Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Counter Culture's Lem Butler claims fifth Southeast Regional Barista title

All photos ©Christy Baugh
Courtesy Counter Culture Coffee
Congratulations to Lem Butler of Durham, who won the Southeast Regional Barista Competition last weekend for the fifth time in his specialty coffee career. He is the head of wholesale customer support at Counter Culture's Durham headquarters and provides barista training for the Carolinas.

Butler, who has a caffeinated online presence as @sexyfoam, conceded at last year's event that he wanted to get back into the game.

"Nothing about this is easy," said Butler, who co-emceed's the event after retiring from competition. "But I've got to say, it's also hard to just stand here and watch. If this comes back to Durham," added then then-new father with a glint in his eye, "I might do it again."

Counter Culture also was represented in the Northeast category, where Sam Lewontin won using the company's coffee. Butler and Lewontin will advance to the US Coffee Championships, which will be held in February at Long Beach, California.


This is Mr. Butler’s incredible fifth regional barista competition win, his most recent coming in the 2013 season. Record keeping in the pre-Sprudge era of barista competition coverage is spotty at the regional level, but after consulting with a few informal advisors, we feel comfortable declaring that this win makes Lemuel Butler the winningest barista in American regional barista competition history. All five of his wins have come in the Southeast region for our partners at Counter Culture Coffee, adding to the company’s trophy case that includes a 2012 United States Barista Championship win by Katie Carguilo.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Sheri Castle curates collection celebrating 50 years of Southern Living reader recipes

Chapel Hill cookbook writer and culinary teacher Sheri Castle will be the guest of Culinary Historians of Piedmont North Carolina (CHOPNC) at 7pm Wednesday at Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill. The event is free and open to the public.

Until last month, Sheri Castle had one cookbook published under her name, the exceptional The New Southern Garden Cookbook. Those in the industry, however, recognize her deft editing, demanding recipe testing and, above all else, ability to share great stories in countless ghostwritten cookbooks – several of which have earned high praise for celebrity clients.

Today, as the author of the Southern Living Community Cookbook (Oxmoor House, $29.95), she is sharing the spotlight with dozens of home cooks – who have been featured in the popular magazine over the past 50 years but, for the most part, have lived outside of the glare of culinary fame. To accomplish this, she examined more than 46,000 published recipes to feature ones that not only reflect the best of Southern cooking, but which also exemplify the era in which they were published and the region they from which they came.

Dates are not included in the book, but one can guess with clues like use of a woman’s formal married name, as in the case of Mrs. Denver W. Anderson of Tennessee, who made fried hand pies with reconstituted dried apples that recalls the old timey applejacks recently featured on A Chef's Life. While technology changes were covered enthusiastically when gadgets were novelties, the book features few recipes that require a microwave or call upon a slow cooker. Likewise, none deploy the once ubiquitous dessert topping Dream Whip. Recipes from male contributors suggest more recent issues.

Delightfully illustrated in the manner of vintage cookbooks, Southern Living Community Cookbook celebrates all that is good and wholesome – and rich and decadent – about Southern home cooking.  It also includes a handful of recipes from well-known chefs, including local legends Bill Smith of Crooks Corner, Sara Foster of Foster’s Market, Amy Tornquist of Watts Grocery and Mildred Council of Mama Dip’s. It also features the most requested recipe in the history of Southern Living: Hummingbird Cake – a festive cream cheese-frosted layer cake with crushed pineapple, chopped pecans and mashed banana made famous by Mrs. L.H. Wiggins of Greensboro.

Sherri Castle
North Carolina is well represented in the collection, including the book’s first recipe, Spiced Pecans from Diane Butts of Boone. “That was pure coincidence,” says Castle. “My job was to pick delicious recipes that are reliable and reasonably easy to make.”

Except for its debut issue in February 1966, Castle says Southern Living has always featured reader recipes. Every recipe had to make it through the demands of Southern Living’s test kitchen before being accepted for publication.

Along with local community cookbooks – including those produced by churches and Junior Leagues as fundraisers – these publications empowered women as experts and wage earners at a time where few had jobs outside of the home.

“Some were what I could call heavy users, who mailed in recipes year after year,” Castle says. “I could tell where they moved over the years. There was one in particular, given the number of Air Force bases, that she moved because of deployments.”

Where ever they went, their Southern cooking traditions went with them. Southern Living’s reader recipes became a sort of touchstone for some who lived far from home. It’s a powerful notion, considering many of these recipes were submitted well before the advent of the internet.

“Mailing a recipe in was the social media of the day,” Castle says. “You couldn’t pin or post, but the intention was the same. They wrote the recipes in long hand and tucked them in an envelope. And they waited to find out if they made the cut.”

While Castle does not have any of her own recipes in the book, she wrote the introductory notes that give everything from deviled eggs and pimento cheese to butternut squash tortilla soup and bourbon slush their distinctive sense of place.

Castle has been gratified by the response of readers, who have found the recipes evocative of childhood or the aromas of a loved one’s kitchen.

“That’s exactly the reaction I hoped for,” she says. “It time travel. I hope everyone finds a recipe in there that provides a happy ‘aha moment’ for readers.”

Sweet Potato Pie with Rosemary Cornmeal Crust
From The Southern Living Community Cookbook: Celebrating Food and Fellowship in the American South. Copyright (c) 2014 by Oxmoor House. No reproductions or reprints allowed without express written consent from Oxmoor House. Recipe from the kitchen of Crystal Detamore-Rodman of Charlottesville, Virginia.

Makes 8 servings.

¾ cup all-purpose flour
                        @ Southern Living photo

½ cup plain white cornmeal
¼ cup powdered sugar
1 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary
¼ tsp. salt
½ cup cold butter, cut into pieces
¼ cup very cold water

1½ lb. small, slender sweet potatoes
3 large eggs
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 cup evaporated milk
3 tbps. butter, melted
2 tsp. finely grated fresh orange zest
1 tbsp. fresh orange juice
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ tsp. ground nutmeg
1½ tsp. vanilla extract
  1. To prepare the crust, whisk together flour, cornmeal, powdered sugar, rosemary and salt in a medium bowl until well blended. Cut butter into flour mixture with a pastry blender until mixture is crumbly, with a few pieces of butter the size of small peas.
  2. Sprinkle cold water, 1 tbsp. at a time, over flour mixture, stirring with a fork until dry ingredients are moistened. Pour onto a work surface. Gather and form into a ball, then flatten into a disk. Wrap well in plastic wrap and will 30 minutes.
  3. Unwrap dough and roll between two sheets of lightly floured plastic wrap into a 12-inch round. Fit into a 9-inch pie plate. Fold edges under and crimp. Chill 30 minutes.
  4. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bake crust at 400 degrees for 20 minutes, shielding edges with aluminum foil to prevent excessive browning. Cool completely on a wire rack (about 1 hour).
  5. To prepare the filling, place sweet potatoes on a baking skeet and bake at 400 degrees for 45 minute or until soft. Let stand 10 minutes. Cut potatoes in half lengthwise; scoop out pulp into a bowl. Mash pulp until smooth. Discard skins.
  6. Whisk together eggs and granulated sugar in a large bowl until well blended. Stir in milk, melted butter, orange zest, orange juice, cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla. Stir in sweet potato pulp. Pour mixture into crust.
  7. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees and bake 20 to 25 minutes more or until center is set. Cool completely on a wire rack.
Note: If you don’t want to prepare a homemade crust, you can add cornmeal and fresh rosemary to a refrigerated crust. Substitute ½ (14.1-oz.) package refrigerated piece crust for cornmeal crust ingredients. Unroll onto lightly floured surface. Sprinkle with 1 tbsp. plain white cornmeal and 2 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary. Lightly roll cornmeal and rosemary into crust. Fit into a 9-inch pie plate according to package directions. Fold edges under; crimp. Proceed as directed, beginning with Step 5.

Monday, November 3, 2014

A most practical obsession: on canning with ‘Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Practical Pantry’

I sometimes feel there should be a special group for people like me – people who go to farmers markets and imagine all those peak season fruits and vegetables framed like lasting, fragrant and edible snapshots in glass jars in the upstairs closet, ready to be opened for off-season satisfaction that less-driven mortals will never know.

Yes, as I stand on my feet for endless hours because I could not resist the bargain box of local strawberries – or perhaps peaches, corn or okra – I imagine that others envy my industrious nature, my ability to convert fleeting flavors into preserves and sauces and pickles that will conjure sunshine on the darkest winter day. I keep count of my filled and empty jars with the sincere enthusiasm of an accountant, knowing whether I’ll have enough jam to give to friends at the holidays and enough sauce to last until tomatoes reappear.

Hi, I’m Jill. I am an obsessive canner.

It is a relief to know there are many others similarly affected by a one-time hobby that has grown such that my husband feels compelled to tell neighbors – who sometimes spy me through the kitchen window making just one more batch when most sensible people are deep in dreamland – that we are adequately stocked in the event of a zombie apocalypse.

My insistence that my penchant is practical, providing us the resources for both flavorful meals and appreciated holiday gifts, is a welcome and recurring theme of Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Practical Pantry: Recipes and Techniques for Year-Round Preserving, the long awaited book by Cathy Barrow (W.W. Norton).

Cathy Barrow (Photo © Chris Hirsheimer)
I have been following Cathy’s eponymous blog for years, having discovered it through an online search for a canning advice, as well as her articles in the New York Times and Washington Post. I have made more of her reliable recipes than I can count and, after years of likes and tweets and direct emails – which include almost as much personal news as canning tips – am proud to call her my most cherished virtual BFF. 
I was thrilled to be invited to be a member of the Practical Pantry Posse, each of whom tested several recipes that made the final cut. (I still marvel at seeing my name next to these culinary luminaries in the book's kind acknowledgments.) I made a handful in the water-bath and pressure-canning chapters which, like others on preserving meat and fish and making cheese, include bonus recipes in which your projects will become a starring ingredient. As I wrote in my feedback forms, I found Cathy's recipes to be practically omniscient, providing expected yields and describing changes in consistency and appearance with reassuring accuracy.

Among my favorites are the Double Strawberry Preserves – which combines juicy fresh berries with intense dried ones; the tweaked final version is even better than the original – Strawberry Mango Jam, and the surprisingly simple Rugelach, in which any jam or preserve may be used. Her Whole Cranberry-Raspberry Sauce (see below) will surely make its debut at Thanksgiving and I plan to take advantage of pear season to make her Caramel Pear Preserves. The latter is a pectin-free version of a 2010 recipe posted to her website, which takes its inspiration from French canning expert Christine Ferber.

Double Strawberry Preserves, a must-make
from 'Mrs. Wheelbarrow's Practical Pantry.'
I also tested her exceptional Homemade Ketchup, which makes great use of other canning projects, including Tomato Puree, Plum Jam or Grape Jelly, Garlic Dill Pickles and Hot Sauce. I was tasked with preparing it with comparable store-bought ingredients, in case users wanted to substitute anything they did not have in their oh-so-practical pantry. With 18 ingredients and four hours of active cooking time, it may strike some as intimidating. But give it a try. You’ll quickly discover why, in our house, we call it Super Ketchup.

The only recipe I tried that did not work was one in which I requested the chance to experiment. After hunting for goat’s milk and finally finding it in a portion larger than what was needed, I decided to see if I could successfully make a double batch of Cajeta, Mexico’s tangy version of cinnamon- and vanilla-infused caramel.  Many canning recipes do not work when doubled, and unfortunately it’s true of Cajeta. After nearly five hours of slow bubbling and occasional stirring, the promising sauce suddenly and irreparably seized up. Spoonfuls before that tragic moment hinted at the lush flavor that should have been; the next day, I sadly scraped the sugary mess into the trash. Lesson learned.

Cathy’s publisher permitted recipes testers to share a recipe in a series of blogs to be posted today, which marks the official release of the book. You’ll find the posts online by searching for the hashtag #PracticalPantry. I am including her Whole Cranberry-Raspberry Sauce below, but if you’d like to peruse all of Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Practical Pantry, enter a comment below by 5pm Friday, Nov. 14. A winner will be chosen at random to receive a copy of the book.

Whole Cranberry-Raspberry Sauce
Reprinted with permission of Cathy Barrow and W.W. Norton from Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Practical Pantry.

Makes: 5 half-pint jars
Active time: 1 hour

Over the years, I've heard many people complain about the horrid canned cranberry sauce they were served as a child. I have no such memories. These same people initially shun my glistening, ruby-red cranberry sauce, but quickly revise their thinking after just one taste. Tangy, sweet, fruity in November, when many fruits are only a memory, this is a welcome addition to any holiday meal.
If you feel the need to serve this as a mold, as though it had slipped from a can, just run a palette knife around the inside of the jar and slide the cylinder into a relish dish.

4 cups (28 oz., 800 g) granulated sugar
4 cups (32 oz., 950 ml) non-chlorinated water
Grated zest of 1 orange
Juice of 1 lemon
4 cups (14 oz., 390 g) cranberries
1 cup (8 oz., 225 g) fresh raspberries
1/2 teaspoon unsalted butter (optional)

  1. Combine the sugar, water, zest and juice in your preserving pot and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. When the mixture is briskly boiling, carefully add the cranberries. The berries will burst when heated and may splatter. Cook until most of the berries have burst and the sauce is thickening, about 12 minutes.
  2. Add the raspberries and bring back to a boil that will not stir down. Boil hard to about 10 more minutes. Test the set using the wrinkle test of the sheeting test. Add the butter, if using, to clarify and clear the sauce.
  3. Ladle into the warm jars, leave 1/2-inch head space. Clean the rims of the jars well with a damp paper towel. Place the lids and rings on the jars and finger-tighten the rings.
  4. Process in a boiling-water bath for 10 minutes.
The sauce is shelf stable for 1 year.

REMINDER: Be sure to submit a comment below by 5pm Friday, Nov. 14, if you would like a chance to receive a free copy of Cathy Barrow's Mrs. Wheelbarrow's Practical Pantry. The winner will be drawn at random and notified by email.