Enjoy last days of summer

As this is written, it is a beautiful summer morning. The fog is lifting and it is still cool even though it is to be in the high 80s today. Husband Norm has left for the office and the “sleep-over granddaughters” are not yet awake. The coffee is good and hot and the deck is a perfect place to relax and contemplate the state of the world in general and this hilltop in particular. Of course, all this will change within an hour and a normal day will begin. Nice while it lasts, though!

The tomatoes are finally beginning to ripen like they should, so we have been on a “tomato” diet for several days now. BLTs and BELTs (bacon, fried egg, lettuce and tomato) are a daily food item. Anytime someone wants to know how soon lunch or dinner is going to be ready when it hasn’t been started yet, the answer is the BLTs! Mom told me her mother taught her if the meal is running a little late, quickly set the table, then the fussy one will think the meal is almost ready (her dad was a very determined person who HAD to have his meals served at noon and five o’clock)! That trick does work, even if I don’t jump when asked about a meal time.

The blackberries are beginning to wind down. They are big and beautiful this year. There are several quarts in the freezer here on the hilltop for cobblers this winter. I considered making some wine with them, but haven’t yet. They are waiting in the freezer if I decide to do that.

I made beautiful and extremely tasty Blackberry Wine one year and doubt if I could do as well again. Of course, it wasn’t a perfect project – some stayed on the wall of the hallway where the canned food was stored.

We were living in an old plantation house on acreage the military had leased from Duke Power, below what is now Lake Norman, north of Charlotte, N.C.

There were 500 acres, surrounded on three sides by the Catawba River and Mountain Lake. The house had been used as a lumber camp and no one wanted to live out there as it was very isolated. So, guess who was volunteered to live in the house and watch over all the big equipment the military had stored on the area for training reserves? The other wives thought I was crazy to agree to live there. It was a beautiful setting, though, and even had a nice fig tree by the back door. I had over an acre in my main garden, plus the squash patch and the corn patch. Everyone at the Reserve Center came out to get fresh produce since the garden produced enough to feed the county.

Also, on the acreage were three kinds of small, wild plums and the biggest, sweetest blackberries I have ever seen. I froze berries, made jam and jelly, made pies and cobblers – anything I could think of. Still there were tons of berries, so I got out the old wine recipe I had gotten from an old bar owner in Beverly and tried to reduce it for family use – the original made a 55 gallon barrel. It turned out fantastic – a clear deep amethyst color and extremely potent. When the wine set, the corks were set on loosely, as per instructions, but I guess some of them slipped down into bottle a little too much. I set them on shelves we had built in the former front hall to store our canned bounty from the garden. For a little over a week, we were afraid to enter that hall as there were random explosions. About half of my work ended all over the wall – a nice purple mural.

We tried to buy the property from Duke Power, but they would not sell it so they had no liability for damage as they raised and lowered the water level around the area.

Years later, the Mecklenburg County Parks and Recreation Department finally did get the land for a county park. One time, I was visited there to show my older granddaughters where I used to live and was given a tour of the home. They have done a great job of returning it to close the original way it was when built in the late 1700s.

The docents said they had not been able to find out what had been done in colonial times to cause that purple stain – a bloody fight, maybe? It blew their bubble when I told them I had made that stain and how I was able to tell them the location of certain other parts around the house and yard they had been unable to learn.

The house was built by James Latta, a businessman who took wagons to the ports on the coast to get merchandise from Europe to sell in the area. The woodwork was hand carved by a Hessian soldier who had come over to fight in the Revolutionary War and stayed in America. There is a sign on Interstate 77 north of Charlotte pointing to the Latta Plantation. It is really something now as a historical site and well used by the local people.

I still get homesick for it, St. Mark’s Church and the community of wonderful neighbors. There is always that one place in one’s lifetime that is extra special.

Are you getting your recipes together for the Cookbook contest? Try to make your recipes original. That way, no one else will submit the same one. Another secret is to plan your presentation of your dish if you are chosen for the final judging. Remember, everyone “eats with the eyes” before a dish is tasted. The presentation is judged separately, but is considered when there is a tie for the grand prize. There are so many great cooks in our area that it is really difficult to try to choose which recipe deserves the grand prize. Good luck to everyone who participates!

Hope you all, and your little ones, are ready for the school year to start. The time is here. It seems the list of needed supplies gets longer every year. Every kid has outgrown last year’s clothes, so getting new clothes is a necessary – one they like but parents could do without and not miss it.

Get ready for the Labor Day weekend and the end of summer. Grill ferociously these last few days, but take time for a few more iced teas under the shade tree. God Bless!



One-half peck pears (Sickle pears)

Three pounds sugar

One cup vinegar

Two tablespoons whole cloves with heads removed

Two 3-inch sticks cinnamon broken into pieces

One-half cup water

Pare the pears, leaving the stems on. Boil sugar, vinegar, water and spices together until syrup is clear. Add enough pears for one jar. Cook until the pears are clear, put into a hot, sterilized jar and seal.

I have made these by putting more pears into the syrup at a time and cooking them just until they start to get clear, putting them into jars, covering with the syrup, and processing them in boiling water bath for 20 minutes. They do take some time, but are definitely worth the effort. Most people put them in a pickle dish to serve, or along side of a platter of meat.

Peaches can be made the same way. Just make up the syrup, cold pack the peaches (small ones that can be put into the jar without cutting them do best), cover with the syrup and can in boiling water bath.

Both of these look nice around that Thanksgiving Turkey as it is brought to the table to be carved!



Three large onions

Five green tomatoes, stem end removed

Six green bell peppers

Two cups green beans, cut into one-half inch pieces

Two cups cauliflower, broken into small buds

Two cups fresh corn kernels

One-fourth cup pickling salt

Three cups sugar

Two cups vinegar

One tablespoon mustard seed

One-and-one-half teaspoons celery seed

Three-fourths teaspoon turmeric

Coarsely grind or chop in food processor the onions, tomatoes and green peppers. In a large bowl, combine ground vegetables, beans, cauliflower and corn. Sprinkle with pickling salt and let stand overnight. Rinse and drain. Combine sugar, vinegar, mustard seed, celery seed, turmeric and one-cup water. Pour over vegetables. Bring to boiling and boil gently for five minutes. Pour into hot pint jars, leaving one-half inch headspace. Seal and process in boiling water bath 15 minutes.



Three quarts chopped green tomatoes

One quart chopped onions

One quart chopped bell peppers – red and green mixed

One tablespoon celery seed

Three tablespoons mustard seed

One-half cup pickling salt

Three pounds sugar

One quart vinegar

Combine all ingredients and boil 15 minutes. Be careful not to cook too long. Start timing from the minute the mixture starts to boil up in the center. Stir fairly often. Pour in hot, sterilized jars and seal.



Cut peppers in strips, or in half (for sandwiches). Parboil in salted water for two to three minutes, then drain. Pack into clean jars, cover with syrup, and seal. Process in hot water bath for 20 minutes after the water comes to a boil.

Syrup: One cup vinegar

Two cups sugar

Two cups water

Cook until of light syrup consistency.

For spicy peppers, add two to four tablespoons pickling spice to syrup, and a garlic clove to each jar. To add heat to the peppers, add one or two jalapenos to each jar of mild peppers. For pepper sandwiches, use green, red, and yellow bell peppers, mixed with colorful Hungarians or similar peppers. If you happen to add too much heat to the peppers, use extra butter on the bread when you make the pepper sandwiches. If you haven’t tried pepper sandwiches, you have missed out on one of the great things in life!



Eight pounds green tomatoes

Six lemons, sliced thin, keeping all juice

Six pounds sugar

One tablespoon preserved ginger

Wash tomatoes, remove spots or discolorations and weigh. Cover with boiling water and let stand for a few minutes. Drain and slice into a preserving kettle, placing a layer of tomatoes, then a layer of lemon slices, then sugar, sprinkled with ginger. Let mixture stand overnight. Drain and boil the syrup for 10 minutes. Skim, add tomatoes and cook rapidly until clear. Pour into hot sterilized jars and seal.

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