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It's Fall Festival Time

The aroma of apples and spices mixed with wood fires, falling leaves and patches of ripe pumpkins signals a change of seasons and in some locations apple butter making time. Pumpkin With fall comes a multitude of festivals, fairs and events celebrating our heritage, music, arts, crafts, apples and other foods etc. We encourage you to get out and discover your own backyard by visiting local festivals and events that fit your interests or sparks new ones. There is something for everyone whether you are a history buff, an avid antique collector or you just want to enjoy a relaxing day in the country with your family.

At Nichols Cut we recommend two local festivals. The Broomcorn Festival the 3rd Saturday in September in Selmer, TN and the Annual Heritage Festival and Antique Auction October 11 at Ames Plantation near Grand Junction, TN. Demonstrations will include broom making, blacksmithing, quilting, weaving, chair caning, soap making, and dozens of other activities.

Two other important Tennessee events are the Tennessee Fall Homecoming at the Museum of Appalachia near Norris, Tennessee and the National Storytelling Festival at Jonesbourgh, TN. To locate festivals in your local area visit your state tourism web site or click here.

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Herbs Are Back At Nichols Cut ! ! !

Herbs have played an important role in man's life for countless years -- in his politics, romance,love, religion, health, and superstition. Early settlers brought Herb herbs to America for use as remedies for illnesses, flavoring for food, storing with linens, strewing on floors, or burning for their pleasant fragrances. Some herbs were used to improve the taste of meats in the days before preservation techniques were developed and other herbs were used to dye homespun fabrics.

Herbs were an essential feature of most country homes. Often herb gardens were placed in sunny corners near the house to be readily available to the busy homemaker or, as at Nichols Cut, Herb herbs were grown in the vegetable and flower gardens. Early herb gardens were the major source for food seasoning. The need for homegrown herbs, however, declined with the advent of modern stores and many gardens disappeared. Today, at Nichols Cuts, we are rediscovering the joy and pleasure of growing our own herbs in our recently completed herb garden. Currently, most of our herbs are Culinary with plans to add medicinal and ornamental herbs later.

The interior of the garden is devoted to herbs such as rosemary, basil, bay, Herb mint, chives, oregano, sage and tyme. Accessories include a sundial, a functioning pitcher pump, a dinner bell and a bench where you can sit and enjoy the garden. Surrounding the exterior of the garden are old-fashion flowers such as iris, hollyhocks, black eyed susans, larkspur, peonies, marigolds, etc.

Rosemary is one of the favorite herbs at Nichols Cut. An excellent recipe for Rosemary Bread can be found at RecipeZaar You may want to add about two teaspoons of freshly ground black peppercorns to add a little zing.

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In Defense of the Fruitcake!

Now that the election is over the fruitcake has become the favorite target of jokes for the holidays. This is unfortunate but if you have tasted some of Fruitcake the "sweetened pasteboard and fruit flavored plastic" sold for fruitcake these days you can understand. The old fashion fruitcake that our mothers and grandmothers made just takes too long for most people today. If you ever taste a "true" fruitcake you will never make fun of them again.

The kind of fruitcake we are talking about is made with dried fruit such as apples, peaches and figs, nuts include pecans,black walnuts, hickory nuts and hazel nuts, dates, dark brown sugar, molasses, brandy or wine, and spices including cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and cloves. Wrap the cake in cheesecloth and soak with wine or grape juice. Store it in a cool place and moisten with wine or grape juice once a week. To be really good it needs to age for about 4 weeks. Now that is a fruitcake from heaven!

Unfortunately the recipe for the traditional fruitcake made at Nichols Cut during the 1930's and the 1940's has been lost. If you have a recipe for a cake like the one above we would appreciate your sharing it with us.

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It's Time to Gather Black Walnuts at Nichols Cut!

There is nothing that reminds me of fall more than the aroma of black walnuts Black that have just fallen from the tree. Only a few years ago most southern country homes had at least one black walnut tree in the yard. (No one can remember when Nichols Cut did not have one.) Not only were they prized for their richly flavored nuts used in baking pies, cakes, cookies, and candies, but also for lumber used in furniture, gunstocks, etc. and their husks for dye and medicinal purposes.

Black walnut trees are not seen around homes as often today. People bake less and seem to prefer the milder taste of other nuts. Another reason is that people just do not want to bother with them. The husk can be messy to remove from the nut and will stain your hands if handled without gloves. The nuts themselves are tough to crack and the meat of the nut can be difficult to pick from the shell.

Nevertheless, people are in for a special treat when they add black walnuts to their recipes that call for nuts. Here is a simple and easy recipe for "Peanut Butter and Black Walnut Fudge" you may want to try:

1 1/2 sticks of butter
3 cups sugar
5 oz can evaporated milk
1 7 oz jar marshmallow creme
1 cup chopped black walnuts
1 tsp vanilla or black walnut flavoring
12 oz creamy peanut butter

Bring butter, sugar, and milk to a rolling boil, then turn down to medium and cook 5 minutes more. Take off stove and add peanut butter. Stir well. Add the marshmallow creme, the black walnuts, and the vanilla or black walnut flavoring and stir well. Put in 9"x13" greased pan. Cool at room temperature. Cut to the size you like and store in refrigerator.

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The muscadines are ripe . . .

Its wine making time at Nichols Cut ! ! !

Muscadine grapes are native to the southeastern United States and muscadine wine was one of the first wines made in America. Grape The taste tends to be sweet and fruity and, although many so called "wine experts" do not consider it a "quality" wine, it is still a favorite for Southerners.

There are numerous recipes on the internet and in wine making books if you would like to try making your own wine. You may want to try your luck with this simple recipe from Joseph E. Dabney's book "Smokehouse Ham, Spoon Bread & Scuppernong Wine: The Folklore and Art of Southern Appalachian Cooking". The scuppernong grape is a bronze cousin to the black or purple muscadine. Grape

   Rabun County Scuppernong Wine

     3 gallons mashed scuppernong
     1 large churn
     5 or 6 pounds sugar
     1 packet yeast

Wash the grapes, mash them, and place in churn. Add water until grapes are just floating. Place a cover on churn and allow to ferment for around 8 days. Use a wine strainer and strain out the juice in small amounts, discarding the pulp. Add 3 pounds of sugar for each gallon of juice. Add the yeast. Put a cloth over the churn and let ferment for 9 to 10 days, until fermentation stops. Bottle the wine with a loose top and put in a cool place.

If you have any grapes left after making your wine, you may want to try some muscadine preserves or scuppernong jelly. I personally prefer the muscadine preserves made the old fashion way, with the hulls left in. It's great on hot buttered biscuits!

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Remembering Christmas at Nichols Cut

Christmas was the most important holiday of all at Nichols Cut. It was a time for presents, food, decorations, music, family and friends. For the little ones the Christmas season officially began with the arrival of the Sears & Roebuck Christmas catalog. (It was hard to be “good” if someone else was getting more than their fair share of time with the catalog.) Of course Santa got all his presents from here. Usually the Christmas tree, a red cedar, was put up right after Thanksgiving.

Food was a big part of Christmas at Nichols Cut with baked ham being the preferred meat. Of course there was usually chicken and dressing, fried Food chicken and fried country ham as well. Vegetables always included green beans and corn and assorted others. Desserts would include a fruit cake, fresh coconut cake, pecan pie, apple pie, coconut pie, ice cream, and all kinds of cookies and candies. Fresh fruit included apples, oranges, grapes and tangerines. Needless say no one went away hungry.

Family members usually stopped by Nichols Cut on Christmas Eve, especially Dewey Basham and his family, to visit, eat, talk and tell stories and jokes. Before the night was over everyone ended up singing Christmas carols around the old reed organ or piano. Dew would play the reed organ and his son Bobby played the piano. Dean, his older son, usually led the singing. Weather permitting, there were usually fire crackers, roman candles, and sparklers for the kids and the young at heart.

Christmas day started with seeing what Santa brought and opening presents. Gifts There was usually a big breakfast of fried country ham, fried chicken or country steak; gravy; eggs; hot biscuits; country butter; homemade jellies, jams, preserves and molasses; hot coffee and milk. After an appropriate period of playing with presents it was time to visit other family members and see what they got for Christmas. Then it was back home for the big Christmas dinner. The afternoon was usually for resting and playing.

You just can’t have better memories than these.

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Romance Is Alive And Well At Nichols Cut

It’s Valentines Day and an appropriate story passed down at Nichols Cut is about Essie Basham Image a promise made to Essie Basham, James and Henrietta’s oldest daughter, many years ago. According to the story, when Essie’s beau, Berlie Ray Smith, came courting he would always tie his horse to the same maple sapling in front of the house. To make a long story short the romance grew. Essie and Berlie fell in love, got married, moved to Mississippi and established a successful farming operation there.

Old Maple Image Before moving Essie asked that her family not cut the sapling where Berlie had tied his horse when he came to court her. The promise was made.

Essie and Berlie are gone now but the promise made to Essie many years ago is still honored at Nichols Cut. The maple, bent and broken by age, storms and disease still stands in front of Nichols Cut and will continue to as long as it lives.

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We like our ribs Memphis style, seasoned with a spicy dry rub, slow cooked with indirect heat and hickory smoke, served with a dipping sauce on the side, baked beans and North Carolina piedmont-style coleslaw. If you must have a desert it’s hard to beat a classic banana pudding (use the recipe from the Nabisco NILLA Wafers box).

BBQ Prepare your spareribs by trimming them St. Louis style and removing the membrane from the bone side. Liberally apply your rub, cover with plastic rap and refrigerate overnight. Remove ribs from the refrigerator about one hour before you put them on the smoker. The ribs should be smoked at about 200 to 225 degrees from four to six hours.

A quick way to make home style baked beans is to take a can of baked beans from the grocery store, add some prepared mustard, chopped onion and molasses to taste. Place in a bean pot, add two or three strips of bacon and bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes.

This recipe for red coleslaw is from Bob Gardner's book "North Carolina Barbecue".

      1 medium-size, firm head of cabbage
      1/2 cup apple-cider vinegar
      1/2 cup sugar
      2/3 cup of catsup
      2 teaspoons salt
      2 teaspoons black pepper
      2 teaspoons Texas Pete hot sauce

    Keep cabbage refrigerated until ready to use. Remove outer leaves ands core from cabbage. Cut head in half and grate coarsely, using food processor or hand grater, so that cabbage bits are about the size of BBs. Return cabbage to refrigerator. In small mixing bowl, combine vinegar, sugar, catsup, and seasonings. Mix until well blended. Remove cabbage from refrigerator and pour mixture over it. Mix with a large spoon until well blended. Refrigerate one hour before serving.

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Winter at Nichols Cut

It's winter now and our thoughts turn to what life was like Sled Ride Image at Nichols Cut in winters past. Kids looked forward to occasional snows back then as they do now. Snows meant unexpected school holidays, snowball fights, snow cream and sled rides (even the adults got into the fun.)

Winter also brought hog killing time. Kids had their chores, such as keeping the water and firewood supplied but, for the most part, it was a time for playing with family and neighboring children. Of course there was a chance of getting fried tenderloin, hot biscuits, sorghum molasses, cracklin cornbread, etc. for supper. Not many wanted to try the souse meat, liver and lights nor scrambled eggs and brains thought. Winter Scene Image

Other things to look forward to in the winter included a fire in the fireplace for warmth, popping popcorn, parching peanuts, baking sweet potatoes, etc. Also, sleeping in a soft warm “featherbed” was special. It sure was hard to get out of it in the morning!

Not all things about winter were positive. Limited daylight hours and the cold wet weather made tending to the farm animals, as well as most other chores, difficult and unpleasant. Firewood for the fireplaces had to be cut and split and ashes remove. Washday could also be unpleasant. Before indoor plumbing washdays meant getting out the cast iron wash pot, building a fire under it, drawing water from the well or bringing it from the spring, washing the cloths by hand on a rub board and then, maybe, having them freeze before you could hang them on the clothesline. Remember this was all done outside – rain, sleet, snow or shine.

Outhouse Image Before indoor plumbing there was one more unpleasant winter experience for children and adults alike. This was the trip to the “little house out back”. For the most part the “little house” is gone today but not forgotten.

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        you refer to the evening meal as "supper!"
        you drink homemade muscadine wine!
        you love cracklin' cornbread!

      or . . .

you may just enjoy the simpler and more laid back style of the "country life" like we do here at Nichols Cut. Pull up a chair, pour yourself a cup of coffee or a glass of iced tea, and browse our website.

We will be adding new things from time to time but, remember, this is country and things just happen a little bit slower here. Let us know your comments and, don't be a stranger, come back and visit us often.


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