Recently, I wrote and shared with you my thoughts about the latest Springfield, Missouri cookbook, titled “WOMEN WHO CAN DISH IT OUT” and I may have mentioned in passing that this was the latest offering from the Junior League of Springfield, Missouri, since their 1985 publication of “SASSAFRAS” which—although it has been out of print for a while, is still available through sources such as Amazon.com. (I was totally non-plussed to find copies listed at $500.00 each on Alibris.com! Does anyone really pay that much for a single cookbook? And not even an antique cookbook at that!
One of the things I like about “Sassafas!” is the thickness of the cookbook– (I like to feel I am getting my money’s worth…don’t you?) In the introduction to the 10th anniversary special edition (which is what I own), we learn that more than four thousand recipes were submitted to the cookbook committee to be considered for this cookbook. The selection of 726 of the most outstanding recipes made the final cut.
And from the Junior League comes this accolade: “The Missouri Ozarks are known for great landscapes, renowned musical talent and “down-home” cooking. Even if you can’t visit this beautiful area, you can still experience the taste of its cuisine in this delicious assortment of recipes. Sassafras! is a collection of 726 outstanding recipes, all of which have been triple tested. You can go from savory Soups and Sandwiches to sumptuous Desserts in seconds with the laminated tabbed dividers. Put smiles on faces and bring back warm family memories of home cooked goodness with recipes like Stroganoff Steak Sandwiches, Country Cottage Potato Salad or Stuffed Pork Tenderloin. And don’t forget dessert with recipes for Orange Pecans, Frisco Whistle-Stop Cake and much more. This cookbook is definitely a regional classic and your kitchen should not be without it.”
Reading author Janet Dailey’s* introduction made me want to start planning a spring or fall vacation in the Ozarks. She writes, in part, “Spring bursts forth with the promise of warmer weather; the hills come alive with color as the dogwood, redbud and wild plum trees and forsythia bloom into amazing rainbows of white, lavender, pink and yellow. May shades of green cover our hills in the summer-an exquisite contrast to the bright blue sky above.
In the fall, the hills catch fire-ablaze with the flaming colors of the red sumac and dogwood, the rusty orange and yellow of the oak and sycamore, and just the right mixture of cedar and evergreen…year round Ozarkians marvel at the mists that drift through our valleys. On a sunny morning when the sun hits it just right, you can stand on the shore of a misty lake, surrounded by rainbows. It’s a fleeting sight but the magical memory will stay with you forever…”
Janet Dailey also comments on the native sassafras tree, unique to the Ozarks. She writes, “The deer love the tree’s bright green twigs in the spring and birds feast on its berries in the fall. Furniture makers consider it a treat to build items from sassafras wood, and float stream enthusiasts prize a sassafras paddle above all others. And who doesn’t enjoy a delicious cup of sassafras tea, often thought of as a cure-all….”
*Sandy’s cooknote: Janet Dailey’s first book was published in 1976. She has written over one hundred novels since then.
Sassafras! The cookbook starts out with a series of menus for all kinds of occasions, beginning with New Year’s Day on January 1 and ending with Christmas Day, December 25th – with some unique menus in-between ranging from National Ice Cream Day in July, PTA Founders Day in February and Johnny Appleseed Day in March. I am charmed with the prospect of celebrating the First Day of Autumn on September 22 with creamy pralines (my favorite candy) or making Fall Harvest Cake to celebrate Harvest Moon Dinner on October 15.
And everyone is sure to enjoy a Decorate the Tree Brunch on December 15—the menu for this event is sure to catch your eye…you may want to borrow the entire menu for your next brunch.
You can tell that an enormous amount of work – and love – went into compiling Sassafras!
Each chapter is prefaced with a scenic local photograph that is almost but not quite sepia, done by photographers Jim Mayfield and Garry D. McMichael. Enjoy such landscapes as “The Spirit in the Stream” taken at Stone County, Missouri, the breath-taking “Twin Ponds and Storm” taken southwest of Nixa, Missouri, and “Fellows Lake Sunset” taken north of Springfield and “Cave Pond at Lost Valley” photographed at Ponca, Arkansas—I could happily travel to the Ozarks just to take pictures. I’m not sure I could choose just one as a favorite—but if I had to choose, perhaps I would settle on “Lost Cabin” near Garrison Missouri.
As for recipes – how many cookbooks offer over seven hundred recipes in one collection? It must have been a labor of love to go through four thousand entries and whittle it down to seven hundred plus—and a great deal of testing went on. It is noted in my 10th anniversary edition that all recipes were double tested and individually evaluated at least 8 times. I am particularly interested in appetizers and have marked recipes for Crabbies, Mushroom Crescents, Taquitos, Cheese Crisps, Orange Pecans, and Candied Bacon (you won’t believe how easy that one is—just 3 ingredients) as well as Peggy Pinckley’s Pickled Shrimp (that can be made up to 36 hours in advance, Crab-Stuffed Mushrooms or Mushrooms Florentine, Hot Clam Dip or Bob Barker’s own recipe for Chili Con Queso (Did you know that Mr. Barker, of the Price is Right fame, is a former Springfieldian?) These are just a few, a small sampling, of the recipes to be found in Sassafras! under Appetizers.
But wait! That’s just the beginning—there are eleven other categories to be found in Sassafras!
I love making homemade soups and it’s always a delight to find new and unusual recipes to try – recipes such as Cornucopia Potage (made with roast beef or stew meat), Pozole Blanco (made with pork hocks), Savory Steak Soup (made with round steak), Limerick Soup (made with corned beef—what else?), Crab Bisque and Clam Chowder au Vin (with the addition of a little dry white wine), Mock Turtle Soup (a familiar soup to Buckeyes from Ohio), Cream of Wild Rice Soup (quite a simple recipe, actually), Hearty Cheese Soup, Broccoli Cream Soup, Carrot Ginger Soup, and others. Accompanying Soups are sandwich recipes you will surely want to try, such as Pita Pizza, easy enough for children to fix, French Dip Sandwiches (serves 6 to 8 so there’s enough for a party) an Stroganoff Steak Sandwich, which sounds like a lot of fun and serves 6.
Under Salads and Dressings you will find Avocado Extraordinaire, Raspberry Vinaigrette Toss (a recipe from the Nancy Parker Cooking School in Greenville Texas), A Wonderful Walnut Salad which contains blue cheese—and two cups of English walnuts—recipes such as Snow pea Salad, Epicurean Salad, Hearts of Palm Salad, Mandarin Orange Salad, my favorite Wilted Lettuce Salad or Spinach and Strawberries, made with fresh spinach and a pint of fresh strawberries – yum!
There are many other salad recipes including Hot German Potato Salad, Shrimp Potato Salad, and Tomato Aspic. Crab Stuffed Eggs, Artichoke Rice Salad, Calico Salad (one of my favorites—this is a recipe you can make up in advance and leftovers will keep in the frig…the recipe states up to 3 days in the frig—but I have kept leftover Calico Salad in the frig for several weeks. There is a Zucchini Marinade and a variation of my personal favorite Marinated tomatoes, Greek Mushroom Salad and Dragon Lady Salad, Taco Salad Caliente, Old-Fashioned Apple Salad and Ozark Blueberry Salad…plus lots more!
The section simply identified as “BREADS” is divided up under yeast breads, non-yeast breads, quick breads, muffins, coffee cakes, Breakfast Breads and Butters. I always keep dry yeast on hand—those who read this blog regularly know that I often make cool rise cinnamon rolls—I am looking forward to making Caraway Rye Bread and Quaker Bread, Crescent rolls and Pronto Pizza Dough. You will surely want to try the Sassafras! recipe for Crispy Garlic bread, Ozark Persimmon Bread, Blueberry Lemon Bread o Butter Pecan Bread, Apple Butter Bread or Aloha Loaf…and if you love to bake and eat muffins, try Sassafras! recipe for Blueberry Oatmeal Muffins, or Banana Muffins, or Cheery Cherry Muffins. Also be sure to check out the recipe for Pineapple Brunch Cakes which is made with a surprise ingredient (English muffins!) – Serve these with an egg casserole and Bloody Marys at your next brunch.
(I can’t wait to make Pineapple Brunch cakes!)
You might know this about me by now – I do a lot of jelly and jam making throughout the year – and I am always on the lookout for new or unusual canning recipes. I learned how to make corn cob jelly a year or so ago—am now wondering how long it would take anyone to figure out the secret ingredient in Dandelion jelly? There is also a recipe for cinnamon jelly—I make this but call mine candy apple jelly. Also new (to me) are recipes for Christmas Cranberry Jelly (made with cranberry juice) and Chablis Mint Jelly, Polynesian Preserves (mashed banana and crushed pineapple!) and Razzmatazz Preserves (made with frozen red raspberries. Cinna-Berry Jam I made with frozen blueberries and the flavor from cinnamon sticks, and Spiced Pear Jam is similar to apple butter and worthy of your attention (**Pears are in season and on sale here in the Antelope Valley as I write this, so Spiced Pear Jam is at the top of my to-do list).
Also in this category is a recipe for Mountain Apple Marmalade, Cranberry Chutney and Winning Watermelon Pickles. Other prize winning recipes are Pickled Black Eyed Peas, Bread and Butter Pickles and Osage Corn Relish. Don’t overlook Green Tomato Relish or Patchwork Relish, Barn Raisin’ Chili Sauce—and summer sausage! Sugar and Spice Pecans! Dulcimer Spice Mix! (I rest my case).
Under the category titled Vegetables and Hot Fruits you will find such goodies as Ozark Lima Beans, Beets In Orange Sauce, Old Settler’s Baked Beans—and lots of other choices for side dishes. Want to try something different? Think Lemon-Basil Carrots made with a pound of baby carrots, Church Supper Cauliflower, Eggplant Soufflé that is a 50-year old recipe still high on the request list—or South of the Border Eggplant, or Eggplant Palermo (all good to keep in mind when you have a glut of eggplant in your garden!)
I love the sound of Hill Hollow Hominy, as well as Manchurian Mushrooms, Swiss Onions Dijon, Sherried Onions (which go well with either meats or poultry), or perhaps New Year’s Black-Eyed Peas (I first tasted black-eyed peas made like this when we lived in Florida and I became friends with a Puerto Rican family.)
There are several recipes using my favorite vegetable, spinach, so I can try Heart’s Delight Spinach, Onions Florentine, Spinach Supreme and Spinach with Rice—all four recipes use frozen spinach, which I always keep available in the freezer.
And when you have a glut of squash in your garden (or even when you don’t) be sure to try Orange-Pecan Stuffed Squash, or Acorn Squash & Apples, or Sensational Squash that uses up two pounds of your fresh summer squash.
Under the chapter titled PASTA & RICE, EGGS & CHEESE, you will find a nice variety of brunch recipes starting with Brunch Eggs Florentine, Cheese Topper Casserole, El-egg-ant Brunch and Fancy Egg Scramble, but there are other recipes you will want to try as well, such as a Cheese Strata that serves 10 to 12 and is a one-dish meal using broccoli.
There is an easy recipe for making Chili Rellenos or a Mushroom Frittata. There is an Artichoke Quiche made with 6-oz jars of marinated artichoke hearts (one of the items I always have on my pantry shelves) and a recipe called Quiche-Me-Quick that is versatile and can be adapted by changing some of the ingredients around.
The chapter titled “Meats” offers recipes using veal, beef, pork, sausage, and lamb. Also included are some great sauce recipes (I love sauce recipes and have written about them before on this blog). BEEF takes center stage in this chapter, offering no less than twenty-eight recipes! (Pork comes in 2nd place with twelve recipes while there are four recipes for lamb, three for veal and two for sausage.
Check out the recipes for Beef Tenderloin in Wine Sauce that calls for one cup of dry red wine (I usually keep a bottle of burgundy wine on hand for recipes such as this one but I also use burgundy wine to make my favorite pepper steak and beef burgundy). There is a simple recipe for making Tenderloin on Tap that is so simple, it should be in every good cook’s recipe file—really only three ingredients if you don’t count the seasoning or Worcestershire sauce—but it’s made with 2 cans of beer!
There is Peppered Rib Eye that serves 8 and should be nice for a small dinner party—the committee also notes that it makes great sandwiches too. Another way to use up leftovers is the recipe for Roast Beef Stroganoff that calls for 4 cups of cooked roast beef cut into 1×1/4” strips. Their recipe for Green Pepper Steak while similar to mine, is different enough to give it a try. If you have a flank steak on hand, you may want to fire up the grill to make the Sassafras! recipe for Steak Teriyaki but there are also recipes for Steak Flambé that also goes on the grill as does Savory Shishkebob. My personal favorite, however, is Boeuf Bourguignonne which is made with three pounds of beef stew meat and can be served over rice or noodles. Another good one for a small dinner party for Marinated Chuck Roast (serves 10 to 12) that will have guests requesting the recipe.
There are 22 recipes using chicken not counting 6 for chicken casseroles, plenty of recipes for seafood and fish—and enough recipes under Desserts to fill a small cookbooklet. There are “dessert” recipes such as cherries jubilee and Elegant Lemon Roll – as well as cheesecakes, seventeen cake recipes, twenty for pies, twenty-one for cookies & bars and sixteen for candy. My family’s favorite recipe for Buckeyes is also included, as well as English Toffee and Creamy Pralines.
I apologize for not going into more detail at this point –but this review is already well over 2000 words. What I want to say is this: if you didn’t have another cookbook on your shelves, you would want to have a copy of sassafras! It is easily available.
Sassafras! is a wonderful book of recipes for any kitchen.
Currently there are 97,500 copies in print! I found 37 new/used copies listed on Amazon.com, starting at $2.94. And, you will find copies available from a slew of used book sources, including Ebay. Prices vary; you may want to Google the book title and shop around. And, just since I started to write about “Sassafras”, I learned that copies are still available directly from the Junior League of Springfield; visit http://www.jls.org for more information.
I was writing a review on “Women Who Can Dish It Out” when I
realized that I had a copy of the Junior League’s earlier cookbook endeavor, Sassafras! and I began rediscovering it. This cookbook is a treasure trove of great recipes.
Check it out!
Happy cooking and happy cookbook collecting