Picking the perfect pumpkin is a family tradition. Whether a miniature or the largest pumpkin in the field is chosen to adorn the front step, much discussion and deliberation ensues. Each year, the trip to the pumpkin field ignites memories beginning with “Remember when…”. The excitement and resulting anticipation heightens while bumping through the field on a wagon ride.
Children spring from the wagon and scatter through the field. Some will choose the first one spotted; others will wander for a while with much consideration; one great thinker seemingly arrives on each wagon ride. The most patient driver becomes restless. The other children begin to call. A set of parents begins to apologize as their child carries several pumpkins to a central location and checks for imperfections. Those that do not make the final cut may have a speck of dirt, a rough patch, or perhaps a slightly irregular shape, but the child knows that there is only one “Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown”!
Oh, fruit loved of boyhood! the old days recalling, When wood-grapes were purpling and brown nuts were falling! When wild, ugly faces we carved in its skin, Glaring out through the dark with a candle within! When we laughed round the corn-heap, with hearts all in tune, Our chair a broad pumpkin,—our lantern the moon, Telling tales of the fairy who travelled like steam, In a pumpkin-shell coach, with two rats for her team!
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 pm-raked up cleaned rifle 42 eggs"
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. Serve cold. Mrs. F. S. Rogers
2 cups flour 1/2 teaspoon salt 2 tablespoons sugar 4 teaspoons Royal Baking Powder 3 tablespoons shortening 1 egg 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 whole berries. Dust with powdered sugar and serve.
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.
As I select vintage recipes to transcribe from Auntie’s recipe box, I recall those treasured moments in her kitchen when I observed and assisted or perhaps hindered her progress with the meal.
My memories of the cooking experience include my hesitant journey into the dirt floor cellar of the old farmhouse to retrieve a Mason jar of the requested fruit canned the previous season. Slowly, I took the first step on the worn narrow stairs illuminated with a swinging dusty bulb. I viewed the cobwebs, smelled the dust, and felt the damp chill of being underground.
I proceeded cautiously toward the wooden shelf containing neatly lined and labelled Mason jars. With two hands tightly grasping the blue glass jar, I turned around and saw shadows in the dark corners. An avid reader of the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew, I imagined myself the protagonist of my own mystery …
until I heard my Auntie calling.
Auntie was the best cook that I can recall. What are your memories of a favorite cook?
1 cup of milk
2 cups of sugar
1/2 cup of molasses
1/2 cake of Baker’s chocolate
Boil an hour and cool on buttered tins.
Courtesy of Mrs. A. Campbell
2 tablespoons of tapioca, soaked in cold water.
Set on the stove.
When thoroughly dissolved, pour in a quart of milk.
When this begins to boil, stir in the yolks of two eggs, well beaten.
Stir in a cup of sugar.
When this boils stir in the egg whites, beaten to a stiff froth.
Take immediately from the fire.
Flavor to taste.
Courtesy of Mrs. A. Campbell
Ruth’s Layer Cake
(Ruth may have been Ruth Coons of Barrytown, NY- the site of memorable July Fourth Family Gatherings.)
1 cup of butter or lard
2 level cups of sugar
4 eggs (separated)
1 cup milk
4 level cups of flour
4 teaspoons of baking powder
1 level teaspoon of salt
Bake in 4 layers.
Pare and core half a dozen very tart apples;
cook them in half a tea cup of water till they begin to soften;
put them in a pudding dish and sugar them;
beat eight eggs with four spoons of sugar;
add three pints of milk;
pour over the apples and bake half an hour.
Shared by Miss M. A. Hedden
Into a quart of sifted flour put two heaping teaspoons of baking powder and a pinch of salt;
mix together while dry;
then rub into it a piece of lard a little larger than an egg; mix with cold sweet milk;
cut with a tin cutter;
and bake a light brown in a hot oven.
Send to the table immediately.
Come back to visit again soon. New recipes will be added each week.
~Dedicated to researching and sharing local history~