Appalachian Thursday–Lean Months
At the grocery store these days, I can buy strawberries and asparagus. This (along with a few days in the 60s) adds to my delusion that it’s spring. I could even try to trick myself into thinking it’s summer with corn-on-the-cob, tomatoes, and okra.
My great-grandmother had no such luxury. Mid-February was the lean time back in the early 1900s when she was growing up and raising her family. February was when last season’s put up food began to thin out. It would have been a long time since last fall’s hog killing and even the wild game would be getting thin (in quantity and quality).
Running to the store for fresh produce wasn’t an option. Chickens don’t lay as much in the winter and the cow’s milk has less cream.
This would have been the time when mountain folk began to dream of poke, creases, dandelion, dock, and other spring greens.
So in honor of these lean days, here are two recipes. The first a sort of “make-do” recipe when the cupboards are bare and the second a method for preparing those early greens just as soon as they peek through last fall’s leaves.
1 jar applesauce
1 tsp. cinnamon
Dash of nutmeg
1/3 cup brown sugar
Slice cold biscuits and layer in a pie plate. Top with applesauce (how much is up to you). Sprinkle with cinnamon and nutmeg. Crumble brown sugar over everything. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes or so–long enough to melt the brown sugar and form a crust over the pie. Run it under the broiler for a few minutes if needed. Dish into a bowl and if you have any cream, pour a little of that over each serving.
Caution, only the tender, young leaves are edible–the root, and most parts of the mature plant are toxic. Which is why I don’t eat poke . . .
1 lb fresh, tender greens
3 or 4 strips bacon
Salt & pepper
Apple cider vinegar
Set greens to boil in water for 10-15 minutes. Drain and rinse. While greens are boiling, fry bacon until crisp and set aside. Add cooked greens to hot bacon grease and fry. Add salt, pepper, and a splash of apple cider vinegar (all of these to your taste). Top with crumbled bacon.