A perfect gift for local lore buffs

If you’re looking for a gift for the holidays for that person in your life who enjoys reading about local history, folklore, and life in these mountains, or if someone you know loves whipping up different sorts of meals in the kitchen, then you need to hustle out and pick up a copy of Jim Casada’s “Fishing For Chickens: A Smokies Food Memoir” (The University of Georgia Press, 2022, 336 pages). 

Summer Recipe Ideas

The dog days of summer are here (officially July 3 - Aug. 11 according to the Farmer’s Almanac) and although we should be excited about the plethora of fresh produce to cook with, sometimes it can seem like a chore. We’ve compiled a list of summer recipes to get your creative juices flowing. Enjoy!

Ask Eliza: What are some health benefits of herbs and spices?

One of the spices I love most is cayenne pepper which has capsaicin in it. Capsaicin is shown to help increase your metabolic rate! It does this by increasing your internal body temperature which in turn makes you burn more calories. So the spicier food you eat... potentially the faster your metabolism. Think about like harissa or other spicy additives to food that can up those internal body temps! 

Juice & Smoothie Recipe Ideas

Juices and smoothies are a great way to eat clean and feel fresh during spring and summer. Below is a list of some easy and nutritious juice ideas: 

A keen eye for France, and great recipes

Elizabeth Bard’s Lunch In Paris: A Love Story, With Recipes (Little, Brown and Company, 2010, 324 pages) offers readers both literary and culinary treats.

Bard — what a wonderful name for a writer — whisks us off to the City of Light where she has fallen in love with a Frenchman, Gwendal. (Pronounced Gwen-DAL). Living in England, Bard meets Gwendal at a Digital Resources Conference in Paris, and they are soon emailing each other across the Channel. Eventually, Bard visits Paris and Gwendal again, and then many times, before she finally takes up full-time residency in the city to be with the man who has become her lover. He introduces her to his family, who live in Saint-Malo, a French port city, and the two of them fly to New York to meet her own parents and kin. Eventually, they marry.

Above the distraction: The Swag celebrates old traditions, welcomes new era

Heading up Hemphill Road, just outside of Maggie Valley, the lush fields and bungalow homes of Jonathan Creek fade into the rearview mirror. Pulling up to a large metal gate, it opens slowly and you soon find yourself meandering a dirt road, pushing ever so carefully toward the top of the 5,000-foot ridge.

Get cooking for a good cause: New recipe book to raise money for downtown Waynesville art piece

The Waynesville Public Art Commission has put together a 150-recipe cookbook to benefit future public art pieces.

The Taste of the Great Smoky Mountains Cookbook is $10 and is the culmination a month-long process of collecting recipes from area residents. Many are old recipes handed down from generation to generation. One recipe dates back to a 1966 church cookbook.

Vinegar pie? Southern Living lauds Jarrett House’s ‘delectable’ fare

A local Dillsboro inn had four recipes featured in the Southern Living cookbook, Off the Eaten Path: Favorite Southern Dives and 150 Recipes that Made Them Famous.

The Jarrett House, a favorite Dillsboro bed and breakfast for the past 127 years, has received national recognition for its regional expertise. Pages 160 to 163 of the cookbook contain photos of the Jarrett House, an introduction to the restaurant and four of its famous recipes.

Morgan Murphy, the former travel and food editor for Southern Living magazine, toured the South in his old Cadillac, searching for the region’s best restaurants and recipes. He stopped at the Jarrett House, giving the GPS coordinates for fellow travelers, on his way through North Carolina.

“The cooking here is as straightforward and simple as their buttery biscuits. You won’t find complex ingredients or cutting-edge techniques. But what you will find is delectable Southern fare served with a smile,” Murphy wrote about the Jarrett House.

Murphy’s favorite was the chicken and dumplings. “I’d be a dumpling myself if I lived anywhere near the Jarrett House,” he wrote. The cookbook lists the ingredients and preparation instructions for the dish, including the diner secret: two kinds of pepper give the recipe a “country kick.”

Murphy included the Jarrett House’s 3-step recipe for Vinegar Pie, describing the taste as “something between a poundcake and a pecan pie without pecans. Yum.” The Jarrett House’s “easy, four-ingredient biscuits” and house apples (2 pounds sliced apples, 1 cup sugar) were also featured.

The Hartbargers have owned the Jarrett House for 36 years; in that time, Southern Living has visited the restaurant and written articles about it periodically, which the restaurant has kept for display. According to Jim Hartbarger, Southern Living has always offered an extremely positive response.

Hartbarger said the Jarrett House was chosen over other restaurants “because of its age and standards. It was a no-miss situation.” When Murphy came to visit the restaurant last year, he sat down for lunch and interviewed the staff, making sure he had a story to accompany the recipes.

“Southern Living has always been good to us. It’s an honor, and we’re really proud,” Hartbarger said.

By Tessa Rodes • SMN Intern

Ramp recipes

Ramp Biscuits

4 cups Flour

1 tablespoon Baking Soda

1 teaspoon Salt

2 Heaping T Baking Powder

½ cup Shortening or oil

2 cups Buttermilk

1 cup uncooked Minced Ramps

Sift flour, salt, baking powder and soda together. Cut in shortening until mixture looks like grapenuts, add ramps and enough buttermilk to make a soft dough ball, make sure ramps are well mixed in dough. Turn out on floured surface.

Knead dough from north to south, east to west adding flour if too sticky, the more you knead the lighter the bread, flatten the dough and cut out your biscuits or just leave as flat bread or "pone."

Preheat oven to 425 degrees and place biscuits on a lightly greased pan, lightly caramelize a small about of ramps in a bit of butter, strain out ramps and brush the top of your bread with the butter, place in oven for 15 to 20 minutes until golden brown. Pry a biscuit open to see if it is done, if not return to oven for a few more minutes baking time.

Baking time depends on your oven and the thickness of the biscuits... when the bread is done the ramps will be too. Serve immediately with real butter for best experience.

Note*** If you are using baking mix use 4 cup mix, ½ cup shortening, 2 cup buttermilk, 1 cup minced ramps and follow package directions.

You may also use self-rising flour, shortening, buttermilk and ramps. Whole milk can be substituted for buttermilk follow directions.

For heavier bread leave out the shortening and use old fashioned buttermilk, this is a better recipe for diabetics.


Killed Ramps and Branch Lettuce

1 quart of ramps with tops

1 quart of branch lettuce

1 package of bacon

Fry bacon crisp and set aside to drain. Chop ramps and branch lettuce coarsely and place in a heat resistant bowl.

If you don't have enough bacon dripping to make ¾ cup, melt enough lard into dripping to make ¾ cup.

Pour hot dripping over chopped ramps and branch lettuce. Add salt and pepper to taste and top with crumbled bacon.

Must be served hot.

Note*** If you can find it you may add some "crows foot greens" to the ramps and branch lettuce. They will add a bit of zip to the flavor.

You may substitute regular green onions and leaf lettuce or spinach, but isn't nearly as good.


Fried Potatoes and Ramps

6-8 Medium White Potatoes

2 Cup New Ramps or 3 cups chopped with tops

1 package of bacon

Salt and pepper to taste

Fry bacon crisp, set bacon aside to drain. While bacon is cooking peel and slice potatoes into 1/8 inch thick slices. Place in cold water to prevent drying out.

After bacon is removed turn down heat a bit, drain your potatoes and pat dry with paper towel. Place potatoes in skillet with hot bacon grease, add salt and pepper to taste, brown gently then add ramps and cover with lid. Let simmer for 8-10 minutes or until ramps are clear.

Place ramp and potato mixture in bowl and sprinkle the crumbled bacon on top. Serve hot!


Ramp Cornbread

1½ cup white cornmeal

½ cup flour

1 t salt

3 t baking powder

2 T sugar

2 eggs

1 cup milk whole or butter

¼ cup oil

1 cup finely minced ramps

Sift dry ingredients together, add ramps, combine eggs, milk and oil. Fold into dry ingredients beat until smooth. Preheat oven and well oiled 8 inch iron skillet to 400 degrees. Pour mixture into hot skillet and bake for about twenty minutes until top is golden brown and a piece of spaghetti inserted into the center come out clean.

Serve hot with plenty of butter and a big glass of buttermilk or whole milk as desired.

The cassoulet recipe

I combine several recipes for my own version of the cassoulet and I don’t think that I’ve make a cassoulet the same twice. That’s the beauty of this dish — it is versatile and can be adapted to accommodate available ingredients. But I warn you it is time-consuming (much like love!) so allow enough time to prepare it properly. I usually begin the preparation at least a day ahead of the serving time for the process cannot be hurried. The beauty of this dish is that it can be adjusted to taste; add more or less garlic and herbs. The flavoring is based entirely on individual taste.

Required ingredients (all easy to find in our area):

1 lb. of dried Great Northern beans

2 quarts of water

32 ounces of chicken broth (I prefer Swansons)

2 sprigs of fresh parsley

1 bay leaf

2 whole cloves

1 teaspoon black peppercorns

1 teaspoon thyme

1 ½ lb. boneless pork shoulder

6 slices of thick-sliced applewood-smoked bacon (you can find it at Walmart)

1 onion chopped

2 or 3 garlic cloves finely chopped, 3 or more whole cloves, halved

Small package of baby carrots

1 tablespoon of honey

Garlic-Crumb Topping

1 tablespoon (or more) minced garlic

5-6 tablespoons of olive oil

1 ½ cups coarse bread crumbs (I use Pepperidge Farm herb-seasoned crumbs)

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Optional Ingredients:

6 duck or chicken legs (I have always used chicken because duck is hard to find and it works out fine)

3 or 4 links of chicken garlic sausage (I found this at Ingles)

Generous splash of sherry wine vinegar

3 leeks, sliced

2 stalks of chopped celery

I begin with soaking the white beans overnight. After washing and draining them the next day, I put them in a big pot with the water and chicken broth and a large herb bouquet. The herb bouquet is made by cutting a square of cheesecloth, placing the parsley, bay leaf, cloves, peppercorns and thyme in the middle of the square and tying it securely with a piece of kitchen string. The herb bouquet is cooked with the beans on top of the stove on low heat for an hour to one and  1/2 hours or until beans are just tender. Leave the beans in their cooking liquid until ready to use, then drain but reserve the cooking liquid.

Fry the bacon slabs in an iron skillet. Remove the bacon when almost done and brown the pork shoulder roast on all sides in the bacon grease. The grease needs to be hot and it will smoke some. When all the sides are browned, return the bacon slices to the top of the pork roast. Cover the skillet with heavy duty aluminum foil and bake in a 325 degree oven for 3-4 hours. Check it every hour or so and add some water if it looks dry. You will want the pork to be falling-apart done when you take it from the oven.

While the pork is cooking, sauté the onions in some olive oil for about 5-10 minutes until they are opaque and add the garlic cloves (both chopped and whole) and sauté with the onions for about 2 minutes or until you have lightly browned the garlic. If you want to add leeks and/or celery, this is the time to sauté them along with the onions and garlic.

Cook the carrots in boiling water for about 10 minutes or until crisp-tender. Drain the water and add some honey to the carrots. Set aside.

Remove the pork shoulder from the skillet when it is done and while it is cooling in a bowl, cook the duck or chicken legs in the grease that is still left in the skillet. When the legs are browned and done (no blood seeping through), remove them to a plate lined with paper towel to drain.  

Brown the sausage links in the grease, adding a little olive oil if the skillet gets too dry. Remove the sausage links to a paper towel lined plate.

Now it is time to assemble the cassoulet. This is the fun part. First pull apart the pork shoulder roast. It should pull apart easily if it is well-done. I just shred it with my fingers or a fork into bite-sized pieces. Next I spread the beans, pork pieces, onion/garlic mixture, carrots, chicken legs, sliced sausage links and about 3-4 cups of the reserved broth into an earthenware (or cast iron—plenty to choose from at Walmart if you don’t have one) oven-proof bowl.  I stir this mixture a couple of times, then sprinkle some salt, pepper, thyme and some fresh parsley over the mix. This is optional but I like a savory mix. Bake in the covered container for about 30-45 minutes in a preheated 375 degree oven.

While the cassoulet is baking, assemble the bread crumbs, salt, and pepper. Sauté the minced garlic in a cleaned skillet mixed with hot olive oil over moderate heat until fragrant, about one minute. Add the bread crumb mixture and stir until crumbs are crisp and golden, about three minutes. Transfer to a small bowl and stir in parsley.

Serve the cassoulet with crumb topping. This is a one-dish meal and needs only a loaf of French bread (the Baggett looks and tastes best) and maybe a simple green salad to accompany it. Serve in sturdy bowls with cloth napkins and light candles. This is a meal made from and for love.


Pear Tarte Tatin

This is an easy dessert but it looks beautiful and elegant when served and it makes a lovely presentation for the one or ones that you love. You can substitute apples or plums for the pears but the pears are really delicious.


1 sheet frozen puff pastry

½ stick of butter (use butter not margarine)

½ cup granulated white sugar

2 tablespoon honey

2 pounds (about 6 medium) firm-ripe pears, cored and peeled

½ teaspoon fresh lemon zest

½ teaspoon powered nutmeg (freshly grated if you have it)

Working on a clean and floured surface, roll the pastry dough into an 11 inch circle and chill it.

Melt the butter in a 10-inch ovenproof skillet. Add the sugar and cook it for 4 to 5 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally to evenly caramelize the sugar. The sugar is done when it has turned a medium golden brown hue. (If you cook it too long—as I did the first time!—it will turn to a hard caramel candy and you will need to scrap out the mess and start over!) Remove the skillet from the heat, stir in the honey and set it aside.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut the pears in half and toss them gently but thoroughly with the lemon zest and nutmeg. Arrange the pears in a single layer in the hot caramel and honey in the skillet.

Drape the pastry over the spiced pears, fitting the overhang down between the fruit and the sides of the skillet. Bake in the preheated oven 25 to 30 minutes, until the pastry turns golden brown. Cool the tart Tatin in the skillet for 30 minutes before inverting it onto a serving plate.

Serve slices warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or whipped cream on top and voila! You have a beautiful dessert that is unique and made with love.

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