Asheville is in the mountains of North Carolina, near the Appalachian Trail. The Appalachian Trail begins at Springer Mountain near Gainesville, Georgia and ends at Mt Kati din, Maine. This area traditionally has been a very poor area. Fifty years ago, most of the people in the area did not have running water or inside plumbing. The diets consisted of beans and tators (potatoes) or Tators and beans.Down home Southern Cooking
Bacon and sausage grease was always saved for frying potatoes and onions, flavoring beans, fixing cornbread, breakfast gravy and of course making red-eye gravy. Before grocery stores, fat was rendered from a fresh killed hog and put up for cooking (lard). Red-eye gravy is bacon or sausage gravy made with coffee grinds. Most often beans were pinto and seasoned with a chunk of fat back or side meat and cooked all day on top of a wood stove. If one could get a ham bone, it was used to season beans with, especially green beans. Yellow eye beans were considered special because you could only get them at certain times of the year. Ham bones make excellent soup beans.
Green Fried tomatoes and fried yellow squash both rolled in cornmeal and fried in bacon grease was a common addition to meals when the crops started coming in. As the harvest came in, most everyone canned their produce to ensure that they had enough to eat that winter. They would can tomatoes, vegetable soup, peaches, pickles, pickled green beans, pickled beets, pickled peaches and of course applesauce. Applesauce was served hot with butter and a biscuit.
Green Beans - Leather Britches
Folks made Leather Britches from green beans. Leather britches are green beans sewed together with thread, and hung up to dry. Pickled green beans were a favorite. I use to can quite a lot in my time. I'd fill a Ball glass canning jar with raw beans, make a brine of salt and vinegar (such as you do for cucumber pickles), boil the brine, pour it over the green beans, and put the canning lids on. Boil the jars in a canner or large pot for around an hour. You can hear the cans seal with a pop. Remove and set up for winter. If the seal breaks anytime the beans are stored, the beans spoil, so you would throw those jars away. Anything could be pickled and mountain folk pickled just about anything; watermelon rind, yellow squash, green tomatoes, cabbage, boiled eggs, and peaches to name a few.
Ramps were pretty popular. There is a ramp festival every year here. Ramps are pungent onion garlic like bulb. Mountain people eat them raw (probably with a bowl of pintos) or most likely fry them with eggs. Ramps are fried up with just about anything. Potatoes are another favorite. Ramps smell terrible and the odor will come through the skin making the person who eat them smell terrible too. I have never eaten them, but if people can put up with the smell, they must be good.
Hogs were grown and butchered. They made sausage and souse meat from the head. The meat was salted and hung up in a smoke house to cure. Hog Brains were served for breakfast usually fixed with eggs the morning after the kill. The sausage was canned for winter. Entails (intestines) called chit lings, were rinsed out, and filled with sausage. Fat was rendered and canned for cooking. Crackling was fried pork fat added to cornbread to make crackling bread. The meat from the side called side-meat was used to season beans, greens, make country gravy, and more. No part of the hog was wasted.
Hog meat and Hoecakes
People in North Carolina were very poor. Hogs were easy to raise. Farmers clipped their ears to identify the hogs. the hogs were then given free ranges. Hogs ate anything. They were mean and could defend themselves from predators. All these factors made them very cheap to raise. In the fall, the hogs fattened up by eating the nuts from the trees. Hog killing took place in the fall. It was a cultural coming of age. Hog meat was easier than beef to preserve.
Corn was another main part of the diet in North Carolina. It was easy to grow and cheap. A fieldworker would take cornmeal mush and put it on the end of his hoe to bake it in the sun. It was a quick and easy lunch or supper.
Hog meat and hoecake was an inexpensive food. Hog meat was salted and then carried with you. It was used to season beans with.
Country cooking recipes are all about preparing food tastefully and inexpensively