Hearth & Home

Hearth and Home by Daphne Ross

Happiness-in-a-jar; the story of a country canner

My Grandma Miller was a farmer's wife and other than raising six children one of her other impressive accomplishments was practicing her canning skills. Her low light, dirt floor cellar, down creaky and wide wooden steps opened up into an open vault of preserves. Clear quart jars filled with a rainbow of fruits and vegetables were placed just a clink away from each other. The thick, old wood shelves stood floor to ceiling, all the way around the one light bulb lit room.

The canning inventory remained in place and was grabbed as needed, like pulling a paper-wrapped and tied chunk of beef from the deep freeze, someone would run down to the cellar to grab a jar of green beans and a jar of peaches for supper. It took several trips to master running down those steps, but practice makes perfect. Tripping down the steps wasn't so bad; you could catch yourself, on something. Tripping up the steps was not so good, especially with a jar in each hand.

When my grandparents lived in their Egypt Road farmhouse, I was a canning observer; standing next to my close-in-age Aunt Amy I was another set of little hands working prep. I was a green and wax bean snapper, a strawberry huller, a cherry pitter, a grape seeder, and a juice down-the-arm peach peeler.

I can remember the beautiful colors of her farm kitchen handiwork like I just come up from her cellar. I also remember how a simple jar of canned peaches was a fine dessert, all by itself. My grandma's canned goods, it was the best food, and the best food, like a fine wine, always has bit of dust on the jar.

I am not a big canner, but I do process fresh tomatoes into juice, which we only use for cooking creamed tomatoes (chili gets store-bought juice). My husband grew up on this breakfast food, known to some as tomato gravy; his siblings, our nieces, and his cousins sure wish Grandma Ross was here to cook it for them.

One of the many lessons I learned from my mother-in-law was how to process tomatoes into juice for canning. Anyone can make biscuits, but not everyone can cook creamed tomatoes. It's not hard it just takes practice to get that, creamy, and thick red goodness to pour lump free over a fresh baked and buttered biscuit. And I bake a pretty good biscuit, too.

What are your favorite Super Bowl foods? Share recipes with Hearth & Home; 5973 Blachleyville Rd., Wooster, OH, 44691. Emails are always welcome; thewritecook@sssnet.com

Vegetable Slice Bake
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium yellow onion
1 tsp minced garlic
1 medium zucchini
1 medium yellow squash
1 medium potato
1 medium tomato
1 tsp dried thyme
Salt & pepper to taste
1 cup shredded Italian cheese
Finely dice the onion and mince the garlic. Sauté both in a skillet with olive oil until softened, about five minutes. While the onion and garlic are sautéing, thinly slice the rest of the vegetables. Spray the inside of an 8 x 8 square or round baking dish with non-stick spray. Spread the softened onion and garlic in the bottom of the dish. Place the thinly sliced vegetables in the baking dish vertically, in an alternating pattern. Sprinkle generously with salt, pepper, and thyme. Cover the dish with foil and bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes. Remove the foil, top with cheese and bake for another 15 to 20 minutes or until the cheese is golden brown.

Specialty Grilled Cheese
8 (1/2-inch thick) slices country-style sourdough bread
12 ounces Monterey Jack, Cheddar, or Swiss cheese, thinly sliced
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
8 slices smoked bacon, cooked and broken into 1-inch pieces
Or 8 slices baked ham
2 vine-ripened tomatoes, sliced, and drained on paper towels for 5 minutes
Heat a large skillet over medium-low heat. Place 4 slices of bread on a cutting board and generously butter the top sides of each slice. Melt another tablespoon of the butter in the skillet; swirl around to coat the pan.
Lay 2 slices of bread, buttered side down, in the skillet. Put a few slices of the cheese on the bread. Lay the bacon, tomato, or ham on top of the cheese. Cover with a few more slices of cheese. Top with 2 of the remaining slices of bread, placed buttered-side up. Cook, without pressing, until the bread browns and the cheese is slightly melted, about 5 minutes. Turn the sandwiches with a spatula and add a small piece of butter to the pan. Cook slowly, adjusting the heat as needed to melt the cheese completely before the sandwiches are brown, about 3 to 4 minutes more. Repeat until all sandwiches are made.

Apple Banana Bread
4 apples
3 large bananas, mashed
Lemon juice
1/2 cup butter
2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
3 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
Core and pare apples, chop fine, sprinkle with a little lemon juice to prevent discoloration. Add mashed bananas to apples and mix well. Cream butter to consistency of mayonnaise. Add sugar while continuing to cream. Add eggs, beating well after each addition. Stir in apples and bananas; mix. Sift flour, baking powder, soda and salt. Stir and add flavoring. Spoon into 2 well-greased and floured loaf pans. Bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour or until bread tests done. Cool. Makes 2 loaves.

Green Beans with Ham Hock and New Potatoes
2 ham hocks
3 pounds green beans
1/2 cup sugar
2 pounds small red new potatoes
2 tablespoons seasoned salt
In a large pot, fill with enough water to just cover ham hocks and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer 45 minutes. Add beans and sugar and continue cooking another 25 minutes. Add potatoes and salt and cook until potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes more. Remove hocks from pot and remove meat from the bone. Add meat back to the pot, add salt and pepper, to taste, and serve.

Rocky Road Bars
1/2 cup margarine or butter
1 cup powdered sugar
1 large egg, beaten
1 package dark chocolate chips
1/2 cup peanuts, crushed
2 cups mini marshmallows
Chocolate graham crackers, left whole
Line pan 9 x 13 inch pan with crackers, sprinkle with marshmallows and crushed peanuts. Combine together margarine, powdered sugar, beaten egg, and chocolate chips and melt; pour over all. Let cool.

Say Yes to Baked Spaghetti
2 cups canned diced tomatoes
2 cups tomato sauce
1 cup water
1/2 cup diced onion
1/2 cup diced green pepper
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
1 1/2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
1 1/2 teaspoons seasoning salt
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 pounds ground beef
1 (8 ounce) package uncooked angel hair pasta
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
1 cup grated Monterey Jack cheese
In a large cooking pot, combine the tomatoes, tomato sauce, water, onions, peppers, garlic, parsley, seasoning, sugar, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil over high heat, and then reduce the heat and let simmer, covered, for 1 hour. Crumble the ground beef in a large skillet. Cook over medium-high heat until fully cooked, with no pink color remaining. Drain the fat from the meat, and then add the ground beef to the stockpot. Simmer for 20 more minutes. Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Cover the bottom of a 9x 13 casserole dish with sauce. Add a layer of pasta and then a little less than 1/2 of each cheese; repeat the layers, ending with the sauce. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Top the casserole with the remaining cheese, return it to the oven, and continue to cook until the cheese is melted and bubbly.

Home Kitchen Peanut Butter Granola Bars
Vegetable cooking spray
1 egg white
1/2 cup chunky peanut butter
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
1stick unsalted butter, melted
2 cups old fashioned oats
1/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted
1/3 cup mini chocolate chips
Spray a 7 x 11 nonstick baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. In a medium bowl, beat the egg white until frothy. Stir in the peanut butter, brown sugar, and honey. Add the melted butter, oats and almonds. Stir to combine; add the chocolate chips. Spread mixture into the prepared baking pan, press lightly to form an even layer. Bake at 350 degrees until the edge of the mixture begins to brown, about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool for at least 1 hour. Cut into bars and serve.

Raspberry Orange Muffins
2 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
Pinch nutmeg
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup whole milk, at room temperature
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 oranges
1 pint raspberries
Granulated sugar for sprinkling
Line twelve 1/2-cup muffin cups with paper liners. Mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and nutmeg together in a medium bowl. Whisk the oil, milk, eggs, and vanilla together in another bowl. Finely grate the zest from the oranges into the wet ingredients. Make a small well in the center of the dry ingredients. Pour the wet ingredients and raspberries into the center. Stir the wet and dry ingredients together with a wooden spoon until the dry ingredients are moist and still a bit lumpy. Do not over mix the batter or your muffins will be dense and tough. Divide the batter evenly among the muffin liners and sprinkle the tops generously with sugar. Bake at 375 degrees until toothpick inserted in the centers come out clean, about 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool.

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