Monday, November 30, 2009

Great Aunt Bertha’s Woodstove

Aunt Bertha Harper -mid to late '60's

Aunt Bertha was a wonderful cook, considered the best in the family. Almost all of the old family recipes in my recipe box came from her. None of them are secret for she always gave such things freely. Besides, her “secret ingredient” wasn’t something you could buy at a store; it was her expertise at cooking on a wood stove.

Food cooked in that old wood stove was just better. Of course, back when she was a girl, learning to cook from her mother, everyone had a wood stove. Even when those new-fangled electric stoves became available she insisted on keeping her wood stove. Several decades of experience made it as easy for her to cook with wood heat as we do with gas or electric. She simply KNEW how much wood to add to achieve the heat needed. When enough time had gone by for the fire to heat up the oven box, she’d wave her hand in to feel the temperature. When it was right, in went the cookies. A kettle of water always sat on the stove-top ready for tea or hot chocolate should anyone stop by for a visit. Neighborhood children were sure to stop in after school to see if she’d been baking that day, amongst them my Mother and her siblings who all lived next door. It was a sad day when Aunt Bertha’s grown children, concerned for her safety, finally convinced her to switch over to an electric stove. She was never truly satisfied with her cooking after that –it was missing the “secret ingredient.”

Knowing this family heritage of baking, I was so pleased when my grandma commented that my sugar cookies were the closest she’d tasted to Aunt Bertha’s. I know it wasn’t the stove, but it may have been the other ingredients that have changed since Aunt Bertha’s time. Farm fresh eggs with rich orange yolks, and fresh, raw goat’s milk really do make a difference. Now if only I could switch out my oven for a wood stove!

Aunt Bertha’s Sugar Cookies:

2 c sugar
1 c lard
1 tsp vanilla
3 eggs
1 c milk (sour)
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp nutmeg
5 c flour

-Cream the sugar and lard together then add the vanilla, eggs, and milk
-Mix in the baking powder, soda, and nutmeg
-One cup at a time, mix in the flour
-Spoon out onto a greased cookie sheet and press in the middle to make a well; put jelly in the well
-Bake at 350 until the bottom edges start browning.
This is also a good recipe for rolling out & using cookie cutters; it’s not too sweet so it’s just right when frosted.

by SarahJayne

1 comment:

  1. My grandma had one of those wood cook stoves too. A Sunday roast always seemed to taste better made in that oven!


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