Appalachian Food Christmas

Backbones and Ribs for Christmas

“Till later years, we’d raise our own meats for Christmas. We’d kill hogs in November and save the backbones and ribs, and my mama’d cook a big pot of them at Christmas. They’d kill roosters and hens and make chicken and dumplings. She’d bake hams and we’d have our own homegrown meats and vegetables—Irish potatoes and sweet potatoes. We didn’t have to go to the store for very much. She’d cook a big pan of cornbread and biscuits and put clean white cloths over them, and that’d keep’em just as moist and good.”

—Burma Patterson – “A Foxfire Christmas”


Sounds like good eating to me! I wish I had been there to hear her say Irish potatoes, I bet she said arsh like we do.

You can jump over to the Foxfire website to pick up your own copy of the book.


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  • Reply
    Charles Howell
    December 5, 2020 at 9:48 pm

    “Spare Ribs & Backbones”. Boiled Pork. Many a meal with cornbread, sometimes Sauerkraut. Where did the “Spare” go? Love this traditional stuff.

  • Reply
    Matt Bumguardner
    December 26, 2019 at 11:35 pm

    Going pig hunting here in Texas next weekend to get some backbones and ribs. Wish me luck!!

  • Reply
    Joshua Dykes
    December 26, 2019 at 9:00 pm

    I’ve never had any, but it sounds good.

  • Reply
    December 23, 2019 at 6:59 pm

    What a feast! Made my mouth water reading it.
    Thanks for all these giveaways, Tipper! You made me realize I haven’t done one in a long time, so I’ll maybe start off the new year with one or two.
    Now I’m thinking about how good cornbread hot out of the oven with butter melting into it would taste right now! But I’ve been planning to learn to make scones, and I just bought some heavy cream for that reason, so I guess I’d better make the scones first.

  • Reply
    Darrell Cook
    December 23, 2019 at 6:18 pm

    We killed a hog each year also. Cornbread and biscuits were daily prepared. Our chickens roamed range and Mom would say, “Darrell, go kill me a rooster- the preacher is coming for dinner tomorrow.” I had to chase the rooster until it would fly into a tree.

  • Reply
    Glynda ParkerChambers
    December 23, 2019 at 3:36 pm

    Hi Tipper, Love this post and yes I would love to win a copy of the Foxfire Christmas Book. I hope you and all of your family have blessed Christmas and a Happy, Healthy New Year in 2020.

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    December 23, 2019 at 2:37 pm

    I buy Beef backbones and ribs about every couple of weeks at Ingles. Sometimes I substitute and get pork chops to go in my soup beans. I love pinto beans seasoned with pork chops and cornbread. …Ken

  • Reply
    Bill Burnett
    December 23, 2019 at 12:27 pm

    A mess of Backbones & Ribs were always accompanied by baked Sweet Potatoes which you peeled as you ate them so you had part of the peeling to hold the potato by as you sopped it in the broth off the Backbones & Ribs with the tender meat off the Ribs. Great eating.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    December 23, 2019 at 9:32 am

    What pot? Ribs belong in the frying pan! Daddy would clean and scald his double bitted axe. He’s first chop the ribs off the backbone then into two or three inch wide strips. With a knife he would cut the strips into pieces of two or three ribs each. Mommy would fry them in a big cast iron skillet and serve them with green beans, mashed taters and biscuits or whatever she chose for the meal. As they fried the meat would pull back on the bone and leave a little handle to hold onto. It reminded me of ice cream on a stick so I’d pull them apart, hold one up and call it a “pigsicle”.
    I’ve never been a fan of backbone fried, boiled or baked. Too much bone, too little meat. But now ribs, I’d give my eyeteeth for a big mess of them. Well, maybe not my eyeteeth! I might need them to gnaw every last bit of goodness off them bones.

  • Reply
    December 23, 2019 at 9:20 am

    Remember my grandparents killing & dressing hogs when i was a little kid. My folks eventually grew too busy with dairying to fool with it.

  • Reply
    December 23, 2019 at 9:06 am

    The big pot of backbones and ribs surely had taters, onions and a head of cabbage cooked in the same pot. Add a pone of cornbread and that is what I call a feast. Fresh churned butter would make the meal fit for a king.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    December 23, 2019 at 8:49 am

    Tipper–Backbones-and-ribs was our traditional New Year’s Day meat (instead of hog jowl). I absolutely loved it and best of all was the marrow you could suck from the tender end of the ribs where they joined the backbone.

    Just try and find backbones-and-ribs in your local grocery store today! I’ve asked numerous times in recent years and either get a blank stare along the thought lines of “What planet are you from?” or else an indication they’ve got them (it’s always a rack of ribs, not backbones-and-ribs. One older butcher did know what I was talking about but indicated they hadn’t been available in a long time.

    Other than possibly going to a specialty shop or finding someone who still raises and butchers their own hogs, I think this is a cherished dish from yesteryear that’s mighty hard to come by today.

    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    December 23, 2019 at 8:17 am

    Now that is a good looking pone of bread. I love the crusty kind, and am usually disappointed in the crumbly thick cornbread sometimes served at restaurants. If you want to really touch an Appalachian heart just post a picture of some cornbread. I try to get hints from folks, but my bread always turns out inconsistent. It sounds off the wall, but learned from one cook to put a big dollop of mayonnaise in the batter (contains eggs and oil). Also, right before it turns golden brown one cook advised to turn off oven, and let it crust up in a slow way. Mom always used buttermilk. The search goes on for the perfect recipe, and you may have captured a picture of just that.
    I never did care for backbones and ribs as a child, even though my Mom seemed to think this was the prize meal. The fried tenderloin was the best breakfast ever.

    • Reply
      Wanda Devers
      December 23, 2019 at 11:47 am

      Yes, that tenderloin was so good. Grocery store just doesn’t get near it.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    December 23, 2019 at 8:05 am

    I agree about the good eating. And I like the sound of that ‘not having to go to the store for much’. It is a standing joke with us that we can’t pass the grocery store without stopping. But it isn’t really funny. It bothers me to live ‘hand to mouth’.

    Sue McIntyre is the wife of our pastor. She is thrilled to win the Foxfire book. She texted us last night about it. I expect you all may see her at one of your shows in 2020. She and her husband Michael are the best.

  • Reply
    Susan warner
    December 23, 2019 at 8:03 am

    Makes my tongue reach up and slap my brains out just readin’ about such a meal-

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    December 23, 2019 at 8:02 am

    I have not eaten or thought of backbones and ribs is a very long time. That used to be a very fine meal. After hog killing with Papaw Tony’s family I knew there was soon to be a big pot of backbones and ribs with fresh hot biscuits!
    That’s real country eating!

  • Reply
    William P Dotson
    December 23, 2019 at 7:55 am

    Growing up we always raised all our meat and vegatables and Mom would can and freeze everything she could.

  • Reply
    Jack Yates (AKA Howland)
    December 23, 2019 at 7:22 am

    I’ve never seen a picture of a pone of cornbread that made my mouth water ’til now…

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