Appalachian Thursday — Making Ice Cream

porchOne of our favorite summertime treats growing up on the farm was hand cranked ice cream. Of course, when you have a cow that delivers lots of creamy milk, the ingredients aren’t hard to come by. I suppose we made other flavors, but good ole vanilla is what I remember best.

Dad would set the churn up on the back porch (where we spent lots of time in the summer–see photo). Mom filled the internal cylinder with the appropriate ingredients–cream, sugar, vanilla. Then ice was added to the bucket, rock salt poured over the top, and the cranking began.

We always wanted to help crank, although I suspect we (or at least I) were more hindrance than help. The churn sat on the edge of the porch with the little drainage spout extending into the grass below. We’d stick our fingers in the drip, drip, drip, then taste and marvel at how salty it was.

Once Dad deemed the ice cream ready, we’d immediately pull out the dasher and dig in. Well, after we fought over who got to lick the dasher.

As an adult, my husband and I made ice cream with an old, hand-cranked maker his dad gave us. It was more work than I remembered! After the ice cream was “made,” my husband packed more ice around the cylinder, covered it with a towel and set it aside.

I asked him what the heck he was doing. “Curing it,” he said.

I was mystified.

Well, it turns out you can pack your freshly churned ice cream in ice (or stick it in the freezer) and it will harden. Just like store ice cream.

Who knew?

It was certainly delicious and, well, sturdier, after the ice cream had cured, but I think I’ll always prefer it uncured. Meltingly soft, so you almost have to hurry to eat it–kind of like summer itself, gone before you fully appreciate it.

Then again, I may just be sentimental.

A Summer Interlude – Butterflies

Sometimes you need to step back from work and writing and family and just sit down along the trail to watch a puddle of butterflies peacefully pass what is–for them–a significant percentage of their lives.

Then stand and startle them. And in the startling, find yourself in a cloud of beauty on a still, summer afternoon.

Appalachian Thursday – Poisonous Pokeweed

SONY DSCWe watched a local program recently about businesses that take folks foraging for foods and then partner with area restaurants to prepare the foraged goods for your dinner. Fun!


They showed a chef using poke berries to make a glaze for peaches. Ummm. My momma lectured us up one side and down the other about NEVER eating poke berries. (Which didn’t stop us from hurling the ripe, purple fruit at one another, staining our hands and clothes.)

Poke sallet is an Appalachian spring staple, but as I’ve mentioned before it’s poisonous if not handled correctly. The only safe way I know to eat it is to pick young shoots (less than six inches or so) and boil them at least twice, but three times is better, changing the water after each boil. The term “sallet” leads people to think you’re meant to make a raw salad of the greens–DO NOT.

Some say you shouldn’t eat any part that’s red or even pink. Some say the berries are okay so long as you strain out the seeds. Some say it’s mainly the root that’s poison. Some say a little bit won’t hurt you.

Here’s what I say. If in doubt, don’t eat pokeweed. Although the berries are good for dye and ink.

If you’re curious about this apparently controversial plant, here’s a link to some interesting information about pokeweed.

When there’s a lull in the writing . . .

sparrowsI’ve hit one of those in-between times in my writing.

I’ve kind of gotten into the swing of promoting one book, editing another, and writing a third all more or less at the same time.

But this week I’ve hit a lull.

The latest round of edits on The Sound of Rain releasing in November are done. I just finished the draft of the novella I’m writing as part of a collection to come out in September 2018. And while I’ve been working on a new book that would hopefully, maybe, cross my fingers come out in 2019, there’s no hurry until I know if my editor is interested.

What’s a girl to do?

I know–READ!

One of my biggest challenges as a writer is the way all that writing cuts into my reading time. I mean, one of the reasons I became a writer was because I love books!

So this week I’m closing my laptop and dipping into my TBR pile. First up is an ARC of Many Sparrows by Lori Benton. I’ve enjoyed her books for a while and am excited to get an early peek into her latest. Then, Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate. This one is getting LOTS of positive attention and I’m so delighted for Lisa who has worked her tail off for years in order to become an overnight success.

Mmmmm. Reading!

So how about you? What are you reading this week?

Appalachian Thursday – Berry Season

HelvetiaSummer is a fruitful time in the soft, green mountains of Appalachia. The black raspberries are gone and the blackberries are just getting started. Typically we have MORE than enough to go round–even sharing with the bears!

When it comes to blackberries there are pies, jellies, jams, sauces, salads, and even sweet tea. But really, I think most of two things–cobbler and wine. My great-grandmother was a believer in blackberry wine to cure most things. A family story goes that when my brother was a baby he had an, er, intestinal complaint that doctors couldn’t cure. A tablespoon of blackberry wine from Grandma Jane and he was good as new!

So here’s a recipe from a booklet titled, Oppis Guet’s Vo, Helvetia. It includes recipes, household hints and cures collected by Eleanor Mailloux from the residents of Helvetia–a Swiss Village near where I grew up in WV. I don’t know if the recipe is any good, but the writing is great!

“On a lovely August day, find yourself a blackberry patch and pick a couple of gallons of berries. Put in crock and cover with water. Let set for a day–whenever you think of it mash and stir. Strain into containers and add 3 1/2 cups sugar to every gallon of juice. Usually, blackberries don’t take yeast, but for your first try you might add 1/2 cake dissolved yeast in 1/4 cup lukewarm water–add to juice and stir well. Ferment until stops working, put in jugs and cover tops with cloth. Let continue to work in warm place until bubbles cease to rise. When completely fermented, seal. Drink the following spring.”

And for a more practical recipe, you might try this cobbler from the Jubilation Cookbook for the Joyful Woman given to me by Anna Cutright in January 1989.

Blackberry Cobbler – Margaret Holmes
-Put 1 stick of butter in a deep dish and put into oven at 350 degrees.
-Mix: 2-4 cups blackberries with 1 cup sugar
-Mix: 3/4 cup plain flour, 1 cup sugar, 3/4 cup sweet milk, 2 tsp. baking powder
Stir into a smooth batter. Pour batter gently into center of melted butter. DO NOT STIR. Gently pour fruit into center of melted butter and batter. DO NOT STIR. Bake about 1 hour at 350 degrees.

My advice would be to serve that with a scoop of homemade vanilla ice cream!

Lesson from a Rabbit and a Mole

GE DIGITAL CAMERAIt’s a sad fact.

Critters don’t always make it to the other side of the road.

Each morning I take Thistle out for her morning constitutional along the two-lane, dead-end road where we live. There’s not a ton of traffic, but what there is tends to move too fast. And, inevitably, little animals don’t always move fast enough.

Last week I could see something in the road up ahead and tried to tell myself it was just a clump of brown leaves. Alas, no. It was an adolescent bunny. It looked fine except for the blood on its ears.

Well. I couldn’t just leave it there for passing tires to wreak havoc, so I scooped it up (so soft) and snugged it under some low-hanging vines. Thistle, of course, was keenly interested, but I persuaded her to pay her respects and move on.

A little further along we came to another unfortunate creature. This time it was a mole. It was a little less pristine and, well, it was a mole. You know, those critters that make SUCH a mess of my yard. It was small and smushed and we moved on with barely a glance.

And then I got to thinking about how I felt sad about the rabbit–moved to action even–and felt only mild curiosity about the mole.

This is NOT how God sees his creation. His love isn’t reserved for the lovable.

I’m so guilty of giving preference to the pretty, the nice, the kind, the pleasing–but God loves the homeless drunk as dearly as he loves the hardworking missionary. He made moles as surely as he made rabbits.

Luke 6:33 – And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that.

Appalachian Thursday–Getting the Garden Goods

farm marketGardens are a way of life in Appalachia. Ours went from producing lettuce in May to potatoes in September. But the best time was July into August when we’d eat tomatoes, sweet corn, and green beans with new potatoes.

Of course, gardens take a LOT of work and time.

When we first moved to Western NC we met some of our neighbors and stumbled upon the BEST way to get good garden produce. Neighbors who over-plant.

That first summer I had access to all the tomatoes we could eat. There was also corn, squash of several varieties, and cucumbers. Another neighbor down the street grew greasy cut shorts (a type of bean) and tommy toes (grape tomatoes).

By the third summer, I had a row all my own in the neighbor’s garden.

Unfortunately, the combination of raccoons, other interests, and five ears of corn for a dollar at the grocery store eventually drove our neighbor out of the garden business. Now I have to go to the local farmer’s market and PAY for garden goods.

Of course, they’re worth every penny.

My last haul included broccoli, the first tomato of the season, green beans, squash, leeks, and cucumbers. In ADDITION to a pot of mint, bagels, a goat cheese and tomato tart, and scallops! That would be the UP side of the farmer’s market–there’s much more than fruit and vegetables these days.

Do you grow a garden? What do you absolutely HAVE to include in it?