Virginia Willis Blog

Bushels of Peachy Keen Peach Recipes

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Georgia Grown

I grew up smack in the middle of peach country in South Georgia. When I was in high school, my spring breaks were dictated by picking season, as many of my classmates were the sons and daughters of farmers. I’ve bought peaches (and pecans) from my former neighbors at Pearson Farms, a fifth generation family farm, for nearly 20 years. Peaches are one of my favorite summer foods. To my mind, there’s simply nothing better than a perfectly ripe peach. The best way to eat a fresh one is standing over a sink letting the juices drip down your arm! However, peaches are great to cook with, too. This post includes a bushel basket of peachy keen recipes!  (more…)

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What’s in Season: Grilled Corn Tabouleh

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Corn is Summer

Corn is one of the premier vegetables of summer all across the United States. Long hot Southern summers produce delicious corn, but some of the best corn I ever had in my life was from New Jersey! The farmer had a stand on the side of the road in front of his cornfield. He would ask how many ears you wanted, and march back into the green, rustling stalks to pick your order. Freshness is important, since the moment corn is picked, the sugars begin converting into starch.


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What’s in Season: Butterbean Basil Hummus

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Everybody Likes Butterbeans….

Butterbeans are one of my favorite things to eat on this Earth. Yes – that includes fine Belgian chocolates, French delicacies, other Southern classics like fried chicken with rice and gravy or Georgia peaches picked fresh from the tree. Butterbeans are my soul food. I don’t mean Soul Food in regards to African American Southern cooking. I mean the taste of butterbeans actually seems to touch my soul. My family always planted a large garden. In the evenings during the summer, we’d sit on the screened-in porch shelling the butterbeans or field peas that Dede had picked early that morning.  Meme would put them on the stove with a hunk of fatback and chopped Vidalia onion. They’d simmer slowly until creamy and tender, bathed in an opaque salty, smoky broth. Once they were tender, my grandmother would ladle a spoonful of rice into a pale blue shallow bowl, then top it with a heaping mound of butterbeans and steaming broth. At some point the rim of the bowl was chipped, but that precious butterbean bowl now rests aside my finest china and crystal in the china cabinet. When I am feeling down in the dumps, sick, or homesick, I cook a pot of butterbeans. Butterbeans are my food juju.

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What’s in Season: Five Spice Pork Chops with Ginger Plum BBQ Sauce

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What’s in Season?

Plums, peaches, and apricots are starting to appear at farmer’s markets and grocery stores. Peaches are undoubtedly one of my favorite stone fruits. Given that I grew up in the heart of Peach country in South Georgia, my affinity for them may as well be part of my DNA. While they did not grow peaches, my grandparents had a plum tree on their property. I remember standing with my sister and eating plum after plum straight off the tree, sticky juices running down our chins. Those sweet treats were the best plums I had ever tasted — and tasted since, but I am certain nostalgia and food memories are coming into play. Once we’d had our fill of fresh plums Meme would make jelly. She would stew the fruit until it was completely falling apart. She’d then strain the pulp overnight in a linen sack, and the juices would slowly drip into a wide, shallow enamelware bowl. Once the juice was collected, she would cook the mixture with sugar to make jelly. The results were crystal clear, garnet red, and glistening, perfect for a buttery buttermilk biscuit. (more…)

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Summer Fruit Desserts: Cornmeal Skillet Cake

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 Summer Fruit Desserts

When it comes to summer fruit desserts my go-to recipe is a batter cobbler I learned from my grandmother. When I was a little girl nearly every summer I went camping with my grandparents in their motor home. Over the years we traveled from Georgia all the way to Newfoundland on the East Coast to Saskatchewan in the Northwest. We visited Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon, the Petrified Forest, and Niagara Falls — and everywhere in between. If the weather was nice, my grandfather and I would walk the woods and forage for berries once we made camp. He and I would return with stained hands and mouths and present a precious bucket or bowl to my grandmother. She would use our harvest to prepare a cobbler in her cast iron skillet in the simple, compact kitchen of the camper. I remember enjoying bowls of buttery crust mixed with warm fruit and rivulets of melting vanilla ice cream while sitting at the picnic table listening to the crickets and watching the glow of the fireflies. My grandmother’s simple cobbler seemed to be the finest dessert imaginable. So, cobbler is more than just a dessert to me; it represents special memories with family members that I dearly love.  (more…)

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