Saturday, November 15, 2008

More Moonshine


I wouldn't know, myself, where to find moonshine for sale but thanks to the proverbial 'friend of a friend,' we were given a jar a few months ago. It came from Tennessee and, who knows, maybe even from Pop Corn (see Thursday's post) himself. Those are sliced peaches in the jar and I'm told this is a fairly common practice -- using fresh fruit of various kinds to flavor and color the white liquor.

We've been given jars of 'white' before this -- always from friends who swear they know the origin of the stuff and can vouch for its safety. We keep it around to offer a 'sup' to visiting flatlanders who are curious about this infamous local product. (It tastes a lot like tequila to me -- not bad but not something I'm crazy about.)

In the old days, the local folks didn't go to making whiskey out of a desire to break the law or to get drunk. It was a simple matter of economics. If you live in a remote mountain cove and your main crop is field corn, how will you make more money -- hauling bushel after bushel of dried corn down the mountain and to market to sell for animal feed or cornmeal -- or do you turn that same corn into distilled whiskey, using the knowledge and skills your ancestors brought over from Scotland and Ireland?

Whiskey was easier to haul, more valuable, and it kept well. One of the earliest 'value added' products.

Of course, with taxation, Prohibition, and dry counties, things changed and moonshining turned dangerous. And then, as the bootleggers used fast cars to transport their illegal cargo over twisting mountain roads (see Thunder Road with Robert Mitchum), it all led to NASCAR.

Aye, law.

I have no idea what folks pay for white lightning but I suspect it's not cheap. I've heard tell of the tour buses of country music stars lined up at one particular bootlegger's home and and the quart jars being loaded on by the case.

It's a nostalgia thing, I suspect.

A Wilkes County copper moonshine still
Courtesy of Applachian Cultural Museum
Applachian State University
Boone, North Carolina

For more information on moonshine, go here
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1 comment:

Carol Murdock said...

What a great post Vicki!I have a great book'Memoirs Of A Mountaneer'
by Charles J. Williams.He was a Townsend moonshiner whose incrediable still is on display at The Heritage Museum in Townsend.It was no easy task to make good tasting and safe moonshine.This is a art in it's self and was sometimes the only way for these people to survive.I am glad the art lives on!