Look forward to gardening, planting

Wow! March already! I hate to see it come so fast, but the good thing is that spring is almost here. I hate this “mud season,” but there isn’t anything I can do about it, so it is just grin and bear it. When the grass starts getting green again and the flowers start popping up, I won’t mind the rain. Something in the crockpot or baking in the oven will make the house all warm and cozy, plus send out great aromas, so the rain can’t get me down. Anyway, we do have to have rain – parts of the country are begging for it so the crops will be better. Our valley has been pretty lucky, weather wise, this past year. Basketball is giving way to softball at the schools. Granddaughter Baylee says she is playing softball, then volleyball, then basketball will be back. Full year of playing ball. Of course, she wants to go on some vacations, too! I really don’t think she is planning enough time for all of that. School sports are really good for students, and it is too bad some districts are making it hard for the students to take part in them. Granddaughter Cassidy is still into wrestling, but that is pretty much over for the year now. I can’t seem to get them interested in things like cooking and cleaning the house. It just isn’t as interesting as sports. Now, maybe if I imported some neat guys to hang around here …

A friend brought us some fresh liver when they butchered recently. We were tickled to death. The grandkids turned up their noses and gave that teenage sneer about eating something as gross as that. I used to look forward to butchering time to get the foods that we didn’t can, like liver.

My family (German) used every bit of an animal that was edible and made sausages out of the rest. With the fresh liver we always had “lights” – the lung. It was even better than the liver. The beef’s tail was made into Ox Tail Soup and the pigs’ feet were made into pickled pigs feet. We also had pickled tongue, stuffed heart from beef and “wild turkey” from pigs. One year, Mom made really delicious tripe from a beef’s stomach, but it was so much work she said, “Never again!”

Butchering day was an occasion for extended family and neighbors to gather to help with the work. The outdoor fires were started early and the giant iron kettles filled with the water for scalding the animal if it wasn’t skinned. The hair was scraped off, then the internal organs removed and liver, heart, kidneys, etc. sent to the kitchen for the women to start working on them. With pigs, the intestines were cleaned for casing for the sausages. (And cleaned over and over and over until they were white as snow. The old men usually did this as they sat around the furnace and told stories as they worked. It was an all day job. The meat was cut up and canned, the fat rendered for lard, and sausage made and stuffed. The hams and side meat (bacon) were seasoned and sent to the smokehouse along with the sausages. Babysitting the smokehouse was my job from a fairly early age. I was always told it was death to anyone who let the meat fall into the smoking wood and ruin. I believed them and never let anything fall. Of course, I smelled like smoke even after scrubbing in the bathtub. (In very early years, that was the wash tub behind the kitchen stove. It was wonderful when electricity came past the house and we had a bathroom with a real bathtub and a flush toilet!) When a beef was butchered, it wasn’t as much work, except since it was a bigger animal, there was more meat to be canned – but no sausage, lard or smoking.

When Dad’s cousin, John Semon, built a frozen food locker on the hill in Marietta, we thought we had died and gone to heaven. Most all that canning of meat went into freezing of meat. We got a locker as soon as it was available. John was a good guy. When any of us kids needed a job, he always found something for us to do and paid us good wages for then – 50 cents an hour. That was where I learned to cut up a chicken and the beef and pork cuts and how to wrap them for freezing. Our family even raised meat rabbits that were sold there. Good old days!

I am thankful that I have those memories, but very glad I don’t have that amount of work to do today. Our grocery store has very good pork and beef and we don’t have to do the work to raise the animals or go out in the snow and cold to care for them. Even though a farm kid knows never to name an animal destined for the dinner table, it is easier to cook when you don’t have to think about their big brown eyes.

After we moved to Waterford, Dad used to buy a cow at the local stock sale each year to butcher, but he didn’t always pick a good one. One year, he bought one that even the hamburger was tough. We never let him forget that one!

Even with spring on the way, we can still expect some cold and chilly weather and it isn’t time to get out the shorts or bathing suits, so keep warm and don’t pack away the soup pot. Think garden and plan what to plant. If you have room, and the desire to do so, go to the local farm store and get some chicks to give you fresh farm eggs by late summer. I miss my Chicken Ladies.

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Four slices think bacon or salt pork

Six cups diced potatoes

One large bunch green onions, chopped

Four cans (6.5-oz.) minced clams

Six cups milk

Four tablespoons butter

One teaspoon salt

One-half teaspoon garlic powder

Dash pepper

Dash onion salt

Six tablespoons flour

One-and-one-half cups milk

Fry bacon until crisp in heavy Dutch oven. Remove bacon from Dutch oven and add potatoes and onions to fat. Add juice from clams to potato mixture. Add one-half cup water or just enough to almost cover potatoes. Cover and simmer 20 to 30 minutes or until potatoes are cooked. Add clams, six cups milk, butter, salt, garlic, pepper and onion salt. Mix thoroughly. Add bacon, crumbled. In a small bowl, mix six tablespoons flour and one-and-one-half cups milk and whisk until smooth. Blend into chowder and bring to a light boil to thicken and cook flour.

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One package (10-oz.) frozen cauliflower

One package (10-oz.) frozen chopped broccoli

One can (10 3/4-oz.) cream of asparagus soup

One can (10 3/4-oz.) cream of celery soup

One (8-oz.) carton sour cream

Shredded or grated sharp cheese

Cook broccoli and cauliflower by package directions. Drain. Mix all ingredients except cheese and put into a greased 1 1/2 quart casserole dish. Sprinkle cheese on top. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes in preheated 350-degree oven.

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One cup sugar, divided

Two teaspoons fresh lemon juice

One-fourth teaspoon lemon zest

One-half teaspoon cinnamon

One-fourth cup water

Six good sized tart apples, peeled and sliced

Three-fourths cup flour

Six tablespoons butter or margarine, softened

One-fourth teaspoon salt

Combine one-half cup sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest, cinnamon and water in bottom of a greased two-quart baking pan. Mix with apples. Blend remaining sugar, salt, flour and butter. Sprinkle on top. Bake in preheated 375-degree oven about 40 to 45 minutes. If it doesn’t brown well, turn on broiler for a few minutes at the end of baking period.

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One pint oysters

One to two cups all-purpose flour

One egg

One-half cup milk

Three to four cups cracker meal (crumbs)

Oil for deep frying

Drain oysters. Beat egg and mix with milk. Place each oyster in the flour, then in the egg-milk mixture, and then in the cracker meal. Place oysters on a cookie sheet in a single layer and refrigerate for one hour. Bring oil to frying temperature (about 350-degrees on a frying thermometer). Place oysters in a single layer in fryer basket. Cook for three or four minutes. Drain on paper towels and serve hot.

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Patty Christopher is a longtime columnist for The Parkersburg News & Sentinel. Contact her at jkoenitzer@aol.com