A Summer to Savor

The quintessential Southern picnic for lazy, sun-splashed afternoons.

Remember when Crisco and lard reigned supreme in the kitchen—infusing our favorite foods with full-bodied flavor and rich, moist goodness?

We didn’t worry then about calories or carbs, saturated fats or sodium, and the only mayonnaise we would ever consider using was Duke’s­, which coated our palates and laid claim to our hearts when we ate it slathered on a tomato sandwich or heaped into fresh potato salad.

Well, we think it’s time­­, now that summer is upon us and lazy sunlit afternoons practically beg for a picnic, to throw caution to the wind and enjoy those flavorful classics again. But be warned, there are no “lite” dishes here. You won’t find anything “non-fat” (aka no fun) on this menu. No, this is good-ole Southern cooking, calorie counting be damned!

Chef J Frank has conjured the quintessential Southern picnic, replete with fried chicken and deviled eggs, pimento cheese and oh-so-sweet tea. Food with flavor! A summer repast to savor, as we sit and watch the slanting light of early evening when lightning bugs appear in the gloaming, and children, weary from the day’s outdoor play, fall barefoot and exhausted into someone’s lap for a look at the night sky. This is the way summer in Virginia should be, even if our doctor frowns as he reads our cholesterol numbers at the next checkup.

Summer, after all, is only one (sublime) quarter of the year.  

Aunt Viola’s Pickled Cukes

1 gallon cucumbers, sliced ¼ inch thick
8 small onions, sliced thinly
2 green peppers, sliced thinly
½ cup salt
5 cups apple cider vinegar
5 cups sugar
2 teaspoons celery salt
2 teaspoons mustard seed
2 teaspoons turmeric

Mix cukes, onions, green peppers and salt in a large bowl. Leave at room temperature for 3 hours. Drain and cover with crushed ice for 30 minutes to chill. Drain again and divide between 4 1-quart glass jars. Bring to a boil vinegar, sugar, celery salt, mustard seed and turmeric and pour over cukes. Seal. Cukes will be ready to eat in as soon as 1 day. Refrigerate after opening.

Deviled Eggs

12-15 eggs, hard-boiled
½ cup Duke’s mayonnaise
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons salt
pinch of sugar
sliced radishes, chives and paprika for garnish  

Slice 12 of the hard-boiled eggs in half and remove yolks to a mixing bowl. Mix the yolks with all remaining ingredients in food processor (add 3 extra yolks to mixture, discarding the egg white). Place mixture in a pastry bag and pipe into each of the white halves. Garnish and serve.


1 medium-size head green cabbage, shredded
¼ cup grated red cabbage
¼ cup grated carrot  

For the dressing:

½ cup Duke’s mayonnaise
3 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon salt
⅛ cup fresh dill, chopped

Mix cabbage and carrots in a large bowl. In another bowl, mix dressing ingredients well then pour over cabbage mixture. Refrigerate until serving.

Pimento Cheese Spread

1 pound sharp cheddar cheese, coarsely grated
1 pound white cheddar cheese, coarsely grated
½ pound Monterey Jack cheese, coarsely grated
½ cup Duke’s mayonnaise
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon Texas Pete hot sauce
1 3-ounce jar pimento peppers, chopped

Combine all of the cheese in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, mix remaining ingredients well. Combine with cheese mixture. Refrigerate until serving.

Buttermilk Biscuits

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup Crisco shortening
1 egg, beaten
⅔ cup buttermilk

In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients. Cut in Crisco shortening until crumbly. Combine milk and egg, and add to dry ingredients. Mix until just combined (do not over mix). Chill dough for 2-3 hours. Knead dough on a lightly floured surface for 30 seconds, then roll 3/4 inch thick and cut into desired shapes. Bake on ungreased sheets at 450 degrees for 12-14 minutes.

Fried Chicken

2 whole chickens, cut into pieces
3 cups buttermilk
¼ cup kosher salt
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons Sauer’s All-Purpose Seasoning
2 tablespoons Sauer’s Poultry Seasoning
flour for dredging
Crisco shortening

Wash and pat dry chicken pieces. Cut breasts in half for more uniform cooking. Combine buttermilk, salt and sugar in a plastic bag and place chicken pieces inside. Brine overnight in the refrigerator. Drain chicken pieces in a colander (do not rinse). Place chicken pieces in a pan and season both sides liberally with Sauer’s spices. Melt enough Crisco over low heat to come 1/2 inch up the side of a 12-inch cast iron skillet or heavy fry pan, being careful to keep the oil temperature at 350 degrees. In small batches, dredge the seasoned chicken in flour, shake off excess and place skin side down in skillet. Cook until golden brown, approximately 8 minutes per side. Remove from oil and drain on a rack.

Southern Sweet Iced Tea

3 bags Luzianne tea
sugar to taste

Follow directions on box for brewing tea. While still hot, add sugar to taste (for a true Southern-style sweet tea, add enough sugar to make your teeth hurt). Chill. Serve over ice and garnish with lemon slices.

Lemon Cream Cupcakes

For the cupcakes:

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup softened butter
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon, plus 1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a bowl and set aside. Cream butter. Add sugar and vanilla extract and beat well. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each. Alternate adding flour mixture and buttermilk on low speed until combined. Stir in lemon juice and zest. Line cupcake pan with a double layer of paper cups and spray with cooking oil. Divide batter evenly among cups and bake at 350 degrees for approximately 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes in pans, then remove to a wire rack. Discard outer layer of paper cups. Frost with lemon cream.

For the lemon cream:

2 large eggs
⅔ cup sugar
⅓ cup fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 stick, plus 2 tablespoons softened, unsalted butter
pinch of salt

Whisk together eggs, lemon juice, zest and sugar in a saucepan over low heat for approximately 5 minutes until thick, but pourable. Transfer to a mixing bowl and allow to cool 4-5 minutes. Add butter and salt and blend. Refrigerate until cold. Spread on cupcakes and top with fresh raspberries.

All recipes serve 8

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