As long as I can remember, dressing has been an integral part of Christmas dinner. This dressing is not the kind you put on a salad. Oh, no! This dressing is the kind you serve with turkey and the works. In fact, it is an important part of the works. Some people call it stuffing, but we never stuffed it into anything except our tummies. It’s hard to find a bird big enough to pack enough stuffing in for 65 people. It’s one of those foods that many people don’t actually have a recipe for, they just keep adding this and that until it “looks right”.
This dressing is yellow with turmeric, rich with seasonings, broth, milk and eggs, and swimming satisfyingly with Brown Butter. Turmeric used to be a non-item in my mind, in fact I used to think of it as a flavourless powdered food colouring, but recently it is being consumed in greater quantities for its perceived health benefits.he wrote a best-selling book about that experience, and a sequel to it is releasing soon) posted about Roasht on Facebook. As near as I can make out, Roasht is like Mennonite dressing with chicken and gravy all added to the mix, and sometimes potatoes and carrots. That was interesting to me because the Amish dressing, in this area at least, is very unlike Mennonite dressing and usually the lover of the one will not like the other one. Amish dressing is much drier, using less eggs, or none at all, and has weird things like cinnamon and sometimes raisins added to it. At our church, we get both kinds, because we have people of both backgrounds there. There is always good-natured bantering and lots of ribbing going on over the pots of dressing.
Here are some tips to help you achieve a great dressing.
- Use butter, and use enough of it.
- Brown the bread until it’s toasty and golden. It greatly enhances the flavour.
- Use the correct proportion of liquid to bread. There is nothing appealing about a soupy mess. Soup and dressing are two different things.
- Use some broth in the liquid. I’m convinced on this point.
- Make as much ahead as you can. Toast the bread and top it with the seasonings and cooked vegetables so that you only have to add the eggs and liquids the morning of the event.
The stories and recipes are mine, sponsored by Martin’s Family Fruit Farm.
We sell high quality fresh eggs from Pullets Plus, a local company who gathers eggs from area farmers. Many of the chickens are cage-free.
The day of the event, whisk the eggs, broth and milk together and pour over the bread cubes. Stir gently to mix. You should see just a bit of liquid in the corners of the pan. You may need to add more milk. Pack lightly into lined and/or greased slow cooker. Using the Reynold’s slow cooker liners makes for easy clean-up, if you can find them. Grease the liner well. Cook on low for 4 – 6 hours, depending on your cooker. If your cooker is slow, you may want to start it on high for an hour. Brown and stir butter over med-high heat in a flat pan until you start seeing a spiral of golden brown appearing in the centre. Pour the browned butter over the dressing just before serving. *This recipe can easily be made gluten- free by using gf bread and broth. **This is a large recipe for a large 6 quart slow cooker. It can easily be halved for a smaller cooker or crowd.
Mennonite Dressing (not Amish)
The day of the event, whisk the eggs, broth and milk together and pour over the bread cubes. Stir gently to mix. You should see just a bit of liquid in the corners of the pan. You may need to add more milk.
Pack lightly into lined and/or greased slow cooker. Using the Reynold’s slow cooker liners makes for easy clean-up, if you can find them. Grease the liner well. Cook on low for 4 – 6 hours, depending on your cooker. If your cooker is slow, you may want to start it on high for an hour.
Brown and stir butter over med-high heat in a flat pan until you start seeing a spiral of golden brown appearing in the centre. Pour the browned butter over the dressing just before serving.
*This recipe can easily be made gluten- free by using gf bread and broth.
**This is a large recipe for a large 6 quart slow cooker. It can easily be halved for a smaller cooker or crowd.
We are in full swing apple season at the orchard here. If you meander through, or pass our farm these days, there’s a good likelihood that you will see the triangular ladders unique to orchards propped up throughout the rows of trees. If you stop and listen, you will probably hear the chatter of the pickers as they move through, filling bin after bin of apples. After all four bins are full, the tractor pulls them off to the storage and returns with empty bins and the cycle repeats itself. Here are some pictures. I love this time of year.
Strategically placing the ice cream helped with the overall appearance.
The McIntosh apple is an icon of North American orchards. It is slightly tart, slightly sweet, and very juicy. This high percentage of juice makes it a perfect sauce apple and there are McIntosh diehard fans who refuse to eat anything but a fresh Mac. It is good in pies if you like a soft apple in your pastry. Its season runs from mid-September until about May.
This post is sponsored by Martin’s Family Fruit Farm. For more apple updates, visit their site here.
Dutch Apple Pie
DirectionsPeel and cut apples into your desired shapes. Traditionally Dutch Apple pies are chunky. Combine flour, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Cut in the butter until the mixture is crumbly. Put the apples into the unbaked pie crust and sprinkle the crumbs evenly over top. Poke holes in top and pour the cream carefully into the holes. Bake at 375°F (190°C) for 35-45 minutes or until the apples are soft and a rich syrup has formed. Turn heat down partway through baking time if the pie is browning too fast. Best served warm or at room temperature, but it should be chilled to store overnight.
Popcorn, you say? She’s going to write a post on popcorn? She is indeed.
You see, popcorn has been an integral part of my life as long as I can remember. We fed lunch to a crowd of visitors after church every other Sunday. There could be anywhere from twenty to thirty people seated around the table on those days. Yup. You can read more about those early Sundays here. Then, around 3:30 or 4:00 pm, we would bring out the popcorn kettle and make popcorn for the good folks before they started making movements toward departure. Very often the popcorn would be served with apples, and in maple syrup season, homemade taffy. Let it never be said that they would leave our home hungry! Later we learned that popcorn could be served for supper instead, which made more sense to me.
Making good popcorn is an art. It needs to be perfectly popped, with six kernels or less being the maximum left unpopped, at least that was the criteria in our home. There needs to be the perfect balance of saltiness, crispiness, and butteryness. I am absolutely of the persuasion that there needs to be a little butter on the popcorn. I see no point in masticating endlessly on a flat, saltless, butterless piece of rubber. Why eat popcorn at all? AND, I don’t insist on it being a point of membership or anything, but I use a sturdy popcorn kettle, used only for popcorn. I use my grandma’s well-seasoned kettle that I bought when she auctioned off her estate. It was the one thing I was going to get at any price. Let my cousin have the ugly stiff rubber doll that we used to play with; I was going to get that kettle!
Six years ago we went with my sister and her husband on a memorable trip to Portugal, Spain, Southern France, and Andorra. In the last week of our trip we were planning to stay at a very remote Portuguese village at the top of a mountain in a house owned by one of our employees. We knew it was rustic, and figured it was probably not well-stocked, so we stopped at the foot of the mountain and proceeded to shop for groceries. We were overjoyed when we found popcorn kernels on the shelves of the store. After all, we had not had popcorn for over two weeks! We bought some olive oil and butter, figuring there would be some kind of kettle there.
Upon arrival, after exploring a bit, we noticed that there was no salt there. This would not do. Popcorn with no salt??? It was too far to go back down for just salt. A few of us were nearly in tears, our expectations dashed. Popcorn withdrawal will do that to you. After all, my sister and I had both been raised in the same popcorny environment.
A dear little lady in need of a hip replacement seemed to have been put in charge of us and kept hobbling over between our house and hers, wanting to help us. The trouble was, she only spoke Portuguese and we spoke about two words in Portuguese, with neither of them being “salt”. We communicated with sign language and us trying to pronounce “salt” in different cadences for a while, when my eyes spied an empty spice jar on the counter. Aha! I grabbed it, and shook it as though I was salting something. Bingo! Her eyes lit up and we could tell that she had got it. She hastened uphill to her home with surprising alacrity considering her lopsided gait, and returned with TWO containers of salt. One was a shaker of table salt; the other one a jar of very moist, fishy-smelling sea salt. We took the little shaker of salt, profusely saying “Obrigado” over and over. We had learned the Portuguese “Thank You” by then.
We made our popcorn in olive oil and butter, seasoned with salt we were very thankful for. Then we ate it with gusto on our front porch, waving at the neighbours trotting by, checking out the new kids in town. We surmised that they didn’t get a lot of visitors up there.
That was our initiation into a world of new experiences in the next few days; many hilarious, some touching, but all enthralling. You may hear more of them as life goes on.
I served the popcorn this time with Ambrosia apples. If you like a crunchy apple that STAYS crunchy in the dead of winter, this is the apple for you! If you like a pretty apple, this is also the apple for you. If you only like sour apples, this is NOT the apple for you. It is very sweet, as its name implies. It also happens to be my husband’s favourite. He’s sweet that way; liking the apple I’m featuring.
There are a few apples that are especially good for eating with popcorn. Some of my personal older favourites would include the Cortland and Snow apples in season, and the Empire. One of the newer ones would be the Ambrosia, a sweet apple that is similar to the Gala, but is firmer and even sweeter. It gets picked in mid-October, about a month after the Gala, so as a result it stores much better and retains its firmness longer.
This post is sponsored by Martin’s Family Fruit Farm. Memories and stories are my own.
DirectionsGet out a very large bowl. Heat the oil in a heavy pot or popcorn maker on high heat until shimmering hot. I often toss in a few kernels first; if they start “swimming” and sizzling, the oil is ready. Add the rest of the kernels and the butter and swirl the pot well, holding it above the burner. Do this a few times until it begins to pop, returning it to the burner in between. Keep the lid slightly ajar to keep popcorn crisp. Once it starts popping, remove pot and shake the kettle mid-air several times to shake the unpopped kernels to the bottom before returning it to the stove. When the lid begins to rise, shake about a third of the popcorn into the bowl. Return the kettle to the burner, shaking it again; repeat these steps until the popping slows down significantly. Shake salt over the popcorn, taste, and adjust. Serve with apples for an old-fashioned economical snack.
I was waffling a bit in trying to decide the theme I wanted to use for April this year, because Easter was so early and is already past and gone. We have been hovering on the cusp of spring for ever so long, but it flirts with us, teasing us with a glimpse of sun and daffodils, then slips away behind a dark snow cloud again. Soon we shall have rhubarb, asparagus, wild leeks, and fiddleheads, but for now, we still have apples!
Every now and then I get a craving for this solid, moist pound-style cake. It needs no frosting, just a light dusting of icing sugar, and is ideal for breakfast or dessert. It has been in my recipe file for many years, and is perfect to serve on heirloom dishes, like the plate I have pictured above. That plate is part of a setting from my grandmother’s Royal Winton Sunday set and I treasure it. I use it occasionally and think of her tuneless under-her-breath whistle while she ironed; the way she always had time to read to us and take us for walks through the woods behind us; sitting at the table in her green visor bent over the newspaper while she ticked off the crossword puzzle in that day’s issue.
I wasn’t in photo mode when I was preparing the cake, so I don’t have pictures of the prep steps, but they are quite basic: prepare batter, peel and thinly slice apples; toss apples in cinnamon-sugar, and layer the batter and apples in a large bundt or tube pan. Because I’m obsessive about foods looking pretty, I saved a dozen apple slices and laid them in a circle on top of the cake. Then you bake it for a long time, over an hour.
I served it to our Bible study group that night, but my daughter and grandson came earlier that day and we had to test it to see if it was like it should be. Yup, it was.
This post is sponsored by Martin’s Family Fruit Farm. They have a beautiful new website now and my blog is a part of it! Yay! Check it out in the News section. As always, the stories and views on this site are my own.
I used a Honeycrisp apple for this recipe. I love its full flavour and juiciness in baking, while holding its shape nicely.
Old-Fashioned Apple Cake
FILLING: Toss the peeled and sliced apples with second amount of sugar and cinnamon. Set aside 12 slices for the top.
ASSEMBLY: Spread one third of the batter thinly in the bottom of the prepared pan. Cover with half of the apples and spread them as evenly as you can. Repeat layers, ending with batter. Lay set-aside slices in a spoke fashion around the top of the cake.
BAKE in centre of the oven for 70 -75 minutes, or until your toothpick comes out clean. Cool upright in pan for 20 minutes, then remove by running a knife around the outside edge, placing a plate over the top of the pan and tipping it upside down. Place rack on the turned up bottom and tip it again right side up. It will make sense when you do it, trust me. Let cool another 10 minutes before dusting with icing sugar and serving. To dust evenly with icing sugar, place a little of the sugar in a small fine-mesh sieve and shake it gently over the cake. Eat it and think of your grandma with fondness.
With Family Day upon us, I asked Steve’s oldest sister Laurel what she remembers doing together as a family in those very early days when Martin’s Apples was just a fledgling business. This is what she remembers, “I have memories of picking apples every day in the fall, after school (it seemed like every day, at least!). I remember it was quite amazing when we made that old shed into a cooler and we had a cold place to store our apples. Before that, I remember storing apples (russet; Dad’s favourite back then) in our basement under the old kitchen/study, because it was cooler there. I also have memories of polishing apples in the driving shed before we went to market the next day. One Friday evening in particular stands out in my memory. It was a cozy fall evening and we were all out there together sorting and individually shining each apple for a very large order* that was being picked up. Janet (another sister) and I ate an incredible amount of apples that night.” *This order was for about 20 bushels of apples, which would be the equivalent of around 2200 apples!
It’s hard to imagine polishing each apple by hand, but there you have it! The Martin’s took pleasure in having an attractive product from the very beginning. I have a personal attachment to that cement pad that housed that first apple cooler, because some years later it became the foundation for our mobile home; our first abode when we married. It was tucked in the orchard, partway down the “bush lane”. It was a very romantic location for a young couple’s first home, I thought. I have many good memories of living in our orchard bower.
The Martin family has also reminisced about picking up the Melba apples that had fallen from the tree in the back yard before they could mow the lawn. These apples were then turned into applesauce for their large family. Incidentally, that old Melba tree is still standing and is the only apple tree left from those days. It was in the back yard before the orchard was planted. In an earlier post, I mentioned that creamed potatoes and sausage were two of the quintessential foods of our Mennonite culture. There is another one that should be added to that list, and that is applesauce. There are many families that eat it two, or even three times a day. It is on their table morning, noon, and night, usually as dessert.
Traditionally, applesauce is made by washing (don’t peel) apples, cutting them in quarters, and cooking them in a bit of water. Then the hot apples are put through a strainer, and sugar or honey is added. The sauce is funneled into jars, covered and steamed for 20 minutes. Sometimes I like to make a chunky sauce that I don’t preserve, in which I peel the apples, core and cut them, and cook them in about an inch or so of water until soft. I mash them with a potato “stomper” as we used to call it, add desired amount of sugar (or not), and let it cool. You could also use an immersion blender, or a pastry cutter. Be aware that if you choose not to add sugar to your canned sauce, your applesauce will turn brown in the jars after it’s been sitting for awhile, since sugar is a preservative.
A lot of people use the first apples to make applesauce. You can do that if you wish, but if you wait until the apples are riper, the sauce will be much sweeter and full of flavour naturally. Most apples can be turned into sauce. I think a blend of apples makes the best sauce, just as it does in fresh cider.
There are several types of strainers; the old-fashioned cone ricer that my mom used, the basket-style that is pictured here, and a high-falutin’ Victorio strainer. Take your pick!
This post is sponsored by Martin’s Family Fruit Farm. The recipes, views, and stories are my own.
*Most hardware stores have canning supplies. The basics are a canning kettle with a rack, jar lifters, jars, snaplids, rings, and a funnel. There are kits that include a magnetized lid lifter that I have found useful. One half bushel of apples yields approximately 11 litres or quarts of sauce
DirectionsPut about two inches of water into a very large kettle. Wash and quarter the apples, placing them in the kettle until the kettle is about 2/3 full. Cover the remaining apple quarters with water in a large bowl until kettle is free again. Cook the apples until soft and puffy, starting them at a boil, then turning them down to a low boil. Stir to keep from scorching on the bottom of the kettle, especially at the beginning. Meanwhile heat empty clean quart jars in the oven on 250° for at least 10 minutes to sterilize. Put snaplids into a little pot, cover with water, and boil for 5 minutes to soften the rubber. Turn down to simmer. Prepare another kettle or crock with the strainer over it, and ladle the hot apples into the strainer in batches. Rotate through strainer until the pulp is dry. Scrape out the junk and repeat process until all the apples are used. Add desired amount of sweetener to the sauce (I usually add 1 – 2 cups per kettle); stir and taste. Funnel the sauce into the sterilized jars, filling to middle of the neck (about 1/2″ from the top), then wipe the rim of the jar, carefully fit the snaplid on the top, and screw on the ring just until tight. Fill a canner half full of warm water, set jars in the water, and top up the water if needed. It should come to the base of the jars’ necks. Cover the canner and turn the burner to high. Once the water is boiling, turn heat to medium-low, and continue steaming for 20 minutes. When timer goes off, turn off burner, set lid ajar, and let the jars sit in the water for about 10 minutes to settle. This keeps them from spitting juice after they are removed. Remove carefully and set on a towel to cool. Listen for the pings and pops as the lids seal; such a sweet sound of success! Let sit undisturbed for 24 hours. Remove rings, being careful not to disturb the seals, wash up and store in a cool place until ready to eat. Enjoy plain with pork chops or with a sprinkle of cinnamon, a slice of cheese or chocolate cake!
*Most hardware stores have canning supplies. The basics are a canning kettle with a rack, jar lifters, jars, snaplids, rings, and a funnel. There are kits that include a magnetized lid lifter that I have found useful.
One half bushel of apples yields approximately 11 litres or quarts of sauce
After trekking to the foothills of the Great Pyrenees Mountains with my last soup recipe, I thought we’d stay close to home for this one. A simple form of it originates in my childhood and has great memories attached.
If you were to ask anybody in this area what the quintessential Waterloo County Mennonite foods are, you would hear a resounding “Schnippelde Grumbarra und Vascht” (sliced (and creamed) potatoes and sausage). The vascht may be served in various forms; farmer’s sausage, summer sausage or bag sausage. The Schnippelde Grumbarra may be sliced or shredded, with fried onions or without, but always, always imbued with heavy cream. On cold winter mornings, my mom would fry up a few onions, then add sliced potatoes and hot water, add some salt and cook them until they were tender. Meanwhile, she brought some Schneider’s Red Hots (wieners, for those who aren’t famiiar with this iconic tube steak) out of the freezer and heated them in boiling water. When the potatoes were soft, she added cream until the mixture had the consistency of a cream soup, and ladled it into our thermoses. She stuck the wiener into the middle of the potatoes and off we trotted to school, anticipating our homemade hot lunch. It was brilliant; the potatoes took on the distinctive taste of the wiener and we thought it was delicious. At noon the only question was whether to eat the wiener whole, or chop it with our spoons. Such a weighty decision for youngsters!
I have made this chowder many times over the years, remembering my childhood lunch delight with nostalgia. I would take a big crockpot of it to market on cold winter days and plug it into the back of our truck to heat for the morning. There was nothing that quite took the chill away for a little while at least, like a cup of hot soup and coffee. I have made it with ham, bacon, and chicken, but my all-time favourite meat addition is sausage. I always have home-canned sausage on hand, so it’s also very convenient. Plus, it uses lots of winter vegetables, including the lesser-known leeks. You can use less of one vegetable and more of another with no problem, as long as you have at least nine cups of chopped vegetables in total.
Leeks are a member of the onion family and look like a green onion on steroids. They have a mild sweet onion/leek flavour and the pale green rings add pretty colour to whatever dish they’re in. You want to wash them thoroughly, since they are grown under the soil like onions or carrots. Most often they are grown in raised beds, so that the plant can grow downwards further, thus producing a longer white stem. I use the white and pale green part, slicing until I start seeing dirt between the rings.
This post is sponsored by Martin’s Family Fruit Farm. The recipes, views, and stories are my own.
*GF denotes gluten-free
Spud, Leek and Sausage Chowder
DirectionsMelt the butter, then put all the vegetables in the kettle. Saute for about five minutes. Add the chicken broth and basil. Cover, bring to a boil, then turn down heat and simmer on low boil until the vegetables are soft, stirring occasionally. If you wish to brown your sausage slices, this is a good time to do that. It takes more time, but adds flavour. Add the sausage, then the milk. If you plan to thicken the soup, whisk the flour/potato starch into the sour cream, yogurt or buttermilk, and add to the soup once it’s hot, stirring gently. Taste and add desired amount of salt and pepper. Heat and stir gently until thickened. Do not boil it hard at this point or it will separate.
*GF denotes gluten-free
This is the time of year that you first begin to see action in this orchard of ours. It begins in a state of ugliness that leads to an abundance of beauty in another month or so. The action happening these days is that of pruning the trees of their surplus branches so that the warm sun can hit every single bud and turn it first into a blossom, then into an apple. Here’s an interesting tidbit: the fruit buds actually form in June of the previous year. The pruning typically begins while there is still snow on the ground, as there was a few weeks ago when I took this picture. The snow is gone now; honestly, it is!
People are often surprised at how heavily the trees are pruned, but it is critical to have each part of the branch exposed to the sun for optimum ripening and healthy growth of the apple. You see here our team of pruners, two experienced ones and two new apprentices. They come from Trinidad and Jamaica to help us from March to October, and we are very grateful for their help! It delights my heart to hear their happy chatter in the orchard as they work.
After harvest in the fall, the apples are stored all year in special controlled atmosphere storage that you will learn about as we go along. I will give you snippets of information because A) it’s easier for you to digest, and B) I plan to write for quite a while, so I can’t tell you everything at once, can I?
My recipe today is a simple one to go with that egg cheese that I’m sure you’ve all made by now. Right? Of course; right. It is one I watched my Grandma make, who lived beside us all the years I lived at home. She was a tiny little lady who loved children and we loved her. She was an adventurous gardener and cook who liked to try new dishes. She knew every bird, tree, and flower in the woods behind us, and I learned from her which mushrooms were edible, and which ones were poisonous.
You simply cut a firm yellow or green apple like Golden Delicious or Crispin (also know as Mutsu) into thick wedges. This is what is known as “schnitz” in Pennsylvania Deutsch. I use one of those handy-dandy apple slicers that cores the apple and cuts it into wedges in one fell swoop. We carry nice sturdy ones at our store at Martin’s Family Fruit Farm. You melt butter in a pan, add brown sugar, the apple wedges, a generous dash or two of cinnamon and fry on medium low heat until the apples are all gooey and carmelly and starting to soften. They taste wonderful on egg cheese, pancakes, ice cream, or just on their own. Do try them!
Always, ALWAYS store apples in the fridge or somewhere equally cold. They will keep six to ten times longer than at room temperature.
Grandma's Fried Apple Schnitz
DirectionsMelt butter in a large electric or stovetop frying pan on medium heat. Wash apples, but do not peel them. Add brown sugar to the pan and stir into the melted butter. Remove the core and cut apples into thick wedges (about 6 per apple). I like to use my apple corer and wedger for this. Toss them into the pan with the butter/brown sugar mixture, sprinkle them with cinnamon, and stir them gently so that they are coated with the mixture. Fry on medium heat, turning them periodically until they are gooey and golden; soft but not mushy. This takes 5-10 minutes, depending on the firmness of the apples. Serve over egg cheese, ice cream, pancakes, or all on their own.