In the second half of her column, Anne Freeze shares a duck hunting friend's recipe - and the story to go with it - for pickled peppers. Photo by: Courtesy photo
November 1, 2017 11:30:06 AM
Lili, Harvey, Peggy, Helen, Marsha, Jon, Donna, Sam, Arthur, Mark, Milton, Joe F., Gina, Penny and Joe H. Athens, Georgia; Pendleton, South Carolina; Charlotte, North Carolina; Greensboro, North Carolina; Lookout Mountain, Tennessee; Nashville; Jasper, Alabama. October has been a very full month for me, and I couldn't have asked for more. In between visiting all of these people was a convention and a fashion show. I shared many delicious meals and had conversations and belly-aching laughter that meant the world to me.
I cooked shrimp and grits twice. The first time, in Nashville, I had enough shrimp left to pull together a delicious salad the next night from raiding Penny's pantry and refrigerator. Shrimp, olives, pickled asparagus, scallions, frozen peas, chives from the garden mixed with cooked orzo and bottled French dressing (oil and vinegar style), a dollop of mayonnaise and lemon juice for a delicious supper over Penny's arugula from the garden.
I cooked shrimp and grits again for my friends, Mark and Arthur (in Mississippi for the first time from Palm Springs, California), and combined it with a salad of arugula (store-bought), spinach, crumbled goat cheese, toasted almonds and quick pickled red onions. I simply covered sliced red onions with a boiling mixture of cider vinegar, sugar and water. I used a dressing I'm hooked on. It's called Relish Our Dressing by Tutt & Tutt's of Huntsville, Alabama. Not sure how you can buy it, but if you ever see it, get several jars.
I want to take a second to say something about Mark and Arthur's visit. They live in Palm Springs and Seal Harbor, Maine -- not bad digs -- and I had worried about how to entertain them. I decided that showing off Columbus was the best way to go. Their first event here was lunch at St. Paul's Episcopal Church for our Late Bloomers group. They were overwhelmed with friendliness and conversation and good food (chicken spaghetti, salad and chocolate chess pie). We toured the church and Rev. Anne Harris came in to give us background information.
We then had a tour of the Tennessee Williams Home and Welcome Center. Leigh Yarborough was so gracious with her time, and I learned much that I should have already known. We had a special tour of the home Whitehall by (owners) Joe and Carol Boggess. I had never heard the history of the house and enjoyed it as much as my guests did. We also had a tour of the History Department at the library by Mona Vance. The full importance of our library having a full-time archivist is lost on many of us, but it's a huge deal. If you ever have the need to use the space or have history buff friends in town, I encourage you to have Mona explain all they she and her staff do to preserve the heritage of Lowndes County.
We had the good fortune of running into Rufus Ward who held Mark and Arthur captivated with the story of the Washington medallion (The Dispatch, Jan. 28). Exchange Club lunch brought more interesting conversations as we were lucky to sit with both Slim Smith and Mother Goose. That lunch was followed by a visit to Waverley Plantation and a tour by our animated guide, Jimmy.
All of this combined with a dinner for six at my house left me happy, but drained. I took a day off and thought a lot about my town and its hospitality and treasurers. We found treasurers in architecture, in the charm of our downtown, in our history and in all of the things that make this small place unique. Our town's hospitality shined with every smile and hand that was out for a handshake. I was very, very proud.
While on one of my road trips I stopped in Athens, Alabama, to pick up my friend, Gina. On her kitchen counter were large colorful jars of pickles made by her husband, Johnny. I snatched one and asked for the recipe. Here is what she sent to me:
Once upon a time, many years ago, Johnny and his very good friend, Sammy King, went duck hunting. They bagged many wood ducks. Not being experienced in cooking game, they dropped by the home of an older friend, Eli (pronounced E-Lee) Nelson, to seek advice.
Johnny describes Eli as a "crusty old bastard" who never hesitated to voice his opinion, regardless of place or company. Eli had a handshake that would bring tears to your eyes. (Everybody in Athens knew Eli Nelson)
Eli was relaxing with a drink and a snack of cheese and pickled peppers, which he offered to the young hunters. Johnny enjoyed the peppers and asked Eli how to prepare them. Eli replied, "Well, it's real simple. You go to the store and buy some canning jars and the cheapest distilled white vinegar you can find. You boil the jars and the vinegar (separately). You put the peppers in the jars and pour the vinegar over the peppers. You let them sit for three months and then you eat them."
Back to the ducks: Eli's wife, Julia, shared the best way to prepare them. Pluck them, clean them, put an onion in the cavity and cook at 350. Take the onion out and throw away the duck.
Several months later, Johnny ran into Eli, who said, "By the way, I did tell you to put pickling salt into those peppers, didn't I?"
Johnny grows the peppers: jalapeno, sweet banana, hot banana. He buys the other ingredients.
Johnny shares the peppers with the other members of his duck hunting club which still includes Sammy King and now several other, younger members. They spend every weekend of duck season in the Delta.
Anne Freeze was a restaurant general manager and owner of a gourmet food store before moving to Columbus. She can be reached at [email protected]
JOHNNY'S PICKLED PEPPERS
Jalapeno peppers, sliced
Sweet banana pepper, sliced
Hot banana pepper, sliced
Whole, peeled garlic cloves
Sliced Vidalia (or other sweet onion)
Celery (new addition for 2017)
(Note from Anne Freeze: Use whatever quantities desired of the above veggies to fill the jar before adding vinegar. Remember that the hotness of the pickles depends on how many hot peppers you use.)