I’m stingy with my smoke.
Not in a "don’t bogart that can, man" way. Just that if I’m going to go to all the trouble of stoking a hardwood lump charcoal fire, obsessively monitoring its low-‘n-slow-ness for a goodly chunk of the day, feeding its greedy gut with beer-soaked mesquite and hickory chunks at half-hour intervals all for the sake of an albeit fabulous brisket or pork shoulder, I’m gonna want a bit more return on the investment.
Here’s where foil pans of salt, cherries and lemons come in. Since lid-lifting is anathema to efficient meat smoking, I use natural intervals — when I’m replenishing coals or chips — to slip trays of salt, halved lemons, limes or de-stemmed cherries onto the top rack of my Char-Griller barrel smoker. As I’m almost comically obsessive about not letting the temperature crest 225 degrees, there’s not much fret about losing juice to evaporation and the flesh and rinds pick up the deep, mellow flavors of woody smoke.
Sweet, smoked cherries lend a low, charred note to a perfect Manhattan and long-smoked Kosher salt on the rim of a Margarita glass creates a luscious, briny wash with every sip.
But when life hands you smoked lemons, there’s really just one thing to do.
Ever whip up a dish that’s so madly yummy you wanna feed it to everyone you’ve ever met? This is one of those.
Yup, Easter’s already hopped on by, but who says that’s the only ham-appropriate occasion? We’d unexpectedly received a smoked, bone-in ten-pounder as lagniappe for being loyal grocery store shoppers, and while we were old hands at prepping its hard, salty country cousin, we’d never actually baked and glazed a city ham. We’ve long been inspired by Aretha Franklin’s ginger ale doused Queen of Soul Ham and have heard tell of a Coca-Cola ham or two, though have never had the pleasure of sampling one.
A tad loath to leave the house and brave the holiday supermarket fray, we took stock of what was on hand. Diet drinks weren’t gonna cut the mustard, husband would flip if we drained his precious Pepsi stash, tonic was a tad depressing, then lo and behold — Cheerwine! We’d hauled back cases of the distinctive cherry soda when last we hit the Tarheel State, and had been holding out for a special occasion to dip into the stash.
Happy New Year, all! Hope everyone had a warm, festive Eve and is relatively headache-free and rested post-revelry. Now, there are as many ways to prepare the cowpea and rice concoction of Hoppin’ John as there are squares on a calendar, but in many parts of the American South, the definitive date to simmer up a big ol’ pot of it is New Year’s Day. While the name’s origin is still the subject of some debate — some scholars asserting that it’s a corruption of “pois a pigeon,” a Carribean dish enjoyed by Southern slaves while still in their native land, and others claiming it’s derived from a 13th century Iraqi dish called “bhat kachang” — the dish’s fans maintain that eating it ensures good luck for the coming year. This may well be superstition, but I’m inclined toward any angle that’s gonna get a bowlful of it in front of me on a chilly January 1st.
My grand revelation of the day (though likely hardly news to many of you) is that cowpeas are the genus for the group that contains blackeye peas (most commonly used in Hoppin’ John), catjang, and yardlong beans. They’re also called crowder peas.
Some recipes for Hoppin’ John contain tomatoes or okra, and the swap in of okra for the beans makes it a Limpin’ Susie.
Got a favorite variation? Share it below, and peruse my favorite recipe after the jump.