Appalachia Appalachian Food Gardening

A Craving For Candy Roasters

Today’s guest post was written by Jim Casada.

Citizen Times Candy Roaster Squash

 

Photo by Asheville Citizen Times

A CRAVING FOR CANDY ROASTERS by Jim Casada

Periodically this column delves into the lure and lore of traditional mountain foodstuffs. That’s at least in part thanks to the fact that some of the most enduring, endearing memories of my youth focus on food. Among them are evening sessions on the porch with the whole family stringing and breaking green beans, peeling and quartering apples, shucking and silking corn, shelling field peas, or otherwise getting garden truck ready to can. Similarly, recollections of tempting smells wafting from Momma’s Grandma Minnie kitchen are so tangible I can almost taste streaked meat frying or biscuits baking. Such longing looks backward explain why I occasionally scamper off down some avenue connected with old-time mountain food ways.

A few weeks back I had the great pleasure of being involved in what is sometimes called a “writer farm trip” in neighboring Haywood County. The idea behind such outings is to expose writers to various aspects of an area likely to have visitor appeal. While I let my considerable familiarity with Haywood County, thanks to my mountain roots and varied sporting and other experiences in the county over the years, be known up front, the folks hosting the trip still insisted I join them. That proved a great blessing to me. I had numerous joyous experiences, among them trips to various farm-to-market and pick-your-own agricultural operations, a visit to local microbreweries, sampling the fare at some fine local restaurants, a cook-and-serve it demonstration from folks at Sunburst Trout Farm and a lady doing all sorts of neat gourmet canning and pickling, a stop by a farmer’s market similar to the one here locally, and much more.

The writers stayed at historic Cataloochee Ranch, and that’s where my culinary fancy and memories of candy roasters were tickled. Awaiting me in my room at check-in was a little gift bag which included a jar of candy roaster butter. That immediately took me down a delightful road into yesteryear and food experiences I had not known for decades.

Grandpa Joe regularly raised candy roasters, along with pumpkins and other types of winter squash, as part of the traditional “three sisters” approach to agricultural. For those unfamiliar with the three sisters concept, it originates with Cherokees and involves planting corn, some type of climbing bean or pea, and one or more varieties of winter squash all together. The corn stalks provide the likes of runner beans, field peas, or October beans needed climbing support; these climbing legumes help the soil through fixing nitrogen from the atmosphere; and large leaves of winter squash keep weeds at bay. After one or two early hoeing sessions, three sisters plantings pretty well look after themselves.

About this time of year, with the corn crop made and ears hanging down awaiting pulling and placement in the corn crib, the three sisters patch would be dotted with colorful pumpkins, cushaws, candy roasters, and the like. They were usually left to cure and sweeten in the sunny Indian Summer days of late September and early October before being gathered and stored sometime near first frost.

Grandpa stored the winter squash underneath corn shocks, always being careful to protect them protected from the ground with a layer of straw or corn stalks as well as making certain they didn’t touch one another. A few pumpkins or candy roasters, perhaps showing an imperfection or looking like they wouldn’t keep well, might be put in smokehouse/cannery just outside Grandma’s kitchen.

The tasty wonders both Grandma and Momma worked with them were a source of pure wonder. They particularly liked the fact candy roaster flesh wasn’t nearly as stringy as that of pumpkins. Today efforts of these two wonderful cooks run through corridors of my mind like a sweet dream.

The big squash—which could sometimes run to 10 or 15 pounds, although I’ve read of county fair competitors running to hundreds of pounds—would be roasted in large chunks or even whole in the oven. It was much easier to do this way than trying to peel them while raw. If a whole candy roaster was involved, bits of skin would be cut away or holes poked in it so steam could escape. After roasting, and with the seed and stringy matter around the seed removed, the meat was ready for preparation.

The uses varied appreciably. One personal favorite was mashing up the candy roaster, and perhaps adding a bit of brown sugar or molasses, along with cinnamon, to make a non-dessert dish used much like apple sauce. It was actually, as the “candy” part of the name suggests, sweet enough to have been a dessert. Or it could be used to make pies quite similar to those prepared with pumpkin, in candy roaster bread or muffins, in cakes, or as candy roaster butter. The latter, slathered across a cathead biscuit which had already received a generous application of butter, gave that biscuit a college education.

We’ll finish with a couple of candy roaster recipes, but before offering those I have a request of readers. If any local gardener has over time grown and saved heirloom candy roaster seeds I would love to obtain a few. I’ll gladly swap any of several heirloom seeds I’ve saved over the years—Nantahala runner beans, easy-zip field peas, or Texas Longhorn okra, in return ([email protected]).

CANDY ROASTER BUTTER

The recipes which follow come straight out of a grand cookbook, “Cataloochee Cooking,” written by Alice Alexander Aumen, one of the daughters of Ranch founders Tom and Judy Alexander. There are many mountain-related cookbooks I treasure, such as Sidney Saylor Farr’s “More Than Moonshine” and John Dabney’s “Smokehouse Ham, Spoonbread & Scuppernong Wine,” but this one is as good as it gets for coverage high country culinary recipes and traditions.

1 gallon candy roaster, cooked and mashed
3 cups sugar
¼ cup lemon juice
¼ cup cinnamon
1 tablespoon cloves
1 tablespoon nutmeg
1 tablespoon ginger
2 cups apple cider
1 box Sure-Jell

Mix all of the ingredients except the Sure-Jell. Bring to a boil and cook for a minute. Remove and add the Sure-Jell. Place in sterilized jars. Melt paraffin and spoon a thin layer atop the butter.

CANDY ROASTER PIE

2 eggs, beaten lightly
2 cups candy roaster, cooked and mashed
¾ cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground cloves
1 12-ounce can evaporated milk
2 pie crusts

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Combine filling ingredients in order listed above. Pour into pie shells and bake 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350 degrees and bake an additional 45 minutes or until a toothpick comes away from the filling clean. Cool and serve with whipped cream.

———————–

I hope you enjoyed Jim’s guestpost as much as I did! Jim writes a weekly column for the Smoky Mountain Times and the article above was one of Jim’s recent columns in the newspaper. Jim sent it to me after he read one of the posts about squash I posted recently.

The squash seeds donated by Sow True Seed for my squash reporting project included Pink Jumbo Banana. I didn’t grow any of the pink jumbo squash-but I’m thinking they would be very similar to a the Candy Roaster Squash Jim is talking about.

Pap didn’t ever grow candy roasters that I can remember. One of Granny’s brothers used to bring her a few some years. Not sure if he grew them or if someone gave them to him. Granny used them like she would use pumpkin.

I’m going to try my hand at growing them next year-just so I can try the candy roaster butter recipe Jim shared.

Tipper

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19 Comments

  • Reply
    Brenda Stockton-Grundt
    October 1, 2016 at 11:45 pm

    I am so excited! I live in Wawa but my family’s roots are in Gainsboro and Cookeville, TN. I remember these from years past, and this year at the Farmer’s Market where I work – two showed up. I’ve grabbed them and am going to make Candy Roaster Butter and fry pies galore! What a way to turn back time, canning green beans, pickling beets, and making fry pies! Thank you for giving me a look back into my heritage from the great white north of Canada. Brenda Stockton-Grundt

  • Reply
    J Corley Ackley
    September 14, 2015 at 3:23 pm

    I was so excited to get some candy roaster seeds this year and was curious as to whether or not they would grow here in the desert southwest. We have worked our little farm (an oasis in the middle of the desert) with mulch, compost, and cured horse manure, so our soil is very, very fertile. Still, I just wasn’t sure what the results would be. Well, let me tell you, they are incredible! They grow great here. Of course, no one at the grower’s market has
    a clue what they are, so I have been educating them and giving them cooking instructions and recipes. They are now selling like hotcakes, and it is such a joy to see people meandering about with a 15-20 pound candy roaster on their shoulders. People stop and ask them what they are and where they got them. They have been selling primarily for the curiosity factor, but once they cook them up, I think they will be back for more. I now have some on the vines that will likely exceed 30 pounds in another week or so. Love your site as I miss home so much, and this brings me back. Thanks so much!

  • Reply
    Nita
    October 2, 2014 at 9:43 pm

    Wow! I never heard of such! I’ve got to plant some next year!

  • Reply
    RB
    October 2, 2014 at 12:40 am

    Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it.
    There are candy roaster squash seeds on sale online. This website sounds like it might have more of the kind Jim is use to seeing.
    http://www.heritageharvestseed.com/squashmaxima.html
    But there were many choices online. Just put “candy roaster squash seeds” in the search box, and you’ll find them all.
    God bless.
    RB
    <><

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    October 1, 2014 at 5:15 pm

    Our neighbors on Wiggins Creek grew what they called candy roasters. They swore they were not pumpkins. They looked like an acorn squash only they were as big as a ten gallon bucket.They had a pale yellow skin. They also grew regular pumpkins and several kinds of gourds. One kind of gourd they dried and used as a dipper in the water bucket.
    We only grew pumpkins and summer squash.

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    October 1, 2014 at 4:59 pm

    Tipper,
    This comment if for the idiosyncratic Ed….My friend McCormick makes some wonderful food coloring. Just cook your ochre veggie and add a drop of coloring…go easy on the red!
    Mix them up to make purple, red/blue, mix all for brown, or lighten or darken the green with blue or yellow, etc. I agree ochre is a “mustardy” stomach ill color…do you reminisce of the days of yellow ochre diaper changing, like my husband, is that the cause! Hope the food coloring helps for you to enjoy ochre foods once again!
    Thanks Tipper,
    PS….He can also jazz up the fruit and veggies using the new fluorescent food dyes!

  • Reply
    Eve
    October 1, 2014 at 2:33 pm

    We love butternut squash mashed with cream cheese and butter and of course a little brown sugar or molasses. And those cute little pie pumpkins are perfect for our small family. I’ve never heard of candy roasters but the name alone gets my attention.

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    October 1, 2014 at 1:49 pm

    Tipper,
    I really enjoy Jim’s writings. He
    talks of his Grandpa Joe in almost every one of his monthly colums. If you want to be taken back in time to the “good ole days”, I suggest you try his monthly Newsletter.
    Although I was just a puppy, those years ago, my daddy and mama growed Candy Roasters too.
    I marvel at how they got so much
    done and raised 6 boys.
    Nice post today as usual…Ken

  • Reply
    dolores
    October 1, 2014 at 1:05 pm

    I have never tasted candy roasters. Is there a restaurant that serves this tempting dish? Gosh! I think I am missing out on some old timey types of dishes. Thanks, Jim, for sharing this information. I really enjoyed reading about it and the attached recipes.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    October 1, 2014 at 12:39 pm

    I really enjoyed Jim’s composition today concerning the consumption of Candy Roasters. I’ll bet the SMT had to add a page to contain the convention of chronicles culminating in today’s contribution.
    As much as I delight in Jim’s words, much more is my aversion for the consumable he espouses. I’m sure you know by now, I don’t eat ochre foods. Oranges, bananas, apples and summer squash are fine because the offensive color is gone before the food reaches the table. Yellow fleshed potatoes too because I can pretend its butter providing the hue. I can eat sweet potatoes but only the white fleshed variety. I can stomach yellow sweet corn but much prefer white.
    Before you commit me to the cracked category let me admit myself. Everybody has their abnormalities. I don’t peep in windows, set fire to buildings, torture animals or appear on Springer type shows.
    Speaking of cracked, I don’t have a problem egg yolks. Maybe there is hope for me yet.

  • Reply
    PinnacleCreek
    October 1, 2014 at 11:01 am

    Thank you so very much, Jim Casada, for posting so much about your candy roaster. I think this may be the elusive squash I have searched for years for and finally found this year. I will tuck that recipe away and try it. I always love all guest posts, and this one was especially interesting to me. I have emailed.

  • Reply
    Ann Applegarth
    October 1, 2014 at 10:14 am

    I have never heard of candy roasters! Is there another name for them?

  • Reply
    Shirla
    October 1, 2014 at 9:27 am

    Jim, I would gladly share seeds if I had any. I’ve never seen or heard of Candy Roasters. I thought Mom raised every heirloom vegetable known to man, but I was wrong. Some of my relatives still save seeds from years ago. Hopefully they can help with my search.

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    October 1, 2014 at 8:37 am

    Tipper,
    and Jim…I loved this post. The picture of Jims squash Candy Roaster is identical to the squash I grew, color and size. Now then, I have six seeds saved from the squash I grew. The rest of the seed did not make in the squash. My squash was supposed to be a Banana Squash! From what I understand there are several types that fall under the “Candy Roaster” name. A Georgia variety and a North Carolina variety, descended from the Cherokee Indians! I don’t know these for facts as I just read this information on various winter squash websites, with the botanical name of my seed typed in! At any rate the flesh of the Candy Roaster Jim describes is like I found in my squash!
    No one will convince me that I grew anything other than a Candy Roaster of some type. Maybe it was a “fluke” a stray seed. If God willin’ an the creek don’t rise, I will have planted those seeds and will know more next year!, that is if they come up true!
    I have heard of my Grandparents speak of Candy Roasters! When young I remember thinking they were corn that they were talking about. Now I know different, and until this year had never seen one. Thanks Jim and Tipper!
    I am glad to know more about them and so glad you got the Candy Roaster Butter recipe and pie recipe for all of us.
    I too would love to have some true heirloom North Carolina Candy Roaster seed.
    Thanks Tipper, and Jim for this wonderful information filled post!

  • Reply
    Lonnie Baker
    October 1, 2014 at 7:55 am

    When I first moved to Haywood county two years ago I was introduced to the magnifigance of candy roasters at the Historic Haywood Farmers Market. I made pies, bread and Mexican candy from the wonderful fruit and I also saved the seeds but have yet to plant any of them.

  • Reply
    Mike McLain
    October 1, 2014 at 7:50 am

    I have never heard of, nor do I recall ever seeing a candy roaster! Thanks to cousin Jim for once again for rounding out my education! Of course, thanks to Tipper and the Blind Pig gang and all of the blogging “acorns” for rounding out my education almost daily.

  • Reply
    Barb Wright
    October 1, 2014 at 7:18 am

    Gosh,up north we lead a sheltered life! I have never heard of candy roasters before. They sound good..I think I’d like them! I use butternut squash the same as pumpkin..must be all(or most)of these things are interchangeable. My Dad always planted the 3 sisters way,too. It worked well and I wonder why more people don’t use it.Too easy,maybe? Great article,Jim!!

    • Reply
      Melinda
      April 22, 2020 at 5:40 pm

      Thanks for the info! Never heard of ‘candy roasters’ before…too much north, I guess up here in SWOhio. I’m only familiar with Acorn, Butternut, spaghetti squash along w/zucinni (sp?) & yellow summer squash.

      Keep up the good work – Blind Pig is a favorite

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    October 1, 2014 at 7:16 am

    Is there another name for the squash? I would like to try growing some, but don’t see the name listed anywhere.

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