Stock Your Pantry
By Beth Newberry
Whether you’re driving or flying home to the mountains for the holidays—pack an extra bag. You don’t want to have to relegate those jars of your mamaw’s homemade preserves or that box of MoonPies to the corner of a suitcase with socks and dirty clothes. Nope, that’s no way to treat regional delicacies you can’t find in the flatlands. Here’s a short list of staples some of our readers will hoard on trips home this year.
What Appalachian goods or products can’t you live without? Tell us in the comments section.
Pictured above: Caroline Sneed in Hendersonville, N.C. stocking up on Duke’s mayo before returning to Seatlle, where she lives.
“Yes, I do have it shipped to me. Or friends and family bring it to me when they visit. I filled my suitcase when I was home in October,” says Caroline Sneed of Duke’s mayonnaise. A native of Hendersonville, N.C., Sneed, pictured above in a Hendersonville grocery store in the fall stockpiling Duke’s, now lives in Seattle. Duke’s was founded in Greenville, S.C., but was sold to Richmond, Va.-based C.F. Sauer Company in 1929—opening a debate on whether Appalachians or Southerners can claim it as their own. But the addiction to what fans describe as being the best and only-palatable mayo, is what binds Apps and Southerners to this staple.
“The thing I can put my finger on about why I like it so much is the flavor,” says Sneed. “It’s really lemony. Other mayos that shall remain nameless don’t have as much flavor, and I can see why people think they don’t like mayo—they haven’t had Duke’s.” Duke’s is distributed in 19 states and the District of Columbia. But sadly for Sneed, it’s not sold as far west as Seattle. “I got really excited last year when [retailer] World Market started carrying Duke’s, only to find out that it was a temporary promotion, and now I’m back to having to import it from the South,” she says.
This is a favorite of The HillVille HQ, where we believe this is what magic tastes like—two graham crackers with marshmallow filling covered in chocolate. While MoonPie now available in other flavors, like vanilla and banana, the original chocolate version is a best bet for ex-Apps looking for a bit of edible nostalgia. Made in Chattanooga, Tenn., Moonpies were first made in the 1910s, but popularized in the ’30s and epitomized in a country song in the ’50s, “RC Cola and a Moon Pie.” MoonPie sells cases and gift sets of the treats—you can even personalize the outside to send to your favorite ex-App.
Many natives of northeast Tennessee give thanks each holiday—maybe for health or family—but most likely for the Pratt’s ham on the table. Co-publisher of The HillVille, Niki King, a Kingsport, Tenn.-native, recounts why Pratt’s is the ham that won her heart from an early age:
“For every holiday that I can remember Pratt’s honey glazed ham graced the table. The ham is perfect. The outside is slightly crunchy with brown sugar. The inside is so tender and savory. It tastes like the holidays feel: warm and comforting. And, the best thing is, no one can ever eat it all. No matter how many come to dinner there are slices left that make for the best ham biscuits for days to come. Now, when my mother comes to visit, she knows to bring me Pratt’s, lest I give her the major stink eye. And when I go home, I look for it on the table first thing.”
A bucket full of regional soda, we mean soft drinks, er, it’s all called Coke—no, actually it’s a Pop
Ale-8-One: The only pop founded and produced in Kentucky, the high-caffeine, super-gingery champagne-colored beverage is made in the western edge of Kentucky’s Appalachia region, Winchester in Clark county. G.L. Wainscott created the still-heavily guarded recipe and bottled the first batch in 1926. Now distributed in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana, the good folks at Ale-8-One will ship you “A Late One”—or a case—if you live outside their distribution area.
Cheerwine: A favorite in the Carolinas, Augusta, Ga.-native Cornelia Lambert first discovered Cheerwine, the cherry-flavored, dark soft drink as a high school student attending camp in Brevard, N.C. As a college student at Salem College, in the foothills-city of Winston-Salem, N.C., Lambert had easy access to the Cheerwine bounty. Founded in Salisbury, N.C. in 1919, Cheerwine is now distributed in 14 states. But in Oklahoma, where Lambert now lives, the cheery, cherry bubbly is hard to come by. “In the past few years I’ve been able to get it in Atlanta” when visiting her sister. “But if I go up to North Carolina, the first time I stop for gas, I get a Cheerwine,” Lambert, who has family roots in Mt. Airy, says. What’s do Lambert and other devotees find so appealing about the flavor? “Like a Luden’s cherry cough drop flavor with tiniest bit of menthol. It’s delicious.”
Ski Citrus Soda: Made by Double Cola brand sodas in Chattanooga, Tenn. since 1956, Ski made the list because not only it’s 19,000 caffeine-addled likes on FaceBook, but for the notable pop culture exaltation in the Kentucky Headhunters song “Dumas Walker.” Ski is mentioned as part of what could be instructions balanced nutrition that includes eating a “slaw burger, fries and a bottle of Ski.”
There are as many variations of apple butter recipes as there are towns and hollers in the Appalachia. Apple butter was brought to Central Appalachia by German settlers in the early 1700s, who moved into plentiful apple growing regions of North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia and Georgia, according to the Encyclopedia of Appalachia. But the traditional sweet, fruit spread is still a popular back-home product.
“We’d have it at dinner on biscuits,” says Louisville, Ky. resident and food writer Dana McMahan, originally of Nancy, Ky. She recollects what she ate as a child probably came from Haney’s Appledale Farm, also located in Nancy, near Somerset and Lake Cumberland in southeastern part of the state. “They have the best apples and apple pies. Their apple butter reminds me of being at home,” says McMahan.
White Lightenin’. Corn Liquor. Rotgut. Mountain Dew. Moonshine. All names for untaxed, high-proof, distilled spirits often a clear whiskey. For this beloved mountain export, we can’t tell you where to get the good stuff. Used to be, you either know where to find it back home, or you were out of luck. Now, well that’s still the case, but some small distillers are marketing legal versions of white lightenin’. But this begs the question, “Is it really ‘shine if you’re paying taxes on it and buying it at the counter of the liquor store?” However, if that doesn’t bother you, check out these sources: Stillhouse Original Moonshine ($40) from Culpeper, Va.; Catdaddy Carolina Moonshine and Junior Johnson’s Midnight Moon ($24.99 each) by Piedmont Distillers in Madison, N.C. and Devil John Moonshine ($29.99) from Barrel house Distillery in Lexington, Ky.
What Appalachian goods will you stock up on your next trip home? Tell us in a comment.