Liver Mush: A delicacy of the Piedmont


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Liver mush is a North Carolina delicacy. In fact, it’s so special to the piedmont region, there’s a festival dedicated to it.

The Mush, Music and Mutts Festival in Uptown Shelby, North Carolina has been around since 1987. 

The festival even includes a Little Miss Liver Mush pageant and eating contest. Last years winner ate a pound and a half of liver mush.

Curious as to what exactly liver mush is?

“It is made from the pigs liver, but they take the pigs head, boil it pull off all of that extra meat, which is still very good meat. Then they grind that up with cornmeal and some spices. They pack it into loaves and cook it that way.” Jackie Sibley-Newton, Vice President of Tourism for Cleveland County said.

Liver mush became popular during the civil war when people had to make the most of their resources.

Locals slice it, grill it or fry it, according to their recipe.

Pleasant City Woodfire Grill uses the North Carolina favorite in an American classic.

“What we make is a liver mush egg and cheese pizza. It is our fresh made dough, topped with scrambled eggs, American cheese and then we top it with liver mush. We put it in the oven, cook it, come out cut it and there you have our liver mush egg and cheese pizza,” Chris Canoutas, owner of Pleasent City Woodfire Grill said.

Shelby Café is down the street and usually has a line outside the door during the liver mush festival because of their famous dish.

“Former Mayor Alexander, he got the idea about the mayor special and everybody be demanding it, that is why we are in the festival,” George Rizkallah, one of the owner’s of Shelby Café said.

Rizkallah mixes fried liver mush with two eggs, grills it then puts it on a pita with mayonnaise and it’s ready to serve.

People can enter their own liver mush recipes into a contest. Last year’s winner made a very thin sliced liver mush chip.

The festival will take place on the block surrounding the Shelby Court Square which is home to the Earl Scruggs Center. The Center tells the music and the stories of the Foothills and has an exhibit explaining the popularity of liver mush.

The festival will kickoff Friday night with ten North Carolina breweries serving forty-four beers and a chili cook off to raise money for scholarships for five local high schools.

The festival will have live music at the Foothills Pavilion, primarily bluegrass and acoustic. Another stage by Newt’s Burgers will have larger bands playing.

The stage on Washington Street will hold the Miss Liver Mush pageant and the awards for the liver mush eating contest winner.

Street vendors will be scattered throughout and a pet zone will be available to play musical sit with pets. Pet owners can also enroll their pet in a fashion show and join in on the costume parade. The sheriff’s unit will bring K-9’s out for a demonstration.

There will be face painters, pumpkin painting, bouncy houses and many other activities and games for kids.

Streets will begin closing Friday morning for festival setup. The block around the court square and two blocks past near the pavilion will be closed early Saturday morning. 

Street Closures:

Lafayette Street, Warren Street, Washington Street(closing Friday for the North Carolina beerfest and chili cook off,) Marion Street (closed down another block to include the Foothills Pavilion and farmers market.)


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