Sausage Gravy!

Good old Southern Sausage Gravy is a favorite breakfast of my husband. It really is also a good supper meal on a cold winter night. It is most assuredly a meal that you eat in moderation!

It is actually very simple to make – here is my tried and true recipe.

Note – this recipe doubles well!

INGREDIENTS – (Serves 4-6)
1 lb. Jimmy Dean pork sausage (mild, hot, sage-flavored or a mixture)
[We like to mix the hot and sage flavors together.]
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup of flour
4 cups of milk (whole or 2% milk, don’t use skim)
1/3 stick of butter

  1. Crumble the sausage and brown over medium heat until no longer pink. Season with salt and pepper at this time. You will be amazed at how lean this Jimmy Dean sausage is – no grease to drain!
  2. Reduce the heat to medium-low and then sprinkle on the 1/4 cup of flour and mix well so that the sausage soaks up the flour. Keep stirring the sausage and flour together for another minute or so.
  3. Now slowly pour in about 3 cups of the milk, stirring constantly.
  4. Continue to cook the gravy, stirring frequently, until it thickens. (This may take a good 5-7 minutes.)
  5. Now go ahead and add the other cup of milk and the butter and stir well. You are done!
  6. Spoon the sausage gravy over warm buttermilk biscuits and serve immediately. It is sooooooooooooooo good!

Happy Sausage Gravy Making
Gran Jan

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Fig Preserves!

I made this batch of fig preserves last week with figs from my very own tree! My husband gave me the tree for Mother’s Day, 2016. They are “Brown Turkey” variety figs. Delicious! It was the first time I had used home-grown figs!

Needed: Fresh figs, sugar, canning equipment, time, and lots of patience.

This recipe works regardless of the amount of figs you are blessed to have. No measuring!

My dad had 8 sisters (7 older and 1 younger ). One of them, my Aunt Jimmie Lou, is the one who taught me how to make these old-fashioned fig preserves. Now normally I am a cook who measures; however, not when making fig preserves. But I promise it’s easy, and you will be able to make them too. There are only two ingredients – figs and sugar!

  • First rinse the figs in cool water, and remove all the stems. Next, I soak the figs in my kitchen sink in cool water for about 30 minutes or so. I then drain them by giving them a final cool rinse in a colander.  
  • Next, I get a large pan and alternate a layer of sugar and a layer of figs. (Begin with a layer of sugar in the bottom of the pan, and end with a sprinkling of sugar on your top layer of figs.)
  • BEFORE you layer the figs/sugar, cut about half of the figs in half. Cut half in half, leave half whole.” How’s that for measuring? This has proven to be the best texture we like for the preserves. We like for some of them to remain whole!
  • No matter what size stock pot or heavy pan you use to soak the figs and sugar, just generously sprinkle a layer of sugar over each layer of figs. I don’t totally cover the figs with sugar, just a nice sprinkling.
  • Now put a lid on the stockpot and place in the refrigerator. The sugar will begin to dissolve and form the syrup you need to “cook down” for the preserves.
  • The next morning, let the figs/sugar come to room temperature before you begin cooking them.
  • Bring them to a gentle boil, and let them boil on a medium heat for a good half hour. Then turn the temperature way down and let the mixture simmer LOW AND SLOW until the figs darken and the syrup thickens. I usually simmer them from 90 minutes to a couple of hours. Stir often so they don’t stick. One good test is to take a spoonful of the syrup and put it on a plate – if it is thick and doesn’t “run,” it’s the right consistency. A nice slow simmer for a couple of hours is good.  If you have a very large amount of figs, you may need to cook them longer – just do the “thickness” test and that is a good indicator.
  • CANNING:  Bring your clean jars to a simmering boil in a large pot. Also put the bands and lids in a separate pot. Keep those HOT by leaving them in a pot of simmering water also.
  • Carefully ladle the HOT fig preserves into the HOT jars, leaving about ¼” of headspace.
  • Put the lids and bands on – don’t screw the tops on too tightly – just finger tight so they can expand.
  • Carefully lower the jars of hot figs back into a pan a hot water, covering the jars by at least an inch of water. Process them, or “water bath” the preserves for a good 10 minute rolling boil.
  • After 10 minutes, carefully remove the hot jars with tongs and let them cool and seal on the kitchen countertop. I love to hear those popping sounds as the jars seal. One of life’s simple joys.

Get ready to make some homemade buttermilk biscuits. Generously butter them to enjoy with these delicious fig preserves. A Southern delicacy for sure. My biscuit recipe is also here on the blog!

Happy Preserve-Making & Canning ~ Gran Jan

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Caramel Cake – Icing Update!

CARAMEL CAKE!

Oh the JOY of an old-fashioned Caramel Cake! I’ve made a lot of caramel cakes since my original post back in 2008. I don’t have any updates to the cake, but a couple to the icing, so that’s why I’m posting today. I basically wanted to bring this recipe “forward” on the blog, so here it is! This is a recipe I found in a “Georgia Farmer’s Market Bulletin” paper over 40 years ago. This icing takes the cake!

CAKE  [Makes 3 layers]
· 2 sticks of butter (room temperature)
· 3 cups of sugar 
· 5 eggs (room temperature)
· 2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
· 1 tsp salt 
· ¼ tsp baking soda 
· 1 c sour cream 
· 1 T. vanilla extract
1. Preheat oven to 350° & grease/flour 3 nine-inch round cake pans.
2. Cream butter & sugar until fluffy, 2-3 minutes.
3. Add eggs one at a time, then blend after each egg is added. 
4. Sift flour, then whisk in salt and baking soda.
5. Alternately add flour mixture and sour cream to the batter, ending with flour. Mix after each addition.
6. Stir in the vanilla extract.
7. Pour the batter into prepared pans and bake 25-28 minutes. The batter is thick.  Put an even amount of batter into each cake pan. Don’t overbake!

Now let the cake layers cool in pans for a few minutes; then turn out onto cake racks to cool completely. Do not attempt to ice until they are completely cool. Completely cool. Completely all the way cool!

CARAMEL ICING
2 sticks of butter (I use salted butter)
2 cups packed dark brown sugar 
1 cup of evaporated milk (may use heavy cream)
1 tsp. vanilla flavoring
4 cups powdered sugar

1. In large heavy saucepan (I like to use a non-stick pan), melt the 2 sticks of butter over medium heat.
2. Add the 2 cups of dark brown sugar and bring to a boil. Then reduce heat and simmer the butter and sugar together for 2 minutes longer, stirring constantly.
3. Add 1 cup of evaporated milk to your butter/sugar mixture, Now bring to a slight boil again, constantly stirring. After blended, remove from heat.
4. After removing pan from heat, stir in the vanilla.
5. Pour hot icing into a large mixing bowl and set aside just 2-3 minutes to cool down a bit.
6. Now add the 4 cups of powdered sugar.
7. Using a handheld electric mixer, beat in the powdered sugar until the icing is smooth and fluffy.

Timing is everything! The caramel icing will get stiffer as it cools, so ice your cake when the icing texture is just right, nice and creamy. If the icing gets too thick, splash in a bit more cream and stir again. If your icing is too thin, add a bit more powdered sugar. You’ll get the feel for the perfect texture and get the timing down with practice. I speak from experience.

Update: Put a dab of icing on the cake platter of your choice and put the first layer there to help secure it while you add the frosting. Add a good dollop of the caramel icing and spread around. Do the same for the second and third layers. I would approximate I use about 1/2 cup of icing for each layer. This recipe makes a lot of icing and I use every bit.

This is a good tip: I take a tall glass of warm water and dip my icing spatula in to smooth the icing around the sides of the cake. You can do this several times. Then I take a wet paper towel and clean up any drips of icing that may have fallen on the cake platter. Presentation is important, but once someone eats a piece of t his cake, presentation won’t matter as much. Seriously.

I hope your family and friends enjoy this delicious timeless caramel cake recipe!

Gran Jan

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Banana Bread – Best Ever!

Good Morning! Are you tired of throwing away over-ripe bananas? I’m here to help with the Best Banana Bread recipe!

I’ve made this often during our quarantine. It is seriously so good. As always, I find a recipe, make it as directed…then adjust it to what I know we will enjoy! This one is now a keeper.

(And baking it in my grandmother’s vintage “glasbake tube pan” from the 1940s makes it even sweeter.)

  • 1 stick of softened salted butter
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla flavoring
  • 1 1/2 cups plain (all-purpose) flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 4-5 very ripe bananas
  • 1 cup chopped pecans (I toast them in the oven)
  • 1/3 cup craisins
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and spray a loaf pan (9″ is good) with Baker’s Joy (my fave).
  2. Blend softened butter and brown sugar. I actually don’t use a mixer – I do this all by hand.
  3. Add eggs and vanilla and blend again.
  4. In a separate bowl, mix the flour, baking soda, and salt. Add to above mixture.
  5. Now peel the bananas and rough chop them – leave them sort of chunky, then gently add to the mixture.
  6. Lastly, blend in the pecans and craisins.
  7. Pour into your baking dish or loaf pan and bake until golden brown – 55-60 minutes.

I hope you enjoy this recipe. It is especially good with some of that wonderful whipped cream cheese spread, or warm it up in the microwave and add some butter. A cup of coffee makes it taste even better too! ENJOY and don’t throw away your bananas any more. I’m not sure if doing it by hand makes it taste differently, but it is dense and very good – not dry at all. Maybe not using a mixer makes the difference. I’m not sure – but at any rate – it’s a fine banana bread.

Gran Jan

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National Buttermilk Biscuit Day!

Today is National Buttermilk Biscuit Day! All that know me well, know I love to make and teach others how to make biscuits. I help with a mentoring-in-the-kitchen ministry at my church called “Tasting Grace.” Our purpose is to teach the joy of biblical hospitality, serving others in the love of Christ.

So today I am going to share my tried and true recipe here, with pictures. It’s an easy recipe with only three simple ingredients. The more you make them, your confidence will grow. That’s what my Granny always told me, and she taught me how many years ago.

Three Simple Ingredients:

2 1/2 cups of White Lily self-rising flour

1 cup of Whole Buttermilk

1 stick of Frozen Butter

Makes between 8-12 biscuits depending on the size of your biscuit cutter!

NOTE: You will need a little extra flour to keep your hands “dusted” during the folding process; and some extra butter to melt for the finished biscuits. About a half-stick will do!

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees and lightly grease (I use Crisco) a cast iron skillet. I love the Lodge 10.5″ griddle pictured here. I’ve seen them at Walmart and hardware stores too.

Measure the self-rising flour into a large bowl. I love to use clear glass bowls for all my baking prep.

Using the larger holes of a box grater, grate the stick of frozen butter and then pour into the bowl of flour. Work quickly now to mix the flour and butter together. I call it “pinching in” the butter for even distribution. You don’t want to handle it too much or cause the butter to melt.

Pour in the 1 cup of buttermilk and mix well. I use my hand, but you may use a spatula if you prefer.

Mix just until everything starts to “come together.” DO NOT OVERWORK THIS BEAUTIFUL DOUGH!

Now dust your hands with some of the extra flour and turn the sticky dough out onto a piece of parchment paper (or your counter if you don’t mind the mess)!

Pat the dough into a nice rectangle about the size of a piece of notebook paper, about 1/2″ thick. (Not shown in picture.)

Pay close attention to the next two steps – this is the FOLDING technique and creates the wonderful layers in your biscuits. First, fold the dough in thirds. See the picture? Fold the right side in and then the left. (Not shown in the picture – just fold the left side in! You’ve got this!)

Now take your folded dough rectangle and fold it again, this time in half!

After you’ve folded into thirds and then halves, smooth your dough into a beautiful nice rectangle about 1″ thick and the size of a piece of notebook paper.

But once again, don’t “handle” the dough too much!

Now take your biscuit cutter or a smooth glass, and dip it in some extra flour. Go STRAIGHT DOWN and UP. No twisting or turning. Just up and out.

Place the biscuits close together on your greased skillet.

Take your extra dough and shape it back into a rectangle again so you can cut out the rest of the biscuits.

Remember, don’t work the dough too much. You may have to just roll the last one out with your hands!

Put your skillet into the pre-heated hot oven and bake the biscuits 15-18 minutes, until lightly browned. Mine are perfect at about 17 minutes in my oven.

Remove the skillet from the oven and brush the tops with melted butter.

This recipe doubles easily, but I don’t do that unless I’m feeding a crowd! I hope you enjoy trying my recipe and will let me know if you make them.

Blessings on your beautiful buttermilk biscuit making.

Gran Jan

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Pecan Pie & Homemade Crust

Gran Jan’s Pecan Pie & Homemade All-Butter Crust!

I was sharing this recipe today with my sister Joan, and decided to add it here so you can share the Pecan Pie joy with us. I have tweaked and searched and made pie crusts and pecan pies for a long time. I’m done and these two recipes together are the happy result. First, the all-butter crust!

All Butter Pie Crust
1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 stick of unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
2 tablespoons of whipping cream

1. Add the flour and salt to a bowl.
2. Cube the butter into small pieces and add to the flour. Using your hands, combine the flour and butter quickly. You don’t want the butter to melt!
3. Add the heavy cream to the flour/butter mixture and combine well. The dough will start to hold together – but do not overwork it!
4. Transfer the dough to your pie plate and use your fingers to push the dough into the dish – spreading from the center outward. Be sure the dough is at an even thickness throughout.
5. Crimp the edges by making a scalloped edge. See my pie above! Use your index finger to squeeze the dough around and then press with your thumb and index finger of your other hand.
Note: I actually like to pre-bake my pie crust for about 5-7 minutes to allow it to set up a bit. Or you can chill it prior to filling. Just a personal preference.

GRAN JAN’S PECAN PIE RECIPE
1 cup of white sugar
3 tablespoons of light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 cup of light corn syrup
1/3 cup of melted butter (I use salted)
3 beaten eggs
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
2 cups of chopped pecans

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Mix white sugar, brown sugar, salt, corn syrup, butter, eggs, and vanilla in a bowl.
3. Last, stir in chopped pecans and blend well.
4. Bake the pie for 60 minutes – until it is no longer “jiggly” in the middle. You know your oven. It will continue to cook for a while once it is removed, so don’t overcook it. A “wee jiggle” is okay.
5. Allow to cool for several hours before serving so it can set.

I hope you will try these recipes together!
~GranJan

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Covid-19 Quarantine Memories

I wore a mask to go to the grocery store…it was a strange time for sure!

Yesterday, May 1, 2020, was the first day in almost a month that our State of Georgia wasn’t under a “shelter-in-place” order due to the Covid-19 Corona virus. I wanted to document this very unusual season in the life of our home, family, state, nation, and…world. A global pandemic.

I’m 62 years old and recently shared with my grandchildren I had never experienced anything like this in my lifetime. They have told me they will talk about this quarantine when they are my age. They are now ages six to eleven.

The closest thing that comes to my mind is standing in a long line as a 6-year-old (with lots of other children), to have sugar cubes placed on our tongues by nurses wearing white starched hats and uniforms, white hosiery, and white shoes. It was 1963 and I was in first grade. We were receiving treatment for polio. It was a Department of Defense School at the Marine Base in Cherry Point, North Carolina.

These are the things I want to remember…and I pray I do remember them. I know we are apt to easily forget and quickly go back to our former selves and routines when normalcy returns. But I seriously hope the good things that came out of this season will remain in my heart and mind.

  • I’m a happy homebody, but I really missed seeing my family. It made me think of growing up as a military child and being separated from my dad, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. It was too long.
  • Face Time was a great gift during this season of quarantine. Not the same as a visit, but I am so thankful for the family face times and technology in general.
  • I missed my church, and my church people. We call them our second family at Second Baptist. Not being able to physically attend church made me long to be there. I hope on those occasions when I think I’d like to stay home, I will remember missing church. Yes, we “had church” on-line, and it was great, but not the same. I’m grateful for how pastors and worship leaders just stepped up and did the best they could in such unprecedented times.
  • I loved more time to actually focus on my outside spaces. My garden especially, but also the jasmine arbor and the swings I love that are there. So grateful that this quarantine occurred during Springtime and not Winter. Being outside was a place to go and the weather has been so beautiful. Thank you God!
  • My mother and I made masks for my sister Joan’s employees at Jackson Heating & Cooling. I made one for my husband and myself to wear to the grocery store. It was the only place I went! I didn’t like wearing the mask and seeing everyone masked. It just felt so weird to me. But don’t we “wear masks” every day anyway? Lord help me to unmask and be genuine and Christlike to others all the time.
  • I am thankful for all the medical professionals everywhere – doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists, assistants, and anyone who worked on the front line. Heroes! Also our first responders, and all the ways they served and risked their own safety for anyone in need. So many good stories of kindness and hope were to be found. May we remember.
  • More time with my husband Gary. We really enjoyed being together and of course, I cooked and he loves when I cook for him! I really did enjoy lots of time in the kitchen and I found some new recipes that will remain in our “rotation.” A new way to make biscuits…after 43 years! I plan on a whole post for that soon.
Church from home…at the kitchen table. That is our Pastor, Jim Perdue!
Family Face Time, a special gift!

All in all I remember how people everywhere responded (for the most part) with diligence and attitudes to get through this. A similar theme was “we are in this together.” Yes we were, but truthfully, we are always in “this” life together! Please may we remember. Help ME remember. And not forget.

I didn’t like wearing a mask, but I loved my time in the sewing room…always!

The Lord is our Rock, in Him we hide, a shelter in the time of storm.

GranJan

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