A Midsummer Sunday Dinner, ca. 1920 with Heaven Hill Distillery

We are pleased to welcome Heaven Hill Distillery on Wednesday, July 31 for our next whiskey dinner with the Big Jones Bourbon Society. For this installment of our whiskey dinner series, we once again turn to Appalachia, on this occasion drawing inspiration and a few recipes from The Foxfire Book of Appalachian Cookery, a wonderful book of stories and recipes gathered in the 1970’s from old-timers throughout Appalachia who remembered the old way of doing things, many of them continuing to cook on wood stoves and save their own calf’s stomach cuttings (for the rennet, to make cheese) even into the modern era, and the old Time Life book on Southern Cooking from the Craig Claiborne era that was penned by our beloved Eugene Walter.

You can look forward to tasting five whiskies from one of the world’s greatest distilleries and one of the two powerhouses of bourbon. Heaven Hill makes among many other fine spirits, Evan Williams, Elijah Craig, Rittenhouse, Bernheim, and the elite whiskies of the Parker’s Heritage Collection. Regulars at Big Jones know we have an insatiable taste for the Rittenhouse flagship rye, and Bourbon Society members will remember Whiskey of the Month features of Larceny and Elijah Craig 12 Year, and for July we can look forward to Bernheim, a plush wheated bourbon worthy of everyone’s top shelf.

There can be little doubt that Appalachia’s historic cooking is as distinctive and peculiar as any other in the South, including that of South Louisiana and the Lowcountry, however because of the region’s historic remoteness and lack of urban centers (though some emerged as the 20th century bore on even as the region’s foodways were disintegrating) there was never a collection of well-distributed cookbooks on the subject, making real and genuine stories on Appalachian cookery that much harder to come by, and at least for me personally, as romantic as it is elusive.

You might notice the oddity of the title referring to Sunday dinner, while this is scheduled on a Wednesday night. It’s a reference to the tradition of post-church service dinners, which through the 19th century into the 20th century took place on Sundays, the one day a week most families set aside leisure time, which was often accompanied by the week’s most extravagant meal. This was the dinner which most prized ingredients and favorite recipes were saved for, so the Sunday dinner tradition provides the richest trove of recipes upon which we can draw.

We’ll be highlighting a collection of historic ingredients and preparations that would be common in mid-summer, and you might notice the conspicuous absence of fresh meat – everything has been salted or cured. Fresh proteins that would be available during summers in the mountains had be wild-caught or fished.

The historic backcountry charm of this style of cooking and its waste not, want not ethics of using everything and consuming in moderation has long struck me as the perfect pairing for whiskey, a beverage with a rich history in Appalachia even as its epicenter eventually moved west to the Ohio River Valley and the head of the Buffalo Trace. Given four seasons every year, and the many little mini seasons within seasons when it comes to farming and gardens, I suspect there’s enough Appalachia to explore for years to come. This dinner, being on July 31, celebrates some mid-summer goodness from the land of hogs, corn, and whiskey.

Reservations are available by calling 773-275-5725

Wednesday July 31, 2013

6:00 reception, 7:00 dinner

Corn Fritters with Fried Okra and Zucchini, Homemade Mayonnaise and Pepper Sauce

Turnip Greens Cooked with Potato Snowballs and Ham Hocks

Crackling Cornbread with Sweet Cream Butter and Juneberry Jelly

Pan-Fried Smoked Ham with Crowder Peas, Blue Corn Hominy Cooked with Streak of Lean and Onions, and Pickled Peaches

Sliced Tomatoes with Malt Vinegar, Herbs, and Buttermilk on the Side

Blackberry and Marrow Pudding Pie with Cherokee Sweetmint Ice Cream

Heaven Hill Whiskies to be poured:

Rittenhouse Rye

Elijah Craig 12 Year

Larceny

Bernheim

Evan Williams Single Barrel

Fifty dollars per person including tax and gratuity