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Food columnist recalls some of her mother’s top treats
Every year I think of my mother on her birthday in August, even though she has been gone for nearly 30 years.
As time passes, I realize that she had a big influence on me – and not just in appearance.
One of the ways she influenced me was with her cooking. She expressed her love by cooking and baking, but she also did it because it was expected of her.
She was an old school cook, serving meat and potato dinners, always at the same time, noon when everyone was home and 5 p.m. when the rest of us were out during the day. There were garden vegetables on the table, fresh in summer and frozen from the summer bounty for the rest of the year. A casual visitor who happened along at mealtime would be invited to sit in with the family; there was enough.
Mom baked on Saturdays, kept a sort of ugly rounded yellow cookie jar filled –usually with chocolate chip cookies – and frequently had pie in the house. Butter tarts appeared on special occasions and sometimes on everyday ones, and there were pineapple tarts topped with real whipped cream when it was her turn to host the community club ladies. Pastry was made with lard, using the recipe on the package, and her bottom crusts were never soggy. I wish I could say the same of mine.
The cookbooks she used, one from the Robin Hood flour company and many from community and church groups, were bookmarked with grease stains on the pages she visited most often.
My sister and I both have some of her well-used recipe cards, and I recently acquired a scan of her recipe for Thimble Cookies.
Preserving was part of the annual regime, beginning with strawberry jam. In my earlier days, she canned peaches (by the bushel), raspberries, tomatoes (also by the bushel), tomato juice and plums using a boiling water canner. After the arrival of the deep freeze, fruit went into the freezer, though she continued to can tomatoes.
Her pickles and jams were prize-winners at local fairs, and we took it for granted there’d be enough to last the year. Along with strawberry jam, there was raspberry jam, blueberry jam, and black currant jelly. We had pickled beets and beet relish made with sharp homegrown horseradish, as well as nine-day pickles, dills, mustard beans, hot dog relish and corn relish to enhance our meals year-round.
In fall and winter, she baked a sweet loaf with apples and nuts. It won’t be long until this year’s apples will be ready, and I’ll be using her recipe again. I use less sugar and salt and sometimes change the type of nuts or add chocolate chips, but l stick close to the original.
Mom’s Apple Bread
500 mL (2 cups) sugar
250 mL (1 cup) oil
500 mL (2 cups) shredded apple
10 mL (2 tsp) vanilla
750 mL (3 cups) all purpose flour
5 mL (1 tsp) salt
5 mL (1 tsp) baking soda
2 mL (½ tsp) baking powder
5 mL (1 tsp) cinnamon
250 mL (1 cup) coarsely chopped walnuts
- Beat eggs, add sugar and beat until light and creamy. Add oil and beat 1 minute. Add apples and vanilla and beat in for 4 seconds. Stir in flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder and cinnamon. Beat until smooth. Stir in walnuts.
- Line 2 standard loaf pans with double wax paper and oil them. Turn in batter and smooth tops. Place loaf pans on a baking sheet and bake at 160 C (325 F) for 1 hour.
- Let rest on racks for 5 minutes, before turning out on to racks to cool.
Scotch Bars, a recipe my mother got from a local TV show, are quick and easy to make.
125 mL (½ cup) butter or margarine at room temperature
125 mL (½ cup) white sugar
125 mL (½ cup) brown sugar
2 mL (½ tsp) vanilla
125 mL (½ cup) all-purpose flour
125 mL (½ cup) rolled oats
- Beat ingredients to combine. Spread batter in a greased 28 x 17 cm (11 x 7 inch) pan. Bake at 190 C (375 F) for 20-25 minutes. Allow to cool for 10 minutes and spread with melted chocolate chips. Sprinkle with chopped nuts.
Margaret Prouse, a home economist, can be reached by writing her at RR#2, North Wiltshire, P.E.I., C0A 1Y0, or by email at email@example.com.