October gloom brings rainy day cooking
October's bright, blue sky has turned cloudy and gray, with cold, drizzly rain coming down all day. The landscape looks muted and dreary, with October's gold trying vainly to shine through the mist. It is a perfect day to stay inside and bake or conjure up a pot of hot vegetable soup.
My mind settled on apple pies, and as I assembled the ingredients I wondered how many housewives still make pies from scratch. (One of my long-ago neighbors asked me once what making something from scratch meant. He asked, "Does it mean you scratch while you make it?" He wasn't raised in the country.)
I hope that pie-making isn't one of the arts that get lost by the wayside in our fast, modern world. I was always under the impression that most every woman in my age group knew how to make pies. I was flabbergasted some time ago when we planned a party for our youth group, and decided to have each lady in the congregation make a fruit pie so we could serve pie and ice cream.
One of the older ladies (well, older than me, anyway) came up to me and confessed, "I've never made a pie in my life!" I might have expected that out of the younger wives, but this woman was a grandmother!
I was mulling over this as I went about making my pies, just as my mother taught me. I peeled and sliced the apples, added sugar, spices and tapioca, and let it set while I made the crusts. Mom used lard while I use Crisco, but I will have to admit that lard makes the best pie crust.
Out came the dough board and rolling pin, and then came the shaping and patting the crusts into the pie pans. The apple slices were dumped into the bottom crusts, pats of butter added, and the top crust put in place. Into the oven they went to bake. Then came the fun part -- cleaning up the mess. As I was washing the utensils and wiping flour off all the surfaces, it came to me that there must be an easier way.
The grocery stores stock frozen pie crusts, and a couple of cans of apple pie filling are all you need. Or, you can buy frozen pies that are ready to be popped in the oven. Simplest of all, go to the deli section and purchase a pie that is ready to cut and serve. While I was thinking along this line, the spicy, cinnamony fragrance of baking pies drifted past my nose.
As I took the beautifully browned, fragrant pies out of the oven, I realized that nothing can make a housewife feel more proud and fulfilled than baking a pie from scratch. Mom always said there was another chore that brought immense satisfaction on a cold, dreary day -- ironing a bushel of clothes. I'm afraid I'll never know about that -- I'm allergic to ironing.
This kind of fall weather calls out for a pot of brown beans simmering on the stove. Lawton Posey's wife Bridget sent her recipe for WV brown beans, in her own words.
Receipt For West Virginia Brown Beans
One pound of brown beans
One med/large onion
Bacos (You will need to buy two tea strainer balls unless you have them
Three chicken bouillon cubes (This is a low fat recipe)
SIFT them beans threw yur hand and look fur any small stones/rocks. If you find sum, throw em out. Now place beans in a pot big nuf to hold mor than eight cups tap water. Por eight cups uh water in the pot and bring to uh burl. Keep the lid on pot but not completely closed-a'jar.
When the burlin' begins, por two tablespoons of vinegar in them. (I have no idée what's that fur, but it's sumpin' Mommy did and she probly don't remember why ethur. Remove pot frum that thar hot burner and place lid on pot.
While them beans are a'steepin', remove skin frum the onion. Pack them tea strainer balls full of Bacos (tops and bottoms) and screw em back together. After 45 minuts, pour beans in a strainer and rinch reel good with cold water. Now, clean out that pot the beans wuz a'steepin' in. Put that onion in the bottom of the pot , por in them beans, and hang them tea balls on each side of the pot.
Fill that pot with six cups cold water, plop in three chicken bouillon cubes and bring the whole stuff to burl (remember to keep lid a'jar.) When burlin' begins, turn the nob to simmer and let beans cook for-oh, say-two, two and half, or three hours. Now this here step wuz tot to me by Suzi Jarrett -- she is a Boone County girl. Halfway thru the simmerin', pull out a cup of beans and mash them up real good and put em back in the pot. That's to hep you have a little thicker soup. (Sounds good to me!)
Mom always cooked our brown beans with a meat rind-pork, in fact. In the bygone days when folks butchered, they scraped the hog instead of skinning it. Mom rendered some of the skins, and saved some for a pot of beans. We relished the cooked skin after it was boiled good and tender.
When Mike was a little tot, he climbed up to Mom's table and announced, "I want some of that stuff that stretches!" Mom was dumbfounded and asked him again what he wanted. "Some of that stuff that stretches," he repeated loudly, pointing at the meat skin in the beans. He got it.
My sister Mary Ellen corrected me on the chinquapins -- she says they do look like a chestnut, but not a hazel nut. They have several little chinquapins inside the hull. Juanita Cooper of Point Pleasant writes that she'd never heard of chinquapins until a few weeks ago when someone gave her eight nuts and told her to put them in the refrigerator until they sprouted and then plant them. Also, Marilee Bibb told me that Blue Jay is in Raleigh County -- not Fayette.
We have received some more Salt Risin' Bread recipes, and also recipes for Whoopie pies and stuffed peppers. Hope to get to them next column. There's a frost and freeze warning for tonight, so it's good-bye summertime.
Lord, support us all the day long of this troublous life, until the shadows lengthen and the evening comes and the busy world is hushed and the fever of life is over and our work is done. Then, of Thy great mercy grant us a safe lodging, and holy rest, and peace at last, through Jesus Christ. Amen.
Contact Alyce Faye Bragg at email@example.com or write to 2556 Summers Fork Road, Ovapa, WV 25164.