Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Back to School with Chicken Soup or Ham & Bean Soup

The school Bells are ringing again and it's time to talk about those easy and filling fall soups.  When I went to school, children came home for lunch and then ran back to school just in time for the bell to ring you back into afternoon classes.  Lunch in the winter at our house was always some type of soup and a half sandwich (because it was split with my younger brother for his lunch).

Since so many go to school on buses today and eat their lunches at school, there is nothing wrong with making a pot of soup for when the children return home from school and need a pick-me-up to get ready to do homework.  A cup of soup when you first get home takes the edge off the hunger pains and isn't too much to spoil a good supper.

In the past we have talked about some of the soups made with tomato base.  Today I want to start with one of America's favorite soups, Chicken Soup.  First, we are going to talk about Chicken Dumpling Soup.  You can make many varieties of chicken soup, but when you add that little dough ball, your soup takes on a whole different consistency that tantalizes the pallet.

Basic Chicken Soup can be made and so many other starches can be added to it such as noodles or rice.

Chicken noodle soup or chicken rice soup start with the basic soup recipe that you have from the Chicken Dumpling Soup, but when the soup has simmered for awhile, you add your noodles or rice and let it simmer a while longer.  If you lose too much broth, you just add a little chicken broth or water.

When I was a chat room monitor on a popular bingo site, the subject of Bean Soup with Ham came up.  I offered my recipe in the chat room, line by line and the person who originally asked came back several days later to tell me how good it was.  I make this recipe less often than the others, but my Mom made it after she had  ham for dinner.  One way to stretch a piece of meat into several dinners or lunches.  I found this recipe in my mother-in-law's recipes.  I never really had a recipe from my Mom even though she often made a pot full of one soup or another for the family supper.

Monday, August 29, 2016

First Signs of Fall Coming and the Cicada Song

We have had numerous minute natural changes in the the crops around the area.  The crops are starting to wither on the vines and the leaves are starting to look dry.  Birds are foraging more in the fields for those crops that have turned to seed.

I hear the birds chirping and calling to each other in the yards around me that have family vegetable gardens.  They have taken a rest from my bird feeder and are enjoying the fresh bounty of the season.

As summer skies are lit up by the stars we had a summer display of shooting stars which I haven't seen since I was a Girl Scout at Camp Redwing.  I remember we took our cots out and lined them up around the campfire so that we were facing northeast and waited for the burst of stars to shoot across the sky.  We were told by the news media that this would happen again this week and it did.  I saw just one as I sat on my deck with a cup of coffee contemplating the vastness of the universe.

All of these tiny changes in nature herald the best sign of all that Fall in coming.  I sat out another evening and just as I was falling asleep in my deck rocker, I heard it.  It was a rasping sound.  It was ever so soft and not quite as loud as I have come to know the song of the Cicadas.  Locust is the familiar name that we have given to Cicadas.  These creatures are known to invade crops and destroy them by laying eggs deep into the stalks.  At hottest hour of the day the male Cicada makes a series of clicks that turns into a hum which becomes the distinctive sound of the creatures we call locusts.

The old wives tale is that Fall will start six weeks from the day you hear the first Cicada Song.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Fond Memories of Putting Up Apples and Figs For The Winter

One of my fondest Fall memories was when we were raising our 7 children.  My husband and I would go to the Farmer's Market early in the Fall and buy 3 baskets of apples.

Apples from the Farmer's Market
I prefer 3 individual kinds of apples (Northern Spy, Machintosh and a green cooking apple which they now call a Granny Smith).  Then we would spend a Saturday sitting around the table peeling, coring and preparing the apples to be put into quart jars for the winter.

Except for the labor involved it is an easy task to prepare the apples so that we could make pies and strudels when there were no more apples.  Today that doesn't happen because the supermarkets carry apples of all varieties in every season but it was a productive day for us as a family.

The jars were prepared in the usual manner by boiling them and then setting them aside.  Once the apples were peeled and cored, they were cut into slices in a rather large bowl and sprinkled with about a third of a cup of sugar and a lot of cinnamon.  The bowl was then covered and put in the microwave for about 15 minutes.

Apples out of the microwave
When the apples came out of the microwave they were put into the waiting jars making sure that there was no air bubbles and set aside to cool.  Once cooled the jar was sealed.  Each jar of apples was marked with the date it was filled.  Once the jars had cooled and were sealed they were put on the shelf in what was once the butler's pantry off the kitchen.  That room stayed cool in winter and kept the jars perfectly.

Applesauce jarred for winter
After we had enough apples for pies and baked goods over the winter we would take the remainder of the apples and run them through the blender to make applesauce to be put aside for winter use also.  The applesauce was put into the jars in the same manner, making sure there were no air bubbles and set aside to cool before sealing.

The apple slices normally lasted until around Christmas time and would be used in strudels for the holiday.  If we were lucky we would have some left over and when the applesauce ran out we would reheat the apple slices and make them into applesauce.  In our family the request for homemade applesauce ran into all the holiday and family gatherings because they liked the homespun variety that I made which I called my "Mountain Sauce" which was almost brown from the abundance of cinnamon.

Figs growing on tree not ripened.
I never made this but my mother-in-law would take grapes and put them up into jams.  That recipe I don't have because it was never written down.  I also found a recipe for fig jam.