Sunday, May 17, 2015

Dining-In: A Culinary Tour of America-Clinton, Mississippi

The Location: Clinton, Mississippi

According to the 2013 census, there are 25,305 people living here. 60.1% are white and 33.9% are African American. The per capita income as of 2012 is $26,098. 9.1% live below the poverty line.

Clinton was founded in 1823 as Mount Salus, which means "Mountain of Health". The oldest college in the state of Mississippi was founded in Clinton in 1826.

In 1875, after the Civil War, there was what is now known as the "Clinton Riots". The history online is very biased, but from what I can tell, there was a group of white citizens who were unhappy with the state's governor, who they felt didn't support or look out for their interests enough. They felt overlooked and threatened in the Reconstructionist Era. During a political rally, in which many African American citizens who supported the governor were in attendance, the group of white citizens attacked the African Americans, and continued in a series of attacks throughout the town over the next several days. Many lives were lost. I will provide the links to the information I found, but if you read it, you'll have to read into it what probably really happened.

During the second World War, Clinton became home to a German POW camp that held about three thousand soldiers. Most came from the North Africa battlefield. It is their prison labor that helped build a replica of the Mississippi River Basin that the US Army Corps of Engineers used to help prevent floods in the area. The prisoners also picked cotton and planted trees during their stay. They lived there within all the statues and rules of the Geneva Convention.

The Food: Sweet potato soup and Cheese crackers

Sweet potatoes bring about $79 million to the state's economy. Mississippi is the second largest producer of the tuber in the nation. It's the food that immediately comes to mind when I think of the South, particularly the Deep South. Cheese straws are another food prominent in Southern states. I don't have the proper equipment to make cheese straws. You need one of those tubes you use to make spritz cookies, so I found a recipe for crackers that pretty much had the same flavor but were a different shape. Both recipes are recipe cards from my collection and I don't have the original sources.

Cheese Cracker Delights

What a delight these were. I have never made crackers in my entire life before. I mean, why would you? They're affordable and already made at the store. Boy were these worth it. I think they tasted just like Cheez-its. The cheese is harder to mix into the flour than you might think. You'll need to use your hands and mix it manually after a while. The dough is essentially a savory shortbread, and the texture tasted like it as well. I highly recommend this one.

8 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 cup butter
1 1/2 cups flour
1/4-1/2 tsp. salt (I used a scant 1/2 tsp.)
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper (I used a very scant 1/4 tsp. It was just a hint of spice without being overwhelming.)

In a large mixing bowl, combine shredded cheese and butter; bring to room temperature(about one hour).

Beat with an electric mixer until well combined. Stir in flour, salt, and pepper. Divide the dough in half. Shape dough into two 7" logs. Wrap and chill logs for at least one hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. With a knife, slice the cheese logs to 1/4"-thick slices. Place slices on ungreased baking sheets. Bake for 15 minutes.

Makes about 4 1/2 dozen. Per cracker: 44 cal, 3 g fat

I noticed that these crackers made crackling sounds when they cooled off. Maybe that's where the word "cracker" comes from? If I was to make these again, I would try using reduced fat cheese. I wanted to try it the way the recipe called for originally, but I don't see why reduced fat cheese wouldn't work just as well. Actually I absolutely do see why it might not work, but I want to try it anyway!

Potato-Yam Soup with Bacon and Spinach

I don't like sweet potatoes, in general, because they're usually prepared with too many sweet ingredients for my tastes. Marshmallows, pineapple, brown sugar, it's all too much. Even before I cut sugar out of my diet, I never liked it. It's tough finding savory applications for sweet potatoes that don't lean towards sweet. This soup was perfection. It was savory and delicious and really not that hard to make. The ingredients might not be the most "Southern", but it has sweet potato in it and that was good enough for me!

6 slices applewood-smoked bacon (about 6 oz.), cut crosswise into 1/2" pieces (I diced mine into smaller pieces because I didn't read that note about size and it still worked out fine. I find it easier to cut bacon when it's frozen or half frozen. If you've never tried it, you should. It will make your life so much better.)
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, pressed
1/4 tsp. dried thyme
1(14.5oz) can diced tomatoes in juice
1(10oz) yam, peeled, quartered lengthwise, cut crosswise into 1/3" slices
2 medium(10oz) Yukon gold potatoes, peeled, quartered lengthwise, cut crosswise into 1/3" slices

2 medium(10oz) New potatoes, peeled, quartered lengthwise, cut crosswise into 1/3" slices
4-5 cups chicken broth
1(5-6oz) pkg baby spinach, stemmed

Saute bacon in large pot over medium heat until crisp. Transfer to paper towels to drain. Add onion to drippings in pot(I drained all but about one tsp. of the fat and it was just enough.); increase heat to medium-high and saute until beginning to brown, about 7 minutes. Add garlic and thyme; stir 1 minute. Add tomatoes with juice. Stir until almost all the liquid evaporates, about 2 minutes. Add all potatoes; stir to coat. Add 4 cups broth; bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover with lid slightly ajar.

Simmer until potatoes are tender, stirring occasionally, 10-12 minutes. Add spinach and bacon; stir until spinach wilts, about 1 minute, adding broth by 1/2 cupfuls if too thick. Season with salt and pepper.

Makes 4-6 servings. 319 cal, 15g fat, 5 g fiber

I would suspect that there's actually a little less fat than the recipe says because I drained more of the bacon grease off than it called for. That's really the only source of fat in the entire recipe. I added about two extra cups of broth to reach that consistency for a total of 6 cups broth. I didn't add all the bacon back in, but used some to sprinkle on the top to look pretty. I did not season with salt and pepper and found it completely flavorful. Don't waste salt on it, the bacon seasons it enough.

Both of these recipes were fantastic and I'd absolutely eat them again. Now I can see why sweet potatoes and cheese straws are so popular in the South. I just wish I'd started making them sooner!


Sweet potato info

City pic

City map

City website

POW history

Clinton riot history

City stats

Clinton riot (Note, this particular site was so biased that I actually felt uncomfortable reading it. It was a good source of information, however, once you ignore the extreme bias, which is why I used it and am including it here.)

1 comment:

  1. Okay, I actually was looking at a cheeze-its knockoff recipe a while back. I might try this or that one at some point. Maybe one of our days when you're over we could try it. :)