As much as I love muscadines, I’ve never been a fan of a muscadine hull pie. I must admit, I’ve only tried a couple of slices, which weren’t all that bad, just not all that good either. It’s the concept that didn’t really appeal to me: squeezing the pulp and seeds out to cook down the skins of the muscadines to make a pie out of them?
Of course, I believe the idea came from what Southern cooking is best known for: making something delicious out of what you have on hand! Many folks make jelly out of muscadines, using only the pulp, leaving the skins behind. I’m sure what happened was some smart Southern woman decided she had worked too hard separating the skins from the pulp to just throw those skins away, so she made a pie out of the muscadine hulls! The idea must have caught on, because there are multiple variations on the same basic recipe. Now, I’m all about creatively repurposing leftovers, but since I don’t have to separate the muscadines by hand to make jelly, I’m certainly not going to do it just to make a hull pie!
Recently, a magazine contacted my husband, Chris, and asked for a recipe using muscadines with apples for a special piece featuring apples in North Georgia. Of course, he turned to me and asked, “Any ideas?” Although this was during our harvest season and fresh muscadines were abundant, I thought how much easier it would be to use one of our products made from muscadines that are available year-round. My favorite muscadine product is Paulk's Pride Muscadine Sauce. Maybe I could even combine it with apples to make a modern version of a muscadine hull pie?
So, I did what any good Southerner would do - I invited my best friends over for dinner and got to work! Chris took care of grilling steaks and vegetables I marinated while I chopped apples and made homemade ice cream. At least we’d have something delicious if the pie was a flop! After dinner, I proudly uncovered my creation and began to slice and serve it to raving reviews. Roxie declared it the best pie she’d ever eaten! Good thing, too, because I had to email the recipe later that week!
Paulk’s Pride Muscadine Apple Pie recipe was printed in the Fall 2017 issue of Georgia Connector magazine and is also available at www.paulkspride.com.
We’ve also made it into one of our Southern Mercantile recipe cards if you’d like to print it!
I sure hope you enjoy Paulk's Pride Muscadine Apple Pie as much as we have - we even served it in our Cafe during "Muscadine Week" in September!
Almost every southern cook I know has a recipe box or binder full of cards and slips of paper collected over the years from family, friends, and magazines. This is in addition to a cabinet full of cookbooks - from beautiful glossy picture-filled hardback books to spiral bound paperbacks filled with covered dish supper favorites and the name of the cook. My Mama had a dark wooden recipe box with a cornucopia painted on the top. She would pull it down from the cabinet above the stove, and we would know something delicious was about to happen in that kitchen.
When I got married, I received a recipe box, a couple of binders, and plenty of blank recipe cards. At the time, I had no recipes of my own to write on the cards and put in the binders or box! My mother-in-law gave me an old binder full of her and her mother’s recipes. This binder has become precious to me. Over the years, I have learned to make a few of those recipes, including my husband’s favorite - fresh peach cake for his birthday. (I shared this recipe in my blog Peach Cake.)
Last year, my Mama gave me the sweetest birthday present - her wooden recipe box! She included the card for my favorite meal as a child - Chicken Spaghetti! She’s also been working on typing up her other recipes to add to my collection. Of course, those in her own handwriting are the ones that are so dear to my heart. I have such sweet memories and feelings of home every time I look at that box.
Now that I have learned how to cook, I have lots of recipes in my everyday repertoire, and love gathering more. My problem is I have not organized all those recipes. I have a shelf full of cookbooks I’ve collected and lots of recipes scribbled here and there, but I don’t really have a system to organize them all. That’s one of those goals I’ve always hoped to get done, but never have! So, I’m trying to get my act together now, starting with our favorite recipe box from Rifle Paper Company. Choose from three different designs to match your kitchen and personality. We also have a cute Berry Basket Recipe Box you may prefer with its open top. And, all our recipes in the Recipe Archive are available in a printable format perfect for 4”x6” recipe cards to fit!
I look forward to organizing all my recipes - both old standbys and new favorites. Of course, I will still use recipes found online and in cookbooks; but, there is something nostalgic about reaching for a full recipe box. You can almost feel a connection to the cooks who have shared those recipes with you as well as the many southern cooks who have come before. And, what a wonderful gift for those who will come after us. One day, perhaps I can pass on a full recipe box to my daughter-in-law to help her become a great southern cook.
In 2002, Chris Paulk came home to start a new venture on his family’s farm and muscadine vineyard: creating products made from muscadines that would highlight their flavor and health benefits.
Today, Paulk’s Pride is a line of dietary supplements, juices, and jellies, and Chris employs 8-10 people year-round at his manufacturing facility located in the middle of Paulk Vineyards.
People are always amazed to see what’s hidden away in our rural county. Driving through 600 acres of muscadine vines makes folks feel as if they’ve been transported to a southern version of Napa Valley!
Processing such unique fruit requires some impressive equipment, beginning with presses which separate the juice from the seeds and skins, to a state-of-the-art bottling line to fill bottles with that juice, to many other machines which turn the seeds and skins into dietary supplements.
Making the jellies has become a joint effort, as The Southern Mercantile actually produces Paulk’s Pride Muscadine Jelly, Sauce, and Preserves, and they’re available in our store!
If you’re interested in Paulk’s Pride Muscadine Juices or supplements, visit paulkspride.com. You can learn more about the Paulk Family and Paulk Vineyards by going to paulkvineyards.com.
And, yes, Chris is Jorjanne’s husband! You can read more about their story in Jorjanne’s blogs "Muscadines, Grandma, & a Husband" or "Faithful in the Little Things".
With Easter around the corner, I started thinking about what recipe to share with y’all. A couple of years ago, I wrote about Deviled Eggs. You can even find our Blue Cheese and Bacon Deviled Eggs Recipe Card in our Recipe Archive.
One of my favorite desserts has always been carrot cake. I mean, what better way to get your veggies than in dessert? Apparently, carrot cake has been around for centuries in Europe. Carrots were used to sweeten the cake instead of sugar, which was much more expensive. It became popular in the 1960s-70s in the United States. As is the case with so many things, here in the South, we’ve perfected carrot cake and made it our own. I’m not sure if carrot cake is a traditional Easter dessert for everyone, but it certainly is in my southern family!
I’ve seen carrot cakes decorated with cute little carrots made from marzipan or icing, as well as some that include candied ginger for a little extra zing, but my favorite is generously iced with the perfect cream cheese frosting and sprinkled with extra pecans or walnuts on top! Of course, like any cake, it’s imperative that carrot cake be moist. There’s not much worse than a dry cake. I enjoy a glass of milk with a piece of cake, but I don’t want to need the glass of milk to wash it down!
This recipe is precisely that perfect balance of moist cake and sweet, creamy frosting. Brenda, Roxie’s mother, created this cake for Terry, Roxie’s father, after he went wild over the carrot cake at the Smithsonian Museum restaurant one summer. She tried different recipes, then put together a patchwork of a recipe by combining parts of several to come up with the one Terry thought was wonderful. Terry likes to see and taste what is in the cake, so the pecans aren’t chopped very fine. Using crushed pineapple helps keep the cake moist, and Brenda is known for ensuring there is plenty of frosting to go with each bite of cake. She also saves a step and a bit of time by freezing the grated carrots when they’re close to going out of date, so she can be ready to make a carrot cake whenever she wants.
Click here to go to our Recipe Archive to find the Carrot Cake Recipe Card to print! We’d love to know if you use Brenda’s Carrot Cake recipe this Easter or any other time, for that matter! Take a picture and tag us on Facebook, so we can celebrate with you! If you have any other tips or ideas for Easter, feel free to share those with us, too!
I mentioned in my blog “Faithful in the Little Things” that my father grew up on the Irwinville Farms Project. Since many of you have probably never heard of it, I thought I’d take the time to explain it and the impact it made on a rural community.
The infrastructure that was built to sustain and improve this community helped the families to thrive and accomplish that. Schools, co-operative stores, churches, a gin, warehouses, a doctor’s office, not to mention the homes, barns, smokehouses, and such that were built on the farms provided all that these families needed to do well. The families were encouraged to make farm plans and keep records; the manager of the program educated the men on farming techniques, while the home economist taught the women how to plan meals and put up fruits and vegetables to feed their families throughout the year. Social activities were planned and everyone was encouraged to participate.
Because all these families worked together to lift each other up out of their collective suffering, the Irwinville Farms Project families grew into a tight-knit community. Years after the project ended, Irwinville still celebrates together every summer with a reunion, just like a family would. As a child, I never realized what the reunion was all about. I just thought it was normal for a community to gather together every year for meals, singing, and games!
The Irwinville Farms Project was successful in that nearly all the families who participated were able to purchase their farms from the government and continued to do well for their families. It truly was a helping hand, not just a hand-out. If you’d like to read more about it, you can read the report from 1939 in the National Archives by clicking here, or you can purchase the book, Irwinville Farms Project, written by Joy Wilson McDaniel at www.amazon.com. Another fantastic resource, from where most of these pictures came, is Irwinville Farms, A Digital Archive Curated by Brian Brown.
I grew up in a small town. Scratch that. I grew up in a rural community outside of a small town. Next door to my grandparents’ farm and within a mile of the county line, I was the first one on the school bus every morning and the last one off every afternoon. Keep in mind, we have one elementary school, while the middle and high schools share a campus, for the entire county!
That summer of 2001 was so eye-opening and the best way we could have started our marriage. We did have a team to work with, and we lived with a young couple and their toddler daughter, but we really only had each other and God to lean on. There were breakdowns and culture shock, all of which brought us closer together.
After that summer, we went back to our normal lives in Atlanta, Chris completing his final classes and working part-time with a civil engineering firm, while I began my first year teaching middle school. Even though this was the life we had always dreamed of, something was still missing. We felt like we had left part of our hearts in Brazil and began to have new dreams of going back. Soon, we were presented with the opportunity to go back to Brazil as full-time missionaries and help create a Globalscope campus ministry. We were so excited!
The following spring (2002), Chris’s family farm was featured on a Food Network show called “Food Finds.” If you’ve read my blog “Muscadines, Grandma, and a Husband,” you’ll know that his family grows muscadine grapes. Chris’s grandfather, father, and uncle were interviewed for the show, which focused on the capsules “Papa Jacob” was making from the seeds of the muscadines and the health benefits they offered. At the time, he was making them by hand in his home office. I remember watching the show in our little apartment with one of our friends from Ocilla who also lived in Atlanta. Afterward, we all just giggled and stared at each other, amazed and bewildered at what we had just seen on TV!
Over the following year, it became more and more evident to us that we were supposed to stay in Irwin County. Serving God was our first priority, but we realized that we didn’t have to leave the country to do that. Looking back now, I can see how God worked through us and the chain-reaction of events that continue as a result of our decision to stay.
That summer, I discovered I was pregnant! Chris and I wanted to share our exciting news with our family in a fun way, so we went to The Shoppes at Fourth and Cherry to purchase a frame for our ultrasound picture. Roxie was at the register, so she was technically the first person we told that we were expecting. We had always known Roxie, since we went to high school together, but we weren’t close friends at the time. Little did I know how close we would grow!
Thirteen years ago, we could not have known how our decisions would affect the course of our own lives, much less so many others. Although we always tried to be faithful to what we believed to be God’s will, we haven’t always understood while in the middle of it. So many times, we’ve wondered what life would be like had we gone to Brazil. Our boys think it’s crazy that they would know how to speak Portuguese! We still have a special place in our hearts for the people of Brazil. I used to wonder if we missed God’s will by not going to Brazil. And, while I know that God would have used us there, I feel like our purpose is to be here, in this small town, to encourage this community, and to share it with the rest of the world. I feel like for the last thirteen years, we’ve been on the cusp of something great in so many areas.
The older I get, the more I grow to love Fall! Cooler mornings, turning leaves, the scent of freshly-dug peanuts have all become a few of my favorite things. I love how going back to school puts our family back in a routine after the freedom of summer. I also love celebrating the season at family reunions, fall festivals, really any holiday gathering.
Our family truly enjoys participating in our church’s “Trick-Or-Trunk,” which is our Halloween/Fall Festival type celebration. Since our church is located way out in the country, most children in our church don't get to go trick-or-treating. (Side note: I went trick-or-treating one time when I was a kid. My mama had to call ahead to let folks know we were coming to their house so they would be prepared to pass out candy. I think we drove around for two hours, visited 4-5 houses, and received a handful of candy. I did have an awesome “Bride of Frankenstein” costume, thanks to my crafty mama!) Stories like mine are what inspired “Trick-or-Trunk.” Church members park their cars in a circle, with their trunks facing inside the circle. They open and decorate their trunks, then once it gets dark, pass out candy to the children as they walk around the circle in their cute costumes. For many of these kids, it’s the only chance they have to trick-or-treat. For many of the adults, it’s a fun time to get dressed up, escape reality, and just enjoy themselves for a little while!
Throughout the years, our family has dressed up in various themes, usually in homemade costumes. It’s become a sort of tradition to decide what we’re going to be, then figure out how to make the costumes. Many times we’ve been superheroes and villains, but also movie characters, and this year - a family of trophies! My boys were champion tennis and soccer player trophies, while my husband and I snuck in a bit of adult humor: his plaque read “I Tried (participation award),” and mine read “World’s Okayest Runner!” We just love to have fun together!
This fall, we’ve already had two family reunions, are helping host a church youth retreat, have attended two festivals with more on the calendar, in addition to regular family and church holiday celebrations coming up. Now, you know that here in the South, we enjoy our celebrations, and the fact that they always revolve around food! And, confession time: I, like so many others, love pumpkin-flavored anything - I get positively giddy at my first pumpkin-spiced latte of the season! Since we have so many gatherings, I have a few recipes that I keep in mind to bring to the table. Harvest Cobb Salad is a great one, with sliced apples and pears, toasted pecans, dried cranberries, boiled eggs, and poppy seed dressing. Of course, green bean or hash brown casseroles are traditional, and usually enjoyed by most folks. I always like to bring something a little different, though. This year, I took a bread pudding recipe I’ve made many times and swapped a out a few ingredients to make a yummy Pumpkin Raisin-Bread Pudding! Even my boys, who don’t care much for bread pudding, loved it! It always makes me happy to make something my boys really enjoy!
Be sure to join our Recipe Club to receive a free printable recipe card with my Pumpkin Raisin-Bread Pudding recipe on it. This is a great dish to serve as dessert, but it’s also delicious for brunch!
Confession time: I am not a morning person. Like, NOT. at. all. I move at a sloth-like pace until about 8:30. Always have - you can ask my Mama! Unfortunately, I need to leave the house at 7:30 to get both boys to both schools by 7:50. Since they’re not tardy until 8:00, and my children take after their mother, that means there’s a frenzy of activity about 7:25 that usually lasts until 7:35-7:40 - searching for socks in the dryer, signing papers, yelling “I need money” and “Did you brush your teeth?” and “Let’s go! Get in the car!” Please tell me I’m not the only one here?
So, packing lunches every morning becomes one more thing to remember at the last minute that causes stress and panic. And, of course, I’m trying to raise my boys to be independent men who are comfortable in the kitchen. They have great role models in their Daddy and Papa! So, I thought to myself, “Why can’t they pack their own lunches?” Cue spotlight and angels singing.
After much research (read: way too much time spent on Pinterest), I created a system where they can pack their own lunches. I had everything all set up at the beginning of last school year, and it worked great! For a couple of weeks. Then, my car decided to wrap itself around a tree. Since I had just stocked everything, my system worked well for my husband who suddenly found himself playing the role of “Mr. Mom.” Then, suddenly, the baskets were empty. And, since my loving church family kept bringing food so my family would survive without me in the kitchen, there was no room for baskets in my over-flowing refrigerator! I couldn’t drive or work, so I didn’t have any place to be at any particular time. Because of that, packing lunches didn't stress me out like it once did, and that was one thing I could do to be helpful.
Here we are, a year later, and I’m trying to get my system back into place. Now that my older son is in middle school where there are more options, and all our schools now have free lunch (high-fives all around!), he usually eats in the cafeteria. That helps me tremendously! My younger son tends to be a little more picky. Not like he’ll only eat chicken tenders and french fries, but more like he sometimes wants all fruit in his lunchbox. He usually doesn’t care for his foods to be mixed together, although he loves nachos. And, texture plays a big part in whether or not he likes a food - french fries and oven roasted potatoes are fine, baked or mashed potatoes are not. He has eaten a whole tomato like an apple and entire containers of cherry tomatoes, loves chili and spaghetti, but doesn’t like “cooked” tomatoes. Somehow, all his food preferences make sense to me, but because the school cafeteria that has hundreds of kids to feed every day doesn’t tend to cater to what one child likes, if I don’t want him to go hungry, then we’re packing his lunch.
So, my system is pretty simple. I fix the “entree” of his lunchbox, whether it’s leftover taco soup in a thermos, a turkey bacon ranch wrap, a chef salad, or his all-time favorite, the old standby, PB&J, with Southern Mercantile Jam (any flavor, he loves them all!). Sometimes, on super busy mornings (or when I’m moving especially slowly) he’ll just grab a nachos or pizza Lunchable. Really, I’m just trying to give him something with protein that will fill him up. He also really likes cheese (real cheese, not string cheese) and yogurt, so I encourage him to grab one of those if I think he needs a little more protein or dairy.
Next, I have a basket of fruits and veggies from which he can pick two. I try to prepare ahead of time and have bags of cut-up celery, baby carrots, or grapes ready to go, but there are also apples and clementines..
In the pantry, I have two baskets. He can pick one from each, which usually gives him something sweet and something salty.
It’s so easy to fill a lunchbox with junk because it’s shelf-stable, and I try to go to the grocery store only once a week. I’m trying to teach my boys to make healthier choices, though, which means I have to limit what they eat out of the pantry. That’s one reason I like having the system of baskets. I set the guidelines by deciding what goes in each basket and how many items he can have from them, but he gets to choose what he wants in his lunchbox, so he feels empowered and independent. That’s a win-win for me!
Maybe you have your own system for packing lunches. Or, maybe you have an ingenious system to help with some other daily chore. If you have any tips to share, we’d love to hear them! Share your ideas here on The Southern Mercantile blog or on our Facebook page.
As a little girl, my sisters and I were forced to pick whatever fruit or vegetable was in season, wherever my parents or other family members grew it. I even remember stopping on the side of the road not far from the house I grew up in just to pick blackberries so Mama could make a cobbler. (It was delicious!) Since I was a lazy baby sister, I never enjoyed these trips to the garden or orchard or friend’s backyard because they meant working in the sun rather than reading in my room. I did, however, enjoy the “fruits” of all our labor! Now, as an adult, I realize the value of hard work and am grateful for these memories.
One of my favorite memories is of going over to Grandma Willa Ree Tucker’s house at the end of every summer to pick muscadines and scuppernongs. She had quite a few rows of those beautiful vines that were always loaded with the sweet fruit of a southern summer. And, Grandma Ree loved nothing more than to share all that she had. There was always a debate among my sisters and I as to which was better - the purple muscadines or the bronze/green scuppernongs? As a child, the purple were always my favorite, but as I’ve grown older, I tend to love the bronze. I can still remember popping the skins with my teeth, sucking out the juicy pulp, then spitting out the seeds, all while I was supposed to be putting the muscadines in my bucket. For some reason, my bucket never seemed to fill up.
Little did I know that across the county, another family was growing muscadines and raising a little boy into the man I would marry!
I guess it’s a good thing I fell in love with muscadines before I fell in love with him, since they would become such a large part of my adult life! We built our home right in the middle of his family’s muscadine vineyard, and my husband has taken the family business from growing and selling fresh muscadines to creating products made from muscadines. Now, I help with the social media for the family businesses and even make the jellies that we sell.
We talk to a lot of people about muscadines, some to educate on what they are, how to eat them, and how good they are for you. For most who grew up in the south, though, it’s to reminisce about their time in the woods or their grandmother’s backyard, or how their grandfather made homemade muscadine wine! I always love seeing their faces when they eat a muscadine or try our juice or jelly, then hearing their stories. You can see how the taste and scent take them back to the innocence of childhood and the joy they felt in a simpler time. I love being able to provide people with such a nostalgic experience!
Since it is muscadine season, we’d love to hear your stories and memories! If you need a little inspiration and don’t have access to muscadines, you can always order a jar of Paulk’s Pride Muscadine Jelly, Preserves, or Sauce from us here at The Southern Mercantile! In case you’re wondering the differences, the Jelly is made from muscadine juice for a smoother texture, while the preserves and sauce have the skins for a chunkier texture. The sauce also has spices like cinnamon and cloves, which makes it delicious on pork or with turkey and dressing - it’s my personal favorite! Either way, we’d love to hear your stories and how you serve muscadines!
I enjoy picking on my husband, who is fairly simple in his wardrobe choices, about how much he likes to “accessorize his food.” If there is a gravy, sauce, relish, or any other condiment anywhere nearby, he will find something to put it on!
Of all the possibilities, I believe his favorite is peas with relish. There are many options, from the type of peas to the type of relish. Black-eyed peas are a favorite here in the south, but other varieties include Cream Forty or Cream 8, Pink-eyed Purple Hulls, Zipper peas, Crowder peas, or Ladyfinger.
Apparently, peas were once thought of as only feed for livestock; however, when times got tough in the South, peas became a staple food to help many families survive. Now, peas have earned a place of honor on any southern plate, and anyone who has shelled peas knows not to throw away even one little pea. The process of shelling peas by hand is a rite of passage for growing up Southern. I remember shelling peas while watching tv in the evenings, blisters forming on my thumbs which were already colored green or purple depending on the color of the hulls, the pile of hulls growing rapidly while the buckets of peas to be shelled seemed to multiply and the bowl of peas I had worked so hard to shell would never fill up! After so much work, those peas were savored and never wasted!
Now’s the time of year to put up peas in the freezer. After shelling the peas, blanch them in hot water for 1 1/2 - 2 minutes. Drain the peas and shock them in an ice-water bath, then drain again. Scoop the peas into freezer bags, label the bags, then store the bags in your freezer. If you don’t have time to shell your own peas, contact your local canning plant. They may have a sheller machine, or they may know someone like our friend, Owen Paulk, who will purchase shelled peas and even get them in freezer bags for you!
Most folks cook their peas with ham-hocks or a few pieces of bacon, but in an effort to be a little more healthy, we’ve switched to using Goya seasoning or just cooking them in chicken broth. You still get that meaty flavor without all the fat and sodium. Adding relish to peas gives them extra flavor, and you can use relish made from just about anything. My mama always made pear relish when I was growing up because we had pear trees. My mother-in-law makes green tomato relish from the piles of tomatoes they grow or have been given. A few years ago, my sister and I made a vegetable relish from zucchini, tomatoes, and onions, which I believe has become my husband’s favorite (Shhh! Don’t tell his mama! :)
Visit our Recipe Archive to find my Vegetable Relish recipe card!
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