Bertha’s Lemon Pound Cake

Sweet, Moist, Lemony

Bertha was my husband’s mother. Like me, she moved to Greenville with her husband. She was originally from up north, possibly New York City. She was half Cherokee and half descended from African slaves in America, but she never spoke much about her life before coming to Greenville and raising her eight children. According to her husband she was a kitchen mechanic. He would sometimes sell her pies in the neighborhood. According to my husband, she didn’t use measuring cups or spoons to make any of the many treats he so fondly remembers. But his favorite was her pound cake. I got the recipe for Bertha’s Lemon Pound Cake from my niece, and have made it many times now. In spite of it being winter, we are getting about a dozen eggs a day. One way to use up eggs is to make this cake that calls for no less than seven. So last week I made a pound cake.

Bertha’s Lemon Pound Cake Recipe

  • 3 sticks unsalted butter (1 1/2 cups), room temp.
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 7 eggs, room temp.
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 3 tbsp. lemon extract
  • 1 cup milk, room temp.

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Gathering Grapes

In summer’s past we had a concord grape vine that offered us many gallons of grapes. We had enough for me to make a couple batches of jelly and also to can some quarts of grape juice. We liked the homemade (and organic) grape juice so much that we planted a few more grape vines. They are still babies, and unfortunately our original vine (that we brought with us seven years ago from California) finally died over the winter. This week I gathered together two and a half pounds of concord grapes, but I needed four for jelly, according to the recipe on the liquid pectin box.

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Grape juice, sugar and a teaspoon of pectin just before boiling point.

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Preserving Okra

Yesterday I fried okra in peanut oil. I had three gallon bags of sliced okra in the refrigerator. I put all that in a large bowl, broke a couple of eggs over it, then stirred it up. In another bowl I made a mix of flour and corn meal with a teaspoon of baking powder and a pinch of salt. I drop about five large spoonfuls at a time of the okra into the fry mix and then put them in a strainer to get rid of the excess mix (so that it doesn’t all wind up in the bottom of my fry pot.)

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Eggplant Season

We have a lot of eggplants coming in from the garden right now. I have two ways that I prepare eggplant and am contemplating a third. I fry the slices or I make my own version of eggplant parmesan (which also involves frying the eggplant ahead of time.) Either way I prep the sliced eggplant first by sprinkling sea salt over the slices and letting them sweat for an hour two. I learned that from Molly, an Italian woman who used to watch my boys when they were very young and we were living in California.

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I acquired this waffle iron at an estate sale. It has removable cast iron plates.
The bright yellow of crook neck squash is inviting on a cold, grey winter evening.

Food and Sunshine

Sometimes the color of food is as appealing to me as the smell. The bright yellow of crook neck squash is inviting on a cold, grey winter evening. There was a lot of yellow crookneck squash this past summer, which I sliced raw and froze in vacuum sealed bags. Retrieving a bag from the freezer is a little like retrieving a bit of a summer afternoon to infuse into dinner.

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Yoghurt for the new year

After the delicous treats of the holiday season, I am usually ready for a little abstinence to begin the new year. I don’t drink milk because it gives me digestive troubles, but yoghurt actually assists my digestion. Yoghurt insures that you live a cultured (and regular)  life! I eat it with bananas or other treats, and also use it in recipes in place of buttermilk, (because I make the yoghurt myself and keep it around and I figure as long as it’s cultured it’s good…)

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Yoghurt is easy to make, and I like to make it myself. It’s not really any cheaper than buying it ready made, but it’s less wasteful, since we avoid consuming lots of little plastic cups full of yoghurt. Another thing is that I buy the unpasteurized organic milk at the Farmers Market. (If you let unpasteurized milk sit around too long and go bad, you can still use it to make farmer’s cheese. If it’s pasteurized, you can only toss it.) I get the creamy whole milk, because I like it. No skim or non fat around here folks. If the yoghurt sits around in the fridge for about a week, it develops a little layer of cream at the top.

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Pizza from Scratch in an Hour

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When I have lots of little containers of leftovers in my refrigerator, I think about making pizza. I knead the dough in my KitchenAid in about five minutes. You could also use the dough cycle on a bread machine or a food processor. If you knead it by hand, you’ll need an extra ten or fifteen minutes and you’ll get a little good arm exercise. Using yeast and making dough didn’t come easy to me for some reason. When my friend came to visit and I wanted to make some fresh bread, my thermometer was broken and I killed my yeast and failed. Now I don’t even use a thermometer. If your liquid is hot like bath water, that’s about right. Sometimes the dough has been too thin and hard to handle. One time I had to fold my pizza dough in two, it had gotten so stretchy. It’s incidents like that make my husband call me Lucy, for Lucille Ball. Adding a little flour can help, but don’t get too carried away in the other direction. Whatever happens, don’t tell anyone. They probably won’t notice, or they’ll tell you that it was the best crust you ever made yet…
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It’s better the second time

You can take her out of New York, but she’ll still want bagels. Not from the supermarket either. She might even dream about bagels and wake up with a little drool leaking from between her lips. But that doesn’t mean she ever knew how to make them herself.

Bagels made from scratch, with garlic, onion and sea salt.

Bagels made from scratch, with garlic, onion and sea salt.

It turns out, (after very little research) that boiling the dough in honey water for a minute on each side, and using a little malt in the batter, is what makes a bagel a bagel, (baked at 425 for twenty minutes.)

The first time I made bagels, I handled them too much, and they wilted on me. This time I didn’t rush things. I let them take their time rising the first time, and the second time too when I poked my finger in each one to make a hole. Then after boiling them, I laid them down gently on a well greased pan. The second time was much better.  I’m sure that the more intimate I get with my bagel batter, the better the bagel will be!