"Be thankful in all things, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you." I Thes 5:18

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Southern Fare So Good and Sooooo Cheap

I was looking a few months ago at Hillbilly Housewife which a site I like to go back to for some good frugal recipes. This one sounded gross to me but I had decided to try out some bean recipes for saving money. It turned out to be one of my favorite meals.
Perhaps it's in my blood to like it. My family is very rooted in southern tradition. Not the deep south so much but more of the Celtic descendants in KY. My mother's side of the family is from Hazard, KY which was home to the famous Hatfield and McCoy's (yes, I do have a bit of brawl in me too). My grandma has told me of living out in the sticks with no water and my great-grandma making either cornbread or biscuits for every meal. Her daddy would kill a hog and they would make sausage balls to last the winter. The sausage would go in a huge over sized jar and they would pour the drippings in to preserve the meat. Great-grandma would scoop out some sausage and grease enough to put in a cast iron skillet and make up the beginnings of some lovely biscuits and gravy. It's something we would call unhealthy now but you have to remember these people ate heavy when pickin's were good, and ate extremely lean for long stretches of nothing. Fresh produce and dairy also kept them healthy. They also would keep milk and butter down in the creek near by to keep it cool. My great-grandma had nine children so she learned to stretch food like a pro.
I've always liked southern food but much of what we call traditional southern food would not have been eaten regularly by poor folk in the sticks. I'm sure this would have though.
The dinner I found on the site was beans and Hoe Cakes. Hillbilly Housewife talks about Hoe cakes:

"Originally, Native Americans cooked these on hot rocks in an open fire. They were commonly referred to as Ash Cakes. Later on, settlers from Europe adopted the recipe, cooking the cakes on the blades of their hoes in the fireplace. This is where they get the name, “Hoe Cakes”. Of all the recipes in my collection, this one is the oldest, the cheapest, and just about the tastiest of all."

Her recipe is a good one but I made some adaptions as I had a hard time with handling the dough and forming it into cakes. This time tonight, I did not even bother forming it. I just plopped them down into the pan and once they cooked a bit enough to be firm and flipped, I used the spatula to smash them a bit into a better patty. You could easily do this with a muffin scoop for a more even plop and rounder patty.
The special element is bacon grease. My mom and grandma taught me that every woman should have a tub of bacon grease in her fridge at all times. If you don't eat this often it's not going to kill you once. If you are anal about it, I guess you could cook them in canola oil......*grrrr*. I only use about a Tbs in each of these dishes and a little goes a long way in flavoring.
So, here is my recipe:

I cook my beans in the crockpot out of sheer dislike for cooking beans on the stove. I like my slaves after all. I put about a lb. of pinto beans (about 2.5 cups) and cover it with about 6 cups water. Cover and let them soak in the crockpot overnight (if all the water is gone, add about two cups more). In the morning turn them on High and then low once they are nice and hot. Plunk in a Tbs of bacon fat and let cook all day. Check for water if it's too dry, add some more. Before serving season with salt and black pepper. I like mine seasoned well.

Hoe Cakes
2 cups cornmeal (I just mill popcorn from bulk ordering, but you can use any cornmeal)
2 cups boiling hot water
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 Tbs Baking Soda
1 tsp salt
Bacon grease for pan

Mix dry ingredients with a spoon and poor in hot water. Mix well and let sit a bit to cool. From here you can just plop them in the hot oiled pan with a large spoon or muffin scoop. I use about 1-2 Tbs grease. Once the cake has cooked a bit on the bottom to be firm, flip and press down with the spatula to flatten. Flip again once opposite side is firm to cook original side a little longer. Remove from the pan once crispy brown. They cook best in a well used and seasoned cast iron skillet. Keep warm in the oven if you like.

Collard Greens
This is also good with turnip greens or mustard greens. I was glad to find two bunches of collard greens today at the produce place! Yes, I was excited.
Wash them well and chop off the tough bottoms. Line up the leaves and make a roll of them. Chop through the rolled up leaves about a half an inch thick. Then, go back through the roll and cut them in half horizontally.
Prepare a large stainless steel (or another cast iron) with a Tbs. of bacon grease. Once it's hot, add the chopped greens and toss to cook. Season with salt and pepper and garlic if you like (I do). Cook until they start to limp but are still bring green in color.

To serve:
I put one hoe cake on the plate, ladle some beans on top and put another cake on top of that. Then, I serve the greens on the side. Tonight we had strawberry lemonade with it which was great but iced tea is wonderful too.

Put your computer to pandora.com and plug in "blue grass" and have
yourself a lovely little hoe down dinner!

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