Generations of Memories
Heart of the Blue Ridge
By Susan M. Thigpen © 1983-2012
Issue: October, 1983
(This isn’t an exact recipe as such. However, it should be close enough that you could make hominy without much difficulty by following it and using your own good judgment.)
One late afternoon, sitting on Mr. and Mrs. Matt Burnette’s front porch, the subject of hominy came up. They have made hominy many times and remembered their parents and grandparents making it.
Originally, one necessary ingredient was lye. To get lye, they used a section of a hollow tree, set it on a base that slanted, and filled the hollow part of the tree section with ashes from the fireplace. The very best ashes were green oak ashes. Water was then poured through the ashes. When the water trickled through at the bottom, it was caught in a bucket and poured back through the ashes until the lye water was as strong as they wanted it. They used this lye water to make hominy and homemade soap.
The next step was to soak dry corn in the lye water until the skin and the little “nib” at the point came off. This might take a day or two and the hominy was stirred occasionally during the time.
When the skin would come off, the corn would be swelled to a certain extent to break those skins and then it was washed thoroughly, many, many times to remove all the lye.
The last thing to do then was to cook the corn until it was tender, cover it with a generous amount of butter, salt to taste and “dig in.”
I asked Miss Addie Wood about more exact measurements and she said she had made some hominy and canned it about a year ago.
Folks today usually use soda to soak the corn. Both Miss Addie and the Burnette’s told me this.
Miss Addie said she did about a gallon and a half of corn and used about two boxes of soda to soak the corn in, the soda being dissolved in enough water to cover the corn. From there on, the recipe is the same. Stir occasionally until the skins come off the corn, which takes a day or two, then wash it well to remove all the skins and soda. Then cook the corn until tender.
Mrs. Burnette told me that they used to have a certain amount of their corn “cracked” or very course ground when they took it to the mill. This they would prepare like hominy but was called hominy grits. They would make patties out of it and fry them for fried hominy grits.
I have noticed that a lot of old recipes are fried. I have put a lot of thought into why and having once owned a wood cook stove, I think I know the answer. The fire has to be stoked up so hot to bring water to a boil, it uses a lot of wood (not to mention heating up the kitchen.) Frying could be done at a lower temperature, reducing the amount of wood needed and increasing the comfort of the cook by many degrees of heat!
While the wood stoves had ovens, and baked many delicious things, they didn’t have broilers so it was mostly a matter of “bake or fry.” When large amounts of things were to be cooked for canning, more often than not a big pot was set up outdoors with a fire going underneath it. This was done for things such as hominy or apple butter.
A big batch of apple butter is a good day and night’s work. It is made in a copper pot so the apples won’t stick so badly and stirred constantly, usually with a long stick so the cooks won’t have to stand so close to the fire.
Apple butter is made at Mayberry Trading Post, the old time way, each fall. If you get a chance to visit this area, you can probably see it being made and buy a jar or two, if you wish.