Two summers ago, my husband had a family reunion, and I received a cookbook compiled from that great gathering. My husband’s grandma, Donna Alice (pictured on the left there with my hubby), was the sixth out of twelve children of Frank and Hilda, and eleven of those twelve are still living and showed up with their sprawling clan at that reunion. They all cooked and brought their food, and it was mighty good.
Frank, could you have known when you came over the Oregon Trail from Kansas in 1896, at the awkward age of 14, your family creaking along in a covered wagon and you riding alongside on a pony the whole way to Sweet Home, Oregon – a trip that makes a man out of a boy…could you have known your legacy?
Here are Frank and Hilda with their first daughter, Mina, in 1917. Mina would be the first of 10 daughters. The couple had just two boys, one of whom died in 1991. Mina is 92 years old now and in a wheel chair, widowed for 11 years.
Frank and Hilda owned a grocery/feed store in the 1930s, and Mina still reminisces about working there, packaging up 50 pound containers of lard and sugar for customers.
I found the perfect summer dessert salad that Mina handed down to her family, a sure hit with the kids. Don’t worry, there’s no lard. Here is Mina’s Orange Jello Salad, submitted to the cookbook by her granddaughter Holly:
Orange Jello Salad
3 cups boiling water
1 small package orange jello
1 small package vanilla pudding (cook kind)
1 small package tapioca pudding pudding (cook kind)
2 cans mandarin oranges
8 oz. Cool Whip
Mix dry pudding and jello together, add to boiling water and boil 2 minutes. Put in a bowl and cool completely. Drain oranges and add oranges and Cool Whip to pudding mixture.
Frank lived to be almost 93, but his beautiful bride Hilda, who was just 17 when they married, died at the age of 46 from a cerebral hemorrhage, her last child only a tender five year old. But Hilda clearly taught her children well, because they expertly took over the household after her death, the older girls caring for the younger ones.
Here is one of Hilda’s simple recipes, passed down to her daughters and submitted to the cookbook by one of her youngest girls, Marian.
1/2 head cabbage chopped thin, very thin
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup whipping cream
1/4 cup vinegar
In small, deep mixing bowl, add sugar and vinegar, whip, then start ading cream slowly, whipping all the time. Will thicken slightly. Pour over cabage, salt and pepper.
If you have a garden full of tomatoes, then this next recipe will make a great summer dinner. It was submitted by Carla, the daughter of Norma, who was the second of Hilda’s children. Like her mother, Norma was blessed with an abundance of girls, having six daughters and just one son. Norma recalls needing money for college and occasionally receiving from father Frank a $100 bill rolled up in a walnut shell.
Capellini with Burst Cherry Tomato Sauce
1 lb very thin spaghetti or capellini
1/4 cup olive oil
3 pints cherry tomatoes
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp oregano
1/2 cup sliced calamata olives
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
Boil pasta when sauce is in final stage. Heat olive oil in large skillet til very hot. Add tomatoes, cover with lid and cook 10-12 minutes. Shake or stir occasionally. Cherry tomatoes will burst, if they do not, press gently. Add garlic, oregano, olives and salt to taste. Lower heat and simmer another 7-10 minutes. Top pasta with sauce and cheese.
If you have a summer pie-baking tradition, you need a good crust. My Grandma-in-law, Frank and Hilda’s sixth child as I showed you up there with my husband, has a Never Fail Pie Crust. I would have married into this family just for Donna’s pies. She brings them to every family holiday gathering–berry pies, apple pies, pecan pies, you name it–they are mouthwatering delights held together by this magical flaky crust. Here’s the recipe, but I doubt you can even come close to Donna Alice’s pies:
Never Fail Pie Crust
3 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 1/4 cups shortening
5 Tbls water
1 Tbls vinegar
Mix egg, vinegar and water, add to dry ingredients and shortening (mixed). Take enough for one shell at a time and roll out. Makes 4 or 5 crusts.
Donna’s great-grandkids love her pies, too.
I suppose you need a pie to go in that pie crust! Donna’s Strawberry Pie made it into the family cookbook, submitted by her niece Lyn. Apparently this pie gets rave reviews at parties and potlucks.
Donna’s Strawberry Pie
3 oz. Philadelphia cream cheese
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup whipped cream
1/2 tsp. vanilla
Put in cooked pie shell and chill.
Cook: (until thick and clear)
1 pint strawberries with juice
1/2 cup sugar
2 Tbls cornstarch
Cool. Spread over cheese layer in pie shell. Chill. Garnish with whipped cream.
In the beverage section of the family cookbook, I noticed Joe’s Home Brew. Joe would be Frank and Hilda’s grandson, and his mother Bonnie was girl number eight. Bonnie must share Frank’s spirit of the Oregon Trail, because she’s had some crazy adventures in her lifetime, including rafting down the Grand Canyon and working in remote Alaska.
Joe’s recipe is for homemade root beer, and I’ll include his description and directions –it gets a bit lengthy but this is well worth it.
Joe’s Home Brew
When we were growing up, we made home made root beer in glass bottles with caps. It was so much fun, and tasted so good, that Laina and I have continued to make it the past 30 years! It’s a staple at our house! Great with popcorn or by itself on a hot summer day or add a scoop of vanilla ice cream for a fab float!!
1 bottle of root beer extract (sorry he didn’t say what size bottle!)
5 pounds of sugar
1/2 tsp active yeast
5 gallons lukewarm tap water
Need 10 2-liter plastic pop bottles and caps
Mix the water, sugar and extract in a 5 gallon plastic pail, stir thoroughly. Add yeast (best to dissolve this first in a cup of lukewarm water) and stir thoroughly. Pour root beer into pop bottles, leave about 1/2 inch air from the neck of the bottle. Screw caps on tightly. Store bottles on their sides for one week at room temperature. Then store them upright in a cool place. You can drink the brew after a week. The longer it sits, the fizzier and less sweet it gets. The plastic bottles get very hard as the yeast “eats” the sugar and produces carbonation. Refrigerate before opening! Warm brew may be explosive!! Enjoy!
Have you had a family reunion this summer? Do you have a favorite family recipe? Enjoy these last days of summer with some good food and family fun!
p.s. Don’t you think my daughter JJ looks just like her great-great-grandma Hilda?