Here’s my brother, Curt, a master woodworker, cook and now violinist. He taught himself how to play watching YouTube videos during the quarantine.
"There are 24 useful hours in a day to do things." My son said that at least twice on Sunday as we drove to Jamestown for an early Easter dinner.
It was amazing. Chicken and dumplings, gravy, mashed potatoes, green fluff and kuchen. Fit for a king, thanks to my brother and sister-in-law. It was the first time we could visit my father, who lives in the Heritage Centre, just one block north of my brother's house.
Naturally, there were no hugs, and face masks were only mandatory at the assisted living place. We were comfortable but a little guarded about the whole thing even though nearly everyone there had had two injections already.
So, back to the 24-hours-day.
Before we sat down to eat, I came out of the bathroom to see my brother playing a tune on an old violin. I was shocked.
First, the violin was left in the attic of our old house in Gackle by the former owners. We moved in sometime in the late 60s. The attic in the old Lehr house was almost larger than the second story, an apartment. You see, in the old times, those large two and three-story homes were meant to house the young family on the main floor and while aging parents eventually moved up a story and up another story to be close to relatives that took care of them.
This I know because I rented the third story of a large blue house in Fargo, just off Broadway Avenue. I loved it. The sun is shinier way up above the treetops.
The attic of the old two-story in Gackle wrapped around the outside of the house; it was stocked with curiosities and things we were not supposed to touch. But we snooped anyway.
The old violin rested on a dusty shelf protected by a very worn velvet-lined case for all the years I lived there. When my parents moved to a smaller place in Jamestown closer to doctors and grocery stores, they could only take a select number of items with them.
The rest of their lifetime collection of "stuff" disappeared as most of our things eventually. It makes me wonder why we keep so many things?
Then, my younger brother, a twin, never played an instrument in his life. At least not that I am aware of.
Not that we don't come from a musical family. My grandfather could play nearly any available instrument you put in his hand. There was an old pump organ in the farmhouse's back room, which one of my cousins currently houses and maybe even plays. My uncle, Ellon, was the go-to accordion player for most of his life in Wishek. I have a whole family of cousins that live near Medina that sing and play guitars and pianos. One of my cousin's sons, Mark, sang at his step-father's funeral. It was beautiful.
So, it's not that we don't have some musical talent in the family, but this…
It was so unexpected.
"Is that the old violin from the house?"
"Yes, it is."
"Did you have someone refinish it?"
"No, I did it myself."
"Did you take lessons from someone."
"No, I watched some You-Tube videos."
Well, that explains it. My son, my brother, our mother, all display the same need to create 24-hours-a-day. Our family DNA has provided us with the unique talent to pick something up easily by watching YouTube videos.
Okay, back in my early years (and my mother's later years), we read books to learn how to do things.
We continue to learn, or instead teach ourselves, how to do things. And we do new things all the time.
Case in point. When we arrived back in Bismarck, after we dropped off our son and his son, he went to work recreating a window cling for a friend and me. When he sent me the photo of his latest creation, the accompanying text read: "Like I said. There's 24 useful hours in a day. Made two, as per your request."
The apple doesn't fall far from the tree.
What did you learn how to do over the COVID quarantine?
March in the rearview mirror means I just made another trip around the sun. According to Facebook, this marked day was a milestone in my life’s journey. But, like Mae West said, “It’s mind over matter, if you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”
Remember the poem “When I am an Old Woman?” If not, as in if you are too young, you can find both the poem and the backstory https://laterbloomer.com/jenny-joseph/.
At one time, that poem made the rounds at the art fair circuit, around the late 80's and early 90's. After that, the Red Hat Society was formed and well, the rest is history. Now that I think about it, I don’t see too many purple dresses and red hats at lunches anymore.
However, NOW, that I am an old woman I am finally giving up wearing purple. The color doesn't suit me as well as red and orange. You may have deduced that as I am an Aries – a fire sign.
But soon I will not care about what color to wear. My uniform will be baggy work trousers without a matching shirt. There will be stains on the bottom of that tee shirt from carrying unwashed vegetables from the garden to the house. The hem on my pants will be worn and thready, but if need be, I can roll them up to my knees, but not past, since I might have to garden on my knees and need the protection. Shoes are optional.
I will rarely comb my hair and allow the wind to style it in waves and tangles. Someday you may find a ladybug, or two, sunning themselves on the twigs that wind their way through the curls. The curls, of course, becoming curlier from the sweat on hot summer days or on the rare occasion when it's going to rain. I wish it would rain. I will love the rain and will stand in it with welcoming arms and with prayers of thanks for thunder and lightning and precious water to nourish my tomatoes.
Oh yes, now that I am an old woman, my desire is to drive less, and walk more. Stay out of closed rooms and work outdoors. Eat all the fresh bread and butter and vegetables that I can. Order my toilet paper online and hand the UPS driver a fresh-baked cookie when he or she delivers my box.
My grandchildren will come out to visit me as often as they can and lift heavy bags for me because both Grandpa JC and Grandma Sue BB have to start thinking about avoiding lifting. You know you have to watch your back when you are an old woman, never letting that stop you from pulling those weeds or thinning those carrots. There’s no shame in getting down on your knees in the fresh moist soil and communing with the precious earthworms and insects that keep that soil alive.
I will daily say my prayers and listen for the sound of God the Father, Son and especially the Holy Ghost, in the wind and every living thing that crosses my path. In the morning I will stretch like Walter, our cat, and give thanks for the sun. In the evening I will watch the moon rise and give thanks again.
If I have time, I will continue to write my memoirs and tell a story that can only be told by me. If you are my friend, expect a card or letter in the mail someday because hand written notes are still the best.
So, now that I am an old woman and can say whatever I want, I will begin by thanking you for all the birthday wishes and cards.
You may have heard about the 100-mile diet craze of about 10 years ago. Maybe it was 15. Anyhow, that's about the time I got involved in the local foods movement through the ND Department of Ag. Before that time, I was doing what my mom always did – feeding my family the way food was meant to be enjoyed, locally.
I learned in the 1970s, my high school years, a typical roast beef dinner with mashed potatoes and carrots were produced no farther than 70 miles from the plate.
Things changed considerably, and I had no idea until I began my local food systems work. Former Ag Commissioner Roger Johnson said to my supervisor Chuck Fleming after my very first formal presentation, "She doesn't think people are really going to start canning again? Does she?"
Well, we were both wrong. People are interested in canning, and I did not ever expect to have to work so hard to find canning jars, bands and lids as I did last summer.
Gardening, canning and cooking my meals was my life. When I found out there were people out there that did not know that potatoes grew underground, much less that you could quickly boil them and make mashed potatoes, I was shocked.
If I had known that the information stored in my head about food preparation and growing your own was so sought after, I would have been writing it down and published a book.
I did publish a book or two. The very first one was a divine vision of how my many aunts and uncles survived without roads to big box stores. How did they preserve meat without electricity? Or eat any vegetables in the winter. It might be why I grew up eating food prepared from flour and water and the many variations thereof. Today, I still enjoy those dishes and have taught many a class in bread, kneophla, dumplings, and strudels. Just so you know, we tried to use only one spelling of the word "knoephla," in the book. It was impossible with all the ladies sending in their recipes with individual spellings. It added a flavor of its own to the recipes.
There has been the occasion that a student misinterprets what a strudel in our part of the country is compared to the sweet, apple ones from – well, I guess I don't know where.
I read a lot. Therefore, I write. The first book was called "Ewiger Saatz." I will address that a bit more next week.
In the meantime, I found this stew recipe and had a light bulb moment. I can make this dish from everything local. It's that easy. And boy, paired with a slice of spelt sourdough bread straight from the oven, a little salad (no, I didn't grow that, YET), we had a "meal from heaven," according to my husband.
Here are the recipe and the attribution to the grower.
EASY PEASY STEW
Stew Meat – I used grass-fed sirloin from Joshua and Tara Dukart's Seek First Ranch. They live near Hazen, and we have our meat processed at Hazen Meats.
Onion – Diane's Home Creations, Mandan, ND. Diane and I are partners in the farmers market. The seed for these storage onions called Dakota Tears came from Prairie Road Organic Seed near Fullerton.
Potatoes – Christy Werre, another one of my partners from the farmers market.
Carrots – I grew those myself. We keep two-gallon bags in the spare fridge, so they are fresh until about Easter when it's time to plant again.
Spicy Tomato Juice – Another one of my favorites. We had an excessive harvest of tomatoes this year, so I was able to make everything tomato for winter. I really used my tomato soup with roasted peppers for this batch and saved the spicy tomato juice for beer. All the ingredients, minus the lemon juice, were grown in my backyard.
DIRECTIONS: Prepare beef by cutting into one-inch cubes and placing in the bottom of your favorite Lodge cast iron Dutch oven. Peel, or not, your potatoes and carrots and cube them, layering on top of the meat. Add onion to taste, salt and pepper and pour the quart of tomato juice, or soup, over the top.
Bake at 250-degrees for four hours or until the vegetables are soft. If you have a slow-cooker, I imagine you could prepare this in there. I prefer the taste of cast iron and the oven myself.
So, two takeaways from this experience.
Here's hoping by the time you read this, warm air will sweep away this cold and the memory of it. Next week we talk German.
I thought I would share a few thoughts about North Dakota's weather for those of you who aren't avid weather watchers.
So in partnering with the Old Farmer's Almanac, a gardener's tool, I have put together a few observations about or weather. Now, whether or not I am will be accurate in my guesstimations will remain to be seen.
Let's face it; this has been an outstanding winter to date. This week is our annual January thaw week. Since the temperatures have been above average and running somewhere between 30 and 40 degrees since October's little cold air blast, this week, we saw temps closer to 50-degrees. I have always looked forward to the week of January thaw and a reprieve from the harsh winter weather we are all accustomed to.
Axiom number 1 says that the first three days of January rule the next three months. Wow, we are in for pleasant days because the New Year kicked off mildly.
Secondly, have you heard the birds? If birds begin to whistle in January, frosts to come. We have thousands of Canada geese that have not left the river bottom. Turkeys number about 40, and yes, I have heard some birds. So, following the January thaw, I expect we will be seeing a January freeze.
It has always been in the back of my mind and sometimes spoken aloud that I feel the cold so much more after the days begin to lengthen. I chalked it up to the quiet darkness of December, feeling cozy and warm. However, as the days lengthen, the cold strengthens. The sun is at its farthest south from the earth, and days are about or less than eight hours on the winter solstice. You might expect this to be the coldest time of year but wait. If you put water in the freezer, it first has to cast off its warmth to freeze. So, December seems warmer as the earth begins to cool and then boom – in January, we feel the cold with the lengthening days.
My husband and I argue all the time about whether I can predict the weather by observation. I document the fog days in December and then plan on planting radishes 90 days later when it either rains or snows. My best radishes have indeed been snowed upon. I put the date on the calendar and then plant shortly before the anticipated moisture. I swear it works.
Then, there's the moon. I heard tell that the weather on the day of the full moon will be the average for the next cycle. It changes with lunar cycles.
Whether or not I am correct in my predictions, you have to pay attention to the weather when you farm or garden. It seems like I remember as a child watching my parents check the weather first thing in the morning. When I stayed at my friend's farm in the Red River Valley, they had the weather on the computer's home page.
It is said that no one knows the weather like a farmer. Okay, things are changing with our climate. North Dakota has gained some growing season and is a Zone 3 or 4 depending on whether you reside in the "Banana Belt" region of western North Dakota.
I found a few funny axioms regarding the weather that may or may not be accurate, but it sure is fun to observe Mother Nature in her finest on the Northern Plains.
Oh, and before you get out your garden spade, think. This is still North Dakota and with this mild winter, expect payback in the spring. That includes a heavy frost in May. So, wait to plant those warm crops like tomatoes, peppers, squash, cucumbers and beans until Memorial Day weekend.
Happy New Year resolutions
I say Happy New Year resolutions for a good reason. Let's make our resolutions happy. Everyone wants to start the year losing weight, running a marathon, filling in an artistic bullet journal, eating healthy, planting a garden, learning how to paint, you know. Me, I get the urge to clean and declutter my house. It is to no avail. Somehow every year, I start with this – "I'm going to use up all my yarn and not buy anymore unless it is for a specific use. No more buying on sale and stashing it away for another day."
I have been known to save yarn, buttons, etc., that are special to me for something special. Guess what? The day never comes. Every day should be special for us. We woke up, and our families are safe, and we have jobs to go to and work to do and money to buy food and drinking water that flows from the tap, clean and cold (or hot). Think about how many people in the world cannot say that.
So, again I fill in my first month of the year in my bullet journal. Yes, I keep one, and it's handy and fun, but it doesn't look anything at all like the Pinterest photos of fancy lettering and watercolor illustrations. My old-handwriting (I use a mechanical pencil cause I love pencils) and maybe some taped notes or pieces of paper.
It works. I can write stuff down that clogs my brain when it should be focused on things elsewhere. I do grocery lists and calendar events and reminders to pay bills and stuff — line items next to bullet dots. I have never been very good at writing on the line, just like my garden rows all over the place — big letters, little letters, printed letters, cursive letters. Anything goes. The reason for that is if I wait to be as perfect as the journal pages on Pinterest, I never put pen to paper. That defeats the purpose.
So, the rest of the house gets a once over big time. You know, fan blades, move large pieces of furniture, light fixtures and desk drawers. Granted, it's not as thorough as I would like, but what's the point?
It just gets dirty again anyway.
Now, there are the bathrooms. Showers, in particular, are challenging to clean once they are more than a year old. I have a friend that cleans for a living, and she gave me this recipe for a cleaner that I have begun to use in the whole bathroom.
I'm susceptible to chemical smells and things that give my sensitive skin a rash. I usually wear a mask and turn the fan on and open the windows to use most chemical cleaners. So, this recipe, my friends, is a god-send.
1 cup vinegar, heat in the microwave
½ to 1 cup Dawn original dish soap, the blue stuff
1 spray bottle, glass or plastic
Put the Dawn in the bottle, add the hot vinegar and mix. Spray on the dry shower and allow to rest. Then go to work. The scum lifts, and the shower looks brand new. I also have started using a squeegee in the shower to eliminate droplets.
This cleaner is amazing, and your bathroom smells like you are canning pickles.
To dust, I found this recipe to use instead of toxic sprays. One time my spouse brought an anti-allergen dusting spray home that just about threw me into antiphallic shock — not kidding about my sensitivity. So, I sprayed it into the atmosphere; sorry about that, I didn't know how to get rid of it and replace it with yet another spray bottle from the big box store with this recipe in it.
1 cup water
¼ cup vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
Lemongrass essential oil, optional
Mix and spray
There are many more cleaning recipes out there in the world of Google if you are also interested in homemade laundry soap or a general cleaner. Using baking soda and peroxide or vinegar really does work on glass top stoves and inside the oven also. These cleaners are so much better for you, your family, your pets and the world. So resolve to try an inexpensive household cleaner when you do your spring housecleaning.
Regardless of your ethnic background, all Christmas bakers celebrate by breaking out their favorite family recipes for cookies, breads and pies sometime before Thanksgiving. No other holiday has the many sweet and spicy treats with grandmother’s giving permission to indulge.
Coming from the German-Russian county of McIntosh, we enjoyed several cookies every year whether from my mother or my grandmother’s recipes.
There was some sort of anticipation in knowing what would be on the dessert table following a large holiday meal with a large family.
When I think back to those days, my heart is filled with love and then I realize “holy cow, those cookbooks I have collected over the year are considered antiques and are filled with vintage recipes.” After all, it’s been 30-plus years since I lost my grandparents, and my cookbooks predate those events. On a side note, I do still have, however, about 20 aunts and uncles still keeping our family traditions alive.
In these COVID-19 quarantine days, people have been honing their kitchen skills by baking bread and cooking meals at home. I have involved my children and granddaughters in the kitchen from the time they could sit on the counter. They learned how to count by cracking eggs or measuring cups of sugar into mixer bowls. Such messy memories.
One of my grandfather’s favorite cookies were ginger snaps. My mom passed down to me a recipe for what she termed “cracked-top ginger cookies,” or “molasses cookies.” Molasses was a staple in our childhood cupboard, usually kept there until the holidays.
These dark-colored cookies are soft and chewy right out of the oven and when cool become “dunkers,” with your choice of milk or coffee.
My original recipe card for these lovely cookies has been used so much the shortening has made invisible ink out of the ingredients and you have to hold it up to the light to read it.
Cracked-Top Ginger Cookies
1 cup lard (okay, use shortening – but remember it’s an old recipe)
1 cup sugar
1 cup molasses
4 cups flour with 2 teaspoons soda
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ginger
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon cloves.
Beat shortening and sugar, add egg and molasses. Sift flour and soda with spices and blend. Chill dough for at least an hour or overnight. Roll into balls, roll into white sugar and press down slightly on cool cookie sheets. Bake at 350-degrees for 18-20 minutes.
Sugar cookies are a staple at our hour year-round. I have a collection of cookie cutters for Easter, Christmas, Halloween and of course, my various size heart cutters can be used to fill in between holidays. I love sugar cookies.
There are three recipes I cherish for sugar cookies, each with a personality of its own. Not all sugar cookies need to be cut out and decorated to be enjoyed.
I don’t recall where this first sugar cookie cutout recipe came from, I have had it for years and shared it with my favorite editor mentor some 30 years ago and he still uses it today.
Sugar Cookie Delights
1-1/3 cup shortening
1-1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Cream together and add the zest of one orange. To this add:
8 teaspoons of milk
3 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
4 cups flour
Mix well, wrap tightly, chill, roll and bake at 375-degrees for about 6-8 minutes.
NOTE: I prefer crisper cookies, so I bake mine till brown. If you are decorating them you may want to bake until lightly brown as to not interfere with the frosting colors.
This recipe, also from my mother, is for “to die for sugar cookies.” They are fast and easy to bake and can be frosted and sprinkled for the holidays, if they last that long.
1 cup sugar
1 cup powdered sugar
1 cup butter (may use half butter, half shortening)
1 cup oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
4-1/2 cups flour sifted with
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
¼ teaspoon salt
Mix ingredients together, roll into balls. Place on cookie sheets and press down with sugar-dipped drinking glass. You can use colored sugar and then you don’t have to frost them.
Bake at 350-degrees. Watch closely.
Finally, this recipe came from my mother-in-law born in Pennsylvania. I love these cake-like enormous soft sugar cookies. No frosting needed.
Pennsylvania Dutch Sugar Cookies
3 cups sugar
½ cup shortening (or a ¼ cup each of butter and shortening)
1 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon baking soda
½ teaspoon cream of tartar
4-5 cups flour
Cream sugar and shortening, add eggs, beat. Add buttermilk alternately with dry ingredients beginning and ending with dry ingredients.
Bake at 375-degrees for about 10-12 minutes.
An Aunt Sally success story
Not one to ignore the comments people have been making about Aunt Sally cookies, I had to try them. Every time I made Christmas cookies, the recipe in the middle of the old Lutheran cookbook stared me in the face. I turn to that page so often it has torn loose from the binding. Somehow the edges of that cookbook look like they have been dipped in coffee or maybe molasses.
Now the first time I tried this recipe, I was amazed at how soft the dough was. I put off frosting them as the recipe for the white frosting seem complicated. The cookies need the frosting though because they bring a strong molasses flavor and need the balance of sweetness that the marshmallow-like frosting brings.
Well, needless to say, the cookies worked fine, but the first time I made the frosting, it was disastrous.
I had to try again. It worked and executed correctly the frosting is a keeper. All I could think about was chocolate cupcakes would be awesome with this frosting.
Now, why these are called Aunt Sally’s is beyond me. I do know someone had to sacrificially eat Spam in order for me to get the can needed to cut them into the familiar rectangle shape. Granted, cans are made with safer edges and pull-top tops so I’m thinking that the old Spam cans would be sturdier and have a sharper edge. The second batch of cookies turned out so well, I’m wondering where I can get an Aunt Sally’s cookie cutter made. These cookies brought out so many memories at our coffee party, you really should try them. Aunt Sally whoever you are, thanks.
Aunt Sally Cookies
This recipe comes from Emma Miller, Gackle, ND, and was printed in the Emmanuel Lutheran cookbook published in 1975.
1 cup sugar
1 cup shortening
2 eggs (well beaten)
1 cup molasses
1 cup buttermilk (I substituted milk made sour with vinegar)
4 teaspoons soda with buttermilk
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon ginger
1 tablespoon cinnamon
5 cups flour
Mix well, chill dough. Roll medium thin and cut with Spam can. Bake in 350-degrees oven.
Boil to medium hard stage:
1-1/2 cups sugar
½ cup water
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vinegar
At the same time, beat two egg whites until stiff. Add cooked ingredients and 12 large marshmallows. Beat until all melted. Cool a bit. Frost cookies and let dry before storing.
And, last but not least, the two most traditional cookies of my childhood – Grandma Meidinger’s honey cookies and Pfeffernusse.
Without fail, my mother’s mother would have honey cookies at Christmas time. They were simply a mound of delightful honey-flavored goodness topped with a white frosting and sprinkles. Somehow, she managed to get them perfectly shaped and baked. It took me a couple of tries to get the right amount of flour. As with Pfeffernusse, there’s a wee bit of guessing in the amount of flour, but fear not – they will still taste good, even if they are not perfect.
Grandma Meidinger’s Honey Cookies
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoon soda
2 teaspoon anise
1 cup warm honey
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup flour
Mix these ingredients and let stand overnight (not in the refrigerator). In the morning add enough flour to make a stiff dough. Bake at 350-degrees.
NOTE: I apologize, I cannot find the frosting recipe. Someday, I will need to call one of my aunts and hope they can remember.
Here’s a recipe for Pepper-Nut Cookies from Mrs. Helen Elhard, Gackle, N.D. from the aforementioned cookbook.
Pepper-Nut is English for Pfeffernusse, in case you were wondering.
Heat, then cool:
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup butter
1 pint honey
3 eggs, well beaten
½ cup sour cream
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon allspice
2 teaspoons cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
4 teaspoon soda
2 teaspoon anise
5-1/2 cups flour
Mix in order given. Refrigerate overnight. Make into small balls and bake at 350-degrees for 15-20 minutes. Roll in powdered sugar after cool.
WAIT, I have to add this final recipe in honor of my Aunt Alice Kaseman. It was her husband and my uncle, Ed, that encouraged me to research and try all the recipes of old handed down by my grandparents.
I miss the small Christmas dinners Alice would host for the Bismarck cousins, but I do not miss making this recipe. If you have ever been in your mother’s kitchen or made Hirshonsaltz Keacha yourself, you understand why.
Aunt Alice used to make these and decorate them with her granddaughters. A family tradition I hope these recipes has inspired you to try. Alice said they made the best cut outs.
Oh, the first time I attempted these I was thinking to myself, “Mr. Clean? What?” Do not, I repeat, do not use cleaning ammonia. Baking ammonia is available online at Amazon.com. Unless it has been outlawed since I last tried these cookies.
Baking Ammonia Cookies
1-1/2 cup sugar
½ cup soft butter
½ teaspoon vanilla
½ cup sour milk (milk with a teaspoon of vinegar works)
½ cup sour cream
1 tablespoon baking ammonia
5-1/2 cups flour
Dissolve ammonia in milk. Mix all ingredients and let dough set overnight ina acool place.
Roll dough to ½-inch thickness on heavily floured counter. Bake at 350-degrees for about 10 minutes.
While warm, frost with powdered sugar frosting and sprinkle with color sugar or coconut.
NOTE: you can color coconut by shaking it in a jelly jar with a little food coloring.
Bake yourself some Christmas memories this year while in quarantine. Share those cookies with your neighbors and friends. You can do a “ring and run” to stay safe. But most of all, have a blessed Christmas holiday.
Everyone of a certain age is familiar with the phrase, "An apple a day keeps the doctor away." Do you know where that came from? Did your mother permit you to eat all the apples you wanted? Did you go around and steal apples from neighbors trees, as I did?
Oh, probably, even if you don't admit it. We never had snacks growing up. Maybe if we were visiting someone who treated us now and then, but regularly, snacking was not in our vocabulary. We were expected to be at every meal, and we ate whatever my mother served, mostly because we were hungry little peeps. In between meals in the fall, we foraged for apples from trees easily assessable by short children.
"An apple a day" probably came from a phrase coined in 1913 based on a Pembrokeshire proverb that originated in 1866. Notes and Queries magazine was the first to publish the original quote: "Eat an apple on going to bed, and you'll keep the doctor from earning his bread."
So, the burning question, "is it true?" Well, maybe and maybe not, like most medical news you hear. One day it's good for you, the next day it isn't.
Apples are good for you, eaten right off the tree. They contain vitamins and fiber and fulfill one of the five servings of daily fruits and vegetables.
I love crabapples and the oldest varieties you can find. There's something about that wild taste that I find very appealing (pardon the pun).
There are many different varieties of apples on the market. Some are better for eating, some are better for baking, and some are better left in the store. Red Delicious, you know who I am talking about.
Baking apples should be tart to offset the amount of sugar in a pie or crisp. They also hold up to baking and don't become mush in the oven.
Suitable apples for baking include:
• Granny Smith
Some apples can be eaten fresh, and they hold up to baking. I love a crisp tart apple to eat and, at one time, made a point of running to the supermarket every noon and eating an apple. I have since become lax in my healthy habit.
• Golden Delicious
• Pink Lady
Of course, everyone loves Honeycrisp. Developed in Minnesota, Honeycrisp is a cultivated variety of apple developed at the Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station's Horticultural Research Center at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. Designated in 1974 with the MN 1711 test designation, patented in 1988, and released in 1991, the Honeycrisp, once slated to be discarded, has rapidly become a prized commercial commodity, as its sweetness, firmness, and tartness make it an ideal apple for eating raw."...The apple wasn't bred to grow, store or ship well. It was bred for taste: crisp, with balanced sweetness and acidity. (SOURCE: Wikipedia).
A little pricey out of season, Apple Crisp are the best eating apples on the market. Okay, in my opinion.
This is the apple season. Be sure and get out there and eat a few, bake a pie or freeze some for winter. Fall is apple season. While my friend, Diane, maintains it hasn't frosted hard enough yet to pick them off the trees, they are still readily available at your farmers market and in the supermarket. So, enjoy an apple or two today.
It's pepper season at the farmers market. Peppers for pickles, salsa, stuffed peppers and jalapeno poppers are abundant at your local farmer's market this year.
There are 50,000 varieties of peppers ranging from the typical green pepper on grocery shelves year-round to Carolina Reapers. What set's peppers apart? The Scoville Heat Index, of course.
Some people don't like peppers, and some people especially don't like hot peppers, and then there are the brave souls that dare to explore the high end of the Scoville Scale.
First off, the Scoville Scale and Scoville Heat Unit (SHU) were named for scientist Wilbur Scoville in 1912 for measuring a chili pepper's pungency and heat. SHU represents the amount of capsaicin present. The higher the rating, the hotter the pepper.
To determine the SHU, they mix an alcohol extract of capsaicin oil from a dried pepper. Then, they mix it with a solution of water and sugar.
Nowadays, they determine the hotness of peppers by high-performance liquid chromatography. This test measures the chemical capsaicin in chili peppers. However, due to nostalgia, scientists still convert their results back into Scoville units.
Green pepper score 0 on the scale and Reapers range from 1,500,000-2,200,000 SHU. What a difference that would make in your chili recipe. Whew.
Some people can't even tolerate green peppers at 0, but usually it’s because of their stomach or the fact they do not like the sometimes-bitter taste of green pepper. That taste can be removed simply by peeling your pepper. How? Might you ask? Roasting. You can roast peppers on the grill, on your gas stove burners or under a broiler. Just heat at a high temperature until they are blackened all around. Place them in a paper bag and let them steam for a bit until cool enough to handle. Remove the core, seeds and stem, and you have a delightful pepper strip that can be used on a sandwich or chopped with some onion and tossed with olive oil and vinegar for a quick side dish. If you use the tri-color pepper packs you find at the store, and you will add some beautiful color to your plate.
And peppers are good for you. Peppers have a lot going for them. They're low in calories and loaded with nutrition. All varieties are excellent sources of vitamins A and C, potassium, folic acid, and fiber.
Peppers from the farmers market are fantastic. Cutting into a fresh-picked pepper means a potential squirt in the eye cutting through the crisp exterior to the juicy flesh. They also last a long time in your refrigerator. You can also freeze pepper for use during the winter months.
I love jalapenos and leave most of my peppers on the vine until they turn a lovely red. Jalapeno jelly from red peppers is beautiful over cream cheese. And, who doesn't like poppers? If you can't stand the heat, there are jalapeno varieties with all the flavor and none of the heat.
Another new favorite way to eat the abundant peppers is stuffed. Wait, don't like to make stuffed peppers, well make soup. Stuffed pepper soup is lovely and a one-pot meal on a busy evening. Just brown your hamburger with onions, and maybe celery, add chopped peppers, a jar of home-canned tomatoes, chicken stock and simmer away. Serve in bowls over rice. Your family will love it.
Thursday, August 6 episode of Main Street Eats is all about pie. Listen on Prairie Public Radio between 3:30 and 4 p.m.
Yes, we love pie. It's the time of year that the peaches and cherries and blueberries and soon local apples will be picked right off the tree. If we don't grow it here, trucks are pulling through offering fresh fruits for the asking. Since COVID-19, many people are doing more baking and cooking at home – and watching movies.I love pie, and I love movies, and three of my favorite films reinforce the beauty of a well-baked pie. So if you love movies and you love pie, you should try and find these gems.
1. "Labor Day," with Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin
2. "Michael," with John Travolta, Andie MacDowell and William Hurt.
3. "Waitress," with Keri Russel and Andy Griffith
Of course, these are love stories topped with pie. You have never experienced sexy until you see Josh Brolin make a fresh peach pie. Whoooeeeee.
While we are on the subject, here are a few tips to make a great pie.
CRUST is everything in my book. Some people eat pie for the filling. I love crust. Making good pastry is an art. In high school, I made and sold apple pies to my mom's boss for $2.50 each, because he loved my crust.
I have perfected my crust recipe over many years of making apple pie, but I also love rhubarb, blueberry and fresh peach pie.
If you do not have a family crust recipe or have never made a pie before, I would highly recommend Ken Haedrich, the dean of the Pie Academy's videos and live broadcasts. You can find him at http://thepieacademy.com. Ken demonstrates and sells cookbooks and makes excellent savory pies, hand pies, slab pies and yes, even wide-mouth canning jar lid pies.
Here are my tips for making a great pie crust.
My mom used a fork around the outside and made little lines. You can get as fancy as you wish. Create a woven lattice crust, etc. Remember, your pie might run over, especially if it finds a weak spot around the edge.
Don't forget your pie needs to breathe, so cut some slits, poke holes with a fork, whatever you wish design-wise to create steam holes in the top crust. Sprinkle with sugar and
1. Freeze it till later
2. Bake it immediately.
HOW YOU ASK? Place on a drip disc (find them at Amazon) in a 425° oven for about 15 minutes. Then reduce the heat to 350° and continue to bake until you see that filling bubbling for at least 30 minutes. Remove, cool before cutting and eating. Last tip: Do not allow a frozen pie to thaw before placing in a hot oven.
So have a piece of pie and watch a great movie about pie. Like my Grandpa always said, "Eat it now, 'cause when you get older, they start taking it away from you."
What do the Fourth of July and potato bugs have in commonIn my work capturing the German Russian food culture, holidays were part of farm life, but in a very different way than today. With the pandemic of 2020, many activities have been altered or canceled completely, so I thought it would be nice to remind you all of the way the Fourth used to be celebrated.
Nearly all the elders I interviewed said the same thing about the Fourth of July holiday.
“We had to hoe the potatoes before we could go anywhere. Some families celebrated the Fourth at home. To top it off, those same little hands had to eliminate the potato beetles by picking them off the plants by hand.
One person said their mom used to deal with bugs on potatoes and worms on cabbage by sprinkling flour over them. What they didn’t know was it was more than likely laced with Paris green.
The Colorado potato beetle was successful eradicated around the 1860s with Paris green, an innovation in insecticide application, it was used with the first hand-operated compression sprayers, first wheel-drawn sprayers, first traction-operated dusters, first engine-operated sprayer and first air-blast sprayer (Gauthier et al., 1981). Potatoes were also one of the first crops to be treated by airplane.
Many of those Depression farmers did not have the means or large enough fields to invest in air spraying, but they did have children.
Delphine and Benjamin Vetter of Linton remember picking bugs off garden vegetable plants. Benjamin said, “We would use kerosene. Put it in a little pail and pick them and put them in there or else they would crawl out. You had to kill them somehow.”
Hoeing those rows was done around the first two days or three days of the month or no body was allowed to go to Fourth of July Celebration. The Vetter’s had a celebration on their farm and as far as Benjamin could remember, it has been going on more than 75 years and draws up wards of 400 relatives to go horseback riding, cook outdoors, visit the cemetery and catch up.
Ellen Tuttle who was close to 100 years old in 2013 recalls the excitement of getting up early on those holidays and to milk and get everything ready before hopping into the wagon hitched to the team of horses and traveling to Linton to celebrate. Of course, they had to be sure to head for home early enough to get the cows milked again.
By the Fourth they chickens were big enough to have fried chicken for the celebration, she said.
Donna Eszlinger recalls her aunt and uncle and her cousin lived a little way from their farm. They had a nice shelter belt and would invite her parents and another uncle for a picnic in the space amongst the trees. They would build a fire and roast hot dogs. Everyone would join in the baseball game, even the moms and dads. It was a nice time as she remembered with watermelon and ice cream.
Her dad would chop out the ice from a big wooden cow tank filled with winter’s ice and kept insulated under straw in the coolest place in the yard. He would put the ice in a gunny sack and crush it so they could take turns with the hand cranked ice cream machine.
After the potatoes were hoed ad the garden was weeded, Rose Voller Glas’ family would go to Strasburg for a parade of a few new cars. The kids would walk around and join in some races. For lunch, the family had ham sandwiches and cookies.
“Molasses cookies at that time,” she said. “When times were really poor, we would get molasses to feed the cattle and to put on the calves feed from the government. It was kind of a commodity and so then that’s what they got when we went to the Fourth of July.”
Rose’s sister said there were some fireworks. Just the small firecrackers on a string that you took off one at a time. They weren’t dangerous, well unless we threw them at each other. They did make noise.
Today, most children wouldn’t be too involved in hoeing before going to the fourth of July parade, but potato bugs still should be deterred before they destroy your crop. A couple of things help prevent infestation (potato bugs can reproduce three times in a season):
Good luck with your potatoes and have a safe Fourth of July.
Sue B. Balcom
Writing, or maybe talking, comes naturally to me and under the guidance of a great newspaper editor I have acquired skills that led me to author four books.