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Shelby

Little House series reading group (Laura Ingalls Wilder)

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On a completely different and much less philosophical note: Towards the end of the book Laura, Mary and Ma go out collecting nuts. She mentions walnuts, hazelnuts and hickory nuts. I wonder why hickory nuts are so uncommon now? I know that they are available online, but I don’t think that I’ve ever seen them or even tasted one.

We had a couple of hickory nut trees on the land where I grew up. One of them always had a LOT of nuts. They were hard as rocks. My sis and I would gather a bunch and try to crack them. Normal nut cracking devices were useless, so we'd bash them with hammers on the patio. The salvagable pieces didn't taste very good raw. (They look something like a hazlenut/filbert.) Roasting might have helped. We tried it several years in a row until we realized it was useless. The black walnut trees were where the real prizes could be found (along with horribly stained hands).

When DH and I moved to this house, I was excited to see we had two big pecan trees. Sadly, they turned out to be as useless as the hickory trees of my childhood. Too old and of some variety that yields little meat. A friend of mine once picked up several huge bags of them, ignoring my warning that her efforts would be futile. Sure enough. After several evenings attempting to crack/pick them, she pitched the whole lot. One of the trees is now gone. The other no longer bears nuts at all.

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Heck, I don't know how I missed this topic! I re-read the entire series at least once a year. Yes, I drool over the smoked venison, the pig tail, the blackbird "chicken" pie, the syrup candy, the green tomato "apple" pie, the pancakes, etc. I also own the Little House cookbook, mainly because I was trying to find a recipe for the vanity cakes from "On the Banks of Plum Creek" years ago. Reading the stories of deprivation always make me appreciate food so much more too. Even the canned peaches in the surveyor's house in "On the Shores of Silver Lake" sound good when I get to that part, and the late Xmas feast at the end of "The Long Winter" just seems heavenly.

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I'm reading "Farmer Boy" now. When I was little, this was my least favorite book in the series. I disliked switching from Laura and her family's traditions and ways to the Wilder's vastly "richer" way of life. However, now, I'm enjoying this one. Being older puts things in a different light.

I'm craving salty buttery popcorn now. Has anyone ever tried putting popcorn in milk?

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I'm hogging this topic lol.

I'm to the part where Almanzo scours the hills looking for wintergreen berries. I've never seen these in person, so I looked them up online.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wintergreen

I found this quite interesting.

30 mL (about 1 fl oz) of oil of wintergreen is equivalent to 55.7 g of aspirin, or about 171 adult aspirin tablets (US). This conversion illustrates the potency and potential toxicity of oil of wintergreen even in small quantities.

Now, I have no idea how much oil is in each berry...so I don't know how much Almanzo ingested, but, he spent whole afternoons hunting and eating these suckers. Obviously he never had any ill affects??? Or, am I looking at the wrong kind of berry?

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Beans definitely played a significant role in the meals. In Farmer Boy (p.79 softcover) I liked the sound of the baked beans and the rye n' injun that was put in the oven to cook overnight. Mother filled a 6 qt pan with boiled beans, and added onions, peppers, a piece of fat pork and scrolls of molasses over the top. I wonder what the main dry bean was for them. I also wondered if the peppers were sweet like a bell or hot. The rye n' injun was a mix of rye flour and cornmeal, milk, eggs, "and things". Leavening of some sort? I like the idea of rye and cornmeal together.

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Beans definitely played a significant role in the meals. In Farmer Boy (p.79 softcover) I liked the sound of the baked beans and the rye n' injun that was put in the oven to cook overnight. Mother filled a 6 qt pan with boiled beans, and added onions, peppers, a piece of fat pork and scrolls of molasses over the top. I wonder what the main dry bean was for them. I also wondered if the peppers were sweet like a bell or hot. The rye n' injun was a mix of rye flour and cornmeal, milk, eggs, "and things". Leavening of some sort? I like the idea of rye and cornmeal together.

I wondered about the dry bean variety, too. I did a quick scan of the chapter about harvest and I only see them called "beans". In the cookbook, however, there is a recipe for succotash that Almanzo and his family ate during the county fair in October. It says that the beans they would have used were "shell beans" or "pole beans". It says that if you cannot find these then lima beans could be subbed.

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Now I have to dig out my set. I hope mom didn't give them to the church rummage sale! :unsure:

These books had so much to do with some of my earliest cooking projects. I know for sure that I made my first loaf of bread because of them. I asked my mom why it would take all day to do the baking, so she showed me.

One thing I hope some of you have made are Ma's Vanity Cakes in OTBOPC. I got the set for Christmas when I was 7 and had them all read by my 8th birthday in March. I really wanted the vanity cakes; they sounded so good, crispy and sweet. Mom wasn't sure exactly what they'd be, but we did two trials. One of a classic beignet recipe, but they were too dense, and the one we ended up going with from a church cookbook called Resurrection Cakes. You wrap biscuit (from a can) dough around a marshmallow and bake. The biscuit absorbs the marshmallow as it expands, making a hollow cookie. They weren't quite right either, but were good.

Anyone tried them?


"Life is a combination of magic and pasta." - Frederico Fellini

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Every time I read about the little cakes, my mouth starts to water. I'm definitely interested in trying the marshmallow and biscuit recipe!

I've been lax about uploading pictures for a while, so these are a couple of weeks old.

We got 17 inches of snow so it seemed like a great time to try the molasses candy.

I boiled the molasses and brown sugar roughly to a bit over soft ball stage...I need a candy thermometer *sigh*

Little House snow foods 004.jpg

These bowls were filled with fresh, fluffy snow.

Little House snow foods 002.jpg

Here is the candy drizzled.

Little House snow foods 005.jpg

In hindsight, one should really pack the snow down into the bowls.

Here is a piece of the finished product.

Little House snow foods 006.jpg

Both my husband and I thought it tasted really good! Very sticky, though!

I also made some snow ice cream...very very good.

Little House snow foods 001.jpg

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Thanks for showing us that it really does work Shelby. I finished the 9 book series and will be posting some observations soon. The biggest overall impact to my kitchen has been to give me an even stronger will not to waste food and not to just run out and get an ingredient when I could try a substitute with what is in the house.

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Thanks for showing us that it really does work Shelby. I finished the 9 book series and will be posting some observations soon. The biggest overall impact to my kitchen has been to give me an even stronger will not to waste food and not to just run out and get an ingredient when I could try a substitute with what is in the house.

Me too, Heidi.

I also find myself wishing that there were more of the series to read. I've read all of the biographies written by other people about Laura and Rose (her daughter). I didn't really enjoy that, though, because it painted a different picture of how Laura and her family were...seems that all wasn't as rosy as I'd like to think.

Oh, and I was just looking at my cookbook. Laura said that she never learned how to make vanity cakes. She said that she knew they were mostly egg and were fried like a doughnut.

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For some reason those vanity cakes never spoke to me. I loved that the girls were so excited about them but I did not have a taste image of them or a craving.

I was going to read the other books as well but even the last book "The First Four Years" that was published from her notes did not have the same feel or joy to it so I decided to let it be.

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Re the vinegar, could you use Bragg's vinegar? We use it all of the time, and it's so much better than the other stuff. I checked their site, and it says, "Certified Bragg Organic Raw Apple Cider Vinegar is unfiltered, unheated, unpasteurized and 5% acidity. Contains the amazing Mother of Vinegar which occurs naturally as strand-like enzymes of connected protein molecules."

Rhonda

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I just did maple syrup candy with the kids last week! The Joy of Cooking said to bring syrup to 230-233 for sugar, so I figured that would be close (since Grandma pours it in the snow before she pours it for the sugar). I took it off the heat and whisked it til it looked like it was just starting to thicken, and then I poured it - no pretty designs, though :) The kids did pack the snow, and I think you're right that packing keeps it a little easier. I was amazed that the snow didn't seem to melt. The candy turned out very sticky, and anything that wasn't taken out immediately started melting into the snow. But it was still tasty!

The little left in the pan did turn to sugar, and that was very good! I'd like to make just the sugar in the saucers like at the dance.

I've found wintergreen in northern Wisconsin, and it does look like the wikipedia picture, except that what I've found is lower to the ground, more like this. I don't think I've ever tried the berries though, just the leaves.

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i emailed melissa the other day. i noticed on one of the sites i monitor that there is a new book coming out called The Wilder Life by Wendy McClure. it is about her infatuation with Laura Ingalls Wilder and how she grew up.

me... i'm a Jean Stratton Porter girl. though i disagreed with my mom who preferred Freckles and i preferred Girl of the Limberlost. as well as Lucy Maud Montgomery and Anne


Nothing is better than frying in lard.

Nothing.  Do not quote me on this.

 

Linda Ellerbee

Take Big Bites

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i emailed melissa the other day. i noticed on one of the sites i monitor that there is a new book coming out called The Wilder Life by Wendy McClure. it is about her infatuation with Laura Ingalls Wilder and how she grew up.

me... i'm a Jean Stratton Porter girl. though i disagreed with my mom who preferred Freckles and i preferred Girl of the Limberlost. as well as Lucy Maud Montgomery and Anne

I just saw someone reading this Wilder Life book on the Metro and I made a note in my iphone so I would remember to look for it!

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i emailed melissa the other day. i noticed on one of the sites i monitor that there is a new book coming out called The Wilder Life by Wendy McClure. it is about her infatuation with Laura Ingalls Wilder and how she grew up.

me... i'm a Jean Stratton Porter girl. though i disagreed with my mom who preferred Freckles and i preferred Girl of the Limberlost. as well as Lucy Maud Montgomery and Anne

I got this book in the mail yesterday and I can't put it down. It's really, really good. Many references (so far) to all of the food in the cookbook.

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Glad to hear the syrup candy works, because the munchkin is on my to try making it. We'll have to use shave ice instead of snow. There's a dearth of that in these here parts.

Not a lot of sources for sour in that diet. There's an entire eg thread on how a bit of sour brightens and brings out the fullness of flavors. We use white wine, lemon, verjuice, etc. They had vinegar.


"You dont know everything in the world! You just know how to read!" -an ah-hah! moment for 6-yr old Miss O.

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Little House on the Prairie (starting at page 269 in my new softcover)

Pa had gone all the way to town and came back with a treat of a bag of crackers and glass jar of little green pickles. "Laura's mouth watered, and Ma's eyes shone. He had remembered how she longed for pickles". I swear I could not get my mind off of the pickles and had to get to the market for a pretty jar of them!

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I just remembered this morning that in 6th grade we did a project on LIW because she wrote all the books in Missouri where I live. Our teacher actually had us read "Farmer Boy" as a class (I think so the boys wouldn't be too loud in their disapproval) and she made us the apples with bacon and onions! Yum!


"Life is a combination of magic and pasta." - Frederico Fellini

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Plenty of hickory nuts in my mother's backyard on Long Island (NY). She has several hickory trees & I can remember stepping on them (hurts if you're barefoot) in the autumn. I think one reason there's a fairly large population of squirrels in the area is because of those trees. We used to see squirrels burying some of the nuts in the ground.

Requires some time & preparation after picking before you can shell & eat them. http://www.ehow.com/how_5539153_eat-hickory-nuts.html

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Just came across a note I made.  A book some of you might be interested in is called Caroline: Little House, revisited by Sarah Miller.  It was authorized by The Little House Heritage Trust.

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Nothing is better than frying in lard.

Nothing.  Do not quote me on this.

 

Linda Ellerbee

Take Big Bites

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