Are you ready for Halloween? The stores are really trying to get you to buy costumes and loads and loads of candy. Sometimes, I think this should be called "Dentists' Retirement Party." There was a notice in the paper that some dentists who really care about children are offering to buy the candy the kids collect at a dollar a pound. Now, an enterprising kid could really make some cash with that deal. Just make up a schedule of when the different towns are having Trick or Treat night and plan out a candy collection route. Get Mom in on the deal and have her take you around to as many as you can get to in the time frame of collection.
Halloween used to be a time of planned mischief for young people, guys especially, back in the "Stone Age." Kids, when your folks aren't around, have your grandparents, or better yet, your great-grandparents, tell stories of how Halloween used to be. Of course, with indoor bathrooms these days, the most interesting objects have disappeared from the Halloween scene. And corn shocks across the road might stop a horse and buggy, but they are too dangerous for car traffic. Enjoy the tamer celebrations of today's world and have a fun and safe Halloween. Have your parents check out your goody bags because there are some sick people out there that would like to hurt children. If there is a party you could go to, that is a safer way to get treats and have fun playing games that even your grandparents played, like bobbing for apples.
The fall colors in the valley are almost past their prime now. They are so pretty while they last and our valley is as pretty as any other place. We don't need to go to Vermont to see pretty leaves. This has been a bumper year for pumpkins, much to the enjoyment of the kids. Of course, they are good to use in cooking, too. Nothing beats Pumpkin Pie.
With the rather nice days we have had, the shutters are finally all painted and up on the house and with no more falling off ladders. They do look nice and match the roof. One remaining project to be finished is the post for the railing on the back steps. Then we can finish the fall cleanup with the flowerbeds and the garden and we can relax in front of the fireplace. Living in the country is nice, but it is always busy one never gets everything done on a timely basis.
With Thanksgiving a month away, it is time to make mincemeat if there is to be Mincemeat Pie for the big day. Not everyone likes the kind made with meat and that is probably because they never tasted good mincemeat. The kind with only fruit is good, too, so to each his own. I have several recipes for it and they are all somewhat different, so that just proves the point that you could add just about whatever you want if the seasonings are close. It is rather like making soup as long as you stick to a few guidelines, the finished product will be good. As any thrifty cook knows, one can make soup out of any fruit or vegetable.
The farmers around are busy getting the corn crop in. How different now than when I was a kid. In one day, the work of weeks is done. While the work is faster and easier, the old days of shucking corn did have the advantage of family members working together and making memories as the parents and children bonded. Few families have the same relationship that was common when families had to work together for the benefit of all.
The final judging for the cookbook is this week. If you are a finalist, don't forget. All the finalists are winners just to get this far and the recipes of all contestants will be in the cookbook the weekend before Thanksgiving. We really have some fantastic cooks in our valley. Good luck to all next Wednesday.
As the holidays get closer, think about what you might be able to do to make it better for someone. It is good to include your kids in the project. If you can help financially, great, but if you can't, there are other ways to make someone's life a little easier. When you are baking your holiday treats, make an extra one or two to share with someone a neighbor or friend or someone to which you want to say thank you mail person, nurse, policeman, etc. At Thanksgiving time, it is a nice gesture to write a note of thanks to someone who has helped you and for whom you are thankful. Email is common now and OK, but a hand-written note shows you really care.
Enjoy the colorful trees and nice fall days while they last and make plans for the coming hectic months. Be good to yourself.
MADELINE'S FRENCH CABBAGE SOUP
Three cups diced potatoes
One pound cooked ham, cubed
Three quarts water
Two pounds cabbage, chopped fine
Six sprigs parsley, or one teaspoon dry
One bay leaf
Two garlic cloves, crushed
Three-fourths teaspoon each of thyme and marjoram
Two large onions, diced
Four celery stalks, sliced
Five carrots, sliced
One can (15-oz.) red beans, drained
Salt to taste
Place first three ingredients in a deep soup pot and bring to a boil. Add all other ingredients except beans and salt. Simmer, covered, for two hours or until meat and veggies are tender. Skim excess fat off soup; add beans and season to taste with salt.
PORK LOIN ROAST WITH APPLE GLAZE
One pork loin roast
One tablespoon flour
One teaspoon dry mustard
One teaspoon salt
One-fourth teaspoon pepper
Two cups sweetened applesauce
One-fourth cup brown sugar
One-fourth teaspoon ground cinnamon
One-fourth teaspoon ground cloves
Rub roast with mixture of flour, mustard, salt and pepper. Roast 35-40 minutes per pound at 350 degrees. About an hour before roast is done, spread with apple glaze made by combining remaining ingredients. Return to oven until meat is done.
(She used canned and frozen fruits from her cellar, but store-bought ones can be substituted. Just adjust the seasonings.)
Six-and-one-fourth pounds ground beef (a lean roast, salted while cooking, then ground when cooled)
Fourteen pounds apples, ground
Three oranges, ground, rind and all
Three quarts wild plums, seeded (use syrup, too, if more liquid is needed)
Two quarts frozen cherries
Four pounds currants
Three pounds raisins
Two-and-one-half pounds crushed pineapple
One quart spiced peaches (reserve syrup)
Three-fourths to one-cup vinegar
One bottle red table wine
Ten cups brown sugar
One pint syrup from spiced peaches
Two tablespoons each of ground allspice, cloves, nutmeg
Three tablespoons ground cinnamon
One tablespoon ground ginger
One tablespoon salt
Mix all ingredients together well, and freeze in quart containers (amount needed for a pie). Brandy can be added, too.
NOTE: Rum, brandy and sherry are all used as flavorings for mincemeat. Candied citron (fruitcake mix) is another additive. Just keep mixing and adding until it tastes good to you.
Two pounds pork, cooked and minced
Six pounds apples, pared. Cored and finely chopped
Two pounds raisins
One teaspoon nutmeg
One tablespoon cloves
Two tablespoons cinnamon
One tablespoon allspice
Three pounds sugar, half brown and half white
Simmer all ingredients together for 90 minutes-to-two hours, stirring occasionally. Can, freeze, or store in refrigerator. Makes five pies.
Patty Christopher is a longtime food columnist for The Parkersburg News & Sentinel. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org