Alabama Gazette - The people's voice of reason

Southern Cuisine - December

 

December 1, 2021 | View PDF

This is not a normal year. Covid19 has changed everything. You cannot take the same trips that you use to take. You cannot visit places you were planning to visit this year. You cannot buy things you use to buy. I am sure that the items I was planning to buy are on a container ship floating off the coast of California. You cannot eat the way you use to eat. I have noticed that the grocery stores have large empty shelves. I have found items that were not stocked before. I have found items that were not stocked in the fruit section in the past. Part of this article is about a fruit that I do not remember seeing in the fruit section before. The first part of this article will be about that fruit. One reason you can find this fruit in good supplies is that there is a bumper harvest. The bumper harvest is in China. The fruit is a persimmon. Persimmon planting dates back 1,300 years ago and has evolved into a cottage industry for some areas in Northern China—The persimmon production in one village bringing in an income of about $300,000. The area is also attracting more visitors due to the beautiful landscapes.

What better way to find out what bringing everyone to the fruit section in your grocery store and to the Shanxi Province in China than to try out this fruit.

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Persimmon Jam

INGREDIENTS:

2 lbs persimmons (about 6)

3 cups sugar

Juice of one lemon

2 tsp vanilla extract

2 Tbsp powdered pectin

METHOD:

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2. Wash the persimmons, remove the stem and leaves – chop finely or put flesh through grinder.

3. Sprinkle with lemon juice and sugar. Let stand covered in a bowl 2-3 hours.

4. Transfer the fruit with juices to a large pan and add the vanilla and pectin.

5. Bring to a boil until all the sugar is dissolved then turn down heat stir frequently for about 30 minutes.

6. Ladle into hot sterilized jars, leaving ¼ inch head space.

7. Tighten lids and invert for a few minutes.

8. Return to upright and let cool completely and store in a cool, dry space.

Enjoy as you would any jam.

There is another item found in many recipes that calls for this dairy product. But most of the time a substitute is used. It is served over fruit and baked goods and is added to soups and sauces. Sour cream is used most of the time because it is more commonly found. But the recipes now more than ever call for crème fraîche – which is a soured cream but is called for in recipes because it is less sour and has a higher fat content. Sour cream can contain a host or other ingredients not allowed in crème fraîche.

And the taste is different from sour cream. Crème fraîche from Normandy is famous. It is often used both hot and cold in French cuisine to finish hot savory sauces and with it's fat content of over 30%' curdling is not a problem. Of course, when the cream has a crème fraiche label, it is more expensive.

So to lower your food costs and still have the taste, you can make your own. Crème fraîche, the ultra-rich, slightly tangy and impossibly dreamy cream I like to stir into pastas and soups and drizzle over baked fruit desserts is not carried in every grocery store, and even where it is, it’s not exactly the most budget-minded ingredient.

Homemade Crème Fraîche

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup room temperature heavy or whipping cream

2 Tbsp buttermilk

METHOD:

1. Let it stand at room temperature for 8 to 24 hours, or until it thickens.

2. Stir well and refrigerate for up to two weeks.

Now when someone asks if that is sour cream in your dessert, you can say, “No, it is crème fraîche.”

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The last item in this article is a favorite of mine. It is simple to make, taste good, perfect for a cold winter night and good for a dinner with friends. And it is very Southern.

Southern Style Chicken & Dumplings

INGREDIENTS:

SOUP

1 Tbsp olive oil

3 celery ribs sliced

3 carrots diced

1 white onion diced

clove of minced garlic

boneless skinless chicken breasts

1tsp salt

½ tsp pepper

6 cups chicken broth

1 can English peas

DUMPLINGS

1 box McLib Southern Dumplings

METHOD:

1. Heat a large dutch oven pot over medium high heat.

2. Add in olive oil and heat through, 1 minute.

3. Add in celery, carrots, and onion and saute 5 minutes, or until onions are soft and translucent.

4. Stir in garlic and cook 1 minute more.

5. Add in chicken breasts and season with salt and pepper. Pour in chicken broth.

6. Bring to a boil and boil 20 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through and easily shreds with a fork.

7. Use the McLib instructions. (Added chicken broth as needed.)

8. Shred chicken directly in soup pot, or remove to a cutting board, shred, and return to soup. Pour into soup pot, stir in, and return to a simmer.

9. Drop strips into the soup and simmer 15-20 minutes. Serve hot.

Yield: 6 servings

 

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