Recipes that are gifts

This is the week of the final judging of the cookbook contest. Finalists, do your best cooking and we will see who will come out on top for the grand prize. Everyone who is a finalist is a winner to begin with, and many, many other cooks who submitted recipes but didn’t make the top five in their categories have great recipes for dishes for you to try. This coming Wednesday is a special day on my calendar and I look forward to it all year. Good luck to all of you who are cooking!

There is no doubt we are in another season. The leaves are somewhat disappointing this year but still nice enough for us to take a drive in the country. We have lots of covered bridges to explore, and it is a joy to see how folks have welcomed the fall with decorations of mums, pumpkins, corn shocks and Halloween characters. Every season has its special theme for decorating and some folks are so talented in that field. Unfortunately, I do more thinking about what I would like to do than I actually do. So far, only the mums and some pansies occupy the front steps. The plants on the patio are still waiting for their winter home inside the house or greenhouse and wondering if I have forgotten them. Miss Rosemary and some oregano will get inside for certain, but it is a tossup if the others make it. My lazy streak is showing. I have more ideas than I do energy. Lots of neat things just stay inside my head where only I can enjoy them.

Have you ladies tried to find a dressy dress lately in this area? It seems impossible. Only the bridal shops carry them, and they are not overloaded with any, either. I guess few women wear dresses anymore, so the stores don’t make enough money on them to have any in stock. One lady told me the only ones she could find were black and not suitable for anything but a funeral. Husband Norm told me to get a new dress for Amanda’s wedding since it was special for me, so I went shopping. The only place I found one suitable was at Elizabeth Michaels in Parkersburg.

The folks there were very helpful and nice, and I actually enjoyed the experience. I would recommend that shop, both for the dresses they carry and the way they treat customers. Young girls don’t seem to have that trouble, but us older ones don’t look very good in homecoming-type dresses and gowns.

It was interesting to read about the three babies at The Wilds, near Cumberland. They are still open on the weekends through October, so that means we have just one more weekend to see the animals before they go into their “winter homes.” We are fortunate to have a safari area right here in our valley. Cheaper to drive to Cumberland than to fly to Africa to see the same thing. And they speak English here.

With all the fall festivals and craft shows in our area, how is it possible to catch even half of them? The Apple Butter Cooking is a special one to take the kids to see. I remember when that was the way our family made the apple butter for the winter. Now, with just the two of us, we could never handle an entire kettle (or the cooking of it.) at all. It was a multi-family project, and still a lot of work for everyone. Turning it into a social event for everyone was a way to enjoy the work. I admire the folks today who still make it the old-fashioned way to show the younger generations. The apple butter cooked outside just seems to taste better than when I make it in a crockpot or the oven, I think. Maybe the memories from the past have something to do with that. I like to go to Amish country just to remember how our family used to farm when I was small. So much the same. I remember my mother talking about how much the world had changed since she was young, and now I am doing the same thing. It always amazes me to see our old everyday items in the antique shops. Surely it wasn’t that long ago. (I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up …)

The project for this week is to clear out the clutter from a former computer room and turn it into a neat sewing room. The room is small, so it should not be a giant endeavor. Of course, where can the stuff from that room go except into another room and then that one will be cluttered? It is an endless effort and one in which I never seem to get the upper hand. I would like to redo the walls, if I can find them. They were wall-papered several years ago, and I wonder how they were ever cleared out enough to get to all four walls. Even the woodwork was repainted then, so what happened?. The problem is, the stuff is too good to throw out and not good enough to give away. This project is going to take some hard thinking and one that a person has to be in the right mood to do. Wish me luck.

When folks live in the country, one constant problem is other species like to try to move inside when the weather outside starts to get chilly. One would think with several cats around, the mice would find a friendlier place for the winter, but they must be dumb mice. The cousins of the first to find a way in are enjoying the nice, green rat poison pills I have set out for them. Every morning, I count the number of pills to see if they are still eating them, and every morning they have enjoyed some. When they finally have left the building, I have a “pantry project” to handle. Living in the country isn’t all enjoying the fresh air and looking at the clear sky.

It is time to make any fruitcakes you might want for Thanksgiving and Christmas. The longer they mellow, the better they are. Of course, the weekly rewrapping in brandy-soaked cloth couldn’t have any bearing on that. The recipe today is one a dear friend gave me years ago and one for which I have shared before but still get requests. It makes enough for you to give some as gifts as well as enjoying it at your holiday meals.

Enjoy the fall season, and get ready for the holiday season that will be here before we know it. Take care and God Bless.




Three-fourths pound butter

One pound dark brown sugar

One teaspoon baking soda

One-half cup hot coffee

Eight eggs

Three cups flour

One-half teaspoon cloves

One teaspoon nutmeg

One teaspoon cinnamon

One-half pound dates

One pound dark raisins

One pound golden raisins

One pound currants

One-and-one-half pounds red candied cherries

One pound candied pineapple

One pound pecans

One bottle (fifth) Apricot Brandy

Soak fruit (cut up) in two cups brandy overnight in an airtight container. Cream butter and sugar, then add eggs, one at a time. Stir in coffee. Combine dry ingredients and stir in. Add soaked fruit with juice and pecans, coarsely broken. Bake in six or seven small foil loaf pans (that have been lined with heavy paper and greased) in preheated 300-degree oven for approximately one hour. Cool, then remove from pans and remove paper. Wrap cakes in cheesecloth soaked with more brandy and store in airtight container. Each week, unwrap, soak the cloth with more brandy and rewrap. When ready to serve or give as gifts, these can be decorated with more candied fruit and pecan halves held on with some glaze (melted jelly is good or a syrup made with light corn syrup and just a little water). To give as gifts, place cakes back in foil pans and wrap with cellophane and add a bow and some holly or evergreen sprigs. Even folks who “don’t like fruitcake” love this flavorful cake.

Following are some other “gift idea” recipes. Make early.


Four cups sugar

Three cups water

One vanilla bean, split

Two ounce jar strong instant coffee

One cup boiling water

One fifth vodka

Boil three cups water and sugar together about five minutes. Stir to dissolve sugar. Add split vanilla bean. Cool. Mix the instant coffee and the one cup boiling water until coffee is dissolved. Cool. Combine the two cooled mixtures and add the vodka. Put into a gallon container and let stand for at least two weeks. This isn’t as thick as the commercial Kahlua, but it isn’t as expensive, either. It still goes great over a scope of ice cream or in a cup of coffee or in a pretty crystal glass.


Three cups sugar

Two-and- one-fourth cups water

Grated rind of three lemons

One quart vodka

Three tablespoons almond extract

Two tablespoons vanilla extract

Combine first three ingredients in a heavy saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer five minutes, stirring occasionally. Cool completely. Stir in remaining ingredients and store in airtight containers.


Four medium oranges


Two cups sugar

Two cups vodka or rum

Squeeze juice from oranges. Reserve the peel from one orange. With a sharp knife, scrape the white membrane from the reserved peel and cut the peel into very thin strips. Add enough water to orange juice to make two cups. In a saucepan, combine orange juice mixture, orange peel, and sugar. Bring to boiling, then reduce heat and simmer over low heat five minutes. Cool mixture and pour into a large jar. Stir in vodka or rum. Cover with the lid and let stand at room temperature for three to four weeks. Strain liqueur.


Three medium oranges

Three cups brandy

One cup honey

Peel oranges, leaving inner white skin on fruit. Cut rind into 2×1/4-inch strips. Reserve oranges for other uses. Combine brandy and rind in a jar and cover tightly. Let stand at room temperature for three weeks. Remove rind and stir in honey. Let stand three days. Strain off clear portion and store in airtight container. Reserve cloudy portion for use as a liquid or flavoring in other recipes.

  • ??

Contact Patty Christopher at