Lettuce and Onions

Killed salad

killed salad, kilt salad noun A salad made by pouring boiling grease over lettuce or other greens. Same as wilted salad. 

~Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English


Each Spring The Deer Hunter and I look forward to the first kill lettuce of the season. Various names are used for the traditional Appalachian dish: killed lettuce, kilt lettuce, wilted lettuce, lettuce and onions, lettuce, killed salad.

Just like different families call the dish by different names-it's also cooked a little different by folks too. Today I'll share 2 of the most common recipes with you. Both recipes are the same in regards to serving. Kill Lettuce should be served immediately after making.

The dish uses fresh leaf lettuce from the garden-or even branch lettuce that grows wild along the creek and branch banks.

The way Granny taught me: Begin by picking and washing your leaves of lettuce-making sure to dry off as much water as possible. Sometimes I wash mine early in the morning and leave it drying on a towel on the counter.

Next-cut up several green onions and mix with torn lettuce in a bowl-adding salt and pepper to taste.

Pour hot bacon or salt pork (Pap and Granny call it streaked meat) grease over the lettuce onion mixture. Be prepared for lots of hissing and popping when the grease hits the lettuce. Stir and serve quickly. It doesn't take much grease-a little bit goes a long way. I've found hot olive oil works well too.


Miss Cindy's family made Kill Lettuce by a different recipe-but one that is also common throughout Appalachia:

I learned from Dad how to make wilted/killed lettuce.

Cook a few slices of bacon and crumble it in a bowl on top of the torn lettuce and cut green onions (cut onions including the tops). Add salt and pepper. Heat the remaining bacon grease and pour it on the greens then add vinegar or lemon juice to the hot pan and swirl it then pour it on the greens. Toss the bowl contents to mix and eat immediately...with cornbread. The lettuce is so fragile that it doesn't take much grease to wilt it and the lemon/vinegar is hot so it helps to wilt it as well.


Our favorite way to eat kill lettuce is with cornbread and soup beans (pinto beans). The other day we had it with hamburgers-it was pretty good that way too, actually it ain't bad with a piece of light bread.

Ever kill your lettuce?


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Granny's Carrot Cake

Grannys carrot cake

Several years ago I decided I wanted to make a carrot cake. I searched and searched online till I found the fanciest recipes you've ever seen for carrot cake. I tried a couple of them and didn't like a one. Finally I did what I should have done in the first place, went down to Granny's and got her carrot cake recipe. 

As I copied down her tried and true recipe I noticed at the top it said Kay Morgan's Carrot Cake

In Granny's hand written recipe book she always writes down the name of the person who shared the recipe with her. I find myself doing the same thing.

Kay and her husband were close friends of Granny and Pap's back when I was a baby and Paul wasn't even born. I wonder what Kay Morgan would think about us still making her carrot cake all these many years later.

Granny and Kay Morgan's Carrot Cake

  • 2 ½ cup self-rising flour
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sodie (baking soda)
  • 2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 cups shredded carrot
  • 1 cup chopped pecans (optional)

Cream Cheese Icing

  • 8 oz. cream cheese
  • ½ stick butter/margarine
  • 1 box powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ cup shredded coconut

Old fashioned carrot cake for Easter

Cake directions: Mix together flour, cinnamon, salt, and sodie-set aside.

Cream sugar and oil.
Add eggs one at a time mixing well after each.
Add dry ingredients and mix till combined.
Add carrots and mix till combined (and nuts if using)

Pour batter into 3 greased 9 inch cake pans and bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes or till done. Granny's notes say you can add a little milk if the batter is too thick but I've never had that problem.

Let cake layers cool while the icing is made. My layers always stick unless I use parchment paper to line the bottoms. Most of the time I go with the theory that what matters is how a cake tastes not how it looks. 

Icing directions: Mix cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar, and vanilla together until light and fluffy. Spread over cake and sprinkle with coconut. I only spread the icing between the layers and on the top. Granny ices the entire cake-I guess you'd say I take the easy way out. 

Download Print Granny's Carrot Cake (right click to open link and print recipe)

This is the time of the year for Carrot Cakes and I have one of Granny and Kay's sitting in my kitchen, if you lived close enough I'd share a piece with you.


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Corn Fritters - Hoe Cakes - Johnny Cakes = YUM!

Johnny cakes

Some folks call them corn fritters while others call them Johnny Cakes or Hoe Cakes. Whatever you call them the little pancake like things are good! Especially with a glass of sweet tea to wash it down.

Johnny cake recipe

To make corn fritters you only need cornmeal and hot water mixed into a batter and fried in oil. The fancier recipe below has egg and flour which gives the fritter more substance.

Corn Fritters - Johnny Cakes - Hoe Cakes

  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg beaten
  • 1 cup hot water or milk (I use hot water)
  • 1 tablespoon oil

Are johnny cakes pancakes

Mix all the dry ingredients; stir in the egg, milk or water, and oil; fry like a pancake.

In the cookbook More Than Moonshine, Sidney Saylor Farr shares a story about asking her Grandmother how Johnny Cakes got their name. The gist of her Grandmother's explanation was: A pioneer lady made her hungry boy, named Johnny, a cake and told him it was Johnny's cake. I've also heard the cakes were originally called Journey Cakes because of the ease with which they could be made as one traveled on their journey. 

Eating johnny cakes

Corn fritters or whatever you call them are good with syrup and especially good with a smear of pepper jelly. But my favorite way to eat them is plain. There's something about the texture and nuttiness of the cornmeal that make them so tasty straight out of the pan.


p.s. The Pressley Girls will be playing Saturday March 25 at 6:00 p.m. at the Martins Creek Community Center.

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Ann Applegarth's Irish Soda Bread

Irish Soda Bread from Appalachia best recipe

Back in 2015 Blind Pig Reader Ann Applegarth left the following comment on a post I wrote about Irish Soda Bread:


Try this BEST EVER recipe from the cookbook THE COMMONSENSE KITCHEN.  It is delicious warm, and
the next day makes the best toast!

Joan's Irish Soda Bread

3 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
2 cups buttermilk
2 eggs
2 Tbsp. caraway seeds (traditional, but I don't use)
2 Tbsp. canola or other vegetable oil
1-1/2 cup raisins

Whisk (or sift) dry ingredients together in big bowl.
Whisk buttermilk, eggs, oil, and seeds in small bowl. Add wet ingredients to dry; sprinkle raisins on top.  Mix ONLY until uniform -- do not over mix. Put in 2 greased and floured loaf pans. Bake at 350 for 30-35 min. or till toothpick comes out clean. Let rest 10 min. before turning out onto a rack to cool.


Best irish soda bread for saint patricks day

Over the weekend I gave the recipe Ann shared a try and it was a hit with all the Blind Pig family!

There are many variations of Irish Soda Bread and the more traditional ones typically don't have the addition of raisins or caraway seeds and are baked in more of a free form circle shape instead of in a loaf pan. There is a legend that a cross was cut in the top of the bread before baking to ward off evil spirits. If you're interested in learning more about traditional Irish Soda Bread visit this page


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Hamburger and Beans

Hamburger and beans

Using ground meat in some way usually comes to mind when one thinks of creating a cheap make-do kind of meal. There's untold ways to use it- from patting it out into hamburgers to slathering it with spaghetti sauce. 

A few years back Blind Pig reader Ethel shared her make-do recipe for using ground beef with me.

Grandma's Cooking by Ethel Mertz

I was taught to make this dish when I was a bride thirty years ago. My husband lost his job and we moved in with his grandparents shortly after our wedding.

Grandpa was a kind, quiet man. Grandma kicked butt and took names! They were in their late sixties when I met them. Grandpa was retired but still active, Grandma worked nights as a school janitor. They were both raised in the coal fields of West Virginia and knew all about making do. I don't remember what year they were married, but it seems like Grandma always worked outside the home to help support the family. During the Depression she worked in a little diner in West Virginia where this recipe was on the menu. I don't remember her calling the dish by any particular name, so it will be interesting to see if other folks had a name for it. 
Grandma, like most women of her generation, was an amazing cook. She didn't need to follow a recipe or measure anything. As a result of Grandma's cooking style, the following are approximations. Feel free to adjust the ingredients to suit your taste:
1 pound ground beef
1/2 c. diced onion
1 can baked beans
1 T. granulated sugar (I like it sweeter)

Brown the ground beef and onions, drain fat. Add beans and sugar, stir to combine. Heat through. Serve on buns.

Quick, inexpensive and surprisingly tasty, it's easy to see why this was a hit at the diner. Grandma said she made this at home a lot too, and served it with green beans - to which she always added a dab of bacon fat from the little crock she kept on the back of the stove. It was a fast, economical meal when she was so busy working and raising five children. 


A lady I used to work for made the dish Ethel described, with the only difference being she used a can of pork-n-beans instead of baked beans. Sometimes when I pulled out my packed lunch to eat she would insist I eat some of her hamburger hash-that's what she called the dish. 

If you're familiar with the recipe or a variation of it, please tell us what it's called around your place. 


p.s. On Thursday March 2, 2017 6:30 p.m. Don Casada will be presenting a history of the Bryson City Cemetery and stories of some of those who are buried there. Many of these people as well as the cemetery itself have played a significant role in the history and development of WNC. Info about the preservation and maintenance of the cemetery by Friends of the Bryson City Cemetery will also be included—Swain County Business Education Center 45 East Ridge Drive, Bryson City 28713 Conversation and Refreshments Following. All are welcome—No admission charge

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Pam's Cubed Steak

Best recipe for cubed steak

I didn't used to be a fan of cooking cubed steak. I always fried it like Granny did and like Granny's, sometimes it turned out good and sometimes it was so tough you could barely chew it.

A few years back my friend Pam shared her secret for cooking cubed steak with me and I've been cooking it that way ever since.

There isn't a firm recipe, but I've found it to be a practically fool proof process.

Easy way to cook cubed steak

First flour and season your cubed steak as you normally would to fry it.

Pour olive oil or whatever oil you like to cook with in a frying pan and heat. 

Place floured seasoned cubed steaks in hot pan and brown on each side, but don't worry about cooking it through.

Once both sides are browned place cubed steaks in a crock pot.

Add a tablespoon or two of flour to the frying pan like you were going to make gravy from the drippings. Cook and stir flour for a few minutes and then pour in chicken stock. Continue to cook and stir while gently scraping the cooked pieces off the bottom of the pan. After a few minutes of cooking, pour chicken stock over the cubed steak in the crock pot and cook on low for a several hours or until done. 

I aim for having enough chicken stock to almost cover the cubed steak in the crockpot. The last time I used about 4 cups of stock for about 3 lbs of cubed steak. 

The meat turns out super tender and the broth makes a gravy that is perfect for putting over mashed potatoes or rice. 

The first time Pap ate Pam's Cubed Steak at my house he loved it. He said it reminded him of the cubed steak and rice he used to eat at the truck stops when he trucked up the eastern seaboard. And The Deer Hunter loves it too, actually we all do!


p.s. Typepad found an issue with my music player and I had to remove it...probably for good. But I made direct links to playlists full of our music on youtube. Look over in the right side-bar and you'll see a photo to click on and listen to Pap and Paul and one to listen to The Pressley Girls. 

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Do You Saucer Your Coffee?

Saucered and blowed coffee
saucer noun, verb
B verb To pour (esp coffee) into a saucer to let it cool before drinking. 
1981 Whitener Folk-ways 82 Mine's already been sassered and blowed. 1994-95 Montgomery Coll. (Ogle); He always sassers his coffee so it can be more comfortably drunk (Cardwell).

Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English


My post about chocolate gravy led us to eating bread soaked in coffee which has led us to the tradition of saucering and blowing your coffee to cool it for drinking. 

I remember my Great Aunt Pearl sitting at Granny Gazzie's kitchen table 'saucer and blowing' her tea. And I've seen Granny saucer and blow her coffee over the years when it was too hot for her. I never seen Pap use a saucer to cool his coffee, although he would often steal a piece of ice from someone's drink to cool it. 

B.Ruth had this to say about the technique for cooling coffee:

Dad would sometimes dip his biscuit in his hot saucered coffee, maybe that helped cool it off somewhat. Mom just hated when he would saucer and blow his coffee and then slurp it from the saucer! Not that she was so refined, she said the only one left in her family that boiled coffee, saucer, blow and slurp was her aged grandmother before she passed! We finally got some of those green Fire King cups, so Momma's china cups and saucers went to the back of the cabinet! Oh the memories!


PinnacleCreek remembered this:

In those days coffee cups always came with a saucer, and I have seen them drink from the saucer. This was probably due to the coffee was actually boiling hot in those days. Even as a youngster nothing smelled quite as good as the aroma of coffee percolating on the stove.


Shirla said this:

Dad always saucered and blowed his strong black coffee. It was brewed on top of a coal stove and got extremely hot.


ncmountainwoman remembered this:

My grandpa took his coffee in a big white cup. His saucer was actually a small bowl. He poured the coffee from the cup into it and then sipped it piping hot.


Charles Fletcher said this:

Always did this while growing up and especially for the the time in the Army from 1942 --1946 using the Aluminum cups. I did a lot of HUFFING & PUFFING. 


Suzi Phillips said this:

I still love JFG and I remember being SHOCKED to discover saucering and blowing were "ill mannered"!


Lois Tootle reminded me of this:

There was an episode of Gomer Pyle USMC in which Gomer asked a high ranking officer if he would like him to saucer and blow his coffee. The officer replied he hadn't heard that since he was a young man back home.


Garland Davis had a so much to say about saucering and blowing your coffee that he wrote a guest post for me a few years back.

Saucered and Blowed written by Garland Davis

I can remember my Granny Salmons, Mama, and various Aunts and Uncles pouring a cup of boiling hot coffee from the pot that sat on Granny’s wood cook stove. They would then pour a little into the saucer, blow on it and then sip it from the saucer. I also remember us kids being given highly sugared white coffee and pouring it into the saucer and blowing it.

I was in third grade where the teacher taught a weekly session on manners. I distinctly remember her saying that no ‘lady or gentleman’ poured their coffee or tea into the saucer. I was actually embarrassed for my family because of this method of drinking coffee. I stopped drinking from the saucer. After we moved from the wood cook stove to the electric range I don't recall anyone drinking coffee from the saucer.

It was many years later, while reading a novel by the late Robert Heinlein that I came across the term “Saucered and Blowed”. He explained that it was a custom inherited from the Danish, the Scots, the Germans, et. al. He said it grew from the early use of a shallow bowl or ‘saucer’ to drink tea’.

Our pioneer ancestors cooked with wood or coal as fuel. They boiled the coffee and served it boiling hot. One source that I read said, “My Granny served coffee so hot the only reason that it didn't catch fire was because it was wet.” Pouring the coffee into the saucer created a larger surface area and permitted the coffee to cool to drinking temperature quickly.

In many trades the term “Saucered and Blowed” has come to mean the completion of a job or the thorough study of a problem, as in, “That new manufacturing process is ‘saucered and blowed.’”

That about does it. This article is "Saucered and Blowed."


I hope you enjoyed all the comments and Garland's old post. If you have something to say about saucering and blowing coffee or tea I'd love to hear it-so please leave a comment.


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Coffee With Crumbled Bread

Since several of you mentioned crumbling bread in coffee on last week's Chocolate Gravy post, I thought I'd re-share this post about soakey that I published back in 2011.

Several months ago, Vera Guthrie sent me a cook book she had published-called Vintage Vera a Collection of Old Timey Recipes. The book has recipes from Vera and her family members. As I paged through the cook book I found recipes I was familiar with and a few I had never heard of, one being Soakey.

The recipe is easy-1 cup hot black coffee; saltine crackers; and sugar to taste. Pour Coffee into large mug, crumble crackers into coffee, sprinkle with sugar to sweeten.

Vera said Soakey was a favorite snack for her and the other children when she was young. Once my curiosity was roused I asked for more details about the recipe. Phyllis, Vera's sister, checked with other family members for me.

Phyllis and Vera's cousin Ellen offered this:

Mama was just talking about this the other day. We never knew it had a name but she used it on us when we had a upset stomach and she still uses it till this day for the same purpose. She crumbles up crakers in a saucer, pours coffee, a little milk and sugar. Makes me want some right now. ha-ha".

Garland, their brother had this to say:

I ate something similar, but instead of crackers, a cold biscuit was used. A biscuit was halved and placed into a saucer and soaked with coffee, sugar was sprinkled over it. Truthfully, I don’t ever remember eating crackers and coffee. Not saying I didn’t eat it, just don’t remember.

Another cousin, Clara, remembered this:

The cracker and coffee thing at home was we just put the cracker in the coffee and ate it….not crumbled in the cup. That was a favorite of mine.

After reading the information Phyllis provided, I wondered if soakey was a family thing or a recipe that was widespread. My post on coffee put that thought to rest. Two Blind Pig readers left a comment about soakey.

Soakie bread

Robert Loftis said:

I remember pouring coffee in a saucer,cooling it with my breath, then drinking it. Also I remember while I stayed with my grandparents on Buck creek in McDowell County. We would pour sugar on a biscuit then pour cold coffee on it and eat it. We called it a "soaky".

Bradley said:

There used to be ( and probably still is ) a brand of coffee called Luzianne. It had chickory in it. There was a white label and a red label. My great Grand Ma always drank that brand. I don't know maybe I was a sissy but, I thought it was so bitter when it was black that it would make a hog shake its foot if it got in their trough! We used to - when the grown-ups weren't around - would take a cup and fill it with sugar and cream and get a biscuit and make SOAKIE BREAD. Hey look, when you are a little poor boy ain't nothing wrong with that. We thought it was good ( after we had changed its original chemistry ).

I asked Granny if she knew about soakey she didn't, but she did remember spending the night with a girl who put crumbled cornbread in her coffee.

Phyllis did a bit more research about soakey for me and found: eating crackers or biscuits with coffee along with brown or white sugar and sometimes butter was a depression era breakfast dish called coffee soup.

Ever had soakey?


p.s. A special THANK YOU to Vera and Phyllis for helping me!

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Memories and Food

Memories connected to food

Each of us have memories that are connected to food. Typically those remembrances are directly related to our childhood, you know the things we ate around the family table like the chocolate gravy I told you about earlier this week.

A few years ago I shared my thoughts about memories which are connected to food you put up yourself. Here's a portion of that old post:

"Recently I watched the rain come down in sheets while I ate apples I dried back in the fall. As I munched my tasty apples, I realized there's another reason why things we put up are good. 

On a yucky dreary day my dried apples gave me sunshine; a slice of crystal clear Georgia sky; and the sounds of 4-wheelers and giggling girls. In other words my apples gave me a swirl of good memories from the day I dried them.

I've long realized we have memories and emotions tied to certain foods-like how we can taste a certain food and instantly be taken back to childhood. But I've never before thought of food in connection to the actual day it was made.

I'm positive the next jar of tomatoes I open I'll smell the hot summer sun shining on the green leaves and the next time I cook a jar of greenbeans for supper I'll think of the early summer days when we planted them together in Pap's big garden with friendly banter back and forth among us all."

I've kept pondering on the idea of food I put up being tied to the memory of the day I put it up.

I couldn't seem to care about none of my growing things after Pap died. But last fall as The Deer Hunter and I harvested the largest crop of apples we've ever grown I felt hopeful. Hopeful that all those apples would make some delicious applesauce for us, hopeful that I would dry apples from them for snacks and for a Christmas apple stack cake, hopeful because I knew Pap would be so proud of those apples.

So in some weird, maybe even silly way my canned applesauce became wrapped up in my grieving process for Pap. Now each jar I open reminds me of the hope and sunshine that came after the greatest rain of my life. 


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How About Some Chocolate Gravy?

Chocolate gravy 
A few weeks ago Granny called me one Saturday morning to tell me she had sausage, eggs, biscuits, and chocolate gravy ready if I wanted to come down and eat. It tickled her to death when I told her she was calling me too late - I had already made and eaten my own ham, eggs, biscuits, and chocolate gravy. 

I grew up eating chocolate gravy on Granny's biscuits. We didn't have chocolate gravy every time we had biscuits, Pap and the boys preference was for gravy made by using the sausage or bacon drippings. Looking back I guess Granny and I are the only ones who ate the chocolate gravy she made.

Way back in the day when The Deer Hunter first heard about chocolate gravy he told me it was an abomination. Pretty strong words right? Well over the years he says I've weakened his constitution because now he eats as much chocolate gravy as I do. 

Granny's chocolate gravy

Granny Gazzie and Granny 

Granny learned to make chocolate gravy from her mother Gazzie. The Jenkins were a family of 11 children, 9 of which lived to adulthood and beyond.

When there wasn't much milk nor any meat for frying for gravy, Granny Gazzie fed her family chocolate gravy and biscuits for breakfast. 

Since there wasn't many sweets back then, Granny said it seemed like a treat to get chocolate gravy. I'd say Granny Gazzie was a pretty smart lady. She made them think they were getting something special when actually it was a way of making do when there wasn't much else to eat.

Chocolate gravy recipe 
For a pretty good size bowl of chocolate gravy put 3 tablespoons of flour into a pan on medium heat. Add 4 tablespoons of sugar and 3 tablespoons of cocoa.

Mix the dry ingredients well. Gradually add water to the mixture, stirring constantly. Continue to add water till the mixture thickens to your liking, just like you would do for any other type of gravy.

Chocolate grave from appalachia 
Crumble up some biscuits, pour chocolate gravy on top, and enjoy!

Have you ever had chocolate gravy?


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