Thursday, September 29, 2011

My German Heritage Recipes - Gross Mutter's Goulash

I didn't know I had it so good as when I was a small child and visited at Grandmother's house.  But now that she is long gone and I am grown up, I wish I knew then what I know now!  She was my father's mother, our "Gross Mutter".  We'd only visit her a couple times a year when I was a little boy; on her birthday and at Christmas. (I think my father felt that she nagged him too much!) She came from the "Old Country" (Austria, in this case).  She lived here in the U.S. about all of her adult years - which amounted to a long time, seeing that she died just after her 100th birthday!  But she never spoke good English - she spoke what you would call, "Broken English" (a mix of English and German).

As a youngster, I couldn't follow her speech too well. But one thing about that will always stick out in my mind - she would always greet you with a hug and kiss and say, "You're getting fat!"  In her mind (and only hers!) that was a compliment!  She equated gaining weight with prosperity.  Of course, most of the time nobody in the family had really gained any weight since our last visit.

The other thing about old Granny was that, (as I visited her when I was an adult) she would say, "Sit, I make for you something."  She didn't have much in her pantry, not being wealthy, but she wanted to share the little she had.

This is one recipe that she shared with me because, when I ate it at her table, I told her how much I liked it.  That really pleased her.  Now, every time I make it I think of her.  And usually, if nobody is looking, I lick the plate clean!  (Yes, I think it is that good!)

Farmer Boy Recipe - Poor Man's Goulash
  • 2 lbs. of hamburger meat (any ground beef)
  • 1 large onion (sliced)
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of a sweet Paprika (use it to taste - be careful, it can get hot in the cooking! Remember - you can always add more, but once it's in there, you can't take it back!)
  • 3/4 Cup of Ketchup
  • 2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 to 2 Tablespoons of Brown Sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon of dry mustard
  • 1 1/2 Cups of water
  • 2 Tablespoons of all-purpose flour
In a large saucepan, brown the ground beef with the onion.  Mix in the paprika, Worcestershire sauce, ketchup, brown sugar and mustard.  Stir and heat through.  Add the water and stir well. Cover and simmer for 2 to 2 1/2 hours.  Then stir in 1/4 cup of water mixed with the 2 Tablespoons of flour to thicken.
Serve this over homemade noodles or Spaetzle, or even elbow macaroni.

My mother never really had a great affection for her mother-in-law; she always called her a "German Hillbilly"!  But I never really considered that as a "put down", because my mother referred to herself as a "Chicago, Big City Hillbilly"!  Either way, to me, they were both someone to be remembered with love.

"Out in the meadow, I picked a wild sunflower, and, as I looked into its golden heart, such a wave of homesickness came over me that I almost wept...  Across the years, the old home and its love called to me, and memories of sweet words of counsel came flooding back."  Laura Ingalls Wilder

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Oktoberfest & my German Heritage

Oktoberfest is a traditional celebration which began in Germany.  The Crown Prince, Ludwig, married Princess Therese von Sazony-Hildburghausen (How'd you like to have to put that name on an American Express Card?!) on October 12, 1810.  The citizens of Munich were invited to attend the festivities held on the fields in front of the city gates to celebrate this happy, royal event.  The event lasted for the good part of a month.  Horse races marked the close of the event.  They decided to repeat the celebration with a feast and horse races the next year, and this gave rise to what they called, Oktoberfest.  They included an Agricultural Show, designed to boost the local agriculture.  The first few decades found the amusements to be sparse.  By 1818 they included a carousel and swings.  But when local enterprising breweries introduced the sale of local beers, the crowds came in droves!  Soon it became the most popular festival in all of Germany.  It has grown and is still very popular today.  It's influence and celebration moved outside of Germany with the immigration of German peoples to the United States.  Today the celebration begins the last part of September and is rivaled by a large Oktoberfest in Cinncinnati, Ohio.

At this point, I can trace my Germanic roots back to Ohio.  I'm still working on that project!  I now know that I had a grandfather who was a brewmeister!  To me, a Christian who doesn't drink beer, the beer is only secondary to the great course of meals associated with Oktoberfest or German cuisine in general.

At the time I was growing up, most of my family identified with our German heritage.  What I experienced as a child was, that Oktoberfest was likened to a precusor to the holiday seasons of Thanksgiving and Christmas.  With an upswing of cooking and baking, it reminds one of all those meals described in "Farmer Boy"!  It wasn't that my family was wealthy; because we weren't; but they never lacked for a good meal.  There were times when the only meal we had was a single slice of store-bought white bread, spread with ketchup.  This was a satisfying "Double Tover" sandwich. (I didn't know at the time that a "Double Tover" was named such because it was a slice of bread that was doubled over on itself, instead of using two slices of bread!) But those lean times always gave way to the seemingly "abundant" times!  I guess celebrating our version of Oktoberfest was just a good excuse for self-indulgence.   Of course it meant that money had to be saved and bartering had to take place in order to get all the ingredients necessary for the feast.  And, I guess, Oktoberfest and the subsequent holiday feasts actually led to those lean times!  But it was still a joyful family time around a dinner table.

This month, following that tradition of Oktoberfest, I'll be posting some of our family recipes associated with Oktoberfest.  These are recipes which were handed down for generations on all sides of the family.  I hope you'll try them out as well.  And you don't have to be of German lineage to enjoy them!  If you have never experienced German cuisine before, now is your chance!

Living alone and cooking for myself, I found it difficult to adapt these recipes to suit one person, since they are designed for more.  If I wanted to enjoy them I had to invite others over to my table to enjoy them with me; and that emulates the whole idea behind the tradition of Oktoberfest anyway!

Here is the first of these recipes:
Homemade Sauerkraut
As far as I know, my family has always made their own kraut.  I can remember the stories of how my Great Grandfather made some in a crock in the basement of the family house.  One time he forgot to leave the lid loose on the crock while it was fermenting.  One night there was a tremendous explosion in the basement that woke the whole family and the neighbors!  They guessed that it was Pa's home-brewed beer that had exploded.  When they went down to the basement they found kraut hanging from the rafters, walls and the floor!  And when it exploded it also took out a number of bottles of that home-brew as well, and all the shelves they were sitting on!  From that point on it became my Great Grandmother's job to make the kraut!

This is my modern-day version of homemade kraut.  You still want to make sure that it is kept away from things, just in case it decides to explode!

Sauerkraut is a very versatile side dish used in German meals, by itself or as part of other entrees.  Since it takes a while to ferment, it is the best recipe to begin with.  Of course, you could substitute store-bought kraut; but it's just not the same!

  • 1 head of cabbage (shredded)
  • As many quart canning jars as you wish to make - and for each jar - the following:
  • 1 heaping teaspoon full of salt (you can use pickling salt if you wish)
  • 1 teaspoon of sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of white vinegar
  • Boiling water
  Directions: Jam the raw cabbage into each jar. (Use the handle of a wooden spoon to be sure it is a tight fit.) Pour in the salt, sugar and vinegar.  Fill each jar with boiling water up to 1 inch from the top.  Place the ring and cap on immediately.  Turn the jar upside down and place it in a "safe", cool spot.  It will have to sit to ferment for about 3 weeks.  As it approaches the end of the 3 weeks, turn the jar over. (This will help release any extra gas from the jar and may prevent any surprise explosions!) (It's probably not as volatile as I make it sound; but better safe than sorry!)  It is ready to use.  If you want to seal the jar and store it, follow normal canning directions.
To use this homemade kraut as a side dish in a meal, I suggest this recipe, which is one of my generational recipes:
Farmer Boy Sauerkraut

  • 1 quart - homemade kraut (or you can use the store-bought variety)
  • 1 teaspoon - caraway seeds (These will cut the digestive gases down some!)
  • 1 small onion (sliced) ( I prefer a yellow onion for this myself)
  • 1/2 teaspoon - ground cumin
  • A pinch of sugar & ground black or white pepper

    Directions: Simply place all ingredients in a pan and heat over medium heat, stirring,  till heated all the way through. Delicious!!!

    If you make these recipes, please let us all know by leaving a comment here.  Thanks. The Old Man in the Bib Overalls     And remember to sign up as a follower of my blog site, so you don't miss anything!  And tell a friend too!

    Tuesday, September 20, 2011

    Looking back on Wilder Day, 2011

    We had cool temperatures and liquid sunshine on Wilder Day, 2011!  But most all that was planned came off.  We all had a good time as we remembered Laura!

    Here, at Laura's "Sweet Memories" the programs presented by Colleen Ferries, "All About Laura", were well received.  Two sizable crowds watched and participated in both sessions, as she demonstrated pioneer life through her "Hands-on" demos.  Everyone got a real "Kick" out of making butter from fresh cream.   And some made flour by grinding wheat in a coffee mill, just like the Ingalls family did!

    I had to mind the store and didn't get to see all the demonstrations, but I heard from those who participated, that it was a very inspirational and educational experience.  Pioneer life, as described by Laura in her books, actually "Came Alive" on my front porch!  In this modern age we often forget just how difficult everyday life was for our ancestors in America.  They forged a new nation for us to improve upon - some may say that we did too much improving!  Some believe that a simpler lifestyle today would be an improvement!  But anyone who was here on that Saturday went away feeling closer to Laura and the hardships faced by all American pioneers.  They will never again take it for granted when they go to the super market in a car and buy a loaf of bread or a pound of butter.  Nor will they think they have it quite so bad anymore!
    There are many lessons to be learned by reading Laura's books.  I'm glad I have her books available in my shop at a discount.  And I'm glad I can share Laura with all who come by my shop.  Many who came out to the presentations came in to see my shop and make some purchases.  Many who were here last year commented on how many new items they found in my shop this year.  I'm always trying to expand and improve on things; either new candies or new displays of old-timey things.  It was a year that drew many people, from near and far.   I've had people come in this year from: Japan, Switzerland, Canada, and over 2 dozen states in the U.S.A. - from coast to coast, north and south, and almost everywhere in between!

    I'm now in "Off Season", with tourist season ending and winter coming on; which, beginning in November, will find my shop closed all winter.  I'll be working on some new projects for opening in the spring.  But I won't stop posting blogs here!  There is always something new to write about from Laura's hometown!  So, be sure to check back often!

    I hope you'll take a minute and sign up as a follower of my blog, if you haven't already.  And, should you feel the urge, leave a nice comment also.  And don't forget to tell others about my blog, so they can join in on the fun as well!  Thanks. The Old Man in the Bib Overalls

    Sunday, September 11, 2011

    Never Forget 9/11!

    For all of us, who live in the United States, this date will always be remembered. But the concept of "Never Forget" is that we never forget: who died in the attack on that date, who were the heros, and lastly - who attacked.  If we are a Christian nation (a nation founded on the principles of the Holy Bible by people who believed in that faith - both Jews and Christians) then we should also remember that we are not to hold a grudge against our enemies, but rather to forgive. 

    Forgive - but not forget!

    Everyone, as we believe, is accountable for their offenses.  When we harbor unforgiveness in our heart, we only hurt ourselves.  But we must understand that we are not to embrace the offenders either.  We should not have anything to do with them.  We should shun them and point out the error of their ways.  The hope in that is that they would see the error of their ways and repent, and that others would observe, and not pick up their evil ways.

    I recently saw a program on TV about the new "One World Trade Center"; the building being constructed over the destroyed site in Manhatten.  The construction began in 2006.  When completed, it would be the largest structure in the United States.  They are making sure that it is built properly - strong and secure.  But what struck me about the design was that the different sides of the building would reflect the sun, and at the exact date and time commemorating the attack, a beam of light would shine onto the memorial below.

    When innocent lives are taken by an act of violence, it is up to those who remain unharmed to remember them.  It is my hope that we are doing that together, as one nation under God, on this date.  It is my hope that we are building a nation that is also, like the building, strong and secure.  And the only way to be strong and secure is to have strength and security through our faith, united in our beliefs against the enemies of God - proving who is the victor!

    Feel free to leave your comments and remembrances here.  The Old Man in the Bib Overalls

    Tuesday, September 6, 2011

    Farmer Boy Recipe - "When Legends Collide!"

    I have always been intrigued by legends.  By definition, a legend is a story coming down from the past; especially one popularly accepted as historical though not verifiable.  Most of the legends that I know of are so outrageous that it is understood that they could never have been true.  Some, houwever, have some basis of fact behind them.  I find it to be fun tracking down the origins of legends.

    When I was a child Disney had an animated short called, "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow".  This was based on the short story by Washington Irving, written in 1820.  He got his idea from an old German folktale, written by Karl Musaus.  In the Disney version of this tale, the setting was in Tarry Town, New York in 1790.  A schoolmaster, named Ichabod Crane, had romantic designs on a certain young lady.  He had a rival who kept him from accomplishing that romance.  And it seems that a ghost galloped throughout the roads on Halloween night.  It was the ghost of the "Headless Horseman", who had his head taken off with a cannon ball during a battle in the Revolutionary War.  Somehow Ichabod is out that night and is chased by the ghost.  At one point the ghost picks up a Jack-O-Lantern and hurls it at Ichabod.  It was a pretty frightening animated film for such a young, impressionable boy as I was, even though I knew it was just a silly story.

    This story, as legends go, has been told and retold for all these years since it was first written down.  There were a number of Hollywood films made after this legend as well.  The latest starred actor, Johnny Depp, as Ichabod.  Some have taken the legend seriously.  The real town of North Tarry Town, New York has even changed their name to capitalize on the story.  They are now known as, "Sleepy Hollow".  Their high school team is called, "The Horsemen".

    There are many legends out there and another one that I'm aware of has to do with food!  This one takes place in a fishing village on the east coast of the United States, around 1850.  There are many versions of this story as well.  I particularly like this version: It seems there was this Whaling Boat Captain, who was married to a gal who didn't appreciate his being gone on such long voyages.  Upon his return from one of his trips, he came home to find that his wife had gone off and left him alone.  She left him with only a few items in their pantry; flour, molasses, oats, and corn meal.  Being famished from the long voyage, he set out to make a meal from what he'd found available.  As he made a loaf of bread with these ingredients, he cursed at her absence, saying, "Anna, damn her!"  And so was born the "Anadama Bread".

    Other versions have the man coming home to the same meal prepared by his wife each time - a gruel made of cornmeal, oats and molasses.  And In some the man throws a sack of flour at his wife and as it hits her head it falls into the bowl of gruel and creates this recipe.  I even heard of one version that said it had originated on the west coast; where it was a gold miner, instead of a fisherman!

    Now, whether there is any truth to this or any other of these type of legends is not the point here.  The point is that this is a great recipe!  (And, as many versions of the legend, there are as many versions of this recipe!) This is my version of the recipe. Note: Before you begin to make this recipe, you'll have to decide if you are going to do it the old-fashioned way or use a bread machine. I like to do it the old-fashioned way, but the convenience of the bread machine doing all the kneading and timed rising is a great luxury we have these days!
    Anadama Bread  
    • 1/3 Cup - oatmeal (Old-fashioned Rolled Oats or Quick Oats)
    • 3 Tablespoons - coarse cornmeal
    • 1 1/2 Cups - boiling water
    • 3 Tablespoons - butter
    • 3 Tablespoons - black strap molasses
    • 2 teaspoons - salt
    • 1 1/4 Cup - whole wheat flour
    • 2 1/2 Cups - bread flour
    • 1/3 Cup - dry milk
    • 3 Tablespoons - gluten
    • 2 teaspoons - active dry yeast 
    Place the oatmeal and cornmeal in a heat-proof bowl & add the water.  Stir to prevent lumping.  Let this sit to cool for about 20 minutes.  Add the molasses and butter.  Mix in the dry ingredients. Knead till a ball of dough springs back when a thumb is pressed in the middle. (This could take about 15 minutes.)  Cover and let rise  (about 30 minutes). Punch it down and let it rise again (about an hour).  Repeat the rise again.  At this point - either form it into a log shape and place it on parchment paper-lined sheet pan to rise once more for about 20 minutes, or place it in a lightly greased loaf pan.  Bake for 30 to 40 minutes at 375 degrees F.  (If you chose to use a bread machine, you can skip all this rising and punching.  If you want to shape it or bake it in a pan in the oven, you can take it out of the machine after the rising.) Once it is baked you should take it out of the pan to cool.  This bread makes absolutely great sandwiches!

    And this is where legends collide: I have experimented with the recipe and come up with a new one!  This is the combination of , "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" and "Anadama Bread".  I call this,               "Anadrama Pumpkin Bread".

    Simply follow the same ingredients as the other recipe, but in place of the 1 1/2 Cups of boiling water, use 1 Cup of water and 1/2 Cup of canned pumpkin.  Also add 1/2 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spices.  You may also wish to add the option of 1/2 cup of raisins.  Bake as in the other recipe.  Other options would be: chopped nuts or even pumpkin seeds. *Note: be careful - it might rise higher than your bread machine can handle!  I suggest baking it in the oven instead.

    Now, I don't advocate throwing anything or cursing when you get angry or frustrated, but this is my swing on this new legend: The Whaling Captain comes home after a long voyage to find that his wife has made that same old mush again!  He picks up a pumpkin and smashes it down on the table. (Maybe this is how that band got their name.:)  Seeing this, Anna apologizes; explaining how she thought it was his favorite meal. He explains that it is a favorite, but that it's just too much of a good thing.  He apologizes for treating her as one of his crew.  And together they make a loaf of bread using all those ingredients.  "All's well that ends well", as Charles Ingalls would say.

    If you get the chance, read, "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" and "Rip Van Winkle", by Washington Irving.  You should be able to see a real good moral in Rip's story.  Any writing that has the reader considering or re-considering their own reactions when faced with difficulties in life is always a good thing!  These lessons are better taught by reading a story than by living through them yourself!  I'd rather learn from someone else's mistakes than my own any day!

    If you try either or both of these recipes, please take a minute and let us all know by leaving a comment on this blog site.  And let others know about this blog site too.  Thanks. The Old Man in the Bib Overalls