Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Rest of the Story

My Aunt Bettye has filled me in on the history of Dirty Potatoes. It turns out that this recipe also originated with Grandmother Lucy. I'm guessing it was Mother who came up with the name.

When the crop of new potatoes would come in, this was a way to use them for fried potatoes. Normally new potatoes will not fry well because of their higher water content. Coating them with cornmeal and then frying would solve the problem and lend a bit more versatility to their use.

Lucy Hodge was not a fancy cook, but man could she feed a big bunch of folks and have them all leave the table completely satisfied. Even during the depression the family ate well, thanks to her ability to can and preserve what they grew themselves. She always had a wall of shelves full of canned vegetables, preserves and relishes. And she accomplished that over a wood cook stove in the hottest part of the summer every year in a house with no air-conditioning.

I would give up my air-conditioning for the month of August if I could get a supply of her home-made curd once more. No commercial cottage cheese will ever come close to the same taste. You just can't duplicate the flavor that results from milking your own cow, separating the milk and cream yourself, and going through the long and involved process that results in home-made curd.

I'm probably the only grandchild who had the opportunity to churn butter. I may be the only one of her grandchildren that had the opportunity to milk a cow. In both cases, I did not produce much, but I did have the experience. I dare say there aren't many of my age and younger who had that privilege.

I regret that I did not write down the recipe for her okra gumbo. My dad loved her gumbo and when I got older I was pretty fond of it myself. Mother and I learned to make it, but we got out of the habit and now I can't remember much about the process. Maybe one of my aunts can come up with the recipe (hint, hint).

Quite often when we would arrive at their house for an extended visit, we would be greeted with a big roasting pan full of home-made cake doughnuts. Half would be cinnamon sugared and half would be iced. The icing is another recipe lost. It had its own unique flavor that I've never been able to reproduce, even though I'm sure that it consisted of flavorings that would be found in your cabinet at any time, because she kept the basics on hand. Fancy flavorings would have been outside the budget. Those doughnuts were better than anything you can get from Krispy Kreme today.

I could never get a pot roast to come out right until she told me a simple recipe that always succeeded. Season a shoulder roast with salt and pepper (I nowadays sometimes use a packet of dry onion soup mix), put the roast in a deep dish, add water up to about an inch, cover and cook slow. Never fails.

I have a few of her recipes, written in her own hand, but most of what she cooked was in her head and never written down. How I wish I had made it a point to sit down with her and have her dictate those recipes. Who knew how much we would miss them?


Bonus Recipe
Lucy Hodge's Corn Relish

6 green tomatoes, 18 ears of corn (roasting ears), 6 small cabbage heads, 6 onions, 6 green peppers, ½ cup salt. Chop all of the above and cut corn from cob. Put in a large pan. Add 5 cups sugar, 3 cups vinegar, 2 tablespoons mustard, 1 tablespoon celery powder. Combine all and cook at a slow boil for 30 minutes, or until thick. Put in hot jars and seal. Does not have to be pressured in cooker.

1 comment:

RMG said...

I remember her pot roast, every visit she made a roast. Sure miss her.