For as long as I can remember, we’ve gathered for family celebrations at my parents house; whether it is a major holiday or a birthday or just an excuse to get together, we’ve always had good food at our celebrations; and when the weather is warm, we’re outside eating in the breeze and sunshine!
Memorial Day is usually the official kickoff of the summer season in the USA: red, white and blue decorations, parades, festivals and even fireworks in some areas! Summer, of course, means cookout, barbecue and picnic season; red-checked tablecloths, plastic flatware, coolers, paper plates and cold drinks! Many families have a traditional meal for each holiday and I’d like to share ours with you:
grilled hot dogs
My recipes are often ones I learned from my mother when I was a little girl and growing up and either she winged it a lot or she had many of her recipes memorized, because she didn’t often use a recipe. So, my recipes will often contain measurements like: “1 to 1½ cups water” because either I only have a general idea of how much & I go by eye or taste, or because it is a flexible recipe that we nudge a bit, depending on what we want. Food and recipes are fun to play with, so in the spirit of fun, jump right in and try these recipes without worrying about it being “perfect”.
My mom made her sauce from scratch and it was always different than anywhere else. I missed it when I got married and moved away, so I asked mom to write down a recipe for me. She wrote what measurements she thought and over the years, I’ve tweaked it a bit to suit my husband’s (and later my kids’) taste:
1 Cup brown sugar
1 Cup ketchup (I sometimes substitute tomato paste for a thicker sauce)
2 Tablespoons dry mustard
¼ Cup blackstrap molasses
¼ Cup cider vinegar
¼ Cup Worcestershire sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
several leafy ends (whatever you have up to 10) of celery
Mix all ingredients together in a saucepan. Bring to a simmer, cook on low to medium heat for 7 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove celery leaves & discard. Brush onto ribs while cooking or (since our grill was full of hamburgers, hot dogs and sometimes chicken) place ribs in large baking dish and pour sauce over ribs.
My mom cooked the ribs in the oven at 350° for 1 to 2 hours, until they were tender when tested with a fork. If we had time and space on the grill, my dad would throw the ribs on there, brush on some of the sauce from the baking dish & let them get nice and gooey. But usually, by the time the ribs were done, we were all too hungry to wait for the grill application.
This is my conglomeration I’ve added to and changed over the last couple decades to get it just the way I like it. The measurements in this recipe are very general – I make this without any sort of measuring tools – I go by eye, by nose and by taste, but I’ve made it so many times, I’m pretty good at using “dollops” and “dashes”. Plus, your other ingredients can vary if you have a lot more or a lot less than 8 people eating.
red skinned potatoes (2 potatoes per person if small, 1 potato per person if medium to large)
¼ to ½ Cup olive oil mayonnaise
½ to ¾ (or more) sour cream
1 teaspoon to 2 Tablespoons prepared mustard
1 teaspoon to 1 Tablespoon horseradish
2 Tablespoons to ¼ Cup pickle relish
1 can black olives, minced
2 green onions
2 stalks celery, chopped fine
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
½ Cup blue cheese crumbles
6 to 10 hard boiled eggs, sliced into ¼” cubes
sea salt & fresh ground pepper to taste
Put water on to boil, salting well. Peel half the potatoes (use equal amounts of red & blue-skinned potatoes for an extra festive salad!), cut into 1″ cubes. When water is at a full, rolling boil, put potatoes in and cook until fork tender, about 10 minutes. Drain potatoes in colander and immediately place in ice water bath to stop potatoes from further cooking. When no longer hot, remove potatoes and drain.
Cut greens off the top of the green onions. Chop the whites fine, set aside. Slice the greens about ⅛” thick on the diagonal, reserve about 1 – 2 tablespoons and put the rest in with the chopped whites.
Put potatoes into large bowl. Mix in mayo, sour cream, mustard, horseradish, relish, olives, onion, celery and garlic until well-blended. Use kitchen shears (or scissors) to snip dill into salad; I usually put enough to be able to clearly tell by eye that there is dill in it when mixed up.
Salt & pepper to taste. Add blue cheese and hard boiled egg and gently fold into salad. Sprinkle reserved green onion over top as garnish. Though you can serve immediately, the flavor will be much better if it can sit, covered, in the refrigerator, for 6 – 8 hours/overnight or longer.
One of my summertime favorites, I make this as often as I can for serving more than my family of 4, because we can never eat it all ourselves. Pot lucks, cookouts, picnics, whatever!
This is another non-measurement recipe. I pick many fruits that we like that I can find fresh (watermelon, cantaloupe, seedless grapes, strawberries, bananas, blueberries, cherries, pineapple, pomegranate, star fruit, raspberries, kiwi, etc.), cut them, slice them or melon-ball them into bite size pieces, mix them all together and stir. Occasionally, I’ll put in some canned coconut milk (unsweetened) to give it a little something to hold it together, but usually just about ¼ cup lemon juice stirred in will help give it a “sauce” and keep the bananas & such from turning brown.
It is delicious by itself, with dinner or as a dessert (or breakfast the next day!), or you can spoon it over shortbread cookies, sponge cake, pound cake or top it with whipping cream – very versatile dish.
With our Memorial Day meal, we usually have hamburgers and hot dogs on the grill with buns & all the fixin’s: sliced tomato, sliced onion, a variety of sliced cheese, mustard, ketchup, mayonnaise, jalapenos, dill pickles, banana peppers, lettuce, coney sauce, relish, etc. We often have baked beans, tweaked to our own recipe; different choices of potato and corn chips; and for drinks, we favor lemon-limeade, made from 1 jug of Simply Lemonade mixed with 1 jug of Simply Limeade; and homemade iced tea, unsweetened, so each can sweeten or flavor it as they like.
I hope you enjoy trying out our family’s recipes for yourself – feel free to take them and make them your own, tweaking them and changing them around a bit to suit you and your family! Happy Memorial Day!