Monthly Archives: April 2013

Home again, Home again, jiggidy jig

To all my subscribers and family members & friends – I apologize for my absence and I will try to make up for it. I just returned from a trip to Florida, for a memorial service/family reunion at my brother’s home in Largo, Florida. His wife of 49 years passed away from the same cancer that took the life of my significant other, Bob, in 2011.   I’ll be posting some more cookbook reviews since they seem to go over well.

If you can think of something else you would like to read about on my blog, feel free to ask if I can write about it. If I CAN, I WILL. My cookbook collection is extensive–maybe 10,000 books, not counting 4 bookcases of food-reference books.  Please  feel free to ask!

Sandy@sandychatter

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WHEN LIFE HANDS YOU A LEMON

April is Lemon Month! Did you know that? I have been trying to verify that statement which I found on a Soup Plantation flyer but so far have been unable to confirm that any day or month is Lemon Month.  I found an interesting website on Google that lists all the days of the year and alongside it are the various foods for each date. No lemons. (there are some interesting foods listed for April—check www.tastespotting.com/features/aprilfood.

 But, if you were to find yourself marooned on a desert island and could only choose one fruit tree, you might give serious consideration to choosing a lemon tree.  Certainly lemons are one of the most versatile citrus fruits available to us today.

Here in Southern California we tend to take lemons for granted – I know I did when we lived in Arleta and had several lemon trees. And then Bob and I planted a Meyer lemon dwarf tree to add to our orchard!  Generally, if someone has a lemon tree or two, they are always trying to find someone who wants them.

It is thought that lemons were first discovered in the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains, near the birthplace of Omar Khayyam, and that the Arabs who discovered them also were first to make lemonade.

There is some question as to when lemons were first brought to the New World. Food historians agree that the Spanish explorers were responsible for introducing lemons to the Americas; some historians believe that Columbus brought lemon seeds with him on his second voyage and that the first lemons grown in the New World were on the island of Haiti.

Florida was at one time the largest producer of lemons but a freeze in 1895 destroyed the crops and they were never replanted.  Today California is the greatest lemon-growing state, producing about 85% of the lemons consumed in the United States and Canada. Here in Southern California, the Land of Lemons is Ventura County, the largest grower of the county’s biggest crop. According to the University of California Extension Service in Ventura, about half of the U.S. lemons regularly come from Ventura county trees. The value of lemons in 1991 surpassed strawberries and even Valencia oranges.

Lemons are an excellent source of Vitamin C. The fruit and juice can be used in hundreds of recipes; the rind can be shredded and used in various recipes and the oil goes into making lemon flavored extract, while lemon juice can be substituted for vinegar in any recipe except pickling recipes which call for vinegar.  Not only that, lemon juice has dozens of household uses, from removing stains to being great as a hair rinse.

You are probably familiar with some of the more common uses of lemon juice, such as sprinkling it on fish or adding it to homemade cocktail sauce…a slice of lemon in a glass of cold water is simply delicious…and is considered to be an aid to digestion. While most of us know that lemons are a fine source of Vitamin C, not all of us are aware that, despite their acid taste, lemons produce an alkaline reaction in the body. They contribute to needed mineral supplies of calcium, phosphorous and potassium.

The best way to judge lemons is by their weight; heavy fruit contains the most juice. The skin should be oily and elastic.  Lemons with large knobs on the ends will have less juice than those with sharply pointed ends. Also, pay attention to the color of the lemons.  Deep yellow colored lemons are usually fairly mature and less acidic than those that are lighter or have a slightly greenish hue.  Four medium size lemons weigh about one pound, and one medium size lemon will usually yield about three tablespoons of juice.  For the highest juice yield, have lemons at room temperature and roll them on a hard surface before squeezing. You can also put a whole lemon into the microwave for a minute which will make it easier to juice. One medium lemon will yield three teaspoons of grated peel (which can be frozen and used as needed).  Five to six lemons will provide 1 cup (8 ounces) of lemon juice. Not only are lemons high in pectin and can be used with almost any other fruit to make jams and jellies, you can even make your own homemade pectin with lemons.  Making your own pectin IS time consuming, but if you make a lot of jelly and jam, it may be worth the effort…during my last visit to the supermarket, I priced some powdered pectins at close to $4.00 a box. Yikes!

If you are the fortunate owner of a lemon tree, you probably have more lemons than you know what to do with…I know, I had lemon trees and I was constantly giving lemons away. In addition to all the lemon pies, custards, pound cakes, cookies, sherbets, and mousses that you can concoct with lemons, you can also use them in a variety of pickling and preserving recipes. First, I’d like to share with you the following recipe for making

LEMON PECTIN EXTRACT:

Seeds and coarsely ground white pith of 5 to 6 large, thick-skinned lemons, about 1 1/2 pounds or the equivalent weight in smaller lemons,

3 tablespoons citric acid or tartaric acid (citric acid is made from citrus fruit and labeled sour salt; it can be found in the spice rack at most supermarkets…tartaric acid is made from grapes and is sold by wine supply shops)

6 quarts water

Using a swivel blade peeler, remove and discard the zest (the shiny yellow outer peel–save it for another use or freeze in a plastic container), from the lemons but do not cut deeply; the pectin is in the white pith beneath the zest. It won’t matter if the peeled fruit is tinged a pale yellow.  Squeeze the lemons, reserving seeds, pulp and pith. Save the juice for another use.  Grind the pulp and pith coarsely, and measure. You should have about 2 cups. Place this, the seeds, 1 tablespoon of citric or tartaric acid, and 2 quarts of water in a 4 quart saucepan.  Let stand, uncovered, at least 2 hours, then measure the depth of the pan’s contents and make a note of it. Bring the mixture to boil over medium heat, stirring often to prevent sticking.  Boil rapidly until it is reduced by half.  Stir often toward the end of the cooking period, which will take at least an hour or more.  When the depth measures half of the original figure, pour the extract through a strainer or colander lined with 4 thickness of damp cheesecloth of at least 2-quart capacity.  Return the pulp to the saucepan, add another tablespoon of either citric or tartaric acid, and 2 more quarts of water, and measure and cook as you did the first batch.  No presoaking is necessary for this or the third and final batch.  The second and third batches tend to reduce more rapidly than the first.  Strain each batch when done, into the first one.  When you strain the third batch, squeeze the pomace (pith) to extract as much liquid as possible.  Put the extract through a clean, dampened jelly bag or two thicknesses of dampened cheesecloth, without squeezing. Let it drip several hours, until you have 6 cups of cloud liquid.  If you plan to use it within the next few days, refrigerate the extract in clean, tightly covered jars.  To store for future use, bring the extract to a boil in a 1 1/2-quart saucepan, then pack, boiling hot, into sterilized half-pint jars and seal. Process in a boiling water bath 15 minutes.  Store as you would for jelly.  Before using, always shake or stir the extract to mix in the sediment that settles during storage.  Makes about 4 1/2 cups. You will need 4 to 6 tablespoons of  homemade lemon pectin for each cup of fruit mixture to be used in making jam or jelly.

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LEMON MARMALADE

12 THIN SKINNED LEMONS

3 ORANGES

3 QUARTS WATER

SUGAR

WASH AND SLICE THE LEMONS AND ORANGES AS THIN AS POSSIBLE.  ADD THE WATER AND LET STAND OVERNIGHT. NEXT DAY, COOK THE MIXTURE SLOWLY OVER LOW HEAT UNTIL TENDER (ABOUT 2 – 2 ½ HOURS). MEASURE, THEN ADD AN EQUAL AMOUNT OF SUGAR AND COOK UNTIL THE JELLYING POINT IS REACHED.  POUR INTO HOT STERILIZED HALF-PINT SIZE JARS AND SEAL.

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LEMON MARMALADE #2

9 LEMONS

6 CUPS WATER

SUGAR

Cut the “knobs” from the ends of the lemons and discard.  Slice fruit as thin as possible; place in a pot with 6 cups of cold water.  Let stand overnight. Next day, cook mixture until tender-about 25 minutes.  Allow to stand overnight.  Measure fruit and liquid and add 2 cups of sugar for each pint of fruit and liquid.  Cook in small batches of 2 – 2 ½ cups to jelly stage (about 10-15 minutes per batch). Pour into sterilized jars; seal.  Process in boiling water bath 10 minutes.

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LEMON  CHUTNEY (MAKES 4 TO 5 PINTS)

6 LEMONS, PEELED

1 CUP ORANGE MARMALADE

1 CUP CIDER VINEGAR

2 1/2 CUPS WATER

3 CUPS SUGAR

1 TSP GRATED FRESH GINGERROOT

1 TSP GROUND NUTMEG

2 GREEN APPLES, PEELED, CORED, AND DICED

4 CUPS FRESH CRANBERRIES

1 CUP RAISINS

SECTION LEMONS AND CUT SECTIONS IN HALF; DISCARD SEEDS.  IN A LARGE POT, COMBINE LEMON SECTIONS WITH REMAINING INGREDIENTS.  BRING TO A BOIL, STIRRING CONSTANTLY. REDUCE HEAT AND SIMMER 45 MINUTES OR UNTIL SLIGHTLY THICKENED.  POUR INTO HOT STERILIZED JARS.  ADJUST LIDS AND SEAL. PROCESS IN A BOILING WATER BATH 8 MINUTES.

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SHARP LEMON SAUCE

(This sauce is very sharp and may not be right for everyone on your gift list – those who enjoy sharp flavored foods will love it!)

12 medium size lemons

3 tablespoons mustard seed

1 tablespoon tumeric

1 tablespoon ground white pepper

1 1/2 teaspoon whole cloves

1 teaspoon ground mace

3 tablespoons sugar

1 1/2 tablespoons salt

Grind rind from lemons; squeeze juice.  Place rind and juice in a heavy pan along with remaining ingredients and allow to stand for 2 hours.  Bring to a boil, stirring frequently, and simmer gently for 30 minutes.  Pour into a 2-quart crock or glass jar with a tight fitting lid and allow to stand 2 weeks, stirring daily.  At the end of two weeks, whirl in blender until smooth.  Fill hot sterilized jars with the mixture and seal; process in a boiling water bath 10 minutes.  (Serve as a condiment with fish or seafood).

MOROCCAN PRESERVED LEMONS

(Preserved lemons are often used in North African cooking; they’ll add a salty tartness to chicken, lamb, and vegetable dishes. Be sure to cover the lemons completely with salted lemon juice before sealing the jar.  The pickling juice can be reused and is handy to keep in a jar in the kitchen; replenish it with odd pieces of lemon.)

5 lemons

1/3 cup salt, – more if desired

1 cinnamon stick

3 cloves

5-6 coriander seeds

3-4 black peppercorns

1 bay leaf

freshly squeezed lemon juice

Quarter the lemons from top to bottom to within 1/2″ of the bottom; sprinkle salt on the exposed flesh, then reshape the fruit.  Place 1 tablespoon salt in the bottom of a sterilized 1 pint canning jar.  Place in the lemons and push them down, adding more salt and the spices between the layers. Press the lemons down to release their juices and to make room for the remaining lemons.  If the juices released by the lemons does not cover them, add freshly squeezed lemon juice – NOT commercial lemon juice and NOT water). Leave some airspace before sealing the jar. Turn the jar upside-down to distribute the salt and juice and then let the lemons ripen in a warm place for 30 days.  To use, rinse the lemons as needed under running water, removing and discarding pulp if desired.  There is no need to refrigerate preserved lemons after opening.  They will keep up to a year and the pickling juice can be used several times during the course of a year.

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PICKLED LEMONS

12 LEMONS

2 TABLESPOONS NON-IODIZED SALT

3 1/2 CUPS WHITE WINE VINEGAR

12 WHITE PEPPERCORNS

A LARGE PIECE OF DRIED GINGERROOT, MASHED

3 TABLESPOONS WHITE MUSTARD SEEDS

2 GARLIC CLOVES, CRUSHED

Using a sharp knife, cut skins of lemons lengthwise without cutting pulp.  Rub salt into cuts. In a shallow bowl, let lemons stand 5 days in a cool place.  Turn lemons occasionally.  Drain; reserve liquid.  In a large saucepan, bring reserved liquid, vinegar, peppercorns and ginger to a boil.  Reduce heat; simmer 5 minutes.  Add lemons;  simmer 30 minutes.  Wash and sterilize 5 half-pint jars; keep hot until needed.  Using a slotted spoon, pack hot lemons in hot jars.  Add mustard seed and garlic to liquid.  Increase heat; bring to a boil.  Remove ginger; skim off foam.  Ladle hot liquid over lemons.  Wipe rim of jars with a clean cloth; seal; process in boiling water bath 5 minutes.  Let mature 1 month before serving.

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LEMON MARMALADE #3

6 LEMONS

1/8 TEASPOON BAKING SODA

1 1/2 CUPS WATER

5 CUPS SUGAR

1 POUCH LIQUID PECTIN

Remove peel from lemons and discard white membrane.  Cut peel into slivers. Section lemons, remove  seeds, and chop pulp.  Set aside. Combine peel, baking soda and water in a large microwave safe bowl.  Cover and microwave on HIGH until mixture boils, about 6 or 7 minutes.

Remove from microwave oven and stir in sugar and reserved fruit.  Return to microwave, uncovered, and microwave on HIGH until mix returns to a boil, about 18 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Boil at least 1 minute. Remove from oven and stir in liquid pectin.  Skim off foam.  Let rest 5 minutes, occasionally stirring gently to distribute fruit. Carefully ladle into hot sterilized jars; seal. Process 10 minutes in boiling water bath.  Makes 3 12-oz jars.

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LEMON GINGER MARMALADE

1 POUND LEMONS

3 SLICES FRESH GINGER

WATER

3 1/2 CUPS SUGAR

DAY 1: QUARTER LEMONS LENGTHWISE. REMOVE SEEDS, SLICE THIN, LEAVING PEEL INTACT. MEASURE LEMON PIECES AND GINGER SLICES AND COVER WITH AN EQUAL AMOUNT OF WATER IN A MIXING BOWL.  LET STAND OVERNIGHT AT ROOM TEMP.

DAY 2: BRING LEMON MIX TO A BOIL IN A HEAVY 4-QT STAINLESS STEEL POT. REDUCE HEAT TO A SIMMER & COOK FOR 15 MINUTES.  COOL TO ROOM TEMP AND LET STAND OVERNIGHT AGAIN.

DAY 3:  MEASURE THE MARMALADE BASE. ADD AN EQUAL AMOUNT OF SUGAR AND WARM THE SUGAR IN THE OVEN AT 250 DEGREES FOR 10 MINUTES. ADD SUGAR 1/2 CUP AT A TIME, ALLOWING MIX TO RETURN TO BOIL BEFORE ADDING MORE. CONTINUE COOKING UNTIL MIX COMES TO JELLYING POINT, WHICH IS 8 DEGREES ABOVE THE BOILING TEMPERATURE ON YOUR CANDY THERMOMETER. THIS WILL HAPPEN WITHIN 10 MINUTES.  REMOVE FROM HEAT; SKIM OFF FOAM. LET STAND 5 MINUTES. STIR, THEN POUR INTO HOT, STERILIZED JELLY JARS TO WITHIN 1/2″ OF TOPS. SEAL, PROCESS IN A BOILING WATER BATH 5 MINUTES.

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There are numerous recipes for making Lemon Curd.  Don’t be discouraged by the name–Lemon Curd is very much like lemon pie filling with bits of peel; it’s delicious and can be spooned onto cakes or used as a dessert topping, or as a filling for tarts.  None of the recipes in my collection call for processing the Lemon Curd in a canner – however; even though it requires refrigeration, it will keep for months if properly refrigerated. Be sure to use a double boiler when you make lemon curd–the eggs will curdle over direct heat. I use a large stainless mixing bowl that goes with my Kitchen Aid mixer and place this over a pot of simmering water.

ENGLISH LEMON CURD

1/4 CUP BUTTER

1/2 CUP HONEY

1/2 CUP LEMON JUICE

1 EGG

2 EGG YOLKS

GRATED ZEST OF 1 LEMON

Melt butter in top of double boiler set over simmering water.  Stir in the honey and cook for a moment, then add the lemon juice.  Beat together the egg and egg yolks; stir them into the lemon mixture, continuing the cook and stir until the mixture thickens, which may take as long as 10 minutes (it will thicken more as it cools).  Add the lemon zest.  Pour into a pint size jar and cover.  Keep refrigerated.

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This next Lemon Curd recipe is, in all honesty, my favorite of the Curd recipes.  I think all the lemon peel gives it a wonderful flavor.  If you have a lemon tree in your back yard–as I do–and find yourself with more lemons than you know what to do with, try making up a few batches of this Lemon Curd.  Accompanied by a small loaf of lemon bread, it makes a wonderful homemade gift for someone special!

LEMON CURD #2

4 LEMONS

2 CUPS GRANULATED SUGAR

5 EGGS

1 STICK (4 OZ) BUTTER (don’t substitute)

Scrub lemons; grate the lemon rinds finely.  Cut the fruit in half and squeeze out the juice. (Note: 1 good size lemon should produce about 3 tablespoons of lemon juice, or a total of 12 tablespoons of lemon juice for this recipe). Place the rind in a bowl with the juice, sugar, beaten eggs and butter cut into small pieces.  Place the bowl over a saucepan of boiling water, making sure that it does not actually touch the water.  Cook the mixture, stirring occasionally, until it begins to thicken.  Pour into warmed jars and cover.  Keep refrigerated.

Hint:  You can make orange curd using 4 oranges, or grapefruit curd, using 3 grapefruit, or even tangerine curd, using 10 tangerines and the juice of 2 lemons.

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LEMON HONEY JELLY

3/4 CUP LEMON JUICE

2 1/2 CUPS HONEY

1/2 CUP LIQUID PECTIN

Combine lemon juice and honey. Bring to a full rolling boil.  Add pectin, stirring vigorously.  Boil about 2 minutes.  Pour into hot sterilized jars.  Seal.

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LIGHT LEMON MINCEMEAT

This recipe comes to us by way of Canada. It can be used as a pie or tart filling or used to fill homemade cookies.  You can pour it into sterilized jars and attach to it a card with suggestions for using mincemeat.

1/2 cup lemon juice

1 cup raisins, blanched, drained and chopped

3 1/2 cups apples, peeled, cored and chopped  (4-5 apples)

1/2 cup pecans, chopped

1/2 cup lemon marmalade

2 cups white or brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon ground ginger

2 tablespoons dark rum

Combine all ingredients.  Spoon into sterilized jars, label and store.

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FRESH LEMON EXTRACT

2 TEASPOONS GRATED LEMON ZEST

1/2 PINT VODKA

MIX, LET STAND 4 WEEKS, SHAKING THE JAR OCCASIONALLY.

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LEMON MINT JELLY

1 1/2 CUPS FRESH LEMON JUICE, STRAINED

1 1/2 CUPS WATER

1 1/2 TEASPOONS MINT EXTRACT

1 PACKAGE POWDERED PECTIN

4 1/2 CUPS SUGAR

Combine lemon juice, water and mint extract in a medium size pot. Stir in pectin; bring to a rolling boil over high heat.  Add sugar and return to rolling boil.  Boil hard 1 minute, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat; skim off foam if necessary.  Pour into hot, sterilized jars, leaving 1/4″ headspace.  Seal; process 5 minutes in a boiling water bath.  Makes about 4 half pints.

The following recipe is from a very old regional cookbook published in 1874…but syrups are very basic and easy to make.

LEMON SYRUP:

1 1/2 LBS of granulated sugar for each pint of lemon juice.

Add some of the peel, cut into slivers. Boil all together for 10 minutes, then strain, bottle and seal with a cork or a tight fitting lid.  Mix lemon syrup with iced water to make lemonade.

Yum!

Happy Cooking! Sandy

THE FARMER’S WIFE COOKBOOK(s)

As I have said before, book titles cannot be copyrighted – that is why you might find half a dozen different cookbooks with the same title. I was reminded of this a few days while writing a review of a cookbook titled CLASSIC CHINESE COOKING. (I have known this ever since I started writing in the early 1960s but now I asked myself why do I know this and has it been changed?  So, I asked Google and found this response:

“Generally, No.” You cannot copyright a book title.  The U.S. Copyright Office does not typically allow someone to copyright a book title because titles are not considered intellectual property but are only “short slogans,” which are not eligible to be copyrighted.  The Copyright Office doesn’t want titles to be restricted to one book; there may be other works in which the title may be equally usable and appropriate. ..”  I see examples of this multi-titles in the world of cookbooks quite often.

I’m now looking at a few cookbooks titled THE FARMER’S WIFE COOK BOOK and one of the interesting aspects of this cookbook title is that one of them was published in Great Britain while another closer to home was published by a magazine called The Farmer’s Wife, edited by Martha Engstrom. Are there more? I wondered.

I turned my attention to Google.com and discovered quite a collection of Farmer’s Wife cookbooks.  Apparently, the Farmer’s Wife magazine is one of the earliest of periodicals to use this title.

According to Google “The Farmer’s Wife (magazine) was first published in 1893, and had a circulation of 3,000 a month. In 1897, the Webb Publishing Company in St. Paul, Minnesota bought this magazine, and from that point they raised the circulation rate through the early 20th century decades to 1,100,000 a year. In mid-1939 The Farmer’s Wife was bought by Farm Journal, and became a subsection in the back of this magazine.

The connection to Farm Journal gave me a jolt—I have many of the Farm Journal Cookbooks. Penpal Penny in Oklahoma and I began collecting the Farm Journal cookbooks back in the 1970s and loved the recipes.  They were always our “go to” recipe source before anything else. Whenever I found an extra copy of one of the Farm Journal cookbooks, I’d buy it to give to a family member or a friend.

Well, I would have sworn I had more than two of the Farmer’s Wife Cookbooks but so far I have only found two of them. And the slew of them I have discovered on Amazon.com only adds to the mystery—how can so many different books have the same affiliation to the Farmer’s Wife Magazine?

One is The Farmer’s Wife Cookbook containing over 400 blue-ribbon recipes, compiled by editor Martha Ergstrom and published in 1996. The best explanation of the cookbook can be found in the introduction, Welcome to the Farm Kitchen, which reads, “The recipes I the Farmer’s Wife Cookbook are true farm recipes. They originated in country kitchens and were submitted by readers to The Farmer’s Wife, a monthly magazine published from 1893 to 1939 by Webb Publishing Company of St. Paul, Minnesota. Many of these recipes are almost a century old, offering a step back in time to another era of cooking. They have all been updated for the modern kitchen to produce similar results today as they did in Grandma’s kitchen.

Many of the recipes are downright delicious…such as the Swedish Meatballs, the pies and cakes…Some are chock full of nostalgia, reviving memories of Grandma’s special cooking. Others are quaint, offering a window to look back at a long ago style of North American farm country cookery that is largely forgotten today.”  (Actually, I don’t think it IS forgotten – the responses I get whenever I write about some of these cookbooks is prove enough that many people are still interested in the recipes—and the follow-up cookbooks are a strong indicator that the books are greatly welcomed).

“Other than spices and such, the recipes call for the homegrown ingredients that were typically raised and produced on American farms during this era. Milk and cream, both sweet and sour, butter, chicken and eggs, cured meats, variety meats (the vernacular for organs such as the heart and liver), and fresh and home-canned fruits and vegetables were considered staples. The recipes were created to give equally satisfying results using either fresh or preserved ingredients….”

Martha Engrstrom goes on to say that “in reviewing issues from almost forty years of the Farmer’s Wife [magazine] I was struck by the number of feature articles and fictional works that touched on the significance of ‘community’. The desire or need for farm families to participant in both social events and common work-related activities, within the greater community, was an everyday embracing theme.

The purpose or focus of such gatherings varied but common  to all was food. Whether it was a church circle or some other women’s society, the 4-H club or the crews of men who aided neighbors in raising barns or threshing grain, a meal to be shared by all participants was considered central to the event or activity itself.”

Ms. Engrstrom’s last two paragraphs struck another chord. For over forty years, one of my penpals has been a “farmer’s wife” in Oregon—although this farmer also worked in a paper mill for many years and in more recent years they have downsized considerably on the amount of crops that are raised. There is enough for my friend to can virtually all fruits and vegetables grown on their property to last for a year, plus to have plenty of extra fruit and vegetables to share with friends and family. But last year, I visited them in October and participated in picking apples from their half-dozen orchard of apples, and the family all gathered one Saturday to make gallons and gallons of apple cider. I contributed by making Cincinnati chili for the family dinner. In addition, my girlfriend and I made quarts and quarts of V-8 juice.  There was still a lot of tomatoes leftover and since she didn’t want to can any more for herself, I suggested buying a box of quart jars (available everywhere in Oregon!) and us making 12 jars of V-8 juice for myself – they could bring mine to me when they made their annual pilgrimage south to Southern California and from here to a place in Arizona where a lot of snowbirds spend the winters. And so we did, and I was thrilled to receive my case of V-8 juice when they arrived in late December.  This was a perfect example of a farmer’s wife using virtually everything needed to grow many fruits and vegetables (and they have blackberries growing wild along the perimeter of the property! Be still my heart!)

Years ago, before retiring, they also grew a mint crop annually, that grew easily with little attention and then would be taken to a place where the mint was processed. I STILL have a little bottle of mint oil from their property).  My experience with seeing how the family gathered and everyone spent hours cutting and forcing apples into a machine that extracted the juice was a small scale experience of how small town farmers and the neighbors joined forces to preserve the fruits of their labors.

Getting back to the Farmer’s Wife Cookbook, each chapter contains old-time photographs of kitchens, cooks, and their families – I assume all were taken from the Farmer’s Wife magazine. I simply love the illustrations as much as the recipes. The First Courses and Soups contains an introduction from The Farmer’s Wife.  For readers who are searching for the “old fashioned” way of making things, this book is for you. I don’t know how often women have asked me how on earth I ever found the time to make homemade soups—soups! One of the easiest things to make and it can be made with some leftover meat or vegetables, if you have them on hand. I love making turkey rice soup with a turkey carcass, or ham and bean soup with a leftover ham bone. Granted, if you are making bean soup, you will get a much better soup by letting the dry beans soak overnight, then drain and rinse them off and put into the pot with fresh clean cold water.  There is a recipe for Bean Chowder on page 13 of The Farmer’s Wife Cookbook. There are also recipes for Vegetable soup, Minestrone, and Beef Stock that can be converted into many different dishes. (if you have the time to do it, cook a turkey carcass in water until all the meat falls off the bones, then strain it – remove as much meat as you can find and toss the rest. I like to put any kind of beef or poultry stock in gallon size pickle jars. When it is cold, transfer the stock to 2-quart Gladlock plastic containers and freeze them. At this point, I like to transfer the frozen stock “bricks” to ziplock freezer bags and label them with a sharpee pen. The frozen soup bricks stack nicely in the freezer).

The next chapter in the Farmer’s Wife Cookbook is Cream soups – and Cream of Tomato Soup does not contain canned tomato soup but it does contain 2 cups of home canned tomatoes! Yum!

A chapter on Breads provides recipes for Boston Brown Bread, Peanut Butter Bread, Corn Bread and Spoon Bread and Quick Nut Bread. There are also muffins, biscuits  and popover recipes,  recipes for White Bread and Dinner Rolls, oatmeal bread – and one I am looking forward to trying—Swedish Limpa Rye Bread. There are also instructions for home bakers.

Under a chapter for meats you will find a recipe for Swiss Steak and another for City Chicken – I learned how to make Swiss Steak from my mother-in-law who was from West Virginia, and my mother sometimes made City Chicken which was small chunks of veal and/or boneless pork that were floured and browned and then put on skewers and cooked in a small amount of oil. I think it was a way of making a dinner for a family of seven using very little meat. As kids, my siblings and I loved City Chicken. Who even knows what it is, today?

Under ground meat there are recipes for Baby Porcupines, Swedish Meatballs and Hamburger Royal. There is also a chapter for making sauces (from scratch! Not from a little packet of seasoning mix – which, incidentally, have doubled in price in recent months…this is a good time to learn how to make your own sauces!

Under the chapter Titled “Chicken” you find first a recipe for roasting chicken (possibly one of the easiest entrees you can make and serve for a family meal or for company – followed by a recipe for dressing and another for making a boiled chicken, chicken pie, creamed chicken, chicken mousse or chicken loaf—proving that many recipes can be made from a boiled chicken. These and many other topics are included in The Farmer’s Wife Cookbook. There are recipes for using eggs to make suppers, cheese suppers and genuine New England Dishes—along with many recipes for low-income families, bearing in mind that the Farmer’s Wife magazine was being published throughout the war years of World War I and world War II – as well as the Great Depression. The only other place I have seen so many frugal recipes was in a Depression Era cookbook and some of my old Sunset cookbooks.

There are many recipes for making your own salad dressings (was there any other way, back in the day?) which include Sweet Cream dressing and Cooked or Boiled Dressing. There are recipes for vegetable salads, potato salad and slaws. Fruit Salads includes the famous Waldorf Salad, still popular today, decades later.  There are gelatin salads and gelatin desserts (and I am forever thankful no one called them congealed salads, which has such a dismal connotation in my mind). There are Whips and Puddings, steamed puddings and custard recipes, many old and perhaps somewhat forgotten except that many of us are old enough to remember the terms and names. Tapioca pudding! My favorite then and my favorite now!  There are Date or Fruit  Torte and Blitz Torte (I think my mother had this recipe and I thought it was a misspelling).

I found an interesting article about a woman who sold fruitcake starting out with making the cakes and taking them to a local grocery store to sell—they didn’t all sell out the first year but the word got around until her cakes were in great demand—mind you, this was in 1936 and the creator, a Mrs. Theresa Fort, continued making and baking her fruitcakes until she and her husband bought a big old fashioned house and opened up a tea room. She served Sunday dinners and parties but continued to make fruitcakes that were a huge success. She didn’t have an electric mixer so all the cakes were mixed by hand in a large bowl with a wooden spoon. The fruitcake recipe that created a cottage business isn’t included in the Farmer’s Wife Cookbook –but I have shared some favorite cookbook recipes with you in the past. What is included is a recipe for a fruit cobbler, another for a Apple Roly-Poly (who knows what that is anymore?) and another for Brown Betty.

There are candy and cake recipes—no cake mix starts out with “1 cake mix” but there are old-time favorite cake recipes such as Applesauce Cake, Tomato Soup Cake with Cream Cheese frosting that does call for a can of condensed tomato soup, Nectar Raisin Cake and Orange Cake, an Angel Food Cake recipe that calls for 1 cup of egg whites (approximately 12 eggs) and Hot Milk Sponge Cake—plus some others you may want to rediscover. The book does contain a fruitcake recipe but no indication is given that it is the same fruitcake that made Mrs. Fort famous back in the 1930s.

There are cookies and pie recipes and homemade doughnuts—and an interesting chapter on Jellies, Conserves and Jams that I will have to explore more, being a jelly-and-jam maker myself. Included is an article published in 1928 in Farmer’s Wife Magazine, titled “Canning For the Fair” which includes an illustration of Sure-Jell pectin mix that was priced at 13 cents.  (I recently priced powdered pectin—the popular brands are over $3.50 for a single box.  There is also a chapter  on making Pickles and Relishes.

This Farmer’s Wife Cookbook originally sold for $9.95. (The price is printed on the back of the cover).

I am finding The Best of the Farmer’s Wife Cookbook by Kari Cornell & Melinda Keefe (published in 2011), The Farmer’s Wife Harvest Cookbook by Lela Norgi, The Farmer’s Wife Canning and Preserving Cookbook, the Farmer’s Wife Cookie Cookbook, also by Lela Norgi and even a Farmer’s Wife Slow Cooker Cookbook although to the best of my knowledge, slow cookers were not in existence back in the days of the Farmer’s Wife magazine!  I’ll leave it to someone else to unravel this plethora of Farmer’s Wife cookbook authors.   **

The second Farmer’s Wife cookbook in my collection does not appear in any of the Amazon.com lists I have consulted. This is a British version of farmer’s wives cookbook which contains a preface written by the foremost cookbook author in Great Britain, Marguerite Patten, about whom I have written for the Cookbook Collectors Exchange and then again for my blog in February, 2011.

This Farmer’s Wife Cook Book was the end result of a competition for country farmers’ wives , for which Marguerite Patten was one of the judges.

She writes, “…All the recipes have been written by farmers’ wives, and selected from over 1000 recipes sent in from all over the country, specially for this promotion.

The excellent recipes came almost literally from John O’Groats to Land’s End and from just about every type of farm and farming land in the country….”

Marguerite says “We judges based our selection on recipes that produced original, practical and delicious dishes, which were also economical and not too difficult to make.  I was one of the judges of this competition and it was a very difficult task to test so many excellent recipes and to select the winners….”

Marguerite notes that “farm cooking in this country has always been exceptionally good, possibly for two main reasons: first, farmers’ wives are usually very busy people; they have little time for shopping, so make use of the ingredients readily available; they need skill and creative ability to turn them into unusual and appetizing meals; secondly, British farmers’ wives have access to some of the best natural produce in the world—high quality milk, cream, eggs, poultry, bacon, etc., so their meals are  nourishing as well as interesting…”

She adds that although the recipes were developed by country women, they are equally suitable for those of us who live in towns and cities.

What follows is a most appetizing mouth-watering collection of recipes with the most unusual twist to the winning dishes – although the names of the winning farmers’ wives are list alongside the recipes—you won’t find a single photograph of these farmers wives – instead, charmingly, delightfully, photographs of their homes is provided. In over 40 years of collecting cookbooks with emphasis on “regional” recipes – whether they are regional to Great Britain or the USA –this is a first for me. It makes me want to pack up and go visit Great Britain, once and for all!

This copy of Farmer’s Wife Cookbook must have been sent to me by my penpal, Betsy, who has been to Great Britain many times. Once when I was visiting her in Michigan, her British penpal came to visit too and we had a delightful time together.

I haven’t been able to find a web listing for the Farmer’s Wife Cook Book, United Kingdom style – but it is such a luscious cookbook, it should be added to your Bucket list as something to search for.   From Farmhouse Pancakes to Bedfordshire Brochettes, from Fluffy Eggs to Cheesy Potato Scones (Be still my heart!) the recipes will tempt and astound you. Readers on the other side of the pond might find the book a little easier to find. I finally found a copyright date of  1973. This is a slim hardcover cookbook subtitled “Country Recipes from Farmers’ Wives”

I know there are other Farmer’s Wife cookbooks “out there” – you may want to search for them to add to your collection!

Happy cooking!

Sandy

 

CLASSIC CHINESE CUISINE

“In China, more than in any other culture, food and civilization are synonymous…” Nina Simonds

I absolutely LOVE Chinese food – unfortunately, however, it doesn’t always love me. Over the years, I’ve discovered that many of my migraine headaches could be traced to having dinner in a Chinese restaurant.  Obviously, there’s something in the ingredients that doesn’t go well (I’ve often suspected MSG). What to do? Am I condemned forever to spend the rest of my life avoiding a kind of cuisine that I adore?  Of course not!  The solution was simple – I just don’t eat Chinese restaurant  food anymore. That doesn’t prevent me from enjoying my own, or that made by friends who understand my dilemma.

So, of course, you can understand my delight discovering CLASSIC CHINESE CUISINE by Nina Simonds, revised and updated from the original Houghton Mifflin book published in 1982.  I am amused by the original publishing date of 1982 – I don’t think I knew how to cook anything Chinese in 1982. (You’ve come a long way, baby!).  I really like CHAPTERS books. This is a large soft cover book with the most mouth-watering assortment of photographs (by Alan Richardson), easy to follow directions, and–of course—wonderful recipes.

Acknowledges the author, “This book is the product of more than 10 years of study, research and experience. So many people contributed by sharing their knowledge, expertise, and encouragement. She tells us that, “for a foreigner in Taiwan, whose basic Chinese vocabulary considered of the words ‘Hello’, ‘goodbye’ ‘thank you’ and ‘no MSG’, the phrases ‘Ni chi bao le mei you?’ was extremely useful. This salutation is uttered when greeting a relative or friend, and it is frequently blurted out at acquaintances when further conversation is impossible…although the phrase symbolizes a wish of well-being, translated literally it means ‘HAVE YOU EATEN YET?’. For a 19 year old woman who had grown up fascinated by all aspects of food and who had traveled to Asia to study Chinese cuisine, this sentence was a revelation.  Clearly, I had come to the right place”.

Ms. Simonds had grown up in New England to a family for whom food had always held a special importance. She recalls that while most parents are content to read fairy tales to their children at bedtime, her father would bundle the four of his children, pajama-clad and squeaky clean from their evening baths and then describe in mouth-watering detail, the various delicacies sampled on his latest business trips. By the age of five, remembers Nina, they were all well versed I the subtleties of cold stone crab with mustard sauce and familiar with the heady fragrance of fried saganaki, a Greek specialty of fried cheese.

“It was hardly surprising,” she writes, “that after one uninspiring year in college, I decided to reassess my goals and steer myself toward a food oriented career….”  She took an introductory course in Mandarin and a growing fascination with Chinese cuisine led her to Taiwan in 1972 where for three and a half years she apprenticed herself in restaurant kitchens with some of Taipei’s foremost chefs.  Many of these chefs were the finest of the Chinese master-chefs who had fled from China after the revolution. She writes that she was overjoyed to discover in Taiwan all the various regional flavors of China had been preserved and the restaurants in Taiwan were an  ideal training ground for studying authentic Chinese cuisine.

During that time, Simonds translated several cookbooks with Huang Su Huei, a renowned authority on Chinese food. She lived with a Chinese family and for the first time in her life, was surrounded by a nation of people whose preoccupation  with cooking outdid her own.

Simonds writes that the Chinese fascination with food dates back to the beginning of an established culture. Ancient Chinese society held men  with a refined knowledge of food and drink in high esteem. In FOOD IN CHINESE CULTURES, K.C. Chang relates that I Yin, a prime minister of the Shang dynasty (18th century B.C. to 12th century B.C.) and once a chef, apparently  initiated his political career on the strength of his cooking prowess (perhaps akin to James Beard running for president in the U.S.A.?)

At a time, writes Simonds, when most other cultures regarded food solely in terms of basic survival, Chinese cuisine was well developed and correct preparation, service and consumption were an essential part of social behavior.

She adds   that “In his writings, Confucius placed great emphasis on food and helped to   establish the refined standards of Chinese cuisine that have endured to this   day.  By the Han dynasty (206 B.C. to   220 A.D.) the Li chi, the most extensive   handbook of ritual and social behavior ever compiled, was widely in use. Some   of the earliest written recipes and rules of conduct for meals appear in this   volume. A section titled ‘Five Points   to Ponder at Meals for Scholarly Gentlemen’ gives guidelines for ‘Taking   food as a Means of Attaining Tao:

The superior person does not for one moment act contrary to virtue, not even for the space of a single meal.     He first adopts the right posture, make the proper table arrangements and     reflects on his own adequacy before he takes any food…”

Sandy’s     Cooknote: Taoism is a     Chinese philosophy based on the writings of Lao-tzu (fl. 6th    century bc), advocating humility and religious piety.

Simonds also writes “Through the centuries, food has been the inspiration for innumerable Chinese scholars, artists and poets. One of the earliest examples is a poem written in 200 BC by Chu Yuan as an appeal for the departing soul of a beloved king. Culinary delicacies, in appetizing detail, are mentioned in an attempt to lure him back to life….”

Simonds believes that “Food is an international language that can provide valuable clues to the history and culture of any country.  This is particularly true  of China,” she writes, “ and it is my belief that insight into the history of philosophy of food in ancient China contributes to the understanding of modern Chinese cuisine and culture…”

With this in mind, she has tried to acquaint the reader with the stories behind the food, relating the origin of the dishes, their symbolic importance and their significance in the contemporary Chinese diet….”

Accordingly, Ms. Simonds has carefully selected recipes from the repertory of classic Chinese dishes to represent a sampling of traditional specialties from all parts of China. “Although refined by chefs down through the centuries and slightly adapted to modern methods, many of these dishes were originally conceived and developed in ancient China…”

Before listing recipes, Simonds has gone to great lengths to provide us, the readers, with an extensive list of Special Ingredients. Some you may know about, such as Hoisin Sauce and Soy Sauce, Oyster Sauce and Chinese Rice Vinegar—but are you familiar with Gaoling Wine, Sesame Paste or Rice Vinegar?   Others that we might not have been so familiar with twenty years afo—but have become acquainted with over the years would be Cilantro, Dried Tangerine or Orange Peel and Five Spice Powder.

There are these and many others to acquaint yourself with. CLASSIC CHINESE CUISINE is packed with interesting tidbits of information for preparing the recipes, or some morsel of historic information. For example, Simonds writes “In the city of Taipei, food vendors pass through the alleyways, day and night, hawking their wares. One man rode a bicycle with a box strapped behind his seat, filled to the brim with hot steamed bread and flower rolls. Upon hearing his call, my Chinese surrogate would dispatch the children to buy a supply of the buns to eat with our dinner instead of rice. Flower rolls are particularly delicious with red-cooked meats and stir-fried meat and vegetables dishes…”

Flower rolls, incidentally, are made with a basic dough and get their name from the shape. Illustrations with the recipes provide some easy to follow directions.

And recipes?  I can’t begin to give them all justice. CLASSIC CHINESE CUISINE contains hundreds of mouth-watering recipes. Sometimes just the name alone makes the recipe enticing. How could anyone resist a recipe called TWO WINTERS OR VEGETARIAN EIGHT TREASURES –or how about PHOENIX EYE DUMPLINGS which, Simonds explains, gets its name from the phoenix, a symbol of beauty and peace, long venerated by the Chinese. A number of dishes are said to have been inspired by this mythical bird.

CLASSIC CHINESE CUISINE is a large soft-cover cookbook published by CHAPTERS in 1994. It appears to have been reprinted at least once, in 2008. Amazon. Com has a pre-owned copy available for 8.85.  Make sure you find the cookbook written by Nina Simonds! While checking on Amazon to find out what is available, I found half a dozen cookbook by different authors – but with the same title (If I am not mistaken, I believe it has always been a copyright law that titles cannot be copyrighted). I’m sure all the other Chinese cookbooks are     worthy but I don’t have them so I can’t vouch for the other titles.

Alibris.com has pre-owned copies for $1.51 and up.

Review by Sandra Lee Smith

 

QUICK & EASY VOLUME II

QUICK & HEALTHY, VOLUME II by Brenda Ponichtera is “more help for people who say they don’t have time to cook healthy meals”.

Ms. Ponichtera is a Registered Dietician, Diabetes educator and author. She majored in Foods and Nutrition at Framingham State College in Massachusetts, where she received a Bachelor of Science in Education. The author completed a dietetic internship in Seattle, Washington, at Harborview Medical Center, Swedish Hospital and Children’s Orthopedic Hospital – so you can rest assured, this is one cookbooks author who really knows what she is writing about.

Quick & Healthy, Volume II is attractively compiled with bright red spiral binding and is filled with healthy recipes, menus, and recipes using ordinary ingredients from the supermarket; it is a must for those of us working to achieve a low fat lifestyle.

Also included are charts to help you determine your ideal weight, calories and fat, how to monitor fat intake, the grams of fat in common foods, how to trim fat from your diet, and food exchanges, especially helpful for diabetics.

Explains the author, “Healthful eating doesn’t have to take a lot of time in the kitchen. With that in mind, I wrote my first book QUICK & HEALTHY R ECIPES AND IDEAS…”  Since then, she says, she has received many requests for more recipes and menus, which is why she decided to write QUICK & HEALTHY VOLUME II.

“What is quick?” asks Ms. Ponichtera, “When testing recipes, we decided that quick meant spending less time in the kitchen. Putting together the ingredients for a meal in less than 15 minutes met that criteria. However, the cooking time can take longer since this does not usually require constant attention…”

All the recipes are low in fat and when combined with other foods for the day, fall within the recommendation of no more than 20% to 30% of the total calories from fat.

What is really most impressive about Ms. Ponichtera’s cookbook are the recipes—we all know how easy it is to be turned off by “DIET” food but take a look at this – herbed cream cheese sour cream baked potato topping? Carrot muffins!  Pineapple Bread! A really wonderful tortilla soup recipes! Chicken pasta stew! Sour Cream Enchiladas!

And what’s not to like about Chicken and Black Bean Burritos, or Chicken Chop Suey…

You’ll appreciate the section on desserts (dieting today doesn’t mean giving up the yummies!) – Ms. Ponichtera provides us with recipes for raisin bread pudding, peach custard, and Banana Cream pie!

I believe the most current edition of QUICK & HEALTHY Volume II was published in 2009. I reviewed it for the Cookbook Collectors Exchange originally in May, 1997.  The original QUICK & EASY cookbook was published in 1991, and reprinted in 2008.  If reprinting is any indicator of how a book (or two) are doing, I would say that a lot of people have discovered both of Ms. Ponichtera’s cookbooks

You can find the original QUICK & EASY cookbook on Amazon for $6.08, pre owned or $16.45 new.  QUICK & EASY VOLUME II can be yours for $3.15 pre owned, or $10. for a new copy.

–Review by Sandra Lee Smith

EATING GERMAN FOOD IN GRANDMA’S KITCHEN

When I was a child, growing up in a predominately German-immigrant neighborhood, we all ate whatever my grandmother cooked and we called it all “German food”. Little did we know!

It wasn’t until many years later that I began discovering that Grandma’s cooking was really a hodgepodge of German and Hungarian cuisine with some influence from a Jewish family Grandma cooked for, before she got married and had children of her own.

One of the first indications that what we were eating wasn’t just “German” cuisine was my grandmother’s pancakes. We called them pancakes and sometimes had them for lunch at Grandma’s.  She would put jelly on a big thin pancake and roll it up for one of us to eat on our way back to school – her house was just up the street from St. Leo’s church and school.

In the mid 1960s, my husband and I, now living in Southern California,  became acquainted with a group of Hungarian political refugees from the Hungarian uprising in 1956. One of their American-wives would make a dessert called Palascinta— a stack of paper thin pancakes with a filling, such as poppyseed. When the stack was tall enough, the palascinta would be cut into thin wedges. “Hmmm!” I said, “These palascintas look and taste just like my grandmother’s German pancakes…”  (I had not yet begun to collect cookbooks).

A few years later, I became friends with a Jewish girlfriend whose youngest daughter was in the same class as one of my sons. I attended the wake and funeral of her father when he passed away.  While at the Wake, I watched her aunt making blintzes–particularly cheese blintzes!. When I tasted one of these I said “Oh, this filling tastes just like my grandmother’s German Cheese Strudel”.

I was beginning to learn that what my siblings and I loosely referred to as “Grandma’s German cooking” was far more than that. Grandpa was Hungarian, so she learned to make a lot of Hungarian recipes—especially Hungarian Goulash!

As a young single woman, Grandma had worked as a cook for a Jewish family, acquiring knowledge of many foods and recipes that are served in traditional Jewish families. And then, of course, there was Grandma’s own German heritage.

I think of all the things we ever enjoyed eating as we were growing up and having many meals at Grandma’s was the German sausage, wurst, that would be fried in a skillet and eaten with homemade salt bread. When my grandfather was still alive, the family would butcher a pig once a year; Grandpa and his sons would make hams and sausages and Grandpa converted one of the garages next to the house into a smoke house!  My sister Becky remembered sitting on the basement steps watching the men make the sausages.

While most of our childhood memories were intertwined, in some instances one sibling’s memories differed somewhat from another’s. For instance, I only remembered watching Grandma Schmidt make diamond shaped Christmas cookies, that were studded with a mixture of sugar and finely chopped walnuts (and always thought those were the only kind Grandma made.) Becky chastised me, saying that Grandma made lots of different cookies for Christmas. Grandma baked, Becky recalled, thumbprint cookies with raspberry jam, and a fold-over cookie filled with apricot or peach jam. Grandma made Springerle cookies that were so hard you could not even bite into them, and a small pill-shaped cookie with colored sprinkles on top. Every family member got a dress box full of cookies for Christmas. All I could say was…I only saw Grandma make the diamond shaped cookies and someone else must have eaten up all those other cookies!

To the best of my knowledge, there are no Pennsylvania Dutch ancestors in my family tree—and yet, my grandmother, who cooked and baked an array of foodstuffs ranging from German to Hungarian, did include some Pennsylvania Dutch recipes in her culinary repertoire. For instance, I have often wondered why it was that grandma—who made hundreds, if not thousands—of butter cutout cookies for Christmas – always made many of those diamond-shaped cookies with a diamond shaped cookie cutter that I now own. There, on page 167 of PENNSYLVANIA DUTCH COUNTRY COOKING is a recipe for Mahantongo diamond doughnuts – with the information that the diamond shape for All Saints cakes can be traced to the ninth century.  I can’t help but wonder if that’s not the answer. I vaguely remember us going to Pennsylvania and visiting some distant relatives one time. Grandma often traveled with us (or anyone else in the family going somewhere and inviting her along.) My brother Jim has speculated that we must all have some gypsy blood somewhere in our background

In any case, these were some of our memories, of being children growing up in Fairmount, a suburb of Cincinnati, when Fairmount was still a nice neighborhood in which to live, of our relationships with Grandma Schmidt and each other, of going to St. Leo’s – where even our father, Uncle Hans, and Aunt Annie went to school and where we all had the same First Grade teacher, Sister Taursisius, who taught first graders for 50 years, until she retired to the  convent in Oldenburg, Indiana.

Fairmount was at that time a stable, friendly neighborhood, heavily populated with German and Italian immigrants, where it was safe for children to play in the streets on summer nights or walk to the pony keg to get a bottle of “pop”, where you knew families for blocks around and very often, the children you went to school with had gone to school with your parents.

Adding to my curiosity about the dishes Grandma served to all of her adult children and grandchildren was a chicken broth which contained something WE called “rivillies” but which, I discovered in one of William Woys Weaver’s books—was a tiny Pennsylvania Dutch dumpling called Rivels or Riwweles which is probably much the same as my grandmother’s Rivellies. We also grew up on Spatzle and homemade noodles, dumplings, sauerkraut and hasenpfeffer. I have a distinct memory of going to Grandma’s and finding noodles drying on all the backs of the wooden kitchen chairs. Ok, I never liked hasenpfeffer—a sweet and sour rabbit that you could smell from the bottom of the steps coming home from school. I don’t recall my grandmother ever making hasenpfeffer but my mother did, when my father went rabbit hunting once a year. I don’t know which was worse—seeing him clean the rabbit in the kitchen sink or finding BBs in the gravy. I loathed the smell of hasenpfeffer cooking on the stove.

When we had this chicken soup with Rivels, we would have hunks of hot homemade salt bread to go with it.

Anytime we had a stew at Grandma’s, it would be Hungarian Goulash. (My mother made a stew that always had a tomato base but it wasn’t goulash).  Possibly the most famous of all Hungarian recipes is Hungarian Goulash. Authentic gulyás (Goulash) is a beef dish cooked with onions, Hungarian Paprika, tomatoes, and some green pepper. Potato and/or noodles (csipetke in Hungarian) may also be added according to some recipes.  Authentic Hungarian Goulash is Hungary’s national dish and is probably the most famous of all Hungarian meat dishes. Its origin can be traced back, over a thousand years ago, to the Magyar migration across the Great Plains. The origin of the word “gulyas” meant cowherd or cowboy.  The men and boys gathered around an open fire under an open sky in the evening and created a meal with meat and vegetables in large kettles suspended over the campfires. The soup was referred to, in Hungary, as “gulyasleves” meaning cowboy soup. Another interesting fact is that the use of paprika was introduced to Hungarian kitchens during the years of Turkish rule and was first referred to as “Torok bors” meaning Turkish pepper. It was only in the 18th century that the name paprika was used.

Hungarian goulash is neither a soup nor a stew; it’s somewhere in between. However, in Hungary it’s considered more a soup than a stew, so look for it among Soups on Hungarian restaurant menus.

When cooked properly, goulash will have a nice and evenly thick consistency, almost like a sauce. In Hungary gulyás is eaten as a main dish. Even in Hungary, most housewives and chefs have their own way of cooking it, by adding or omitting some of the ingredients, or changing something in the preparation process; however they would all say their gulyás is authentic.

This first recipe is an adaptation from one I found on the Budapest Tourist Guide website (the website is no longer valid).  To make this Goulash you will need:

  • 1-2      pounds of  chuck, or any tender cut      of  beef cut into small cubes
  • 2      tablespoons oil or lard
  • 2 medium      onions, chopped
  • 2 cloves      of garlic
  • 1-2      carrots, diced
  • 1      parsnip, diced (*I consider this optional. Grandma’s goulash never had parsnips in it to the best of my knowledge)
  • 1-2      celery leaves
  • 2 medium  tomatoes, peeled and chopped, or 1 TBSP tomato paste
  • 2 fresh green peppers (sweet bell peppers, not hot peppers)
  • 2-3      medium potatoes, sliced
  • 1  tablespoon Hungarian paprika powder*
  • 1  teaspoon ground caraway seed
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ground black pepper and salt according to taste
  • water
  1. Heat up the oil or lard in a pot and braise the chopped onions until they are a nice golden brown color.
  2. Sprinkle      the braised onions with paprika powder      while stirring, to prevent the paprika from burning.
  3. Add the beef cubes and sauté until they turn white and get a bit of brownish color as well. The meat will      probably let out its own juice. Allow      the beef cubes to simmer in it      while adding the grated or crushed and chopped garlic (grated garlic has stronger flavor), the ground caraway seed, some salt and ground black pepper, and the bay leaf. Pour water enough to cover the contents of the pan and let it simmer over low heat for a while.
  4. When the meat is half-cooked  (approximately 1 1/2 hour, but it can take longer depending on the type and quality of the beef) add the diced carrots, parsnip and the potatoes, the celery leaves and additional salt if necessary. Taste and then adjust seasonings. You may have to add additional (2-3 cups) water too.
  5. When the vegetables and the meat are almost done add the      cubed tomato and the sliced green peppers.  Let it cook on low heat for another few minutes. You can remove the lid of      the pan if you want the soup to thicken.
  6. Bring the soup to a boil and add (if you are including it) the csipetke dough; allow about 5  minutes for it to cook.

Csipetke (Pinched noodles added to goulash or bean soup in Hungary) comes from the word csípni, meaning pinch in English, referring to the way of making this noodle. Goulash is hearty enough without csipetke, especially if you eat it with bread, so you can skip making csipetke. (I believe that csipetke is similar to my grandmother’s rivels). We didn’t have Rivels, or Csipetke with Goulash; however, the tiny dumplings were always included in Grandma’s home made chicken soup.

TO MAKE CSIPETKE

You will need:

  • 1 small egg,
  • flour,
  • a pinch of salt,
  • 1  teaspoon water

To make the tiny dumplings, beat up a small egg, add a pinch of salt and as much flour as needed to make a stiff dough (you can add some water if necessary). Flatten the dough between your palms (to about 1 cm thick) and pinch small, bean-sized pieces from it and add them to the boiling soup. They need about 5 minutes to cook.

*One final word about paprika – don’t even bother with commercial American-made paprika. It won’t be the same as authentic Hungarian paprika, which I have been finding more and more frequently in major supermarkets. Look for a red and white and green tin labeled “Pride of Szeged Hungarian Hot Paprika”. The last paprika I purchased was from World Market and a 5 ounce tin was only $3.19.

The following recipe is my Aunt Annie’s Hungarian Goulash – and I am assuming, since she was the daughter of my paternal grandmother, that this was the way Grandma made Hungarian Goulash also:

To make Aunt Annie’s Hungarian Goulash you will need:

  • 2 lbs cubed beef
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 large potatoes
  • 1 cup tomato juice
  • 1 cup beef broth or 1 cup water & 1 bouillon cube
  • 2 tsp dried parsley flakes
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1 ½ tsp salt

Brown beef, add chopped onion, garlic, paprika, salt & parsley. Then add juice and broth. Simmer 1 hour. Add sliced carrots. Simmer ½ hour. Add diced potatoes. Simmer 1 hour.

My grandmother frequently made pans of strudel (generally a fruit strudel) – she had sour apple trees which often became the filling for apple strudel. I remember a cherry strudel and my absolute favorite—one I have never been able to duplicate—was a pumpkin strudel. The raw pumpkin slices were seasoned heavily with pepper, I think. There were enough apples to enlist the help of Grandma’s daughter and daughters-in-law to peel and cook apples to make apple sauce. Any overflow of apples would be loaded into a wagon and Grandma would have one of the grandchildren tote the wagonload of apples to the nun’s house behind St. Leo’s school. The sister who was cook might (or might not) reward you with a cookie. During World War II when sugar was rationed, the apple sauce was made without sugar! When a jar was opened to be eaten, we were allowed to sprinkle a little sugar on our helping of applesauce—we ate it like this for many years after the war (and rationing) ended.

Sometimes Grandma made Sacher Torte; sometimes Dobosh torte. I think we all loved the Dobosh torte the most – seven thin layers of sponge cake with layers of bittersweet chocolate frosting between each layer; the whole thing encased afterwards in the same chocolate frosting.

My grandmother often made doughnuts and on the Feast of the Three Kings, you could expect to find a coin – a nickel or dime – inside your doughnut. One of my earliest memories is sitting on my grandfather’s lap in the kitchen on the second floor, overlooking the back yard, while Grandma fried doughnuts.

Most of my grandmother’s recipes died with her – she never wrote anything down…but her youngest daughter in law wanted to learn from Grandma and stood by her elbow watching, repeatedly, to see how things were made. My aunt was the only person left who remembered how some of these dishes were made. In January, 2012, my Aunt Dolly (whose name was actually Evelyn) passed away.

One of my best memories of sitting at the table with my grandmother didn’t involve an elaborate meal, however. Often, when I was spending the night with her, we would have tea with lemon and some buttered saltine crackers as a snack before going to bed.

To this day hot tea and lemon and some buttered crackers are one of my comfort foods.

So this is what eating “German Food” means to me.

–Sandra Lee Smith