When the “Free the Hops” bill passed the Alabama Legislature in 2009, it removed some of the major hurdles restricting beer production and ushered in a new era of Alabama brewing.
Fast forward to 2017, and there are currently almost 30 craft breweries here, and they’ve all tapped into the energy and interest created by industry trailblazers like Back Forty Beer and its founder, Jason Wilson.
Started in 2009 and based in Gadsden, Ala., Back Forty has been a major player in Alabama’s beer boom from the beginning and is now the state’s largest craft brewery in terms of production volume, turning out the equivalent of approximately 350,000 bottles of beer about every two weeks.
Wilson shares his company’s story and stresses why even non-beer drinkers should be excited by the fact that for Alabama breweries, business is hopping. – Jennifer Kornegay
What does “craft beer” mean?
It means a commitment to quality and process over profits and efficiency. Craft beers – and the rise of their popularity – prove that there is so much more to experience in beer than just the classic American light lager. That beer has its time and place, but I really encourage people to branch out.
When did you discover “craft beer”?
I had just turned 21. (laughs) No, I promise. I’m not saying I’d never had a beer before that, but I was visiting my brother in Colorado in 2001, and we went to this small, local brewery and started sampling their stuff. I had this great beer and said, “Man, this is amazing!” A guy popped up from behind the bar and said, “Thanks.” He was the brewer. I stayed up into the wee hours of the morning talking to him; we were sitting on kegs, and he was telling me all about the beer he made.
How did Back Forty get started?
When I left Colorado, I came back to Alabama, went back to college at Auburn, graduated and ended up working in logistics for Georgia Pacific, which meant I traveled a lot. Everywhere I went I sought out the local craft brewery. In 2005, I met Jamie Ray, the brewer behind The Montgomery Brew Pub, and we became friends.
By 2008, I had developed a full-fledged passion for craft beer, and my boss at GP could tell. He actually encouraged me to pursue it. Breweries were uncharted territory in Alabama at that time, and I didn’t think a bank would loan me money for a facility, but I raised money from friends and family, and reached out to Lazy Magnolia brewery in Mississippi. The timing was right; they had just expanded and had room to brew and package my beer, so we did a contract brewing arrangement. With Jamie’s help, I got my recipe down, and in 2009, we put out our first beer and Back Forty was born. We operated that way for 18 months. In 2011, we started brewing in our own place in downtown Gadsden.
Where does the name come from?
Back Forty is an old agriculture term. The “back forty” acres on a farm are the furthest from the barn, the hardest to irrigate and work. They’re under appreciated. But if you ever take the time to clear that land and nurture it, you get a great yield. It’s virgin ground. That’s how I saw the brewing industry in Alabama. I felt like the phrase just fit what I hoped we were going to do.
Why base Back Forty Beer in Gadsden instead of a larger city?
I’m a fifth-generation Gadsden native. But, like most kids, when I left for college, I said I was never coming back. When the steel plant shut down in the city, it hit the area hard, and there just wasn’t much to come back to. But by 2007, I sensed a renewed energy in my hometown. I saw other young people coming back.
Downtown was revitalizing, with new businesses opening up down there. I realized that from a logistics standpoint, with a major interstate (I-59) right beside it, it made plenty of sense. And I saw an opportunity to make a positive difference there, to be a part of the change that was needed.
Why should people who don’t even drink beer care about the craft beer boom in our state?
Jobs and tax revenue. Craft breweries generate both. We now have more than 350 people directly working in the industry in the state, and Alabama breweries have an annual economic impact in the billions of dollars. Plus, we bump up the state’s image to visitors, and tourism is crucial in the state.
Crews from 19 of Alabama’s rural electric cooperatives were sent to help five Florida electric cooperatives with power restoration in the wake of Hurricane Irma in September. More than 210 men joined forces with their fellow cooperatives in areas affected by the hurricane, which left more than 75 percent of Floridians without electricity.
Alabama’s crews are part of a nationwide effort by 5,000 electric cooperative workersmobilized to restore power to an estimated 1 million cooperative members left in the dark as Hurricane Irma left a path of destruction through the Southeast.
Confronting the aftermath of high winds and heavy rain, mutual aid linemen from more than 25 states were at work at co-ops in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina. Peak outage estimates indicated there were 760,000 co-op outages in Florida, 535,000 in Georgia and 100,000 in South Carolina.
“Alabama’s cooperatives are always willing to help our fellow cooperatives when there is a need,” said Fred Braswell, president and CEO of the Alabama Rural Electric Association, which represents Alabama’s 22 electric cooperatives. AREA coordinated the statewide response to the massive power outage.
Alabama’s cooperatives were mobilized to assist Clay, Suwanee Valley, Central Florida, Tri-County and Okefenokee electric cooperatives. Cooperatives helping in the effort were Covington, Baldwin EMC, Marshall-DeKalb, Joe Wheeler EMC, Pioneer, South Alabama, Central Alabama, Cullman, Dixie, Cherokee, North Alabama, Black Warrior EMC, Coosa Valley, Sand Mountain, Wiregrass, Clarke-Washington EMC, Tombigbee, Pea River and Southern Pine.
Alabama’s 22 rural electric cooperatives deliver power to more than 1 million people, or a quarter of the state’s population, and they maintain more than 71,000 miles of power line.ν
Need a local source of fun, fresh fruit this fall and winter? It’s as easy as minding your Ps and Ks — as in persimmons, pomegranates, pawpaws, kiwifruit and kumquats.
These often lesser known, or a least lesser grown, fruits are now, or soon will be, in season, and they are all easy to grow additions to the home garden and landscape.
Many of us grew up eating (or at least attempting to eat) the fruit of the American persimmon, a native tree that produces golden-orange, muscadine-size fruits which, when they fully ripen in the fall, are morsels of sweetness (some say they taste like dates) enjoyed by humans and wildlife alike.
The problem with native persimmons is that unripe persimmons are high in the astringent, pucker-producing compound tannic acid. But ripe ones are soft, delicious and, according to folklore, predictors of winter weather. Slice their seeds in half and take a gander at the shape therein: a spoon shape indicates snow to shovel, a knife shape warns of cutting winter winds and a fork shape predicts a mild winter with good eating.
Though ripe American persimmons make fine eating whether consumed out-of-hand or in puddings, preserves and other dishes, their small size can make preparing them a bit of a bother. However, there are now a number of larger-fruited Asian (sometimes called oriental) persimmons available to us. These persimmons produce gorgeous orange to reddish, baseball-sized fruits that ripen more readily and reliably than their native cousins.
Another fruit that comes from our own native woods is the pawpaw, an understory tree that produces large greenish-black mango-like fruits with a custardy texture and sweet, sometimes nutty, tropical flavor. Pawpaws reportedly helped sustain the Lewis and Clark expeditioners in the early 1800s and these days they are used in puddings, ice creams and sorbets and to flavor breads, smoothies and even craft beer.
Pomegranates, which are not native to the Alabama but have been here so long many of us consider them ours, provide a whole different taste experience. These gorgeous shrubs to small trees produce a handsome leathery fruit filled with sweet-tart arils (the flesh covering the seed) that are delicious to munch on, sprinkle on salads and desserts, press for juice or cook down into a syrup.
Kumquats, another nonnative plant that’s been grown in the South for generations, are citrus shrubs that produce small (about the size of a shooter-type marble) orange-colored fruits. They are delicious simply peeled and popped into your mouth, but also are fabulous candied or used in jellies. While they are more common in the Gulf Coast area of Alabama, cold-hardy cultivars can be grown as far north as Huntsville if they are shielded from winter winds and cold by planting them in pots or on a protected southern wall.
And then there is the kiwifruit, another import that grows well in much of Alabama, especially in the central part of the state. This woody vine, which has variegated foliage that starts out green and develops attractive mottled white spots and sometimes a pink tip as it matures, produces egg-sized fuzzy fruits with greenish-yellow flesh that tastes somewhere between berries and bananas.
The thing about all of these plants is that, while you’re waiting for them to produce fruit (and for some that may take up to six years), they can be attractive flowering additions to the landscape in areas of full to partial sun. And this fall and on into early winter are great times to plant them. Make sure you choose a variety or cultivar that is best suited for your area of the state and keep in mind that for some, such as pawpaws and persimmons, you may need to purchase two plants to ensure cross pollination for proper fruit production.
To learn more about these Ps and Ks, check with your local experts, including the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, Master Gardener groups, plant nurseries and fellow gardeners. And keep your eyes peeled for educational events, such as an oriental persimmon tour that will be held Oct. 15 at 2 p.m. at Petals from the Past nursery in Jemison, that feature these and other fun fruit options.
In this periodic feature, we highlight books either about Alabama people or events or written by Alabama authors. Summaries are not reviews or endorsements. We also occasionally highlight book-related events. Email submissions to firstname.lastname@example.orgDue to the volume of submissions, we are unable to feature all the books we receive.
Game of My Life: Alabama Crimson Tide, by Tommy Hicks, Sports Publishing, $24.99 (sports). Longtime sportswriter Hicks has updated his memorable stories of Alabama football, from Harry Gilmer and his play in the 1946 Rose Bowl to Mark Ingram becoming the Tide’s first Heisman Trophy winner in 2009. Several former players share their memories of the Tide’s most memorable games.
Keep Your Airspeed Up: The Story of a Tuskegee Airman, by Harold H. Brown and Marsha S. Bordner, University of Alabama Press, $29.95 (memoir). Brown rose from the despair of racial segregation to become a noted military aviator and educator. Col. Brown fought as a combat pilot with the 332nd Fighter Group during World War II; after the war, he joined the Strategic Air Command before earning his Ph.D. and serving as an administrator at what is now Columbus State Community College.
North Alabama Beer: An Intoxicating History, by Sarah Belanger and Kamara Bowling Davis, Arcadia Publishing, $21.99 (local history). The authors trace the history of beer in north Alabama from the early saloon days before Prohibition to the craft beer explosion that’s occurred just in the last decade. The book features many historical and current photos that help tell the story.
Earline’s Pink Party: The Social Rituals and Domestic Relics of a Southern Woman, by Elizabeth Findley Shores, University of Alabama Press, $29.95 (Southern culture/memoir). The author sifts through her family’s scattered artifacts to understand her grandmother’s life in relation to the troubled racial history of Tuscaloosa. The book is an analysis of the life of a small-city matron in the Deep South that offers a new way of thinking about white racial attitudes.
The Grumpy Gardener: An A to Z Guide from the Country’s Most Irritable Green Thumb, by Steve Bender, Time Inc., $25.99 (gardening/humor). Gardeners everywhere have turned to Bender, Southern Living’s senior garden editor, for his keen knowledge and gardening know-how delivered with equal doses of sarcasm and humor for nearly 35 years. The book also features his rules for gardening, Q&As and his favorite reader responses.
The Best of Alabama Living: Favorite Recipes from Alabama’s Largest Lifestyle Magazine, published by the Alabama Rural Electric Association, $19.95. Alabama Living’s most popular feature is its recipes, and last year we collected some of the best ones from the last few years and published our own spiral-bound cookbook. The book includes a forward from Patricia “Sister Schubert” Barnes, profiles of some of the featured cooks and beautiful photography. Order your copy online at alabamaliving.coop, or send a check to Alabama Living Cookbook, P.O. Box 244014, Montgomery, AL 36124.
Jimmy Koikos believes in downtown Bessemer so much that he insists his family heirloom of a restaurant, The Bright Star, stay in this town sandwiched between Tuscaloosa and Birmingham, continuing to beckon the 3,500 patrons that visit each week.
To walk through downtown Bessemer in 2017 is to take a walk through a faded Pleasantville, filled with the occasional bicyclist and city bus. Old neon block-letter signs for jewelers and furniture stores anchor streets filled with empty storefronts, many of which left in a mass exodus in the 1980s.
But build a star, and they will come — in droves — for lunch.
“There are a few empty spaces,” said longtime owner Koikos, “but we feel real good about the future of Bessemer. If you moved it, it wouldn’t be the same.”
The Bright Star claims it is “America’s oldest family owned experience,” dating back to 1907. Back then, the chicken noodle soup cost a nickel at this meat-and-three, and 110 years later, regulars drive 40 miles to eat here every day. Fresh fish including snapper, delivered twice a week from Panama City, and aged steaks made the menu famous. The restaurant serves lunch and dinner and closes an hour in the afternoon to shift to heavier dinner fare.
The establishment’s bestselling dishes are the snapper and the Greek-style beef tenderloin, which won the honor of “best steak” in the state from the Alabama Cattlemen’s Association in 2012.
For lunch, diners’ top requests include the Fried Snapper Almondine and Fried Snapper Throats.
Lemon icebox pie, strawberry shortcake and bread pudding top reviews and palettes for dessert.
Nick Saban has a sweet spot for the pies, as he wrote in a framed letter on one of the many walls of newspaper clips, photos and celebrities singing The Bright Star’s praises. Sandra Bullock takes her father, Jimmy, here. There’s a special Alabama football room dedicated to Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant, and in sincere sportsmanship, an Auburn table sits under a photo of a grinning Cam Newton.
Koikos is a diehard Alabama football fan, from his crimson tie to his red plaid button-down shirt, embellished with a small elephant.
The decor, mostly green and brass with dark wood booths and marble tabletops, could pass for a dining car in an old train. Guests of honor, including Bullock, are honored with nameplates.
Wall-size murals from the main dining room, formerly layered with sticky, brown muck from decades of cigarette smoke and grease, are clearing to their early 1900s glory. A European artist traveling through Alabama offered to paint the Mediterranean scenes in exchange for food and board. It’s taken three years for the renovation.
In further respect to The Bright Star’s storied past, its sign that has hung outside on 19th Street North since 1947 is also being refurbished.
“This is a museum with food,” one new guest observed to Koikos.
He has been prepping his family’s legacy with Andreas Anastassakis, who oversees daily operation and occasionally cooks. Anastassakis came from Toronto seven years ago to run the place. They are second cousins and connected though their familial Greek Orthodox faith. Years ago, Anastassakis baptized Koikos’ sister’s daughter’s son.
“We are blessed to have someone in the family take over The Bright Star,” Koikos says.
“It’s really a dream come true at the end of the day,” Anastassakis says.
As in any sustaining business, food is far from the only ingredient to longevity.
Koikos and Anastassakis prize customer service in combining their Greek heritage with a bit of southern hospitality.
“We try to touch each table,” Anastassakis says. “That’s not something you see at most restaurants.”
Koikos also believes in investing in his restaurant. The Bright Star saw a $350,000 kitchen expansion in 2012 and remodeling and periodical restoration to original tiles and ceilings.
This year, Anastassakis added catering to the menu.
“I wanted to leave my footprint,” he says. “I also wanted to take the opportunity and expand on it as well.”
Heat and cool your home without blowing your budget
Q: My husband and I are tired of paying such high electric bills during the winter. We think our winter bills are high because of our baseboard heaters, and our summer bills are high because of our window AC units. Our neighbor just installed a ductless heat pump system in their home. Do you think that would work for us?
A: Mini-split ductless heat pumps are becoming more popular for good reason. They can heat efficiently even when winter temperatures drop below the freezing point, and they are an economical and energy efficient replacement for window AC units.
Ductless heat pumps are often installed as the primary heating source and paired with a backup system that kicks in when outside temperatures are extremely cold.Baseboard heaters are an electric resistance system, and use much more energy than a heat pump, which is just moving heat in or out of the home. If you make this change, you should reduce your heating costs considerably. Heat pumps work harder as the outside air temperature drops, but combining the heat pump with a backup heating system solves that problem.
I recently spoke with Joe Hull, an Energy Services Advisor with Midstate Electric Cooperative in Oregon. Members there have found that ductless systems with a backup heating system can work effectively to as low as -28 Fahrenheit.
Ductless heat pump systems could be an ideal solution if your home doesn’t have a duct system. If your existing ductwork is in poor condition, installing a ductless heat pump may be more practical or less expensive than repairing, sealing and insulating ducts.
A ductless heat pump has two main components: the outdoor compressor and the indoor air handler. Coolant and electrical lines run through a conduit from the compressor outside the home through the wall to the inside air handler(s).
Ductless heat pumps can be configured in different ways. A common approach that could deliver the most value is to provide heating and cooling to one large zone in the home by using a single compressor and a single air handler. Or you could use one compressor to power as many as four inside air handlers, each with its own thermostat. A home could even have more than one outside compressor.
Scott Mayfield, an expert from Kootenai Electric Cooperative in Idaho, said installing a ductless system in his home had benefits beyond cost savings. “With baseboard heaters, the heat used to rise along the walls, but with the new ductless system, it flows throughout the rooms evenly. It would have been worth switching to ductless for the comfort alone.”
In some parts of the country, ductless mini-splits are becoming more popular in new home construction as well. In fact, a friend of mine in Hood River, Oregon had a ductless system installed in her new home.
Ductless heat pumps are often a great solution, but as you explore this option it would be wise to consider:
What are the other investments you could make to reduce your energy costs or improve comfort? Is the ductless heat pump the best option? A thorough energy audit of your home will help answer these questions.
Are rebates offered by your electric co-op?
What is the best size and efficiency level for a ductless heat pump in your situation?
Are there contractors in your area with experience installing ductless heat pumps?
Contact your local electric co-op for a list of recommended contractors, and visit www.energystar.gov for tips on hiring contractors.ν
“Goat” Hollis began hunting the bobwhite 77 years ago, and hasn’t stopped since
Seventy-seven years ago, 9-year-old James H. Hollis held his 20-gauge Sears and Roebuck single-barrel shotgun close to his chest as he inched past the English pointer locked up on point, just behind a covey of wild bobwhites. As the young hunter passed the dog, an eruption of bobwhites filled the sky in front of him.
Briefly startled, but recovering quickly, young Hollis swung the barrel toward his target and pulled the trigger. A direct hit tumbled the bird as feathers floated down on a gentle breeze. “Goat” Hollis, as he is known locally, had just bagged his first bobwhite and sealed his fate as a quail hunter for life.
Today, at 86, he is still chasing the bobwhite across the hills and hollows of Crenshaw County.
Hollis enjoys telling new acquaintances how he got his nickname, “Goat.”
“When I was 6 years old, my uncle bought me a billy goat and a little red wagon with a harness so I could hitch my goat to the wagon. I would ride my wagon, pulled by my goat, all over Brantley. People would meet me on the sidewalk and say ‘Hello, Goat.’ This continued for some time until I got rid of my goat and people kept saying ‘Hello, Goat.’ All that time I thought they were telling the goat hello, but it was really me they were talking to,” Hollis laughs.
After killing that first bobwhite, Hollis says he got his first bird dog at age 10. “My first dog was an English pointer, but over the years I have had many different breeds. I’ve hunted with English pointers, English and Irish setters, and Brittany spaniels. The best birddog I ever had was a ‘drop,’ which is a cross between a pointer and setter. You don’t see many drops today, but they were fairly common when we had a lot of wild quail.”
Bobwhite quail were abundant through the 1950s and ’60s, but began a decline in the ’70s. By the 1980s, it was hardly worth a hunter’s trouble to hunt wild birds exclusively.
“My hunting buddy and birddog trainer, Tommy Russell of Luverne, Ala., and I stock our hunting land with flight-conditioned, pen-raised bobwhite today, but we both remember the good old days of wild quail hunting. Back when Tommy and I could hold out to walk all day, we found plenty of wild birds up until the early ’80s. Tommy is still just a youngster at 84 and can still outwalk me,” says Hollis with a grin.
Both Hollis and Russell agree that the major decline in wild quail populations was due to habitat change.
“Back when I started hunting quail there were a lot of small farms with corn and peanuts and a large family garden,” Hollis says. “This situation was ideal for quail. Also, people allowed their fence rows to grow up and they burned the woods off every year or two. Again, this created ideal habitat for quail. Also, predators were controlled better back then. The disappearance of these things worked to the detriment of the wild bobwhite. By the early ’80s we began to put out pen-raised birds. Today, that’s all we hunt because wild quail are just not there in huntable numbers.”
Hollis has spent most of his life in Brantley, except for the time he spent in the army during the latter months of the Korean War. He began working at Brantley Bank and Trust in 1956 and became president in 1975. He still puts in a full day’s work most days, unless Tommy Russell calls and suggests a quail hunting trip. When this happens, he often slips out the back door, loads the dogs and heads to the field.
Hollis and Russell like to tell first-time hunting guests about the five-star tailgate meal they have planned for them. They are quite surprised when their hosts break out the bologna, sardines, potted meat and Vienna sausage with vintage Pepsi Cola to wash it down.
Today, Hollis and his guests hunt from modified golf carts or utility vehicles. Rather than “walking the birds up,” they now use a flushing English cocker spaniel, Winnie, named after Hollis’ beloved mother and owned by Hollis’ grandson, Stuart Mash Jr.
While the years have slowed their pace a bit, “Goat” Hollis and Tommy Russell won’t let a few aches and pains associated with the senior years get in the way of a good quail hunt. When Winnie flushes a bobwhite, Hollis leads the bird with his old briar-scratched double barrel and fires. When the bobwhite falls, he once again becomes that excited 9-year-old boy of 77 years ago.ν
With hunting seasons in progress or starting soon, hundreds of thousands of sportsmen will take to the fields, forests and wetlands all across Alabama to pursue everything from doves to deer. Most of them will obey all the laws and participate in a tradition as old as mankind.
But not everyone judiciously obeys every game law. Some make honest mistakes, while others just don’t care or think the laws don’t apply to them. For those people, heed this warning: Someone highly trained and armed may be watching.
By the late 19th century, many conservationists became alarmed by disappearing wildlife populations. For instance, fewer than 500,000 whitetail deer roamed the entire United States around 1900. Few game laws existed in the nation. Where laws existed, states did little enforcement.
About 110 years ago, in November 1907, Rep. Henry Steagall of Dale County introduced legislation to create a professional conservation department named the Alabama Department of Game and Fisheries. In 1971, it was renamed the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
“Steagall authored legislation to create a government agency with authority to protect the dwindling wildlife and fisheries resources of Alabama,” says Kevin Dodd, the executive director of the Alabama Conservation Enforcement Officers Association. “The timing of his actions might seem radical to us, as they occurred when much of the Alabama population lived in rural settings near poverty standards where any game, bird or fish was pursued mainly to supplement the table or family income.”
According to Dodd, who spent 32 years as a conservation enforcement officer and retired earlier this year as the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries chief of law enforcement, Steagall didn’t invent the idea of passing laws to protect wildlife. But he believed many previous laws failed because individual legislators could exempt their districts from the laws – or the local sheriff simply refused to enforce them.
“The legislation introduced by Steagall and supported by many others had been encouraged by outgoing Gov. William Jelks,” Dodd says. “By forming a new government agency to oversee the wise use of wildlife resources, the entire state would be affected rather than selected regions. The bill was a comprehensive package that addressed landowner rights and the use of public waters, established seasons and limits, defined game birds and animals, restricted several activities and mandated penalties for violations.”
The new governor, Braxton Comer, signed the bill into law and appointed Rep. John Wallace of Madison County to serve as the first Department of Game and Fisheries commissioner. Wallace promoted the concept of“conservation through education” to teach people about the laws and why they existed. He also appointed H.M. Henderson and W.F. Sirmon as the first conservation law enforcement officers, or game wardens. More appointments soon followed.
Wallace charged the wardens with enforcing all state game and fish laws. As incentive, the officers could keep a small portion of any fines collected from violators they caught.
“The logic of a state law enforcement officer, who answered to the commissioner rather than local voters, would prove to be the cornerstone that made the legislation successful,” Dodd says. “Turnover in warden ranks was frequent for the first few decades as the law and its enforcers were slow to gain public acceptance. Some of the 1908 convictions for violations of the new game law included a state senator, a sheriff and a county solicitor. Such prosecution would likely never have occurred when local sheriffs were solely responsible for enforcement.”
The new laws and the enforcement of them gradually became accepted as animal populations began to recover. During the Great Depression, the governor at the time decided to cut the game warden program to save money. Sportsmen across the state vociferously objected to that idea. The governor backed down and the game wardens stayed on the job.
“These citizens recognized that any progress gained over decades would be quickly lost if the enforcement arm of the game and fish program were diminished or removed, a fact that remains especially relevant today,” Dodd says. “The idea of a state law enforcement officer pledged to enforce laws protecting public wildlife resources was an idea born in North America and since copied around the world.”
Today, sportsmen contribute more than $2 billion annually to the Alabama economy and the populations of many game and fish species flourish. Twice as many whitetail deer live in Alabama now than existed in the entire nation a century ago. Sportsmen enjoy long seasons and liberal limits that allow everyone to participate in the great outdoors all year long if they wish.
However, new generations of highly trained professional “Wallace’s Wardens” are still watching. They continue to make sure everyone obeys the rules or suffers the consequences.
John N. Felsher lives in Semmes, Ala. He’s a professional freelance writer and photographer with more than 2,500 articles published in more than 150 different magazines. Contact him through Facebook.
Enjoying any of our reader-submitted pie recipes is as easy as, well, you know.
Pie occupies a prominent place in Southern food culture. Almost any occasion that brings people together probably has pie on the menu: family reunions, Sunday dinners and Fourth of July celebrations. What’s a Southern Thanksgiving without some kind of hearty pie? No matter what else you eat (or how much you eat), you know you’ve got to save room for at least a sliver of your grandma’s, mother’s, aunt’s (or uncle’s!) “insert family specialty here” pie.
And while apple pie is one of the quintessential symbols of America, perhaps pecan or peach should take that role for our region. Paying homage to and highlighting distinctly Southern ingredients, they both offer a slice of our area’s authentic, homey charm in every bite.
But that’s just an opinion. Perhaps you’d pick blueberry or buttermilk. Or maybe you prefer savory pies, stuffed with veggies, cheeses and even meat. Whatever slice selection sounds the most satisfying to you, you’ll probably find something similar among the bevy of reader-submitted recipes we got for this issue.
Cook of the Month:
Debbie Holder, Baldwin EMC
Debbie Holder grew up loving figs, thanks to the heavy harvest she helped her daddy bring in from an aunt’s fig trees each year. When she moved to Foley, Ala., in 2004, she ended up with a neighbor who has fig trees and who happens to be generous with them. “I would make fig preserves and muffins out of them,” Debbie said, “but I wanted to try something different, so I thought I’d put them in a pie.” The first time she made the pie, she didn’t have quite enough fruit, so she augmented her filling with pecans. “It turned out great. The two really go together,” she said. And since her favorite part of any pie is the crust, she made her new creation a double-crust pie.
3 cups peeled figs
1 cup chopped pecans
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4-1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup flour
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
Deep-dish pie crust
1 ready-to-bake pie crust (for top)
Combine figs, pecans, lemon juice, brown sugar and flour, refrigerate for 30 minutes. Bake deep-dish pie shell for 12 minutes or until just starting to brown. Pour fig mixture in pie shell and cover with pats of cold butter. Place ready-to-bake pie crust on top and crimp edges with fork. Trim excess pie dough around edges and place dough designs on top. Cut four diagonal slits in top crust. Beat egg, and using pastry brush, cover top of pie. Sprinkle granulated sugar on top. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. (If top is not golden brown, turn oven to broil for two minutes.)
2pie shells, unbaked
2 cups sugar
½ cup cocoa
½ cup self-rising flour
2 sticks margarine, melted
2 teaspoons vanilla flavoring
1 cup chopped pecans (optional)
Mix all ingredients and pour into unbaked pie shells. Bake at 325 degrees for 35-40 minutes. Serve with vanilla ice cream.
Opal Frost, Joe Wheeler EMC
Coconut Pineapple Pie
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup light corn syrup
1 cup flaked coconut
1 8-ounce can crushed pineapple, undrained
3 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 9-inch deep-dish pie crust
½ stick butter, melted
In a bowl, combine sugar and flour. Add syrup, coconut, pineapple, eggs and vanilla and mix well. Pour into pastry shell. Drizzle with butter. Bake at 350 degrees for 50-55 minutes or until knife inserted into middle of pie comes out clean. Cover loosely with foil if the top browns too quickly. Cool on a wire rack and chill before cutting. Store in the refrigerator.
Trudy Nelson, Central Alabama EC
1 cup whole berry cranberry sauce
½cup brown sugar
Zest of one orange
13-ounce package orange gelatin
1cup heavy cream
19-inch, ready-made crumb crust
In a small saucepan, bring cranberry sauce, brown sugar and orange zest to a boil. Remove from heat; stir in gelatin until dissolved. Transfer to a large bowl. Cover and refrigerate for 45 minutes or until partially set. In a small bowl, beat heavy cream until stiff peaks form. Fold the cream mixture into the gelatin mixture. Spread into pie crust. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours. Garnish with whipped topping. Serves 8.
Mary Donaldson, Covington EC
Chicken Salad Pie
1unbaked 9-inch pie shell
2/3 cup shredded cheese, divided
1cup sour cream
1½ cups chopped, cooked chicken
1small can crushed pineapple, drained
1cup plus 2 tablespoons chopped walnuts or pecans, divided
Prick the bottom and sides of pie shell several times with fork. Sprinkle with 1/3 cup cheese. Bake at 375 degrees for 15-16 minutes or until crust is lightly browned. Cool on a wire rack. Meanwhile, combine sour cream and mayonnaise in a bowl. Stir in the chicken, pineapple, 1 cup walnuts and celery. Pour into cooled crust. Top with remaining cheese and walnuts. Refrigerate for 1 hour or longer before cutting. Yields 6 servings.
Peggy Key, North Alabama EC
Butternut Squash Pie
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons softened butter
1½ cups cooked and mashed squash
1 unbaked pie shell
¾ cup shredded cheddar cheese
Combine eggs, sugar, salt, spices and milk. Add butter to squash and blend with other ingredients. Pour the filling into the pie shell. Bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350 degrees and bake 30 to 40 minutes or until set. Add shredded cheese to hot pie.
Peggy Lunsford, Pea River EC
Farmhouse Peanut Butter Pie
2 9-inch graham cracker pie crusts
1 stick salted butter, room temperature
3 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
1½ cups creamy peanut butter
3cups whipped topping
4cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted
Combine all ingredients with mixer until smooth and creamy. Spread into pie crusts. Add chocolate topping. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
1cup milk chocolate chips
2/3cup of half and half
Combine chips and half and half in a microwavable bowl. Microwave for 5 minutes, pausing to stir often. When chips are melted and mixture is slightly thickened, spread on pies.
Dianne Herring, Wiregrass EC
Walnut Raisin Pie
1cup dark corn syrup
2tablespoons melted butter
1teaspoon vanilla extract
1teaspoon rum extract
1½ cups (6 ounces) walnuts
½ cup raisins
1unbaked 9-inch deep-dish pie crust
Stir first six ingredients together thoroughly using a spoon. Mix in walnuts and raisins. Pour into pie crust. Bake on center rack of oven for 60-70 minutes. Cool for two hours. Store pie in the refrigerator. Top slices with whipped topping if desired.
Patricia Harrison, Pioneer EC
1cup white corn syrup
1cup light brown sugar
1stick melted butter
3whole eggs, slightly beaten
1heaping cup pecans
1unbaked 9-inch pie shell
Mix syrup, sugar, salt, butter and vanilla. Mix in eggs. Prick the pie shell with a fork, and pour mixture into pie shell. You can either sprinkle the pecans over the filling, or mix in with the other ingredients. Bake at 325 degrees for 45 minutes to an hour. Check oven as it bakes.
Sherry Tew, Pea River EC
Blueberry Sour Cream Pie
3cups fresh blueberries (may use frozen but thawed)
2regular unbaked pie shells or 1 deep dish pie shell
1/3cup all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt
½cup sour cream
1cup self-rising flour
½cup cold butter
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Rinse blueberries and remove all stems. (Hint: If blueberries are not sweet enough, sprinkle with sugar and set aside.) Place berries in bottom of pie shells. Combine sugar, flour and salt. Add eggs and sour cream to flour mixture. Spoon over berries.
To make the crumble, combine sugar, flour and cold butter with fork or pastry cutter and sprinkle on top or over pie. Bake at 350 degrees until golden brown for 50 minutes .
Donna Gilliam, Tombigbee EC
Recipe Themes and Deadlines:
Dec. Edible gifts October – 8
Jan. Crock Pot November – 8
Feb. Spicy foods – December 8
Please send us your original recipes, developed by you or family members, and not ones copied from a book or magazine. You may adapt a recipe from another source by changing as little as the amount of one ingredient. Cook of the Month winners will receive $50, and may win “Cook of the Month” only once per calendar year.
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Editor’s Note: Alabama Living’s recipes are submitted by our readers. They are not kitchen-tested by a professional cook or registered dietician. If you have special dietary needs, please check with your doctor or nutritionist before preparing any recipe. Alabama Living reserves the right to reprint recipes in our other publications.