Bighearted Cornbread…

2016-03-23 13.50.11Bighearted Cornbread is a staple of Southern food culture. Over the years we’ve taken some abuse about lovin’ our Cornbread- you know songs like ‘Jimmy Crack Corn and I don’t Care’ and ‘Just a Bowl of Butterbeans’ don’t exactly conjure up fine dining.  And Yankees have gotten hold of the Southern recipe and tried to improve on perfection by adding sugar- which is sacrilegious  where I’m from. Southern Cornbread is made with self rising cornmeal. I will say it again, my grandmother had rules when it came to cornbread. There are two basic types of Plain Southern Cornbread-

  • Egg bread is made with self rising cornmeal, sweet milk and eggs.  Egg Bread is higher and lighter, is more tender and has a mild flavor. Mimi’s rule was- Cornbread made with eggs paired well with any egg laying meat– chicken, turkey or fish.
  • Buttermilk Cornbread. Eggs aren’t added to Buttermilk Cornbread, it is leavened with self rising cornmeal and buttermilk. Buttermilk Cornbread is thinner, crisper and tangier than Egg Bread- therefore it can stand up to the big boys like pork, ham or beef.

Beyond the rules for Plain Cornbread, you will find out just how Bighearted Cornbread is! It takes to having stuff added to it like Cracklin’ Cornbread which is so amazing I’m surprised it hasn’t won top notch culinary prizes! (For the unitiated, cracklins are rendered pieces of pork fat) Cracklins are not smoked like bacon but little chewy bits of pork which are stirred into the batter before it’s baked right into Bighearted Cornbread. Eat Cracklin’ Cornbread and you’ll be happy as a dead pig in the sunshine. Just remember Cracklins’ aren’t Bacon- I’m not sure you can even get them outside of the South. Bighearted Cornbread will accept Crumbled Bacon too!IMG_1387

Now, darlin’ let’s just get this out of the way- Bighearted Cornbread Batter is stirred up either thicker for Hushpuppies, best with chopped onions added, or a more cake batter consistency for Corn Sticks and Corn Muffins. Cornmeal Patties (little fried corn meal cakes- similar to pancakes in shape, form) call for a thinner batter. Bighearted Cornbread will satisfy you no matter what shape it’s in! Old Timers are fond of teaching the Mathematical Equation-telling children, ‘Pie are square, Cornbread are round’– referring to square Fruit Cobblers and Iron-Skillet-Made Cornbread. I am the Third Generation Owner of the Family Iron Skillet. Blessed is the Southern girl who inherits an iron skillet! Cornbread is the Bighearted accompaniment to Spicy Chili, Hearty Soups, Beef Stews and of course Chicken and Dumplings. img_1842-edited

Cornbread is Bighearted enough to be made into Mexican Cornbread; a half recipe works well as a Topper to all manner of Mexican Casseroles. Adding weight to a Southern Vegetable Plate, Cornbread is a hearty addition. One of my favorite combinations is Bighearted Cornbread topped with Pepper Jelly; and for a special breakfast treat- Bighearted Cornbread, hot from the oven, is delicious slathered with Butter and Orange Marmalade! You’ll be grinnin’ like a possum! Cornbread is Bighearted enough to be made into a Summer Cornbread Salad- it’s so good and colorful -Crumbled Cornbread is added to Diced Purple Onion, Summer Tomatoes, Cucumbers and Bell Peppers with nothing more than salt, pepper and Sour Cream stirred in, then chilled. Cornbread Salad is a refreshing side to barbeque, fried chicken or even fried catfish!IMG_1276

Recently in one of my old Family Cookbooks I found a recipe for a Bighearted Breakfast Cornbread made with lots of Caramelized Onions, browned Hot Breakfast Sausage, Shredded Cheese, then topped with a half recipe of cornbread batter- baked in a hot oven until golden brown. I topped it with a Fried Egg with fresh cracked pepper and a Baked Apple on the side. It was to die for.

These are just a few examples of how Bighearted Cornbread can accept all manner of ingredients, adapt to the seasons and made into satisfying low cost meals. Bighearted Cornbread might not be the prettiest Belle at the Ball, but she’ll wrap her arms around you and say – ‘Welcome Home, Darlin’…

Love y’all, Camellia

The Cornbread Rules were expounded upon and the Basic Cornbread Recipe was featured in an earlier post entitled- Cornbread Rules, Sugah!

all photographs are mine for better or worse…

Cheese Straws…


Real Southern Cheese Straws are a must-have pick up food particularly if you live in the South. I can hardly think of an occasion when Cheese Straws are not appropriate.

  • Baby Showers
  • Afternoon Teas
  • Anniversary Parties Cocktail Parties
  • Gatherings,Open House
  • And yes, Funeral Food

We do adjust the amount of spice depending on the event, an expectant mother may not be able to tolerate heavy spice, nor can mourners be expected to appreciate a Cheese Straw which in anyway indicates a ‘Hotter than Hades’ flavor, it just wouldn’t send the right message for the bereaved.  From the cradle to the grave, with Cheese Straws we know we can count on a savory bit of crunch whether festive or as a consolation. No self respecting Southern Hostess would be caught dead without Cheese Straws on hand, whether she can actually make them or not. In fact, give Southern Hostesses several dozen Petit Fours, a  pound of fresh toasted Pecans. some small handmade Mints and Cheese Straws- and we can throw an Afternoon Tea fit for the Queen. The problem is that most Southern folks who know how to make good Cheese Straws hold the recipe in the family vault and have been known to sweetly give forth a recipe but accidently leave out an ingredient or a critical part of the method- so that others will say, ‘Well, these are good but they sure don’t taste as good as Dixie Jean’s; nobody can make ’em like she does!’   Southern Cheese Straws are not made with puff pastry sprinkled with cheese, twisted and baked.Those taste like cheese flavored cardboard by comparison. The difference in homemade Cheese Straws and purchased- is like comparing a pan of homemade macaroni and cheese to the cardboard box version.  fullsizerender-3Real Cheese Straws are a spicy, flavorful short pastry. An elevated pie crust dough, put through a cookie press. My press is dedicated solely cheese straws! Some ladies inherit their momma’s press, which is a sturdy metal, not those flimsy plastic models! So, with that in mind- I have decided to be magnanimous and share my recipe with you. I try to keep Cheeze Straws ready to bake in the freezer -so that in 15 minutes I have a hostess gift, an unexpected occasion or to bake fresh for drop in guests. A good Cheese Straw recipe is invaluable. Just understand at the getgo that this is not just a recipe – it is also a method.

Camellia’s Southern Cheese Straws

  • 1 pound of chilled sharp or extra sharp Cheddar Cheese- grated by hand (Don’t you dare use already grated in a package!)
  • 1 1/4 sticks of  cold butter, butter flavored shortening or butter flavored oleo margarine (I actually prefer oleo because real butter has milk solids in it and can result in a stickier dough and one that will not dry out as it should while baking.
  • Grate cheese and oleo into a large bowl and cover with a clean flour sack towel. Let sit over night to soften. Sorry, but this is a two day process.img_1623Toss the Cheese and Oleo together gently when softened, until just mixed.
  • Sift together 2 cups of plain flour, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1/4 teaspoon of paprika and  1/4-3/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper- depending on how spicy you like them- I like them spicy!
  • Carefully toss the flour mixture into the cheese mixture with your hands, the dough will be tough if you don’t. Mix well into a soft dough. A food processor works well for this- if the dough seems stiff add a bit more oleo. Do not chill.
  • Use a cookie press with a star plate. Put just enough dough in to almost fill the tube. Press out approximately 4inch strips onto an ungreased cookie sheet. *Note: I put the filled cookie sheet(s) into the freezer at this point- when frozen I pack them in freezer bags and label. If I need Cheese Straws right away, I put them in the refrigerator to chill, while the oven is preheating. Chilling helps the Cheese Straws keep that cute squiggly shape!
  • When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Make sure Cheese Straw dough shapes are not touching or crowded on the pan.
  • Bake for 15 minutes or until dry but not brown. Store in a tin or airtight container after the Cheese Straws have cooled completely.
  • Hide them from yourself and others until the gathering- otherwise you will never have enough. They can be baked ahead and gently crisped up in a 350 degree oven but Sugah, you really have to watch them. No side trips to watch General Hospital or Guiding Light. Heat for just a few minutes being careful not to brown. *That rule always applies- dry but not brown.
  • This recipe makes 4-6 dozen Cheese Straws. I usually double it and freeze at least half, for other occasions.fullsizerender-5

If you don’t have a cookie press, please don’t despair. Your Cheese Straws won’t be as cute as mine- but you can gently roll this dough and cut into 3/4″ by 4 ” strips. Some roughen the dough a bit by running the tines of a fork through the dough before cutting into strips. Bake as directed. Another method would be to put the dough into a pastry bag and with a medium to large star tip, the dough can be pressed out into smallish dots- adjust cooking time for this! Dry but not brown is the rule.Some have been known to roll the dough into a log, chill or freeze and then cut into rounds for crackers. However, the Southern thing to do is to commit to the idea that Cheese Straws are a necessity, then buy, beg or borrow a cookie press to make them! Let me know if you decide to make them- I won’t have a 24 hour hotline but if there’s trouble, bless your heart, I’ll get back to you as soon as possible, or as a dear baker said- If it doesn’t work- start over. Truly, once you make them I think you’ll be convinced, Cheese Straws are the ultimate in good taste.

Love y’all, Camellia



We’ve been nominated for an award!!!


‘We’ve been nominated for a Liebster award! Can you believe it Walter? I hate to disturb your nap, but Camellia’s Cottage has been nominated for an award!’~ Walter is looking at me like I’m crazy but Allie Mac, Brenda and I are excited around here! I mean, an award? y’all…really?photo Let me tell you what it is…The Liebster Award is given to new bloggers by another blogger. A big southern ‘Thank you darlin ‘- goes to an amazing blogger -Agatha Chocolats ! I think I’ve gained weight just looking at her blog with all of that chocolate! You have to go see what that little Southern girl is up to! To thank her properly here is a thank you note especially for you, Agatha- imageI like Agatha’s blog because of the images she uses- some are even short video clips, the 13 recipes she does once a week, the unusual combination of mystery and chocolate is intriguing and the playful, tasteful way she produces her blog. Currently it has to be my favorite! She has inspired me to be a better blogger.

Agatha had some questions for me when she nominated Camellia’s Cottage-

  • What would be the motto of your blog? Agatha, I would have to say, ‘Our Sweet Home in Alabama ‘.
  • What is your favorite childhood book? Hands down, it’s ‘The Velveteen Rabbit’ – I love the question in it- ‘How do you know you’re ‘real’? And the reply, ‘You know you’re ‘real’ when your eyes fall out, your fur gets loved off and you are very shabby ‘ – by that definition, I am well on my way to- ‘becoming real’!
  • What is the best pairing for chocolate? It took one second to answer that one! Coffee!
  • What forms of social media do you like best when connecting with your readers outside of your blog? I’m old timey here, I would love to chat with them by phone or at an old fashioned ‘tea’ .
  • If you could invite 3 people (living, dead, fictional…anybody!) who would you invite? Well, darlin’ I would have to have 2 parties or one ‘dinner in the ground’! If I could have them back for just one meal, I would choose my grandmother, my husband’s grandmother and my precious mother in law for the first party. For the second party I would invite the ever inspirational Jesus Christ, who attended and even served some of the most miraculous meals ever! Then, C. S. Lewis,  one of the most scholarly and prolific authors ever! And of course, Thomas Jefferson- whose wide range of interests never fails to amaze me!
  • What would you serve? Agatha, I would want the ladies to cook for me! My grandmother’s turkey and dressing, my mother in law’s famous fresh coconut cake and my husband’s grandmother made delicious ‘southern baked-with-brown-sugar acorn squash’! For the men I would serve Parisienne Chicken, steamed broccoli, Sweet Orange Rolls, and a Mandarin Orange/toasted almond salad.
  • What are your 5 best qualities? Well now, that’s a hard one- I suppose (1)my sense of humor, (2)my love of place, (3)I hope I am creatively inspirational, (4)my concern for victims of poverty and domestic violence and the welfare of children; and (5)I would never want anyone to leave here- hungry or empty handed.
  •  What is the best thing covered in chocolate? Agatha! I hate being pinned down but I would have to say-  my homemade English Toffee!
  • What is your passion? My threefold passion is a love of learning, reading and writing, all of which come together at Camellia’s Cottage.
  • If you had 3 wishes what would they be?  Bless your heart, who wouldn’t want 3 wishes? (1)I wish Alabama could be experienced, not by the headlines, but by her natural beauty, a place where talent and  technology rub shoulders with farmers, football players, fashion designers and fishermen, where world renowned chefs and home cooks learn from each other; where goodness and greatness show their generosity regularly and where writers and publishers, art and industry exist on a level barely acknowledged; where kind gentle folk work hard, love their families and appreciate what true southern hospitality really is.(2) I wish I could read at least 100 books in 2016- I’ve read almost 50- so I’m making a good start, and finally, (3) I wish folks would choose watching, listening and reading things that aren’t loud and cynical ( where are Huntley/Brinkley?) but factual news which would inform and fill us up with hope and goodwill- I think those things should start with me and hopefully Camellia’s Cottage will do that.

Finally, Agatha Chocolats asked, which is the my most favorite published blog post? No contest! It was the least ‘liked’ or noticed on Camellia’s Cottage- called ‘ Lookin’ for Fame?’ Posted on March 23, 2016, about the amazing music, talent and recording genuises in the ‘Shoals’ of Northeast Alabama -I hope it will inspire you to at least see the ‘Muscle Shoals’ documentary! here’s a link- https://camelliascottage/2016/3/23/look-in-for-fame And we hope to do a part 2 to go with it, because world famous fashion designers, Billy Reid and Alabama Chanin are doing amazing work up that way too!


There is more to accepting this award, including my personal nominees for the Liebster Award, which I will do in my next post…

In the meantime go take an indulgent visit to- Agatha Chocolats @ !   Love y’all, Camellia



Cornbread Rules Sugah!

2016-03-23 13.50.11Alabama has thrived on cornbread for generations, all of us, not just some of us. We all love it, eat it- crave it, need it. I learned the cornbread rules at an early age from my grandmother. I have her iron skillet and it still makes the best cornbread, though I do love corn muffins too!2016-03-23 11.24.20 And oh my! corn sticks! I have an iron corn stick pan too! But the rules never change. You are the first to know my grandmother’s rules. Use your own cornbread recipe, with one exception…which we will cover first.

  • Never, ever use sugar! I don’t even store sugar in the vicinity of my cornmeal.
  • Use self rising cornmeal- yes you read that right! If you buy it in small bags it will be fresh and to be honest, I make it so often that my ‘meal’ always rises just right! I prefer white cornmeal, yellow seems heavy to me but whatever…
  • Get the oil hot in the iron skillet, in the oven not on top of the stove! Putting yourself at considerable risk to pour the oil is worth it! Get that oil or shortening hot! I put it in the oven until it is preheated. when it gets hot, don’t  measure it, just pour most of it into the cornbread mixture, stir a bit ~then pour that back in the hot pan.Okay now, you are about to get the ‘held- in- the- vault’ secrets of cornbread, if you follow these? Your cornbread will always pair up perfectly with whatever you are making to go with the cornbread.
  • ‘Egg’ cornbread- that’s the recipe that has SR Cornmeal, eggs and sweet milk and no sugar, sugah! Egg cornbread pairs with anything that ‘lays an egg’…that means chicken, turkey and fish! Write that down and memorize it. Poultry and Fish! Egg cornbread is lighter, rises higher and has a milder flavor than…
  • Buttermilk cornbread- this recipe calls for SR Cornmeal and buttermilk. Timing is important to this mix ~ you must darlin’- you must stir in that buttermilk at almost the exact moment that your hot oil is ready to come out of the oven! Buttermilk cornbread has sharper tangier flavor than ‘egg bread’ – therefore, to quote my grandmother- ‘Buttermilk cornbread can stand up to heavier meat!’ Pair it with beef, pork, ham…the heavier meats!

Are you getting a picture here? Commit these rules to memory, learn to recite them in your sleep. Now, a little test to see if you got it…I will list some foods and meats, see if you can answer the correct type of cornbread to go with each. I’m watching so don’t cheat! the answers will be at the bottom of the page.

  • Chicken and Dumplings
  • Beef Stew
  • Dried Butterbeans with Ham
  • Fried Fish
  • Turkey and Dressing (which type of cornbread for the dressing?)
  • Barbeque Pork
  • Vegetable Soup with Chicken
  • Chili

2016-03-23 12.03.02Chicken and Dumplings

I made some the other day! Yum! and what kind of cornbread do you think I made? Ok, here are the answers-

  1. Chicken and Dumplings- egg
  2. Beef Stew- buttermilk
  3. Butterbeans with Ham – buttermilk
  4. Fried Fish- make those hushpuppies with eggs!
  5. Turkey and Dressing- dressing is made with egg cornbread
  6. Barbeque Pork – buttermilk
  7. Vegetable Soup with Chicken – egg
  8. Chili – buttermilk

Here’s a trick question…What if you just have a vegetable plate? We do love our vegetable plates here in Alabama…the answer is… it depends…my rule of thumb is that if you have something with ‘dairy’ in it like macaroni and cheese- go with the buttermilk cornbread, that’s the ‘heavier’ meat rule.  If you have a ‘mixed’ vegetable plate, egg cornbread will always be good, and if turnip greens are anywhere on any plate? cornbread is a must!  If you have any questions or comments- would love to hear from you!

Here is my basic Egg Cornbread recipe:

Heat oven to 375 degrees, pour 1/3-1/2 cup of oil or shortening into cast iron skillet, get scalding hot in the oven, meanwhile mix 1 1/3 -1 2/3 cups of self rising cornmeal, 2-3 eggs, 1 cup- 1 1/3 cup of milk-(you will know by the texture, not too thick) stir until just mixed then add hot oil, about 1/3 cup…quickly stir and pour into hot pan and bake for about 25-30 minutes until it has risen beautifully to golden brown.

For Buttermilk Cornbread: Heat oven to 375, pour 1/3-1/2 cup of oil, shortening or lard (yes, lard) into cast iron skillet as above, quickly mix 1 2/3 cup of self rising cornmeal with 1 – 1/3 cup of buttermilk until just mixed and not too thick- you can add more of either – mix should look thicker than pancake batter. Stir in very quickly about 1/3 cup of hot oil and then pour batter back into the pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown- this cornbread will be thinner, crisp on the outside but very moist on the inside.

Make some cornbread! Mine’s about to come out of the oven!  Love y’all, Camellia