Appalachian Sage Cornbread

I can’t imagine Appalachia without cornbread. It’s as much a part of this place as the hills and hollers, as the Cherokee and the rhododendrons. It’s as essential a food as ramps and fiddlehead ferns and wild ginsing. A batch of cornbread tells the story of this place.

First off, it’s important to note that Appalachian and Southern cuisine aren’t exactly synonymous, much like squares and rectangles. Southern cooking is as broad a category as the region itself, encapsulating everything from low country boils to Cajun gumbos to Virginia ham to Alabama catfish. Appalachian cooking is full of flavors and ingredients unique to the area, with dishes like poke sallet, vinegar pie, greasy beans, and more. It’s a culinary legacy built on thrift, foraging, and ingenuity.

Jane Black writes for the Washington Post of Appalachian cuisine:

 It’s a scrappy, intelligent way of cooking that, out of necessity, embraced preserving, canning, fermenting and using every part of the animal long before all that was trendy. The short growing season in the mountains put a focus on preservation of all kinds: smoked meats, pickled vegetables, fruit turned into jams and jellies. Many families were poor, so little was wasted.

Many of the dishes we associate with traditional Southern cooking, like fried chicken, pimento cheese, and biscuits, didn’t become common on Appalachian tables until the Great Depression. That’s around when marketers, charities, and government aid programs promoting processed foods like refined white flour and jarred pimentos encouraged residents of Appalachia to try new ways of cooking and eating.

Those dishes we think of as Southern staples were more labor intensive than traditional Appalachian dishes like barbecue, cowpeas, and, of course, cornbread. Biscuits took a long time and plenty of rolling and kneading to make— the kind of work busy farmers didn’t have much time for, but that a well-to-do family who could afford help could have on the table. Cornbread, in contrast, was simple to throw together and get in the oven.

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Cornbread, like many Appalachian staples, has its roots in American Indian foodways. Native peoples throughout the Americas used cornmeal as a staple. Maize, after all, is native to the Americas, not Europe. In Appalachia, it was the Cherokee and Shawnee who taught Scotch Irish settlers and free blacks how to use this versatile ingredient. Like the region itself, cornbread has since evolved into an incredibly diverse dish. You will hear people hotly debating adding sugar, molasses, or honey, advocating for cheese or meat in the mix, or various greens, peppers, and herbs.

At its heart, though, cornbread is little more than cornmeal, fat, liquid, a binder, and salt. It can be leavened into a fluffy light cake or unleavened as a quick bread also known as corn pone, hoe cakes, or skillet bread. How you grew up eating it—crumbled into a cold glass of milk, with honey or molasses, with whole corn kernels added in or not—says a lot about where you’re from.

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In Appalachia, cornbread is typically unleavened and cooked in a well-greased iron skillet. And the recipes are often passed down orally, without exact measurements. In that spirit, here is the gist of how to make your own sage cornbread with the fresh herbs from your share.

3 cups cornmeal
1 cup whole wheat flour
1-2 eggs
Handful fresh chopped sage
Pinch of baking soda
Pinch of salt
3 cups buttermilk (or yogurt mixed with water to consistency of cream)
Generous amount bacon grease, lard, olive oil, or butter

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

In a large bowl, mix the dry ingredients and sage. Then add the egg, liquids, and fat. Mix until well blended, and pour into a well-greased cast iron skillet, glass baking dish, or muffin tins. Bake for 20-30 minutes until golden brown and slightly pulling away from the edges of dish.


Farm Notes May 9: Mothers Day Lettuces!

We hope you had fun at last week’s Spring-A-Ma-Jig! It was great seeing everyone and we are continuing to love the new Main Street Farmers Market location, especially as the Tennessee weather heats up! This week we have more delicious spring goodness for you, including:

CSA:
1. Red Butter and Red Leaf Lettuce
2. Red Russian and Siberian Kale
3. Tender Collard Greens
4. Swiss Chard
5. Garlic Chives
6. Pak Choi
7. Hakurei Salad Turnips
8. Flowers for Mothers Day!

Market:
1. Red Russian and Toscano Kale
2. Young Tender Red Russian Kale (great for salad)
3. Tender Collard Greens (use as a wrap or raw collard salad)
4. Purple Kohlrabi
5. Beautiful Red Leaf Lettuce
6. Tropicana Green Leaf Lettuce
7. Tender Red Butter Lettuce
8. Giant Ford Hook and Rainbow Swiss Chard
9. Alpine Daikon Radish
10. Hakurei and Scarlet Salad Turnips
11. Edible flowers for a beautiful salad
12. A variety of herbs.

We also have a fabulous Mother’s Day Special: All lettuce 2 for $5!

All these nutritious greens are so versatile. Salad, soup, sauté, with eggs, green smoothies!


Dưa Cải Chua

Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone. -Joni Mitchell

It’s hard to believe in the middle of winter, when you’re so hungry for fresh veg you can’t stand it, but by mid-spring sometimes you can get greens fatigue. They just keep coming!

That bounty is wonderful, but when you’re running out of ideas for how to eat them fresh, remember how hungry you were for those greens just a couple months ago. Fortunately, your greens don’t have to go the same way as Joni Mitchell’s proverbial paradise.

Cucumbers, peppers, cabbage, and radishes aren’t the only spring and summer veggies you can pickle. Give your mustard and other spicy, peppery greens the same treatment, and you can have a taste of spring even after summer has passed.

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Dưa Cải Chua is a Vietnamese dish of pickled Spicy Asian Mustard Greens. It’s simple to make and easy to customize to your preferred palate—you can adjust to find your perfect balance of salt, sweet, sour, and spice. And best of all, you can make it with what’s in your share and a few common items in your pantry.

You’ll need:
2 bunch mustard greens, about 4 pounds
4-6 cloves of garlic
1 bunch of spring onion or white onion
Large pot boiled water
2.5-3 tablespoons salt
3 tablespoon sugar
Sriracha, Sambal Oelek, minced Sereno Peppers, or Szechuan Peppercorns
Fish Sauce (optional)
Clean mason jars
A Kraut Source fermentation kit (we sell them at our booth!) or ziplock bags & mason jar lids

Clean and separate your mustard greens and onions. Pick out any leaves that have gotten too yellow—though a little yellow or limpness is ok, as Dưa Cải Chuaa is a great way to use up greens that have languished in the back of your fridge a little longer than you intended (shhh, we won’t tell). A salad spinner an a little chilled tap water will do the trick.

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Dry the leaves and shred, then slice the onions. Some recommend letting the greens air dry and get limp for up to 12 hours. Others to simply pat dry with paper towels. It depends on how much time and counter space you have, and how fresh your mustard greens are. Once your leaves are dry, massage them till they are even more limp and even start to sweat a little. Mix with your onions and garlic and set aside.

Rinse your mason jars with boiling water to sterilize them. While the jars are cooling, use remaining boiled water to make a brine with the salt, sugar, and whatever spices you are adding. Taste with a clean spoon as you go to make sure you like the level of heat and balance of flavors.

Sriracha will produce a sweeter, milder Dưa Cải Chuaa. Sambal oelek will be spicier. Minced serano peppers are more traditional, but can get very spicy very quickly. Sezchuan peppercorns will be a different flavor—making the dish more Chinese than Vietnamese— and the level of heat will depend on how fresh your peppercorns are. Fish sauce will make it saltier and add an extra briny, umami flavor.

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Pack your jars with the blend of mustard greens, onions, and garlic as tightly as possible. Press them down with a rubber spatula, which you can also use to break up air pockets. Pour the brine in with a funnel, until the greens are covered by at least an inch of brine. Don’t overfill your jars though—you want the brine to sit just below the neck of the jar, at least an inch from the lid.

This is when you either screw on your Kraut Source fermentation kit lid or, if you don’t have one, gently press a plastic bag into the mouth of the jar. Fill with tap water, taking care not to spill. The water will press the baggie flush against the top of the brine, making the contents air tight. Secure lip of the baggie to the mouth of the jar with a rubber band.

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Let the Dưa Cải Chuaa sit on your counter for a week. After it’s done fermenting, take your baggies or Kraut Source lid off, and replace with regular mason jar tops. The Dưa Cải Chuaa will keep for months in the fridge unopened, much like kimchi or sauerkraut.

Traditionally, Dưa Cải Chuaa is eaten much like kimchi or kraut, used to add flavor to soups, salads, meats, rice, and more. Add it to stir fry, grain bowls, eggs, or noodle dishes.

 

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If you used Szechuan Peppercorns for more of a Chinese flare, add your pickled greens to Dan-Dan Noodles, a traditional spicy Szechuan dish made with thick, chewy noodles in a spicy soy-based sauce. For a Japanese-style meal, fry some of your Dưa Cải Chuaa (called Takana in Japan) in sesame oil before adding to rice.

Or if you want to stick close to Vietnam, you can make Canh Dưa Cải Chuaaa beef soup with pickled mustard greens. Or add to another Vietnamese dish Thịt Kho. a slow-braised pork dish with eggs. It would also be wonderful in Pho.

 


Farm Notes May 3: SPRING-A-MA-JIG!

This week’s Walking To Spring CSA pick up and organic egg share pick up are extra exciting: It’s the Main Street Farmers Market SPRING-A-MA-JIG!

Come enjoy the festivities as Main Street Farmers Market kicks off their 9th season as Chattanooga’s premier mid-week farmers market. This free event has something for the whole family! The Main Street Farmers Market is providing live music for the community during the Spring-A-Ma-Jig. Walter from Hoe Hop Valley Farm is preparing his famous pasture-raised chicken and pork for street-style tacos so you can eat while you shop. There will be activities for the kids to enjoy as well.

We have our own special going for Spring-A-Ma-Jig: 2 Red Leaf Lettuce for $5. All these nutritious greens are so versatile. Salad, soup, sauté, with eggs, green smoothies! Check out some awesome recipes and ways to preserve your bounty!

Ask about our Farmers Market Gift Share. You choose the price! Will make a perfect gift of health for you or a loved one! Call farm phone 423-637-9793.

This week we have on offer this week:

CSA:

1. Chinese Napa Cabbage
2. Alpine Daikon Radish (Miso-Cultured Radish Pickles)
3. Red Scarlet Turnips
4. Red Leaf Lettuce (Cumin Roasted Sweet Potato & Avocado Salad)
5. Tender Collards
6. Swiss Chard (Dehydrated Greens)
7. Toscano Kale (The Best Kale Salad)
8. Young Spring Elephant Garlic

Market:

  1. Red Russian and Toscano Kale
  2. Tender Collard Greens (Green Tahini Sauce)
  3. White and Purple Kohlrabi (Raw Sesame Marinated Kohlrabi)
  4. Spicy Asian Mustard Greens (Indian Mustard Greens Sauce with Potatoes)
  5. Red Leaf Lettuce
  6. Green and Red Butter Lettuce (Fattoush Salad)
  7. Giant Ford Hook and Rainbow Swiss Chard
  8. Alpine Daikon Radish (samples provided)
  9. Hakurei Japanese Salad turnips and Red Scarlet turnips (samples provided)
  10. Edible Kale Flowers
  11. Variety of Herbs

Come by our booth and have some Lemon Balm and Sweet Mint Infused Water!