Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Georgia Fig Preserves from Brown Turkey Figs

My parents both grew up in the small South Georgia community of Donalsonville in Seminole County. My daddy was a city boy. His mother died very young leaving my grandfather with four children under the age of 5. My daddy always said that it didn't take his father long to decide that he wanted to become a Baptist minister and headed to Seminary School at Mercer in Macon, Georgia. The children went to Donalsonville to live with their grandmother. She had a grocery store, chickens running around the yard, and a big healthy fig tree. They all loved figs, but my daddy feigned an allergy to fig leaves and never had to pick the fruit. When he was a grown man, his aunts and uncles all said that "Brother" as he was known, would get fig poisoning if he touched the fig leaves.
My mother, on the other hand, grew up on a farm about 5 miles out in the country. She had two sisters and no brothers and had to work in the cotton fields like a "hand". Her mother was a very genteel lady and even though she and the girls often picked cotton, they wore large brim straw hats to preserve their peaches 'n cream complexions. It was at her farmhouse table that I learned to love fig preserves.
When, my parents retired and moved home to Georgia, they had the most beautiful fig tree in their yard. The kids always got a kick out of the fact that there was always a rubber snake in the tree to scare off the birds who loved to nibble on the juicy sweet figs. Mother would fix them bowls of fresh figs bathed in cream and sprinkled with sugar for breakfast. That was just the appetizer. The main attraction were her homemade biscuits slathered with butter and gobs of her sweet fig preserves.
Her recipe was from a University of Georgia pamphlet that I still have in my cookbook collection.
The type of figs that my parents and grandparents grew in their back yards and made those delicious preserves with are named Brown Turkey. They are a brownish purple on the outside when ripe and a have a pinkish tinted and juicy center. 

Georgia Fig Preserves

3 quarts figs
3 quarts boiling water
4 cups sugar
1 1/2 quarts water
2 lemons - thinly sliced

Yields about 10 half pint jars

Pour 3 quarts boiling water over the figs. Let stand 15 minutes. Drain and discard liquid. Rinse figs in cold water and drain. Prepare syrup by mixing sugar, 1 1/2 quarts water and lemon. Boil rapidly 10 minutes. Skim syrup; remove and discard lemon slices. Drop figs carefully into the boiling hot syrup, a few at a time, Cook rapidly until figs are transparent. Remove figs and place in a shallow pan. Boil syrup until thick, pour over figs and let stand 6 to 8 hours. 

Sterilize half pint jars and lids. Reheat figs and syrup to boiling. Pour hot preserves into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Wipe rims of jars with a dampened clean paper towel; adjust two piece metal canning lids, Process in a Boiling Water Canner 10 minutes. 

When pouring hot preserves into hot jars, make sure to wear oven mitts and to use a kitchen funnel, as the hot juice can quickly scald hands. 

This may seem like a lot of trouble, but if you have access to Brown Turkey Figs, the finished delectable preserves will be well worth your time and effort. 

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Fried Dill Pickles and the OK Cafe

While visiting Altanta in the early 1990's I was introduced to Fried Dill Pickles at the OK Cafe. The OK Cafe is a family owned diner that serves southern specialties with a twist of soul. The fried dill pickle chips and the restaurant became favorites of ours instantly. No trip to Atlanta was complete without a visit to the OK Cafe on West Paces Ferry. Recently, the cafe was a victim of a fire in the take-away section, and has been closed for repairs. It is scheduled to reopen this summer. Everyone in Atlanta is celebrating. Other favorites on the menu include meat loaf, chicken pot pie, country fried steak, and the most delicious grilled cheese sandwich ever. All vegetables are fresh and prepared daily according to availability.
The pickles at the OK Cafe are served with a ranch dressing, but I prefer a concoction known as Comeback sauce. It is a dipping sauce, somewhere between Remoulade and Thousand Island dressing. 

Fried Dill Pickles

1 jar dill pickle slices
1 cup flour
1/2 cup cornmeall
1 tablespoon seasoned salt
1 cup buttermilk
Peanut oil for frying 
Comeback Sauce for dipping

Pour peanut oil into a skillet about 1/2 to 1 inch deep. Heat to Medium High. Drain the pickles on paper towels, and prepare the coating.

Place corn meal in a small bowl, and add 1/2 of the flour and seasoned salt. Stir until combined. In a separate bowl or plate place remaining flour and pour buttermilk into a third bowl.

Dip pickle slices into buttermilk, then flour, then buttermilk again. Finally dip into the cornmeal - Place pickles on a paper towel lined cookie sheet or tray during this process. By all means, use your hands and dip the slices one at a time. 

Place pickle slices into hot oil and cook until browned. You may need to stir and flip once during the frying. The frying process should be between 5 and 10 minutes. 
Remove from skillet and drain on another paper towel lined tray or cookie sheet. Let cool for a few minutes before eating.

Comeback Sauce

1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup chili sauce
1/4 cup ketchup
1 cup mayonnaise - Duke's preferably
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon Gulden's mustard
cracked black pepper to taste
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
1/4 teaspoon Cajun seasoning
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

Combine all ingredients and whisk briskly until well mixed, or process in a blender. Store in refrigerator. 

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Margarita Pie and Hurricane Charley

Fresh key limes had been so common place to us for decades. We had an everbearing Key Lime tree in our backyard that always had fruit. We would have blooms and fully developed fruit on the tree year round. Many people lost their homes, cars, and businesses when the eye of Hurricane Charley whipped through our small town in 2004. We were saddened by our great loss- Our Key Lime tree. It was pulled completely out of the ground. We tried to save it by replanting it with tender loving care, but it never produced fruit again and had to finally be removed. I always had key lime juice for our favorite desserts and marinades. I would freeze bags of juice in one cup quantities for cooking and sharing. The traditional Key Lime Pie with meringue was common around our house on a monthly basis, but for special occasions, I would make this frozen Margarita pie with a pretzel crust. It does taste just like its namesake. Be prepared with a designated driver after partaking -
As with the original Key Lime pie recipe, it calls for that magical can of deliciousness - Sweetened Condensed Milk - Eagle Brand being the choice of the South.  Many quick desserts begin with a can of the ever faithful Eagle Brand.

This particular recipe is from the 1980 cookbook - Sunny Side Up from the Junior League of Fort Lauderdale. 

Frozen Margarita Pie with Pretzel Crust


1 1/2 cups crushed pretzel sticks
1/4 cups sugar
1/4 pound butter, melted

Combine crushed pretzels and sugar. Add melted butter. Press into a 9 inch buttered pie plate and chill.


1 (14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk)
1/3 cup fresh lime juice - Key Limes are preferred, but any variety will work
2 tablespoons tequila
2 tablespoons Triple Sec
1 cup heavy cream whipped with 1/4 cup sugar

Combine sweetened condensed milk, lime juice, tequila, and Triple Sec. Fold whipped cream into mixture. Pour into chilled crust and freeze for three to four hours until firm. The pie can be made ahead and stored in the freezer for three to four days before serving. Before serving, garnish with a slice of lime.