Jubal Early Punch

Last weekend, husband John and I hosted 50 people at our house for a cocktail party as part of the Boone Family Reunion. The Boones are John’s mother’s family, but before I go any further, you might have two immediate questions:

Q: Do you mean those Boones? The honest-to-goodness Daniel Boone Boones?
A: Yep, although actually more directly through Daniel Boone’s brother, Samuel.

Q: How did you get 50 people into your 2,300-square-foot ranch house?
A: I have no idea. It might have been the promise of copious amounts of alcohol.

I’d never hosted a cocktail party before, and I’m not even a big liquor drinker, but I wanted to do it right. First of all, I knew I had to have bourbon. These are Kentucky people — “Straight Outta Kentucky” as the official reunion T-shirt declared — so there had to be bourbon.

John’s parents took care of that. (Thank you!)

Because the reunion was being held in Lynchburg, Va., this year, I wanted to serve something “Lynchburg-y.” But what? I’m not from Lynchburg or even Virginia. I didn’t grow up with silver and china patterns. My family didn’t have a liquor cabinet or a Confederate ancestor buried in the back yard. We certainly didn’t have an old family recipe for punch.

But thanks to Google, I found a recipe for Jubal Early Punch.

Jubal Early LOC photo
Lt. Gen. Jubal Anderson Early (Library of Congress)

If you’re not from Lynchburg or a Civil War buff, you might be wondering, “Who is Jubal Early?” — more specifically Lt. Gen. Jubal Anderson Early.

Basically, Ol’ Jube was a Civil War commander known for his general badassery. He reportedly had a nasty temper and was known for his aggressive, albeit brilliant, nature on the battlefield, among other qualities. He also did things like threaten to burn down Union towns unless they paid a ransom.

With affection, Gen. Robert E. Lee called Early his “Bad Old Man.”

After the war, Early was what’s been called a “unreconstructed Rebel,” escaping to Mexico and then Canada, rather than swearing his allegiance to the Union. He later returned to the U.S. and settled in Lynchburg, where he died in 1894. He’s buried in Spring Hill Cemetery.

In Lynchburg, there’s a fort named for Early on the aptly named Fort Avenue. Across the street from the fort, an obelisk stands in his honor. There are streets or roads named after Early in West Virginia, Texas and in several Virginia towns.

As for his choice of libation, I don’t imagine Early ever drank this particular mixture of rum, brandy, lemon juice and champagne, but someone named it after him, so it was good enough for me.

Jubal Early Punch
Jubal Early Punch. Not the most appetizing color, but it sure tastes good!

Here’s how you make it (and a big thanks to Esquire magazine for the recipe and instructions):


1 cup superfine (quick-dissolving) sugar
1 cup lemon juice
1 quart plus 1 cup water
4 ounces dark rum
1 1/2 cups brandy
1 bottle dry champagne


In a punch bowl (large bowl, big pitcher, whatever), dissolve the sugar in the water and lemon juice. Add the rum and brandy. Let sit for a while, 30 minutes or so, in the fridge or some other cool place. Just prior to serving, add the champagne.

Before making the punch, use a gelatin mold, bowl or anything else that suits your fancy to make a big chunk of ice to float in the punch. The Esquire recipe suggested a “cannonball of ice” but I couldn’t figure out how to make one, short of using a water-filled balloon, and I didn’t know if that was food safe or not.


Happy Doughnut Day!

mama crocketts
The hard-to-miss Mama Crockett’s camper.

The first Friday in June is National Doughnut (or Donut) Day.

National Doughnut Day has been around since 1938, when the Salvation Army started the holiday as a fundraiser and to increase awareness for its programs. The holiday’s origins, however, go back to 1917.

During World War I, female Salvation Army volunteers — “donut lassies” — gave doughnuts to American Soldiers in France.

According to The Salvation Army Metropolitan Division in Chicago, “With limited resources, these treats were fried, only seven at a time. The Salvation Army’s Ensign Margaret Sheldon and Adjutant Helen Purviance cleverly thought of frying donuts in soldiers’ helmets.”

It was a morale-boosting effort. While the “lassies” also mended clothes, cooked and provided the soldiers with writing supplies and stamps, the doughnuts apparently made the biggest impact. How do I know this? Well, today isn’t letter-writing or sock-darning day, now is it?

So, in honor of this great holiday (and because we really like doughnuts) my sister, Theresa, and I went out today in search of free doughnuts.

station house
Station House Museum at Old City Cemetery

First, we went to Lynchburg’s Old City Cemetery, where volunteers were handing out tasty Chestnut Hill Bakery doughnuts and coffee at the Station House Museum. The circa-1898 C&O Railway station house was originally located in the Amherst County, Virginia, community of Stapleton.

The station house was dismantled and moved to the cemetery in 1999. It was reconstructed in 2001. Today, its interior is decorated with a World War I theme — perfect for a holiday commemorating good deeds from the Great War.

The next place Theresa and I found free doughnuts was at Mama Crockett’s. The guys at Mama Crockett’s operate out of a turquoise blue camper trailer. The trailer is often parked on Lynchburg’s Main Street, but also can be found at other Lynchburg-area locations, including the popular Food Truck Thursdays at Miller Park.

theresa and donut
Theresa shows off her Mama Crockett’s doughnut.

Mama Crockett’s specializes in apple cider doughnuts. They are fresh, hot and to die for, and today they were free. Can’t beat that.

Also, in case you’re wondering, is it “doughnut” or “donut”? The Grammarist has this to say:

The dictionary-approved spelling for the ring-shaped cake made of dough and fried in fat is doughnut. The shortened donut has been around since the late 1800s, but it wasn’t popularized until the late 20th century, when the successful American doughnut chain Dunkin’ Donuts made it ubiquitous. Today, writers outside the U.S. still favor doughnut by a wide margin. Donut appears about a third of the time in published American writing.

I like the long version. Happy Doughnut Day!

Behold, the Sausage Poof!

Sandra’s Sausage Poofs

Have you ever thought, “Why doesn’t someone inject sausage gravy into a dinner roll, kind of like lemon filling into a jelly doughnut?” I hadn’t either, but I’m glad someone thought of it, and that someone was Sandra at Jerry’s Family Restaurant in Vinton, Va.

Jerry’s Family Restaurant

At Jerry’s, which is located at 1340 Washington Ave. (Va. 24) in Vinton, one item on the menu of home-cooked specialties is “Sandra’s Sausage Poofs.” The glorious little bundles consist of thick sausage gravy wrapped in a dinner roll. They’re 69 cents each and totally worth it. I believe I could eat my weight in them, which would of course be a terrible mistake.

You can read more about Sandra’s Sausage Poofs here, in an article my sister Theresa wrote a few years ago for our local newspaper. At the time, she was doing a regular food column, “Will Drive 4 Food,” for which she and I drove around eating and shopping.

Tough gig, I know.

Best. Roast Beef. Ever.

kims exterior
Kim’s Kitchen, Chatham, Virginia

Recently, while in Chatham, Virginia, doing research at the Pittsylvania County Court House, my sister, Theresa, and I got hungry.

On the way into town that morning, we saw Kim’s Kitchen, a nondescript restaurant located next to the Old Dutch supermarket on Main Street. It didn’t look like much — just a cavernous space in an old strip center — but we immediately decided that was where we would have lunch.

Sometimes, the best restaurants are the ones that aren’t the most architecturally impressive. Case in point, the Frontier Diner in Little Rock, Arkansas. Husband John and I stopped there for breakfast en route to a wedding in Louisiana last summer.

The Frontier was located on a frontage road, next to a major highway. It wasn’t fancy. It was surrounded by pickup trucks. But inside was a friendly staff and a perfect breakfast. Sure, it was just eggs, bacon, biscuits and hash browns, but it was perfect and I’d definitely eat there again.

At Kim’s, Theresa and I sat down and then asked our waitress what she’d recommend for lunch. She said the roast beef was one of their biggest sellers, so that’s what we ordered, along with mashed potatoes and gravy, macaroni and cheese and cornbread. The waitress described it as “Northern” cornbread, adding that it was sweet.

We both ordered sweet tea, too. How could you not?

kims food
Lunch at Kim’s

Our food arrived shortly thereafter and, as expected, the roast beef was excellent. Let me tell you, though, if you’re a fan of rare roast beef — the kind you see at fancy carving stations — this is not that. Kim’s is more of a chopped roast beef, served in a gravy. No knife is required and it almost melts in your mouth.

I was in heaven and ate every last bit of it.

I’ve heard fried catfish is the special on Thursdays. I can’t wait to go back.

Brunswick Stew

Brunswick Stew. Photo by Joe Loong via Wikemedia Commons.

Brunswick Stew is a popular dish here in Virginia, where it originated in 1828.

Some Georgians would beg to differ, believing it was first made in the Peach State town of Brunswick, but even the New Georgia Encyclopedia concedes the hearty stew was first created in the Old Dominion by slave cook Jimmy Matthews.

The folks at the Taste of Brunswick Festival, site of the annual World Championship Brunswick Stew Cook-Off, say Matthews concocted the stew for his master, Dr. Creed Haskins, and Haskins’s hunting buddies.

The story goes like this: “While they were on the hunt … camp cook ‘Uncle Jimmy’ Matthews stirred together the impromptu mixture that has become known as Brunswick Stew. The original thick soup was made from squirrels, onions, and stale bread.”

According to the “Food Lover’s Companion,” a great book that includes the definitions of nearly all things food-related, today’s Brunswick Stew is “generally made with rabbit or chicken and includes a variety of vegetables, including okra, lima beans, tomatoes and corn.”

Some people also make Brunswick Stew with pulled pork or a combination of chicken and pork.

I like Brunswick Stew, at least I think I do. Let me explain.

Long before I ever tried to make Brunswick Stew, the most recent time being about a week ago, I had eaten Brunswick Stew on at least one occasion. I remember the chicken, the lima beans, the corn, the potatoes. And I liked it. I swear I liked it.

But both times I’ve tried to make it, it’s been awful. No quite absolutely inedible — that would have to be amazingly terrible — but just not good. Bland. Blah. Boring.

Both times, husband John and I ate the Brunswick Stew for one meal, because we felt it would be wasteful to do otherwise, and the rest ended up in the garbage disposal.

My stew
My Brunswick Stew. All those pearl onions. No potatoes. Blech.

It was only a few days ago that I realized why this was happening: the recipe I’d been using includes no potatoes. It also has way, way too many pearl onions, but mostly I’m blaming the complete lack of potatoes.

I don’t know why this recipe doesn’t include potatoes. After all, potatoes are ingredient number five on a can of Mrs. Fearnow’s Delicious Brunswick Stew with Chicken, right between “chicken stock” and “chicken meat.” Mrs. Fearnow has been making Brunswick Stew since the 1930s, so she knows what she’s doing. I obviously don’t.

Perhaps my cookbook’s author doesn’t like potatoes. Perhaps it has something to do with it being a slow-cooker recipe that also involves tomatoes. I’m no chemist, but sometimes tomatoes can cause potatoes or beans to stay hard as a rock no matter how long you slow-cook them together. Perhaps it’s a typo.

Mrs Fearnows
The famous yellow can.

Perhaps I was over thinking the whole thing and just needed to open up a can of Mrs. Fearnow’s and call it a day.

So, one night this week, I heated up a can of Mrs. Fearnow’s and baked up a pan of Jiffy cornbread. And it was infinitely better than my attempts at Brunswick Stew. John thought so, too.

Since then, I’ve found a few more recipes — ones that include potatoes. I might try again sometime soon.

And if all else fails, there’s the Taste of Brunswick Festival, held this year on Saturday, Oct. 8, at Southside Virginia Community College in Alberta, Virginia. Maybe I’d better just write that on my calendar.