Susan Stone: Inherited recipes from her mother’s harvest
September 26, 2008
Judith Graham grew up as a preacher’s kid in the deep woods of Wisconsin alongside the St. Croix River. Among the many things she treasures from her childhood are her dad’s gardening skills and her mother’s ability to cook amazing meals from that garden.
Every autumn, Judith, her mother and grandmother set about canning, freezing and drying the food needed to feed the seven children plus adults during the long Wisconsin winters.
The family home, across the river from Stillwater, Minn., boasted a wood cook stove and a wood-burning furnace, both stoked by oak wood her father brought out of the forest and split with the children’s help.
Judith can’t remember when there wasn’t bread rising on the top shelf of the wood stove.
She said, “You haven’t tasted homemade bread until you eat some fresh out of a wood cook stove. Lois Graham could bake bread as high and light and yummy as I’ve ever tasted, and we kids ate it as fast as she could bake it.”
At this wood stove, Judith began learning to cook and bake at the tender age of 6.
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Every Sunday after church services, the family entertained several families from the congregation for Sunday dinner. Judith is amazed how her mother could cook that much sensational food, get it on the table and still be so relaxed and joyous.
These must have been wonderful times as Judith said her dad sang like Frank Sinatra, played guitar and mandolin while her mother played piano spanning the gamut from classical to heart-stopping gospel tunes. They involved young and old alike in singing groups, choirs and religious plays. Her dad even had the kids singing and touring throughout the Midwest in churches and conferences.
The “Family Birthday Cake” ” a “light” 3-layer pound cake with whipped cream between the layers and caramel icing dripped over the top never got old. Judith and her brothers still make it every birthday for their families.
Judith’s mother Lois, a Swede, used mild spices; Judith’s father, Ernest, a hearty Scotsman, enjoyed spicy hot foods. The compromise was an assortment of the hottest peppers and garnishes. Judith continues this tradition by serving sauteed jalapenos and garlic as a side dish at her family table.
Judith is especially fond of baking, utilizing ancient grains like spelt and Kamut. She claims you can never go back to store-bought bread once you become accustomed to whole grain breads fresh from your own oven.
This summer, Judith decided to enter the Hot Sulphur Springs Days pie contest with her frozen Grasshopper Mint and fresh strawberry rhubarb pies.
She said, “While making the strawberry rhubarb pie, I was wishing I could keep it for our dinner (my sons were helping me with a work day and they kept looking longingly at the pie.) I was also having trouble with the crust. It didn’t hold together and I thought it would be either tough or crumbly when baked. The pie turned out so pretty I decided it should go to the contest. I placed it in the freezer in my garage to cool until time to take it to the town hall. My sons proceeded to move the refrigerator in the garage; not knowing the pie was inside. The door swung opened and the pie flew out onto the driveway, landing right side up, folded over like a taco. We all burst out laughing because we’d subconsciously wanted it ruined so we could keep it. I took the mint pie to the contest and we happily feasted on the folded strawberry rhubarb pie.”
When she isn’t gardening and cooking, Judith stays busy with her company, Graham Mortgage, and lives in Hot Sulphur Springs, where she gardens extensively. She plans to write a cookbook to honor her mother and commemorate her recipes.
Judith shares a recipe from her mother’s collection of beautifully handwritten recipes that will put us in the mood for fall. It exemplifies the type of hearty meal her mother served utilizing fresh, readily available vegetables – ones you can find even if you don’t have a garden of your own.
Potato Corn Chowder
4 ears corn on the cob
1 qt. filtered water or light chicken broth
2-3 Tbs. butter or olive oil
2 medium or 3 to 4 small onions or leeks, sliced into rounds
A few celery ribs, diced small or a few parsley stems or a big sprig of lovage, minced
3 small or 1 lg. carrot, diced small
2 – 3 lbs. potatoes, cut into chunks
1 bouquet garni (thyme, marjoram, sage, parsley)
salt and pepper to taste
Creme fraiche or sour cream, for garnish
chives or scallions, for garnish
Fresh bacon bits, for garnish (optional)
Cut the kernels off the cobs into a bowl and scrape the cob to release the “milk” into the bowl and reserve. Make a quick corn stock by simmering the cobs in the water or the broth for about 20 minutes. In a heavy-bottomed pan, melt the butter (or heat the olive oil) and saute the onions or leeks until translucent. Add the celery or parsley stems and cook through. Add the potatoes and enough corn stock to cover, adding a little milk or water if you don’t have enough stock. Add the bouquet garni to the pot, bring to a boil, and simmer (covered) until the potatoes are soft. Add the corn kernels, salt and pepper; return to a simmer. Remove from the heat. Remove the bouquet garni. Add the creme fraiche and salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with more creme fraiche and top with chives and crispy bacon pieces scattered on top. (If you add chicken, then also add rosemary to the bouquet garni.
Contact Susan Stone, the Highland Foodie, at 970-531-1952 or by e-mail email@example.com if you would like the recipe for the Sourdough Corn Fritters, Upside-Down Strawberry Meringue Pie or if you have any questions.