North Carolina is home to many wonderful things that have made their way across the nation, or at least the South, such as excellent barbecue, Cheerwine and Krispy Kreme. And then there's one other thing that has mostly stayed within the state borders: Livermush. The name doesn't do much to whet the appetite, but this Southern food is one worth tracking down. If you're not familiar with livermush, we're going to tell you all about this "poor man's pâté" that you should definitely try.
We've told you about other Southern dishes that use every bit of the animal, including chitlins and hog's head cheese. Livermush falls into that same category by using the pig liver, cornmeal and spices to create a tasty meat spread.
What is Livermush?
Different from liver pudding, which you find in eastern North Carolina, because of the cornmeal, livermush is fully cooked and generally shaped in a loaf. You might eat it on some white bread as a livermush sandwich, or pan-fried crispy and served with eggs and grits.
Livermush traces its origin back to pon hoss, or "pan rabbit" in German, which German immigrants to the United States in the 1700s made from pork scraps and buckwheat. When this meat mixture made its way to Pennsylvania's Amish country, it became scrapple, a mix of pork liver, pig head parts or other pork scraps, and cornmeal or buckwheat.
Descendents of those German immigrants migrated south through the Appalachians to the Piedmont region of western North Carolina, where scrapple became livermush. The main difference is that livermush is made from pork liver, while scrapple may or may not include that delicacy.
Livermush became popular during the Depression when it was more affordable than regular meat. It's another way that Southerners have made do with what they had. Although it's fallen out of widespread popularity, you can still find it sold in grocery stores in North Carolina where it's made commercially.
Liver Pudding and Liver Mush: Are They The Same?
While they have most of the same ingredients, liver pudding and livermush is not the same. Made with less cornmeal, liver pudding is softer but can be sliced, cooked on a cast iron frying pan, and eaten just like livermush.
Neese's Southern Style is a popular purveyor of liver pudding and contains pork broth, Pork Livers, Cereal (Corn and Wheat Meal), Pork, Salt, Spices, Caramel Coloring. The Greensboro-based company also makes C-Loaf made from pig stomachs, scrapple, souse, and liver mush. Most of their products contain offal, which might be offputting to those outside of the Southern United States.
It's All About the Livermush Festivals
In fact, because it wouldn't be a regional food favorite without multiple festivals celebrating it. Marion, North Carolina, has the Livermush Festival, and Shelby, North Carolina, hosts the Mutts, Music, and Mush Festival every year with a livermush-eating contest, a Little Miss Livermush Pageant, a pet costume parade and, of course, plenty of local craft beer.
Where Can You Find this North Carolina Favorite?
Shelby, a town not quite halfway between Charlotte and Asheville, is also home to two companies that make and sell livermush. In true Southern fashion, the owners of Mack's Liver Mush & Meat Co. and Jenkins Food are kin. More surprisingly is that production keeps those two companies--and a few others including Neese's Country Sausage in Greensboro--in business.
If you're in the area, several restaurants have livermush on the menu. If you can't find it at your local grocery store, some of the companies do sell it online.