It was suggested that I post some of my e-mail musings on Southern cuisine in coming up with my final offerings to the Supper Club for its Southern themed gathering on March 25th. They are below... Enjoy!
February 4th: I've been thinking... spent several hours trying to locate POSSUM meat... to the best I can determine, it's illegal to sell it :-( ... I found some really wild other kinds of meat for future reference though! My mother was from Kentucky -- and she said that my great-grandmother (she was a child in the civil war era) used to make it occasionally, and it drove her Dad out of the house for a week! Guess it smells funny.
I'm trying to think of things that are practical as well because some of the recipes handed down from my mom are best prepared and served immediately for best flavor and I don't want to add to the kitchen hecticness.
I've also been referring to a book "What's Cooking in Kentucky" which is a spiral bound book which has real old fashioned country cooks recipes which can have some interesting instructions and side notes. (A distant relative of mine self-published it). I decided to pass on Kentucky Burgoo, which takes all day cooking and stirring outdoors, and serves 50. Not to mention it also takes steak, pork, chicken, squirrel & jowl bacon on the meat side...
I've been recently toying with something like Buttermilk Pie, Peanut Soup, something with Okra or Poke Greens, or Hominy (big or little).
So still in a state of research....
PS. My mother also used to tell me stories of, and sometimes serve, some very unusual meat dishes which were popular when she was growing up... mostly organ meats. Scrambled brains & eggs for breakfast... sweetbreads... and she used to send me to school with Head Cheese Sandwiches. Although she didn't make it from scratch, I found this recipe for Head Cheese quite interesting.
After thoroughly cleaning a hog's or a pig's head, split it in two with a sharp knife; take out the eyes, take out the brain, cut off the ears, and pour scalding water over them and the head and scrape them clean. Cut off any part of the nose which is discolored so as not to be scraped clean; then rinse all in cold water and put into a large kettle with hot (not boiling) water to cover it, and set the kettle (having covered it) overthe fire; let it boil gently, taking off the scum as it rises; when boiled so that the bones leave the meat readily, take it from the water with a skimmer into a large wooden bowl or tray; take from it every particle of bone, chop the meat small and season to taste with salt and pepper, and if liked, a little chopped sage or thyme.
Spread a cloth in a colander or sieve, set it in a deep dish and put the meat in, then fold the cloth loosely over it, lay a weight on which may press equally the whole surface ( a sufficiently large plate will serve); let the weight be more or less heavy, according as you may wish the cheese to be fat or lean; a heavy weight by pressing out the fat will of course leave the cheese lean. When cold take the weight off, take it from the colander or sieve, scrape off whatever fat may be found on the outside of the cloth, and keep the cheese in the cloth in a cool place, to be eaten sliced thin, with or without mustard and vinegar or catsup.
After the water is cold from which the head was boiled, take off the fat from it and whatever may have drained from the sieve or colander and cloth, put it together in some clean water, give it one boil, then strain it through a cloth and set it to become cold, then take off the cake of fat. It is fit for any use.
Well, don't think I'll be making the head cheese, but it is fun researching the old. Thought about making corncob wine, but it seems a bit techinical and you have to age it for more than 6 mos. I remembered my mother's 'hoe cakes' (yes, originally cooked on a hoe), creecy greens, cracklin bread, black-eyed peas (and various other unusual legumes), and chess pie. Still lookin'.
February 9th: Well fellow foodies, after reading the necessary actions to prepare good possum, I've given up! But it was fun to see it to the end. I was thinking of contacting my rather wild cousin in Kentucky to hunt one down for me and ship it on dry ice. However, as the following information states, it is especially important to keep it live for a few weeks and feed it a special diet before having 'him' for dinner. The thought of transporting a live possum via Fed Ex (if they even do it) and caring for it at my condo for a few weeks -- well I just couldn't picture it!
Enjoy this recipe from 1917 -- authentic! - Anna
PS I wonder what type of wine would have paired well ;-)
The Preparation of Poultry and Game: Pick carefully, draw and singe every manner of poultry and feathered game, wash clean, quickly, in cold water, never hot, drain, then wipe as dry as possible with a soft, thick, damp cloth--it takes up moisture cleaner than a dry one. Keep very cold and away from smells until ready to cook. Tilt roasting fowls, so they may drain, if liquid gathers. Before stuffing rub over the whole inside lightly with soft butter or bacon fat, pepper it scantly, and rub on a very little salt. Grease and season the outside after stuffing is done,--never before it. If game is shot-torn, soak for ten minutes in weak salt water after plucking, rinse in cold salt water, wipe dry and drain.
Furred game, as rabbits, squirrels, possums, ought to be drawn before it is cold, if you would have the finest flavor. This is especially necessary with possums--which should be bought alive, and fattened for several weeks in a clean cage, feeding them on bread, milk, apples, potatoes, cabbage leaves, and grass. This makes them tender and much more delicate in flavor. Kill by dislocating the neck with a quick, upward jerk, then cut the throat and hang to bleed. Roll after dampening fur well in very hot embers--then scrape the same as a pig, draw, and hang to cool. Divide the skin of rabbits and squirrels around the middle, and pull off each half, the same as a kid glove. Thus no hairs stick on the clean flesh. Draw very quickly, wipe lightly with a damp cloth, and hang where it is cool and airy for at least an hour.
Possum Roasted: Chill thoroughly after scraping and drawing. Save all the inside fat, let it soak in weak salt water until cooking time, then rinse it well, and partly try it out in the pan before putting in the possum. Unless he is huge, leave him whole, skewering him flat, and laying him skin side up in the pan. Set in a hot oven and cook until crisply tender, taking care there is no scorching. Roast a dozen good sized sweet potatoes--in ashes if possible, if not, bake them covered in a deep pan. Peel when done, and lay while hot around the possum, turning them over and over in the abundant gravy. He should have been lightly salted when hung up, and fully seasoned, with salt, pepper, and a trifle of mustard, when put down to cook. Dish him in a big platter, lay the potatoes, which should be partly browned, around him, add a little boiling water to the pan, shake well around, and pour the gravy over everything. Hot corn bread, strong black coffee, or else sharp cider, and very hot sharp pickles are the things to serve with him.
Dishes & Beverages of the old South
By: Martha McCulloch-Williams