Category Archives: Traditions

It’s Not Too Late …

… to start your New Year off right!

So, did January First with all the bells and whistles, dropping spheres and stunning pyrotechnics slip past you? Did the hours in the day shrink as the demands on your calendar went berserk?

Never fear. Fortunately, there is such a thing as a Legal Holiday – so you have options.

January 2nd is not only a legal holiday, but this year it is the one and only day when you can watch the Tournament of Roses Parade since it was decreed wayyy back in 1893 that no such parade would ever take place on a Sunday.

(It’s true – – https://www.pasadenaweekly.com/2016/12/29/never-on-sunday/  )

Well, if a parade the size of the Rose Parade can celebrate the new year a full 24 hours after the actual change – give or take a second – then who is to say that you can’t cook up those collards, ham hocks and blackeyed peas any day you choose this first week – or month –  of 2017?

Yup – that is this week’s recipe, and if I say so myself, it’s pretty good stuff! No, not as delicious as some of those bowls overflowing with steaming perfection from the kitchens of Southern cooks I have had the pleasure to share a table with, but pretty tasty in its own way.

And I have to warn you – I added some of this, and left out some of that as I went along. I know, I know. Sacrilege. Danger. Indigestion.

But truth be told, every cook, no matter from whence they hail, tweaks and messes about with perfectly wonderful traditions, if only for lack of proper ingredients, or because a lot of the fun of cooking comes from experimentation and luck. Lots of luck, sometimes.

Well, here you have it – this year’s recipe for starting the New Year off right – on whatever day you opt to mark the occasion!

Ham Hocks and Blackeyed Peas

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1 bag dried Blackeyed Peas

Water

Onion – 1 medium, chopped

Carrot – 1 or 2 depending upon size, sliced

Celery – 1 stalk, sliced

Salt, Pepper, Mrs. Dash, or other herbs/seasonings to taste

 

Boil about 3 quarts of water. Carefully inspect and rinse the blackeyed peas, being sure to remove any small pebbles or debris. Dump peas into a stock pot or large pan and cover with boiling water. Let sit in boiling/very hot water for 2+ hours to pre-soak. They can be soaked overnight, if more convenient.

Place smoked ham hock, jowl, shank (a good chunk of tasty pork-something), into a crockpot. Drain the blackeyed peas and dump into the crockpot, on top of the pork. Pour fresh water – boiling or tepid – into crockpot, enough to generously cover the contents. Add chopped and sliced veggies, stir once or twice.

Cook on Low for 8-10 hours, until blackeyed peas are cooked and the liquid is a lovely rust or brown color. Add seasonings late in the process after tasting the ‘pot likker’ to determine what it might need. Some ham hocks and jowls are so flavorful, you won’t need to add anything. Sometimes it just needs a little pinch of this or a handful of that.

While that’s cooking, you can make the

Collard Greens and Ham Hocks

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1 bunch – or more – Collard Greens, although any green will work. If you prefer turnip, beet, kale or spinach, that’s great. Just make sure they are green in keeping with the idea behind the tradition.

1 Ham Hock – again, feel free to use the pork item of your choice

Salt, Pepper, etc. – to taste

Water

 

The most time consuming part of this process is cleaning the collard greens, but it is also the most important part. I begin by pulling the leafy part of the greens from the stem. That stem can be woody, tough and bitter, so don’t bother with cleaning or cooking it. This is a good time to inspect the leaves for too many buggy bites, or wilted edges. Collards are pretty tasty even in the field, so look at the number of holes as a sign of good flavor!

After the leaves are ready, I use a large pot, fill it with fresh, cold water, shove all of the leaves into it and add a bunch of salt. Then I act as if I am washing socks – push, swirl, move, lift, shove, stir. After a few minutes of this, I dump the water, and repeat the rinsing – leaving out the salt – no less than three times, feeling for grit or sand with my fingers. If need be, I will rinse each good sized leaf individually.

Then – if I remember to do this step – slice or chop each leaf. The easiest way to do this is to simply layer the leaves one on top of another, roll them up, as if you were making a very green wrap, and slice the small end. As you can see in the photo above, I skipped the slicing part – or tearing or chopping, whatever you prefer – and cooked up big leaves. No matter – they tasted just fine!

Toss the slices into a stock pot, add the ham hock, jowl, whatever you’ve chosen as your pork delight, and pour in plenty of fresh, cool water. You will need a generous amount of water since those collards will float to the top of the pot, but will cook down into something amazing over the course of 6-8 hours.

Bring the concoction to a boil, and boil for about an hour, although I used so few collards, that I turned my pot down after 30 minutes or so. Most of this kind of cooking is by gut, by feel, so do what you think is right and you’ll be fine. Simmer the pot for as many hours as is necessary to turn the collards soft and the meat to fall off the ham bone. Stir it a few times during the process, but don’t baby it.

You can add salt, pepper, seasonings – even bacon grease or chopped crispy bacon to the pot.

When it’s finally done, serve the collards with the blackeyed peas and don’t forget the piping hot cornbread with lots of butter …

 

and the South Carolina strawberry and freshly made whipped cream tartlets for dessert!

 

 

Please visit Creatzart and DiscoveringHome to see some of the places the recipes on Sinclaire Monroe’s Kitchen come from or have been inspired by – and please consider participating in Jane’s Day of Service on February 28th this year.

Thank you for reading and following and sharing. I wish each of you a healthy, safe, and wonderful New Year.

X is for Hot Cross Buns

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Before sharing this recipe with you, Dear Reader, I have to say that for some reason the BakingGods were with me when I made these and … well, modesty prohibits me from describing the ethereal dough with a mere hint of orange and the lightest touch of sweetness.

But I have to admit that I so enjoyed the making of and the baking of these springtime buns, that I quite neglected to measure each and every ingredient.

This business of tossing spices here and scattering herbs there is pretty normal behavior for me, but I generally try to remember to measure accurately and time carefully when a blog post is involved.

Nonetheless, I just added the orange pulp and juice to the dough until it seemed about right, and I kneaded in enough juice and vanilla soaked raisins to look OK.  For good or  bad, that leaves the guesstimating of such things up to you. My only advice is to close your eyes, listen to your inner cook, and trust your instincts.

Well, here is the exact recipe for a sweet dough that is best eaten within 24 to 48 hours of coming out of the oven. Any ingredients or steps in the process that were dealt with more creatively are italicized.

HOT CROSS BUNS

Sweet Dough (from R is for Rising Yeast)

 

Basic Sweet Dough

As with any bread machine recipe, please refer to your particular machine’s manufacturer’s directions first.

(For 2 pound loaf)

3 eggs, large at room temperature

1/4 cup + 3 1/2 tablespoons water

6 tablespoons sour cream or plain yogurt

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into pieces

6 tablespoons granulated sugar

4 1/2 cups bread flour

1 tablespoon yeast, active dry, instant or bread machine

After fitting with paddle, place all ingredients in order given above in bread pan. Place pan in machine, choose the dough setting.

While waiting for dough cycle to complete, gently grate only the orange zest from two medium oranges into 8 ounce measuring cup. Squeeze both oranges for fresh juice, being sure to include some smooshed pulp, then add to zest already in cup. Add a tablespoon or so of vanilla extract, and dehydrated orange peel if desired – 1+ teaspoon – then add enough water to bring level to 3/4 cup. Add a handful or two of raisins to liquid, allowing to soak during dough cycle.

Allow bread machine to complete cycle, approximately 1 1/2 hours, then remove from pan and place in large, lightly greased bowl. Punch dough down and let rest 10 minutes before continuing.

Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper. preheat oven to 375*

Place dough on flat surface. Scoop plumped raisins from measuring cup, being generous with any accompanying liquid, but careful not to soak dough.

Knead raisin/orange juice mixture into dough.

 

Divide dough into 12 -16 equal parts. Gently form each part into a ball, then place each ball two inches apart on baking sheets. Using scissors, snip small Xs into top of dough (unless you forget all about this step – oops!).

Cover lightly with lightly oiled/buttered waxed paper and allow to rise in draft-free location until almost double in size.

Bake Hot Cross Buns 17-20 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from oven, and while cooling, prepare icing.

X Baked Yum

Icing

X Glaze Pour

 

Remaining orange juice/pulp mixture

Confectioners Sugar

 

  • Combine ingredients, adding small amounts of sugar just until achieving desired consistency. Using a teaspoon, pour over tops of cooled buns in the shape of an X. If buns are too warm, or if icing is too thin, buns will be glazed rather than decorated, but they will still taste delicious!

 

V is for Veggies

One of my favorite dishes is veggies and rice … or veggies and cheese … or veggies and eggs … or just plain veggies.

Veggies Dinner CloseFor those of you for whom gardening is like breathing; walking outside and picking a clean dishpan full of onions, peppers, okra, corn and tomatoes is the first step in preparing any summertime meal.

Unfortunately, I am not a particularly successful gardener, but I have been spoiled by the bounty of – and learned many lessons from – gardens tended and loved by Aunt Betty, Isabelle and of course, Mona. SAM_1021

As I wash the radishes and slice the onions, I revisit those fragrant gardens of the women who guided me; who shared their quiet strength and immeasurable beauty through their actions; who loved me and taught me and rolled their eyes when I pulled up perfectly good plants, mistaking those oval leaves for mere weeds –again.

If you have a gardener’s soul, know that you are treasured by those of us who cannot grow a vegetable garden so lovely it becomes a wonderland of color and flavor and scent.

Thank you.

 

U is for Ugali

With a dash of cornmeal and a splash of water, you can enjoy the flavor of South Africa.

This simple recipe is known by many names depending up where you might be at mealtime, but in Kenya, ugali is the familiar name of this staple.

As you will learn from the following links, the cooked cornmeal is supposed to have a stiff, almost putty-like consistency:

http://allthingskenyan.com/countries/kenya/ugali-recipe

http://www.congocookbook.com/staple_dish_recipes/ugali.html

Unfortunately, I had far less cornmeal on hand than needed, so ended up with a porridge rather than a dough suitable for scooping some stew or picking up meat from a dish. I’ve opted to share my attempt with you anyway.

Bring 2 cups water to a boil. Add 1 cup cornmeal.

Stir constantly to avoid lumps. I used a whisk vigorously, but still had some lumps.

I spooned the thick porridge into bowls, knowing that it should have been much more dense and malleable when cooked.

Although I didn’t quite succeed at making ugali, I have learned about a basic food that might be new to me, but has been a part of countless meals for many generations.

I plan to try this recipe again and will share my (hopefully) much improved results with you then!

J is for Jam

Although the berries are ripening a little slower this year than last, I still intend to stock up on some mouth watering South Carolina strawberries in a few weeks. In my experience, there is simply no comparison to other berry sources; when it comes to sun warmed deliciousness – it is well worth an eight-plus hour drive for the best fruit – for the best jam, ideally!

Rather than provide the step-by-step directions for making jam, I am going to suggest only three key points:IMG_20150520_110201

  • Preparation is 89.5% of the work – completely clear your work area, super-clean your jars, rings, lids, tools, everything. Read the recipe at least three times – every year, every time.

 

  • Get the freshest fruit possible. Picked-that-morning-fresh, if you can manage it. Your fruit is the flavor, but also the consistency and the safety of the finished product – fruit even in the early stages of decay can result in ruined jam and wasted effort – and very ill humans!

 

  1. And finally – Ball. Yup – the pectin, the Blue Book, the jars, the brand new rings and lids every single year (no skimping here!). I am not usually loyal to any one brand, but after canning for more years than I had realized until right this minute, I trust Ball.

So, begin by opening just one box of fresh pectin at least a few days before you intend to can anything, and pull out that folded up wad of paper inside. Read and read and make a list and head to the farm or the orchard or the grocery store – and have SO MUCH FUN!

And enjoy!

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