Those of us who live in the North, but come from the South are bound to battle homesickness from time to time. Especially when winter – the kind that measures snow in feet instead of centimeters – looms and we can’t seem to resist the siren call of checking our hometown’s perpetually balmy seven-day forecast.
Where’s the sense in throwing a pity party though? We are still free to sweeten our tea and blast Willie and Dolly to our heart’s content up here above the Mason-Dixon Line. And for the times when you could use a little extra comfort? There are all sorts of Southern-made, Southern-inspired snacks and spirits that’ll whisk you back to where Spanish moss drips from trees and the scent of magnolia blossoms fill the air.
Wherever you fall on the barbecue-style spectrum, you’d be hard-pressed to find anything tastier sauce than Lillie’s Q’s Carolina BBQ. It’s tomato- and vinegar-based with a fruity tang (apple and lime juice in the house!) and a smoldering heat that Southerns up everything from roast chicken to baked tofu.
When you need to fill that void a little quicker, Lillie’s Q makes potato chips in flavors that’ll gratify homesick Southerners and lifelong Yankees. The Carolina Dirt BBQ Kettle Chip, named after the red clay soils of the Carolinas, layers chipotle, cumin, mustard, ancho chile, garlic and brown sugar on a shatteringly crisp, grease-free chip. And The Pimiento Cheese Chip needs no introduction to a Southerner. The brilliant union of the dip we know and love with the ideal scooping vehicle? Pass the bag, y’all. It’s no surprise that Chicago-based Lillie’s Q’s founder, Charlie McKenna, is a Greenville, S.C. transplant (me too!) who honors his roots and grandmother (she was Lillie) with his nostalgic creations.
It’s not a cocktail hour in the South without a block of cream cheese topped with red pepper jelly. It’s sweet (just like our tea and our smiles), but Bonnie’s Jams’ version is also plenty kicky thanks to a little pepper called the habanero. No one said Southerners didn’t have a feisty streak. While Triscuits would technically be the most “authentic” cracker for this homespun appetizer, we satisfy our craving indie-style with Hayden Flour Mills Red Fife Heritage Grain Crackers.
Bourbon makes everything better, right? Since it’s not always a socially acceptable time or place to drink, enterprising chaps like Andrew Broocker at Virginia-based Reginald’s Homemade figured out how to incorporate it into something we could eat for breakfast, lunch and beyond. Enter Bourbon Pecan Peanut Butter, a.k.a. pecan pie in a jar. Can we get a hallelujah?! And while the gents from True Gentlemen's Jerky don’t hail from Dixie (they’re California proud), they sure know how to treat a brisket right. They add honey and Kentucky bourbon, then dry it low and slow until it’s tender enough to be fit for a finer breed of man (and lady).
When all else fails and you just want to listen to Country Roads on repeat and cry, make sure you’ve got a bottle of High Wire Sorghum Whiskey in reach. Made with sorghum grasses grown in central Tennessee and distilled in Charleston, S.C., it’s a sweet reminder of where you’re from that will keep you warm all winter long.