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Mar 2, 2011 09:53 AM

Coal Region recipes - Boilo, city chicken, flitch, hrudka

This site writes

"Food from the Coal Region is something missed the most by ex-Coal Crackers. The multi-ethnic heritage of the region makes it home to wonderful recipes from all over the world. From boilo to halupkies, city chicken to mozhee, many a Coal Cracker's mouth waters at the mere mention of these culinary delights."

Babka on this site means a potato and egg casserole made with Crisco.

Bethlehem cookies use two cups of lard and a pint of sour cream.

Boilo is a hot drink made with whiskey (Use Four Roses, or Seagrams 7, or something similar.) oranges, lemons, raisins, honey, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, caraway seed, anise seed.

City chicken involves cubes of pork and veal that are breadcrumb-coated, fried and then baked in milk.

Flitch is potato candy

Hrudka is made of egg curds that are put in a cheesecloth sack. Milk, sugar and vanilla are the other ingredients.

From the home page of the website

"This web site is a collection of nostalgia and regionalisms from the Anthracite Coal Region of Pennsylvania. The region is made up of Schuylkill, Carbon, Lackawanna, Luzerne, Northumberland, and Columbia counties, and also the northernmost reaches of Dauphin county. The Coal Region owes its heritage to the varied cultures of the people who settled there, as well as to the bygone days of coal mining. "

This is the first time I've heard of regional coal country cuisine ... or these recipes. Anyone else have more info on this?

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  1. I grew up with one foot in PA German culture and the other in the Coal Region. These regions run along side each other in a large portion of the state. How did I not know about that site!

    I have a handwritten boilo recipe at home and it was given to me with a strong caution to NOT LET IT CATCH FIRE!

    I am surprised soupies aren't mentioned on that site. Soupies are sausages made in the winter and cured in the basement. They are pressed between boards and stored in buckets of oil. Soupies are taken VERY seriously and there are clubs (all male members) that hold competitions for the best soupies.

    It is still possible to buy potato pancake batter from the church ladies.

    I know Halupkies as "pigeons" My MIL made the best "pigeons"

    My grandmother makes flitch every Christmas, I like it.

    Every bar in the "region" sells hot bolonga (OMG, I haven't had that in years) and pickled eggs, which are kept in large jars at the bar and are served in little paper boats.

    The barbecue recipe is a standard in every household in both the coal region and the PA German region.

    I can't wait to explore that site, thanks for the link and the trip down memory lane.

    8 Replies
    1. re: cleobeach

      Thanks for the great info. I didn't list the stuffed cabbage as that seemed a spelling of what the Polish word sounds like.

      Would you be willing to share your boilo recipe?

      1. re: rworange

        I already made a note to look for it when I get home!

        1. re: cleobeach

          This recipe was given to me by an elderly man that was a friend of my boss.

          Shamokin Boilo

          2 fifths of whiskey 4 Queens 101 proof (or grain alcohol, 1 fifth)
          2 whole hot bell peppers
          1 cinnamon stick
          2 quarts orange juice
          3 1/4 cups sugar
          4 tablespoons caraway seeds
          juice of 4 lemons
          rinds of 4 lemons
          4 oranges, quartered
          Handful of orange meat

          1. combine all of the above in a large pot and bring to a rolling boil for several minutes, watch closely

          2. Cover with lid and remove from heat. After 10 minutes taste, if too hot, remove peppers, if too tart, add more sugar

          3. Bring mixture to a boil for a few minutes

          4. remove from heat, let cool and bottle. (I assume filtering out the solids is implied)

          1. re: cleobeach

            We have a similar w0rd-of-mouth recipe, but put the booze in AFTER the boil so it doesn't evaporate!
            McAdoo Russki Boilo

            1. re: Passadumkeg

              That makes more sense. I don't understand the heavy duty boiling. I am sure this man did not want to reduce the alcohol content!

            2. re: cleobeach

              That sounds like it could be tasty. Thanks for taking the time to write it out. I'm going to have to give it a try.

          2. re: rworange

            Frackville Boilo
            2 cans Ginger Ale
            ½ lemon
            1 tsp caraway seed
            16 whole allspice
            2 oranges
            3 cinnamon sticks
            10 whole cloves
            16 oz Honey
            1 fifth of Four Queens Whiskey (FLAMMABLE)
            An additional empty fifth bottle since the batch will give you two bottles of finished boilo

            In a large stockpot combine ginger ale, oranges and lemons quartered, cinnamon sticks, caraway seek, cloves and allspice.
            Bring to a boil.
            Cover pot and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir occasionally.

            Add the honey and bring back to a boil.
            Cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Stir occasionally

            Away from any open flame CAREFULLY ADD THE WHISKEY as it is highly flammable.

            Return to heat and bring to a boil. As soon as it boils remove from the heat.

            Strain the mixture into another pot to remove the fruit and spices. Press all the juices out of the fruit in the strainer to recover as much liquid as possible.

            Place ½ stick of the cinnamon into each fifth bottle you are filling.

            It is terrific warm and we add it to tea when we have a cold. Better than NyQuil

            1. re: folprivate

              I'm a firm believver in blackberry brandy during cold season. My theory is if the alcohol doesn't kill the germs, at least it will knock me out and I can sleep thru some of the cold misery.

              Boilo has a lot of the other things I consume during cold ... ginger ale, lemon, orange, honey.

              I'm going to have to give all these variations a try. Thanks a lot.

        2. some say you can take the boy out of the coal region but you can't take the coal region out of the boy. I grew up in Scranton and since moving to the Lehigh Valley have often referred to myself as a coal cracker. I recently hosted a Boilo party for the guys in the neighborhood and we served coal region food and beer while we whipped up the batch of Boilo with our 100 proof Four Queens Whiskey. The one recipe missing from the site is Porketta. The mines and the mills supported the many ethnic groups that brought recipes from the old country and adapted them. The jobs didn't pay well so they learned how to stretch a piece of cheap meat into a couple of meals. Lew Bryson recently published a book on Pennsylvania Beer and regional food. The region had some unique sayings that are listed in the dictionary part of the website such as "I am goin up da line to the corpse house" which meant you were going to a funeral home in the Northern part of the Valley and the H is pronounced "hach".

          1. City chicken is the only thing on that list that I am not familar with. I need to ask family members about that one.

            1. Although my mother was a coal miner's daughter, a 1st generation Russian, she says in the Hazelton area, miners of every ethnic group carried Cornish Pasties into the mines.
              Dried kolbasa and other sausages as well.
              Paska is Russian cheese, so one could be "resurected" for the mine.

              1. Being just down river, I grew up on "City Chicken" and due to "rust belt" nostalgia, most of the small butcher shops locally still sell it. Dust with flour, egg wash then either more flour, seasoned bread crumbs or I do panko these days. Side of mashed potatoes and gravy and veg of choice.

                Friends in Pittsburgh introduced me to another favorite ,pepperoni rolls, but I adore most of the old-country recipes that still float about the mid-west .

                1 Reply
                1. re: jjjrfoodie

                  I was wondering about why it was called that.

                  This wiki article ... with a note about it needing to be "wikified" ... states

                  "The origins of the dish and its name are not entirely known, but its first references in cookbooks are during the Depression Era in cities such as Pittsburgh,[1] when people took meat scraps and fashioned a makeshift drumstick out of them. It was a working class food item. During this period, pork was cheaper than chicken in many parts of the country, especially for those far from rural poultry farms."

                  Cool wiki photo of "all pork city chicken" from the supermarket.

                  This recipe writes

                  "This recipe originated during the 1930's, when chicken was expensive and hard to come by in the cities."

                  A 2006 Chowhound post on city chicken that coincidently was revived recently.

                  I guess the skewers are (or were) used to fashion mock chicken legs out of the meat scraps.