Pennies, Dollars, & Gold Pot Pie

In the Appalachia’s there are lots of superstitions and traditions that many people still hold on to today. Who knows if people still believe in them, but it does keep us connected to our past and to one another.

Mary used to always have pork and sauerkraut on New Year’s Day. Before I would even walk through their back door I could smell the sauerkraut. I love it to this day. She said that when they first got married they moved to Ohio for work and rented a couple of rooms above a nice old woman. The first New Year’s Day that they were there, she knocked on their door and gave them a pot of sauerkraut and pork roast, and a slice of cornbread. She told them that it would bring them wealth and good luck in the new year. Mary said they made it through that year and eventually back home to Virginia, so it worked and she made it ever since. I took that to heart and have made sure each year that I have something for wealth, health, and good luck in the new year. Lots of years I just made sure I had a bite of kraut at work or picked some up on my way home. When I started working for The Old Mill they offered Black Eyed Peas on New Year’s and I asked why. “For money of course!” was what I was told “And you need to eat some greens, kraut, and cornbread too!”. I already knew that the sauerkraut was for luck and the pork for moving forward and prospering. So from then on I added money to the list of things to look forward to in the new year. I recently read that for money in the new year it’s “peas for pennies, greens for dollars, and cornbread for gold”. I have always gotten by, even with some years being leaner than others, but it has always worked!

Mary also had me walk through her front door on New Year’s Day and she would sweep out the house from back to front and down the front steps. She always told me how handsome I was, which was the only time I’d ever known her to not be completely honest, and it was important to have a handsome man cross the threshold on that first day. I’ve read that it should be a dark-haired man for good luck, but not a blonde or red-headed man or woman if they are the first to cross that day. They would bring bad luck. And, sweeping out the house was to get all the bad out and cast away.

In my very first blog post I told you about Maryanne. She was the neighbor who made lye soap, still had an outhouse, and told fortunes for money. The new year was a very busy time for her too. Everyone wanted to know what the new year was going to bring them.

Early this year I was working on a recipe for a contest, which I didn’t get into the qualifying rounds of, but I thought this could be perfect for my New Year’s Day dinner to bring me lots of luck, good health, and lots of wealth. I’ve modified it a bit and I think I’ve gotten everything in it that I need.

Pennies, Dollar’s, & Gold Pot Pie

Prep time: 20 minutes

Cook time: 45-50 minutes

Serves 4-6

Ingredients: 

Pot Pie Filling:

2 strips bacon

3/4 – 1 pound pork loin cut into 1/2 inch cube pieces

3 tablespoons flour

1 cup diced carrots

1 cup diced celery

1 cup diced gold potatoes

1 1/2 cups frozen corn or 1 15oz can drained

1 1/2 cups frozen black eyed peas

1 1/2 cups frozen chopped collard greens

2 cups water

1 teaspoon dried or 2 teaspoons fresh parsley

1 teaspoon dried or fresh rosemary

1/2 teaspoon dried or 1 teaspoon fresh thyme

1/4 teaspoon dried chives or 1/2 teaspoon fresh chives

2 bay leaves

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 cup heavy cream

Cornbread Crust:

1 cup Yellow Self-Rising Cornmeal

1 cup buttermilk

1 egg

2 tablespoons mayonaise

5 tablespoons browned butter; reserve 3 for cornbread batter and 2 tablespoons to drizzle on top

Directions:

  1. In a 12-inch cast iron skillet, cook bacon strips on medium heat to slowly crisp bacon and render as much grease as possible. Remove bacon when crisp and set aside to crumble to return later to the recipe. 
  2. Cook pork loin cubes in bacon grease over medium high heat until it begins to brown. Sprinkle flour over pork loin and toss to brown flour slightly. 
  3. Add the carrots, celery, potatoes, corn, black-eyed peas, and collard greens. 
  4. Add water, parsley, rosemary, thyme, chives, bay leaves, salt, and pepper. Stir gently. Cover and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to med. Simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally and let liquid reduce. 
  5. Add heavy cream and return to a simmer for 5 minutes, uncovered. 
  6. While vegetables begin to simmer; preheat oven to 425 degrees, and in a microwave safe glass measuring cup, brown the butter in the microwave, cooking on high for 3 minutes. 
  7. For the cornbread topping, combine cornmeal,  buttermilk, egg and mayonnaise. Mix well. 
  8. When butter has browned, add in 3 tablespoons of butter and mix well.
  9. When pork and vegetables are done, find and remove the 2 bay leaves, add in the crumbled bacon, and carefully pour cornbread batter on top and smooth to the edges of pan, being careful not to mix it into pot pie filling. Carefully pour remaining 2 tablespoons of browned butter on top, including the brown bits. This will add extra nutty flavor to the topping.
  10. Place skillet on a baking sheet, lined with parchment. and bake in preheated oven for about 20 minutes or until top browns. Baking on a lined baking sheet will catch any filling that may bubble out.
May the New Year bring you all the best!

Here is why we eat what we do on New Year’s and why we don’t eat other things:

Pork – we eat because the pig is always rooting forward, finding what he needs. It is important to move forward in the new year.

Chicken – we don’t eat because they are always scratching backwards, kicking their good luck into their past.

Black-eyed Peas – we eat, but there are several stories as to why. One is that it was the only thing left on many southern plantations during the civil war after troops had raided and taken all their livestock and other foods, believing that the black-eyed peas were just feed for livestock and no good. Slaves adopted this early on and it was thought that the more black-eyed peas you ate, the more luck you would have. Another is that they represent money, which loosely ties back where the name “bean counter” comes from, talking about someone who counts money or does the accounting, but if you were a slave, you counted the beans too.

Catfish or other bottom-feeding fish – we don’t eat because they do feed off the bottom of the lake and no one wants to be a bottom feeder.

Cornbread – we eat because it is gold! Well, if you use yellow cornmeal, but any corn or form will do. Like the black-eyed peas and greens, it’s about wealth in the new year.

Beef in any form – we don’t eat because cows eat standing still and it’s all about moving forward in the new year.

Thanksgiving Leftovers Pot Pie

If you are like us, you make more food than you can eat for Thanksgiving. Even though leftovers are part of the holiday, a couple of days of them and you are ready for a change. That’s where we are now. There is still a container full of turkey that needs to be eaten or used up and a few roasted vegetables.

So, this pot pie will use up most of that turkey and the roasted veggies, you just need a few fresh ingredients to turn it all into a new dish, all cooked in one pan which makes it easy to prepare and the only dishes to wash up are the ones you just emptied of the leftovers. You can prepare this in a casserole dish, but I opt for my trusty cast iron skillet, which I will use anyway to prep some of the veggies. The topping is a quick cornbread recipe, so no need to make any more pie dough, unless you prefer a pie crust top. If you have leftover stuffing, you could use that up by topping it and pouring a little melted butter over it before baking to help crisp it up a bit. After all, most of the pot pie is already cooked, you are simply heating it through. If you have leftover vegetables, you can simply reheat 6 cups of the vegetables in the skillet, if not follow the steps in the recipe below.

Cooking for any holiday makes me think about Grandmaw Barton. We had so many family holiday meals at her house. I’ve said before that I have no idea how she cooked all that food herself. We showed up and the food was ready. As we walked in the door, she would be ready for mom to make the instant mashed potatoes. Yes, I said instant. With all her wonderful food that took hours to prepare, the last thing was the instant mashed potatoes and then homemade turkey gravy to go over them. As mom boiled the water, grandmaw made the gravy. I may have mentioned it before, but we never let mom live down the year that we had to pour the mashed potatoes over the gravy because they were so runny! When cooking that much food, you have to resign yourself to the fact that something is not going to come out right. You can either let it ruin the whole meal, or accept that we will talk about you and the disaster you made for years to come. Being able to laugh at yourself is a whole lot better than spoiling the opportunity to make lasting family memories. For all the perfect homemade mashed potatoes I have made myself, I would trade them all for one more spoonful of mom’s runny instant from that year.

We have recently been looking for a new stove, trying to figure out if we want to convert to gas or upgrade to an induction cooktop. If you have experience with both, please let me know. Because our phones seem to read our minds and listen to our conversations, a variety of ranges have been showing up in my feed, but there was one that caught my eye. Our local Facebook Marketplace showed me a picture of a GE Stove from the 60’s and to be honest, if I had the room for it, that would be my new stove. It is the exact same as the one my grandmother had. I remember mom telling me that she and dad bought it new, but when they got their first house in 1969, it came with new appliances and they did not need it, so they either gave it or sold it to my grandmother. I loved it because it had push buttons to turn the stove eye’s on. As soon as I was tall enough to reach them, I always wanted to turn the burners on or off. All of us were probably hollered at often for trying to touch them when we weren’t supposed to.

Grandmaw’s stove cooked family meals for more than 30 people for nearly 30 years. If I had the room, I would give double that to buy this and use it for the next 30 years.

Then yesterday, I saw a post in my feed of a sink that matched her’s too! It was like someone was giving me flashbacks to growing up. I spent hours in that kitchen. Even as I got older and spent a couple of weeks at her house in the summer, and visited on up into my 30’s, most of our time was spent in the kitchen as she cooked or we just sat around talking. Uncle Lester would stop in every morning and every afternoon on his way to and from work. Grandmaw would have his water ready for coffee and his gold FireKing cup and saucer. He would pour his coffee from the cup into the saucer and sip from it. I had never seen anyone do that before or since, except once in a movie. He said it would cool quicker that way and he could get on to work, which was right around the corner from her house.

Just to the left of her sink, the old water pump was still there when I was little. At some point Uncle Lester helped update her kitchen with paneling and wallpaper and they closed in the space where the pump was. She still had one in the garage at the front of her property. I can’t imagine how many dishes were washed in that sink. Now the house is gone, so seeing these pics brings back so many memories.

Thanksgiving Leftovers Pot Pie

Pot Pie Filling:

2 tablespoons turkey fat (if leftover, otherwise use vegetable or olive oil)

1 cup diced onion

2 cups diced sweet potato

2 cups diced carrots

2 cups diced potatoes

2-3 cups cooked diced turkey

2 tablespoons flour

2 cups turkey broth (if leftover, otherwise use 2 cups canned chicken or turkey broth)

1 teaspoon rosemary

1/2 teaspoon thyme

1/4 teaspoon poultry seasoning

Salt and pepper to taste

Cornbread Topping:

1 cup self-rising cornmeal – white or yellow

1 cup buttermilk

1 large egg

dash salt

4 tablespoons browned butter (instructions below)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425.

In a 12 inch cast iron skillet, saute’, on a med-high heat, the onion, sweet potato and carrots in the turkey fat. Let cook about 5 minutes and then add the potatoes and turkey broth. Reduce to medium heat and cook until the sweet potatoes start to become tender, about 10 minutes. Dice the turkey and sprinkle with the flour to coat and add to the pan. Add the rosemary, thyme, poultry seasoning, salt and pepper. Let cook about 5 min more or until broth thickens. Remove from heat.

For the cornbread topping, begin by browning the butter in a microwave safe 2 cup or larger measuring cup. Simply cook on high for 3 minutes. It will be hot, so remove carefully. Combine the cornmeal, buttermilk, egg, and salt and stir to mix completely. Add 2 tablespoons of the browned butter and stir. Pour cornbread batter over top of the pot pie filling, spreading carefully to cover most or all of the filling. Pour the rest of the browned butter, dark bits and all, over the batter.

Bake for about 15 minutes or until the cornbread is lightly browned, on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper to catch anything that may bubble over. Remove from oven and let it rest for 3-4 minutes before spooning out and serving.

Jimmy and the Mighty Peach

Charlie and Mary had a couple of peach trees on their property, along with a cherry tree, strawberry patch, and a huge garden. Between that and the hunting and foraging they did, they provided most of their own food. There was only one food cabinet in Mary’s kitchen because most of their food was kept in the freezer or put up in the cellar . I used to love the smell of the cellar with the dirt floor.

I would help Charlie dust the trees to keep the bugs away and then when the limbs started hanging low, we would start picking. I loved to wash a just picked peach off and bite into it like an apple, peel and all. The juice would run down my chin and my hand, but I didn’t care. They were always so juicy right off the tree.

Mary would put up dozens of quarts of peaches each year and nearly every night for dinner she would have some sort of dessert. Her Peach Cobbler was one of my favorites. I never knew many of her recipes and only remember seeing one little cookbook that she kept in the middle drawer, along with all her dish towels. The only thing I loved more than her peach cobbler was her rice pudding.

I remembered it being a batter that she made and then spooned in the peaches on top. I would watch her make it and just didn’t understand how the peaches would end up on the bottom when it was done. I tried a few different recipes and then I just got to playing around with my own. Mick’s mom loves peach cobbler, well all cobblers, more than I do. I eat one helping and then I’m good for a while. We never finish a dessert before it goes bad and we have to throw it out. She finishes one long before it could get old.

So I made her a cobbler from the first peaches we’ve gotten this season. I think these came from Georgia and they are so good. I love the smell of a fresh ripe peach. It brings back memories of pulling a peach to my nose and knowing if it was ripe enough to pick. Sometimes it pulled right off and I knew it was ready even before I could smell it.

Peach Cobbler

Prep Time: 20 minutes Total Baking Time: 45 minutes

Ingredients:

4 medium ripe peaches, peeled, pitted and sliced

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Pinch of salt

Batter:

1/2 stick butter

3/4 cup plain all purpose flour

3/4 cup white sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

2/3 cup milk

Dash of cinnamon (optional)

2-3 tablespoons white or coarse sugar

You can prepare the peaches just before or several hours ahead. If using canned peaches, 1 qt of drained peaches will work. Mix peaches with sugar, nutmeg, and salt. Set aside so the syrup has time to form.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt butter in 2 qt baking dish or cast iron skillet, in the oven as it comes to temperature.

In a large bowl, sift flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt together. Pour in the milk and mix well. The batter will be thin. Carefully remove baking dish or skillet from the oven and pour the batter into the melted butter. Spoon peaches over batter carefully, and spoon on the remaining syrup. Do not stir. Reserve the bowl with whatever syrup is still in it. Bake in the oven for 25 minutes. Just before removing the cobbler from the oven, toss 2-3 tablespoons of white sugar into the bowl the peaches were mixed up in to coat the sugar, but not dissolve. Spoon that over the cobbler evenly and return to the oven for 10 – 15 more minutes for cobbler to finish baking and sugar to brown a little.

Serve warm with ice cream or whipped cream and enjoy!

Squash Pie

Growing your own food, or helping grow it like we do with Mick’s parents, means there is usually plenty to go around. We put up all we can by canning, pickling, and freezing. But, not all of it gets put up. I love to play with new recipes and ingredients. We have found over the years that some things we like best fresh from the garden.

We hadn’t had a squash pie in a couple of years. I had just gotten a tub of lard at the store because I wanted to work on a traditional Appalachian crust. Mary taught me how to make a pretty good pie dough, but she taught me to use shortening. I also like to use butter sometimes. So I gave it a try with the lard and, while I need a little work on my technique with it, it tasted really good. It reminded me of how Mary used to bread her fried squash, she used crushed saltine crackers.

This recipe calls for mayonnaise for the topping. I have found that you need to use a good quality mayo. I tried a store brand the first time I made it years ago and it separated and the oil from it soaked the crust and ran all over the oven. I use Hellman’s or Kraft when I make this now.

Squash Pie

Crust:

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup cold lard

3-4 tablespoons of ice water

Filling:

2-3 medium yellow squash, halved and sliced

1-2 medium zucchini squash, halved and sliced

1 medium onion, diced

1 tablespoon bacon grease or oil (or lard)

1 cup mayonnaise

1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese (reserve 1/4 cup)

Directions:

You want your crust ingredients to be as cold as possible. Sift together your flour and salt. Cut in the lard until it resembles coarse cornmeal. Sprinkle in 3 tablespoons of the ice water and stir. Dough should come together pretty quickly. If needed, add a little more ice water until it begins to form and pulls off the sides of the bowl. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead slightly until it comes together and you can form a round about two inches thick. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for 30-45 minutes.

While the dough is chilling, cut your squash lengthwise and slice about 1/4 inch thick. Dice the onion. In a hot skillet, bring the bacon grease or oil up to heat and add the squash and onion. Saute’ until the onions become translucent and the squash browns slightly. Remove from heat. When the dough has chilled enough, roll it out on a well floured surface large enough to fill an 8×8 square pan or 9-10 inch deep dish pie pan.

Assemble the pie by spreading the reserved 1/4 cup of mozzarella cheese. Spread the squash mixture on top. Mix the mayonnaise and remaining cheese. Spread the mayo mixture on top, going all the way to the edges of the crust. Trim and fold under any excess crust.

Bake at 325 for 40 minutes or until the cheese begins to brown. You can turn the temperature up the last couple of minutes to brown the cheese slightly.

Remove from oven and let sit for 5 minutes. Cut and serve.

Chasin’ Fireflies

This is actually from the synchronous fireflies in the Great Smoky Mountains. I wish we would have had this many in our front yard when I was a kid!

In the Shenandoah Valley, summer was full of warm breezes. We didn’t have an air conditioner until I was much older, so we stayed outside in the evenings as long as we could, usually way past dark. Mom would hang blankets over the windows to block out all the sun and hopefully some of the heat, but it still built up in the evenings.

We’ve been watching the fireflies light up each evening just before dusk, but it seems like their show is done before it really gets dark. When we were kids the front yard would be full of ’em and they would keep glowin’ around until our bedtime and beyond. Of course, we’d chase ’em and catch some. We kept peanut butter jars to put them in. Mom loved peanut butter so they were always the biggest jars we had. I remember laying in bed and looking out the window, watching them as I would fall asleep. We slept with the windows open all summer long. We had lots of those little sliding screens that would drop right into the track and keep it open about a foot. One of my brothers would somehow manage to get a box fan to stay wedged in a window sometimes, but of course, it would sometimes fall out too, but still, it would be blowing as it hung by its cord.

On really warm nights we’d camp on the front porch. We’d line all of our sleeping bags up across the concrete and our dog, Bootsy, would lay at the top of the steps to keep watch over us. Our front porch was also our cistern, so it was high off the ground. Some nights we’d tie sheets or blankets to the railings to cover us so we wouldn’t be damp from the dew by morning. I’m sure there were many nights that instead of going back in the house, we would just pee off the front porch. I got in trouble for pee’in outside when I was playin’ at the neighbor’s house. She didn’t understand why she couldn’t pee standing by the tree. Mom told me I couldn’t do that anymore.

On cool nights, I always think, it sure is a nice night for campin’. I doubt I’d be much good at it these days. I’m not too keen on sleeping on the ground and I’m even less keen on getting back up. I do like being outside though when it’s nice. Our screen porch is our favorite place to be. That’s where I’m sittin’ right now, writing this.

When we would go see grandmaw and granddaddy Edge in the summer, granddady would get the ice cream maker out. He’d sometimes let us take turns cranking it. If we got tired, we could sit on it, but that was a lot of work too. We’d stay cool though. We made lots of chocolate chip ice cream, but I remember when granola ice cream was all the rage. It wasn’t granola like we know today made of oats, nut, raisins, and honey. The granola cereal was just little grains and looked like cat litter! It was so good. Mom loved it so granddaddy would make it too. It felt like it took hours to make it, but just minutes to eat it. He bought all the families ice cream makers one year for Christmas. I don’t think we ever used ours. It sat in mom and dad’s closet. Mom was known for puttin’ good stuff up and saving it for when we needed it. But I guess we never needed it.

I’m gonna go in now and get me a scoop of some plain ole vanilla and watch a little tv. The fireflies have gone to bed now and I will soon.

Cheesecake Stuffed Strawberries

A few years ago Mick and I stopped at a little store we like to go to for spices I need for pickling and they have some great kitchen gadgets. There is also usually a donut stand outside making fresh donuts that are the size of your entire head. I don’t usually eat donuts, they are just not my thing, but those I cannot resist. But, this time that we stopped there were a few other folks out there offering up some other goodies. One of them had cheesecake stuffed strawberries. They were huge and so sweet and juicy, and the cheesecake stuffing had a hint of cinnamon that was unexpected, but really good.

That’s what I wanted to fix today for a nice Valentine’s Day dessert after dinner. The cheesecake stuffing is just made of cream cheese, powdered sugar, and some flavorings. You can change the flavor up if you would like by simply adding different ingredients like rum extract and sprinkling them with flaked coconut, or topping them with crushed Oreos. We like the cinnamon spice, topped with graham cracker crumbs.

Cheesecake Stuffed Strawberries

Ingredients:

1 – 1 1/2 pounds of strawberries, washed, topped, and cored

1 8oz block of cream cheese, room temperature

1/2 cup powdered sugar

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon lemon juice

2 tablespoons graham cracker crumbs

Directions:

Cream together the cream cheese and powdered sugar. Add the ground cinnamon, vanilla, and lemon juice. Mix until well combined. Scrape down the mixing bowl as needed.

With a piping bag or plastic bag with a corner cut out, fill the bag with the cream cheese mixture. Pipe into each prepared strawberry. Sprinkle each strawberry with graham cracker crumbs. Chill 1 hour.

Chicken-n-Dumplins

I have started my own TV Channel! Well, IGTV on Instagram. lol I posted my first video and it only took me about 24 hours to tape it, edit, and upload it. I plan on doing more and hopefully, the quality will get much better! Please bear with me and follow me.

Honestly, I appreciate all of you. I love the comments and questions, and I hope to see when you try one of my recipes.

So, here you go:

Chicken-n-Dumplins

1 whole young chicken

1 gallon of water, approximately

1 1/2 cups of carrots, cut into medallions

3/4 cup chopped celery

1 small onion, diced

1 teaspoon salt

For the Dumplins:

2 cups plain, all-purpose flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

6 tablespoons butter, cubed and chilled

3/4 cup of milk

Directions:

Under running water, check chicken for any remaining feathers and remove them if found. Place chicken in a large stock pot, 8 quarts or larger. Add the teaspoon of salt and cover. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Let simmer for 1 hour.

While the chicken is simmering, clean and cut up carrots, celery, and onion. When the chicken is done, carefully remove it from the pot and transfer it to a pan to let cool. Add the vegetables to the stock now created by boiling the chicken. Return to a simmer and cook the vegetables for about 45 minutes.

When the chicken has cooled enough to handle, begin to remove the skin, debone, and rough chop the meat. Set aside while preparing the dough for the dumplins.

For the dumplins, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Cut the butter into the flour mixture until it begins to resemble coarse cornmeal and butter is well combined. Make a well in the center of the flour and add the milk. Stir with a wooden spoon until it comes together. If it is too dry to hold together, add a few splashes of milk. You want a dough that just holds together, not wet.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and roll out to about 1/4 inch thickness. With a knife or pizza cutter, cut into squares about 1 – 1 1/2 inch.

Add the cut up chicken back to the pot and increase the temperature to bring to a rolling boil. You want the broth boiling to help cook and steam the dumplins. Begin adding the dumplins, carefully keeping them separated. Replace the lid to the pot and let the dumplins cook for about 5 minutes. The flour off the dumplins will help thicken the broth. If the broth has not thickened enough, make a slurry with about 1 tablespoon of flour to 1/4 cup of milk. Add the milk a little at a time to the flour to help prevent lumps. Add the slurry to the chicken-n-dumplins, while stirring it well to incorporate it. It will thicken quickly.

Ladle out chicken-n-dumplins into bowls and serve!

The Appalachian Tale

Memories, recipes, and Tales of an Appalachian Boy.