The garden is all planted but we continue to have more rain than we need here in Bellville.
The rhubarb is doing very well. The plants were starts from a relative’s garden from years ago so they have a long heritage that goes back to Maine. I’ve had them for 15 years and they produce well each year.
The rhubarb will become rhubarb bread from an Amish recipe and a family recipe for rhubarb sauce that goes well with a pork roast.
The strawberries are also ripening and that means strawberry and rhubarb preserves also from an Amish recipe.
The beans are up and as soon as there are some to pick, I’ll make my favorite soup, Green Bean Soup, that my grandmother made when the beans ripened in my grandfather’s garden.
We lived close to my grandparents when I was growing up, and garden time was always special. My grandmother had a weekly routine; Monday was wash day and bread-making day, Tuesday she would do the ironing and make noodles and so on through the week.
On Mondays during the summer, Grandma would call my mom as soon as the bread was out of the oven. I’d hop on my bike and pedal as fast as I could to get to Grandma's for fresh bread and home-churned butter! As a kid, I especially enjoyed the end pieces of bread, slathered in as much butter as I could get away with on each piece.
As soon as I got close to the kitchen door, the wonderful aroma of bread right out of the oven would lure me into the kitchen!
Grandma would have the bread, butter and, if the beans were ripe, a bowl of green bean soup ready and waiting for me. Sometimes, I’d have to be patient while the bread cooled enough to slice … that was an agonizing wait!
Here are some recipes for that early produce from the garden.
Rhubarb Bread (From the Amish Cook column in our local newspaper)
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
2/3 cup vegetable oil
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups diced rhubarb
1/2 cup chopped nuts
Mix ingredients together in order given. Pour into well-greased loaf pans. Sprinkle 1/2 cup sugar over the top and 2 or 3 tablespoons melted butter over top of sugar. Bake at 325 F for 40 to 50 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
Green Bean Soup
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup uncooked macaroni (I use ditalini)
2 tablespoons butter
2 quarts water or chicken broth
2 cups green beans
1 teaspoon salt or to taste
1 1/2 cups diced potatoes
1 teaspoon dried basil, crushed
1 cup sliced carrots
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Sauté onion in butter in a large kettle. When the onion starts to brown, add remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil and simmer approximately 45 minutes. For a variation, add slices of smoked sausage.
This is the easiest recipe for Rhubarb jam. It’s from The Best of the Amish Cook by Elizabeth Coblentz. Her daughter now writes the column and had the Rhubarb Bread recipe.
Mix 5 cups rhubarb (cut fine) and 4 cups sugar together and set overnight. In the morning, boil mixture for 5 minutes, then add 6 ounces Jell-O (any flavor you prefer – I use strawberry or cranberry). I also add fresh, lightly crushed strawberries to the rhubarb the next morning before boiling the mixture and processing. Put into jars and seal. I put the mixture in pint jars, leaving 1/2 inch of headroom. Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes (either pints or quarts).
There is nothing better in the middle of winter, than to get a jar of this jam. It’s like a touch of early spring and summer.
It’s hard to be patient while I wait for the other produce like tomatoes and cucumbers but well worth the wait for a salad fresh from the garden.