Old timey kraut

A noun Sauerkraut, widely made in the mountains, stored in barrels and kept for winter consumption. The food is the most significant German contribution to mountain cuisine, and the term is one of the very few from German in the mountain vocabulary.
1913 Kephart Our Sthn High 289-90 In the vocabulary of the mountaineers I have detected only three words of directly foreign origin. Doney is one. Another is kraut, which is the sole contribution to highland speech of those numerous Germans (mostly Pennsylvania Dutch) who joined the first settlers in this region, and whose descendants, under wondrously anglicized names, form to-day a considerable element of the highland population [note: sashiate is the third word, according to Kephart]. 1939 Walker Mtneer Looks 3 The German word kraut survived, for the obvious reason that there was no equivalent in the technical vocabulary of the Scotch-Irish housewife. 1960 Mason Memoir 15 The barrels were utilized as containers for the storage of such mountain comodities [sic] as saur kraut, pickled beans, bleached apples, and pumpkin butter. 1962 Hall Coll. Newport TN A pregnant woman will spoil kraut or [the] mash for a run of liquor...A woman, when her menstrual period is on, when she makes kraut, it'll rot. (Burl McGaha) GSMNP-80:15 We would put a cloth over the kraut now and pickled beans, and we'd put this big plank and then we'd hunt and get us a big heavy rock, wash hit off right clean and put it on the plank and that would mash it down in below kraut, and that's how we would have it, you know, the kraut and pickled beans, [and] you know that kraut was so good we would just go get us a handful, squeeze the juice out and just eat a handful. 1977 Madden and Jones Mt Home 27 Pickled beans and kraut were kept in large stone crocks in the spring-house. 
*B verb To make sauerkraut of.
1917 Kephart Word-list 413 I don't do like old Mis' Posey, kraut my cabbage whole. 

Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English


More than a few interesting tid-bits in the definition for kraut from the Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English.

I wonder if Kephart's statement about the three words is true? And I wonder what in the heck sashiate means?

I've always heard a woman who is menstruating can't help put up kraut or pickled beans and corn, but never heard about it effecting liquor. And I've never heard anything of the sort said about a pregnant woman.

Papaw Tony said his mother would make several crocks of kraut each year. She would can the kraut as a crock made, but she left the last run of the year and they would eat that crock before using the canned kraut. Papaw's mother krauted the core of the cabbage to. Similar to the person in the definition, Papaw would sneak and stick his dirty little hand down in the crock and dig around until he found a core to eat. 

I can't imagine krauting a whole cabbage-I wonder if it would work?

I'll leave you with a few kraut posts from the archives of the Blind Pig and The Acorn



  • The Pressley Girls will be playing Saturday May 27 at 7:00 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater in Bryson City NC. The cost of admission is 10 dollars and all money raised will be used for maintenance of the Lauada Cemetery.
  • The Pressley Girls will also be performing Sunday May 28 at TBA in Blairsville GA at the Spring Arts and Crafts Festival. 


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Mountain Ivy = Mountain Laurel = Rhododendron

Mountain ivy in western north carolina

ivy noun
(also ivy bush, ivy tree) The mountain laurel tree (Kalmia latifolia). Same as calico bush, mountain ivy.
1883 Zeigler and Grosscup Heart of Alleghanies 196 The arborescent kalmia and rhododendron, which grow along almost every mountain stream, have a practical use. The ivy and laurel, as they are locally called attain, in some of the fertile coves, a diameter of three inches, and the roots are even larger. 1928 Galyon Plant Naturalist 7 Mountain laurel, known to the mountaineer as "ivy," reaches its maximum development in the Smokies. It is not unusual to find arborescent laurels one foot or more in diameter and many feet high. 1982 Stupka Wildflowers 80 Usually the attractive pink or white-saucered flowers are so abundant that the mountain laurel in full bloom is one of our most spectacular plants. It flowers in May and June, the later blossoms ordinarily occurring on plants growing in the higher altitudes. "Ivy" and "calico-bush" are among its other names. 1997-2001 Montgomery Coll. ivy bush (Cardwell); ivy tree (Brown).

laurel noun Cf rhododendron. 
A variant form larel.
1939 Hall Notebook 13:1 White Oak NC larel (Fay Leatherwood)
B (also laurel bush) The mountain term for evergreen rhododendron (Rhododendron maximum and Rhododendron catawbiense), which grows profusely at elevations below 5,000 feet and covers extensive tracts in thicket. Also used in compounds (as flat laurel, laurel bed, laurel patch, laurel slick, laurel thicket, mountain laurel) and in place names.
1890 Carpenter Thunderhead Peak 142-43 There for the first time we saw the tangle of rhododendron which is called "laurel," and forms a dense thicket along all the mountain streams. 1937 Hall Coll. Cosby Creek TN We have white laurels and red laurels here in the mountains. (James Benson) 1939 Hall Coll. Deep Creek NC They fought right down to the foot of the ridge into the flat laurel and commenced barkin'. I though [the bear] was treed. (Mark Cathey) 1974 Underwood Madison County 9 Roderick Shelton and his descendants peopled the area now known as Shelton Laurel. 

~Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English

Ivy blooms in the mountains

I have one more quote for you.

Dykeman The Tall Woman Pg 304 I've always thought the ivy was about the prettiest thing growing here, the way it clings to the mountains, the way it comes in the cutover places and covers up the scars with blooms in spring. 

As I look at the ridge above our house I so agree - the Ivy is about the prettiest thing growing here.


p.s. The Pressley Girls will be playing Saturday May 20, 2017 @ 2:00 p.m  at the Stecoah Valley Cultural Arts Center - Robbinsville NC and Sunday May 21, 2017 @ 11:00 a.m. at Mount Moriah Baptist Church - Murphy NC. Their summer is schedule is filling up-to see a complete list of performance dates go here

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Appalachian Vocabulary Test 100

Old words used in the mountains of appalachia

The Deer Hunter and Pap talking over the garden - 2012

It's time for this month's Appalachian Vocabulary Test. I'm sharing a few videos to let you hear some of the words. To start the videos click on them and then to stop them click on them again.


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1. Keen: to wail; sharp or high voice; sharp piercing eyes. "He has a keen voice. When he gets excited his voice just gets higher and higher!"


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2. Knob: a high point on a mountain ridge. "He said he jumped the biggest bear you ever saw up on Mary Mason Knob. I didn't even know there were any bear around here, but that's what he said."

3. Knotty head: small fresh water fish; same as a hornyhead. "Back in the day when I worked at Lake Logan in Haywood County a knotty head jumped into one of the row boats. It was making such a racket that the other girls and I were afraid to go see what it was."


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4. Kernel: a swelled lump underneath the skin. "I'm taking Tommy to the doctor first chance I get. He's got a kernel the size of your thumb under his arm. Hal says it ain't nothing but I'm worried about it."


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5. Kerslunge: splash; plunge. "She was going across the foot-log in them slick shoes and kerslunge! She went right off in the deepest side of the creek. I know it embarrassed her to death."

 My thoughts on this month's words:

  • Keen: I can just hear Pap describing somebody's high keen voice. I've also heard the word used to describe somebody's eyes, but probably the most common usage I've heard is a keen hickry.
  • Knob: This one seems so common that I can't believe it is used mostly in Appalachia, but it was in the Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English so maybe it is?
  • Knotty head: hornyhead is much more common in my area.
  • Kernel: I've heard Pap and Granny use kernel to describe a growth that comes up under the skin, but not really anyone else.
  • Kerslunge: Pap is the only person I've ever heard use kerslunge, but what a word! It sounds like what it means. I was tickled pink to see it in the dictionary.

Did you notice this is my 100th Appalachian Vocabulary Test? Wow I can hardly believe it. I only share one a month, so that's quite a few years worth. Seems like I ought to do something special for number 100 so I think I will!

Leave a comment on this post for a chance to win a copy of Southern Mountain Speech by Cratis D. Williams. *Giveaway ends Sunday May 21.

Hope you'll leave me a comment and tell me how you did on the test!


p.s. The Pressley Girls will be playing Saturday May 20, 2017 @ 2:00 p.m  at the Stecoah Valley Cultural Arts Center - Robbinsville NC and Sunday May 21, 2017 @ 11:00 a.m. at Mount Moriah Baptist Church - Murphy NC. Their summer is schedule is filling up-to see a complete list of performance dates go here

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The Mountain Ivy is Blooming

Mountain ivy

Over the past week, the Ivy around my house has started to bloom. If Ivy makes you think of the green vine that often overtakes everything in it's path then you may be wondering why in the world I think mine is blooming. 

I'm talking about the bush like tree you see in the photo above.  All my life I've heard it called Ivy. Sometimes Mountain Ivy but mostly just Ivy. The correct name for it is Mountain Laurel.

Mountain laurel in appalachia

But this is what we call Mountain Laurel or in most cases just Laurel. Can you see the difference from the first photo? Notice the leaves are longer, thinner, and a brighter green. The blooms are different too. The real name for this one is Rhododendron.

 To make things even more confusing Ivy and Laurel often grown side by side. 

Blooming Ivy Bush or Blooming Ivy Tree


In places Ivy and Mountain Laurel grow so dense and thick that they are called "hells". I've read accounts which claim the first men who surveyed the lines between NC and TN encountered Ivy and Laurel Hells so thick that they placed boards on top of them and walked across instead of attempting to go through them. Sounds like a tall tale, but who knows maybe it's true.

Mountain Laurel and Mountain Ivy

Tipper - Just after we moved into the house Pap built
One of the best play houses I had as a kid was right in the middle of a giant old Laurel that had Ivy growing around it's edges. The Ivy and Laurel were already there just waiting for Pap to build a house and for a little skinny girl to take over their branches and dark leafy floors.

Blind Pig reader, Bob Dalsemer, once shared a quote about Ivy from renowned ballad collector Cecil Sharp with me:

"... it is quite in accordance with the habit of the mountaineer to call things by their wrong names, e.g. Laurel for Rhododendron; Ivy for Laurel; Vine for Ivy; Biscuit for Scone, etc." 

For me-Mountain Laurels will always be Ivy and Rhododendrons will always be Laurels even if the names aren't right.

Drop back by in a few days and I'll share the dialect documentation from the Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English about Ivy and Laurel.


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Jacob's Onions

Best way to eat green onions

Jacob’s onion noun A green onion.
1975 Purkey Madison Co 53-54 A variety of vegetables grew in long neat rows; tender green onions (called Jacob’s onions), peas, beets, carrots, radishes, lettuce, beans, parsnips, tomatoes, cucumbers, and sweet and Irish potatoes. Ibid. 106 I will never forget the endless bundles of crisp sping onions with their long white heads and slender green blades, which my mother prepared for market. Mama called them “Jacob’s Onions.” I don’t’ know why unless it was because they were so prolific.

Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English


I have never heard green onions called Jacob's Onions have you?


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Blackberry Winter

Blackberry winter

1962 Dykeman Tall Woman 14 And after the cold spell, when dogwoods bloomed, there would be whippoorwill winter and blackberry winter. "Dogwood winter" happens in April, but it is soon followed by another spell of cold called "blackberry winter," which occurs in May when blackberry briars put out their delicate flowers.


Blackberry winter is in full session in southern Appalachia. After a few weeks of 80 degree weather its been chilly this week with temps in the low 40s. In addition, a cold wind has been howling across the ridges and down through the hollers leaving fallen trees in some areas and leaves and branches littering the ground everywhere you look. 

From the time I was a little girl I knew about Blackberry Winter and Dogwood Winter too. I said I knew about them, I didn't say I always believed in them.

Of course when I was really young I never gave either any thought other than wishing they'd go away so summer, shorts, and swimming could arrive. 

During my late teenage years I was doubtful as to the truth of either of the spring winters. I suppose I thought of them as some quaint thing Granny had come up with to try and be colorful.

Once I was a mother putting my own hands into the good earth each spring as I tried to feed my family good wholesome things and save money at the same time, I began to pay much closer attention to the mountain holler I lived in. And what do you know, Granny and all those other folks who talked about Blackberry and Dogwood winter were right. It never fails, each spring when the Dogwood trees bloom there is a cold snap of weather that lasts a few days and every year when the Blackberry briars put out their white tease of sweetness to come there is a spell of cold weather that makes you wonder if spring of the year is really here.


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Appalachian Vocabulary Test 99

Mountain talk

It's time for this month's Appalachian Vocabulary Test. I'm sharing a few videos to let you hear some of the words. To start the videos click on them and then to stop them click on them again. 

1. Jack up: to scold, find fault with, bear down on. "He kept tracking dirt in after I asked him not to a hundred times so I had to jack up on him.


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2. Jaggedy: having a ragged, frayed, or sharp edge. "Be careful, the edge of that broken jar is all jaggedy."


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3. Jaw: a person's cheek. "She was the cutest little girl you ever seen! She had those jaws that just made you want to squeeze them."

4. Jawed: to talk idly and at length. "I told him he wouldn't be so tired if he didn't set up half the night jawing with them down at the store."


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5. Job: to stab, strike, or thrust. "When the girls were little I was forever warning them not to run with sticks. I was afraid they'd job their eye out."

I'm familiar with all of this month's words, although I hear jack up used in a slightly more aggressive way like: "I'm going to have to go down there and jack him up if he don't keep his long pointy nose outta my business." 

I've also heard of jacking someone's jaw which means a fist will connect in a fierce manner with another's face. 

Hope you'll leave me a comment and tell me how you did on the test!


p.s. The Pressley Girls will be performing Sunday April 30, 2017 @ 11:00 a.m. Hayesville Church of the Nazarene - Hayesville NC

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You'll Catch Cold or You'll Take the Weed?

  You might catch cold or take the weed

A few weeks ago I received the following comment:

I came across your blog while trying to find information on a saying that a friend and I were discussing. His family is Scottish and lived in Eastern Tennessee. The term that his grandmothers used when one should not play outside in the cold and dampness was, "You'll take the weed".  Do you have any information on this particular saying? I am trying to find more about the origins and whether it was a common saying. Thanks for you help!

Fawn Horner


I have never heard anyone use the word weed in the manner Fawn described. I checked one of my favorite sources, the Online Etymology Dictionary, and this is the only definition that came remotely close:

weedy (adj.) Look up weedy at
early 15c., from weed + -y (2). In old slang, in reference to horses, "not of good blood or strength, scraggy, worthless for breeding or racing," from 1800; hence, of persons, "thin and weakly" (1852).

The definition made me wonder if describing a horse that was doing poorly could have morphed into describing a person who might be doing poorly or who might become sick from being out in the cold and damp air.

Granny is always worrying about someone taking cold-even herself. She has rules to prevent taking cold like don't wash your hair if you're going to have to go outside later in the day-you should only wash it after you're in for the night; always wear a coat with a hat or toboggan if it's windy; if you've been sick recently then by all means when you do go outside you better bundle up good or you might take cold or worse yet-a backset; and you must take all precautions against getting wet in the rain.

All my life I've laughed at Granny's dire warnings of taking cold, but sometimes I hear her exact admonitions come straight out of my mouth.

Several years back I used the photo at the top of this post to tell you this:

Chitter couldn't stand it, as soon as the tractor pulled out of Pap's garden she had to shed her shoes and get in it. The other girl-she was mad because I told her she couldn't do the same.

Chatter was recovering from a recent illness and I wouldn't let her go barefoot in that cold turned ground in the cool evening air because I could hear Granny in my head warning me not to.

If you've got any warnings from your mother or granny I hope you'll share them. And if you're familiar with the word weed being used as Fawn described please leave a comment and tell us about it. 


p.s. The Pressley Girls will be performing Sunday April 30, 2017 @ 11:00 a.m. Hayesville Church of the Nazarene - Hayesville NC

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Two Jaybirds

Jay bird word usage in appalachia

Jaybird noun A blue jay, used in various similes.
1913 Kephart Our Sthn High 107 He’s as antic as a jay bird when he takes the notion. 1940 Hauns Hawk’s Done 7 There’s always the jay birds trying to take a bath in the water bucket. 1952 Brown NC Folklore 1,431 As happy as a jaybird … As naked as a picked jaybird … As naked as a jaybird’s ass … As saucy as a jaybird … Git along about as well as a jaybird does with a sparrer hawk … As spry as a jaybird in wild cherry time. 1956 Hall Coll. Del Rio TN As naked as a jay bird. (Wilford Metcalf) 1962 Dykeman Tall Woman 95 Mark’s always speaking of her eyes too; and the way she clings to him, the way she’s so quick to walk, and talks already like a jaybird chattering-well, he thinks she’s mighty nigh perfection itself.

Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English


I live with two jaybirds. Even though they're sillier than any jaybird I ever did see-I wouldn't trade them for the world and all it holds.


p.s. The Pressley Girls will be performing Sudnay April 30, 2017 @ 11:00 a.m. Hayesville Church of the Nazarene - Hayesville NC

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Ruminations on Ramps

Today's guest post was written by Jim Casada.


Ruminations on Ramps by Jim Casada - Copyright 2016

The humble ramp, a traditional wild mountain vegetable of early spring which is fairly widely dispersed in the forest understory at higher elevations, today often garners mention in menus of restaurants famed for haute cuisine. Rest assured any usage involves the vegetable after it has been cooked, for the high-brow epicures who frequent such establishments have no idea of the true nature of the ramp. In its pure, undefiled, raw state, the way hardy mountain folks have enjoyed it for generations, the ramp is at once a delightful delicacy and the embodiment of gag-inducing noxiousness.

Though mild tasting, even in its raw state, when eaten uncooked the ramp has a pungent after-effect that by comparison makes garlic seem a pantywaist pretender in the odiferous sweepstakes. Moreover, raw ramps are a potent purgative, once widely favored as a spring tonic and with properties guaranteed, as my Grandfather Joe used to put it, “set you free.”

My initial experience with ramps came when I was a 5th grade student at Bryson City Elementary School. A classmate showed up on a Monday after having enjoyed, in his words, “a bait of ramps” on Saturday. Never mind the passage of a day and a half, the lingering after-effect of his weekend feast was of a potency defying description. He literally emptied the classroom and sent the harried young teacher, whose educational training apparently omitted the chapter on how to deal with this particular disciplinary dilemma, scurrying down the hall to the principal’s office.

The result was one which would be repeated numerous times over the course of my educational experience. As was the case when some poor soul showed up with a “case of head lice,” the smelly offender was sent home for a three-day vacation. No rules had been violated and no laws had been broken. It was simply a situation where the welfare of the community--his classmates and indeed anyone who happened to be downwind for an appreciable distance--took precedence over that of the individual.

This sort of situation happened with increasing frequency as I entered high school, with the offensive offender invariably earned a temporary reprieve from the educational process. Some of the enforced absences were intentional while others involved nothing more than a family indulging in a long-established gustatory rite of spring—one that ranked right along spring tonics such as drinking sassafras tea or taking a dose of sulfur and molasses.

Eventually yours truly became involved in the consumption side of the ramp equation, albeit my first time was a matter of self-defense. A group of us boys who were avid fly fishermen decided to celebrate trout season’s opening day with a weekend camping trip. As we backpacked to our campsite one member of the party noticed a hillside covered with ramps and stopped to harvest several dozen of them. In camp he cleaned and chopped the ramps, scattered them over a plate of branch lettuce (saxifrage) he had found growing at creek side, and dressed the salad with hot grease and bacon bits. He proclaimed this “kilt sallet” delicious.

Truth be told, it didn’t matter whether the offering from nature’s abundant bounty was supremely tasty or odious to God and man alike. All of us were sharing a big tent and had no choice except to follow our companion’s dietary example. Once you have eaten ramps the noxious odor that seems to permeate the atmosphere for 30 yards in every direction magically disappears. We knew that, and soon enough all of us had a nice ramp salad to go with our trout and fried ‘taters. It provided the necessary refuge from an aroma that falls somewhere in the nasal spectrum with unwashed athletic socks, stump water, skunk cabbage, or a mid-summer garbage dump. One is almost tempted to wonder if that explains why ramp festivals have long enjoyed such popularity--everyone in attendance consumes the featured vegetable in sheer self-preservation.

For all my numerous personal adventures with ramps, my favorite tale connected with the wild vegetable comes from a stunt perpetrated decades ago by the editor of the Richmond (VA) Times-Dispatch. He had his printers prepare a special batch of ink that included the juice from raw ramps and use it on a run of newspapers to be mailed through the U. S. Postal Service. Postal authorities may have persevered with their motto stating “neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers form the swift completion of their appointed rounds,” but they were not at all amused with this situation. Indeed, eau de ramp stopped them in their tracks.

Cooked ramps are perfectly fine, and when scrambled with eggs or included in a batch of hash-browned potatoes they proved first-rate breakfast fare readily passing the smell test. But for the pure of heart and brave of palate, with ramps the raw route is the only road to travel. Just be advised that if you opt for this exercise in culinary adventure and wish to retain friends or keep your marriage intact, the slender, onion-like bulbs are best consumed with kindred spirits or somewhere back of beyond where you won’t return to civilization and the company of others for at least 72 hours.


I hope you enjoyed Jim's post as much as I did!


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