Montgomery County Circuit Clerk Lanelle Martin loves to cook.
The Kilmichael native comes from a long line of good Southern cooks, from her mother to her grandmother to her aunts.
“Everybody in my family was a really good cook,” Martin said.
Her grandmother, Cora Herring of Poplar Springs was the mother of six kids and was quite the home cook. The Herrings farmed, canning vegetables for the winter, instituting a potato house and smoke house in their farm-to-table lifestyle – way before the term farm-to-table became trendy. Back then, growing your own vegetables and raising cows, hogs, and chickens was done to simply to put food on the table.
Martin’s mother, Nell Herring Garrett, who also was a great home cook, did a lot of canning when Martin was growing up.
Martin’s Aunt B, or Benson Crowder, was the mother of 10 children and “she was either cooking a meal or cleaning up a meal at all times,” Martin remembered.
“She never measured anything,” Martin said. “Just a pinch of this, some of that.”
Martin still uses her Aunt B’s Egg Custard Pie recipe, and it is still a hit with her many family gatherings.
“When we have a family gathering, everyone brings something different,” Martin said. “The Herring Thanksgiving -- we do that on Sunday after Thanksgiving. Everyone brings pot luck, and we have some pretty good cooks in the family.”
Aunt B’s Old Fashion Egg Custard
1 cup sugar
2 cups milk
1 t. vanilla
1 9-inch pie shell
Hand beat eggs, add sugar. Bring milk to stage where skim is on top, NOT boiling. Add milk to egg/sugar mixture; add vanilla.
Bake at 425 degrees for 10 minutes, reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake for 30 minutes.
Most people in the community do not know that Martin is actually an award-winning cook in the Crossroads. Her pecan pie took home first place in the Tastes of the Crossroads cooking contest a few years ago. If you have the opportunity for a piece, do not pass it up. The judges were licking their plates.
Martin’s Sweet Potato Casserole recipe came from an older lady from Amory years ago, and she has made it ever since.
Sweet Potato Casserole
1 29-ounce can yams (drained)
1 cup sugar
½ cup butter
2 eggs (well beaten)
½ cup pet milk
Mix all together well and put in casserole dish.
1 cup light brown sugar
½ cup flour
½ cup butter
1 cup chopped nuts
Mix topping ingredients together and spread on top of potato mixture. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.
Since Martin has been the Montgomery Circuit Clerk, the tradition of feeding the prosecutors from the District Attorney’s office as well as the judge, law enforcement, and court staff has grown into a tradition.
“Julie [Halfacre, former circuit clerk] started it,” Martin said. “We just continued it.”
When the circuit court is in session twice per year or when a big trial is held, Martin, Deputy Circuit Clerk Lesa Goldman, and Martin’s daughter, Laura Ables make pies, cakes, snacks, dips, and more for court personnel.
“We are pretty much the only ones in the district to do this,” Martin said. “If the DA crew is going to be here, we do it. The menu depends on the time of day. For grand jury, it’s breakfast. They get a combination of things for arraignments and [general court] since they get here at 10 a.m.”
This week, the Montgomery County Grand Jury met, and Martin and her crew whipped up a few dishes for everyone to enjoy. On Tuesday, Martin said she served fruit dip and fruit, breakfast casserole, sausage balls, pimento and cheese, corn dip, donut holes, and little pecan pies.
“The fruit dip is one [my daughter] Laura [Ables] found on Pinterest, and it is wonderful,” Martin said.
1 block cream cheese
1 cup sugar
1 small container marshmallow fluff
1 small tub cool whip
1 teaspoon vanilla
Beat cream cheese (room temp) with sugar and vanilla until mixed well. Fold in cool whip and marshmallow fluff. Place in bowl and chill.
For the long days at court, Martin said there are plenty of sweets around for everyone. Blueberry Cream-Cheese Squares is a personal favorite recipe she got from a cookbook given to her in the 1970s by a former home economics teacher. She still uses that cookbook and the Blueberry-Cream Cheese Squares recipe today.
Blueberry-Cream Cheese Squares
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
3 cup blueberries, rinsed and drained
1 13 1/2-ounce Package graham cracker crumbs
3/4 cup melted butter or margarine
2 8-ounce packages cream cheese
1 1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 9-ounce package frozen whipped topping, thawed
Combine cornstarch, sugar, water and blueberries in saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until thickened; cool. Combine cracker crumbs and butter; press half the crumbs into bottom of 13 by 9 by 2 pan. Mash cream cheese until soft; beat in sugar and vanilla gradually. Fold in whipped topping; divide mixture in half; drop half of mixture with a spoon over crumbs mixture. Spread gently with spatula. Spread blueberry filling evenly over cheese mixture; spread with remaining cheese mixture. Sprinkle with remaining crumbs mixture; chill overnight. Cut into squares. Yields 15 servings.