Chess Pie is a Southern staple with historical roots in England. Though its basic ingredients – butter, sugar, eggs and flour – can be found in any Southern pantry, the variations on Chess Pie can seem as far-fetched as the folklore surrounding its etymology.
Many folks believe that its name originated from the closely related English lemon curd pie, which often was called cheese pie; “Chess Pie” allegedly derived from Southerners’ tendency to drawl our words. Another version tells of a plantation cook who was asked what she was baking that smelled so great: “Jes’ pie” (just pie) was her answer. Yet another myth states that the pie’s high sugar content allowed it to keep well in a pie chest at room temperature, so “Chest Pie” turned into “Chess Pie.”
Though basic Chess Pie is remarkably easy to prepare by mixing simple ingredients and baking for 30 minutes, you can get fancy by adding innovative flavorings. Popular additions include zesty lemon juice, earthy nutmeg, ginger and cinnamon, tropical flaked coconut, and toasted, chopped pecans. Some believe a splash of buttermilk makes Chess Pie better, while others swear by a tablespoon of vinegar. If you’d like to double the decadence, just stir in some cocoa powder!
Whether you call it cheese pie, chest pie or “jes’ pie,” there are no boundaries to this traditional Southern confection.
Chess pie is one of our favorite dishes, so you can find it on our menu all year round! Stop on by to see us and make sure to save some room for dessert!
Lucky 32 Southern Kitchen Chocolate Chess Pie (makes 1 pie)
1⁄4 cup cocoa powder
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
2 cups granulated sugar
1 1⁄2 tbsp white cornmeal
1⁄4 tsp salt
1⁄4 cup heavy whipping cream
1 1⁄2 tsp vanilla extract
1⁄4 pound melted butter
1 unbaked pie crust
Instructions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees, then assemble pie as described below.
In a bowl, sift dry ingredients together. In a separate bowl, beat eggs with mixer until light and fluffy. Add eggs to the dry ingredients and mix until incorporated.
Lucky 32 Southern Kitchen Pie Crust
4 1⁄2 cups all purpose flour
1 1⁄2 tsp salt
1 1⁄2 cups unsalted butter
1⁄2 cup plus 1 tbsp cold water
Sift the flour and salt together. Freeze the butter to make it easier to handle. Work the cold butter into the flour mix. Add ice to water to make it cold, making sure you don’t pour any ice into the dough mixture.
Add water slowly and mix until just combined. Portion out enough for one shell and begin to roll it into shape on a floured surface
This recipe makes 3 pie shells. Freeze any unused portions.
Disclaimer: All our recipes were originally designed for much larger batch sizes. This recipe has been reduced – but not tested at this scale. Please adjust as to your taste and portion size.
For many years at Lucky 32 Southern Kitchen, we used to do a New Orleans menu surrounding the Mardi Gras holiday. However, about five years ago we decided to shift the focus of the restaurant from regions of America and their foodways to seasons and seasonally appropriate food. In doing this we were able to take several dishes from the New Orleans menu and incorporate them into a seasonal menu which celebrated the Carnival season—the whole month leading up to Mardi Gras. Some people happen to visit us for the first time during the winter months, when we feature our Mid-Winter Carnival menu with classic New Orleans dishes, so naturally, they think we’re a Cajun restaurant. We devote our feature menu (which we rotate seasonally, about every six weeks) to New Orleans dishes because in winter time, not too many things are in season and folks get tired of eating turnips. So, we cook some unseasonal things, like Gumbo, Fried Oysters, Boudin Balls, and our Vietnamese Po’Boy.
The carnival season in Louisiana goes from January 6th (traditionally known as “Twelfth Night,” “King’s Day,” or “Epiphany”) through the day before Ash Wednesday. Some years it’s five weeks long and some years it’s nine weeks long, so we like to pay tribute to that by starting our New Orleans Mid-Winter Carnival menu on the first Wednesday after the new year, and going all the way up until Fat Tuesday, or Mardi Gras.
This year we get to celebrate these New Orleans dishes a little bit longer than we did last year. Some of these dishes are a bit involved, so most won’t make them at home, which is why we enjoy featuring them at the restaurant. In our previous post, we mentioned our Grillades and Grits, Gumbo, and Red Beans and Rice, which are some classic New Orleans staples that are part of this Mid-Winter Carnival menu. We make Boudin Balls instead of traditional Cajun boudin (pork sausage), which is piped into links, steamed, and eaten with mustard. It’s really a tribute to the heritage of German settlers of southwest Louisiana. We prefer to make little fritters out of our boudin, deep fry them, and serve them with a mustard sauce.
We also serve a fried oyster appetizer with creamed spinach, which is evocative of Oysters Rockefeller, and our version of a bahn mi, which is a Vietnamese Po’Boy, in tribute to the sizable Vietnamese population in east New Orleans. There really is a vibrant new cuisine that is being incorporated into every aspect of New Orleans culture. We even make an Eggplant Creole, which is a southern Louisiana version of eggplant parmesan. We make ours with provolone cheese and a chunky creole sauce, reminiscent of a marinara.
2 each eggplant (slice into 20 – ½” thick rounds)
2 cups all purpose flour
½ cup whole milk
2 tsp Cajun Spice Blend (see recipe)
2 cups breadcrumbs
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tsp salt
2 fl oz canola oil
10 slices provolone cheese
2 cups Creole Sauce (see recipe)
5 tbsp grated Reggiano Parmesan cheese
Trim ends from eggplant and slice into ½” thick rounds. Combine eggs, milk and 1 teaspoon Cajun Spice Blend. Combine breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese, salt and 1 teaspoon Cajun Spice Blend. Set up a dredge station by placing the following items in three separate shallow pans: 1. flour, 2. egg/milk mix, 3. breadcrumb mix.
Run each slice of eggplant through the dredge station in the order listed and place on parchment paper. Heat oil in skillet until hot. Brown eggplant slices on both sides over medium heat. Top each slice with ½ slice provolone cheese and allow to melt. Sauce plate with Creole Sauce. Top sauce with slightly overlapping slices of eggplant. Garnish with grated Reggiano Parmesan. Serves 4-6
Creole Spice Blend
2 ½ tbsp paprika
2 tbsp salt
2 tbsp garlic powder
3 tsp black pepper
3 tsp onion powder
3 tsp cayenne pepper
3 tsp oregano leaves
3 tsp thyme leaves
Add all ingredients to a large bowl and combine with a whisk until spices are evenly distributed. Store in an air tight container with lid. Makes – ¾ cup
To end on a sweet note, the Mid-Winter Carnival menu features Red Velvet Cupcakes and our Bananas Foster Bread Pudding, which is a hybrid of two classic New Orleans desserts. Bananas Foster is a classic table-side preparation of flambéed bananas served over ice cream, which is always quite an exciting presentation. Basically what we do is make an old-school, boozy bread pudding that most people expect, and combine it with white chocolate and flambeed bananas, then serve it with the actual Foster sauce. It’s pretty awesome because it’s essentially the best of both desserts.
White Chocolate Banana Bread Pudding with Foster Sauce
1 loaf ciabatta or French bread, diced
2/3 cup light brown sugar
1 ½ cups heavy cream
½ cup milk
2 eggs, lightly beaten
½ tsp vanilla extract
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
3 oz white chocolate block, shaved
1 tbsp butter, softened
1 ½ bananas, diced ½ inch
1 tbsp butter, melted
1 tbsp Myer’s Dark Rum
1 tbsp Crème De Banana
1 quart Foster Sauce (see recipe)
Whipped cream (optional)
Vanilla ice cream (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly toast diced bread in oven. Using pan spray, lubricate a 7 x 12 baking pan. In a mixing bowl, whisk together ½ cup brown sugar, cream, milk and beaten eggs. Add vanilla, cinnamon, bread and chocolate. Stir to blend thoroughly. Heat a sauté pan over medium heat; add softened butter. When melted add bananas and sauté for 2-3 minutes. Add remaining brown sugar and mix with a rubber spatula until sugar is melted. Remove pan from heat and add rum and banana liqueur. Return pan to heat and ignite alcohol. When flames die, fold bananas and syrup into bread pudding mixture. Stir in melted butter. Mix well and transfer to baking pan. Bake until firm, about 45 minutes. Makes – 6 portions
Recipe: Foster Sauce
1 stick butter
1 pound light brown sugar
3 cups heavy cream
1 ½ tbsp Myers Dark Rum
1 ½ tbsp Crème De Banana
Melt butter in a sauce pan and stir in brown sugar. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly for three minutes. Add remaining ingredients and simmer until sauce is nappé (coats a spoon); about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and serve. Makes – 1 quart
Place warmed portion of bread pudding in a shallow bowl. Ladle warm Foster Sauce over and serve with a garnish of whipped cream and vanilla ice cream.
All of these things for me are ultimate comfort foods and we look forward to making them for our guests every year. If you pay close attention, you may even notice that we spike our playlist with some south Louisiana favorites, such as Dr. John, Professor Longhair, and The Neville Brothers, to further amp up the festive atmosphere.
Delicacy of a Lost Time: What do you do with chestnuts besides roast them over an open fire?
LOCAVORE’S DELIGHT: The Series # 41. Follow us as we explore the bounty of our region’s farms.
When one hears the word chestnut, it’s difficult not to associate it with the nostalgic Mel Tormé Christmas tune (“The Christmas Song”), and its famous line, “chestnuts roasting on an open fire.” In 1904, the once prevalent crop was nearly wiped out completely by a blight, which infected several Asian chestnut trees that were planted in Long Island. Over the next 40 years, around 40 billion chestnut trees in America were decimated by the fast-spreading deadly fungus. Since then the nut has mostly flown under the radar in the U.S, usually just making a festive appearance among New York City street vendors during the holidays, and sometimes popping up in stuffing. In France, chestnuts are commonly used in desserts, and Marrons Glacés (candied chestnuts) and Creme de Marrons (chestnut paste, used in the chestnut mousse dessert, Mont Blanc). Both are popular treats, especially at Christmastime.
Over the years since the blight, organizations such as The American Chestnut Foundation have employed countless hours of research and experimentation, working to restore and preserve the American chestnut population. They have also helped prevent future destruction by discovering how to grow blight-resistant crops. The crucial work of these organizations has helped create a resurgence, making this crop sustainable again in the U.S.
Last year we were approached by a guy who told me he had a chestnut grove in Lexington, North Carolina. He offered to sell us some chestnuts and we were intimidated because we had never done anything with chestnuts before. Eager to delve into something new and experiment, we took him up on his offer and bought some chestnuts and chestnut flour. We first tried incorporating chestnut flour into the cornbread that we put in the mushroom stuffing we made for Thanksgiving. We found that the chestnut flour provided a nice earthiness to the dish that played well with the mushrooms. This year we’re excited to work with some folks who are so local we’re practically neighbors, getting some chestnuts and chestnut flour from High Rock Farm. Established in 1807 in Gibsonville, N.C, current owner Richard Teague planted the farm’s first ever chestnut tree in 1991. Now High Rock is the leading chestnut orchard in the mid-Atlantic, with over 500 thriving chestnut trees. Through the farm you can buy chestnut trees, fresh chestnuts, dried chestnut kernels, and stone-ground chestnut flour, which is naturally gluten-free.
Flounder with Sherry Chestnut Compound Butter
One of the first chestnut recipes we tried at the restaurant was a sherry chestnut compound butter out of roasted chestnuts, which is fantastic melted on top of flounder.
For the butter:
1 pound salted butter
5 fl oz sherry
1/3 cup chopped roasted chestnuts
Allow butter to come to room temperature, and then combine with remaining ingredients in a mixer. Using a rubber spatula, remove mixture to a sheet of wax paper and roll into a log. Place in freezer until set. Slice off a coin as needed. Makes 1 pound.
For the flounder:
1 boneless portion of skin-on flounder
1 fl oz canola oil
1 coin of Sherry Chestnut Butter
salt and pepper
Season flounder with salt and pepper to taste. Ladle oil into a sauté pan and place flounder flesh side down to cook until crisp. Flip and finish in a moderately warmed oven. Place on a serving platter and top with one coin of Sherry Chestnut Butter. Makes 1 serving.
What to do with those chestnuts?
Look for chestnuts with smooth, glossy brown shells; wrinkled or mottled shells, or ones with holes usually indicate a moldy or rotten nut.
Chestnuts should be stored in a cool place and soaking them in cold water for about 20 hours immediately post-harvest can help preserve them without refrigeration.
Shelled and cooked chestnuts should be covered and stored in the refrigerator, lasting up to about four days.
Chestnuts can be dried and sold as kernels, which can then be re-hydrated and incorporated in savory dishes or puréed into soups or used in desserts.
Roast ‘e’m: Chestnuts can be shelled and eaten raw, but they are at their best when roasted. First, score the nut using a sharp knife and making an X (about 1/8-inch deep), to prevent it from expanding and exploding. Roast the chestnuts on a baking sheet in a 350-degree oven, for about 35 minutes, shaking the pan a few times throughout. While the chestnuts are still hot (be careful not to burn yourself), peel them and discard their shells.
Fry ‘e’m: You can also deep-fry chestnuts. Just make sure to peel them first.
Bake ‘e’m in a cake: Chestnut flour can be found at most specialty grocery stores and works great in cakes or pancakes.
Chestnut-Pumpkin Spice Cakes
3 tbsp softened butter
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup puréed pumpkin (run through processor)
¼ cup buttermilk
2/3 cup chestnut flour
¾ tsp allspice
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
1 pinch ground ginger
¾ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
Cream butter and sugar in mixer with paddle attachment. Add egg. Combine pumpkin and buttermilk. Combine all dry ingredients. Rotate adding pumpkin mix and dry mix to the sugar mix, ending with dry mix. Do not over mix. Ladle mixture on to hot griddle and cook until golden on both sides. Makes: 32 cakes
Fun facts about chestnuts:
Chestnut trees are of the genus Castanea, and come from the same family as Oak and Beech trees.
Chestnuts are covered by an outer spiny shell, and then a brown papery membrane known as a pellicle, which protects the fruit’s flesh. The pellicle’s properties are very astringent, so it is important that it is removed before the chestnut is consumed.
There are four main species of the nut: American, European, Chinese and Japanese.
Nowadays most chestnuts are imported from China, Japan, Italy and Spain. They are harvested from October to March, with December being the peak month.
In Europe, Asia and Africa, chestnuts are often used as a potato substitute, as they contain twice the amount of starch as potatoes. Their textures are also very similar.
Chestnuts are the only nut that contain Vitamin C, although that amount decreases by 40 percent after they’ve been subjected to heat.
LOCAVORE’S DELIGHT:The Series # 38.Follow us as we explore the bounty of our region’s farms.
Mother Nature has a way of giving us visual clues to what we should be celebrating. Just when the leaves start turning orange, pumpkins begin to festoon everything and those lovely sweet potatoes come into season. As kids, many of us either ate our sweet potatoes from a can or dug in to grandmother’s sweet potato casserole, replete with marshmallows, pecans, and maraschino cherries. We’ve come to realize, however, that as our sweet teeth have faded a bit, we have come to appreciate sweet potatoes even more.
These root veggies are starchy, so when they’re picked from the ground, they need to be cured in a temperature and humidity-controlled environment to convert their starch to sugar. Afterwards, they’re stored and their sweetness accrues with age. Sweet potato growers know that when sweet potatoes are in season, they’re not at their peak and that it won’t be until a month or so later that they’ll really shine. By the time Thanksgiving rolls around, they are as good as they will ever be. In the meantime, you can still enjoy sweet potatoes, you just need a little help and a little know-how.
Anybody can turn sweet potatoes into candied yams. But at Lucky’s, our whipped sweet potatoes are more of a side dish than a dessert. At Lucky’s, we also make sweet potato hushpuppies, sweet potato chips, and best of all, sweet potato fried pies. About five years ago, we met a woman who had been making fried sweet potato pies for decades. We asked her how she managed to get the filling into the pie without it oozing all out in the fryer. She said her secret was that she pre-baked the sweet potato pie filling completely in a casserole dish, allowed it to cool, and then rolled the filling into a half-moon-shaped hand pie and fried it. So we do it her way at our restaurant, and actually start the pie in the fryer for about a minute, just to set the crust, before finishing it off in the oven, where it cooks fully. We serve the pies with Homeland Creamery’s butter pecan ice cream, and I can’t think of any other treat that is more emblematic of a sweet southern autumn.
Recipe: Sweet Potato Fried Pies
3 cups roasted sweet potatoes
1 cup heavy whipping cream
3 large eggs
1 cup light brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
2 tbsp Myers Dark Rum
½ tsp Chinese 5 Spice
Homemade Pie Crust (see recipe below)
1 egg (for egg wash)
8 tbsp sugar
Combine potatoes, cream, 3 eggs, brown sugar, spices and rum. Blend until combined and pour into a large shallow pan. Bake at 350 degrees until set. Cool. Divide dough into eight 5 ounce portions. Roll out each portion into a flat circle. Place 2 ounces of cooled potato filling in the center of each dough circle. Brush around circle with beaten egg wash. Fold circle in half and crimp edge with a fork (to seal in the filling). Let pies rest in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before cooking. Deep fry each pie at 350 degrees for three minutes or until golden brown. Place fried pies on a sheet of parchment and dust with sugar. Makes enough filling for 8 pies.
Recipe: Lucky 32 Pie Crust:
6 1/8 cups all purpose flour
2/3 tbsp salt
3 1/3 sticks unsalted butter
2/3 cup ice cold water
Freeze butter and then grate. Sift flour and salt together. Work cold butter into flour mix and add water slowly, mixing until just combined. Makes enough dough for 8 pies for the recipe above.
Recipe: Molasses Whipped Sweet Potatoes
2 pounds sweet potatoes—washed, roasted and peeled
1 stick butter
1/3 cup sour cream
2 tsp sorghum molasses
salt to taste
Lay out sweet potatoes on a sheet pan in a single layer and heat through in a 350 degree oven. When heated through, combine all ingredients in a stand mixer with a paddle attachment or mash with a potato masher by hand until well combined and smooth. Makes 4 portions.
Sweet Potatoes 411:
Health Benefits: Sweet potatoes are rich in antioxidants, beta-carotene, magnesium, and vitamins A, B6, and C.
Sweet potatoes vs. Yams: What’s the difference? Sweet potatoes and yams are not even vaguely from the same vegetable family. Sweet potatoes are indigenous to South America, while yams are of African origin. In this country both names are used interchangeably to refer to sweet potatoes; to try a true yam, head to an international market and seek out Boniato!
How to pick and store: Look for tubers with smooth skin, wrinkle and blemish free. They should be small to medium in size, firm to the touch, and uniform in shape. Do not refrigerate! Store in a relatively cool, dry place for up to two weeks.
Varieties: There are over 6,500 different varieties of sweet potatoes in the world. Here are a a couple of my favorites and some that you’re most likely to recognize:
Covington: One of my favorites, this potato’s inherent sweetness makes it popular here in the south, primarily used in sweet sides and desserts. Its thicker skin makes it easier to roast first and then peel.
Beauregard: Another favorite, this widely-grown, multipurpose variety is good for roasting, boiling, mashing and frying.
Jewell: One of the most common varieties, best for baking casseroles.
Carolina Ruby: A red skin variety with creamy orange flesh and thinner skin; not ideal for roasting because the flesh doesn’t detach from the skin very easily.
O’henry: A relative of the Beauregard, this variety has cream colored skin and flesh, and is great for baking.
Okinawan Purple: Originally native to Japan (hence the name), these potatoes were eventually made popular in Hawaiian cuisine, by French Polynesians. Their skin is creamy brown, but inside the flesh is a vibrant purple.
Stokes Purple: Indigenous to Stokes County, North Carolina, these vivid lavender-hued potatoes possess a unique earthy taste and are best used in savory dishes. They are starchy, with a fibrous skin (which has a purple tinge), and the flesh has a low moisture content, so they’re best baked lower and longer.
Did you know? You can drink ‘em:
Covington sweet potato vodka made in Snow Hill, NC.
LOCAVORE’S DELIGHT: The Series # 37.Follow us as we explore the bounty of our region’s farms.
School’s back in session, the mornings have become brisk, and we’ve almost seen the last of this summer’s peaches at the market. Apple season’s in full-swing and while they might not rev your engine they way strawberries do, this misunderstood fruit is sorely underrated. Red delicious apples are the one bad apple that have spoiled it for the bunch of the good apples out there (pun intended). The mealy-textured, bland-flavored, superficially too-perfect red delicious apple has none of the characteristics of a good eating apple or a even a good cooking apple. However, it looks good on a produce stand, it travels and stores well so it has become the ubiquitous representative of the rosacea (apple) family. There are probably more cultivars of apples that are extinct than there are currently extant on this planet. Apple offspring are always different than the parent trees that contributed pollen and flower, unless branches are grafted onto rootstock. What better way to celebrate diversity than to search for apples you’ve never heard of. Keep in mind that just because it is obscure does not mean it tastes great, but therein lies the adventure. We challenge you to find an apple you’ve never heard of before. As our friends at RAFT (Renewing America’s Food Traditions) are wont to say, “you’ve got to eat it to save it.”
We prefer to use sour apples for cooking and sweet apples for eating out of hand—which seems to be the rule of thumb. Gala may be the most popular type of apple in these parts, but our favorite varies depending on the intended use. Here are some of our favorites:
Galas: This sweet apple makes wonderful juice, although you do need a juice extractor.
Arkansas Black: This beauty lives up to its name, with a dark, forbidden-like hue, reminiscent of the apple the witch gave Snow White. These apples are tart, hearty and crunchy and keep really well.
Mutsu (AKA Crispin): This is a great eating apple that tops many folks’ lists here in the Piedmont.
Macintosh: Well-balanced and good for cooking or eating fresh.
Stayman Winesap: Stores well and is great for pies and cider.
Buckingham: These large apples are ideal for pies, or mountain-style fried apples.
Pink Lady: These beauties are best for the kids’ lunch boxes.
Honeycrisp: When I crave juicy sweetness, this is one apple I might walk a mile to get my hands on. These apples are sweet and crisp like their name implies and are easily one of my favorite snacking apples. I’ve also made apple bitters, using honeycrisp apples, which we show off in the Apple core reviver #2, that we will feature at the Foggy Ridge Cider dinner on October 17
Gingergold: One of my favorites for cooking, because their balance is amazing and they make the best applesauce.
One of my favorite ways to experience the full flavor of an apple is through cider and hard cider (fermented cider). A longstanding tradition, cidermaking was made popular in America by English settlers from the Massachusetts Bay Colony, and hard ciders were the colonial beverage of choice. Believe it or not, “ugly,” misshapen apples with blemishes are some of the best apples for making cider. We feature three different artisanal hard ciders by the glass every day, two from Foggy Ridge in Dugspur, Virginia and one from McRitchie right here in Elkin, North Carolina. If you want a real treat, find some boiled cider (http://www.woodscidermill.com/), and incorporate it into your cold weather morning ritual.
Recipe: New Jersey Cocktail
1.25 fl oz Apple Brandy
1 sugar cube
3 dashes Angostura bitters
4 fl oz hard cider (we like Foggy Ridge and McRitchie)
Place sugar cube in a champagne flute (or cocktail glass of choice). Add 3 dashes of bitters and apple brandy, and fill with cider. Makes 1 cocktail
Recipe: Warm Apple Spiced Cake
3 cups tart apples (Granny Smith, if you can’t find any at the market)
3 cups flour
1 ½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
1 stick butter, unsalted
½ cup vegetable oil
2 cups granulated sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 9 x 13 pan with cooking spray and set aside. Peel, core and dice apples into 1-inch pieces; set aside. In a large mixing bowl, add flour, baking soda, cinnamon, salt and nutmeg. Whisk together. Place butter, oil and sugar in bowl of an electric mixer. Using paddle attachment, mix on low speed until just blended. Turn speed to high and continue mixing until thoroughly combined. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla and beat on high speed, 3-4 minutes, until light and fluffy. Turn mixer back to medium speed and gradually add dry ingredients. Turn off mixer when ingredients are just blended; avoid over-mixing. Fold in apples. Fold batter into prepared pan. Bake for 40-50 minutes, until golden brown and toothpick comes out clean. Makes 12 servings
Fun Facts About Apples:
Apples date back to 6500 BC.
Apples release ethylene gas, which accelerates the ripening of other fruit, so give them their own bowl and keep them away from your other produce.
While there have been between 15,000 and 16,000 different apple varieties in North America, only about 3,000 of those varieties are actually accessible today.
The largest apple ever picked weighed 3 pounds.
North Carolina is the seventh largest apple producing state.
It takes about 36 apples to make one gallon of cider.
After oranges, apples are the most valuable fruit in the U.S.
Apples are high in fiber and vitamin C and they help regulate blood sugar, lower cholesterol, and promote heart health.
Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is: Farm-to-Fork Picnic
It’s summertime: time to grill out, dine al fresco and enjoy the outdoors. It’s the perfect time of year to frolic in a massive field with friends, farmers and chefs and have a big picnic. And who doesn’t love a big picnic? I hope you will consider joining us on Sunday June 9 at the annual Farm to Fork fundraiser just north of Hillsborough. The picnic is a farm-chef collaboration that celebrates the farm-to-table movement with a roving feast, featuring locally grown food cooked by some of the best chefs in the area.
This event is important because not only does it support and train upcoming farmers and spotlight amazing, local food, but it also helps bring some recognition to the people who grow and prepare our food. We like the idea that food is made by people. Animals are raised by people, plants are harvested by people, food is cooked by people. By identifying those people and putting a face to the names of those making our food, we feel more connected to our food and to the land. Our meals become more meaningful. The more food production becomes industrialized, the more we lose our connection to the land and this event is an opportunity in a very agricultural area to reconnect with the people who are endeavoring to produce our food. It’s our fifth year as a participant and we’re proud to be involved in such an admirable cause.
Proceeds from the picnic benefit CEFS (Center for Environmental Farming Systems)—which supports beginner farmers through an apprentice program, and PLANT @ Breeze Farm—an incubator farm, research center and extension of North Carolina State University, which provides training for new farmers in the Piedmont Region. The current average age of farmers is 59 so supporting organizations like CEFS and PLANT @ Breeze Farm is critical to the future of farming. Both organizations help foster sustainable farming, providing training workshops and intern programs for young or transitional farmers. This affords them the opportunity to explore and practice small-scale, organic farming—letting them test the waters without sacrificing much economically by way of equipment or land.
This year, we’re excited to be teaming up with Massey Creek Farms again, as well as Rudd Farm and Homeland Creamery. We’ll arrive bright and early to begin roasting a whole hog, courtesy of Massey Creek Farms. We’ll serve up some sliders, with our famous Voodoo Sauce. For dessert, we’ll have a custard (with Homeland Creamery’s buttermilk and Massey Creek Farms’ eggs), accompanied with fresh strawberries from Rudd Farm.
From 4-7 PM, you can connect with local farmers and chefs—and sample dishes from 34 farms and restaurants. There’ll also be live music and fun activities for the kiddos. Get your tickets now, while you still can! The picnic will be held at Breeze Farm and the address is: 4909 Walnut Grove Church Road, Hurdle Mills, NC.
In case you aren’t able to make it to the picnic this year…
Pick up some of our Voodoo Sauce at Lucky 32 and check out our fresh veggie cart to support some local farmers while you’re there! Here’s our custard recipe for you to make at home, and you can also stop by Lucky 32 for brunch and try a variation of the custard on our cornmeal waffle with strawberries and strawberry coulis.
Recipe: Buttermilk Custard
•2 cups buttermilk
•½ cup granulated sugar
•2 medium eggs
•1 tbsp cornstarch
•½ tsp vanilla extract
•1 ½ tsp butter
Add buttermilk to a sauce pot and heat to a low simmer. In a separate bowl, whisk together sugar, eggs and cornstarch. Slowly temper the egg mixture by beating in about 1-2 fluid ounces or the warm buttermilk.
Repeat the process until all buttermilk is combined with eggs. Return the mixture to the sauce pot and cook over very low heat for 3-5 minutes or just until mixture coats the back of a spoon. Remove from heat and add vanilla and butter, stirring until incorporated. Strain to remove any lumps. Cool and then store in refrigerator. Serve atop your favorite waffle or pancake and summer berries.
yields 2 ½ cups
Save the Date!
In years past, we’ve also been fortunate to participate in other wonderful food events, such as the TerraVITA Food & Wine event and the Pittsboro Pepper Festival. Mark your calendars for: Saturday, October 12th: TerraVITA’S The Grand Tasting on the Green and Sunday, October 20th: 6th Annual Pittsboro Pepper Festival.
Check out some of the fun from 2009’s Farm to Fork event
LOCAVORE’S DELIGHT: The Series #28. Follow us as we explore the bounty of our region’s farms.
Strawberries, dandelion greens, asparagus, and rhubarb are all indicative of spring, but strawberries are the only item on the list that are grown in any significant numbers here in the piedmont. So what does that mean?
There are a lot of former tobacco farms in close proximity to Greensboro that have switched over to growing strawberries in the last 10 or 15 years. There’s a rather thriving business of pick-your-own strawberry farms, too.
The first year we moved here, my family and I went out and picked strawberries until our hearts content. We filled two flat boxes full of strawberries. We came home, washed them up, ate a bunch of fresh berries, and then we were full. But we still had one and three-quarters boxes of strawberries left! They just don’t disappear.
You don’t want to see the fruits of your labor – your toiling in the field – go to waste. You can fill a mason jar full of the bruised berries and make your own vinegar; soak them in brandy; and, freeze a box worth of berries and save them until fall. Here’s how.
Make strawberry vinegar
Fill a mason jar with some of the bruised and overripe strawberries. Add red wine vinegar, cap it off, and let it sit for about a month.
Mash it up, then strain the berries out, and keep the strawberry vinegar/juice.
Add strawberry vinegar to grilled summer vegetables. Place lightly salted grilled vegetables on the plate and sprinkle with a little strawberry vinegar. It will remind you of spring, brightens the flavor, and adds a little zest to the bland expanse that is summer squash.
Strawberries on the rocks
Steep berries in a mason jar full of your favorite booze, such as bourbon or brandy. Let the jar sit for a few months. Purée, then strain out the berry mash.
It would be fine if you let the strawberries soak for a day, but I try to do things like that for a month or so.
Freeze strawberries to last you the whole summer
Wash whole berries.
Drain berries on a kitchen towel.
Trim off the green part and any excessively white part.
Set the trimmed strawberries on a parchment paper lined baking tray. Space them out so they don’t touch.
Set the pan of strawberries in the freezer, uncovered, overnight.
Then, collect the strawberries and put them in a ziploc freezer bag for long-term storage.
Materials needed: pan, knife, parchment paper, freshly picked strawberries, a freezer, and a ziploc bag for storage.
Use frozen strawberries for ice cubes. Eat them frozen for a sweet summer treat. Thaw them out and chop them up as needed for pancakes, or our special infused vinegar.
Come on in. Cider’s on the stove. Eggnog’s in the fridge. Bourbon’s on the bar.
LOCAVORE’S DELIGHT: The Series #27. Follow us as we explore the bounty of our region’s farms.
It started with a European tradition: Carolling. The American version of carolling today is visiting. Visiting your family, visiting your neighbors — nurturing a community spirit.
The idea of hospitality is that you always have something ready, either on the stove or in the fridge when people come to visit.
Around this time of year, whether it’s Christmas Eve, or a cold winter’s night, that holiday beverage is eggnog.
In the British tradition it’s called Wassail. Caroling is also known as Wassailing, or “Waes Hail,” which literally means “good health.” The beverage wassail is a winter beer spiked with brandy. Glögg is a spiced wine spiked with neutral spirits like aquavit.
Perhaps a bit more Presbyterian would be apple cider. Apples are harvested in the fall and apples deemed not intact enough for storage get crushed into cider; a very Colonial American drink.
When gently heated, the flavors of apple juice blend well with those autumnal spices: cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, cardamom, allspice, much like the spices that go into Chai. They’re also the same spices in eggnog.
If you follow an eggnog recipe—one in a Better Homes and Gardens or the Martha Stewart cookbook—you’ll end up making a thin custard that’s flavored with bourbon or brandy. You’re better off having one here, though, at Lucky 32 Southern Kitchen. We use Homeland Creamery’s Eggnog. And offer you the choice of adding some zip to it.
Eggnog at the restaurant
This is our third year with eggnog at the restaurant. Our Homeland Creamery tradition started four years ago when we first started working with the local dairy based in Julian, North Carolina.
We first started using their milk and buttermilk, and then we started using their heavy cream, and then their ice cream. In the fall we did a sweet potato pie paired with their Butter Pecan ice cream. We were bowled over by their Butter Pecan ice cream. We loved it.
Loved it so much we wanted to do something else. At the time, we were talking about what kind of ice cream flavors they make when Terri Bowman told us about their eggnog, then she gave us some to try.
We’re serious, it will knock you out of your socks. It’s rich, viscous and velvety.
New uses for eggnog:
Serve it like a dessert
You could offer black coffee, or Kahlua after dinner all year long, but at this time of year spiced eggnog is a treat. If you’re eating savory things, eggnog should go later with dessert, not first. Eggnog coats your palette and will ruin the flavor of a lot of things if it’s not followed by something sharp.
Serve it at breakfast
During the winter, my kids have eggnog with their breakfast instead of milk. Breakfast doesn’t have a progression; it doesn’t go light, savory, spicy. It’s usually all on the plate, and so a little eggnog puts a some pep in your step.
Float a little eggnog on top of your oatmeal
Finish your rice pudding with eggnog instead of fresh cream
Substitute a glass of eggnog for milk for a special winter treat
At Lucky 32 Southern Kitchen
We serve eggnog with our Bourbon Pecan Bars, which is essentially a reinvented Pecan Pie. I find that Pecan Pie is too sweet for me, especially with that gooey, corn syrupy center, and I don’t like how it oozes out when you cut it. If you’re serving it at a restaurant, you might serve a whole pie over the course of the evening and by the time you get to those last two slices pie, the good stuff is all gooey-ed out.
So I decided to solve that problem and to resolve it with my personal predilections, I could double the crust recipe make it like a cookie dough and decreased the filling by half. What you get is like a shortbread cookie topped with a small amount of pecan pie filling. We then mix up a bourbon-spiked royale icing to drizzle over it. To me, it’s fantastic with eggnog.
My two favorite Bourbons to enjoy in eggnog are probably Elijah Craig 12yr and Old Weller Antique 107 – great stuff that won’t set you back at much as other labels with marketing campaigns.
Southern Comfort and Sailor Jerry are wonderful as add-ins. I’d say four ounces of eggnog can use between a splash of liquor and a solid two ounces.
Everyone has their own preferences for mixed drinks, you should know whether you like them stiff or “graced” by a touch of spirit.
Lucky 32 Southern Kitchen Bourbon Pecan Bars
3 cups all purpose flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
1 cup light brown sugar
1 ½ sticks butter – very cold, grated
9 each eggs
1 1/8 cups light brown sugar
1 1/8 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp salt
3 ½ cups Karo syrup
2 ½ tbsp bourbon
2 cups pecan pieces
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir in 1 cup brown sugar. Using a stand mixer with paddle attachment, cut in butter until mixture looks like cornmeal. Pan spray a sheet tray and pat the mixture evenly into the bottom of the tray. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes.
Meanwhile beat eggs until well mixed but not light. Add sugar, flour, and salt. Add syrup and bourbon. Mix well. Pour syrup mixture over prebaked crust and then sprinkle pecans over. Bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes. Allow dough to cool and cut into 12 portions. Drizzle bourbon icing over the top.
Makes – 12 portions
¼ cup butter – softened
2 cups 10x sugar
3 tbsp bourbon
½ cup whole milk
Whisk together bourbon and butter. Add in small amounts of powdered sugar and milk, alternating until all is incorporated.
Shaking down persimmon recipes: pie, glaze, and Southern Comfort hard sauce
LOCAVORE’S DELIGHT: The Series #25. Follow us as we explore the bounty of our region’s farms.
There’s a story about persimmons in the new Louvin brothers book. A young Ira couldn’t shake a persimmon off a tree, so he convinced his brother Charlie to get an ax, chop it down, and snag the fruit. Together they ate all the persimmons and tried to prop up the tree again, like nothing happened. Their father’s punishment for chopping that tree down was notoriously severe, but so was the persimmon revenge: the boys got sick.
Around mid October, it’s not uncommon to see tarps and straw beds under persimmon trees, and folks (musicians or not) trying to shake them down. Chef says you don’t pick persimmons, you pick them up off the straw. And local musician Scott Manring says “anything bigger than your thumb with fur on it” will eat a persimmon. He once watched a deer stand on its hind legs to eat persimmons off his tree. Scott himself will climb to the tree tops, shake down a bag’s worth, and bring them to Lucky 32 Southern Kitchen.
The Native American persimmon
The indigenous Native American persimmon is a kind of muted, autumn peach. The fruit is tear-dropped shaped and grows in wonderful, beautiful trees. It’s also so intolerably astringent if it’s under ripe that it will ruin anything you make.
Cooking: The Native American persimmon needs to fully ripen on the tree. The fruit will be soft and mushy and most persimmon recipes require cooking, such as persimmon pudding.
The fuyu persimmon can be eaten unripe, just like a tomato. Its flavor is sort of a peachy-tomato cross. At the grocery store, look for the persimmon with a flat bottom, that’s a fuyu. The redder it gets, the sweeter it is. There are some wonderful salads with poached shrimp and under ripe fuyu persimmons that are sublime.
Cooking: Slice it thin, or wedge it, and add it to a salad. Or, add to your purée.
Needs to fully ripen on the tree before being eaten, should be treated just like and indigenous persimmon, yet has a much higher flesh to seed ratio.
In the kitchen: Persimmon BBQ sauce and Persimmon Pudding
The traditional dish for persimmons is persimmon pudding — a very humble mixture of persimmon puree, flour, eggs, and sugar. Most persimmons come our way because people bring them to us. When the fall menu is over, we freeze them and use them for sauces and pudding on New Year’s Eve.
We’ve decided to make teriyaki sauce and fold persimmon purée into it and use it for a quail glaze. It’s a sweet purée and we use it like we would a peach BBQ sauce.
It’s also an integral component of the hard sauce that is served with our bread pudding (with the peach flavor of Southern Comfort to amplify the subtle taste of persimmons).
I don’t know of anyone farming persimmons, but many farms have a persimmon tree, and bring their persimmons to us.
Scott Manring, one of the featured musician’s at Lucky 32 Southern Kitchen’s “Songs in a Southern Kitchen” series
We recently visited Scott’s persimmon trees in Pleasant Garden to get a few persimmon “pick-up” tips.
Persimmon tree wood is among the strongest and used to make the highest quality heads of golf clubs known as the “wood.”
Hard, unripe persimmons will fall to the ground, and taste terrible, “like putting a piece of cotton in your mouth.”
Scott puts tarps on the ground, instead of straw. It’s easier to roll persimmons up in a tarp and bag them.
The tree is getting too thick to shake, so Scott either climbs the tree to shake persimmons down, or uses a rope to pull on it.
After a hard frost the color of the persimmon gets grapey-looking.
A ripe persimmon is ooey-gooey, and usually splits a little when it hits the ground.
Bob Reeves, a local musician and piedmont renaissance man, puts a sweet potato and a little orange zest in his persimmon pie. He uses an old pulp mill to separate the persimmons from dirt and twigs.
Lucky 32 Southern Kitchen Recipes
Lucky 32 Southern Kitchen Persimmon Glaze
1 tbsp canola oil
1 ½ tbspginger puree
2 cups unsweetened pineapple juice
1 pound light brown sugar
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup Tamari
¼ cup chopped green onions
2 ½ cups chopped fresh persimmons, hulls removed
Heat oil in a pot over medium heat and sweat ginger. Add remaining ingredients and simmer until thickened, about 35 minutes. Puree with an immersion blender and strain through a fine strainer.
*Quality Identifiers: sauce should be free of skins and seeds and should coat the back of a spoon.
Makes 5 cups
Lucky 32 Southern Comfort Persimmon Hard Sauce
¾ cup fresh persimmon pulp
2/3 lb butter – room temperature
3 ¾ cup confectioners sugar 10X (add more for thicker sauce)
5 each egg yolks
7 fl ounces Southern Comfort (or your favorite)
Heat persimmons over medium-high heat. Add butter and begin to melt. Add sugar. Cream butter and sugar, and stir until all of the butter is absorbed and a smooth consistency is achieved. Remove from heat. Stir in one egg yolk at a time until all yolks have been incorporated. Gradually pour in Southern Comfort while stirring constantly. Sauce will thicken as it cools.
Makes – 3 ½ cups
Lucky 32 Southern Kitchen Persimmon Pudding
2 cups all purpose flour
½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground nutmeg
3 fresh eggs
1 ½ cups sugar
2 cups pureed fresh persimmon with hull removed
1 ½ cups Scuppernong wine
¼ cup buttermilk
2 ½ tbsp melted unsalted butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
Sift together flour, baking soda, salt and spices. Set aside. In a separate bowl, mix eggs and sugar until well combined. Add pureed persimmon, wine and buttermilk and mix to combine. Stir in butter and vanilla. Grease a baking pan with pan spray. Add liquid mixture to flour mixture and combine well by hand. Transfer mixture to greased pan. Bake at 300 degrees for 30-45 minutes or until center is set and sides begin to pull away from pan. Allow to cool completely before slicing.
The locavore’s guide to this season’s apple shortage
LOCAVORE’S DELIGHT: The Series # 21. Follow us all summer long as we explore the bounty of our region’s farms.
On the morning of April 24 of this year, as we were readying for a trip to dig ramps at Foggy Ridge Cider in Dugspur, VA, the temperature in much of the apple-growing part of North Carolina dropped low enough to freeze the nascent apple blooms that were early, as a result of the preceding mild winter.
These irreparably damaged blooms never turned into apples. Because cold air is heavier than warm air, the chill settled in valleys and actually spared orchards at higher elevations. As a result, some in the industry estimate that as much as 80% of the apple harvest in North Carolina was lost that day.
Now that apple harvesting season is upon us, we are feeling the effects of that disastrous day. Each of the varieties that we’ve come to expect at the farmer’s market are present, but in tremendously small quantities. Honeycrisps and Empires seem to be already done, Buckinghams and Galas are going fast.
Because our menu is literally created by local foods and what’s in season, our late summer menu is a little different this year. This menu usually has the apple turnover and bourbon-smothered apples on grilled porkchops. Not this year.
So what did we do instead? More importantly, what do you do instead?
Hold your locavore ground
Mother Nature teaches us moderation. Sometimes we splurge because our tomato bushes were overly prolific, and sometimes we moderate because of a heat wave or a freeze. In boom times, we preserve. In lean times we manage. It’s all part of the challenge of shopping in Mother Nature’s stores. Being a locavore, to me, means celebrating what’s in season. When strawberries are in: celebrate. When apples are in: celebrate.
If you have a bumper crop–like this summer’s tomatoes and squash–pay attention to it. Ask farmers about the season’s boom or bust and make a creative plan of action.
Right now, we’re serving Applesauce, and Apple Cake served with slice pears, because Apple Cake uses fewer apples and we had a good pear crop.
A word about apples
All apples are divided into 2 categories: eating and cooking.
Apples for eating out of your hand
Favorite eating apple: Honeycrisp
Honeycrisp, Gala, York, Fuji, Pink Lady
Favorite cooking apple: Arkansas black. Its lower moisture content means it doesn’t make great applesauce, but it makes wonderful apple pies and dumplings. This apple is also featured on the side of the Farm to Fork London Taxicab you see us driving around town.
firmer, holds its shape in the oven
Fugee, Heirloom. Buckingham, Newton Pippin, Rusty Coat, Limbertwig, Arkansas Black
At the farmer’s market
The best way to tell the difference between a cooking apple and an eating apple is to ask your vendor or farmer. Courtlands, Jonathans, and Buckinghams are all in the market right now. You’re much better off talking to someone who is buying or selling or growing NC apples. When you buy things in season from local growers you get occasional brilliance.
Get the farmer’s side of the story. Ask him or her about this this year’s apple harvest. If they’re not aware of a cold snap or an apple shortage, you might not be talking with someone who is as passionate as you are about your apples. Keep in mind, that farmers higher in the mountain regions didn’t lose much this year.
Ask the farmer’s where the apples came from. We’ll be crossing North Carolina state lines into Virginia to make up for the apple loss. But the closer the apple is to the home and the tree it came from, the better.
At the grocery store
Check the label. If you go to the grocery store, the apple will have a sticker on it indicating its country of origin. It’s not uncommon for people to make a mistake: to accidentally fill the bin with the wrong apple because of a short supply. Double check: if it says, “locally grown,” check the apple’s sticker.
Find out how far it has travelled to get to you. If an apple is picked in, say, New Zealand, it’s picked underripe and treated with a gaseous compound (1-MCP) so it can be shipped halfway around the world and arrive ready for stores. The apple never gets an opportunity to develop all those nutrients on the tree. It’s literally in suspended animation.
Apples reach their peak of maturity when you store them at room temperature.
If you go to a Pick Your Own orchard and bring home several apples to store, refrigerate them.
Lucky 32 Southern Kitchen Apple Sauce
5 pounds apples
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup apple cider
¼ tsp nutmeg
Wash and core apples, then slice into wedges leaving skin on. Preheat skillet and add apples, sugar and ½ cup apple cider. Cook on low while cover until apples are tender. Remove from heat and process in food processor. Stir in remaining apple cider and nutmeg.
Makes – 6 cups
Lucky 32 Southern Kitchen’s Apple Filling
2 1/2 pound apples – peeled, cored and sliced
¼ cup apple cider
1 1/2 tsp cornstarch
½ stick butter (1/8 pound)
¼ cup light brown sugar
⅛ cup granulated sugar
1 pinch ground cinnamon
Peel, core and slice apples. Dissolve cornstarch in apple cider. Melt butter in skillet. Add apples and sauté until coated in butter. Add sugars and cinnamon and cook until syrup is thick. Add cornstarch-cider mixture and simmer for 5 minutes.