The Christmas season is upon us and we are celebrating by sharing recipes from readers and our featured cooks in our annual Country Christmas cookbook.
I come from a line of ladies who could cook. Granny (my maternal great-grandma), Grandma Turner, Grandma Hoover and Mom each had their own touches to certain dishes. I think everything my mom made was good. I will admit that I didn’t really want to learn how to cook, but she “forced” me into it; moms have a way of doing that sometimes.
If there was a potluck at church or somewhere else, there were seldom leftovers of Mom’s dishes. I will never forget the time when the new preacher at our rural church bragged to my mother about her fried chicken. He said he’d never had anything so tasty. Mom said, “Why thank you. You know, Julie and I killed those chickens just yesterday.” He got a strange look on his face and walked off. I don’t think Mom, who was always a lady, meant it to be a shock to the preacher; she was just saying the chicken was so good because it was fresh.
She was a pro with her hot rolls. There was nothing like my mom’s rolls, trust me. At a recent Turner family reunion, I showed up with a couple of pans of rolls (the kind you thaw out and bake) and one of my cousins saw them and instantly asked if they were my mom’s recipe. She said she remembered stopping by our house years ago and my mom had just brought out two huge pans of rolls. She said she couldn’t help herself and had to grab some as she was leaving.
I remember asking Mom to write down how she made the rolls, but she said just to watch her. I did, but a pinch of this, a palm full of that and a little flour, but not too much, didn’t really work for me.
Grandma Turner can bake a mean apple pie. For many years she would spend days pealing, slicing and canning bushels of apples so that there would be pie whenever it was needed. Before she moved to town, she had an old cherry tree in her backyard at the farm. That tree had the biggest cherries and I can remember going out and picking cherries for her to make pies. There was just something about her pie crust; it was always so good.
For Grandma Hoover, there was nothing in the world like her rum cake. She didn’t like the term “fruit cake” and would correct you on it every time. The outside was almost like candy and the inside was soft, moist and filled with fruit. She took great pride in her rum cake and was very picky about what she used in it.
I only remember one thing my Granny made. It was simple, but oh so good. Granny had this big cast iron skillet and everyday she would cook a pan of cornbread on top of the stove. I don’t remember Granny not using a cane or a walker and her vision was very poor, but she would flip that heavy, cornbread filled skillet and catch the cornbread as it flipped over. We lived on the same farm as my Granny for a time when I was a kid and when Dad would go milk our old Jersey cow, we would go see Granny. She always had a fresh pan of warm cornbread waiting and a big glass of milk. Mom would tell us not to eat at Granny’s because it would spoil our supper, but we couldn’t turn Granny down, or her cornbread and milk. She loved that rich Jersey milk with her cornbread.
Mom, Granny and Grandma Hoover are all gone now, and Grandma Turner isn’t able to cook any longer, but I still carry memories of their wonderful meals. While I’m not the cook they were, I try to whip some things up from time to time, and I don’t hear too many complaints, so maybe I have a little of each one of them with me when I am in the kitchen. I think they each had a secret ingredient in their cooking and it’s an ingredient that mothers and grandmothers pass down from generation to generation. It’s a magical ingredient that is like none other and it can’t be bought in a store. The secret? Love.
From everyone at Ozarks Farm & Neighbor, have a safe and happy holiday season and Merry Christmas!