Sweet Tea—A Southerner’s Perspective

There’s sweet tea and then there’s Southern sweet tea.teafields

Forget the powdered stuff. Unless you enjoy watching Southerners of every race and creed gag.

About to share a regional secret with ya’ll. Pay attention. My Mama and I brew ours through a Mr. Coffee. My Aunt Grace boils her water on the stovetop and lets the tea bags steep. But the key?

The key is putting the sugar in while the liquid is still hot.

Tracing the Southern Tea Tradition

The first tea plantations in the United States originated in 1795, just a decade after the American Revolution and were located in South Carolina. A few are still available for tour. Bigelow’s is outside Charleston.

The first published sweet tea recipe is found in Housekeeping in Old Virginia by Marion Cabell Tyree in 1879. Green tea was the beverage of choice for iced tea until World War II cut off imports from Asia and Americans made the switch to black tea imported from India—still a British colony at the time.

Southerners take sweet tea very seriously. In 2003 as an April Fool’s joke—or not—the Georgia legislature introduced a bill that would have made it a misdemeanor for restaurants not to offer sweet tea.

And any guesses why Southerners drink iced tea versus the hot tea the rest of Americans enjoy? This is not a trick question.

In the movie, Steel Magnolias, any one remember which character declared sweet tea to be the “house wine of the South”?
Not all tea is created equal.
We have our family favorites. Some choose Luzianne because it’s made specifically for iced tea. Others prefer Tetley or Lipton. But remember, buy quality tea. Sweet tea whether you be a southern belle, hillbilly or swamp rat is serious business. In terms of bag size and quantities, it’s really a matter of personal preference.

As for loose tea? I’ve heard tell some may have tried it. Some people try a lot of things, like diet soda and chocolate-covered grasshoppers. But can’t say that I’d recommend it.
Do not—I repeat—do not boil the tea bags unless you’re filtering them through a coffeemaker. Boil the water. Turn off the stove and allow the bags to steep. Boiling tea bags results in singed, bitter tea and a big mess if the tea bags burst. Steep no longer than 15 minutes—you may have to experiment with this to get the right strength according to your personal preference. The longer they sit, the more bitter your brew will be.
The Nectar—Southern Ambrosia
Pour 1-2 cups of sugar in the bottom of your gallon pitcher. Again, this is according to preference. I’ve seen spoons standing fully upright in the stuff.
The Final Mix
Stir the tea until the sugar dissolves. Then add enough tap water to make a full gallon. Serve cold with ice.
Kick back on the porch, sip, and enjoy the firefly show.porch
Sweet Tea Recipe
Makes one gallon.
3 family-size tea bags – Luzianne or Lipton, preferably “Iced Tea Blend”, can go decaf
2 cups cold water
1 cup sugar
Bring the water to a boil, and add to a gallon pitcher containing the tea bags. Let the teabags steep about 5 minutes. Remove the tea bags (squeeze the remaining tea out of them into the pitcher), stir in sugar while tea is still hot and top off the pitcher with cold water. Stir again and refrigerate. Serve with lemon or mint.
Anyone know what Southerners call a half-tea/half lemonade beverage?
Answer: an Arnold Palmer or Swamp Water

What’s your favorite twist on sweet tea?

For behind-the-scene photos from Beneath a Navajo Moon, visit http://www.pinterest.com/lisacoxcarter/beneath-a-navajo-moon/.

My Garden Through The Seasons







For more gardening ideas from Carolina Reckoning, visit http://pinterest.com/lisacoxcarter/carolina-reckoning/.

What is your favorite season in your yard?

Preparing the Garden for Winter

Pests and plant diseases can overwinter in the soil. Be proactive and nurture an environment that will produce an optimum spring growing climate.
winter2Clean up Time
1. Cut back perennials—eliminating dead and spent foliage a few inches above the ground in the fall actually prevents disease from surviving on dead plant tissue. Think how much healthier and able to grow your hair is after a trim.
2. Remove annuals. Pull up annuals and the summer vegetable garden, roots and all. Feed them to the compost pile.
3. Rake leaf debris and weed garden.
4. Do not add compromised plant debris to the compost pile, but destroy infected leaves. Pathogens will overwinter in composts that doesn’t get hot enough.
winter3Dream Time—The Fun Part
1. Document with photos and diagram what plants are growing in particular locations. This is especially helpful for Southern gardeners who find their memories fading with either age or information overload. And prevents an overzealous gardener come spring from planting over and injuring dormant perennials. Also a great way to reflect on what worked and what didn’t work.
2. Winterize container gardening. Bring containers indoor or to protected area like a garage or basement. Don’t add fertilizer. Keep water to a minimum. You don’t want to encourage growth during the dormant season.
3. Test the soil to ascertain pH level and nutrient analysis.
4. Enrich the quality of the soil as needed with compost, blood meal, bone meal, etc . . . This addition to the garden in the fall will allow the compounds to break down into a plant usable form come spring.
5. Add a layer of mulch as a protective layer over the garden’s root system.
winter1Design Time—Autumn is the best time to plant certain trees, shrubs, bulbs and perennials.
Plan for color in the winter months with pansies, Lenten roses, camellias and daphnes.

For more gardening tips and ideas from Carolina Reckoning, visit http://pinterest.com/lisacoxcarter/carolina-reckoning/.


Chicken and Wild Rice Soup Recipe from Carolina Reckoning

ricesoupFor brisk autumn days and chilly fall nights.

Makes 3 quarts.

¼ cup butter
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 cups onions
1 cup celery
1 Tbsp minced garlic
2 (8 oz) sliced Baby Bella mushrooms
6 Tbsp all-purpose flour
2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp white pepper
½ tsp black pepper
2 quarts chicken broth
4 cups chopped cooked chicken
3 cups cooked wild rice
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 Tbsp fresh thyme
2 Tbsp sherry
Garnish with thyme.

1. In Dutch oven, heat butter and olive oil till melted and blended.
2. Add onion and celery. Cook 5 minutes.
3. Add garlic. Cook 2 minutes.
4. Add mushrooms. Cook 10 minutes. Stir frequently.
5. Add garlic powder, flour, salt and peppers. Cook 2 minutes. Stir constantly.
6. Add chicken broth. Stir till achieve smooth texture.
7. Bring to simmer, then add chicken and wild rice. Cook 20 minutes.
8. Add cream and thyme. Simmer. Cook for 10 minutes.
9. Stir in sherry. Garnish with thyme.
10. Serve and enjoy.

For more recipes and behind the scene photos of Carolina Reckoning, visit http://www.pinterest.com/lisacoxcarter/carolina-reckoning/.

North Carolina Handicraft—Tatting

tatting1Tatting is a form of lace making, historically the domain of upper class women who had the leisure time required of this handicraft. Queen Victoria was an avid tatter. Tatting dates to the early 1800s. The word, tatting, derives from the French word, frivolité, an indication of the decorative nature of the projects produced using this technique.

tatting2In tatting, thread is wrapped around 1-2 shuttles. The shuttles guide the thread into a series or pattern of knots and loops, creating rings and chains in delicate lace designs. The tatter uses one hand to wrap the thread and the other hand to manipulate the shuttle. No other tools are necessary except the thread and the shuttle. The best thread for tatting is a dense thread that doesn’t untwist easily. DMC and Perl cotton are often utilized.

Tatting projects include: doilies, earrings, necklaces, Christmas ornaments, bookmarks, baby items and can serve as edging from everything from wedding veils to handkerchiefs to clothing.

tatting3Due to fashion and home décor magazines, tatting had a tremendous following throughout the first half of the 20th century. This art form flourished when fashion trends incorporated frilly, feminine touches such as lace collars and cuffs. Once technology made lace making an inexpensive and readily available purchase, handmade lace declined. Tatting has experienced a small revival of sorts and is now often used in occupational therapy to keep patients’ fine motor skills and minds tuned during a long recovery period.

Trivia question—When was tatting mentioned in Carolina Reckoning? What was happening?

For more photos, see http://pinterest.com/lisacoxcarter/carolina-reckoning/.


Shepherd’s Pie with a Twist Recipe from Carolina Reckoning

Another hearty recipe from Claire’s cupboardsheppie

1 lb. ground beef
1 small onion
¼ cup green pepper
1 can tomato soup
2 cups vegetable (green beans, peas, carrots or corn as desired)
2 cups mashed potatoes
1 cup shredded cheese

1. Brown beef and onion with green pepper.
2. Add salt and black pepper to taste.
3. Stir in tomato soup and vegetable.
4. Put into a 2-quart casserole and top with potatoes, then cheese.
5. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

Great recipe to use leftover vegetables and potatoes.

The twist? Claire’s decorative touches—parsley or chives garnish.

Visit http://pinterest.com/lisacoxcarter/carolina-reckoning/ for more behind-the-scene photos of Carolina Reckoning.

Bulbs in the Southern Garden

Fall—time to plant bulbs for next year’s spring color

Here are some of my favorite bulbs and Alison Monaghan’s (fictional heroine of Carolina Reckoning), too.

irisIris species—Iris danfordiae—Zone 5-9
Late winter blooms. Full sun. Large colony.

daffodilDaffodils—Narcissus spp.—Zone 6-9
Try to find species daffodils (not hybrids) which will return year after year and increase.

squillSiberian squill—Scilla siberica—Zone 2-8
Early spring. Full sun to part shade. Naturalize for mass effect.

tulipTulips—Tulipa spp.—Zone 2-8
Full sun. Hybrids short lived in South so find species bulbs for returning blooms each year. Elegant and formal.

For more gardening photos, visit http://pinterest.com/lisacoxcarter/carolina-reckoning/.

Start Planning Next Year’s Southern Garden

My favorite garden books—and Alison Monaghan’s (fictional heroine/landscape designer of Carolina Reckoning), too.

These recommended reads for a Southern garden are a visual treat when summer fades away and the days become gray and dreary.

Peter Loewer Gardens of North Carolina—for the reader/traveler Loewer

Susan A. Roth The Weekend Garden Guide—my first and still garden go-to book.
gardenhomeP. Allen Smith Garden Home

southerngardenElizabeth Lawrence A Southern Garden—a classic


For more gardening photos, visit http://pinterest.com/lisacoxcarter/carolina-reckoning/.

Other Plant Favorites in the Old-Fashioned Southern Garden

Although gardeners—like mothers—shouldn’t admit to favorites, here are plants that make Alison Monaghan’s, fictional heroine of Carolina Reckoning, all-time favorite list.

moonvineMoon Vine

jacob's ladderJacob’s Ladder



Wood Hyacinths


vabluebellsVirginia bluebells




Lenten roses

For more gardening photos, visit http://pinterest.com/lisacoxcarter/carolina-reckoning/.

Quilts Featured in Carolina Reckoning—Wedding Ring Quilt

A quilt that brought romance to the Great DepressionWR4

The motif of two interlocking rings can be traced as far back as fourth century Rome. In the 15th and 16th centuries, the interlocking gimmal ring was popular in Europe. One ring was worn by the man and the other by the woman during the engagement. At the wedding ceremony, the two rings were fitted together and worn thereafter by the wife. This design is thought to have been brought to America by German settlers in Pennsylvania in the 17th century and is seen on coverlets, pottery and other decorative arts of the colonial period. Early quilt versions were known as Friendship Knot, Endless Chain and Pickle Dish.

WR2The Double Wedding Ring pattern was first published in 1928. The pattern became extremely popular during the 1930s and 1940s. Prior to the 20th century, quilters appliqued the pieces onto solid fabric. But early 20th century quilters made the switch to piecing the entire quilt top. This quilt is not for the faint of heart nor the novice.

I’d like to make one of these for each of my daughters upon the occasion of their marriage. But as one elderly quilter—maybe the forerunner of Velma Jones from Carolina Reckoning—told me once, I should have started the quilts before my own marriage if I wanted to finish them in time for my daughters’ weddings.

WR3Anyone created a Wedding Ring quilt? Own one? Any tips for the rest of us?
Share your photo jpg and I’ll post pictures for blog readers to enjoy.

For more behind-the-scene photos, including quilts, visit http://pinterest.com/lisacoxcarter/carolina-reckoning/.