Making The Old -- and The Good -- New Again

By James Parrish Coleman -- a/k/a Jimbo Coleman

A later edition. Early Editions had a white

spine, and ads for long extinct local business.

Gulf Coast Gourmet was compiled by my late mother, Jane S. Coleman, in the early 1960s. The book was a fund raiser for the Foley Woman's Club.

The illustrations are the original work of a very talented artist named Marion Dyer. The book has been in print for many, many years; but has the simple fault of assuming you know about Gulf seafood and really know how to cook. I'll cook through the book (and my childhood), explain how Jane Coleman cooked, and tell a lot of family stories in the process. I like to cook. I will share what I have, and hope you like it. That's the spirit of this blog. Bon Appetit.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Drinking Man's Guide to Getting Pickled

Getting Pickled -- Lessons from the Master

Is that boozy slide into fuzzy affability the same by any other name?

In our family you could be bent, besotted, blasted, blitzed, blotto, bombed, crocked, destroyed, drunk, drunk-as [a lord, Cooter Brown, a boiled piss-ant,] fried, hammered, loaded, looped, mellow, pickled, plowed, polluted, shit-faced, sloshed, smashed, snockered, wasted and the Barrett family favorite... a little tired.

From that first warm Pabts Blue Ribbon beer consumed on a "camp-out" to the beautifully cold Martini I'll have tonight, I have taken pleasure in that gentle stimulant, that oil of conversation the philosophic wine.

Gulf Coast Gourmet has no drink recipes.

It's is a pity too, because the folks who wrote, enjoyed and cooked out of the book were from a generation of some of the really heroic drinkers of the 20th century.

Capt. Jack R. Coleman (Next To
The Woman, of course) Aboard
One Of His Ships in 1950.

The Old Master was my late Uncle Jack. He was born and reared in the hills of Mississippi. He hated the farm and left there to go to sea as a very young man.

 A carpenter's mate  in the navy, he later was a merchant mariner, a mate and captain during WWII. He worked for Waterman Steamship Lines, and was later part of a team who introduced containerized cargo to the shipping industry.

He was also a delightful troublemaker and absolute tyrant. He was accustomed to being the Captain, and you had better understand that on his ship -- his word was law. (He considered the whole of the known world to be an extension of his ship).

I don't remember ever seeing Uncle Jack really intoxicated. As I look back, I was usually plowed by the heavy hand he used as he plied me with Manhattans. If he had been drunk, I, myself, would have been too drunk to notice.
He, a Mississippi Baptist, married an Irish Catholic girl from New York City. Katherine Coleman, a product of an urban world that was completely foreign and fascinating to a kid from Magnolia Springs, Ala.,  didn't know how to drive until she was in her thirties.

She was very Catholic -- her "mom" was from "Up Mayo" in Ireland. She and Aunt Kaye were very genteel people and much adored by Uncle Jack. The hospitality in the home of my aunt and uncle was legendary. They loved a party and had many of them. They never had any children, and lavished attention on us when we were young adults.

As he and my Aunt Kaye aged, my cousins insisted on calling him "Unkie." This would be mildly disgusting if the cousins had been little children -- they were women in their late 50s and 60s.

 Shortly before his death he lived in a dingy little nursing home. His beloved "Kate" had died, and he was easily confused, often mistaking the cramped room in which he lived for the confines of a ship. My son James and I would visit him, and take him out for hearty breakfasts at Waffle House and clandestine rides through the country.

On one, he was introduced to the joys of a canned ready-to-drink cocktail. He declared it a fine invention -- if a little too sweet.

His interest in rearing James -- surely in moments of approaching senility -- consisted of declaring "a few years in  a Luckenbach Lines steamer" would be just the ticket before college. James himself was sometimes the object his delusions. "Laddie Buck," the confused old captain once said, "How about I take you down on the pier-head and whip your ass?"

James, a  puzzled but patient 15-year-old, answered. "OK, Uncle Jack."

Jack Coleman's Drink
of Choice -- A Manhattan

After he died his house full of beautiful furniture and possessions was picked over, and then auctioned off. I bought a painting of one of his ships done by a Japanese admirer.My sister bought (and gave to me)  Uncle Jack's sterling silver flask. I am sure everyone thought it was silver plate!

I have most of his pictures, maritime charts, books and logs. He was a fascinating man, and one of the toughest guys I've ever met.

He also mixed a good drink....

 Chatham Artillery Punch.

Besides the Manhattan, there is one other alcoholic concoction that rides high in Coleman Family lore. The mighty, some say deadly, Chatham Artillery Punch. (for a slightly different recipe see )

This is one of those 18th and 19th century hard liquor punches that convinces me that boozing -- like sex -- is not an invention of the current generation.

Part of the recipe Daddy used consisted of soaking fruit in the alcohol mixture. My father undertook the job of pouring the resulting fruit flavored liquor off of the fruit. This was done in the basement of our home in Magnolia Springs. Rather than waste that booze infused fruit, my frugal Daddy started eating a few whiskey soaked cherries, and then a few more.

He had to be helped up the basement stairs. I was probably scarred for life by the experience -- or maybe have inherited an affinity for Chatham Artillery Punch.

My Hot Weather Drink
of Choice. A Martini. There
Is Only One Way to Make
This Drink. Gin, Dry Vermouth
Ice, Olives and A Cocktail
Shaker. No -- Don't even
Start About Any Other Recipe

Mix up a batch of this stuff, but be ready to collect all the car keys before serving, and have plenty of hangover remedies ready for the next day.

Is drinking alcohol bad for you? Is it a..... sin? Should it be outlawed? Discouraged? Applauded? It is altogether appropriate to listen to what another native son of the Magnolia State said on the subject.
One man -- Soggy Sweat, took the floor of the Mississippi legislature in 1952 and captured perfectly the tension between good and evil that rests in the seductive brown fluid shown below. Here is a recreation of that famous disquisition...

Put your drink down, and learn now how to pickle something other than yourself or your girlfriend.

Pickled shrimp are a great thing to have before a meal. They are, of course, tart and vinegary. You can serve them as hors d'oeuvres, or on a little circle of rice on a plate as a hors d'oeuvre course.

In any event, the trick is to pickle the shrimp without over cooking.

I've used a mandolin like
this one for 20 years. About $40

It Slices! It Dices (does not) It crawls on its belly like a reptile! (not that either).

A mandolin slicer is a low tech gadget that makes prep work for a dish like this easy. Buy one, and don't bother to spend the big bucks for an expensive metal mandolin unless you're going to use it twice a week. Most of us mokes do fine with one similar to this one.


2-1/2 Lb Raw Shrimp Use something rather large here. It is easier to make an attractive layer in the kind of jar we are going to use. It is also harder to overcook the shrimp
1/2 cup Celery Tops If you don't have tops, slice ribs of celery very fine.
1/4 Cup Pickling Spice Buy and use a whole jar. Don't count on that pickling spice that you bought during the Carter administration
3-1/2 tsp. Salt
Sliced with a Mandolin, the coolest kitchen
1 Pt sliced Onions Ah yes, if you don't have a mandolin, get one (not the musical instrument, the slicing gadget. It will make slicing very easy, and this dish manageable.
8 Bay Leaves
1-1/4 Cups Olive Oil This does not have to be some high priced stuff picked from the slopes of Mr. Etna by red haired virgins, however -- use something that taste good raw -- right out of the bottle.

3/4 Cup White Vinegar
2-1/2 tsp Celery Seed
1-1/2 tsp Salt
1/2 Tsp Coarsely ground black pepper
Dash Worcestershire Sauce
Dash Tabasco

Lets Cook...

There are lots of good pickled seafood recipes which combine an acid with raw seafood for a pickled, firmly textured product. This is a very basic and fool-proof approach. A hot pickling liquid is combined with shrimp and the vegetable ingredients. Many of these let the seafood cool in the liquid, and are eaten the next day. Some of these recipes only subject the seafood to the acid for a short time -- just to change the color and texture of the seafood.

This is typical Gulf Coast Gourmet -- make sure nothing is raw and everything has the hell cooked out of it. I'll tell you how I do this, and then go through the recipe. My way is in red here:

Look, this is simple. Soak the shrimp in brine and then peel them. Boil the pickling spice in water with some garlic. Put the shrimp in and turn off the heat. Let the shrimp pick up the pickle-spice flavor. They can cool in the liquid while you prepare the other parts of the dish. Start tasting for done-ness in a few minutes. When the shrimp are barely done take them out of the hot liquid. The idea is to let them steep in the hot pickling spice as long as you can, short of over cooking the shrimp. Just "taste and see". 

Pack the jar with a layer of vegetable on the bottom, then a layer of shrimp, then a layer -- you get the idea -- an artistic stripe of pink shrimp and green/white veg. (Feel kind of like Martha Stewart, don't you?)

Then pour the oil, vinegar and seasoning mixture over the whole thing and put the ice box. Remember, the olive oil will solidify in the ice box. Don't despair, let it come to room temp before serving

If you follow the cookbook -- unless you have shrimp that are very cold or very large -- you'll end up with overcooked shrimp. The recipe text is in black, my comments are in red

Cover shrimp with boiling water.Nope, this is not how I cook this dish. I say peel the shrimp first.
Then  Add celery tops, pickling spice and salt. to the water only Bring to a boil and start tasting the shrimp for donness as soon as they come back to a boil. DO NOT simmer shrimp about 10 minutes. Drain, cool with cold water. Don't do that either.

Take the shrimp out of the seasoned water and let them cool. Don't wash off the seasoning and spice by running the under water. Peel under cold running water. Devein. Alternate cleaned shrimp and sliced onions in a shallow dish.

Pack them in layers in a jar like I'm doing here. Sure Add bay leaves. Combine olive oil, vinegar, celery seed salt, Tabasco and Worcestershire . Mix well, pour over shrimp and onions. Hey, I knew we'd agree on something!!

Cover and store in refrigerator for at least 24 hours before serving. Yes, absolutely. They will not taste like much until they sit in the liquid for at least a day or so. Put them in the ice box, and let them sit for a couple of days.

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