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The Tasting Tennessee videos in the Tennessee State Museum’s new exhibition, Let’s Eat! Origins and Evolutions of Tennessee Food bring a contemporary spin to decades-old recipes by notable Tennessee cooks, Malinda Russell, Rufus Estes and Mary Bobo. Each of the six videos illustrates for the viewer the steps to recreate the historical recipes. Be sure to visit the Museum to see the full videos. In the meantime, here are the recipes to try for yourself at home. Feel free to shoot your own videos and share with us on social media @TNstatemuseum #LetsEatTN.
Malinda Russell wrote the first known cookbook to be published by an African American woman. Born free around 1812 in Washington County, Tennessee, she operated a boarding house and pastry shop on Chuckey Mountain. Threats of violence during the Civil War led her to relocate north to Michigan, where she published her cookbook.
by Malinda Russell
3 dozen large ripe peaches
3 pounds sugar
1 quart peach brandy
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the peaches and boil until the skin loosens. Peel the peaches, remove the pits, and cut into slices. Soak them in cold water while preparing the syrup.
In a medium size saucepan over high heat, combine sugar and brandy. Stir occasionally to dissolve the sugar. Continue to boil for 3 to 5 minutes, or until a syrup is formed.
Add the peaches to the syrup and bring the mixture to a boil. Let the peaches barely scaled.
Remove the peaches from the saucepan using a slotted spoon. Turn the peaches over in half a pint of peach brandy and funnel them into mason jars. Fill the mason jars to the top with the syrup.
by Malinda Russell
Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
Chop the tomatoes, peppers, and onions and add them to the boiling water. Add the grated horseradish and salt to taste. Allow the mixture to scald and drain in a sieve.
Pour the mixture into mason jars and top with spiced vinegar.
Rufus Estes began his life enslaved with his mother and eight siblings on the farm of Daniel J. Estes in Maury County. After the Civil War, he moved to Nashville and found employment as a cook at the Hemphill European Hotel and Restaurant on Church Street, where he specialized in seafood. He had a distinguished career as a chef for the Pullman Car Company in Chicago and wrote his cookbook in 1911.
by Rufus Estes
1 cup milk
1 rounded tablespoon of butter
1 level tablespoon of cornstarch
¼ level teaspoon of salt
A few grains of cayenne
One can of shrimp or the same amount of fresh shrimp
Scalloped sea shells
Prepare the sauce: Combine milk, butter, and cornstarch in a medium saucepan and cook on medium for 5 minutes. Add the salt and a few grains of cayenne. Mix well.
Prepare the shrimp: Remove all bits of shell from the shrimp and mince fine.
Lightly butter the scalloped shells. Mix the sauce and minced shrimp together well. Roll the mixture into 1.5” - 2” balls and place inside the shells. Cover with bread crumbs and top with butter.
Bake until the crumbs have browned.
by Rufus Estes
2 tablespoons flour
Pinch of salt
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons sugar
1 beaten egg yolk
1 beaten white of egg
1 tablespoon cream
In a large mixing bowl, combine butter and sugar. Add flour, cornstarch, and a pinch of salt and mix well. Whisk in egg yolk and cream.
In a separate mixing bowl, pour mixture over fresh mixed berries and steam for 45 minutes.
Spoon out mixture and top with whipped cream to serve
In 1908, Mary Bobo and her husband, Jack, purchased a boarding house in Lynchburg, Tennessee. Bobo’s meals were legendary among the boarding house guests and the community. Leola “Dill” Dismukes and Louise Gregory were two long-time African American cooks that prepared meals for hundreds of guests. Mary Bobo ran the boarding house until she was 98.
Breakfast Ham and Biscuits with Red-Eye Gravy
by Mary Bobo
3 slices Tennessee Country ham, about ¼” thick
¼ cup strong coffee
¼ teaspoon sugar
Biscuits or your favorite bread
In a large iron skillet fry the ham slices on each side. Once cooked, remove the ham and cut into 2-inch square pieces.
Add the coffee and sugar to the pan drippings in the skillet. Blend the mixture over low heat.
Return the cooked ham to the gravy and simmer until hot. Place the pieces of ham onto split biscuits with one or two spoonfuls of gravy on top
Simple Supper Tomatoes
by Mary Bobo
6 large, firm, ripe tomatoes, slices
1 bunch green onion, sliced, including half of green tops
2 tablespoons parsley, minced
2 tablespoons sweet basil, minced (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste
¾ cup olive oil
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
1 clove garlic, pressed to release juice
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
In a large salad bowl layer the tomatoes and onions. Sprinkle with parsley, basil, salt and pepper.
In a small mixing bowl combine the oil, vinegar, garlic, sugar, salt, and Worcestershire sauce with a wire whisk or electric mixer.
Spoon the oil mixture over the tomatoes slices. Cover and chill until suppertime.