As Southerners turn back to their roots more and more when it comes to food, many are being reintroduced to traditional Southern ingredients. For others, these ingredients never left the plate, and for good reason—not only are they often given freely by the land, they are also delicious. Whether you are searching for new flavor experiences or are just hoping to find new places to enjoy them, look to West Virginia, where you can relish these Appalachian ingredients that are ready to step back into the limelight.
We have especially come to love the products that J.Q. Dickinson Salt-Works creates. Owners and siblings Nancy Bruns and Lewis Payne have taken up their family’s salt business, sourcing brine from the water under their land in Malden, West Virginia, and evaporating and hand-harvesting beautiful, flakey, flavorful salt crystals. We aren’t the only ones who can’t get enough—you can find this local ingredient incorporated into dishes in restaurants in West Virginia and beyond. Read on to find out more about our experience with J.Q. Dickinson Salt-Works.
While you’ve certainly heard of pimiento cheese (and whether you are on the pimiento or pimento side of things), Southerners are always looking for new ways to eat this delicious spread. Secret Sandwich Society in Fayetteville, West Virginia, gets creative with this Southern favorite in their Pimento Cheese Fries. Their homemade pimento cheese is already a decadent topping, but feel free to get the dish “loaded” with jalapenos and bacon. (If you can’t wait for your pimiento cheese fix, enjoy these classic recipes in the meantime. Don’t worry, we understand.)
Looking for something a little sweeter? Stop by Bluegrass Kitchen or Starling Coffee & Provisions for their coveted Blueberry Buttermilk Pie. Incorporating two beloved Appalachian ingredients, this pie is eagerly awaited by customers. West Virginia’s fresh berries and the depth of flavor and texture provided by the buttermilk make a very decadent pie, indeed.
(We couldn’t live without buttermilk—we use it in so many of our recipes! Learn more about one of our favorite ingredients—including how to make some in a pinch.)
Starlings Coffee & Provisions also looks to the hills in springtime and hosts a themed dinner for a well-beloved West Virginia ingredient—the ramp. These delicious wild leeks grow around the Appalachia region in the springtime, and nowhere are they more revered than in West Virginia. When late March rolls around, festivals and dinners pop up all over the state in honor of these pungent bulbs, which are prized by chefs and home cooks alike.
West Virginia’s adoration of the ramp is certainly seen in menus across the state, but nothing shows love like naming yourself after the ingredient. The Wild Ramp in Huntington, West Virginia, is a fresh, locally-minded market. Their attached restaurant, Farm to Table Café, has opened just this year, sourcing from the market and from local farmers. While The Wild Ramp certainly incorporates its namesake ingredient—they hold a ramp-themed event each year named StinkFest, a nod to the ramp’s notoriously odorous nature—Farm to Table Café has become known for their sweeter side, most notably their Buckwheat Belgian Waffles.
Buckwheat has historically been an important ingredient in West Virginia, hardy against the cold winters and perfect for making into thin, brown, cakes—don’t call them pancakes, mind you—these are buckwheat cakes. But folks are using buckwheat for much more these days—take Heston Farm, for instance, whose distillery is using the ingredient to make the only Buckwheat Whiskey produced in the United States. This moonshine-style whiskey is light, sweet, and unique, with a mellowed apple and apricot flavor.
West Virginia is bringing these traditional ingredients back to the forefront of Southern food, and the state is the perfect place for you to experience them. With all of these ingredients there for you to enjoy, how can you stay away?