Supporting Roll

I don’t have to tell you the COVID-19 pandemic has been rough on most small businesses. Food businesses have been hit hard with less foot traffic, traveling, indoor dining and more. Recently, I stopped by a West Virginia small butcher and shop and also decided to order some pepperoni rolls from a new Pittsburgh, PA bakery. All the food was so good! Not only did I get a break from cooking by own food, the experience was really fun.

Farmer’s Daughter

Photo: Farmer's Daughter Sign with meat flag

I have long followed Farmer’s Daughter, a whole animal butchery and full service grocery in Capon Bridge, WV. Pre-Covid, I had plans to make it to one of their many food events at the shop. This month I finally was close enough to for a lunch detour! First, this place is the cutest. They have local food and art products (and PLEASE get the La Vache’s Fleur de Sel caramels — they are so so good). For lunch I picked up one of their small menu sandwich choices of the day. It was a version of a Philly Cheesesteak but so much more. Amazing beef, homemade cheese sauce, peppers, onion, homemade pickles and the best hoagie bread you can imagine. Please follow me to the next photo for Droolfest 2021.

Hoagie/cheese steak sandwich

This sandwich was every bit as good as it looked. The meat was perfectly done and filled the sandwich, the pickles — well they were just the best– the cheese sauce was on point and from someone who doesn’t even love hoagies, I could eat this most days of my life. Yum. Please so check them out and support their cool biz. (And for real, get those salted caramels and maybe some good kombucha) Check them out here:

Rolling Pepperoni

The next small business I was excited to test out was Rolling Pepperoni — a pepperoni roll bakery from Pittsburgh, PA. This bakery is owned and operated by an Elkins, WV native. It is a unique shop that really focuses on stories and history of Appalachia. In their own words, “Rolling Pepperoni is breaking bread across Appalachia to unite rural and urban communities.” I love their connection to old traditions and new spaces as shown in their website full of Appalachian stories as seen on each wrapper featuring stories and artists from West Virginia. I love seeing West Virginia success stories and I had plans to stop by the bakery the next trip to Pittsburgh. Since all trips were halted this year, I finally decided to order a shipment to try out many of their different rolls – both traditional and new.

These rolls were so delicious. I have tried a lot of pepperoni rolls in my day and these were fantastic. I purchased traditional, mini, as well as some with each pickles, hot peppers, tapenade, and even a vegetarian rolls of spinach and feta. Although they were all delicious the pickle and the hot pepper rolls resonated most with me. If you are in Pittsburgh or are just craving some great pepperoni rolls, try Rolling Pepperoni and support a small WV native business.

The last thing I must share is the best way to prepare them. While pepperoni rolls are good plain, natives know there is an even better way to enjoy them and that is smothered in Olivero Peppers and mozzarella cheese. Once covered toast until the cheese is melted and enjoy the best meal/snack ever. (I also recommend hot dog sauce/chili, but Olivero Peppers are my favorite).

Enjoy some West Virginia food from small businesses soon. If you are interested in video reviews, check out my Instagram Account @the_wild_west_virginian and watch the video reviews of both the Farmer’s Daughter sandwich and Rolling Pepperoni rolls.

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)

Summer Wardensville Garden Market CSA

Today we’re talking CSAs! This year we decided to get our first CSA — a local box of food usually weekly–that includes a share of the veggies produced. The idea of a CSA is that you pay a subscription fee upfront in exchange for a share of the crop. This allows farms to hire staff, buy seeds, and purchase items for the growing season upfront in exchange for fresh produce. It also allows for flexibility to promise a share of the crop instead of exact quantities. CSAs come in different forms. Some are shipped (usually the most expensive), some are pick-up box weekly, and some come in the form of weekly credit at farmers markets or shops.

CSAs have been growing in popularity over the past couple of decades as local food movements have people looking for produce that has not traveled as far or sat on shelves as long. CSAs can vary in size and type of produce but typically each week includes multiple vegetables and herbs.

West Virginians are known for their home gardens and thus CSAs have been slower to the Mountain State than city dwellers (understandably!). However, some farms have begun offering CSAs for those of us who rent, travel a lot in the summer, or do not have a green thumb. This summer and fall we chose purchase Wardensville Garden Market CSA. This was one of the closest CSAs near us and since we have family in the area, it made sense to try it out.

The Year of COVID-19

It turned out this was a perfect year to start our CSA since COVID caused two major things 1) a reluctance to go to the grocery stores as often and 2) we were home to cook all the time! Having fresh veggies that we could get weekly and cook creatively has been extra exciting this year. Also, major props to Wardensville Garden Market for making a safe and touchless CSA pickup all the way through the fall season.


This year, the garden market offered a fall CSA to continue past the 20 weeks of summer veggies and into fall things like squash and roots. We were excited to continue getting fresh produce into November! A CSA really does put you in tune with growing seasons. In the spring we started with spring greens and lighter fare and moved into peak summer with tomatoes and one week we got an entire flat! Now we are eating interesting squash and turnips. There is something magical about eating with the weather and I love getting veggies at peak season. It is incredible when produce can be picked for only a short travel from farm to table and thus they can ripen longer and be that much tastier.


CSA can vary a lot depending on how large the farm is, how many people buy in, whether it’s pick-up for delivery as well as general location. Wardensville Garden Market CSA runs about $19/week for veggies and eggs. It may sound a little pricier that what you spend on store veggies, however it encourages more vegetable creativity. Also, the quality can’t be beat. Reach out to find more in your area and compare prices.

Thinking outside the box

Part of the fun of a CSA is trying to be creative with the ingredients. Below are swiss chard tacos, something I would not have thought to make if I did not have a large bunch of swiss chard (something I don’t often buy on my own). Getting a CSA will introduce you to new foods, let you eat more seasonally, support a local farmer, and have good quality produce in your life. I highly recommend looking at CSAs in your area during the next growing season.

If you live in the Potomac Highlands, check out Wardensville Garden Market here:

Puff Up

Freshly harvested puffball, found often in newly mowed grass

For all wild mushrooms, make sure you properly ID the mushroom. Look in ID books, ask experts, and do some research before digging in.

This year we discovered a new-to-us edible WV mushroom: the purple-spored puffball!

While most fungi take several mushrooms to make a serving, this mushroom can serve two or more on its own. Also, unlike other mushrooms, you do not have to go deep in the wet woods to find this gem. The purple-spored mushroom is most often found in freshly-mowed lawns, fields, and grassy spaces. The puffball to the left was found in a soccer field.

The purple-spored puffball does have some look alikes, so make sure you have harvested the correct mushroom. Another import feature of this mushroom is freshness. You want to see pure white when you slice into it. Once it has turned yellow inside or eventually purple in or outside, do not eat it.

Pure white center

I love the texture of this puffball because it is rather hardy. It stands up to slicing, marinating, frying, and chopping. It has a very light (not super earthy) taste that can take on a lot of flavors. Use it as a tofu substitute in any dish! Additionally, you may either take the skin off or leave on for a slightly different texture. With a pretty plain taste and light, spongy textures, the possibilities of dishes are endless.

A few mushrooms go a long way for cooking. We are still testing recipes however our favorite is substituting puffball for tofu in miso soup. We also enjoyed slices of puffball fried in a tempura batter.

This mushroom is considered a “summer mushroom” in West Virginia and we have spotted it mid-late August this year. Keep an eye out next time you are strolling in the park and you may just spot this tasty treat.

Tempura puffball slices

Tempura Puffball Slices

Slices of puffball (with or without skin)

2 large egg whites

1 cup all-purpose flour

2/3 cup cold water

salt and pepper

Canola or Vegetable oil (enough to fill your deep pan for frying)

  1. Beat eggs whites in bowl until frothy. Slowly fold flour and cold water into egg whites until batter is just mixed.
  2. Coat puffball slices in batter and fry in hot oil
  3. Remove from oil when light golden brown and crispy, lay on paper towels or rack.
  4. Lightly Salt and pepper
Miso soup with puffballs

Compound Butters

Morel and ramp butter logs

Compound butter is so delicious and surprisingly easy. While compound butter might sound like a complicated condiment, it is simply butter combined with another food — herbs, spices, greens, or mushrooms. There are many approaches to making compound butter and it depends on how you want to use them.

Log vs. Jar

You may have seen compound butters stored in the jar. This is achieved by completely melting butter and mixing in the ingredients while still liquid and quickly poured into a jar. The jar is placed in a refrigerator or cool place until solidified. This technique is good if you are planning on using butter as a spread. The jar functions much like a butter tub and can be scooped out with a knife or spoon.

Pictured above is the butter log technique. This is achieved either with a food processor or a simple hand-mashed inclusion. It is then spooned into parchment paper or saran wrap and formed into a log which is then placed in the fridge to harden. This style functions like a stick of butter and can be sliced to go on steaks, bread, into pans for pastas and other dishes. While this may seem like a slightly more effort, I prefer this method both because the butter consistency seems to change a bit more when it is completely melted and also because I like utilizing slices or pats of butter on meats and pastas.

Hand-mixed ramp butter

Food Processor vs. Hand-mixed

The first time we made compound butters we wanted to start slow and try hand mixing (or really mixing with a fork). This method is great if you only want to make a small amount or you don’t own a food processor.

To hand mix: soften butter and put into a bowl. Lightly saute the item you want to mix in (this is highly recommended for mushrooms since you should not eat them raw, however we also like to saute our ramps to make them softer to come across in the butter). The amount depends on preference however we use approximately 12 mushrooms per 3 sticks of butter. And 15 ramps for the same. Scrape sauteed produce into softened butter and mash and mix with a fork until evenly distributed. At this point you can shape into log, square, or spoon into a tub or jar.

To food process: Use the food processor to chop produce (or hand chop) and lightly saute. Then add the amount of butter you are interested in using and blend until fluffy. Add in the sauteed ramps or mushrooms and blend until fully incorporated. Use a spatula to remove butter and put into a log shape on parchment paper or saran wrap. I prefer parchment since it does not stick as much.

Make The Butter Your Own

Make your butter to your own liking. I enjoy slightly bigger pieces in my butter so I roughly chop ramps or mushrooms. Some chop their ramps very finely in a food processor to make a smooth green better. Experiment and see what you like best! You can also experiment with add-ins such as garlic or herbs. Enjoy.

Maple Daze

West Virginia Maple Syrup

A year ago today I had to pleasure to visit my very first sugar camp. A quaint, fire-warmed shack on the highlands of Grant County was everything I imagined for maple syrup making. The day was snowy which is exactly what you’d expect. The freeze-thaw-freeze-thaw of the weather is what makes the trees run.

New age maple buckets

We started the day by visiting the trees. Not far from the shack stand a large grove of maple trees. While you may imagine tin buckets nailed to the trees, tree water bags are the new age way of maple making. These tree bags can hold several gallons each and will be poured into a portable tank before they arrive at the sugar shack.

The maple farmer has to keep the fires going to boil down the syrup

Once we retrieved a new water load from the trees, we transported it back to the sugar shack and added it to the large tank. Back inside, we observed the boiling process. We stoked the fire, added wood, and watched the light brown water turn to the rich maple color we love to see as syrup. The steam and the heat kept us warm on a cold, snowy day while we chatted and waited to try our hand at bottling.

The shack smelled like sweet maple and its warmth was the best place to be on a waning winter day. Once the water bubbled and churned and turned to syrup, the spigot was turned and warm maple syrup flowed out into small metal tanks. We tried our had at bottling the syrup right inside the camp. It was a warming feeling to drain the hot liquid into the clear maple glass bottles and jugs you see on the shelves.


Last step was to seal the lids. Maple production is hard work! Like any farm work it requires constant checking, lifting, new and updated equipment, and elbow grease. After the full tour, I was delighted to get a small jug to take home. Good maple syrup is worth its weight in gold. If you can buy local, please do. West Virginia maple syrup is certainly the best in my opinion, but I may be a little biased.

Sealing my beloved syrup jug
Sugar Shack at night

The Simplicity of Venison & Fried Corn Mush

Fried corn mush (polenta) and venison

Few things sound more Appalachian than fried corn mush unless, maybe, fresh venison. All I wanted for Christmas this year was a deer and my dear partner processed once from this season for us. Once it was processed, we wanted to do something special. Reaching into our stash of foraged morel mushroom compound butter, we created a morel-butter fried corn mush dish.

With a cast iron skillet in one hand and cheap corn meal in the other, we created a great tasting and hardy winter meal.

Although some people like to hide the slightly gamier taste of venison, we prefer the tenderloin best sliced and lightly pan-fried.

While the meat quickly cooked, we heated the canola oil for tasty fried corn mush, known outside the hills as polenta.

Fried Corn Mush

6 cups water

2 tsp. salt

1 3/4 cups yellow cornmeal

3 Tablespoons unsalted butter (if you have an foraged compound butter such as morel or ramp butter, substitute that)

1 Tablespoon bacon grease

2 cups oil

1. Bring 6 cups of water to a boil in a heavy, large saucepan. Add 2 teaspoons of salt. Gradually whisk in the corn meal. Reduce the heat to low and cook until the mixture thickens and the corn meal is tender, stirring often, about 15 minutes. Turn off the heat. Add the butter and stir until melted.

2. Lightly grease an 11 by 7 inch baking dish or pan with bacon grease, spread to be evenly thick and chill 2 hours up to overnight.

3. Cut polenta into 2 by 1 inch slices. Heat the oil in a cast iron (or other heavy) skillet over medium-high heat. Working in batches, fry the polenta pieces until golden brown on all sides (about 3 minutes). Using tongs, transfer the slices onto paper towel to drain.

4. Serve as a side, snack, or with your favorite meat. Top with grated Parmesan cheese.

Morel-butter corn mush chilling before frying

Wild (about) Cranberries

Wild Cranberries getting a rinse before becoming sauce

The chill in the air and passing of the first frost means it’s cranberry season in West Virginia. Cranberries are a lesser known wild food in the area and can only be found in high elevation bogs. Places such as Dolly Sods or Cranberry Glades are good examples of where to find these tart fruits. They are located at ground level on plants with multiple small, green leaves.

A reminder that although I love to forage on both private and public lands, I make sure to follow regulations and sustainable harvesting practices. General practices involve never harvesting all the fruit in one area, being cognizant of where you step so as not to damage the plant life, and never sharing exact locations of harvesting so certain areas do not get over-harvested. This will make sure everyone has plenty to harvest for years to come!

Although I have harvested wild food in the state for years, I only realized cranberries grew wild here a few years ago. Wild cranberries are a late fall fruit and they are more flavorful than their farmed counterpart. They are much smaller in size but make up for in taste. Luckily you do not need a big harvest to make some tasty dishes. In fact, as small as one cup can be used to make a great sauce for turkey, meatballs, or other meats.

Let me share my favorite dish: Turkey, sage, and pine nut meatballs with a wild cranberry sauce. Here is the recipe for that tasty sauce:

Wild Cranberry Sauce

2 cups of wild cranberries

1/2 cup of sugar

Zest of one orange

2 tablespoons orange juice

½ water

Dash of cinnamon

In a medium saucepan, combine cranberries, sugar, zest, water and juice. Stir and bring to a boil, reduce and let simmer until desired thickness (~10 minutes). Stir in a dash of cinnamon.

Let cool and use to top turkey or other meats.

There is still time to collect wild cranberries so get your boots and jacket on and go exploring. Take a wild plant book, print out, or photo of cranberry plants and berries to make sure you get the right ones (tea berries also grow among cranberries and are edible too, but have a very different taste and texture). Have a great time enjoying one of the many wild foods that grow in this region!

Wild cranberry harvest

A Night Out: Farm & Forage Supper Club

Beautiful Salad with chioggia beets, nettle-marinated peaches, baby purslane, and farmers cheese covered in a buttermilk garlic dressing

If you haven’t watched the Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown episode on West Virginia, go watch it right now. In it, you will see the late food connoisseur enjoying Appalachian dishes at Lost Creek Farm in Harrison County, West Virginia.

Lost Creek Farm is an up-and-coming West Virginia farm and kitchen that hosts a variety of heritage foods grown, foraged, and cooked by chefs Mike Costello and Amy Dawson. Their property is a historic farm and farm house that is being renovated with love into a home and professional kitchen for the duo. While they have been operating out of this farmhouse for a few years, their dream is to build a kitchen and educational center to share their love of heritage foods.

In an effort to begin fundraising for such an endeavor, they established a Farm & Forage Supper club. This season they hosted dinners on August 23rd and 24th with dinners to come September 13th and 14th as well as October 12th and 13th. My love of West Virginia food and interest in the their farm encouraged me to purchase tickets for the very first dinner on Friday, August 23rd. I was not disappointed.

Roasted yellow squash soup with sweet corn cultured cream, toasted seeds, fried okra chips, and heirloom peppers

We arrived after ascending a gravel road to the top of a rolling farm hill. We cracked a Big Timber and began mingling as the hors d’oeuvres arrived. Pork and apple souse on salt rising toast as well as delicious smoked rabbit rillettes on communion wafer with knotweed syrup and milkweed capers.

We settled down into a cozy table and poured some byob wine under lit string lights and a view of the old farm house. A cow mooed down the hill and the sun began to set between the hills. The first dish of roasted squash soup arrived and Mike welcomed us to this intimate dinner. Each course was explained down to when they picked the beans and there was plenty of time to enjoy and socialize between courses.

After the soup came a delicious beet and peach salad. It was savory and garlicy and wonderful. After enjoying such as salad, chicken and dumplings graced our table. It featured local chicken and foraged chicken of the woods and a green tomato gravy you wanted to lick off the plate along with the prettiest purple pole beans. From there we moved on to a farm-raised venison roast with smoked wild elderberry accompanied by sweet potato squash and onions.

Wonderful company on a beautiful night in West Virginia

Not wanted to night to end but looking forward to dessert, the most wonderful chicory root panna cotta appeared. It was topped with crumbled buckwheat bark, shagbark hickory syrup, cured farm egg, and a chicory blossom. The only thing that made dessert better was the adorable jam-jar servings of coffee and cream.

I cannot recommend this dinner series and Lost Creek Farm more. My partner and I had a lovely evening full of wonderful food outside in a beautiful West Virginia, celebrating our anniversary and enjoying Appalachian cuisine. Although we were celebrating, you don’t need a special occasion to jump on their rare tickets that transport you into a wonderful place and food and merriment.

For more information on Lost Creek Farm check out: and follow them on Facebook and Instagram.

Chicory root panna cotta topped with crumbled buckwheat bark, shagbark hickory syrup, cured farm egg, and a chicory blossom

Berry Season

Blueberry and huckleberry season is nearing its end and it always means summer is winding down. If you haven’t had a chance to grabs these berries, there may still be a few hanging on out there. Wild blueberries (and huckleberries) are much smaller than cultivated ones but are packed with just as much flavor.

Blueberries and huckleberries

The difference of huckleberries and blueberries is debated. Half the population uses them interchangeably, the other half have different ways of identifying them. From limited research I identify the bluer berries as “blueberries” and the dark purple berries “huckleberries.” They seem to grow together in together in the parts of West Virginia so I pick both.

Blueberry bushes can be found in Canaan Valley, Dolly Sods, and around the mountainous regions of West Virginia. I have fond memories of going to Canaan Valley with my family growing up and picking blueberries and later making blueberry cast-iron pies over the fire. Lots of sugar and butter, please!

There are endless possibilities with what to do with wild blueberries but I mostly love making homemade whipped cream for a classic berries and cream flavor. It allows you to really enjoy the wild berry flavor while making it a sweet treat. Wild blueberry pancakes are also highly recommended along with eating them straight out of your hand.

Wild blueberries and Cream

1 cup (cold) Heavy whipping cream

2-4 Tb Sugar (or powdered sugar)

1 tbs Vanilla

½ cup wild blueberries/huckleberries

  1. Pour the chilled heavy whipping cream into mixing bowl (I use a Kitchen Aid mixer)
  2. Start mixing on low and add in 2 Tb sugar and vanilla. Taste. If you decide if you want it sweeter, add more sugar.
  3. Move to medium speed and watch for peaks or mix to desired consistency.
  4. Add desire amount on top of half a cup of washed wild blueberries and enjoy!

I have also hand-mixed whipped cream so if you don’t have a stand mixer this delicious treat is still possible. See ya in the highlands.

Chanterelles are Poppin’

Chanterelle prep

One thing I love about West Virginia is how lush it is. It has SO many wild foods — including the little orange trumpet mushrooms called chanterelles. These tasty mushrooms start popping up after mid-summer rains around the beginning of July. I’ve found them the past two years on the 4th of July in north central WV.

As I like to mention, please make sure you have some experience or check with an experienced mushroomer. Chanterelles do have a false friend: Jack-o-lantern mushrooms.

Jack-o-lantern mushrooms are also orange and feature gills instead of the chanterelles’ ridges. They grow moreso in bunches versus the slightly more spread out chanterelles. Please pick with caution.

Once you do get your hands on these true orange beauties, there are so many great ways to prepare them. First (as we do with all mushrooms), soak them in salt water for several rinses to wash away debris and bugs. Once they are ready, you can slices them up depending on recipe.

The below chanterelle recipe was inspired by a dish I recently had in Germany: chanterelle bruschetta — wild mushrooms tossed with tomatoes and basil on grilled baguette slices. Back home, we made a warm version of this to top our Independence Day burgers.

Warm Tomato and Chanterelle Topping

2 vine-ripened tomatoes

8-10 chanterelles, washed and chopped

1 tsp dried basil

1 tsp dried oregano

1-2 Tb olive oil

Pinch of salt

Heat olive oil in pan and toss in tomatoes until simmering. Add mushroom slices. Sprinkle in salt, basil, and oregano to taste. Serve on top of grilled burgers, warm sandwiches, or toast.

Burger topped with sauteed chanterelles and tomatoes, served with a side of avocado and kale citrus salad and an ice cold beer