I've mentioned before how much I like Donis Casey's mystery series that is set in early 20th century Oklahoma. It tells of Alafair Tucker, her husband, Shaw, and their 10 children and extended family. Alafair is a busy, busy mother, but she also is an inquisitive soul and has a tendency to run across situations that include bodies - dead bodies.
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 or Apple Watch 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!
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!
Interesting coffee recipe - wasn't that how percolators worked? We are so spoiled now with K-cups but of course the coffee doesn't taste as good as "homemade." And speaking of homemade, that peach ice cream sounds wonderful! Thanks for sharing the recipes!ReplyDelete
Yes, I do think that's sort of the way that percolators worked. And, no, I don't think that K-cups are as good.Delete
My dad, who is 93, and his wife, 90, both took a life stories class and they have been busily writing the stories of their lives. My dad came from north Louisiana and his wife came from Oklahoma, and their stories have many similarities with the plot of the book you've described.ReplyDelete
Now I know what to ask them to write about---the foods of their childhoods on the farm. I bet you money that both of them made peach ice cream this way.
Thank you, Kay.
I would imagine that you're right about ice cream being made with a handcrank, Deb. And I bet they grew up eating ice cream sometimes.Delete
I've heard of that coffee recipe -- I think I knew it as "cowboy" coffee and was favored by backpackers in the 70s. I'll have to check out this series.ReplyDelete
Cowboy coffee - yes, I think this would be like coffee over a campfire.Delete
Sounds so good; I've never tried making my own ice cream.ReplyDelete
Oh, Diane, homemade ice cream is wonderful. All kinds and lots of recipes. As I said, I grew up eating homemade ice cream a lot.Delete
I love the coffee recipe! Just recently I've started making homemade buttermilk biscuits. They're still not as good as my grandmother's, but not bad.ReplyDelete
Buttermilk biscuits - love those or used to when I ate them. I think a lot of people are baking more these days. Ha!Delete
I could use some peach ice cream right now! As much as I love coffee I tend to go for lighter roasts (unless it's a cappuccino!) but this one sounds like I'd be up all night :) I do remember you mentioning this series before and sounds really fun.ReplyDelete
Oh, yes, you'd be up all night. I like dark roast coffee, but I only drink it in the morning. I love coffee and feel like since I don't drink as much, it ought be really good. Don't think I'd actually like this very much. The grounds would be icky.Delete
Peach ice cream sounds absolutely amazing right now! I haven't read any of the Donis Casey books but I'm going to have to find them. They sound delightful.ReplyDelete
This series is very good, Katherine, and I do think you'd like it. Lots of historical detail.Delete
I enjoyed the first book in this series, which I read on your recommendation, but I haven't continued on. I need to!ReplyDelete
Glad you tried the first one, Susan. The rest of the series is very good as well.Delete
Maybe I will give this series a try sometime. That is an interesting time period. I would love to see the Chicken and Dumplings recipe.ReplyDelete
Tracy, all the books had recipes and other cultural essays at the end of the books. I'd say that Chicken and Dumplings would be very basic and old-fashioned (no health food). LOLDelete
My first husband's mother (in Alabama) made chicken and dumplings with dumplings that were more like a flat pasta than the drop biscuit dumplings that were popular more recently. Delicious.Delete
My grandfather (in Alabama, but originally from the north) made hand-cranked peach ice cream and the recipe above sounds very much like how he made it.
That's my kind of coffee!ReplyDelete
Strong, right? Ha!Delete
Yeah I'll take the peach ice cream over the coffee! I remember hand cranked ice cream from my childhood. There's nothing better!ReplyDelete
Homemade ice cream is the best and I think that in those days, the work of cranking was part of the fun.Delete
I've never tried making my own ice cream. Who knows, I may try making that peach ice cream one day. ;) Thanks for sharing the recipe, Kay!ReplyDelete