Alabama cooks share favorite ‘grand’ recipes from the family tree

I’ve always regretted that my grandparents left this world before I was born, because I’m sure I would have loved to have known them. I would have especially liked being around my grandmothers, one from Pennsylvania and the other from Alabama, who were wonderful cooks (or so I’m told). They passed their love of cooking down to their children, and certain dishes that they made live on in family recipe files.

My father’s mother (she was called Mumsie by her grands, owing to our family’s British heritage) had a recipe for mustard pickle, or piccalilli, that my mother would make for my father and us. This relish used chopped gherkins, green tomatoes, cauliflower, green and yellow peppers and other vegetables, all covered in a sweet, tangy sauce made with vinegar, sugar and mustard, among other spices. It was a great side dish for any meat, especially for big Sunday dinners. I also have the original recipe my aunt (like a grandmother to me) used for a cooked sweet-sour mustard sauce, another good addition for meats and sandwiches, especially ham. Many of our recipes came from our neighbors and friends in Pennsylvania whose ancestors emigrated from Europe, including stuffed cabbage rolls (called holubkies in Slovakia), and sauerkraut and pork (from Germany and brought to the states by the Pennsylvania Dutch).

On my mother’s side, the recipes were for more traditional Southern dishes. In her recipe box, which I treasure, there have to be at least a dozen or more recipes for pound cake and various fruit pies. Her beef roast was unmatched, as was her fried okra. One of her specialties was corn pone, made with cornmeal and hot water and fried in an iron skillet. Split one open while it’s hot and slip a pat of butter inside – heavenly. Neither she nor my Aunt Helen had a written recipe that we can find, but then, like the best cooks, they probably didn’t need one.

Here are a few treasured recipes from parents and grandparents.

Food blogger Katrina Adams has won national contests for her recipes. She loves making her mother’s Lemon Pound Cake. (contributed)

Lemon Pound Cake

Katrina Adams remembers when the brown bowl in her mother’s kitchen was brought out, it was time to make something sweet. Her grandmother loved lemon desserts, and growing up in Perry and Marengo counties in southwest Alabama, her mother, Mary Windham, would make the cake for their family. “She would make it all the time for my grandmother and she loved it,” Adams says. “She inspired me to learn how to cook as a little girl because she did it with so much love and passion, just as well as her mother. Coming from a family of eight boys and eight girls, my mother learned to cook at a young age and is still whipping up marvelous meals many years later.”

When she lived in Indiana, Windham would make 10 cakes at a time to take on trips back to her home state of Alabama. “I remember counting out six eggs, melting the butter and mixing it all up for a delicious moist pound cake,” Adams says. The moistness is due partly to Miracle Whip. Swan’s Down Cake Flour is another must ingredient to get the right texture, she adds.

Adams, a food blogger and event planner, has won several national contests for her recipes.


6 large eggs

3 cups granulated sugar

1½ cups butter (3 sticks melted butter)

3 cups Swans Down Cake Flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

5 tablespoons lemon extract

4-5 tablespoons Miracle Whip

3 tablespoons sour cream


Cream butter and sugar together; add eggs one at a time, beating thoroughly. Add lemon flavor, sour cream and Miracle Whip. Next, add cake flour and baking powder. Mix until smooth. Spray tube cake pan with baking spray and bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour and 30 minutes.

Katrina M. Adams

Cracklin’ Cornbread

When I think of my grandmother, I have some of the best memories of being in her kitchen and around her table. I could name dozens of recipes that remind me of her. One of my fondest memories is of her making us salt pork for breakfast. She also loved to use pork cracklings in her cooking for lots of different recipes. I am honored to share with you a favorite she often made, Cracklin’ Cornbread.

Brooke Burks’ grandmother put pork cracklings in her cornbread for unforgettable flavor. (The Buttered Home)

Cracklin’ Cornbread is a true Southern dish, made with a traditional cornbread recipe and buttermilk. We take succulent pork cracklings (commonly called pork belly, cracklings come from the layer of fat above the bacon on a pig; they have a little skin, fat and a meat similar to bacon) and bake them up in a cake of cornbread for a delicious surprise in every bite. (Note: You can purchase cracklings in the butcher section of your grocery store.) For more memory-filled recipes, check out


¼ cup butter

2 cups self-rising cornmeal mix

½ cup plain flour

2½ cups buttermilk

2 eggs, beaten

1 cup cooked pork cracklings


Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Chop cracklings carefully with a knife into bite-sized pieces. Add eggs to buttermilk and lightly beat. Add in cracklings and allow to sit in buttermilk and egg mixture. Mix well.

Place butter in a 10-inch cast iron skillet and place in the oven while it preheats. Allow the butter to melt while you prepare your ingredients. Sift flour and cornmeal together and place in a large mixing bowl. Add in wet ingredients and mix well.

Once everything is mixed, carefully remove the skillet right when you are ready to pour in your batter. Pour batter in the hot skillet on top of the melted butter. Do not mix. Bake 25-30 minutes until browned. Cool, remove from pan and enjoy.

Brooke Burks, The Buttered Home

Pasta e Fagioli (Pasta and Beans)

I have fond memories of watching my maternal grandmother make this. Good eating!

This tasty Pasta e Fagioli can be made with water or, for even more flavor, chicken broth. (Brooke Echols / Alabama Living)

Preparing beans:

½ pound white navy or pea beans

6 cups cold water (option: can use chicken broth for a fuller flavor)

¼ cup olive oil

2 garlic cloves, crushed

Salt and pepper to taste

Wash beans thoroughly and discard any imperfect ones. Put cold water (or broth) in large pot. Add beans, garlic, oil, salt and pepper. Simmer until beans are tender, about 1½ hours.

Marinara sauce:

1 garlic clove, chopped

Pinch of dried red pepper flakes, basil and mint

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 8-ounce can tomatoes

Salt and pepper, to taste

In small heavy skillet, slowly sauté garlic and seasonings in the olive oil on low heat until golden brown. Add tomatoes and a pinch more of each of the seasonings. Add salt and pepper to taste. Simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes on low heat.

To finish soup:

1 teaspoon salt

2 quarts water

½ pound small shells or elbow macaroni

Parmesan cheese, freshly grated

Add salt to water and heat to boiling in a large saucepan. Gradually add pasta. Boil rapidly, uncovered, about 12 minutes or until al dente. Reserving 1 cup of liquid, drain pasta in a colander, rinsing under cold water to prevent sticking. Reserve. When beans are tender, add the drained pasta and the marinara sauce to the pot. If more broth is desired, add the 1 cup of liquid from the pasta. Simmer 10 to 15 minutes. Ladle into large soup dishes and sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese. Serve immediately or the pasta will swell and absorb all the soup.

Janice Bracewell

Supper on a Bread Slice


2/3 cup evaporated milk

1½ pounds ground beef

¼ cup bell pepper

½ cup onion, chopped

½ cup Ritz cracker crumbs

1 egg

1 tablespoon prepared mustard

1½ teaspoons salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

1 loaf French bread

2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, grated


Combine first 9 ingredients in a bowl. Cut French bread in half lengthwise. Spread meat mixture evenly over top surface of bread. Wrap aluminum foil around crust side of each of the sides, leaving top uncovered. Place on cookie sheet. Bake in 350-degree oven for 25 minutes. Garnish with grated cheese. Cook 5 minutes longer. To serve, cut slices across diagonally.

Patty Blankenship

Patty Blankenship calls this mouth-watering concoction Supper on a Bread Slice. (Brooke Echols / Alabama Living)

Granny’s Chocolate Pie

My Granny Cordle was famous for her chocolate pies. We could not wait to eat them at all our family reunions.


1 cup sugar

¼ teaspoon salt

1/3 cup flour

5 tablespoons cocoa

2 cups milk

3 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 tablespoons butter

1 pie shell

Meringue, optional for topping


Mix sugar, salt, flour and cocoa in saucepan. Stir in gradually 2 cups milk. Cook over moderate heat, stirring constantly until mixture thickens and boils. Boil 1 minute. Remove from heat. Slowly stir half the mixture into the 3 eggs which have been slightly beaten. Then blend into hot mixture in saucepan. Boil 1 minute more, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and blend in butter and vanilla. Pour into baked pie shell and top with meringue if desired.

Jane Kendrick

Meemaw’s Broccoli Casserole


3 pounds fresh or frozen broccoli

1 medium onion, chopped

1 can Progresso mushroom soup

3 eggs

1 pound medium cheddar cheese, grated

1 8-ounce can water chestnuts, drained and chopped

1 cup mayonnaise

1½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon pepper


Steam broccoli and onion until fork tender. In a large bowl, mix together all other ingredients. Mash broccoli and onion with potato masher. Add it to the large bowl with other ingredients, stir well. Pour mixture into a 9-by-13-inch casserole dish. Bake at 350 degrees for 50-60 minutes or until the top has browned and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Vanessa Bowen

Maw Maw’s Salmon Patties

Maw Maw’s Salmon Patties are a family favorite. (Brooke Echols / Alabama Living)


2 cans red salmon (or pink)

3 eggs

1 cup flour

2 teaspoons ground mustard

2 teaspoons poultry seasoning

2 teaspoons garlic powder

3 teaspoons celery salt

½ onion, chopped


Pick through salmon to get all bones and skin off. Add eggs, flour and seasonings. Mixture should not be dry or soupy. Spoon into hot oil, enough to cover half of patties. Cook until golden brown.

Elizabeth Chandler

Pink Fluff

My grandparents would bring this dish to every family event. Some say it’s a side dish; others say it’s a dessert.


1 can cherry pie filling

1 can pineapple chunks

1 can sweetened condensed milk

2 cups mini marshmallows

1 cup chopped walnuts

1 8-ounce container Cool Whip


Stir all ingredients together. Refrigerate 2 hours and serve.

Kirk Vantrease

This story originally appeared in Alabama Living magazine.