There’s something to be said for a hot summer day with nothing to do. I’ve learned that on days like this in the South, it’s only appropriate to spend them relaxing outside in the shade. Our screened-in porch is official now that we’ve actually got a door on it. So with the bugs safely outside and the ceiling fan humming, porch-sitting has become one of my favorite pastimes. Any combination of friends, beer, grilling, or sunshine can enhance the experience. But these two items certainly help too:
1. Sun Tea
Sun tea is brewed slowly by the gentle heat of the sun. It’s nice to have it out on the porch while you’re sitting, because it makes you feel kind of like you’re in the process of doing something productive. Plus it’s really satisfying and delicious to drink after you’ve been staring at it for a few hours.
It helps to start out with one of these glass containers with a cute little spigot built right in. I got this one at Kroger for $4 last year. They may not be so plentiful up north, though. It would work fine with any kind of glass pitcher, but I would hesitate to use anything plastic out there in the sun.
In our house, sun tea has to be sweet. By adding the sugar upfront, you get to skip the boiling step you usually have with sweet tea. And god forbid you serve a southerner cold, un-sweet tea with a sugar packet. I suppose you could make some unsweetened sun tea if you really wanted to. (But maybe you ought to call it something else.)
2. Pimento Cheese
Pimento cheese is most definitely a southern thing too. I didn’t know what it was until I moved down to Knoxville and started seeing pimento cheese sandwiches and burgers on restaurant menus. Essentially, it’s just a sharp cheese spread. They sell versions of it in every grocery store. But when you make it yourself and add a bit of real flavor, it can truly be delicious. It’s perfect on crackers and pretzels. You’d have to be crazy not to like this stuff (like someone I know… 🙂 ).
I had previously tried a Paula Deen recipe. Usually she’s a pretty reliable source for southern classics, and the first version I made last year was pretty good. But those dang Lee brothers gave me a better one. I’ve been somewhat obsessed with The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook lately. Although they’re a little dweeby and high-brow, it’s a great resource for southern classics. Their pimento cheese recipe has you roasting your own red pepper. But peeling charred skin off roasted peppers is kitchen torture to me, so the recipe below is my more straightforward version.
Sun Tea (makes one pitcher, about 3 quarts)
(Danny’s mom’s formula)
- 3 quarts water
- 3 family size tea bags (or 7 regular tea bags) (preferably Lipton)
- 1 cup sugar*
Fill glass pitcher with water. Add sugar and stir. Naturally, it will all sink to the bottom at first. This is okay. Tie the strings of the tea bags together and immerse in water. They will not sink down immediately. Screw the cap onto the pitcher or otherwise cover the top securely. Place the pitcher in the direct sunlight for 3-5 hours.
After a few hours, take the tea in from the sun, remove the tea bags and give it a good stir. All the sugar should be dissolved now and the tea should be a deep amber color. Serve in tall glasses with tons of ice.
*A whole cup of sugar makes some pretty sweet tea. It’s the way a lot of people drink it in the souf’. If you like your sweet tea a little milder, about 2/3 cup sugar added at the beginning would also be good.
Pimento Cheese Spread (makes about 2.5 cups, enough for a crowd)
(Barely adapted from The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook)
- 8 oz. sharp cheddar cheese
- 4 oz. jar chopped pimentos
- 2.5 oz. cream cheese
- 3 tbs. mayonnaise
- 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
- Salt and pepper to taste
Grate sharp cheddar finely into a large bowl. The smaller the pieces, the smoother the spread will be. Drain the pimentos slightly. They do not need to be squeezed dry.
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and stir with a wooden spoon until well combined, about 2 minutes. Chill for at least an hour before serving with crackers and sun tea (while sitting on the porch).