Momma Gert's Place

Greetings from the Grand Ole South and welcome to "Momma Gert's Place" - a place where old fashioned soul food cookin' goes on daily!!

This column is dedicated to the memory of my grandmother, Gertrude Hickerson Chaney, who was affectionately known as "Momma Gert" in our rural West Tennessee community.

There are so many precious memories when thinking about the preparation for dinners, the actual cooking of dinners, and last - but not least - the actual eating of dinners at Momma Gert's place.

Hopefully, this column will enlighten you on a few soul food dishes that I have found to be excellent choices. In the spirit of writing, I hope to also share a few memorable events, moments, and even tips. Indeed, there are so many humorous stories that can be told and that are normally told during the course of a soul food meal but it all comes into focus with the genuine "Southern Hospitality" that we are so famous for in the South.

Here at "Momma Gert's Place", I hope to enlighten you on a few ideas and recipes that are common and not so common "soul food" dishes. Our household seemed to have fed the multitudes over the years, hence, my recipes may seem to be a bit extensive and serves larger quantities. Please be advised that this is because we tend to cook for a large number of people. If you are cooking for a small group of people, simply reduce the amounts.

August in the South is nothing more than Hot, Hot, Hot! Bar-b-ques begin to slow down to a minimal and a variety of recipes spring up.

Hence, for the month of August, I decided to share a favorite "Sunday After Church" menu of mine that normally tends to be a sensation. Please keep in mind, Sunday dinners are a traditional part of life in certain parts of the South.

With this menu, believe me, you will be the "talk of the town".

The menu for the month at "Momma Gert's Place" will be:

This is a truly simple Sunday dinner in our neighborhood.

Stuffed Bell Peppers

  • 3 lbs ground beef
  • 4 large bell peppers
  • 2 sm. cans tomato paste
  • 1 can tomato sauce
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup
  • 2 cups cracker crumbs
  • 1 sm. jar sliced mushrooms
  • 1/4 cup onion (chopped)
  • 1/4 cup chopped celery (optional)
  • 1/4 cup chopped carrots (optional)
  • 2 eggs (Grade A Large)
  • 1 tsp. oregano
  • 2 tsp. Italian Seasoning
  • 1 tsp. lemon and pepper seasoning
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. cayenne crushed red pepper (optional)
  • 1 tsp. seasoned salt      (or your favorite meat seasoning)
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. vanilla flavoring (optional)

Wash bell peppers. Cut them into halves horizontally. Remove seeds and excess pulp. (You will now have eight pepper halves)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, combine ground beef with vegetables, eggs, tomato paste, one can of tomato sauce, cream of mushroom soup, cracker crumbs, and seasonings. Stuff the beef mixture into the bell peppers.

Place into a casserole dish and place into the oven. Bake for 30 minutes. Pour remaining can of tomato sauce into a separate bowl. Add sugar and flavoring.

Remove peppers from the oven and coat top of the peppers with the tomato sauce mix. Place back into oven for 15 to 20 minutes.

Remove. Serve.

  • Yields: 8 servings
  • Preparation Time: 1 hour

Fresh Fried Corn

Fresh Fried Corn
One of the most scrumptious dishes during this time of the year is fresh fired corn. If your garden weathered the summer fairly and

yielded a plenteous harvest, this is a absolutely marvelous dish.

  • 12 to 18 ears of freshly picked corn
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 8 tsp. butter or margarine (1 stick)
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • pinch flour or cornstarch

In order to get the full effect of this you MUST buy corn still in its husk. You will pull the husk and hair off of the corn and wash it thoroughly.

With a sharp knife, you cut the corn off of the cob. (In order to prevent cutting yourself, hold the corn downward and cut in a downward motion away from you.)

Turn the eye of the stove onto medium. In a large skillet (preferably cast iron) empty the freshly cut corn into the skillet. Place skillet onto stove. Slowly add all ingredients. (Please note: the milk may make your corn water because the corn will produce its natural juices. In the event that this does occur, simply add a little flour or corn starch to your mixture.) Simmer and allow the corn to cook slowly.

  • Yields: 4-6 servings
  • Preparation Time: 1 hour

Green Beans

Green Beans
This recipe is applicable to most any style of green bean whether it is "snap beans", "pole beans", "French style beans" or even canned beans. Whatever green bean you want to cook, this recipe will work.
  • 2 or 3 lbs freshly cut green beans or 5 to 6 cans green beans
  • 1 small onion (cubed)
  • 3 small potatoes (cubed) (optional)
  • 5 - 6 cups boiling water
  • 1 smoked ham hock (cut into strips)
  • 2 tsp. paprika
  • 2 tsp. seasoned salt
  • 2 tsp. onion powder
  • 1 tsp. cayenne crushed red pepper (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper

Wash green beans and place them to the side.

In a large or medium pot, bring water to a boil. Add ham hock and seasonings. Reduce heat and let cook for about thirty minutes. (It is important that the meat is almost done before you add the vegetables or your vegetables will cook faster than your meat which defeats the purpose of having meat.)

Add your beans, onions, and potatoes. Cover with a lid. Cook for twenty to thirty minutes on medium.

  • Yields: 6-8 servings
  • Preparation Time: 1 hour

Squash Casserole

This is always a very colorful dish to add to any dinner.
  • 4 cups chopped yellow squash
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 tsp. salt

Cook for about twenty minutes. Drain water. Cool. Blend.

  • 1 1/2 cup cracker crumbs
  • 3 T. butter or margarine

Add to 3/4 of crumbs:

  • 1 beaten egg
  • 1 cup cubed cheese (mild cheddar)

Add this mixture to squash and onion. Top with the remaining crumbs. Bake at 350 degrees until done (approximately 35 to 45 minutes).

  • Yields: 6 to 8 servings
  • Preparation Time: 1 hour and 30 minutes

Aunt MeMe's Surprise Candied Apples

I loved this dish as a child and love it even more as an adult!!!
  • 10 - 12 cooking apples
  • 1/2 cup "Red Hot" Cinnamon candy
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 stick butter or margarine

Wash apples thoroughly. Peel apples if you desire. (Some people leave the peel on the apples.) Slice the apples into quarters.

Pour apples into a large skillet. Add butter and sugar. Place on medium heat.

Cook slowly for 30 minutes. Stir in cinnamon candy.

Cook for 5 to 10 minutes longer.

  • Yields: 4 servings
  • Preparation Time: 45 minutes

Aunt Bea's Rolls

This recipe will probably be the most time consuming of all the

recipes. Traditionally, breads and dessert were prepared on Saturday evening before Sunday dinner. If a special occasion was at hand, rolls and desserts were prepared the day before the event.

  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup Crisco
  • 1/2 cup hot water (not boiling)
  • 1 pkg. dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 cup warm water
  • 3 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 egg

Please note: If you want to have light rolls, be advised, the more you sift your flour, the light the rolls will be. Aunt Bea sifted her rolls six times. Momma Gert sifted her rolls four to five times.

My Aunt Katie sifted her flour twelve times... always! Of course, Aunt Katie's rolls were always lighter than the other ladies' rolls but all three were delicious. So, sift flour and set aside.

Dissolve sugar, salt, Crisco in hot water. Dissolve yeast in warm water. Mix all ingredients into the large bowl of sifted flour.

Let rise. Beat down and let rise again. (Our aforementioned ladies always placed a towel over the bowl when the rolls were rising. I do not know what the purpose was, but it worked for them, so it works for me.)

Shape dough into rolls and bake at 375 degrees. Take a stick of butter or margarine and glaze over the rolls immediately after they come out of the oven.

  • Yields: 2 - 3 dozen rolls
  • Preparation Time: 3 hours
  • Uncle James' Peach Cobbler

    Uncle James' Peach Cobbler
    When the men of our family cook, it is always a godsend to the women and children. When our men cook... we cook!

    One of the favorite dishes Uncle James was famous for was his Peach Cobbler and a big bowl of vanilla ice cream. It's undoubtedly seventh heaven. Crust:

    • 2 cups all purpose flour
    • 1/2 cup butter or margarine (1 stick)
    • 1/2 cup milk or water

    Mix all ingredients together. Kneed into a ball. Roll out 2/3 of dough and place into a pan.

    • 3 cups peaches (canned or fresh)
    • 1/2 cup sugar
    • 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
    • 1 tsp. ground nutmeg
    • 1 tsp. ground mace
    • 2 tsp. vanilla extract

    Mix all ingredients together.

    You will not need to add any liquid to the peaches as they will make their own juice.

    Pour mixture into pie pan. Place about 4 to 6 slices of butter on top of the mixture before you add the top to it.

    Roll out the remaining dough and place on top of the pie. Insert holes into the pie top.

    You may want to lightly brush the top of your pie with milk, sugar, and butter.

    Bake at 375 degrees for one hour.

    • Yields:  4-6 servings
    • Preparation Time: 1 hour 45 minutes