When I was a kid my grandparents lived at Garrison, deep in the Mark Twain national forest. Now days when you travel State Hwy. 125 to Garrison, passing through the towns of Sparta and Chadwick, there are numerous new homes built along the way. It's fairly populated and civilized now. But back in the '60's when we drove that road it was dark, isolated and scary. It was boogery country. As a kid I could imagine all the stories my dad and grandpa told me and one that fascinated me the most was the stories about the Bald Knobbers.
They were a group of vigilantes that sprang up before the Civil War and were not disbanded until the turn of the century. They started out with good intentions but their power went to their heads and things ended up bad.
As we drove to my grandparents house, my dad would point out places connected to the Bald Knobbers. There is a cemetery in Sparta where several members of the Bald Knobbers are buried. Back then you could barely tell there were any headstones even there because it was so grown up and neglected. Now days they keep it mowed. I keep meaning to go and take some pictures. You see, members of my family were Bald Knobbers. They were from the Walker families living in the area. Dave Walker was the top guy of the Christian County Bald Knobbers. They pretty much stayed in the south and east parts of Christian County. Men with guilty consciences lost lots of sleep each night, because like I said, the Bald Knobbers started out for the good of their communities. They captured and punished horse thieves and murderers and men who wouldn't take care of their families. There wasn't much law in that part of the country. It was wilderness.
Dad said there was a cave north of Chadwick that the Christian County Bald Knobbers used for meetings. He said as a boy he and his brother looked for it but never did find it.
I remember being with my Grandpa one day driving over to some friends when he pointed towards some Balds, these are what Ozarkers call the mountain tops in the Ozarks, and he said they were the Snapp's Balds and the biggest one was Dewey Bald and there use to be a big tree on top and the Bald Knobbers used it for a hanging tree. The also used Dewey Bald to build signal fires on.
But like I said, things went south and several Bald Knobbers ended up getting hanged. The stories still fascinated me as a kid and still do. We have Bald Knobbers today but they are known as the musical show in Branson, the Baldknobbers. They put on a good time too.
Ham and Beans
We love beans here in the Ozarks. Most hillbillys grew up eating beans about every day in one way or another.
At my house I always have some type of beans cooked up. They are so good for you and they are just plain delish. I might have a pot of Red Beans and Rice made up or some Black Eyed Peas or maybe just some Butter Beans. We try to eat some beans every day. Very healthy and nutritious with 14 grams or better of fiber and 7 + grams of protein. A diet high in beans helps lower cholesterol. There is no fat in beans other than what you put in them to cook.
Today I'm cooking brown (pinto) beans.
1 - pound pinto beans, picked over and washed
1-2 cups cut up ham pieces (it just depends on how much ham you want in your beans, maybe more than 2 cups)
2 1/2 quarts (10 cups) of water
3 tablespoons canola oil
1-2 sliced in strips jalapenos and seeds
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons salt
1) Brown ham pieces in the oil in large pot/dutch oven. Get the ham nice and browned, this adds lots of flavor to the beans.
2) Add washed beans and pour in the water. Add baking soda and salt. The reason for the baking soda is it is suppose to help with the after effects of the beans, you know the GAS. I guess it helps but I think the more beans you eat the more your system gets use to them.
3) Add the sliced jalapenos and their seeds. I'll share a tip with you. I love jalapeno peppers but I hate having to wear plastic gloves to cut them up to keep my skin from melting off, actually your skin does not literally melt off it just feels like it. So I coat my fingers with cooking oil it this guards against the burn. Just drip oil over your fingers and smear it around real good any where the peppers are going to touch. Re-apply oil as needed to keep your fingers oiled up well. So much easier that trying to wear gloves. Just make sure when you are finished that you work liquid soap into your fingers and under your dry hands and then wash off and repeat wash. Scrape the seeds of the white membrane (the pith) making sure you discard all the pith, this is the really, really, really hot part of the pepper. Add peppers and seeds to the pot of beans.
4) Bring the beans to a boil over high heat, cover and lower heat to low. Cook, stirring frequently and checking to make sure there is enough water, a good two inches or better over top of beans. Continue cooking for about two hours or until beans are tender.
5) Remove lid and turn beans on high. Now you can use a large spoon and mash some of the beans against the side of the pot or take about a large spoonful of beans and mash them on a saucer. Put these mashed beans back in pot and continue boiling beans for 10 to 15 minutes stirring frequently. This will thicken up the beans. Taste and add more salt if needed and pepper. Top beans with onions to serve or not, whatever floats your boat.
Just remember beans are really good for you and most men love beans so fix them for your loved ones. They'll thank ya.
You can serve your brown beans with cornbread or I like them with fried mush.
2 - pounds boneless pork or shredded ham or no meat at all
2 - quarts boiling salted water (2 teaspoons salt)
1-1/2 - cups corn meal
2 - cups cold water
salt and pepper to taste
canola oil for frying
Simmer pork in boiling salted water until meat is very tender about 2 hours. With fork, shred the cooked meat into fine pieces. If using cooked ham you do not need to cook in boiling salted water, just shred ham. Save 1 quart of the water (now stock) that the pork cooked in.
Bring to boil the 1 quart of saved stock or if using ham bring to boil 1 quart of water.
Mix corn meal and cold water. Stir into boiling stock/water. Cook, stirring until thick. Add seasonings. Stir the pork or ham, if using, into corn meal mush and cook 5 minutes. Pour into buttered loaf pan, 9x5x3".
Chill until firm. Run spatula around edges of mush in pan to loosen sides, turn out onto cutting board. Mush will still be fairly soft but will hold its shape. Slice 1/2 inch thick.
Put flour into shallow dish and lay mush slices in flour and dust top with more flour. Lay mush slices into skillet with heated oil and fry till good and browned and flip and fry other side.
My favorite way to fry the mush is to slice a piece of mush and take just enough to form a ball the size of a golf ball and flatten out to dinky burger size or the size of a sausage patty and do not dip in flour, just fry naked. To me this is the best way and the mush comes out crisp and tastes a lot like fritos to me. BUT let me tell you this is VERY, VERY messy. The mush pops grease out everywhere so you need one of those screen thingies that you put on top of skillets when you are frying to keep grease from popping out. AND it is still a mess. But I think it is worth it. But if you want to dip in flour and fry over low heat it is a lot less messy and still extremely good.
Serve up with your beans.
As you can see I like my mush pattie nice and brown!
You'ns come back now ya hear!