You're going to need a bigger plate.
We gather and celebrate around food, which means 4th of July in a Southerner's household is the Super Bowl of summer holidays. We invite everyone we run into at the local Publix to stop by for our patriotic potluck. There is no shortage of food and drinks, as our mamas take their menus very seriously. And while you may see plenty of the same dishes on picnic tables around the country (think: burgers, hot dogs, popsicles ), there are a handful of specialties that you'll only see if you end up below the Mason-Dixon for Independence Day.
Southerners believe that deviled eggs should be served at any and all occasions. The simplicity and classic nature of this choice lends itself to guests of all ages and generations, so it's an easy choice when picking a cold appetizer to serve on your party table.
Macaroni & Cheese
One of the beauties of Southern cooking is that we consider many things "vegetables," including macaroni and cheese. This gray area is our gain, as macaroni and cheese makes an appearance in a 9" x 13" casserole dish nearly every time three or more Southerners gather. It's the perfect addition to an Independence Day spread because it is a crowd favorite (and we mean favorite) and makes enough to feed an army.
Corn On The Cob
Yes, you could argue that other parts of the country have corn on the cob. But, Southern corn on the cob stands apart for its fresh, sweet, and milky qualities. You can throw a couple of cobs on the grill and infuse them with a little smoke – but the simplicity of cooked corn slathered in butter and sprinkled with salt is truly one of the brightest shining stars of our holiday table. Honorable mentions in the corn category also go to fried corn (like this Fried Confetti Corn recipe) and the ever-popular deep-fried "vegetable" that is corn fritters.
This whole article could be an ode to squash casserole. The silky-soft squash and creamy sauce is topped with golden-brown, buttery cracker pieces. If you know about squash casserole, it's likely taking up a good chunk of your 4th of July menu. Summer is the best time to harvest squash, so it's not only a delicious vegetable casserole to fill hungry bellies, it's also an inexpensive one. Whatever you do, as Chrissy Metz says, you can't forget the cheese.
It's time to sample our canning! No Southern 4th of July party is complete without an array of picked-and-put-up veggies (either from earlier in the season, or from last year's overwhelming okra haul). We enjoy anything pickled, so you'll find cucumbers, okra, peppers, beets, and maybe even shrimp, if you're lucky. Sure, you can add them to your burgers or stuff them with pimiento cheese – but we prefer to just pop them in our mouths.
Fried Green Tomatoes
Fried green tomatoes are one of the best examples of putting fresh produce to very, very good use. They should be thick and tangy, with a crispy golden coating. No one makes them better than our grandmother, who makes sure she's got at least one sauce out on the table for easy and accessible dipping.
You thought you were gettin' out of there without some form of gelatin salad? Think again. Although it's no longer as common to see a tomato aspic on the table, every Southern party has a "salad" that involves fruit and flavored gelatin. Strawberry-Pretzel Salad has been around a long time in the South, and is commonly broken out around holidays when the whole family's gathering. This recipe has a crushed pretzel-and-butter crust, a whipped cream cheese layer, a strawberry gelatin layer, and a sweetened sour cream topping.
Finally, the desserts! A Southerner's sweets spread on any day of the week is a sight to behold, but the 4th of July brings all of the bakers in the family into their kitchens to whip up something extra-special. One staple you'll always, always find on Independence Day is a large crystal bowl of banana pudding. Layers of vanilla wafers, freshly sliced bananas, and homemade pudding always satisfy our sweet tooth – and look good doing it. If you're feeling a little fancy, you can try out our Over-The-Moon Banana Pudding, which lines the classic dish with chunks of Moon Pie.
Here's how to make it:
July is perhaps the best month for peaches in the South. They're a vibrant orange-red, with sticky-sweet juice and an uncanny ability of weasling their way into every dessert recipe we've got. Peach cake, peach ice cream, peach pie – you name it, we've tried it. If peaches are the South's summer tiara, peach cobbler is the crown jewel. Simple in its preparation, this iconic Southern recipe gets a whole corner of the dessert table on the 4th of July. Delicious, sweet, syrupy, and soft, peach cobbler should be served a little warm with a hearty scoop of vanilla ice cream on top.
A Themed Sheet Cake
Last but never least, every Southern table has at least one themed dessert on their 4th of July table. Whether this is a pie or a sheet cake, nothing says patriotism like the American flag recreated on a dessert. A sheet cake is the easiest base for this delicious feat – like our Sour Cream Flag Cake. Usually designed with fresh fruit – strawberries and blueberries – on top of a thick layer of buttercream, this fun tradition ties the whole meal together.