Tracing Roots

Discontented with life in New York, Trace Barnett returned to his hometown of Brilliant, Alabama, determined to revitalize his family’s ancestral farmstead. 

Trace Barnett always dreamed of leaving his family farm in small-town Alabama to live midst the bright lights of New York City, trading the familiar fields of corn for the rows of skyscrapers. He arrived with his thick Southern accent in tow, bringing with him stories of a distant place 1,000 miles away. Barnett enraptured his New York friends with foreign tales of picking pokeweed and catching crawdads in the creeks; but while there may have been many cultural differences, there was always a connection to be shared through food.

Despite the shared connection, Trace longed for the sights and smells of his home in the South, and eventually decided to return to the small mining town of Brilliant, Alabama, where his family had originally settled in 1828. He opened the boxes and pulled back the curtains, rediscovering the old recipes of his ancestors who survived by living off the land.

Bourbon Pork Shoulder Pie

A pie just makes life better. And so does a good hearty helping of barbecue. This savory pie is ideal for meals outdoors or around the dinner table. The crisp crust, infused with fresh herb flavor, serves as the ideal vessel for hearty skillet beans and a layer of slow-cooked pork shoulder with a hint of woodsy, bourbon flavor. Top it with other barbecue staples like slaw and pickled vegetables.



3–4 lb pork shoulder

1 1/2 cup ketchup

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup bourbon

2 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

2 cloves minced garlic

1 onion thinly sliced

Coarse salt and ground black pepper



1 1/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1 tablespoon fresh herbs, finely chopped (or 1/2 teaspoon dried herbs)

8 tablespoons cold butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes

3–4 tablespoons ice water


1. Barbecue meat: Place all ingredients in a slow cooker along with the pork shoulder. Turn once to coat each side thoroughly. Cook on high for an hour. Reduce heat to low and and cook an additional 6–7 hours.

2. Remove pork shoulder from slow cooker and place on a large platter. Shred with two forks until completely separated. Return shredded meat to slow cooker and cook for 45 minutes.

3. Make pie crust: Sift together flour, salt, and sugar in a large bowl. Add herbs and stir well to combine with the other dry ingredients.

4. Using a pastry blender, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

5. Add ice water a little at a time and stir briskly.

6. Form pastry into a ball, and chill in refrigerator for up to 30 minutes before using.

7. Place pastry on a floured board and roll into a 9 1/2-inch circle. Fit into pie plate and flute the edges. Optionallly, you can make mini crusts by rolling out the pastry and then using a cookie cutter to create mini shells. Place in a greased muffin tin and shape to fit.

8. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Assemble pie by filling crust with 1 cup Skillet Beans. Top with barbecue meat. Bake for 25–30 minutes or until crust is browned and golden. Remove from oven and top with Brussels Sprout Leaf and Cabbage Slaw.


Special tip This pie utilizes two other recipes in the book, Skillet Beans (page 179) and Brussels Sprout Leaf and Cabbage Slaw (page 37). If you don’t get a chance to make those recipes, you may also substitute your favorite type of beans and regular slaw, or omit them entirely.

Barnett’s book “Tracing Roots” is a modernized homage to those recipes — to a different way of life — focusing on honest, classic meals with homemade ingredients. Carrot souffle sits alongside fried green tomatoes, summer squash casserole next to saltine-crusted catfish. A traditional hunter’s stew can be found mere pages away from a recipe for chocolate-covered pork cracklins'. Trace Barnett manages to take his family’s old Southern recipes and add some modern twists. The recipes are even organized by season, with periodic explanations on beekeeping and canning, gardening and winemaking, a beginners guide to homesteading. Through it all, Trace Barnett brings his wit and Southern charm to the table, creating a book that’s entertaining and informative.Visit Trace Barnett’s blog at

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