Ecosystem, a system formed by the interaction of a community of organisms with their environment. There are many examples of ecosystems, a pond, a forest, an estuary, a grassland…my farm itchen.
Many individuals have impacted my cooking and my life, but those who encoutnered the hardships of the Great Depression have been the most influential. If you have been blessed with a depression era friend or family member you will understand why I do the things I do in my kitchen and in my home. If you weren’t so lucky I’m here to share what they passed on. I think we can all benefit from the lessons-the real life experiences these resilient Americans encountered as they struggled to survive, little food, cardboard soled shoes, no funds, dust bowls, diseased and dying food sources-their crops, cattle, pig, sheep, chicken-their herds and flocks.
The special individuals I grew up with (most all adults I knew) shared these encounters, some through stories others through actions. By osmosis I learned to make soup stock, a cake, ice cream, gravy, pudding- an endless list- out of things I had on hand. If it wasn’t in the frig, freezer, pantry or garden it wasn’t on the menu. They taught me that a recipe wasn’t always needed, that I didn’t need to run to the store each time I turned the oven on. They taught me that I could always satisfy my family, stretch my dollar and serve more nutritious meals (if you study history you'll notice there were no overweight individuals) by “using it up, wearing it out, making it do or doing without”.
However, my drive to save every morsel has made me the laughing stock for many,many years...”why would you can jelly when you can buy it?”, “don’t let mom see you throw that out” or “throw that out before mom sees it”. Whatever. I know now that it’s innate, my busy little neurotransmitters have a deep firm frugal path paved. And I have no desire to seek help.
So when I came across an article from a women's magazine, the author referring to her kitchen as an ecosystem admitting to never throwing out a morsel, you can imagine my satisfaction. I stroked the page...an overwhelming immediate bond formed. I had found someone who shared my disorder-my uncontrollable inability to throw food away. And there was a term for it...in black and white..."Ecosystem".
Today I feel comfortable talking about my disorder. I don't hide the fact that I love to see how far I can stretch a dollar, loaf of bread, turkey carcass, ham bone. I answer to Freezer Queen, because what's not eaten is delegated to the freezer in dated and identified Ziploc bags, glass jars (I don't throw these away either) or cottage cheese or cool whip containers.
Raising 4 kids (at one point they were all teenagers at the same time) on this shoestring food budget was a fun challenge. Today these poor kids that had to live on leftovers turned gourmet "something" are strapping, beautiful healthy adults.
My priority during those teenage years was to make sure my pantry was full. Todaay, 10 grand kids later, same mission. I stock it to the brim with unsweetened (mostly… except when grandkids arrive) generic cereals, lots of basics: flour, honey, sugars- brown, white and powdered, yeast, oil, powdered milk, cocoa powder, onions-dried and fresh, potatoes, canned vegetables, popcorn, grains,tons of spices, very few sodas and lots of pure juice-mainly apple. Our closest Wal Mart, an hour’s drive; our closest local grocery store 10 miles either way. Keeping stocked up is a high priority.
One very special depression era cook I spent many, many hours with was my Grandad Lenard who at the age of 82 was whipping up crock pots full of soup with nothing more than a wiener, onion and a potato. I confess as a young adult I did pass on those days when offered a bowl, however, today I could see myself making the same thing…I recently found a recipe entitled Weiner Soup in an Amish cookbook. Not Amish, but Grandad nailed it.
Besides hanging with Grandad Lenard I spent many hours in the kitchen with my Grandma Grace and my mom, both wonderful cooks. My Grandma Grace, a "from scratch" cook and my mom, a recipe follower. I also spent many hours with my Aunt Mo, my dad’s sister a great entertainer whose life was cut short when I was 9. I remember her finesse and elegant flair when serving her guests; and my Grandma Hazel who had during my childhood retired her great cooking skills for the most part because she owned and operated our local grocery store...all but her grand potato salad and fried chicken recipes. These people crafted my love of creative "ecosystem" cooking, and
I'm not bragging but today I've gotten pretty good at turning morsels into banquets, tidbits into hearty meals and crumbs into lush desserts.
Osmosis, imprinting, innate? All of the above, I suppose. Growing up with those who experienced the excitement of the Roaring Twenty’s, the Great Depression when survival depended on your level of frugality, the 1940 hardships of war, transcending into the decades of 50s, 60's, 70's which I grew up in, all define me and my method of cookery. My Farm Kitchen is a space for sharing these recipes and memories from a different time and place.
My sister-in-law Dianna makes this wonderful easy bread. She too grew up in a kitchen great cooks...German cooks! She makes wonderful Krautbrachs, Kuchen, Boudaglaise...recipes to share later.
3 cups warm water-not hot- it will kill the yeast
3 TBSP yeast
1/2 cup butter or oil
1/2-1 Tsp salt
1/2 cup sugar (for cinnamon rolls add more; less for bread)
Mix water, yeast and a little of the sugar Let stand til the mixture bubbles (yeast is working)
Add remaining ingredients and enough flour to make the dough easy to work with. For a hearty loaf add ingredients of your choice while consistency is still batter-like (nuts, oats, bran, whole wheat flour, wheat germ, seeds,I've even used millet and sesame seed)
(best to use white flour)
Roll out dough 1/4 inch thick. Sprinkle with 1- 1 1/2 cup sugar, 1/4 cup cinnamon, drizzle with 1 stick melted, slightly cooled butter. Roll jelly-roll style and cut in 1/2 inch rounds. Let rise. Bake 350 degrees until done in the center 15-20 minutes. Top immediately with glaze: 1-1 1/2 cup powdered sugar, 1/8 tsp salt, 1 TBSP cream or milk, vanilla.
I found this recipe in an old 70's cookbook. It seems like these old recipes called for way too much oil and sugar. I experiment with these recipes and usually try to cut the sugars down and replace with applesauce or other ingredients. I had a can of pumpkin opened from the night before (Pumpkin Soup) so decided to use it and also some of my homemade apple butter. I doubled this recipe as I was feeding a large crowd. The only problem...I had leftover batter, but just baked the extra in a small cake pan. I frosted the cake in thirds...no frosting...frosting with nuts...frosting without nuts.
3 cups water
2 cups oatmeal
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
¾ cup oil
3 eggs beaten
2 ¼ - 2 ½ cup flour
2 tsp soda
2 tsp cinnamon
1 ½ tsp salt
¼ cup apple butter
|Second time I made the recipe I used my homegrown pumpkin puree from my freezer and crockpot apple butter to replace much of the sugar|
During the fall I remember my mom baking these cookies. I absolutely love them. The recipe came from the Dewey County News Cookbook and were submitted by Mrs.Louis Dvorak.