Archive for the ‘Cooking’ Category

Apple Lady Recipe

January 4, 2018

Apple Lady2

This is everything I like about apple pie(s), and none of the things I don’t enjoy. Because you are making a portion of it almost as a “sauce”, the remainder of the apples don’t need to be cooked.  You don’t need (nor should) to pre-bake either of these crusts. Since you are using multiple apple varieties with different aspects of tartness, sweetness, and toothiness, you get a more complex dish – because you aren’t cooking them first you don’t get mushiness everywhere.

Apple Lady

6-8 lbs of apples; use 4 or more varieties

3 sticks of unsalted butter

2 cups of dark brown sugar

1 pear, preferably very ripe

1 bottle of J.K. Scrumpy’s hard cider

Cinnamon, mace, ground ginger, allspice, clove to taste

1 lb walker’s shortbread (3 5oz packages are fine)

Springback pan, large (10″)

First, a word on the apples.  I use multiple apple varieties to get more complex texture and taste, rather like using more varieties of chilis when making a good chili. This last time I used Honeycrisp, Granny smith, Gala, and Fuji apples. I’ve also used Macintosh and Staymans, and others.  Do not use any red or yellow delicious apples, ever.

  • Cooking Mixture:

Combine the butter, brown sugar, half-bottle of hard cider, spices, the pear (chopped), and 2 apples (chopped) in a pot to bring to a boil, simmer for about 10-15 minutes.

If you do not use scrumpy’s or another very apple-y-tasting cider, then add a cup or two of fresh squeezed / juiced apple juice or fresh cider.

  • Main apples:

Core and either half-peel (vertical stripes) or wholly peel the apples.

Slice thin and evenly. I like to use the mandolin, and do ripple cuts, like potato chips, but thicker. The ripples increase adhesion of the slices.

  • “Crust”:

Pound the shortbread into crumb in a mixing bowl with something heavy, I use a meat tenderizer.  Then press 10 ounces or so of the shortbread into the bottom of the pan as a crust – you can come up the side of the pan just enough to make a ridge, but not like a real pie.


Look up a recipe for a sour cream pie crust and make that.  I’ve done it both ways. I made the sour cream pie crust this time.

  • Assembly:

Start layering the thin slices of apples around the bottom, as flat and overlapping as much as possible. Come up about halfway.

Add half the mixture from the pot, then layer in the rest of the apples. At the top, pour over the rest of the mixture, then press the rest of the shortbread crumb around the perimeter of the pan, but not in the middle.  (Or like this time, I made 2 different lid crusts, one latticed, one disk, for the 2 I made).

Bake at 325 degrees for one hour.  Let cool, and then preferably refrigerate before serving with fresh whipped cream.





County Ham, how to cook a

November 25, 2017

How to cook a country ham:

Glazed Country Ham 1

There are very few places left that cure country ham the way they used to when I was a child.  It was a simple process, overall.  Brown sugar and salt, hang the ham in a sack tied off with hemp twine from a rafter in a barn or a curing shed, and wait.  9 months, a year, 2 years.

Most places that do this as a business these days go to extra effort. They may use humidity controlled, temperature controlled buildings. They may add other ingredients to the cure, or other processes.

In recent years there has been an expansion of these and other techniques and there are places that turn out some fancy ham; or prosciutto, or other cured meat product.  And I order and eat these things, and generally really like them.  The Pig, for example, in Chapel Hill makes a prosciutto like country ham that has wide bands of soft gentle white fat and a hard dark red meat. It’s great.

This year when I decided to cook a country ham like I grew up with, I researched where I’d get my ham for a couple of hours on the internet, looking at all the great places, including Edward’s Country Hams (Surry, VA), Johnson County hams (guess where), Smithfield hams, Benton’s Country Hams (TN), etc.

One of my uncles has a Smithfield country ham every year at the holidays on their table, and it’s a good one. I have been personally familiar with the greatness of Edward’s pork products from Virginia for decades.

But at the end of the day I picked up the phone and called Nancy at A.B. Vannoy Hams, as I usually do. It’s a great product at a great price and you won’t be sorry.

Ham Tag


Step one: buy your ham and have it shipped to you.

When it arrives it is going to be in a bag, and it is going to be moldy and gnarly and look like ick.  Don’t worry.  Store it somewhere cool per instructions and it will be fine when you need it.

Step two: You want to wash your ham overnight, and then cook the ham on the second day, and then serve it on the 3rd day.

48 hours before you want to serve your ham, take it out of the bag and put it in a sink of fresh water.  I do this to remove all the mold and clean it thoroughly. I’m not really trying to do anything else with it; it doesn’t need brining, ha-ha, and I haven’t noticed that it changes any flavor profiles; it’s just easier to clean by soaking.

First Rinse

(after 1st rinse)

Come back in 6-8 hours and change the water.  Come back in another 8-12 hours and do it again.  I find that anywhere from 2-3 rinses over a 12-16 hr period is more than enough.  An hour before you begin the cooking process, scrub it with paper towels or a rag or a sponge, rinse it off one final time, and remove it from the water and dry it off.

Second Rinse

(after second rinse)

Step Three:  Final preparation

Most folks cut off a few inches on the hock in with a saw.  I don’t because I like the extra length of bone to hold onto as I slice the ham.

There is debate about when to remove the skin.  I prefer to cook the ham in the skin and remove after cooking. You can also cut it off now.  Just below the skin is the fat. If you decide to remove the skin now, be careful not cut too deeply into the fat.  A small curved paring knife is excellent for this.

Washed and ScrubbedTop in Rack2

But me, I don’t do it now, I just wrap the ham completely in heavy duty aluminum foil.  The only seams are near the top of the ham because you want to pour 1 cup of water and 1 cup of red wine (I use sweet Marsala) into the foil with the ham, then finish closing off the foil.

Wrapped in Foil with Water & Wine In the Oven

Step Four:  Cooking the Ham

Put into a roasting pan on an elevated cooking rack, and bake in the oven for 17-20 minutes per pound at 325 degrees.  A 15-lb ham will therefore take about 4 hours and 15 minutes to 5 hours.

Make some strong coffee and set aside, 3-4 cups.  This is for step 5.

At the end of the cooking time take it out.

Peeling off Foil & Skin

(peeling skin on left, see the skin still on the right side)

Fat on top, skin on front side peeling

(skin still on lower right side)

Skill peeled off

Bowl of skin & foil

(lots of skin and bits and foil)

Remove the foil, and now skin the ham. Score the fat.

Skill Peeled off2

Side view fat

Fat surface

Right side1

Scored fat close-up

Step Five:  Stop here for a diversion

Make Red-Eye Gravy Glaze:

While this is happened, take a iron skillet or a stainless steel one to make the Glaze.

Melt 3 cups of dark brown sugar and ½ lb of unsalted butter in the skillet.  Add some of the ham drippings (no more than 1 cup) and bring to a bubble. Thickly coat the surface of the pan with ground black pepper.  Add the coffee to deglaze and start stirring.  Stop and coat the surface of the pan again with ground black pepper. Do this one more time. Reduce the mixture in the pan until it is about the thickness of A1 sauce.  Turn off heat and let it cool off and thicken a bit.

Cooking the Glaze

This is also called red-eye gravy.  You can serve it with the sliced ham, or spread some on biscuits when you make ham biscuits.

Back to the ham!

Put it back on the rack in the roasting pan minus any foil.  Spoon the glaze over the ham.

Scored fat with glaze 2

Glazed close-up

Turn the oven up to 450 degrees and re-bake the ham uncovered for about 8 minutes.  This should be long enough to fix the glaze.

Take it out and let it rest for a few hours.  After this, you can slice and serve any time you want.  There are any number of online videos on how to cut up a ham.  I learned the most from watching butchers debone a ham rather than those tidy little 3 minute videos where they show you how to cut a wedge on a ham.  My advice is to make sure you have at least an hour of time to slice the ham, and use *sharp* knives.  You will want to slice the ham as thin as you possibly can, and against the grain.  Some people say that you want to slice country ham at about one-quarter inch thickness.  They are wrong.  1/16th is more like it, as near to shaving it and still having a coherent slice as you can cut.  As you carve the ham and get tired you will want to make thicker slices – resist this.  Pretend you have to serve 100 people with this ham, and therefore it needs to be sliced as thinly as possible.  Your guests will thank you for your labors later.

Right side end removed down to HipJoint2

(ready to slice, I trimmed a lot of the thickness of the fat off, but feel free not to)

Carving Ham turned on narrow side

Carving the Ham 1Starting Slices

Pile o' Country Ham 2


Hot Sauce – Cayenne barbeque sauce

October 30, 2011

This sauce is one of my more successful attempts.  It is thick enough to brush onto anything you’re cooking, and thin enough to bottle easily.  It is hot enough for your average person, but has as much flavor as heat.  It is easy to make, easy to reproduce consistently, and works as a condiment as well as a basting sauce.  It isn’t as thick as ketchup but is thicker than tabasco sauce and it sticks easily to whatever you put it on.  I’m sure this technique will work for hotter chilis as well, but this is something that most people can enjoy.

Cayenne BBQ Sauce - Partially full bottle after shaking

We grow our own peppers.  If you don’t do that, either buy fresh cayenne peppers or buy recently dried ones.  As a last resort you can buy cayenne powder in bulk.  If you do, try to ensure that it is fresh enough — older spices tend to lose both heat and flavor.

Step 1:  Dry the cayenne peppers. Destem them.  I dry mine in a 175 degree oven on a cookie sheet.  The first day I let it run from 6-10 hours.  Then I turn the oven off and leave them until the next day.  The second day I run them about 4 hours, or until it is clear that they are dried out.

Step 2: Put the peppers in a spice grinder and turn them into powder.

Note:  If you started with fresh peppers, start with step 1.  If you started with dried peppers (destem them first), start with step 2.

Step 3: Pour your dried, ground pepper powder into a non-reactive heavy pot (like stainless steel).  Per 1 cup of powder, add:  1 tablespoon kosher salt (just don’t use iodized salt) and 1 tablespoon sweet (not smoked or hot) paprika and 1 tablespoon cane sugar.  To the dry mixture in the pot, add just enough clear distilled vinegar to make a slurry.  Stir thoroughly, and turn the heat on to high.  When it begins to bubble, turn the heat all the way down to the lowest simmer level, stirring constantly.  After 1 minute, cover with a lid.  Check it every 15 minutes to make sure it has enough liquid, but try to let it simmer for an hour.  Remove from heat and let cool.  Check the thickness of it.  If you like it, bottle it.  You don’t have to process it further in any way.  The attached picture is a balsamic vinegar jar I reused since it had a nice cork.  I put enough up for storage that I put some in ball canning jars and ran it long enough in the canner to seal the lids, but that is not necessary.

So far I’ve used it for wing sauce, bbq chicken sauce, flavoring for braised greens, asian dishes, indian dishes, and on cornbread and pork as a condiment.

Aunt Anna’s Baked Macaroni & Cheese

March 28, 2011

I had a great-aunt who made amazing macaroni and cheese.  Well, honestly, everything she made was amazing.  This recipe is based on a discussion I had with her when I was about 12 years old, and I’ve included aspects of that discussion every time I’ve made macaroni and cheese since.

Prepped for the Oven


24-32 oz elbow macaroni

16 tbls butter (2 sticks)

16 tbls flour, all purpose

6 cups hot milk

6 tablespoons sweet paprika (not hot, not smoked)

6 tablespoons Black pepper,

salt to taste

4 tablespoons dry mustard

8 ounces sharp aged cheddar

8 ounces gruyere cheese

4 ounces shredded romano cheese

2 15 ounce containers of ricotta cheese

2 eggs


2 Dishes full


Cook macaroni in salted boiling water for 8 minutes, or until al dente.  You want it slightly undercooked.  Drain and set aside.

Melt the butter in a large saucepan, and whisk in the flour to make a roué.  Heat the milk in the microwave.  Stir in the hot milk and whisk constantly until thick, seasoning with pepper and salt.

Grate the cheese and add 3/4s of the cheddar and romano to the sauce, stirring slowly over low heat until absorbed by the sauce.  Remove from heat.

Combine the ricotta, the eggs, the dry mustard, and the paprika.

Add the macaroni to a large mixing bowl.  Stir in the cheese sauce.  Add the ricotta mixture and combine thoroughly.  Spoon all this into a large casserole dish; cover with breadcrumbs; and bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes.

Ready to Serve

This recipe filled 2 9’x13’ casserole dishes, as you can see.

Chili, Vegetarian: Variant One

March 20, 2011

Vegetarian Chili – Variant One

Unlike my chili red (real chili), this vegetarian chili has both beans and tomatoes.  It is a healthy and tasty vegetarian option, and pretty easy to throw together in the morning and eat in the evening.


½ Cup Dried Black Beans

½ Cup Dried Red Beans

½ Cup Dried Navy Beans

(Note:  You can vary the type and quantity of beans you use to the extent of your imagination.  Use the ones you like the most.  I like these because they’re red, white, and black and pretty in the bowl – also they’re all smaller beans, which I like.)

Dried chilis: 6 anchos, 2 pasilla, 4 guajillos, 4 chiles de arbol.  More variety makes better chili, but you can use whatever is available locally, and feel free to use additional chiles, including hotter ones.  None of the chiles here are remotely close to being as hot as a scotch bonnet or habanero.

1 large onion, chopped coarsely

3 cloves of garlic, sliced thin

Freshly chopped cilantro (separate leaves and stems)

1 large red sweet bell pepper

1-3 other fresh peppers, like Anaheim, Poblano, Bell, Cherry bomb, etc.

24-38 ounces of crushed tomatoes

1 cup of strong coffee

½  bottle of dark ale, beer, etc.  (I prefer dark, like Dixie Voodoo Blackened Lager, or Dos Equis)

2-4 cups of vegetable broth

Olive oil or butter

1 tbl hot paprika

2 tbl sweet paprika

1 tbl cayenne

2 tbls cumin

4 tlbs Black pepper

Salt to taste



Soak the dried beans from 2-10 hours.  If you soak them overnight, skip the next step.  If you only soak them for 2 hours or so, then add the washed soaked beans and the vegetable broth to the crock pot and cook on high for 2 hours.  Then continue.

Roast the dried chiles (anchos, pasillas, guajillos and chiles de arbol) in a dry skillet on medium for 3-4 minutes on each side.  Remove from heat and then add them to a bowl of boiling water:  let rest 30 minutes.

Saute onions, garlic, and cilantro stems in olive oil or butter until translucent and caramelizing, still in the skillet.  Deglaze with the beer and the coffee.

Pour the water off the chiles and save it.  I tend to add this in place of water when the chili needs more moisture.  This is controversial.  The best middling recommendation I’ve seen on this says to taste the chile water and if it isn’t too bitter for you, use it as a substitution in stuff you are cooking.  I do the same thing in my adobo sauce.

Add the drained chiles to the blender, and then add broth until it purees nice and smooth.  Add to pot, stir.  Add the freshly chopped peppers, the sautéed onions, garlic, and beer/coffee broth.  Add the crushed tomatoes.  Add the dry spices.  Stir until combined.   Cook in the crockpot on low for 6-8 hours.

Serve with a garnish of the fresh chopped cilantro leaves.

Ruby Myrick’s Low Country Quail Stew

March 13, 2011

“Stew” is a relative term.  In this case, it refers back to the Southern Coastal Oyster stew.  In fact, if you substitute oysters for the quail, you pretty much have the same dish.  This is not a thick stew, it is a light, rich soup with minimal ingredients.

Quail Stew

I got this recipe two weeks ago when we went quail hunting at Pine Lake Plantation in Carthage, NC.  The hunt was a present from my father, and we had a great time in addition to getting a lot of quail.  In fact, we’re going again soon.  The Myricks are great folks, and Mrs. Ruby Myrick graciously told me her recipe:

Serves 2.


4 quail

1 quart water, plus

salt & pepper


fresh parsley

3 tbls butter

2 cups half and half, or cream

2 tablespoons manzanilla sherry (optional)

1 small to medium potato, in 1/4 in. chunks (I added this)


Add the four quail to a large non-reactive pot with 2 tablespoons of butter.  Sear.  Remove the quail, and add 1 quart of water.  Scrape the fond off the bottom into the water.  Put the quail back in, and bring to a boil.  Turn down to a simmer for 10-15 minutes, just until the quail are cooked.  Remove the quail from the liquid and set aside.

Quail on a plate

To the pot of liquid, add 1/4 cup of fresh celery, or celery leaves, or 2 teaspoons dried celery or celery seed.  Add salt & pepper to taste.  Add up to 1 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley.  Chop a small potato into 1/4″ cubes, and add to the liquid (optional).

Simmer for 45 minutes.  In the meantime, remove the quail meat from the bones and chop it into even pieces.

30 minutes before you want to serve dinner, add the quail meat and the half & half.  Bring the heat up, but Do Not boil the broth & milk mixture.  You want it steaming, but not boiling, and you may have to nurse it, stirring constantly but gently.  With 10 minutes left, add the sherry, stirring gently.

Put 1/2 tablespoon of butter into the bottom of each serving bowl, and serve the quail stew over it.  I recommend crackers, croutons, or garlic bread.

It was delicious.

Valentine’s Day, post-action report

February 27, 2011

For Valentine’s Day I made dinner for the two of us.  The menu was as follows:


Grongnet Champagne, Blanc de Blancs, NV

1st Plate

Shrimp Cocktail

Main Plate

Chicken Cordon Bleu

(with Gruyere and Country Ham)

Asparagus with Béarnaise Sauce

Cheese Soufflé


Chocolate Cake

Lemon Mist Cake


The desserts came from our local (but famous) store, A Southern Season.  The champagne I learned about from my best local wine folks, currently at 3Cups.  The shrimp were caught off the coast of NC and/or southern VA.  The chicken is from a local farm, just up the road.  The country ham is from A.B. Vannoy Hams, right here in NC and some of the best country ham you can get in this day and age.

The cheese soufflé is something I’ve been making for 30 years and I’ve always followed Julia Child’s recipe.  Ditto the béarnaise sauce.


Bearnaise sauce

I learned how to make my version of chicken cordon bleu from a chef in a Baltimore Maryland establishment in the 1980s.  The major things to note are:


1)      After pounding out the chicken breast, soak it in buttermilk for a bit, then dip both sides in the flour / breadcrumbs / cornmeal seasoning.  I use black pepper, salt, and lots of sweet paprika in the seasoning.


Prepped chicken

2)      Then layer on the thinly sliced gruyere cheese (go ahead and get a good cave-aged one, you’re not going to use a lot of it anyway), then the razor-thin country ham.  Roll it up and pin with toothpicks.


3)      Bake (yes, bake) in the oven on a bed of the rest of the seasoning mix and a little oil.

We had a grand old time for dinner, and just wanted to share our fun menu with you.  A few of the cooking process pictures I shot didn’t come out, and we plain just forgot when I pulled the souffle out of the oven and we immediately sat down to eat.

Braised Venison Steaks

February 6, 2011

Braised Venison Steaks


Venison steaks (2)

1/2 onion, sliced and sweated in butter

Braising sauce:

2 tbl tomato paste

¼ cup Fig balsamic vinegar

¼ cup Red wine vinegar

¼ cup unrefined peanut oil

¼ cup melted butter

Sweet paprika, salt, black pepper

Stir and mix the sauce ingredients together.  Sear the venison steaks on 1 side in the same pan where you sweated the onion.  Add the steaks and the onion to the crock pot.  Pour the braising sauce over this, and turn the crockpot on low for 8-10 hours.

Remove the steaks, scrape out the onions.  You can use the remaining liquid in the pan as au jus or make a gravy from it.

The oil & butter are added to the sauce because venison is such a lean meat.  I sweat the onion in a covered skillet in butter at low heat for 12-15 minutes.  I use the tomato paste in a tube because it’s easy to keep and use whenever you like it.  Other oils and vinegars can be substituted for a different approach, but the fig provides a nice fruit accent that goes well with venison.  Other fruit flavors that are good with venison are apple or currant or raisin.

I did this recipe once with a sliced apple, some good grassy Italian olive oil, and white wine vinegar and it came out great.

These are fork tender and the flavor of the venison comes through without dominating.  We served them with our own cream peas, braised kale, and green beans:

Venison & Veggies

Southern Fried Duck Breasts

January 30, 2011

These are pan fried duck breasts with a mushroom tarragon cream sauce.



4 duck breasts


Peanut oil

Olive oil

Red wine vinegar

White wine

Garlic, crushed


Salt, pepper, paprika, tarragon

All purpose Flour



½ Large Onion, sweet


Garlic, sliced


White wine vinegar

White wine

Sherry, dry

½-1 cup cream



Marinate the duck breasts for 4-8 hours ahead of time in olive oil, peanut oil, red wine vinegar, white wine, and crushed garlic.

Combine a dredging mix of flour, salt, pepper, paprika (sweet), and tarragon.  Be liberal with the herbs and spices.

Finely chop the onion, then sweat the onion, 3-5 sliced garlic cloves, and the mushrooms at low heat in a covered skillet for 10-12 minutes, with 2 tablespoons of butter.  Add salt, pepper, and lots of tarragon.  Turn the heat up at the end of this period, and caramelize the onions.  Scrap this mixture from the pan and set aside, but don’t clean the pan.

Add peanut oil (I used refined and a few dashes of unrefined) to the skillet and turn on medium high heat.  The oil should come up to about 1/3rd, but less than ½ the height of the duck breasts.

Dredge the duck breasts through the flour mix, coating them thoroughly, and lay into the hot oil.  Brown 6-8 minutes on each side, then remove from the oil and place into an oven pan in a 350 degree oven while you finish the rest.

Pour out all but about 2 tablespoons of oil, scraping out any large amounts of flour coating that remain.  Deglaze the pan with white wine and a little white wine vinegar, add a couple tablespoons of butter, and add the onion/mushroom/garlic mixture back in.  Pour in the cream and the sherry; bring to a boil, and then turn down to a simmer.  Taste and season, adding more herbs or spices as desired.  Reduce to desired thickness.

I plated the duck breasts, slicing off a few thin slices to lay by the rest.  We had mashed potatoes and baby butter beans.  I ladled the mushroom tarragon cream sauce over the duck breast (ok, AND the mashed potatoes).


Weekly Update: 12/26 Second Day of Christmas

December 26, 2010

Well I must say that  Christmas Day was one of the best I’ve had in quite some time.  Everything was just right, and at the end of the day, to top it all off, it started to snow.  This is what it looked this morning, about 4 inches of it:


Winter Wonderland


We had a lovely Christmas Dinner (“that couldn’t be beat”, to quote Alice’s Restaurant).  The Menu was as follows:

First Courses

Baked Pimiento Cheese Filo Pastry Wraps

Hot Pepper Jelly with Cream Cheese and Water Crackers

Main Courses

Country Ham, sliced open

Roast Muscovy Duck

Glazed Baked Country Ham

Cheese Pudding

Haricot Verts

Braised Greens

Mashed Potatoes

Roasted Butternut Squash

Dinner Rolls

Watermelon Rind Pickle and Green Tomato Pickle


Boiled Custard & Fig Preserve Parfaits

Apple Spice Cake

Vanilla Rum Cake with Brown Sugar & Butter Glaze




Both of the pickles are sweet pickles.  I ordered a country ham from A.B. Vannoy Hams.  I soaked it in water overnight, then washed off any mold, set it into a pan on a raised cooling grate, cross-hatched the thick skin/fat layer on top, pouring over it a bit of the glaze I made, and adding a cup of water into the bottom of the pan.  I covered the whole thing in aluminum foil and baked it for 3 hours at 350 degrees.  Then I took it out, trimmed off the heavy fat layers, crosshatched it again, and covered it in the rest of the glaze, then baked it at 400 for 20 minutes.

The glaze was:  fig balsamic vinegar, dark brown sugar, sorghum molasses, and pineapple juice brought to a boil, then briefly simmered.

We cooked the duck as we mention in the recipe section herein.


A Superior Apple Cake


A grand time was had by all, and now we wish you a Happy New Year in the coming week!