(Plus, vinegar history lesson…Robbers and the Black Plague)
by Vernon Summerlin
Vinegar, one of the ingredients in this month’s BBQ sauce recipe for crappie, has been used by people for thousands of years, dating back to around 5,000 BC in ancient Babylonia. I found more than 20 varieties of vinegar online, ranging from apple, balsamic, rice and coconut to honey.
Vinegar consists of about 5 to 20 percent acetic acid, water and flavorings. Most commercial vinegar solutions available to consumers for household use do not exceed 5 percent. Solutions above 10 percent require careful handling. They are corrosive and damaging to the skin.
According to legend, in France during the Black Plague, four thieves were able to rob houses of plague victims without becoming infected. When they were caught, the judge offered to grant the men their freedom on the condition that they reveal how they stayed healthy. The thieves claimed a medicine woman sold them a potion made of garlic soaked in soured red wine (vinegar). Variants of the recipe, called Four Thieves Vinegar, have been passed down for hundreds of years and are a staple of New Orleans hoodoo practices.
You can make your own hoodoo BBQ sauce by varying the types of vinegar you use as well as spices and amounts. Most of us who make our own secret sauces claim they are secret because they can’t be duplicated. I my case I can’t remember how I made it last time and I’m too vain to write it down. You can whip up your secret BBQ sauce or use the one supplied in this recipe.
Grilled Barbecue Crappie
2-3 crappie fillets per person
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/2 cup salad oil
1/4 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup catsup
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Red pepper, to taste
Combine Worcestershire, paprika, salad oil, vinegar, catsup, sugar, salt and peppers. Taste-test and add more spices if any seem deficient. Place fish in mixture for 30 minutes before grilling. Cook 3 to 4 inches from hot coals on well greased grill for about 5 minutes per side or until fish flake. Brush often with sauce while barbecuing. Catfish
Vinegar tip: If you’ve added too much salt to a recipe, add a spoonful of white distilled vinegar and sugar to try correcting the taste.
Cajun Spicy Fried Crappie
2-3 fillets per person
1 envelope Shake & Bake for pork
3 tablespoons sifted flour
1 cup instant potato flakes
4 tablespoons cornmeal
1/2 cup buttermilk
Hot sauce to taste
Mix Shake & Bake, flour, potatoes and cornmeal. Salt and pepper the fish. Mix milk and hot sauce and pour over fish. Toss to coat evenly. Press dry mixture on each piece of fish, coating well. Pan fry until done. Turn with spatula to prevent breaking. The potatoes seal the fish keeping it moist.
I admit that my hush puppies, as simple to make as they are, lack something. It’s not the ingredients but maybe it’s the way I hold my mouth. Something just ain’t right. So I leave them for my wife to prepare. Hers are yummy! Here are three recipes that aren’t very different from each other (just mix up the stuff and fry’em) but you may have a preference of ingredients. Personally, I don’t think you can use too many onions and other spices. Perhaps that’s the trouble with my puppies; they’re more like spicy onion balls.
Hush Puppies #1
2 cups cornmeal
1 finely chopped onion
Beer or milk (enough to form doughy balls)
Mix cornmeal, egg, onion and beer or milk in mixing bowl. Roll into small balls. Drop in hot oil and cook until brown.
Hush Puppies #2
1/2 cup flour
1 cup cornmeal
1/4 tablespoon garlic salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 chopped onion
Blend flour, cornmeal, garlic salt, sugar, egg, onion and add enough buttermilk to form balls. Cook in hot oil until brown.
Spice tip: Humidity, light and heat cause herbs and spices to lose their flavor, so store your spices in a cool, dark place – not above your stove. For more cooking tips visit http://www.foodnetwork.com.