Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Did My Grands and Great-Grands Can Tomatoes?

It's tomato season again. The tomato stand alongside the country road I sometimes drive caused me to wonder if my great-grandmothers canned tomatoes. What would the canning process have been like in the late 1800s when they were young mothers with children, and probably also with gardens?

Cornell University's HEARTH provided some answers -- not specifically about whether my great-grandmothers canned tomatoes -- but about the canning process. Mary F. Henderson's book, Practical Cooking and Dinner Giving: A Treatise Containing Practical Instructions in Cooking : in the Combination of Serving of Dishes : and in the Fashionable Modes of Entertaining at Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner, published in 1877 by Harper & Brothers, gave instructions for canning.

Are you ready? Do you have cans and lids? Your tin cup, your tea-kettle, a porcelain preserving kettle, and red sealing-wax? Then let's begin.
To Can Tomatoes.

Let them be entirely fresh. Put scalding water over them to aid in removing the skins. When the cans with their covers are in readiness upon the table, the red sealing-wax (which is generally too brittle, and requires a little lard melted with it) is in a cup at the back of the fire, the tea-kettle is full of boiling water, and the tomatoes are all skinned, we are ready to begin the canning. First put four cans (if there are two persons, three if only one person) on the hearth in front of the fire; fill them with boiling water. Put enough tomatoes in a porcelain preserving kettle to fill these cans; add no water to them. With a good fire let them come to the boiling-point, or let them all be well scalded through. Then, emptying the hot water from the cans, fill them with the hot tomatoes; wipe off the moisture from the tops with a soft cloth, and press the covers tightly. While pressing each cover down closely with a knife, pour carefully around it the hot sealing-wax from the tin cup, so bent at the edge that the wax may run out in a small stream. Hold the knife still a moment longer, that the wax may set. When these cans are sealed, continue the operations until all the tomatoes are canned. Now put the blade of an old knife in the coals, and when it is red-hot run it over the tops of the sealing-wax to melt any bubbles that may have formed; then, examining each can, notice if there is any hissing noise, which will indicate a want of tightness in the can, which allows the steam to escape. If any holes are found, wipe them, and cover them while the cans are hot with a bit of the sealing-wax. There will be juice left after the tomatoes are canned. Season this and boil it down for catchup.
While reading this recipe I wished for illustrations and I certainly hoped that someone who had already canned would have been helping teach the process. It seems like they were using cans, not the glass jars that we usually use these days.

Several of my grands were young mothers in 1877. Elizabeth Armitage Meinzen was 25 with with 3 children. Elvira Bartley Gerner was 23 with 5 children, one born in July of that year. My great-great-grandmother, Lydia Bell Thompson, was 26 with 3 little ones. And my great-great-grandmother Elizabeth Laws Doyle was 32 with 8 children. Imagine canning over a fire with little ones to care for.

Oh, and did you ever think of why it's called catsup or ketchup? I always thought it was because women were trying to catch up with the overabundance of tomatoes. Maybe it was the juice and not the tomatoes that were in overabundance.

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The photograph of tomatoes, above, was taken by Adam Selwood and made available on Flickr.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Dog Bones and a Birthday

Jan, my sister-in-law, was a home economics teacher before she married my brother (and for a several years afterwards, too). The summer after they married she patiently helped me improve my sewing skills, since home ec was not included in my courses in high school. I suspect she was a no nonsense teacher in the classroom, yet one who was compassionate and treated her students fairly.

When I grew older and married, she and I occasionally exchanged recipes. Not long ago I came upon two recipes she wrote out for me which I'm sharing below.

I always admired Jan's beautiful handwriting, written so perfectly whether she was in a hurry or not.

I think it's fun how she drew the outline of the bone over the recipe. And don't you think the dogs are so grateful for the real drippings from the roast?!

I'm sharing Jan's recipes today because it's her birthday. She would have been 73 this year if she were still alive. She passed away in June, 1995. We still miss her. Happy, happy birthday, Jan!
___________________________________________________________
Dog Bones
2 1/4 c. whole wheat flour
1/2 c. nonfat dry milk
1 egg
1/2 c. vegetable oil
1 beef bouillon cube dissolved in hot water (in 1/2 c. hot water) (since salt is not good for a dog, I use the drippings off roasts, hamburgers, etc.)
1 T. brown sugar

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. In a large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients, stirring until well blended. Knead dough 2 minutes. On a floured surface, use a floured rolling pin to roll out dough to 1/4" thickness. Use a 1 1/2" long bone-shaped cookie cutter to cut out bones. Bake 30 minutes on an ungreased baking sheet. Remove from pan and cool on wire rack.
Yield: about 4 dozen dog bones.

Watkins Lemony Chicken Nuggets
1/2 c. all-purpose flour
2 t. seasoning salt
1 t. paprika
1 t. onion powder granules
1 t. oregano
1/2 t. lemon pepper
1/4 t. garlic powder granules
16 oz. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut in 1-inch pieces
1 1/2 T. lemon juice
Cooking oil

Measure first seven ingredients into plastic bag; close tightly and shake to blend. Moisten chicken with lemon juice. Let stand 30 minutes. Place chicken chunks, a few at a time, into plastic bag; shake to coat thoroughly. Pour oil into heavy saucepan filling no more than 1/3 full; heat to 375 degrees. Carefully add chicken, a few pieces at a time. Fry, turning once, about 2 minutes or until tender. Drain on paper towels.

Makes 4 to 8 servings.
___________________________________________________________

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Great-Grandmother Elizabeth's Birthday Is Today

Elizabeth is dear to my heart for all the challenges she faced in her life. Though I never knew her personally, she continues to be a great example to me. Other posts about her include Elizabeth and My Elizabeth.Few photographs of her survived and those I have are copies (some xerox-style) of originals. Poor photographs but at least I can see her image.

This photo makes me laugh because of the cup of liquid she's holding. Water? Was there a story or joke to go with this? Why was she standing in a field, dressed in Sunday best, holding a cup of water -- and posing for a photographer?

Elizabeth was born on August 24, 1852, in Bradford, Yorkshire, England. Her parents were Abel and Eliza (Hartley) Armitage.

Happy, happy Birthday, Gramma.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Celebrating Eva on Her Birthday

What I know about Eva:
  • She has a delightful sense of humor.
  • She's a great grandmother to 7 little boys.
  • She likes math and numbers.
  • She enjoys eating out.
  • She's a wonderful sister-in-law.
  • She's a genealogist/family historian.
  • It's her birthday today.

Happy Birthday, Eva! I hope you have a very special day.

Monday, August 15, 2011

A V-J Day Memory - Military Monday

Today is V-J Day, the day the United States commemorates its World War II Victory over Japan. I was not alive on August 15, 1945, but my brother, who was, shared the following memory. He was a boy of six that year, probably about the age he was in the photo to the right (though much more serious in the photo than at the time the event of this memory took place.)
I recall being in the living room at home on Furnace Street in Mineral Ridge, Ohio, listening to the radio. I remember it being later in the day but it was still day light.

I remember mom being there but not dad. I think he was at work. (TV was some years off for us as well as everyone else for that matter. It was still in the development stages).

I remember, vaguely, that an announcement came over the radio that the Empire of Japan had surrendered. I remember mom being excited so I got excited too. Since we only had one car and dad had it at work, I think we somehow borrowed Grandpa Meinzen's car.... I don't recall either he or Grandma going with us. We went into Niles, Ohio, some three miles away. I recall everyone driving up and down the streets blowing their horns in celebration. How long we rode around I'm not sure. I think we got home after dark which would have been around 9 PM or so.... I remember the excitement of that evening that the war was over.
It's hard for me to imagine such a momentous occasion. The people of America had sacrificed unitedly and purposefully for many years to support the war effort. It would have been thrilling to imagine life going back to normal, albeit a new and different normal than before the war.

In my lifetime there has not been a war's end that was celebrated like V-J Day. I can't remember a definitive end to any war in which our country has fought, and the only time I can remember our country drawing together in prayer and unity was on and after the tragedies on September 11, 2001.

A half a century ago many newspapers, including the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and The Pittsburgh Press, published evening editions. So much the better to cover the events of the day and previous night in other parts of the world. The August 15, 1945, edition of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette details news of the Japanese surrender as it happened in Japan. The Pittsburgh Press edition for that date shows photos of celebrations in the streets and thanks-giving at churches in the city. The celebration in little Niles' would have been small compared to those in Pittsburgh, if only because of a smaller population. Yet I'm sure the sentiment was the same.

War is cruel in so many ways. For those who fight to protect freedoms, war can temporarily (and sometimes permanently) deprive individuals of freedoms -- wives and children unable to interact with husbands and fathers, soldiers without the comforts of home, everyone living with the uncertainty of what the next day or moment will bring, and frequently lives extinguished. War, in whatever form it is fought, is devastating. I hope for and look forward to a time when the countries of the world can live peacefully within their own boundaries and not feel the need to overtake and dominate other countries.

I'm grateful to my brother, Bob, for sharing this memory. Thank you.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Hope for Finding the Ladies

(Apologies for using my male ancestor's name in the image at right. I wasn't searching for and didn't find one of my own female ancestors this morning.)

Don't discount the possibility of finding a will for one of your female ancestors until you've searched the will books. In my early days of working on family history I read several books that strongly suggested that women in the 1800s rarely had wills. Rare doesn't mean nonexistent.

While looking through the microfilm of a Butler County, Pennsylvania, will book at the Family History Center (FHC) this morning, I was struck by the number of women's names I saw. I mentally noted that at least one in every ten wills was that of a woman.

You can find microfilms of will books for U.S. counties in the Family History Library Catalog by typing in the location where your ancestor may have died, looking at the film notes, jotting down the film number, then finding a local FHC and ordering the film. The shipping and processing for each film costs $5.50 and will stay at your local FHC for one month.

One in ten is a low percentage but if your ancestor happens to be one of those ladies who recorded a will, you may have found a gold mine of information.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Carrot Pudding and White Candy - Family Recipe Friday

This is another recipe from my Grandmother Emma Bickerstaff Meinzen's Webster's Spelling Recipe Book.

It's hard to decide what kind of dish Carrot Pudding is. At first I thought it was a savory side dish but after reading all the ingredients, changed my mind and decided it must be a dessert. What do you think?

The second recipe on this page is White Candy. On the reverse are Dark Part and Light Part. I can only assume they are a continuation of the recipe for White Candy. White Candy calls for "karo." A search for Karo Syrup revealed that it was first produced in 1902. The website shows images of the covers of early cookbooks but none of the recipes hidden inside. Was this recipe taken from one of those early Karo cookbooks? I searched for "Karo" at HEARTH and found multiple results, especially in conjunction with children's diets, then remembered that HEARTH doesn't publish cookbooks.
__________________________________________________________________
Carrot Pudding.
1 cup grated carrots.
1 " Potatoes.
1 " Suet.
1 " raisins (Roll in flour)
1 " currants.
1 " brown Sugar.
1 Egg.
1 teas. Cinamon
Citron.
1/2 Cloves.
1/2 Allspice.
1 level Soda.
Dissolve in Warm Water.
Steam 3 hrs.

White Candy.
2 cups white sugar.
1/2 cup karo.
1/2 cup water.
Beat white egg
last and beat
altogether.
Vanilla

Dark Part
[written on right side] D. F. lak [?]
Mix 2/3 cup cocoa
2 cup - White sugar
Add a little hot water ["less" written below]
at a time to dissolve
add than half cup)

Light Part
1/2 cups = butter
1 " = white Sugar
3 egg = Yolks
1 cup = sour milk or buttermilk
2 cups = flour
1 t[sp] = Soda dissolved
in 1 T. = hot water
1 egg white beaten
added last
2 egg whites for frosting
________________________________________________________________
Note added later: Lisa asked in a question about suet in a comment to this post. I did a little research and found that Ochef had some insight into suet, then and now. Suet is a hard fat from around the kidneys of cows and sheep which is very unlike the suet sold in most stores today. Buy suet from a butcher.

I also appreciated this information about how suet works: "Because suet has a high melting point, it serves as a place-holder in puddings and crusts when the dough has begun to set, and long after other fats would have melted. As a result, the structure of the pudding is already defined by the time the suet melts, leaving thousands of tiny air holes that give the pudding a light and smooth texture. Additionally, suet, which does not have any meaty taste, imparts a rich flavor."

Could our ancestors eat suet with little complication because they performed more physical labor? Did the bad stuff get worked out of their arteries? Maybe so.

Monday, August 1, 2011

We're Two Today

We - My Ancestors and Me -- turn two today. If you consider our years since physical birth, we are all much, much older than that but together we've completed two years of blogging. It's an accomplishment I feel like celebrating.

These have been interesting, fun, challenging years. I can't speak for my ancestors (who probably aren't interested in blogs) but from my view it's been an educational experience. During this time I've expanded my knowledge about blogging, researching, writing, online resources, and the genealogy blogging community.

When we started two years ago I knew little about blogs and even less about blogging. We had one reader: my daughter. For the most part, it felt like I was very alone, writing for myself and publishing for no one to read. When I announced the creation of My Ancestors and Me to my extended family, some began, sporadically, to read it. (Most of my living family members are not as interested in our ancestors as I am.) When I found GeneaBloggers, I knew I'd found a niche. I was surprised -- and pleased -- to see that people I didn't know were interested in reading what I wrote about my own family. I was grateful then and continue to appreciate the support I receive.

It's sometimes hard to balance my time between research and writing (and the rest of my life, too). Research suffers when I devote time to writing but when that happens, I think my ancestors help the research by gently nudging me in one direction or another to find sources and documents to tell about their lives. Ofttimes when I'm busy researching, I post about research done before this blog existed. I share information because I want my ancestors and their contributions to life on earth to be remembered. A newly discovered ancestor, or information about him or her, usually finds its way into a celebratory post. Like the woman searching for the lost coin in the parable in Luke 15, I rejoice and announce the news to readers who sometimes celebrate with me. I also rejoice when unknown cousins contact me, interested in sharing their own research and knowledge and in learning about mine. I find that two heads are better than one.

To those of you who have come along on this wondrous blogging experience, thank you. I hope you'll continue along with me as I share new and old research and information about my ancestors. Thank you!
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