At Home in Ohio

Old-Lady Cooking (and Cake)

Connie MooreWhile searching for a recipe request, we came across a recipe named Old Lady Cake. Well, it got us to thinking about "fancy" versus "plain" cooking. Just what is the difference? Age certainly has something to do with it, but age of who or what? Is the recipe plain if it is over fifty years old? Or maybe it’s plain cooking if the cook is over fifty?

Or is "plain cooking" a term for anything fixed on a regular basis, with regular ingredients, and eaten on a regularly scheduled day? You know, like years ago Mondays were bean soup day because it could simmer while the laundry was being done, or Sunday was pot roast day because it could cook in the oven while everybody was at church.

Another way to look at this age-related cooking question is found in the popular commercial ending, “What’s in your wallet?” You might recognize it as a Capitol One's charge card slogan. But for us old folks, today’s charge card was not in our wallets years ago. We tendered in cash, and that had a direct bearing on what was in our cupboards. A loaded wallet tended to make for a cupboard well-stocked. Therefore, some fancy cooking might occur in place of plain, everyday cooking.

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So, what’s in your cupboard? How you look at, that’s up to you.

We kind of took that "old lady" cake thing personally. While mulling it over, we went for ice cream.

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Old Lady Cake Recipe


• 1/4 cup butter
• 1 cup brown sugar
• 1 egg, beaten
• 2 cups sifted cake flour
• 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
• 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
• 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
• 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
• 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• 1 cup sour milk


1. Cream the butter and sugar. Add the egg, beat well.

2. Sift all of the dry ingredients together three times.

3. Then add the dry mix to the creamed mixture, alternating with the milk as you do.

4. Bake in a greased tube pan at 350 degrees F for 45 to 55 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in middle of cake.

5. Cool for 5 minutes, release from pan. Cool completely.

6. Ice with favorite frosting or glaze.

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Recipe source: Culinary Arts Institute Encyclopedia Cookbook, 1948.

Ordinary Moments

Connie Moore seeds-202

Late October rain kept the cockscomb and zinnias colorful. It was too wet to gather seeds. Now, November cold air has dried the spent, faded blooms, making it easy to separate seeds from chaff. The chore is just part of an ordinary day.

Later, we move to the garden where some fall radishes (French Breakfast variety) have been allowed to grow to maximum circumference, really just to see how big they could get. Surprisingly huge, red, tubular growths had to be dug from the ground. Pulling radishes is an ordinary task, but in this case a real eye opener.


Another garden crop ready for gathering is peas. We planted Oregon Sugar Snap in the spring and realized a wonderful, two-month crop from them. For fall, we planted Laxton’s Progress. Short, bushy, and compact, the plants have produced since the third week of October. It is an heirloom introduced way back in 1898 by Thomas Laxton’s sons in honor of the horticultural and plant breeding work their father did. Sadly, Thomas died five years before the new variety was released.

Individual peas remind us of the pea shooting we used to do as kids. (Yes, it was a wasteful playtime, but when you are left to your own inventions even a straw and a handful of peas can have significant imaginative power.) These Laxton peas are too large to ever fit into a straw, so they all go into a pot of boiling water for a dish of buttered peas that will go well with the small turkey roast simmering away in the Crock Pot.

Although kids today have much more sophisticated toys, there are still places that engage in pea shooting. Peasenhall, Suffolk, an English village, holds an annual Pea Festival, where among other things pea shooting contests are held. World Pea Podding (shelling peas) championships are held, along with National Pea-eating contests. Peasenhall is also famous for free-range peafowl. Peacocks and hens roam freely throughout the village. In June, baby peas or chicks can be seen trailing after parents among the many English gardens.


While we don’t have peacocks strolling on the grounds, we do have lively, loud blue jays staying amongst the junipers. These blue jays appear to take a keen delight in teasing other birds and especially the squirrels, who have found the scattered remains of a tribe of sparrows’ messy table manners under the feeder. Blue and white flashes alert all that jays are nipping squirrels in the derriere; squirrels are jumping straight up and turning midair to face their assailants; sparrows are flipping seeds from on high in feigned terror, and seeds are raining down on the jays — just what they had hoped for.

It’s an ordinary day, yes. But nothing really is ordinary as we look at nature, at living creatures pursuing their own goals, at all things big and small on our little piece of earth called backyard home.

Buttered Fresh Peas Recipe


• 2 cups shelled peas
• 2 tablespoons minced sweet onion
• water
• 2 tablespoons butter
• salt and pepper


1. Place peas, onion, and water to cover them in a saucepan. Bring to s boil. Cook 10-15 minutes until tender. Drain well and place back in pan.

2. Add butter, salt and pepper to taste, and heat thoroughly, stirring occasionally.

Browning the butter will add a nutty flavor to the peas. Favorite herbs can be added if desired. Frozen peas may be used in place of fresh.

Turkey Rice Soup Recipe


• 4 cups turkey stock
• 1/4 cup diced onion
• 1/4 cup diced celery
• 1/2 cup diced carrots
• 1 cup fresh or frozen peas
• 1/4 cup washed, drained raw rice
• 1 to 1-1/2 cups cooked diced turkey (dark and light meat)
• salt and pepper


1. Heat stock to boiling, adding in vegetables and rice. Simmer with lid on until vegetables are tender and rice cooked.

2. Add turkey, and salt and pepper to taste.

3. Serve hot with a sprinkling of chopped, fresh parsley, if desired.

Deep Dish Desserts

Connie MooreMy friend Betty decided to bake dessert for her family. She pondered over not what they wanted, but what she had on hand.

Her countenance was about to crumble when she discovered some crisp apples in the refrigerator. She had flour, brown sugar, and butter, but she questioned her baking skills when it came to pies as a crispy yet flaky crust was essential. All thoughts of pie buckled as she slumped to the table in despair. She really didn’t have baking skills. But still ... dessert was a must for this bird’s nest of hungry kids.

She ended up cobbling together a deep dish dessert of enormous and amazingly tasty proportions. Soft, tender fruit bathed in a brown, sugary, buttery syrup under a layer of golden-brown biscuit, over which was a shiny glaze of sugar and cinnamon.

If you are still wondering what kind of desserts we’re highlighting, "cobbler," "crisp," "crumble," "slump," and "bird’s nest" were hints that deep dish fruit and biscuit or oat toppings are in season! As October cool evenings, cold mornings, and warm afternoons work their way into our lives, fruits of all sorts can be highlighted in these old-fashioned dishes. Cobbler is the basic word usually used for these desserts, but upon research, some rather odd names present themselves.

Betty, or Brown Betty, uses fruit — usually apples baked in layers of buttered bread crumbs. Later, graham cracker crumbs were introduced. The term "Betty" relating to the dessert had its beginning as far back as 1864.

Crisps and crumbles are fruit mixtures baked with a crumb topping consisting of nuts, bread crumbs, oats, or crushed cookies mixed with butter and spices. "Crumble" is the English version of North America’s "crisp."

Buckle is generally associated with blueberries. A cake batter is poured into a deep dish. Berries can be blended into the batter or scattered on top to sink into the batter during baking. The topping is a streusel mixture which, when all is baked together, looks like the dish rose and then buckled.

Pandowdy is associated with apples. Sliced fruit is sweetened with brown sugar or molasses. Biscuit dough is baked on top, only to be broken up and pushed into the fruit during baking. "Dowdy" has the meaning of not neat or tidy. The top of pandowdies have that frumpy, something-went-wrong look about them. Their taste is just the opposite, as the broken biscuit soaks up the sugary-sweet apple juice. They can be some of the best autumn baking adventures.

Grunts and slumps are usually cooked on top of the stove. Fruits are stewed with spices, then biscuit or dumpling dough is spooned on top. The pan is covered, heat reduced to a simmer, and the resulting dumplings are steamed much like chicken and dumplings. "Grunt" refers to the faint bubbling sound of the fruit cooking around the mounds of dough. "Slump" may refer to the fact that, if heavy enough, the dough will slump or sink into the fruit.

Probably the most intriguing name is found only in North Carolina. Sonker is the Appalachian version of cobbler. Besides the popular peach, strawberry, and cherry sonkers, there is a sweet potato version. There is an annual Sonker Festival, held the first Saturday of October in Lowgap, North Carolina, which the Surry County Historical Society sponsors. All proceeds from the day-long event benefit the preservation of the Edwards-Franklin House, a two-hundred-year-old building with significant historical value to the area.

Whatever you want to call your fruit and crust concoction, remember Betty. She had ingredients, she had determination. She had family waiting for a sweet ending to their day. She baked. It was good.

Blackberry Slump


For the fruit

• 4 cups fresh or frozen blackberries
• 1 cup sugar
• 1 cup water
• 3 tablespoons quick cooking tapioca
• 1 teaspoon cinnamon

For the dumplings

• 2 cups self-rising flour
• 3 tablespoons sugar
• 1 egg beaten
• 3 tablespoons melted butter
• 2/3 cup buttermilk or milk


1. Place berries, sugar, water, tapioca, and cinnamon in large Dutch oven kettle with a tight fitting lid. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar. Reduce heat to simmer.

2. In a mixing bowl, stir together the dumpling ingredients just until a batter forms. Drop the batter by large spoonfuls onto cooking fruit.

3. Cook uncovered for 10 minutes, then cover pot and cook for another 10 minutes. Dumplings are done when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

4. Serve warm with cream, ice cream if desired.

Peach Crisp


• 1 can (29 oz.) peaches, drained
• 2/3 cup brown sugar
• 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
• 1/2 cup quick or old-fashioned oats
• 1 teaspoon cinnamon
• 1/3 cup butter


1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

2. Butter an 8x8 inch baking pan. Arrange drained peaches over bottom of pan.

3. In a mixing bowl, using a fork, mix the rest of the ingredients together until crumbly. Sprinkle over peaches.

4. Bake until hot and bubbly, until the topping is a golden brown — about 30 minutes.

Other fruits may be used, canned or frozen. If using a Pyrex (glass) dish, reduce oven temp to 350 degrees F. Do not use instant oatmeal, as the topping will be mushy.

Peach crisp
Photo by Fotolia/JJAVA

Watermelons in Apple Butter

Connie MooreIMG_0333

What did our pioneer ancestors use to sweeten apple butter? Besides sweet cider, sugar (brown and white), molasses, and in some cases nothing, we found that as far back as 1856, watermelon juice was the leading sweetener for vats of apple butter.

Reporting from Warren, Ohio, a correspondent to the Prairie Farmer said this: “We raise a good watermelon patch each year, planting early in May and then again toward the end of the month so as to have them come on in succession. We eat them freely in hot weather. Then in September, we haul a quantity of them to the house, split them open, scrape out the pulp into colanders, and strain the water into vessels. We boil it in an iron pot, adding apples. Boil it slowly until the fruit is well cooked. Spice to taste. The syrup can be boiled down without the fruit, to a molasses state. It keeps all winter.”

In 1912, Greenville, Ohio newspapers reported the following: “He raised watermelons and lots of them, but not for the usual purpose they are grown. He pressed the juice from them, boiled it down in copper evaporators to a fair syrup. With this syrup, he used apples for thickening to make apple butter. It was of a quality hard to beat. The syrup was of finest quality, and much of it was used.”


We could find no recipes for making the watermelon syrup or including it in a batch of apple butter; we’re pretty sure many of those old-time ways were never put to paper. It’s just the way they did it, and they passed it on by word of mouth and example.

Whatever way you choose to sweeten your homemade apple butter, here are a few recipes using the final product!

Double Butter Quesadilla


• Apple butter
• Peanut butter
• Flour tortillas


1. Spread a thin coating of both butters on flour tortillas. Fold.

2. Place in non-stick skillet over medium heat until tortilla is browned (turning once).

3. Cool before eating, as the sugar in the butter becomes very hot.

Double Apple Quesadilla


• Apple butter
• Thinly-sliced, peeled, cored apples
• Flour tortillas


1. Spread thin coating of apple butter over tortilla.

2. Arrange thinly sliced apples on one half of the tortilla.

3. Fold over and place in non-stick skillet over medium heat. Outside of tortilla can be sprinkled with a cinnamon/sugar mixture if desired.

4. Cook until tortilla is golden brown, turning once. Cool before eating, as the sugars become very hot.

Panned Apple Wedges


• 3 tablespoons butter
• 1 tablespoon lemon juice
• 5 cups pared apple wedges
• 1/3 cup sugar
• 1/4 cup thick, spiced apple butter


1. Melt butter in large, non-stick skillet.

2. Mix lemon juice with apples to prevent browning. Place apples in skillet over medium-low heat to cook.

3. Sprinkle sugar over apples. Continue to cook, browning apples on both sides. Try to turn apples only once or twice to keep them from breaking down.

4. Add apple butter. Cook until fork-tender. Serve as a side dish to any meal or as dessert.

Apple Butter Dessert Sandwiches


• 1/3 cup apple butter
• 3 ounces cream cheese, softened
• Sliced gingerbread or rich pound cake


1. Blend apple butter into cream cheese until smooth. Spread on slices of cake. Top with another slice of cake.

2. Can be served by the slice, or using large, round cookie cutters for shaped sandwiches.

Apple Butter Cinnamon Coffee Cake


For the cake
• 1/2 cup sugar
• 1 cup flour
• 1 teaspoon baking powder
• 1 tablespoon melted butter
• 1/2 cup milk

For the topping
• 2 tablespoons flour
• 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
• 1 tablespoon cinnamon
• 4 tablespoons cold butter<
• 4 tablespoons apple butter


1. Grease a 9-inch pie pan. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Blend the ingredients for the cake into a batter. Pour into the greased pan.

3. For the topping, sprinkle the flour over the batter evenly, then sprinkle the brown sugar over the top. Sprinkle over with cinnamon.

4. Cut cold butter into small pieces and push them into batter evenly over the top. Use more butter if needed to ensure entire top has ‘butter dents’.

5. Spoon apple butter into dents.

6. Bake for 30 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Serve warm.

We’re Almost There!

Connie MooreIMG_0471

"Are we there yet?"

Who hasn’t asked that question? Excitement when we travel brings the question to children (and some of us anxious adults). Perhaps the answer was:

"When we cross that old rickety wooden bridge, we're almost there." Or "When you see the big, blue water tower …" or "When you hear Grandpa's dogs barking …" As our parents quieted our squirming and poking each other in the back seat, they unknowingly began an intrinsic part of our training as voyagers with their answers, and we began to absorb points of "almost there."

Sometimes, a familiar smell signaled how far along we were in our travels. When I was little, our family made regular trips to Springfield to shop and, once in a while, take in a movie. For us, crowded sidewalks and window displays were an adventure. We knew we were close to it all by the fresh-baked-bread scent wafting from Schaeffer's wholesale bakery on the west end of town.

My friend, Marilyne, relates to that kind of "almost there." A paper mill close to Portsmouth, Ohio, sent wet-paper/bleach-scented air over the bridge and river that she crossed on the way to her grandfather’s house in Kentucky. July or August heat only served to produce a more pungent grade of "paper perfume." When they smelled it, she and her siblings knew they would soon see the house, Grandpa, and all those special aunts, uncles, and cousins.

"Almost there" points can penetrate deeper than our lungs. They can hit right to the heart of the matter — a chance to share special times with very special people.

A special friend from long ago lived out on a country road in a neighboring county. Her farm was called Windy Hill. In the summer, when trees were full and hedge rows thick with ivy and trumpet vine, her house was hidden. But we knew with the sight of the neighbor's barn and playful goats that we would be turning into her lane any minute. We were blanketed in love, warmth, and laughter.


She moved to be closer to her sister who lived in town in Newark, Ohio. We drove two hours on highways to see her. It was a lot different than winding along a country road. Our "almost there" points? It was not the green highway exit sign. Real points of "almost there" are not highway signs or street signs or traffic lights. Our point of reference was a huge billboard deep in a field advertising a Pilot Dairy Queen truck stop where, like our friend's house, we could find rest, refreshment, and a smiling face.

Sometimes our reference points disappear due to time and progress. They never fade from our mind's eye though. Even after eighty years of changing landscapes, my mother vividly recalled her "almost there" point to her grandmother’s house in McKitrick Heights, down in Jackson, Ohio.

They often rode the DT&I train from Springfield to Jackson. But it was when her father drove them down old Route 35 and she saw Browns School just past the swimming pool that she knew she was almost there.

Mom attended the little one-room school and recalled how Miss McKitrick, the teacher, could make you knuckle down to book learning. The young teacher could also "knuckle down" and beat the boys at marbles. When the boys challenged her authority, she called them out for a game.

And you know … winners kept all.

my mom

It’s that way with our "almost there" points too. We keep them all. Through years of change, through seasons of love and friendship, through days of mundane routines, we collect them. Those of our past are stored with sweet memories, our present ones signal us along life's roads, our future ones are there, waiting for us. Ready to tell us, "We’re almost there."

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Corn Cob Jelly

Connie MooreIMG_0995

As noted in the September 14th issue of the Enon Eagle newspaper, we purchased sweet corn at the weekly farmers market. We used our corn cobs for corn cob jelly. It’s another old-time recipe that dates back to the 1800s. It is somewhat temperamental, like salt rising bread.

We have two jars of the golden syrup sitting on our shelf, waiting for a deep, wintery day when hot biscuits will benefit from the elixir. We say syrup because it didn’t set up like a firm jelly, even after boiling a second time. But not dismayed, we found that we weren’t the only ones with that problem. Googling the question of why it didn’t set up, we found a number of possible reasons. Not to worry, just eat it like honey!

In fact, one of its many names is "corn-cob honey," or "mock honey". Others are "corn-cob syrup" or "make-do jelly." It can be found in Appalachian states, the Dakotas, and in Nebraska history it is described as a substitute for honey or sugar. Of course, in pioneer times across the country, the saying "waste not, want not" was an absolute truism that was practiced for the good of the family and community.

As corn was harvested fresh for eating, those cobs were boiled down for the jelly. When drained, the cobs then went out for the chickens and hogs. Yellow or white cobs made the golden, honey-colored liquid. Red cobs made a pinkish to deep red hue.



Online recipes abound, along with how-to videos on YouTube. Our own recipe followed the basics found in six old cookbooks on our shelves. Ration is cup for cup of juice and sugar with a box of Sure Jell. Cobs are boiled for about thirty minutes, liquid is strained, and sugar and Sure Jell are added to the boiling liquid until jelly stage is achieved. Sealed in canning jars in a boiling water bath canner, the end result is a beautiful golden honey color. It tastes like honey, only sweeter.

We found a couple of mentions of adding other juices to the corn cob liquid to produce a colorful and mild fruit jelly. Apple, cherry, or any other small portion of juice that's not enough to make jelly on its own could be included.

Corn cob jelly is a sweet, old-fashioned way to top biscuits, toast, pancakes, or even ice cream. It can also be used for glazing meats such as chicken or pork, or mixed into barbecue sauce ingredients for a sweeter version.

Salt Rising Bread Success

Connie MooreIt has been a summer of experiments. As noted in two blogs, we have been working on mastering salt rising bread, and we are happy to report it has been accomplished! Well, at least for this week. You never really know with this bread. All three stages have their possibilities to go awry.

It was especially gratifying to hear from Susan Brown, coauthor of the book, Salt Rising Bread. She read our Grit blog concerning the bread conundrum and responded in a very encouraging email. After taking her advice about timing of sponge to dough, it worked out to two lovely loaves today.

bread batter

bread dough

rising bread dough

bread loaf

One loaf went to Mr. J. Brown of Enon for his approval. Both he and his wife said it was as close as anybody has come, so we took it as a success in Salt Rising Bread 101. When a photo of the bread was sent to Susan Brown, she agreed it looked like we had been baking salt rising bread for years.

Our gratitude goes out to her and her coauthor for their hard work on the book. My copy is now full of notes and placed in with other essential recipe books. This bread stirs memories and starts conversations. It is an heirloom, as important as dried apples, sorghum molasses, strings of leather britches, stack cake, and corn cob jelly.

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