The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

Visit us on FaceBookGenerations of Memories
from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Recipes from the Editor

By Susan M. Thigpen © 1991

Issue: March, 1991

In this Anniversary Issue, I thought I would share some of the recipes that are my favorites and ones that have been handed down in my family.

I grew up in the Piedmont of North Carolina instead of the mountains, but I come from a long line of good country cooks on both sides of my family.

My mother's mother won prizes for her canning. My mother said she would painstakingly peel tiny pears, leaving the stems attached and can them whole so they would look pretty when served.

My father's mother had to contend with nine hungry children and unfortunately, most of her recipes were never written down. She probably didn't have time. My aunts said that she made a grape pie by mashing the grapes and mixing the hulls and fruit together, cooking it and pouring it into a pie crust.

I grew up on good country cooking. The simplest foods were the ones I liked best - pinto beans, gravy, corn on the cob. I developed a love for bread above anything else - any kind of bread - corn bread, biscuits, yeast bread. Over the years I have learned to love all kinds of foods and cooking just seemed to come naturally to me.

The Mountain Laurel gets so many requests for old time recipes that we are now in the process of compiling a cookbook of the recipes we have printed since 1983 and hope to have it ready for publication this spring. We will let you know more about that later.

For now, I hope you enjoy my own favorite recipes as much as I do.

Granddaddy Holbrook's Favorite Raisin Cake

1 box raisins
2 cups water
2 cups brown sugar
1 cup shortening
1 teaspoon of all kinds of spices

Boil all together. Cool and add:

4 cups flour
1 teaspoon soda
1 teaspoon vanilla

Cook at 300 degrees for about one hour in a mold pan.

MawMaw Matthews "Stob" Cake

3 eggs
3/4 cup butter
2 packages yeast
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup water
8 cups flour
1 1/2 cups warm milk
1 Irish potato
2 1/2 teaspoon salt

Boil potato. When potato is done, peel it, mash it and add sugar and butter. Add warm milk and salt. Add yeast and 1/2 cup water when potato is cool enough not to kill yeast, but still warm enough to activate yeast. Add eggs and flour.

Let rise in a warm place until double in size. Pour in pans and pat down till 1/2 inch thick. When it rises, sprinkle as much cinnamon, butter and brown sugar on top as you like. With your thumb, punch down in the dough in several places, randomly spaced.

Let rise again and bake in 350 degree oven about 15 minutes. When you take it out of the oven, dribble a little canned milk on the top.

This makes a lot of coffee cakes. Remember, my grandmother had nine children. This recipe gets its name because the way my grandmother explained how to make this recipe was to "stob your thumb down in the batter." These "stobbed down" places collect the brown sugar and butter.

Grandma Williams Persimmon Pudding

Mix together:
2 cups persimmon pulp
3 eggs beaten
1 3/4 cup milk (you may use part canned milk)
1 1/2 cups sugar

Sift together:
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon allspice

Add to persimmon mixture and beat.

Melt 3/4 stick of butter in baking dish. Grease dish by tilting dish to all sides. Pour rest of the melted butter into batter and pour batter into baking dish.

Bake one hour at 300 degrees.

Notes on Persimmons:

These days you can buy a Japanese hybrid persimmon in supermarkets that is as big as a navel orange. Persimmons have only one seed in the center, and this is quickly removed in the new hybrid type.

This is a long way from native American wild persimmons! First of all, the type of old fashioned persimmons our grandmothers worked with were little things, about the size of a dromedary date, and the seed was nearly as big. Persimmons are about the stickiest fruit you can imagine, only slightly less sticky than tar.

By the time you got the seed out of an old fashioned persimmon, you had really fought a good fight and only had a minuscule amount of fruit to show for it. Persimmons were only good and sweet after it had frosted on them in the autumn, so you had to try to gauge the right time to get to them before the possums. Everyone knows persimmons are possum's favorite food.

If anyone offers you a slice of persimmon pudding, ask what kind of persimmons it is made of. If they say the old fashioned kind, show that person the utmost respect and appreciation. They deserve it!

My Mother's Bread Pudding

My parents were married during the Depression and although she never said when she started baking bread pudding, I suspect it was during this time. This recipe is for plain pudding, but she used to make it when I was a child by adding a canning jar of peaches. This recipe calls for slices of bread, but you can save leftover biscuits to use in it also. Stale bread works just as good as fresh. When the pudding is done, eat it hot out of the oven. It tastes the very best that way. We always put it in a bowl and poured cold cream over it. It's also good with a scoop of ice cream.

4 slices of bread
2 cups of milk
1/2 stick margarine
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup raisins
1 teaspoon vanilla

Soak the bread in the milk until it's soggy. Add the sugar, raisins and vanilla. Pour into a greased baking dish. Cut up the margarine over the top. Bake at 350 degrees until firm.

Great-Grandfather Vance's Locust Beer

My aunts told me that their grandfather Vance made locust beer every year. He used a big wooden barrel which sat, even when full, behind the barn. The barrel had a spigot near the bottom of it. He would run the wooden barrel full of water and put a layer of straw on top of the water. Then he would put a layer of locust beans on top of the straw. On top of the locust beans, went a layer of persimmons. Last of all, he would add bran to start it working.

My aunts said they would sneak out and get a sip of it when no one was looking and it was very good in the autumn when it was cold and had bits of ice in it.

Phoebe's Pound Cake

One of the best neighbors I ever had was Phoebe Weavil. If you went back far enough, we were related too. On my side you went back through Matthews and Vance to Crews. On Phoebe's side, it went from Weavil to Linville to Crews. Only three generations back is considered close kin.

This is the best pound cake recipe I have ever tried and I've tried a lot. I have always preferred plain pound cake, but you can add lemon or any other flavoring you wish. Daddy's mother used to melt a slice of hoop cheese on top of a slice of pound cake and I loved it that way.

Pound cake is said to be best when it's slightly "sad." A sad pound cake is one that has fallen just a little as it's baking. One elderly gentleman I knew always said that a pound cake was perfect when it was "sad" enough to bring just one tear to each eye as you bit into it.

3 cups sugar
2 sticks butter
1 cup vegetable shortening
5 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon lemon (optional)
3 1/2 cup plain flour
1 cup canned milk - fill to cup with warm water.

Cream butter and shortening together and blend in sugar. Blend in eggs, and then milk and flavoring. Add flour last. Pour into a tube pan that has been greased and dusted with flour. Bake one hour and 20 minutes at 350 degrees.

Dilly Green Beans

This isn't such an old recipe, but I won first prize with a jar of them at the Patrick County, Virginia Fair one year. I was particularly proud of that blue ribbon because I was in competition with women who had been canning all their lives. These beans are a good relish to eat with a big bowl of pinto beans.

2 pounds of young green beans (little ones that haven't developed lumpy beans yet)
Cook them 10 minutes
Drain and chill in ice water. Drain out of ice water and put in pint canning jars.

Into each canning jar put:
1/4 teaspoon of hot red pepper
1 garlic clove
a lump of alum the size of a pea.
A fresh dill head or 1/2 teaspoon dried dill seed.

3 cups vinegar
3 cups water
6 teaspoons salt
Pour hot liquid into jars and seal. This will make 5 pints.

These next two recipes I'm adding because they were my children's favorites. When they were little girls, I would bake things like this just about the time they were getting home from school so the aroma would be the first thing that hit them when they walked in the door. I don't remember where I acquired the gingerbread recipe, but the peanut butter cookie recipe was my mothers. She made it for me and my sister when we were little girls.


1 cup buttermilk
2 Tablespoons butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup molasses
2 teaspoons soda
1 teaspoon allspice
2 teaspoons ginger
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt

Cream butter and add the sugar, molasses and buttermilk. Sift flour, salt, soda, allspice and ginger and add to liquid mixture. Mix well. Place in a well greased loaf pan and bake in a 350 degree oven until a toothpick inserted in middle of loaf comes out clean.

Peanut Butter Cookies

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

Mix ingredients in order given. Put on a piece of waxed paper and roll into an oblong roll about two inches in diameter. Place in refrigerator overnight. This will make the dough firm. Slice the dough thin and put on an ungreased cookie sheet.

With a fork, press the flat back of the tines in one direction and then again at a 45 degree angle to the first set of tine marks to make a criss-cross design on the cookies. Bake at 350 degrees until lightly brown, about ten to fifteen minutes. They are better if you don't over cook them.