When you think of the South, what are some of the first foods that come to mind? Fried chicken? Creamed corn? Hot, buttery biscuits? Those are all favorite Southern staples, but what you might not realize is that if you had asked this question about a hundred years ago, the people of Appalachia would have definitely said apples!
According to the National Park Service website, in the Great Smoky Mountains during the 1800s and 1900s, apples were the most important fruit and one of the most important foods for Appalachian families. The reason apples were so popular is because they were so prevalent. The cooler climate at the base of these Southern mountains made for perfect apple-growing weather. In fact, most families grew and preserved their own apples, resulting in hundreds of varities of apple trees—many of which still survive today.
To carry on the tradition of the apple-growers in Appalachia, the following orchards and restaurants still preserve and serve their Tennessee-grown apples to Pigeon Forge guests every day. Plan to visit one or all of these locations during your next getaway!
The Apple Barn Cider Mill & General Store
The original Apple Barn location is in Sevierville, just a short drive from Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. This favorite tourist locale features more than 4,000 apple trees, an antique barn, and a variety of places to shop and eat during your visit. The Cider Bar is a quick stop-and-go eatery with delicious apple cider, old-fashioned apple stack cakes (see recipe below), apple pies, and apple dumplings. You can also eat at the Applewood Farmhouse Restaurant, which was built out of a 1920s farmhouse and serves family meals and good-ole country cookin’, or the Applewood Farmhouse Grill, which is located within the apple orchard and serves some lighter options. Finally, stop at the General Store on your way out and take home a variety of apple-themed products from canned jams to pancake mixes to old-fashioned candy.
Carver’s Orchard & Applehouse Restaurant
Located nearby in the town of Cosby (about 35 minutes from Pigeon Forge) is Carver’s Orchard & Applehouse Restaurant. The Carver family has been growing apples on their 75-acre orchard since the 1940s, and they proudly serve 126 varieties of apples! You can bring the family for a delicious meal at the Applehouse Restaurant, where you’ll not only be served delicious food, but dine with amazing views that overlook the Smokies and their more than 40,000 apple trees! Some of the apple specialties you can look forward to at Carver’s include homemade apple cider, crispy apple fritters, fried apples, and apple butter
Does all of this sound great, but you want to try it on your own in the cabin? Check out some great apple recipes below!
Apple Butter (bettycrocker.com)
Impress your family by making some homemade Apple Butter during your Pigeon Forge getaway—or make it ahead of time and bring it with you. This recipe goes great on toast and biscuits, or it can even be used as a Southern-style substitute for syrup over pancakes.
- 12 medium Granny Smith or other cooking apples (peeled and cut into fourths)
- 1 ½ cups packed brown sugar
- ½ cup apple juice
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon ground cloves
Mix all ingredients in a 5- to 6-quart slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 8 to 10 hours until apples are tender. Mash apples with a potato masher or a large fork, and then cook on low heat for 1 to 2 hours, stiring occasionally. The mixture should be very thick. Cook for 2 hours. Store refrigerated apple butter for up to 3 weeks.
Apple Stack Cake (epicurious.com)
My mom made this for Christmas one year, and it quickly became a favorite in our family. The cake actually has a long tradition in East Tennessee (where my mom grew up). The story goes that when an Appalachian couple decided to get married, their traditional wedding cake would be this Apple Stack Cake. The guests of the wedding would each bring a layer, so the higher the cake, supposedly the more popular you were with friends and family!
- 4 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
- 6 oz (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter
- 1 ¼ cups superfine granulated sugar
- ¾ cup molasses
- 2 eggs
- ½ cup buttermilk
For Dried Apple Filling:
- 8 to 12 cups dried apples
- 4 cups (superfine granulated sugar)
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons nutmeg
- 2 tablespoons molasses
- 3 cups water
Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and place rack in the middle position. Combine the first five ingredients in a bowl. Set aside.
Use a standing mixer to combine butter and sugar on medium speed until wet and grainy. Add molasses, and scrape the sides. Add eggs one at a time, scrape the sides again, and mix on a low speed. Alternate adding the buttermilk and dry mixture a little at a time. The mixture should be stiff like a soft cookie dough. Shape the dough into a ball and wrap it in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Divide the dough into 6 or 8 equal portions. Place each one on a round piece of parchment paper a little large than a 9-inch cake pan. Roll out the dough to the size of the parchment. Place the cake pan over the disk and trim away the excess.
With the parchment paper still underneath, lift the disks onto baking sheets and bake them for about 10 minutes—or until the toothpick comes out clean. Slide the disk off the baking sheet to cool.
To make the filling, combine all ingredients in a large saucepan and bring to a light simmer. Transfer to a food processor and pulse into a thick paste.
Assemble the cake by spreading about 1 cup of the filling onto each layer of cake. Center each disk on top of the one beneath it, and repeat until all the layers are used. Do not put apple filling on top of the cake.
Wrap the cake well and refrigerate it for about 24 hours. Dust with powdered sugar (optional) and serve chilled.