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Pioneer Potluck: Christmas past on the farm

Posted: December 21, 2011 - 10:34am

Northern Colorado
1940s and 50s

It was always Dad's job to go get the tree. We lived on a farm with cottonwood trees so that caused a dilemma -- go 14 miles into town to buy a tree or go 20 or 30 miles to cut a tree down "up in the mountains." A trip that took a lot of planning in "the olden days."

First Dad had chores and cattle to feed, a cow to milk and in earlier year's pigs to contend with. The car was checked over, tires kicked, sandwiches made by Mom. He would load my brother and me in the car and off we would go to get a Christ-a-mus tree for the living room. Mom would give Dad last minute instructions: "A big full tree, not to tall, but nice." Dad's reply would be "OK Loretta."

Mom had a million excuses not go to -- Ginger was a baby, she had cookies to bake, she had some sewing to get done before Christmas, and she HAD to get supper. Actually she enjoyed her time alone when we would go with Dad. I do not remember too much about the two or three trips to the mountains, but I do remember Dad saying "When I get the money we will buy us a tree."

Dad would stuff the tree in the trunk of the old black Chevy car, as the trunk was large enough to "put a cow in." (We had a neighbor who transported her calves and pigs to town in the trunk of her old car. Thus the saying "to put a cow in.")

Dad's other job was to make a stand for the tree -- two crossed pieces of wood, nailed and nailed and nailed into the tree. (It was always Dad's fault if the tree tipped over in the living room - not that someone put too many ornaments in one spot or pulled on a branch to put tinsel on.)

One year Mom hit on the idea -- put that tree in a bucket of sand! OK, Dad said. He shoveled sand and dirt into the big 5-gallon bucket, shoved the tree into it, and more dirt around it. He carried the whole thing into the living room. "Now John, don't get needles or dirt on the living room rug!" Dad was all bent over carrying the bucket in one hand and the tree waving around covering most of him, Johnny (Butch) opening the doors so Dad could back in, holding branches so he could get through the door, and Mom wringing her hands. (Dad wanted to put the bucket of sand-dirt in the house and then put the tree in - "Oh No!" said my Mom, "you will get sand-dirt all over the rug!")

The tree and bucket was placed on a big white sheet with a tree skirt on the white sheet. Dad got it situated just so, with the full branches in front. Mom would instruct "now turn it a little ... OK that's it...thank you John."

Dad finally could stand up straight, get his bearings, stand back and admire his all-day work. As they were admiring the tree, Johnny and I were running around with ornaments in our hands, the tree slowly tipped forward. Not comprehending what was happening, Dad, Mom, Johnny and I watched it tip over!

Dad rushed to push it back up. Mom said "No! No! John -- take that back out and put on the wooden stands."

I am sure there were stares, snuffs, huffs and puffs coming out of Dad, but he picked it up, bucket and all, we repeated backwards, getting the tree back out the door. The wooden stand was made and nailed in place and the whole process was repeated, except Dad could stand up this time coming through the door.

Mom worked for a week before getting ready for Christmas Eve dinner, getting presents wrapped, cleaning the house from the very top to the very bottom. It was spotless!

Mom's usual menu for Christmas Eve was homemade noodles for chicken noodle soup. And there was oyster stew and chili also.  Homemade Parker House rolls, a big salad, home canned pickles, dill, bread and butter and sweet sweet pickles.

Then she baked the dessert! That took all day. Apple, cherry, chocolate, lemon meringue, and peach pie canned from the peaches my uncle Guy brought to her from the western slope of Colorado. But most of all, mincemeat pie for Dad and Grandpa Cogswell. In later years we all learned to like mincemeat pie -- only the way Mom made it. She canned the mincemeat from the beef Dad raised. That took all day in the fall, to cook it down and then the great spices with vinegar and sugar were added along with raisins, then she canned it in quart jars. The smell was wonderful!

When she made the pies she added sliced apples and baked it in her homemade pie crust. My uncle Marvin loved that pie also. At the insistence of my Dad, every Christmas he would invite us to try it. We all learned to eat warm mincemeat pie with vanilla ice cream piled high on top.

After the china and silverware were washed, dried and put away, we all gathered around the Christmas tree to exchange gifts. One year Grandma made me feed sack doll clothes and Grandpa made me a closet out of a wooden orange crate, complete with rod and little tiny hangers. 74 years later I can still remember how delighted I was and how many years I played with it. I have no idea what happened to it. That is one thing I wish I had hung on to! Grandma sewed all those clothes either by hand or by her old treadle machine. They had lace and ric-rack on then. And a very pretty doll to go with it.

Everyone enjoyed their Christmas Eve but no one enjoyed it more than Dad. He laughed and joked, stole other people gifts, put Mom's new pajamas on his head, teased little kids and hugged them all good night as they hurried out the door to get in bed before Santa Claus came to their house to bring them gifts on Christmas morning.

Thank you for your support. Don't forget to invite an orphan to dinner! Say prayers for the less fortunate and remember my niece Sarah and her family, who is battling stage four cancer.
Merry Christmas to all!

Grannie Annie and Bob

Sunday Morning Breakfast Ring

The easy way! Heat oven to 400 degrees
Two tubes of refrigerated cinnamon rolls (about 16 total)
Generously butter a tube or bundt pan
Measure into a flat dish:
1/2  cup white sugar
1/2  cup brown sugar
4 tblsp cinnamon
Mix together.
Melt 1 stick butter
In separate bowls;
1 cup of chopped walnuts or pecans
1 cup raisins or Crasins
1 cups chocolate chips
Separate rolls and dredge in butter.
Dip in sugars
Arrange in bottom of buttered pan
Sprinkle with nuts, raisins or Crasins and chocolate chips
Spoon two tblsp butter and two tblsp sugar over top-taking from dishes.
Arrange another row of cinnamon rolls
Sprinkle with nuts, raisins and chocolate chips, butter and sugar.
Bake 30 to 35 minutes.  Let set for 5 minutes.  Invert on serving plate.
Drizzle the existing frosting packets over top.  Let cool 10 minutes before letting your guests dive in.  Easily separates with two forks.  

Roasted Chicken and Noodles

Use left over roasted chicken for this flavorful soup.
 In a large stockpot, place remainder of roasted chicken and bones, in water to cover.  Heat and simmer 30 to 45 minutes.  Discard bones and skin and pick off meat and place in bowl.  Set aside.  Strain liquid and add chicken broth to make 6 cups.  
1 cup celery sliced
1 cup carrots sliced
1 cup onion chopped
1 garlic clove-halved
2 tblsp olive oil
1/2 tea oregano
1/4 tea rosemary
1/4 tea thyme
1/4 tea poultry seasoning or sage
2 cup diced potatoes
1/2 tea garlic salt
1/2 tea salt
1/4 tea red pepper
1 cup canned milk
1 tblsp cornstarch
Wide egg noodles, about 2 cups uncooked
2 cups roasted chicken pieces
In large soup pot, saute vegetables in olive oil until tender crisp.  Add seasonings and add broth.  Add potatoes and simmer until tender, about 20 minutes.  Stir in noodles, simmer 10 minutes. Stir in chicken pieces.   Stir in milk combined with cornstarch.  Heat through but do not boil.  Enough soup for 8 servings.  
Variations:  Add 1 cup frozen peas as last ingredient.  Grated zest of lemon and grated ginger root to hot soup.

Men's Favorite Apple Pie

This is a different apple pie from a cookbook Mom gave me.
Timnath Columbine Club Cookbook, written in 1948.  Mom belonged to the club.
Timnath, Colorado is where I graduated from High School in 1955.  Dad jokingly said "if you go over the rail road tracks and blinkedyou missed Timnath!"
Line your pie plate with any good pie dough
Slice enough apples for the pie.  
Mix 1 cup sugar with 2 tblsp flour
Dash of cinnamon
Mix the apple slices into the dry mixture.  
Place in prepared crust
Spread 1 cup thick sour cream mixed with 3 tblsp sugar over top.
Bake slowly until apples are soft.  
Very good creamy type pie. 

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