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Nothing like mint julep

Last weekend we had a choir party, but combined it with Kentucky Derby day so we could have an excuse to have a mint julep! The day was beautiful and just a fine day for getting my husband to get those Boston butts cooking. We always have a lot of wood to burn so my husband built himself a pit to smoke those butts. I bought 20 pounds of meat and it looked like a lot of meat, so I froze one 5-pound butt for future use. In the past, we have always used North Carolina spicy vinegar sauce so we used the same recipe found in Southern Food by John Egerton. Recipe to follow. I basted the butt overnight and my husband basted it as it cooked and you can strain the sauce and add it at the table.

Along with the butts I had potato salad, cold slaw, corn muffins, deviled eggs, banana pudding and a blackberry cobbler. Now, I must admit I did order some of the food from Vine’s Meat Market just up the road, since I really didn’t have the room to store enough food for 30 people. Sounds like a good excuse, I guess! I did the cornbread and deviled eggs and made enough mint syrup for the mint juleps, so I considered that a contribution. For appetizers I made Frank Stitt’s wonderful pimento cheese and had some olives and nuts to nibble on before the main meal.

Unfortunately several people got sick the day before (who knew) and some did not respond (as they should have) so I ended up with 16 people. A lot of food left! But those who came had a grand time sitting on the gallery sipping mint juleps. One attendee said that was as good as it gets. We had a treat after the feast of hearing Dr. Jacob Benda (our organist and choir director) play my “newly” tuned piano and hearing the wonderful soloist, Cara Waring, sing songs from Phantom of the Opera. What a wonderful treat! And those of you who missed the party, “Eat your heart out!”

And many of us did take the time to listen to My Old Kentucky Home as the horses came out, and to watch American Pharoah win the 141st Kentucky Derby.

Simple Syrup for Mint Juleps

Makes 3 cups

1 cup sugar

2 cups water

In a small saucepan, combine the sugar and water and bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring and swirling the pan to dissolve the sugar. Dip a pastry brush in hot water and wipe down the sides of the pan to dissolve any sugar crystals clinging to the sides. Simmer for 2 minutes without stirring, remove from heat and add a bunch of mint to the syrup. Once cool, cover and let the syrup infuse for at least two hours in the refrigerator, then strain the mint from the syrup.

Keeps for weeks in the refrigerator.

Mint Julep

Serves 2

Synonymous with Southern hospitality, horse racing, and hot summer evenings on a big front porch, the mint julep is a Kentucky born cocktail traditionally served in a silver cup.

4 ounces bourbon, such as Maker’s Mark

Scant 2 ounces simple syrup

8-10 mint leaves

2 cups crushed ice

2 big mint sprigs for garnishing

Combine the bourbon, simple syrup, mint leaves, and ice in a cocktail shaker and vigorously muddle with a wooden pestle or spoon, bruising the mint leaves to release their fragrant oils. Pour into a chilled julep cup or tall glass. Top with mint sprigs.

From Frank Stitt’s “Southern Table”

Pimento Cheese

Makes 2 cups

1 pound sharp yellow cheese cheddar

¼ pound cream cheese, softened

1 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper

3 large red peppers, roasted, peeled, seeded, and chopped

½ cup homemade mayonnaise or best quality commercial mayonnaise

1 teaspoon sugar

Splash of hot sauce, such as Tabasco

1/8 teaspoon cayenne

Grind the cheddar in a food processor fitted with the grating disk, or grate it on the small-holed side of a hand grater. Transfer the grated cheese to a bowl, add the cream cheese, white pepper, bell peppers, mayonnaise, sugar, hot sauce, and cayenne and blend all together thoroughly. Refrigerate and served chilled.

Barbecue Sauce

This makes enough to baste a 5 pound butt.

In a large saucepan, combine the following: 2 cups cider vinegar (5% acidity), 1 tablespoon peppercorns, 1 teaspoon celery seed, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 tablespoon hot pepper flakes, 1 small onion copped fine, and 1 cup water. Bring combined ingredients almost to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer uncovered for about 1 hour. Then strain the sauce, if you like, to remove the peppercorns, and apply it generously to your meat-before, during, and if you prefer, after its cooking.