I have been making Vodka in my potato bin. I did not set out to be a moonshiner, it just happened. Maybe it is my Appalachian roots. I come from a long line of West Virginia moonshiners, most of whom met their demise running stills, traveling the hills selling their hootch, and disputing over their territories with others who made shine. The smell of rotting potatoes has convinced me that moonshining in not my in destiny.
Maggie Bailey started making and selling her own moonshine during Prohibition. She kept on doing it well after Prohibition was repealed, and she loved it so much that she kept it up for almost 90 years. She was regularly harassed by law enforcement before and after Prohibition, since the white moonshine she was selling wasn’t legal, even after Prohibition. State and federal agents found it difficult to get any charges to stick on the Kentucky woman, who would attend court clad in a flower-printed apron, with her gray hair and a grandmotherly air.
The lack of guilty verdicts was likely due to her status in the community—she was loved by the people she sold her ‘shine to, and not just because she was their source for a drink. When people were struggling through the Depression, she would give them gallons of liquor on credit, allowing them to sell the liquor themselves, pay her back, and make a little money for themselves. She knew everyone in town, and she knew when they were having a tough time of it—she was well-known for bringing food to hungry families and even financing children’s education. She also made a point not to sell to children or to people that she knew had problems with alcohol abuse.
In her nearly nine decades of bootlegging, she served about 18 months of jail time for the only conviction that ever stuck. She died in 2005 at the age of 101. She was fond of saying that the excitement of her chosen pastime was what kept her young.
Recipe for Moonshine Jelly
For personal reasons, I am not a drinker. If the setting were just right, I could, however, be possibly persuaded to try moonshine jelly. Maybe on a warm Appalachian evening with the sun sitting over the hills, the crickets singing their song, a bonfire with a table sitting close by decorated with wildflowers, and, of course, the fireflies beginning their twinkling. I think that freshly baked warm bread laced with butter would make the perfect platform for jelly made from shine.
My book, The Melody of the Mulberries, includes an interesting moonshine tale with an intriguing connection between ice cream and moonshine?
By: Tonya Jewel Blessing