A southern style Easter lunchBy LISA IRELAND,
My late mother-in-law became a fabulous home cook. Through lots of trial and error, a love of food, curiosity, and a hungry family, she became quite the hostess and chef. She loved all types of cuisine but I think she specialized in traditional southern food. I did not grow up eating a lot of southern fare and it was quite an eye-opener when Mrs. Ireland taught me about turnip greens, pot liquor, corn bread, rutabagas, and real baked ham (not the triangle shaped ham.) Mrs. Ireland cooked plantains, mirlitons, steamed artichokes and served pomegranates before they became regular items at the supermarket. Most importantly, she introduced me to a more healthy version of southern cooking. Instead of bacon grease or ham hocks, she would bake a ham, “de-fat” the resulting stock and use it to season her southern veggies. Sometimes people will ask me about the seasoning in my vegetables and I have to explain that “ham juice” is the secret ingredient. We serve this ham every Easter and save the ham juice in the freezer for another day.
Katty’s Baked Ham with Reserved Ham Juice
1/2 ham, butt or shank
2-3 t tart jelly, such as plum
1 onion, quartered
1 tart apple, quartered
Water or 1/4 -1/2 cup white wine or sherry
Rinse ham thoroughly. Place in a roasting pan and rub with jelly. Place onion and apple around ham, add wine or sherry and add water to pan to depth of one inch. Cover tightly and cook 20 minutes per pound in a 325 degree preheated oven. This may take longer depending on water content of ham. Check after two hours. Ham is done when skin is loose and fork pierces meat easily. Remove ham and reserve ham juice for another use.
Once ham is baked, strain and pour all juices in a container. Refrigerate overnight or until all the fat has solidified on the top. Remove the fat and what remains is a low fat but highly flavored stock. Freeze ham juice in small containers and add to any southern vegetable recipe.
La’s Mac and Cheese
4 T butter
1 t salt
1 ½ cup milk, heated
16 oz. container of sour cream
4 T flour
1 t pepper
16 oz. shredded cheddar cheese
2 cups uncooked macaroni noodles
Cook macaroni according to package directions. While macaroni is boiling, melt butter in a large saucepan; blend in salt, pepper, and flour. Cook for about one minute. Gradually whisk in warm milk to prevent clumps. Once it is smooth, add in 3 ½ cups of the cheese and cook on low until cheese melts. Stir in sour cream and then cooked macaroni. Put in a well-greased 9x12 casserole dish and top with remaining cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes or until cheese melts. You can make ahead and refrigerate overnight but be sure to allow to come to room temperature before baking.
Marinated Cucumbers and Onions
In a medium glass bowl combine one cup ice cubes, 1/4-cup water, 3/4-cup white wine, white or apple cider vinegar, 3 T sugar, 2 t basil or dill, and ¾ t salt. Stir until sugar dissolves. Add a thinly sliced sweet onion and a medium English cucumber. Add additional salt to taste. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Remove with a slotted spoon and arrange lettuce leaves with two tomatoes cut into wedges.
* Spicier versions can include 1.2 t garlic powder and a pinch of red pepper flakes.
Fresh Steamed Artichokes
Select firm and bright green artichokes. Trim ends of leaves and cut stalk so the artichoke will sit level. Bring a large stockpot of water to a boil, add two tablespoons salt, one lemon cut in half, and the artichokes to the water. Cook for about 45 minutes or until the leaves will easily pull away. Serve with a lemon-butter sauce.
Dodie’s Deviled Eggs
My aunt made the best deviled eggs. They did not have any of the “fancy” new additions; they were just great traditional deviled eggs. She always piped the mixture onto the eggs with a bag and icing tip. If you do not have a bag, just use a heavy duty zip lock freezer bag and cut the corner.
1 dozen hard boiled eggs*
½ t mustard powder
½ t prepared horseradish
½ t season salt
Dash of sugar
1 t dill pickle relish
Salt and pepper to taste
½ - 1 cup mayonnaise
Peel and cut the eggs in half. Remove yolks and put in a bowl. Mash the yolks with a fork or pastry blender until completely free of lumps. Mix in all ingredients except mayonnaise. Begin adding in mayo ¼ cup at a time until you get a spreadable consistency. Put yolk mixture in piping bag and pipe onto egg halves. Top with a sprinkle of paprika for color. Store in refrigerator.
*Dodie’s recipe for hard boiled eggs is to use the oldest “sell by” date you can find. Fresh eggs are more difficult to peel. Put the eggs in a large saucepan. Cover the eggs with cold water and bring to a boil. Allow to gently boil for about five minutes. Cover and remove from heat. Allow to sit for 10 minutes and then rinse in very cold water.
This is my all-time favorite recipe to make with kids. I cannot count the number of times I have made these with my children’s classes or my pre-school class. They are easy and delicious. It is so fun to read the Easter Story as the rolls cook and see the children’s faces as they discover the “surprise” at the end.
1 – Container crescent roll dough
Brown sugar or cinnamon sugar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Give each child a crescent roll triangle and explain that this represents the burial cloths Jesus was wrapped in after his crucifixion. Give each child a marshmallow. This will represent Jesus, pure, white as snow and sinless. Allow the children to dip the marshmallow into the melted butter and then roll in the brown sugar or cinnamon. These represent the oils and spices that Jesus was anointed with after his death. Get the children to wrap the marshmallow up in their crescent roll being sure to completely seal the marshmallow in the dough. This will represent the soldiers sealing the tomb. Put each roll in a well-greased muffin tin and bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes. This will represent Jesus in the tomb. Once rolls are lightly browned, remove and allow to cool for a few minutes. The children can open their rolls and discover that the tomb is empty. (The marshmallow melts) Read Matthew 26- 28. Happy Easter.