Pioneer Potluck: Sunday Dinner and Supper on the farm

Posted: Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Getting ready for the Sunday dinner after church actually started on Saturday.

The Saturday ritual began early in the morning. Sweep, vacuum, "tarnish" (polish) the furniture and "warsh" (wash) the windows with vinegar-water and crumbled up newspaper to dry them. Then fix Dad and the kids something to eat, usually a sandwich on this workday.

Later, I would go out to the chicken pen with Mom and her "chicken hook," a long piece of heavy wire with a hook on the end. She would select an old hen for her wonderful noodle soup, or a young fryer for the very delicious fried chicken.

She would walk through the chicken yard, carefully picking her steps, hook one of the unfortunate chickens on the legs with the hook, grab it around the body and wings, so as not to get flailed and flopped at while she placed the chicken's head on the chopping block. Mom would raise the old blunt axe and lop off the head in one quick blow, then let the chicken flop around like - well, like a chicken with his head cut off. Mom went and got another chicken and repeated the procedure.

Boiling water was ready in the pail. We dunked the headless chicken in to loosen the feathers, then plucked the feathers as fast as we could. Mom would crumple up a newspaper, light it with a kitchen match, spread the chicken wings out, hold its feet and turn and twirl the naked chicken to singe the fine downy feathers that we could not pluck off. The paper would burn up and fly off in the wind. She would spread another newspaper, aim her big butcher knife over the chicken, make a slit and take out the innards, carefully retrieving the gizzard, liver and heart. Wash the chicken in salt water, drain, cut up in pieces and put in the fridge to cool until time for Sunday dinner. Noodles in the winter and fried chicken in the summer.

Sunday morning everyone was shinny clean - starched dresses for little sister and me, white starched shirts for Dad and Johnny. Polished shoes on and out the door without Mom because: "I have to get dinner started."

Arriving home church, the smell as we opened the door to the kitchen was wonderful. But first we had to change our clothes, hang them up, put our Sunday shoes away, "warsh" our hands. Then we sat down at the table in our usual places, surveyed the mashed potatoes, milk gravy, buttered corn, homemade bread, fresh churned butter and Mom's mouth-watering fried chicken. Dessert was her cherry or apple pie or chocolate cake with fudge frosting and "warsh' it down with big glasses of ice-cold milk, from Betsy our old milk cow.

Dad would tell us to "slick up" our plates and Mom admonished, "don't you leave anything on your plate. Do you know there are starving children in China?" Dishes done, we would join our Dad and what ever company who'd showed up for Sunday Dinner, in the living room. It was a day of rest with Dad all sprawled out on the carpet, for a little snooze. After the snooze he would entertain with his many stories.

Company gone, Dad would say to Mom, around suppertime, "You set still Loretta. I will cook supper." He would get out the big black cast iron skillet, pour oil and a little bacon grease in the skillet, get it hot and pour in a cup of his homegrown popcorn, put the lid on and shake and shake until he could not hear any more kernels pop, then pour it into a big dish pan. He popped corn until the dish pan was full, put in real butter and a little bacon grease, and let it sizzle and sputter until melted and "just a touch burnt" which is how Dad liked his butter on popped corn. Our job was stir and stir, adding a sprinkle of salt. He would send one of us down in the cellar for apples. We each got our own bowl of popped corn, our own apple and a glass of ice-cold milk. That was Sunday supper. Oh, and the best of all, the stories Dad would tell us - time after time.

Chicken Noodle Soup

Simmer one whole chicken, in 10 cups of water or a combination of water and chicken broth, a carrot, 1 onion sliced and 1 stalk of celery, a shake of salt and a pinch of pepper. for 2 hours. Debone and skin. Cool and chill to skim off fat. This is my Mom's way of fixing soup for Sunday dinner. I have a different method in this modern day and age.

Simmer 3 breast and 4 thighs or drum sticks in 10 cups of water or a combination of broth and water. Add the vegetables, salt and pepper. I hate buying a whole chicken, and having to throw away about half the chicken after deboning and skinning.

While the chicken is simmering make the noodles:

Stir 2 eggs in a medium bowl with 1 teaspoon of water. Add 1 cup of flour and beat until smooth. Add enough flour to make soft dough it should not be sticky. Adding too much flour will make dough hard to roll out. Divide dough and roll out on a heavily floured board. Let dry for a few minutes and cut in two-inch strips, stack and cut into noodles. Toss noodles on the floured board to let dry until ready to use. This is Moms recipe, but I prefer to open a bag of GOOD wide egg noodles and be done with it. .

In the broth add the following

1 tsp minced garlic

1 large onion chopped

2 stalks of celery chopped

2 carrots chopped

2 potatoes, peeled and diced

1 tsp garlic salt - more or less

1 tsp poultry seasoning

1 to 2 Tbsp Fireweed Herb Garden Soup Mix (recipe follows.)

2 cups of dry wide egg noodles or better yet make you own.

Simmer vegetables and noodles until tender. Mix a small amount of water in with two tablespoons of flour. Slowly and gently stir into hot soup. Simmer until the broth is slightly thick. Fold in the deboned chicken.

Ladle into large soup bowls, sprinkle with black pepper and parsley. Serve with a big smile and you will receive one in return at the first bite. Pass the warm homemade bread, a big dill pickle and apple pie for dessert.

Mom stretched noodle soup longer than anyone I knew! If we had company, she would add more water to the simmering pot, more salt, two or three more diced potatoes and another carrot. Then she would dole out each bowl with a scoop of noodles and vegetable and two scoops of broth. Then she would pass the bread and butter. We always knew not to ask for seconds when we had company. We could have a second helping of chocolate cake or apple pie though, if we had room in our tummies.

Fireweed Herb Garden Mix for Soup and Stews

This makes a pint of dry mix. I double this and give as presents at Christmas time.

I have had lots of people ask for this recipe so now you know all my secrets!

1 cup of dehydrated sweet onion

1 tsp Italian seasoning

1 tsp celery salt

1 tsp marjoram

1 tsp rosemary

2 tsp garlic salt

2 tsp basil leaf

2 tsp onion powder

2 bay leaves - crushed fine

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

1/2 tsp black pepper

2 tblsp dry parsley

2 tsp dehydrated garlic

1/2 cup of dehydrated vegetables

Transfer to jar and slowly turn to mix.

TO USE: One tablespoon of mix for 4 cups of liquid. Add more to your taste.

Be sure to turn the jar slowly before you open lid, to mix the smaller spices that fall to the bottom.

I use this not only in chicken soup and beef stew, but also in cream soups, potato and clam chowder.

I am never without a jar of FIREWEED HERB GARDEN MIX!

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