Thursday, October 21, 2010

Cookbook review: Cider Beans, Wild Greens, and Dandelion Jelly: Recipes from Southern Appalachia

Cider Beans, Wild Greens, and Dandelion Jelly: Recipes from Southern Appalachia by Joan E. Aller features a lot of the food I grew up on: country ham, coleslaw, sweet potato pie, fried okra, chicken noodle casserole, burgoo, collard greens. I'm from Southern Appalachia (with a healthy dose of Tidewater Virginia thrown in), so I was curious to see this collection of recipes.

In addition to what you'd expect (fried chicken, green tomato pickles, redeye gravy), there are also old Cherokee recipes (pepper pot soup, fry bread, yam cakes), and representative recipes from the other groups of settlers over the years (Africans, Shakers, German, Irish). Some of the recipes involve what I always hated about Southern cooking: a dependence on name brand/pre-packaged ingredients. The Cream of Pear Soup calls for frozen white grape juice concentrate and French Vanilla Cool Whip; Cowboy Gravy requires two cans of corned beef hash (cans! of corned beef hash! ewww); the Party Ham requires a can of fruit cocktail, with juice.

But there's also Bacon Muffins with Sweet Onion Butter; Trout Cakes; Corncob Jelly; Grilled Okra with Pine Nuts; and Cider Beans (which, for the uninitiated, are pinto beans slow-cooked in fresh apple cider with salt pork and molasses). Which I'll be making, 'cause it's that time of year. I was pleasantly surprised to see unfamiliar recipes, and modern twists on old classics (Grilled Okra with Pine Nuts, for example); I was a little afraid it would be all Jell-O salad and squirrel gumbo. Fortunately, not a box of Jell-O in sight. It's a great introduction to that part of the world.

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