Joan E. Aller has written a book about cooking in Southern Appalachia, Cider Beans, Wild Greens and Dandelion Jelly. The exact “region” covered by Appalachia is a bit fluid. Generally Appalachia runs from middle-eastern Mississippi, through middle Alabama, north Georgia, western Virginia, Maryland, South and North Carolina, eastern Tennessee and Kentucky, southern Pennsylvania and most of West Virginia.
Aller moved to the Tennessee Mountains and fell in love with the culture. She began gathering recipes from the region. The focus is the area around her, Tennessee, Georgia and North Carolina. She mixes traditional recipes with recipes from a growing number of bed and breakfast inns throughout the area. That means that Ramps and Bacon show up along side Warm Camembert Salad with Apples and Walnuts; Hot Artichoke Dip finds itself with Shrimp and Grits.
Aller has studied the historical background of the area, tracing the Cherokee to the Melungeons to the Africans to the Europeans to the owners of Bed and Breakfasts. Each migration brought new foods and twists on the native flora and fauna.
The Melungeons were a strange sect, probably descended from Berber Muslims and Sephardic Jews fleeing the Spanish Inquisition. Immigrating to the new world on Portuguese ships. They settled in the mountains of Appalachia, keeping to themselves. As more Europeans arrived, the Melungeons pushed further and further into the hills. With no written language of their own, they became almost a myth in the area, their very name used to keep children in line. There is a recipe for Melungeon friendship bread, a tradition carried on by the Amish. The bread is nurtured for 22 days, and then baked. Along with a loaf of bread, the recipient gets a bag of starter to keep the bread moving. As someone who has made and passed on friendship bread, I have to say the intent is noble but the thought of having to spend 22 days getting more starter ready to bake can be a trial. Pretty soon, people begin to hide when they see you coming with bread and that ubiquitous bag of starter.
One of my favorite recipes from Appalachia is for honey cream. It is not something you see too often, but it really should be a staple in every kitchen. Serve it on pancakes, cornbread or fry bread. It works on fruit, too.
Tennessee Honey Cream
2 cups heavy cream
2 teaspoons honey
In a medium bowl using a stand mixer, beat the cream on medium speed until it begins to thicken. Drizzle in the honey and continue to beat until the whipped cream is thick.
This is a great addition to Southern cuisine and the history of regional cooking.