Tag Archives: heritage experiences

As Easy as Pie


Oh…the joys of Spring and Summer are upon us….no?  It’s Autumn, you say?  Really?  Where’d my Summer go?!!

You might also feel that way…just a bit?

These little 3 to 4 pound beauties make the best pies!

This post really brings me into reality.  I just realized it was time to bake the pumpkins. (still shaking my head that it is autumn)

“Oh how we love pumpkin season. You did know this gourd-ish squash has its own season, right? Winter, Spring, Summer, Pumpkin…. We anxiously anticipate it every year.” ~Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer, October 2010

I usually prefer to bake up actual pie pumpkins and my favorite one is the little “Winter Luxury” pie pumpkin, as smaller tends to mean sweeter.  I get the seeds from the Jung Seed company in Wisconsin.  But since my unofficial motto is (according to my husband) “Can it before it rots” I pretty much put-by food regardless of pedigree.  I rather enjoy carving a huge jack-o-lantern and baking a pie from the face parts I cut out.  It brings a chuckle to any kid in your home to be eating “face pie” on Halloween.  I also will use hearty sweeter pumpkin like squashes like Red Warty Thing and hubbard as pumpkin mash as they are pretty much interchangeable in recipes.

Pumpkin is the one thing I don’t can.  Instead I prefer to freeze it.  The pure density of squash leaves too much question about whether the pressure canning process brought the center of the jar up to the right temperature and for long enough.  Additionally, I prefer to take it out as ready to go mash.  NEVER, can mashed pumpkin as it is too dense for safe home processing.

So….this morning, my house was 59 degrees.  By George, I am NOT lighting the furnaces in September.  That makes it a perfect day to bake pumpkins.  Here is what I do:

Just halve the pumpkins and place on a cookie sheet to bake.

Preheat oven to 325 (you can do 350 for a faster bake, but don’t go higher).  You want to slow simmer the flesh, not bake it crispy.  Take a long carving knife and slice the pumpkin in half.  Scoop the seedy center our with a spoon and …in my case at least….feed that yummy center to the chickens and ducks!  Lay the halved pumpkin face down on foil covered (for clean-up ease only, foil bottom not necessary) cookie sheets and cover with foil.

Boy…that took all of 5-10 minutes.  Really…this isn’t that hard or time consuming.  I might lose my day-job if people realized how easy some of these very heirloom activities actually are….

Bake for 1 to 3 hours, depending on how much you have in your oven and how big the pieces are.  Smaller equals faster.

You know the pumpkin is done when a fork slides easily in all the way to the shell as if warm butter.

You know they are done when you can sink a dinner fork like into warm butter until it reaches the shell.  Take out and let cool a few minutes.  You probably can read half of “Fifty Shades of Grey” during this effortless time and people will thing you slaved to make them a pumpkin pie from scratch.  Your secret.  🙂

After baking let the pumpkins cool just enough to handle. It is easier to work with when warm.

Next is up to you.  At this point the pumpkin is ready to use in recipes.  I don’t like the texture of the occasional strings in the flesh.  So here is what I do:

With a soup spoon I scoop the now soft and warm flesh into my old food mill.  Press it with a few turns of my hand and it deposits into the bowl underneath.  Any strings are strained out by this extra step and it is also not time consuming.  Warmer is better.

If not using it right away, stir and premeasure into freezer containers or bags, writing the amount,date, and of course, contents on a label.  100% pumpkin.

SO EASY.  AND, it is your family food quality control … You know what is in that pumpkin puree and what isn’t.  You may not have read that aforementioned book, but I get a lot done when baking pumpkin and I adjust the oven temp lower if I have to run on an errand that is longer than an hour or so.

This food mill may be old, but it sure does a quick job of sending pumpkin through.

It is very easy to scoop out a baked pumpkin.

Mine almost entirely goes into pumpkin pie.  Which should be another post perhaps.  Equally as easy, but oh so tasty!  My favorite pie.  I actually had it be my “wedding cake” when I married.  I love it that much.

Do you bake your own pumpkin?  What is your favorite variety for it?

Ready for the freezer!

…wearing a fetching apron,

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“And now have a look at you! You’re so pretty … wearing a fetching apron, of course, and your hair’s neat and beautiful, held back by a ribbon”

The title of this post comes from a line (the rest of it is above) in one of my favorite interests…older cook books.

Aprons are fun and VERY handy. I am not sure why they fell out of use. This is one of mine.

This one in particular is special.  It was my first foray into old cookbook land.  I bought this First edition 1955 “Better Homes and Gardens Junior Cook Book for the Hostess & Host of tomorrow” about 15 years ago at a yard sale.  My daughter Jessica was getting interested in the kitchen and I wanted to encourage it.  At the time she really didn’t see the charm in the old book, like I did.

She was 10 and the cookbook was “soooo….yesterday.”  🙂

If you can get past the chuckles you’ll have at the quaint language and gender assumptions, older cook books are fabulous peeks into our history.  They are windows into how family life was conducted in homes during period in which the cook book was printed. By reading them, we are peeping-toms of a sort.  Through the ingredients, we learn what were common staples in the pantry.  In the description of tools to use, we know how much time was spent in the kitchen, or how tricky cooking over a wood burner or early gas or electric range may have been.  Even the portion sizes change over the eras.

One of our fun cookbooks.

I love my old cook books.   I have a lot of them, including one from the White House circa 1901, filled with hand written notes and old news clippings. (and yes, I do wear an apron. We have many of them so our guests can put one on too when they are experiencing our heritage kitchen.)  What makes me sad is that the recipes don’t please the average U.S citizen’s palate today.  The cook books of today use far more sugar and shortenings in recipes.  The scone of today certainly isn’t the scone of a 100 years ago.  I wonder why we have an obesity epidemic in the U.S…?

Now…a recipe from the BH&G Junior cook book:  “Everyday drumsticks”

1 lb. gr beef

1 tsp salt

1 egg

12 soda crackers

6 wooden skewers

3 slices bacon

The Drumstick recipe. Easy for a child...and adult.

Set oven to 450.  Put beef, salt and egg in a bowl.  Mix.  Divide into 6 parts.

Put crackers in a bag.  Roll with a rolling-pin to form crumbs.  Put crumbs on waxed paper.

Shape the balls of meat around skewers to look like drumsticks.  Roll in crumbs; place on greased baking pan.  Bake 15 minutes.

Cut bacon slices into 4 pieces.  Put on meat.  Bake 15 minutes more.

This recipe is what a little girl of 9 – 12 in age could be expected to do in 1955.

If you have older cookbooks that are at least 40 years old, have a look at them with an eye toward looking at the home and family life.  It is a unique way to look at cook books and may just inspire you to make a dish you’ve never tried before.  Share your own cookbook discoveries and new old recipe attempts in the comments area below or by emailing ICan@bygonebasics.com.

A side note of news for you….I’ve completely redesigned our Bygone Basics website.  Please, have a look at it and tell me what you think.  It is easier to navigate, cleaner, and uses photos to show people what an experience is like here at Bygone Basics.

Check it out:  www.bygonebasics.com

Parting quote from the old cookbook:

You’re about to turn the page to a heap of fun. So…hands washed? Have on a pretty apron, and is your hair looking mighty smooth?  O.K., Kitchen, here we come.

And a parting photo…how fun!:

Boys and girls can have fun in the kitchen...even in 1955. Though, it would seem from the photo that boys do take a bit of a back seat ...

The manners of violets….

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A loaf of Bread, a jug of wine, and thou. Try our Artisan breads....no guarantees on a perfect date, but it sure helps!

I saw a quote the other day that really gave me a moment of deep thought. “When the time is ripe for certain things, these things appear in different places in the manner of violets coming to light in the early spring. –Farkas Bolyai”

Initially, I dismissed it as a ‘pretty’ thought but then remembered how ill mannered and unpredictable spring violets are.

It is as if Mother Earth gave these pretty little heathens a free will that dominates all others.

Once planted, they proceed to grow in other places and fill other’s spaces if the conditions are unpredictably (to us) right to them . They are determined to outlive all attempts to corral (yes, even kill) them. That seems to be how Bygone Basics is growing. It seems to have found spaces and places that I didn’t see coming when I dreamed this big dream of starting this business.

We have now enhanced the Bygone Basics Experience to include the opportunity for people to enjoy our hand dipped taper candles and wonderful artisan soaps. Just this week we added a line of farmers breads (both loaf varieties and stone baked), delectible scones, and old-fashioned cookies. Soon, jams and jellies will be added to the line of products.

You can order using our online system using PayPal or just call or email with what you would like and I’ll send an invoice. I have more items available that what I’ve had time to put on the website. I ship in well packaged boxes to prevent breakage. Of course, you can pick up your order too, by preset appointment.  I need to make sure my guests who are enjoying a Bygone Experience are not interrupted.

I love it. It is a lot of variety and is so energizing! People have all along asked me if I sell the things I make, but I always said no. The time was ripe. Now I do.

Speaking of violets…I’m getting laying hens!  The time is ripe.  🙂  (sense a theme yet?)  I have always talked about getting hens agian.  When a girl, it was my job to collect the eggs on our family farm.  I practically live on eggs and bake with them too.  I happened across someone who was practically giving away a system that contains them, while allowing them to be free range grazers and in the same week, found someone else who had a few chicks to part with.  Normally, one must buy large orders of 15 or 25 of each type of chicken.  With all the space Amanda has here for us (Remember we named the place “Amanda’s Bequest”) it just worked out.

We will also be at the Montague Farmers market with our food goods.   AND at the new Artisan Marketplace in Montague with our artisan candles and soaps.  WOW.  A lot going on this year.  My husband tells me I might want to control those violets, lest they consume me.  He is right.  I’ll have to hire help this year.  Our daughters are growing into adults with jobs and homes further away. (very sad about that)

I just posted the latest issue (April/May 2011) of the I CAN at Bygone Basics Newsletter.

In it is an article about what to do in April and May.  I’ve been busily planning a large garden.  After container gardening the last couple of years in our previous location in suburbia, I am really looking forward it.  We dug up the front lawn and put manure on it, then tilled it in.  Hey…in my defense it was the best sunlight area.  Now…if only it would WARM UP and act like spring!!

“Spring is when you feel like whistling even with a shoe full of slush. –– Doug Larson

Tallow Anyone?!

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Tallow Anyone?!

I told you it wouldn’t be long before I got another blog post out.

It feels like spring may finally arrive after what seems like the longest winter in my memory.  I have been making soap to replenish my supplies and to create an inventory to sell.

Bygone Basics has two lines of soaps.  One is a Heritage line. These soaps are heritage pure and made up of standard home goods available  between the 1870’s and the 1940’s.  Standard ingredients include rain water, goat or cow milks, castor oil, and several other ingredient options (and of course lye).  Some of the soaps contain animal oils such as lard and tallow as well.  These make a very good bar of soap by the way.  If these soaps have scents, they are created by adding ground coffee (which is a fantastic way to get odors off your hands, such as garlic), cinnamon, and ground herbs.  I am put off by soaps that smell of so much perfume they become offensive, plus I wonder at potential chemicals in the scent and colorant additions in some homemade soaps I see being sold.  It is ok for many, I just don’t want to walk about smelling like a perfume shop, nor have my husband’s co-workers wonder why he smells…pretty.  🙂  Just personal taste.

The second line is so much FUN.  It is a play on the words “alphabet soup.”  The line is Alphabet Soap. Each soap variation in this line has ingredients that begin with a certain letter of the alphabet (some have to stray on an ingredient once in a while).  For example, one of the “C” soaps is a kitchen (citchen?) has these ingredients:

  • coconut oil
  • cocoa butter
  • castor oil
  • coffee
  • coffee grounds
  • cloves

These soaps and home dipped bygone era candles, as well as

Unrendered Tallow.

baked goods, jams/jellies..etc (things of bygone eras) will be for sale at the Bygone Basics Pantry, located at Amanda’s Bequest, the home of Bygone Basics, 5200 Anderson Rd., Montague, MI 49437 beginning May 1, 2011.

Tallow as it melts. This batch is about half done.

I started to tell you, and then sidetracked myself….Tallow.  It is hard to find.  It reminded me of the frustrating time last summer when my daughter, Jessica, and I were trying very hard to find a source of local goat’s milk for soap.  We were told repeatedly where we might find a source but kept striking out.  She quipped in frustration, “Everyone knows someone who sells goat’s milk, but no one actually does!” I’ve gone to a couple of butchers and they weren’t sure what it even was!?  FYI, it is a very hard fat deposit on lean grazing animals like deer, sheep and goats and sometimes around the kidneys of cattle.  In the past, my source was deer, taken on the property…but we now live in a no-hunting zone, where there are 20 deer standing in my lawn at any given time….just teasing me.

You may remember that the Bygone Basic’s kitchen is under renovation, but fortunately, we have a second kitchen here.  Nothing fancy, but it does the job.

This is our second kitchen. It works just fine for us. Note the Guiness cake cooling in its springform pan.

Today, I am making a cake for my mother.  Guiness cake.

Yes, it has almost a full bottle of Guiness Extra Stout in it and becomes a very moist, chocolatey cake.

The Guiness has a way of not adding it’s own flavor, but of adding a wonderful depth and dimension to the chocolate (the alcohol cooks off).

The cake is in the oven and the tallow on the stovetop. A wonderful "back home" aroma.

……..AND, I am rendering tallow.  The house smells like bygone homes where the kitchen eminated aromas of wonderful baking and the chores of economy (rendering tallow for example).  Tallow was inexpensive (or free if you hunted or farmed your own animals) and used in many ways in bygone era homes….but you had to render it.  Rendering is just cooking the hard tallow into a melted liquid and then straining it to remove impurities.  Those strained impurities will go into the composter.  We really do try not to waste anything.

Speaking of letting nothing go to waste, later today, I am making a series of “B” soaps.  What starts with “B”?  Beer.  The rest of that Guiness (and then some) is going into a complexion bar I’ve developed.  🙂  Never a dull moment here.

If you are interested in having any of these unique experiences and gaining their associated heritage skill, call or email today to get the date of your choice in the Bygone Basics kitchen.

Until next time…thinking SPRING!

Name Betty

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In my recent newsletter for Bygone Basics, I announced a contest. And so, I thought (it is almost always dangerous when I do that) that I should bring the same information to this blog.

In November, I introduced the new home of Bygone Basics. To recap, it is an old manse built in 1874 and was the parsonage that was completed with the building of Ferry Memorial Church on Old Channel Trail in Montague.  Noah Ferry died heroically in the Civil War and his mother and brother comissioned the manse and church in his memory.
We’re still moving in while recapturing the place.  There’s a lot of work to be done in the house. For example, we are creating a private heritage kitchen separate from the home’s main kitchen for Bygone Basic Experiences. But for now, we use the big main kitchen for our guest Experiences until that work is completed.
I thought upon first seeing the house that it was female and got the clear impression of a grand dame, “fallen” a bit.  In fact Betty Boop came to mind with her arched eyebrows and pursed lips, ready to reward you with a kiss. 

The new home of Bygone Basics....do you see Betty Boop?

Now the contesting part comes in….I want a name for the house, but with such history and character, I contest that the name “Betty” just won’t do.

Here’s where YOU come in….

Please, submit your names to me at ICan@bygonebasics.com. The winner of this naming contest will receive $30 toward a Bygone Basics Experience OR a loaf of homemade bread and a jar of jam to go with it all made in our kitchen. (HINT: Take the Experience and MAKE the bread and jam!)  Plus, you get boasting rights for naming it.
I’m leaving the photos of the front and side of the house in the newsletter and including a few more as well. To help your naming process here is some information to keep in mind:

  • Bygone Basics does heritage experiences such as home canning, baking from basic scratch ingredients, soap making, butter churning…etc.
  • The home has enormous windows and ceilings.
  • The house is not lavish victorian in style, it has great lines,original wood floors, and didn’t waste resources on unecessary flourish.  (Perfect as it is in keeping with the home food preservation, no-waste lifestyle we are promoting)
  • We are planning a heritage immersion style bed and breakfast in its future.
  • We have a sense of humor.
  • Valerie is sure the home is female.
  • There are whitetail deer EVERYWHERE.  (Wondering how a garden will fare…)
  • We have 8 children (6 girls/2 boys) plus 2 son-in-laws, 1 daughter-in-law, 1 fiance’ and 2 grandsons.  Additionally, 2 girls we consider daughters as they’ve been with our family since age 4.  (it’s ok, I’m thinking it too…THAT’S A LOT OF ESTROGEN in one family)
  • There are other pictures of the house in previous posts and in the I Can newsletter posted on our www.bygonebasics.com website.

 

See the standard sized door in front....the windows dwarf it.

Please submit your name suggestions.  Any and all will be considered – by January 25 via email

and the winner will be announced in the February newsletter.  Feel free to email any additional questions as well.

New Year, New Digs

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New Year, New Digs

Delicious fruit pies in the depth of winter....yum

I found it next to impossible to do a blog the last bit of December. I’m quite frightened by how fast time passes. Before I know it, it seems I’ll be 80 or so!
We are (mostly) all moved to our new “digs” in Montague. It went much faster than expected. Which, I suppose, is in keeping with my time flying lately!
Husband John is busy hitting one task after another and now, with the new year, must tackle the BIG ONE. He will gut out a front room in our new-old home and install a private kitchen for Bygone Basics. We are using a kitchen that came with the house (there were two). We wouldn’t dream of gutting a room in such a fine old house, but someone beat us to it and put in a drop ceiling, stick-on floor linoleum squares, 2 goofy inner walls and a really badly done bathroom. So….putting in the heritage kitchen will be an improvement. It will be a few months before this project will be complete! So we continue to use the big main kitchen in the home for a while.
Speaking of kitchens, Bygone Basics had it’s biggest Experience yet. We had a family of five adults and we did home pressure canning and made three different types of pie from basic ingredients….and had a blast doing it. Check out the pictures on our Facebook page.  Click here to go check it out now. 

Many hands make a FUN time in the kitchen!

Jorgensen family with some of their products made in the Bygone Basics kitchen