by David Cecelski
This morning my son, his pal Andy, and I are at Granny’s Country Kitchen in Icard, a few miles east of Connelly Springs in Burke County. This little country-cooking diner is home to a popular gospel music shows on Friday nights, but we’re here for a Saturday morning breakfast: livermush, grits, and eggs over easy, a local tradition.
Livermush is traditionally made by cooking pig liver with the fatty parts of a hog’s head meat and skin. That’s cooked until tender, ground into a mush, mixed with cornmeal, and combined usually with onions, sweet spices and black pepper. That mixture is then put in a loaf pan and baked. Here at Granny’s, we’re in the heart of livermush country, which really comes down to 5 foothills counties: Burke, Caldwell, Catawba, McDowell, and Rutherford.
The roots of livermush go back to German settlers that traveled the Old Wagon Road from Pennsylvania and settled here in the 18th century. They had a traditional dish of hog liver, hog head meat, wheat flour, and seasonings that they called “scrapple.”
Down here, that recipe got mixed with corn instead of flour and the result was “livermush.” As livermush devotees often attest, the dish doesn’t taste much like liver or look much like mush. For me the taste is more like a corn and spicy country sausage.
Many years ago, this area’s hog farmers made livermush as part of their autumn hog slaughtering. Eventually, they started carrying blocks of livermush to nearby towns like Valdese, Hickory, and Morganton, which were full of country people that had moved into town to work in cotton mills and furniture factories. Over time, livermush became a staple in those factories, spreading far beyond the lunch boxes of just the German descendents.
Meantime, at country stores, trays of livermush became a fixture on counters, next to the hoop cheese and pickled eggs. When a customer wanted livermush, the proprietor cut a slice out of the tray.
The furniture mills and textile factories are mostly gone now, but livermush has remained a local delicacy. At almost every little diner, grill, and grocery around here—and nowhere else in the nation—you’ll find livermush: livermush sandwiches, livermush biscuits, livermush with gravy, or livermush with grits and eggs like here at Granny’s.
Granny’s Country Kitchen is located at 3448 Miller Bridge Road in Icard, just off I-40 exit 116 between Hickory and Valdese.