Trail of Ironwork…

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It’s no secret that Southern women guard their grandmother’s Cast Iron with the same zeal as the family silver, both were used to feed their families. Cast Iron actually helped settle this entire country. Ironworkers fed their families with hard work born in fiery furnaces. I grew up under the watchful eye of the original Ironman- the god of the forge, Vulcan. We sang Vulcan’s Song in grade school… ‘High on mountaintop am I, I look o’er the valley from on high…’  The statue stood atop Red Mountain beribboned with rich iron ore.  Nighttime drives through the city of Birmingham were ablaze with the sights of furnaces pouring molten lava into molds that created all manner of necessary steel and iron. Perhaps a higher than normal amount of iron runs through my veins and maybe- just maybe, that’s why I love the Ironwork throughout historic Sea Soaked Cities of the South.

Balconies with lacy ironwork, parks and cemeteries surrounded by ironwork fencing are distinctive in Charleston, Savannah, St. Augustine, Old Mobile and of course, Ironwork is iconic in New Orleans.

There is literally a Trail of Ironwork in New Orleans, not derived of French influence but from Spanish architecture. After wooden columns and homes went up in flames, it was Spanish inspired Ironwork, reminiscent of feminine black mantilla lace installed on balconies and more…ah, the romance of it all still lingers.

It might surprise you to know, this frilly Ironwork was added during the Victorian era, not before. Most Coastal Southern Cities experienced floods, scourges of yellow fever, social upheaval, war, natural disasters and fire. Ironwork Architecture represents to me, the will to prevail come what may. 9E508902-71C2-46EE-85FB-E86E65230DF1

Hundreds of years later, the ancient words in Deuteronomy ring true – ‘…but the Lord hath taken you out of the iron furnace…to be a people of inheritance as ye are this day..’   Whenever I visit an historic city, one of my favorite pastimes is sign up for Walking Tours.  In fact, strapped for time…guided tours may be the best way into the spirit and sense of an old city.

  • The Garden District Tour of old mansions near Tulane,
  • The Spirits and Ghosts Tours,
  • The Culinary Walking Tours,
  • The Cemetery Tours and probably my favorite, even though I’m a teetotaler, is-
  • The Cocktail Walking Tour which includes a revolving Carousel Bar, an authentic Blacksmith Shop, Pirate’s Alley where the mysterious Absinthe is still served- illegal in many states, it is amazing to watch a cocktail being made!
  • Fine old restaurants, like Antoine’s, where the rich and famous dined are included too. (And no requirement to imbibe though time is allowed).
  • A self guided walking tour of the French Quarter in pamphlet form, is provided by the Louisiana Tourism Office on Jackson Square which is challenging, no cost except for a bit of perspiration and direction!
  • Then, last but not least- along Royal Street around Jackson Square and beyond -is the photogenic French Quarter Ironworks Trail.

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I hope you enjoy this collage from my own traipse through the Trail of Ironwork in the Crescent City. This fall, if you take a last minute trip or long weekend to an historic city- sign up for a Walking Tour, if there’s old Ironwork and Architecture all the better!

Love y’all, Camellia

*All photographs are mine. *Verse from Deuteronomy 4:20 speaking of the Hebrews being brought out of great difficulty and slavery in Egypt.

*We continue to be very concerned about the wildfires in California, thankful for the brave firefighters and heartbroken for the residents who have lost their lives and so many homes.

Icebox Pies…

IMG_3201When the weather is hot as blue blazes, our skin begins to glow (that’s the nicest way I can say it) and as the humidity rises so does our hair, inevitably  the Southern Sweet Tooth flares up- Cool Ice Box Pies are the perfect summer dessert. A few ingredients, easy to make- without breaking a sweat- an Icebox Pie is truly easier than making homemade ice cream.  Some have even figured how to make it without turning on an oven, just use a prepared graham crust.  I’d rather make my own pie crust mainly because I can control how much sugar and how deep the crust will be- and I like crust! But hey it’s summer- take it easy if you want to… In Alabama, it’s amazing but children are already back in school! Icebox pies are a sweet reminder of vacations– remember that Key Lime Pie you ate? And.. you’ll know you’re in a good place to eat out just by tasting their Ice Box Pies! There are all kinds of Ice Box Pies- some have cooked pudding or custard fillings-however…IMG_3295

Citrus Ice Box Pies are my favorite-

  • Pit Barbeque whines for relief with Lemon Ice Box Pie,
  • Seafood and spicy Mexican Food seem to whimper for cooling Key Lime Pie,
  • Sour Orange Ice Box Pie- is the perfect ending for Chicken dinners, a cool Chicken Salad.

Sweetened Condensed Milk is essential to Citrus Ice Box Pies. I guess the only ‘southern’ ingredient in them could be considered the plentiful citrus we grow down this way.. New Yorker Gail Borden Jr. received a patent on Sweetened Condensed Milk August 19, 1856 and darlin’ I’m celebrating! IMG_3296

In an effort to find a way to store milk safely (when you don’t have a cow nearby) he developed a method of evaporating the liquid and using sugar as a preservative which produced sweetened condensed milk. Southerners embraced the product wholeheartedly. Why,  teethin’ babies were comforted with a small square of cotton fabric soaked in it, thinned out? It was used a baby formula, in the sick room- sweet cool and creamy, condensed milk was considered a safe food supplement.  Straight from the can- well, let’s don’t go there because I could possibly eat the whole can! Gail Borden, Jr. spent some time working for a newspaper in Texas before he came up with his famous dairy products and has been credited with the phrase- ‘Remember the Alamo’ and I can tell you, a can of sweetened condensed milk will defeat a whole low calorie diet!  Of course, southern folks began making desserts, candies, cakes and pies- Oh my, what glorious pies originated from the humble can of Eagle Brand, we cannot live without it!

Sweetened Condensed Milk was originally sold by Borden to maintain the U.S. Army during all of that unpleasantness of the War between the States. Shortly, after the war -sweetened condensed milk, in a new and improved version became available nationally, it was especially embraced in the Southern States because of it’s long shelf life which has always been of concern here. Throughout our history, in the South, what we share in common is our love of good food.  Sweetened Condensed Milk was patented first in America and a short time later in Switzerland. Since then, it has been embraced literally all over the world!

You might be interested to know that Key Lime Pie first showed up on Southern tables in 1901. And just in case you’re thinking Ice Box Pies are a relatively new concoction, they’ve been around over 150 years!  Key Limes are not to be confused with Persian Limes- key limes are tiny- about the size of a quail egg; are more tart and almost yellow in color- Persian limes are the bright green limes of grocery produce department stores. The truth is most true Key Limes are imported from the Caribbean or for a very limited time in the Florida Keys and are very costly. Key Limes are no longer widely available and that’s a shame…Modern Key Lime Pie recipes call for the addition of Lemon Juice and Persian Lime zest to make a blend which tastes more like the real deal.

Sour Orange Ice Box Pies have an almost identical history- Sour Oranges were once found in the Alabama Sunbathing Capital, Orange Beach!  Sour Orange trees are little scrubby trees bearing.. a ‘pucker up baby’ Sour Orange flavor. Almost all of the Coastal South had some of these small citrus trees- the ones that survive are still not considered valuable- too little flesh and too many seeds…Sour Oranges can be found in specialty markets, but never on a large scale. To get that Sour Orange flavor-mix Equal Parts:

  •  Lemon juice, Orange Juice with Orange Zest and Grapefruit Juice to mimic the flavor of an actual Sour Orange.
  • I  like to add about a teaspoon of Orange Marmalade, 1/4 teaspoon of orange extract- even a dribble of orange blossom water is a nice addition!

IMG_3301Almost all Ice Box Pies start with a Graham Cracker Crust. Talk about an interesting product!  Evangelist and hard core prohibitionist, Sylvester Graham is credited with the first vegetarian movement in the United States in the 1800’s… He believed wholesome foods would result in wholesome living… Alrighty. Anyway, Honey Grahams® became the standard Graham Crackers that we know as the base for those chocolate-y toasted marshmallow-y fireside treats known as S’mores– and other, almost sinful desserts! Wonder what ol’ Sylvester would think of that?IMG_3302

And let’s not forget a wholesome ingredient in Graham Crackers- Honey. The finest- often called the gold standard of American produced honey, is Tupelo Honey. (not Tupelo Mississippi) For just a very few weeks along the Coastal South, the Black Gum or Tupelo Trees bloom- the catch? They grow in the swamps! Bee Hives are cleaned out completely, then hauled to the swamps, set on stands or left on anchored boats and checked daily. Some have called Tupelo Honey- the ‘champagne of honey’ which naturally has a slight lemon flavor. Tupelo-Gum-Trees_finchlake2000

The swamps of the Apalachicola River have the highest concentration of Tupelo Trees in the United States. Very close to Alabama’s Gulf Coast- the town of Apalachicola is only 3 square miles, an old and famous fishing village, but also right near the National Forest bearing the same name and the swamps! Needless to say, we’re proud of this Southern Honey! And yes, we do hope our Graham Crackers have a touch of honey, especially when we make our teetotalin’ Graham Cracker crusts!

I actually love the term ‘Ice Box Pie’  – it sounds old fashioned and better yet? Cool… Years ago, once or twice a week- the Ice Man delivered a huge block of Ice hoisted with big tongs and dropped it in the top of the old Oak Ice Box- set inside the house or a storm shelter- the ice would last…well, depending on the time of year- maybe a few days to a week. The time frame for the invention of the Ice Box was also in the 1860’s- Now come on, you thought all that was going on was that awful unpleasantness between the North and the South, right? Not so…Ice Boxes, Graham Flour Products and Sweetened Condensed Milk were finding their way into homes North and South! In fact, just fifty years later, when we were all united under the same flag, wearing the same uniforms– (Southern Ladies do love to see a man in uniform!) Sweetened Condensed Milk made it’s way once again to battlefields and mess halls uniting us all around a product that was safe, had a long shelf life and sustained us all. So, in commemoration of the American version of this sweet milk’s Birthday, August 19, I give you..IMG_3200

Camellia’s Cottage Lemon Ice Box Pie

Honey Graham Cracker Crust

Preheat oven to 350º

  • 8 graham crackers pulsed 8-10 times in food processor
  • 3 tablespoons sugar plus 1 teaspoon of Tupelo Honey (optional)
  • 3/4 stick or 6 Tbs. of melted butter

In mixing bowl combine graham cracker crumbs and  sugar. While the butter is still warm, add Tupelo honey. Add melted butter/honey mixture to graham cracker/sugar mixture and toss together until well combined. Do not overmix. Press into a 9 inch glass pie plate-or spring form pan- pressing crumbs on the bottom and up the sides. Bake until a warm golden brown- 10-15 minutes. Do not overbake.  Cool while making the Lemon Filling.IMG_3195

Lemon Filling

  • 1 can of Sweetened Condensed Milk
  • Zest of one Large Lemon (reserve some zest for garnish)
  • 1/2 cup of freshly squeezed lemon juice (no substitutes!)
  • 3 large egg yolks Fresh Grade A

Blend together condensed milk and egg yolks with hand mixer on low speed- add lemon  juice slowly, blending well. Beat until stiff enough to stand in peaks. Pour into cooled graham cracker crust. Garnish with reserved lemon zest. Chill for at least 6 hours or overnight.  Some folks like to add a meringue, I prefer Citrus Ice Box Pies without a meringue – the soft creamy, cool, tart and softly sweet dessert  seems perfect without embellishment! I am particularly sentimental about Lemon Ice Box Pies since it is the very first pie I learned to make, it’s just that easy!

As an extra note- if you don’t enjoy making pies yourself, should you run up on a Pit Barbeque Joint or a truly Southern restaurant… look for the glass refrigerator case, if they have Ice Box Pies, then you know it’s a great place to eat!  Love y’all, Camellia

*Lemon juice has the effect of ‘cooking’ the eggs, however use caution if a health condition such as pregnancy warns against the consumption of raw eggs. *All photographs are mine, except the photograph of Tupelo Trees which is from http://www.nationalforests.org and may be subject to copyright.

IMG_3298 *The Lee Brothers of South Carolina have an excellent recipe for Sour Orange Ice Box Pie which is only slightly different from mine. This wonderful cookbook can be found through major booksellers * How exciting to have an Eagle Brand cookbook- I’ve had mine for years and I believe they are still available at their website or on Amazon.com Check out http://www.eaglebrand.com and http://www.bordendairy.com/history for more information!

*I’m ashamed to say- I researched Graham Crackers and Tupelo Honey on my own and neglected to source the sites. *Eagle Brand® and Nabisco Honey Grahams® are registered trademarks- Tupelo Honey is a type of honey, if you find it- buy it! Camellia’s Cottage is not a paid advertiser. There are other great brands available as well, Graham crackers, sweetened condensed milk and Tupelo Honey have a long shelf life and should be part of any well stocked pantry!

 

Summer Corn Salad…

IMG_3157Bubbled or Brewed, Souffle’d or Stewed. Roasted or Raw, Fresh or Fried…Corn nourishes the South. When Settlers bringing domesticated hogs stepped onto land in what is now Virginia and met Native Americans bearing corn- Southern Cuisine was born.

From Pig to Pone, Pot to Plate- take Corn from the Southern Pantry and more than half of our delicious diet would collapse in despair!

Corn feeds our livestock and our families all year round. If you’ve never rustled down a row of sweet corn, well, you’ve missed one of the great joys of summer. The first ripe ears of corn are a sight to behold, the most highly prized Summer Corn of my youth was White Corn- Yellow Corn was preferred boiled or roasted on the Cob. The merits of white cornmeal versus yellow cornmeal continues on- I have to admit I still prefer White Corn, White Grits and White Cornmeal. Someone jokingly told me recently that if you preferred Yellow- chances are you’re either a Yankee or an Aristocratic Descendent of Carpetbaggers, who  probably sneaked in yellow seed corn! Actually I’m glad they did! Yellow Corn is wonderful! I’ll admit that Yellow Corn on the Cob and in Shrimp Boils can’t be beat, but that’s getting off on a tangent…Before Summer Corn gives way to the dried and ground Cornmeal of Autumn, I’m  thrilled to bring you a Southern dish that won’t have you breaking a sweat to prepare. (Besides Southern ladies don’t sweat– we perspire delicately.) Summer Corn Salad. IMG_3162

Because of the heat and humidity, Garden Lettuce wilts before Spring has barely sprung. Try to grow lettuce in our climate and it will just up and bolt on you! Therefore, many of our Summer Salads are based  on Seasonal Vegetables, like Summer Corn Salad- now, this salad is so familiar that I have to confess- I don’t own a cookbook which records how to make it, though I’m sure someone somewhere did put pen to paper for it.

Camellia’s Cottage Summer Corn Salad

  • In a large bowl, take 3 fresh shucked ears of White Corn – cut kernels and scrape juices from the cob. (Do not cook, y’all- it will ruin it.)
  • Add additional vegetables to the large bowl of Cut Corn.  All vegetables should be chopped in small dice. IMG_3157
  • Chop- 1/2 of a good sized Purple Onion
  • Seed and chop in  either one large or preferably two small pickling Cucumbers (I leave the skin on- but peel if you prefer before chopping- no need to seed small summer pickling cucumbers)
  • One large Summer Tomato- cut and chopped.
  • One medium Green or Yellow Bell Pepper, cut and chopped. Do not overdo the Bell Pepper, try to keep the added vegetables in the same quantity- about 3/4 to one cup.
  • *If you like a little extra zing, like I do- add chopped and finely diced Jalapeno Pepper to taste, I used one half of a large jalapeno.
  • Dressing *Before mixing the corn and other vegetables together- In the bowl, add on top of the vegetables-  4oz of Sour Cream, 1 teaspoon of Garlic Powder; squeeze the juice of a medium size lemon on top of the sour cream. Add fresh cracked Black Pepper and Salt to taste.
  • Gently stir and combine all of the ingredients, being careful not to break up the tomatoes.  Summer Corn Salad is best if refrigerated several hours or overnight- keep covered until it is served. IMG_3162

The best thing about Summer Corn Salad- besides the fresh taste is no cooking required! This is a wonderful side dish with anything from Pit Barbeque to Fried Chicken, Country Ham…oh! and let’s not forget Fried Fish or as a great addition to a Southern Vegetable Plate. I hope you love Summer Corn Salad as much as I do! Oh, lordie- Pig to Pone…now that’s corny.

Love y’all, Camellia

 

The Church Cookbook Mystery…

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It was one of those evenings in the hours after twilight- a cloud covered waning full moon when crickets sang and lightning bugs fly closer to the ground…the perfect night to scan through a few cookbooks I had found in a claustrophobic flea market stall. Two cookbooks, instinctively I knew I would know and love- another was a mystery to me. Why I would even be drawn to put one dime down for it- yellowed but not worn- the front cover had faded just enough to make the stuffed apples look seriously unappetizing…but that old familiar streak of electricity zinged up my left ankle and my right eyebrow twitched as I held the cookbook. A Church Cookbook Mystery! Here’s the confession- I read old local cookbooks like novels– I read the names of people, places and foods; before I know it- I have made up a story about a Cook or two within the pages… This time was a little different;  it is a Birmingham area United Methodist Church Cookbook, published over 40 years ago in 1975. The cookbook shall remain mysterious and as nameless as Mrs. Fleck’s Nameless Cake on page 108. I knew no one from the cookbook- but let’s just say I developed a fond affection for the Cooks, the Church but not all of the recipes. I mean really, do I want to cook Slumgullion? I don’t think so! But yes, oh my yes- I would love those ‘Cracklin’ Corn Pones’… I found myself wondering why they compiled this cookbook, it gave off a desperate vibration to me.  Was it to raise funds for a playground, new pews or to finish the church basement into a soup kitchen/homeless shelter/secure meeting rooms- an all purpose expansion? What? and why? and more important Who were these ladies?  There was an appreciation page, a cover page with information on Circle Meeting times and General Assembly times, but no Mission Statement page. It was almost too sparse in titles and ingredients for a regular cookbook. It seemed like a Church in a Struggle.

IMG_2671The recipes are mostly forthright with plain names like – Pound Cake, Meatloaf, Pecan Pie, Squash Casserole, Coleslaw- with a rare flowered up exuberant name here and there.  I had the feeling that these ladies spent so much time working, cooking and washing dishes there wasn’t much time for frills. I found recipes for

  • Corn Dogs for 200 servings
  • At least five Armed Forces Service Recipes for 100,
  • Spaghetti Italian Style that fed 150
  • Chili Con Carne from Lodge 808 for 75 servings

What puzzled me was that there was a mixture of fine food, old time basics, budget or quick recipes and surprisingly recipes for Bath Salts, Modelling Clay, Bubble Bath and Finger Paints, no doubt for the children’s activities . The names of the ladies were either Mrs. or Mae- I began to feel like the Mrs’s were the Church Mothers- the girlish names were still a puzzle to me.  And there was a definite sense of Church Humor goin’ on… I imagined the meeting for the gathering of the recipes-  a Church Mother presided- wore sensible block heel shoes, a dark fitted serge suit with short pressed sleeves and a modest skirt just below the knees, a bit of a ruffle blouse at the neck and peeking out of the sleeves to disguise the landslide of flesh on her aging neck, knees and elbows. As she took the podium she thanked the ladies for their submissions, reminded them of the need to include Recipes to promote Faith and Bible Study, in fact she would bring her own Version for their Edification! She meant business too, but then I’m getting ahead of myself. So, recipes were added-

  • Angel Food Cake,
  • Heavenly Hash,
  • Trinity Biscuits,
  • Christening Day Seafood Casserole (always some sort of seafood – what with the water and all),
  • Lemon Divinity Pie,
  • Baptist Pound Cake,
  • Presbyterian Punch,
  • 300 Degree Church Casserole (*Put in before Sunday School, ready after church, not the temperature of the Devil’s Doorknob!),
  • Divinity Candy,
  • Grand and Glorious Punch
  • In fear and trembling- a few submitted Devil’s Food Cake or My Mother’s Devil Food Cake (whose gonna disqualify yo’ momma’s cake?)

Now, whoever submitted Witch Stix might have held her hand up as if to testify on a stack of Bibles, her recipe was for the children! She must have been persuasive! The Church Mother truly did mean business- she included a Scripture Cake. IMG_3139Now, I’ve seen these recipes before in Church cookbooks but always the church ladies are kind enough to translate- Not this tough bird!

Scripture Cake

  • 1 1/2 c. Judges 5:25
  •  2 cups Jeremiah 6:20
  • 1 1/2 c. 1 Kings 4:22
  • 2 cups I Samuel 30:12
  • 2 cups Nahum 3:12
  • Season to taste with II Chronicles 9:9
  • 1 cup Numbers 17:9
  • 1/2 tsp. I Samuel 14:25
  • 2 tsp. Amos 4:5
  • 6 Whole Jeremiah 17:11
  • Pinch of Leviticus 2:12

*Beat Judges 5:25 until creamy; gradually add Jeremiah 6:20 beating well. Add Jeremiah 17:11, one at a time. Mix together  I Kings 4:22, Amos 4:5, Leviticus 2:13 and II Chronicles 9:9 ; reserve small amount; gradually add balance to Judges 5:25 mixture. Add Judges 4:19 and I Samuel 14:25. Mix I Samuel 30:12, Nahum 3:12 and Numbers 17:8 and coat with reserved portion of I Kings 4:22 mixture; then add to batter, mixing well. Bake 45 minutes at 325 degrees. Leave cake in the pan until it cools. To store, wrap tightly in foil.


And no, I haven’t baked it! I think I’ve figured it out though…as we say- ‘Curiosity killed the cat.’  I did a little research on the church- it is over 100 years old! A member of the congregation died in 2016 at age 94. She never married or had children but there were scores of family members, one of which contributed to the church cookbook. Her name was Mary Elizabeth. She attended Birmingham Southern- a Methodist University in Birmingham, not very far from her neighborhood church. She may not have attended at an early age. After a career working for the U.S. Army, she retired from Alabama Department of Revenue. Mary Elizabeth would have been in her early 40’s during the Civil Rights Movement, yet may not have even lived in Alabama at the time. It seems her forbears pulled themselves up by hard work and Mary Elizabeth’s surviving relatives became well educated and successful. I have a strong suspicion that this UMC Church was a mixture of folks who were:

  • Service workers,
  • Domestic Help or Cooks-
  • Some may have been Educators,
  • Small Business owners or
  • Laborers in the Iron Works or Steel Mills in Birmingham.

Some of the recipes indicate a level of poverty for their membership.  Maybe Mary Elizabeth attended college on the GI bill. Her age tells us that she lived through the Great Depression, World War II, the Korean War and the Viet Nam era, the Space Program, certainly the tragedy of 911 and maybe, just maybe those Armed Forces Services Recipes were sent in by this amazing lady, Mary Elizabeth. Her dying request: ‘in lieu of flowers make a donation to my church…’

All Cookbooks have a story to tell… this church faltered shortly after the cookbook was written, perhaps the congregation was struggling to keep it going… however, in a few years they re-opened their doors and continues to thrive! I’m not sure this whole cookbook will remain in my collection but there are several recipes that I wouldn’t give up for the world! And to:

  • Mae, Erline, Lois, Jessie,
  • Vivian, Rosalie, Dora, Estelle,
  • Gaynelle, Ruth, Winifred, Cassie,
  • Anne, Ottalie, LaFaree, Ora, Willie Mae,
  • Beulah, Bennie, Maybelle, Thelma,
  • Vista, Cadie and all the Church Mothers… Bless your hearts, I thank you, your hard work lives on…

The Church Cookbook Mystery was just the right thing to do on a summer evening in the hours after twilight…with a waning full moon covered with clouds as crickets sang and the lightening bugs flew closer to the ground…Now, you know I made up the story about the Church Mother, but it could have happened just that way!

Love y’all, Camellia

p.s. The Mystery of  the Scripture Cake is solved …what else? A Fruitcake!

Benne Seed…

IMG_3070Only in the lower Southeast corner of the United States, are sesame seeds still referred to as Benne Seed and almost always connected with a candy, a savory cracker or a sweet wafer. Watermelon seeds and Benne Seed were brought to America on slave ships back in the early 18th century from Africa. It’s difficult to think of the hardship to get these seeds to our shores and difficult to imagine American cuisine without Watermelon or Sesame Seed. The first time I ate a Benne Seed Wafer, I was on a Girl Scout trip in Savannah, at the home of Founder Juliette Gordon Lowe, actual Girl Scouts baked the small thin crunchy wafers for us there. Lucky for me, since I wasn’t born a roughin’ it type of girl, much less a very enthusiastic scout, I never forgot those little wafers.  Only in the Low Country and Coastal South do you regularly find recipes where Benne Seed are a central ingredient.  I rarely make Benne Seed Wafers- they need to come with a warning on the recipe- *Do not make these home alone! You are at risk of eating the entire batch! I have made Benne Wafers which are like a savory shortbread dough baked then salted while hot, I have added lemon zest and thyme or even grated sharp cheddar cheese for variations, but again not often- honestly you could stand there and eat every one. Just look at these Salty Benne Wafers! Great with a summer salad, or to serve with soup or a fancy snack! IMG_3078

Benne Seed Candy has a caramel like base with a heavy dose of toasted Benne Seeds- wrapped in little squares of cellophane. Toasted Benne Seed are the key ingredient- to do this , place the pale white seeds in an iron skillet and toast in a hot oven until they are browned, being careful not to burn the seed. As the seeds cook in a recipe, a browned nutty flavor is achieved.  Topping off Yeast Rolls, sprinkled across a pan of cornbread, browned on the bottom of biscuits or even tossed in the batter for fish- Benne Seed add crunch and texture.  I just had to share the best recipe I’ve come up with for Benne Seed Wafers, tweaked from several very good old fashioned cookbooks.  And darlin’, it’s not pronounced- Been– with the ‘e‘ dropped; please say it like Jack Benny or Awl-benny Georgia!  IMG_3073

Camellia’s Cottage Benne Seed Wafers

  • Toast 3/4 cup of Benne Seed, set aside to cool.
  • Cream together 1 stick of butter with 1 cup of light brown sugar. (In Southern Recipes, because of the age old problem of heat- butter was salted to retain freshness, therefore salted butter is used in old recipes unless otherwise indicated.)
  • Add 1 large beaten egg to the butter and sugar mixture. Mix well.
  • Add 1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla, stir well.
  • Now, add 3/4 cup of sifted self rising flour (add 1/4 teaspoon of baking powder to all purpose flour if you don’t keep self rising flour on hand) Do not overbeat but mix well.
  • Fold in 3/4 cup of toasted benne seed carefully.
  • Pre-heat oven to 350º, while dropping  mixture from a scant teaspoon approximately 2 inches apart onto a buttered parchment lined baking sheet (I use a silicone baking mat- if you have one it makes baking easier).
  • Bake for 11-12 minutes (14 for silicone baking mat). IMG_3070
  • Remove and cool slightly, no more than a minute because the cooled Benne Seed Cookies will stick!
  • Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely- the cookies will crisp up as they cool.
  • Makes an incredible 5-6 dozen Benne Seed Wafers!

Serve as soon as possible so you won’t eat them all yourself! Actually, they keep very well stored in an airtight container. If you’re smart, you will package them up in cellophane bags for 4th of July Favors! IMG_3082

While you’re enjoying Hamburgers on Sesame Seed buns and cold wedges of Watermelon- tell the story of how these African treasures made it to our shores, for it is in the telling…we won’t forget.

Love y’all, Camellia