Monday, July 5, 2010

Branson, Missouri, Part One

Country-style Candied Jalapenos!

It doesn't get much more 'down-home' than Branson, Missouri for a vacation.  In the last few years, my parents have begun to frequent the place for the gorgeous, clean lakes, endless entertainment options, and their proximity to home (only about 5 hours from St. Louis to vacation fun).  I only remember going to Silver Dollar City (the local amusement park) when I was about 3 or 4.  Other than that, I really had no memory or pre-conceived notions of the place before last week.  We had been meaning to plan a trip on my Dad's boat for a few years now and decided the time was now.  What were we waiting for?  It's hot, it's summer, and my yankee husband had never seen a real hillbilly.

Branson is a small town in southern Missouri, only about 30 minutes north of Arkansas in the Ozark Mountains.  The area is packed full of history, including Native American, American pioneer/Americana, and mountain hillbilly lore.  It is close enough to Springfield, Missouri and Fayetteville, Arkansas, among a few others, that it isn't a completely isolated town and was reinvented in about the 1970s as "The Country Music Capital" and "The Next Nashville".  There were theaters and performance spaces, resorts, amusement parks, and lakeside entertainment that popped up everywhere in this tiny town in the mountains.  Many stars from the 1940s through the 1970s who were looking to settle down, built theaters and put together year-round acts.  Some of these include Roy Rogers, Jr., Yakov Smirnoff's Moscow Circus,  The (remaining) Comets, Paul Revere and the Raiders, assorted gospel family acts, animal acts, and, of course (drum roll) Dr. Christmas and the King of Branson himself, Mr. Andy Williams.

The place never made a national splash as expected and the majority of tourists are over age 75 or large families who live relatively close, but the shows, the lake, the food, airport, and resorts are there, so if you are seeking a unique and fun you go.  I know I was excited.  Head on out (just don't expect your GPS to work)!

Before we knew it last week, we were airborne from Atlanta and flying right into Branson.  They had just opened their own airport and we were going to try it out.  My parents drove from St. Louis and in the proper Barker fashion, timed our airport pick-up to the minute despite their five hour drive.  Exiting the plane, we descended a steaming hot outdoor ramp that led us to the main building.  In between the gap in the ramp and the building's doorway we saw it.  In huge letters on the side of this quaint brown building in the mountains, it read, Welcome to the Ozarks.  This was it!  If ever we were going to experience the opposite of New York City on vacation,  it was right now.  We entered the airport and it was tiny, decorated like a log cabin, and all the chairs at the gates were made of twigs.  Even the cement floors had deer, bear, and fox prints pressed into them. Adorable.

Branson may claim to be "The World's Country Music Capital", but we all know that isn't really true.  The whole ride to the resort we giggled and chuckled at the hilarious show billboards...then proceeded to go out for barbecue.  Then it hit me, I should have fasted before this vacation.  Have I been gone from the midwest so long that I forgot about the food?  When we visit, we are typically in Chicago or St. Louis where the food is comparable to any we might pick up in Brooklyn.  Here there was a lot of barbecue, fried stuff, meat, bread, Miracle Whip, and margarine. 

The first night at Danna's Barbecue and Burger Shop we all ordered sandwiches.  Of course the typical pulled pork and ribs made it to the table, but I got adventurous with the fried catfish sandwich and onion rings.  Whew.  It was delicious, but quite a load to carry home.  The exciting part of Danna's (other than good quality eats, of course) was homemade condiments that they made in-house and also sold in jars to take home.  I special-ordered the candied jalapenos on my catfish sandwich because if I didn't, I would never have forgiven myself.  The were absolutely delicious and just as described--jalapenos, but candied.  Less floppy and darker green than a classic "nacho slice", they were literally candied in sugar, water, and spices (possible just bay leaf).  I should have bought a jar--we came so close but with the first night's excitement, I didn't want to get ahead of myself...shoulda bought them dang jalapenos.  They were canned in a mason jar and shelf stable, but here is a shot at a version to be stored in the fridge.  Trust me. They won't last long.

I did some research and am trying this recipe tomorrow.  It looks just about right and I encourage you to give this a shot, too.  It's looks so easy it's too good to be true!  They will keep in the fridge so no rush on using them up right away.  Use these as garnish, on salads, on burgers and sandwiches, with corn on the cob, cornbread, and as a summer condiment, in general.

Candied Jalapenos

1 1/4 cups sliced jalapenos (about 3 or 4 fresh)
1/2 cup sugar 
1/4 cup water
1 bay leaf
dash of salt
2 T white wine vinegar

Combine all in a saucepan and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer 15-20 minutes.  Remove from heat,  add dash of sea salt, and vinegar.  Let cool a bit, place in a clean jar, and refrigerate. 

1 comment:

Catherine Barker Hoffman said...

Add 1-2 T white wine vinegar and some sea salt. Pure Heaven!