My comfort food is German and that’s what I make a lot at the fort. I can justify it by knowing that there were a lot of German settlers that came to the Watauga by way of the Great Road from Pennsylvania. I got a recipe from my friend, Chef Stephen Block, and made it with beef at home. WINNER!!! Technically it’s a venison dish and there is a venison roast that Earl Slagle gave me just waiting to be cooked so that’s dinner at the public house, aka Cabin 4, the Hillbilly Hilton, for the February muster.

Here’s the recipe and it’s wonderbar!


1 lb venison (or stewing beef), cubed, all the silver flesh cut off

a few spoonfuls of bacon fat

4 small onions, halved and wedged

4 shallots, wedged

1 tbs flour

3/4 bottle of red wine (I used merlot)

1 cup beef broth (2-3 cups if you make dumplings)

1 tsp beef bullion crystals

3 tablespoons good paprika (I used 2 of sweet Hungarian paprika and one of smoked)

1 tsp cayenne

a few sprigs of fresh thyme

1 tsp minced rosemary

1-2 cloves garlic, minced

8 juniper berries

8 peppercorns

2 fresh bay leaves

2 tbs lingonberry jam

salt and pepper to taste (add at the last)

1 lb crimini or baby bella mushrooms (add last 15 minutes)


  • Brown the meat in the bacon fat and then set aside.
  • Add the onions, shallots, Brown and then add the flour and cook 1-2 minutes. then add the garlic
  • deglaze the pot using the wine. Add the broth and bullion. Simmer on low heat.
  • Add the spices (after you toast them gently in a separate pot to release their flavors), jam and meat.
  • Cover and simmer and hour or until the meat is tender.
  • Add the mushrooms and salt and pepper to taste the last 15 minutes

Thicken the gravy if you don’t make dumplings (pats of butter rolled in flour will make a wonderful thickener and glaze the gravy)


1 egg

6 tbs flour

pinch of salt


add to broth and when they float, they are done.

Serve with pickled red cabbage.



June:  “In early summer, every green thing grew very quickly.  The garden lush and full.  In the fields, the corn stood sturdy and tall.  In the woods, the blackberries were ripe and, at the dinner meal, bowls of blackberries and fresh cream were served.  The kitchen was filled with the sweet, syrupy smell of blackberries as the women made blackberry pie and blackberry cobbler, blackberry pudding, and blackberry jam to spread on hard biscuits. For a special treat, Ma mixed a syrup of blackberry juice, vinegar, and precious white sugar and mixed it with cool spring water for the refreshing drink called blackberry shrub.” (By the Seasons) By the Seasons, Cookery at the Homeplace, 1850, TVA’s Living History Farm, Golden Pond, Kentucky  http://www.meckdec.org/cooking-guild/historic-food-almanac



I love blackberries; I think everybody must. Those little black bursts of sweet and tart just explode in the mouth. Last month I found delicious ,.fresh blackberries at Farmer John’s and decided to make blackberry dumplings.

  • 1 quart blackberries, rinsed
  • 1 cup water
  • 3/4 cup sugar (or less depending  on how sweet you like the syrup)
  • 12teaspoon salt
  • 12teaspoon lemon zest and a tbs butter
  • Dumplings

  • 1 1cups unbleached all purpose flour
  • 2teaspoons baking powder
  • 1tablespoon sugar
  • 14teaspoon salt
  • 14teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
  • 23cup milk

Cooking the blackberries:Add all ingredients to a pot and boil gently until the blackberries are tender and juicy.

To make the dumplings: sift together the first 4 ingredients. Make a well in the center of the flour and stir in the milk.

Bring the blackberries to a simmer and drop in the dumplings by the tablespoon. Do not stir. Cover and cook about 15 minutes until the dumplings are done.

I was going to roast a chicken using the tin reflector oven and make dumplings but thought better of it as the chicken didn’t need the heat in 20 degree temps as much as I did. I rethought my cooking demo and got a little help from Stephen Block ( http://www.kitchenproject.com/ ). I asked him if German cooks marinated backbones and ribs like a sauerbraten and he said yes so I used his herb combination plus added 2 galengale roots and marinated my Texas pork ribs and sausages for three days. If you want to know more about sauerbraten or any other food, check out his site. it’s WONDERFUL!!! I also shedded a cabbage and salted it in a crock to do an early sauerkraut and there was just enough fermentation. I added this to two cans of sauerkraut. I think next time, I’ll only add one can as there was so much.

Pork,and Sauerkraut, German style

Pork,and Sauerkraut, German style

Pork ribs, Sausages and Sauerkraut
Marinated pork and sausages ( cup of apple cider vinegar, cup of water, 6 each bay leaves, peppercorns, cloves, allspice, cardamom seeds , mace, 2 tbs dark brown sugar and dried onion, salt) for minimum of three days, maximum of seven. I crushed all the herbs and toasted them, then added to the organic cider vinegar (Braggs) and water and simmered it. I put the meat in a freezer bag and marinated it for three days. When I was ready to cook, I the seared the pork and sausages in bacon drippings and layered between fresh sauerkraut, diced apples, carrots and leeks . I added canned sauerkraut 40 minutes before serving. Stewed until done. Thicken broth with crushed gingersnaps and add port soaked raisins to taste.

Pickens County Cornmeal Dumplings

1 cup cornmeal, ½ cup flour, 2 tsp dissolved pearl ash or baking powder, ½ tsp salt, 2 eggs, ½ cup milk, 1 tbs melted butter, 2 green onions including the green finely chopped, 1 celery rib chopped fine, fresh thyme. Salt and pepper . Mix together adding butter last and drop by spoonfuls into boiling stock (I siphoned the stock from the pork and sauerkraut and added a little boiling water. OH IT WAS GOOD!!!) . Boil for 12 minutes, simmer for 3 minutes. Turn out to a tureen with broth.
Pickens Co. Cornmeal Drop Dumplings

Pickens Co. Cornmeal Drop Dumplings

I had the makings for these two recipes but with a huge Heritage chocolate and Stout Cake and so few people to eat, I decided to make this at the next muster , but it’s good nonetheless.

Kilt Lettuce and Onion
Soft lettuce and sliced green onion. Dressing of 2 T bacon grease, 2 T white vinegar, 1 T sugar, salt , pepper .

Molasses Gingerbread
½ cup unsalted butter, 1 cup sugar, 2 eggs, ½ cup molasses, 1/2 tsp salt, 2 cups flour, 1 tsp soda, 1 tsp each : ginger, cloves, cinnamon, allspice. 1 cup boiling water.
Cream the butter and sugar, Add eggs and molasses and mix well. Add dry ingredients and blend thoroughly. Stir in boiling water. Put in buttered pan. Bake in dutch oven 30-40 minutes until done in center.

Molly burning something....

Molly burning something….