Often at Cook’s Corner we delve into the unfamiliar as we try to find a remembered taste. Ollie Blake of Homestead asked for help making livermush for her grandfather, who missed the sandwiches his mom packed for lunch when he was growing up in South Carolina.
“I think it's liverwurst,” guessed Jill G. of Ohio, and Suzanne Irving agreed, adding that it is also called braunschweiger.
“I bet it is just a homey version of goose liver paté,” said Guy Marion of Miami.
“It’s probably a Southern colloquialism for Pennsylvania Dutch scrapple,” said Paul Hertzberg of Allentown, Pa.
“I live in the land of livermush,” says Charlotte Observer food editor Kathleen Purvis. “Livermush and liver pudding are big subjects around here. Almost as controversial as barbecue.”
She has written authoritatively about livermush, which she says is, by law, at least 30 percent pork liver, plus other pork meat — usually including meat from the head — cooked until it falls apart. Then it's ground, mixed with cornmeal, seasoned and chilled in a block.
“Sliced and pan-fried, it’s a breakfast meat. Sliced cold, it’s a sandwich filling. Any way you slice it, it tastes like country sausage with a hint of liver. Some people say liver pudding is South Carolina's version, thickened with rice. Others say livermush is just called liver pudding east of the Yadkin River, probably because it sounds nicer. If you're from Pennsylvania, all this might sound familiar. Both liver pudding and livermush are believed to have derived from scrapple, brought down through the Appalachians by German settlers.”
“Growing up in North Carolina, it was not unusual to have livermush for breakfast or lunch,” said Heather Padgett of Belville, N.C. “Mom would slice it up and fry it until it was crispy on the outside (it would still be mushy on the inside), and serve it with scrambled eggs, or on a sandwich.”
“My son-in-law loves it and brought a block of it for me to try,” writes Diane Davis. “He's from Maiden, N.C., and grew up on it. I'm from California and never knew of it, though I knew about scrapple. Each place makes its own version, but there are general guidelines for it. I'm not a fan of it, but if that's all there is to eat, then I'll eat it.”
“I will not presume to say I know what livermush is,” writes Ibby Voorhees, “but it figures prominently as the favorite food of church sexton Russell Jacks in Jan Karon's Mitford series of novels. The books are set in a small North Carolina mountain town. The protagonist is the local parish's Anglican priest. The characters are wonderful. Jacks is laid up in bed and counts on Father Tim to bring him his livermush because he can't get it while recuperating at Nurse Betty's.”
Glenda Schuessler of Watertown, N.Y., says she has been re-reading Karon’s series, and when she encountered livermush she turned to a companion cookbook, Jan Karon's Mitford Cookbook and Kitchen Reader (Viking, 2004). Karon’s instructions:
“Cut three half-inch-thick slices from a loaf of Neese's or Jenkins livermush. Fry in sizzling hot, but not smoking, bacon grease, until golden brown (about 60 seconds on each side). Turn the slices over and repeat. Drain your livermush on a paper towel, and spread mayonnaise on two slices of white bread. … Then you smash the three pieces of livermush between the two bread slices and mash it down with the heel of your hand as flat as it will go.” You can find more about livermush at mitfordbooks.com.
As to a recipe, if anyone really wants it, write or email me and I’ll send one to you, provided by Linda Jennings of Gray, Ga. If you happen to be in the Western Carolinas or within 100 miles of Charlotte, you can find it in some grocery stores. You can also order livermush or liver pudding at neesesausage.com. Or settle for close cousin scrapple, which is more readily available in large supermarkets all over the country.
Thanks also to Leo Moore of Kendall, Judy Nesbit of Washington state, Laralee of Highpoint, N.C., and W.T. from Wilmington, N.C., for sharing their livermush expertise.
With the Superbowl coming up Sunday, I searched new cookbooks for hand-held food beyond the usual standbys and found two savory “cupcakes” that not only are perfect for game day but will appeal as party and fill-the-freezer fare for those who love make-aheads .
The lasagna cupcakes are just one clever idea in the new Betty Crocker 300 Calorie Comfort Food (Houghton Mifflin, $19.99). There are plenty of ethnic recipes — Thai, Mexican, Indian, Greek — and recipes skew toward the quick and make-ahead. The 300 recipes all have less than 300 calories per serving, as well.
The cupcake frittatas are from Eating in Color by dietician Frances Largeman-Roth (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, $27.50). She uses the color spectrum to encourage healthy eating, from forest-green kale to vermilion beets. I was also taken by her red onion and fig pizza and three-berry oat bars in the purple chapter.
Q: My mom used to make fried green tomatoes different than any I’ve ever had since. She breaded the tomatoes with corn flakes and the sweetness just made them taste incredibly good. I’ve tried dipping the slices in buttermilk and then in cornflakes but the coating always comes off when I start frying. Can you figure it out?
A: My gran used to make oven-fried green tomatoes with a cornflake crust. In fact, she used cornflakes to bread her chicken, too, and I remember her saving the last crumbs at the bottom of a box of cereal to shake on top of vegetables. She learned during the Depression to never let anything go to waste.
This is my update of her method for preparing green tomatoes. Doing it in the oven keeps those crumbs from coming off and means you don’t have to use a lot of fat.
Send questions and responses to LindaCiceroCooks@aol.com or Food, The Miami Herald, 3511 NW 91st Ave., Doral, FL 33172. Replies cannot be guaranteed.