Thursday, August 2, 2012

Nostalgia

Most people have fond memories from their childhood. Many of mine are - surprise! - food related. I blame this on my grandma, a lovely lady who 'slaved over a hot stove' to give us tasty holiday meals. I will always remember arriving at grandma's house on Thanksgiving/Christmas/Easter, walking in, and immediately smelling the roasting turkey/ham.Grandma would come out of the kitchen to greet us, wearing one of her aprons, as calm as could be. She was never a frantic, rushed cook, not like how we sometimes are on the weekends.

I wanted to insert a photo of my grandma, in her apron, in her kitchen, at this point in the post, but sadly, in all the photos I have scanned, I cannot find one. I'll have to go through all the old photos. Again.

Here's this one of me instead:
It's not exactly the photo I wanted, either. For one, it's of me in the living room of our first house. I don't know if I am hanging an ornament for real or posing for a photo. I do know that I now possess several of the ornaments that are on that tree, and they still make it onto our tree, every year.

But hey, how about those pants?!! I blame my mother. Plus, it was the 1970's.

What I can't seem to locate is a photo from my middle school/early high school years, in our second house, on Christmas Eve. For several years, I would wake up every Christmas Eve to the smell of BBQ sauce simmering on the stove. This was a dad thing. Not that my dad is a bad cook or can't cook or only grills, but noteworthy because when I was growing up, dad worked while my mom stayed at home and took care of the house & kids. However, there were a few things that dad always made: German Potato Salad and the BBQ sauce from the Williamsburg cookbook, which he would slather on ribs cooked low and slow in the oven on Christmas Eve.

Much like I can recall the smell of roasting meat at grandma's house and the feel of the warmth from her oven, I can recall the smell of that sauce. Waking up, snuggled under the electric blanket, Christmas anticipation at a fever pitch, and that smell. Getting up, heading downstairs to the kitchen for breakfast, finding dad at the kitchen table, reading a book or newspaper, mug of tea at his side, and occasionally rising to take the wooden spoon and stir the sauce. Later in the day, he would get the ribs in the oven and set a timer for every 20 minutes or so to slather the simmering sauce on the ribs. And all day, that smell.

Who would have thought that my Christmas memory would smell of ribs and BBQ sauce?!

This past weekend, we again made ribs. I'm not sure why, but I had a hankering for that BBQ sauce. I have a yellow sheet of paper on which my dad scrawled the recipe. Actually, it's not really a recipe but instead a list of ingredients. I have no idea where the cookbook is, or what the actual title is. We always called it the 'Williamsburg Cookbook' and my parents bought it on one of their several trips there, perhaps the one for their 10th wedding anniversary. We always called this sauce the 'Williamsburg BBQ Sauce' and we made it once a year, on Christmas Eve.

So SP & I made a batch. I felt a little odd, making the sauce in July and not in December, almost like I was violating some sacred family ritual. But once I started to smell it, I didn't care if I had. I called my dad to ask a question or two, because we were concerned by the 'thinness' of the sauce. As soon as he heard what we were making he started making all sorts of noise about how he loves that sauce and he hasn't had it in ages and ohhhh it's really good.

It sure was good.
We cooked them low and slow, 4 hours at 225, wrapped in foil packets with apple juice poured inside. Then we put them on the grill and sauced them. In the photo below, the bright, red slab is the Williamsburg sauce, the middle is some Sweet Baby Ray sauce, and the top right one is SP's leftover homemade spicy sauce.

Post dinner carnage. The two of us ate quite a few ribs. Oink.
We also made our first grilled potato packet of the year, using all the CSA potatoes we have accumulated:
We added fresh thyme & chives. Instead of onion we used the CSA leek. The leek wasn't a bad choice, it just wasn't as tasty as onion with these potatoes and in the future, even if we have a leek in the veggie drawer, I would use onions.
We had 2 CSA beets and wrapped them in foil and tossed them on the grill:
Beets & the CSA Swiss Chard that we put in a pan and wilted on the grill's side burner:
Green beans. Not grilled. Steamed in the microwave.
The ribs with the Williamsburg sauce were by far our favorite. It's tangy, but not sweet or vinegary. It's not too tomato-y. I'm not sure what style sauce this is, other than Williamsburg style! It doesn't seem to fit Carolina style or Kansas City style, maybe more like St. Louis or Memphis? I'm not that knowledgeable about BBQ styles, so those thoughts are based on a very, very quick search of BBQ sauces styles.

I was surprised when SP went for the Williamsburg ribs over his homemade spicy sauce ribs! Even after dinner when I was stuffed, I was still picking at the tender, tangy meat:
My grandma would have been pleased at our continued picking at the food. She loved making sure everyone ate a lot of tasty food. I know no one can live forever, and my grandparents lived long, full lives, but gosh, sometimes I really, really miss them.

As scrawled by dad:


Williamsburg BBQ Sauce

1 cup onion
¼ cup butter
1 cup catsup (ketchup)
½ cup cooking sherry
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp dry mustard
1 tbsp lemon juice
½ cup white vinegar
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/3 cup water

Combine all ingredients in sauce pan and simmer for a while.

I know. Vague. We simmered it for about an hour, then turned it off since we weren't going to be in the kitchen to keep an eye on things. We later turned it on again and it simmered for another 2 hours. I think my dad would simmer it longer, but our 3 hours was enough time. It is a thin sauce, though it does thicken with simmering.  

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