Tag Archives: Recipes



From top left: Hable Suns Apron, Camellia Etched Dinner Plate from Alabama Chanin x Heath Ceramics, Cornbread Sticks from Alabama Studio Style, Cocktail Napkins in Natural, Stenciled Pumpkin Pie, David Mellor Pride 5-Piece Stainless Set, Sparkling Manhattan 

“Forever on Thanksgiving the heart will find the pathway home.”

– Wilbur D. Nesbit 

We hope everyone is able to celebrate safely this holiday season. While this may mean cooking for fewer and cooking less, in general, there are many ways to get creative and less wasteful in the kitchen. Consider freezing a portion or modifying the measurements of the ingredients to make less—or make a meal plan for your leftovers. 

Explore our Cook + Dine Collection to set a sustainable holiday table–even if only for a few. 

And find recipes and stories below that inspire in the kitchen. 


Vivian Howard’s Buttery Turkey 

The Local Palate’s Turkey Dry Rub 

Mother and Son Thanksgiving Dressing 

Deviled Eggs 

Stenciled Pumpkin Pie 

Jamie Dement’s Pecan Pie 

Pumpkin Cheesecake  

Late Autumn Cocktail 

Sparkling Manhattan 


Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock’s Sweet Potato Casserole | @rscottpeacock 

Kelly Fields Bourbon Chocolate Pecan Pie | @kellyfields 

Dolester Miles’ Sweet Potato Pie | @itsdolestermiles 

Anne Quatrano’s Yeast Pull-Apart Rolls | @rutabaga2 

Vivian Howard on Thanksgiving and More from Cherry Bombe Radio | @chefandthef 

Dinner with Wonder Woman by Adam Linn from The Moth | @mothstories 

A Thanksgiving Playlist from This American Life | @thisamerlife 


This post was originally published on our Journal in January 2014. We reshare it today, on Juneteenth, as an expression of our support for Black Lives Matter and honor to the heroines and heroes that came before those who are fighting for justice and equality today.

Georgia Gilmore (about whom we have written before), is an unsung heroine of the Civil Rights struggle. Georgia was a big lady with a big personality—frankly put, she didn’t take any bull from anybody. She worked as a midwife, as well as a cook at the National Lunch Company, in Montgomery, Alabama during the 1950s. After Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to leave her seat on a bus in Montgomery in December of 1955, a group of black ministers, community leaders, and ordinary citizens formed the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA)—and, in their meetings around the city,  initiated and sustained what would become the 13 month long Montgomery Bus Boycott. As soon as Georgia heard of Rosa Parks’ arrest on the radio, she joined the MIA, determined to aid the effort in any way she could.

Image source: Meet The Fearless Cook Who Secretly Fed — And Funded — The Civil Rights Movement; NPR

Outspoken and feisty, Georgia let her disapproval of the discriminatory bus drivers be known—an action that got her fired from her job at the National Lunch Company. When that happened, the community helped her set up a restaurant in her home kitchen. Well-known around town for her fried chicken, pork chops, and stuffed bell peppers, Georgia often served these and other dishes to Dr. King and fellow supporters of the bus boycott. Her kitchen even hosted secret MIA meetings over those long months.

Georgia’s love (and talent) for cooking as well as her passion for racial equality and change led her to start a club with a few of her friends. The ladies in the club, most of them laboring as maids and cooks, sold homemade pies and cakes (and even Georgia’s chicken dinners) to supporters of the Movement to raise money for the boycott. Calling themselves the “Club from Nowhere,” the women often set up shop in beauty parlors, laundromats, and on street corners in downtown Montgomery to sell their goods. They also arranged for both black and white supporters of the boycott to contribute anonymously. The Club from Nowhere used the money to buy gas and station wagons, used to transport people to and from work during the boycott. When asked, Georgia and the other women always said that the money came “from nowhere.”

Although, like many foot soldiers of the Civil Rights Movement, her contributions have been largely overlooked, Georgia Gilmore undoubtedly fueled the movement with her commitment, talent, and fundraising efforts. She was a real woman with a strong voice, and she did what she needed to do to make change happen in her community and beyond.

We need that same creativity and commitment today. And so as a tribute and an inspiration, we baked a pound cake for Georgia and all of the other real women who made a difference by doing what they could how they could—one baked good at a time.

Find out more about Georgia and The Club from Nowhere in this beautiful narrative from The Kitchen Sisters and NPR and from John T. Edge’s book, The Potlikker Papers: A Food History of the Modern South.



3 sticks butter
3 cups sugar
6 eggs, room temperature
3 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups milk
2 teaspoons vanilla

Butter and flour a 10-inch Bundt pan and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until fluffy. Add in the eggs one at a time, beating well after every addition. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the dry ingredients into the creamed butter and mix until just combined. Pour in the milk and vanilla with the paddle going and mix until just combined. Use a rubber spatula to fold in the milk completely. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly.

Place the pan in a cold oven and set oven to 225 degrees. Set a timer for 20 minutes and let bake. Increase temperature to 300 degrees and bake for another 20 minutes. Increase oven temperature again to 325 degrees and bake for 20 more minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Remove from oven and let cake sit in pan for 10 minutes. Unmold and let cool on a wire rack.

*Baking a pound cake in a cold oven works for a specific reason: Preheating an oven gives cakes the rush of hot air needed to rise, but pound cakes are usually so dense that they don’t rise very much anyway. Therefore, preheating the oven isn’t necessary.

We topped our pound cake with a caramel sauce (recipe below), but this cake would also be delicious topped with powdered sugar or a simple lemon glaze.


Yield 2 cups

1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons Maldon sea salt flakes

Combine the water and sugar in a heavy bottom sauce pan and place over high heat. Cook on high, without stirring, until the syrup turns medium amber. Turn the heat down and stir in the salt and the heavy cream; the syrup will bubble up a lot, so be careful. Stir to combine. Let cool and drizzle over the cake once the cake has been cooled.



In honor of the autumn season (and national dessert day this past Monday), we’re taking a look back at our favorite cookbooks and recipes. A favorite of The Factory is Jamie DeMent’s The Farmhouse Chef: Recipes and Stories from My Carolina Farm.

Jamie DeMent and her partner, Richard Holcomb, own and operate Coon Rock Farm, a 55-acre farm in Hillsborough, North Carolina, that grows sustainable, heirloom varieties of produce and livestock. Jamie also owns the award-winning restaurant Piedmont, located in downtown Durham, North Carolina. She is also a guest lecturer at UNC Chapel Hill, NC State University, Duke University, and teaches cooking classes around the country. Jamie uses her work to find ways to revive the simplicity of eating healthy, locally grown food. The Farmhouse Chef offers over 150 recipes for all occasions, inspired by seasonal harvests.

With pecan season approaching next month, we share a recipe from the book for Cane Syrup Pecan Pie—the only pecan pie recipe you’ll ever make again…



Makes 6–8 servings

1 unbaked piecrust
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 1/2 cups pure cane syrup
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup pecan halves
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon bourbon

Preheat the oven to 450°. Line a 9-inch pie pan with the piecrust. In a medium-sized saucepan, melt the butter and stir in the flour and cornstarch until smooth. Add the cane syrup and sugar, and boil for 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool. In a separate small bowl, beat 2 eggs. Add the eggs and the rest of the ingredients to the pot, and stir them to mix well. Pour everything into your piecrust and lightly tap it on the counter to even out the nuts and release any air bubbles. Place the pie in the oven and bake at 450° for 10 minutes. Turn the heat down to 350° and bake for an additional 30–35 minutes—until the pie is done and not jiggly in the center. Remove the pie from the oven and allow it to cool a little before serving.


Images by Felicia A. Trujillo. Recipe and images courtesy of UNC Press.


In the grey lull between the end of the holiday season and the first signs of spring, we retreat indoors to soak up as much warmth as we can—spending more time in our favorite reading chairs, piled on the couches, and gathered in the kitchens. Alabama Chanin friend and photographer Pableaux Johnson visited during this time last year, and we’re reminiscing about his famous Red Beans + Rice recipe (and eager to get him back to The Factory). Pableaux and his Red Beans Roadshow cure those winter blues.


During his 2018 Red Beans Roadshow Dinner at The Factory Café, Pableaux also exhibited his vibrant photographs of New Orleans’ Mardi Gras Indians. Pableaux was kind enough to share his recipe below:



1 lb Kidney Beans, soaked (Pableaux uses nothing but Camellia Brand Red)
1 lb good smoked sausage, preferably andouille, sliced into coins
3 tablespoons oil
2 medium onions, chopped
1 rib celery, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
6 to 8 cloves garlic, minced
Tony Cachere’s Creole Seasoning
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon dried basil
Pinch rubbed sage
3 bay leaves
Crystal Hot Sauce
1 bunch green onions, chopped
1 bunch flat-leaf parsley, minced
Cooked rice for serving

Heat oil in a large heavy pot. Brown the sausage, stirring frequently, to render as much fat as possible. When well browned, remove sausage from the pot and drain on paper towels. Add onions to pot and season with lots of Tony’s, salt and pepper.

Cook onions over medium heat, stirring frequently, until well browned. Add garlic and cook 5 to 10 minutes; add celery and bell pepper and cook until translucent.

Drain water off the soaked red beans and add the beans to the pot. Cover with fresh water. Rub the basil between the palms of your hands as you add it to the pot. Add sage and bay leaves. Add sausage back to the pot and stir well.

Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until beans are tender, about 1 to 1-1/2 hours. When beans are tender, mash some with a potato masher until the mixture looks creamy.

Stir in the chopped green onions and most of the parsley, reserving some parsley for diners to add at the table. Season well with Crystal Hot Sauce.

Serve hot with cooked white rice, extra parsley, and more hot sauce.



Toast the season with a Christmas cocktail (or two).


1 ounce Jack Rudy Elderflower Tonic
4 ounces Prosecco
Fresh rosemary

Fill a cocktail glass with Jack Rudy Elderflower Tonic and top with Prosecco – garnish with a sprig of rosemary.


As summer comes to an official close, it seems to be getting hotter and hotter in Alabama. (Some things must get worse before they get better.) Luckily for us, The Factory Café has concocted the perfect late summer cocktail to keep us cool through the last of these sweltering days. This cocktail was served at our most recent Supper Club.


Serves 8

1 bottle rosé
1 bottle Prosecco
2 whole peaches
6 dried juniper berries

Remove the skin and pits of both peaches. Cut one peach into 16 equal slices and purée the second peach in a blender with one tablespoon of water until smooth.

Combine the rosé, peach slices, peach purée, and whole juniper berries. Chill in the refrigerator for 24 hours.

In a wine glass, add 2 slices of peach to 3 ounces of the rosé mixture. Top off the glass with chilled Prosecco.



Summer is the season of vegetables, whether from your local farmers market or your backyard garden. And there are countless summer veggie recipes on the Journal, like this one for a Southern Antipasti, the beloved Tomato Sandwich (the secret’s in the homemade mayo), or a Grilled Vegetable Quiche.

At The Factory Café, we eagerly anticipate each summer when fresh vegetables are in abundance. And while they are delicious on their own, we love any excuse to accompany them with our Buttermilk-Herb Dressing. Perfect on salads, sandwiches, or as a dipping sauce. Find the recipe below.


Makes one quart

1.5 cup sour cream
1 cup buttermilk
½ cup Duke’s Mayonnaise (or the mayo of your choice)
Juice and zest of one lemon
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 tablespoon chives, chopped
1 tablespoon dill, chopped
1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper

Mix all wet ingredients together. Mix in fresh herbs until combined well. Serve in a Weck Juice Jar (available at The Factory).

Lead image: Fresh vegetable delivery from Sonlit Meadows Farm



In June, The Factory Café hosted James Beard Award-winning chef Rebecca Wilcomb for an evening of savory and sweet dishes with an Italian-Cajun spin, complete with a specialty cocktail and wine pairings.

The dinner began with a Summer Solstice cocktail (find the recipe at the end of this post) made with peach and Prosecco, and the passed starters included everything from shrimp, to crab melts.


Beef with Anchovy and Olive


Shrimp Spiedini


Toasted Crab Melts


Chickpea Fritters with Caponata

The first course, a chicken tortellini in a rich broth, was served for the first time outside of a family setting and dedicated to Rebecca’s grandmother, Giannina. The pasta was paired with a young Pinot Noir Rosé, light and summery.


Giannina’s Tortellini

The second course highlighted pork belly from our friends at Bluewater Creek Farm, and Open Blue Cobia and was served with an Italian rice salad, Lunchbox peppers, and charred okra.  A Petit Selve with cherry notes complemented this course


Bluewater Creek Farm Pork Belly


Hand pies filled with summer fruit like blueberries, figs, and peaches were served warm with whipped cream, and accompanied by a crisp, sparkling Rosé from Argentina and cold brew coffee.


Below, our events coordinator shares the recipe for the featured cocktail of the night:



2 ripe peaches (Chilton Co. Peaches are our favorite)
1 bottle Prosecco
1 teaspoon sugar
6 fresh mint leaves

Place the peaches and sugar in a food processor and blend until smooth. Press the mixture through a sieve and discard the peach solids. Give the mint leaves a smack on your hand and rub the edge of a flute with them. Add about 2 tablespoons of the peach puree into each flute and fill with chilled Prosecco.



We’ve long been fans of Ashley English—southern cook, homesteader, and holistic nutritionist. We have listened to her advice on how to be a gracious host as we create memorable experiences for our guests at The Factory—and even made a few of her pies. Ashley is back with a newly released cookbook, Southern from Scratch: Pantry Essentials and Down-Home Recipes. The goal of the cookbook is to help the reader build their very own southern-style pantry, completely from scratch. And it puts your new pantry to use with over 100 recipes.

We’ve picked out several must-try recipes, but our favorite is the Russet Potato + Dilly Bean Salad. Enjoy making the recipe below.


Serves 8 to 10

¼ cup apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons sea salt, for the cooking water
4 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and cut into bite-size cubes
1 cup Dilly Beans, chopped to ¾-inch lengths
½ cup Dilly Bean brine
1 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons coarse prepared mustard
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Stir the vinegar and salt into 3 quarts of water in a large pot. Add the potatoes and turn the heat to high. As soon as the water comes to a boil, turn the temperature down to simmer. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

When the potatoes are done, drain them well in a colander and let them sit for 5 minutes to let off some steam.

Spread out the potatoes on a large rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and let cool for about 10 minutes.

Transfer the potatoes to a medium mixing bowl. Gently fold in the dilly beans, pickling brine, mayonnaise, mustard, and salt and pepper to taste.

Cover the mixing bowl and place in the refrigerator. Cool at least 1 hour before serving.

Makes about 5 pints.

2 pounds green beans
3 cups white vinegar
3 cups water
¼ cup pickling salt
10 garlic cloves, peeled
5 teaspoons dill seeds
5 teaspoons brown mustard seeds
2 ½ teaspoons black peppercorns
10 sprigs fresh dill

Fill a canner or large stockpot with water, place five-pint jars inside, and set over medium-high heat. Bring just to the boiling point.

Bring the vinegar, water, salt to a full, rolling boil in a medium pot. Remove the pot from the heat. Transfer the brine to a pourable, spouted container, such as a heatproof measuring cup, if desired.

Using a jar lifter, remove the hot jars from the canner and place on top of a kitchen cloth on the counter. Place 2 garlic cloves, I teaspoon dill seeds, 1 teaspoon mustard seeds, ½ teaspoon peppercorns, and 2 sprigs fresh dill in each jar. With the help of a canning funnel, pack the green beans into the jars, topped off by the brine, reserving ½ inch headspace.

Use a spatula or wooden chopstick to remove any trapped air bubbles around the interior circumference of the jars. Wipe the rims clean with a damp cloth. Place the lids and screw bands, tightening only until fingertip-tight.

Again using a jar lifter, slowly place the filled jars in the canner. Be sure that the jars are covered by at least 1 inch of water. Bring to a boil, and then process for 10 minutes, starting the timer once the water is at a full, rolling boil.


P.S.: We’re hosting an Instagram giveaway with Ashley for your chance to win a copy of Southern from Scratch. To enter for a chance to win, follow @smallmeasure, @roostbooks and @alabamachaninfactorycafe on Instagram, leave a comment on @alabamachaninfactorycafe’s post and tag a friend.

The giveaway ends on June 30th at 11:59pm CST and is open to U.S. residents 18+ older. We will pick a winner next week and message you for your contact information. Good luck!

Recipe courtesy of Southern from Scratch by Ashley English, © 2018 by Ashley English.  Photographs by Johnny Autry, © 2018 by Johnny Autry. Reprinted by arrangement with Roost Books, an imprint of Shambhala Publications, Inc. Boulder, CO.



Visiting chefs contribute cocktail recipes for our Friends of the Café Dinner series—now in its fourth year—with chef Steven Satterfield.

For The Factory Café’s new Supper Club series (learn more here), our in-house team creates their own unique cocktails. We’re sharing the recipes from our 2017 Harvest Dinner below. Impress friends at your next gathering, or make and shake and bring in another weekend. Either way, cheers.


1 oz Muscadine Simple Syrup
2 oz prosecco
3 oz white wine
.5 oz lime juice
Mint for garnish

Yield: 1 cocktail

Mix all ingredients together and garnish with mint.


Mix equal parts fresh, whole muscadines, granulated sugar, and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cover, reduce heat and simmer until muscadines become soft and break open. Remove from heat, strain syrup, and allow to cool completely.



1 part Singin’ River Cider (or your hard cider of choice)
1 part sangria (1 bottle red blend wine, 1 cup orange juice, juice of 1 lime)
1 part prosecco
Cinnamon sugar rim

Yield: 1 cocktail

Moisten and dip the rim of a glass in cinnamon sugar. Add cider and sangria to glass and stir, top off with prosecco.

Stay up to date on all events happening at The Factory on our Events page.



Last week we shared a group of recipes inspired by cooking over open flame. We’ve written extensively on the subject of BBQ and its respective sauces in the past, and even barbecued wedding dresses for the Southern Foodways Alliance. And though winter isn’t the ideal time to BBQ, we bring you a seasonal take on BBQ sauce created by our chef, Ray Nichols. We love to serve this Apple BBQ sauce over meat and roasted vegetables at The Factory Café.

Though this recipe calls for apples, it can be altered to include any similar fruit like pears, persimmons, plums, and pineapples. This versatile recipe can also be adapted to suit your mood or the season—add more or less sweetness, heat, or acidity to personalize it.



1 28-ounce can of whole, peeled tomatoes
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 medium onion, peeled and sliced thin
6 Granny Smith apples peeled, cored, and cut into 1″ pieces
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
Juice from 1 orange
1/4 cup sorghum
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon of your favorite hot sauce (we like Franks Red Hot)
1 teaspoon Worcestershire
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon ground mustard
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
Salt to taste

Heat the canola oil in a heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Add the onion and season with salt, cooking until translucent. Next, add the apples and cook for about one minute before adding the spices. Cook until fragrant. Add the remaining ingredients and stir, bringing to a boil, and then turn down the heat and simmer for about an hour or until mixture has reduced by half. Take off the heat and let cool to room temperature. Blend in a blender in batches until you have a smooth sauce the consistency of ketchup. Pass the sauce through a fine sieve if desired. Adjust salt and chill in the refrigerator. The sauce will last up to a month in the refrigerator in an airtight container.



Groundhog Day brought us six more weeks of winter, but here in Alabama the weather is trending a little warmer—and that has us dreaming of outdoor adventure. There’s nothing quite like cooking over an open fire, whether at a campsite or in your backyard. Chef Ray has cooked up some recipes that are perfect for preparing over a campfire and taking advantage of winter’s lingering harvest.


This recipe is called “buried” sweet potatoes because you wrap them in aluminum foil and bury them in the coals of a fire. It works great with smaller sweet potatoes because they have a delicate, sweet flavor and a much shorter cooking time.

8 small sweet potatoes
1 tablespoons olive oil
1 whole head garlic, cut in half laterally across the equator
10 sprigs fresh thyme
4 fresh bay leaves
Salt and pepper to taste

Start by washing the sweet potatoes thoroughly. Next, roll out two sheets of aluminum foil 24″ by 12″. Stack them on top of each other to create a double layer. Place the potatoes in the middle of the foil, drizzle the olive oil over the potatoes, season generously with salt and pepper, and add the garlic and herbs. Fold over the ends of the foil packet to make a tightly sealed pouch. Using tongs or a shovel, make a coal bed by the side of your fire and place the foil packet directly onto the coals. Place more coals and ash over top the packet to insulate it and speed up the cooking process.

The total cooking time should take 40 – 50 minutes depending on the size of the potatoes. However, every fire is different and you should begin to check them after 30 minutes of cooking. Use the tongs to poke at the sweet potatoes, when they begin to soften they are done.

Carefully, remove the packet from the coals and let rest for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, open the packet, and the sweet potatoes are ready to serve. (If you don’t have a campfire, you can also make this recipe on a charcoal grill or in a 400-degree oven.) Serves 4 people.



The recipe is very simple, calling for just three ingredients. It can be made at home on the stove or outside over an open fire. Use the type of cabbage that looks best at your local farmer’s market. (Red cabbage turns a beautiful purple color once cooked.) Aside from salt and pepper, use the vinegar as your other seasoning. Taste throughout the cooking process to dial in the level of acidity. Add crushed red pepper flakes to the pan after you add your butter to make it spicy.

1 large head cabbage, red or green
1/2 stick of butter
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar (or any other vinegar you like)
Salt and pepper to taste

Begin by removing the loose outer layer of leaves. Next, cut the cabbage into quarters and remove the core. After removing the core cut the cabbage into 1-inch pieces. This doesn’t have to be exact, you’ll want bite-size pieces. Next, use a shovel or rake to move the hot coals from the fire to the side and make a coal bed big enough for your skillet or dutch oven. Melt the butter in the skillet until it begins to bubble, then add half of the cabbage. It will wilt down once it starts cooking. Add the other half of the cabbage and season generously with salt and pepper. Once the cabbage starts wilting, add the vinegar. Simmer on high for about 20 minutes or until most of the liquid has evaporated and the cabbage is cooked to your liking. (I like to have a little bit of crunch left in mine.) Check the seasoning and acidity before serving. If you think it needs more vinegar, add a splash and give it a stir.



This dish is an homage to the time I spent working under Chef Sean Brock at Husk Restaurant in Nashville, Tennesse. Working there gave me a love for cooking over embers and open fire. Husk sources beautiful ribeye steaks from Bill and LeeAnn Cherry at Bear Creek Farm outside of Nashville near Leipers Fork, Tennessee. They would be seasoned, grilled directly over the embers, and served with what we called “love love” sauce. Here is my version of that dish geared towards a campfire.

2 1.5″-thick cut, bone-in ribeye steaks (set out for 30 minutes to come to room temperature)
1 tablespoon neutral cooking oil (canola, vegetable, peanut, etc.)
Kosher salt
Freshly ground coarse black pepper

For the baste/sauce:

1 stick of unsalted butter
4 garlic cloves, smashed
1 bay leaf
5 sprigs fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 lemon juiced (keep the lemon after juicing)
1/2 cup of Worcestershire sauce

Once your campfire has been burning long enough to have a substantial amount of coals, it will be the perfect temperature to cook the steaks. You will need a long pair of tongs, a small pot, two rocks roughly the size of a softball, and a grill grate or wire resting rack.

First, rub the ribeyes with oil and season heavily with salt and pepper. These are very big steaks and you are only seasoning the outside, so don’t be shy.

Let the steaks sit for about 15 minutes and begin working on the basting sauce. Melt the butter in a small pot. Once it is melted, add the garlic, peppercorns, and herbs. Cook until they become fragrant and then add the Worcestershire and lemon juice. Toss the lemons in the pot and place it at the edge of the fire to stay warm while you cook your steaks.

Rake hot coals to the edge of the fire to make a coal bed big enough to fit under the grate. Set the grate directly on the coals and let it heat up for a few minutes. Once hot, place each steak directly on the grate. Cook for about two minutes without disturbing them then check for a nice sear. Flip the steaks and repeat on the other side. After the first flip, use a pastry brush to baste the sauce on the steaks. Repeat this until you have reached the desired doneness (125 degrees Fahrenheit for a nice medium rare). Because you are cooking directly on the coals, the steak will color quickly. Place the two rocks to under the grate to lift it off the coals and slow down the cooking time. Don’t be afraid to flip and baste often. Every fire is different and your patience and persistence will be rewarded. If the coals smother out before the steaks are done, rake fresh ones underneath the grate and keep grilling. Once the steaks are cooked, pull them from the fire, baste one last time, and let rest for ten minutes. Cut off the bone and slice against the grain or serve the steak whole. Once you’ve eaten a steak cooked directly over embers, it’s hard to go back to a gas grill.



Desserts can be tough for camping. S’mores are the gold standard, but when I camp I want something that warms you up. When I found out Natalie had a recipe for apple crisp, I couldn’t think of a better camping dish. Natalie’s Whole Wheat Apple Crisp recipe has been modified from a home oven to a cast iron dutch oven that can be used on a campfire. This recipe was originally featured in Bon Appetit’s October 2015 issue.

6 medium tart apples (such as Pink Lady or Gala), peeled, sliced
1/2 cup (packed) dark brown sugar, divided
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, divided
3/4 cup old-fashioned oats
1/3 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Vanilla ice cream (for serving)

Peel and slice the apples then place in a 2-quart cast iron dutch oven and toss with brown sugar and butter. Toss oats, whole wheat flour, cinnamon, salt, remaining ¼ cup brown sugar, and remaining 4 tablespoons butter in a small bowl until evenly mixed and no dry spots remain (it should be very wet and form into clumps when pressed together). Sprinkle oat mixture over apples.

Place the dutch oven on a small coal bed, covered for the first 20 minutes. Check after the first five minutes to see if it is simmering. Add or remove coals to get desired temperature. Rotate, uncover, and bake for another 30 minutes. Press down on the crust halfway through baking to smash the apples. This step should be done on a coal bed and near enough to the fire so that some color appears on the top of the crumble. Bake until topping is golden brown (it will crisp as it cools) and filling is juicy and bubbling, 50-60 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes to let juices set. Serve topped with scoops of ice cream. Serves 8.

Images courtesy of Abraham Rowe and styling by Susan Rowe.



One of the best parts of a good salad is the dressing. Good dressings introduce flavors that complement the ingredients without overpowering a salad. Originally developed for The Factory Café’s signature salad, this Burnt Honey Sweet Potato Dressing remains a staple in our home kitchens. Earthy sweet potatoes are brightened by the addition of vinegar and caramelized honey in this recipe—it’s also a great way to use leftover or over-cooked sweet potatoes.

Find and enjoy the recipe below.

P.S.: Read more about The Factory Café here, the home to our Friends of the Café dinners (and, previously, a lunch service that ran daily from 2013–2019).


Burnt Honey Sweet Potato Dressing

2 medium-sized sweet potatoes, roasted until soft, cooled and peeled
3/4 cup sherry vinegar
3/4 cup cider vinegar
1 cup neutral oil
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
Juice and zest of 1 small orange
1/2 teaspoon salt (more to taste)
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
3/4 cup water
2 tablespoons burnt honey

Begin by washing your sweet potatoes then coating them with oil and salt and pepper. Roast in a 375° oven until soft, the time will depend on the size of the potatoes. Allow them to cool and then peel off the skin. Place the potatoes and all other ingredients except for the oil and honey in the blender and blend until smooth. You might need to stop and scrape down the sides to get it to blend properly until smooth.

In a small pot on the stove cook honey until it comes to a boil for approximately 3 minutes or until it begins to caramelize and darken slightly in color. The color change will all depend on what honey you use and the color it is to begin with. Once darkened, drizzle into the blender until honey is incorporated. On low to medium speed, slowly drizzle in the oil until completely combined and emulsified.

Once combined, taste for salt and acidity level. This will vary based on the size of your potatoes and your taste for acidity in your typical salad dressing. If the dressing appears to be too thick add a splash of water and blend to combine.

This recipe can be made using any root vegetable (we especially like winter squash, pumpkin, and carrots). Serve over salad greens or in a grain bowl.



“There are only ten minutes in the life of a pear when it is perfect to eat.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

You can’t beat the taste of a perfectly ripe pear. When I’m at the market, I hear Emerson in my head reminding me of the short window I have to enjoy them. However, you can get creative with overripe pears to extend their season.

Peel, de-pit, and puree your overripe pears. Blend with a splash of Prosecco. If you have more than one bruised pear, make a big batch of this puree, then put what you don’t use in the refrigerator. (Keeps up to 48 hours.)

Our love for Jack Rudy products is no secret, and the aromatic bitters are key to making this late autumn cocktail taste like it was made by a seasoned mixologist.



1 tablespoon pear purée
1 tablespoon pomegranate juice
7 pomegranate seeds for garnish
4 oz. Prosecco
1 dash Jack Rudy Aromatic Bitters

Put a dash of Jack Rudy bitters in a 6-oz. glass and swirl to coat the bottom of the glass.

Add the pear purée and pomegranate juice. Swirl around until combined. Pour the Prosecco into the mixture and finish with fresh pomegranate seeds.


If you ever find yourself with a surplus of strawberries after picking, puree the extra and make a delicious summer cocktail. Any excess puree can also be stored in the freezer for future use; however, strawberry cocktails are popular at my house and there is rarely much leftover puree.

Experiment with any ripe fruit as you progress through the holidays. We’ve shared other strawberry cocktail recipes: Homemade Strawberry “Fruli” and strawberry-tarragon simple syrup with Prosecco. This recipe combines watermelon juice and orange bitters. Garnish with blueberries on rosemary stems for the perfect combination of tart, spicy, sweet, and bubbly.

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Traditional mojitos consist of five ingredients: white rum, sugar, lime juice, soda water, and mint. While this cocktail is a popular summer drink, we’ve adapted it to suit our mid-February temperatures (though the weather in Alabama has been all over the place—68 degrees one day, 30 the next).



4 mint leaves
1 teaspoon raw sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 oz Grapefruit Shrub
3 oz Prosecco
Beautiful Briny Sea Orange Chili Sugar

Moisten and dip the rim of a 6 oz. glass in the orange chili sugar.

Muddle the mint, sugar, and lime juice until the sugar is dissolved. Add the grapefruit shrub and stir. Top off with Prosecco.

Garnish with mint and enjoy.

A reminder from our cocktail contributor, Jesse Goldstein: It’s important to add a note here about muddling. All too often I see people pulverizing the mint for mojitos when they simply need to bruise it. Give it a few good presses and that will help release the aromatics without getting bits and pieces floating around.

Find more cocktail recipes on the Journal.




Our café team continues to create festive cocktails to add to the menu archives for The Factory Café. This cocktail speaks to two different demographics: whiskey drinkers and wine lovers. Follow the recipe below and make your own at home.

In this Prosecco cocktail, we channeled the taste of a Manhattan to create a brunch-appropriate drink by using fresh satsuma juice, Jack Rudy Aromatic Bitters, and Tippleman’s Burnt Sugar Syrup with a hint of rosemary.



2 dashes Jack Rudy Aromatic Bitters
2 tablespoons satsuma juice or orange juice
1/5 tablespoon rosemary-infused Tippleman’s Burnt Sugar Syrup
3 oz of Prosecco
Rosemary sprigs

Put 2 dashes of Jack Rudy bitters in a 6-oz. glass and swirl to coat the bottom of the glass.

In a shaker filled with ice, combine satsuma juice and rosemary-infused burnt sugar syrup. Shake until ingredients are mixed together and cold.

Strain the satsuma mixture into the glass, top with Prosecco, and enjoy.

Muddle 3 rosemary springs with 2 oz. Burnt Sugar Syrup until fragrant. This should make enough infused syrup for 8 cocktails.



We’ve been experimenting with seasonal fruits to make holiday cocktails for The Factory Café.  The Holiday Sunrise is made with shrub (drinking vinegars) from our friends at MOTHER shrub. You can also find a selection of MOTHER shrub flavors available from The Factory if you choose to make this simple cocktail at home.


2 tablespoons Black Cherry MOTHER Shrub
1 tablespoon orange juice
3 oz Prosecco
Orange wedge for garnish

In a 6-ounce glass, combine shrub and orange juice. Fill the glass with Prosecco and garnish with an orange wedge.

P.S.: Follow @alabamachaninfactorycafe on Instagram for our daily menu and events from The Factory.



Alabama Chanin hosted our very first Friends of the Café Dinner in May of 2014, and since then we’ve experienced meals and enjoyed gatherings that were nothing short of magical. In retrospect, we almost cannot believe the lineup of talented chefs who have graciously donated their time for these special fundraisers: Sean Brock, Ashley Christensen, Lisa Donovan, Adam Evans, Chris Hastings, Vivian Howard, Rob McDaniel, Angie Mosier, Anne Quatrano, Drew Robinson, Rodney Scott, Frank Stitt—and more.


This year’s schedule is no less impressive, with appearances (and reappearances) from some of the South’s most respected chefs. We have long hoped to convince Scott Peacock to co-host a dinner, and this year his schedule will allow him to join us for 2017’s first event on April 15th. On June 24th, Ashley Christensen will return for her second dinner, and on August 24th, we will welcome Atlanta-based chef Asha Gomez to The Factory for the first time. (Learn more about Asha on the Journal tomorrow.) All proceeds from the Friends of the Café Dinners will once again benefit the Southern Foodways Alliance.


Look for more information on the featured chefs in the coming months, and purchase tickets now in our online store.


We have been fans of Short Stack Editions since they published their first short volume in 2013. Each edition is hand bound with bakers twine and focuses on a single ingredient, offering 20 – 25 clever and approachable recipes written by a variety of chefs, food writers, and cookbook authors. To date, 24 editions have been published which, together, act as a well-rounded recipe guide that encourages experimentation, discourages food waste, and offers something for just about every palate.

With these ideas as the foundation, publisher Nick Fauchald and editor Kaitlyn Goalen invited 27 soon-to-be or current authors of Short Stack Editions to participate in their cookbook, The Short Stack Cookbook: Ingredients that Speak Volumes. The cookbook (which is not a compendium of recipes from the individual editions, but an entirely original collection) uses the same types of bold colors and smart graphics seen in the individual editions to create a volume that is truly a work of art. Unlike the individual editions, The Short Stack Cookbook includes colorful photographs of finished dishes.


The book focuses on 18 meticulously selected essential ingredients—including honey, eggs, and brussels sprouts—to create over 100 new recipes that encourage the audience to develop new skills through practice. Each ingredient has 8 to 10 different recipes unique to the cookbook that celebrate the best things about each ingredient and also challenge readers to see those same ingredients in a new way.

It’s important to note that the level of involvement varies depending on the recipe. For weeknights when you’re short on time, we recommend recipes like the Smoked Mozzarella & Sage in Sourdough Carrozza. When you have more time to experiment, try the Crispy Chicken Skin Tacos, which would work well for dinner parties.


The Short Stack team accommodates all levels of home cooks. They provide helpful information on sourcing ingredients, storing, substitutes, and food pairings. Additionally, the authors included thoughtful suggestions—like hints on kitchen equipment and event-specific menus—throughout the book. The Short Stack Cookbook encourages home cooks to have fun while exploring new ways a single ingredient can exceed expectations.


Find The Short Stack Cookbook.


It is (finally) the time of year to begin the Tomato Sandwich Diet.


Wheat bread
Homemade mayonnaise (see below)
Heirloom tomato slices – patted dry
Salt & pepper to taste

– from a recipe by Scott Peacock

1 large egg yolk, at room temperature (very important)
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
3/4 cup olive
1 teaspoon white-wine vinegar or cider vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Blend with whisk attachment on a low speed the yolk, mustard, and 1/4 teaspoon salt until smooth. Add 1/4 cup oil drop by drop, blending constantly until mixture begins to thicken. Blend in vinegar and lemon juice, and add remaining 1/2 cup oil very slowly in a thin stream, blending constantly until well incorporated. If at any time it appears that oil is not being incorporated, stop adding oil and whisk mixture vigorously until smooth, then continue adding oil. Blend in salt to taste and white pepper.

Mayonnaise keeps, covered and chilled, for 2 days.

(Original post date: July 16, 2010)


If you’ve perused a drink menu in any upscale bar over the last few years, you’ve come across at least one drink made with shrub. Shrub is a mixture of fruit (or ginger), vinegar, and sweetener that was a favored drink among early settlers to the Americas. Read more about Shrubs and Switchels here.

Our friend Meredyth Archer has taken what was once considered a medicinal cordial and created a new line of drinking vinegars called MOTHER shrub.

From her website:

“Meredyth Archer first encountered drinking vinegar as a child growing up in West Virginia, when she would drink a mixture of vinegar and honey with her grandmother. Years later, she came across a recipe for raspberry vinegar in The Old Virginia Cook Book, from the late 1800s, a hand-me-down from her mother-in-law. She remembered the sweet and tart taste from her youth and decided to make a batch. Many shared batches later, MOTHER shrub drinking vinegars was born.”

For our weekly drink special, we’ve chosen Meredyth’s grapefruit-flavored shrub paired with fresh thyme and Prosecco. Join us for Saturday Brunch and a glass (or two) of The Grapefruit Mother at The Factory Café. You’ll also find a selection of MOTHER shrub flavors for sale at The Factory along with a delicious selection our of local, house made fare.



2 tablespoons grapefruit shrub
4 drops maple syrup
4 ounces Prosecco
Fresh thyme

In a 6-ounce glass, combine grapefruit shrub and maple syrup. Fill glass with Prosecco and garnish with fresh thyme.

P.S.: If you can’t find a great shrub locally, The Kitchn has a simple recipe for a fruit shrub you can make at home.


We’ve been playing and experimenting with cocktails for Saturday Brunch at The Factory. This week we’re highlighting one of my favorites, The Ginger, made with Tippleman’s Ginger Honey Syrup.


Enjoy our recipe. Mix together:

5 ounces of your favorite Prosecco or Champagne
1 teaspoon Tippleman’s Ginger Honey Syrup
1 slice blood orange

Serve in our 6 oz Etched Glasses with an organic cotton Cocktail Napkin.

See you at Saturday Brunch,

Photos by Abraham Rowe


Lindsay Whiteaker and Pete Halupka – Harvest, Alabama natives and who met in the 5th grade – launched Harvest Roots Farm and Ferment in 2011 with less than $1,000. What was then a small, organic vegetable farm has grown into a full-scale “fermentory” – focusing on producing wild, fermented food and beverages. Lindsay and Pete found that their produce customers were increasingly interested in their small line of fermented goods and ultimately switched their focus from farming to full-time fermentation. They forage and glean – and also process vegetables from local farms, then mix everything together in their Mentone, Alabama, kitchen.

In this context, fermentation refers to the low energy chemical conversion of carbohydrates into alcohol and carbon dioxide or organic acid—using yeast, bacteria, or both. Beers, ciders, kombucha, and other naturally effervescent drinks are the result of fermentation. The process of fermentation also leavens bread, as carbon dioxide is produced by active yeast. It can also be a method of preserving goods—resulting in delicious foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, and yogurt. Harvest Roots uses wild yeast in its fermentation and preservation techniques to create distinct flavors in foods that may also have medicinal benefits.

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Most every family has a host of Thanksgiving traditions and closely held recipes. Still, there is plenty of room for experimentation while still keeping up family rituals. Our friends at Local Palate, a print and online publication focusing on Southern culinary history and culture, share this recipe for a turkey dry rub. It is a slightly different take on a conventional seasoning mix—but still in keeping with a familiar flavor profile.

You can utilize a dry rub whether you opt to roast or fry your holiday turkey. We recommend using this recipe to dry brine (or pre-season) your bird. A dry brine helps season a turkey much in the way that a traditional wet brine does, but without the water. With a dry brine, you rub the seasonings directly into the meat and skin, then let the bird rest in the refrigerator—at least overnight.

A large bird like a whole turkey can be easily overcooked and made dry. Applying seasonings in advance draws out the turkey’s juices, which are then reabsorbed, adding moisture and flavor. The larger the piece of meat, the more time required for an effective brine. You can begin the process by seasoning the turkey a day or two in advance. The thawed and seasoned turkey should rest—uncovered or lightly covered—to keep the skin dry, making for a deliciously crispy skin when cooked.

The Local Palate’s Turkey Dry Rub

1 tablespoon coarse black pepper
1 tablespoon white pepper
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon granulated garlic
1 tablespoon chili powder
¼ cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon turmeric
1 tablespoon ground thyme
4 tablespoons paprika
4 tablespoons smoked paprika
¼ cup kosher salt

Combine all ingredients. They can be stored in a sealed container until ready for use.

When ready to season your turkey, place your bird on a large surface or cutting board. Don’t forget to check the inside of the bird’s cavity to make sure the neck and giblets have been removed. Pat the outside of the turkey dry with paper towels.

Gently loosen the skin over the breast and legs, separating it from the meat. Season the cavity using at least 2 teaspoons of the dry rub—according to your personal taste. Rub the seasoning mixture under the skin of the legs and breast. Sprinkle the remaining spices over the skin of the turkey. Refrigerate, breast side up, in a roasting pan for 1-3 days.

You can cook your turkey using any method without patting it dry.


Barbeque lovers are often staunch proponents and defenders of their favorite preparation, favorite meat, and favorite sauce—or lack thereof. Just as there is an entire range of styles of barbeque (everything from pulled pork with slaw to smoked chicken to a plate of burnt ends), there is a whole spectrum of barbeque sauces. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of sugary red sauces; but as an Alabama native, I must wholeheartedly profess my love of our native white barbeque sauce.

Many of you may be unfamiliar with this particular variety of sauce, as it is a North Alabama specialty. But, it is a staple of almost every barbeque restaurant in the area and has found its way to our tables and local grocery store shelves. White sauce is a tangy condiment made of mayonnaise, vinegar, salt, and pepper. While that might sound a little odd to the uninitiated, those in the know are evangelists for the stuff.

While white barbeque sauce has been served in the area for years, local lore suggests that Bob Gibson of the legendary Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q in Decatur, Alabama, invented it in 1925. Bob worked for the L & N Railroad Company, but would host barbeques on the weekends, smoking meat over a hickory pit in his backyard. Eventually, his food became so popular that he quit his job at the railroad and opened a proper restaurant.

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With Father’s Day quickly approaching, this month’s cocktail post from our Nashville-based cocktail expert Jesse Goldstein discusses the importance of an often-overlooked component of boozy drinks—water. Want to know when to shake and when to stir (or the perfect cocktail for celebrating the fathers in your life)? Read on. From Jesse:

It was in 1806 that The Balance and Columbian Repository first defined the word “cocktail.”  Simply defined, it read that a “cocktail is a stimulating liquor, composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water and bitters.” For those with a keen eye, you might recognize this as the basic recipe for a classic Old Fashioned cocktail. But what I think of when I read that is what most people take for granted in a cocktail; the water. Besides booze, water is perhaps the most important ingredient in any cocktail, imparted usually through the use of ice. The correct proportion of water in a drink can help make it more palatable. Too much simply waters it down. So how do you get it right?

The key, I’ve learned, is all in preparation. Cocktails are made in more less two manners—shaken or stirred. Yes, there are some that you simply build in a glass, but for the sake of argument, let’s put those in the “stirred” category. With one simple rule, you can look at the ingredients of a cocktail and know which method is preferred.

James Bond always seemed like such a badass when he ordered his “martini, shaken, not stirred.” But what I’ve come to realize is that he was doing it wrong. Of course there’s room for personal preference, but if you’re like me, you like having some rules to go by. So here it is; if a cocktail has fruit juice or syrups, shake it. If a cocktail is only comprised of spirits, you stir it.


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In this month’s cocktail post, contributor Jesse Goldstein goes deep into the margarita well (or pitcher, as it were). Everyone loves a good margarita on Cinco de Mayo—but here are a few options that will carry you through the rest of the summer in high style. From Jesse:

I catch myself feeling sorry for inanimate things every now and then. You know, the chair in the living room you never sit in, the vegetables people love to hate, and tequila. My sorrow for the latter really comes from how it’s been vilified by memories of college parties gone wrong and bright green, sickly-sweet margaritas served in many restaurants and bars.

I set out on a personal mission to make up for all that disdain and rediscover how good a margarita really can be when made with simple, fresh ingredients and good-quality tequila. In the process, I discovered a variety of ways to punch up this spirited concoction into new drinks. They don’t have to be the color of kryptonite. They can be light, bright, and delicious.

Better yet, these tequila cocktails are the perfect warm weather cocktails. Coupled with bright citrus flavors, they’re barely sweet and easy to make even more refreshing with a splash of seltzer on top.


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For this month’s cocktail selection, contributor Jesse Goldstein focuses on something that most Southerners hold dear: a glass of tea. Here he provides us with both hot and cold options that are delicious and simple to prepare—for one or for a whole group.

From Jesse:

When most think of tea and cocktails, the first thing that comes to mind is a good hot toddy. There’s nothing wrong with a classic, but if that’s the extent of your use of tea in cocktails, you’re missing out on a beautiful spectrum of flavors just waiting to be incorporated into all types of boozy beverages.

For me, a great cocktail must have balance. This most commonly comes in the form of balancing boozy sharpness with sugar and citrus, but even that can still fall flat on the palate. Think of a well-balanced cocktail like your favorite meal in a restaurant. The spices and seasonings enhance the main ingredients that make that dish so memorable. When it comes to cocktails, freshly brewed black, green, and herbal teas can impart bright herbal notes and bitter tannins that supplement just a few simple ingredients and compliment many spirits.

If you’ve read the previous blog post, Reclaiming Church Punch, you know that teas have a place in cocktail history. Much like the punches of yesteryear, these new tea cocktails can also be made in large batches for entertaining—or just a lazy weekend afternoon on the porch with friends. Just be sure to always start with fresh, high-quality teas and chill them prior to making iced cocktails.

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In December of 2011, we started playing with bitters. Today, we explore how craft meets cocktail with Jesse Goldstein. Read on to learn how to make variations of your own of cocktail bitters and how to use this relatively simple ingredient to add complex layers to your own drinks:

It was in 1806 when the word “cocktail” was first defined in print. The Balance and Columbian Repository of Hudson, NY classified it simply as “a stimulating liquor composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water and bitters.” Fellow cocktail enthusiasts may recognize this description as what we would call an Old Fashioned today; but it’s that last, often misunderstood, ingredient listed in the lineup that has fascinated me for many years.

The term “bitters” typically refers to alcohol infused with a variety of botanical ingredients resulting in a somewhat bitter or bittersweet taste. There are really two classifications of bitters: digestive bitters like Campari are sipped neat or on the rocks after a meal; concentrated tinctures of cocktail bitters (often referred to as aromatic or potable bitters) like Angostura are used in drops and dashes in many classic and modern craft cocktails. I’ve often referred to bitters as the “salt and pepper” of cocktails, providing amazing depth and flavor that you can’t get from basic booze ingredients alone. But the more I looked into bitters, the more fascinated I became with their history, their variety and, eventually, the process of making them myself.

Though modern Americans are only recently regaining an appreciation of bitterness, our ancestors once embraced the taste of bitter flavors. Bitters were originally developed for medicinal purposes, with a history traced as far back as ancient Egypt. The proliferation of distilled spirits and an obsession with pharmacology led to even more concentrated varieties in the Middle Ages. The use of bitters for ailments continued for generations, often used as preventative medicine for everything from seasickness to heartburn.

Bolstered by the renaissance of craft cocktails, bitters have been gaining steam amongst cocktail connoisseurs for the past few years. The old standbys of Angostura and Peychaud’s have been joined by companies like Hella Bitters, Scrappy Bitters, and The Bitter Truth popping up all over the country—reimagining bitters in small batches with flavors created specifically for cocktails. These purveyors are joining classic bittering ingredients of gentian, quassia bark, dandelion, or wormwood with ingredients more commonly found in your kitchen spice cabinet. But these craft bitters are not cheap, often fetching more than $10 for a single ounce.

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Vino or Moonshine? Both, please. Memphis chefs, Andrew Ticer and Michael Hudman’s new cookbook, Collards and Carbonara: Southern Cooking, Italian Roots published by Olive Press, showcases their distinctly Southern-Italian dishes—or is that distinctly Italian-Southern dishes? Either way, it’s fusion cuisine with an accent.

The two chefs and best friends opened the upscale Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen in Memphis back in 2008. After much acclaim, they opened a more casual sister restaurant, Hog & Hominy, right across the street in 2012. The two attended culinary school together in Charleston, South Carolina, and refined their skills in Italy. They compare their partnership to the dynamic of being in a band; they feed off one another for ideas and are always discovering inspiration together. The cookbook is a manifesto of sorts that establishes the greatness of duplicity in heritage cooking. At the root of their success is the fact that they simply love to play and work and learn and cook together. They share their stories revealing the secret to their success and the gospel of food according to these good Italian boys.

Each dish represents a new discovery and a step on their culinary pathway. The funky fusion dishes are as beautiful as they are humble. Warm pig’s ear salad with pears and Gorgonzola, fried green tomatoes with blue crab and bacon jam, gnocchi with caramelized fennel and corn; the pairings may seem unusual, but the flavors make sense together. Recipes for basic dishes like their famous boiled peanuts and pizza dough each have unlikely nuances that bring Italian and Southern American cuisines together.


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In anticipation of upcoming holiday celebrations, we asked Jesse Goldstein, our cocktail contributor, to come up with a couple of new twists on classic sparkling cocktails. Celebrate responsibly and come back for more great cocktail recipes in the new year.

I’ve often said that it’s a shame sparkling wine seems to be reserved for special occasions. Gone are the days that the only options at your local wine shop are cheap, sweet bubbles or expensive French Champagne. These days you can find many amazing (and affordable) varieties of Italian Prosecco, Spanish Cava and California sparklings. Even better, you can also find outstanding rosé varieties, which often have more depth and flavor than their white counterparts.

But just because you’ve got a good bottle of bubbly does not mean there’s no room for improvement. Adding a splash of cordial or a special garnish turns up the flavor of your bubbles and makes it more memorable and delicious for your guests.

Here are a few of my personal favorites.


1 bottle chilled rosé Prosecco
6 cherries (pitted and frozen)
6 ounces pineapple juice
2 ounces brandy
1 ounces Cointreau or Grand Marnier

If using fresh cherries, freeze them first. This helps break down the cellular structure of the fruit and makes for better flavor absorption. Place the frozen cherries in a small jar with the pineapple juice, brandy, and Cointreau. Seal and refrigerate overnight. When ready to serve, mix with the bottle of chilled rosé Prosecco, reserving the cherries to drop into each glass as a garnish.


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Last year, when delving into the history of holiday carols, I found myself asking a question that I’ve wondered about since my youth: What exactly is figgy pudding?

The traditional English dessert is mentioned several times in the popular carol “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” (Now bring us some figgy pudding and bring it right here), referring to the caroling traditions of 16th century England where Christmas treats and drinks were given to carolers by wealthy well-wishers as a thank you for the songs. Often, these treats included puddings.

After a bit of research, I discovered that figgy pudding is actually more cake-like in form. It is similar to modern-day Christmas puddings and plum puddings, and—like it or not—is a cousin to the unjustly maligned fruitcake. But, don’t let that keep you from trying this delicious, boozy dessert. (Yes, classic figgy pudding includes a good dose of rum and brandy—perfect for warming chilly carolers.)

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Thanksgiving is a holiday rich with memories, traditions, and foods we only eat this time of year. For about two days leading up to Thanksgiving dinner, I can guarantee that there is nearly always something either going into or coming out of my oven, and aromas both sweet and savory waft throughout the house.

Our friends at Local Palate share a love of food and storytelling through their magazine, recipes, and blog (look for more on their revamped website and a Q&A in the coming weeks). You can find quite a few delicious seasonal recipes in their catalogue (conveniently sorted by holiday), including this offering from North Carolina-based chef Vivian Howard.

“This combination of turkey, cranberry, pecan, and sorghum, will make you hide your gravy boat for a year or two. All joking aside, these components, when paired with a green bean dish and side of sweet potatoes, would compose a perfectly balanced Thanksgiving plate all by themselves. And if turkey’s not your thing, this profile works beautifully with chicken, ham, or duck.” – Chef Vivian Howard


–From Chef Vivian Howard of Chef & the Farmer in Kinston, North Carolina, star of the PBS show A Chef’s Life, and featured on the November 2014 cover of The Local Palate magazine 

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This post originally ran on November 12, 2011. I’m making the pie again today for our guests who will arrive in the coming days.

Happy Thanksgiving week…we’ve got lots to be thankful for.

My daughter Maggie has been decorating the house for Thanksgiving this last week. In fact, she went directly from Halloween to a strange mixture of Thanksgiving and Christmas rolled into one. (Yes, our holiday tree is up and mostly decorated.) All this festiveness—along with the sound of too loud holiday music and too many left-over pumpkins—has moved us directly from unicorn costumes to Thanksgiving delights.

My friend Stacy orders tamales from Texas to celebrate the holidays. I have an uncle that believes pilgrims would have preferred steaks and potatoes so he spends the day grilling. At the farm, we eat a load of Gulf seafood in Low-Country Boil style off of a wooden board across the tailgate of the truck. I am also somewhat of a traditionalist at heart and delight in the staples—no Thanksgiving comes without dressing. (Gulf Shrimp + Dressing—you don’t know what you are missing until you have tried it!) However, despite the fact that most consider it a staple, I’ve never been one to put a pumpkin pie on my holiday table. I actually have always had a strong dislike for the most revered of Thanksgiving desserts. Then, I tried this recipe.

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We have reached that time of the year when, even in Alabama, we have to accept that winter has arrived. While there are many things to celebrate during colder months, the early frosts are the hardest to embrace. So, we were excited when guest contributor Jesse Goldstein offered up a bit of a tropical concoction for this month’s cocktail post. Enjoy:

Although I hesitate to admit it, I once thought of Curaçao as the blue stuff that went into supposed “fancy” drinks. Of course, this was in my early college years back when I felt very grown up ordering Rum and Coke. What I’ve learned over the years is that Curaçao isn’t always blue, has an amazing history, and, when made properly, is worthy of even the most discerning palate.


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This month, we offer our second installment on creative cocktails from Jesse Goldstein on the often overlooked of beauty lavender as a flavor. Hopefully you will be inspired to experiment with your own infusions to create spirits with complex, but delicious, flavors.

While the idea of infusing herbs and botanicals into spirits may seem to be more popular these days than taking a “selfie”, the practice is nothing new. Take Chartreuse for example: infused with more than 130 botanicals, Chartreuse has been made by the Carthusian Monks in the French Alps since 1737. But just because infusing is an old idea does not mean that we can’t continue to interpret (and reinterpret) the process to create flavors that are fresh, modern and, most importantly, breathtakingly delicious.

The flavor of lavender has never really caught on in this country, though for centuries it has been used around the world as an herb and condiment. (Please watch Juliette of the Herbs.) While it often finds its way into an abundance of scented candles, lotions, and soaps, all too rarely does it find a home in our food and drinks.

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Today we welcome Jesse Goldstein, one of Nashville, Tennessee’s resident cocktail experts, as a regular contributor to our Journal. Jesse will be sharing stories of Southern culture and the spirits that surround it. Look for a cocktail recipe each month—including traditional mixed drinks and their modern interpretations.

One of my favorite things as a kid was going to the local volunteer fire department potluck suppers with my family. The quilt-covered folding tables were loaded with all sorts of casseroles, gelatin-based “salads”, and sweets that I would never get to eat the like of at home. One of my ultimate treats was what most people in the South like to call “church punch.” This version was made with a combination of ginger ale, pineapple juice, and sherbet and was like drinking pure sugar from the little waxed paper cup. I remember pretending not to love it for my parents’ sake but secretly savoring every sip of the sugary nectar.

Luckily our tastes change as we grow older. These days I prefer my salads without colored gelatin and cringe at the thought of how sweet that punch was. But there is something wonderful about the convivial aspect of a big bowl of punch and there’s no reason it can’t be brought forward to today with a recipe you would be proud to serve—to adults, that is.

Punch has an incredible history that goes back hundreds of years. Long before the invention of the cocktail, spirits were consumed socially in the form of punch. Made in large batches, punches were ideal for celebrations of all sorts. Times have changed, but punches still have a place at a party. All my friends know I’m a big fan of cocktails, but I personally prefer making punches when I’m entertaining. A good batch of punch takes time, effort, and the investment of good spirits that good friends are worthy of.


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It takes a special kind of food to require it’s own specific food transportation system. Anyone who has ever attempted to serve – and certainly travel with – deviled eggs knows that eggs resting on an ordinary plate will end up smashed, flattened, or in the floor. I personally have at least 3 different deviled egg plates – one plastic, one ceramic, and a “fancy” glass one for special events. As a child, I would rush to the buffet table at every church dinner to get the biggest egg. As an adult, I ration out only one on my Thanksgiving dinner plate, but have been known to sneak extras when no one is looking.

My grandmother’s were always my favorite growing up, perhaps because they were made with dill pickle relish and an extra spoonful of mayonnaise. I avoided my aunt’s because she made her eggs with sweet pickles, which I strongly disliked. Our neighbor (who called them “angel eggs” to avoid association with wickedness) topped her eggs with paprika, which seemed elegant, colorful, and exciting. But—at heart—the deviled egg itself is not particularly fancy and has many incarnations. These days, I like them all.

The basic deviled egg is hard boiled, shelled, and halved. Each half is filled with a scoop of the hard-boiled yolk mixed with ingredients like mayonnaise, mustard, and pickle relish and served cold. Each family seems to have their own variation that might include vinegar, paprika, chili powder, or even kimchi or Sriracha chili sauce.

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The last day of summer is officially September 22nd, but Maggie started back to school weeks ago. As the long days wind down, we must begrudgingly say farewell to peach season. This year, I found myself with an abundance of peaches throughout the summer. Whenever I swiped the last one from the counter to eat in my oatmeal, another batch would show up on my doorstep. Into the house that bag would come. The moment of anticipation and joy of standing over the kitchen sink—house perfectly silent—and biting into the soft flesh, savoring the moment as juice runs down my arm…for me, this is the essence of summer.

All peach lovers know that peaches develop their sweetness and flavor while on the tree. Once they are picked, they just get softer and juicier. Stay away from peaches that are firm and look for those who yield slightly to gentle pressure. To test firmness, don’t poke the fruit with your fingertip; hold the peach in your whole hand and squeeze gently. Peaches that are green around the stem are not yet ripe; shriveled skin means the fruit is too old. The best test for a peach’s flavor is its smell; a peach will taste almost exactly how it smells.

You can store firm peaches at room temperature. Once they begin to turn soft, put them in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator and plan to eat them soon. If you find yourself with too many peaches, you can freeze them (peeled and sliced) and keep them for up to 6 months.

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A few months ago, I spent a couple of days with friends at Gray Bear Lodge in Hohenwald, Tennessee. While there—in addition to the yoga sessions, sauna time, tub soaks, and hikes—I was treated to a (mini) juice cleanse for a few days. And though I recommend consulting your doctor before embarking on your own juice cleanses, I must say that I walked away from the experience feeling healthy and refreshed.

I returned from my trip, bought a juicer the next day, and it has changed my life. Diann from Gray Bear walked me through the juicing regimen which always seemed a bit complicated and demanding for me.  She taught me to: simplify, use ingredients that I like, experiment with combinations, and taste as I go to come up with an array of variations. “Plus,” she says, “once you have the raw ingredients on hand (and the juicer out and running) make enough for a few days.” While that might not be as good as juicing and drinking right away, this is real life, right?

After a few weeks, I also discovered that these fresh fruit and vegetable juices also lend themselves to delicious cocktails. (However, it should be noted that fresh juice cocktails don’t maintain all of the health benefits of fresh juice alone.) During Vivian Howard’s recent dinner at The Factory, we used my juicer to create the Cucumber Ginger Limeade cocktail that opened the evening. Since the dinner, there have been several requests for the recipe. Break out your juicer (but juice—and drink—responsibly).

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Community cookbooks – collections of recipes gathered by churches, women’s societies, rotary clubs, and other regional clubs and foundations – have been the foundation of home kitchens across America for decades. These collections often present an air of nostalgia, using old-fashioned techniques, offbeat ingredients, and occasionally include really great anecdotes. They are—in their best versions—a direct reflection of the region of their origin and an admirable labor of love. The recipes are seldom fancy, and most often highlight the kind of meal that is made in an average kitchen on an average evening by an average cook who finds an epiphany of enlightenment in a great recipe. Even more captivating is the community cookbook filled with family recipes passed down from prior generations and lovingly shared with the community at large.

Caxton Press in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania published what is believed to be the very first charity cookbook in 1864, during the time of the Civil War. This assortment, titled A Poetical Cook-Book, by Maria J. Moss, was filled with foods common to that era, like leg of mutton, mince pies, johnnycakes, and hasty pudding. The book was sold to provide funds for field hospitals and aid wounded soldiers.

Many, like the ones I was given by my mother, grandmothers, and aunts, are overflowing with sense memories of a location and an era. While similarities exist among the cookbooks, there are distinct differences between what the women of the Virginia Eastern Star were making in the 1920s and the dishes prepared by the late 1960s Junior League of Coastal Louisiana. Regardless of the when and the where, there is copious information on what the (mostly) women were like in each specific time and place. The ingredients tell a story of rural vs. urban landscape and wealthy vs. working class cooks. If a recipe called for a pinch or a handful, you might assume that the writer was a seasoned home cook who learned passed down recipes and perfected dishes by taste, not by measurement. If a recipe was “eggless” or “butterless”, you might suppose that it originated during wartime, when certain foods were rationed.

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Blueberries have made their way to peak season here in Alabama. While they have many health benefits, their taste and convenience are equally valuable. Ever since Maggie and I planted a bush in the backyard, there are days that we eat them by the handful. We’ve been serving a variety from our local farmers’ market along with our café’s crepes (a not-so guilty pleasure).

We debut our monthly menu curated by Peabody award-winning chef Vivian Howard. Vivian provided us with an array of seasonal, flavorful dishes from her restaurant Chef & the Farmer, including the (absolutely) delicious recipe below – Blueberry BBQ Chicken Flatbread.

Stop by the café during the month of July to experience tastes from Vivian’s repertoire, as well as beloved recipes from The SFA Community Cookbook. Also, make plans to join us on the evening of July 25 for A Piggy Bank Dinner fundraiser for the Southern Foodways Alliance, featuring Vivian and friends.


The recipe below is straight from Vivian’s kitchen at Chef & the Farmer to recreate the dish in your home kitchen.

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This month, we launched our “Friends of the Café” Dinner Series with James Beard award-winning chef Chris Hastings. When searching for like-minded chefs and restaurants to collaborate with for our ongoing chef series in the café, Chris was one of the first people who came to mind. His dedication to locally-sourced ingredients is something we value highly here at Alabama Chanin, and it was wonderful to see (and sample) his work at The Factory.

A big hit of the evening was the Hot and Hot Tomato Salad, a fresh and colorful take on an old Southern favorite: succotash. Guests watched in awe as Chris and members of the Alabama Chanin team put together mouthwatering layers of the tomato salad. The special version of the salad presented at our dinner was topped with fresh Alabama Gulf shrimp (and bacon), and served with fried okra on the side.


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Nothing tastes like summer quite like a fresh, home-grown tomato. In fact, I embark on a tomato sandwich diet each summer. While I’m still patiently waiting for my own garden plants to get ripe enough for picking, I’m enjoying the vegetables from my CSA share each week (and of course, our locally-sourced café ingredients).

Good tomatoes don’t need to be dressed up to be delicious. But, it can be difficult to source really great tomatoes – just another benefit of buying local produce and knowing your farmer. Unfortunately, most tomatoes that you find in chain grocery stores are there because they survived the journey; they were the toughest and able to maintain nice color and shape in transit. Tomatoes bred for shape, color, or endurance don’t always have the best flavor.

Chris Hastings of Hot and Hot Fish Club, whose recipes are featured in our café this month as part of our ongoing chef series, understands that delicious produce offers complex flavors. When you take the time to find quality ingredients, they shine on their own, without too much fuss.
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We all have different definitions of comfort food—the dishes that make up those meals that leave our bellies (and our hearts) full. They are the dishes you crave when you are far from home; a hankering for something familiar and soothing. For me, this includes an array of casserole dishes, fresh garden vegetables, and my Gram Perkins’ egg salad.

When Davia and Nikki of The Kitchen Sisters agreed to be our featured chefs this month as part of our ongoing Factory Café Chef Series, I started browsing through my copy of Hidden Kitchens. Soon, I found myself totally immersed in the stories I’d heard on the radio years before. I began re-telling stories to the staff at The Factory, and we were all excited about a recipe I found in the chapter about NASCAR kitchens, titled “Slap It On the Thighs Butter Bar”—aptly named, since the ingredients called for yellow cake mix, egg, margarine, powered sugar, and cream cheese. The recipe was originally from the 25th anniversary edition of the Winston Cup Racing Wives’ Auxiliary Cookbook, published in 1989. Curious to know what other comfort food recipes from the kitchens of racing existed, we tracked down a copy of the book on Ebay.


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Foraging is the act of searching for and gathering wild food. Perhaps you remember learning about nomadic hunters and gatherers in grade school—these early societies moved from place to place, following animals, fruits, and vegetables in order to sustain life. Modern humans followed this way of life until about ten thousand years ago, when agriculture was developed.

Today, most of the world’s hunter-gatherers (or foragers) have been displaced by farmers and pastoralists. Modern foragers often look for food in their surrounding environments, and do not move from camp to camp like their predecessors. In fact, foraging has become a livelihood for some—by sourcing wild food resources for restaurants, chefs, markets, and the like.

Below, The Kitchens Sisters share their discovery of modern-day forager Angelo Garro (and his hidden kitchen).


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It is no secret that Southerners love green tomatoes. We fry them, pickle them, stew them, bake them in pies, and even write books about them. Readily available at the beginning and ending of each summer season, this under-ripe fruit has a firm flesh and an acidic, sour taste—which allows them to be used in an array of dishes.

The chefs at Blackberry Farm suggest selecting medium-size green tomatoes, since larger ones can have woody, inedible cores and clumps of bitter seeds.

From The Foothills Cuisine of Blackberry Farm, page 109:

“Here is our classic twist on a classic Southern favorite, red tomato layered pie. We borrow the flavor and textures of the traditional accompaniments to fried catfish- tart lemon, creamy tartar sauce, and fried hush puppies- and present them in an untraditional way: Green tomato stands for lemon to provide the acid, buttermilk mayonnaise and cheese provide the creamy richness of the tartar sauce, and the flaky crust that holds it all together stands in for the hush puppies.

The lard and the buttermilk contribute flakiness and great flavor to this pie crust, but the real secret to its tenderness is the rolling method. Folding the dough onto itself and rolling it out several times forms thin layers within the dough. When the fat melts in the heat of the oven, the evaporation of moisture contained in the tiny space between the layers forces each layer to rise, just like in puff pastry.”


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This month, we are featuring Blackberry Farm and Chef Joseph Lenn as part of our ongoing Chef Series here at The Factory. As promised, we are sharing our favorite recipes with you; this week, a twist on a simple spring salad.

From The Foothills Cuisine of Blackberry Farm, page 121:

“When the garden and farmer’s markets are overflowing with zucchini, it’s time for this salad, which pairs lovely long threads of sweet raw zucchini with a creamy yet light dressing and Blackberry’s twist on Italian frico, made with our own Singing Brook cheese (Pecerino Toscano is a very appropriate substitute).”

The café is serving Blackberry Farm’s Zucchini Caesar Salad alongside our Quiche Lorraine and local greens. Stop by The Factory Café this week and explore our menu, or recreate the tasty dish yourself.


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My Gram Perkins passed down several recipes to me through the years. I keep most of them in a recipe book my mother compiled of family recipes. From Chocolate Pie to Thanksgiving dressing, Gram Perkins’ delicious Southern dishes continue to make their way onto my table—always tasting amazing, but not quite as good as when she made them.

One of the simplest (and most beloved) recipes she gave to me was for egg salad, featuring homemade Fourteen-Day Pickles (also known as sweet or bread-and-butter pickles). I think of it as one of the ultimate comfort foods. When I was a child, Gram Perkins often served it to me as a summer lunch or afternoon snack. I have vivid memories of sitting in her kitchen, watching her prepare her famous egg salad sandwich for me—always with extra pickles in a jar on the table.

After my Gram Perkins passed away, my granddaddy, lovingly known as Perk, continued making the famous Fourteen-Day Pickles. My mother carries on the family tradition today by gifting pints of these treasures every holiday season. Egg salad is definitely better with this homemade version but there are great bread-and-butter pickles available on the market today that you can use for your homemade egg salad. We recently taste tested the Blackberry Farm version and found it delicious.

No one really knows when egg salad itself was created, but it became a popular luncheon salad in the early 1800s, after French chef Marie-Antoine Carême invented mayonnaise as we know it today. A sister to tuna and chicken salad, egg salad is a nice option for those looking for a simple lunch, packed with protein.


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Alabama Chanin’s first-ever sewing workshop took place in 2008 alongside a seminar on Southern cooking, organized and presented by our friend and collaborator, Angie Mosier. While the sewing participants stitched and chatted, the food preparers fried up some chicken, steamed collard greens and made pot likker, then baked the most delicious Lane Cake. At each meal, Angie explained the history of each dish and its significance within Southern culture. This is where I first learned the details behind one of Alabama’s culinary specialties, the Lane Cake.

Lane Cake was created by Emma Rylander Lane of Clayton, Alabama, as her entry into a county fair baking competition in Columbus, Georgia. She originally called the recipe, “Prize Cake,” but eventually leant her name to the dessert for all posterity. She self-published a cookbook called Some Good Things to Eat in 1898 and included the recipe as one of her featured desserts. Lane Cake is a white, layered sponge cake (originally designed for 4 layers) iced with a frosting that includes coconut, raisins, pecans, and bourbon. It is often found in the South at receptions, holiday dinners, or wedding showers. Chef Scott Peacock writes in The Gift of Southern Cooking that he was served a Lane Cake every year on his birthday.


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Ever since I read about classic Southern drinks in the latest issue of Garden & Gun, I’ve been craving a crisp, refreshing cocktail. We’ve shared some grenadine-inspired libations before and, in keeping with that theme (and continuing our love affair with Jack Rudy’s Small Batch Grenadine), we created a blood orange-infused pomegranate cocktail.

Boasting a deep and rich citrusy flavor, blood oranges are considered to be among the finest dessert oranges in the world and are at their seasonal peak right now. These oranges are quite sought after by most bartenders—they are only ripe for a few months each year. The perfect pairing with a range of spirits, we chose to mix ours with Cathead Vodka.

Tip: Blood oranges will only last a couple of days at room temperature, so we suggest refrigerating them; they will last up to two weeks that way.
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As a Southerner and a cook, I often find myself included in lively debates about regional cuisine, long-winded discussions of the dozens of types of barbecue preparations, cornbread recipe swaps, or conversations on the perfect biscuit dough. Those of us who love food treasure the dishes we were raised eating and love to swap recipes and tips.

In my travels, I have done my fair share of boasting about my hometown’s specialties. One dish that I speak of frequently, that is such a big component of The Shoals’ local food culture, is chicken stew. And almost every time I mention it (outside of my home region), no one else in the room seems to know quite what I’m describing.

“Is it like a vegetable soup?” Not exactly. “A Brunswick stew?” Hmm. Not really.

So, I gradually came to understand that this dish—that was as ubiquitous to every neighborhood kitchen as cornbread or tea—wasn’t a staple meal for the rest of the world. In fact, it really doesn’t exist much outside of our small region of the Tennessee Valley.

Truthfully, the origins of chicken stew cannot be traced. And, no one can explain exactly why it is so specific to this region. I remember being told by an aunt that, once upon a time, chickens were kept for the eggs they produced. By the time a family killed a chicken for its meat, it was a “tough old bird,” only suitable for stews and other slow-cooked dishes. As with many rural households, you made the most of what you had and, logically, a stew fed more mouths than one fried chicken. Most likely, as with most regional foods, the recipe was created when poverty crossed paths with farmers, native people, and West African-style dishes. The result, in this case, is a dish that’s similar to existing recipes but that remains explicitly exclusive to one place.
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Our café kitchen has been testing, developing, and tasting new items for our dessert menu. We are intent on staying true to foods that reflect our roots, incorporating traditional Southern elements into decadent dishes.

Moon pies are treats that fit the criteria of being both definitively Southern and decadent. For those who have not yet had the pleasure of experiencing one, a moon pie is a sandwich cookie consisting of two layers of a soft graham cookie, a marshmallow filling, and a flavored coating, typically chocolate.

The first Moon Pies were made by the Chattanooga Bakery in 1917 and were based upon requests from hungry coal miners. When a Chattanooga Bakery salesman visited a company store that catered to coal miners, the miners told him they wanted something solid and filling, because they often didn’t get time for a full lunch. When the salesman asked them how big the snack should be, a miner framed his hands around the moon hanging in the sky and said, “About that big.”


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The Momofuku restaurant group started up in 2004 as a postage stamp-sized ramen noodle bar in New York City’s East Village. It garnered a following rather quickly for the innovative ramen dishes and simple, but incredibly addictive, pork buns. At the helms of chef-owner David Chang, Momofuku steadily grew over the years to include numerous branches and locations in New York and Toronto, such as Ssäm Bar, Noodle Bar, Momofuku Ko, Ma Pêche, and Milk Bar.

Momofuku Milk Bar, which opened in 2008, was the group’s long awaited ode to classic, sugary concoctions. Headed by Christina Tosi, Milk Bar offered a menu that consisted of familiar sounding sweet treats cleverly graced with the creative edge the brand had come to be known for. Cornflakes were steeped in milk and sweetened to make cereal milk soft serve, and were mixed into cookie dough with marshmallows and chocolate chips to create a rewarding cookie with an extra crunchy, sweet and salty flavor.

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There is one food tradition that seems to cross all social, ethnic, and economic boundaries in the South: iced tea, particularly sweet tea. In the movie, “Steel Magnolias” Dolly Parton’s character referred to sweet tea as “the house wine of the South.” In many homes and most restaurants, this is certainly the case. But, why is iced tea such a staple in Southern homes? The history is more complicated than you might think.

Tea was introduced to the United States in South Carolina where it was grown in the late 1700s. In fact, South Carolina is the only state to have even grown tea commercially. It is believed that French botanist and explorer Andre Michaux imported it, along with many unique varieties of flowers. Iced tea began appearing in American cookbooks in the early 1800s, first as alcoholic punches. These first punches were made with green tea, rather than the black tea commonly used today.

Households began to keep iced tea on hand when refrigeration became popular – and with it, ice. The first known version of iced tea, as it is prepared today, was printed in 1879 in a publication called Housekeeping in Old Virginia. Recipe author Marion Tyree wrote that green tea should be boiled and steeped all day. Then, the preparer should “fill the goblets with ice, put two teaspoonfuls of granulated sugar in each, and pour the tea over the ice and sugar.” This first iced tea recipe also called for a lemon garnish.
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The winter holidays seem to evoke the strongest food memories from many of us. Certainly there are family Thanksgiving dinner traditions, and the plethora of other delights that come with the rest of the season – pumpkin pie, homemade eggnog, savory soups, and gingerbread cookies. When I was a child, potato candy was one of the treats that only made an appearance in the days and weeks before Christmas. It is hands-down the strangest of holiday treats, but perhaps the delicacy was more delicious as the wait from year-to-year seemed immense.

To those who have never eaten potato candy, the concept may seem a bit odd. But those who have eaten it know that it is incredibly sweet, much like fudge or caramel. In retrospect, perhaps this dessert is reserved for the holidays because it contains so much sugar. It is possible that the adults chose to ration the candy in order to contain rambunctious children. (I know that I am guilty of that.)


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The Alabama Biscuit Company is changing the way people perceive (and eat) biscuits. Jonathan Burch of Birmingham, Alabama, has developed a delicious and healthy recipe for biscuits using organic sprouted spelt flour, aluminum-free baking powder, and organic Celtic sea salt.

The biscuit mix is now a favorite of the Alabama Chanin team. We made biscuits with it at the Heath event this past August and are now using and selling it in our café.


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This year, I’ve been supplementing my garden’s harvest with fruits and vegetables from local farmers’ markets and the occasional Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) box. Typically, participating in a CSA program involves purchasing a share of a farmer’s crop before it is produced, but some farmers (like ours) will accept weekly payments for pre-ordered boxes. While quantities vary, the amount of food in a CSA box, usually a 1/2 bushel, typically feeds a family of four for a week. That is a bit too much food for just me and Maggie, so I seldom order a box unless I’m preparing a large meal for family and friends or needing quality, local ingredients for The Factory’s new café. Our friends at nearby Jack-O-Lantern Farm wrapped up this year’s CSA box program last month and I was able to pre-order and pick up a box for the café from their last batch of the season.



Open any Hallmark card or watch a coffee commercial between now and the new year and you will be flooded with the storybook sentiment of the holidays. Ask anyone their feelings about Thanksgiving and they will tell you it’s a time for family, for great food and for, well, giving thanks. All of those things are certainly true for me. When I was young, Thanksgiving was one of my favorite holidays. I have strong sense memories of being in my Grandmother Smith’s house, watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade on television while the smell of roasted turkey wafted in from the kitchen. The air is always clear and crisp in these memories. I can recall running across the farm hills and valleys with dogs and cousins, the smell of barn hay, and the full stomach, distended from too much pie.



Autumn is most certainly the season of the pumpkin. I admit that, though they are beautiful decorations, I haven’t always been a big fan of the fruit. But, as we get older, our tastes continue to change. These days, I find that I crave them more than ever. The flavor can be sweet, even complex, and I am looking for more ways to incorporate them into our meal rotation. Here, I share some of my favorite, easy preparations for adding pumpkin to your table.

Pumpkin soup is, outside of pumpkin pie, perhaps the most common recipe available. While you can find cans of organic pumpkin at many grocery stores (and I’ve successfully used them on occasion), there is a distinct difference between canned pumpkin puree and a fresh, roasted pumpkin. Don’t be intimidated by the idea of roasting a pumpkin, it is easier than you think. I don’t recommend using carving pumpkins for roasting because they can often be stringy and less flavorful. Sugar pumpkins (also known as pie pumpkins) or any of the smaller varieties are tastier but, depending upon size, you may need to prepare more than one.

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It has been over three years since the Deepwater Horizon oil spill devastated the Gulf Coast and, in turn, the livelihoods of many. The Alabama seafood industry was practically devastated, but is rebounding with determination and the support of restaurateurs and loyal customers.

Alabama has 50+ miles of coastline bordering the Gulf of Mexico. Add that to our tidal coastline of bays, creeks, bayous, and rivers that touch the tidewater and the coastline grows to 600+ miles. Because of the salty gulf water, Alabama seafood means fish, shrimp, crab, and oysters. The Alabama Gulf Seafood organization has done a great job connecting Alabama fisherman and oysterman with our state’s chefs and seafood consumers. The beautiful images here are of postcards Alabama Gulf Seafood published (and consequently inspired this post).


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Kevin Gillespie grew up in Locust Grove, Georgia, outside Atlanta, with nine cousins within five years of age living five hundred feet from each other. While his parents worked, his paternal grandmother watched the kids, cooking three meals a day so the family could always sit and eat together. At age ten, Kevin became interested in cooking and decided his grandmother shouldn’t be the only one feeding the family. The family supported him one hundred percent, even when he turned down a scholarship to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to attend culinary school at the Art Institute of Atlanta.

Fire in My Belly is a collection of Kevin’s memories and stories on how he came to love food with classic recipes tweaked and made simple for the home cook. Almost every tale focuses on family and the person who introduced him to a new food or way of cooking. There’s an emphasis on fresh, local ingredients, just the way his grandmother always cooked. Nothing is too fancy and every component is easy to find, no matter what part of the country you live in.


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We are pleased to welcome back friend and writer, Phillip March Jones, who we have convinced to join us as a regular contributor to this Journal. Phillip will be writing about art, visual design, music, food, and travel.

This week, Phillip shares a photo essay of (and a delicious recipe from) his new favorite restaurant, County Club, in Lexington, Kentucky. This new gathering spot is a stones-throw from Institute 193, Phillip’s gallery. Chef Johnny Shipley’s menu looks mouth-watering and County Club’s Instagram feed has me ready to jump on a plane to Lexington.

Please welcome Phillip with lots of comments below,


Turner & Guyon, a design team based in Lexington, Kentucky, recently partnered with local chef Johnny Shipley, to transform an abandoned cinder block garage into a full-service restaurant and bar named County Club. The original structure, located on Jefferson Street in the historic Smithtown neighborhood, was built in 1974 as a storage facility for the Rainbow Bread factory’s day-old shop. The factory closed in the early 90’s, and the storage building was eventually purchased by a local man who used it as a garage and auto body shop.

Hunter Guyon and Chesney Turner (Turner & Guyon) have both lived within a few blocks of the building for years, and their familiarity with the neighborhood is evident in the restaurant’s interior, which is elegant, sparse, and comforting.

Memory is one of the driving forces behind both the restaurant’s design and menu, which explores new takes on classic barbecue dishes with a special focus on regionally sourced, in-house smoked meats. County Club, which only opened a few months ago, already feels deeply rooted in the fabric of Lexington’s food and social culture.

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In anticipation of tomorrow evening’s opening exhibit of our BBQ’ed Dresses Collection at Warehouse Row in Chattanooga, Tennessee, we mixed up a celebratory cocktail. Our friend Brooks Reitz of the Jack Rudy Cocktail Co. sent us a few more bottles of his Small Batch Tonic for the event, and the Chattanooga Whiskey Co. is providing the booze, so we mixed the two together, plus a touch of lemonade for sweetness, and found ourselves in a dreamy barbeque state of mind.


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I’ve been thinking about painting my back porch and deck white since it was built last summer. After all, we spend about fifty percent of our time out there. I’ve long disliked the toxicity of commercial paints on the market. Most common indoor and outdoor household paints contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs). VOCs contain a variety of chemicals, some of which give off noxious fumes and may have short term or long term adverse health effects. According to the EPA, levels of some VOCs are 2 to 5 times higher inside a home than outside; when you are painting or stripping paint in your home, particularly in older homes where lead paint may have been used in the past, indoor levels of VOCs may be 1000 times that of outdoor levels. I’ve used VOC-free paints for all of my indoor and outdoor painting since they came on the market some years back.

In thinking about my outdoor living area, I wanted to investigate additional ways to paint more safely, and came across two options that I could possibly make myself: whitewash and milk paint. Whitewashing, which many of us remember from Tom Sawyer whitewashing the fence in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, was commonly used for years because it is inexpensive, can be homemade, and homeowners could use ingredients they had on-hand, improvising their own recipes. It is still used in rural areas to protect wooden surfaces like fences and barns, or by designers who want to give furniture a rustic look. The mixture’s base is always lime and water, which makes a chalky type of plaster. Then, ingredients might be added to thicken or strengthen the mixture, like flour, glue, sugar, soap, soil, or milk.

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A couple months ago, we launched a line of cocktail napkins made with our 100% organic cotton jersey and printed with the Alabama Chanin logo. We also shared a new favorite cocktail: our version of a Maiden’s Blush. Friend Brooks Reitz of the Jack Rudy Cocktail Co. sent us some of his small batch grenadine, which set off a quiet frenzy of cocktail experiments and creations around the studio. We work hard, and we like our rewards.

Our latest grenadine-inspired libation is the Alabama Sour (with a Sunrise flare). It’s a twist on the classic New York Sour Bon Appetít shared in April 2013. The classic recipe calls for an ounce of red wine floated atop the whiskey sour. We opted for Brooks’ sweet, yet tart, pomegranate-based grenadine instead of wine. Grenadine is denser than whiskey, causing it to settle on the bottom of the glass, hence the vibrant red, sunrise effect. Over ice, it’s a perfect early-summer evening quaff. We love it.


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For Marimekko Week, we wanted to make (and eat) one of the delicious Finnish dishes on the Marimekko Feeling Festive blog. Armi Ratia has been an inspiration to so many, myself included, for decades. The clean lines and graphic look of Marimekko patterns are both simple and exciting to the eye and the bold, bright colors exude confidence and happiness. I feel a distant kinship with Armi and the Marimekko process. There exists a shared desire to create beauty in things that will last a very long time.

That colorful simplicity of Marimekko design finds its way into the Festive blog recipes. This Carrot Butter was well loved by our staff on a very cold, grey day.


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We spend a good bit of time in the kitchen, planning meals and testing out new recipes to share, while I spend evenings trying to please the taste buds of my picky eater. I’ve found that kitchen twine has a number of uses, including trussing or tying meat when cooking or when you want to keep a stuffing firmly placed inside of something. Use it to tie fresh herbs in a bouquet garni or bouquet garnish (see recipe below) or wrap bacon on the outside of your roast or bird. I also use my twine for tying up birthday presents and pony tails—and stuffed animals at my house are often doctored with bits of twine.  You might also try making our Knotted Necklace with this twine. It is thinner than our Cotton Jersey Pulls but made in the same way.

Twine, especially for use in the kitchen, shouldn’t be made from synthetic materials (they can melt or chemicals can seep into your food), and we’ve found this organic, non-toxic option works perfectly.


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It’s been nearly three years since the Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, and the repercussions still linger. Tar balls continue to wash up on shore as we wait patiently to learn how much BP will pay in restitution. But the fishing, shrimping, and oyster industries have rebounded in strides, as restaurants on the coast and inland support our ocean’s harvest.

Friend and Chef Chris Hastings of Hot and Hot Fish Club in Birmingham, Alabama, has played a significant role in supporting the industry, spearheading a campaign with the Alabama Seafood Marketing Commission to bring awareness and support to Alabama Gulf seafood, and sharing recipes like his Alabama Bouillabaisse with the reading public.


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We try to share a staff lunch once a week here in the studio. It gives everyone a chance to sit down together, laugh, and share ideas. We are, after all, a family of sorts. This week we had hoped to entertain and enjoy time with our friend and collaborator Anna Maria Horner, to whom this week’s journal theme is dedicated. But sometimes life gets in the way, and we were unable to coordinate our time; however, we decided to have a Greek lunch in her honor anyway.

Anna Maria’s family comes from Greece and her grandmother passed down many Greek traditions and treasures to her, including hand-loomed wool blankets and recipes. I love tzatziki, and even though cucumbers are not technically in season yet, we fortunately have a local organic farmer with a solar powered greenhouse – Jack-O-Lantern Farms – and were able to acquire some Alabama cucumbers for the tangy, yogurt dip, as well as greenhouse-grown tomatoes and south Alabama eggplants (still beats vegetables trucked in from Mexico).


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We have been working with indigo-dyed cotton jersey for years now. Between Father Andrew and Goods of Conscience in New York City and Artisan Natural Dyeworks in Nashville, Tennessee, there has never been a need for us to start our own indigo vat. And in the quantities we dye, it’s better to leave it to the experts. However, there has always been this little part of me that covets an indigo bath and I dream of one in our studio for “play.”

Since we set about exploring indigo this week, it seemed a perfect time to also explore recipes for a vat (which Father Andrew says is “very much like making beer”). While investigating recipes, I remembered a text message I received last fall from friends A.J. Mason and Jeff Moerchen about an indigo vat they created in the woods of upstate New York. Here they share the story of their vat:


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We’re not quite in the cocktail business (yet), though we seem to be sneaking behind the bar more and more lately. Our collaboration with Jack Rudy Cocktail Co. brought about the Jack Rudy Bar Towel, which we featured early last month along with the Jack Rudy Small Batch Tonic, both available for purchase on our website.

Last week, our friend Brooks Reitz of Jack Rudy Cocktail Co. sent us a beautiful, hand-written thank you note, along with a bottle of their newest creation – Small Batch Grenadine. Handcrafted in Napa Valley, the grenadine arrived just in time for our latest addition: the Alabama Chanin Cocktail Napkin.



Yeast Rolls can be such a source of Southern pride that even the best cooks shy away from these elusive delicacies.  My grandmother made the best yeast rolls in the county, maybe this entire country. Although, I suspect that half of Lauderdale County would say that their grandmother made the best. (Perhaps you feel the same). The truth is that there are just about as many recipes as there are grandmothers.

A Google search reveals recipes with shortening, recipes with lard, and recipes with butter.  This alone can bring chefs to heated debate over glasses of wine and/or cocktails.  I once asked John Currence, “Butter or lard?” He answered, “For what?” Some believe “half-and-half” works best (and I’m not talking about cream).

Boil the milk, add eggs, don’t use eggs, Carnation Milk makes an appearance in one recipe I have… one thing they all say is “serve hot.” (My grandmother served often.)

Last week, I had the pleasure of eating yeast rolls from the queen herself, Sister Schubert. One of our great local schools, Riverhill, hosted a luncheon with Sister and one of our great local chefs, Betty Sims.

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I get lost in the thousands and thousands of captivating images and creations shared daily on Pinterest. One thing leads to another and before I know it I’m fifteen tabs deep in my web browser…

While pinning to our boards recently, I came across a beautiful food blog. On said food blog, there is a recipe for Pink Deviled Eggs, vibrant and saturated with a deep pink-purple hue.

So to continue our theme of all-things-Valentine, we made these Pink Deviled Eggs for our studio lunch (along with some extra homemade fundraiser soup made by Zach for Maggie’s school).

I share a traditional recipe for Deviled Eggs in Alabama Studio Style. While you might not pass this recipe down to your daughters, it was fun to make, look at, and eat.



This post published last Wednesday in the midst of technical difficulties that lasted more than a week. We are deeply proud of this collaboration, adore all things Jack Rudy, and want to be sure that everyone gets a chance to meet Brooks up-close (or at least closer). Here we re-publish  the story, giving the Pink Gin it’s due.  Besides, it’s a good week for everything we (heart):

Since we’re celebrating Valentine’s Day, it’s only natural to throw a cocktail in the mix. And so, in keeping with the season’s color palette, I’m drinking a Pink Gin and Tonic made with Jack Rudy Classic Tonic.

Alabama Chanin loves Jack Rudy and we have used it in several cocktails, from a rosemary-infused Vodka & Jack Rudy to our Handmade Cocktail made with Tito’s Handmade Vodka. We collaborated with Brooks Reitz, one of the creators of Jack Rudy, to design a hand-stitched 100% organic cotton French Terry bar towel especially for Jack Rudy enthusiasts.

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Red velvet cake is as much a Southern tradition as fried chickenpot likker, and cornbread. So when the idea for red velvet “Valentine’s Day” cake came up, it was a given that we would be eating the cake at our weekly office lunch.

In our community, this three layer cake is traditionally topped with a cream cheese icing – although I have seen it with buttercream, chocolate, as well as with a combination cream cheese and chocolate icing. I prefer the subtle tang in the cream cheese version, with or without the commonly used addition of chopped pecans or shredded coconut. We’ve added an Alabama Chanin touch of homemade pink sprinkles in our Facets stencil pattern cut to fit perfectly over our cake.

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On Monday, Sara wrote her thoughts on fashion and designing for real people with different body types. We’ve written before ‘On Beauty’ and the comeback of pin-up style. Even though media representations might make you feel differently, the fact is that women come in so many beautiful shapes and sizes. This is a deeply important and significant subject, and will be a recurrent theme for us this year. Our journal is a platform to share our views and opinions on any matter of the body (and mind), and we always encourage you to share your own stories and thoughts in the comments section.

It’s the New Year (10 days in already), a time when many of us reflect on our life in the past year, resolve to find peace in each day, and to look ahead to new goals and achievements. 99.9% of the time, weight loss is a top goal for resolutions in the New Year.

Diet. Eat salad. Lose weight. Be skinny.

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It’s a bit of a stretch to call chicken made with olives “Peace Chicken,” but it did recently bring a bit of peace to my family life.  Here’s the story:

Although I have spent years cultivating my backyard garden, honing my cooking skills, learning how to shop in my small community (grass-fed local meat from here, fresh vegetables from there, rice in bulk, milk from only one store in the community – on Thursdays only.) Yes, years have been spent on this orchestration.

All these years of refinement, patience, planning, and adaptation and I am stuck with a six-year-old who can’t stand my food – any of it. “This is the worst dinner I have ever had,” she sighed (loudly) in the kitchen one night. She has a sweet tooth of the worst kind. I would like to blame her, but the love of sugar does run in my father’s family so, as we say in Alabama, “she comes by it honest.” I have twin aunts who are as “big as a twig” put together and, as a child, I remember them eating only sweets (or at least it seemed that way).

My father and my six-year old have come up with elaborate excuses to head out to my most dreaded part of town, “The Mall,” only to return with a dozen Krispy Kreme Doughnuts. These days, they have stopped making up excuses and just go, on a regular basis. They will visit one of my twin aunts and grandmother with a dozen. Ritual.

This child of mine would eat jelly toast at every meal if I would let her. For a change of pace, she would like biscuits or pancakes.  To her, the ingestion of one-quarter of a freshly picked, crisp apple is worthy of a trophy and, as far as she is concerned, that trophy should be of a bowl of ice cream (not sorbet).  It’s enough to make me crazy.

I go through phases where I just tell her to go hungry. She will, after all, eat those peas if she is starving?  Instead, she has a will of stone and far more patience than I ever possessed in my 50 years; she will hold out until school, or Meme and Pop’s house, or anywhere else she can eat to avoid a freshly cooked vegetable.

However, this particular chicken recipe resulted in a sweet glance and the words, “Mama, this is the best chicken I’ve ever eaten.” See what I mean? Peace Chicken. The funniest part is that the first time I made this dish, I was simply trying to clean out the refrigerator; just about everything went into the pot. It never crossed my mind that she would eat it, let alone like it. Continue reading


This year saw our Journal take a more structured tone and we devoted particular days to particular topics. Wednesday’s became Recipe Wednesday and we worked to get ourselves organized and cook. EVERY WEEK.  It was quite a feat of organization since we also run the production office, online store, design, pay bills, and as I mentioned on Monday, also manage this InstagramPinterest, Facebook, and all of the social media. It’s a lot of content. Erin joined the team full-time early in the year, Sara continues to make this stuff worth reading, we planted the garden (again), and we got cooking.

My biscuit recipe made it into the Wall Street Journal thanks to Charlotte Druckman.

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In our family (as many families in my community), today will be celebrated with Hog Jowl, Collards, and Black-eyed Peas (although you might want to try the Three Sisters with some root vegetables). It’s one of the few days of the year my father (who is gratefully still with us and in remission) actually cooks (well, at least the Hog Jowl).

This holy trinity of the South supposedly brings us health, prosperity, and love (along with our famously thick waistlines). Tomorrow is (gratefully) another day and we will take care of our waistlines then…

Happiest New Year,

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Everything from roasted potatoes to strawberries and Prosecco  (sometimes in the same meal) have been flavored by my rosemary plants; I have been known to make flower arrangements (and wreaths) from the fragrant leaves and drink rosemary infused tea at the same time.  And while I use rosemary year-round, this evergreen bush is readily available in the deep of winter, when all the other herbs have died back. Perhaps for this reason, there is something about the flavor of rosemary that just feels like the holidays.

Rosemary flavored vodka has recently become a bit of a staple amongst our friends. It’s easy to make and looks absolutely beautiful when you include a fresh sprig for garnish. It’s been tested and approved in a modified screwdriver: just mix 1 ounce of rosemary vodka with the juice from one orange and serve over ice.  Rosemary vodka is also delicious with a bit of Jack Rudy Cocktail Co. Small Batch Tonic or in your favorite Bloody Mary recipe, but the possibilities are endless. If you have a great idea for a rosemary cocktail, be sure to let us know in the comments section.

Make extra of this easy infusion for your upcoming holiday gifting.

Homemade in three days—can’t beat that.

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Apples, sweet potatoes, autumn squash, turnips, rutabagas, leeks, and greens of every shade—I await the fall garden and all of its bounty each year with as much eagerness as the changing of the leaves and the relief from blistering Alabama summers. Root vegetables are at their prime this time of year and their heartiness is a beautiful accompaniment to braised meats. A meal of slow-cooked beef or pork alongside a simple roast of beets, potatoes, and turnips is my way of welcoming the season. Autumn squash, with its wonderful versatility, may find its way into a bisque or pie. And no fall meal is complete without a serving of greens—collards, mustards, turnips, kale, cabbage, spinach, etc.—served braised, sautéed, or dressed in salad.

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Tasia Malakasis, owner of local fromagerie Belle Chevre, is a dear friend of Alabama Chanin. She, like so many Southern women, has never met a stranger and can spend an afternoon discussing recipes, bourbon, and the weather, with genuine ease and enthusiasm. Her big heart and zeal for life are not easily contained and show through in so many recipes in her new cookbook, Tasia’s Table.

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Alabama Chanin, Florence, Alabama, in collaboration with Drew Robinson, Jim ‘N Nick’s, Birmingham, Alabama


64 yards 100% organic medium-weight cotton jersey, colors white and nude
47 spools Button Craft thread
112 yards embroidery floss
1 pound white glass beads
9 garment patterns
4 stencil designs
1 quart textile paint
24 talented embroidery artisans
27 needles
Embroidery scissors, both large and small
8 sticks hickory

Construct garments by combining the first 10 ingredients, adding love and care. Once constructed with love and care, smoke embroidered dresses with hickory. This is the wood most commonly used for barbecue in our part of Alabama because it is the most plentiful. As luck would have it, burned hickory produces a subtle flavor and color in pork and dresses, respectively.

It made sense to us to use the same wood to smoke our homegrown garments (well, as much sense as it could make to smoke a dress, anyway).  Like a pig, dresses require a low temperature and lots of finesse.

Once you get the fire going, smoke your dresses at a temperature close to 170 degrees for about 18 hours.

Serves the Southern Foodways Alliance Symposium, 2012.


Thank you to the Southern Foodways Alliance for allowing us to share “Vinegar and Barbecue: Tales of Live Cultures and Red Herrings” by Hugh Acheson.

The perfect prelude to a barbeque infused Southern Foodways Alliance Symposium weekend. Oxford, Mississippi awaits.


From Gravy #44:

In the world of barbecue, vinegar is a seasoning, a spritz, a wash—an agile épée to porcine succulence. Vinegar is a necessity when it comes to giving barbecue its glory. Good barbecue has a char, a pit-borne crust, and a rich, tender interior that yearns for that jolt of peppery vinegar.

I will not speak to the Mendoza Line of barbecue sauce, where vinegar yields to sweetness. I will not debate the merits of mustard or tomato, for the sauce I will share with you has both, but neither is dominant. I will not regale you with arguments about how whole is better than finely chopped. Or how ribs pale in comparison to brisket. Or how I think baby back ribs are a red herring, a cut sucked into vacuum bags in the deep recesses of a factory in China to be sold many moons later at a chain restaurant in the suburbs of Hoboken. I will tell you of the sauce I love.

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As John T. Edge explains in his new book, The Truck Food Cookbook, (which we mentioned here) the food truck phenomenon that has swept the country over the past several years has been exciting to watch. Citizens of many American cities are challenging the regulations placed on food truck vendors in an effort to make streetscapes more alluring and encourage the street food movement. (Note: A simple Google search reveals an ongoing–sometimes heated–dispute between cities and food truck owners.)

Food trucks are practical on several fronts when considering the state of our economy – they offer value-driven meals and are relatively inexpensive start-ups.  Plus, our current society has become accustomed to eating on the go, which has also contributed to the movement. Rather than venturing into fine-dining ambitions, young chefs have opted “to dish the culinary equivalent of the Great American Novel from retrofitted taco trucks.” Immigrants are using the mobile meals approach to showcase their native cuisine. Consumers have begun to blend a demand for “quick access food” with a desire for “honest and delicious food,” and street food has answered the call on both fronts.

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As the days grow shorter and the nights become chillier, I find myself craving an evening around the fire. In my family, I am a renowned fire builder. My patience for building fires was nurtured as a child as we built fires at our family camping spot to roast hot dogs and grill hamburgers; at summer camp, a fire pit meant a night of songs and making “best friends forever.” These days, I love building a fire because I know that it means a night of grilling vegetables, toasting friends, great stories – warmth inside and out. I have spent hours with a friend in our community talking about techniques, fireplace designs, and wood.

To safely** make a fire, I recommend gathering the following:

A SAFE PLACE TO START YOUR BURN. Make sure that you are a safe distance from structures, trees and bushes.

A SOURCE OF WATER. Whether a hose, a bucket, or any other vessel, make sure that you have water to put out the fire or to use in case of emergency.

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With the introduction of the Foxfire Book Series on Monday, we began our two week discussion of modern homesteading.

Modern homesteading sounds like an oxymoron; I prefer to think of it as a simple lifestyle adapted to contemporary times. Technology has made leaps and bounds since the 1970s when the Firefox series was written. We do and make things differently now, but often times seek the very same outcome. We have traded in the act (art) of “making” in order to, well, “make” our lives easier. On Monday, we shared an article on Facebook that further discusses (criticizes?) the modern DIY movement.

Apple Butter, like most food, is a good example of this shift from making a product in the traditional way to producing in a more convenient manner. Apple Butter was a staple in my home growing up and my daughter has a new-found love of the spread.

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Thank you to the Wall Street Journal for including me for their “In My Kitchen” series. “Crafty Cook Natalie Chanin”  by Charlotte Druckman (who was a pleasure to work with).

Here you have the full interview (with a small disclaimer) and the recipes for the full menu we cooked that day:

“I GOT MY NICKNAME from biscuits,” said Natalie “Alabama” Chanin, the force behind the handcrafted clothing and housewares company Alabama Chanin, based in Florence, Ala. She earned the moniker a dozen years ago after baking her signature buttery discs for a group of hungry strangers while on vacation in Venezuela. “They called it ‘pan de Alabama’ [Alabama bread] and they’d call me that, too,” she said. That same generous spirit is one of the defining principles of her business practice—she recently introduced a line of table linens at a more accessible price point than the rest of her wares, and she makes it a point to employ local seamstresses and pay them a living wage.

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Last month, I had the incredible honor of hosting a studio visit from three amazing women who have inspired me for years. On a beautiful summer day, Rosanne Cash, Gael Towey, and Maira Kalman arrived in Florence for a two day sewing workshop and adventure. The idea for the trip was hatched on a spring afternoon in New York City and I can hardly believe that it actually happened. With incredibly busy schedules, these three women cleared their calendars, bought their tickets, organized their lives, picked up their daughters, and headed south.  Gael Towey (an incredible woman who has shaped the look of modern life as we know it) wrote about their Alabama adventure for Martha Stewart’s “Up Close and Personal Blog”. I spent an amazing afternoon with Gael talking about all things design and inspiration… that post will be coming in the next weeks.

Magpie + RUTH, my son Zach’s catering company, made a fantastic lunch for us each day. The bread pudding recipe below was a favorite with the entire crew, our Alabama Chanin team, and the photo above a favorite with our Facebook followers.

Bon Appetit,

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The warm months in the south are a little extra-warm for us in the studio, so we are always looking for an excuse to cool down- even when having our afternoon coffee.  What better way to cool down your afternoon coffee than with ice cream?

The first time I had an affogato was at a friend’s home during one of her “fancy” dinner parties. She always had a knack for making me feel special, pulling out her best dishes, even when it was just the two of us.

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During a recent photoshoot, my son Zach took time from his busy day of new fatherhood and running his growing catering company to make us lunch: a simple, delicious pizza piled with tomatoes.

This summer has been hard on my garden. Many of my herbs have simply withered away, and my tomatoes have been scorched in the harsh sun. Between the drought and my absence in travels, I’m surprised (and thankful) I’ve managed to gather a few heirloom tomatoes.

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From Alabama Stitch Book, page 94:

One day when I was feeling a bit down, my friend Jen Rausch called. She told me I was allowed 20 minutes of self-pity, but then I was to get up and get on with my work. A few hours later, Jen arrived at the office with a tray lined with a beautiful tea towel, which held a china bowl, a jar of warm soup, and some homemade whole-wheat crackers. I will always be grateful to Jen for that sweet gesture.

Today, I’m pairing Jen’s Whole-Wheat Crackers with Zach’s Farm Cheese for an afternoon snack at our photo shoot. These recipes are fitting for most any occasion and come with little prep-time.



¾ cup vegetable oil
1 cup water
3 cups quick oats
2 cups whole-wheat flour
1 cup wheat germ
2 tablespoons sugar
½ teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to about 300 to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Blend or beat the liquid ingredients, and pour them over the dry ingredients in a bowl. Mix, then roll out the dough on the bottom of two large baking sheets to the edges. Sprinkle with salt, and cut 2” squares. Bake for about 30-40 minutes or until crisp and golden brown.

Yield: Makes about forty 2”-square crackers.


My son Zach has a beautiful way of adapting traditional recipes in his cooking. For our studio lunches, he makes a salad with handmade, moist farm cheese crumbled on top. We also enjoy it (probably too much) with fresh baked bread and crackers.

Farm cheese got its name because all of its ingredients could be found on any farm. Many “well-off” households during my grandparents’ youth had their own farms, or at the very least, one cow to supply milk for the family.

This very simple recipe can be made with just a few ingredients from your refrigerator: milk, buttermilk, and lemon. My refrigerator is always stocked with organic milk. I have lemon, which I use for hot tea. And buttermilk often lingers after biscuit-making endeavors on the weekends.

The added convenience is farm cheese is fast and easy to make. It requires no special equipment, except cheesecloth.

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Every summer in our part of the world is hot, so hot that you barely want to move. And this summer seems particularly, endlessly hot. By the end of August, we will all be looking forward to the coolness that comes with fall. Until then, Maggie and I are cooling off with afternoon dips in the pool, ice cream treats from our local shops, and recipes from People’s Pops: 55 Recipes for Ice Pops, Shave Ice, and Boozy Pops from Brooklyn’s Coolest Pop Shop – which can be compared to eating lightly sweetened, frozen fruit on a stick.

My friend Nathalie Jordi and her partners at People’s Pops started making their incredibly popular ice pops in Brooklyn, New York, during the summer of 2008. From their website, “We transform local, sustainably grown fruits and herbs into creative, delicious hand-made ice pops and shaved ice…”

Luckily for us, their book, the self titled People’s Pops, was released at the beginning of this summer season. Fitting their commitment to local, sustainable community, the recipes are organized by season, which makes it easy to select ingredients from the farmer’s market or right from the garden.

The book is a delight to the senses, filled with simple recipes using common popsicle ingredients like strawberries or cherries, and not-so-common ingredients like cucumber and violet, or honeydew and ginger. Jennifer May’s beautiful photographs capture the popsicles’ textures and colors, and some of the many people who enjoy them. Reading through, it is hard to decide on which recipe to make first.

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In March, Kristy shared a few of her favorite simple syrup recipes, which are a flavorful way to smooth your favorite cocktails.

Though gin is not my spirit of choice, the ginger and mint made this by far my favorite drink of the summer. As posted this morning, I have a particular love for ginger and I love to put a splash of this ginger syrup into a glass of Prosecco.


Ginger is such a versatile flavor that plays well with almost any spirit. This recipe uses it in a refreshing cocktail that’s great for welcoming summer.

For the ginger syrup:

1 medium piece ginger root, peeled and cut into ½ inch discs
1 cup sugar
¾ cup water

Combine the ingredients in a pot and simmer for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let steep for 10 more minutes. Strain off the ginger with a fine mesh strainer and set aside. Cool the remaining syrup.

For the cocktail:

1 ½ ounces gin (I prefer Hendrick’s for this cocktail.)
¾ ounce ginger syrup
1 large sprig fresh mint, stem included
Juice of 1 lemon
½ ounce spring water

Combine ingredients in a shaker with lots of ice. Shake vigorously and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a twist of lemon.


Since I was pregnant with Maggie 7 years ago, I have loved ginger. Before that pregnancy, I couldn’t stand the smell of it. But it seems that Maggie gifted me with many things, including a love of all things ginger, particularly ginger ale and ginger candy, which was written about here. I am going to try growing some next summer.  Any tips on that?

I had this delicious Gingerade every afternoon at the Penland Coffee Shop. I will be making this at home this week; however, I will be substituting grapefruit juice for the orange juice—simply because I prefer it. And, I am thinking that this would be good with just about any kind of juice:  apple, blueberry, and pineapple.  (I can hear Sara saying that she will have hers with a shot of vodka.) Indeed.

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The food might just be the best thing about Penland… other than the yoga every morning (and afternoon), the view, the beautiful studio, the great people. Let’s just say that the food is one of the things that make Penland great.

Breakfast, lunch, and dinner served on schedule. No preparation or clean up – thanks to the amazing staff, core students, and work study students. This allows you to settle into life and to think about nothing but creativity, development, and growth. It is a beautiful and nurturing place to grow.

I have been eating salads every day but my commitment to my detox wavers when I see something like these Mexican Hot Chocolate Short Bread cookies calling to me.

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I first tasted the fried chicken at Watershed restaurant in Georgia about 10 years ago, while visiting friend and colleague, Angie Mosier. This was also my first meeting with Scott Peacock, the then-head chef of Watershed who led them to a James Beard award in 2007.

Scott’s close friend and culinary mentor, Edna Lewis, is hands down the Mother of Soul food, a legendary figure and icon to the Southern culinary world—dare I say the world at-large. Together they wrote, The Gift of Southern Cooking: Recipes and Revelations from Two Great American Cooks, a staple in my kitchen.

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If you’ve been to a convenience store in Alabama, chances are you’ve encountered a fried pie, stowed in a basket at the counter and wrapped tightly in cellophane or butter-drenched wax paper. Growing up, family road trip pit stops didn’t mean Cracker Jacks or candy bars for me; it was the fried pies I coveted, portable pockets of apples and peaches wrapped in a pie crust shell. A certain gas station in Cullman, Alabama, sold my favorite pies, so stopping there was always one of the most anticipated parts of a trip to the beach.

I was inspired to try my hand at the fried pie after a recent brunch at Dyron’s Lowcountry in Birmingham, where I had an apricot-goat cheese fried pie served alongside brown-butter ice cream. This got me to thinking about the endless possibilities of fillings and thus the fried pie experiment began. Two things I’ve since learned: don’t overstuff the pies, and make a large batch because they go fast. Here are a couple of recipes that I hope would make my Southern grandmother proud:

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Some five years ago, Martha Hall Foose visited Florence, and made the best strawberry cobbler I’ve had to date. Strawberry season came a little early this year. In early May, my patch began producing.  I’m hoping that the plants will continue bearing through the coming weeks so my son, Zach, can make his classic strawberry cobbler for our 4th of July celebration.

We originally shared his recipe in our ‘Celebrate America’ catalog.

Looking forward to the upcoming holiday…

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I have collected quite the assortment of cookie and biscuit cutters over the years, all crammed into a drawer in my kitchen. Each year for Valentine’s Day, my daughter Maggie and I make heart-shaped biscuits. We also have a few animal shapes for pet themed birthday parties…

What more appropriate shape for Independence Day than the star?

The colors and shapes of our table setting have bold, graphic qualities with a simple color-blocking that appeals to my design aesthetic.

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A traditional southern barbecue will almost always have the option of pork, whether in the form of pulled pork sandwiches, slow-cooked ribs, or smoked pork butt. Our July 4th pork dish may be a little more formal than those options, but it is actually very easy to prepare.

Our pork loin was sourced locally and roasted with fresh herbs from my garden. It looks even more delicious in a Large Serving Dish by Heath Ceramics. The dish helps hold the moisture, keeping the pork moist and allowing the flavors to emerge. I love the red color in contrast to our White and Navy Center Stripe Table Cloth.

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Summer is my favorite time of year, although there are some who don’t share my love for the south’s steamy heat. Since the heat can be extreme, one summer staple is a batch of Toddy cold-brewed coffee. It’s so simple to make and has so many variations that it can be the only coffee base you need for the long summer days.

Although the Toddy doesn’t use hot water to devolve all of the coffee’s oils, the fullness of the coffee flavor isn’t affected. In fact, Toddy is actually 67% less acidic than the traditional, hot-brewed version.

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John Bielenberg and his work with PieLab aren’t new to Alabama Chanin, or our blog. We were curious what John has been up to, so we caught up with him between his travels to learn more about Project M, PieLab, and recent goings on in Greensboro, Alabama.

We also got our hands on a delicious recipe from the pop-up café, PieLab, for our Wednesday Recipes.

Their Tart Apple Pie with White Cheddar Crust has a beautiful lattice top that looks like the pies I ate growing up. Combining the tartness of the apples with the savory of the white cheddar makes for a fabulous slice of pie. If only it weren’t a three hour drive down to Greensboro to get a slice. Recipe then Q&A with John to follow:

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For me, the warmer, sunny days of spring mean patio lounging and a cold, crisp beverage. It’s during this season that beer spikes in popularity in my house, becoming my libation of choice. But cracking a cold one doesn’t necessarily mean simply turning up the bottle or emptying its contents into a cold mug. On the contrary, beer cocktails are excellent thirst quenching alternatives to other mixed drinks. They offer a refreshing effervescence and lower alcohol content, perfect for springtime afternoon sipping. Below you will find our take on some classic beer cocktails and styles. Beer purists may wish to read no further.

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I’ve been trying my hand at making the perfect Old-Fashioned Cocktail for our Visiting Artist Series tomorrow evening, and my friend Angie Mosier suggested that I try The Julian, Julian Van Winkle’s version of the Old Fashioned. Created by Sean Brock, the drink highlights the – now famous – bourbon founded by Julian Van Winkle’s grandfather, “Pappy” Van Winkle. Pappy started his family business in the 1870’s and was the creator of their original wheated bourbon recipes that are still used and aged today.

The Old-Fashioned happens to be Faythe Levine’s drink of choice, so I thought – what better time to showcase my new-found knowledge on homemade bitters and use the Van Winkle Special Reserve Bourbon so graciously sent to us by Julian at the Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery in Frankfort, Kentucky.

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If there’s one thing that rivals my love for creating a delicious, soulful meal, it’s mixing a good cocktail. I’ve enjoyed the classic cocktail revival that’s swept through restaurants and bars, as well as the focus on fresh, seasonal cocktail ingredients. But, as much as I like to travel and seek out mad-scientist mixologists and their latest creations, there’s a special pleasure that comes from mixing cocktails in the comfort of my home, sharing them with friends on the back porch or around the kitchen table.

One of my favorite ways to spice up a cocktail is by adding an infused simple syrup. Syrups are quick, easy, and affordable to make and are good for the at-home cocktail party because most of the preparation can be done in advance. I think of flavors that I like to use together when cooking, such as lemon and thyme or blackberry and sage, then simmer these ingredients with sugar-water and incorporate the resulting syrup with a complimentary spirit. Straining off the ingredients you are infusing will allow the syrup to last longer, up to a month in the refrigerator. Below are some simple cocktail recipes using infused syrups:

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Our studio has been somewhat sorghum obsessed lately, so I thought this would be the perfect time to use this southern treat to create a variation on the everyday latte.  I love enjoying a simple coffee on a day-to-day basis, but sometimes it’s nice to spice things up a bit with ingredients that feel near and dear to my southern roots and make me feel warm and cozy inside. While spring has certainly sprung here, I know that a lot of cities just a bit north of us are still covered in snow and need to indulge in something to make the heart feel warm. Continue reading


As a child, I ate molasses these ways: drizzled over my biscuits at my grandmother’s table, in Shoofly Pie, barbeque sauce, and baked in fresh gingerbread. As an adult, I’m beginning to notice plenty of restaurants adding this sugar cane syrup to their dishes in glazes and sauces, salad dressings, and many delicious cocktails. I have eaten molasses-rubbed pork tenderloin, a tuna sashimi with pomegranate molasses, and at Blackberry Farm, I had a to-die-for cocktail sweetened with molasses.

Molasses is making a comeback. Like beer, there are modern versions that might be considered “craft” molasses. Today’s molasses is more than a sweet syrup – it’s also a presence in the re-emergence of handmade, small, traditional, and local goods. Continue reading


For our weekly Studio Lunch, my son Zach prepared a savory Grilled Vegetable + White Cheddar Quiche with cherry tomatoes. In a move that delighted me, he delivered it to the studio and included a heaping salad of fresh greens- Butterhead lettuce, Red Oakleaf, and arugula- all from Jack-o-Lantern Farms, one of our local farmers’ markets. For the salad, he also made strawberry-balsamic vinaigrette, with which I (for certain) over saturated my greens.

Quiche is one of my all-time favorite dishes. It can be eaten for breakfast, brunch, lunch, or dinner depending on your choice of ingredients. Continue reading


Meet Kristy – friend, caterer for our Weekend Workshops @ The Factory, and the newest contributor to this blog. I love the symbiotic relationship between the ferns and the mushrooms – along with Kristy’s recipe. Enjoy!

On a visit to the Florence/Lauderdale County Farmers’ Market last fall, I was taken by the beautiful shiitake mushrooms offered by one of the vendors. ”These are grown locally? Wow!“ was my initial thought, and that was before I tasted them. The mushrooms were not only beautiful, but deliciously earthy and some of the tastiest I’ve ever tried.

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Whenever I meet someone, the first thing that usually comes out of their mouth is, “You’re the girl that made me coffee that time.” And as long as that statement is followed by, “It was the best cup of coffee I’ve ever had,” I am a happy girl. I had 6 years of coffee-slinging under my belt before laying down the steam wand and picking up a sewing needle, so I’ve learned a few things about this “black gold” that so many find themselves indulging in on a daily basis.

People that love coffee tend to be among my favorite people – kindred spirits, of sorts. Benjamin Franklin stated that, “Among the numerous luxuries of the table…coffee may be considered as one of the most valuable. It excites cheerfulness without intoxication; and the pleasing flow of spirits which it occasions…is never followed by sadness, languor or debility.” I’m one of those that not only loves coffee as a hot beverage, but I also love the entire ritual of it all; it’s more than just a drink, it’s an experience: the selection of the perfect coffee bean, the method you utilize to brew, and your additions or tweaks that make your coffee the perfect enhancement to a normal day. I may even enjoy making coffee more than I like drinking it. Continue reading


Since the beginning of time, food has been an essential part of family life and, on a larger scale, the community. As the kitchen is often described as the heart of the house- the recipes and food made within move outward- connecting people to their neighborhood and even their region. A community cookbook exemplifies that connection with a collection of recipes from an array of contributors, all bound together by a sense of place.

Community cookbooks have graced the kitchens of every grandmother and mother in the South for decades. The Southern Foodways Alliance pays the ultimate tribute to said books in its Community Cookbook, and does a mighty fine job of compiling the prized recipes of chefs, artisans, farmers, writers, and cuisine-fiends from our beloved region. The beautiful publication is presented complete with metal binding rings.

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Martha Hall Foose’s A Southerly Course: Recipes and Stories from Close to Home, has landed on our bookshelf in the studio- then made its way into the kitchen (and our hearts and minds). In her book, Martha’s recipes are accompanied by fascinating stories of life and times in the Mississippi Delta. It makes me want to hop on a riverboat and float down the Mississippi to find her kitchen. Continue reading


Biscuits are a popular topic of conversation here at Alabama Chanin. We’ve enjoyed their flaky goodness in friends’ company at Blackberry Farm, pondered the great question of butter or lard (butter trumps here), and—of course—given you our favorite recipe in Alabama Stitch Book. Just when we think we know all there is to know about biscuits, Nathalie Dupree and Cynthia Graubart teach us even more in their glorious cookbook, Southern Biscuits, that pays homage to the floury, doughy concoctions. Continue reading


Get yours online and join the Southern Foodways Alliance that you can have this kind of deliciousness mailed to your door (with a side of grated tomato):


Slow-Roasted Broad Beans by Sheila and Matt Neal of Neal’s Deli, Carrboro, NC
– from pages 8-9 of Gravy #42

WE THINK OF OUR PASTRAMI PLATE AS A MODERN MEAT-AND-TWO, built around our house-smoked pastrami and a couple of side dishes from the deli case. Broad beans, also known as Roma beans, are one of our favorite sides at the deli. We serve this dish every year when they are plentiful. (We cook most of our sides with vegetables procured from nearby farmers.) They make a great plate with our pastrami and creamy coleslaw. This is a great entertainment dish: It’s economical, it feeds a crowd without too much work for the cook, and it tastes better if made a day ahead.


2 5 lbs. broad beans (also called Roma beans), rinsed and stemmed
5 cup peeled and thinly sliced garlic
2 cups diced yellow onion
2 medium-sized tomatoes, grated*
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
5 teaspoon black pepper, coarsely ground
4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon, plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 bay leaves
1 cup water
5 cup extra-virgin olive oil


Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Gently and thoroughly combine all the above ingredients in a roasting pan. Place parchment paper directly onto the beans. Cover the pan with a tight-fitting lid or foil. Cook until the beans are tender, stirring well every 15 minutes for about an hour and 15 minutes. Keeps well for 3 days.

* This is a great trick we try and share with everyone. The easiest way to “peel” tomatoes is to grate them. Cut the tomato in half, and with your fingers remove as many seeds as you can. Place the cut side of the tomato down on the coarse holes of a box grater. Run the tomato back and forth until all the flesh is grated and you are left with the skin. Discard the skin.



A month ago I was totally intimidated and scared of bitters, what they were, and how to use them. A recent encounter changed that.

It all began with a cocktail drink at Patois in New Orleans.  The beautiful drink menu started off with a lovely champagne cocktail that was something like this: Champagne, Cointreau, Orange Bitters and a twist of orange.  Sounds simple right?

I turn to Nathalie and Brett and ask, “What exactly IS Orange Bitters?” I am not the biggest fan of orange-infused anything and I wanted to be SURE to make the best of the most delicious cocktail that evening. Drew explained that bitters are essentially any fruit or spice marinated in 100% Pure Grain Alcohol. Nathalie added, “You can make it yourself.”

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In the spirit of “The Best Of” week as we move towards New Year’s Eve, I had to recap some of the best meals of my year – and they were plenty (despite my detox).

2011 started with a trip to Blackberry Farm’s Taste of the South with an amazing array of chefs and artisans.  The weekend is somewhat of a blur – perhaps because of all the wine tasting with Angie Mosier, and Charles and Kristie Abney.  I remember a biodynamic wine that was a glowing, beautiful orange color. (Charles and Kristie – if you are reading, can you remind me of the name of this wine? I would love to share it with others!)

Pardis Stitt will not let you leave her house, restaurant, or presence without a “to-go” box. And I know this may come as a surprise, but one of the best meal moments of my year was eating freshly cooked homemade chips and charred onion dip from Bottega in my car, on my way home to North Alabama. The recipe for this deliciousness can be found on page 23 of Bottega Favorita: A Southern Chef’s Love Affair with Italian Food. I have not been able to replicate the perfection of that afternoon in my own kitchen – must have been the “Pardis Love” that made the difference.

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I have been taste testing tonight for our Holiday Market and cocktail party this Thursday evening. Come by The Factory to visit with great artists and musicians and, of course, to try my Alabama Royale:

Fill glass with Belstar Prosecco
Add two wedges of organic lemon
Drizzle with a teaspoon of Elderberry Syrup

Sip + enjoy (responsibly).

Thank you to Brian Herr with International Wines in Birmingham for the lovely Belstar Prosecco!


We have so very much to be thankful for this year – and decade.  It has been a time filled with friends, family, color, design, light, laughter, growth, and, of course, good food.

May your celebrations this year be filled with laughter, light, love, and Pumpkin Cheesecake!

xo from Natalie and all of us @ Alabama Chanin

To make pumpkin puree:

Cut in half one sugar pumpkin and scoop out the seeds. Place the pumpkin half-side down on a roasting pan and fill with ¼ inch of water. Bake at 350 degrees for an hour, or until soft. Scoop out the meat and puree until smooth.

I have also used organic canned pumpkin with good results.

For the crust:

1 c. graham cracker crumbs (I have also used crushed shortbread cookies)
1/4 c. chopped pecans
1/4 c. brown sugar
4 T. unsalted butter, softened

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, with rack in center. Assemble a 9-inch nonstick springform pan, with the raised side of the bottom part facing up.

In a medium bowl, mix cracker crumbs, pecans, sugar, and butter until moistened; press firmly into bottom of springform pan. Bake until golden around edges, 10 to 12 minutes.

For the Filling:

4 (8 oz.) packages of cream cheese, very soft
1 1/4 c. sugar
3 T. all-purpose flour
1 1/2 c. pumpkin puree
1 t. ground cinnamon
1/2 t. ground ginger
1/4 t. freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 t. ground allspice
1 T. bourbon
1 T. vanilla extract
1/2 t. salt
4 large eggs, room temperature

Make the filling: With an electric mixer, beat cream cheese and sugar on low speed until smooth; mix in flour (do not overmix). Add pumpkin puree, spices, bourbon, vanilla, and salt; mix just until smooth. Add eggs one at a time, mixing until each is incorporated before adding the next.

Place springform pan on a rimmed baking sheet. Pour filling into springform, and gently smooth top. Transfer to oven; reduce oven heat to 300 degrees. Bake 45 minutes. Turn off oven; let cheesecake stay in oven 2 hours more (without opening).

Remove from oven; cool completely. Cover and refrigerate until firm, at least 4 hours.

Gently lay our Climbing Daisy Stencil over the top of the cooled cake and dust with cinnamon.



Made (and Grown) in the USA:

Jack Rudy Cocktail Co. Small Batch Tonic
Tito’s Handmade Vodka

Lemon Verbena – from my garden (and thanks to  Angie Mosier)

My friend John T. Edge – the man who understands everything culinary and loves “liquor and its accompaniments” – wrote yesterday of Jack Rudy Cocktail Co. Small Batch Tonic: “Just told Blair I want some for Christmas…”

Combine with Tito’s Handmade and drink responsibly…

Also in the picture at top:

Limited Edition Commune DesignHEATH Ceramics Bowl and Clemson Spineless dried okra – from my garden.



Autumn is definitely in the air – even here in Alabama. With autumn, comes a selection of spicier, richer deserts for all the upcoming festivals and celebrations. I adore fresh ginger: the color, the smell, to drink ginger tea and to eat ginger candy.  Our local Ginger Ale – Buffalo Rock – is beautifully hot (very hot), spicy, and hands-down my favorite Ginger Ale.

Get your ginger fix with this great new recipe – the latest in our stenciling series combining cooking with our Bloomers Stencil from Alabama Stitch Book:


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I arrived back from Berlin to find that tomatoes are still dropping off the vines in my backyard.  I just can’t seem to keep up with them this year.  In a situation like this, the best thing to do is to make Pico de Gallo.  A great dish for the heat of summer, it’s also known as Salsa Fresca, a name that can cool you off just by saying it. If you have a small vegetable garden there’s a good chance that you can get most of the ingredients right outside your back door.

Assembling the ingredients reminds you that the garden knows what flavors do well together.  Or, as my friend Angie reminds me, “What grows together, goes together.”

Even the colors are beautiful together. What better way to prepare for my trip to Texas?

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I thought a lot about what I would drink once my cleanse was over, and I could have alcohol in my life again. I’m a lover of white wine, but just before my cleanse started I was introduced to the world of vermouth cocktails by a talented barkeep at Blackberry Farm. In July, he served me up a simple drink so light and summery that I can’t stop thinking about it.

I’ve always kind of thought of vermouth as that terrible stuff in some grandmother’s liquor cabinet that no one ever touched. But it turns out there are lots of delicious vermouths that, when mixed with fresh fruit juice and soda, compose a cocktail more refreshing (and sometimes lower in alcohol) than the lightest white wine. Perfect for cooling off in the evenings.

Because I’m new to these, I got a primer from a friend of mine in the booze business. Here’s what I learned:  Vermouth and many other “aperitivi” almost always come from France or Italy. They are usually fortified wines infused with herbs, roots and barks. They can be sweet or savory; every house has a different style. And because they are so flavorful on their own, you usually only need very simple mixers to create a complex tasting cocktail. Oh, and one more tip: for best results, store in the refrigerator and drink them within a month or so. They are not that much stronger than wine, so they will spoil.

Here are some recipes I’ve been playing with. Don’t be too literal with them. Just trust your gut and blend to taste.

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Labor Day in my family means delicious home-cooked food.  And while I won’t be indulging to excess this year, I still look forward to family get-togethers and the cooking involved.  While browsing my cookbook collection in preparation for our family meal, it occurred to me that covered pies are really just applique with dough. Fascinated by that concept, I began to imagine all of the things you could do with stencils in the kitchen. With this recipe for Reverse Appliqué Bloomers Cherry Pie, I start exploring ways to combine Alabama Chanin stencils with good home cooking – imagine the possibilities.

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Last weekend, I finally got a chance to read my Gravy: Special Louisiana Edition, the Spring 2011 Issue of the Southern Foodways Alliance’s “Food Letter” to its members. (Better late than never!)

On page 6 of the downloadable PDF, you will find a story about – and a recipe by – Susan Spicer of New Orleans. Titled “Eggplant, Oyster, and Tasso Gratin: A New Sort of Trinity,” the introduction to the recipe refers to the “trinity of Louisiana cookery: onions, celery and bell pepper.” Susan, a “self-described eggplant freak,” created her own trinity with eggplant, oysters and Tasso – recipe included. (You will also find this recipe and text on pages 35-36 of the Southern Foodways Alliance Community Cookbook.)

While I was reading about Susan and her trinity, I kept thinking of the Indian legend of The Three Sisters. If you aren’t familiar with this story, it is really just a beautiful explanation of companion planting told in story form. The tale explains that corn is planted on a mound and provides the stalk for the beans to climb. In turn, the bean vines embrace the corn stalk and provide stability. The squash planted on the mound shades it from direct sunlight and prevents moisture from evaporating. Native Americans encourage eating the three “sisters” together, since together they offer the elements to sustain life: the corn delivers carbohydrates, the beans provide protein, and the squash contains essential vitamins.

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When our good friend Kristy brought this amazing dish to our last weekend workshop, I instantly knew it would become a summer staple in my kitchen. The sweetness of the watermelon  balances perfectly with the acidity of the tomatoes, and the hint of mint makes it extra refreshing on hot day.

Everyone was asking for the recipe. Not very much to it:

Cut-up watermelon, remove seeds (I used about a quarter of a watermelon)
Diced tomato, seeds removed (I used two medium tomatoes)
Spinach or other green
Feta (as much as you’d like)
Mint (4 sprigs, stems removed and leaves chopped)
A drizzle of olive oil

Let everything reach room temperature (to bring out the flavors) except for the watermelon and add the chilled watermelon at the end just before serving.

(And leave out the feta cheese if you are – like me – in a “cleansing” phase – still delicious. Day 9 and going strong!)


This recipe was the lucky culmination of a recent visit to the Lodge Factory Store in Scottsboro, Alabama, the abundance of cherry tomatoes in my garden, and leftover biscuits from this morning’s breakfast. It features the biscuit recipe from page 80 of the Alabama Stitch Book and is a riff on the Put-Up Tomato Pie on page 89 of Alabama Studio Style.

Maggie woke up clambering for biscuits this morning and I was one cup short of the white flour that she loves best.  So, I substituted one cup of wheat flour on the board and used that for rolling.  It made a light but hearty biscuit that was the start to a great day; we finished our evening with this hearty dish that was a hit with my family (i.e. no leftovers).

Add some Benton’s Bacon for meat lovers.

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This is what I want for the holidays: the largest cast iron skillet that can be had for oven-roasting vegetables.

I am no recent convert to the joys of cast iron cooking as the pans pictured above have traveled the world with me for 30+ years. However, I was reminded of the detriments of aluminum while reading Clean last week and want an alternative to parchment paper and the large “roasting” pans in my kitchen cabinets.

In terms of sustainability, reasonably priced cast iron lasts forever and, with a bit of care, provides a stick-free surface for life. Use kosher salt and water to clean and your “seasoned” pan will thank you.

When I was pregnant with Zach, my doctor was shocked that my iron levels kept getting better and better as I had a tendency towards anemia… of course the answer was cast iron cooking.

I am planning a family outing to the Lodge Factory in South Pittsburg, Tennessee and have been dreaming of designing my own pans.  Imagine “Alabama Chanin for Lodge”… mmmm.

Any great recipes for cast iron that I need to try over the holidays? Please comment! Continue reading


Thank you to everyone who came to our studio in Florence last weekend to participate in the Weekend Workshop.  What a great group… the stories, fellowship, sewing, and laughter were perfect.

A special thanks to Amy for sharing the sewing of her beautiful wedding dress.  What a special way to start a lifetime of beauty and commitment… and to Sarah – who made the trip from New York.  More about Sarah later this week.

Saturday’s meatloaf was amazing and everyone was clamoring for the recipe which, thanks to Kristy, I have posted below.

We have just posted our Weekend Workshop dates for 2011. Fill your holiday stocking, plan your trip and join us in the studio:

March 4 – 6

June 24 – 26

November 4 – 6

Look for our Berkeley workshop at the Edible Schoolyard soon and congrats to Deborah Kennedy for being the lucky winner of my favorite Walking Cape.

Check back soon for other special offers, visit us this Friday, November 12th from 12 -5 and Saturday the 13th from 10 – 5 for our annual Holiday Open House & Sample Sale.

We have extended hours this year and will also be open Friday November 19th from 12 – 5.  Get there early as everything goes quickly.

And now, Kristy’s Individual Meat Loaves

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According to friends, I might be the only person in North Alabama still harvesting tomatoes.  I was angry at myself for not getting them in the ground earlier this year; however, it seems that my busy life made the perfect storm for a great harvest.  One of Zach’s friends gave me a load of heirloom plants to try and I have to say that there were some great selections in the mix:  purple, yellow, and plums to name a few.  However, the “Green Grapes” have become coveted around my house.  I have saved some seeds for next year and will certainly (hopefully) have more than one plant.

Try out this great lunch:  Six Week Slaw (recipe below) with shaved Parmesan and halved green grapes.

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In my quest to reduce the amount of plastic that we consume as a family, I have finally succeeded in making my own toothpaste. After collecting the simple recipes for a couple of months, I played with the ingredients to make a paste that is to my liking.

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I have been remiss in posting this last week. In all honesty, this heat has made me a little slow.

The interview with Roman (see post below) is coming; please be patient with me.

To this extreme heat, add the fact that my (baby) Maggie starts school tomorrow. It seems hard to believe that time passes so quickly – even when you savor every moment, it flies. Seems like just yesterday…

Well, my mind has been elsewhere this week.

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Thank you to everyone who braved the weather and joined us for our Open House, Sample Sale and Earth Day Celebration over the weekend. (And to Butch and Robert Rausch for playing along…) It was lovely to open our studio and the event was so successful that we decided to go ahead and plan for next year… Mark your calendar & plan your trip:

My son Zach cooked for us at our Open House over the weekend. I asked him to write up his recipe for Pimento Cheese since we had so many folks rave about his special blend. I have always prided myself as a good cook but I believe that Zach has surpassed me.

Lovely when your children do you one-up…

Zach’s Pimento Cheese

3 cups shredded Hoop or Sharp Cheddar Cheese (about one large block)
9-10 squirts of Tabasco (Or as you see fit)
1/4 cup Roasted Red Peppers diced
2 tablespoon Prepared Horseradish
1 1/2 tablespoon Lemon or Lime juice
1/2 cup Aioli or Mayo made with olive oil
Fresh Herbs fine chop (Oregano, Thyme, Rosemary, Parsley)
Salt n Pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients and stir vigorously.  If too spicy add another tablespoon of Aioli.  If not spicy enough, add more Tabasco.  You may want to find some of the different styles of Tabasco such as Chipotle or my favorite, the Roasted Garlic style.  Enjoy!!

If you have another great Pimento Cheese recipe, please share it with us in the comments below!


Maggie has her Valentine’s Party this morning at school and she started the day jumping up and down saying, “I am so excited. I am so excited. I am so excited.” Her enthusiasm for this holiday has been amazing to see crescendo as the week comes to a close. This (almost) four year old girl has been sitting for a week now patiently writing her name on each card and envelope. Then, she meticulously packs cards, candy and treats inside the envelopes – custom-stylized for a special friend. Amazing.

The gist of this is that we are going to celebrate Maggie’s new favorite holiday by making her (my) favorite sugar cookies over the weekend and I have to get ready today.  Notice how the hearts (cookies) in the drawing above are larger than anything else in her world – including house, pets, and parents! Got to love a girl who loves to cook…

The base of our recipe comes from Kim’s Cookbook For Young People that was given to me by my Grandmother Smith on my 13th Birthday.

For whatever reason, this recipe has never been surpassed – well, with a few modifications:


1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar (we use raw sugar)
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
½ teaspoon homemade baking powder (see below)
¼ teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Beat butter and raw sugar on medium speed until they are creamy – about 3 minutes. (That mixer would make a great Valentine’s Gift for a deserving chef if you still don’t have an idea and they don’t already have one.)

Add 1 egg and 1 teaspoon vanilla to butter and raw sugar and blend on medium.

Sift together flour, baking powder and salt in a separate bowl and add in quarters to dough. Blend on low until just smooth – do not over beat.
Chill your dough for 1 hour – trying not to taste.

Roll to about 1/4” thick on a lightly floured board. Cut with floured heart cookie cutters. Place on parchment paper lined pan and bake for 8 -10 minutes. The trick is not to overcook. Test often to make sure that the cookies are “done.”

Remove from pans and cool on wire racks.

Decorate with Buttercream Frosting.

A Note on Homemade Baking Powder
The Gift of Southern Cooking by Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock (In my top ten list of cookbooks and also a great Valentine’s Day gift):

Distressed by the chemical additives and aftertaste of commercial “double-acting” powders, Miss Lewis years ago started making her own baking powder – a traditional mixture of cream of tartar and baking soda. When I first used her formula (from her books, before we met), I couldn’t really taste any difference. Soon, though, I realized that muffins and quick breads made with aluminum-sulfate-based powders left a metallic “tingle” on my tongue. Today, I make up a batch of this powder every week for use at the restaurant and bring a jar home for Miss Lewis. We recommend it for all the recipes here. If necessary, you can substitute commercial baking powder in equal amounts.

Sift 1/4 cup cream of tartar with 2 tablespoons baking soda together 3 times, and transfer to a clean, tight-sealing jar. Store at room temperature, away from sunlight, for up to 6 weeks.

Happy Valentine’s Week(end),
From all of us @ Alabama Chanin


A blanket of snow gave a surprise visit in Alabama today and, in typical Southern fashion, we celebrated by closing the city and cooking.  I made a pot of my famous secret-recipe chili – one of my favorite dishes.

So… here you have my secret chili recipe.The secret is really in the homemade chili powder:

Homemade Chili Powder

I make a supply of this by doubling or tripling the recipe then storing in an air-tight jar.
3 teaspoons paprika
1 tablespoon cumin (I love cumin so always add an extra shake or two)
3 teaspoons cayenne (best picked and dried from the garden and ground just before using)
3 teaspoons dried oregano
Optional:  1 tablespoon garlic powder – I prefer to use fresh cloves and eliminate the garlic powder.  I add the fresh cloves during cooking (see below).
I always find the best way to test a chili powder is to just smell it. If it smells like chili you would like to eat then it is perfect.

Natalie’s Chili

1 lb. ground beef (preferably locally raised and grass-fed)
Worcestershire sauce in desired amount
3 cloves garlic, pressed
Olive oil, a turn around the pan
1 onion – chopped (I prefer the chop a bit on the larger size for a hearty chili)
Homemade chili powder – as much as you can take or about 6 tablespoons
6 cups stewed tomatoes (from your garden if possible)
Salt and black pepper to taste

Generously douse your ground beef with Worcestershire sauce before you start your cooking and set aside.

Press 3 cloves of garlic and set aside separately (garlic reaches its full potential and is ready to use after sitting for approximately 10 minutes!).

Chop your onion. In a large pot, coat bottom of pan with olive oil and saute chopped onion over low heat until it just begins to caramelize.  Raise heat to medium, add meat and excess Worcestershire sauce and cook until almost brown.

Add pressed garlic and chili powder, stirring and turning constantly for a few minutes.  Turn heat to high only to raise the temperature and quickly add stewed tomatoes – a quick steam to release all the flavors.

Turn heat immediately back to low and simmer for as long as you can stand.  I have boiled chili up to five hours.  Add salt and black pepper to taste. Continue to simmer and add additional water or beer as necessary to keep chili from getting too thick and sticking to the bottom of the pan.
If you have time, cool and let chili sit in the refrigerator overnight. If you don’t have time, just go ahead and add the beans, following the instructions below and eat.

We sometimes cannot wait until the next day and have to have this for supper before adding the beans… At my house, this stage is called 1/2 Chili. Serve 1/2 Chili with hoop cheese, sour cream, hot sauce and nacho chips – our family favorite.

If you are using dried beans, wash and soak your beans overnight in salt water.
Cook dried kidney beans in 6 cups water and keep adding water (or beer) as needed until beans are soft.

Alternately, if you are using canned beans, simply add beans to warmed chili and stir constantly over low heat for about 30 minutes. Cooked beans & chili will stick to the bottom and burn if not watched, loved and stirred constantly.

If this happens, don’t tell anyone and skim the unstuck chili from the top – being careful not to scrape the bottom – and serve with hoop cheese, sour cream, hot sauce, and cornbread.


Thanks go out to everyone @ Southern Living for the lovely piece in their February issue. We have gotten lots of emails and calls about the article. There have also been several requests for the play dough recipe that Maggie and I were making that afternoon when Southern Living visited…

One of the simplest things to make in your own kitchen:

Play Dough

1 cup flour
1 cup warm water
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon oil
1/4 cup salt
Food coloring

Mix all ingredients, adding food coloring last. Stir over medium heat until smooth. Remove from pan and knead on a floured board until cool and soft. Keep in an airtight container. Play often.

*Thanks to Robbie Caponetto for the lovely pictures and note that Maggie is still wearing her apron – in fact, it might be her favorite plaything.


Okay – before I start – I have to say – JOIN THE SOUTHERN FOODWAYS ALLIANCE… good?

I made it through the snow and ice in Arctic temperatures to Walland, Tennessee. My trip to Blackberry Farm might be one of the most extraordinary trips I have ever taken – anywhere. I know that is saying a lot BUT the warm, gracious hospitality that you experience from the time you drive in the gate is exquisite. Add to Blackberry the wit, education and pure joy of the Southern Foodways Alliance and you have – hands down – one of the best events in the world.

I could fill this entire page but have to just highlight a few morsels of the weekend:

Blackberry Farm – I had the luxury of sitting next to Sam and Mary Celeste Beall on Thursday night and was struck by their deep knowledge of this farm and understanding of the ultimate Farm-to-Table experience.

The Blackberry Farm Cookbook – on the inside flap – says it best: “In the foothills, you don’t eat to eat, you eat to talk, to remember, and to imagine what you will eat tomorrow.” The book is lush with photographs of the estate, the kitchens, the gardens and luscious Farm-to-Table recipes.

While talking about the upcoming weekend, Sam and I spoke about the biscuit making classes (see below) and he asked me, “Butter or Lard?” This was just about the best question I have ever been asked over a five-course dinner – with wine pairings. You just have to love a man who understands the true essence of good bread. I laughed and replied, “Butter.”

Friday morning, the Blackberry Farm Chef Team of Josh Feathers, Adam Cooke, and Joseph Lenn offered a Cast Iron Skillet demonstration – which I unfortunately missed – but came home with the following recipe by Chef Josh Feathers which I am going to make and then bake in my cast-iron:

Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes **Courtesy of Taste of the South notepad so generously supplied for all our cooking and tasting notes!

3 pounds red bliss potatoes 6 ounces butter 10 ounces buttermilk half & half – as needed Kosher salt – to taste 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Simmer potatoes until tender. Strain and dry in the 300-degree oven for 15 minutes.

Run potatoes through a food mill with a medium die to mash. Stir in remaining, heated ingredients. Taste for seasoning.

Note: Those of you who are new to cast iron, NEVER wash your pan with soapy water. Clean your skillet first with a handful of kosher salt then rinse in warm to hot water and dry thoroughly. I learned this from Angie Mosier while working on Alabama Studio Style. Continue reading


In 1999, at the tail end of the last decade, I chose to leave my life in Vienna, Austria, to spend what I deemed a “sabbatical” on an island off the northern coast of Venezuela called Los Roques. How I got there is a story for another day. What had drawn me there was a woman – Nelly – and “El Canto de la Ballena.” Little did I know that my entire life was about to change.

I credit the beginnings of the work I have done the last ten years with a few months spent on that island. It was a time when hurricanes and storms wreaked havoc and destruction to the coast of Venezuela. I was on this tiny island – due north – as the weather passed through for weeks on end.

I wrote this story in February of 2000 when I had landed in cold New York but still had the stories of Los Roques fresh on my mind… I hope that my translation of Nelly’s words from the original Spanish do her justice.

Fish Soup

The point of the whole thing is food,” she said. “Good food. Real good food. A lot of people have forgotten,” she continued. “Three meals a day, sit down, take your time and eat warm food that is prepared with good ingredients and love. That’s the key,” she stresses, “love. It’s the way it’s washed, it’s the way it’s cut, it is the way one touches and it is the way one thinks as one touches. That,” she said, “is food and food is love.”
–Nelly Camargo, December 1999, Los Roques

Nelly made fish soup that day. I remember that is was one of those first days when the waves began to crash onto the porch. I don’t remember exactly when it happened, but I know that by that day, the beach was already gone, taken by the hurricane. And, I definitely remember that it seemed on that day like the waves were coming back for the porch. Soon after this day, we made sandbags because shortly after, the house next door fell into the sea.

The soup took hours. As the weather had been acting up again, everyone had the feeling of being wet and cold. Saying nothing, Nelly just went into the kitchen and started to work. In went the fish, the heads, the bones and just about everything else that could be found in the kitchen and on the island.

I guess that everyone who passed Nelly’s house that day could smell what was going on. So the soup cooked and the word spread, “Nelly is up to something.” And before I knew it, we were five people in the kitchen. Everyone was washing and cutting and chopping and rolling and laughing and talking. I know that I had never seen anything like it before that day. Music blared from the stereo and some were even dancing in the tiny, warm space.

In Nelly’s kitchen there is a window which looks down the hall and out to the sea. When you stand there and see the wooden spoons and the open window and the green-green sea in the background, you cannot help but stand still for a moment and breathe deeply. But that day, no one even looked to the window until about one in the afternoon, when the first faces began to appear.

The islanders were greeted with a big, warm smile and the question, “Are you hungry?” We went on that day to feed what seemed to be the whole island. Many faces and stories and laughter passed through my life that day. Nelly asked everyone, “Have you met Alabama?”

The feast went on into the night and here are a few of the recipes that were made. The fish soup was the best I have ever tasted in my life, but it remains Nelly’s secret. All I can remember is to put in everything you can find (plus coriander – the “spice of life”) and to do it with lots of love and laughter.

Fish in the Pan

Crush 5 cloves of garlic and salt in mortar. Add juice of two limes and a splash of soy sauce. Pour over fish fillets and let stand for awhile. Cook the fish on hot skillet with  the marinade.

Zucchini Carpaccio

Grate zucchini with skins into thin rounds. Lay flat on a big plate. Cover with juice of lime, salt, pepper and a little vinegar. Finish by grating parmesan cheese to cover.


Red Cabbage

Cut cabbage into very thin strips. (The cutting is very important!) Crush garlic and salt in mortar; add roasted sesame seeds and crush a little bit more. Add vinegar, a little sugar, a little sesame oil and more roasted sesame seeds. Pour over cut cabbage and serve.

Nelly’s Arepa

Mix salt (about one-half teaspoon) and warm water (about three cups) in a big bowl with a tablespoon of oil. To this mixture, add ”P.A.N” or Arepa Flour until dough is of a consistency to roll in your hand. Shape into 1/2” thick rounds and fry in hot oil. Cook until brown. When they are finished, you have to “thump” them. If they are really done, they make a kind of hollow sound.

This is just the basic recipe. You may choose to add white cheese, sesame seeds or just about anything you want to add.

Nelly moved El Canto de la Ballena in January of 2000, just after the storms had stopped. The new building is a bit further from the beach and behind the fishing pier.

I left Los Roques a few weeks after the Y2K panic was over and our world continued to spin; however, I don’t think that we would really have noticed any computer meltdown on that island. I have not laid eyes on Nelly since that time and have not spoken to her for much too long. I hope that she remembers me and will be proud when I say that the seeds for my work with the former Project Alabama and now Alabama Chanin were watered in her kitchen.


From Vogue Daily:

Still under the radar, West Coast-based Heath Ceramics is a Vogue editor favorite. Imagine our delight upon discovering that their new color for fall, out today, is this divine shade of red, reminding us of the fall collections (think Prada, Louis Vuitton, and Galliano). “Even though we’re in California, the warmth of red ceramic ware in winter takes the chill off our damp, foggy afternoons,” says coowner Catherine Bailey of the new shade.

Heath is a family affair (Catherine owns the company with her husband, Robin), and when asked what they will be serving in this fabulous casserole (of which only 75 were produced), the couple suggest Maryana Vollstedt’s Brussels Sprouts and Baby Onions with Mustard recipe from The Big Book of Casseroles (Chronicle).

“Our whole family loves brussels sprouts, and the bonus is that they look great in this red dish.” Another suggestion is a Baked Couscous Pudding with Raisins from John Pawson and Annie Bell’s Living and Eating (Clarkson Potter). “The recipe is simple and the texture is a great surprise in a pudding. I find the leftovers can make a great breakfast as well,” says Catherine. It is no wonder they count Alice Waters’s Chez Panisse among their clients (they collaborated on the restaurant’s dinnerware) and, as they happily admit, they have found solace creating simple, beautiful things. What’s next? A collaboration with Alabama Chanin is in the works.

Heath Ceramics large red casserole, $195; heathceramics.com.

—Virginia Tupker

Photo: Liam Goodman

Recipes below…

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While I love a good apron and The Gentle Art of Domesticity, cleaning has never been a particularly sexy task around our house. However, I loved the article below that ran in our local paper on Tuesday of this week.

It makes me happy that living clean is going mainstream.

Maggie loved mixing the ingredients with me in the kitchen last night.

BUT, I still swear by Mrs. Meyers Lemon Verbena for washing our clothes…

*Make your own apron like the one above with the Bloomers Pattern available as a pull-out from our Alabama Stitch Book.

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My little strawberry patch is working miracles this year. It is wonderful for us to be able to go out the back door and pick breakfast. Maggie has appointed herself the official color inspector and tells me which ones are red enough to pick and which ones have to wait until tomorrow. I follow her lead religiously.

For a special treat this weekend, we are making our own version of Strawberry Shortcake with the recipe for my Aunt Mae’s Pound Cake that was originally posted about Georgia Gilmore. There is a reason that they call it Pound Cake.

Here it is again and perfect for fresh strawberries:

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Okay. If you live in the South (and perhaps everywhere else for that matter), summertime is filled with anonymous gifts left on your porch.

Martha Foose writes, “When it is not possible to eat all the squash that comes out of the backyard garden quickly enough, the Kornegays have admitted to leaving anonymous gifts on neighbors’ doorsteps under the cover of darkness. They, too, have been on the receiving end of this generous gesture.”

Well, let me attest to the fact that this has been “one particularly prolific summer” for crooknecked squash.

When I lived in Vienna, I visited a restaurant called “Panigl” just about every (other) night of the week. (Is my name still scrawled under the table at my seat?) Well, I used to love an antipasti dish of slow-roasted vegetables that seemed to melt in your mouth. My dear friend, Agatha Whitechapel, once told me how to make the dish and I have approximated her instructions here:

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After our “Sewing, Cooking and Community” extravaganza in Atlanta, just about everyone asked me about Angie’s Pimento Cheese recipe (pronounced “puhmenaaacheeeez”).

The first time I saw Angie’s recipe, it surprised me to see onion included, but now I firmly believe that this is the trick.

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Did I forget to mention that Maggie is having a holiday with Butch in the woods?


Two handfuls of fresh fingerling potatoes
Two small finger eggplants (one and one-half inch in diameter)
Two red peppers
One whole garlic bulb
One 4” sprig of fresh rosemary
Grated Parmesan cheese
Olive oil
Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Huber “HUGO” – Gurener Veltliner (purchased from my local wine cellar)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Cut fingerling potatoes into approximate one inch cubes (triangles, rectangles, and the occasional octagonal shape permissible as well.)

Remove head and slice eggplant down the middle.

Place potatoes, eggplant and red peppers into a baking dish, add fresh rosemary leaves and drizzle with olive oil. Add salt and pepper and mix with hands to coat evenly.

Slice top from garlic bulb and place into baking dish.

Sip wine.

Bake for 20 minutes, remove red peppers (to be used for pimento cheese tomorrow) and stir potatoes. Continue baking 10 minutes.

Sip wine.

Sprinkle grated Parmesan cheese onto eggplant and continue baking 10 minutes.

Remove from oven and arrange potatoes and eggplant on plate. Squeeze roasted garlic from its paper shell and use as decor (not to mention for dipping eggplant.)

Sip wine and eat.

Nap and enjoy.

(Whitechapel, I enjoyed our conversation today and wish that you were here.)


This is shaping up to be the week for Children and Adults.

While in the doctor’s office, I picked up the May issue of Country Living Magazine to find this lovely piece about buttercream frosting:

This article and a spend-over with friends’ children inspired me to try out the recipe below which I received literally YEARS ago from a friend. I believe that this recipe originally came from Magnolia Bakery in New York City. I used my “Mother’s Day” mixer which made the batter smooth and the clean-up really easy.

The kids said after our cupcake extravaganza was over, “This is just like a party.” To which I replied, “This IS a party.”

While my frosting did not spread to create the lovely formations shown in the Country Living piece, the cupcakes were delicious. Following the “Tips and Tools of the Trade” section of the article, I am buying a pastry bag this week.

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Some days I fantasize that I am prepared to forage from our local woods to sustain my family. The blatant truth is that like most folk, I would most likely not know which plant would kill us or sustain us.

For that reason, I love these Peterson field guides. These two books have helped me start learning how to eat from my own backyard:

A Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants by Virginia Marie Peterson and Roger Tory Peterson

A Field Guide to Medicinal Plants and Herbs by James A. Duke, Steven Foster, and Roger Tory Peterson


Dandelions grow rampant in our part of the south; but, Angie Mosier reminded me that when picking these greens to eat, we should be careful to pick from a yard that has not been treated with chemicals or fertilizers!

This recipe can be used to cook any type of greens, but because of the dandelion’s strong peppery taste, we like to mix it in with spinach or any other mild green.

Dandelion leaves
Spinach, kale or other mild green
Olive oil
1/2 lemon
Sauté garlic in olive oil.

Add greens to your pan, allowing them to wilt. Drizzle with juice from one-half lemon and sesame oil. Sprinkle with roasted sesame seeds.



The other day, I received a voice message from my sweet friend, Lisa. “Blair, I was just at the farmer’s market and saw Lady Peas, and I always think of you when I see Lady Peas, so I left you a bag on your front porch bench.”

When I thanked Lisa, I forgot to ask why she thinks of me whenever she sees Lady Peas. Perhaps it’s because I once wrote a pea-themed love poem for my husband, but more likely it’s because I once created a Lady Pea bruschetta for her birthday party. About a dozen of us, dressed-up with tall cocktails in hand, huddled around the dining table’s full platter. The crisp bread rounds, smeared with gobs of olive oil and puree, were garnished with the remaining peas. The appetizers were tasty, but as soon as we bit into the toasts, the peas flew–like buckshot–all over floor. Everyone got a pass on manners that evening, and we had an extra good time.

Also left on the porch bench (that very day) were some old cookbooks a neighbor found in her mother’s belongings. She left them for my husband, whose work is the study and writing of food culture. Spiral bound, the pages of the old cookbooks present a tightly knit community of women. Each recipe, in the lower right-hand side–like an artist’s signature–is signed with the proud contributor’s name.

Blair’s Lady Pea Bruschetta

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I briefly mentioned Belle Chevre in a post from a few weeks back and feel compelled to talk more about this company today.

I had the opportunity to meet Tasia recently and fell in love with her story, her passion and the Tuscan Chevre that she so kindly left at our studio.

Last night, in a hurry to eat, read books to Maggie and generally manage life with a two-year old, I threw together a dinner from the fridge which was one of the best I have had in awhile. It literally took about 15 minutes and serves 4.


4 handfuls fresh green salad mix from the garden
1 cup cherry tomatoes– our local farm has a greenhouse and already has delicious tomatoes
2 left-over grilled chicken breasts
Tuscan Chevre from Belle Chevre
One-half lemon – juiced
Salt and Pepper

Place jar of Tuscan Chevre in hot tap water to warm. Slice cherry tomatoes in half, lightly salt and set aside. Slice chicken breasts into one-eighth inch strips and set aside. Wash and dry greens.

Fill one-half of a plate with greens and add salted cherry tomatoes. Fan chicken slices on other half of plate. Spoon warmed goat cheese on to top of each slice of chicken centering the cheese on each slice. Remove remainder of goat cheese from jar, leaving oil and place the cheese in bowl to be eaten at the table. Spoon oil & “goodies” from the jar and drizzle over the chicken and cheese slices


Add juice from one-half lemon and pepper to taste to remainder of oil in jar. Close lid and shake. Pour dressing over salad and eat.

Put crackers on the table to enjoy the remainder of your Tuscan Chevre.

*Photograph from Southern Living – April 2008


Georgia Gilmore worked at the National Lunch Company in Montgomery, Alabama, cooking her renowned fried chicken for both white and black patrons. During the Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955, she brought home-cooked meals to mass meetings. This evolved into what became known as,“The Club from Nowhere,” an underground fund-raising effort built on her delicious cakes and pies. Georgia and her fellow bakers would sell fresh baked goods to local Laundromats, beauty parlors and cab stands. Montgomery citizens who supported the boycott could now contribute to the cause anonymously. Georgia always said that the money came “from nowhere.” Take what you have, do what you know to do and make use of it. The cost of change is mitigated by the cost of staying the same.

Georgia Gilmore and The Club From Nowhere

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My mother taught me that it’s important to use the beautiful things in your life every day. She gave me her first set of china with the one direction that I should use it and enjoy it, not store it in a closet. I have taken her advice to heart with all of the things in my home. However, when you use textiles to enrich your everyday life (especially with a two year old), you’ll also need some of the old-wives’-tale wisdom my grandmother shared with me:


Don’t rub it in; dab it off — Blot; don’t rub it in more
A stitch in time saves nine — Get to it as quickly as possible to avoid more work
Out, then in — Start on the outside of a stain and work your way in


Absorb: Use cornstarch or talcum powder to blot stain

Bleach: Use 1 part lemon juice or white vinegar to 1 part water
Dissolve: Use all-purpose household cleaner as solvent for grease
Soak: Use 1/2 cup salt water per quart of soapy water
Wash: Use all-purpose cleaner like dish or liquid laundry detergent

Protein Stains: Soak, Bleach & Wash

Coffee and Tea Stains: Flush with Bleach, Soak & Wash
Tomato and Sauces: Dissolve, Soak & Wash
Oils Stains: Absorb, Dissolve & Wash

My new motivation for everyday cleaning are these great products from Mrs. Myers Clean Day. Aromathrapuetic Household Cleaners – how good is that? I love all the Lemon Verbena products.

Visit their website for their entire selection.


In the south, there is a pecan tree in just about every yard. Every autumn, we pick up pecans and my aunt, Elaine, shells them all winter long. She says that she cannot sit still at night with nothing to do – so, when she is not stitching, she shells and when she is not shelling, she stitches. This last year, she shelled about 300 lbs of pecans. (Of course, she will also tell you that she picks about 100 gallons of blackberries every summer too!) But she did shell an awful lot of pecans and I have to say that she is not stingy at all and shares the hard-to-come-by meat with everyone!

Our friend Precey makes the best pecan tarts you ever put in your mouth, and here is her coveted recipe: Continue reading


Below is my Gram Perkins’ famous chocolate pie recipe that my cousin Joy continues to make. It was printed in 1958 in the “Favorite Recipes of Alabama Vocational Home Economics Teachers” cook book. My mother gave me a copy of this book when I moved into my first apartment. You can find other great community cooking in A Gracious Plenty by John T. Edge and Ellen Rolfes.

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There is nothing I love more than a cup or glass of tea – hot or cold, winter or summer. We grow herbs, pick fruits, leaves, stems and blend them together into all sorts of concoctions. But there is nothing that says summer like a glass of southern sweet tea.


Bring 2 quarts water to a boil
Add 3 Choice Organic Black Tea bags
Steep for 3-5 minutes
Combine in (tempered) glass pitcher steeped tea and 1 cup organic brown sugar

Add 2 sprigs of fresh peppermint when tea is cooled and serve over ice.

** I have broken many a beautiful, vintage tea pitcher with water that is too hot. Be sure to use tempered glass or wait until the water is cooler to pour into your glass container.