Mike and Barbara may have physically been in South Carolina this morning, but they were here with us, nonetheless – in a way that could only be topped by them being here in person!
A couple of days ago the UPS man rang the doorbell with an absolutely delightful surprise – a gift of smoked and cured meats from Broadbents in Kentucky! Mike and I have traded stories of cooking, cast iron skillets, grandmas, and family feeding frenzies in between left-leaning liberal politics for many years, now, while Barbara has won more ribbons at the South Carolina State Fair than Carter has little liver pills. Seriously – she’s won several hundred over the years. She ain’t no slouch. These two know their food.
When Mike starts talkin’ food – especially Southern food – I listen. And when food he talks about arrives at my door, I eat!
I have spent some time down south, I have former brothers-in-law from down south, we have some great friends who live throughout the south, and I have cooked and eaten my share of southern food, but I’m not an instinctive southern cook. I can fake it pretty well and can make a pretty good biscuit, but good sausage or red-eye gravies simply elude me, as does a lot of the basics. My maternal grandfather’s family goes back to North Carolina and Tennessee in the late 1700s and early 1800s, but my Missouri-born grandfather moved to California and married a Yankee girl. That was the end of grits in his life – and the end of Traditional Southern Cooking in our family. I didn’t know what okra was until I went into the Navy. In fact, Uncle Sam’s Yacht Club was my introduction to a lot of southern foods, from chitlin’s to collards to fried biscuits. Who knew?!? Certainly not this San Francisco boy.
But the palate expanded over the years and the curiosity continued to grow. And, the more I tried, the more I liked and the more I liked, the more I tried.
Which brings me back to the package…
Ham, bacon, and sausage. Hog Heaven, indeed!
It’s funny that with any ol’ ham, bacon, or sausage, I just take it for granted and use however I wish, but with ham bacon and sausage that was dry-rubbed, smoked, and cured in Kentucky and bought by friends in South Carolina, I feel slightly intimidated. What should I do? What should I do?
The obvious response is, “Eat it, dummy!” but I need to do it justice. I need to over-think this. I mean, just eat it?!? Would Julia Child just eat a poussin?!? Well, yeah, she would – done simply and done well.
So I started with the sausage.
A basic Sunday breakfast – sausage and eggs, potatoes and toast. Lots of coffee.
I took the outer wrapper off the sausage and was immediately hit with hickory smoke. I peeled it out of its muslin bag – the sausage is packed into them and then smoked – and marveled at the aroma.
I drooled a little bit.
The instructions on the pack said to place slices in a cold skillet and then cook and brown. It’s the same concept as cooking a duck breast – you start rendering the fat slowly for maximum flavor and crispy skin with minimal burn. I did as I was told and within minutes the kitchen was filling with the scent of smoky goodness. The sausage cooked to a perfect crunchy-crusty exterior with a firm, meaty, and juicy interior. It was sausage unlike any sausage I have ever had in my life. It had absolutely everything going for it – I have now been totally spoiled.
Mike says that the flavors are strong, but they are as close as he has ever seen to the meat they used to hang and smoke when his grandmother had hogs and they butchered in the fall. I can’t imagine being able to do something like that and have it taste so good. I wonder what the neighbors would say if we built a smokehouse out back…
In the meantime, my tummy is smiling and the brain is working overtime trying to figure out a simple way to serve up some ham and bacon. The nice thing is it’s smoked – I don’t need to use it up immediately.
I can obsess over this for a while…
Thanks, Mike and Barbara! We’re lovin’ it!