I love picnics, don’t you? There’s something magical about eating outdoors – be it on the patio, at the beach, along a riverbank or under the canopy of beautiful trees that seems to make everything taste better. And what better way to bid farewell to summer than with a picnic?
Labor Day and Picnics are a tradition. All across America, there are colorful parades (yea!) and wind-bag speeches we could all do without. We can listen to wonderful music from bandstand pavilions and the laughter of children at play. As always, there will be plenty of yummy foods. Labor Day is a celebration of the accomplishments of the worker, and a time to enjoy the purpose behind all our hard work in the first place – our families.
It’s one thing to plan a menu for backyard entertaining – with a nice big grill and a full kitchen at your disposal. With such luxuries, there are no limitations to the menu. It’s another thing to plan for a picnic in the great outdoors. I like to have both hot foods and cold foods to choose from, with a variety of sides and beverages. Picnics involve the need to haul everything in and haul out again. Forget something – like the buns or meat and it could be disastrous.
When we have a picnic, I always make a check list – and check it twice. When making a check list, it helps if you are familiar with the site and you don’t have any surprises such as no tables or no grill. When in doubt, plan to bring your own. (When using grills at a picnic site, it’s always a good idea to bring a wire brush to scrub the grate clean and maybe some foil just to be on the safe side).
To make things a little easier, I’ve arranged the recipes for the menu into the day before and the day of – some things (like steeping the bratwurst in beer and boiling the water for cooler cob corn) can be started at home, then finished at the picnic site.
In addition to the menu that follows; might I also suggest some cold chicken (or a bucket of KFC), fresh fruit and well-chilled slices of watermelon. As always, take what you like – add to it your traditional favorites or let these recipes inspire you to create something new. Above all else, have fun!
Grilled Onion Hamburgers
Bratwurst in Beer – Picnic Style
Italian Muffuletta Picnic Sandwich with Cherry Pepper Relish
Cooler Corn on the Cob
Mema’s Potato Salad
Peach-Almond Up-Side-Down Cake
Assorted Cold Beverages
Day Before Picnic:
Italian Muffuletta Picnic Sandwich with Cherry Pepper Relish
Cherry Pepper Relish
12 Pickled Cherry Peppers from a jar
1 1/2 tablespoons White Wine Vinegar
1 teaspoon Sugar
3 Garlic Cloves
Remove the stems from the peppers and place the peppers in the bowl of a small food processor. Add the white wine vinegar and the sugar.
Peel the garlic cloves, roughly chop and add to the processor. Pulse the mixture a few times until everything is puréed to a chunky relish consistency. Transfer the mixture to a small bowl and set aside.
Muffuletta Picnic Sandwich
1 Large Sourdough bread round
Balsamic Vinaigrette as needed
2-3 Garlic Cloves, chopped
Salt to taste
Fresh Pepper to taste
8 oz Smoked Ham or Prosciutto
8 oz Fresh Buffalo Mozzarella, thinly sliced
1 Cucumber, thinly sliced
8 oz Pepperoni and/or capicola, mortadella and salami
6-8 Fresh Basil leaves, torn
8 oz Bacon or Pancetta, fried and crumbled
1 Red or Purple Italian Onion, sliced
1 Roasted Red Pepper
2-3 Roma Tomato, sliced
1 Tablespoon Fresh Oregano, chopped
1 Tablespoon Fresh Thyme, chopped
4 Green Onions, sliced
Cherry Pepper Relish, above
Quick fry bacon or Pancetta, crumble and set aside.
Slice cucumbers, set aside until ready to use.
Slice Mozzarella, wrap to keep from drying out and set aside until ready to use.
Peel and thinly slice onion, set aside until ready to use.
Slice tomatoes, toss with oregano and thyme. Set aside until ready to use.
Hollow out bread round so a 1/2 inch wall of bread remains.
Brush the inside of the bread round liberally with balsamic vinaigrette a couple minced cloves of garlic and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Spread a thin layer of the relish on the bottom of the bread bowl. Begin filling the inside with layers of filling.
Smoked Ham or Prosciutto
Fresh Buffalo Mozzarella
Thinly sliced Cucumbers. Drizzle with vinaigrette before continuing to the next layer.
Pepperoni and/or Capicala, Mortadella and Salami
Fresh Basil Leaves
Bacon or Pancetta, crumbled
Sliced Purple or Red Onion
Roasted Red Peppers
Roma Tomatoes, fresh Oregano and Thyme Drizzle with more vinaigrette, salt and pepper before continuing.
Finish with one more layer of Smoked Ham or Prosciutto
Top the layers with the remaining relish. Press down to compact ingredients. Top with bread “cap” and press down again. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap.
Place on a plate and weigh down with the lid of a cast iron dutch oven (or something heavy.)
Chill in refrigerator overnight.
Remove weights, pack in picnic basket. Slice to serve.
Mema’s Potato Salad
3 lbs Yukon Gold Potatoes
4 Eggs, hard-boiled
1 Red Onion, minced
2 Celery Stocks, minced
1 Tablespoon Bacon Drippings, warm (Optional)
¼ Cup Parsley
1 Cup Mayonnaise
1 Tablespoons Mustard
2 Tablespoons Red Wine Vinegar plus a sprinkling for potatoes
Kosher Salt & Fresh Black Pepper to taste
Peel and slice potatoes into large chunks. Place potatoes in a stockpot and cover with 1-inch of salted water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until potatoes are just tender but not soft, about 10-15 minutes. Drain well. Sprinkle LIGHTLY with red wine vinegar and set aside in refrigerator to cool.
Using a thin needle, carefully poke a tiny hole into the smaller end of the egg-shell. Place eggs in a saucepan, add cold water to cover eggs. Bring to a boil, remove from heat and cover. Let sit for 12-14 minutes, then plunge eggs into cold water to stop cooking process. Set in refrigerator to cool.
In bowl, combine onions, celery, bacon drippings, parsley, mayonnaise, mustard and red wine vinegar. Whisk to combine. Taste dressing and season with kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste.
Peel and chop 3 eggs. Add to dressing. Cut V marks in 4th egg to create two tulip flowers. Reserve 1 flower, chop other and add to dressing. Taste dressing a second time, adjust seasonings as necessary.
Place potatoes in a large bowl. Pour egg dressing over potatoes and toss to coat. Smooth out top. In the center, using the back of a spoon, create a small indentation. Place Egg flower into indentation. If desired, sprinkle lightly with paprika. Cover with plastic and refrigerate until well chilled.
The day of the picnic, pack salad in a cooler. Keep potato salad in a cooler until ready to serve.
Morning of Picnic:
Peach-Almond Upside-Down Cake
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for the pan
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 medium peaches or nectarines, pitted and cut into 6 wedges each
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole almonds
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
3/4 cup whole milk
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly butter a 9-inch-round cake pan. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add 3/4 cup sugar and 1 tablespoon water and cook, stirring occasionally, until smooth and deep golden brown, 8 to 11 minutes. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and tilt to coat the bottom. Arrange the peach wedges snugly in the bottom of the pan in a single layer, cutting to fit if needed.
Combine the flour, almonds, baking powder and salt in a food processor and pulse until the almonds are finely ground.
Beat the remaining 7 tablespoons butter and 3/4 cup sugar in a large bowl with a mixer on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla and almond extracts. Beat in the flour mixture in 3 batches, alternating with the milk and beginning and ending with the flour mixture; beat in each addition until just incorporated.
Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan and bake until golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Transfer to a rack and let cool 30 minutes. Invert onto a plate and let cool completely.
Don’t forget to pack a knife for slicing the cake!
Bratwurst in Beer with Onions – Picnic Style
2 Package Johnsonville Bratwurst
2 Onion, sliced *
1 bottle of Beer – enough to cover Bratwurst
2 Package Steak Rolls or Bratwurst Buns
AT HOME: Peel and slice onions into thin rings, set aside. (*Plan on 1 onion for every 5 Bratwurst)
Pierce Bratwurst with a fork to allow fat to drain and beer to soak into meat. Place Bratwurst in a large pot. Cover with beer, top with onion slices and let soak for about 45 minutes.
Remove onions from pot, place on some paper towels to drain. Make a pouch from aluminum foil, place onions in pouch and seal well. Pack onions for picnic.
Turn heat on under soaking bratwurst. Let sausage simmer in beer for about 10 minutes. Remove from beer, wrap in foil and pack for picnic.
AT PICNIC: Heat a portable gas grill or build a fire in a small charcoal grill. When grill is hot, place packets of onions on grill to warm. Arrange bratwurst on grill and cook until outer skin begins to brown and blister, turning as needed, about 5 or 6 minutes per side.
Spread mustard or favorite condiment onto bun. Top with bratwurst and onion.
Grilled Onion Burgers
2 lbs Ground Beef
1 lb Ground Pork
1 Envelope Dry Onion Soup Mix
3 Tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
Salt & Pepper to taste
Sliced Cheddar Cheese as needed
At Home: In a bowl, combine ingredients until well-mixed. Divide into 6 large burgers or 8 medium patties, separate each patty with waxed paper. Cover and refrigerate until ready to pack.
At Picnic: Remove burger patties from cooler, keep wrapped until ready to grill.
Prepare grill for burgers.
Season meat with hamburger seasoning. Cook hamburgers on hot grill until cooked through, turning once, about 5-6 minutes per side.
Remove burgers to serving platter. Top half with cheese. Tent to keep warm.
Cooler Corn on the Cob
12-24 Ears of Corn
Boiling Water, enough to cover corn
Husk, clean and trim ears of corn.
Place corn in a clean camping cooler. Bring several kettles or pots of water to a boil, enough to cover corn.
Pour boiling water over corn, close lid and let steep for 30-45 minutes.
Note: Start corn steeping before leaving for picnic. CAREFULLY pack cooler in the trunk or back of the car. By the time you arrive, the corn should be done. It will keep warm for several hours. Drain excess water and don’t forget to pack the tongs for serving.
Assorted Cans of Soda on ice
Thermos of Lemonade
Thermos of Ice Tea
Picnic Packing Check List:
Food Check List:
Cheese for Burgers
Bratwurst Steeped in Beer
Italian Muffuletta Picnic Sandwich
Corn on the Cob
Butter for Corn
Peach-Almond Upside Down Cake
Cooler for perishable foods:
Container of Ketchup
Container of Mustard
Container of Mayonnaise
Container of Hamburger Pickles
Container of Lettuce (for burgers)
Container of Sliced Tomatoes (for burgers)
Container for Potato Salad
Container of Butter for Corn
Thermos for Lemonade
Thermos for Ice Tea
Plenty of Ice
Cooler for Corn
Basket for non-perishable foods:
Salt for Corn
Seasoning for Burgers
Basket for Plates; platters and utensils:
Knives to spread condiments
Knife and Server for Cake
Knife and Server for Sandwich
Platter for burgers and bratwurst
Platter for lettuce, tomatoes and pickles
Platter for Cake
Serving Spoon for Potato Salad
Fork for Tomatoes
Tongs for serving Corn
Plates for Food
Plates for Dessert
Forks for Food
Forks for Dessert
Cups or Tumblers for Beverages
Barbecue Tools: Wire Brush, Tongs and Spatula Burgers
Picnic Tents to keep the bugs away
Bag for dirty dishes
Bag for trash
Bag for empty cans (don’t forget to recycle)
Hope you had a wonderful summer filled with love, laughter and memories to warm the heart.