“This is a recipe that my Mother-in-law taught me how to cook ground hog.
Dress and cut it up. Put in pot, then bring to boil.* Break up spicewood branches, and put in pot with meat. Boil until the meat is tender. Remove; then salt and pepper; then roll in flour; put in 1/2 cup shortening, preferably bacon grease. Then put in oven and bake until it is brown.
Mrs. Ennis Ownby”
from Mountain Makin’s in the Smokies, published by the Great Smoky Mountains Natural History Association, 1957.
*(“boil” is old-talk for simmer.)
I’ve taken it upon myself in recent weeks to keep the air and all porous surfaces of my house saturated with diverse cultures of yeast. Without pitching anything laboratory-bred, I’ve been setting up the wild, ambient yeasts with a series of ongoing challengesâ€”ferment this, with the vinegar bacteria already at work on it; ferment that, with the really high original gravity (lots and lots of sugar); ferment the other thing, boiled for an hour with the fine-chopped ginger-root. The result, I hope, is a native yeast-home diverse enough to effectively and creatively ferment about anything. Perhaps. For five years this is more or less what I’ve done, and it’s worked very well (though I still fear to test it on malt-based beerâ€”soon, a one gallon batch), and the only difference now is that I’ve made it into a theory, and relating to it more like a personal relationship, or a life-long partnership, or quite-some cooking project.
That fine-chopped ginger-root, and cane sugar, and a little dark molasses, and some lemon juice (all measured without measuring, to taste and by necessity, as usual, as should you do if ye care to learn aught), is my first attempt at ginger-beer. It is a very young ferment. Once it’d cooled I pitched in it a cup of kombucha I had going as starter (yeast starter culture, more populous in active fermentations than even in the 24/7 fermentation-spewn air of my house). Maybe two days later, after stirring several times a day, a very thick, very viscous, very sharp with ginger and lemon foam formedâ€”and I stirred it again, and tasted it, and the flavors were good, so I bottled it. I bottle such things in flip-top bottles, which I don’t bother to sanitize as these things will be refrigerator-stored and drunk within the next one-two weeks. Once in bottle, I leave at room temperature for another 6-24 hours to carbonate, then remove to refrigerator. Like my kombucha, I may do this constantlyâ€”I would for sure, except ginger is an exotic, and expensive, and just doesn’t make much sense, here. So, root beer. Birch beer. I need to find local abundant wild flavorants. Juniper berries, perhaps, which are nearing ripeness. Spice bush. Roots. Need roots.