Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Sorghum Syrup and Home Churned Butter

Sorghum Syrup is a treat that is near and dear to my heart. My Nanny (that's my Great-Grandmother), had a cousin up in the North Georgia Mountains named Olan Hughes. Olan Hughes was known for making Sorghum Syrup. Even at our small town fair where I grew up, I walked up to the Sorghum display, and low and behold my distant cousin had taken the blue ribbon for his syrup.

If you are not familiar with Sorghum, it is similar to Molasses. Molasses is made from sugar cane or sugar beets (sugar beets are also what the bulk of the white sugar in the world is made from). Sorghum is made from sorghum cane. What else is sorghum cane used for??? Making moonshine. Many people think that moonshine is made from corn, but real moonshine is made from sorghum. Corn liquor is made from corn. How do I know so much about this? Let's just say that my Great-Grandfather was not hurting during the Great Depression, because he hauled "sugar" for certain unsavory individuals.

Back to sorghum syrup. The primary way that my family ate this lovely dark brown nectar was to mix the syrup with fresh churned butter and sop the mixture up with a biscuit. We have been known to throw it into baked beans, gingerbread, and a number of other foods. If you have never had sorghum syrup, look for it the next time you are at a fruit stand. Don't buy the big commercially produced stuff. It won't be near as good as the stuff made by a local producer.

While we lived in Kentucky I had the pleasure of attending a Sorghum festival. It was held by the Kentucky Trailblazers, who are a group of people that travel to the festival in old timey horse and buggies. The rustic feel of the festival was spot on. You could walk up to where a mule was tethered to a post that he walked round and round pulling a weight that squeezed the cane juice from the sorghum. This was then boiled down in a vat that looked like something out of the 1800s. More like a cast iron kettle with a wood fire burning underneath.

The people at this festival were so friendly, and they all wanted you to taste their syrup. I purchased a quart of syrup from an elderly lady that reminded me of my Nanny, and also bought a cookbook from the trailblazers. It was a great time.

As for home churned butter...lets just say that I have churned my fair share as a small child. If I could get my hands on some raw milk, I would make some now. My aunt Mary (actually a distant cousin, but too much my elder to be called cousin Mary) raised cows and she and Nanny would milk those cows (yes, I helped milk cows) and make some of the best butter you ever could eat.

The real point I guess I wanted to get to with this post is that these rare artforms are being lost. I am so thankful that I was raised by my Great-Grandparents and had the opportunity to learn how to make such things. Whatever those things are that you learned from your grandmother or mother, learn them well so that you can pass them on to the next generation. Don't let all these old timey sorts of things slip away from a generation that eats way too much McDonalds and pizza, and plays too many video games. There is real value in teaching our children about these things.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A Fire in the Kitchen

Wish I could say that I was speaking of some wonderful thing that I was flambeing this evening, but that would not be the case. Actually, I was preheating the oven to cook some frozen french fries, when I suddenly noticed that the oven was glowing from the inside.

Low and behold, there was a fire going in the bottom of the oven about the size of a soccer ball. No biggy. I told hubby to disconnect the smoke alarm, while I calmly walked into the laundry room, grabbed the mammoth bad of baking soda (I use it in the wash), opened the oven and threw a handful of the baking soda on the fire, thus extinguishing the flames.

It was not until after the fiasco was over that fear set in. How many times do I set the oven to preheat and then go in another room? This could have been tragic if I had done that. I have even hopped in the shower while waiting on the oven to preheat. Guess I won't be doing that again. I did not have a clue that there was anything in the bottom of the oven that would cause a fire, but apparently there was. So folks, just remember to bake with care, and keep the sparks in the bedroom!!!

Enough about that though. Here is a lovely recipe for quesadillas that are not so south of the border in flavor. You can make the filling ahead of time, and just assemble the quesadillas when it is convenient for you.

BBQ Chicken Quesadillas


2 medium size (around 8 oz.) boneless skinless chicken breasts
6 pieces precooked bacon
4 oz. can Mushroom Stems and Pieces, drained
¾ c. Kraft honey BBQ sauce
2 T. honey
4 burrito sized flour tortillas
16 oz. bag Sargento 4 cheese Fancy Mexican Cheese Shreds

Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium high heat. Cut chicken into small pieces directly into pan using kitchen shears. Stir-fry in pan until cooked through (about 5 minutes). Cut bacon strips into small pieces and stir into chicken. Add mushrooms, and turn off heat. Stir in BBQ sauce and honey. Place four tortillas side by side on the counter. Spread 1/3 cup of cheese over each tortilla. Divide the BBQ chicken mixture evenly over each tortilla. Top each tortilla with another 1/3 cup of cheese. Cook in a large skillet over medium high heat with the tortilla open faced. Once the cheese starts to melt, fold the tortilla in half to form the quesadilla. Cook until browned on each side. Repeat with the remaining quesadillas. Serve whole, or cut each quesadilla into 4 triangles. ENJOY!!!