As Easter Sunday approaches, Southern cooks turn to traditional recipes for their Easter repast.
The Easter Sunday meal is not unlike Southern Thanksgiving and Christmas meals. All are labor-intensive, featuring an array of meats, casseroles, salads and desserts. But Easter stands out for its tradition of colored eggs, chocolate bunnies and hams cooked in Coca-Cola.
In my youth, the ubiquitous Coke was integral to the braising liquid for the Easter ham and Mom’s luscious chocolate cake.
Other traditional dishes were prepared in addition to the cola ham — except lamb, because it was viewed as a Yankee food and there were likely no cola recipes for it in Southern cookbooks.
Holiday staples such as sweet potato casserole, celery stalks stuffed with pimento cheese, mac and cheese, potato salad, homemade rolls, coconut cake and especially deviled eggs always adorned the Easter table.
Eggs are always essential to Easter feasting because in the Christian faith they symbolize birth and the resurrection of Christ.
From a secular standpoint, before the days of plastic Easter eggs from China, hard-boiled eggs dyed in an array of hues were hidden and hunted and sometimes eaten by children who were obviously immune to salmonella.
No self-respecting Southern Easter meal is complete without deviled eggs.
Ever wonder how they came to be called deviled eggs? An Englishman, William Underwood, opened a condiment shop in Boston in 1822. He and his sons experimented with creating a spicy blend that included things like Dijon mustard, hot sauce, cayenne and other hot peppers.
Originally created as a special ingredient for ground cooked meats like ham or turkey, they called the process of adding their potent mixture "deviling."
This deviling mixture was trademarked, and holds the oldest food trademark still in use in America. (However, references to deviling predate America’s colonization.)
As the Underwood mixture came to be added to mashed yolk stuffings for hard-boiled eggs, the dish became known as "deviled eggs."
Selecting wines to accompany such a diverse menu can be daunting. Is there a wine that pairs equally well with cola ham and celery sticks stuffed with pimento cheese? Probably not.
But there are versatile wines available that are more likely to pair with the majority of the elements of the Easter meal.
When thinking of versatility, the wines from Oregon come to mind. The principal red grape in Oregon is pinot noir, just as it is in Burgundy, France. Both regions are known for producing wines of subtlety, primarily because growing conditions in both regions tend to be cool, allowing grapes to ripen slowly.
Wines from these regions are not fruit bombs like those originating in warmer regions, but it is their restraint that makes them ideal for a meal involving a cornucopia of foods.
I recently tasted three such wines from Dundee Hills Stoller Family Estates in Oregon, a vineyard that is family-owned and LEED certified (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design).
All are produced exclusively from estate-grown fruit in limited quantities, hence their pricing in $30 to $50 range. They are available by special order from you favorite wine merchant. Any of the following should be a welcome addition to the Easter meal:
Stoller Family Estate 2013 Reserve Chardonnay 2013. If a fan of naked or unoaked chardonnay, this is your wine, although only a minimal amount of the blend, 15 percent, spends time in new oak. This crisp, lemony wine should be a great accompaniment for deviled eggs as well as the South’s favorite side vegetable, mac and cheese.
Stoller Family Estate Pinot Noir 2013. Aromas of wild strawberries and forest floor. Flavors of candied cherries and raspberries. Great acidity that should cut right through that cola baked ham.
Stoller 2012 Reserve Pinot Noir. Priced in the $50 range, the most expensive wine of the grouping. From carefully selected fruit sourced from the estate’s most prized vineyard blocks. Aged in a combination of new and neutral French oak. Deep ruby color with a berry and earthy nose. Elegant, food-friendly wine.
Contact Pat Kettles at email@example.com.