Friday, May 15, 2015

Out Of This World Hush Puppies...

Warning - Nostalgic back story necessary for full appreciation of this recipe.
Please bear with me!

I'm not gonna lie. I'm a snob when it comes to hushpuppies. Seriously! I have eaten a lot of them over the years, and I can tell a good one from a bad one just by looking at it. I don't even have to taste it. I'm not kidding! Hushpuppies that are little and perfectly round...well, they were probably made by a machine. Mine are bigger and fluffy and sweet and irregularly shaped. All signs that they were made fresh, by me!

I don't think I ever really thought or cared about hushpuppies until I was a teenager spending time with my grandmother at her mother's home in Dasher, Georgia. Mama Judy (my greatgrandmother and Jewell's namesake) loved to fish. She drove her own outboard motorboat to go fishing at Ocean Pond until she was in her 80's! She taught me how to bait a hook and how to take a fish off the hook once he was caught. Skills every true Southern lady must master...

My Georgia relatives (shout out to the Copelands!) live back on Poley Bay Swamp and my Uncle Charles had a place they called "The Shack" where we would have fish frys. That's where I first became aware of what constitutes a good hushpuppy. I can just see Mama Judy and my Aunt Nette frying huspuppies while the men cooked the fish. They were so good...

Well, I don't have their recipe, but I know what I like, and I have worked to perfect my own recipe over the years. My mama's brothers and sisters and their families all get together for a fish fry at my mother's brother's place (Uncle Greg the Great, as my kids call him!) every Memorial Day, and while the men still fry the fish, I'm in charge of the hushpuppies.

So - I'm sharing my recipe with you today. But you need to know a couple of things. First, you probably won't fry a perfect hushpuppy your first time out the gate. It takes some practice. And second, these babies are dangerous. My niece, Ann Welch, discovered them (I guess for the first time) on Mother's Day, and she must have thrown back at least a dozen. No kidding. So proceed with caution, but please, by all means, proceed...

Out of This World Hushpuppies

7 tablespoons yellow corn meal mix
(I only buy Martha White brand in the yellow package)
5 tablespoons self-rising flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg, beaten
1/2 medium onion finely chopped
(I chop it so fine that my kids don't know it's there!)

First, I want to show you what I call a "tablespoon".
I actually use a tablespoon and it is a heaping one at that. No measuring spoons here.

Add all you dry ingredients to a large bowl. Add onions. Salt and pepper to taste. (I probably use a half teaspoon of salt and crank the pepper mill until I get bored. Sorry, I've never measured exactly how much it is!) 

Here's the dry ingredients before adding the onions.
Didn't want any in the picture in case my kids are reading this.
I told you they don't know about the onions!

Add egg and about 1/2 cup of buttermilk to begin with. The consistency should be pretty thick. They've got to hold together when you drop them in the grease. I've tried to show you the consistency below. When I drag the spoon through, it leaves a little trail and doesn't complete fold back in on itself.

Let them sit for about 10 minutes to rise (the leavening agents in the corn meal mix, self-rising flour and buttermilk will react and it will puff up a little). Just let it sit while you heat your grease to 350 degrees. You can't make this batter ahead of time. BTW - you'll need to heat about three inches of grease. They've got to be "deep fried".

Once my grease comes to temp (be sure to use a candy thermometer so you can monitor the oil as you cook), I use the tablespoon I measured the corn meal with and a smaller spoon to form the hushpuppies. I get a spoonfull of batter with the larger spoon and then use the smaller one to scrape it off (gently and away from you!) into the grease. 

I usually get two hushpuppies per spoon full of batter. Don't make them too big. They will puff up some as they cook, but if they're too large, they'll get too brown on the outside before they're cooked through on the inside.

Now - here's the tricky part. Watch your grease. I heat it to about 350, because it will drop in temp a little as you drop in the batter. Regulate it and try to keep it between 325-350. Any lower and they won't cook, any higher and they'll burn.

After I get about a dozen in the grease (don't overcrowd them), I let them cook a couple of minutes then I take my skimmer or slotted spoon and just tap them. If they're about done on the first side, they'll flip over by themselves. Cool, huh? If you let them cook too long on one side, you'll never get them to stay flipped on the second side. I know it sounds complicated and temperamental, but once you've cooked them a couple of times, you'll get the hang of it.

When they're a light brown, remove one and cut it in half to make sure it's not wet. Then drain on paper towels. I should have made a picture for you of them as I took them out, but they mysteriously kept disappearing.

So there you have it! One last suggestion - they're delicious on their own, but I love to dip them in Heinz ketsup. Don't judge. Just try it! The moral of the story is - friends don't let friends buy frozen hushpuppies!


I'm so glad you stopped by my neck of the woods!
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