This author has put a lot of wonderful historical detail in these books and includes descriptions of both the setting and culture of the time. Oklahoma of the early 1900's was an interesting place - to me anyway. My mother's family was from that part of the world and I spent quite a lot of time in my childhood on summer visits to my great-grandparents' home. My grandmother and her sisters would gather and they and my great-grandfather would talk about 'old times'. I was a little mouse in the corner, always with a book, quietly reading and listening. So, I remember quite a lot about the things that they talked about and the stories they related.
As I read this mystery series, the setting is vivid and the descriptions of life, including what they ate and how they tended to chores is reminiscent of my grandmother's tales. Donis Casey includes recipes at the end of each book, as well as 'how-to's' on some chores. In the first book, The Old Buzzard Had It Coming, the recipes include Josie's Peach Cobbler, Buttermilk Biscuits, Alafair's Meatloaf, and Pecan Pie. There is also a description of 'The Drippings Jar' and how to make coffee. The author reminds the reader to 'Be Forewarned: These are not health foods.' Ha! Well, the people at that time worked awfully hard physically in their daily lives, and so I don't think they needed a Fitbit to measure their steps or efforts. I'm going to share how Alafair made coffee (I've already told all of you how much I love coffee). And I'll tell you up front, I'm not changing over to this method - ever!
How To Make Coffee
Alafair made coffee by putting 1/4 cup of ground coffee in the bottom of a tin coffee pot, filling the pot with water, and boiling it furiously for ten or fifteen minutes. She knew the coffee was ready when a spoon stood up in the cup. Coffee was usually drunk with two or three spoonfuls of sugar. Cream was a matter of taste. After drinking a cup of Alafair's coffee, one could go out and happily plow the south forty. Sometimes one didn't even need a horse!Honestly, my paternal grandmother made coffee just like that. It was what she called 'stout' coffee. And she would give me a tiny bit, with a lot of milk.
In the third book, The Drop Edge Of Yonder, we are treated to recipes for Fried Okra, Piccalilli (a sort of relish made with green tomatoes, onions and spices that my grandmother called Chow Chow), and Chicken and Dumplings. We also learn how to iron a shirt. Best of all, a recipe for Peach Ice Cream. Here it is:
Peach Ice Cream
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup milk
3 egg yolks, beaten
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups heavy cream
Puree four or five peaches, which Alafair would have made by mashing the flesh of the fruit through a sieve with the back of a large wooden spoon. Sweeten the peaches with another 1/2 cup sugar if desired.
Mix sugar, salt, milk, and egg yolks in a saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, just until bubbles begin to appear around the edge of the pan. Cool to room temperature. Stir in the cream, vanilla, and peach puree.
Pour the ice cream mixture into the freezer can. Fill the can only two-thirds full, to allow for expansion as the ice cream freezes. Fit the can into the bucket, insert the dasher and put the lid on the can, then attach the crank.
Fill the freezer tub one-third full of ice, then alternate the rock salt and remaining ice, filling the bucket to the top of the can. Use about four parts ice to one part salt. Turn the dasher slowly until the ice partially melts and makes a brine. Then crank rapidly until it's hard to turn the dasher. How long this will take depends on the weather. If you're lucky, the ice cream will set in ten minutes or so. Or it may take half an hour. Or it may not want to set properly at all. It's all very mysterious.
So, do you have any memories of hand cranked ice cream? My parents, my father in particular, loved homemade peach ice cream and we had it often. By my time though, the freezer was an electric one.
If you're looking for a fun mystery series, pick up one of these and take yourself back a hundred years. A fun summer pursuit that would only be improved by a dish of homemade peach ice cream!
I'm linking this post to Weekend Cooking at Beth Fish Reads.