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My Grandma passed away at the age of 94. She was a wonderful cook and I was lucky enough to inherit her recipes. Many date back to the 1940s and 50s. Grandma prepared them in a charming country kitchen with no running water and most of her produce came from her garden, not from the grocery store. These are made-from-scratch recipes. I wish I had spent more time with her in the kitchen and . . . I wish I had spent more time with her for so many other reasons.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Ham & Beans

Well, those who know me, know I don't like beans.  This is certainly not a dish I'd put on my list of favorites, but I will eat it.  Considering it's beans - that's pretty amazing.

1 - 20 oz bag of 16 Bean Soup Mix
1 large ham shank (1 1/2  - 2 lbs)
6 cups chicken or pork stock (and/or water in a pinch)
1 - 2 carrots, peeled and chunked
2 ribs celery, in chunks
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
thyme leaves (fresh, if available)parsley, minced (or crushed dried)
pinch red pepper flakes
freshly ground pepper
salt (with caution)

Soak the beans:  Put beans in a pot with 4 cups of water and bring to a boil.  Boil 2 minutes, then cover, remove from heat, and let sit for an hour.  (You can also put the beans in a bowl or pot and cover them with water at least 2" above the beans, and let them sit overnight.)  Drain and rinse.  Beans will look gray - that will cook out later.

Load the slow cooker with beans and the ham shank.  Add the rest of the ingredients except salt.  Do not salt soup until cooking is done, since the ham hock is already salty.  Use your judgment with thyme, parley and pepper.  You may substitute fresh herbs if available, as minced leaves.  Be careful not to use too much red pepper.  If you don't like chunks of carrot and celery, put them in whole and remove when soup is done; otherwise, you can dice them into the soup.

Cook on High for 4 - 5 hours, or on low for 8 - 9 hours, until ham falls from the bone.

Remove bay leaves, bones and any visible pieces of gristle with a slotted spoon.  Putt out the big ham chunks and shred them with two forks, then put them back in. If soup is not thick, allow to cook for another hour with lid off, to reduce the water content.  Salt only after cooking is complete - the ham hock is already salty (and so is the stock if you use canned.)

Monday, February 21, 2011

Dinner Rolls

Grandma was famous for her breads and desserts. Her dinner rolls were incomparable.

1 dry yeast packet (1/4 oz)
1/2 cup warm water
1/2 cup sugar
7 1/2 - 8  cups flour (plus more for dusting)
12 Tbsp (1 1/2 sticks) butter, melted and cooled, plus softened butter for brushing
2 cups whole milk, at room temperature
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 Tbsp kosher salt, plus more for sprinkling

Sprinkle the yeast into a large bowl with 1/2 cup of warm water.  Add sugar and whisk well.  Let sit 1 minute (it should bubble and froth slightly, then gently stir in 1 cup flour.  Set aside and keep warm while you prepare dough.

Mix the melted butter and milk in a mixer with the hook attachment on low speed.  Add eggs and mix until blended.  Add 6 1/2 cups flour and 1 Tbsp salt, and mix until the dough forms a ball, 2 - 3 mins, adding up to 1/2 cup more flour if the dough is too wet and sticky.

Brush a large bowl with softened butter.  Transfer te dough to the bowl, cover with a towel and set rise in a warm place 2  - 2 1/2 hours.  The dough should double in volume.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Dust a clean, flat surface with flour and turn the dough out onto it.  Flour your hands; gently press the dough into a 16 x 8" rectangle, about 1/2 - 3/4" thick (don't forget to use a rolling pin).

With the short side in front of you, but the dough in half lengthwise with a floured knife.  Then slice crosswise into 12  strips.

One at a time, fold each strip of dough unevenly in half so the top part slightly overlaps the bottom half, then tuck the overhang underneath.  Place the rolls seam-side down on the prepared baking sheet in 3 tightly packed rows.  (If making in advance, wrap the baking sheet tightly in plastic wrap and freeze up to 3 weeks.)

Bake the rolls until they are bursting at the seams and golden brown, about 18 - 20 mins.  Remove from the oven and brush with softened butter.  Sprinkle with salt and serve immediately.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Toffee Crunch Bars

1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup finely chopped Heath bars

Combine flour, salt and baking soda and set aside.

Cream butter and sugar well.  Add eggs and vanilla, and then stir in Heath bars.

Drop from teaspoon onto greased baking sheet.  Bake at 350 degrees for 12 - 15 minutes.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Pickles - Sliced Dill Pickles

Place a sprig of dill in jar.  Slice quantity of dill-sized pickles into the jar.

Boil and pour over the pickles the following solution:

1 1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 cup water
1 1/2 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup salt
1 tsp pickling spice in a bag

Place another piece of dill on top of pickles and seal at once.