Biscuits for Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Birthday Party

My daughter’s super awesome 2nd grade teacher, Mrs. Ryan, sent out the following Facebook message to families this week:

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Parents were quick to reply! Zoë and her classmates will be treated to a fantastic celebration of food and the pioneering spirit tomorrow!  The menu will include rabbit stew, hominy, corn muffins, whipped cream (churned to butter with luck and strong arms), mashed potatoes, muffins, maple syrup, vinegar pie and biscuits.

I offered to make the biscuits, and here they are. Some are austere and plain, but I added a little Michigan decadence to others — dried Montmorency cherries!

Happy Birthday Laura Ingalls Wilder!

Witches’ Fingers and Pumpkin Carvings

It’s two days after Halloween…but as long as there is left-over candy in that bowl, I figure it’s still fair game to post photos…

It just so happened that the Hagerman family was scheduled to bring the classroom snack on Halloween. Now, generally, I send in apples, crudités, granola…that kind of thing. But, I’ve had this recipe for about 15 years…and I figured this was my chance to give it a go. Could there be a better occasion for witches’ fingers than the 2nd grade halloween party? Much to my delight, the kids who were brave enough to try them generally thought they tasted pretty yummy! The others seemed rather skeptical about the green goo oozing out from under the fingernail…which offered its own kind of ghoulish delight on Halloween — the kids were a little freaked out by them! [insert ghastly cackle here…bwaaahhhhhh]

We also carved some jack-o-lanterns to ward off the witches and ghosts. I really do love the pumpkin carving tradition!

Making Jam

When I was a child, the women in my family canned fruits and vegetables and made jam. I grew up on a farm. We always had a garden and what we didn’t grow ourselves, we bought from our neighbours. In August, my mom would buy bushels of peaches from Mr. and Mrs. Birch. Peaches were their specialty — and they always piled those bushels beyond full, because that’s just who they were.

Once hauled into the house, Mom and I would lay out the peaches on newspaper in the basement — a cool place for them to ripen. Dad and I were the peach testers — when the juice ran down our chins, they were ready for canning. Mom would soak the fruit in hot water to loosen the skins, peel each one and cut them in two. With the pit removed, she placed each peach half carefully in the large mason jars, covered them with simple syrup and turned the lids on tight. She boiled those jars until they were sealed and ready to store. In winter, jars of canned peaches brought the heat of summer back to our minds; sunny orange, syrup sweet.

My mom still cans peaches, actually. Now, she does it for my girls — which I appreciate a lot. And yet, the act of canning is something that as a mother myself, I can’t not do. There’s something about it, the saving of summer, that I can’t pass up, no matter what. It’s just in my bones, I think.

And so, because it takes a little less time than canning, I made peach jam one August evening. My dissertation proposal was staring at me — angrily — but the simple act of making jam cleared my mind and helped me to delight in the world. I should be saving the jars for winter, but admittedly, I opened one soon after the skimmings were devoured…and have enjoyed those jammy peaches on my toast each morning since. With each bite, I smile. Sweet, yummy, and a reminder of all that is lovely.