A Taste of Nature’s Mountain Playground

Have Yourself a Taste of Nature’s Mountain Playground!

Here in the Mountain State, our connections to our heritage and culture are transmitted through mountain music, great stories and good food.

Classic Appalachian dishes are so much more complex than a plate of food – each dish tells it’s own story. The people of West Virginia, much like the rugged geography that makes up the state, are resilient and they are also resourceful. 
Ancestors of West Virginians today were foragers and gatherers, they used their surroundings to survive, especially when times were tough. Passed down from family to family, every West Virginian has a plethora of unique recipes that make up their favorite classic Mountain State meals.

From fresh fried venison, to sweet dishes of garden grown rhubarb and freshly foraged ramps, West Virginia dishes are one-of-a-kind. And today, our staff wanted to let you into some of their top secret, family favorite meals from here in Nature’s Mountain Playground.

See these recipes below to get the scoop on how to make these dishes in your kitchen and see just why these West Virginian classics are Pocahontas County CVB staff’s top picks!

Mike Moore's Tenderized Quick-Fried Venison Back Strap

From Mike Moore – Information Specialist, PCCVB

Tenderized Quick-Fried Venison Back Strap:

  • Venison back strap, cut in 1/2 inch thick slices and tenderized 
  • Flour, garlic powder, salt & pepper
  • Butter
  • Vegetable Oil

“This simple, rustic dish probably brings back more fond memories for me than just about any other meal I’ve had. The opening week of bow season always found my family camping on Cheat Mountain hoping to put a little venison in the freezer. Dad and I would hunt while mom came along to cook, read and relax. We stayed in a third-hand tent camper my father purchased for someone, I’m convinced, was thankful to finally see it towed out of their backyard. As I recall, it was held together with many prayers, and many more rolls of duct tape, and was pressed into service each deer season for more years than most people would have dared. 

The highlight of the trip was when dad and I were fortunate enough to get a deer. The deer was quartered and packed in ice for the trip home. The back strap never made it. We always ate that choice cut the same evening the deer was harvested. Once the back strap was removed and cut into small pieces, it was tenderized (the culinary equivalent to hammering flat a piece of meat to within an inch of it’s life). The meat was then coated with flour and placed in a butter and oil-coated hot cast iron pan. A quick fry on both sides, followed with a coating of garlic powder and a touch of salt and pepper, and that was it. The tempting slices were then placed on a nearby plate to cool before eating. I don’t remember the back strap ever making it to that plate.”

– Mike M.

Cara Rose's Sassafras Spring Tonic

From Cara Rose – Executive Director, PCCVB

SASSAFRAS SPRING TONIC: 

Boil the cleaned sassafras roots, about 15 minutes until the tea has a dark copper color. Twelve inches of the root will make a half-gallon of tea, but I usually use less and make a small pot. The aroma fills the kitchen! Sweeten with sugar or honey and enjoy a few hot cups to welcome in spring and say goodbye to winter! 

Click here for even more spring tonic recipes to try!

“Every spring, I dig sassafras root and make the tea. I love the taste and aroma! My great aunt said that sassafras was the spring tonic. Digging it each spring has always been a tradition. I take my father to our secret sassafras grove annually around Easter to dig the roots. 

You have have to know what the tree looks like because leaves are not always on yet. The root has a strong sassafras scent so you can be sure. Do your research so you know what you are digging and follow any health guidelines since this is a natural product.”

– Cara R.

Apples for Linda Adam's Raw Apple Cake

From Linda Adams – Office Manager, PCCVB

RAW APPLE CAKE:

  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup of vegetable oil
  • 1 3/4 cups of sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon soda
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 cups diced apples

Mix eggs, oil, sugar and vanilla together. Set aside. Mix dry ingredients together and add the egg mixture. Mix apples into the batter. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.

“This recipe came from my Home Ec class in high school. It has been a favorite over the years for my family. I would make this for my brother, Kip, when he would come home on leave from the Air Force. He loves this cake, it’s one of his favorites!”

– Linda, A.

West Virginia Blackened Trout

From Chelsea Walker – Marketing Specialist, PCCVB

WV BLACKENED TROUT:

  • Fresh-caught trout
  • Olive oil
  • Butter
  • Garlic minced garlic, onion flakes, cayenne powder, paprika, oregano
  • Sea salt & pepper

Pre-prep your grill by rubbing the racks with olive oil prior to cooking trout.
Rub fresh caught, prepped trout with olive oil.
Lightly salt trout with course sea salt. Season with paprika, minced garlic, onion flakes, cayenne pepper, paprika and black pepper. 
Cook skin on, bone in. Take stick butter, slice thinly, and add butter pieces along the rib cage of the fish to ensure it doesn’t dry out while grilling. From there, cook it 5-6 minutes on each side. Can be grilled on a grill, or cooked over an open-fire – your choice. 
Pro-tip: Cook it until it’s just delicious, and then don’t cook it no more.

“Growing up in the southern end of the county, in Lobelia, my childhood was spent mostly outside, in the woods, on the farm and in the fields surrounding my home. My family is a quite colorful one made up of conservationists, outdoorsmen, elaborate storytellers and amazing cooks. One of our family friends, Jack Farley, known to everyone else as “Rebel,” was probably the most colorful out of us all. Rebel taught my dad and uncle everything they know about conservation, hunting and cooking the meat you took from the woods – what was given to you out there in the forest was a blessing, and to be used wisely. From April to late December, Rebel would live in a camper trailer just a short 5-minute drive from my childhood home. I remember Rebel coming over to our house with deer meat, fresh fish, turkey, and I remember the way he used to make us all laugh, telling stories where you couldn’t decipher what was true and what was elaborated, while the kitchen filled with sweet smells. There wasn’t a thing Rebel couldn’t make, pies, cakes, bear meat – if you were hungry, or even if you weren’t, Rebel made sure you had something good to fill you up. There was no such thing as one helping when he was in the kitchen. 

He taught us all a little something in the kitchen. I think the one thing that stuck with us all the most, is how he used to give us his unique “tip.” With a big dip of tobacco in his mouth, he’d lean in real close and say, “now, the key here is to cook it ’til it’s just delicious, then you don’t cook it no more.”

It’s been years since Rebel passed, and while the Walker family indeed misses Mr. Farley dearly, we all still to this day enjoy telling stories of Rebel and sharing the delicious recipes he passed down to us all. Whether in the woods, or in the kitchen, I find myself often thinking of Rebel and all the laughs and valuable life lessons he passed along to my family, stories I’ll someday share with my own children. This recipe brings back memories of a kitchen filled with fresh-caught trout, laughter, family, friends who are family, and the smell of endless seasonings coming together to make one utterly mouth-watering meal.”

– Chelsea W.

Recipe card for Tammy Shoemaker's Rhubarb Pudding

From Tammy Shoemaker – Information Specialist, PCCVB

RHUBARB PUDDING:

  • 1 cup Buttermilk (the original recipe calls for sour milk, which is the same) 
  • 1/2 teaspoon of soda
  • Pinch of salt

Mix this with enough flour to make a batter. Chop rhubarb and put in the baking dish. Sprinkle sugar (or cover) over the rhubarb.
Spread the flour mix over the rhubarb. Bake at 350 degrees for about 1 hour. Keep an eye on it. Finished when it is browned and bubbling through.

“This has always been one of my favorite recipes from growing up. My grandmother and my mother all made this. Growing up in Mace, near the Pocahontas County/Randolph County line, we always had multiple gardens. So, we always grew rhubarb. I was even crazy enough to eat the rhubarb raw, just dipped in sugar. If you have ever tasted it, you would know it has a very sour taste. I loved it!”

– Tammy S.