Post # 141 Hidden Gems

July 17, 2013 at 3:51 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Post # 141 Hidden Gems

Years ago, I used to collect old cookbooks.  I still do, but not to the same extent.  I went through garage sales, yard sales, used bookstores, antique stores, anywhere I might see an old book and I looked for old cookbooks.  I wasn’t looking for the ones that were only a few years old.  I wanted the ones that were decades old.  I wanted ones from previous centuries.  I wanted ones that had been used by people whose children’s children children were going to school with me.

It started when I was about eighteen and I went to a swap meet with my parents and brother.  It was one of those outdoors kinds of things and it was vast.  I didn’t have a lot of money to spend, so I was trying to be careful with what I got caught up in.  The best part of a swap meet is you can have “not a lot of money to spend” and still walk away with a ton of junk.  The operative word being junk.  Anyway, I stopped at a stall full of books.  There were the ubiquitous harlequin romances, and the ever present Zane Gray.  I wasn’t looking for anything in particular, but I notice some “old” books in a corner and I was browsing through them.  My dream at the time (and still is) was to find a valuable first edition of anything for two bucks.  I found a children’s book, first edition, that was printed in 1898.  I glanced through it, but didn’t handle it too much.  The price was $3.00.  I didn’t recognize the author or the title, but figured for that price, what the heck.  I even managed to talk the seller down to $2.00 even though she claimed the book was very valuable since it was so old.  I countered with the fact that it was an unknown author and title so wouldn’t be very valuable in the long run and not every old book was worth thousands.  She was happy to get my two bucks, and I was happy to get an old book, the first in my collection.

When I got home, and settled, I started looking through it.  It was a book, after all, and was meant to be read.  A few pages in, I found some advertising cutouts from a magazine of glamorous women.  They had been in the book so long they had stained the pages with their outlines.  I pointed it out to my mom and she told me that it probably had belonged to a young girl and that these were her “paper dolls.”  Her family probably couldn’t afford too many nice things, or maybe they’d been traveling cross country in a wagon and didn’t have space for much.  So the little girl had cut out pictures from the magazine and played with them as her dolls.  I was astounded as this little girl reached across years to show me what had touched her life.

Mom and I sat side by side almost in reverence as with each turn of a few pages showed more of the little girl’s treasures.  She must have been collecting things for a while.  We found one pressed flower, a couple of handwritten and completely illegible poems or stories, some beautifully colored pictures from other books or magazines.  Towards the back of book, we ran into the real treasures.  She had saved a few recipes.  Mom said it was the start of her own cookbook, or collection of recipes that she would use for her family when she grew up.

I never took the recipes out of that book but I read them very carefully.  One was for a special day cake; another was for Sunday pot roast; and another was for oven baked chicken using a canned sauce.  The one I always remember was for homemade fruit juice.

I lost the book in a fire that took the house we grew up in.  By the time of the fire, I had collected probably a dozen or so old books, but that first book was always the most poignant loss.

Homemade Berry Juice

  1. As many clean berries of any kind as you can find
  2. Water to cover
  3. Sugar or honey or sweet syrup to taste
  4. Enough clean jars to hold juice

Pick through berries and clean as you go to remove any berries that aren’t absolutely perfect.  Place in an absolutely clean pot and cover with water till berries just begin to bob about.  Simmer until berries begin to burst.  Take off fire and allow to cool.  While cooling, mash the berries about to release more juice.  Add sweetening to taste and allow to cool to room temperature.  Strain through cheese cloth into a bowl and squeeze and mash to release all juices.  Taste again and adjust sweetening.  Fill jars and store in cool place.  When making juice, add 4 cups to a half gallon of cool water and mix thoroughly.  Adjust flavors by adding more juice concentrate or sweetening, or perhaps the juice of a lemon.  Serve chilled.

I’ve made this recipe many times with various berries and berry mixes.  It’s always good.  Sometime I put it over ice cream, other times I drizzled it over cake.



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