a bowl with a rustic paper towel lining.

Have beaucoup amounts of butter for the corn and potatoes. Our favorite condiments are cocktail sauce, tartar sauce, and Chinese hot mustard. If the boil didn’t clear out your sinuses, a combination of hot mustard and cayenne flakes surely will.

Peach Marmalade

Peaches Marry-nating before the Magic Happens

Most people in the South would call this recipe “preserves,” but the amount of lemon in it gives it some punch. I also came up with the idea of adding some lemon pulp to the mixture.

Ingredients

5-6 Fresh Peaches

1 Meyer Lemon

1 cup Sugar

Why Meyer Lemon? It’s something of a cross between a lemon and an orange. And check out the size.

Lemon v. Peach

My wife Melanie Jane grew the lemon, and the peaches came from an orchard a couple of mountains away from here. Time for some process.

Place the peaches in a colander or strainer in a sink, along with the jars, flats, and rings. Crank up the old teakettle and soak them all with scalding water. You’ve just done two steps at once.

Meanwhile, combine the sugar and lemon juice/pulp in a non-reactive pan. Lemons pulp easier if they are frozen first, and then thawed. Peel the peaches, and compost the peels (I fed mine to my chickens. They’re experts at composting.) Cut into eights, and add to the lemon sugar mixture. Let that marry-nate until the sugar dissolves.

Action time! Slowly bring the mixture up to a boil, and then turn it down to low. Sing the refrain from “Lady Marmalade” a few times–that’s the part that’s in French. When the peaches are soft, mash them into small cubes with a potato masher. Cook for another five minutes, at a higher temp, and then you have two options.

Can at this point, if you want a juicy spread. Add pectin, if you want a firmer marmalade. I use Certo, because it’s quick, and available everywhere. Pour the mixture into jars, and boil ten minutes in a water bath. Here’s the result:

Strangely enough, the diva Patti LaBelle, who recorded “Lady Marmalade,” is also an accomplished cook, and has a number of cookbooks in print. I don’t know if she has a marmalade recipe in any of them, but she is welcome to try this one.

Fig Preserves

First Figs of the Year

Fig preserves are a staple of Southern breakfasts, and good figs are not easy to come by anymore. I get them whenever I can, and sure enough, a farmer at the Festhalle Farmer’s Market had some this weekend. It was time to make some preserves.

Ingredients

4 cups Figs, halved

1 cup Water

Organic Sugar to taste

1 tablespoon Lemon Juice

That’s it. Just be prepared to simmer these things for at least a couple of hours. The amount of sugar needed depends on how ripe the figs are. These were dead ripe, so I didn’t need that much sugar.

After about an hour and a half of cooking, I resorted to my wife’s medieval looking antique potato masher, to speed things up. It’s a mashing machine.

Three Eight Ounce Jars of Preserves, Brought to You by this Masher

After about two hours of total cooking, I added a package of Certo liquid pectin–not required, but it does speed things up. The three filled jars then went into a hot water bath for ten minutes, and sealed almost as soon as I took them out. Into the pantry now, and onto some English Muffins or Drop Biscuits, eventually.