As I mentioned in the newsletter this week, we just got back from 4 spectacular days camping in Smoke Hole Canyon WV.
Ordinarily I would not combine the words “spectacular” and “camping” in the same day let alone the same sentence. It’s not that I hate to go camping, I really don’t hate it. However, there are aspects of camping that I like a lot and other aspects I -well – don’t. But this place was so perfect and so spectacular that all the usual camping related annoyances just melted away.
Smoke Hole Canyon is a wild and isolated gorge where the South Branch of the Potomac River squeezes between North Mountain and Cave Mountain. For over 20 miles the river has carved a half-mile deep canyon, with nearly vertical walls.
While we were there we saw plentiful bald eagles, golden eagles and hawks soaring along the ridge. The misty fog that often lies along the river as it runs through the “hole” makes the name appropriate. We even had our own swimming beach, with water so clear we could look down and see river trout and crayfish cavorting around our feet.
And what would a post about West Virginia be without an authentic mountain recipe? This one for Brunswick stew looks about as authentic as they come. We haven’t tried it yet (I plan to and will post afterward) but we gave the recipe the once over and even suggested substitutes for the game it calls for. Just in case you’re not into pan fried squirrel. It looks quite good – serve it with homemade biscuits and a nice medium bodied red wine. If you can’t find any decent wine at your local bait shop,
you may want to try our Domaine la Croix des Marchands Gaillac Rouge ($13). This wine’s grapes are equal parts Syrah, Duras, and Braucol. Duras provides the structure and some of the earthier flavors, while Braucol provides color, fruit flavors, and spice. The Syrah reinforces those characteristics, and adds tannin for finish. It’s an unusual, medium-bodied wine, perfect for enjoying while swimming in remote rugged gorges or just dreaming about it.
(Ed note: I loved how the original recipe specified the game has to be dressed. As if some people need to be told they should not try and simply throw the squirrels, fur and all, into the pot! So I kept that part in)
8 Quail — dressed & split (can substitute 1 small chicken – OR you can find frozen quail at Whole Foods)
3 Squirrels — dressed & Quartered (even if you‘d really like to shoot the squirrels in your yard you probably don’t want to eat them – try substituting about 2 pounds of pork shoulder or venison)
6 tablespoons Butter
1 cup Chopped Scallions
4 mediums Potatoes — thinly sliced
2 cups Lima Beans
3 cups Okra — sliced across
1 cup Canned Tomatoes
1 Bay Leaf
2 tablespoons Chopped Parsley
1½ teaspoon Salt
2 cups Fresh Corn Kernels
Flour the quail and squirrels lightly and brown them in butter; place in a large pot and cover with water (I’d try chicken or vegetable broth here, or at least part broth) . Simmer for 1 1/2 hours. Then add the rest of the ingredients, except the corn, and enough water to again cover. Simmer until the vegetables are tender, stirring often to prevent sticking to the bottom. Add the corn and simmer 10 minutes more. Serve in a flat soup plate.