"Where classic Southern baking, history, and how-to, come together in taste and style."
Born in Georgia and raised in North Carolina, I inherited the baking bug like so many of us; through childhood memories and standing by my mother's side as she prepared our family meal. I began this blog as a way of sharing my love of Southern baking and its treasured heritage.
It’s been a month of non-stop sweets for everyone. After filling my sweet tooth with a heart-shaped box of decadent chocolates from my dad over Valentine’s Day, I needed a break. I was craving something different, and non-chocolate. I kept thinking of the sharp taste of lemon, and with the rain beating outside against my windows and the assuredness of snow overnight, the bright yellow orbs stacked in bins at the local grocery store were calling to me.
While others stock their carts with the staples of bread and containers of milk, I am glad I reached for lemons. I had my mind made up…lemon squares would just hit the spot right now.
There are many recipes for lemon squares in my many recipe books, and I have found they are satisfying. But the addition of lemon zest, brings them to another level. Of course, one doesn’t have to add the zest, but since you already have the lemons, you might as well take advantage of the fruit and get the most for your money and efforts.
I think this recipe will help anyone get over their Valentine’s Day chocolate hangover.
3/4 cup powdered sugar (set aside 1/2 cup for crust)
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup cold butter, cut into pieces
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
2 cups granulated sugar
1 tablespoon lemon zest
Preheat oven to 350*. Line a 13 x 9 inch pan with aluminum foil. Lightly grease the aluminum foil.
In a large bowl, cut butter into 2 cups of flour and 1/2 cup of powdered sugar. Continue to use pastry blender or fork ( or your hands) until the flour and butter resemble tiny crumbs and can be squeezed together in your hand and hold their shape. Press the mixture into the bottom of aluminum foil.
Bake for 30 minutes or until the crust is slightly browned.
In a bowl, mix together the sugar, baking powder, remaining flour. Add the eggs and lemon juice along with the lemon zest. Pour the mixture over cooled crust.
Return the pan to the 350* oven and bake for 20-25 minutes. The edges should be brown and the mixture set. After removing from oven, allow to cool for at least an hour. Cut into squares and dust with powdered sugar before serving.
“The prosperity and happiness of a family depends greatly on the order and regularity established in it.”
Usually, I don’t make resolutions for New Year’s Day since I have a habit of breaking them as soon as January 1 comes around. This year however, I vowed to “get things done.” For me, that meant sitting down, planning my daily activities, writing out my short and long-term goals, and scheduling out time for them. That never happened, in spite of my good intentions. Life, somehow, always gets in the way.
I began to wonder how in days of old, anyone accomplished anything. With no electricity, no phones, no computers, no modern appliances, how did my Appalachian great-grandmothers get it done? I figured it out. Because they had to.
My mother can watch any movie or television program set in the past century and recall how her mother washed clothes by hand, used a coal burning stove, slaughtered chickens for Sunday supper, and hung clothes out on the line. Today we have more items promising a simpler life and all we really own is more frustration and stress.
In my efforts to streamline my recipe collection, I came across a small article about Mary Randolph, the author of, “The American Housewife; or The Methodical Cook.” The book is considered America’s first cookbook focused on regional cuisine, and guide to housekeeping. She was the Martha Stewart of her day, though Mary Randolph’s advice is more practical and probably more sound.
Mary Randolph was born to one of the wealthiest and most politically important families in American history. Her father, Thomas Mann Randolph Sr., was raised by Thomas Jefferson’s parents who were distant cousins and the ever growing tensions with England made for social and political stirrings within the Randolph household. From a young age, Mary would have learned the importance of keeping and running an efficient household.
“Management is an art that may be required by every woman of good sense and tolerable memory.”
After marrying her cousin, David Meade Randolph, they moved from Chesterfield County, Virginia, to Richmond. Their home, called Moldavia, a combination of their names, became a central gathering place for the Federalist Party and Mary would have been required to meet the demands of a heavy social scene. It has been suggested by some in the articles I have read about her, that Mary would not have been very “hands-on,” in her duties, as the actual physical labor would have been delegated to the slaves in the household. However, I am sure, if she needed to, Mary Randolph would have been more than capable of getting her hands dirty in order to “get it done,” as the Randolph’s financial status changed considerably after Thomas Jefferson won the presidency in 1801. The Randolphs and Jeffersons may have been family, but blood was definitely not thicker than water when it came to their opposing political views. David Randolph was removed from his office as United States Marshall, and as tobacco prices fell, the Randolphs were forced to sell their beloved home. They rented a house and Mary turned it into a boarding house to make ends meet. This was a risky venture and had Mary not the training and determination, the family would have floundered even further.
“The government of a family bears a Lilliputian resemblance to the government of a nation. The contents of the Treasury must be know, and great care taken to keep the expenditures from being equal to the receipts.”
It was around this time when Mary began compiling the various items of recipes and household hints handed down to her from family, and organizing them into book form. It was in hopes of publishing her cookbook that would support more income to the family. Mary’s cookbook included uses for various vegetables and quickly became a staple for the Southern housewife. Turnips, roasted ham, bacon and cornbread along with batter breads and advice for making soap and cleaning silverware and making starch and blacking were just samples of the many recipes used in the cookbook. She emphasized the importance of making good use of the household resources and making due with what one had. As always, order in the home was of the utmost importance.
“Let everything be done at the proper time, keep everything in its proper place, and put everything to its proper use.”
It must have been a revelation for many women as they left the comforts of their family and friends and began making families of their own, to find a guide in running their own households. I can’t imagine marrying in my teen years and being expected to keep a house and run the daily activities of a family at a time when many children were orphaned at a young age and had often no proper guidance in managing a home.
The American Housewife; or The Methodical Cook, was published in 1824 and reprinted 19 times before the outbreak of The Civil War.
In her declining years, Mary nursed her son who had been injured while in the Navy. She was much loved and was the first person to be buried in Arlington National Cemetery. Her epitaph reads:
“In the memory of Mrs. Mary Randolph,
Her intrinsic worth needs no eulogium.
The deceased was born
The 9th of August, 1762
at Amphill near Richmond, Virginia
And died the 23rd of January 1828
In Washington City a victim to maternal love and duty.”
We owe much to this great lady who worked so diligently in the face of such changing fortunes, who never gave up and believed in the value of home and the family. God Bless.
I am still trying to recover from the holidays. Family gatherings are always special but with worries about colds and flu, such celebrations make me uneasy. I know my kin wouldn’t impose illness upon me knowingly, it’s those hundreds of others rushing to and fro, coughing, sneezing, and bumping into us in the hustle that make me pause.
As I was chatting with my sister-in-law during Christmas, she brought up how she had been experimenting with bone broth and had heard much of its curative properties. I have been equally curious as I am susceptible to colds and various ailments and constantly wringing my hands this time of year over every sniffle.
But is bone broth able to live up to its recent celebrated status of wonder cure? I thought I would dig into the facts before turning my kitchen upside down with pots of simmering water and animal carcasses. What I discovered was intresting. Let’s begin with the same questions I had about bone broth.
What is bone broth?
Essentially, bone broth is acheived by simmering animal bones in water for a long period of time, usually 24 hours. Many use a pressure cooker to speed up this process. Simmering allows for the collagen and gelatin deep within the bones to be released along with any amino acids and minerals stored in the bones.
What are some of the claims of bone broth’s benefits?
People who drink bone broth claim doing so will make your skin glow, as well as protecting joints, help the body to detox, and that it is good for gut health, among others claims.
Will drinking bone broth give me better health?
As of right now, research hasn’t proven bone broth will help your overall health. The claims of bone broth and its benefits are not supported by clinical research. It is important to note none of the claims about bone broth’s benefits have been proven by research or clinical studies.
Is drinking bone broth bad for me?
No. It isn’t bad for you, but it isn’t a cure all. In fact, research shows you will receive better health benefits from eating from a diet chocked full of fruits and vegetables. Obtaining protein from meats, poultry, eggs, dairy, and beans are a better way to obtain the protein your body needs. Fruits and vegetables actually provide more minerals and nutrients than bone broth. Some examples:
1 cup of collards= 150 mg of calcium
1 cup of baked beans= 14 grams of protein
2 tablespoons of peanut butter= 7 grams of protein
Compare that with an average cup of bone broth that was found to have zero to 19 mg of calcium and six to nine grams of protein.
A study conducted in 2017, published in “Food and Nutrition Research,” analyzed bone broth and discovered it was, “not an especially good source of calcium or magnesium.” Furthermore, most of the nutrients found in bone broth come from the vegetables often cooked with the bones. It has been observed that vegetables, not animal bones, are the richest source for the vitamins, minerals and daily nutrients your body needs.
There has also been concern about lead levels in animal bones as the bones, in animals as well as humans, is where our bodies store lead and other heavy metals. In a study published by “Medical Hypotheses,” a peer-reviewed journal, researchers examined the levels of lead found in broth made from organic chicken bones, and found the “broth had concentrations that were a up to a 10-fold increase compared to the water before the bones were added to it.”
Are there any alternatives?
If you would like to try your own broth, researchers suggest a vegetable based alternative, one with mushrooms, miso, seaweed, and other vegetables. Mushrooms are high in selenium, B vitamins, as well as iron and zinc. Seaweed contains essential iodine which is key for a healthy thyroid. And fermented foods such as miso, along with spices like ginger or turmeric can help as they contain ant-inflammatory agents.
So, if you are wanting a broth to warm you on a chilly day, or need a little pick-me-up as you nurse a cold, try a broth base of vegetables and spices. Bone broth with vegetables is fine if you prefer a meaty taste to your broth. Just remember, when the next celebrity touts a health claim, check it out first. And keep yourself hydrated and healthy this year.
It has been 60 years since my mother last tasted Persimmon Pudding, and things have changed quite a bit. For one, today’s persimmons do not resemble the small, knotty like fruit her mother used to gather off the ground in their yard this time of year. The seed in the middle is gone. The persimmon of today looks more like a pale, smashed- in tomato, than the bright, orange, golf ball sized delicacies my mother remembers. But that didn’t stop me from wanting to bake a persimmon pudding this Christmas, though, it almost didn’t come into being.
Persimmons are native to my home state of North Carolina, but that doesn’t mean they are easy to come by. Unless you have a friend with a persimmon tree, or know a local farmer who knows someone, who might know someone else, chances are you will have to search the supermarkets for the genetically-modified, supersized pieces of tart fruit, picked before they were ready for harvest so they could be ordered by a conglomerate, from parts hither and yon, and stocked in a warehouse ready to ship for the holidays. These heavyweight persimmons are far from what my mother knows well.
Everyone who has enjoyed a Persimmon Pudding knows persimmons are best once they have fell to the ground. This is when they are at their ripest. Picking them anytime sooner will give you nothing but hard fruit that will never be as good as when they are left alone to ripen beyond the ability of the skinny branches to hold them any longer. I can only hope the taste of the pudding will be close enough to what she remembers her mother baking up into a delicious, spiced dessert for Christmas. Topped with whipped cream and a dash of nutmeg…it just whispers all the comforts of Christmas and home.
Since I am without a yard of my own, I will have to make due with the supermarket variety and hope next year I can find a local vendor. If you are lucky enough to find persimmons in your area, then please give Persimmon Pudding a try. They are a Southern favorite and since persimmons have such a short harvest time, from November through December, this recipe is special.
Old South Persimmon Pudding
2 cups of persimmon pulp
3 eggs, well beaten
1 3/4 cups of whole milk
2 cups of all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 cup of sugar
3 tbsp. butter
Whipped Cream for topping
Mix persimmon pulp, eggs, and milk together.
In a seperate bowl, sift together, flour, soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and sugar.
Pour the persimmon mixture into the flour mixture and blend well. Add the melted butter and beat again.
Pour into a buttered 14x8x3″ pan.
Bake for 1 hour at 300*. Chill and cut into squares. Serve with a topping of whipped cream and a dash of nutmeg.
It’s a good thing I like sweet potatoes. Living in the heart of the biggest sweet potato producing state in the country, I can enjoy sweet potatoes year-round. I usually like sweet potatoes baked, then split down the middle with a pat of salted butter melting into the creamy, orange flesh. Add some green beans, a tall, glass of sweet tea, and you have one filling meal very inexpensively.
North Carolina is the top producer of sweet potatoes in the U.S. There are over 400 sweet potato growers in NC.
This Thanksgiving, I baked both the familiar sweet potato casserole many mistakenly refer to as yams, from a recipe found in a cookbook I have had for years. The addition of orange juice, sets this recipe apart from the traditional casserole topped with marshmallows. Of, course, I always add the marshmallows, my family would have a fit if I deviated too far from the original recipe.
Sweet potatoes and yams are not the same. Yams are a starchy, root vegetable belonging to the Dioscorea genus, and are often imported from the Carribean region. Sweet Potatoes are not acually potatoes either, they belong to the morning glory family; Irish potatoes belong to the nightshade family.
The holidays wouldn’t be the same without a side dish of marshmallow topped sweet potato casserole or a sweet potato pie for dessert. And though pumpkin pie holds the top spot for favorite Thanksgiving desserts, many never consider sweet potato pie for their holiday table. Well, I am not a fan of pumpkin, there is something in the texture that makes it unpalatable for me, sweet potatoes are firmer and have a taste that is much smoother in my opinion, and with just a hint of spice, unlike pumpkin pie that holds an aftertaste from to much added spice.
The flesh of sweet potatoes come in many colors that vary from white to orange, and even a deep purple!
Although I have never ventured furter than baking my sweet potatoes for supper, they can be cut, cubed and roasted, baked, sauteed, and served in a variety of ways. And since sweet potatoes are considered diabetic friendly, many people can enjoy them without worrying about spikes in their blood sugar as with the tradtional Irish potato. I feel so much better when I choose sweet potatoes for supper than a white potato covered in salt, butter and sour cream.
Sweet potatoes are high in beta carotene, vitamins A and C. They are also high in minerals iron, potassium, and vitamin B6. A medium sized sweet potato has only 100 calories.
I have included two of my favorite sweet potato recipes here. I hope you will enjoy them as much as my family and I have.
Never store sweet potatoes in the refrigerator! They will become hard and produce an unpleasant taste. Keep them in a cool, dry, airtight container for best results. Keep them away from sources of heat. Sweet potaoes can be stored up to 2 weeks.
Preheat oven to 350*. Grease a baking dish. In a mixing bowl, combine the sweet potatoes, orange juice, milk, vanilla, sugar, salt, 3 tbps. melted butter, and cinnamon. Beat until fluffy, and pour into prepared baking dish.
If topping is desired, in a seperate bowl, add 3 tbps. melted butter, brown sugar, flour, and pecans. Mix together. Sprinkle mixture over potatoes and bake at 350* for 35 minutes. Remove from oven.
Add marshmallows if desired after casserole is baked. Return to oven for 2 minutes, maximum. Keep an eye on it as they can catch and burn quickly!
February is National Sweet Potato Month!
North Carolina Sweet Potato Pie
1 & 1/2 cups sweet potatoes
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 light brown sugar
4 tbps. sofened butter
1/4 tsp. allspice
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1 large egg
5 tbps. instant vanilla pudding
Peel sweet potatoes, cook until soft and easily mashed with a fork. Beat with mixer untl free of lumps. Add remaining ingredients and beat well. Pour into unbaked 9 inch pie crust. Bake at 450* for 10 minutes; lower baking temperature and continue to bake at 350* for 30 minutes.
Recipe from NC Department of Agriculture.
Facts about sweet potatoes from North Carolina Sweet Potatoes & Sweet Potatoes.com
It always happens during the holiday season. In the frenzied activity surrounding that need to return to our roots, we begin the yearly ritual of baking from scratch. In the process we usually end up “baking as we go,” resulting in the realization that we are missing one ingredient or another. Panic sets in and we are off in a flash to the local grocery store in the hopes one is open, and they will have that one ingredient you so desperately need for baking success.
In anticipation of the approaching holiday baking season, I have prepared a list of most common ingredients used in baking and substitutions that can be used in a pinch.
Allspice: 1 tsp.= ground cloves cinnamon, and nutmeg to taste.
Anise: fennel can be used instead.
Apples: 1 cup, chopped, = 1 cup of firm pears. Add a tablespoon of lemon juice for acidity.
Baking powder: for 1 tsp., mix together 1/2 tsp. cream of tartar, and 1/4 tsp. baking soda. You can also substitute 4 tsp. quick-cooking tapioca.
Baking chocolate: 1 ounce, (1 square unsweetened), use 3 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa and 1 tbsp. shortening.
Bread crumbs: use 1/4 cup cracker crumbs to equal 1/4 cup of bread crumbs, or, 1/2 slice of bread, cut into cubes and toasted.
Brown sugar: for 1/2 cup of firmly-packed brown sugar, mix together 1/2 cup of sugar with 2 tbsp. molasses.
Butter: in baking, use margarine, shortening. You can also use up to 1/2 cup of vegetable oil. Applesauce and prune puree can also be used as a replacement for butter, up to 1/2 cup.
Buttermilk: for 1 cup, add 1 tbsp. vinegar or lemon juice to 1 cup of whole milk, let stand for five minutes.
Cake flour: for every 1 cup; use 1cup flour minus 2 tbsp. all-purpose flour.
Cardamom: cinnamon can be used a substitute.
Heavy cream; 1 cup: 3/4 cup of whole milk plus 1/4 cup of melted butter.
Honey; 1 cup: 1/4 cups sugar with 1/4 cup of water.
Light corn syrup; 1/2 cup: 1/2 cup sugar plus 2 tbsp. of liquid.
Lemon peel; 1tsp.: 1/2 tsp. dried peel.
Orange peel; 1 tsp.: 1/2 tsp. dried peel.
Pumpkin Pie spice; 1 tsp.: mix together 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, 1/4 tsp. nutmeg, 1/8 tsp. allspice, and 1/8 tsp. cardamom.
I hope these emergency substitutions will get you through your holiday baking without tears. Just remember, these are not exact substitutions, rather they are the closest in similarity. Your results may vary when using alternative ingredients. Make sure your spices are fresh. Outdated spices will not give you desired results whatever you decide to bake this holiday.
Of, course the practice is to check your spice shelf and throw out the old, and bring in the new. Check local markets and sales circulars for best prices. Many stores prominently display their baking items this time of year, so watch for specials.
Sign up for emails from your favorite brands as they sometimes send coupons and you are the first to be made aware of new products and recipes.
Thanks for reading and good luck with all your baking.
I am still awaiting the cooler nights and more temperate days of fall to greet me as I open the door on a new day, each morning. What I find is sweltering heat and the sun stinging my tender skin with burning rays meant only for summer and refreshing dips into swimming pools. It seems Mother Nature has other ideas in spite of the local merchants and their displays of orange and yellow gourds, bushy mums, and enough bags of candy to fill every sweet tooth in the neighborhood. Outside the window from where I write, the privet shrub shows signs of a silvery web spun by spiders awaiting their prey. Still, the temperature gauge on the dashboard of my car reads 121*!
Though it meant an evening tucked into my southwest facing kitchen, I could wait no longer. The crisper drawer of my refrigerator was packed with bright, shiny, Red Delicious apples and they needed a buttery, rolled out pastry, along with the mix of spices reminiscent of multi colored leaves and chilly nights spent bundled up under a cozy, throw along with my dog.
I had already been spending a few days shuffling through the pages of an old recipe book when my eyes rested upon a different take on apple pie. This one was chocked full of pecans lining the bottom of a pie plate, reminding me of days spent at our state’s farmer’s market and the wooden pails of various nuts lining the stalls for customers and their favorite recipes.
This recipe takes a bit of planning and extra steps, but the result is worth it. A pie sweet with the aromas of cinnamon and nutmeg, with a crunch of meaty pecans. I hope you will give it a try and enjoy it with a great dollop of vanilla ice cream…even if it is 100* outside!
Apple-Pecan Upside-Down Pie
¼ cup butter or margarine
⅔ cup chopped pecans
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar; set aside ⅓ cup from this cup of brown sugar
(2) 9 inch pastry crusts
5-6 medium sized cooking apples, sliced thin
2 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tbsp. all-purpose flour
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
½ tsp. ground nutmeg
¼ tsp. Salt
Spread butter or margarine evenly over the bottom and sides of a 9 inch pie plate.
Sprinkle pecans over the bottom and sides of buttered pie plate. Press down firmly.
Sprinkle ⅔ cup of 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar over the pecan layer. Press the sugar down firmly.
Place one of the 2 pie pastry crusts over the pecan-sugar layer. Set aside.
In a large bowl, combine apples and lemon juice.
In another bowl, mix together flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and the remaining sugar.
Combine the spice mixture to the bowl of apples and lemon juice, tossing together well.
Spoon the apple mixture over the pastry crust. Add the other pastry crust over the apple layer.
Trim edges and seal the pastry edges together and flute the edge of the pastry.
Cut slits into the top of pastry crust to allow for steam to escape.
Bake in a 450* oven for 10 minutes. Then reduce heat to 350* and bake an additional 40-50 minutes.
Remove pie from oven and allow it to cool for 2-5 minutes.
Invert pie onto serving plate.
Serve hot with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.
The summer heat is still holding a firm grip on the Southern United States as I write this post. Hints of fall are evident, but still lacking are the cooler nights and drier air we associate with a change over to the most colorful of all seasons. Even if my mind is turning with thoughts of pie baking and celebratory events soon to come, a quick step outside with my dog reminds me that summer is still upon us.
Change comes upon us sometimes suddenly, or unexpectedly, and whether we are ready to embrace it or not, change is, oddly enough, constant. Change can bring excitement or worry.
However, sometimes we find ourselves fighting for change and hopefully, all for the better. As someone concerned with women’s issues, I will be happy in celebrating the fight for change our ancestors fought for in obtaining the right to vote.
Next year will mark the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment allowing women in the United States the right to vote. It was a battle fought over decades with little changes, and with many stories of courage and determination, along with scars both physical and mental, for the effort. Many others changed our lives simply by going about the daily business of getting things done. One such woman was a southern girl who did just that. Her name was Eugenia Duke.
Eugenia Thomas Slade Duke never dreamed of becoming an entrepreneur or a legend, she just wanted to serve others as best she could, doing what she did best. And in making sandwiches for troops on their way to Europe during World War I, she planted the roots that would become an empire. And among Southerners and many world-class chefs, Eugenia Duke is a household name.
In 1917, the world was fully entangled in the war in Europe, and as the United States joined forces overseas, many a young soldier found himself miles from home, training for trench warfare in military posts across the States. None of these young men knew what they were about to encounter, and leaving behind the only life they knew must have been a shock, especially considering America was still a mainly agricultural society then, especially in the South.
While women rolled bandages, knit socks, and sewed blankets, Eugenia began making sandwiches.
Chicken salad, egg salad, and pimento cheese slathered between slices of bread would have been welcome to any boy far from his mother’s kitchen, but it was Eugenia’s homemade mayonnaise that made all the difference. Charging just ten cents each, soldiers couldn’t get enough of Eugenia’s sandwiches.
When the war ended, Eugenia began selling her sandwiches at a local Greenville drugstore and demand was such that is rumored that in the spring of 1919, she once sold 10,000 sandwiches in one day.
In 1923, she was encouraged by her top salesperson, C.B. Boyd, to concentrate on her mayonnaise spread, as that was what made her sandwiches so special. Eugenia took a leap of faith and bought a building in downtown Greenville to manufacture “Duke’s Mayonnaise.” She made another savvy move in striking a deal with the Ottaray Hotel, by asking them to allow her to host tea parties in their lobby. Of course, the sandwiches were made with Duke’s Mayonnaise.
Active in women’s rights, Eugenia Duke became a fixture in Greenville society and I am sure discussions about the right to vote came up during those elegant tea parties as she was active in seeing women obtained the right to vote. No doubt she did more for the women’s vote in the South with her sandwiches and mayonnaise than a thousand marches and riots ever could. Afterall, the deciding vote came from Representative Harry T. Burn from Tennessee who opposed women having the right to vote, then remembered his mother and her support of the 19th Amendment. Maybe he also remembered the home cooked meals she fed him growing up.
Oddly enough, a 1920 Census report, she lists her occupation as, “none.” Apparently, she thought her thriving empire was just something she did for others, not a sign of her making her mark on the world or as a means of making a statement about the ability of a woman to make a name for herself in a man’s world.
By 1929, Duke’s Mayonnaise was so successful that Mrs. Duke sold the company to C.F. Sauer, a family-owned company producing spices and extracts for housewives. The company still markets Duke’s Mayonnaise to this day.
But selling her business didn’t mean Eugenia was finished and ready to hang up her apron. In 1950, her daughter Martha, married and moved out to California. Eugenia and her husband soon followed, and Eugenia began making sandwiches again under a new name…The Duchess Sandwich Company. They continued to sell sandwiches until Eugenia died at age 90.
Both home cooks and celebrated chefs use Duke’s Mayonnaise in their kitchens today. We love the tanginess of Duke’s and what it brings to recipes that other sandwich spreads do not. Made with a heart to serve others may be the secret ingredient in Eugenia Duke’s recipe that made her a woman before her time. I cannot imagine a Southern kitchen without a jar of Duke’s Mayonnaise or a world without a spirit like Eugenia Duke. Let’s celebrate our Votes For Women victory with a sandwich made with a spoonful of Duke’s Mayonnaise.
Back in the Eighties, the country music group, Alabama, had a song called “Song of the South,” that was very popular. Within the lyrics is a line that goes, “Somebody told us Wall Street fell, but we were so poor we couldn’t tell.” Unfortunately, for millions in our nation, things haven’t changed much. For too many, The Great Depression, is alive and well even in America, the Land of Plenty. Many is the two income family that is desperately trying to make ends meet.
But before this begins to sound political, this blog post isn’t about politics, it’s about good ‘ole Southern baking. Though it would be difficult to find any Southerner who doesn’t freely offer an opinion on politics when prompted even slightly. We all know and have experienced moments of needing to cut back on spending and savor what we already have. And many recipes of Southern origin focus on doing a lot with oh so little. Vinegar Pie certainly fills a sweet tooth on very sparse ingredients.
The origins of Vinegar Pie go back to our pioneer days when fresh produce was difficult to come by. Whether travelling across country, or simply trying to make a living off the land where one settled and called home, fresh fruit was a luxury, and many times not available.
The taste of this pie is a contradiction of its name. It isn’t acidic as its moniker suggests. It is a truly sweet and flavorful pie. Many are the variations as some recipes call for apple cider vinegar and others for distilled, white vinegar. I’ll include two recipes here for those with either one staple in the pantry or the other. If you have never tried Vinegar Pie, you will be surprised by how such simple ingredients can become such a flavorsome treat!
Recipe for Vinegar Pie:
2 cups sugar
4 eggs, beaten
¼ cup of melted butter
¼ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 unbaked pie shell for 9 inch pie
Preheat oven to 350*. Combine the sugar, eggs, melted butter, salt and vinegar in a large bowl. Stir until ingredients are well blended. Pour mixture into unbaked pie shell and bake in the oven for 35 minutes. Allow to cool or serve slightly warm. (This pie is even better with a dollop of whipped cream on top).
Recipe for Vinegar Pie
3 eggs, separated
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons flour
Pinch of salt
1 ½ cups boiling water
¼ cup vinegar
1 teaspoon lemon flavoring or lemon juice
6 tablespoons sugar
Beat egg yolks until thick. Mix sugar and salt with flour, blend well. Add boiling water slowly while stirring. Add vinegar. Cook over hot water, stirring until smooth and thick.
Remove from heat and add flavoring or juice. Allow mixture to cool. Pour into a baked pie shell.
Make meringue of egg whites and 6 tablespoons of sugar. Spread over top of pie. Brown in slow oven at 325*.
(This is a recipe I found in an old cookbook, North Carolina and Old Salem Cookery by Elizabeth Hedgecock Sparks (Beth Tartan)).
I have never been a “cherry” person. For whatever reason, I just never found these round, ruby colored jewels of fruit to be very appealing. My mother will confirm this. Every time we go out for a hot fudge sundae, or any dessert served with a cherry on top, she will end up with two cherries on her dessert. I just can’t handle eating a plain, old cherry. There is something about it my palate just doesn’t like. I can eat cherries within a cake or anytime it is covered in rich, dark chocolate, but never “just cherries.”
For that reason, I have never baked a cherry pie. I could eat a slice of cherry pie with a heaping spoonful of vanilla ice cream dripping over the pastry crust, and melting slowly into the juice, but it wasn’t enough for me to set about baking one from scratch on a hot July afternoon.
It wasn’t until our local grocery store featured fresh, sweet cherries at $1.99 a pound, and the Fourth of July holiday, that I decided to take the plunge. There is something about the rich, red cherry and the thought of fireworks bursting in the night sky that make cherry pie our go-to dessert this time of year.
I am glad I did. This recipe I found in Better Homes and Gardens, “Baking Step-by-Step,” was a cinch to make and easy to adapt using fresh cherries instead of canned cherries as is stated in the original recipe. Though I did have to break down and use a store-bought crust, (my pastry wasn’t cooperating in my humid kitchen, even with two fans running), the lattice was simpler than I anticipated. I could have skipped the fancy lattice crust but I needed an excuse to use my new pastry crimper. The result was a tasty, slightly tart, cherry lattice pie that was perfect for any reason; not just Independence Day.
Recipe for Fresh Cherry Pie with Lattice Crust
2 frozen pastry crusts or recipe for double pastry crusts if baking from scratch (allow frozen pastry to come to room temperature)
1 lb. fresh, sweet cherries; pitted (the original recipe calls for (2) 14 ½ oz. cans pitted cherries in water pack)
1 ½ cups of sugar
¼ cup of cornstarch
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon of butter
½ teaspoon almond extract
⅓ cup of cherry brandy or cherry juice (the original recipe asks that you reserve the water pack from the canned cherries and use that for making the syrup you will pour over the cherries)
Preheat oven to 375*
Directions for crusts:
If using store bought pastry as I did, allow them to come to room temperature. Then line the bottom of one 9-inch pie plate with one of the crusts. Using a knife or pastry crimper, cut out about eight, thin strips of pie pastry and set aside.
Directions for syrup:
In a medium sized saucepan, add sugar, cornstarch, and cinnamon. Gradually add the cherry brandy or cherry juice. Cook the liquid over a medium-high heat while continuing to stir. Once the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is bubbling, remove from heat.
Stir in pitted cherries. (I made the mistake of keeping the cherries whole. It looks better but is much easier to eat if you slice the cherries in half). Add the butter, and almond extract to the cherries and stir well.
Fill the pastry lined pie plate with the cherry filling. Trim the excess pastry from the edges of the pie plate.
Begin weaving the lattice crusts over the filling. Place four to six strips of pastry across the top of the filling vertically. (It is easier to weave an even number of pastry strips than odd numbers of them).
Now, counting across, pull back the even numbered strips of pastry. Place a strip of pastry horizontally (across), the odd numbered strips of pastry. Now, pick up the even numbered strips of pastry and place them back over the filling.
With the odd numbered strips of pastry, pull them back and add a strip of pastry across the top of the even numbered strips of pastry. Then lift up the odd numbered strips and place them back over the filling. Continue this pattern until you have reached the top of the pie plate.
Optional: brush pastry strips with an egg wash and sprinkle with sugar.
Bake in the oven for approximately 35 minutes. You will want to cover the edges of the pie with foil to keep them from browning too soon. If you have a pie crusts shield, this works even better.
Bake on the lowest shelf of your oven to ensure the bottom crusts bakes to a golden brown and doesn’t become soggy.