02
Jan
18

Chow Chow

Chow Chow, here in the South where I live, is a delicious relish made predominately of cabbage and green tomatoes. It is a sweet/sour condiment that is usually put on top of a nice bowl of beans or used in place of your usual hot dog relish. It can also be used any place sweet pickle relish is called for so; dressed eggs, tartar sauce, etc. would welcome this tangy addition. Until recently, this was the only Chow Chow of which I was aware. Recently, a canning buddy from Pennsylvania told me about an Amish version which is more of a side dish along the lines of a 3 Bean Salad. I am in a CSA (community supported agriculture) program with a group of  Mennonites and, a couple of weeks ago, there was a jar of Amish Chow Chow in my basket. The brine is very similar to what I use but the vegetables are completely different. The Amish version has beans, celery, cauliflower, watermelon rind, corn, peppers, and a host of other ingredients. It is very tasty but it is not the Chow Chow I know and love so much.

Recently, I had a cabbage and several green tomatoes from my CSA basket so I thought I would whip up a batch of Chow Chow since my stock was starting to get a little low. While I was getting my ingredients together and beginning my prep, I noticed that I had one small beet in the fridge. I decided to add that into the mix for the Hell of it. I thought the beet may tint the relish a little pink. I mean, once it was peeled, the beet was about the size of a golf ball. How much of a difference could that possibly make considering how much of the other ingredients were involved. So I just grated it into the bowl with the rest of the vegetables and proceeded with the recipe as usual. Well, as you can see, not only did it make the Chow Chow a brilliant red, as opposed to its customary greenish-yellow, it also gave the resulting relish a slightly more earthy taste which I loved. This was one of those happy accidents that made an old recipe new and better. I’m keeping it.

20180102_162500Left to right: Amish Chow Chow, my usual recipe, my recipe with added beet.

It took me a couple of years of trial and error to come up with a recipe that was my own but this is the final result and is the recipe that has won blue ribbons at The State Fair.

*Note: Using a slicing blade on a food processor makes quick work of shredding the vegetables but you can also use a mandoline or just good old school knife work. Drain some of the liquid off the vegetables before salting them, especially if you use the food processor method to slice the them.
If you have access to fresh tumeric root, you can grate that into the spice bag instead of adding the powdered spice to the brine. Increase the amount to 1 1/2 – 2 Tbs.

Bennie’s Chow Chow
Makes 5-6 pint jars

Vegetables
4 cups cored and finely shredded cabbage
4 cups cored and finely shredded green tomatoes
1 1/2 cups finely shredded sweet onions (Vidalias if available)
2 cups finely shredded red and green bell peppers
1/3 cup Pickling Salt
1 small beet peeled and grated (optional)

Spices (Tied in a cheesecloth spice bag)
1 Cinnamon Stick (Broken)
3 Tbs Yellow Mustard Seeds
1 Tbs Brown Mustard seeds
2 Tbs Celery Seeds
1/2 Tbs Whole Allspice Berries
1/2 Tbs Whole Cloves
1/2 tsp Red Pepper Flakes
I Heaping Tbs Minced Garlic

1 cup Water
3 cups White Vinegar
2 cups Sugar
1 Tbs Tumeric

Mixed shredded vegetables in a non-reactive bowl. Add salt and toss to mix well. Refrigerate overnight.

The next day, prepare your canner and sterilize your jars. Bring lids and rings to a boil in a pan and reduce heat to very low until you are ready to cap your jars.

Mix water, vinegar and sugar in a large non-reactive pot and bring to a boil. Stir until sugar is completely dissolved. Add the spice bag and turmeric and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Remove spice bag. Add the vegetables to the already boiling brine. Return to a boil, reduce heat to medium and let it simmer for 10 minutes.

Ladle hot relish into sterilized pint jars leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace, if necessary by adding more relish and brine. Wipe the rim and center prepared lid on jar. Screw ring down until finger tight.

Place jars in canner, making sure each jar is completely covered with water. Process in boiling water for 15 minutes. After processing time, remove the canner from the heat, take off the lid and let rest 5 minutes. Remove the jars from the water and cool. Once they are completely cool, they are ready to use anytime. Store in a cool dark place. Best if used within 1 year.

 

 

 

 

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21
Dec
17

Goo Goo Muck Pie

Back in the early part of the last century and before, if a person wanted some candy, they could get a chocolate bar, maybe a bag of caramels, or some hard candy mints. Then, in 1912, Howell Campbell of Nashville’s Standard Candy Company created The Goo Goo Cluster. A delightful amalgam of chocolate, marshmallow, caramel and peanuts, The Goo Goo was the first combination candy bar and the candy world was changed forever. The Goo Goo has been a personal favorite for many years.
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I give this wee history lesson because, this year, The Tennessee State Fair had a Goo Goo Cluster dessert content. Each entry had to contain at least 2 Goo Goos and would be judged in a live judging at the fair. I decided, this had my name all over it so I signed up on line with no idea what I was going to make at the time. After much consideration, I came to the conclusion that I had to make a pie.

Being Southern, I love Chess Pie; a tangy, buttermilk custard pie that is an ever present item at every family reunion pot luck dinner. I wondered, what would happen if I chopped up some Goo Goos in the bottom of the pie shell and filled it with a Chess/custard base? While I love the peanut version, I wanted it to be a bit more ‘fancy’ so I used Goo Goo Supremes. They are just like the originals but, instead of being packed with peanuts, the Supremes are made with pecans. It was good but, it was not great. So I made another, this time, using 3 Goo Goos. Better but still not there. So I made another, adding yet another cluster into the mix. My friends and family were loving all these practice pies. The 4 Goo Goo pie was pretty damn great so I decided to quit messing with perfection. The Goo Goos floated to the top of the custard and formed a chocolaty crust. Sadly, this is the only photo I thought to take of one of the pies. When I make it again, I will add a full pie photo here.

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I had my contest entry. All I needed now was a name to call the thing since the recipe had to be turned in with the entry. I was discussing the naming with Jeanine and Leslie and we kicked around several names but nothing was sticking. Then Leslie suggested naming it after the song, ‘Goo Goo Muck’ by The Cramps. Ding Ding Ding. We had a winner. It paid homage to one of my all time favorite bands (and likely the cause of some of my hearing loss) and it was obscure enough that we figured it would go over the judge’s heads. It was perfect.

The day of the contest rolled around and The Missus and I arrived at the State Fair early. We turned in the pie to the Goo Goo Authorities and went about checking out the fair. Specifically, we went to see if I had won any ribbons for my canned goods and baking. It was a decent year. In canned goods, I took 3rd place for Applesauce and 2nd place for my Hot Dog Relish and Fruit Cocktail. In baking, I entered 2 items. I won 2nd place for Biscuits and the blue ribbon for my Strawberry Fried Pies. I was happy with those results. We also had time to down a corndog and Italian Sausage Sandwich and check out the giant pumpkins, mutant watermelons, and to sniff the ham room, all of which are an annual Wade Family Tradition.

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Then, it was time for the Goo Goo Dessert Contest. With fingers crossed, we found a seat and waited for the judging to go down. There were 12 entries. I’ll be honest with you. I can’t remember what any of the other entries were. We were talking to the folks seated around us. One woman had an entry in the contest and the couple in front of us just loved food competitions. My pie came up about half way through the judging. The judges were all marketing folks from Goo Goo and the butterflies in my stomach were all aflitter when I heard, “Our next entry is a Goo Goo Muck Pie” and then she added, “I’ve never heard of a Muck Pie before.” The Missus and I and the young couple we had been chatting with, who also happened to be fans of The Cramps all had a hearty chuckle. The name did, indeed, sail right over their heads.

Judges

They tasted, compared notes and then moved on to the next entry. Once all the entries had been sampled, the judges retired to deliberate. After about 15 minutes, the results were in. The woman we had been chatting with took 3rd place. A young woman, probably in her 20s took second and, as you have probably guessed by now, The Goo Goo Muck Pie took the Grand Prize. I was jubilant. The grand prize was about seventy five to a hundred dollars worth of Goo Goo products. Originals, Supremes and Peanut Butters plus an insulated Goo Goo Travel Mug and a gift certificate to The Goo Goo Store. That’s right. There is a Goo Goo Store in downtown Nashville. A ribbon would have been nice, what with me being something of a ribbon whore but, I can’t complain.

…and hopefully, you won’t complain either once you try Goo Goo Muck Pie.

Goo Goo Muck Pie

  • 4 Goo Goo Supremes, chopped
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1 TB all-purpose flour
  • 2 TB yellow cornmeal (plain. Not self-rising)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 1 stick of butter (1/2 cup), melted
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 TB vanilla
  • 1 TB cider vinegar
  • 1 unbaked deep dish pie crust

Preheat the oven to 350.

Chop the Goo Goo Supremes into 1/2” pieces. Spread the pieces all across the bottom of the pie crust, making sure the entire bottom is covered. Set aside.

Mix together the Sugar, flour, cornmeal, and salt in a large mixing bowl or in the bowl of a mixer.  Stir or mix to combine.

Beat the eggs and combine with the melted butter, buttermilk, and vanilla. Whisk well to blend. Add the vinegar, stir and quickly add to the dry ingredients and whisk or mix until it is completely combined.

Pour this mixture over the Goo Goo pieces, making sure they are all well covered. Put this on a baking sheet and bake in the preheated oven for 1 hour or until the center is set and is only very slightly ‘jiggly.’ If the crust start to get too brown, cover with foil and continue baking.

Remove from oven and let it cool for at least 4 hours. Refrigerate any leftovers.

 

 

19
Dec
17

A Big Change To This Blog

Hey there Kids.
This blog was intended to be about my culinary adventures that went down in my career as an on the road entertainer. As the years have worn on, my road time became less and less to the point were I am semi-retired due to age and some health issues. I still do the occasional show and if anything noteworthy happens, food-wise, you can bet I will write about it here. In the meantime however, this blog has been gathering dust and I am pretty sure I just saw a tumbleweed lazily roll by. I hate this. I had such high hopes for this space so, that changes now. The title of the blog has already been adjusted accordingly and new content starts soon.

I have been a cook, both at home and, in my youth, professionally, since I was in the Cub Scouts. I do all the cooking at home and I also do home canning and baking. My canned and baked goods have won all manner of ribbons at The Tennessee State Fair. I have decided that this would be a dandy spot to let go of some of my recipes and to share recipes I have found and tried/adapted. I think this will spur me on to use this space for something other than a spot to keep my lonesome cricket soundtracks. Stay tuned. The updates will begin very shortly.

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27
Sep
09

I Can’t Believe It’s Been A Year…

It is true. I have sadly neglected this blog for far too long. There are a lot of reasons. When I started this, I was going to use it to talk about culinary discoveries I make as I traveled around the country performing my side show act. Sad to say, with the general tanking of the American economy, my entertainment career has tanked as well. I haven’t been on the road much at all this year (and the last half of last year for that matter) With no road trips there has been little opportunity to find road food.

Therefore, I have decided to start blogging about food in general. Local food that I find and love, new recipes I discover and, of course, news of my state fair prize winnings.

I have won state fair blue ribbons the past two years for my Bread & Butter pickles. Anyone who tries them says they are the best they have ever eaten. I had high hopes for a repeat ribbon this year. I entered my Bread & Butters, Deli Style Dills and on a whim, I also entered my organic Blueberry Jam and my Cherry Marmalade. I was really busy during the time the fair was here so I didn’t get a chance to go and find out if I had won again but a friend called me to let me know that, unfortunately, my Bread & Butters did not win a ribbon this year. I was a bit crestfallen but I had a good run for a couple of years so I was fine with the loss. The final day of the fair rolled around and I had to go pick up my entries, and get one of those state fair Italian Sausage sandwiches. I had my sandwich and made my wat to the agriculture building to pick up my canned goods. I gave the attendant the receipts for my entries and off she went to retrieve them. The first jar she put on the counter was my Blueberry Jam and, much to my surprise, it had a big blue ribbon hanging on it. It appeared that my friend who reported my lack of ribbons was unaware I had entered jams and didn’t check for winning entries in that category. I was surprised and delighted. I had made an end run and my winning record remained unsullied!

The Winning Jam

08
Sep
08

Victory Is Mine

 

I just returned from the Tennessee State Fair. Last year, the chocolate pecan pie I entered into the baking competition won second place. This year, my pie didn’t fare very well and finished with no ribbons. However, for the second year in a row, my Bread & Butter Pickles won the First Prize Blue Ribbon. So, yet again, I have

pissed off a lot of blue haired grannies!

21
Nov
07

In Praise Of The Pig

This originally appeared in my LiveJournal Blog in a slightly different form…

Is there any more gloriously noble, yet humble, versatile and above all, tasty, animal than the pig? I can answer that without hesitation with a resounding, NO!!

Being from the south in general and Tennessee in particular, I have a long association with pig. My grandmother (my dad’s mom) raised Berkshire hogs for a while and some of my earliest photos are of me posing beside a group of black and white porcine wonders.

BenniePigs

Bennie & The 3 Little PigsMy grandfather (my mom’s dad) raised hogs, peanuts and tobacco. I have seen sausage being made and I still eat it. I have even committed my love of the pig to my dermis.

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I immediately have a deep distrust of any culture that forbids consumption of pork. I mean, why would something so wonderful as a pork chop be forbidden? The only reason I can think of is because someone, somewhere, a long time ago, decided that a way to keep folks in line was to deny them some of the finer things in life. To repress their natural urges for good stuff, and since outlawing sex wasn’t going to work, then eating pork was the natural second choice on the list of great things in life. I feel sad for those people. Al Queda may hate us for our culture of permissiveness, our music, our movies, our entire way of life, but whether they will admit it or not, I think they are just jealous that we unashamedly revel in the joys of BBQ baby back ribs.

I have friends, close friends, who deny themselves the porky delights because pigs are smart, because they read ‘Charlotte’s Web’ as a kid (now that is one of the few books I would support being banned for what it does to kids. You folks do know that the guy who wrote ‘Charlotte’s Web’ was a hog farmer who continued dining on pigs long after his damnable book came out…) or they saw Arnold Ziffle on ‘Green Acres’ or some such. In a way, I suppose I respect their decision to engage in such unwarranted self-denial much in the way i respect the celibate, the hermit or folks who don’t watch TV. I respect their will power in spite of the fact that I think they are out of their mind…

Think about it. There is no more versatile animal than the pig. Take breakfast alone. Bacon taste nothing like sausage which tastes nothing like ham. Country ham is as different from ‘city ham’ as Hall is from Oates, and yet, they come from the same glorious animal. Pancetta (Italian bacon) is different from good old country slab bacon. I can go on and on.

I have always said that there is nothing in the world wrong with a vegetarian that a pork chop wouldn’t take care of. And let’s not even get started on spare ribs with lasagna…

What prompted this Ode to the Hog?? Last night’s dinner of course…

I went to a mexican restaurant around the corner from the hotel. Los Cabos is a local chain but in spite of it’s chain-ness, the food is pretty damned good. They do a guacamole that is made tableside and it is delicious. The Jumbo Gold Margarita was damned dandy. I ordered Carnitas al Puerco.

At my favorite mexican restaurant in Nashville, the Carnitas are roast pork loin that is flash deep fried at a very high temperature which give the pork chunks a deliciously crispy exterior while remaining tender and juicy inside. It is kind of the same principle as the chinese version of Twice Cooked Pork.

The Carnitas al Puerco at Los Cabos were totally different. Slow roasted pork shoulder was used and the meat was fork shredded into a heaping pile of heavenly porkiness. It was not deep fried but rather left to wallow, unadorned, in it’s own natural goodness. It came with the requisite beans and rice, which were decent and was served with a fresh pico de gallo, some of their wonderful guacamole and sour cream along with fresh, steamy corn tortillas. The Carnitas were piled onto a tortilla with the pico, guacamole and just a little sour cream. The pork was melt in your mouth, ‘cut it with a plastic fork’ tender. It was juicy and flavorful without being strong or overpowering. It was a delight.

Now all you folks out there who eschew the noble pig, you have my blessing. Keep on denying yourself. It builds character to deprive yourself of one of the finer things in life and, of course, it leaves more for me.

25
Oct
07

what have you been eating lately bennie part 2

Farmer’s Markets are an amazing piece of a city’s culture and soul. They are a gathering place, based around the freshest of foods, where a cross section of the populous comes together to support local agriculture and merchants. They can be clean and clinical or funky and fun but either way, I love them all. I mentioned in the last post that Kitty and I had tried to find the Tacoma Market and that it had been canceled due to the impending windstorms. Just because we couldn’t check out the Tacoma Market doesn’t mean there has been a lack of market adventures…

I heard about the Olympia Farmer’s Market around town so I looked it up on the internet and found they were open on Thursday-Sunday until Xmas Eve. So the first Thursday that I had free, I called up Kitty and Michael and asked if they would like to hit the market with me. They agreed so I met them at their house, which is close to the market. Kitty and I loaded into my car and Michael, since he needed to be back before us, took his bike and off we went to The Olympia Farmer’s Market.

This one is a small market right on the waterfront. We started out with some breakfast. Michael had mentioned that he was going to hit the Mexican food shop for a breakfast burrito and that sounded dandy to me. I ordered the burrito and a few minutes later I was straining my back carrying this massive, big as a Thermos bottle burrito back to the table. This thing was HUGE, stuffed with eggs, chorizo, rice, potatoes, lettuce, cheese, sour cream, beans and a delicious red sauce. We sat at one of the picnic tables in front of the stage while we listened to the melodious tones of Quatro. This was a band consisting of piano, drums, upright bass and sax and the average age of the players had to be 70. I am sure they cats had kicked out the jams in the Truman administration and their jazzy renditions mixed well with the cool air and the hot sauce on my burrito. It is a rare instance when I can’t ‘clean my plate’ but I left about a third of this monster-rito on the plate.

The Olympia Farmer’s Market was a delight. The produce, mostly locally grown and organic, looked wonderful and I seriously lamented my lack of a kitchen. I did pick up some apples for the room and I had to snag some of the perfect chanterelles. I do have an electric skillet in my room so I do have some minor cooking capabilities. I also snagged several pears, four different varieties of locally grown pears to box up and send back to the Missus at home. After she got done working her culinary magic on the, they are now sitting in jars on my counter back home in the form of pear honey, which is not actually ‘honey’ but a thick, sweet syrup made from the pears and spices.

OlyMarket-KittysPear-01

There was all manner of vegetable, from beets and broccoli to these weird, Italian cauliflower that looked like something straight out of The Day Of The Triffids.

Triffid CauliflowerOlyMarket-CauliflowerTriffid

Fresh seafood, a nice meat market, a sausage store were all well stocked and reasonably priced.

OlyMarket-Weenies

There are a couple of bakery stalls, a spice shop, a metal worker and some interesting artwork all over the place. I think this is supposed to be a turkey but I couldn’t help notice the eerie resemblance to the airplane eating, atomic mutant bird from the classic B movie, The Giant Claw…

OlyBird-GiantClaw

Science fiction movie references aside, The Olympia Farmer’s Market is a glorious place and I have been back a couple more times since the original journey.

Then, there is the Mother of Markets, Seattle’s Pikes Place Market. This place is a wonder. It has been in continuous operation for 100 years. Back in the 60’s, some developers and city council folks and even the mayor wanted to knock it down and replace it with apartments and an arena and other such signs of a city’s so called progress and the locals banded together and blocked the drive and got the place deemed a historic site. We are all better for their actions.

This place is amazing. Six levels of shops, restaurants, buskers, merchants and the freshest and most amazing produce you can imagine. This is the view from the back of the place showing the six levels.

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The original Starbucks Coffee shop is here in Pike’s Place. There is a Sur le Table store that I always make a visit to whenever I am there. All manner of tiny shops and food stalls are neatly tucked away in various buildings and there is always an air of organized chaos.

One of the stops I made this year was Beecher Cheese. These folks make an incredible array of cheeses on site and they also have a small sandwich shop where I had the most amazing grilled cheese sandwich of my life. It was made on a sourdough bread with their flagship cheddar and their jack cheese with tomato and fresh basil and then grilled in a pannini press. I sat and munched on this wonderful sandwich while sitting in front of the plate window that separated me from the gentleman on the other side who was going about his business of making the cheese.

There is stall after stall of some of the freshest fruit and vegetables I have ever seen. Once more, I cursed my lack of kitchen facilities. Oh, the things I could have done with this stuff. The fresh fish shops were stocked with every manner of sea creature you can imagine. From salmon and halibut from the nearby waters to geoduck and crabs, it was a dazzling display. You can also check out, in person, the shop that you see on every travel and cooking show on TV. You know the one where they throw the fish around the room. This place is fun but I just can’t imagine that the poor fish is worth eating once it has been tossed back and forth that way.

Now personally, I love Brussell Sprouts but apparently, someone doesn’t share my affection for them.

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You can spend an entire day at the Pikes Place Market and still not visit every shop. I didn’t have time for that because I wanted to make a run to Uwajimaya.

Uwajimaya is not a farmer’s market per se, but it is a huge Asian Market and is a must visit spot whenever I am in Seattle. A combination grocery store, meat market and department store, these folks carry everything Asian. You can get all your Hello Kitty needs, a sake set, dishes, cookware, 20 varieties of rice and even more types of teas. The noodle selection is dazzling and they make sushi and japanese desserts on site.

This visit, I decided to grab some food I could make in my hotel room. Since I have a mini-fridge, a microwave and an electric skillet, I knew I could easily prepare a small meal. I found a large piece of sashimi grade tuna, all fresh, firm and cherry red. I also found a precooked bowl of sprouted brown rice that was microwaveable. I rounded this out with a container of seaweed salad and my meal was complete. I took it back to the room and splashed the tuna with soy sauce and coated the outside with cracked black pepper. I seared this quickly in my skillet, taking care to not set off the smoke alarm in the room. Once the tuna was well seared on the outside, I let it rest for a few minutes while I heated the rice. I put the rice on my plate, thinly sliced the tuna and spread that over the rice and drizzled it with a mix of soy sauce and wasabi. The seaweed salad was opened and some green tea made in the room’s coffee pot. It was absolutely delicious…

The Seattle area is goldmine for good food and food products. If you ever have the good fortune to visit this part of the country, check out these markets. You will in no way regret it!




May 2018
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