Sunday, January 09, 2011

Ozark pudding and other winter treats

This area of the Ozark Mountains has not been settled for very long. Peoples have known about the bounty of the area - Indian tribes hunted it, Frenchmen trapped it, Spaniards explored it, but the rough ground, challenging access and fickle weather kept people from settling here until some intrepid British Ilse folk and German farmers began planting themselves here in the 1800's.

Getting in and out for food was possible, but challenging. Some menfolk would spend the entire year building a raft, trapping, collecting and harvesting. They'd take the rivers down to the Mississippi and on down to New Orleans, trading all the way down the river. Then they'd walk home, with what they'd bartered for and what they could carry. So, realistically - the settlers ate what they could hunt, trap, gather and raise. This was not a hardship, though it was a lot of work. This area of the Ozarks is rich in game. The valleys grow good crops. The streams and lakes are full of fish. The trees produce nuts galore and the bushes are laden with berries. Bees swarm in hollow trees and make honey from the sweet flowers. In the summer, there is lots of food. People who settled in the Ozarks were skilled at harvesting and storing it, or they didn't survive.

These recipes are adapted from old recipes I've heard from friends whose families settled here before the Civil War. I've changed them a bit to suit what is avialable to a modern cook, though I've tried to remain true to the idea of the time, like using stone ground corn meal and whole wheat flour.

The discussion of white corn meal versus yellow corn meal has occupied a goodly portion of my study for the last four years. People passionate about their corn meal. Some of the local ladies insist that white corn meal is "Yankee corn meal" and their mama's would never have used it. However, two settler families in the area, the Gillihan's and the Cross's both have always used white corn for meal and say that yellow corn is for feeding to livestock. Because I have a goodly supply of organic locally grown stone ground white corn meal from War Eagle Mill, that is what I have used in these recipes.

Also, I only use butter. I don't think that magarine is food. Lard is an acceptable cooking fat and preferable in many recipes. Both would have been available to early settlers.

Also, I don't eat processed sugar. I do occasionally eat a wee bit of honey and I love fruit for sweet treats. The early settlers would have done some trading for sugar cakes, but they would have mostly sweetened with dried fruits, homemade sorghum molasses and honey gathered from wild hives.

I am going to teach these six recipes in my Traditional Winter Fare Cooking Class on Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2011. It may take me a few days to get them all listed in here. The recipes are Corn Meal Mush, Corn Bread, Beans with Ham Hocks, Meat and Vegi Stew, Ozark Pudding and Cornmeal Skillet Cake.

Dessert first :-)

Ozark Pudding
Ozark Pudding (this is one of our family's favorites)

1 egg
1/3 cup honey
2 heaping Tablespoons Whole Wheat Flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 peeled and chopped apple
1/2 cup chopped hickory nuts (pecans are a modern substitute)

Preheat oven to 350. Butter a 10-inch pie plate or skillet.
Beat the egg and honey together. Add flour, baking powder and salt. Mix thoroughly. Fold in the apples and nuts and pour into the pie pan. Bake for 30 minutes, keeping the fire at a steady temp. Serve warm with  cream drizzled over the top for added decadence.

Cornmeal Skillet Cake
This recipe takes more time than Ozark Pudding, but it is worth the effort.

Cornmeal Skillet Cake

1 cup flour (I use War Eagle Mill White Whole Wheat)
1 cup white corn meal
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
8 Tablespoons butter
4 apples, peeled and cored and chopped
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup chopped hickory nuts
1/2 cup dried berries
1 cup milk
2 eggs

Preheat oven to 350. Mix together flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt.
On stove top, melt butter in skillet. Add the apples and simmer until soft. Add the honey, berries and nuts and stir well. Remove from heat.
Beat the eggs and add the milk. Pour into the dried ingredients and blend well. Pour the liquid off the apple mixture into the batter and blend well.
Spread the apple mix evenly over the bottom of the skillet and then spoon the batter over the top. Smooth it out to cover the fruit.
Bake for 30 min, or until a knife comes out clean.
You can serve from the skillet, or invert on a cake platter for a more stunning presentation.

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