Things that happen on the farm at Big Mill B&B, fun things to do in eastern NC and my crafts & recipes.
Sausage Gravy – Southern Comfort Food
Sausage Gravy is a southern comfort food. We southerners have always enjoyed good pork sausage – when I was young, we raised hogs and had hog killings. And we didn’t waste anything, not even grease, fat or lard; hence, our love of sausage gravy. This recipe was given to me by one of my long – term Big Mill B&B guests, Janell.
Easy-to-Make Sausage Gravy
When I was young, we raised enough hogs to feed five families for the entire year. We had pork chops, corned backbone, bacon, lard, fat back, ribs, plenty of good sausage, chitlins and cracklins‘ (yes, we say it like that.) Sausage, hams and shoulders were always hanging in the Smoke House to cure. I still have that wonderful Smoke House here on the farm. Although I especially like Sausage Gravy on cold days, we serve it all year long as a real comfort food. Click to get Chloe’s recipe for Sausage Gravy
Best Bone Broth Beef Vegetable Soup
Who says Bone Broth has to be boring? This Beef Vegetable Soup made with bones is the best I have ever tasted. The secret – BONES.
This soup uses bone-in chuck roast and oxtails. Another secret ingredient is lard. Our grandmothers were right – lard is great.
1 pound of small, hot red peppers-the peppers must fit into the mouths of the jars
1/2 gallon distilled, white 5% vinegar
8 small, clear decorative glass jars
1. The small individual 875 ml wine bottles are great for making this pepper vinegar; you can also buy pretty decorative bottles. Be sure to use only clear glass jars. Wash jars and remove labels if there are any. Basically, any jar will work – some folks use Mason jars. I like to use small jars so that I have more bottles of pepper vinegar to give away.
2. Trim any long stems on the peppers. Pack as many peppers as you can get into the jars. Use the handle end of a wooden spoon or a chopstick to stuff the peppers in the jar, being careful not to damage the peppers. If you have sensitive skin, wear gloves.
3. Using a funnel, fill each jar with the distilled vinegar, covering the peppers. Set on a shelf and in a few weeks you will have glorious hot pepper vinegar. You can refill the jars several times.
Biscotti is perfect for those who don’t want a super sweet confection. I like to bundle up a few Biscotti, tie them up with a festive ribbon, and take as a house gift or as my donation to the the Christmas party.
The biscotti will keep for several weeks if stored in an airtight container.
2½-cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 large eggs (if mixture is too dry you may need to add another egg)
2 egg yolks (reserve the egg whites)
1 teaspoon vanilla flavoring
1 teaspoon almond flavoring
1½-cup slivered almonds (reserve ¼ cup)
Zest of one lemon or lime
Preheat oven to 275 degrees. Grease a large, heavy cookie sheet.
Mix flour, sugar and baking powder in a large mixing bowl. In another large bowl mix eggs and egg yolks together. Add vanilla, almond flavoring and 1 ¼ cup of the nuts and the zest to the eggs.
Gradually add the dry mixture to the wet mixture, stirring until just barely blended. You will have to use your hands and perhaps add another egg or you can use some of the reserved egg whites if the mixture is too sticky to form.
Using greased hands, form dough into three 4-inch by 9-inch (or thereabouts) rolls that are 2 inches thick. Mixture will be sticky and you will have to use your hands. Using a greased spatula, gently place the “rolls” on greased cookie sheet, making sure the rolls are several inches apart.
Press reserved almonds on top of the shaped dough.
Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until the dough will hold together. Remove from oven and cool slightly. (You must not cool the biscotti too much because they will get too hard to cut). When cooled slightly, gently slide the rolls to a floured cutting board and gently cut through each roll at an angle into 1½- inch pieces. Turn each piece on its side and place on the cookie sheet.
Bake again for 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from oven and turn each piece onto another side. If you prefer harder biscotti, turn biscotti and bake for 5-10 more minutes.
Young, just-dug peanuts are called green peanuts. Here in the South, we boil these peanuts in the shell with a lot of salt. In late August or early September, you can find these green or boiled peanuts at farm stands and some grocery stores like Piggly Wiggly. As the Georgia bumper sticker says, “It is time to Brake for Boiled Peanuts.”
• 2-3 pounds raw, green peanuts in the shell (this is about 12 cups peanuts with shells) The peanuts are not green, just raw
• ½-1 cup of salt
• 3-4 quarts of water or enough to cover the peanuts - add more water as they cook
"Green" peanuts are not green; they are just young, raw peanuts. These peanuts are usually dug by hand several weeks before the farmer moves through the field with the machines that dig the peanuts. Here in eastern North Carolina, these green peanuts are ready late August or early September.
Wash the peanuts, still in the shells, several times until the water has no grit in it. Pick over and remove any bad peanuts and discard.
Put the peanuts still in shells into a large cooking pot. Cover with water at least 2 inches above the peanuts. Add the salt and stir.
Bring to a boil. Lower heat and boil slowly for 1-3 hours, depending on how mature or old the peanuts are. If the nuts are really young and pink, it will only take about 1 hour of cooking. If they are older, it can take up to 3 hours. You might also have to add water to keep the water level above the peanuts. Keep cooking until the peanuts are soft inside. Cooking time varies according to how old the peanuts are.
After they are done, they will continue absorbing the salt. If the salt taste is like you want it, then remove the peanuts from the salty water. They will keep in the refrigerator for several days.
Refrigerate or freeze after cooking.
It is much easier if you eat the peanuts outside. You can just spit out the shells.
Calling all watermelon lovers!! This Watermelon Salad is a beauty. I adapted this recipe from one in the June, 2017 issue of “Our State Magazine,” the same magazine that did a wonderful story about Big Mill in their August issue.
1sweet onion like Vidalia or 1 red onioncut into very thin rings
4ouncesof Feta Cheeseor goat cheese, crumbled
Juice of 1 limeabout 3 Tablespoons
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
This is a “make now and eat now” salad. If you dress it, you eat it. You can cut the parts of the salad early, but do not amalgamate it until you are ready to eat it.
Cut the watermelon into large chunks and lay it out on a plate lined with paper towels to remove some of the excess water. I do that when I am making watermelon skewers for my B&B guests. It keeps the watermelon from weeping into the dish.
Cut watermelon again into cubes about 1½" large. Put cubes of watermelon, pepper strips and onion rings into each salad bowl. Add crumbled cheese. For each salad, cut 1 basil leaf and 1 mint leaf into very thin strips and place on top of each salad.
Wisk together the lime juice, honey, salt and pepper.
Garnish with an edible flower like a begonia or nasturtium. Dress salad just before serving.
Instead of individual salads you can make one large salad if you prefer. Also do not dress this until just before serving.
This salad recipe is adapted from a Watermelon Salad in "Our State" magazine.
This salad needs to be made just before serving.
In eastern North Carolina, we do many things with watermelon. We also are very picky about where we buy our watermelons. Folks around here swear by Rocky Hock watermelons and cantaloupes. Rocky Hock is a small, rural area of the Chowan River – folks say the sandy soil is the reason these melons are so good.
I have always wanted to write a cookbook that told the stories behind the recipes.
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One time, I took a month off and house-sat for my friends in the Florida Keys. Well, as usual, I was sidetracked with the beauty of the area. I would make a recipe and spend all my time taking photos of the food. I do love to photograph food – it doesn’t whine or wiggle or complain that the picture makes it look fat.
Friend Jody has helped me FINALLY produce a wee digital cookbook that features some of my favorite Southern recipes; we call it Chloe Ann’s Farm Life Recipes. My folks grew up in an area very close to Big Mill B&B called Farm Life, so that seemed like a lovely homage.
While we were pulling this book together I was happy that I took the pictures. I’m guessing all these recipes will hold memories for those of us who grew up in the South.
I hope you enjoy it and I promise there are more to come.
Luscious Candied Figs Are the Food of Kings
One of the great things about late summer is that we have luscious figs. And when they ripen, they all ripen.
½ gallon ripe figs-small figs like Brown Turkey work best. Use figs that have stems
Add the sugar and water to a large cooking pot. Boil gently for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Wash figs, do not remove stems.
Add the figs to the sugar syrup – figs will not be totally covered. Bring to a slow boil and boil gently for 45 minutes. Don’t worry about stirring the figs. They will release more juice and then there will be more liquid. They are so fragile it is best not to stir them now, but do keep an eye on them. After 45 minutes remove pot from heat and set aside. Cover pot.
If you feel you must stir the pot, use a wide spatula and gently lift the figs. Remember they are fragile.
Day 2 & 3:
Boil gently until sugar is almost gone, checking often. For me this took several hours so I set the temperature on low.
Gently remove the figs from the pot and place them on the cooling rack set on a large cookie sheet with sides. The figs will drip.
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Turn off oven. Place the cooling rack and cookie sheet with the figs in the warm oven. Leave figs for several days to dry. You can keep heating oven again to 200 degrees if needed. I did not dry my figs totally. They are so tough if you do that. I think I like them half dry.
Optional: When figs are dry enough for you, sprinkle them with the extra granulated sugar. They are already sweet but this keeps them from sticking together so much. Store figs in refrigerator in an air-tight container or zip lock bag.