Appalachian Food

Rye Bread

frying pan with bread

“Homemade Rye Bread” by John Parris


Aunt Tennie Cloer, who will be 92 years old in a couple of weeks, came along in a time when mountain folks still grew rye for bread and mush and coffee.

“I grew up on homemade rye bread,” she said. “Not like the kind you buy at the store nowadays, but the kind baked in a skillet and served up hot. We liked it better than wheat bread. And in my time I’ve baked many a cake of rye bread.”

“When I was comin’ on over on Ellijay in Macon County, folks grew a lot of rye for home use. My father always put in a crop every year and the threshers would come and thresh it and he’d take four or five bushels to the grist mill down on the creek and have it ground into flour. We raised wheat and corn and buckwheat too. Got the wheat made into flour for biscuits and cakes and the like. And in the wintertime my mother would make buckwheat cakes now and then for breakfast. Of course, like everybody else, we had cornbread at least once a day. But she made rye bread the year round, too, usually for dinner.”

“I started makin’ rye bread when I was 14 years old and I made it regularly for the next 40 years. As long as I could get the rye flour. My husband was mighty fond of rye bread. He had to have his rye bread, comin’ and goin’.”

“Until last Sunday, I hadn’t made any rye bread in 38 years or tasted any. A while back, Mrs. Florence Smith, a friend of mine who lives on Martin’s Creek below Murphy, was visiting and we got to talking about homemade rye bread and about how you couldn’t get the flour for it any more. Well, she come back last Saturday and she had me some rye flour she found in Tennessee. She brought me two pounds and said she’d get me some more soon. I don’t know when I’ve been so pleased with something as I was with that rye flour.”

“I baked me a cake for my dinner Sunday and, oh, it was so good. And it brought back so many memories of good times.”

Now the way I make rye bread, is to take the flour and put it in a bowl and put in a teenie bit of baking powders and an egg and stir it up good and then pour it in a greased skillet and bake it in the oven. That’s when I make it just for myself. But if I was makin’ it for somebody else, I’d make it according to the number that was goin’ to be here to eat it.”

“To make a cake for four to six people, you would use two cups of flour, one teaspoon of baking powders, and two eggs and stir it all up till it’s pretty stiff. But if you think the batter’s goin’ to be too stiff, you put in three tablespoons of milk.”

—John Parris – “Mountain Cooking”



Subscribe for FREE and get a daily dose of Appalachia in your inbox

You Might Also Like


  • Reply
    December 9, 2021 at 11:44 pm

    Seen some of your recipes that are from a cook book by John Parris. I’ve Looked online and can’t find one. Do you know if they have a recent print . Would love to read all the stories and recipes. Or if you had a place on website with his recipes. Thanks again for all your interesting stories.

    • Reply
      December 13, 2021 at 3:52 pm

      Becky-there’s not a recent reprint of the Parris book that I’m aware of. I have a few recipes on my site from him, but not very many. Hopefully if you keep an eye out you’ll find a copy that comes available 🙂

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    June 17, 2020 at 5:43 pm

    I just had for lunch today…A “Reuben” sandwich…made on Rye bread of course! I absolutely love me a “Reuben”…They make them so large nowadays that I can only eat half the sandwich. We used to make them when I was a youngster. Mom always bought her rye bread. We had plenty of kraut, etc. I am sure this sandwich would be better made with homegrown rye and the bread made from it. Probably gives a more tasty nutty flavor…I never heard of my Father’s family growing rye, even though they were of German heritage. My Aunt used to make rye bread. So someone in the area probably grew the grain and ground their own flour, as did my other Grandfather..
    Enjoyed this post today…
    By the way…A big homemade pickle is fantastic with a Reuben sandwich..LOL

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    June 15, 2020 at 2:08 pm

    You’re right, Ed, Ingles is high as a kit. We use to have many Grocery Stores, but they’ve all gone except Ingles. We had a Food lion and an A& P when I was younger, but now they’ve gone too. Now all we have is a couple or three Fast Food places, like Hardee’s and McDonalds and a Mexican and China restaurants and a Subway shop down in Ray White’s Plaza. If this Covid-19 continues, they’ll soon go too, I’m afraid. All over the World, it’s like that. …Ken

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    June 15, 2020 at 11:45 am

    Tennie Cloer was born Tennie Pricilla Price. Her father was Phillip Price and her mother Sarah J Ammons. She was my 5th cousin. That means she was also a cousin of your husband but I don’t know how close.

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    June 15, 2020 at 11:43 am

    I like reading what John Parris has to say, even when I was little, he was popular. He’d talk Old Moutain Things that was just down my alley. I’d go over to Bigfists and read what he had to say, if I had a dime. That’s what the Asheville Paper cost back then. I imagine it’s much higher now.

    Bigfist was a Veteran of WW1, he was a good man, unless he got ahold of some Alcohol. Me and Harold dragged him off the Railroad Tracks many times, where he had passed out. I remember him telling us boys about when he was small, he could look toward Andrews and from the Topton Bridge, and couldn’t see anything but a trail and the Headwaters of Valley River. That was before they built Hwy. 19.

    I wish I could have seen this, before the road came thru and civilization came into our country. …Ken

  • Reply
    John T
    June 15, 2020 at 10:40 am

    This sounds good. I like to make Sourdough bread and Rye bread in my cast iron Dutch oven..however Ive not seen Rye flour in the store for a few months. I will have to try this when I find some.

  • Reply
    Ann Applegarth
    June 15, 2020 at 10:25 am

    Here I can get rye flour at Albertson’s grocery store, but not at any of the others.
    I’m going to try this. I’ve always made rye yeast bread, but this sounds so quick,
    easy, and yummy.

  • Reply
    June 15, 2020 at 9:25 am

    Rye bread has never been a favorite of mine. I have only tried it a few times with fish and didn’t like it. Maybe fresh bread made in a skillet using Tennie’s recipe is better. I will have to try it if I can find the flour.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    June 15, 2020 at 9:21 am

    I just so happen to have a bag of Hogdson Mill Whole Grain Rye Flour. I bought it for a recipe I found but then when I looked for the recipe I couldn’t find it. Now maybe I have a substitute. I found the stuff at Ingles Market. Ingles is high as a kite but they carry stuff most stores don’t.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    June 15, 2020 at 8:37 am

    Tip, I like rye bread but I’ve never eaten the kind of rye bread she is talking about. The bread made from home raised rye I expect if far different from the processed rye flour we buy in the grocery today. I would love to try this bread. With so little liquid it seems that it would be stiff and dry but I’d still like to try it.
    We sacrificed a lot with mass production. Quality was given up for shelf life….kind of like we sold our soul.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    June 15, 2020 at 8:24 am

    Odd you should post this just now. The other week I took a hankering for some rye bread. Had not had any in a great long while. Of course the homegrown was probably way better. I like to just eat it by itself or in a sandwich with corned beef. The loaf is nearly gone now.

    I think I must have just missed the time when folks grew their own grains and had them milled locally. I guess corn was the last one to go but in my childhood I think there was only one mill in operation over in the next county to the west and it was powered by an engine. I was there once with Dad but I do not recall why we went.

    I think Bob’s Red Mill would sell rye flour. They would be a good place to look for anything in the bread or cereal line. The company has an interesting history in its own right.

  • Reply
    aw griff
    June 15, 2020 at 8:20 am

    I don’t remember anyone growing or making rye bread. Although my Wife makes yeast bread fairly often she has never made rye bread.
    There used to be a store close by that sold rye bread without the caraway seeds mixed in and we often bought it. I really dislike the taste of caraway seeds which taste like licorice to me. Evertime I look for rye bread all I ever find has those seeds in it.
    This sounds like baking cornbread in a greased skillet and we will give it a try. I checked and you can get rye flour from amazon.

  • Reply
    Garland Davis
    June 15, 2020 at 8:08 am

    Nothing I can think of is better than some good New York Pastrami on Rye with some Cole Slaw and a big dill pickle.

  • Reply
    Rick Shepherd
    June 15, 2020 at 7:19 am

    I like rye read for toast with butter on it and sometimes I add honey for breakfast…..I like it with corn beef , Swiss cheese, fresh spinach leaves and a little mayo, too for lunch once in a while…..But I’ve never had homemade rye bread like this…..So now I have to find some rye flour and make it in the oven in my iron skillet…..Give me something to look forward to and surprise Mary.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    June 15, 2020 at 7:00 am

    Rye bread is my favorite, like you I can’t fond the flour for it any more.

  • Reply
    Leon Pantenburg
    June 15, 2020 at 6:45 am

    Great story – I have to try this recipe out!

  • Leave a Reply