The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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Heart of the Blue Ridge

Mountain Recipes - Our New Cookbook

By Susan M. Thigpen © 1991

Issue: July, 1991

We just wanted to give you a "taste" of what is in The Mountain Laurel Cookbook, so this column will contain a few of our favorites. The book contains both recipes and articles discussing old time cooking.

The cookbook contains chapters on Beverages, Breads, Deserts, Meats, Pickling and Canning, and Vegetables and is approximately 100 pages at this time. It is sent in a loose-leaf notebook so that we may make additions in the future.

Under those headings are probably enough fats and cholesterol to made a doctor shudder, but old time cooks used generous amounts of real butter, milk and eggs, and the recipes are of their generation. While modern day measurements are used, and ingredients that are readily available from grocery store shelves (for the most part), the book also mentions how to cure meats and make a molasses pudding that calls for "enough handfuls of flour to make a decent batter." Over the last eight years, some of the best cooks in the mountains have contributed their old time recipes, some of which have been handed down for generations.

We hope the cookbook will be handed down generation to generation so that these recipes are not forgotten. They are the kind of recipes Grandma should have handed down, but didn't. They are the type of recipes that were often never even measured or written down at all. They were the staple recipes generations of mountain people grew up and thrived on.

Old Yellow Cucumber Pickles

Arlie Conner of Willis, Virginia sent us this recipe in November of 1984. It's very good to use up all those cucumbers in the garden that get too big and old to be used for anything else. You won't be able to recognize the finished pickles are made from cucumbers. It is best to peel, then slice cucumbers crosswise before seeding them. It's easier. To make a very attractive platter, use red cucumber rings and place a deviled egg in center of ring.

7 or 8 old yellow cucumbers

Mix 2 gallons of water with 2 cups of lime. After peeling, seeding and slicing, soak cucumber slices for 24 hours or longer if necessary in lime water solution. Remove from lime water and rinse 3 times in cool water. Soak three hours in ice water. Set in refrigerator. Remove, make syrup.

2 quarts vinegar
8 cups sugar
1 tablespoon salt
red or green food coloring if desired.

Let stand overnight, then cook cucumbers 20 to 25 minutes in syrup. Put in jars and seal.

Molasses Stack Cake

This recipe was supplied by Miss Addie Wood of Mayberry Trading Post [Meadows of Dan, Virginia] in September, 1983. She has been making the recipe for years from the recipe that was in a cook book that came with a "Wrought Iron Range Co." wood cook stove. The company was established in 1864 according to the cookbook. This recipe is an old mountain favorite and is still made and brought to most family reunions today.

1/2 cup brown sugar or white.
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup molasses
1/2 cup milk
2 cups flour
3 teaspoons baking powder.
1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon soda
1 teaspoon mixed spices
1 egg

Cream butter and add sugar gradually with beaten egg and molasses. Sift flour, baking powder, salt and spices together. Add milk and mix well.

Bake in well greased pan, 35 minutes in thin layers or roll out and cut out size of plate and bake on cookie sheet. Stack 4 or 5 layers, with apple butter between them. Let stand over night before eating.

Fried Dried Apple Pies

December, 1985, from Rock Ridge Baptist Church as prepared for the Blue Ridge Folklife Festival at Ferrum College the last Saturday in October each year. They hand out a printed sheet with this recipe on it with the purchase of delicious fried pies.

Pie Crust:
4 cups flour (plain)
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 cups shortening

Sift flour, baking powder and salt into bowl. Take out 2/3 of this mixture and mix it with 1/2 cup of milk to form a paste. Add the shortening to remaining flour (3 1/3 cups) and blend until pieces are the size of small peas.

Add flour paste and shortening flour mixture. Mix well until dough comes together and can be shaped into a ball. Roll out crusts 1/8 inch thick. Makes 5 pies. Use more liquid if you desire softer dough.

Pie Filling:
6 cups dried apples
1 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons allspice
3 1/2 cups sugar

Mix all ingredients together in large sauce pan or kettle. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until thick. Cool overnight before making pies.

Fried Potatoes & Onions

Anyone with a country background will probably remember the tantalizing aroma of a black iron skillet full of potatoes and onions frying in a little fatback grease. To make fried potatoes you can either peal them or leave the skins on. You can cut them into little cubes or grate raw (or left over baked) potatoes. Put a little bacon grease in a cast iron skillet and heat. When grease is hot, add chopped onions. Swish onions around in grease. then add potatoes and reduce to medium heat. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cook until potatoes are done.