Household Tips from the Past

Kitchen Tips from Grandma's House
Published in Country Folk Issue #2 pictured on left
I am the publisher and editor of that little magazine

Repair Cast-iron Cookware
Did you know you could repair cracks in old cast-iron cookware? Here is how you do it. Beat some egg whites to a froth, then add enough powdered quick lime to make a consistent paste. Take some iron-file dust and stir it into the paste until it gets thick. Fill the cracks of your ironware with this cement. Wait at least a month before you use the pan.

Keep the Flies Away
Brush your screen doors with kerosene to prevent flies from entering the house every time someone opens the door. This is the way Grandma kept out the flies.

Better than Bleach
Make a faded old dress perfectly white by boiling it in cream of tartar water. This is still a useful tip.

Raisin Cake No Eggs

There is just something about the folks who live in the Ozarks that I always liked -- for Ozarkians, personal independence is worth more than material gain. These folks have a great strength of spirit. I love that quality about Ozark people and I honor that quality in all my writings.

This recipe was created in the Ozarks out of necessity by a woman or maybe several women who needed to bake cakes but did not have eggs available, either because they didn't have chickens to lay eggs or the chickens had stopped laying eggs.

Raisin Cake No-Eggs
1 cup raisins
2 cups water
1 teaspoon soda
2 heaping tablespoons lard
1 cup sugar
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
a pinch each of salt, allspice, nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger

Cook raisins and water down to one cup of juice. While still warm, add lard and soda. Add enough sugar and flour to make a light batter but don't let it get stiff. Bake in moderate over or in cast iron skillet until done.

Fresh Strong Coffee is Everything

A good strong fresh cup of coffee is everything to an Ozark woman. She can have a list of chores a mile long and get it all done as long as she knows that fresh pot of coffee waits at the start and stop of the day.

The first thing that happens when company arrives is to brew a fresh pot of coffee and mix up a quick bread and put it in the oven.

She's so good at hosting that all of that can happen as if by magic as she ushers her guests gently to the screen porch.

That's called Ozark hospitality and it can't be matched.

Curds and Whey

I read a little poem many times in my 1953 Collier's Encyclopedia Children's Edition set, the red book (I still have these books). One poem I enjoyed for reasons I know not was "Little Miss Muffet sat on a tuffet eating her curds and whey, when along came a spider who sat down beside her, scaring Miss Muffet away."
There was a little illustration on the page of a spider dropping down on a web beside a little girl wearing a cap sitting on a four-legged short round stool.

But I grew up and went on with life and started researching rare old recipes and when I came across a recipe for "Curds and Whey" I was taken aback. Curds and whey was a real food.

One of my favorite foods is large curd cottage cheese and I do believe that curds and whey is old-recipe cottage cheese.

Here is the recipe

Curds and Whey -- a recipe about 150 years old

Warm but do not boil 3 cups whole milk and 1 cup cream.

Pour warm milk mix into a warmed deep dish. Add rennet or junket into it, cover the dish, and set it in a warm place.

When the milk becomes a firm mass of curd and the whey looks clear and greenish, set the pan in ice or a very cold place.

Serve with sweetened cream and sprinkle with nutmeg. I first published this recipe in my magazine, Country Folk Magazine, about 20 years ago.

Grandma's Big Kitchen

No matter how many people were at Grandma's place, they all ended up sitting or standing in the kitchen. Grandma's kitchen was white, white cabinets, white icebox, white walls. But her stove was black and she always had a fire burning. She used wood in the stove. She did not have a hot water heater either so a kettle of water was always simmering on a back burner.

Cleanest Kid Bathed First
If one of us kids needed a bath she got out a big oval-shaped metal tub and put it on the floor right in the middle of the kitchen. She filled it half full with pump water and then added boiling water to it until it was luke warm. The cleanest person got to take the first bath in the tub, then the next cleanest one, and the dirtiest person went last.

I spent the night at Grandma's whenever I got the chance. Roosters crowing at dawn did not wake me up; I woke up smelling something baking in the oven, usually morning biscuits. Grandma was always in the kitchen. She was in the kitchen before I went to bed and she was there when I got up.

She was there when it was 90 degrees outside and she was there when it was snowing. When I remember Grandma I remember her kitchen and can almost smell the aroma of baking bread.

Sourdough Bread Starter

If you want to make homemade bread you can buy yeast to make it rise or you can make old-fashioned homemade sourdough bread starter right in your own kitchen and create true sourdough bread which tastes amazing.  Here is the old recipe to make the starter.

Sourdough Starter
1 cup flour
1 cup water
1 tablespoon sugar
4 tablespoons buttermilk

Mix ingredients in a glass container; cover with a towel and let stand in a warm place for a few days until it has begun to ferment. As it begins to sour it will have a consistency of butter. Cover and store in refrigerator. Each time you take out a helping of the starter, you need to replenish it with the same amount of flour and water.

As long as you keep the sourdough starter cool and replace equal amounts of flour and water for the sourdough starter you removed, your starter will last a long time. Usually a bread or biscuit recipe calls for about one cup of starter.

The aroma of fresh-baked sourdough bread is irresistible and makes everyone who enters your kitchen fall in love with you. You'll get hugs and kisses and smiles. At least that has been my experience.

Author Bio

I was born in the eastern part of Kansas (Lawrence) and spent my childhood barefoot and wild. I put on my first dress when I had to start school at the age of six which immediately handicapped me as to what activities I could partake in.

Playing Cars and Trucks in the 1950s
To this day my most cherished memories are of playing cars and trucks with two of my brothers (we were 13 months apart in age -- poor Mom).

Playing cars and trucks meant we built tiny little villages or towns using sticks, moss, gravel, bark, twigs with leaves (for trees), and we molded miniature furniture, pottery, and other items from clay that we got from a deep crevice where the roots of the trees protruded from the bank.

We used sandstone to create little pans, chairs and other items, patiently sanding one stone against the other to form whatever it was we wanted to create. We called this game cars and trucks because we each had a little toy car or truck that we drove on our little gravel roads and parked in front of each of our created houses. We each created a business of some sort also.

My brother Reed created a quarry and piled tiny gravel in a heap and would haul it to where ever we wanted him to. He got the quarry idea because he got a dump truck for Christmas. The pay for hauling was the thrill of hauling, we never even though about the money aspect of things.

We loved playing cars and trucks so much that when Mom and Dad built a new house for us to live in (and I do mean they built it with their own hands), we moved in before it was completed. My room had only linoleum on it at first but Dad was putting in hardwood floors, room by room.

Anyway, before he got to my room and since he was going to cover it with hardwood, he painted roads on the linoleum and on cold days or rainy days, we played the game there. This took a different creative act since our usual elements (dirt and rocks) were not allowed in the house.

Memories Come Back in the Ozarks
Time passed and we all matured. But the three of us always kept our creative side alive.

One brother is a writer and poet, another one loves carpentry and building things, and I turned out to be a writer and publisher. Which bring me to the reason for telling you all this.

We moved to the Missouri Ozarks about two decades ago (we being my children and I). Moving here was like going back in time to the 1950s and it is still like that but not as much.

This area is rich in unrecorded history but for this blog I'm going to concentrate on the history of Ozarks kitchens, cooking, and recipes. I hope you'll stay turned.  And I hope I'll stay focused on making this blog rich in Ozark history through the kitchen scene.