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On Cooking Southern: Year-End and New Year Hurrah

jamcakeslice-DSCN6143By Laurie Triplette



Lord Love a Duck: A British-originated expression of mild amazement that’s been adopted by Southerners. (We Southerners always jump on an animal-related expression — like a tick on a lazy dog.) Interchangeable with Shoot a monkey and Ain’t that a birddog!


RALLY, FOLKS! The Music City Bowl Game against Georgia Tech is upon us. By the time you read this, we may have wrecked Tech or been stung by the Yellow Jackets. But whichever way the ball falls, we’ll be winners.

Hotty Toddy citizens may be wrung out from the bowl game and Christmas and Thanksgivukkah and the most intense Grove Season in recent Ole Miss football history, but we will ring in the New Year with our customary grace and charm. I have faith. Oxfordtown, after all, is Party Central, and the Ole Miss Nation personifies Southern graciousness.

That’s why The Old Bride is sharing a few more holiday goodies for that inevitable New Year’s Eve party, along with a healthful homage to our requisite Southern New Year’s Day foods. Try these two easy but tasty cheese balls for your New Year’s Eve party, and impress your dinner guests with my grandmother’s over-the-top jam cake.

After a few bites of this cake, you’ll be more than ready to change your eating habits by whipping up my pureed black-eyed pea soup containing ham and greens. Remember, we confirmed Southerners must consume black-eyed peas and greens on New Year’s Day to garner a year of good fortune!


jamcakeslice-DSCN6148I adored my grandmother, who could work culinary miracles from whatever she had in the garden or stored away in her pantry. But Lord love a duck, the woman had a thing for sugar. I recollected her sweet tooth when I made her Christmas Jam Cake last week. The cake required three batches of her chocolate frosting and two jars of blackberry – one of jam for the cake itself, and one of jelly for the filling between layers. Grandmother usually made do with one batch of frosting and one larger jar of jam/jelly by whipping them to allow for a smooth, thin application, and by not splitting the three cake layers into six. Use your own judgment. Three or six. It’s a knockout either way.

The Cake:

1/3 c cocoa

1-1/2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

3 c plain flour

1-1/2 c butter

1-1/2 c white granulated sugar

3 eggs, beaten until light

1-1/3 c buttermilk

1-1/2 c jam

2/3 c coconut

1 T vanilla extract

1 c nuts (pecans or walnuts, chopped fine)

Sift all dry ingredients together and set bowl aside. Cream together the butter, sugar, beaten eggs, buttermilk and jam. Fold in coconut, vanilla and nuts. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients until completely blended. Bake in three greased and floured 8- or 9-inch cake pans in a preheated oven at 375ºF for about 25 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove to rack to cool. Turn out.

To prepare for frosting, use long serrated knife to even up the top side of one layer, if needed. For a truly elegant cake, cut each of the three layers into thinner halves, using long serrated knife, in order to have six layers. (Six layers require an extra jar of jam or jelly and two extra batches of frosting.) HINT: For easier frosting and jam application, freeze the cake layers overnight, wrapped in wax paper and foil.

When ready to finish the cake, skim a thin layer of jam to the face-up side of each layer. Frost face-down side of each layer with chocolate icing and carefully position over the jam-topped layer. Continue until all layers have been jammed and frosted and stacked. Place cake in fridge or freezer for about 30 minutes to let the fillings set up (jam weeps).

Frost top and sides of entire cake with icing, or frost sides only and top with whipped cream. (I frosted the center layer of the cake with whipped cream). Embellish with berries, mint leaves, chocolate curls, chopped nuts, or whipped cream. (I embellished the top with crumbles of leftover nut fudge.)

Chocolate Frosting and Filling

10 T butter

6 T cream

4 T cocoa

Pinch of salt

1 tsp vanilla extract

16-oz box confectioners sugar

Mix butter, cream and cocoa (I always sift together the cocoa and sugar before adding to the butter). Add other ingredients and beat for 2 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes and then frost the cake. Add more cream as needed to thin the frosting for application.


Brandycheeseball-DSCN6095Carol Livingston, a professor in the Math Department at Ole Miss, gifted me with one of these cheese balls. She shared the recipe after The Old Bride’s family consumed half of it in 30 minutes between church and parties on Christmas Eve!

8 oz cream cheese, softened

3/4 stick (6 T) butter, softened

4 oz finely chopped dated

4 oz sharp cheddar cheese, grated

1-oz bottle imitation brandy flavoring (or actual brandy such as B&B)

1 pkg honey-roasted, sliced almonds

Thoroughly mix first five ingredients. Divide and roll into two balls. Roll each ball in sliced almonds to coat. Cover and refrigerate at least 24 hours before serving. Flavor is better after two days.


My Memphis friend Sally Baker, an Ole Miss alum, makes multiples of this cheese ball and freezes them to pull out for party gifts. The recipe is a variation of the cheese ring that is popular throughout Mississippi. The Old Bride’s family demolished this cheese ball before any photographs could be made. Trust me, it’s a hit!

1 lb (16 oz) cheddar cheese, grated

4 to 5 cloves garlic, minced

1 Vidalia (sweet) onion, minced

3/4 to 1 c mayonnaise

Liberal splash of hot sauce (about 1/4 tsp Tabasco or Louisiana Hot Sauce)

1 c pecans, chopped

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Mixture will be wet and sloppy. To form two balls, divide mixture evenly, and place each half mixture onto plastic wrap on a large plate. Pull up edges of the plastic wrap and form the balls. Keep in the plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 24 hours. Position chilled ball without wrap on a platter and surround with strawberry preserves. Serve with wheat thins or Ritz crackers.


blackeyedpeasoup-croppedDSCN6150This soup is the perfect use for bits of leftover Christmas ham. 

4 T butter (or extra light olive oil)

1 c white onion, chopped

1/2 tsp salt, to taste

4 c chicken broth (homemade is best)

1 T Wondra gravy flour (or all-purpose flour)

2 cans of black-eyed peas, drained

14.5-oz can of turnip greens or mixed greens (fresh greens are ok) with can juice

1 c of baked ham, chopped

1 tsp Tony’s Creole seasoning, to taste

Hot sauce to taste

Melt butter in a large saucepan and sauté the onions. Stir in salt. While the onions are cooking, puree the peas and heat chicken broth in a separate pan. Sprinkle flour over simmering onions and stir to blend. Whisk chicken broth into the floured onions. Cook on medium heat for about five minutes. Whisk in the pureed peas until completely blended. Bring mixture back to a low simmer and add the greens and ham, Tony’s, and hot sauce to taste. Simmer about 15 minutes. Serve with fresh cornbread.

Laurie Triplette is a writer, historian, and accredited appraiser of fine arts, dedicated to preserving Southern culture and foodways. Author of the award-winning community family cookbook GIMME SOME SUGAR, DARLIN’, and editor of ZEBRA TALES (Tailgating Recipes from the Ladies of the NFLRA), Triplette is a member of the Association of Food Journalists (AFJ),Southern Foodways Alliance (SFA)  and the Southern Food and Beverage Museum (SOFAB). Check out the GIMME SOME SUGAR, DARLIN’ web site: www.tripleheartpress.com and follow Laurie’s food adventures on Facebook and Twitter (@LaurieTriplette).

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