LAKE CITY – Flip through Arlene (Burley) Blair’s well-used copy of the Burley Family Cookbook, and it’s easy to see how food is tied to the history of these long-time Calhoun County farm family.
The cookbook notes that when Blair’s mother, Georgia, married Marion (M.C.) Burley on March 10, 1926, at her parents’ home near Lake City, Georgia headed to the Burley farm immediately after the wedding dinner to cook supper for the hired men that night.
“My mother was a great cook and I learned a lot from her,” said Blair, who grew up with five sisters and one brother and put her culinary skills to use when she married her husband, Estelle.
The couple’s five children helped raise some of the family’s food, including the flock of chickens that was a fixture on the Blair farm for years. “We could dress 150 birds in one morning,” said Blair, who often served chicken dishes at mealtime.
The Blairs also became known for their grilling and barbecuing skills, as sons Dell and Trent began competition cooking at events like the World Pork Expo. Approximately 10 years ago, the Blairs developed their own seasoning mix known as Country Blend, which includes onion, garlic, salt, sugar and other spices. “I’m a plain cook, but the boys always liked to spice things up,” said Blair, a grandmother of 12 and great-grandmother of one who enjoys china painting in her spare time.
Deep fried chicken
(Arlene Blair says this was a favorite meal just as soon as the Blair’s chickens were big enough to dress.)
4 parts crushed soda crackers
1 part flour
1 cup milk
1 cup flour
1 tablespoon salt
Mix soda crackers and flour together. In a blender, mix egg, flour, milk and salt. Dip chicken pieces in batter, and then dip pieces into cracker/flour mixture. Place coated pieces of chicken on a piece of waxed paper until you’re ready to fry. Deep fry chicken in oil until brown. Then turn the chicken and cook until brown on the other side. You can also put the chicken in a 350-degree oven for about half an hour or so to keep the chicken warm until you serve it.
(These flavorful meatballs have long been a Blair family favorite at Christmas.)
2 pounds hamburger
3 to 4 slices of bread
2 tablespoons Country Blend* seasoning mix or seasoning mix of your choice (optional)
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
3 cups Minute Rice
Soak bread in water and add all remaining ingredients. (Add as much rice as you like.) Shape mixture into individual meatballs. Place meatballs in casserole dish and cover with spaghetti sauce (see recipe below). Cover the dish and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
Then uncover the meatballs and continue baking for about another 30 minutes until done.
* The Blair family developed Country Blend seasoning mix, which is available at various retail outlets in Lake City. For more information, log onto www.midwestflavors.com.
1 13-ounce can of tomato sauce
1 tablespoon Worchestershire sauce
1 teaspoon oregano
2 to 4 bay leaves
3 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons chili powder
1/8 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
1 teaspoon onion salt
1 teaspoon garlic salt
Mix all ingredients and pour over porcupine balls. You can also serve this sauce with spaghetti.
(Arlene Blair’s mother often baked these ginger cookies for Arlene’s father, Marion “M.C.” Burley.)
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup fat (Blair prefers a combination of lard and butter)
1/2 cup sorghum or molasses
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoon cinnamon
Cream sugar and fat together. Then add eggs and sorghum (or molasses). Mix well and add dry ingredients. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto greased cookie sheet. Press down each cookie with the bottom of a glass dipped in granulated sugar, and bake at 350 degrees until done.
If you want chewy cookies, take them out of the oven before they are done. The cookies will fall when taken out of the oven.
(This rye bread, which Arlene Blair’s mother baked often, has been one of Arlene’s favorite treats since childhood.)
2 packages of yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1/2 cup molasses
1/2 cup lard
2 cups hot water
2 cups rye flour
Mix yeast and warm water. When dissolved, add enough white flour to make a batter. Mix molasses, lard, hot water and salt. Cool mixture, and then combine with yeast.
Add rye flour and more white flour to make bread. Let dough rise twice. Then shape into two loaves and let the loaves rise. Bake loaves at 350 degrees for about half an hour or until the bread is done.
1 cup water
1/2 cup butter
Bring water and butter to a boil. Then add flour and stir mixture until the dough forms a ball. Remove from heat. Beat in four eggs, one at a time. Drop by generous spoonfuls, 2 inches apart, onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 400 degrees until done, when puffed and golden brown. Do not open the oven until the cream puffs are done, or the puffs may collapse. Fill baked cream puffs with vanilla pudding (see recipe below).
(Arlene Blair uses this recipe for a cream puff filling, as well as a filling for her banana cream and coconut cream pies.)
4 cups milk
1 1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup cornstarch
6 egg yolks
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
Scald milk. In another bowl, combine sugar, cornstarch and salt. Add a little scalded milk to the dry mixture and stir. Add the rest of the scalded milk, and cook until thick. Beat egg yolks, and add a little of the hot mixture to the yolks.
Combine the yolk mixture with the hot mixture and cook for about five minutes. Remove from heat and add butter and vanilla. Cool mixture before adding to cream puffs, using as a pie filling or serving as a vanilla pudding.
Note: If you’d prefer to make chocolate pudding from this recipe, add an additional 1/2 cup of granulated sugar and 1/2 cup cocoa.
Contact Darcy Dougherty Maulsby at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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