Today is December 8th, and I am making cranberry sauce. We love cranberry sauce any time of year, and I don’t think any member in our family would turn down a helping of the canned variety. But the holidays require homemade sauce, and because of this I had a partial bag in the refrigerator leftover from Thanksgiving. Making sauce seemed like a good idea. Something to do while I wait for the fruit for Gary’s fruitcake to finish its steeping time.
I always start the sauce using the basic method printed on the Ocean Spray bag of fresh cranberries. Pulling the bag out of the garbage… I see that they now include a method for what they are calling “Homemade Jellied Cranberry Sauce.” This is a method that I have used, which is to follow the original recipe then strain the sauce through a strainer but to be honest, I never had good luck getting this method to jell properly.
It was holiday time, in a year now long forgotten that I was at the house while Marie was making cranberry sauce, and I asked her how she was able to get her sauce to jell. She told me that after she had strained the cranberries, she put them back in the pan, added another cup of sugar, and simmered the sauce for an additional 15 minutes. And there lies the secret to Marie’s cranberry sauce.
Today is also the anniversary of my father-in-law’s birthday. Born in 1912, he would be celebrating his 109th birthday. Where has the time gone? It seems like we have just celebrated his 80th birthday. While that birthday was a party at Van Abel’s Supper Club in Hollandtown, many birthday dinners were celebrated at Van Abel’s. I do miss the days when we would all dress up to meet for dinner. Starting with a drink at the bar, dinner in the small dining room, and ending the evening with a nightcap at what is now called the “New” bar.
Happy times. Holiday times with family.
Marie’s Cranberry Sauce
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 12-ounce package of fresh or frozen cranberries
Combine sugar and water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil; add cranberries, return to boil. Reduce heat and boil gently for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Pour sauce into a bowl. Cover and cool completely at room temperature. Refrigerate until serving time. Makes 2 1/4 cups
To make strained cranberry sauce:
Follow directions in step 1 as written. After boiling the cranberries for 10 minutes, remove pan from heat and strain. Return sauce back to the pan, adding an additional cup of sugar. Simmer for an additional 15 minutes.
Pour sauce into a bowl. Cover and cool completely at room temperature. Refrigerate until serving time.
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This is an archived post from “The Aroma of Bread,” and was first published 20 Dec 2015.
It was a Saturday before Christmas, maybe in 1988 or 89, and Gary and I had headed out to Hollandtown to get some work done for Holland Veal. Walking into the house we were greeted by the wonderful smell of cookies baking. The smell of Christmas at Butch and Marie’s.
Entering the warm and wonderful smelling kitchen, we found Butch sitting at the kitchen table preparing the cookie tins for filling while Marie was working at the counter. They were relaxed, content in their companionship and conversation.
What makes this memory stick is not the relationship of my in-laws (that was constant) but how Butch was prepping the cookie tins. While I would just rip off a piece of waxed paper and stuff it in between layers, he was sitting at the table with pencil and scissors at hand, tracing and cutting each waxed paper round to fit perfectly inside the tin. He did this every year for Marie, and each year each tin was a perfect presentation of cookies.
The recipe that I am sharing today is a family favorite – for both my family and the Fassbenders. Marie and I made them for our families each year, but with one difference, the chocolate. Toffee Squares are a wonderful crunch of toffee flavored cookie topped by chocolate.
My recipe from an old Betty Crocker Cooky Book uses the heat of the “just out of the oven” cookie to melt the squares of Hershey bar that you quickly place on the cookie, then spread out. I shared this quick and easy way of adding the chocolate with Marie one year, but she “stubbornly” continued to melt chocolate in a bowl over boiling water. Either way, the cookies didn’t last long in either home.
Updated Addition: In November 2021 I unpacked a box of Marie’s old cookbooks and sat down with all of the loose pages to determine in which book they belonged. In the pile was a tattered book that Marie had stapled back together, and in this book dated November 1953, I found her Toffee Square recipe. It is pictured below with a transcription of her much smudged notes.
Before there were food bloggers, Instagram, and YouTube, there were community cookbooks. Cookbooks compiled and edited by women’s organizations, churches, and other groups, mostly prepared as fundraisers. The women of the community would put out a call for the group’s best recipes. These were then collected, organized into categories, and prepared for printing. Some were typewritten, some printed in the cook’s own handwriting, many include illustrations made by the artist in the organization. All were prized upon publication and shared with family and friends all over the state and the country.
My mother-in-law collected these cookbooks and used them often. Upon trying a recipe she would write notes to herself on the recipe such as any changes she had made, or most often, we will find a “good,” or, “v. good” written above the recipe. Most often it was some sort of baked good that she had tried. Her family could be fussy about meat and vegetables, especially onions, but there was never a hesitation to try a new recipe for a baked good. I have been collecting and compiling my version of a community cookbook. As I gather the recipes that Marie had deemed worthy of a “good” comment, first as a blog titled “The Aroma of Bread” and here, just tagged as The Aroma of Bread, and indexed under Marie’s Recipes.
When we were preparing to move to Rhode Island, we worried about finding a hairdresser. Sarah put a request on her “hairdresser message board” asking if there was anyone in Rhode Island that would like to take on four of her clients from Wisconsin. The call was answered by Sara, a Wisconsin transplant. As luck would have it, her salon was not that far from our new house.
Sara recently returned from a visit home with a few treasures that she happened to share an image of on social media. One image caused my daughter to stop and take a second look. Showing me the image she asked, “Doesn’t Grandma have this book?” Running upstairs to where I had recently unpacked the box with the cookbooks, she came back downstairs with the same book.
Our Favorite Recipes By The Ladies Of St. John’s Ev. Lutheran Church, Compiled and Edited by St. John’s Guild, West Bend, Wisconsin. Copyright 1949, 1959 St. John’s Guild. A book so well received, and so good, that it was reprinted ten years after its first printing! In my experience, at the ten-year mark, a NEW cookbook was collected and prepared. Sara’s copy is the original from 1949, where ours is the 1959 reprint. Here we are in 2021, two transplanted families from Wisconsin, neither from Washington County, both having in their family collection the same church cookbook.
Paging through the cookbook looking for tell-tale signs that a recipe had been attempted, or was a favorite, we found a few. The first to catch our attention was this sticky page that was Margaret Rohde’s recipe for “Lemon Jello Salad” where Marie noted, “I used large pk jello.”
This archived post from “The Aroma of Bread,” was first published 20 Apr 2014
Today is April 20th, Easter Sunday. After the winter that we all just lived through, one would have hoped for a warm and pleasant day, but it is only 52 degrees. And it is raining. Which brings to mind Easter of 1984, which was a cold, rainy, April 22nd.
Butch and Marie loved to hold Easter Egg hunts for their grandchildren. When the weather was warm and clear, they would hide the plastic eggs filled with treats in their yard and around the house. But what to do when it was cold and rainy? Five grandchildren racing around the house while Marie had the kitchen full of meal prep, was not a recipe for a relaxing and joyful Easter Sunday. Butch’s solution: head to the factory for an indoor hunt.
Early Easter morning, Butch, Gary and Dan would walk over to White Clover Dairy armed with a bag of filled plastic eggs. Heading for the basement warehouse they would hide the eggs on racks and pallets, both high and low.
Later that morning, the grandchildren would be let loose to run through the warehouse collecting the eggs. One flaw in Butch’s system. He didn’t count the number of eggs that were being hidden, nor did he track how many were found. For weeks following the Easter hunt the warehouse manager would appear in either Butch or Gary’s office delivering a missed plastic egg.
Marie’s Apple Crisp
8″ x 12″ pan or 1 1/2 recipe for a 13″ x 9″
6 apples 1 cup flour 1/2 cup butter, softened 1/2 cup brown sugar 2 Tbsp granulated sugar 1/2 tsp cinnamon
Peel and slices apples into pan.
Combine flour, brown sugar and butter until crumbly, set aside.
This archived post from “The Aroma of Bread,” was first published 13 Sep 2013.
I heard on the news the other day that women drivers now outnumber male drivers. This got me to thinking “How long have I been driving?” and so the mental math began, 50 minus 15… 35 years! I can easily document the years, but wouldn’t it be interesting to be able to document the miles? Miles driven in cars from my early stick shift days with no air conditioning and AM radio, to my now 10-year-old Mountaineer with lots of bells and whistles.
This news was also the push I needed to write this blog post that I have had noodling around in my mind for a while. A blog post about a car. A 2000 Mercury Sable. A blog post about its first owner, Marie Fassbender.
It starts in the year 1947. When Marie was in the hospital, having just given birth to her first child, she received her first driver’s license. And I do mean that; she received her license. It was at that point that her husband, Butch, decided that she needed to drive. So he headed to the town hall to get her one. Stating his intent to the city clerk, the response was: “Well, she’s a Fassbender so she must know how to drive.” And he handed over the license.
Jump forward to November 2000. Butch had been in the home for almost two years when the decision was made that it was time to get rid of the problematic New Yorker that Marie had been driving to and from, first the hospital, and then the nursing home. Her son, Gary, had been looking at cars for himself and noticed the Sable on the car lot. It had all of the luxuries that his mother had always loved about driving Butch’s Lincoln Town Cars, but without the size. One added feature that we felt was important for this 5’2″ (-ish) petite woman, was the adjustable foot pedals. She would no longer need to sit so close to the steering wheel but could sit at a comfortable distance and bring the brake and accelerator to her.
One bright day, I picked up the car, collected Butch and Marie from the nursing home, and we went for a “test drive.” Butch sat in the back seat and gave his full approval of our choice of the new car.
Marie proudly drove this car until she went to live in a nursing home in June 2008. Later that summer as her granddaughter prepared to start her sophomore year at Edgewood in Madison, Gary made the arrangements for Kate to have the car and use it to go back and forth to school. Kate drove the car for the next three years, two of them heading back and forth on sometimes treacherous winter roads. The car never failed her, and is now being driven back and forth to college by yet another Fassbender granddaughter. Butch would certainly approve of the lifespan of his last car purchase.
This archived post from “The Aroma of Bread,” was first published 18 Aug 2013.
At the time that we built our home in 1993, White Clover Dairy was in the middle of an expansion, and because of this, trees that had been on the property for many years needed to be removed. We took advantage of this and moved a large crab apple tree and a maple to our property. The trees were moved in November 1993, the maple straining the size limits of the largest tree spade that the tree moving company owned. We placed the crab to the right of our driveway, positioning the “flat side,” the side that had been growing against the building, away from the street. This tree has rewarded us for the last 19 years with the most glorious blossoms each spring.
The maple was planted in the backyard with the idea that it would provide a nice dapple-shaded area for the swing set and patio. While it took a while for it to settle into its new home, we soon had a large and beautiful tree – with a history!
Gary received a 1972 Cougar XR7 as a high school graduation gift. It was blue with a white vinyl top and a blue leather interior. He loved that car. But it soon became a favorite of Marie’s, and as she did not at that time have a car of her own when she needed a vehicle and Gary’s was available she would choose the Cougar. As it happens this particular model of Cougar had a flaw, while idling in park, it would unexpectedly pop out of park and throw itself into reverse. One summer day Marie packed her eldest grandson into the car and made a quick stop at the factory to let them know she was heading to town. While she was inside letting Butch know where she was going, the car popped out of park, spun around, and rammed into the maple that had been recently been planted on the neighbor’s property near the factory office. Luckily Rich was not harmed, the car was intact, but the tree bore a scar from the impact for years. The neighbor had great concern that his tree might not survive the brutal Cougar attack, so in typical Butch fashion, he paid the man an agreed-upon value for the tree. The tree survived but the money was not returned.
Jumping forward 40 years, late Tuesday night, August 6th, six tornadoes ripped through the Fox Valley. The storm woke us up just long enough for us to close windows, comment on the strobe light lightning and the wind that was pushing harder at the side of the house than an other time in memory. Then we went back to bed. No sirens went off that night, so many of us slept safely through the storm. Looking at the damage the next day, it is amazing that no one was killed by the tornadoes. We do count ourselves one of the lucky ones, we only lost a tree.
Meatballs – From Ken’s Mary
3 lbs ground beef – I, Susan, like a mix of 90% lean and 80-84% lean
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 large eggs
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup saltine crackers, crumbled
24 oz. chili sauce – 2-12 oz bottles
24 oz. Water – fill the chili sauce bottles
3 Tbsp brown sugar
3 Tbsp white vinegar
Combine the first 6 ingredients, and roll into balls, bake in a 350° oven till brown. Approximately 10 minutes, turning at 5 minutes.
You can freeze the meatballs at this point.
Bring the rest of the ingredients to a boil, and then simmer the browned meatballs in the sauce for 3 or more hours.
NOTE: We discovered that if you still have sauce remaining when the meatballs have disappeared, you can freeze the sauce for a later time and just add meatballs.