Tag Archives: Heritage

Therapy Cookies and Suzanne’s Lesson

Therapy Cookies and Suzanne’s Lesson

Back from yet another long trip to Kansas.  This time for the funeral.  A 43 year old vibrant wife and mother of five passed on Valentine’s day.  I really do want to shake my fist and rail at the universe for its injustice to good people.  But, while was mentally considering how to do that without getting struck by lightening or something, I baked cookies. (It’s how I wrap my head around things, I bake)
As it turned out, there was therapy in those cookies as well as the realization that I had just been taught a huge life lesson by my sister, Suzanne.
Abraham Maslow said that we could define therapy as a search for value.
I suppose that defines my thoughts this morning.  I set to work doing my Bygone Basics’ bakery orders (www.bygonebasics.com) with the very recent death of my brother’s wife, Mary, weighing heavy.  Seeking reasons or value to this tragedy.

Toasting the walnuts, tossed with cinamon sugar.

I began by making my special recipe for chocolate cookies.  The first thing was to create small walnut pieces out of whole walnuts.  I will admit to excessive force.  The walnuts were cracked with some malice.  Then I put the walnuts in a heavy plastic bag and whammed the heck out of them with a french rolling pin. …Beginning to feel a bit better.  🙂
Next, everything needed to be measured out.  The flour, rolled oats, chocolate chips, butter, eggs, spices….By the time I was finished, the concentration on accurate measurement had actually taken my mind to a better place.  Of course tasting fresh cookie dough helps too.

By the time the cookies were going on the cookie sheets and being baked, I was thinking more deeply about the recent events.  My brother had chosen an unusal passage for his wife’s funeral service.  It began “Rejoice Always.  …In all circumstances, give thanks,…” (Thes 5:16-24).  He had explained that when he was at his lowest point, when it was obvious Mary was slipping away, he heard this passage at Church.  It angered him at first, and then, it served to bring him out of a very angry and dark place.  It caused him to look around and find that there was still good in his life.  His children especially.  His family was brought close by this.What did I have to rejoice in?

What gift has Mary’s passing given me?

The example set by my sister, Suzanne.  Not too long ago, she lost her own husband to cancer at 41 with a young son at home.  It was a long and hard path to (and from) his passing.  She endured a lot that I can’t even imagine.  Yet, there she was, the first one to understand that our brother was alone several states away and needed help.  Placing her job in jeapardy, she made two extended trips to help him.  I was blessed to go with her.  Even though it caused her to relive her own deep pain, she cared for our sister-in-law with such depth and consideration.  She talked with our brother on a level that only those two could understand.  She cried at night and was a pillar in the day.  She made sure our young nieces had what they needed.

I loved my sister before.  But now, I rejoice in the heart and soul of such an amazing woman.  Her selfless example of care will live on in me and in my priorities in life.

Add the oats, toasted walnuts and chocolate chips

Such was Suzanne’s lesson for me.

I feel better.  The cookies are baked.  I’ve had a bit of an epiphany.  I even went on to get my french baquette order done and restarted the Sourdough starter.

…..Heck, I might even feel like doing my blog.  Hope I don’t get to philisophical…..  😉

By the way…Did I ever tell you that I have started to “Tweet”?  Find me at @ApronsRUs.  (Yes, it is an odd twitter name, sometimes, I just can’t help myself…my humor is a bit …quirky.)

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Enlightenment on Leavening

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There’s not much that can hold a candle to enlightenment. Sorry. Couldn’t help that pun.  January in Michigan causes us to get a bit loopy in the short cold days and lack of sun.  🙂

As a “Kitchenaire” at Bygone Basics (www.bygonebasics.com) I help a lot of people experience kitchens in the way they developed as the heart (and the stomach) of the homes of our establishing country.  We do a lot of exploring of old customs and current ones…and the how and why of them.  It is a great way to learn our history and culinary heritage.

One question I get a lot is “What is the diference between baking soda and baking powder?”

It is honestly a fabulous question.  And certainly due a good answer.  The short answer is…Baking powder is baking soda-plus.  In other words.  Baking powder has baking soda plus other agents that help it leaven in blends that only baking soda doesn’t do as well in.

Some recipes call for multiple leavening ingredients. Crumpets, for example call for yeast to raise the dough like a bread and then a baking soda and warm water solution is added right before cooking.

A bit longer explaination is that baking soda alone does well as a leavener in mixtures that include an acidic ingredient.  This could be buttermilk (lactic acid), vinegar, sour cream, molasses, lemon juice and honey (yep honey).  BUT….when the recipe requires leavening and there are little to no acidic ingredients, baking powder is your secret weapon.  Baking powder is a mixture of baking soda and added acidic ingredients, such as cream of tartar, to help with leavening.  Baking powder cannot be used as a single substitution in recipes that call for baking soda.  Your recipe will fall flat. (sorry, another pun, I guess, I’m a bit “light” headed)  As a rule of thumb, baking soda is used in cookie recipes and baking powder is used in more neutral recipes ( that contain flour, sugar, milk, oil, salt) like cakes and biscuits.

Yeast is the biological leavener for Bygone Basics' artisan stone baked bread.

A note on leavening…because I can’t help myself.  I looked it up in Wikipedia to see if I could share the knowledge in an easy to understand way.  According to that source, there are multiple types of leaveners in food stuffs (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leavening_agent).

Biological:  Anyone who uses yeast in breads, or makes beer or wine is going to understand the use of microbes and their resulting gas release as part of their life cycle.

Chemical:  These are used in everyday modern baking.  Baking soda, powders.  Used to release carbon dioxide (usually that is the gas) when heat is applied.

Bygone Basics' hierloom recipe for Chocolate Chip cookies calls for a lot of oats, nuts, chocolate...and baking soda.

Valerie’s note:  In the case of baking soda, it begins acting immediately, before heat, (resulting in recipes falling flat if there is a delay in baking)….FYI….this is also where baking powder helps…delayed actions…aka double acting baking powders have an ingredient that waits for the heat of the oven.

Mechanical:  Think….meringue.  Mechanical leavening is the introduction of trapped air into the ingredients through whipping or whisking.

Steam/air/gas injection:  Water is flash expanded into steam in the case of pop-overs.  Nitrous oxide is used to “leaven” aerosol “whipped” cream.

There is a leavening agent that isn’t mentioned much anywhere these days.  Ammonium Carbonate.  It was the predecessor of modern leavening chemicals.

It was mainly used in heirloom recipes of northern Europe and Scandinavia.  I have learned that you cannot substitute baking powder or baking soda in these old recipes and get the same light airy results provided by Ammonium Carbonate.   One of my husbands favorite childhood memories involves a recipe called Princess Gems.  It’s leavening agent is Ammonium Carbonate (aka Baker’s Ammonia or Salt of Hartshorn).  I was determined to give him that memory this last Christmas.  It took some doing, but I managed to secure some of the historical leavener.  Right in the old recipe card are the instructions not to breathe in the fumes from the leavener.  (It doesn’t mention not to breathe when you open the oven door when baking them, but that’s another story)  The ammonia bakes off in the oven and leaves an incredibly light and melt-in-your-mouth airy cookie.

Does anyone else have an old recipe that called for Ammonium Carbonate?  Please, share it with me!!!  I am truly fascinated by old recipes and ingredients.

Well…until next time.  I’m delighted that you read this blog.

CRAZY INSANE, ALMOST THOROUGHLY, AMAZING WORLD

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Squash in the Bygone Basic's garden...before it snuck out of the fence.

Just letting you know that I’m still here.  I’ve …well…you read the title of this Blog….a bit overwhelmed by life.  It is truly amazing, but gets crazy too, doesn’t it?!

Lately, I’ve been putting by everything that doesn’t run faster than me.  And if I can find someone who will do a bit of hunting for me…well then…all bets are off on that too.  Smile  We also have had a lot of Bygone Basics guests come to learn how to make these heritage recipes themselves, while immersed in old-farmhouse style atmosphere and tools…they are always surprised how easy old-fashioned baking and home canning really is.  Especially when I show them (if they wish to know) how a few of today’s tools can speed things up with out reducing the quality of the food.

I’ve also added pies to my line of baked goods that you can order through the Bygone Basics pantry.  Right now a lot of various types of apple pies are going through the ovens.  Pumpkin pies are following in popularity.

I’ve submitted an application for a Special Use Permit to turn our old manse into “Amanda’s Bequest – A Heritage Immersion Bed & Breakfast.”  More on this in the future.

As the season changes into autumn and the weather is colder, so is my house (because when I’m the only one in it I can put on a sweater and I hate high fuel bills). 

Did you know that in the past, home baking served a dual purpose?  Food was baked, not only for the table, but also to keep the house warm. 

I follow that principle as well.  Lately, I’ve been baking squash for pies, breads, and savory dinners.  Squash is such a nutritious and versatile fruit.  It is just as tasty in desserts as it is in the main meal.  It is surprisingly cheap and easy too.  Here’s my simple treatment of it:

Cut the squash in half or smaller if it is really large (by squash, I refer to pumpkins and other winter squash such as acorn, Hubbard, and butternut).  About 4-5 inch chunks are good.  Don’t worry about peeling, just wash and cut up.  Remove the seed portion with a spoon easily once it is cut.

Line a large pan (cookie sheet or 13×9) with foil and spray or wipe with oil.  Place the squash cut side down.  Place in oven (as many racks as you can fit for maximum energy use) at 325 F.  Bake until fork slides easily into squash to shell.  This may take two or more hours and is dependent on ripeness, variety, and cut up size of squash (smaller pieces cook faster).  Really easy right?  I must warn you, it will start smelling really good towards the end and you will want to serve some of that for dinner!

Once soft throughout, take out of oven and cool for 15 minutes.  Use a knife or spoon to scrape the flesh from the shell.  At this point it is perfectly useable in recipes and for dinner.  I take it one step further.  I press it through my cone shaped food mill with a wooden pusher (that is ages old, but works like a charm!).  That takes all of a few minutes.  You can use any type of food mill you have.  Voila!  Yellow Gold! 

Make pumpkin pie using eggs from your free range chickens (I do anyway); serve it with butter (or bacon grease) and salt/pepper for dinner; can it for future yums!!  It makes great sweet breads and even baby food.  You can even add brown sugar and butter for a great “Thanksgiving sweet potato” taste…

I promise to look the other way if you decide to add marshmallows to the top.

Squash we grew for the sense of humor in its name...Great Warty Thing. It is true to its name!

If you didn’t have the space to grow squash, it is incredibly reasonable to buy this time of year and stores until you have time to bake it.  I’ve even been known to bake the flesh of my jack-o-lanterns on Halloween eve.  Why not?  I’ve already gone through the work of removing the seeds and since I carve my pumpkins the day of Halloween, it is still fresh.  Waste not – Want not.

You CAN be safe.

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I am finally finding myself with my head above (sort-of) water in this whole “restore an old house” endeavor.  🙂  I will be blogging once per week going forward.   

Look forward to learning about my girls in future posts…..they are chickens really….and having a flock of chickens and vegetable gardening while living within “City” limits.   

Check out the facebook Bygone Basics page for daily updates or quick photo shots.   Here is a link….Click LIKE to keep notified of updates or just to let me know you like what we do here at Bygone Basics.  http://www.facebook.com/pages/Bygone-Basics/135169416537153?sk=info#!/pages/Bygone-Basics/135169416537153?sk=wall

Please read the August 2011 issue of “I Can at Bygone Basics” newsletter.  I am especially concerned about canning safety (page 2) as we get heavy into harvest season.  There are a lot of old family methods that are just not safe.  http://www.bygonebasics.com/web_documents/bygone_basics_i_can_news_august_2011.pdf

I look forward to blogging more!

Happy Harvest.

Valerie

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!

Of Names and Odd Things in Walls

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Original Wood floors and a couple of odd rooms at the side of the kitchen, OK, but fairly modern for such a beautiful old house.

Yes, that was a weird title.  What’s weirder is the unusual assortment of things we have discovered in the walls of this home as we do some restoration during the normally slow season of Winter.  We were all set to install an entire heritage kitchen in one of the front rooms.  But that eventually left us wondering why we would put in a THIRD kitchen.  (duh?)  We decided to use the lowermost kitchen for our own use and make the house’s existing big kitchen the Bygone Basic’s kitchen.  (My husband, John, had designs on the lower kitchen….something to do with hops…guess he’ll have to rethink that one.)

Anyway…we pulled down some of the crazy mixture of recent walls that created a mouse maze of little rooms.  The previous owner had the place rented out as a tri-plex.  In process we found:

  • A bathroom (circa 1960 ish)
  • Dentures
  • Bunch of Bones (yes….we aren’t quite sure what to do about this find)
  • Old Tinker toys
  • A chimney
  • Beautiful original paneling (real tongue and grove pine original to the house)
  • A tarnished coin that had John all excited until I read the inscription on it “where a kid can be a kid.” <I’m still laughing about that find>  circa 2003

And that was all within a 15 square foot area that got a complete, down to studs stripping.  We can’t help but wonder what else these old walls have.  Hopefully not the ears to the bones.  🙂  I’d sure like the rest of the tinkertoy set though.

This renovation/restoration has been enlightening.  Just seeing how a home was constructed 140 years ago has been quite an education.  Anyone know what we can do with the square iron nails we have pulled from some of the lumber?  We are trying to reuse/repurpose anything that isn’t being re-placed.  The kitchen will be complete by April 1st.  I can’t wait for guests of Bygone Basics to experience it.

We are booking the spring and summer now so if you would like to Experience heritage skills in a fun and unique way, get your date on the Calendar of Experiences by giving me a call or an email.  (231) 740-4065 or ICan@bygonebasics.com

Of course, check out the Bygone Basics website too at  www.bygonebasics.com

Of Names:

I announced previously a name contest.  We did get some submissions, and I thank EVERYONE for their submission; but not “The Name” that tapped us on the shoulder and made us feel like it belonged.  We are calling the house for now “Amanda’s Bequest” as it was Noah Ferry’s mother, Amanda, who left the bequest in 1870 to build the house.  I think the name will make itself at home and stick around.

Until next time….and I promise it won’t be as long….