Virginia Willis Blog

Healthy Chicken, Yankee Peaches, and The Pork Chop Theory

It’s high season for preserving summer fruits and vegetables and I am thrilled about my friend and colleague’s new cookbook Put ’em Up! by Sherri Brooks Vinton. Canning, fermenting, freezing, drying are just a few of the many ways eaters can preserve the fantastic flavors of locally grown foods. Whether you’re a canning novice or preservation pro, Sherri’s book gives eaters all of the information they need to Put ‘em Up!

With my next cookbook, Basic to Brilliant, Y’all on rapidly approaching deadline and launching my new product line, My Southern Pantry, I am afraid the extent of my preserving this year has been limited to making bourbon and Maraschino cherries (which simple consists of pouring booze over the fruit, not a real stretch of culinary prowess) and a putting up a couple of gallons of quart size bags of frozen butterbeans, lady peas, and okra and tomatoes.

So, sadly, canning kettle is staying in the box this year.

However, if you are in the Atlanta area and want to dust yours off, check out the Georgia Organics event with Liz Porter, Preserving the Harvest on August 14 or Yes We Can Can on August 21. Great stuff.

I was honored Sherri asked me to be a part of her book, so I am reprinting her version of my recipe here. That’s real love, you know, sharing like that. It’s the ultimate in the Pork Chop Theory by my dear friend Nathalie Dupree.

What’s that? The what? Huh?

The Pork Chop Theory is based on the premise that if you put one pork chop in the pan and turn the heat on high, the pork chop will burn. If you put two pork chops in the pan, however, and turn the heat on high they will feed off the fat of one another. It’s the ultimate in giving, sharing, and developing mutually beneficial partnerships and relationships. It’s not about competition, it’s about sharing the fat, sharing the love.

It’s about everyone getting what they need to be satisfied and happy.

And, you know what? The older I get, the more I know that’s what life is all about.

Following your heart and being happy.

So, in light of looming book manuscript and in the spirit of The Pork Chop Theory, in these next couple of months I’ll be reaching out to friends and colleagues and sharing their recipes with you. Enjoy!

Bon Appétit, Y’all

Sherri’s Chinese Plum Sauce
Makes about 3 cups

Richly spiced, full of flavor, you won’t want to save it just for your moo shu. Be prepared for this condiment to become your new ketchup.

2 pounds plums, pitted and chopped
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
1/4 cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons freshly grated ginger
2 garlic cloves
1 star anise

Combine the plums, vinegar, brown sugar, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, and star anise in a large nonreactive pot, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until thickened, 20 to 25 minutes. Fish out the star anise and discard. Puree the sauce with a stick blender.

Refrigerate: Ladle into bowls or jars. Cool, cover, and refrigerate for up to 3 weeks.

Can: Use the boiling-water method. Ladle into clean, hot 4-ounce or half-pint canning jars, leaving 1/4 inch of headspace. Release trapped air. Wipe the rims clean; center lids on the jars and screw on jar bands. Process for 10 minutes. Turn off heat, remove canner lid, and let jars rest in the water for 5 minutes. Remove jars and set aside for 24 hours. Check seals, then store in a cool, dark place for up to 1 year.

Sherri’s Asian Chicken Wrap
Makes 2 wraps

2 cups diced cooked chicken
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/4 cup Chinese Plum Sauce (above)
2 flour tortillas
1 cup shredded lettuce
1 cucumber, sliced into ribbons with
a vegetable peeler
Several sprigs fresh cilantro (optional)

Toss the chicken with the soy sauce in a small bowl and set aside. Smear half the Chinese Plum Sauce in the center of each tortilla, being careful to leave at least a 1-inch border all around. Arrange half of the lettuce, cucumber, chicken, and cilantro, if using, on the lower third of each wrap. One at a time, fold up the wraps, first folding the two sides of the tortilla in over the filling, and then, starting with the edge closest to you, rolling the wrap away from you. Turn seam-side down on a plate and serve.

Sherri sent me a picture of peaches from the Union Square farmer’s market to use and I told her I grew up picking peaches in Peach County, Georgia. Pork Chop Theory aside, I told her I couldn’t use her photo of Yankee peaches. I might get run out of town!

Sherri’s Pickled Peaches
Makes about 2 quarts

There are some dishes so quintessentially Southern that they never make it north of the Mason- Dixon line, and Pickled Peaches is one of them. The vinegar-and-fruit combo might sound odd to a Yankee, but put up a batch of these and you’ll be whistling Dixie no matter where you live. I have adapted this recipe from one in Bon Appetit, Y’all, a treasure of a book from my dearfriend, and an authentic Georgia peach herself, Virginia Willis. For best results, use ripe but firm peaches.

6 (500 mg) vitamin C tablets, crushed
2 quarts cold water
2 cups ice
5 pounds peaches (10–12)
4 cups distilled white vinegar
4 cups sugar
1 (2-inch) knob ginger, sliced into coins
2 cinnamon sticks
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon whole cloves

In a large bowl, cooler, or your impeccably clean kitchen sink, create an antibrowning ascorbic-acid bath by dissolving the crushed vitamin C tablets in the cold water. Add the ice.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Working in batches of two peaches at a time, blanch the fruit in the boiling water for 30 seconds to loosen the skins.

Scoop the peaches out of the water and plunge them into the prepared ice water. Repeat with the remaining peaches. Drain. Using a small paring knife, peel, pit, and halve the peaches, returning them to the ice bath as you go.

Bring the vinegar, sugar, ginger, cinnamon, allspice, and cloves to a boil in a large saucepan, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add the drained peaches, return to a boil, and then reduce the heat and simmer until tender, about 10 minutes.

Refrigerate: Ladle into bowls or jars. Cool, cover, and refrigerate for up to 3 weeks.

Can: Use the boiling-water method. Ladle into clean, hot quart canning jars, covering the peaches by 1/2 inch with liquid. Leave 1/2 inch of headspace between the top of the liquid and the lid. Screw lids on the jars temporarily. Gently swirl each jar to release trapped air bubbles. Remove the lids and add syrup, if necessary, to achieve proper headspace. Wipe the rims clean; center lids on the jars and screw on jar bands. Process for 20 minutes. Turn off heat, remove canner lid, and let jars rest in the water for 5 minutes. Remove jars and set aside for 24 hours. Check seals, then store in a cool, dark place for up to 1 year.

Copyright © Virginia Willis Culinary Enterprises, LLC 2010

Please be nice. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission is prohibited. Feel free to excerpt and link, just give credit where credit is due and send folks to my website,

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12 Responses to “Healthy Chicken, Yankee Peaches, and The Pork Chop Theory”

  1. Thanks for directing this post to me from Dianne’s blog, Virginia. I thoroughly believe in the Pork Chop Theory (though heaven knows I never though of it in those terms!). I do know – and never let myself forget it – that this is how I have come so far in my new career as a writer, by creating relationships, partnerships with others. It is always mutually rewarding and although we always know that we have things to take, we all have so much to give as well. We all get something from it and create wonderful bonds and friendships at the same time. You have a good heart, Virginia Willis!

  2. Melea Brett

    How sad I was to wake up this morning and not be cooking with you! Two days wasn’t nearly enough to soak up all the fun. You are a kindred spirit, indeed. Thank you for sharing your time . . . and making those brownies once more this year. All “my people” (a loving referral to anyone who may end up at my table during dinner – it is never the same folks) will definitely be having the soup this week.

    If you would be so kind, I would love four cookbooks signed as follows:

    1) Melea

    2) Jennifer (Side note: my Southern born and bred cousin who married an Italian from Chicago. They eat Lasagna for Thanksgiving when they are not here; she doesn’t love it. This book will help her teach their 5 year old Sofia a few Southern tricks! Please check out for their (our) story. Ahhh, I digress.

    3) Melanie

    4) Anna Claire

    Thanks so much! Just let me know how much to include for shipping. Hope you’re having some good “Mama time.”


    Melea Brett
    6301 Campbellton Redwine Rd
    Chattahoochee Hills, GA 30268

  3. Great blog…….Virginia! I love your writing and that southern humor…….
    And……….I have to say…..peaches from the south are the BEST!

  4. I asked for this book for my birthday and have already used it a few times with my harvest this summer-I recommend it! Thanks for the links to the classes too-I had no IDEA that Georgia had 28 processing centers for large batch canning-I’m going to have to look into that!


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