Monthly Archives: April 2013

Do you like the flavor of Root Beer? Make your own Sassafras Tea.

fresh made Sassafras Tea

fresh made Sassafras Tea

Foraging for the root that made A& W Root Beer famous is a family hobby. We love the taste and smell of Sassafras tea in the spring time. In our small West Virginia cottage, tea is a staple of life. I prefer it cold with a little sugar but it is also nice as a hot tea with honey. Sassafras is a wild tree/bush that is almost considered a weed or filth in the Appalachian mountains. Farmers  regularly mow the bushes down for pasture weed control. So to find sassafras you just need to look along road sides and abandoned fields.

look for leaves that are lobed..sometime with three like this or mitten style with two, one large lobe and one small

look for leaves that are lobed..sometime with three like this or mitten style with two, one large lobe and one small

    This batch of roots, that Tom gathered, came from his Highway Crew. They have been removing dead trees from an area in our state that was hit hard by a fall storm and they needed to remove several damaged and dying Sassafras Trees in order to clear a section of the road. Tom brought home a couple of pounds of roots and I took the smallest and youngest to make tea. As you can see in the following photo the roots have a sliver skin cover on them, then a red bark that is  covering a white root. The silver skin is the only thing that needs removed when making tea. The red bark gives the tea its color and the white root adds the flavor.

young Sassafras roots ready to clean

young Sassafras roots ready to clean

  After cleaning and removing the silver skin of the roots, you need  a pot large enough to boil the roots in.I personaly use a 10 quart stock pot.It  easily makes a gallon of tea with lots of room to spare.

ready to boil cleaned roots

ready to boil cleaned roots

Into this stock pot I put about a gallon of water. Then I add 4 or 5 roots and boil. The time to make a tea  is around 30 minutes to 40 minutes depending on how strong you want the flavor. Tom loves the “root beer” flavor so we boil ours about 40 minutes. The hot tea is then poured through cheese cloth and a strainer and sugar added to the pitcher. I use 3/4 cup of white sugar to every gallon if tea. Mix well and chill the tea several hours and or add ice.

Tea stained pitcher ready with strainer and cheese cloth

Tea stained pitcher ready with strainer and cheese cloth

   The roots dry on a dishtowle  and are reused several times. We boil them at least three times and the favor,color and scent remains the same every time. One of the benefits to making this tea is the wonderful aroma that fills the house. The sweet scent of root beer fills the house within minutes of setting the roots on the counter, then intensifies with a rolling boil on the stove. Two pounds of roots lasts us for about two months as we drink the tea slowly. On the plus side this tea contains no caffeine and the tea needs less sugar. Sassafras has no bitterness or acidic flavors to cover up. So for a foraged, cold or warm drink that teases great, I think that is worth digging up a few roots every year.

  Hope that the next time you are thinking a cold glass of tea to sip on the porch, you will consider trying Sassafras tea as great way to cool off and enjoy the wonderful gift that nature has given us.

Categories: country cooking, family fun, Foraging, ice tea, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , | 9 Comments

Mountain Mama Mia

Rebloging this funny, fanstic and true view of Jeff Fitzgeralds West Viriginas love of “EYE-Talian” food. Thank you Jeff for thinking about what makes our state so wonderful…. really it is its people and their love of food

JEFF FITZGERALD (this article was first published August 2, 2012)

 

Miners’ children playing. U.S. Coal and Coke Company, Gary Mines, Gary, McDowell County, West Virginia; 1946, photographed by Russell Lee; via Wikimedia Commons.

 

When one thinks about the hardscrabble coalfields of southern West Virginia, the first thought that comes to mind is usually not Italian food. Unless one is eating Italian food while reading an article, such as this one, about the hardscrabble coalfields of southern West Virginia.  Because why wouldn’t you? Everyone likes Italian food, and many people enjoy articles about folks who generally have it worse than they do. It’s like a double dose of comfort.

What I’m saying is this…

When West Virginia asserted its independence from Virginia in 1863, mostly because  it was tired of being known as Virginia’s rustic backyard, it remained one of the most homogeneous[1] states in the Union throughout…

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I Accept the “The Versatile Blogger award”

versatile-award This award came as a total shock and I am happy to receive it from Rose at http://forestmtnhike.wordpress.com  I am grateful and happy to also pass along the award to others, who like me, are just out their sharing a bit of their wonderful worlds. Thanks Rose you made my day and my family is proud that what you find here is worth reading.GE DIGITAL CAMERA

To accept this award and spread the love there are three rules, you must fallow:

1) thank and link to the blog that nominated me for the award in a post.

2) share 7 random facts about myself.

3) Nominate 15 of my favorite versatile bloggers for this award.

Ok, so seven random things about me that you may not already know about ME!

1) I doodle while on the phone  and at times draw things all over the whole cover of the phone book.

2) I lived, met and fell in love with my husband in Baumholder, West Germany.

3) I love the color yellow and painted my livingroom and dining room the color of vanilla ice cream.

4) I am a 4-H volunteer and parent.

5) I love to cook and will try anything once….. but will not eat raw coconut, anything with more then 4 arms or legs, or oysters any more… just say’n.

6) helped to start a local book club in my tiny town. I enjoy it very much!

7) Spend almost every weekend helping my husband with his blacksmith business… working with horses is a family passion.

These are my 15 versatile bloggers ….I was hoping to have 15 but I am short a few.

 1 www.ruralspin.com

2 www.likemamalikedaughter.blogspot.com

3 www.tamingthegoblin.com

4 www.aruraljournal.com

5 www.sweetdaysundertheoaks.wordpress.com

6 www.winterowls.wordpress.com

7 www.kathrinescorner.com

8 www.fulllivesflatbroke.com

9  www.homesteaddad.wordpress.com

These are the people who help and inspire me to continue to write about my rural life . They are great supporters and I am thankful for sharing in their Blog world.

Categories: awards, writing | Tags: , | 2 Comments

Ramps(wild Leeks) a West Virginia Tradtional Wild Food

Ramp digging  is a foragers delight and every spring we take off to the mountain to see if  we can find some of these smelly delicacies. The whole family usually goes and we share our bounty with friends and family. We spend about half the day collecting the onions and spent the other half trout fishing another wonderful natural food that we love.

Spring ramp digging Chritopher holding a the frist ramp

Spring ramp digging Christopher holding  his frist ramp

I know some of you are wondering what a Ramp is and what we use it for so I will explain that and share a few ideas on how to use them also.  Ramps are a wild leak or onion with a flavor like garlic when cooked and hot like a green onion if eaten raw. They are found all over the eastern united states but few states love and dig them like West Virginians. They grow in the higher elevations of our woods and are a bulb  that tends to grow in clumps of 5 or six. The leaves are broad and have a distinctive red seam down the center to the root bulb. The bulbs are traditionaly dug in early spring and  before the bulbs flower and the leaves grow to large and tough to eat.

Wild ramps under a tree

Wild ramps under a tree

This is what ramps look like after digging and cleaning

Ramps ready to clean look like green onions

Ramps ready to clean look like green onions

washed, roots removed and ready to eat

washed, roots removed and ready to eat

The Ramp does have one draw back its smell. It is extremely strong, turning  many people away from eating it… think fresh-cut garlic but 10x stronger… So when handling, eating or cooking the ramps that we collect we all “STINK”. It is actually joked about and people who do not like the smell have been known to leave a kitchen or home because of the pungent odor.  But, the rest of us who love them know and love that smell, it means that a dinner of fried, steamed, or raw ramps is on the way to the table. In our house, we use some of our collected Ramps for Easter dinner, it is my way of giving thanks for spring and a way to share them with a crowed of friends and family.

Basic preparation of ramps is simple, wash, remove roots and tough outer skin, (it appears brown), chop and cook. Our family likes to eat the leaves as well as the bulbs but this is a personal choice and does not add to the over all flavor of a dish. If the person is not used to eating greens it is not nessicery to force the issue. In certain recipes like soup I do skip using the greens because it does turn soup a bright green color.

Our families traditional preparation is to take whole ramps about  1/2 of a pound or all that will fit in a skillet and about 1 Tablespoon bacon grease and saute them together. Ramp bulbs are hard so I add about 1/4 cup of water to steam the bulbs and keep the greens from burning or getting to brown,watch and stir, adding more water as needed to soften the bulbs until translucent… and serve.

Ramps with bacon grease and water steaming away

Ramps with bacon grease and water steaming away

Most of the families we know serve their ramps with potatoes of some kind.We usually serve them with baked ham and hash browns, brown beans and corn bread.This is our southern style Easter dinner.I personally also like just brown beans, ramps and corn bread and a little ketchup to top it off for an easy dinner.

Their are hundreds of other ways to use the “Ramp” and her are just a few ideas that we use all the time to enjoy these wonderful little treats.

I  make a Stromboli with ramps that my husband and I just love for an afternoon lunch.

base for stromboli

base for Stromboli

Using store-bought pizza dough, I fill the bottom of buttered sheet pan and cover it with  ham from the deli, ( I like smoked ham for this), then  shredded Swiss cheese (about 2 cups) then 6 to 8 diced rump bulbs, then a layer of corned beef for the deli, about 1/4 of a pound. Then roll up the dough jelly roll style and bake in the oven at 350 for 25 to 30 minutes until out side of dough is golden brown and cheese looks melted.  We serve ours with a Mariana sauce on the side for dipping.

We also make a potato and ramp casserole that is very good in the fall and uses frozen ramps. They freeze well and store for about a year without any loss of flavor or crispness. Do not precook or blanch the bulbs. They need to retain their texture or they will be mushy when thawed. In most cases ramps can substitute for onions in any recipe the only thing that our family has had any trouble with is meat balls.Ones that are fried, not baked. It appears that the ramp is not able to withstand the temperature needed to cook meatball this way without scorching. It can make a meatball taste terrible to have a scorched ramp all through the meat. Yuck.

Ramp Casserole

4 or 5 diced potatoes

10 to 12 diced ramp bulbs

1/2 lbs pork sausage

3 beaten eggs

1 cup shredded cheese… cheddar works well

8 slices of bacon fried and crumbled

1/2 cup diced ham

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1/3 cup milk

Peal  and boil diced potatoes until barely tender to a fork,  drain.

Steam chopped ramps in large microwaves safe bowl cover with plastic and steam for 2 min. and then add potatoes to bowl.

Fry sausage drain add to bowl, fry bacon drain crumble and add to bowl.

Then add ham, all eggs beaten, salt, pepper and milk  mix well,

Pour into 9 x 13 baking dish and top with cheese, bake uncovered for 30 minutes  at 350 deg.

Next spring If you are lucky you may find me and my family with ramp hoe in hand standing on a hillside in the spring sun laughing and talking about fish and the smell of ramps. It is a gift that I am able to do so much foraging here in these mountains. Spring is only the beginning and I will looking forward to summer berries and fall fruit.I am blessed with everything  that the earth gives to us freely to enjoy.

Categories: country cooking, family fun, Foraging, Hacker Valley, organic foods, ramps, State Park activities, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , | 15 Comments

The Best Egg Free Cake Ever….Grandma Powers Apple Sauce Cake

   With every passing holiday my family asks me to make the same cake, Apples Sauce Cake. Grandma Powers  received this receipt back in the 70’s from a family friend. Over the years the cakes recipe is one of the few things that passes from generation to generation in our family. The cake will easily feed about 10 in normal slices but when my son and husband get together it disappears in chunks. I recently made the cake for my sons 22 birthday and took it with us to Kentucky. The cake got stored for a couple of days in a hotel refrigerator during our stay and remained  moist and flavorful. This is one of the few cakes that I have ever made from scratch that does not us eggs or oil,so for those with allergies this is a nice desert that is egg free.

Cooling apple sauce cake

Cooling apple sauce cake

The frist thing that you may notice about this cake is that it is very large, it fills an angel food cake pan almost to the top, so keep this in mind. It also fits nicely into two buttered loaf pans. I make this size in the winter and give the other cake away as a gift.

Set oven to 350 degrees and butter what ever pan you are going to use for the cake.

Apple Sauce Cake

3 cups sugar

5 cups flour

2 sticks butter at room temperature for easy melting

24 oz. of cinnamon apple sauce… 1 quart home make sauce is equal to 24 oz.

3 teaspoons fresh baking soda ( added to hot apple sauce)

1 teaspoon all spice, cloves, nutmeg

1 tablespoon cinnamon

12 oz or two cups raisins

1 cup nuts … we use pecans

Mix together flour, sugar, spices, placing butter on top of  other ingredients . This will help the hot apple sauce melt the butter into the cake batter.

room temp butter on top of cake mix

room temp butter on top of cake mix

    In a small sauce pan put 24 oz of apple sauce, heat until sauce begins to bubble at a low simmer, at this point  turn off heat and add all three teaspoons of  backing soda and mix untill foamy.  Pour hot sauce over dry mix and butter and beat until well mixed.

foaming apple sauce

foaming apple sauce

Hot apple sauce with Baking Soda added

Hot apple sauce with Baking Soda added

                      Add nuts and raisins  at this point and mix well again. Pour batter into pan that is on top of a cookie sheet to prevent any spill, as angel food cake pans are two-part pans and sometimes leak batter.

apple sauce cake in pan

apple sauce cake in pan

Be prepared for the cake to take at least two hours to cook and maybe a few more minutes. The first hours bake the cake at 350 degrees and the second hour lowered the temperature to 250 degrees. Always test this cake with a knife or skewer, the outside will appear done while the inside will be raw. I have never seen this cake burn on the outside as the inside continues to cook the crust just gets a deeper dark brown. Cool for a couple of hours with outside ring removed and serve.

http://katherinescorner.com/sharing in Kathrinescorner.coms blog hop every thursday

Categories: apple sauce, cakes and family deserts, Kentucky | Tags: , , , , , | 9 Comments

7 long years I waited for this bottle of Maker’s Mark Bourbon

this is my ambassitor bottle with my name on the bottle

this is my ambassador bottle with my name on the label

The story of this bottle started almost 7 years ago in Lexington, Ky at the Kentucky Horse shoeing school over Fathers Day weekend.  Although I am not much of a drinker I do like to have a little spirits around for cooking and celebrations. Tom on the other hand has been a whiskey and bourbon fan most of his life.So, while  attending Farrier school in Lexington,Tom found out the locations of several of the local distilleries and asked us to join him on a tour while Cody and I visited.

From Lexington we traveled about an hour south to the small town of Loretto, Ky.  Off  in the middle of no where  sits one of the worlds best Bourbon distilleries. It is hard to find but worth every effort to find it. Maker’s Mark is known as “Top Shelf Bourbon” meaning top of the line and its grounds and tours reflect this effort to produce the best of the best. It is one of the most beautiful historic places I have ever visited.  Tom and I became ambassadors to the distillery on the visit and pledged to share our love of Mark’s Mark  with the people we knew and talked to. Included in our ambassador package was the ability to put our names on a barrel ( on a Brass Plate) and fallow that barrel through the whole process of creation and finally 6 to 7 years later come back and pickup a bottle or two of the aged bourbon that was in that barrel. At the time it was just one of the many perks to the ambassador program but was so far off in the future that I never imagined us back at the distillery getting those bottles.

Ticket sent from Marker's Mark announceing our bottles were ready to pick up

Ticket sent from Marker’s Mark announcing our bottles were ready to pick up

Well that all changed when  Maker’s Mark sent  us notification that our barrel had aged and been taste tested and was in the bottling process. They informed us that  we  could pick up our bottles for a few months this year, April-Sept and the remainder of the barrels would be bottled and sold with the regular bourbon.When I looked at the dates that the bottles were available, I was in shock and over joyed,April 1st 2013 was the frist day that the bottles were available and this is my oldest sons birthday.This date was also  just days after Toms 49th birthday and ended with Easter too. Our trip plans incorporated  all of these events and I was ready to head back to Kentucky and get my hands on bottle of bourbon that was waiting in a barrel all those years for me.

The Printing Houe of Maker's Mark and a sampleof the look of all the produceing buildings

The Printing House of Maker’s Mark and a sample of the look of all the buildings

racks of aging barrels of Maker's Mark bourbon

racks of aging barrels of Maker’s Mark bourbon

This time Cody and Jamie (my daughter-in-Law) were both of age so a family trip just seemed in order. We made our reservations and plans and headed to Bardstown,Ky for a long weekend. It turned out that if you like Whiskey, Bourbon or Scotch, Bardstown is the place to be. Bardstown is located in the middle of Bourbon country, near distilleries for Wild Turkey, Jim Beam, Four Roses, Maker’s Mark and others. It was just 16 miles to our destination and  we were able to see the towering aging sheds of many distilleries along the drive. Those 5 and 6 story sheds just appear out of  fields all around the Bardstown area. At a sharp turn in the small country road you enter the Makers Mark property. Visitors arrive at the   Gate House, Toll Gate and the beautiful Tobacco barn. All that appear to take you back in time to the early 1800’s. The grounds of Maker’s Mark are also on the National Register of Historic Places, including the “Quart House” the oldest liquor store in the US.

oldest liguare store in US ... also has a drive up window for wagons and later cars

oldest liquor store in US … also has a drive up window for wagons and later cars

 

 

The Gate House handled security for the distillery in the 1800’s and now houses a nice little cafe the serves southern pulled pork BB-Q and slaw…. you will never see BB-Q with out slaw in the south. The food was great  and a beautiful place to eat on a sunny afternoon.  The tour then leads you from building to building showing visitors every step in the process from crushing the corn to the fermentation tanks to the beautiful and over sized copper stills… (  sadly that picture did not turn out). To the tasting rooms and finally the gift shop and dipping area.  The grounds are open for photography and you are able to roam the grounds as long as you please.

Fermentation tank with corn wheat and barley

Fermentation tank with corn wheat and barley

Gate house ... with barn and toll gate

Gate house … with barn and toll gate

The Cyprus tanks pictures above are 12 feet deep and several hundred years old and are still in use everyday. Maker’s Mark allows visitors to taste the ageing mash and it is remarkably sweet and reminds me of Sugar Corn Pops. The above photo is of the frist stage of fermentation where the yeast is bubbling away the sugars in the corn, wheat and barley. This part of the tour is my favorite and this time I got to see one of the tanks empty and was really surprised with what 300 gallons in a 12 foot tank really looks like.

Before Tom and I picked up our bottles we enjoyed the tour tasting  and eventually dipped our bottles in the famous red wax that is a company trade mark. This was the highlight of the tour and they did not have the tasting room on our last visit. Here we got samples of the whole process. From 130 proof  “WhiteDog”… or in other words …”Moonshine”  that is not aged at all, just pure grain alcohol to regular Marker’s Mark bourbon  90 proof, then an over aged all most to flavorful whiskey that is not very palatable, to the best of the best Marker’s Mark 46 110 proof, a new and very tasty addition to the Maker’s Mark family.

tasting glasses full from left to right.. Moonshine( whitedog) Maker's mark , over aged bourbon. Maker's Mark 46

tasting glasses full from left to right.. Moonshine( whitedog) Maker’s mark , over aged bourbon. Maker’s Mark 46

The photos that fallow are of the bottling process and photos of us dipping our own bottles of Markers Mark.

4 workers dip the red wax tops on the "46" bottles

4 workers dip the red wax tops on the “46” bottles

bottles of "46" getting filled

bottles of “46” getting filled

 

Me with my two bottles of Makers Mark... waited a long time to these

Me with my two bottles of Makers Mark… waited a long time for these.

 

 

 

This trip to Markers Mark was  better than I had remembered it.  The tasting room addition  is great. When we originally visited  Maker’s Mark the distillery was in  a dry county… NO liquors allowed  at public places. For  over 100 years of their production no one could get a taste until they left the distillery grounds. The law recently changed and  the free tasting added if you are over 21 with a current ID. The tour is a great historical look back and very educational for anyone wondering about this areas traditions of Bourbon, Whiskey and Moonshine making.

Tom and Cody after dipping a few bottles of Makers Mark

Tom and Cody after dipping a few bottles of Makers Mark

I hope that if any of you are in Kentucky, you stop at your favorite distilleries and enjoy some of the history and love!  I found  waiting those seven years to come back and enjoy Maker’s Mark again worth every minute.

Jolynn Jamie and Christopher and Paige at Maker's Mark

Jolynn Jamie and Christopher and Paige at Maker’s Mark

Categories: Easter, family fun, fermentation, Kentucky, Maker's Mark, Travel | Tags: , , , | 27 Comments

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