At Home in Ohio

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."

Comments can be sent to Connie at

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.

Send comments to Connie at

Salt Rising Bread, Week Two

 Connie Moore



starter in a jar

Sometimes I’m like an old dog with a bone; I thought for sure I could just read the book Salt Rising Bread by Genevieve Bardwell and Susan Brown and make a loaf myself. Again and again I've tried, using different recipes for all three stages.

This was supposed to be the happy ending story to the S.R.B. saga. Alas, it was not to be. The third batch of starter — made according to Salt Rising Bread book’s standard, potato-starter recipe — started up well enough. The sponge made with it bubbled and fermented fine. The bread dough made with the sponge was beautiful. Placed in the pans, put in the light-bulb-warmed oven, it did nothing. Somewhere between the dough kneading and the panning up, the whole mass lost all get up and go.

Then life happened, and all thoughts of S.R.B. were put on the back burner as tomatoes, peppers, and corn were put by for the winter. Then there was corncob jelly and apples. By the time all that was done, a few days rest was in order. But, in the back of my mind, I kept working with that salt rising bread until I was baking it in my dreams. More than once, I thought I smelled moldy cheese in the middle of the night.

Even as I write this, a week later, there is a jar of starter bubbling, hidden away in the depths of the oven. Local residents here at the Moore homestead are tired of seeing and smelling and hearing about it. So I try and take care to hide all evidence that the S.R.B. experiments are ongoing. Someday, I know it will all work out. When it does, Mr. and Mrs. Brown of Enon will receive a loaf of pungent, tasty, salt rising bread from this writer/baker/old dog. To quote a newspaper article of 1917: “Salt Rising Bread is a more detailed and a more particular piece of work than ‘hop yeast’ bread.”

Contact Connie at

Salt Rising Bread

Connie MooreI have never, ever been as frustrated by a recipe in my life as I am with this salt-rising-bread conundrum. I mean, how hard can it be to mix up some cornmeal and milk, heat it up, and keep it hot until it ferments?

ingredients for baking bread

Turns out it is very difficult. On my desk is a stack of a dozen old books with recipes as different as can be. The one thing in common is the heat that must be in constant attendance upon the bowl of starter. Even newspapers as far back as the late 1800s warned that this bread took a steady heat, unlike the beginnings of yeast breads or sourdough breads.

Upon scientific research — which Google enables even the least scientific mind to do — one finds that the starter works because of a pathogen that loves heat. Clostridium perfringens is its name, and making gas is its game. It needs heat to grow, but it can be killed by heat too, so that is where a steady, warm 104 to 110 degrees is needed.

Other names for the starter are "leavings" or "emptings." Descriptions of the aroma are various, too: old cheese, rotten cheese, stinking feet, dirty socks ... Well, you get the picture. Some people just can’t get past the odor. At the rate our starter is not starting, we may never know.

Google does have a number of sites that include recipes. Two websites are of special note. One is a bakery in Pennsylvania that specializes in salt rising bread. Rising Creek Bakery at 105 Main St. in Mt. Morris, PA will even ship the loaf to you.

If you are really interested in learning more about the pathogen that activates this loaf of bread, go to Popular Science, salt rising bread, and look for Harold McGee’s paper on the whole matter. By the way, he does like salt rising bread, and even has a recipe. He makes for a very interesting, if not a bit terrifying, read. If, after perusing his article, you are still inclined to try your hand at this, more power to you. After reading the whole paper, it was all I could do to throw out the unsuccessful first starter and make a second batch to move forward. A more intrepid baker looking on just mumbled, “It will be okay. We might as well see it through.”

dough sponge fermenting

Forty-eight hours later, we had a very cheesy odor around the crockpot heat source. So, according to King Arthur’s website recipe, we mixed up a sponge to add the starter to. That done, we opted for a bit cooler, out-of-the-way heat source. The oven light bulb provides about 90 degrees of heat, so that is where the large bowl — placed in larger pan of warm water — was put. Five hours later, the sponge was bubbly on top. 

dough in pan

It was ready to make it into a loaf of dough. Following King Arthur’s recipe, we mixed, kneaded, and shaped a ball of beautiful dough that only slightly smelled offensive. Put to rise, it had about four hours to get to the top of the pan. It didn’t quite make it to the top, but rose a little more while baking. We were advised to let it cool completely, so cutting would wait for the next day.

In between the sponge and the kneading, a most welcome email came from the Clark County Library that the one book written on salt rising bread was waiting for me to pick up. Just weeks off the press, Salt Rising Bread by Genevieve Bardwell and Susan Ray Brown is the essential of everything having to do with this bread. Susan is the founder of an online resource called Salt Rising Bread Project. Genevieve is the proprietor of the Rising Creek Bakery, mentioned earlier. For anyone contemplating baking this bread, their book is the first step in a whole new baking experience.

baked bread


sliced bread

Our loaf of bread baked up fine, smelled mildly cheesy, and sliced clean. Taste was reminiscent of mom’s cheese bread, sourdough bread, and something hard to describe. Toasted it was okay, but how were we to know? We had never tasted this bread. So we took half the loaf to the only man we know of who could tell us if it was even close: Mr. John Brown of Enon. We told him to be brutally honest. He was happy to try it, said it didn’t really smell strong enough. Then he told us about making it with potato starter.

We’ll be trying this bread again, using the Salt Rising Bread recipe for a potato starter. I mean, how hard can it be?

Contact Connie at if you know about or have baked this bread. She needs all the help she can get.

Retirement Days

Connie Moore



front view swing

Late summer evening on a swing — a lazy breeze barely touches us as we contemplate the day’s activities. Not much is stirring as the heat slowly fades with the sun, trailing across the poplar trees, their leaves lightly twinkling with its final rays.

Goldfinches and cardinals call goodnight to each other. Crickets start their evening talk. Fireflies light their own way to wherever they go on their outings. There are no longer children to catch them in a jar; the boys and girls are all grown up and in backyards of their own.

The quiet is blessed when it comes. At the same time, there is a lonesomeness about it that is hard to get used to. Retirement for us is a mixed pot of feelings, like the jumbled, tumbling zucchini vines in the garden. Good and plenty until there is too much. Some days we wonder what to do with the extra. Both zucchini and time.

man at lake

Rather than gather moss sitting on the swing, we decide to move around, finding even small things are now much clearer in our sight. Just an hour’s travel to yonder places gives us a new learning experience that banks off the older scenes in our memories.

looking through woods

We become explorers. Contemplating and connecting past with present, we add to the collection of life’s snapshots, filling in the silence; looking forward to tomorrow.

waterfall and leaf
Photos copyright: Russell Moore-2016

Last Day of Summer

 Connie Moore




By noon it will be another late summer day. But for now, at six in the morning, the day hangs on an invisible hinge, swinging ever so gently back and forth between summer and autumn. A cool mist clings along a distant tree canopy. A wren calls as if he just arrived for the spring. Yet, crows call as if they are getting ready to leave for southern winter grounds.

Melons and squash grow large under their own canopy of small and large leaves. Intertwined, they put down stabilizing runners as they creep outward and away over the garden. As the sun rises and sheds better light on things, insects can be seen traveling in and out of flower blooms. It’s still too wet with dew, but in a few more hours butterflies will join them.

yellow butterfly

In contemplation of the garden’s life, we find a number of benefits come to mind. Not just the usual healthful produce, needed exercise, or the refreshing air and sunshine. No, there were other things happening around us and to us this summer. Sitting down next to the plot, getting an eye-full of growing plants that twist and turn, climb and crawl, gives one a sense of a creator who purposed immense variety for us.

Listening to a song bird that happens to be sitting within an arm’s length puts a whole new soundtrack on brainwaves that are used to hearing television, cell phones and traffic. It is an eye-to-eye experience that happens only when one slows down to a stop and blends in with a garden.

 goldfinch-1 on dried flower

Bumble bees working in bean blossoms are too busy to notice that the slight swaying of the plant is not from a breeze but from a hand reaching and gently stroking their soft black bodies. Soft, too, is the velvet feel of green carrot leaves in early spring.

Goldfinches have shredded zinnia tops to feed on seeds. Some of those seeds dropped and are now growing as if it is early summer. Soon we’ll gather what brown, prickly seeds the finches have left and know that next year there will be bright colors along the fence again. Sitting quietly cutting the bloom heads, butterflies are oblivious to our presence. They even land on our clothes, our hands and yes, they have a light touch, a tickly little touch that brings a smile.

As the day grows towards noon, more summer than autumn is apparent. Tomatoes show up red and butternut squash show up a creamy light tan. Silver-spotted skippers inundate the yard as they cover deep purple and white butterfly bush spikes. Clematis has set seed, those swirling galaxy-shaped heads left from the petals of mid-summer.

A breeze starts up. It is refreshing, with just a hint of autumn. There is the invisible hinge again, the day swinging ever so gently. It is the kind of breeze you just want to lean into and soak up. Every drop of it. As if this is the last day of summer. The first day of autumn. Perhaps it is. It’s all in how you look at it.