Appalachian Holiday Traditions of Food and Spirits, With Recipes on How to Cook with Bourbon, & More


In this episode we’ll explore two holiday and Appalachian traditions: food and spirits. We’ll also hear about some female butchers who are leading a renaissance in local foods.

You’ll find these stories and more this week, Inside Appalachia.

Cooking with Bourbon:

In Whitesburg KY, each month, Jonathan Piercy and Jenny Williams host a live radio cooking show on WMMT called What’s Cookin’ Now, broadcasting straight from the Appalshop kitchen.

And they recently tested out two dishes that we just had to share. Jonathan took a recipe for an old fashioned cocktail drink and made it into a chicken wing sauce.


barrels aging at the Labrot and Graham distillery (Woodford Reserve)// photo by Jonathan Piercy

Old Fashioned Wings, by Jonathan Piercy:
Serves however many you have

I was not the first to come up with the idea of turning the Old Fashioned into a wing sauce, but most of the recipes I found online made me ask the same question that I usually ask myself in faculty meetings: where’s the bourbon? This one starts with plenty of it and cooks it down to a nice sticky glaze. Don’t limit this to chicken wings—this is one of those sauces that would be equally good on pork chops or ice cream.

Part 1: The Wings:

Two dozen or so chicken wing segments (no shame in buying frozen)
Oil, salt, pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Toss the wing segments in a bit of oil, season with salt and pepper, and spread them out on one or two sheet pans—don’t crowd the pans. Put them in the oven. If liquid starts to collect in the pan, take them out and pour off what you can. After the liquid stops collecting crank the heat up to 425 or so and cook until golden brown and delicious. (Warning: this process might smoke up the kitchen. Be prepared. Such is the cost of deliciousness.)

Part 2: The Sauce:
(note: this makes a double batch. Half will probably be plenty to sauce the wings, but you’ll find a use for the extra)

4 cups bourbon (32oz)*
2 cups sugar
Zest of one orange, peeled off with a peeler in large strips
Juice of said orange
16 Maraschino cherries**
20 dashes Angostura bitters ***
Three-fingered pinch of kosher salt
Several grinds of pepper (follow your heart)

While the wings are in, combine all of these ingredients in a saucepan, bring to a boil, and simmer until reduced by about half, or until it’s thick enough to coat a spoon. Brush the sauce on the warm wings and throw them back in the oven for 5 minutes or so to shine up the glaze. Remove to a platter, drizzle on more sauce, and top with the cherries and orange peel. Sign autographs.


*This is obviously not a place for your Pappy Van Winkle. My favorite cheap bourbon is Evan Williams Black, an absolute bargain at $20 or so for a 1.75L bottle. Note that the four cups used here is more than a fifth; if you only want to buy one fifth of bourbon (for some reason), use the whole thing, 1.5 cups of sugar, 15 dashes of bitters, and leave everything else the same. It’ll be great.
**You know those cherries you lovingly pitted, macerated, and canned back in July? Or those fancy Luxardo cherries you treated yourself to? This is not the place for them. You want the cheapest ones you can find, the ones whose color does not exist in nature and that are probably not even cherries. Toss in some green ones for a little Christmas flair.
***Or any other aromatic bitter, I guess, though the others are all fairly expensive. If you do use a different one you might have to use more of it, since Angostura enlarged the hole in their bottle a few years ago resulting in a larger dash. I say just use Angostura.

Bourbon Chocolate Bread Pudding, by Jenny Williams:

I first made this dish by mistake. I was throwing a grad-student dinner party, and I meant to make the classic Union Hotel Mud Cake, which is made with strong black coffee, dark chocolate, and bourbon and served un-iced with whipped cream. Sadly, I drank quite a bit of the bourbon first and somehow forgot to add sugar.

The resulting cake was horrible—more bitter than the jaded English Lit grad students around my table that night. But I couldn’t bear to throw it out—all that expensive chocolate and bourbon! So the next morning, I crumbled it into a baking dish and poured a sweet, bourbon-ey custard over it. It was so delicious that I’ve made it that way ever since.

7 squares bitter chocolate—I like to use a good dark chocolate
12 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 cups strong coffee
1/4 cup bourbon (plus more for the cook)
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups cake flour
½ cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
Heat chocolate, butter and coffee to melt. Stir to blend well. Cool for 10 minutes. Beat in bourbon, eggs and vanilla extract. Sift dry ingredients together. Add to wet mixture and beat with a wooden spoon or wire whisk. Divide into 2 greased and floured loaf pans. Bake at 275 degrees F for 45 to 55 minutes. Cool 10 minutes and turn out. Slice into inch-thick pieces. You can do this a few days ahead, if you want.

Bread Pudding:

Sliced cake

1 cup milk

1 cup heavy cream

5 eggs, beaten

1 cup bourbon

1 cup sugar

Beat milk, cream, eggs, and sugar together. Stir in bourbon. Layer the sliced cake in a buttered baking dish (13 x 9 or so—this isn’t a picky recipe) and pour the custard over it. Let it sit for about 10-20 minutes, then bake at 350° for about 30 minutes, or until custard is set. This will depend on the shape of your baking dish, but the pudding should be moist but not particularly jiggly. Serve with unsweetened whipped cream into which you have added a bit of bourbon. Or if you really want to be decadent, serve it with a bourbon hard sauce.

Bourbon Sauce:

½ cup of softened butter

1 ½ cup powdered sugar

¼ cup bourbon

Beat this together until it’s uniformly combined. This is meant to be served over the HOT bread pudding, so it melts and oozes down the sides. You can pour it over the finished dish all at once or you can serve it in little dollops on each piece.

Chef Returns Home to Wheeling, W.Va:



Local food initiatives continue to grow in the northern panhandle of West Virginia together with efforts to revitalize Wheeling. One of the old town’s oldest establishments is home to a new restaurant, the Vagabond Kitchen which is big into both local food and reinventing Wheeling. Glynis Board stopped in to speak with the Vagabond Chef- and brings us this report.

Polar Vortex:

Temperatures are falling across the region, and some families are gathering wood, or filling up their gas tanks. Many people are also bracing for higher electric bills or even prepping for outages. The coal industry and conservative politicians say new carbon rules for coal-fired power plants will kill coal, and they warn that without coal, extreme weather events, like last year’s polar vortex, could leave people in the cold and dark. How well does the polar vortex argument hold up? The Allegheny Front’s Julie Grant reports.

Legal “Moonshine” Distilleries:

As we’ve been reporting here on Inside Appalachia, not all industries in Appalachia are in decline. Some communities are getting back to their roots. Moonshine, at least the name, is making a comeback in Appalachia … legally and seems to be helping revive one community along the way. Bloomery Sweetshine Distillery has attracted around 50,000 tourists to West Virginia since it opened in 2011. Jefferson County has been called the leader in tourism and economic impact in the state thanks to agri-tourism. And as Liz McCormick of West Virginia Public Radio reports, the company credits location, all natural ingredients, and the people for the success so far.

Moonshine Distillery in Alabama:

Appalachian states like of Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, and North Carolina have held tight to the moonshine business even when the government wanted to ban the hard liquor. It’s a long standing tradition for some folks even today. But now folks outside of our region are taking note of the high proof spirits of moonshine, or at least the name. With more and more of these legal moonshine distilleries popping up across the country, is there a moonshine renaissance underway? Just south of the Appalachian mountains in Alabama, WBHM reporter Andrew Yeager recently toured one of these distilleries.

The Bourbon Industry Continues to grow in Kentucky.

Last week, the Kentucky Distillers’ Association inducted seven new Kentucky distillers to its group- KDA President Eric Gregory said the group’s 27 members are the most since the 1930s when distilleries reemerged after the repeal of Prohibition. And with more than a dozen distilleries announced or under construction, Gregory said that number could easily swell to 40 next year. Kentucky Bourbon is now a $3 billion industry that generates 15,400 jobs with an annual payroll of more than $700 million.

Bourbon Tales:

The Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History at the University of Kentucky has been partnering with the Kentucky Distillers Association on a project which it’s calling Bourbon Tales. WUKY‘s Alan Lytle sat down with Dr. Doug Boyd– who is helping preserve the stories of master bourbon distillers.

What’s in the Name of Bugtussle, KY?

Have you ever driven by a town and wondered how in the world did they come up with that name? Here on Inside Appalachia, we’ve started a new segment called What’s in a Name, where we explore the history and folklore behind towns throughout Appalachia.

There are quite a few towns throughout Appalachia that get their names from animals- there’s Panther, WV, Duck Town, TN and Racoon KY. And there are those that get their name from insects- There’s Tickbite and Shoofly NC, Bugtussle, KY and Bugscuffle, TN.

Back again to help us find out the story behind Bugtussle KY is Shane Simmons. We talked with him from the WETS station in Johnson City, TN. Shane has been researching odd town names throughout Appalachia for a series of oral histories, called The Appalachian Project.

If you have another story about Bugtussle or if you’ve always wondered, what the heck is the story behind that town’s name- send us a tweet and we might explore it … Inside Appalachia.

Women Modernizing the Art of Butchery:

For generations, women in the meat industry have worked for low pay in slaughterhouses or in other support positions. Now, a small but growing number of American women are taking charge in the meat business as owners. WUNC reporter Leoneda Inge talked with some of the butchers who are leading the way, including Kari Underly, who, according to her website, is “modernizing the art of butchery”. Tootie Jones, who owns Swift Level Farm in W.Va.  says Underly has inspired her.

Music in today’s show was provided by The Boatmen with “Ease Your Troubles”,

Andy Agnew Jr., Jake Schepps, and the Glennville State Bluegrass Band


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