Thinking With Cows: A Shared Post

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I sometimes get discouraged with the problematic issues of our time, but now and then I am pleasantly surprised when someone presents a positive image to the world and behavior we would all do well to emulate.  My young friend, Logan Strock, is just such a person.  He and another young gentleman, Daniel Jones, are farmers at heart – they’ve grown up involved in farming and animal husbandry, and if this country’s economic status will allow them the opportunity to make a decent living, will contribute a great deal toward teaching and feeding this country.

The morals and ethics of these young men reflect a Christian upbringing and a willingness to learn from others to improve their own farming set-ups.  They know more than I’ll ever know, and are always willing to advise me as I attempt to return to farm life after many years away from it.  With God’s guidance, I am living my dream – a new life with someone who shares my passions and who is enthusiastic about making our few acres meet our needs.  Over the years I’ve forgotten a lot of what I knew about gardening and raising animals, but Daniel and Logan are always willing to advise me or feed critters for us when we’re away.

The young ladies aren’t to be outdone either.  I’m excited when I see one of them has won a ribbon at a show for their cows or goats.  These are the sort of girls who have the skills to be help-mates to husbands and inspiring mothers for their children some day.  We are truly blessed to live in in the midst of such an inspirational bunch of young people.

Today I am passing along an article that I had absolutely nothing to do with writing.  I have inserted a photo of Dr. Grandin.  Logan is the author and did an amazing job.  I hope my readers find this as interesting as I did. Feel free to comment and encourage him as he prepares to head off to college.  This young man will go far in life.

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Thinking With Cows

By:  Logan Strock

She has been called stupid and brilliant; foolish and groundbreaking; crazy and revolutionary. This woman has aided in the transformation of the modern beef industry, from one that focused less on animal comfort and more on productivity to a market that balances efficiency, production, and animal comfort. Whether you know it or not, chances are, you have used numerous of Dr. Temple Grandin’s results in your own operation, from the way you drive cattle, to understanding cattle behavior and even through the designs of your cattle handling facilities.  

In my family’s beef operation, I have seen the numerous benefits of Dr. Grandin’s studies in her research behind the cattle squeeze chute. When the cattle enter the chute, they immediately calm and are much easier to handle. When a cow is calmed, the risk of injury is drastically decreased, in turn, increasing efficiency in the modern beef operation.

Dr. Grandin’s studies have proved not only to be easier and more relaxing to the cattle, but more economical to the beef cattle producer of today.

According to Colorado State University, “Her curved chute systems are used worldwide and her writings on the flight zone and other principles of grazing animal behavior have helped many producers to reduce stress during handling.” Dr. Grandin, a lifelong patient and advocate of Asperger’s Syndrome , studied and found that incorporating slow, graceful curves into her designs would help calm the cattle and make them easier to handle in the chute, again directly decreasing the risk of injury. In many cow/calf operations, if a brood cow is lost during the working process, not only has the producer lost the investment that was in the cow, but raising a calf that can be sold at market now relies upon the producer instead. A curving gait is natural to cattle, as exhibited by the fashion in which they travel distances across the pasture. The next time you are checking your cattle, notice the pattern of the trails left across the pasture. As a rule, they are curving and very organic in nature. Dr. Grandin noticed this trend and designed her facilities to mimic this natural motion.

The Center Track restrainer is a conveyer belt-like piece of equipment that gently holds the animal under the belly. This Center Track Restrainer holds the cattle steady as they move towards slaughter. National Geographic describes this device like this “It works and looks like a bowling ball return system. Cattle straddle a track that lifts them up by the belly and propels them forward.” This device also helps to keep the cattle calm, maximizing effectiveness when the animal is stunned to be harvested. Rushing cattle through a chute can often cause them to harm themselves and others around them by spinning around in the chute and falling down and potentially breaking an extremity or even their neck. This device also helps to eliminate the fear of a botched harvest. If the animal that is to be harvested can be stunned effectively the first time, not only is the animal in less pain, but the harvest can move faster, increasing efficiency. Dr. Grandin studied the Center Track Restrainer extensively and learned of its benefit not only to the cattle, but to modern beef operations across the world.

Through her disability, Dr. Grandin is able to think and reason on the level of the animals, enabling to understand and develop systems that are best suited to their needs. In much of her research, Dr. Grandin behaved like the animal she was studying, in their respective handling facilities. The triggers that Dr. Grandin noticed such as moving objects and bright lights, also trigger fear in the animals being harvested. Eliminating this fear leads to a much faster, safer and productive harvest.

Dr. Grandin has revolutionized the beef industry through her studies of animal behavior, allowing the producer to become even more efficient in producing healthy, nutritious beef for Americans to consume.

Marrow Fat

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Marrow from bones has been consumed since antiquity and has enjoyed somewhat of a resurgence in recent years, the difference from olden times being that the butcher now usually slices the bones in half ridding us of the task of cracking them open.

Eating marrow rose to such heights in the 17th and 18th centuries that silver marrow spoons or scoops were sold with which to eat it.

In addition to eating the cooked marrow on toast, the bones and marrow were utilized in soup stock to add consistence though they really add little to nothing to the flavor.  Numerous 19th century cookery books point out that the bones can be prepared and after the marrow has been removed and consumed at the table, the bones are still fit to put into the soup pot afterward.

“The[buffalo] marrow-bones are also highly esteemed, especially when roasted, and are often used as a substitute for butter, as the marrow-bones of all animals are filled with a short, buttery fat.”  – De Voe.

An article from the 1990’s claimed frontiersmen referred to prepared marrow as prairie butter.  That author gave no source or documentation for the name prairie butter used in that context, yet other modern writers picked up the name and subsequently used the term in their own writing, still without any documentation.   A more accurate term is marrow-fat.

This writer made a diligent search and could find no period source with which to document the name prairie butter although numerous sources do mention eating the marrow and instructing how to prepare it.  There is no doubt it was commonly eaten but the name prairie butter is questionable.  This author does encourage anyone who can document the term to do so.

In 1880, William Shepherd’s method of making “prairie butter” was to add flour and water to grease remaining in the pan after meat was fried and basically making gravy.   There was no marrow in his dish.  Other accounts of prairie butter had nothing at all to do with marrow and were simply butter from milk that had been churned on the prairie.

Marrow was commonly taken from beef, sheep, and oxen, but Lewis and Clark noted supping and breakfasting on elk marrow bones at least twice and outdoorsmen wrote that they ate marrow bones from buffalo.  Richard Dodge claimed, however, that the marrow in the forelegs of buffalo was so pithy that when greenhorns roasted the bones they cracked them open to find nothing inside.

Indians knew how to roast the bones from the buffalo’s hind legs to get at the tasty marrow inside.  “The bones of the hind legs are thrown upon the glowing coals, or hidden under the hot embers, then cracked between two stones, and the rich, delicious marrow sucked in quantities sufficient to ruin a white stomach forever.”

“Marrow-fat is collected by the Indians from the buffalo bones which they break to pieces, yielding a prodigious quantity of marrow, which is boiled out and put into buffalo bladders which have been distended; and after it cools, becomes quite hard like tallow, and has the appearance and very nearly the flavor, of the richest yellow butter.  At a feast, chunks of this marrow-fat are cut off and placed in a tray or bowl, with the pemmican, and eaten together; which we civilized folks in these regions consider a very good substitute for (and indeed we generally so denominate it) ‘bread and butter’.  In this dish laid a spoon made of the buffalo’s horn, which was black as jet, and beautifully polished…”.  – Catlin.

Marrow could be heated, clarified, and stored away in small jars or crocks for future use in cooking.  It was used as a substitute for butter during the months when fresh butter was difficult to obtain.  Toasts were fried in marrow until golden brown or dipped in the marrow and baked in a quick oven.

MARROW BONES.  Mrs. Rundell’s Practical Cookery Book.  1898.  London.  If the Marrow Bones are very long they must be sawn in half.  Cover the end of each bone with a stiff paste of flour and water, using plenty of flour.  This paste is to prevent the Marrow from escaping from the bone whilst being cooked.  Tie a cloth over each bone, and put the bones in a roomy saucepan filled with boiling salted water.  Let the Marrow Bones boil for three hours.  Take them out of the saucepan, remove the cloth, and all the paste, and pin a clean napkin round each bone or half bone.  Send the Marrow Bones up on a hot dish, and send up dry toast in a toast rack.  See that a proper Marrow Spoon is provided to help the Marrow.  The Marrow Bones should be served upright.

MARROW-BONES.  Mrs. Beeton’s Dictionary of Every-day Cookery.  A note at the end of instructions for boiling the bones reads, “Marrow-bones may be baked after preparing them as in the preceding recipe; they should be laid in a deep dish, and baked for 2 hours.”

MARROW DUMPLINGS TO SERVE WITH ROAST MEAT, IN SOUP, WITH SALAD, &C.  Same.

1 oz. of beef marrow, 1 oz. of butter, 2 eggs, 2 penny rolls, 1 teaspoonful of minced onion, 1 teaspoonful of minced parsley, salt and grated nutmeg to taste.  Beat the marrow and butter together to a cream; well whisk the eggs, and add these to the other ingredients.  When they are well stirred, put in the rolls, which should previously be well soaked in boiling milk, strained, and beaten up with a fork.  Add the remaining ingredients, omitting the minced onion where the flavor is very much disliked, and form the mixture into small round dumplings.  Drop these into boiling broth, and let them simmer for about 20 minutes or ½ hour.  They may be served in soup, with roast meat, or with salad, as in Germany, where they are more frequently sent to table than in this country.  They are very good.

DEVILLED MARROW-BONES.  “The International Cook B ook”.  Filippini, Alexander.  1914. Procure six fresh beef marrow-bones of about three and a half inches long, arrange upright on a block and split in two with a cleaver (or have your butcher split them for you), leaving all the marrow on half of each bone only.  Lay the six with marrow in a tin, marrow side up, divide a teaspoon salt evenly and carefully spread a devilled butter…over marrow, dredge two tablespoons of fresh bread crumbs evenly over the six bones and set in oven for twenty-two minutes.  Remove, dress on a dish with a napkin and serve with twelve very thin slices freshly prepared toast separately.

DEVILLED BUTTER. (For the previous receipt).  Same source.  Half an ounce good butter, two saltspoons ground English mustard, one teaspoon good white wine vinegar, one teaspoon Worcestershire sauce, one saltspoon salt, half a saltspoon cayenne pepper and one egg yolk.  Place all these articles in a bowl, thoroughly mix well together with a spoon and use as required.

CLARIFIED MARROW FOR KEEPING.  “Modern Cookery, for Private Families”.  Acton, Eliza.  1868.  Take the marrow from the bones while it is as fresh as possible; cut it small, put it into a very clean jar, and melt it with a gentle heat, either in a pan of water placed over the fire, or at the mouth of a cool oven; strain it through a muslin, let it settle for a minute or two, and pour it, clear of sediment, into small jars.  Tie skins, or double folds of thick paper, over them as soon as the marrow is cold and store it in a cool place.  It will remain good for months.”

MARROW PASTIES [pies].  “The Household Encyclopedia”.  1859.  Shred some apples with some marrow, add a little sugar to them, make them up in puff paste, and fry the pasties in clarified butter.  When fried strew some sugar over them and serve.”

SAVOURY BALLS [to serve with soup].  Smith, Eliza.  “The Complete Housewife”.  Take the flesh of fowl, beef suet and marrow, the same quantity; six or eight oysters, lean bacon, sweet-herbs and savoury spices; pound it, and make it into little balls.

WHITE POT.  “Domestic Economy”.  1827.  Slice some nice bread, lay it in the bottom of a dish, and cover it over with marrow; season a quart of cream or new milk with nutmeg, mace, cinnamon, and sugar; boil and strain it; beat six yolks, and put them to the cream, and pour it over the bread.  Bake in a moderate oven, and sift sugar over it, or rasped almonds, citron, orange-peel and sugar.

“Journals of Lewis and Clark”.

“Colburn’s New Monthly Magazine”.  March 1843.

Dodge, Richard.  “Our Wild Indians”.  1882.

De Voe, Thomas Farrington.  “The Market Assistant”.  1867.

Catlin, George.  “Letters and Notes on the Manners, Customs, and Conditions of the North American Indians”.  1841 and 1857.

Food Assistance in the U.S.

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An article by the Washington Free Beacon reported the U.S. federal government spent $100 billion on food assistance for Americans in 2014.  Food assistance is projected to cost $107 billion in 2016.  The cost of food stamps, school breakfast and lunch programs, and WIC has doubled since 2002.

Some 109.9 million families received food assistance of one type or another in 2014.  The Beacon gave their source as the Government Accountability Office (GAO).  Ironically, Robert Paarlberg of Harvard University has stated that the number of households in America that actually experience, “very low food security”, meaning an actual lack of food, is about 1 percent, yet about 18 percent of U.S. households receive food stamps.

This seems an undue burden on the working class.  Yes, these are federally funded programs, but someone has to contribute through taxes and withholding for the federal government to have the money to spend.  Unless you have a magic bean stalk or a goose that lays golden eggs federal money is not free money.

Let’s break down part of that multi-million dollar figure for 2014.

Some 46 million Americans received food assistance in the form of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or food stamps, total cost:   $74.6 billion.

America spent $11.3 billion on the national school lunch program.

Another $7.1 billion was issued through WIC – a supplemental nutrition program for women, infants, and children.

Nutrition assistance for Puerto Rico came to $1.9 billion.

The “Special Milk Program” (SMP) cost another $10.7 million dollars.

In all, there are some 18 food assistance programs in the U.S.  Kay E. Brown, the GAO’s Director of Education, Workforce, and Income Security admits there exists the potential for abuse in the form of overlapping of benefits, due to the government’s “Complex network of 18 food assistance programs, administered by three federal agencies”.  In fact, recipients are almost encouraged to apply for more than one program because qualifying for one often automatically qualifies a recipient for others.

Overlapping means that someone has applied for and received aid from more than one program at the same time, and, in addition, they may also have received food from such non-government sources as the Salvation Army, local food pantries, Food Banks from Feeding America, churches, non-profit charities, etc.

Side bar, it is no secret that welfare and Medicaid recipients also receive free cell phones.  Supposedly this is a Federal Lifeline Assistance program designed to enable recipients to reach emergency numbers, but the “500 FREE Minutes & Unlimited FREE Texts Each Month” is obviously more than that.

Of those 18 food assistance programs, I was only able to find the following:

  1. Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Snap benefits may be claimed by legal immigrants.  There is no waiting period for children under 18, some elderly, disabled people, refugees or asylees.  From the Social Security Administration’s pamphlet, Nutrition Assistance Programs:  “If you are not eligible due to immigration status, your legal immigrant or citizen children may still qualify.  You don’t have to provide immigration information about yourself when you apply for your legal immigrant or citizen children”.  Any student in college more than half-time qualifies for SNAP if they receive federal or state work-study monies, work 20 hours or more per week, have a child under age 12, or receive TAFDCl (Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children).    This is a state and federally funded program that provides cash assistance to families with children and pregnant women in the last 120 days of pregnancy.
  2. Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). Non-citizens may apply for WIC.  “Records are kept confidential.  If you are an illegal worker, please refer to income eligibility requirements for acceptable forms of documents to verify proof of income”.  WIC’s Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (FMNP) provides fresh fruits and vegetables to WIC recipients.  In 2015, $16.548 million was appropriated for FMNP.   I don’t know if this was counted as a separate program from WIC in the 18 federal programs.
  3. School breakfast program (SBP). The following statement came from the Free and Reduced Price School Meals application:  “You or your children do not have to be U.S. Citizens to qualify for free or reduced price meals”.
  4. National School Lunch Program (NSLP).
  5. Summer Food Service Program (SFSP). This program supplies food to students through the summer when school is not in session.
  6. The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP). “You are automatically eligible for TEFAP if you are receiving Nutrition Assistance Benefits”.
  7. The Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CACFP). The USDA distributes foods and administrative funds to participating states and Indian tribal organizations. 
  8. Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP).
  9. Nutrition Services Incentive Program (NSIP). NSIP is a program for the elderly administered by the Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Community Living.  Through their Home-Delivered Nutrition Services program meals may be supplied to those considered frail, homebound or isolated, age 60 and over, and in some cases their caregivers, spouses, and/or persons with disabilities.
  10. Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP). This can be issued through a child care facility.  Children in households getting SNAP, TANF, FDPIR qualify for this program.  “You or your children do not have to be U.S. citizens to qualify for meal benefits offered at the child care facility”.
  11. Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR). This is a federal program that provides food to low-income households, including the elderly, living on Indian reservations, and to Native American families residing in designated areas near reservations and in the State of Oklahoma, “that contain at least one person who is a member of a Federally-recognized tribe”.  Recipients are not supposed to receive benefits from both FDPIR and SNAP.
  12. Feeding America BackPack (Students receive free groceries, meals, snacks and other food items at no cost, no matter their income. (Not the same as #5).
  13. Nutrition Assistance for Puerto Rico. This program is provided through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) solely for Puerto Rico.  Some sources say 56% of Puerto Rican households receive food assistance.
  14. Special Milk Program. This program provides milk to children in school or childcare.  The facilities are not supposed to participate in other federal meal service programs.
  15. DOD Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program is administered through the Department of Defense and operated by the Defense Logistics Agency. This program allows schools to use their USDA Foods entitlement dollars to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables.
  16. Community Food and Nutrition Program managed by the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Sources.

For 2016 the amount taxpayers will spend on SNAP is projected to rise to $78 billion.  The monthly benefit for a household of four is $649.  It is common knowledge that a percentage of that is traded on the black market for cash at about 50 cents on the dollar.  This happens in several ways, including individuals who purchase the food stamps from a recipient and retailers who charge against the recipients EBT card and then issue the recipient half that amount in cash that can be spent elsewhere on non-food items.  The retailer just made a hundred bucks for himself.

How can this be?  Figures show that there are about 100 inspectors to investigate some 259,000 SNAP retailers.

There are some 31 million children who participate in the lunch program.  The breakfast program covers 14 million children.  These programs will cost $22 billion in 2016.  These meals are provided without regard to immigration status and there are now programs that continue providing meals through the summer when school is not in session.

Per the GAO “School-Meals Programs”, GAO-14-262, May 2014, page 9, no proof of income (pay stub, W-2, tax return, etc.) is required to accompany a school lunch application, and “federal rules restrict school districts from an upfront verification of eligibility” even though the USDA Inspector General recommended that applicants provide proof of income to lower the incidences of abuse.

The Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program provides baby formula, food, and nutrition counseling for some 8 million lower income families annually.  Pregnant women, new mothers, and children from birth to age five are eligible.  Each state receives a grant from the federal government to pay for the foods issued and the cost of administering the program.  WIC benefits are available without regard to immigration status.  For more, see:  http://www.downsizinggovernment.org/agriculture/food-subsidies

There are those who truly need assistance through no fault of their own (the disabled, those suffering from sickness or injuries that prevent them from working during their recovery, the elderly, etc.), but overall, food assistance is a broken system in need of a major overhaul.  With so many programs providing free food, health care, housing, cell phones, etc. to citizens and non-citizens, one has to wonder at what point a middle class working person is better off financially to stop working and paying taxes to support all these programs and just sign up to receive the benefits

 

ELDERBERRIES: Multipurpose fruit©

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In 1656 William Coles documented the belief that gathering the leaves of elder on the last day of April and attaching them to one’s doors and windows would, “disappoint the charmes of Witches”.  Elder bushes were an integral part of gardens through the 18th century, and why not?  How could one overlook the tasty flowers and berries prepared in a myriad of ways with the added benefit of warding off witches?

Elder plays a part in the early folklore of several countries.  Russians used to believe the spirit of the elder had great compassion for human beings and drove away evil spirits from them.  The Danes refused to make furniture from elder wood believing that doing so brought ill luck.  “If a cradle is made of the wood, the Elder Mother will come and pull the child out of it”.

Bushes can be dug from the wild, propagated by rooting in water or planting in soil, or bought from a nursery.  If rooting 6 inch cuttings in water plant them in small pots once roots are established.  Place the pots in a shaded location and keep watered until the following spring then plant in the home landscape.  If starting in soil, place the pot with the cutting inside a plastic bag so that a humid environment is simulated until the cuttings are rooted (keep out of direct sunlight), and proceed as above.  While the bushes are self-pollinating, planting more than one variety is said to produce bigger berries.

Elderberries are small and it would be very time consuming to pick them individually, therefore, when harvesting the recommended method was (and is) to cut the heads and let them drop into a basket.  One can then pick off the berries, or wash the heads and drop them into boiling liquid removing and discarding the remaining stems.  A quicker way to remove the berries from the stems is to cover a bowl or bucket with half inch wire mesh and just pass the berry bunches back and forth across it.  The berries will fall through the holes into the container.

All parts of the bushes have been used for one thing or another.  “The pith of the tree has wonderful powers, for, if cut in round, flat shapes, and dipped in oil, lighted, and then put to float in a glass of water, its light on Christmas Eve will reveal to the owner all the witches and sorcerers in the neighbourhood.  While this sounds ridiculous today, the Salem witch trials are proof that such things were once deadly serious.

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Buds were pickled with pepper, mace, and lemon peel, elder tops (young shoots) were pickled, flowers were used to flavor vinegar or make drinks, the flowers were dipped in batter and fried to make fritters, sprays of flowers were put into sugar to impart a pleasant flavor, the berries were used to make wine, juice, pies, jam and jelly, tea can be made from the leaves, and the berries were used to make ink and to dye various items including champagne and leather.

Why aren’t we familiar with using these berries today?  Because, like many other plants, the lowly wild berry came to be considered inferior when tame berries were cultivated to produce larger and juicier fruit with less labor.  “It is strange that when there is a scarcity of fruit, as there was last year, people will lament the lack of fruit, when behold the fence corners are filled with these valuable bushes, bending down and overloaded with ripe delicious fruit that all goes to waste.  You need never be at a loss for fruit to make pies, for it grows spontaneously…Remember other fruit is liable to fail while this is a never-failing fruit”.  – “The Ohio Cultivator”.  1853.

Below are some historic elderberry recipes which may tempt you, but you may also want to try adding the berries to muffin, fritter, or pancake batter, mixing elderberry syrup with iced soda water for a refreshing drink, using the juice to make frozen popsicles or ice cream, etc.

ELDERBERRY ICE CREAM [modern].  This is similar to black raspberry ice cream that is popular in Pennsylvania.

2 cups elderberries (no stems); 1 cup water; sugar as desired; 2 cups heavy cream or half and half; 1 ½ cups milk; 5 egg yolks.  The syrup can be made ahead of time and refrigerated.

Combine the berries and water, bring to a boil and simmer until the berries begin bursting.  Add sugar half cup at a time until as sweet as you like.  Let the mixture cool slightly, then run it through a food mill or sieve.  Discard the solids.  Refrigerate until ready to use.

To make the ice cream:  Put the cream and milk into a heavy pan and slowly heat it, stirring so that it doesn’t scorch.  Add the elderberry syrup a half cup at a time until the flavor is as deep as you wish.  Bring the mixture to steaming but not simmering or boiling.

Beat the egg yolks in a small bowl.  Add a few spoonfuls of the cream mixture, whisking all the time, to the egg yolks.  Continue until the egg yolks are brought up to temperature without cooking and whisk all together.  Chill the mixture.  When cold put into an ice cream maker and proceed as for any basic ice cream.  The ice cream can be served as is, or made into popsicles.

ELDERBERRY PIE.  “Table Talk”.  Aug. 1903.

Line a pie dish with paste, upon which sprinkle a scant tablespoonful of flour; to this add a half cupful of sugar and a half teaspoonful each of cloves and cinnamon, rubbing all together evenly.  Upon this pour the berries, a pint more or less according to the size of your pie dish; pour over another half cupful of sugar, dot generously with butter, adding last one large tablespoonful of good vinegar.  Apply top crust quickly and bake.

ELDERBERRY PIE.  “Good Housekeeping”.  1891.

For a large pie, allow three cupfuls of berries, two tablespoonfuls of lemon juice or vinegar, two tablespoonfuls of flour, three-fourths cupfuls of sugar, and spices to taste.  Bake in one crust with a latticework top.

ELDERBERRY SHRUB.  Pour one pint of weak vinegar over one quart of elderberries; let them stand for twenty-four hours.  Strain, and pour the juice over a second quart of berries.  Let them stand for twenty-four hours, strain again, add one cupful of sugar to each cupful of juice, boil it up, and can or bottle if wanted for future use.  [To use, combine with ice water and drink].

ELDERBERRY CATCHUP. 

Elderberry catchup is excellent with game or cold meats.  Boil one quart of the berries with two cupfuls of vinegar and one tablespoonful of pickling spices tied in a muslin bag, for twenty minutes.  Put through a press or sieve that will retain the seeds, add two cupfuls of brown sugar, and simmer for ten minutes before sealing.

ELDERBERRIES DRIED.  Berry, Mrs.  “Fruit Recipes”.

Sun-dry the berries as for strawberries.  In some parts of Europe peasants use these in soups through the winter.

ELDERBERRY DUMPLINGS.  “The Ohio Cultivator”.

Make the crust as usual and put in the berries as you would other fruit.  Boil them fast till the crust is done, then take them up and eat with a dip of white sugar and sour cream, and you will confess they are delicious.

ELDERBERRY SYRUP.  “The Every-Day Cook-Book”.  1889.

Take elderberries perfectly ripe, wash and strain them, put a pint of molasses to a pint of the juice, boil it twenty minutes, stirring constantly, when cold add to each quart a pint of French brandy; bottle and cork it tight.  It is an excellent remedy for a cough.

ELDER TOPS, TO PICKLE.  “Cassell’s Dictionary of Cookery”.

About six inches of the tops of young elder sprouts, if cut at the right time—in the middle of April—will make a good pickle.  The sprouts should be first blanched in boiling water, then pickled in vinegar, adding salt and white pepper.  [Month when these shoots are at their prime will vary with locale].

Blissful Meals yall, cultivated or foraged, there are good things growing out there.  –  Thehistoricfoodie aka Vickie Brady.  Copyright©

See:  Rohde, Eleanour, “A Garden of Herbs”, 1922.  Berry, Mrs.  “Fruit Recipes”.  1903.

Soap Fit for a Queen©

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Soap is a necessary item for our comfort and health yet it rarely receives notice or praise.  When made for a Queen, however, it is quite another matter.  In 1892, advertisements for Pears soap read:  “Pears Soap Makers by Special Appointment to Her Majesty the Queen”, and “Pears Soap Makers by Special Appointment to His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales”.

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Queen Victoria conferred the original Royal warrant for the sale of soap to the royal household and the honour was renewed by Edward VII and Queen Alexandra.  Another Royal warrant was held with the King of Spain

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The soap was praised by such notables as the senior surgeon at St. John’s Hospital for the Skin, London and the Rev. Henry Ward Beecher.  The latter wrote an endorsement on Nov. 29, 1882.  “If ‘Cleanliness is next to Godliness,’ soap must be considered as a ‘Means of Grace’—and a clergy-man who recommends moral things, should be willing to recommend Soap.  I am told that my commendation of Pears’ Soap some dozen years ago has assured for it a large sale in the U.S.  I am willing to stand by any word in favor of it that I ever uttered.  A man must be fastidious indeed who is not satisfied with it.  Henry Ward Beecher”.

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Pears’ Soap took the highest prizes at International Exhibitions around the world – Paris, London, Philadelphia, Melbourne, Adelaide, Chicago, Santiago, Edinburgh, etc.

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Pears Soap had humble beginnings but through keen marketing strategy it has remained popular into its third century of manufacturing.  Andrew Pears began making soap in London in 1789 and it is still available today.  Andrew took his grandson, Mr. Francis Pears, as a partner in 1835 and The House of Pears became A. & F. Pears.  Andrew left Francis to work alone in 1838 making a modest living but the soap wasn’t quite living up to its potential until 1865 when he was joined by Mr. Thomas J. Barratt and a young Mr. Andrew Pears (son of Francis and great-grandson of the original owner, Andrew Pears.  Francis Pears retired in 1875.

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Thomas Barratt’s contribution to the success of Pears’ Soap was his persistence advertising it.  He was responsible for soliciting the endorsement of Rev. Henry Ward Beecher and others and made sure it was featured in magazines and newspapers in Britain and the U.S.  The soap, as developed initially in 1792, was good enough in quality that all that was needed to make it a household item was acquainting the masses with the product.

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“Each cake of Pears’ Soap goes through a drying process for a full year before leaving the works, which removes every particle of water.  A cake of Pears is all soap and only soap, that is why it lasts so much longer than ordinary kinds”.

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So successful was Barratt’s advertising campaign that Pears Soap was truly, “in leading hotels, banks, clubs, steamship lines and hospitals throughout the world”.

Blissful Meals, thehistoricfoodie, aka Vickie Brady.©

 

Destruction Can Come in Small Packages©

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Prior to moving to coastal Georgia about 30 years ago I’d never heard of a fire ant.  The yard where we settled was manicured except for one area maybe 4 x 4 feet.  I decided to clean that up and as soon as I made one pass into the area with the mower I was covered with thousands of stinging ants.  The stings are quite painful and a single large colony can contain up to 250,000 worker ants.  Each bite causes an infected pustule and swelling.  I still have scars from that encounter 30 years ago topped off by more recent ones I got working in the garden and trying to get the ants off chicks and eggs.

Photo from Extension of fire ants on a newly hatching quail egg

We have lost several chicks (duck, chicken, and goose) this year.  At first I didn’t realize why we were finding so many half-hatched or day old dead, but seemingly fully developed, chicks in the pens and nests.  Eventually I found a pipped egg in a nest inside the chicken coop with ants on it, in it, and swarming all around inside the nest.  This wasn’t a case of a few ants crawling on an egg.  When I began to carefully remove bits of shell, ants came pouring out of the egg.  It was like something from a horror movie.  There must have been at least 200 fire ants inside the egg mercilessly stinging the poor chick.  Naturally it died and I realized we have a huge problem.

As soon as the chicks pip, the ants seize upon the bit of moisture and sting the poor chicks to death.  I had a hen hatching eggs in a cardboard box atop my freezer yesterday and by the time I saw the eggs were hatching the ants had already killed three of the chicks.  They climbed up the brick wall in the carport and from there managed to bridged the gap from the wall over to the freezer to get in the box.

A look at some chicken forums confirmed that the problem has been experienced in many areas of the South and one woman claimed the ants had killed a full-grown rooster.  The local Extension office has published papers to educate youngsters raising poultry, goats, rabbits, and other small animals for 4-H club on the dangers of fire ants when animals are penned and cannot escape them.

fire ant cluster wiki

Cluster of fire ants floating in flood water, Wiki

The quail population in the Southeast has declined drastically, primarily due to newly hatched quail succumbing to fire ant stings.  Quail nest on the ground where the ants have no trouble  getting to the hatching eggs.  A similar problem has been observed with the brown pelican.  “Two years ago, a colony of brown pelicans off the coast of Georgia completely abandoned an area of their rookery right in the middle of the nesting season.  This was a sure signal that something was wrong.”  Brad Winn, UGA, investigated and found fire ants in the nests. *

The University of Nebraska did a study on the impact of fire ants on hatching turtles and reported a loss of 70% of hatchlings on Southeastern coasts.  Brad Winn, a DNR biologist from Georgia said, fire ants damage eggs by chewing holes in the eggs and while the University of Georgia report didn’t seem to think the problem as severe they did note that during and just after hatching young turtles are found that have been killed in the shell by fire ants and others that were killed by fire ants after hatching.

The ants are particularly dangerous for people who are allergic to their stings because so many of them can attack at once.  A young Alabama mother of two died this summer after fire ants came out of a bale of hay she was sitting on and stung her numerous times.

There are multiple types of fire ants, with “our” Red Imported Fire Ant being the worst.  It is the worst because of its swarming behavior, its painful stings, and its ability to reproduce at an astonishing rate.  They are also seemingly indifferent to poisons that finish off other kinds of ants.  “One sting isn’t serious but fire ants can use their stingers again and again, and they have a nasty habit of ganging up on their victims.  Mass stingings can kill animals and people”.  **

So far we haven’t used anything I’d consider an effective poison although I’ve seen recommendations for Advion Fire Ant Bait and Extinguish Plus Fire Ant Bait, both of which should be broadcast outdoors in the spring and fall. For existing mounds, granules should be spread, not on the mound, but about 3 to 4 feet around the mound.   For those of us with free-ranging poultry, the first step is penning them up so that they don’t eat the bait.  I put Sevin granules in my chicken nests using the recommended amount for the coops but that hasn’t helped the birds nesting outside the pens or the poor hen on top of the freezer.

Travelers to Brazil and other destinations described the painful stings of fire ants in the 1860’s, I wonder what they’d say if they knew that these miniscule stinging menaces were introduced to the U.S. through ship ballast, probably in Mobile, AL, and have spread to this degree throughout the Southeast.

* http://apps.caes.uga.edu/gafaces/index.cfm?public=viewStory&pk_id=963

**  Boys’ Life.  Sept. 1992.

Reclaiming Neglected Grape Vines©

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We inherited a row of grape vines when we bought our little farm and this year they have rewarded our efforts at reclaiming them with sweet purple grapes.  The elderly couple who built the home had not been able to properly care for the place for a few years and as a result the fruit trees were all in desperate need of pruning.  The plum trees were beyond saving so we cut those down and planted new ones.  The grape arbor was a massive tangle of old vines with some green growth just at the top.  We severely pruned them per instructions in 19th century treatises, half expecting them to die from shock, and this year we were pleasantly surprised with grapes.

Yesterday I picked 3 large dishpans full of grapes, stemmed them, juiced them, and canned seven quarts of grape juice, not bad for vines left neglected for so long.  Besides jelly, what might the juice have been used for by my grandmothers?  A little research provided loads of ideas.  Perhaps a few may inspire you as well.

GRAPE JUICE AND SODA. “Practical Druggist”.  Sept. 1908.

There is a demand for grape juice just served with many of the carbonated waters.  To do this, fill the glass half full of the desired water and pour in the grape juice last.  Mix with a spoon or by pouring.

GRAPE SUNDAE.  Same, Oct. 1908.

Ice cream is very tasteful when covered with the grape pulp; for this purpose the pulp is better if it be left undiluted.  This may be topped with a little whipped cream if desired.

WELCH’S GRAPE PUNCH.  Same, May 1908.

For a dainty, unfermented punch, take the juice of three lemons, juice of one orange, one pint of Welch’s grape juice, one quart of water and one cup of sugar.  If served from a punch bowl, add sliced oranges and pineapple.

GRAPE CREAM SODA.  “American Druggist”.  Oct. 1912.

Put a small cone of vanilla ice cream in a soda glass, add 2 ounces of grape juice, a spoonful of crushed fruit and fill up with the fine stream.  Top with a spoonful of whipped cream.  [Soda water].

ENGLISH PLUM PUDDING.  “Eureka Cook Book”.  1907.

Three cups chopped suet, 6 cups sifted flour, 2 cups raisins, 2 cups currants, 1 cup citron, 1 teaspoon each ginger, cloves, allspice, 1 grated nutmeg, I heaped teaspoon baking powder, a little salt, 3 eggs, wine glass of grape juice, milk enough to make a stiff batter.  Soak fruit in grape juice, chop the suet, and put it in a cool place overnight.  Mix baking powder and suet in the flour dry, add fruit, milk and the eggs, stir thoroughly.  Boil 6 or 8 hours in a well floured pudding bag or in a tightly covered pudding mould.  [The mixture can be put into a mixing bowl that is then placed inside a larger pan of simmering water when one does not have a pudding mould.]

GRAPE SOUP.  “The North End Club Cook Book”.  1905.

Stem, wash and cook enough Concord grapes to secure 1 quart of rich grape juice.  Add 2 cups of sugar, 2 cups of seedless raisins (which have been soaked in water for 2 hours) and 4 sticks of cinnamon.  Let boil for half an hour, remove the sticks of cinnamon and thicken with 4 tablespoons of flour.  Grape jelly can also be used in place of the grape juice.  To be served hot or very cold.

MINCEMEAT.  “Hanover Cook Book”.  1922.

1 ½ lbs. of beef boiled and chopped, 2 lbs. beef suet chopped fine, 4 lbs. apples, 2 lbs. raisins, 2 lbs. currants, 2 lbs. sugar, 1 pt. [pint] grape juice, 2 nutmegs, ½ oz. cinnamon, ¼ oz. cloves, ¼ oz. mace, 1 teaspoonful salt, ½ lb. citron, 2 large oranges.  [The mincemeat could be frozen in portions for baking pies.]

MINCEMEAT.  2.  “Hanover Cook Book”.

3 lbs. lean meat, ¼ lb. suet, 3 lbs. sugar, 5 lbs. apples, 2 lbs. raisins, 2 lbs. currants, ½ lb. citron, 3 lemons, 3 nutmegs, 1 oz. mace, ½ pt. grape juice, ½ gal. cider.  All these things must be chopped, meat well cooked; fresh tongue is best.

FRUIT CAKE.  “Hanover Cook Book”.

1 lb. sugar, 1 lb. flour, ¾ lb. butter, 8 eggs, 2 lbs. raisins, 1 lb. currants, ½ lb. citron, ½ pt. grape juice, 1 tablespoonful cinnamon, 1 teaspoonful allspice, 1 tablespoonful cloves, and 2 nutmegs.  [The amount of spice is probably too much for modern palates, adjust per your taste.  Cream the sugar, butter, and eggs.  Mix in the flour into which the spices have been mixed, the fruit, and grape juice.  Bake at 350 until done, test with a toothpick.  Fruit cakes flavored with grape juice were relatively common.]

FRUIT COCKTAIL.  “Country Kitchen Cookbook”.  1922.

1 cup cherry juice, ½ c. lemon juice, ½ c. grape juice, 1 pineapple, ½ lb. marshmallows, powdered sugar, 3 oranges.  Shred the pineapple.  Peel the oranges, free from membrane and seeds, and cut into small pieces.  Snip the marshmallows into small sections.  Mix the fruit and marshmallow and sweeten with powdered sugar.  Mix the fruit juices.  Serve the fruit mixture in cocktail glasses.  Put a couple of tablespoonfuls of the fruit juices over the fruit and finish with a spoonful of lemon sherbet.  A fruit cocktail may be served before a soup or in place of the soup.

GRAPE CATSUP.  Mothers’ Congress Cookbook.  1922.

5 lbs. nice ripe grapes mashed, cooked and run through the colander.  Add 1 pt. vinegar, 3 lbs. sugar, 1 tsp. ground allspice, 1 tsp. cinnamon, 1 tsp. black pepper, ½ tsp. salt.  Boil all together until thick enough for catsup.  [Put up per modern canning instructions in small jars].

GRAPE CATSUP.  1906.

1 quart of grape juice, 1 pint of vinegar, 1 lbs. sugar, ground cloves.  [I’m adding the allspice, cinnamon, and a wee bit of pepper found in most such recipes.  I won’t be dipping my fries in this, but tonight’s project is turning a quart of my grape juice into this catsup to serve with cold meats].

GRAPE JUICE SHERBET.  “Everwoman’s Canning Book”.  1918.

1 pint grape juice, 4 tablespoons lemon juice, Juice of half an orange, 1 tablespoon granulated gelatin, 1 ½ cups boiling water, ½ cup cold water, 1 cup sugar.  Soak gelatin in cold water five minutes.  Make a syrup by boiling the sugar and hot water for fifteen minutes; then add the soaked gelatin.  Cool slightly; add grape, orange, and lemon juice.  Freeze, using a mixture of three parts ice to one of salt.

Blissful Meals, Yall, enjoy summer’s bounty.  – Vickie Brady, aka thehistoricfoodie.©  Copyright 2016.

When is a Bean not a Bean?

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My uncle was a good country gentleman, a veteran of WWII, and what one might call a gentle giant in that he was generally quiet but when he did speak it was worth listening to.  He was the glue that held our family together as my grandfather died young and my uncle assumed the duties of patriarch.  His occupation was simply “farmer”.  He raised cattle, kept chickens, turkeys, guineas, pigs, and grew fields of corn and common, as well as some uncommon, vegetables in his kitchen garden.  Some of what he routinely grew when I was growing up faded into oblivion with his passing so when I rediscover one of his classics it is a little like regaining a piece of my childhood.

One such plant is cucuzzi, aka, edible gourd, Italian edible gourd, etc, but which my uncle called Yard-long bean.  The latter is what I knew it as, so, when I researched it and realized that his bean and the cucuzzi gourd are in fact one and the same I wondered how he came to know it as a bean.  An article from “Popular Science”, May 1920, reveals the plant was known by many as such, sometimes called New Guinea bean.  The article was entitled, “When a Bean Is Not a Bean It’s a Gourd”.  It has sometimes been called snake gourd although the two are actually two different plants.

“This gourd springs up as by magic when the seeds are planted after the danger of frost has passed.  Like the ordinary pole-bean, it will grow whether cared for or not.”  The plant is an aggressive spreader so give it plenty of room then let it do for itself.  Unless sprawling over other vegetables is considered desirable they are best trellised.

A humorous discussion on how an edible gourd came to be called a New Guinea Butter Bean” was found in “Bean-bag” [June 1920].  “All jests aside, the elongated gourd with the funny name is conceded to be a quite acceptable vegetable.  It can be prepared in a score or more ways and finds favor with many appetites…The gourds are at their best when about twelve inches long and covered with a white fuzzy growth”.

The plant’s merits are many.  Cattle, goats, and pigs eat them, poultry eat the seed, seed are easily perpetuated by letting one or two of the gourds grow to full size and harvesting the seed for the next year’s crop, and any that are inadvertently overlooked and get too large to cook can be dried and used for containers or crafts.  In the 60’s and 70’s my mom and aunts made floral arrangements, dippers, and bird houses out of the large dried gourds.

I’ve made out an order for seed from the Southern Exposure Seed Exchange and by this time next year I’ll be cooking a treat from my childhood and have my very own Mason jar full of dried seed stored away just like Uncle Wallace.

A 1909 book [“The English Vegetable Garden,  1909] spoke of its merits as a vegetable and recommended it for soups and stews.  It can be cooked in any way one would summer squash.  We most often sliced and fried the young tender gourds after a dusting of cornmeal.  After all, we are from the South and you know what they say about us and our frying pans.  Blissful Meals, yall, may your growing season see plentiful rain and sun and may your skillet never be empty.  -Thehistoricfoodie, aka, Vickie Brady.

Queen Victoria’s Poultry Yard©

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“Her Majesty’s poultry-yard, at Windsor, is situated in a small pleasure-garden just opposite Frogmore, and being rather for the amusement of rearing fancy fowls and pigeons in the manner of an aviary, than for breeding them for the table, is only, at present, upon a moderate scale.  The hen-house is erected at the back of a high wall, and…is merely a simple, though fancifully-decorated cottage, displaying considerable taste in the architect.  Over the roof is a well-stocked hexagonal erection for pigeons of various race, which are so familiar as to perch upon the person of her Majesty, who feeds them from her hand; in the centre of the building is a small room of entrance, on each side of which are the several compartments for the poultry, with a yard divided into separate courts by wire fences, and no birds can have more snug retreats for depositing and sitting upon their eggs—the nests being tastefully formed of moss, giving them the appearance of bowers; the whole warmed by a heated flue running underneath, and communicating with each cote by gratings.

Here may be seen a curious collection of white Java Bantams, odd little birds, covered with a sort of hairy feather, but laying, it is said, the richest kind of egg; which, however, are not a little difficult to be got, for it seems that no sooner is one layed, [sic]than the whole tribe, even the hen herself, begin pecking at it until eaten up:  yet in this, we imagine, there must be some mistake, or it would be impossible to rear a brood from the parent hen.  There are also some of Sir John Sebright’s celebrated bantams, with their golden speckled feathers, and other small breeds of a rare description.  By way of contrast, there is an enormously large breed of Cochin China fowls, the cock, although very young, weighing upwards of ten pounds, and the hens very prolific of eggs of superior flavor; which, although white when layed, [sic] soon become afterwards speckled.

There are likewise various other sorts of fancy breeds—both fowls and pigeons, of a curious description—all under the care of a man especially qualified for such a charge, as perhaps there are few better acquainted with the habits of the feathered tribes.  He has evidently passed much of his time in the recesses of the woods and forests, trapping birds for sale, and examining their modes of life…

The shrubberies in the garden afford shade enough from the sun, but the fowls should also have shelter from the rain, by a verandah extending along the front from each side of the porch…

We understand it to be the intention of her Majesty to establish a large poultry-yard, for the supply of the royal table, in the breeding and fattening of all sorts of fowls—in the care of which her Majesty takes especial interest; nor can there be a doubt that the introduction of foreign breeds will thus—under the example of her gracious patronage—in the course of time, cause much improvement in the stock of our native species…”

The author went on to extol the virtues of exercise citing the royal couple as an example.  “Those residents of Windsor who are in the habit of taking an early morning walk, to enjoy ‘the cool, the fragrant, and the silent hour,’ in the splendid demesne, proudly crowned by its ancient castle, must have often seen two persons in plain attire, tripping lightly across that pleasant meadow called ‘Datchet Mead,’ in order to visit a farm at the extremity of the Home-park.  These persons are Her Majesty and Prince Albert, pursuing their way to the dairy and poultry-yard, and in their progress sporting with their infants…It is impossible to witness the unaffected enjoyment of the royal couple in this domestic excursion, unalloyed as it is by any restraint of official etiquette…”

Queen Victoria's chicken coop early 20th c photo

Photo taken early 20th century

Murray, John.  “Farming for Ladies”.  1844.  London.

America’s Greatest Problem: We’ve been off the farm too long

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This article is from Appalachian Magazine.  It carries a powerful message, one that every American should heed.

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This is an opinion article from Appalachian Magazine, written by Jeremy Farley:

This week, our nation celebrated its 240th birthday and though my heart fills with patriotic fervor each time I catch a glimpse of those red stripes flapping in the wind, I can’t help but have those feelings checked by the harsh understanding that America 2016 is a nation in dire trouble.

Far from being the land of the free and the home of the brave, we are now a nation of spineless weaklings ready to be offended at the drop of the hat and often it is the very ones who dropped the hat who are the most offended.

I do not pretend to be an expert on sociology or American history – everything I know I had to learn from my life’s experiences, mostly as a child on a +200-acre beef farm in nowhere Virginia.  The older I get, the more I have come to realize, however, that it was here that I received the type of education no Ivy League institution can come close to offering.  My only regret is that 200 million other American children never had the same opportunities I enjoyed – opportunities to bottle feed a baby calf, drive a truck through an empty field at the age of 5 (alone), spend summers sitting alongside my father inside the cab of a John Deere tractor, begin Christmas morning the same way I began everything other cold and windy winter morning – opening the gates for dad as he unrolled hay for hundreds of hungry animals.

In the year 1790, 90% of the American population were farmers.  By 1850, this percentage had dropped to 64%, and then down to only 21% by the year 1930.  Today, only 2% of the American population serves as farmers.

And though American agriculture is more productive than ever, I’m afraid that as a nation we are beginning to witness the consequences of having raised multiple generations who have never looped a metal chain through a gate or chased lightning bugs through a field of freshly mowed hay.

As a nation, we have allowed Disney to convince our children that all animals are cute and cuddly, then wonder why dozens of people get killed each year attempting to take selfies with grizzly bears, cougars and copperheads.

As a nation, we have replaced the garden hoe and watering bucket with an Xbox and cell phone, then wonder why our “children” refuse to move out at the age of 30.

As a nation, the vast majority of our families have never even came across an injured bird, let alone taken the time to nurse one back to health, then we wonder why a generation has been brought up to have no respect for nature or its Creator.

While our forebears were busy praying for rain, we have come to regard the water that falls from the sky as being a cursed object — unaware that it is the rain that keeps us fed each day… All sunshine and no rain makes a barren desert, but hardly anyone realizes this in 2016 America; which is why so many never find peace during their darkest days.

There was a time when Americans consumed bacon, sausage, biscuits, gravy, fried eggs and a big glass of milk each morning — and yet they rarely got fat.  Why? Because after eating such a hardy breakfast, they went out in the fields and spent the next thirteen hours fixing fences, hanging gates, delivering calves, killing, yes, killing predators, and harvesting food.

Farm work is dirty, tiring, sometimes cruel and always difficult; which is exactly why the percentage of Americans who engage in this work has declined with every generation.

Yet, it was this type of upbringing that allowed a nation to produce men and women who pulled together to fend off the forces of Hell in the Second World War, explore the heavens, eradicate disease and tap the ocean depths.

Sadly, those farm children are dying off the scene each day. They have been replaced by “men” who have never gotten dirt under their fingernails and purchase overpriced coffee as a status symbol.

I’m not so foolish to believe that all of our ills could be solved by a trip back to the farm, but I am confident that if a few more people had the type of upbringing I enjoyed, the world would have a lot more common sense!

“Men In Denim Built Our Country…Men In Suits Destroyed It.”