Inspiration sometimes derives from the most commonplace thought. When I was captivated with two thick volumes entitled The Cherries of New York and The Peaches of New York dated 1914 and 1915 respectively, I realized how many of my most precious moments included fruit.
Simple idea yet I can plot my growth from child to woman with such experiences. As a child, I recited Eugene Fields’ children’s poem, “The Little Peach”
"A little peach in the garden grew,
A little peach of emerald hue;
Warmed by the sun and wet by the dew, it grew.
One day, passing that orchard through
That little peach dawned on the view...",
learned the Biblical account of Eve eating the forbidden fruit, and viewed many artists’ depictions of fruit arrangements. Despite my appreciation for the arts, it was another role that impacted me even more.
I selected apple drops from beneath the trees in Grandpa’s orchard. The story I learned as a child was that Grandpa, a dairy farmer, had researched which apples would grow best in Dutchess County before purchasing a few additional acres that were set at a higher elevation overlooking rolling hills. In an orchard that already included some old apple trees, he planted Red Delicious, Yellow Delicious, McIntosh, and (I believe) Cortland. His research proved insightful as the trees bore delicious and well-formed apples for many years.
This childhood adventure began when our car climbed up the bumpy pathway. When we arrived, we jumped out and ran to select “our” tree. My brother and I were not allowed to climb the ladders; we were in charge of clearing the area beneath each tree. The drops were generally only slightly bruised but could not be sold at full price and were sometimes fed to the farm animals.
After descending from the orchard, we would go to visit Grandma who owned the local general store. She would arise early to bake apple pies and bread at home for her customers. Sometimes she would ask me to help her in the store. Using the old cash register, putting candy bars in the ice cream freezer to prevent melting in the summer, and going down to the crick beneath the bridge were memorable times.
On another farm in Milan, NY where my Grandma grew up, my great-grandfather Burton Coon wrote in his journal entry for Thursday July 18, 1907:
"75 degrees- 5am; foggy, quiet
74 degrees- 9:30pm; partly cloudy
Humid in am-
Showers in pm
picked pail cherries
cut weeds along fence in upper garden
and found wood chuck hole
used trap-got him alright
pulled weeds from sweet corn
and planted a little
My Auntie was only two when her father wrote that journal entry, but she continued to live at Trail’s End and harvest the fruits and vegetables her whole life. The following recipes were preserved in her recipe box.
Auntie’s Vintage Recipes
Slice long, fine berries.
Cover them with orange juice and stand on ice.
Add a teaspoon of powdered sugar.
Serve in sherbet glasses.
Mrs. Horace Dutcher
Into sherbet glasses, put small squares or slices of plain cake or lady fingers,
half a preserved peach,
2 tablespoons of plain ice-cream,
juice of cooked fruit,
2 tablespoons of whipped cream,
and garnish with Maraschino cherry.
Mrs. F. S. Rogers
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
4 teaspoons Royal Baking Powder
3 tablespoons shortening
1/2 cup milk
Sift dry ingredients,
mix in shortening;
add beaten egg to milk and
add to dry ingredients to make soft dough.
Smooth one half of dough out lightly.
Put into greased deep layer tin;
spread with butter;
cover with other half of dough which has
also been smoothed out to fit pan.
Bake in hot over 20 to 25 minutes.
Split while hot and
spread crushed and sweetened berries
and whipped cream between layers;
cover top with whipped cream and
Dust with powdered sugar and serve.
10 pounds peaches when peeled and cut small;
7 pounds granulated sugar;
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon;
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger;
1/2 scant teaspoon ground allspice;
1/2 scant teaspoon ground cloves.
Put all in preserving kettle on back of stove and melt down slowly. Bring to front of fire and cook until quite thick, stirring constantly. Remove any scum which may arise. If peaches seem tart, add a little more sugar.
Mrs. Anna B. S.
Strawberry shortcake at a small-town church
Hot apple cider with an old-fashioned donut
Caramel or candied apples?
What are your favorite fruit recipes?
Stay tuned for more of Auntie’s Vintage Recipes next time.