Popular Posts

Friday, April 13, 2012

Book Entry 159: 1981 First Friend - Then Food

One morning on our ride to school we took a detour to Bill Reichel‘s farm where we were having a cow butchered.  On our ride to Bill’s place I remembered how much it bothered me when I was a little girl and our “Bossy” was butchered.  Remembering Bossie was a milk cow, and like a pet, living in our barn I figured I was probably more sensitive to her being slaughtered. 
We were going to see Larry and Bill and the cow Bill had raised for us.  We had never even seen this cow before.  We often bought bull calves from our neighbors dairy to raise for meat.  Bill knew how to fatten them up to make the meat just right.  We usually raised them at home but once in a while Bill raised one for us.
 As we drove up I saw the carcass hanging beside the truck.  It was already skinned.  For an instant I held my breath fearing someone was going to cry.  The girls hardly noticed.  Justin had no idea it was even a cow.  Adam looked at the carcass hanging there and said, “Wow, that sure looks like a lot of hamburger!”  It hadn’t bothered them in the least. 
We often had meat from more than one cow in the freezer at the same time.  The packaging would always have our name and date on it.  If we looked hard enough we could figure out how old the meat was.  We decided to change the way the meat was labeled.  Instead of our name we would put the animals name on the packages.  
The animals we raised were taken care of by Larry and our kids.  They were pets until the day they were butchered.  Because they were so much like pets they all had names.  Among other names we had Roast Beef, T-Bone, Burger-Babe, and Bacon.  The kids loved their animals.  They gave them attention, fed them, and kept them clean.  Some “butcher days” were harder than others simply because some of the animals were friendlier than others.  

 It was no surprise when I’d send one of the kids out to the freezer to have them ask me, by name, which meat I wanted.  Farm life is the best.  It teaches kids about life and death.  It teaches them what hard work is and the value of a successful crop.  It teaches them even if the work is done correctly sometimes the crops fail.  It teaches them animals aren’t always pets. It answers many questions before there is even a need to ask them.  I wouldn’t trade those years on the farm for anything.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Book Entry 158: 1981 Yeast Bread Success

I sulked for a few days about my failed attempt at making yeast bread.  I watched a program on the television called “The Galloping Gourmet.”  The chef was making bread.  He had a special oven for the dough to rise perfectly each time.  I didn’t have an oven like his so I invented one. 
I mixed the yeast packets with warm water and made a batch of dough big enough for two loaves of bread.  The whole house smelled yummy the minute the yeast packets were opened.  I put the dough into my biggest Pyrex bowl.  It only filled about one third of the bowl.
We had stand up floor heaters.  In those days our grocery store packed our groceries in boxes.  I picked the biggest box I had and placed it about a foot in front of the heater.  I put my bowl of dough in the box and covered the open side with a damp towel.  I waited, without peeking, for the two hours called for in the recipe and slowly pulled away the towel. 
My bowl was not just full it was overflowing.  I punched down the dough, divided it, and formed two pretty good looking loaves.  Once again I placed the dough, in their bread pans, into my little makeshift raising-box.  I made my afternoon run to pick up kids from school. 
While I was waiting for the kids I started talking to one of the other mothers.  I confessed my first attempt at bread and told her I was trying again and at that very moment my loaves were at home raising.  She laughed and said, “Don’t you know you can’t make yeast in cold weather or when it’s raining?  And I never heard of making a contraption like that for raising the dough but I don’t think it will work.”
I instantly forgot how pretty my loaves had looked when I left home.  It was cold, it was raining, and I’d just found out my raising-box might be a silly idea!
When I parked in the garage and opened my car door I could faintly smell yeast.  When I opened the door to the house an unbelievably scrumptious fragrance welcomed us.  The kids even noticed.  We all lined up in front of the box of bread.  I pulled up the towel.  Cheers and clapping followed.  There before us were two beautiful, even, full loaves. 
Heidi and Robin took Justin by the hand and walked him to the kitchen.  Adam carried one loaf and I carried the other.  We put the bread into the oven.  Everyone went about their afternoon routine for about thirty minutes. 
When their clothes were changed and the animals fed instead of playing outside the kids all came back to the kitchen.  Heidi and Robin set the table.  Justin pulled his high chair to the table.  When I said the time was near for the bread to come out of the oven Adam went to tell Larry dinner was almost ready.
Everyone was remembering the “dough grave” in the field.  The whole house smelled heavenly.  No one said a word until the oven door was opened.  The loaves were the most beautiful perfect loaves of bread I’d ever seen.  I took them from their pans and placed them on a wire rack to cool. 
Before the bread had cooled, even for a minute, Larry took one.  He placed it on the cutting board and cut it into slices.  He put a slice on each of our plates and a dollop of butter on each slice.  The bread was so hot the butter disappeared almost immediately.  It had burned Larry’s fingers while he cut it but it had cooled enough for us to nibble at it. 
It was delicious!  The first loaf was gone in a matter of minutes.  Everyone loved it.  We ate a whole loaf of bread, a cube of butter, and half a jar of homemade jam during dinner.  It was so good it turned out to be the main course. 
The next morning the other loaf was toasted, a slice at a time for breakfasts, until it was completely gone.
I made bread for our family a lot after that.  I got so good at it that winter when the following summer came I entered it in the fair competition.  I won a blue ribbon.  The following summer I added wheat bread to the competition and won two blue ribbons.  
The following year I added cinnamon bread and won three blue ribbons at the fair.  When I stood in front of the loaves on display they were perfect.  There were no air bubbles, no burned crusts, and no waves in the shape of the loaves. 
The third year while I was standing there a sweet little lady was standing next to me.  She commented on her loaf which was just next to mine.  Her loaf had huge air pockets, looked like it had a broken back, and was burned on the edges.  She said something about my loaf and pointed to my name saying, “She wins every year, hers is always pretty and mine is always wrong, I’ll never win.”
I was very proud I had won but never entered another loaf in the fair.  I always enjoyed making bread.  The nights we had it for dinner I never needed to call my family to the table.  Everyone knew by the fragrance the bread was cooking. 

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Book Entry 157: 1981 Attempt Number One at Yeast Bread

In early fall I decided to try my hand at making yeast bread.  I didn’t quite understand the dough needed to be slightly warm in order to rise.  After tenderly mixing and kneading my dough I waited the allotted time for it to rise.  I waited and I waited.  I waited an extra two hours.  When nothing happened, thinking I had failed and again wanting to hide the evidence, I took the dough out to the edge of the orchard where the dirt was soft and buried it in a shallow hole.  
As luck would have it later that warm afternoon Adam was puttering around on the three-wheeler and discovered a huge soft lump in the ground close to a levee.  At first he thought it might be a gopher hole.  He poked the mound with a stick.  When he got a clump of the dough on his stick he recognized it smelled like the kitchen had smelled earlier.
 It seems a combination of me burying the dough and the warmth of the afternoon sun had caused the dough to rise.  Adam knew I was hiding something again!  He showed Larry the soft fragrant lump in the dirt.  Naturally they came straight into the house asking me if burying dough was a new way to get it to rise.  When they took me out to see the now fluffy sweet smelling gob of dough I had to laugh too. 
Larry said it was a good thing I hadn’t fed “that” mistake to the pigs because they would have eaten it before it raised and it would probably have swelled in their bellies and killed them!  I was happy too.  It was bad enough I had to live down the fact the pigs wouldn’t eat my pickles I can’t imagine needing to admit my bread dough killed the pigs!
When we finished laughing I was actually happy the dough had been found and excited it had risen.  I tucked away this incident in the baking section of my brain for use later that year.  
A few days later I was taking trash out when I noticed Adam walking slowly kicking dirt clods around as if he was searching for something.  When I asked what he was doing he grinned and said, “Oh mom, after finding the pickles in the pig trough and the “Dough Grave” I just thought I’d look to see if you’ve been trying any more new recipes!”

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Book Entry 156 1981 Homemade Relish and Pickles

The summer of 1981 I decided I was going to learn something new.  Larry's aunt, Wanda Jantz, had given me a wonderful relish recipe.  The main ingredient for the relish is zucchini squash.  I mastered it in one try.  Everyone loved it.  Adam even ate it on his scrambled eggs one morning.  I figured since I succeeded with relish how hard could pickles be.  
 My Aunt Kathleen made good dill pickles.  Larry loves dill pickles so I took a try at it.  I had to prepare the cucumbers by immersing them in a crock full of a mixture containing vinegar, salt, and other spices.  The pickles needed to soak for several days.  I thought I had done everything right.  The kids and Larry were checking on the crock full of soaking cucumbers everyday. 
When the day arrived for the canning of the pickles I opened the crock and did whatever I was suppose to, I can’t remember if I cooked them first or not, but when I tasted them they were terrible!
Our garbage disposal didn’t work well.  I didn’t want to clog it with my pickles.  Instead of putting the pickles in jars to keep I took them out to the pig pen and poured them in the trough. It is well known pigs will eat anything!  I wanted to get rid of the evidence and hoped no one remembered it was time to put the pickles into the jars. 
Once the pickles were out of the house I scrubbed that old crock with soap, rinsed it with Clorox, and scrubbed it again.  I put the crock out in the shop where no one would see it.   I assumed the evidence would soon be gone.
About two hours later Adam and Larry came into the kitchen with funny grins on their faces and soon burst into laughter.  When Larry pointed to where the crock had been sitting on the counter and asked about the pickles I knew I had been caught!  Yes indeed, although I’ve been told there is nothing a pig won’t eat, I proved that statement wrong.  Even the pigs wouldn’t eat my pickles! 
Larry and Adam insisted I needed to look in the pig pen.  When we got there the pig trough still had all my pickles in it.  The pigs were all on the opposite side of the pen.  They wouldn’t even go near their trough.  Poor Adam had to scoop out all the pickles and rinse the trough completely  before he dared to put the pigs real dinner in it!
I still make Wanda’s relish and it is loved by everyone.  I must confess I never attempted dill pickles again!