This weekend, many of us will celebrate the long Labor Day weekend by packing a picnic hamper, filling the cooler with ice and cold beverages, and heading for the beach or a cool(er) mountain park.

The success of that picnic basket will lie in food that can be made ahead and will hold up to being stored for several hours in that basket or an ice-packed cooler without losing its flavor or character.

And without spoiling: A round of food poisoning is no way to celebrate a holiday.

That’s probably why the standards — cold fried chicken, ham biscuits, pulled pork, potato salad, watermelon, bar cookies and the like have been so enduringly popular. They can be made well ahead of time and have been safely feeding outdoor diners for decades.

That doesn’t mean, however, that we can’t change up the contents of those picnic baskets. To that end, here’s a fresh menu that can be made a day or even two ahead. The only things that require any last-minute attention are the potato salad (so the beans don’t lose their color) and the sandwiches, which you’ll want your guests to assemble to suit their tastes anyway.

You’ll want to supplement it with your own picnic favorites such as chilled cut-up watermelon, potato chips, and that quintessentially Southern late summer snack, boiled peanuts.

If loading a slow cooker is more than you want to do, all you need to know is that all these spots do takeout: Barnes Restaurant (Waters Avenue), BowTie Barbecue (Waters at Eisenhower), Sandfly BBQ (Ferguson in Sandfly), Smokerise BBQ (inside Jones Red & White at Habersham Village) and Wiley’s Championship BBQ (Whitemarsh Island).

When you pack the cooler with beverages, note that most local public beaches don’t allow alcohol of any kind. That prohibition doesn’t seem to stop a lot of locals, but it’s still illegal, so stick with the “house wine” of the South (iced tea), lemonade and sodas.

 

Julia Child’s Shrimp à la Grecque in a Jar

A different take on pickled shrimp, this classic French dish is called Greek-style because it contains two Greek staples, lemon and oregano. Serve it from one container or, as I’ve done, inspired by great friend and cook Bonnie Gaster, in canning jars for neat individual servings. It’s adapted from the first Julia Child book I ever owned, “From Julia Child’s Kitchen” (Knopf, 1977). Serves 6.

 

Ingredients:

• 1 ½ pounds large or medium shrimp, peeled

• 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (or more, as needed)

• 2 large cloves garlic, lightly crushed, peeled, and minced

• Grated zest of 1 medium lemon

• 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, or more, to taste

• Soy sauce, salt, and whole white pepper in a mill

• 2 tablespoons minced parsley

• 2 tablespoons minced oregano

• Saltine crackers or baguettes, for serving

 

Directions:

1. Pat shrimp dry with paper towels. Heat 3 tablespoons oil in a large heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat, add garlic and zest and toss until fragrant, about 5-10 seconds. Add shrimp and toss until just curled and pink but not quite done, less than 1½-to-2 minutes.

2. Remove pan from heat, add 3 tablespoons lemon juice, and season lightly with soy sauce, salt, and white pepper. Toss and transfer to glass bowl. Let sit until cooled slightly, add remaining oil and herbs, and toss. Taste and adjust oil, seasonings, and lemon juice. Let cool completely, cover, and refrigerate 2-3 hours or overnight.

3. Can be served directly from container. To prepare for serving in jars, divide shrimp among 6 half-pint canning jars. Spoon sauce evenly over all. Refrigerate or keep on ice in cooler until just before serving with saltine crackers or crusty baguettes.

 

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

Serves 8-12.

 

Ingredients:

• 4-5 pounds bone-in pork shoulder (Boston butt)

• Pork Dry Seasoning Rub (see recipe)

• 1 large yellow onion, peeled and sliced

• Sandwich buns or Hawaiian rolls, if serving as sliders

• About 2-2½ cups favorite barbecue sauce, for serving

• Coleslaw, for serving, optional

 

Directions:

1. Remove any skin from pork and trim excess fat. Generously rub with seasoning rub on all sides. Cover bottom of slow cooker crock with onion. Put in pork, cover, and set cooker on high. Cook 1 hour on high and turn to low setting. Cook 5-6 hours longer or until pork reaches internal temperature of 190 F.

2. Turn off slow cooker and carefully remove pork to platter. Let cool enough to handle, then remove pork from bones, remove any fat, and shred with fork. Put into storage container.

3. Strain liquid left in slow cooker, skim off fat, and drizzle a little over pork. Gently toss, let cool completely, cover pork and refrigerate until needed.

4. Bring remaining liquid to boil over medium heat and cook until reduced by half.

5. Let pork return to room temperature before serving. Moisten as needed with reduced cooking liquid, and serve on buns, letting guests add sauce and, if liked, coleslaw.

 

Pork Dry Seasoning Rub

Use this as a springboard to devise your own rub. Many recipes include chili powder. If you’d like that, start with a tablespoon for the amounts given here. Some also call for cumin, but it’s a distinctive flavor that tends to take over, so I’ve not included it. If you like it, by all means add a tablespoon, ground. Makes about ¾ cup.

 

Ingredients:

• 3 tablespoons (packed) brown sugar

• 2 tablespoons smoked paprika

• 1 tablespoon kosher salt

• 1½ teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

• ¼-½ teaspoon (to taste) ground cayenne

• 1 tablespoon onion powder

• 1 tablespoon garlic powder

• 1 tablespoon finely crumbled dried oregano

• 1 tablespoon rubbed dried sage

 

Directions:

1. Combine ingredients in a pint canning jar. Cover tightly and shake until evenly mixed.

2. Store in cool, dark cupboard. Will keep for up to 6 months.

 

Potato, Green Bean, and Tomato Salad

I like to add pitted and sliced brine-cured black or green olives to this, but I’m the only one in my household who likes it, so I’ve not included them here. If that appeals, allow ½ cup of either one of both. Serves 6.

 

Ingredients:

• 2½ pounds small new red, gold, or fingerling potatoes

• Extra-dry white vermouth

• 1 pound haricots verts or the thinnest young green beans you can find

• Extra virgin olive oil

• Salt and whole black pepper in a mill

• ½ cup green onions, thinly sliced

• 1 tablespoon each flat leaf (Italian) parsley, oregano, and thyme, minced

• White or red wine vinegar, to taste

• 2-3 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, to taste

• 1 pint ripe grape tomatoes (all red or blend of yellow and red)

 

Directions:

1. Bring enough water to cover potatoes to boil in large pot. Scrub potatoes under cold running water, add to boiling water and cook until just tender. Drain, let cool enough to handle, and cut into chunks. Put in large, wide bowl, sprinkle with vermouth, toss, and let stand 3-4 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, put 3 quarts water in pot in which potatoes cooked and bring to boil over high heat. Top beans and snap in half. Add small handful salt to water and add beans by handfuls so that water never stops boiling. Cook until al dente, about 6-8 minutes depending on beans. Drain and rinse under cold running water. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with oil. Add 2 tablespoons onion and 1 tablespoon herbs. Toss and put in covered storage container.

3. Season potatoes with salt and pepper and sprinkle with wine vinegar and lemon juice to taste. Add onions, toss, and let cool. Drizzle lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons herbs. Toss gently and transfer to storage container. It’s best not refrigerated, but if made more than 2 hours ahead, refrigerate and take it from the refrigerator 30 minutes before serving.

4. Just before packing for picnic, wash and halve tomatoes and put in covered storage container. Season to taste with salt, pepper, wine vinegar, sprinkle with 1 tablespoon herbs, and drizzle lightly with oil. Toss and cover.

5. Just before serving, sprinkle beans with lemon juice and let sit 5 minutes. Toss potatoes, beans, and tomatoes together, taste, adjust seasonings, and serve.

 

Bourbon Pecan Squares

Adapted from my book “Essentials of Southern Cooking” (Lyons Press, 2013), these are perfect for the picnic hamper: They’re kissing cousins to that Southern favorite bite-sized treat, pecan tassies, but are so much easier to make. Makes about 2 dozen.

 

Ingredients:

• 2 cups whole pecan halves

• 10 ounces (about 2 cups) Southern soft wheat or all-purpose flour, plus 1 tablespoon

• 2 tablespoons extra-fine white cornmeal

• 1 cup sugar

• Salt

• 10 ounces (1¼ cups or 2½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened

• 3 large eggs

• ½ cup (tightly packed) light brown sugar

• 2 tablespoons bourbon

 

Directions:

1. Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 375 F. Spread pecans on baking sheet and toast in center of oven until beginning to color, about 8 minutes. Let cool and roughly chop. Reduce oven temperature to 350 F.

2. Sift together 2 cups flour, cornmeal, ½ cup sugar and small pinch salt. Add 8 ounces (1 cup, or 2 sticks) butter and work into flour until smooth. You may do first part of this step in food processor fitted with steel blade. Put in flour, meal, sugar, and salt and pulse several times to sift. Add butter and process until mixture resembles coarse meal. Turn out into mixing bowl and finish blending by hand. Wrap and chill for 30 minutes.

3. Press dough into a 9-by-13-inch pan in a uniform layer over bottom and about ½-inch up sides. Lightly prick with fork and bake in center of oven 20 minutes, or until beginning to color, then remove and let cool slightly.

4. Melt remaining butter, let cool slightly, and beat together with eggs, ½ cup sugar, brown sugar, and small pinch salt. Stir in bourbon and pecans. Sift in remaining tablespoon of flour and stir until smooth. Spread evenly over crust and bake until golden and set, about 25 minutes. Cool in pan on wire rack before cutting into 24 squares.