Heirloom Eats

They say scent is the strongest sense tied to memory, which might explain why a favorite family meal can conjure such strong feelings of belonging and tradition. As these recipes are passed from generation to generation, their familiarity grows. Here, local families share their most treasured family recipes and the tales of what make them so memorable.

By  Katie Faulkner
Photography by  Rich Smith

Jeanette & Rod Morton

 

— HARRISON —

“My family’s love for food stems from my parents, Lula and Chris Morton, who were both educators. My mother was a registered dietician and retired principal. My father taught a commercial foods class at The Howard School. This broccoli-peas casserole was one of my mother’s prize-winning recipes. Now, my wife prepares it for gatherings with family and friends and for every Thanksgiving. A family of 11 keeps us busy.”- Rod

 

Mama’s Broccoli-Peas Casserole

Yields: 8-10 servings

Ingredients
  • 2 (10 oz.) packages frozen broccoli, chopped
  • 1 can green peas, drained
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 can mushroom soup
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. pepper
  • 1 cup shredded sharp cheese
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup crackers, crushed
Directions

Preheat oven to 350°. Cook broccoli according to package directions; drain. Arrange 1 package of the broccoli in a greased 11×7-inch casserole dish. Cover with drained peas. Mix together mayonnaise, soup, salt, pepper, cheese, onion, and eggs to make sauce. Pour 1/2 of the sauce over broccoli and peas. Add remaining broccoli and top with second 1/2 of sauce. Sprinkle crushed cracker crumbs on top. Bake for 35-45 minutes.

Missy Elliott

with her sons, J.Y. and Boon, and her husband, Jay

 

— NORTH CHATTANOOGA —

“I can’t remember a family meal at my grandma Johnson’s house without a loaf (or two or three) of her rye bread. My aunts, uncles, cousins, siblings, and I love it cut thick, toasted, and smothered in peanut butter. In his semi-retirement my dad, Dr. Bill Johnson, has also started making her bread. Fond childhood memories of my family are triggered every time the aroma of baking bread fills my kitchen. My own children and four nieces and nephews never knew their great-grandma Johnson. But as we all enjoy pieces of rye bread I remind them of her and hope their own bread-filled memories trigger nostalgia of times together at my table.”

 

Grandma Johnson’s Rye Bread

Yields: 2 loaves

Ingredients
  • 1 1/2 cups rye flour
  • 2 1/4 tsp. active dry yeast (one package)
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. molasses
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 cups water, heated to 110-120°
  • 3-4 cups white bread flour
Directions

Mix together all ingredients except 2 cups of white bread flour. Wait 30 minutes. Add remaining white flour and knead dough. In an oiled bowl, cover dough with a cloth and let rise (1-2 hours). Remove cloth and knead and punch dough down. Cover again and allow to rise a second time (1-2 hours). Divide dough evenly, form into 2 loaves, and place in greased loaf pans. Wait 30 minutes. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes.

Melissa Hennessy, Hall Gregg, Marshall Mae Hennessy, and Mary Gregg

Hall Gregg

Four Generations of Memories

 

— SOUTHSIDE —

“One of my earliest food memories is of my mother’s cherry dumplings. As a little girl, I remember the smell of the tart, sugary fruit baking in a hot oven, filling the kitchen with the sweetest scent. I was so excited the first time my mom tied an apron around my waist and let me help melt the butter on the stove and shape the dough. Now, all these years later, my mother and I are excited to share this Gregg family favorite with Marshall Mae and the next generation.” – Hall

 

Cherry Dumplings

Yields: 6 servings

Ingredients

For the filling:

  • 1 can tart red cherries
  • 1 scant cup sugar
  • 1 stick butter

For the dumplings:

  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 Tbsp. shortening
  • 1/3 cup milk
Directions

Preheat oven to 400°.

For the filling:

Place cherries, sugar, and butter in a 10-inch cast iron skillet or similar ovenproof pan. On medium high heat, bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and prepare dumplings.

For the dumplings:

In a large bowl, mix together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Cut in shortening until well-mixed with dry ingredients. Add milk and stir until just mixed. Drop spoonfuls (about 1 Tbsp. each) of dough onto cherry filling. Transfer to preheated oven and bake until dumplings are browned.

Toney & Melanie Cross

 

— HARRISON —

“Meatloaf reminds me of the comfort of togetherness and the importance of flexibility in a family. My grandparents were married for 49 years, and when they prepared meals (like this meatloaf) every Sunday, it put the family at ease as we gathered to eat. Now, it’s a tradition that I carry forth with my wife, family, and community. In my opinion, meatloaf with mashed potatoes, peas, and tasty buttermilk cornbread has the appeal to bring together any group of family and friends. It’s a great meal to gather around the dinner table with and just talk about anything.”  – Toney

 

Cross Family Famous Meatloaf

Yields: 6-8 servings

Ingredients
  • 3/4 cup + 1 Tbsp. light brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup ketchup
  • 1 1/2 lbs. lean ground beef
  • 1 Ib. ground pork
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 small green bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 Tbsp. salt (season to taste)
  • 1 Tbsp. seasoned salt (season to taste)
  • 1 Tbsp. black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 Tbsp. ginger, ground
  • 1 tsp. garlic, ground
  • 3/4 cup Ritz crackers (1 sleeve), finely crushed
Directions

Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly grease a 5×11-inch loaf pan. Press 3/4 cup of light brown sugar into bottom of prepared loaf pan, then spread ketchup over brown sugar. In a mixing bowl, mix all remaining ingredients and 1 Tbsp. of brown sugar thoroughly. Pour mixed contents into loaf pan and shape like a loaf by pressing around the edges with your fingers. Bake in preheated oven for 2 hours, or until the juices are clear after inserting a knife in the center of the loaf. For a more traditional meatloaf, add additional ketchup on top during the last 15 minutes of cook time.

 

 

Karen Culp

 

— NORTH CHATTANOOGA —

“My family makes wonton soup that has been handed down from my grandmother to my mother to me. My sisters and I used to sit at the table while we all folded wontons for dinner. Now that we live far apart, it has become our tradition to make this recipe during the Christmas holidays, when we’re all together.”

 

Wonton Soup

Yields: 4-6 servings

Ingredients

For the wontons:

  • 1 1/2 lbs. lean ground pork
  • 1/2 lb. frozen raw shrimp, coarsely chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. cornstarch
  • 1 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp. cooking wine
  • 1 tsp. sesame oil
  • 2 packages wonton wrappers

For the soup:

  • 3 qts. chicken broth
  • 3 Tbsp. scallions, chopped for garnish
Directions

For the wonton filling, combine uncooked pork and shrimp. Add cornstarch, soy sauce, cooking wine, and sesame oil. Mix until combined.

Drop a heaping tsp. of filling in the center of a wonton wrapper. Moisten all four edges with water and fold diagonally corner to corner to form a triangle. Press firmly to seal. Bring opposite corners together, overlapping the tips of the corners to form a bonnet shape. Moisten with water and press together.

Bring chicken broth to a boil. Place wontons one-by-one into the boiling broth until the pot is fairly full. Wontons will initially sink to the bottom of the pot but should float to the top once fully cooked (about 6-8 minutes). With a mesh strainer or slotted spoon, scoop cooked wontons into a large serving bowl. Once first batch is cooked, add another batch of wontons to the boiling broth. To keep cooked wontons from sticking together, ladle a small amount of broth into the serving bowl.

When all wontons are cooked, pour the remaining broth into the serving bowl. Serve immediately and garnish with chopped green onions or cilantro. Serve with sriracha.

Beth Palmer

with her husband, Rob, and their children Ella, Lily, Luke, and Ivey

 

— HIXSON —

“Many people associate Labor Day with the typical American cookout. But I think of my mom’s chicken egg rolls and how my parents taught us to love others well. I grew up in a home where guests and new friends of various cultures were always welcomed. Our family volunteered with an organization to support international students at the local university. A fond childhood memory is an annual Labor Day potluck picnic, which many of the international students attended. My mom started making these egg rolls for the picnic with the students in mind, but they were loved by all. Now Labor Day is never complete without them!”

 

Peggy’s Chicken Egg Rolls

Yields: 35-40 rolls

Ingredients
  • 2 cups carrots
  • 1 cup celery
  • 1 green pepper
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 3 cups cabbage (approx. 1 small head)
  • 1 onion
  • 6 scallions with stems (optional)
  • 2-3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp. garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp. ginger paste (optional)
  • 4 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3/4 tsp. black pepper
  • 2 cups chicken, cooked and shredded
  • 2 packages (25 per package) spring roll wrappers, thawed
  • Seasoned salt, to taste (magic ingredient for this recipe!)
  • 1 cup coconut oil
Directions

Shred all vegetables in a food processor. Heat a large pot to medium-high heat and add olive oil to coat the bottom. When oil is hot, add all shredded vegetables. Add garlic, ginger, eggs, and pepper. Stir gently to mix well and prevent sticking. Cook for 5 minutes then add cooked chicken. Continue cooking 3-5 more minutes, stirring frequently until egg is cooked and vegetables are soft (not soggy). Remove from heat and let cool slightly. Using a mesh strainer and pressing with the back of a spoon, drain excess liquid from cooked filling. Place 1 spring roll wrapper on a dry surface with a corner pointing toward you. Add about 3 Tbsp. of drained filling to the center of the wrapper. Lightly sprinkle seasoned salt on top of filling. Fold right and left corners over filling, overlapping each other. Fold bottom corner over filling and roll toward top corner. Repeat until filling is gone or you run out of wrappers.

Heat 1/2 cup coconut oil in a skillet at medium-high heat. Once hot, add several egg rolls, but do not overcrowd. Add additional oil as needed for subsequent batches. Using tongs, turn the egg rolls to fry golden brown on all 4 sides. It should take less than 1 minute per side. When all sides are cooked, place egg rolls on a tray covered with paper towels and lightly sprinkle with seasoned salt again. Serve with sweet chili sauce, sweet and sour sauce, plum sauce, or soy sauce.

Thaddeus & Erika Wilkins

 

— ST. ELMO —

“This recipe is one that my grandmother, Artie Rie Jones, often made for our Sunday family dinners, which consisted of everyone (including friends and strangers). It was our comfort food. The meat and potatoes stuck to our bones, and the love she poured into it covered our hearts. I often reminisce about coming into her house after a long morning at church. The smells enveloped you from the front porch. The entrée was both hearty and delicious! However, I mostly enjoyed the fact that we were able to break bread together around the table and feel loved.” – Erika

 

Braised Short Ribs with Garlic Mashed Potatoes 

Yields: 4 servings

Ingredients

For the ribs:

  • 4-5 lbs. beef short ribs
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
  • 1/3 cup Doc and Artie’s Texas Beef Rub
  • 1 Tbsp. water
  • 1 (14 1/2 oz.) can beef broth (no sodium)
  • 1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. garlic, minced

For the garlic mashed potatoes:

  • 3-4 lbs. red potatoes 
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2-3 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup half-and-half
  • 1/2 Tbsp. Doc and Artie’s Smoked Garlic Salt
  • 1 tsp. white pepper
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
Directions

Preheat a cast iron skillet on medium heat and preheat oven to 250°. Wash short ribs thoroughly and coat them with 1 Tbsp. of olive oil. Generously rub short ribs with Doc and Artie’s Texas Beef Rub. Place short ribs in the skillet to sear each side, then place them in a Dutch oven. 

Mix together remaining olive oil, water, beef broth, and Worcestershire sauce in a small bowl, then pour over short ribs in Dutch oven. Spread chopped onions and minced garlic over short ribs, then cover the Dutch oven and bake for 3-4 hours until done. (Note: The short ribs can also be slow cooked in a Crockpot instead of the oven.)

Meanwhile, for the mashed potatoes, wash all potatoes thoroughly and rough cut them. Boil potato pieces in a large pot of water along with 2 garlic cloves for about 15-20 minutes. When tender, remove potatoes from the stove. Pour out water and remove garlic cloves. Mash potatoes. Add in unsalted butter and half-and-half to cream the potatoes. Season potatoes with Doc and Artie’s Smoked Garlic Salt and white pepper, according to taste.

Garnish potatoes with chopped parsley. Plate short ribs over the mashed potatoes. Serve and enjoy!

Megan & Nate Kinard

 

— HIGHLAND PARK —

“As a child, when my mom visited her grandmother, Effie Grace Miller, there was always a ‘Wacky Chocolate Cake’
on the counter in a metal square cake pan with a metal sliding lid. My grandmother, Barbara Bays, used that same pan
for years. Effie Grace made this cake from a young age because it was economical, and her family was very poor. ‘Wacky’ was a term used during WWII for recipes that didn’t require hard-to-get ingredients like eggs. Now, this is the cake that our whole family associates with family get-togethers. It’s the first thing we learned to cook as kids, and it will probably be the last thing we remember how to make when we’re old.” – Megan

 

Wacky Chocolate Cake

Yields: 1 9×9-inch cake – servings depend on how large you cut pieces. Doubled, it will fit a 9×13 pan.

Ingredients

For the cake:

  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 tsp. vinegar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 5 Tbsp. butter, melted
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3 Tbsp. cocoa powder

For the caramel icing:

  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 2 Tbsp. milk
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
Directions

For the cake:

Mix together water and vinegar, then add vanilla and melted butter. Mix well. Add sugar, flour, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder. Mix well. Pour batter into an oiled 9×9- inch cake pan – we run a stick of butter over the pan. Bake at 350° until a toothpick or knife comes out clean. Depending on the oven, it’s usually at  least 35 minutes. While the  cake bakes, make caramel icing. After removing cake  from the oven, top with caramel icing and serve.

For the caramel icing:

In a saucepan over low heat, melt butter. Add brown sugar to melted butter. Continue to cook on low heat and stir constantly for 2 minutes. Add milk. Bring to a boil, then remove from heat. Gradually add powdered sugar, stirring constantly. (If sugar is lumpy, use a sifter to add it to the saucepan or use an electric beater as you add it to the sauce.) Add vanilla extract and mix well. Pour icing immediately over cake before it hardens.

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