A Dutch Baby (Puffy Pancake or the Hootanany) is my son’s favorite kind of pancake for breakfast. He even makes them on his own at 11 now. This custard-based oven pancake is simple to make and looks fantastic coming out of the oven. We often top the pancake with fresh fruit like bananas, strawberries or chocolate syrup with nuts. You can add any topping you like because the pancake has a light flavor and is firm but not crispy even when browned on the edges.
A Fresh Dutch Baby out of the oven ready to top.
This simple yet yummy pastry serves 4 and takes 20 mins in the oven at 450 deg.
In a mixing bowl combine eggs, flour, milk, sugar, vanilla, and salt. blend until smooth. While mixing batter preheat oven to 450 and prepare a deep-dish pie pan or cast-iron skillet. Spray pie pan with cooking spray and put one teaspoon of butter in the pan. Heat in microwave for 35 seconds until butter is melted. Swirl the butter around the bottom of the pan and then pour in pancake batter. Place the pie pan in a hot oven and bake 20 minutes. Do not open the oven during cooking. Dutch Baby will grow up the sides of the pan and turn a rich golden brown. Let cool slightly before adding toppings or cutting to serve. The texture of the cooked pancake is like a flan or custard, soft, flexible and the edges are foldable even when dark brown. They will fall slightly while cooling due to the air in the eggs. If you want to serve the pancake as a dessert at the table, top with filling and then cut after showing off the beauty of the rolled edges. For a county style breakfast cut and serve then top with fruit and syrup.
I actually learned how to make this pancake in Junior High school home-economics class when school was still teaching life skills and have loved it for over 35 years, just changing what I top it with.
The weather in West Virginia this fall and early winter has been a soggy mess. So to keep the family warm and fed until the cold of winter freezes up the mud and turns the world to a lovely white. I have been cooking comfort food in the rain. Home made Chili is a easy quick dinner when you make and can the sauce at the peak of tomato season.
Chili sauce from the garden is a family favorite. We have been making this sauce for generations and it can be made fresh from the garden or canned and stored for the long winter. We usually use ground venison as the meat adding a mixture of kidney beans to the sauce when ready to serve.
If you raise tomatoes and sweet bell peppers you can make home made chili sauce with just a little effort. This recipe usually makes 7 to 8 quarts of sauce but you can easily cut the recipe down or double it for a larger family. Each quart of sauce added to one pound of ground meat and two cans of beans makes around 6 to 7 servings of Chili.
For this recipe you need 25 pounds of ripe tomatoes. I usually have about half that ripe at one time in the garden and end up adding some to mine from the farmers market. You can also buy a half bushel of tomatoes at once and make one turn of sauce.
cored tomatoes ready for boiling water bath.
The first step is to wash, core and scald all 25 pounds of tomatoes. I do the best I can coring the tomatoes and leave them whole to scald to remove their skin. The more ripe the tomato the faster and easier it is to remove the skin. I boil about a gallon of water in a large stock pot adding tomatoes until they reach the top of the pot. Boil the tomatoes 3 minutes until skins come lose. Dump hot tomatoes into a cold water bath in a sink and allow to cool. I add a couple of trays of ice to the bath. Refill the cold water bath as it gets warm after adding 5 or 6 pounds of tomatoes at a time. The skins will pull lose easily leaving a nice pealed tomato for chopping.
Next dice up tomatoes with a ruff chop and place in large stock pot to begin to cook down. At this point you will have enough juice to cook the tomatoes with out scorching if you use a Med/High heat.
Next add onion, peppers, garlic, sugar, spices and allowed to cook until everything is soft. Simmering the sauce for about 30 minutes. At this point add tomato paste, 2 cans will help to reduced the amount of water in the sauce. The sauce could be canned at this point if you like a chunky sauce or I put ours through a food mill to remove any seeds, skins and lumps.
(I make small packets of spices to drop in the simmering sauce to make it easier to remove the large seeds and leaves.)
pickleing spice and a 6×6 piece of cheese cloth ready to tie up
spices wrapped into cheese cloth
After pressing the sauce through a food mill, heat sauce to boiling and ladle into clean prepared quart jars. I always wash and sterilized at least 9 jars just in case I end up with more then 7 quarts of sauce. Add clean sterilized lids and rings and process in a boiling water bath 20 minutes. No pressure needed with high acid foods like tomato sauce( 20 minutes for quarts and 15 minutes for pints). Each jar will last at least one year after being canned. I rarely make less than 14 quarts at a time.
Garden Chili Sauce
1/2 bushel ripe tomatoes or 25 pounds
1 cup chopped fine hot peppers we use a med hot pepper.
1 cup chopped sweet peppers
1 cup red onion
2 heads of garlic chopped fine this equals about 10 cloves
1/4 to 1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 2.0 oz can ground chili powder, more or less to taste
2 small cans tomato paste
1 tablespoon pickling spices, placed in a cheese cloth,
We use Mrs Woods Mixed Pickling Spices but if you do not have Pickling spice, mustard seed, Bay leaves, whole allspice, cinnamon and coriander seeds can be used.
When ready to use add one pound cooked ground meat and two cans of kidney beans simmer and serve.
for more information on canning in a boiling water bath please refer to the Ball Jar Website.
So after appearing on the TV show State Plate where my family was featured making traditional Appalachian foods and now that CNN’s Anthony Bourdain has traveled to West Virginia in his show Explore Parts Unknown, I am a little confused if the food of my home is now trendy or traditional? I wonder what it is that we as people are looking for when we have come back and taken the simple county food that my family eats and made it trendy.
I wonder if our nation has had so much world food exposure that we are looking for something that is truly American, something with traditions and stories that reflect our basic American history. Many Americans have never eaten self butchered meats, home-made breads,home canned fruits and veggies from the garden. So to these people my family and the mountain communities that surround me seem novel. Yet, I view myself and my way of living as traditional to Appalachia and not unique in any way. In reality it is not unique to most Americans either, just forgotten for a few generations.
Christopher and Cody picking pumpkins and Paige on the way with the wagon
Food is just one aspect of a life here that is lived believing you will only be able to count on your family and yourself in an uncertain future. Families still raise gardens to provide valuable nutrition, they hunt, fish and forage as a normal part of the seasons. They can and dry foods for the winter and share the bounty with those they know and love. It is simple and direct to make food from what is growing near by. It saves money and is better for you because it is less likely to have chemicals and pesticides. It only seems odd or novel to outsiders who would never think of eating wild rabbits or making your own wine from plants that grow like weeds. It also takes skills that many have forgotten over the generations. They say time stands still in the hills, so in this way we are fortunate to have kept the skills alive.
To my surprise, I was recently invited to be part of a historical “Foodways” museum exhibit at the Beverly Heritage Center in Beverly, West Virginia. I shared some of my families recipes and our way of preparing several items that have been in the family for generations. I even shared some of the cooking tools we use for the display, some being over 60 years old.
As part of the display the Museum created this panel about my family’s food history. It will be on display for the summer placed on a dinner table with 5 other panels. Each one sharing a Appalachian food story and a couple of recipes. Then during opening day Jenny the curator of the project will serve several of the foods that the families have shared with her during the collection process. I hope to make the apple sauce cake for her and the visitors and share some more of my families stories. The exhibit opens June 9th in the lobby of the Beverly Heritage Center in Beverly, West Virginia.
After my interview with Jenny, I began to reflect on the resent fascination with our rural foods. Our interview reminded me of why country families and mountain communities have such attachments to their food. Food is the link to each other and the communities that they value. As Jenny and I chatted, I found myself saying that it is often times food that brings us all together. It is church dinners and family holidays, birthdays and funerals, fairs and festivals, that whole communities will gather together to share in someones pain or celebration. Our foods are about nourishment, not only of the body but of the soul. We have family time, say Grace, and keep in touch with friends, families all with food. It is these connections with food that is different in the world today. Today’s families rarely sit down at the table to eat a meal together. Holiday meals are not home-made anymore. Never allowing everyone to get involved in the preparations. Here in Appalachia often we know who butchered the meat, made the beer and wine that we toast with, know the woman who made the jams, jellies and the children who made the cookies sitting on the table our Thanksgiving table.
Today people have no idea what the ingredients are in their food or even how they are grown or raised. Kids eat in the car and we get milk in plastic bottles. We have lost touch with the joy of our food.
Appalachian food is about being authentic and natural, full of stories and traditions. Sometimes it is fancy and other times it is simple and filling, but it is often more about who you share a meal with then the food on the plate that is important.
So one of the things that the producers of “State Plate” TV show want me to make is apple dumplings made from our very own state apple the Golden Delicious. A wonderful history fallows the apple. It comes from one of the most rural counties in our state, Clay County, West Virginia. The county is a twisty, curvy, mountainous place to call home but that is where the very first Golden Delicious apple tree was found. The apple tree was growing wild on a hillside on the Mullins farm back the 1890’s. It was thought to be a naturally occurring hybrid but no one really knows. So after discovering the tree and it’s unusual fruit, a sample was sent of the Stark Brothers nursery for identification. It has been said that they were happily surprised by the new find and made plans to buy the tree and the land that surrounded it. the Stark Brothers company bought the tree in the early 1900’s and built a large fence around the tree. The Stark Brothers company worked several years with seed and graphs to develop the very best and marketable tree that they could and in 1914 the began sale of the Golden Delicious apple that we love today. A crisp, yellow, fine skinned apple that is lightly tart; when baked softens easily making wonderful apple sauce or dumplings that are soft enough to cut with a fork.
Modern example of the Golden Delicious Apple
So as I continue to prepare for our up coming filming I have made a couple of batches of apple dumplings for testing and tasting. I wanted to be sure that I still knew how to make them. I made them from small hard Wine Sap apples on the farm when the whole family lived close together back in the 90’s. My brother-in-law still talks about them even today. So here is a photo of the first test batch.
My family personally does not care for the sweet sugar glaze that most people eat with a dumpling. We would rather eat them with ice cream and salted caramel syrup topping. So that is how I am making them for the show. I am hoping to make one more batch this weekend just to be sure I will not have a panic attack while they film. So in case you want the recipe I will share it here with some photos. If you get a chance to see me making them on the Inspiration Channels “State Plate” you can see how they are made with the help of Taylor Hicks.
So the simple recipe that I am going to use is this one.
Apple Dumplings West Virginia Style
For the crust for 6 dumplings
2 1/4 cups all purposed flour
2/3 cup shortening
1/2 cup plus a couple of tablespoons milk if needed
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 egg with water for egg wash on crust
For the dumpling
6 snack size golden delicious apples, peeled cored and left with whole down center
1 stick room temperature salted butter
6 to 7 heaping tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cloves
One Jar Smucker’s salted Caramel topping.
Bake at 325 degrees for 45 minutes until dumplings are golden brown and juice has escaped the into the bottom of the pan.
Mix together dry ingredients for pie crust adding in shorting and cutting together. Until dry crumbles form and they look like cheese curds. Slowly add milk and cut in more as needed to make a dough ball. Food processors do a wonderful job here. Remove from processor and form a large flat ball and place in container in refrigerator while prepping apples.
crumbly crust before adding all the milk
Peel apples and remove core with a melon baller tool,without breaking the apple.The apple should be hallow inside. Set aside while making the stuffing for apples. Mix brown sugar with butter until creamy but firm enough to hold together. If you can model it with your fingers like play dough you have enough brown sugar. Mix in the 2 teaspoons cinnamon and 1/2 teaspoon cloves. Set aside
7 inch crust rounds
Remove cool crust from refrigerator roll out on a floured surface in large oval about 1/4 thick. With a kitchen bowl around 5 inches in diameter, mark and cut crust in smaller circles. Re-roll until thin and about 7 inches in diameter. Score crust in 4 evenly placed locations to allow crust to fold neatly.
mix up 1 egg and 3 tablespoons water and brush edge of circle of crust.
Place apple in center of crust and spoon in sugar mixture pushing to bottom as you go. Wet edge of crust with egg wash, wrap apple in sections over lapping where the edges need to be pinched to hold together. Bring all edges together at top of apple and pinch together using more egg wash to hold everything. Cover dumpling with egg wash and sprinkle with cinnamon repeat with other 5 apples.
crust wrapped apple dumplings ready to bake
Bake at 325 degrees for 45 minutes in a deep dish pan. Dumplings will leak and have sticky syrup in pan be careful it is very hot.Serve with a caramel topping and/or vanilla ice cream.
It is so confusing for me that we have not only been invited to appear on one TV program but now two. The second invitation came from a representative from the Television show titled “State Plate” a food show that represents all 50 states here in the US. The show visits a community and talks about regional foods that people love from that state. It would not really qualify as a cooking show, they don’t really show how to make food step by step, they just talk about the dishes famous in that area.The show shares information on the history of that food item and how it is prepared. In my families case, Tom has been asked to talk about one of West Virginia’s most famous foraged foods, Ramps, a wild leak or wild onion that grows wild in the hollows of West Virginia. I on the other hand will be talking about Golden Delicious apples, making an apple dumpling with ice cream. Their will be three other items covered on the show, the pepperoni roll, trout and biscuits and gravy. Other members of our community will be asked to show how they make these traditional dishes in a West Virginia style. So our portion of the show is only about two items out of 5 segments, each being about 6 mintues long.
Field of wild growing ramps
Tom will be the star of the “Ramp” segment and he has 50+ years of experience digging ramps, cleaning and eating ramps. He will visit a family friends farm and dig ramps with the host of the show and then if all goes well the show will visit a ramp dinner here in Buckhannon and see the many ways ramps are prepared and eaten.
freshly cleaned ramps ready to cook
Here is a link to some info about the show and their Facebook page if you want to learn more or are just interested in see what states they have visited or will visit in the future.
Then later the crew will visit our house to film a portion of the show about apple dumplings using Golden Delicious apples. At least this is one thing I know how to make and have made in the past. I am just hoping to not totally freak out about cooking in my house with cameras rolling. Cooking for anyone other than family and friends is a completely new experience, wish me luck on this part of the adventure. I will plan to make a couple of batches and freeze them just in case everything goes terribly wrong. Let’s hope nerves don’t take over and I can’t actually cook on camera. My heart is already doing flip-flops just thinking about the whole thing and the work involved in getting my house ready and getting just the right recipe together.
The filming will take place over Easter weekend and we are going to have a house full off and on all weekend.I am not even planning to make our traditional family dinner this year, we are likely going to get to-go boxes from the local ramp dinner and eat right out of the foam containers this year! I hope you all will fallow along as I work on getting ready for this next adventure into TV.
In a future post I will share my attempt at making apple dumplings for the show and you can see the mess and stress I go through trying to make something worth seeing on TV. I can only hope that we have as much fun making State Plate as we did making the episode of Barn Wood Builders. Who knew, a Hillbilly boy and his family would ever have these kinds of adventures in their own back yards!
Spring ramp digging Christopher holding his first ramp age 3
I love everything apple and will eat apples just about any way that you find them. I love to use wild and free apples when ever I can to make treats for the family but one treat I love more than most is hand pies. Some southern families make these small fried pies with biscuit dough others with smashed Wonder Bread and mine are made with frozen white bread dough. All of them have a freshly made filling, some sweet some savory, and all are fried to a deep golden brown on the stove top while the little ones watch. Hand pies have been made in the South for generations and no one ever turns one down. The pies are eaten hot and served as dessert, breakfast or as an after school snack. Often the fillings for the pies are whatever a southern mother had left over from a family dinner. Apple sauce, peaches, raisins, even savory pies would have left over roast and veggies.
My mother in law would often make then with white bread in a pie maker with home canned pie fillings. The neighbor kids could smell then 1/2 mile away and knew what she was making and pray she would make them one!
I personally have not invested in a pie maker of any kind although they seem to make great pies and bind the edges together very well… less of the filling leaking out is always a good thing.I just use my fingers to roll the bread dough together. The edges are a little more individual but they rarely leak.
Filled Apple Hand Pies
So to make my version of an Apple Hand Pie, I start with a frozen bread dough for dinner rolls and place them out to thaw. I also peal, core and dice two or three snake size apples. The apples in these photos are Gala but you can use just about any apple that will not turn to mush when cooked.
Frozen dinner roll dough
Fried diced apples with butter and brown sugar
I dice the apples into a skillet with two teaspoons of butter and cook over med heat for 3 or 4 minutes.Adding brown sugar, cinnamon , and a little water to the hot apples. I let the water cook down until the sauce is thick and sticky. With some apples no water is needed to soften the apples,they provide enough juice to cook down the apples with out scorching.I had to add water to cook them until they were soft around the edges. I let the filling cool while rolling out the dough. Each dinner roll makes about a 5 inch circle with a little tugging and rolling. I put about two table spoons filling on half the pie crust and fold over the warm apple filling. I squeeze the edges together then roll them upward and roll up the edge with a pinch at the end of the pie.
I then fry the pies in hot oil about 325 to 350 degrees just long enough for the pie to float and turn brown on both sides. The dough is thin and gets crispy fast. I make two pies at a time.
Cooling Apple Hand Pies with cinnamon sugar
Draining them on paper towels and topping with a dollop of butter and a pinch of cinnamon sugar. Let cool slightly before eating or cutting open to share.
Fried Apple Hand Pies with homemade filling
Recipe for Apple Hand Pies:
One bag of frozen dinner rolls.. I make two per person.
3 small snack size apples per 3 people Gala, Winesap, Red Delicious work well.
3 Tablespoons salted butter.One used to add to cinnoman topping.
2 Tablespoons brown sugar.
1/2 teaspoons cinnamon and a dash of nutmeg.
1/4 cup or less water
Cooking oil for frying
a mixture of cinnamon and sugar for dusting tops of pies
Drying meat into Jerky is a tradition in the mountain state and has always been a safe convent way to store meat over the winter. Our family makes it and shares it at the holidays as gifts with friends and family alike. We make several flavors and some are savory and some are more sweet but all of them taste great and make great snacks for the woods or the car.
As the last day of deer season approached this fall I had my older son and his family come to our house to help make venison jerky. I made a quick trip to the local store to pick up supplies and flavorings for the jerky. My whole family likes a traditional recipe that uses Soy Sauce and Worcestershire as the salty marinade for the preservative marinade for the Jerky but when heading to the sauce section of the grocery store I found empty shelves. No Soy Sauce of any kind and only a small selection of Worcestershire sauces. So I added a selection of A-1 sauce and Teriyaki sauce and a small bottle of Worcestershire sauce, thank goodness I had Soy Sauce on hand at the house. So we made 4 flavors of Jerky with 8 pounds of Venison Roast.
white tail deer meat ready to be boned
With several hind quarter roasts that were lightly frozen we cut the meat into thin slices. Using slightly frozen meat allows us to control the slicing better. Setting my slicer to #1 we were able to get a slice that was about the thickness of a coin. I placed a forth of the meat into individual Ziploc bags. Added a selected marinade and sealed the bags and placed them in the refrigerator for 24 hours.
The following morning I removed the thawed steak and marinade from the refrigerator and prepared my drying racks. I also have a dehydrator but it is to small for large amounts of jerky that we were making on this day. So I placed a bakers cooling rack on top of a standard cookie sheet and sprayed both with a non-stick cooking spray. Pulling the marinated meat from the bags I placed one thin row of steak on the rack trying not to over lap the edges. Then placed the rack and cookie sheet into an oven that was preheated to its lowest setting. My oven will only go as low as 140 degrees and set timer for 6 hours. My dehydrator goes as low as 120 degrees and can run as long as the power is on. 8 hours is good for drying overnight and works great for about 1 pound of meat.
Soy Sauce Jerky ready to dry
After 6 hours I tested the Jerky for dryness. Jerky stores best if there is no fat and the moisture level is low but not so dry that the meat breaks when bent. I like my jerky slightly chewy and will cut the meat thicker to make it chewy. The meat will reduce in size about twice while drying, the thicker the meat the longer the dry time, and the chewier it will be when finished.
The recipe that I fallow “Soy Sauce and Worcestershire Jerky” comes from one of my favorite wild game cook books (North American Hunt Club Wild Game Cookbook). The A-1 sauce was a random idea and I would make it again any time my son asks for it. I have made the Teriyaki before and it is my personal favorite. The A-1 and the Teriyaki are used straight out of the bottle with out the addition of any other ingredients.
I used 4 pounds of roast to make this jerky recipe and it worked wonderfully.
Oven-Dried Soy Sauce Worcestershire Jerky
by J.W. Kaufman Jr.
4 pounds Venison sliced or ground
1/2 cup Soy Sauce
2 Table Spoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
Trim and Discard all fat from meat.Cut meat into 1/4 thick strips cut across the grain. Mix remaining ingredients together. Stir to dissolve as much as possible.Add meat,mixing thoroughly to coat meat well. Let stand 1 hour to over night, stirring occasionally.Place meat strips on drying racks or on oven racks covered with foil. Dry at lowest temperature until dry. 4-6 hours. I personally used the oven setting of 140 degrees and dried my jerky for 6 hours.
Soy Sauce Jerky dried at 140 degrees for 6 hours.
I made gift bags after the jerky was totally dry and ended up with 6 bags of jerky. The first two ended up in my husbands and sons backpacks for the next hunting trip and work. The other 4 was given as gifts to friends of our family. The response from everyone who received a bag has been wonderful.$5.00 for 6 oz bag for store-bought Jerky Vs a 10 oz. bag of free jerky as a gift is always well received by the men in my family.
Hope you all have a happy and productive New Year as I cut up the last of the deer from the 2016 hunting seasons.It has been a busy year, my family was successful in filling my freezer and pantry once again.I am personally looking forward to spring and getting back out in the woods fishing and turkey hunting. Happy New Year!
Making homemade jellies and jams is one of my favorite thing to do when fresh fruit comes into season. Strawberries wild and cultivated are in season here and I just could not resist a large sale that featured strawberries at a local market. Strawberry Jam is one of the easiest jams to make and is almost fool-proof.
Homemade strawberry jam
I would love to have a strawberry bed in the near future but for now I have bought mine. So in about 1 hour 30 minutes, I made enough jam to feed my family for the rest of the year. The total cost for making Strawberry Jam was about 8$ compared to 17$ dollars if you pay 3 dollars a jar for store-bought Jam.I am hoping that next time I can drop the cost to 3$ dollars when I can raise my own berries.
Following the Ball Blue Book canning guide you will need 2 quarts or 8 cups crushed clean fresh strawberries. I bought 5 pounds of strawberries and used about 3 pounds to get 8 cups of crushed strawberries. 7 cups of sugar, 1/4 cup lemon juice and 6 Tablespoons Ball Classic Pectin. This is one whole jar of powdered pectin. 1 to 2 tablespoons butter if needed to reduce foaming.
You will need 8 half pint jars ( we call them jelly jars) with lids and rings I always get two extra ready also. A boiling water canner with enough boiling water to cover the tops of you jars with 1 to 2 inches of water.You will need a potato masher to make the crushed fruit, a jar lifter, funnel and a ladle. One large dutch oven or stock pot for cooking the jam in. I like to wear rubber gloves to protect my hands from the boiling hot jam but you can skip it if you are careful.
After washing jars lids and rings, sterilize the jars either in the microwave or in the boiling water of the canner. I boil my lids and rings separately in a small sauce pan that I keep very hot until ready to us. Remove from sterile jars from canner or microwave and place on a towel to cool and dry.
ready to crush 2 cups of strawberries at a time in dutch oven
In large stock pot add the 2 quarts of smashed berries, lemon juice and classic pectin mix together well. Bring to a boil, stirring to keep from scorching. Add sugar to pot and stir until sugar dissolved. Return to a rolling boil, one that will not stop when stirred. Boil one minute stirring constantly. Remove from heat add one teaspoon of butter if jam is foamy on top. Mix in well and skim top of Jam to remove foamy skin. Ladle hot jam into clean jars leaving about 1/4 of inch of headspace.Be careful to not to burn yourself on hot syrup. Clean top rim of jar to remove any leftover fruit or juice adding lid and adjust ring. Process 10 minutes in boiling water canner. Remove from hot water and let completely cool check rings and tighten if needed and store for up to one year.
8 cups mashed strawberries, lemon juice, pectin and sugar ready to return to a boil
Jars loaded into canner to process 10 minutes. No pressure needed.
In the end I finished the morning with 9 half pint jars of jam and still had a few strawberries left over for strawberry rhubarb jam also. I grow rhubarb so I made a small batch of Jam with the leftover berries and three stalks of rhubarb.They all tasted great and will keep us thinking of summer all winter long.
It is official spring has come to the Mountain State. Trout and Ramp Season has begone and I am getting excited for the first skillet full of the wild food that is traditional in West Virginia. My husband’s family have enjoyed fresh trout and ramps for generations. As far back as the family story can remember. The family enjoyed the freedom of the Mountains where tiny speckled fish and ramps are always a part of the celebration spring.
Brook Trout by Mat Hardy from Trout Unlimited
Often my husband and his father would take off in the middle of April for a trout fishing trip with hopes of also gathering a burlap sack of ramps. The farther from civilization they drove the smaller the trout got and the larger the ramps grew. So off on some deserted logging road on a mountain top, where a small stream started, my father-in-law and husband would be found fishing. The tiny native trout with copper skin and bright orange spots are fighters like anything that lives so far into the mountains.Making an almost freezing morning exciting as the two would wade the stream looking for ramps along the way.
Field of wild growing ramps
When the noon day sun would finally reach the steam at the bottom of the holler they were fishing the two would break for lunch. The two eating pepperoni rolls off the tail gate of an old truck, they would talk about if the fishing was good enough to spend more time in the water or if it was time to trade the fishing poles for a ramp hoes. Neither father or son would want to leave the peacefulness of the rushing spring water but they knew more treasures waited for them on the mountainsides.
Tom fishing in a stream in Pendleton County, West Virginia
The team would drag themselves up the steep banks of the mountains with a short-handled hoe, looking for clumps of green in the otherwise brown forest floor. If ramps were spotted, one would yell out to the other in the other wise silent woods and the digging would start. Gathering just enough of the bulbs for the family and leaving many to spread out the seeds of future plants.By late afternoon the two would shimmy back down the mossy covered banks to the truck. Fresh fish would be in the cooler chilling, topped with a sack of muddy ramps. The two would ride the bumpy road back home for a fest of fresh spring foods.These foods were almost impossible to get any other time of the year and the deep joy of finally being free from the winter always made the meals more pleasant.
Often the first dinner that we fix of ramps is meatless. Not for any reason other than it seems fitting that such an early spring meal would have also been meatless for generations of homesteaders of this land. They would have enjoyed a meal of fresh ramps with brown beans, cornbread and maybe if their storage was good fried potatoes. Our ancestors would have celebrated that fresh greens had to grown again and life had returned to the hills they called home.
So as my family celebrates Easter weekend, I am not only thinking of my Savior and his miraculous life, I am thinking of countless generations of West Virginians who have come before me. I am thinking of the blessings and bounty of another spring and of how to share its traditions and stories with the next generation. How a fish and a sticky bulb were not a trendy food but a way of life for the mountain people of Appalachia and how I can keep the spirit of thankfulness alive.
A friend sent this to me on Face Book just a few days ago. It makes me wonder how many of us really understand how foraging can help control evasive plants. It also made me want to share this with any one who likes foraging for greens. Wild Garlic Mustard is found growing almost everywhere in the Eastern US and can be cooked and eaten like any other bitter green. Another green that is problematic in our area and across the south is Stinging Nettle. Hardy and fast spreading by seed if given the right growing conditions these plants crowed out natural flowers and plants . Animals do not like the smell or taste of the Garlic Mustard or Stinging Nettle so they are not controlled by the environmental conditions .
Forest Service Garlic Mustard flyer
Wild Mustard in Bloom
If you are in the West Virginia area and have time to help with this problem and enjoy the outdoors and cooking free wild food we could use your help. My family hopes to attend one of these pulling dates and make a nice side dish of Garlic Mustard Cakes when we get home.A dish made from boiled greens drained to remove bitterness, eggs for a binder and Italian bread crumbs fried in brown butter.
April and May is prime pulling time before the plants start to seed and West Virginia could use all the pickers we can find. We are allowed to take home as much of the Garlic Mustard as we wish but they would love for us to remove some of the plants also. For ideas on how to cook the wild greens follow this link Cooking Mustard Garlic. Hope to see you in the woods picking this spring.
I'm a mother, wife, artist, writer, community developer in the Appalachian Mountains of West Virginia. Originally from the mountains of Boulder, Colorado. I have spent the last 27 years with my family in a small town of less then 4000 were we spend time outdoors living close to the land. I garden, fish, hunt, forage and cook in traditional ways and share Appalachian history and culture with my two sons. I love old buildings, bridges and farms. I love a good ghost story and have been known to dress up for Halloween. I hope you enjoy my stories about our life where you might not have cell service, many of the roads are just numbers and people still want to know your name.
For anyone who has ever thought of attempting the #vanlife, A Life of VANity is an unfiltered, realistic look at the unglamorous day-to-day happenings of life in a Chevy G20 Conversion van. Unlike other #vanlife blogs, A Life of VANity is here to show you that it isn’t all roadtrips and ocean-side views, and that there’s nothing wrong with living in a backyard or two.