NO-RECIPE  RECIPES

     Many of the family recipes handed down in our family appear to be those that we have kept "in our heads."  Most were made with a "bit of this and a dab of that."  Most women of the past generation knew the basics of what went into a batter bread or a yeast bread, a special cake or a favorite soup--and they could go to the kitchen and turn it out without a "receipt book."  With all of the details in their head of what went into a particular concoction, they may change the general additions to the basics depending what was available in the family larder on that day or "at the whim of the cook."  
     Once when I queried my mother regarding a recipe, her response was:  "one horse and one rabbit and lots of water."  She added, "I really don't have those things in my head.  I have to make it and then I can tell you what's in it." She began her marriage with a 1915 edition of the "White House Cookbook" which was a wedding gift.  She also had a ledger book labeled "Receipts" in which she kept handwritten notes for recipes from friends and a folder of clippings inside the back cover from Grit, Capper's Weekly and the Table Rock Argus.  She was basically a scratch cook who used a recipe here and there, but for the most part cooked "like momma learned me."
    The following recipes are "in remembrance."  Some are comfort foods that are reminders of good food and good times and special family dinners. Most just fit into the category of "I happened to think of them," and perhaps someone else will like them, too.  

German Cabbage Soup

    Before you turn your back on cabbage soup, just try it.  You may change your mind.
    The listing shared here has been compared to six other versions.  I think this one is close to the farmer version from Klein Lesse and Asendorf.
         Sauté one cup of yellow onion and one tablespoon of caraway seed in 2 tablespoons of butter or oleo [or omit the onion and use only caraway].
         Add 3 more tablespoons of butter or oleo
         Add one small head of cabbage, cored and chopped
          Add 1/2 cup of one of the following:  lemon juice, orange juice, diluted vinegar, apple cider or homemade wine.   [anything for a bit of acid; I often use two of these items].
         Add 5 to 6 cups of vegetable broth.  [can use water; can use potato water or anything from cooked vegetables; or, you can make up your own vegetable broth.  From the dozens of recipes for making up a vegetable broth, I like to use a large pot with a gallon and a half of water, a couple of hands full of dry beans, one or two chopped onions, a rib or two of celery and a potato.  And, I might add whatever else is in the vegetable drawer of the refrigerator--especially a turnip or some parsnips.  I start this on high; when it begins to bubble, I turn it down to low simmer and cook it for 2 to 3 hours.  I pour off the vegetable broth and use the vegetables for a soup or stew or mash them up for use in gravies.  
         Add 2 to 3 diced potatoes
         Add 2 to 3 sliced carrots
         Add salt and pepper to taste  
         Most cooks make a roux as a thickener [butter cooked with flour]. I see a flour thickener as preferred.  Whether you use rice, wheat, whatever, it should do well.  Do the roux or thickener; add one and half to 2 cups of milk and add to the vegetable mixture to thicken.  Some cooks use half and half, some part cream, others only milk.  I typically use a mix of rice, tapioca starch and potato starch with whole milk.  Occasionally, I use instant potatoes as a substitute for a thickener.  
         Cook the cabbage and other vegetables until tender.  I typically let them cook on low [225 to 250 degrees] for an hour and then add the thickener and let it bubble for another half hour.  [This is an effort to copy the back of the wood-burning Quick Meal stove we had at the farm].  
        If you would like to add a garnish to the soup when served, try either chopped green onion or chives.  I like to use 1/2 cup of sour cream or cream cheese blended with 1/2 cup of horse radish.  A dollop of farm sour cream and freshly ground horse radish from the garden is a "real sensation."
        We typically had bread rolls with cabbage soup; if we had cheese, it might also be cheese biscuits [kasebrot].  I don't have a good recipe to offer.  My substitute is to make up a regular bread dough, add 1/2 to 3/4 cup of grated Parmesan cheese and bake to a hard crust stage, slather with butter while still hot from the oven, and enjoy a couple before soup time.      

Snow Ice Cream

    There is really no more special treat than having snow ice cream at the time of the first light, fluffy snow.  I've heard all about the germ theory and have the EPA standards on "forbidding kids to eat snow."  I still look forward to each new, fresh snow because one more time, it's ice cream time.  It's a comfort food; it's a time for remembering again that I had ice cream and cake for my fourth berfday.   
    On the farm, we used milk with a mix of sweet cream, sugar and vanilla and then added snow until it was thick.  At this time, I use a creamer for coffee, usually about 2 cups, 4 tablespoons of sugar, 1 tablespoon of vanilla, [perhaps a teaspoon of lemon flavoring] mix thoroughly and then add the snow.  I have used orange juice with sugar; I like lemon or lime juice with milk and sugar.  And, chocolate mint is also a treat.  However, the basic milk, vanilla and sugar appears as the all-time favorite.  Once you've tried it, you, too, will be hooked on snow ice cream.  

Onion Cough Syrup

    Onions, sugar, water and maybe a bit of horehound and honey if available is all there's to it.  But what awful stuff!  Whenever you had the least bit of cold or croup--this was the first home remedy.  
    Two of the strongest onions were cut up [chopped], 2 to 3 tablespoons of sugar was added, then some hot water from the tea kettle and the mix was boiled, then simmered on the cook stove in the kitchen.  It was cooked until most of the onion had disappeared and only a smooth syrup remained.  At that point a few dabs of honey or some black strap molasses were added.  The patient got a dose of this syrup about every half hour.  
    Horehound was next to free in the 30s; for 5 cents, you would get 2 to 3 cups.  And, of course, it's one of the easier herbs to grow along the back fence, so you can also use the dried flowers or make tea water from the stems.  On the first days you were allowed to go back to school, you took along a small sack of horehound for the day.  It was to soothe your throat and helped with coughing.  It also helped to keep all but your best friends away.   After a day of horehound, you also had another problem--the need for additional  trips to the school's outhouse. 
    After the first cold of the season and onion cough syrup treatment, it was "tough to ever catch another one."  Or, more realistically to be caught having a cold.  We had a few salves and remedies left over from Grandmother Rottmann; we had Vick's mentholatum and we had asafetida for the wool sock to tie around your neck.  It seemed then and may be just as true today, that the treatment was often worse than the illness.             

Meat, Vegetables and Dried Fruit

    I wish I could come up with the Platt-Deutsch name for this dish.  I have found similar food items in Jewish cookbooks, but wasn't sure I was on the right track.  Both families of my mother and father  made this stew; their recipes differed only in that my mother felt the prunes had to be pitted and my father felt the pits had to remain in the prunes.  
    When prunes were not available, we used dried apricots.  Often the apricot crop from our one tree was meager, so we dried them all with the pits and used them for a compote or for this casserole in winter.  In my memory, my father always commented that this dish was his father's favorite.  It is excellent served hot and for my preference much better reheated--after the flavors have combined and melded together.    
         1 large onion, chopped or sliced thin
         1 to 2 tablespoons of shortening; we used what we had on hand, but goose grease was the preference.  I commonly use corn oil, but still always save all of the fat from the thanksgiving goose for this dish.
         1 and 1/2 to 2 pounds of beef chuck, cut into cubes; salt and pepper to suit your taste.  
         1 to 2 tablespoons of honey or sorghum
         2 to 3 cups of potato water or vegetable broth
         3 to 4 carrots, sliced
         3 to 4 white potatoes, cut into cubes
         2 to 3 sweet potatoes, cut into cubes       
         15 to 20 prunes, pitted 
    In our area, there were always wild plums; we gathered some for plum jelly, a few of the largest for plum jam; and always the darkest in color for drying.  Dried wild plums are excellent in this dish; I like the prune flavor, but seem to like best a combination of dried prunes and dried apricots.  
    I like using a large cast iron Dutch oven, but sometimes do use an electric pot which works just as well.  First, sauté the onion in the fat until translucent; then add the beef.  Continue stirring with a wooden spoon until browned.  Add the honey and seasonings.  Add the liquid or broth.  Add the vegetables and the dried fruit.  Cover and cook on high until the first bubbles come to the top; then turn to low simmer and cook for and hour and half.  
    With the wood cook stove going for a couple of hours, this was the time to bake bread, make a few extra bread dough biscuits and have the treat of a few soda biscuits or biscuits from sour dough starter.  This was also the day to make flip-flops.   One part of the bread dough had some extra sugar and a bit of honey added.  It was kneaded and then rolled out to about an inch thickness.  It was cut any which way; a task often left to the kid who was watching.  These pieces were cooked in an iron skillet in hot fat, maybe as fried bread, but if we had enough shortening on hand, in deep fat. The pieces float on the hot fat; when done on one side they are flipped over to the other side to be cooked.  They are removed with a slotted spatula and dipped in either plain  sugar or sugar with cinnamon.  
    Flip-flops are scrumptious!  That will also be the one day that a kid under 12 can have coffee.  [actually a cup of warmed milk with one or two tablespoons of coffee added].  So, flip-flops, coffee and this very special prune/vegetable casserole along with talk of the olden days with grandpa's favorite meal make for a wonderful family memory.   

Cornmeal Mush

    This is one more dish for which I don't really have a recipe.  It is made up of cornmeal, water, sorghum or blackstrap molasses and was a bit heavy on salt; in later years, we used Karo corn syrup. 
    We used both field corn and pop corn to make up the meal.  In the 30s, it was easy to come by both white and yellow open pollinated field corn.  We had a coffee mill that had a screw spring setting which would allow fine to coarse grindings.  We used the coarse setting to grind corn for the Cornish hens and the fine setting for corn meal.  There was a setting in between marked with a splash of red wax pencil which was to be used to grind coffee beans. 
    A gallon of water [the can used was from a near gallon of plums] and the water dipper full of corn meal were the basic measures; we just added whatever we thought to finish it out.  We had one large pot that fitted into another large pot; we filled the bottom pot half full of water and cooked the mush on the back of the stove for a couple of hours.  The mush was poured into our one long, narrow bread pan.  The pan was set outside the window on the shelf there for cooling.  When set, my mother shook it out of the pan onto an oiled paper bread wrapper, wrapped it up and it was ready.
    For breakfast or as an added item for supper, mush was fried in lard, browned on both sides and served with corn syrup, molasses, or a fruit syrup such as thin grape jelly, or with apple sauce.  It was often served with knip.
    I still vary the recipe with the mood.  I typically take 2 and half cups of white or yellow corn meal, add 3 cups of water, 2 tablespoons of honey or molasses, 1 tablespoon of brown sugar and 1 teaspoon of salt.  Combine and bring to a first boil, to just when bubbles begin to appear.  Then, I take it off the heat and let it set for an hour or so.  This soaking time takes away most or the grittiness, if any was present.  Then, I add enough water to make a thick, creamy mixture; next, heat on low simmer for about 10 minutes if finely ground, 15, if a coarser grind.   Then pour into a bread  pan greased with oleo or a solid shortening.  Cool. Refrigerate.  
    The cooking method of preference remains steaming.  It does take one and half to two hours, but you end up with a much better product.  If you have access to dried sweet corn, it will make up into a much better grade of corn meal and may indeed represent the ambrosia of corn mush. 

Knip [or kniep]

    Great by itself. Special on hot toast.  Good for a pancake roll-up.  Makes a nice side with fried potatoes.  Was once seen as a peasant or farmer food; is now sold in several southeast Nebraska locker plants as one of their more pricey products.  I paid 8 deutsche marks for a cup and half of kniep in a German meat market in Asendorf.   
    Both of my parent's families made knip and each cook had their own recipe.  And, perhaps knip is like bratwurst--every butcher and cook has their own favorite seasonings or make up their choices on any given day. 
    The base meat is typically pork--all of the bones left after butchering [even from the head] are cooked and peeled for any last bit of red meat.  We typically did half pork and half beef, but since knip is typically made following butchering a hog, it may be all or mostly pork.  After the meat is cooked and the bones removed, it is ground, mixed together and seasoned with salt and pepper.  We added a bit of allspice and some ground sage if we had saved a few leaves from the summer.  Next we added plain oatmeal or buckwheat groats.  Whether your family used oatmeal or buckwheat depends on the area of Germany in which they lived.   A friend of my parents, Hermann Krache, referred to my mother as an oatmeal German; I remember that everyone laughed, but never understood the nickname until the next time we made knip.  
    We kept knip in a stone jar with a plate held down with a rock.  It kept well in the cave [fruit cellar].  Occasionally, it was canned in a hot water bath for use in the summer.  However, no grain was added to knip that was to be canned.  At this time, I often make small batches of knip and after it sets, I cut it into blocks, double-wrap with butcher paper and keep it in the freezer. 
   My commercial source for knip is the locker plant at Elmwood, Nebraska.  From time-to-time, they also have creamy, white lard which is an excellent base for pie crusts, spaetzle and all of the many specialty cookies.  Lard is a staple that will keep well either frozen or canned. 

Nudeln

    Simple, but oh, so good.  2 eggs, 2 tablespoons of softened or melted butter, 1 teaspoon of salt and 2 cups of whole wheat flour.  Plus another half cup of flour for the cutting board. 
    Mix eggs, butter and salt together; add the flour in small amounts.  Let the dough set for 5 minutes or so; add a bit of extra flour if needed.  Knead and roll out into a thin sheet on a floured cutting board.  Cut into half-inch wide strips. Dry. Most of the old cook stoves had a protection rod on the front of the stove.  This was the perfect place to dry noodles.  Without such a stove, I dry noodles on a yardstick stuck into one corner of the oven with the other corner hanging out over the oven door.  It works great at about 190 degrees.  
    When dry, noodles can be stored in glass jars in the freezer or the refrigerator.  To use, cook for about 20 minutes in a soup stock or broth.  Make plans for this broth by saving broths made from chicken or beef bones and frozen in quart-size cartons.  Or, bring in the fat hen.  
    This same dough mix can be used to make small dumplings, spaetzle, by adding just a bit more flour.  Work a small fist-sized ball of dough over the coarse holes of your rectangular grater. Hold the grater over the pot while you are cutting the small balls of dough.  They will fall right into the hot broth or chicken soup.  My favorite for spaetzle is to use a rich beef broth and serve the cooked spaetzle with rouladen or a beef roast.  Whether or not to add a bit of baking powder to the dough for spaetzle remains a question.  Sometimes I do, most of the time, I don't.  When baking powder is added, the dough appears to work better if it has been aged for 5 to 6 minutes before cutting on the grater.  

Potato Dumplings

    Cook 4 to 5 potatoes in their jackets.  Some cooks peel them, others do not peel them before ricing.  If you don't have access to a ricer, use the small holes of the grater.  Start with 4 to 5 cups of cooled, riced potatoes, then add 4 to 5 eggs, 1 teaspoon of salt and two and half to three cups of flour.  Do the first mixing with a heavy wooden spoon. Then, switch to hands.  Form into balls about 2 1/2 to 3 inches in diameter.  Drop into boiling water to which a shake of salt and a teaspoon of sugar has been added.  [or, use a meat broth].  Cook for about 15 minutes or until the dumplings float to the top.  Flop each dumpling over; check one for doneness. 
    Instead of water, a chicken, pork or beef stock is excellent for cooking dumplings.  Serve dumplings with a gravy, and either chicken, pork or beef.  For leftover dumplings: cut in half and fry in butter until brown.  For many of us, the second time round for potato dumplings may be better than the first. 

Kaffe Küchen

   Bread dough, butter, sugar and cinnamon and you've got it.  But, there could be variations every week.  The big black bread pan was basic.  One pan was used for baking three loaves of bread; the second was used for the coffee bread.  That dough might have a bit of extra sugar added; it could have a handful of raisins or chopped dates added.  Some weeks, the bottom of the pan was layered with dried or fresh apple slices with either white or brown sugar sprinkled over the top before the dough was added.
   Critical for bread coffee cake was the topping.  When the dough was put into the pan, it was allowed to rise for 20 minutes or so before being slathered with soft butter.  Then a mixture of cinnamon and sugar was sprinkled on top.  When baked, the butter melts into the top with the sugar and cinnamon forming a nice crunchy crust.  
   The coffee cake was cut into long strips with three narrow ones for the little kid, three wider ones for big brother and six to finish the pan for our parents.  Hot coffee cake right out of the oven or reheated in the warming oven was one of the high points of the week.  Everyone loved it.  And, it might all disappear in one sitting.  

Pickles: Sweets and Dills

   Saving up enough pickles for the next batch was a part of the great expectation of canning and pickling.  Sharing and trading pickles with the neighbors was a part of the ritual.  Tasting cucumber pickles at the end-of-school picnic was the time to learn whose recipe you should try this year.  And you were proud as punch that your mom's pickles were chosen again and again.  But the downside of this is that you had to learn to eat the things.  
    Three kid behaviors were darned important about pickles:  you had to learn to pick vines from the cucumbers 'cause if you reversed the process, that vine was likely ruined.  Second, you had to size the whole picking and find all of the hidden ones.  And even though you went through the patch a couple of times, there were always a few the Big Boys that showed up the next day.  And absolutely forbidden was stepping on a vine.  Because Sport, your dog, always snooped into everything you did, he had to be tied up and stay at the house if you were going to hoe or pick cucumbers.   
   Early in the summer, just after the cucumbers were coming up, you had to wash all the canning jars; scrape and clean the jar lids before boiling them for a half hour and then work on the supply list.  You would have dill growing in the garden, you would need to buy allspice, turmeric, mustard and celery seed, canning salt [non-processed salt without iodine added] and powdered alum.  And, if Norris Store had it, you would buy a package of mixed pickling spices. 
   The biggest excitement was to get to go to Hylton's Drug Store for the powdered alum.  Some years it was ten cents and others Doc Hylton would measure out a cup or two into a white sack, give the top a twist and tell my mother that this was the last of that package so the pickles would be on him this year.  Doc Hylton always offered his thumb to shake hands.  But the best was yet to come!  Mrs. Hylton would be close behind with an ice cream cone or would invite us to sit at a table and would serve us a dip of boughten vanilla ice cream covered with her own homemade chocolate syrup.  The last part of this annual ritual was always the same.  Mrs. Hylton would tell my mother what a nice boy she had; and immediately Doc Hylton would come over and ask why she never said the same about him. 
   Slippery Jacks [ripe pickles or Reife Gurken in hochdeutsh or Riebe Gorken in Plattdeutsh] were made from ripe cucumbers, the ones that were already beginning to turn yellow.  The cucumbers were peeled and seeded and cut into strips lengthwise.  They were heated in the morning with a half teaspoon of powdered alum and enough water to cover; in the afternoon, they were rinsed and soaked for a hour or so in cold water.  Next they were heated in a heavy sugar water syrup to which allspice and a pinch of turmeric had been added [but never cooked].  They were packed into hot jars, covered with hot syrup and about three fourths of a teaspoon of the allspice and then sealed with a rubber jar ring and a Mason lid with a glass interior liner.  Finally, the jars were processed in a hot water bath for 10 to 15 minutes.
   Dills were typically those medium-sized cucumbers that you missed the day before. Dills were packed into 2-quart size canning jars.  First a cucumber, then a head of dill, then some canning salt.  Cucumbers were packed together until the jar was filled to about an inch from the top.  One more head of dill was stuffed in and the jar was then filled with 2 cups of vinegar and hot, boiling water before being sealed with the rubber jar ring and a Mason lid.
   There were always a few jars of sweet baby dills, a crock of sweet pickles, the favorites--bread and butter pickles, regular sweets and 14-day pickles.  On the same days, there was a canning of dill beets, sweet beet pickles and a canning of beets without seasonings.  When the winter onions [Egyptian onions] had bloomed and their large sets were showing color, that was the day to do the picking, shuck off the outer coating, boil in a lightly sugared water with some all spice and pack in pint jars for three to four jars of sweet pickled onions.  
   For bread and butter pickles, we started with about a gallon of medium-sized cucumbers.  First, we washed them carefully to take off all the black spines and then heated them in warm water just to the point of the first bubbles.  Then, the cucumbers were placed in cold water for 10 minutes or so and then sliced into the thinnest, most even slices possible.  Next, slice 6 to 8 onions [more if you really are into pickled onions].  Place the cucumbers and onions in a crock with one half cup coarse canning salt and cover with cold water.   Place a plate and weight on top of the vegetables and let stand for overnight in a cool place.  The next day, drain off the salt water, rinse with cold water and place in a granite cooking pot [not aluminum].  Add to the cucumbers 4 cups of cider vinegar, 4 cups of white or brown sugar, one and half teaspoons of turmeric or all-spice, 2 tablespoons of mustard seed, one and half teaspoons of celery seed, one half teaspoon of ground cloves or a stick of cinnamon.  [Adjust the amount of vinegar and add more to almost cover; add more sugar if you add liquid].  Bring the mixture to the boiling point of bubbles raising to the top or to a scalding level.  Do not boil.  Take off heat, place cucumbers in hot, sterilized jars.  Pour syrup over cucumbers up to an inch to a half-inch from the top of the jar.  Seal with rubber jar ring and Mason jar lid.  Process in hot water bath for 10 to 15 minutes.                   

Sauer Kraut

   A few plants of Early Flat Dutch cabbage were for table use during the summer.  The planting of Late Flat Dutch was for sauer kraut.  The kraut cutter was kept on the top shelf in the cave with a wrapping of a flour sack and some brown butcher paper.  It may need a bit of rubbing down with steel wool or sand paper and then needed to be washed and put out in the sun to dry.  The stone jar, the same old crazed plate to hold down the cut cabbage and the stone to be placed on top of the plate were kept in the potato bin.  They all had to washed and wiped and dried out in the fresh air. 
   When the cabbage was cut off the plant, the base was allowed to continue growing since it would soon produce 6 to 10 new small cabbages around the base of the cut stalk.  [2 for each of the main leaves]   When these are 2 to 3 inches in size, they are cut off and cooked with beef or pork and some pickling spices.  The outer leaves peeled off the cabbage heads were saved to use for cabbage leaf rolls or cut into thin shreds for frying.  Cabbage rolls were made of plain hamburger put together with 2 to 3 slices of bread soaked for a minute in water and then squeezing the water out with your hands.  Salt and pepper, maybe a bit of sage, fresh sage leaf or smoked salt was added for seasoning to this mixture which was used for either cabbage rolls or meat balls.  Fried cabbage was a staple for cabbage heads that split after a rain or for some of the older heads stored in the cave for use in the fall.  Pork fat, duck or goose renderings and a bit of salt and pepper made this a favorite vegetable with supper.  Sauer kraut was cooked with a grated raw potato or a tart apple cut fine.  The favorite seasoning for my mother was caraway seed, but a seasoning with apple cider vinegar and brown sugar was the favorite of my father.  When we had homemade wine, a cup of red cherry wine was a substitute for the vinegar.  Often one or two onions were sautéed in lard until soft. Then the kraut was added and simmered on the back of the stove for a half hour or so; or, it was mixed well, placed into a casserole and heated in the oven.  A washed medium-sized potato and a pork chop or cutlet cooked on the top of this sauer kraut dish was often the staple on Tuesday, ironing day.  

Canned Beef

   Part of a quarter of beef or some cheaper cuts available at Vonasek's Meat Market were canned.  When unexpected guests and relatives came to visit, the meat and gravy were right at hand in a jar in the cave for a quick meal.  Mom would add boiled potatoes, canned green beans seasoned with bacon or cracklings and onion, maybe canned peas with a cream sauce, pickled beets and cucumbers, canned peaches or plums, hot soda biscuits with homemade butter, coffee and water for the kids.  A meal with canned beef is a very special treat.  [It is mimicked in part by a product from Hormel, but "the old way" and its memories were indeed special].  
   Beef was cut into serving sizes, perhaps 2 inches by 2 inches or odd sizes that were smaller.  First a heaping tablespoon of canning salt was dumped into the bottom of a hot, sterilized jar.  The beef was packed into the jar up to the neck of the jar.  The last pieces must have fat attached or pieces of fat can be added separately.  One more heaping tablespoon of salt was added and the jar was then sealed with a rubber jar ring and a Mason jar lid.   
   On the farm, my mother processed the jars of beef in a hot water bath for  two and half to three hours in the oven.  There was quite a danger in this process since jars might explode when the over door was opened to put more water into the bread pans in which the jars had been placed.   The little kid was ushered off to the living room and told to sit on a chair until Mom came back.  She would stand at the side of the oven door to open it and pull out the pans a few inches before adding boiling water from the tea kettle.  She would let the fire go out in the cook stove after three hours and would remove the jars when the oven was cold.  Later, she purchased a blue granite canning kettle for 89 cents at the dime store in Pawnee City.  I have one purchased 40 years later for 12.95 and still use both for processing green beans.  My present method for canning beef is to use the pressure canner.  It is certainly much safer and does a good job as well.  
   The end shelf in the cave had the "makings" for company meals.  There were the jars of the best beans, the nicest peas, a few jars of processed or pickled carrots, the pickled beets, the best of the pickles, the canned peaches or pears or blue plums--and of course, the canned beef.  On the bottom shelf of the kitchen cupboard were the two of the best embroidered tea towels and the apron Mom would wear.  Beside them was the white table cloth that would be put on.  On the top shelf of the cupboard were the four plates that weren't chipped.  Tucked in the back of the silverware drawer was a crocheted string dish cloth.  Mom was ready for company and could put a meal together on short notice.  If she knew you were coming, she would also have made her sour cream chocolate cake which she served with canned peaches. If she didn't know you were coming, you would get canned peaches or plums for dessert.

Wash Day Bean Soup

   Supper on wash day was often bean soup with a loaf of fresh bread.  The wood burning cook stove was used for the boiler and the heating of hot water for washing clothes.  Along side the boiler was the big kettle with the evening meal.  Navy beans, two to three small onions, quartered potatoes, perhaps a carrot, salt and pepper and any leftover vegetable broths were put together for bean soup.  Bread may be a batter bread; if there was time, a yeast bread and large bread biscuits were included.  An egg custard pie or a chocolate or vanilla pudding pie would be made for dessert.  
   Dried beans were typically 6 or 8 cents a pound.  They always had to be sorted to take the rocks out of them.  This was a late evening task on Sundays.  The beans were soaked in water overnight and put on the stove by 6:00 a.m. the next morning for a day of slow cooking.  Most years, we had a flour sack half to three quarters full of dried beans that had been grown in the garden.  Those beans were shucked from their pods and taken outside and poured from one pie pan to another to allow the chaff to blow out.  The good smells of onions cooking and bread baking along with lots of steam from hot clothes are memories of wash day.  
   The Ei Pi was a favorite of my father and all of the family.  For my mother, it could only be made with large brown eggs [never the small white eggs from leghorns].  It was made with 2 to 3 eggs, scalded milk, with or without a heaping tablespoon of flour and was seasoned with sugar, a dash of salt, vanilla and nutmeg.  A fresh lard crust was used as the base.  I make the same recipe today, but instead of a crust, use small ramekins greased liberally with a solid vegetable shortening and bake in a pan of water with a second pan of water on the bottom shelf of the oven.  And, occasionally, I also make Kaffee Kustard by adding a cup or so of left over coffee to the scalded milk.  If available, I add a small can of evaporated milk to the base mixture.  

Baked Apples

   Start with tart apples.  Wash and remove the stem and core to about a half inch from the bottom of the apple.  Make up a mixture of cinnamon and sugar to stuff the inside of the core and place a daub of butter on the top.  Place apples in a pan; add one to two tablespoons of sugar and boiling water.  Cover or leave open.  Bake for 45 minutes to an hour in a 375-degree oven.  Don't allow to overcook or get mushy.  Remove from oven and baste apples with pan juices.  Can be served hot or cold plain or with whipped cream.
   If you wish to stuff apples with sausage or sauer kraut, core the apples to about a 3/4-inch outer shell.  For sauer kraut, season the kraut with salt and pepper, a shake or two of sugar and a pinch of caraway seeds.   Squeeze the liquid from the sauer kraut before seasoning and use as the base liquid for the cooking pan.  For sausage, use either well-seasoned pork sausage or pork link sausages.  Add salt and brown sugar for seasoning.  Serve sausage apples with potatoes, rice or boiled noodles.  The pan juice will make up into an excellent sauce or gravy.  The old short, fat German sausages with sauer kraut in a sour apple were seen as sought after delicacies.  They were often served as Sunday night supper with a hard tack flat bread seasoned with cinnamon. 

Boiled Beef Tongue

   Wash and clean the tongue.  Place in a kettle of water with 2 to 3 onions, one or two carrots, dried or fresh parsley and 8 to 12 peppercorns.  Barely cover the tongue with water; cook for 3 to 4 hours on low heat.  I typically choose simmer on the electric pot and try to imitate the middle area of the wood cook stove.  Test for doneness at 3 hours.  Adjust heat if needed.  Drain, discard water and vegetables.  Skin the tongue.  Slice and serve with a hot mustard sauce; a horseradish sauce; or, my mother's favorite was with a sauce of horseradish and mashed pickled beets. 

Calf, Chicken or Goose Liver

   Livers need to be washed and cleaned of outer skin, veining and for goose livers, also remove the gall bladder.  After cleaning, then soak for a half hour or so in cold water.  Then, move to a marinade or to my mother's preference, milk.  To prepare, rinse again with water, dry and cut into one third-inch slices or chunks.  
   Generally, liver was floured and seasoned with salt and pepper and sautéed until golden brown in butter along with onions.  The first procedure was to heat the butter until it begins to crackle in the pan; then add the onions, cook until glaced and add the seasoned liver and move the pan back to lower heat.  For a change of seasonings try one of the following:  a mix of paprika, white sugar and ginger sprinkled on with or without light pepper; or, use a mix of brown sugar and salt with a half cup of wine added when the liver has begun to cook.  The latter may be done best in the oven.  At the same time, cook 4 to 6 cups of sliced apples in a sugar syrup.  When partly cooked, add the apple slices and the syrup to the liver.  If the liver has been cleaned and frozen, it can be cut into thin strips which in turn can be cooked in deep fat.  Seasoning usually was a mix of flour and paprika or flour and pepper.  When cooked, the stiff liver sticks can be dipped in a mustard sauce or a red pepper hash or my mother's preference, green tomato piccalilli.  From time to time, my mother made a liver loaf and a liver pâté which she called "mashed livers."; both were excellent.  Both were recipes from her grandmother Heine.  Both the German names and the recipes have been forgotten.

Sour Cream Chocolate Cake

   In reality, my mother did this recipe a bit different each time.  We agreed on one visit that the following listing might be a good base for the recipe.
   One and 3/4 to 2 cups of flour.  Early on she used wheat flour to which she added 2 to 3 tablespoons of corn starch to a cup and a half of flour.  Later she used Soft As Silk prepared cake flour.  She sifted the flour a couple of times alone and then again with a half teaspoon of soda, one and half teaspoons of baking powder, 3 to 4 heaping tablespoons of cocoa and a pinch of salt.  Next she used either a wire whisk or a spoon to "mix more air" into the flour base.  Occasionally, she mixed the soda and cocoa in a large tin cup, added a half cup of boiling water and a teaspoon of vinegar; then after cooling, added  this cocoa mix to the following sugar mix.
   In a separate bowl, she then mixed one cup of white sugar and one half cup butter until creamy.  Then she added 2 or 3 beaten egg yolks and a teaspoon of vanilla.  Next she creamed in a cup of sour cream.   Then she would add the flour mixture--perhaps about a cup at a time until it was stirred in and smooth.
   Next beat the egg whites until stiff.  Fold in the whites into the batter.  Do not mix with any thoroughness.  She baked this batter in a tube pan which had been greased with a solid shortening--usually lard.  Later on, she switched to Crisco and two circular pans.  She frosted this cake with a boiled chocolate icing or a boiled white icing or the chocolate icing to which a half cup of peanut butter was added.  For both icings, she used a generous half cup of sour cream in a base of butter and white sugar. 
   I use this basic recipe, but typically add a half cup of corn oil, two more tablespoons of sugar, substitute yogurt for the sour cream, add a half cup of powdered milk and always add 2 tablespoons of vinegar.  I had to learn the hard way that over mixing makes for a hard crust and a tougher texture.  It's a very simple process to measure and put the ingredients together; it is a much more difficult understanding to learn the technique and methodology for handling the batter and putting such a cake together. 

 

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