This section of my blog is dedicated to one of my husband’s relatives- Aunt Lou. It is a way for us to share with you family recipes that were until recently hidden in the cobwebs (okay, a Ziploc bag in the pantry) of time. You will find the ingredients are simple, and the recipes unpretentious and genuine. Although most of them are not considered ethnic per se, they do share a common thread with ethnic recipes: the simplicity of ingredients.
Aunt Lou was born in 1876 and died in 1963. She lived in North East, PA (a small town in northwestern Pennsylvania) all of her life.
Recently we were introduced to her collection of recipes, a simple steno-sized collection of pages held together at the top by two binder rings. We handled the paper with utmost care for fear of having it turn to dust before our very eyes; it’s that fragile! The paper stained by the patina of time, is a glimpse into another time, a simpler time when ingredients were wholesome and people actually knew what to do with them. This last point is driven home when one takes a look at the recipes only to discover that all you see is a list of ingredients, yes, that’s it! It also became apparent that Aunt Lou was right handed since most pages were more stained on the bottom right corner.
Browsing through this piece of family history, it soon becomes apparent that Aunt Lou was a frugal woman. Every square inch of the page is used. Small spaces are filled with newspaper recipe cutouts carefully glued in place. Many times we find two recipes in one page. Nothing was wasted.
Ruminating through the “book” we could not help but be amused by the interesting and mundane names of some recipes-hermit cookies? hmm…, chocolate puffs and spice cookies just to name a few.
As we carefully read through recipe after recipe we sometimes had to stop to decipher the quantities or measurements required. One sticks in my mind. The recipe called for one BT sour cream. BT? We thought, pondered, and scratched our heads. What in the world is BT? A big tablespoon? Finally my mother in law stepped in to clear the mystery. BT referred to 1 bottle! Here’s the thing, you had to get the half pint bottle of cream from the milk man and add vinegar or a little lemon juice to it to make it sour. Now, that’s planning ahead, since it took approximately two days for the souring process to occur. Need candied lemon rinds? Well, you better get out the sugar and start peeling those lemons (if they are in season). Everything was homemade.
Aunt Lou canned everything. At a time when most produce was only readily available on a seasonal basis (we live in the frigid north) and canning allowed for the preservation of natural flavors to be enjoyed during the off season. In the same way she preserved her foods, my mother in law has preserved her handwritten recipes, and we in turn, through this blog, are preserving them in cyberspace. I wonder what she would have to say about this.
Old family recipes allow us to connect with our roots, with a by-gone way of life (I don’t know anyone making their own sour cream, do you?). They allow us to gain an appreciation for how much we have at our disposal today. It is our hope that you will find these recipes (we are including instructions) as interesting as we do, and perhaps try one or two.