1.9.07

Potatoes

Potatoes, being relatively cheap and quite hearty, are a mainstay of Pennsylvania Dutch cooking. Here are a collection of assorted potato recipes from the cookbook.

Gram’s Potato Pancakes
In St. Marys a popular summer event is Potato Pancake Dinners. The big one, held at the Sportsmen’s Club every year, includes mountains of potatoes shredded and fried up. Long tables are set up and bowls of stewed tomatoes, creamed corn, and cottage cheese are served along with maple syrup, apple sauce and pickles to accompany the pancakes. Frosty pitchers of Straub’s beer make the rounds. A good time is generally had by all. The picture below right was taken in Bavaria --- have no idea what year --- but the woman on the far right is Maria Eckert who was Gram's grandmother on her mother's side. As a girl she danced with a group of other traditional dancers.
Grate 1 large potato per person to be served. Mix with:

1 egg
½ cup flour
½ tsp salt
Mix well.
Heat oil in a heavy frying pan and when it is very hot drop the mixture in by the spoonful. Flatten out. When crispy on one side, flip and fry until golden.

Gram’s Cottage Potatoes
Gram made these all the time and they are delicious — almost a meal.
Cook 9 potatoes and dice along with 1 green pepper, 1 large sweet onion and toss together. Add a small jar of drained pimentos. Place half the mixture in the bottom of a casserole dish. Make a layer of American or cheddar cheese. Add a layer of croutons. Add the rest of the mixture and another layer of cheese. Fill the dish about halfway with milk. Add more croutons and bake at 350̊ for one hour.

Cheesy Potato Casserole
Scrub or peel as many potatoes as you wish and slice them thin. Place in a casserole dish alternating layers with sliced, sweet onions. Mix together 1 can cream of celery soup, a can of milk, and a cup of grated cheese (you can mix cheese to use up what you have). Pour over the potatoes and bake at 300̊ for an hour or until potatoes are tender.

Great-Aunt Mary’s Hot German Potato Salad
This is the recipe that Mom uses. There is a funny story that goes with this. Mom was always making huge pans of this to take to parties, picnics, Lisa’s wedding, or any occasion that warranted this treat. She had this huge square pan that held a ton of it and she would put it in the oven for 3 hours. One Sunday morning she wanted to go to Mass so she put the potatoes in the oven and left a note on the stove that said “Please stir the potatoes in an hour” for whoever was around. When she got home from church she checked her potatoes and was shocked to see the pan full of what looked like mashed potatoes. Turns out she should have said WHO should stir the potatoes because EVERYBODY — Dad, Jack, Wayne, Anne, me, probably Lisa, Chris, Matt and Beth, too had ALL stirred the potatoes. Oh well, it still tasted good.
In a large roasting pan put ½ peck of sliced and peeled potatoes and 1 large sweet onion peeled (more to taste). Sprinkle with ½ pound of sliced bacon pieces.
Mix together ½ cup sugar, 2 tblsp salt, 1 ½ cup vinegar, and 2 to 3 cups of water. Pour over the potatoes and sprinkle them with dried or fresh parsley. Stir well and place in a 350̊ oven for 3 hours. Stir once every hour. For the last half hour you can top with a pound of sliced weiners. Feeds a crowd!

Raw Potato Dumplings
Gram made these sometimes to go with leftover roast or turkey when there was lots of gravy to be used up. This is a real old country recipe.
Grate 7-8 raw, peeled potatoes and 1 small grated onion. Add some dried parsley, salt and pepper and 2 eggs. Tear up half a loaf of white bread and work it into the potato mixture by hand until the mixture holds together by the handful. Bring a large kettle of water with a little salt to a rapid boil. Shape the potato dough into balls. Roll in flour and drop into the boiling water. Let cook 45 minutes.

If you have more dumplings than you need the next day you can slice them and fry them in butter with sliced onions. Very delicious!

You can also make little meatballs from ground pork and saute them in a pan then shape the potato mixture around them before you roll them in flour and drop them in the water.

Oven-Browned Potatoes
This is one of my favorite recipes for potatoes.
Peel 4-5 potatoes and slice them very thin. Grease the bottom of a jelly roll pan with butter. Sprinkle the butter with salt, pepper and onion powder. Spread the potatoes over this and then add another two layers of potatoes. Heat the oven to 425̊. Bake until the bottom is crusty brown and the top is tender. Serve with side of sour cream sprinkled with chives.

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22.8.07

Sauerkraut

In The Old Mermaid’s Tale, Clair and Baptiste often have dinner at a restaurant behind the Customs House where he works, at a little restaurant called the Hofbrau House. They order pork with sauerkraut and dumplings and a lovely, crisp, white wine. Sauerkraut is a treasured part of my life.

I have often thought that if our family had a coat of arms, it would have a barrel of sauerkraut on it. Some of the best times I can remember growing up was when we made huge barrels of homemade sauerkraut at the end of the summer when the cabbages were huge and fresh from the garden.

(Above: The John Werner Family, 1915, seated, John Werner and Anna Groll Werner, my great-grandparents,
back row: Alfred G. Werner, my mother's father, Jane, Edward, Rose, and Leo Werner
)


Dad would bring the cabbage up from the garden and hang it upside down from rafters in the shop until we were ready to have a sauerkraut making day. He and I would clean them, saving the tough outer leaves, and cut them into wedges. There was a huge crock that had been in the family for generations. Mom would scrub it out and line it with those outer leaves. There was an enormous shredder that had also been around for a couple generations that we used. It was made of wood with a metal blade set into it and the cabbage would be swiped back and forth along the wooden slide over the blade to shred it. We all helped with that. Sometimes a relative would stop in and take a turn at the shredding just for nostalgia’s sake.

The shredded cabbage was layered into the crock with occasional layers of coarse salt to help it work. There was a big stone that fit on the top of the crock to weight it down but Dad had an improvement on that. He would take a heavy-duty garbage bag, fill it with water and tightly close it and put that on top of the shredded cabbage. This added the weight to press down on the cabbage while sealing off the air at the same time. The crock was then stored in the dark under the basement steps for several weeks until the cabbage fermented into kraut.

When it was fermented and “sauer”, Mom packed the sauerkraut into sterile quart jars and processed them in a boiling water bath. We made a fifty gallon crock full but no matter how much we made it was always gone by the following summer.

We always had sauerkraut on New Year’s Day. It was a tradition and even the rare person who didn’t like sauerkraut was urged to eat at least one bite of it for good luck. Personally, I have always loved sauerkraut raw, straight from the jar. I use it as a relish in sandwiches and as the base for salads. Following are two recipes for using sauerkraut — one each from my two grandmothers:

Gram Werner’s Sauerkraut with Pork and Dumplings
In a large, deep Dutch oven place 3 lbs. Of rinsed sauerkraut. Sprinkle with 1/4 c. brown sugar. Nestle a 2-1/2—3 lb. Pork roast in the sauerkraut and sprinkle lightly with garlic powder and pepper. Seal the pot and place over a medium flame. Let simmer for a couple hours until the pork falls apart with a fork.
In a bowl combine:
2 cups flour, 2 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp salt, 3 eggs, a little water if needed.
Knead gently until well mixed.
Remove the pork (as much as you can) and set aside. Bring the sauerkraut which is quite juicy by now to a boil. Pinch off pieces of the dough and drop into the bubbling juice. Cover and let cook for 15 minutes. Cover and Gobble up!

Grandma Valentine’s Sauerkraut and Pork Chops
In a large, shallow, oven-proof dish place 2 lbs. Of rinsed and drained sauerkraut. Sprinkle it with ½ cup brown sugar. On top of the sauerkraut place enough thick-cut pork chops to cover it. Sprinkle them with onion salt and pepper and place in a 350 degree oven and let bake until the chops are crispy. I have often placed a slice of apple on top of each chop for the first 45 minutes of baking. This keeps the chops very moist and flavorful but, since the apple absorbs excess fat, they should be discarded before serving.

Sauerkraut & Soltz on Parlez-Moi Blog: Part 1 & Part 2

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19.8.07

Aunt Rosie’s Hot Potato Salad and Her Squash

Aunt Rosie’s Hot Potato Salad

Aunt Rosie (at left with me and Gram Werner) is my godmother. She and Uncle Buddy lived in Erie, PA most of their lives and I spent many lovely summer vacations with them. Uncle Buddy is the one who got me interested in the maritime history of Lake Erie and The Old Mermaid’s Tale is dedicated to him. I remember that Aunt Rosie was a good cook but I don’t have a lot of recipes of hers in my cookbook. Probably because she cooked a lot of the stuff that Gram and Mom did. I was talking to her recently and we got talking about rhubarb pie. Oh, the memories of rhubarb pie! These two vegetable recipes are from Aunt Rosie:

Fry 4 slices of bacon until crisp and remove them from the pan. Into the grease stir 1 ½ T flour and mix well. Add 1 T sugar, 1 t salt, 1 T prepared mustard and stir well. Add ½ c vinegar and ½ c water and simmer until sauce thickens. Gently add 4 cups sliced, boiled potatoes and the bacon crumbled. Simmer 10 minutes and serve.

Aunt Rosie’s Squash

Slice several young zucchini and/or yellow squash and a medium onion into a heavy sauce pan. Add a small amount of water and cook, covered, until just tender. Drain well. Add salt and pepper to taste and place a 4 oz block of cream cheese on the hot veggies. Cover and let it melt. Stir gently before serving.

This works well in the microwave and is also good with broccoli, lima beans, and/or spinach.

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