When I was a kid mom called me Punkin’. I remember asking her why and she just said “cause you’re my punkin’.” and so it was, I was Punkin. I don’t remember when she stopped calling me that. She may have called each one of us that, but at least for a while it was me.
I’ve always loved pumpkins. I love the smell of ’em when you cut ’em open and I love digging my hand down in one to pull out the strings and seeds. One of our teachers in elementary school brought a toaster oven into our room and after we carved the class jack-o-lantern, we cleaned and toasted the pumpkin seeds. I had never had them before, but for years after that we would toast the seeds when we carved one at home. They never were as good as the ones she made.
One of the things I look most forward to at Thanksgiving is the pumpkin pie. It is, and always will be, my favorite thing that you can make from pumpkin. I will see about sharing my Appalachian Pumpkin Pie this Thanksgiving. I’ve made pumpkin dip, pumpkin bread, pumpkin bars, and pumpkin cake, but if I had to only choose one thing to make for the rest of my days with pumpkin, it’s back to pie. I can almost taste an ice cold slice right now.
But last weekend, when we took a walk through the woods in Cumberland Gap, TN, we stopped off at a little coffee shop for some lunch and I got a cup of their Great Pumpkin coffee before heading off. That cup of coffee inspired me to make a Pumpkin Spice Latte Cake. It’s a marbled cake of pumpkin and coffee, with all the right spice and a creamy icing to top it off. If I could have a second thing I could make for the rest of my days with pumpkin, it would be this cake!
Pumpkin Spice Latte Cake
For this cake you will make 2 batters, one coffee and one pumpkin, and then marble the two together.
Ingredients for coffee batter:
1 1/2 cups plain flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup white granulated sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
6 oz strong coffee
1/2 teaspoon of the coffee grinds from making the strong coffee
Ingredients Pumpkin Batter:
1 cup plain flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup white granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup pumpkin puree
Ingredients for milk bath:
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
3/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg, 1/8 teaspoon cloves -reserve 1/4 teaspoon for dusting the cake before serving)
Ingredients for the icing:
3/4 cup butter softened
3 cups powdered sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon coffee grinds
3 – 4 tablespoon heavy whipping cream
Preheat the oven to 350.
You will need 4 bowls all together to make the two batters. In the first 2 bowls, for each batter, sift together the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda. In the pumpkin batter, whisk in the cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger.
In the next 2 bowls, for each batter, cream the butter and sugar. Beat in the eggs one at a time. For the coffee batter, beat in the coffee and grinds. For the pumpkin batter, beat in the vanilla and pumpkin puree.
Prepare a 9 x 13 cake pan by greasing and flouring the pan. Starting with the coffee batter, because it will be thinner, pour all the batter into the pan. Then spoon in the thicker pumpkin batter. Taking a butter knife, run the tip of the knife up and down the batters to marble them, but do not mix them.
Bake for 30 – 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. While cake is baking, heat milk, cream, and pumpkin pie spice in the microwave for 2 – 3 minutes. Let it steep while the cake bakes. This will be for soaking the cake once it come out of the oven. Remove the cake from the oven when done and while the cake is still hot, use a fork to poke holes all in the cake. Pour the milk bath evenly over the cake. Let it sit and cool completely before icing.
For the icing, whip the butter until creamy. Beat in the powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time until each is well combined. Add the coffee grinds and the whipping cream and beat until well combined and creamy.
Ice the top of the cake and then dust with a couple of tablespoons of powdered sugar mixed with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice.
Chill cake for 4 hours or overnight. Keep cake cold until serving.
When I first moved out on my own, I moved from the little Virginia town I grew up in, and was the only home I had known for 25 years, and moved to Nashville, Tennessee. I got pretty homesick sometimes, and back then if you called outside your county limits you paid long-distance charges for the call. I had to budget out how often and when I called mom and dad. I think the rates changed after 8 o’clock in the evening, so I always waited until then to call and kept it to a quick 10 minutes.
One of those calls that first fall was to ask mom about the beef stew we had made several times. I don’t really know where the recipe came from, but she read if off to me and I scribbled it down. I still have that handwritten recipe. Usually you cherish recipes in your mom’s or grandmaw’s handwriting, but I still hear her voice when I read it and I feel connected once again. It makes me a little homesick still, but not for home so much as just a time long gone.
Old Time Beef Stew
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 pounds of beef, cubed
2 tablespoons flour
2 quarts water
3 tablespoons Worcester sauce
1 clove garlic, minced
1 large onion, chopped
2 Bay leaves
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon allspice
6-8 carrots, sliced
4-6 potatoes, cubed
1 stalk celery, diced
In a large dutch oven, heat 2 tablespoons oil. Dust cubed beef with flour and toss to coat the meat. When oil is hot, brown beef. When beef is browned, add 2 quarts water to the pot along with Worcester sauce, garlic, onion, bay leaves, salt, pepper, sugar, allspice, and cloves. Bring to a simmer, cover, and cook for 1 1/2 hours.
Next add the carrots, potatoes, and celery. Cover and continue to simmer for 45 minutes longer or until meat and vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally.
If stew has not thickened enough, make a slurry of flour and hot broth from the stew, about 4 tablespoons flour to 1 cup of broth. Mix until flour and broth are well combined and pour back into stew while stirring. This will thicken it quickly, so you may want to turn off the heat when you start this. When thick, it is ready to serve. Remove Bay leaves before serving.
Serve in a bread bowl or with some crusty bread, crisp cornbread, or fried cornbread patties.
Crisps are named because of the crispy oat topping that they’re made with, but when Fall arrives, we think of crisp Fall evenings and the aroma of warm spices like cinnamon and nutmeg filling the kitchen.
Peachy Moon Crisp
5-6 ripe peaches, peeled, pitted, and sliced, or 2 quarts of canned, drained
3/4 cup brown sugar
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup Old Forge Distillery Oatmeal Cookie Moonshine
1 1/2 cups oats
1 cup plain flour
1 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon cardamon
Dash of salt
1 stick butter
In a 12 inch cast iron skillet, melt the butter and add the peach slices, brown sugar, and Oatmeal Cookie Moonshine. Sauté for 5 minutes or until thickened and peaches are tender.
Remove from the heat and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
In a large bowl combine the oats, flour, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamon, and salt. Cut the butter into chucks and cut into the oat/flour mixture. Top the peaches with the crisp topping and bake for 25-30 minutes or until topping is golden brown.
Serve warm with ice cream or whipped cream infused with your favorite Cream Liqueur, such as Peaches & Cream, Haystack, or Vanilla Ice Cream.
I love baked sweet potatoes, sweet potato fries, and even sweet potato casserole. I’ve made sweet potato bread and sweet potato pie, but one of my favorites might be this Sweet Potato Cornbread.
Sweet Potato Cornbread
Makes one 6.5 inch skillet of cornbread
1 cup plain yellow cornmeal
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons brown sugar
pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
dash of cinnamon
1/2 cup mashed sweet potato
2/3 cup whole buttermilk
4 tablespoons butter
Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. While the oven is heating up, melt and brown the butter in your skillet over med-high heat.
While the butter is browning, whisk together the cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, salt, brown sugar, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Make a well in the center and add the mashed sweet potato, buttermilk, and egg. Mix well to combine.
When butter is browned, carefully pour cornbread batter into the skillet. The butter will come up and over the batter. Move the skillet to the oven when it is ready and bake for 20-22 minutes or until center is done and top is browned a little.
Remove from the oven and top with a little bit of butter, maple syrup, or honey if desired and serve warm.
Mary probably had the biggest sweet tooth of anyone I’ve ever known. She didn’t eat large portions of sweets, but she had something sweet everyday. She would make desserts from their peaches and cherries all the time, and I remember an apple dumpling once that was so good. I don’t know that I had ever had one before that. Rice pudding was in the oven at least once a month, but my favorite treat was her bread pudding.
We went for a Sunday drive this afternoon all over the countryside of Greene County, TN, passing so many small older homes out in the country. Several reminded me of Mary and Charlie’s house. They built it themselves from cinderblock and stucco. It had a front porch that stretched all across with huge stairs leading up to it, and a porch the full length of the back. The front porch was for sitting, talking with neighbors, waving at folks as they went by, and just relaxing. The back porch was for working. We would snap beans and shuck corn back there, fetch water for the garden from the cistern, and prep food for canning and freezing.
So while I was thinking about Mary today, I thought I would get back in the kitchen and work on a bread pudding and make something with apples. I picked up a box of sugar coated donuts at Walmart on Friday in a moment of weakness, and we had 8 left, so I thought I would use them up. Donut Bread Pudding with Apple Butter Glaze it is! I had also just opened the last jar of my Overnight Apple Butter that I made in the crockpot last year. I’ll have to get more apples to make this and more apple butter soon.
Donut Bread Pudding with Apple Butter Glaze
6-8 glazed or sugared donuts – day old are best for this
1/2 cup pecans, halves or pieces
1 large apple; peeled, cored, and diced
3 tablespoons butter, melted
2 egg yolks
2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
Pinch of cardamom
Break donuts up into 1 inch pieces and layer in a 9×13 prepared baking dish. Sprinkle pecans and apple dices over donuts. Pour melted butter over all and toss to coat.
In a large mixing bowl combine eggs, yolks, milk, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardamom. Whisk until well combined. Pour evenly over donut mixture, making sure all pieces are coated in egg mixture.
Preheat oven to 350. Cover pudding with foil and let sit while oven comes to temperature. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake an additional 30 minutes.
Let sit and cool for 10 minutes. Glaze with Apple Butter Glaze (recipe below) or any icing of your choice!
Apple Butter Glaze
1 cup of confectioner’s sugar
4 tablespoons of apple butter
Combine until well incorporated and pour over pudding before serving
We keep apples in the fridge all the time. I eat one for breakfast several mornings a week because its easy to take on the road, and Mick eats one for a snack in the afternoons. I think he gets that, and many other things, from his mom. She has an apple each night for a snack.
But when it comes to baking, we tend to think of apples as a fall favor, paired with brown sugar and cinnamon. I wanted to come up with something for summer (mostly because I just wanted some cake!) and I didn’t want anything too sweet, and I am not ready for cinnamon everything just yet. I looked at the herb pots I have just off the porch. I have some pineapple sage that might have worked well and some lemon balm I thought about, or I could have tried the lavender, but I think that would go better with a lemon cake. Then I thought about the rosemary. I love rosemary and use it often with chicken or a roast. Mick makes the best fried potatoes that he puts lots of rosemary in. I love it when it gets crunchy. I thought I better google it just to make sure I was not way off and it seems apple and rosemary go very well together.
The other thing I like about this cake, besides how incredible it tastes or how the cake is dense and moist with crunchy bits on the edges because its baked in a cast iron skillet, is that it’s a thin cake. I love to bake cakes, but we never eat all of it and I have to find someone to take the rest. I’m thinking a couple of you just raised your hands. Well, the rest of this will make its way to work on Monday and we’ll raise a fork to a co-worker for her birthday.
Apple Rosemary Cake – baked in a cast iron skillet
1/2 stick butter
1/4 cup white granulated sugar (for the skillet)
2-3 sprigs tender rosemary
2 apples with skin cored and sliced 1/4 inch thick
3/4 cup oil
1 cup white granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 350. Place 1/2 stick butter in the skillet and let it heat up with the oven while you prepare the apples. Core the apples and slice into 1/4 inch slices. You do not have to peel them, but if you don’t like apple peel, then you can and it will work just the same for you. You should end up with about 16 slices per apple in you use an apple slicer and then slice each in half.
Whisk together the oil, eggs, sugar, and vanilla. Sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Add the flour mixture to the oil mixture and stir to combine until all flour is incorporated. Batter will be stiff, about the consistency of warm oatmeal.
When the butter is melted, remove the skillet from the oven and scatter the 1/4 cup of white granulated sugar in the pan. Lay several tender tops of the rosemary sprigs around in the pan and strip the rest of the rosemary and scatter around in the pan, then lay the apples into any pattern that you like in a single layer. Gently pour and spread the batter over the apples, being careful not to disturb your pattern.
Return skillet to the oven and bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes or until top of cake is golden brown. Remove and let cool for 5 minutes, then lay a platter upside down on the skillet and carefully flip and turn out onto the platter. I used a 12 inch cast iron skillet, but this will also work well in a 10.25 inch skillet. The cake will be just a bit thicker and the apple will be arranged tighter.
Garnish with a sprig or two of fresh rosemary and serve warm or at room temperature. Will keep in an airtight cake saver for 3-4 days at room temperature.
Growing up we didn’t spend money on fireworks to put off at the house. I think it was illegal anyway. But, we did get some sparklers and sometime fire crackers, and there were the bang snaps too which were kinda fun. However, we did go see the fireworks every year.
Mom and dad both worked in factories most of their lives and back then the plant would shut down for a week or two around the 4th of July and everyone took their vacation, whether they could afford it or not. We always went to see grandmaw and granddaddy Edge if we went away. Since granddaddy was a preacher, they moved every couple of years, so it was always to somewhere new. For a while they lived near Virginia Beach and we got to go to the beach as kids, but just for the day. That was always enough for me to swallow plenty of salt water and throw up before the day was over. When they lived in West Virginia, we would go to the mountains or a lake for the day. Either way grandmaw would pack a huge lunch and we would have a picnic. They always made it feel like something special.
Grandaddy was always ready to make ice cream. We had to get the salt and ice, pull out the ice cream bucket and get to churning. When I saw this recipe posted about Mason Jar Ice Cream, I thought it would be a perfect way to celebrate like we did as kids. It was a lot quicker than cranking away for what seemed like hours too!
The recipe is simple. You just need 1 cup of heavy cream, 1 1/2 tablespoons of sugar, 1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla, and a dash of salt. Put it all in a mason jar, put the lid on, and shake it for 5 minutes. Then you just freeze it for 3 hours. Get the kids involved and let them help put it all together. We loved helping granddaddy put the ice and salt in the bucket. If you do like I did here and want to decorate it for a special occasion, then pour it into a dish and freeze it and then have some fun with it. I think I’ll do this for the next birthday. We like cake, but we like ice cream even more! Or maybe bake a cake in a large pan and let it cool completely, then top it with the ice cream and freeze it. I could see a pack of crushed oreo’s covering the top next time!
Whatever you do, make some memories, have fun, and be safe!
Last week I had some peaches that we picked up in South Carolina that I needed to use up. I had a cobbler recipe that I worked on last year, which my mother-in-law really likes, but I wanted to try something new, and I had a craving for a custard. I began playing around with a couple of recipes, like my Buttermilk Pie, but didn’t want to mess with a pie crust. So as I started researching recipes, which is where I begin when developing a new recipe, and looking at flavor combos. I liked the idea of the sweetness of the peaches balanced with the tang of the buttermilk, and I love the nuttiness of browned butter. So the Buttermilk Peach Skillet Custard was born.
Buttermilk Peach Skillet Custard
1 stick butter
4 cups of peaches, peeled and pitted and cut into slices
5 large eggs
1/2 cup All Purpose Flour
2 cups buttermilk
1/2 white granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
Preheat oven to 350*. While the oven is coming up to temperature, melt the butter in a 12 inch cast iron skillet. When the butter has melted, add your prepared peaches to the skillet and return to the oven for 5-8 minutes. (if you use canned peaches, drain them well so the sugar in the juice does not burn) as the butter begins to brown and the peaches soften.
In a large bowl, beat the eggs well, until frothy. Add the flour and whisk until completely incorporated. Add the buttermilk, both sugars, vanilla, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Whisk until sugar dissolves and spices are well incorporated.
Pour batter over peaches, but do not stir, and return to the oven for 45-50 minutes. When done, a knife inserted in the center will come out clean. It will still have a bit of giggle to it while it cools. When completely cooled, top with fresh whipped cream and serve!
I don’t remember growing up in a household that said or did prejudiced things, not by my parents or any relatives. I recall mom telling me once that when they were trying to get the loan for our house, that they were told if we were black that we could get some help. That just made her mad, but I don’t think it was because a black family would get some help, but that the loan officer actually told them that, but didn’t have any help he could get them. It would be their first home and they had three boys and one on the way. Times were good, but times were hard for a young family and all they could tell her was that we needed to be a different kind of bad off.
If there were other things, I don’t remember them. Maybe that’s good and maybe not. I don’t want to remember my parents for their shortcomings, but I don’t want to be predetermined to fall into the same. I do remember distinctly some things that a neighbor would say. I don’t want to speak ill of the dead, but he would say it, not I. I was too young to speak back to Charlie. Yes, the man that I revered so much for teaching me how to put out a garden, gave me my first summer job mowing his yard, took me hunting even though we both hated it, and the man who’s hospital room I spent many hours in after work, right up to the night he passed away.
I could say he was a product of his time, but so were my granddaddies. I don’t remember them using the N word and they grew up in the basically the same area and same time. I could say he just didn’t know any better, but Mary would scold him and his daughter would exclaim “Daddy!” when he would say something racist. It wasn’t often, but it was enough for me to remember. I don’t want to remember him that way. Mostly, like most people, I remember the good stuff and try not to let the bad stuff outweigh it. I don’t know if that’s good or bad. I guess the good is that I remember it and that I remember not liking what he said. He did help mold me into the person I am today, so I think he did some good.
There was a black family that moved into the town next to us. I remember them because I don’t remember any other black families living near us. They had a daughter that was in my elementary class. I remember her as being pretty and her hair smelled good. She sat in-front of me for a while. I don’t remember her name, but then I don’t remember lots of the people I went to school with. I have probably blocked lots of them out, but that’s for another Tale. On Halloween that year we went past their house. I didn’t know where she lived until then, but I was excited to see her come to the door. I wondered why she wasn’t out trick-or-treating. I’ve not thought about it until now, as I write this, but I am sure her family didn’t feel safe taking her door to door in a town where they were the only black family. I don’t know where she is today. I think they only lived there for a short while. We were probably in the 3rd or 4th grade.
There was an uproar in our church not long after that too. A black family began attending each Sunday. One of the deacons got so upset that he refused to return to the church as long as they were there. Mom and dad thought he was being an ass, and the church split not too long after that. His wife and her sister still attended and I remember feeling bad for them. They were both sweet ladies.
At my grandmaw Barton’s church though, there were some black folks that held positions in the church. Sister Mary was there every Sunday. We didn’t go with her often, but when I spent a few weeks with grandmaw I went to church with her and Uncle Lester. I thought it was funny that she called grandmaw “Sister Hazel”, but not because it sounded like they were sisters, but no one else but folks at her church called her Hazel. It was the only place I was with her that she wasn’t just mom or grandmaw.
On one of our trips to see grandmaw and granddaddy Edge in the late 1970s, we stopped at a rest area north of Richmond, VA. While we were there, a young black girl, about 20, asked if we could give her a ride. She said we looked safe since there were 4 kids in the car. She was holding her high heels in her hand and was wearing a red dress. She told mom and dad that she had been on a date and the guy she was with dumped her out there and she had no way home, and she had been there all night. She lived in Richmond, just a few miles away. Normally we would take a bypass around the city, but we agreed to take her home. She got in the back seat with us four boys. I remember she was funny. She was hungry too and asked if we had any food. She may have approached my parents originally just asking for some money for food, that she had been there all night. She may not have asked us for a ride, and mom and dad were known for helping a stranger. It just so happened that mom had packed some sandwiches, chips, and drinks because we wouldn’t get to grandmaw and granddaddy’s until after lunch. Mom told her to get herself a sandwich out of the cooler in the back. I can still see the crumbs of the white bread on her chin. She was so hungry that she tore into that sandwich quickly. I don’t think we took her all the way home. I seem to remember her having us drop her off. I’m not sure she wanted us to take her into her neighborhood. I don’t know if she didn’t her family to know she had strangers bring her home, or did she worry about a station wagon of white people driving through where she lived.
My early years obviously made an impact on who I am today. I would like to think that I see all equally and treat all equally. But, I know that my world was not that small. Society at large helped form me too. This pas week we took a few days to take a vacation. We booked a place at Myrtle Beach and the day before we headed out, there was a gang shooting there. This was the 3rd in two weeks. I just assumed that the gang members were black. I don’t remember reading that, but that was where my mind first went. That’s all I’ve been told by the news and politicians. I am embarrassed that my first thought was that the gang members were all black. I know that’s not always the truth, but I’ve been conditioned to believe that.
As a gay man, it infuriates me when someone assumes something about me just based on my being gay. I have fought against that. Written my legislators, spoken at city counsel meetings, spoken at and organized rallies for our rights. So why in the world would I let myself do that so someone else. It infuriates me that I have. I recognize it and I apologize for it. I don’t have anyone in particular that I can apologize to. Maybe every black man that I saw walking down Ocean Blvd last week? I remember thinking most of the time though that I just wanted to jump out and say I am sorry for what is happening in our country, shake their hands, give them a hug. Not thinking though that I could have contributed to any troubles they face any given day. I recognize that now. I will do better now. I will do more now.
I never intended to use this blog for anything other than telling Tales of growing up in Appalachia, posting some recipes, and making connections with others. But, this is a Tale of growing up in Appalachia. I encourage you to look inward. I encourage you to use any platform you have to speak up for others, especially when others are speaking down.
This past week a black man by the name of George Floyd was killed by police officers. It was disgusting. It was wrong. We have to do better.
I also want to take this moment to celebrate again the first Black Female Cookbook Author. Her name was Malinda Russell. Here is a link to her cookbook.
Brownies have been a favorite treat in our house. My mother-in-law gave me her recipe for that she had been baking for more than 50 years. It is simple and good. But, when challenged to up my brownie game, I took that simple recipe and amped it up a bit. Coffee has always been a favorite to combine with chocolate, and spirits used in baking has been a tradition of Appalachians for centuries. And it doesn’t get much more Appalachian heritage than moonshine. So, using a Coffee Moonshine from Old Forge Distillery to develop a new brownie recipe was just meant to be!
These brownies are rich, dense, and fudgy! We don’t like cake brownies in our house, but we do like chocolate cake. But, those are two different things. The Coffee Moonshine adds a depth of flavor that just takes the cocoa to the next level. These didn’t last long in our house. I would say these aren’t for anyone under 21 though, as you can still taste the moonshine, but with just a quarter cup in the whole batch, the sugar and chocolate would affect you more than the moonshine.
Coffee Moonshine Brownies
1 1/2 cup white granulated sugar
1 cup self-rising flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup regular cocoa
1 50ml (1/4 cup) mini jar Old Forge Distillery Moonshine
1 stick butter melted
2 large eggs
Sift together sugar, flour, salt, and cocoa. Stir in coffee moonshine, melted butter, and eggs. Prepare an 8×8 inch pan with cooking spray or line with parchment paper. Mix well and spread into pan. Bake at 350 for 22-25 minutes.