New business venture stirs up snacks … and memories
Local man honors late grandmother by giving her beloved recipe new life
As a young boy growing up in Charleston, Tyler Jordon remembers spending many days in his grandmother’s kitchen in South Hills, working right alongside as she taught him how to make her beloved party mix, a family-favorite snack that quickly gained fame among others in the community as well.
“We all called her Aunt Babe and she would make these huge batches to fill holiday tins to give out as gifts,” he said. “People would always go crazy over it, especially us grandkids, who looked forward to receiving that special treat year after year.”
As sweet as those times were, though, cooking with her in the kitchen became even more important as the years passed by.
“As she got older and wasn’t as mobile, we couldn’t go out and do some of the things we used to do,” he recalled. “But this was something we could still do together, so it became this really nice way to spend time with her.”
Jordon said those early days in Frances Pritchard Jordon’s kitchen remain some his most cherished memories, so it was quite a loss when she passed away back in 2011 at the age of 82.
And with her passing, he also let go of the tradition they had shared together all those years.
“After she left us, I just couldn’t bring myself to make that mix anymore,” said Jordon, now 25. “It was too sad to think about, so I tucked those memories away.”
For almost 10 years.
Then this past June, he decided to dust off her famous recipe and whip up a batch to impress a new girl he was seeing at the time.
“She broke up with me a week later,” he added, with a chuckle. “I guess she didn’t like it very much.”
Undeterred, Jordon said making the mix after all those years stirred up so many fond memories that it lit a passion inside to bring his grandmother’s recipe back to life to honor her legacy.
“So I started making it again and it became this really therapeutic thing for me to do,” he realized. “It just made me, it’s hard to describe, happy. And if something makes you that happy, why wouldn’t you want to do more of it?”
About a month later he said his cousin George Patterson, the mushroom mastermind and owner of Hernshaw Farms, knew he’d revived his grandma’s age-old recipe and floated the idea that he should start making it commercially for others to enjoy, too.
“By the end of July,” he said, “I decided to do it.”
Jordon spent the next several weeks fine-tuning his ingredients and proportions, tweaking a little here and a little there, sharing the results with family and close friends until they assured him it tasted just as they remembered. Just a few weeks later, his first batch was available online and he was dropping samples off to local businesses to get them excited about the product.
Named after his dad’s middle name, Buckle’s Appalachian Snacks include a cacophony of thin pretzel sticks, cereal balls, corn chips and whole grain cereal seasoned with a trio of salts (regular, celery and garlic) plus butter, Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce.
“As an Appalachian, I don’t use measurements, but I taste-test each batch again and again to make sure it’s just right.”
The result is a zesty bite that Jordon describes as “not too hot, but with a nice delayed spiciness” that isn’t overwhelming.
And as with most cherished family recipes, there’s also one special (if no longer secret) ingredient, that makes all the difference.
“Bacon fat,” Jordon said, with a grin. “It’s totally the bacon fat.”
The snack mix’s ingredients are all bathed in rendered bacon fat, giving the blend a savory, salty richness that he says has a lot more flavor than typical store-bought varieties.
“We’ve had a lot of people tell us the unique flavors pair really well with cocktails, so we’re hoping to get local bars to serve it as a snack to enjoy while having a drink.”
There are four varieties available so far – original, mild, spicy and spicy BBQ – although more may be on the way. Jordon said someone also mentioned the possibility of doing a CBD-infused blend, so he’s exploring that as well.
“The sky’s the limit, really.”
For now, customers can buy Buckle’s online and it’s recently been picked up by J.Q. Dickinson Salt Works and Peace, Love & Little Donuts to sell as well.
You’ll pay a premium for this premium snack. It’s currently $8 for an 8.5-ounce bag wholesale or $14.99, which includes shipping anywhere in the country. But that higher price is something Jordon hopes to change as the product catches on.
“I know we have to fine-tune our production to be more efficient, so we can scale our costs back and sell more. I’m also working to find a wholesaler for my supplies, chips and cereals to help get those costs down,” he explained. “That’s really hard for any new product just getting started, but it’s something we’re committed to doing and we’re already making some progress.”
Jordon said that even though he knows his market is primarily online, he’s working hard to place the product in more restaurants, bars and businesses throughout Charleston.
“My goal for getting it out there is not necessarily just to increase awareness, but to spread my grandma and uncle’s legacies. They were so well-known across town and I want people to help people remember them,” he said.
“Every time I walk into a local business to pitch them, I think about my two guardian angels and how much it would make them smile to see their creations enjoyed across Charleston.”
For more information or to purchase Buckle’s Appalachian Snacks, visit www.bucklessnacks.com.
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Steven Keith is a food writer and restaurant critic known as “The Food Guy” who writes a weekly column for the Charleston Gazette-Mail and has appeared in several state, regional and national culinary publications. Follow him online at www.wvfoodguy.com or on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. He can be reached at 304-380-6096 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.