Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Robert St. John: Southern Seasons

 Check out this week's recipe.

“There is a time for everything, and a season for everything under the heavens.”

– Ecclesiastes 3:1

It’s true, everything has a season. Especially here in the South. Some southerners see the seasons as football season, basketball season, and baseball season. Others live by dove season, deer season, duck season, and turkey season. When one travels into the Deep South the four seasons are more accurately noted as almost summer, summer, still summer, and Christmas. But for those of us in the food business, we measure seasons by the availability of certain food products or the occasions of certain seasonal holidays, events, and celebrations.

For me, the seasons of food down here are very different than what the seasons are for my friends in Minnesota where they deal with bitter cold for a large portion of the year, or for my friends in South Florida who have warmth and sunshine 12 months straight. My friends in California have near perfect weather all year long and are able to grow amazing fruits and vegetables every day of the year.

So, my food seasons are not only associated with what is fresh, and which crop is coming in at the moment, but also the activities that happen during certain times of the year. July reminds me of barbecue in all its forms. I am mainly a fan of ribs, but I also love pulled pork. A half-and-half plate of dry ribs and a pulled pork sandwich with cole slaw is hard to beat in the heat of July. For years my hometown was blessed with a barbecue place called Leatha’s which sold some of the best barbecue, ever. Today I get my barbecue ribs from a joint just south of town— Donanelle’s— which makes, to my taste, the best barbecue ribs I have ever eaten. Seriously, the best, and I have eaten barbecue ribs all over the Southeast.

August reminds me of crabmeat. As a child we had a fish camp on the Mississippi Gulf Coast and my mom, my brother, and I would bait crab traps every morning and check them at the end of the day. Once our ice chests were full, we would head back at dusk, boil, and pick the crabs. My mother would mainly make West Indies Salad which seemed to always be in the refrigerator at the camp. But a lot of the crabmeat didn't even make it into the picking bowl, as I would eat it at the table as I was picking. At our Creole restaurant in Hattiesburg, we always have a crab feature menu in August which is typically the best month for crabmeat.

September is shrimp month for me. It's actually not the peak time for shrimp— browns run out early in the summer, whites can last through late fall— but they're still bringing in shrimp in September, and our Creole restaurant occasionally prepares a feature menu showcasing shrimp that month.

October is my favorite month for oysters. It's far enough from the heat of the summer and it always seems like oysters are close to hitting their peak, and seem plumper, in the 10th month. As a kid I would probably tell you that October tastes like chocolate because typically ate all of the Halloween candy before we even had a chance to pass it out on the 31st. But now October marks that period when my oyster consumption kicks into fifth gear.

November tastes like turkey and sweet potatoes. It's strange that one day can create an association for an entire 30 days. But if I sat here and tried to think of another food stuff that reminds me of November, I really couldn't think of anything. I don’t eat cranberries, so turkey it is.

There's no doubt what December tastes like. December tastes like Mary Virginia's sweet rolls. Mary Virginia McKenzie was my next-door neighbor all through childhood. She spent every Saturday throughout the year making the best orange sweet rolls anyone has ever eaten, or will ever eat. Period. End of discussion. Any major event in my family’s life was celebrated with a tin or two of Mary Virginia’s sweet rolls, as there would always be a stack of five or six aluminum tins of Mary Virginia's orange sweet rolls on our front doorstep. They came at typical holidays such as Thanksgiving and Christmas but also if someone in the family won a sports tournament or did something newsworthy. On Christmas morning we always ate those orange sweet rolls. If Christmas has a taste, that is it, and I can’t think of a better one.

January tastes like chicken pot pie. I love chicken pot pie. Is probably one of my favorite comfort foods. When the weather gets cold, I go for comfort.

On the food scale, February is not much different than January in that I go for comfort foods. My vegetable beef soup recipe was created a couple of decades ago on a snow day in February. We still make it and serve it at home and in the restaurants around that time of year. To my taste, it is the best version of that specific soup, ever.

March tastes like Creole food. Mardi Gras is a big deal around here and king cakes are plentiful but, for me, it's more about the jambalaya, shrimp creole, and crawfish etouffee that end up at the center of the plate. Every once in a while, we can boil crawfish in March, but they're usually small that early in the season.

April is all about lamb. My grandmother was a master lamb cook. She made leg of lamb often but in April she doubled her efforts. As a kid, growing up in South Mississippi in the 1960s and 1970s, lamb was the most exotic food I knew. It was always a treat. April also tastes like strawberries as Louisiana’s Ponchatoula strawberries start migrating north into our markets and into the inventories of our produce suppliers.

In this part of South Mississippi the conditions are perfect to grow blueberries. The soil, the heat levels, the amount of rain, and the night temperatures all come together to grow perfect blueberries. What Napa and Sonoma are to grapes, South Mississippi is to blueberries. There are a lot of blueberry farms around my hometown, and we do our best to keep them in business.

June might be my favorite food month. June tastes like peaches. Actually, if someone were to ask me what summer tastes like, I would answer: Peaches. I always keep a bowl of fresh peaches in the refrigerator in the early to mid-summer. There is a bowl in my refrigerator at this very moment. Though they will likely be gone before this column hits the presses.

So there’s a time for everything, and it all has a season. A time to grill, a time to bake, a time to pick fruit, and a time to a time to cast nets, a time to pick crab, and a time to shuck oysters. A time to peel fruits, and a time to bake pies. All of these are gifts, and most certainly come from heaven.



Peach-Pecan Ice Cream Sandwiches

Pecan Sandies for Ice Cream Sandwiches

1 cup pecans, toasted
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 /3 cup confectioners' sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp salt
1 /2 tsp baking powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a food processor, pulse the nuts with 1 /4 cup of the flour. Set aside.
Using an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar until creamy and smooth, approximately two minutes. Add vanilla and beat well. Sift together the remaining 1 3 /4 cups flour, salt, and baking powder, and add it to the dough, mixing until just combined. Stir in the nut mixture. Form the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic, and chill for at least 3 hours.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
Roll out the dough to 1/8-inch thickness and using a round two-inch cookie cutter, cut cookies. Place on an ungreased baking sheet and bake for 14-16 minutes.
Remove and cool completely.
To assemble ice cream sandwiches, place a one ounce scoop of ice cream between to pecan sandies. Keep frozen until ready to serve.

Yield: 50 cookies-25 ice cream sandwiches


Peach Ice Cream

2 cups peaches, fresh, peeled (can use frozen)
3 /4  cups sugar
1 Tbl lemon juice
2 Tbl peach schnapps
1 cup heavy cream
1 /2  cup milk
1 /2  vanilla bean
2 egg yolks

In a bowl, combine peaches, 1 /4 cup sugar, lemon juice, and peach schnapps. Cover and refrigerate 2- 3 hours or overnight, stirring occasionally.

Remove peach mixture from refrigerator and drain juice, reserving in a cup. Return peaches to refrigerator.

Split the vanilla bean lengthwise, and combine it with remaining sugar, heavy cream, and milk in a small saucepot. Heat just until it just begins to boil.

In bowl, whisk egg yolks. While whisking, stream in about 1 /3 of the boiled cream mixture. Stir well. Add egg mixture to cream mixture. Return to heat and continue stirring. Mixture will thicken as it returns to a boil. Remove from heat and strain into a bowl set over ice. Add the reserved peach juice.

Transfer the mixture to an ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer's instructions. After the ice cream begins to stiffen, add the peaches and continue to freeze until done.

Yield: 1 quart



Anonymous said...

Good article. I, too, associate seasons of the year with certain foods and flavors. I look forward to tomato season all winter and spring. For the past two weeks, I have been picking, blanching and freezing gallons of green beans and sugarsnap peas, and picking and freezing gallons of blueberries and blackberries from our land every day. When it is too hot to go outside in late July/August, I will make jelly and jam with the fruit. During peak tomato and pepper season, I'll make gallons of salsa and can it with a hot water bath. We don't have to do this - we can afford to buy whatever we want to eat - but the freshness of what we grow and preserve has no competition from anything one can buy in a store.

Thanks for the column, KF.

Anonymous said...

I have never had anything like the orange sweet rolls. Sounds delicious! I would love to have that recipe. Maybe I’ll see what I can find.

Can't Find None said...

Been wishing since Katrina that we could buy decent oysters to fry up in our own kitchen.

Anonymous said...

Mary Virginia’s Orange Sweet Rolls

1 batch icebox roll dough (recipe follows)
1 stick margarine
1¼ cup granulated sugar
1½ tablespoons Chinese cassia cinnamon
1 pound confectioner's sugar
Grated rind of two navel oranges
Enough orange juice to make a glaze

Melt 1 stick of margarine and grease 6 aluminum foil-lined 9-inch-square cake pans. Roll out icebox roll dough into a large rectangle (1 foot by 3 feet). Sprinkle with granulated sugar and cinnamon. Roll up jellyroll style from the long side. Cut and place into prepared cake pans. Let rise until doubled in size (about 1 hour). Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Make a glaze using the confectioner's sugar, rind and orange juice and ice the rolls while they are hot. Mary Virginia says navel oranges have the best rind. These rolls freeze well in Ziploc bags, but if you are like me, they won’t last long enough to make it to the freezer.

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Trollfest '09

Trollfest '07 was such a success that Jackson Jambalaya will once again host Trollfest '09. Catch this great event which will leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Othor Cain and his band, The Black Power Structure headline the night while Sonjay Poontang returns for an encore performance. Former Frank Melton bodyguard Marcus Wright makes his premier appearance at Trollfest singing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Kamikaze will sing his new hit, “How I sold out to da Man.” Robbie Bell again performs: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Bells” and “Any friend of Ed Peters is a friend of mine”. After the show, Ms. Bell will autograph copies of her mug shot photos. In a salute to “Dancing with the Stars”, Ms. Bell and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith will dance the Wango Tango.

Wrestling returns, except this time it will be a Battle Royal with Othor Cain, Ben Allen, Kim Wade, Haley Fisackerly, Alan Lange, and “Big Cat” Donna Ladd all in the ring at the same time. The Battle Royal will be in a steel cage, no time limit, no referee, and the losers must leave town. Marshand Crisler will be the honorary referee (as it gives him a title without actually having to do anything).

Meet KIM Waaaaaade at the Entergy Tent. For five pesos, Kim will sell you a chance to win a deed to a crack house on Ridgeway Street stuffed in the Howard Industries pinata. Don't worry if the pinata is beaten to shreds, as Mr. Wade has Jose, Emmanuel, and Carlos, all illegal immigrants, available as replacements for the it. Upon leaving the Entergy tent, fig leaves will be available in case Entergy literally takes everything you have as part of its Trollfest ticket price adjustment charge.

Donna Ladd of The Jackson Free Press will give several classes on learning how to write. Smearing, writing without factchecking, and reporting only one side of a story will be covered. A donation to pay their taxes will be accepted and she will be signing copies of their former federal tax liens. Ms. Ladd will give a dramatic reading of her two award-winning essays (They received The Jackson Free Press "Best Of" awards.) "Why everything is always about me" and "Why I cover murders better than anyone else in Jackson".

In the spirit of helping those who are less fortunate, Trollfest '09 adopts a cause for which a portion of the proceeds and donations will be donated: Keeping Frank Melton in his home. The “Keep Frank Melton From Being Homeless” booth will sell chances for five dollars to pin the tail on the jackass. John Reeves has graciously volunteered to be the jackass for this honorable excursion into saving Frank's ass. What's an ass between two friends after all? If Mr. Reeves is unable to um, perform, Speaker Billy McCoy has also volunteered as when the word “jackass” was mentioned he immediately ran as fast as he could to sign up.

In order to help clean up the legal profession, Adam Kilgore of the Mississippi Bar will be giving away free, round-trip plane tickets to the North Pole where they keep their bar complaint forms (which are NOT available online). If you don't want to go to the North Pole, you can enjoy Brant Brantley's (of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance) free guided tours of the quicksand field over by High Street where all complaints against judges disappear. If for some reason you are unable to control yourself, never fear; Judge Houston Patton will operate his jail where no lawyers are needed or allowed as you just sit there for minutes... hours.... months...years until he decides he is tired of you sitting in his jail. Do not think Judge Patton is a bad judge however as he plans to serve free Mad Dog 20/20 to all inmates.

Trollfest '09 is a pet-friendly event as well. Feel free to bring your dog with you and do not worry if your pet gets hungry, as employees of the Jackson Zoo will be on hand to provide some of their animals as food when it gets to be feeding time for your little loved one.

Relax at the Fox News Tent. Since there are only three blonde reporters in Jackson (being blonde is a requirement for working at Fox News), Megan and Kathryn from WAPT and Wendy from WLBT will be on loan to Fox. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both and a torn-up Obama yard sign will entitle you to free drinks served by Megan, Wendy, and Kathryn. Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required. Just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '09 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

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Trollfest '07

Jackson Jambalaya is the home of Trollfest '07. Catch this great event which promises to leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Sonjay Poontang and his band headline the night with a special steel cage, no time limit "loser must leave town" bout between Alan Lange and "Big Cat"Donna Ladd following afterwards. Kamikaze will perform his new song F*** Bush, he's still a _____. Did I mention there was no referee? Dr. Heddy Matthias and Lori Gregory will face off in the undercard dueling with dangling participles and other um, devices. Robbie Bell will perform Her two latest songs: My Best Friends are in the Media and Mama's, Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to be George Bell. Sid Salter of The Clarion-Ledger will host "Pin the Tail on the Trial Lawyer", sponsored by State Farm.

There will be a hugging booth where in exchange for your young son, Frank Melton will give you a loooong hug. Trollfest will have a dunking booth where Muhammed the terrorist will curse you to Allah as you try to hit a target that will drop him into a vat of pig grease. However, in the true spirit of Separate But Equal, Don Imus and someone from NE Jackson will also sit in the dunking booth for an equal amount of time. Tom Head will give a reading for two hours on why he can't figure out who the hell he is. Cliff Cargill will give lessons with his .80 caliber desert eagle, using Frank Melton photos as targets. Tackleberry will be on hand for an autograph session. KIM Waaaaaade will be passing out free titles and deeds to crackhouses formerly owned by The Wood Street Players.

If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

Note: Security provided by INS