Grandma’s Apron

I recently happened upon a poem, “Grandma’s Apron”, that I would like to share with you. It was written by Tina Trivett in honor of her grandmother. When I read the poem, I couldn’t help but think of my own apron-wearing grandmother – Ruth Baumgart.

My grandparents (Ruth and Gerhard Baumgart) and their four children lived on dairy farm in Wisconsin. They worked hard and lived simply. They raised a good bit of their own food which included milk, eggs, beef, pork, chicken, vegetables, and fruit. That meant that Grandma spent a lot of time in the kitchen… and a lot of time wearing an apron. Most days, she wore a simple house dress topped with a correspondingly modest apron. Some of them tied at the waist, while more elaborate styles looped over her shoulders and tied at the waist. Fancy!

Grandma was known for her baking. She was especially productive the weeks before Christmas. This was her time to shine. She made iced sugar cookies, spritz cookies, caramels, popcorn balls, fudge, chocolate covered pretzels, haystack cookies, chocolate & marshmallow covered brownies, pinwheel cookies, and so many other things I can’t remember now. Spending time with Grandma and Grandpa over Christmas was delightful. So many goodies. So little time.

I still bake some of Grandma’s specialties and use her rolling pin when making cutout sugar cookies and pinwheel cookies. I like to think that a bit of her soul is embedded in that old wooden rolling pin. People love my Christmas sugar cookies with butter cream icing, which leads me to believe that my theory is true. Imagine how much better they would be if I wore an apron while I made them!

Remembering Grandma, busy in her kitchen, wearing her super-heroine outfit/apron, gives me great comfort. Even though she’s been gone for ten years, I still get teary-eyed when I think about her. She truly is one of the finest people I have ever known.

Here’s a video of my grandma making kolaches. When she gave the final rundown on the ingredients, she unintentionally left out yeast. Not something you want to forget with this recipe! My uncle Gary shot this video in 1987. Peanut gallery commentary by my grandpa and cousin Dierdra.

 

The poem I promised…

Grandma’s Apron
by Tina Trivett

The strings were tied, it was freshly washed, and maybe even pressed.
For Grandma, it was everyday to choose one when she dressed.
The simple apron that it was, you would never think about;
the things she used it for, that made it look worn out.
She may have used it to hold some wildflowers that she’d found.
Or to hide a crying child’s face when a stranger came around.
Imagine all the little tears that were wiped with just that cloth.
Or it became a potholder to serve some chicken broth.
She probably carried kindling to stoke the kitchen fire.
To hold a load of laundry, or to wipe the clothesline wire.
When canning all her vegetables, it was used to wipe her brow.
You never know, she might have used it to shoo flies from the cow.
She might have carried eggs in from the chicken coop outside.
Whatever chore she used it for, she did them all with pride.
When Grandma went to heaven, God said she now could rest.
I’m sure the apron that she chose, was her Sunday best.

You can find more of Tina Trivett’s poetry on her poetry blog.

 

A Final Thought…

Grandma used to set her hot baked apple pies on the window sill to cool.
Her granddaughters set theirs on the window sill to thaw.
They would go crazy now trying to figure out how many germs were on that apron.
I never caught anything from an apron…But Love.

(Author Unknown)

 

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Fall Lettuce

Many years ago, if you would have told me that I would be eating my very own garden fresh lettuce in December, I would have questioned your sanity. Well, in spite of chilly winds and frost, my cold frame salad garden is growing like crazy and I couldn’t be more delighted!

Unfortunately, the arugula (third photo) got a bit out of hand while I was away during the week of Thanksgiving and is no longer edible. The other lettuce, however, is just right. I’ve harvested several batches so far and expect to harvest many more over the next couple of months. The nice thing about lettuce is that it comes back after it’s cut… kind of like grass, but tastier.

I’m also growing spinach, carrots and radishes outside of the cold frame. So far, so good. I don’t expect the carrots to amount to much, but if they do, it will be a nice treat.

Happy fall and winter gardening!

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Cast Iron Convertee

Ever since I acquired (won!) my first cast iron skillet, I’ve been thinking of things to make in it. Thanks for the awesome giveaway Original Country Girl! Now, like a junkie jonesin’ for an iron fix, I want more cast iron cookware.

Even before I won this sweet little skillet, I was thinking about disposing of my poisonous Teflon pans and replacing them with cast iron. My only regret is not doing it sooner. Sometimes it takes a skillet to the head, huh?

The first thing I made was fried eggs. They “sung” while they fried. I swear, they did! Next, I made (s)mashed potatoes. However, the ultimate test was cornbread. I’ve lived in South Carolina for fourteen years and have heard numerous people reminisce about the cornbread their mother or grandmother used to bake in a cast iron skillet. I found it hard to believe that the cornbread didn’t stick to the skillet. I mean, really. Guess what? It doesn’t stick to the skillet… at all!

Now that I’m a born-again cast iron cookware user, I have this uncontrollable urge to spread the word to everyone I meet. Cast iron is superior to all other cookware! Here’s why:

  1. Cast iron does not release toxic chemicals (PFCs) the way Teflon nonstick pans do.
  2. Cast iron fortifies food with iron. Cooking acidic foods, like tomato sauce, in a cast iron skillet is said to increase iron content by as much as 20 times.
  3. A well-seasoned cast iron pan requires less oil.
  4. It conducts heat beautifully.
  5. Clean-up is a breeze. Most times, it’s as simple as running the skillet under hot water and wiping it out. Other times, a stiff brush is necessary. Avoid soap, as it will compromise the pan’s seasoning.
  6. Cast iron looks cool.
  7. It can be used on the stovetop AND in the oven.
  8. It reminds me of my grandma.
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Unexpected Beauty

The ditch near my house is wild with weeds. The problem is that it is dangerously steep with an irregular surface. Weed trimming an area like this takes a strong back and the sure-footedness of a mountain goat, supported by a good healthcare plan… just in case. About a week ago, I walked along the ditch to evaluate the situation and develop a plan of attack. As I surveyed the ditch, I noticed that it wasn’t filled with revolting weeds but with fascinating flowers, foliage and vines. Unexpectedly, my unsightly ditch was transformed into a magnificent wildflower garden!

(S)mashed Potatoes

One of my favorite potato recipes is smashed potatoes with fresh rosemary. Yes. I said smashed. Not mashed. This is a hybrid potato dish… half mashed (crushed?), half pan fried. The contrast between the crispy skin and the fluffy interior is splendid.

Typically, I use new red potatoes. However, since I only had Yukon gold potatoes on hand, that’s what I used. I chose the smallest potatoes, which were still a bit too large, and cut them in half. Next, I microwaved them until they were soft. Sometimes I boil them, but today I didn’t want to create yet another pot to wash. After they were “baked”, I set them on a clean dish towel, folded the towel over the potatoes and gently smashed them with the heel of my hand to flatten them. In the meantime, olive oil was heating in a cast iron pan on the stove. Before placing the potatoes in the pan, I gave them a quick grind of coarse sea salt and tossed a few rosemary leaves in the pan. After setting the flattened taters in the pan, I drizzled olive oil over them, salted them and sprinkled rosemary leaves on the top side. Their crunch factor depends on how long you leave them in the pan, of course. I fried mine a few minutes on each side. An alternative to pan frying is to lightly coat them with olive oil and broil them in the oven.

If you aren’t a fan of rosemary, try chives, garlic, or anything your heart desires. To make a good thing even better, add a dollop of sour cream.

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Fall Salad Garden

Lettuce in a cold frame photoWe planted our fall garden last weekend. Several weeks from now, we will have a beautiful variety of baby greens, radishes, spinach, and tiny carrots. I can almost taste that first salad now. If you’ve never had fresh lettuce, you don’t know what you are missing. It’s extra crispy, juicy and flavorful. You will realize that those fresh greens at the grocery store aren’t so fresh after all.

In anticipation of lower fall and winter temperatures, we planted our tender lettuce varieties in cold frames set into our raised garden bed. The cold frames contain approximately twenty varieties of lettuce, each one with it’s own unique characteristics… from sweet to peppery. We won’t have freezing temps for quite some time (I hope), so the lids will stay open for now. Later, when the weather gets chilly, the lids will be partially closed at night and opened again during the day. It gets incredibly hot in a closed cold frame during the day, even in the middle of winter. If you don’t have a cold frame, you can cover your greens with a bed sheet, a light tarp or a piece of plastic on cold nights. If you’re feeling industrious, you can also rig up a row cover using PVC pipe and sheets of plastic.

Hardier salad garden plants (spinach, carrots and radishes) are planted outside of the cold frames. I’m especially excited about the carrots. I’ve heard that winter carrots are extra sweet after a frost. My dogs love carrots, but I doubt they will notice the difference between winter carrots and store carrots.

Even though we sowed the seeds earlier this week, some of them have already germinated! I don’t know which is more delightful, watching the winter salad garden grow or eating the fresh greens.

Hey! It’s not too late to plant your fall salad garden. If you don’t have a garden or raised beds, you can grow lettuce directly in soil bags. Set the bags in a sunny spot, slit them open and sow the seed. Be sure to protect the seedlings on frosty evenings. Here’s another idea… create a soil bag garden in a wagon and pull it indoors when the temps are below freezing.

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Garlic Pickled Eggs

Pickled eggs. Either you love them or you hate them. Perhaps you’ve never even heard of them. If you’ve never had a pickled egg, I imagine you find the concept of pickling an egg quite appalling. I grew up in Wisconsin and was introduced to pickled eggs at an early age. So, pickled eggs don’t phase me in the least. I remember that every Wisconsin tavern worth a darn had a gallon jar of homemade pickled eggs behind the bar. Now, that doesn’t mean that only people who have been drinking could enjoy a pickled egg 🙂

A few days ago, I was craving homemade pickled eggs. After searching the internet for the perfect recipe, I realized that there’s more than one way to pickle an egg. They can be sweet, spicy and even red (made with beet juice). Most recipes include onion slices and pickling spices. Some include sugar. All include vinegar, of course. None of the recipes suited me perfectly, so I created my own based on bits and pieces from the wide range of recipes I found. Instead of onions, I used garlic, which turned out to be an excellent choice.

The most frustrating thing about making a batch of pickled eggs is that you have to wait several days before they are ready to eat. It takes time for that delightful vinegar elixir to spike the eggs. I have to confess that I cheated and ate one the next day. Delicious! They do get better with time, though.

Here’s my cobbled together recipe for Garlic Pickled Eggs
10-12 boiled, peeled eggs
1 cup white vinegar
½ cup water
1 tablespoon coarse salt
1 tablespoon pickling spice or peppercorn medley
1 teaspoon garlic (or more if you desire!)

  1. Place the eggs in a 1 quart wide mouth jar.
  2. In a saucepan, combine the vinegar, water, salt, pickling spice (or peppercorn medley), and garlic. Bring to a rolling boil; pour over eggs in jar.
  3. Cool to room temperature. Refrigerate for 3 days before serving.

 

 

 

Linking to Homestead Barn Hop.

Chili Weather

After one of the hottest summers on record, it finally feels like fall in South Carolina… chili weather!

Nothing balances the first chill of fall like a kettle of hearty, homemade chili. Excited by the change of seasons, I rummaged through the pantry where I discovered a neglected bag of dried black beans. I then poured those little beauties into a large bowl of water to soak overnight. The next day, the beans were ready for our first batch of cool weather chili. Canned black beans would have served the purpose, but it just didn’t seem right. This batch of chili needed dried beans… as well as red and yellow bell peppers, green chiles, tomatoes, yellow squash, and ground beef. With so many other wonderful ingredients, the ground beef wasn’t necessary. In fact, it would have been just as good prepared as a vegetarian chili.

Did you know…
When cold soaked and cooked at a very gentle simmer, beans retain most of their nutrients, as opposed to the quick soaking method which requires boiling the beans for several minutes before soaking. Hot water softens the cell membranes of the beans and accelerates the loss of nutrients. Unless you’re in a hurry, cold soaking is the way to go.

Fellow homesteaders… check out the Homestead Barn Hop!

Return of the Aliens

Remember this post… Alien Invasion?

Earlier this summer, I found a big, juicy hornworm on one of my tomato plants. As you can plainly see, my hornworm friends have returned to the garden. This afternoon, while planning my fall garden, I found three of these monsters chowing on my bell pepper plants. This time, however, they had friends on their backs!

Actually, those little bits of “rice” on the back of this hornworm are his worst enemy – the braconid wasp. It lays its eggs inside the hornworm. Ahhhhh! I can’t type this without getting the shivers. As the eggs hatch, the future wasps (“rice”) eat their way out. Apparently, you’re in luck if your hornworms are covered with white larvae. From what I’ve read, it’s best to let nature take its course. Eventually, the emerging larvae kill the hornworm. After the wasps hatch, you will have plenty of natural protection from future hornworms. We’ll see about that!

In the meantime, Ahhhhh!!!

Chinese takeout anyone? No? How about a tic tac?


 

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Farl

I baked my first loaf of farl yesterday. Not bad. I’m still working on baking that perfect loaf of bread, but get closer with each attempt. I’d probably get closer to perfection a lot sooner if I would stick with making one kind of bread until I got it right. Instead, I try a new type of bread each time. There are so many wonderful bread recipes. How can I choose just one?!

Farl is a hearty, dense, very simple bread, traditionally baked on the bottom of stone ovens used by village bakeries. To get that stone baked effect at home, bake the loaf on an oven stone on the bottom rack of your oven. The “stripes” on top of the loaf are created by dusting the bread with flour and slashing the top with a sharp knife.

This loaf is excellent for toasting. In fact, I had a slice this morning topped with blackberry preserves. Of course, it’s also great straight out of the oven with butter.

FARL

  • Scant 4 cups white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 packet of yeast
  • 2/3 cup butter, softened
  • 1 ¼ cups water
  1. Put all of the ingredients into a bowl and mix for 4 minutes.
  2. Tip out onto a lightly floured counter and knead for 5 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and pliable. Let stand in an oiled bowl to rise for 1 hour.
  3. Tip the dough out onto floured counter and shape into a ball, then flatten into a circle about 2 inches/5 cm thick. Set the dough onto a parchment lined baking sheet or directly on a baking stone and let rise for 1 hour.
  4. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F/200 degrees C.
  5. Sprinkle the top of the dough with flour and, starting from the middle, make vertical slashes across the top of the dough.
  6. Bake for 30 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool.