Memory Lane

A stroll through old-fashioned, Southern fare


By Amelia Rasmus

It’s funny how some tastes are laced with memories, like the way a spoonful of banana pudding can bring a childlike smile to your face or how the salty-sweetness of country ham can call to mind the members of a family gathering.

For some of us, these recollections are brought on by the down-home dishes and desserts mom and grandma used to make.

Even if yours weren’t the aproning-and-apple-pie kind of ladies, quintessentially Southern foods can add a little maternal spirit to the atmosphere of your kitchen.

So, diet be damned; loosen your belt for four recent cookbooks’ hearty helpings of love and comfort:

“A Return to Sunday Dinner”
By Russell Cronkhite
Published by Multnomah Publishers

Skillet Corn Bread

“Skillet corn bread was baked on hearths long before most people had ovens. Those who didn’t have a skillet often baked the dough directly on the hearth or even on the blade of a hoe out in the fields.”


2 cups yellow cornmeal
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 teaspoons salt
3 large eggs, room temperature
2/3 cup whole milk
1 (8-ounce) can cream-style corn
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1/4 cup bacon fat or lard


Adjust the rack to the center of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees.

Combine the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle. Whisk together thoroughly.

Lightly beat the eggs into the milk in a separate bowl. Add the egg mixture into the dry ingredients and mix together on a low speed to form a smooth paste. Then mix in the cream-style corn until just blended.

Heat a 10-inch, heavy-bottomed or cast-iron skillet over medium heat.

Add the butter and the bacon fat or lard and allow it bubble.

Pour all but about 2 tablespoons of the melted butter mixture into the corn bread batter and stir to combine thoroughly.

Return the skillet to the stove. When the butter just begins to brown, pour in the batter.

Let the corn bread cook on top of the stove just long enough for the fat to absorb into the batter, about 2 minutes. Gently shake the skillet back and forth to keep the batter from sticking to the bottom.

Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake until a wooden pick comes out clean when inserted into the center, about 25 minutes.

Makes 8 servings.

Glazed Country-Baked Ham

“Taking the time to find a hand-cured, bone-in, fully cooked ham with natural juices is well worth the effort.”


1 (10-pound) sugar-cured smoked ham
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 tablespoons deli-style mustard
1/2 cup packed dark-brown sugar


Adjust the lower rack to near the bottom of the oven and preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Rinse the ham under cool running water and dry it thoroughly with paper towels.

Use a sharp knife to carefully trim away the outer skin from the ham, leaving a layer of fat and a collar of skin around the shank bone.

You may trim some of the fat as well, but leave a 1/2-inch layer.

Score the fat on the top of the ham in a 1- to 2-inch diamond pattern, cutting just slightly into the meat.

Place the ham in a shallow roasting pan and bake until the internal temperature of the meat registers 140 degrees, about 1 hour and 45 minutes.

To prepare the glaze, thoroughly combine the cinnamon, cloves, mustard and brown sugar in a small mixing bowl.

When the ham has baked, brush the top and sides evenly with the glaze. Increase the oven temperature to 350 degrees and continue baking until the glaze is bubbly, 20 to 30 additional minutes.

To serve, carefully remove the ham from the roasting pan and transfer it to a clean cutting board. Let it rest at room temperature 15 to 20 minutes, then use a sharp carving knife to slice.

Transfer the slices to a warm platter and serve immediately.

Makes 12 servings.

“Savoring Savannah: Feasts From the Low Country”
Published by Ten Speed Press

Crab Cakes With Tarragon Tartar Sauce

“One secret to good crab cakes is to make sure that the lump crabmeat is fresh, of excellent quality and picked clean of shells.”


For the sauce

3/4 cup mayonnaise
1-1/2 teaspoons sweet pickle relish
2 tablespoons fresh tarragon, minced

For the crab cakes

1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2-1/2 teaspoons Old Bay Seasoning
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 red bell pepper, seeded, de-ribbed and very finely chopped
3 large egg yolks
2 pounds lump crabmeat
Dash Worcestershire sauce
2 whole scallions, very finely chopped
5 cups cornflakes, crushed into crumbs
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Lemon wedges for garnish


To prepare the tartar sauce, combine the mayonnaise, relish and tarragon in a small bowl. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

To prepare the crab cakes, mix together the mayonnaise, mustard, spice mix, cayenne, bell pepper, egg yolks, crab, Worcestershire and scallions in a large bowl. Form the mixture into 12 small patties and chill, covered, at least 1 hour or up to 4 hours.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Gently roll the patties in the cornflakes. Transfer the cakes to a baking sheet and top each with 1/2 teaspoon of butter.

Bake for 10 minutes, until crisp.

Serve steaming hot with tartar sauce and lemon wedges.

Makes 10 to 12 servings.

Cheddar Cheese Biscuits

“Cheddar cheese adds a flavorful twist to the traditional biscuit.”


2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/8 cup shredded, medium-sharp cheese
1 tablespoon salted butter, melted
1 cup milk


Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add the cheese.

Lightly mix in the butter and about 2/3 cup or slightly more of the milk, just until the ingredients are combined.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and pat or roll out to 1/2 inch thick.

Cut with a 1-1/2-inch biscuit cutter into 16 biscuits.

Brush the biscuits with the remaining milk, place on a baking sheet and bake 12 to 15 minutes, until golden brown.

Serve hot.

Makes 8 servings.


“The Soul of Southern Cooking”
By Kathy Starr
Published by NewSouth Books

Delta Fried Catfish

“On Saturday morning, the fishermen would bring up 150 to 200 pounds of buffalo or catfish for the Saturday lunch and dinners.”


3-1/2 pounds catfish
4 cups plain white meal
3 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons pepper
Seasoning salt
6 cups vegetable oil


Put seasoning salt on each side of the fish portions.

Place the seasoned fish in a bag containing meal, salt and pepper. Shake until catfish is completely covered.

In a large skillet, warm the oil and fry fish until golden brown.

Makes 5 to 6 servings.

Banana Pudding

“In the old days, there was always a nutmeg grater hanging beside the cook stove to liven up puddings and custards.”


4 egg yolks
1 can evaporated milk
2-1/4 cups sugar, plus 1/4 cup
1-1/4 cups water
3/4 cup plain flour
2 teaspoons vanilla
5 cups vanilla wafers
6 medium-size ripe bananas
3 egg whites


In a boiler, beat egg yolks until they foam on top. Stir in milk, sugar and water. Stir constantly over low heat.

The pudding mixture will thicken if you add flour slowly as you stir. Add vanilla.

In a deep baking dish, add a layer of vanilla wafers, a layer of bananas and a layer of pudding. Add two more layers.

To make the meringue, place egg whites in a bowl and beat at high speed until fluffy. Alternate sugar while beating until stiff.

Top the pudding layers with meringue. Brown and serve.

Makes 7 to 8 servings.

“Sweet Tooth: Down-Home Meals & Blue Ribbon Desserts”
By Sarah Ann Spaugh
Published by Carolina Avenue Press

Old-Fashioned Chicken and Dumplings

“Many of my dresses were made from the printed chicken- feed sacks. Some of Grandma’s quilts were made from the scraps of these sacks.”


4- to 5-pound chicken
Salt and pepper
2 cups flour, plus more for dusting
3/4 teaspoon salt
Boiling water


In a large pot, almost cover the chicken with water. Add salt and pepper to season. Cook until chicken falls from the bones.

Remove the bones from the pot. There should be about 2 quarts of broth in the pot.
Bring to a light boil.

For the dumplings, mix the flour with the salt. Stir in enough boiling water to form a soft dough.

Place the dough on a floured board and roll very thin. Cut into strips and place in boiling broth.

Push down each layer and keep adding strips until you have the desired amount in the broth. (You’ll get better results if you alternate the direction of the layers of strips when placing them in the broth.)

Do not let the broth stop boiling and do not stir.

Cook about 15 minutes.

The dish will toughen if overcooked, but you can keep it hot by reducing the temperature to warm.

Makes about 6 servings.

Farmers Market Strawberry Shortcake

“This recipe falls between a cake and a shortcake. When I found this recipe, I especially liked it. It really hits the spot!”


2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup milk
3 tablespoons butter
1 pint heavy cream, whipped
2 cups fresh North Carolina strawberries, sliced and sweetened to taste
Powdered sugar to taste


Beat eggs and sugar together. Continue beating and add the vanilla.

Combine flour and baking powder and add to the egg-and-sugar mixture.

Heat milk and butter, then add to the mixture.

Bake 20 minutes at 350 degrees.

Let the cake cool, then spread with whipped cream and sliced strawberries.

Sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving.

(Note: This makes one layer. You can split and make two thin layers or double the recipe for two thick layers.)

Makes one 9-inch cake.


Go back to Archives.