Thursday, September 28, 2006

Tasty Delights

In previous posts, I have written about 2 truly southern culinary phenomena: spicy pimento cheese and watermelon pickles.

Because you are not likely to find these items in Citarella of D'Agostinos, I thought I would share recipes so you could recreate these tasty delights for yourselves and share in a true If That Ain't Country experience.

Spicy Pimento Cheese

This recipe comes from the Foster's cookbook and was given to me by Dr. Maggie Walkup when I visited her recently in Chapel Hill. Maggie was thrilled that I had discovered and fallen in love with spicy pimento cheese and told me this was the best recipe ever.

Mix 1 cup of grated sharp cheddar cheese, 1-1/2 cups of grated Parmesan cheese, and 1 cup grated smoked gouda together.

In a separate bowl, mix together the following ingredients: 1 roasted red bell pepper* (chopped), 1 roasted green bell pepper (chopped), 1 cup of mayonnaise, 1 jalapeno (seeded and minced), 1 tablespoon cider vinegar, 1 tablespoon of honey, 1 teaspoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper.

Add this mixture to the cheeses and combine. Couldn't be easier - could it?

I have not tried this recipe myself, so if it sucks, take it up with Maggie.

* For those who don't know how to roast a pepper, it's simple. Take a whole pepper and put it over a high flame. This can be a grill if you have one, or a burner on your stove (in which case you'd hold the pepper over the flame with tongs). You want to char the outside of the pepper so that the skin gets all black and blistery. You'll notice the pepper starts to soften too. When the pepper is nice and charred, take it off the heat and plunk it into a brown paper bag and wrap it up tight. Allow the pepper to "steam" in the bag for about 10 - 15 minutes. Then take it out of the bag and peel off the skin and reove the seeds. Slice, dice or chop it - whatever the recipe calls for. And if that seems like too much trouble, just go to the store and buy a jar of pimentos. It's the same thing.

Watermelon Pickles

This recipe comes from my mother-in-law, Carole Varner. According to her, this is an amalgam of several different recipes that she has tweaked and tinkered to make her own.

Watermelon pickles come from watermelon rind. You want the white part only - no fleshy pink meat and no tough green skin. For this recipe you will need 3 quarts (or 12 cups) of watermelon rind cut into bite size cubes (Carole suggested 1 inch by 1/2 inch cubes. 1 inch square cubes are too big).

Place the watermelon rind cubes in a large pot. Mix 1 tablespoon of pickling lime with 2 quarts of cold water and pour over the rind. Allow to soak for 1 hour. Drain the pot of water.

Cover the rind with fresh water and bring to a boil over medium heat until fork tender - about 10 minutes. Drain the water.

Combine 2 tablespoons of whole allspice, 2 tablespoons of whole cloves and 5 cinnamon sticks - each broken in half) in a cheesecloth bag (just buy cheesecloth, cut off a big square, put all the spices in the middle, and wrap up) and add to the pot with the watermelon rind. Add 1 quart of white vinegar, 1 quart of fresh water and 7 cups of sugar. Cook over low heat for about 30 minutes until a syrup forms. Remember, the watermelon rind has already been cooked so the purpose of this step is the syrup and the flavor the watermelon rind with the spices. You'll know it's done because a) you'll have a syrup but b) the watermelon will become somewhat translucent.

Spoon the pickles into hot, sterlile jars and pour syrup over. Put on the lid, stick in the fridge (after it's cooled of course) and voila, a handy dandy southern condiment to bring out at your next big yankee BBQ. Actually, Carole did give me all sort of tips at about canning (or jarring as the case may be) and turning upside down to get a good seal but honestly, I'm not going to can these (unless I decide to send these out as a Christmas gift this year) - I'm going to throw them in a disposable plastic container and call it a day.

And if that ain't country, I'll kiss your...