A pretzel and cheese football makes a great tailgate appetizer, especially when it's flavored with Worcestershire, sharp cheddar and Dijon mustard rub. The mini football sliders in the photo are meatballs in French roll pockets. Photo by: pamperedchef.com
September 5, 2018 10:56:18 AM
There was, no doubt, a time when tailgating meant showing up before the game with a sandwich and six-pack, but oh, how things have changed. Thousands of Bulldog fans proved that again Saturday in The Junction as Mississippi State opened its season at home with a win.
The entertainment and feeding of ourselves pre-game has evolved into a grand social experience.
"We wouldn't miss tailgating," said Amy Skinner who lives near Starkville. "It adds so much to game day. It's so much fun to decorate the tables and tents, to share the food, to see people we haven't seen since last season. The excitement, the great eating, the anticipation -- oh, no, we wouldn't dare miss it."
For all the stalwarts out there who plan, purchase, pack, haul, set up, cook and clean up, we thank you. Football season means big-time effort, so it seems timely to share a few compiled tips today that will hopefully prove useful. (Many work for picnics and camping, too.)
First and foremost, as any seasoned tailgater knows, it's imperative to check out fan guidelines and regulations for the specific university beforehand. No point in loading down the SUV only to end up in the wrong place at the wrong time, and turned away.
Be ready for anything
I found this humorous, from tailgating.publix.com: "Roughly 96 percent of tailgate problems can be solved with duct tape, hand sanitizer and a permanent marker." That's a little tongue-in-cheek, yes, but it has a point.
Other basics for the checklist, from chuddahcooks.com include wet wipes, trash bags (more than you think you need), paper towels, dish soap, a large plastic tub for dirty dishes, first aid kit, rain ponchos, plastic tarps, plastic zip bags, blankets, mini flashlights, bungee cords and masking tape for labeling food containers and coolers.
More than one tailgating website recommends having a multi-compartment toolbox filled with essentials like tongs (two: one for raw meat, one for cooked meat), lighters, spatulas, bottle openers, wooden skewers, basting brushes, mosquito spray, can opener and nonperishable condiments and seasonings.
If using a grill, bring a metal bucket for still-glowing coals and make sure the grill is extinguished properly. (Bill Darnell of Caledonia can tell a tale of a post-tailgate vehicle fire, courtesy of a still-hot grill.)
Bring multiple coolers. One should be designated specifically for meats. Label all coolers clearly, not only so guests can readily find drinks, but you don't want them constantly opening the meat cooler looking for beverages and raising the temp on the food.
Around the tent
You can't have enough bungee cords, buzzfeed.com reminds us. Use four to attach a box fan in the top of tent for better air movement. Use short ones attached to tent struts to handily hold rolls of paper towels.
You can fashion a hand-washing station out of a large empty laundry detergent container, the kind with a spigot.
Keep beverages bug- and debris-free by turning a cupcake liner upside down over the drink; shove a straw through it, and you've got a lid.
For grillmasters, a tip from huffpost.com recommends throwing some sage or rosemary on the charcoal to act as a natural mosquito repellent.
Below are a few recipes for consideration. And here's an easy idea from food blogger Jim Higley (forrent.com) for dressing up potato bar spuds as mini footballs. You can prepare all the toppings -- like bacon, sour cream, diced tomatoes, grated cheese -- ahead of time and put them in easy-to-transport containers. (You can keep baked potatoes wrapped in foil warm in a designated cooler, even using foil-wrapped hot bricks in the bottom of the cooler. You can use the bricks as warmers under hot dishes at the tailgate, too.)
Before serving the potatoes, cut thin football "laces" (strips) out of slices of mozzarella cheese, about 1/4-inch wide. Each potato will need one longer center lace and four shorter ones. Put them on hot baked potatoes, where they'll melt a little for a great pigskin effect.
The SEC is open for business. Tailgate, have fun, mix and mingle, be generous.
Oh, and never forget to pack the jumper cables.
MISSISSIPPI STATE SIN DIP
16 ounces sour cream
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
2 cups sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 cup ham, chopped
1/4 cup green onion, sliced
Hot sauce, to taste
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Loaf French bread, unsliced
GOSH ALMIGHTY PIMENTO CHEESE BLT'S
16 ounces Monterrey Jack cheese
8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese
1 1/2 cups Duke's mayonnaise
8 ounces sliced pimentos, drained
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon paprika
A good quality white sandwich bread
Bacon strips, cooked
PRETZEL AND CHEESE FOOTBALL
Makes about 30 servings
2 green onions, chopped
2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened
1 8-ounce package shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 cup mayonnaise
3 tablespoons Dijon Mustard Rub
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 cup pretzel twists
1 stick (about 1 ounce) string cheese
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.