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Pioneer Potluck: About Mother's Day and My Mother in years long ago

Posted: May 14, 2013 - 1:20pm  |  Updated: May 15, 2013 - 8:50am

1940s to 1955, Northern Colorado

 

Mom cooked on an old black cooking stove in the corner of the kitchen which had been converted from a porch. The usual morning ritual of starting a fire in the stove was Dad poking a small amount of paper down deep inside the belly of the stove, hoping there would be a few small red coals left to catch the paper on fire or lighting a kitchen match and tossing it onto the paper. Then he dumped a few corncobs inside so they would ignite. The next step was to place a few pieces of coal on top of that. (They bought the coal from Tolliver and Kenny Hardware in Fort Collins. That store carried EVERYTHING including bottled pop — of which we were the recipient from Mr. Tolliver. My favorite was Orange Crush!)

Our water was pumped from a cistern by a red handled hand pump located to the right of the stove, next to the sink, into a coffee pot. Dad would dump some coffee “grounds” into the pot (Dad made coffee that made a spoon stand up in the cup!) He would wait for it to boil. Then he would set the pot off to the side of the stove, pour a half a cup of cold water on top of the boiling coffee, and wait a few minutes for the “grinds” to settle. He would pour himself and maybe a neighbor and Mom a cup of coffee. It always smelled so good but tasted so awful when I was little! Now 70 “some” years later I cannot drink enough of it!

By the time the old stove was hot and the coffee done, Mom already had a batch of biscuits mixed and cut out ready for the oven and she had bacon or ham frying on the stove. The smells coming from the kitchen were so great lying in bed! Us little kids, at the last possible minute would pop out of the warm bed onto the cold floor, run for the cook stove to keep warm. We always dressed in front of the cook stove. I thought that’s where everyone dressed!

Water was poured into the reservoir located in the stove so it could be heated. Mom always had a dishpan of water on the stove, so when she was finished with the meals she could do the dishes. A pan of hot water for rinsing the dishes sat “idling” next to it. She was so very particular about doing the dishes. Each one was scrubbed and washed with the dishrag, cups and glasses first, the plates in the forks and knives and spoons next and always the cooking pots last! They were put into the rinse water and fished out with a huge meat fork because the water was so hot. We dried them with Mom’s feed sack towels that she and Grandma had so carefully embroidered. Why my goodness you never wanted to be caught doing dishes without embroidery on the dish towels!

Mom usually planned her day by putting a roast or a chicken in the oven for supper and baking her fine cakes for dessert while the stove was still hot. On Sunday she fried the best chicken in the whole world on that old stove. It was fried with bacon grease, butter and lard. Boiled potatoes, smashed with cream and butter in them. The milk gravy was made from the fried chicken drippings, with flour stirred in, then milk and cream stirred until thick, then she added salt and pepper. Now that was good eating!

Her baked cookies, pies and cakes in that old oven were always baked to perfection. When they remodeled the house she got new kitchen and a brand-new electric stove. She would stand in front of the stove, admiring it, then come up with some wonderful meals and delicious desserts.

Breakfast was usually bacon or ham, fried potatoes, fried eggs with “frizzled lace” around the outside because mom cooked them in hot bacon grease. (The bacon and any other kind of grease was never thrown out — it was kept in a coffee can for future use.) When she made biscuits for breakfast she made milk gravy to go on top of the biscuit. My Uncle Guy was in heaven with Mom’s biscuits and gravy! Or homemade bread toast slathered with real butter we had made and that wonderful peach jam or all the good jellies she took so much time to make in the fall.

My Mom is the reason I have been interested in cooking and writing cookbooks all of these years. I thank her and always think of her when I make banana bread with her recipe or make cookies and hope she is not scolding from Above, for baking a cake from “the box.” I seldom make pies but when I do I “cheat” and unroll a pie crust from the store! Then with rhubarb season coming up – I will make rhubarb custard pie – rhubarb coffee cakes, just like Mom did and her Mother did – only at times they had fresh cherries, that they pitted and made into pies. Again I cheat and open a can! Our life in the kitchen is so much simpler these days!

I hope every Mom had a wonderful Mother’s Day! I sure did!

RHUBARB CUSTARD PIE

I always bake this at Thanksgiving and Christmas, in place of my Grandma’s cherry pie. It is the first pie I baked when I came to Alaska in 1967 and the first pie I bake each spring time after the rhubarb pokes up through the soil.

Beat together:

2 eggs

2 tblsp milk

3 tblsp flour

1 cup sugar

Dash of salt

1 teas vanilla

1 teas cinnamon

Pour this mixture over 3 to 4 cups of fresh or frozen* rhubarb, placed in an unbaked pie shell.

Mix and sprinkle on top:

¼ cup brown sugar

¼ cup butter

½ cup flour

¼ teas nutmeg

Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes and at 350 degrees for 30 more minutes.

*Thaw frozen rhubarb in a colander but do not press or squeeze out the rest of the juice.

MOM’S BANANA BREAD

Everyone has a banana bread recipe. This is my Mom’s.

She made tons of it, so have I for my family and friends.

Serve hot with real butter, or toasted for breakfast.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Oil and flour a loaf pan, or use two smaller loaf pans

In a mixer bowl, mash

3 large ripe bananas-about 1 cup

3/4 cup sugar

A pinch of salt

When the bananas and sugar are mixed well, add:

1 egg

1/4 cup soft butter

Mix on low.

Then add:

1 teaspoons soda dissolved in 1 tablespoon hot water.

Mix on low.

Add:

2 cups of flour

Mix until just evenly mixed and slightly lumpy. Pour into loaf pans and bake for 45 min. Be sure to check with a toothpick after 40 min. to see if it’s done. For the smaller pans it will take about 30 min. Turn out of the pan and cool on a rack

Additions and variations: These are my additions at times.

½ cup of crushed walnuts

½ cup Crasins

Or ½ cup chocolate chips

Frost with powdered sugar mixed with orange juice.

In place of butter-1 tblsp olive oil and 2 tblsp applesauce and 1 tblsp undiluted orange juice

In place of white sugar try brown sugar

RHUBARB BUTTERMILK COFFEE CAKE

I have made tons of this cake It comes up just in time to make some for the Memorial Day picnic. Make a double batch –this freezes well.

Oil 9 by 13 foil pan and preheat oven to 350 degrees

 

2 cups diced fresh rhubarb

¼ cup plus 2/3 sugar – divided

½ cup butter softened

2 eggs

1 ½ tsp vanilla

1 ½ cup flour

1 tsp baking power

½ tsp salt

1/8 tsp baking soda

¾ cup buttermilk

2 tblsp brown sugar

½ tsp cinnamon

Combine rhubarb and ½ cup sugar and set aside

In a large bowl cream butter and remaining sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs and beat well. Stir in vanilla. Combine flour, baking power, salt and baking soda: add to creamed mixture, alternately with buttermilk. Beat well after each addition. Fold in rhubarb. You can add chopped walnuts.

Combine brown sugar and cinnamon, sprinkle over batter. Bake 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes, test with toothpick in center to see if done. Serve warm. 9 servings.

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