Easy Oatmeal Pancakes

As I have written elsewhere, we had a lot of pancakes for breakfast when I was growing. up. Most were Mom’s ordinary thin pancakes, but she made other kinds from time to time.

Though I don’t remember them, chances are good that she made oatmeal pancakes once in a while, since she loved trying new recipes and always had a big box of old-fashioned oatmeal in the kitchen. She made oatmeal bread, oatmeal cookies and even oatmeal cakes along with oatmeal toppings for apple and berry crisps.

We had hot oatmeal for breakfast at least a couple times a month. When it was really cold outside (thirty degrees or more below zero) even my dog, Nugget, and Mama Kitty would have oatmeal for breakfast. Mom would make an extra large batch of oatmeal and spoon the steaming leftovers into the two bowls on the back stoop. Dog and cat would dine peacefully side by side on mornings like that.

Considering the nutritional benefits of oatmeal, you might want to add these pancakes to your list of breakfast dishes. They are a bit chewy but delicious. If you serve them with butter and plenty of maple syrup, even the most finicky person at your breakfast table will almost certainly find them more than merely edible.


1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup old-fashioned oatmeal
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 T brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 to 2 cups buttermilk
2 T vegetable oil


Preheat a griddle over medium-low heat to about 350º while you make the batter. If the griddle is not non-stick, grease before heating, or use a non-stick vegetable oil spray.

Mix the dry ingredients thoroughly in a large mixing bowl. Beat the eggs in a small bowl until they are lemon colored. Beat one and one-half cups of buttermilk and two tablespoons of oil into the eggs, and gently stir the milk mixture into the dry ingredients.

Mix the batter only enough to make sure that all the dry ingredients have been moistened. If the batter seems too thick, add more buttermilk.

Cook the first side for two to four minutes, until brown, then flip each pancake and cook the other side until brown.

Serve with butter and maple syrup.

NOTES: This recipe makes about twenty four-inch cakes.

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Great Gram’s Sugar Cookies

Some jokes precede the World Wide Web! It’s true, though some have been updated. For instance, we used to ask, “What do cats call mice on roller skates?” instead of skateboards, but the answer was the same: “Meals on wheels!” I think that it was a pretty new joke when I was a kid, but my dad taught me this riddle that he learned when he was a boy: “What has ears but can’t hear?” The answer, of course, is a cornfield. I thought it was pretty neat and shared it with my friends.

The ancient Romans enjoyed some of the same jokes that now float around cyberspace. Here’s a pretty good one: A senator walks into the barbershop. The barber asks, “How would you like your hair cut?” and the senator replies, “In silence.” Probably a bad day at the forum.

Like jokes, recipes have been around long before the invention of the World Wide Web, and indeed even before the invention of paper. Three clay tablets from Babylon written nearly 3,800 years ago are the oldest cookbooks discovered up to now. They record twenty-five recipes for preparing different kinds of meats and vegetables.

The biggest difference between then and now is that today common folks like us can read while only the very highest classes of people in Babylon could read even really important things like King Hammurabi’s code of law. The recipes may have been written down so the grandson of Hammurabi could have a royal scribe read the instructions to the cook. “Tell him to make it just like grandpa’s cook did it, or I’ll have him sent to the mines.”

Today we can find hundreds of recipes for sugar cookies just by tapping our computer trackpad or mouse. Most of us like to recall that perfect sugar cookie Mom made when we were little and think of it as the original and best sugar cookie of all. But Shakespeare probably felt the same way about his mother’s sugar cookies, since “sugar cakes” were popular in Elizabethan England.

More recently, our first three Presidents, George Washington, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson, all enjoyed varieties of sugar cookies. Though only the rich could afford them until modern times, sugar cookies have been popular since sugar was first crystalized in India more than 1,600 years ago.

Perhaps it is enough to paraphrase the slogan of Composer’s Datebook broadcast on National Public Radio by reminding each other that “All sugar cookie recipes were once new.” Here is an old one that is new to me. Our neighbor Jill found the recipe in a St. Croix county AARP newsletter, and I asked her to share it after she tempted us with a plateful.

The recipe is from Sharon Fregine, who has been cooking for her friends and neighbors at the Woodville Senior Center for over twenty years. This is her recipe for Great Gram’s Sugar Cookies.


4 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cream of tartar
1 cup butter
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup white granulated sugar
1 cup powdered sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla or almond extract


Sift the flour, salt, baking soda and cream of tarter into a bowl. Put the sugars, butter and oil into another bowl. Use a wooden spoon to cream them together until they are light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs and flavoring.

Stir the flour mixture into the liquid ingredients a cup at a time and beat thoroughly. Use a spatula to form the dough into a ball. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate the dough for an hour.

Preheat the oven to 375º.

Use a small cookie scoop to drop the dough onto an ungreased cookie sheet or form balls with about two tablespoons of dough for each cookie.

Put a couple of tablespoons of sugar on a saucer. Lightly butter a glass, dip it in the sugar on the saucer and use the glass to flatten the balls. Bake for about ten minutes.

NOTES: Jill uses a mug with a concave bottom to flatten the balls. Be careful not to bake the cookies too long. They should just barely begin to brown on the edges.

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Andrea’s Poppy Seed Dressing

Earlier this summer our neighbor Andrea gave us a bottle of a creamy poppy seed salad dressing that she had made. Jerri and I thought it was delicious, and we discussed how to make one as good. We thought that Andrea had started with some kind of cooked base to give it the creamy texture that made it so lovely on our salads.

A few days later, when I was dropping off a sample of something I had cooked, I thanked her for the dressing. I told her that we enjoyed it very much and asked for the recipe. When I remarked about how cooked dressings are so velvety, she said, “It’s not cooked. You just throw everything in the blender to emulsify the oil and vinegar. I found the recipe a long time ago on the web.”

It’s just as easy as she says. Here is what you do.


3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. dry mustard
1 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup white vinegar
1 1/2 tsp. onion juice or 2 tsp. finely chopped onion
1 1/2 T poppy seeds


Put the vinegar, onion juice (or chopped onion), sugar, mustard and salt in the blender container. Blend the ingredients for twenty to thirty seconds on medium speed to make a smooth liquid. Increase the blender speed to high, and add the oil slowly to make a thick dressing. Turn off the blender and stir in the poppy seeds.

Transfer the finished dressing to serving-size bottles or jars and refrigerate.

NOTES: The recipe makes about one and three quarters cups of dressing. It goes well with both green and fruit salads. Though it tastes quite sweet, two tablespoons contain fewer than twelve grams of carbohydrates.

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Lorrie’s Roosevelt Beans

Once in a while I admit to being a “heat and eat cook.” Here is a recipe that combines the convenience of opening cans for supper with the added flavors of freshly sautéd sausage, bacon and onion plus the zip provided by condiments that you are almost sure to have in your kitchen.

Lorrie emailed me a photo she took of the recipe for Roosevelt Beans printed on the menu at the Roosevelt Lodge in Yellowstone National Park. She was also kind enough to explain how she modified the recipe and even shared the results of her research about it. A comment about Roosevelt Beans on Recipelink states that Roosevelt Lodge got the recipe from a cookbook published by a Lutheran Church at McIntosh, Minnesota and attributes the dish to Naomi Jean Thompson (Hillgartner).

Considering the courage and ingenuity of the ladies who bring dishes to potlucks, I think it’s very likely that Naomi Jean did bring this bean casserole to church one Sunday morning and was urged to share the recipe with her friends and neighbors. A few days ago a lady told me that the “old” First Lutheran Church cookbook had the same or a very similar recipe, so it may be one invented by many different ladies once beans were being sold in cans.

I like both the name and flavor of this dish, it is easy to prepare and the different beans make it attractive. You can set it proudly on the potluck table or serve it as a main course for five or six with a salad and bread.


1/2 lb. country pork sausage
1/2 lb. bacon, chopped into 1/2-inch dice
1 medium onion (2 1/2 inch diameter)
1 (16 oz.) can pork and beans
1 (16 oz.) can kidney beans
1 (16 oz.) can lima beans
1 (16 oz.) can butter bean
2 T brown sugar
2 T cider vinegar
1/2 to 1 tsp. garlic powder, optional
1/2 cup ketchup
1 T spicy brown mustard
1/2 cup water
1/4 tsp. black pepper
Salt to taste


Preheat the oven to 325º and chop the onion into a half inch dice.

Cut the bacon into quarter inch pieces. Fry the sausage and bacon together over medium heat, breaking up the sausage as it cooks. When the sausage is about half done, add the onion and continue frying until the onion is translucent but not brown. Remove the meat mixture from the heat but don’t drain it.

Drain the liquid from the butter, kidney and lima beans and put them in a large mixing bowl. Add the can of pork and beans with their liquid. Stir in the meat mixture along with the sugar, vinegar, garlic, ketchup, mustard, black pepper and water. Add a little salt if you wish.

Transfer the beans to a three quart casserole and bake uncovered at 325º for forty-five minutes.

NOTES: Lorrie said that she used a cast iron skillet so she could use the same pan to fry the meat and onion and bake the casserole. I like one-dish recipes, but our cast iron skillets are not large enough.

Be very careful with the salt. The meats and beans have plenty of salt for us, but you may want to add a little. Some versions of Roosevelt Beans give you a choice of substituting ground beef for the sausage. In that case, I would definitely add at least a quarter teaspoon of salt.

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Lihamurekepiiras—Finnish Meat Loaf in Sour Cream Pastry

Many years ago our niece Gina and her husband gave us a little spiral-bound cookbook, Fine Finnish Foods. Compiled by Gerry Kangas of Palo, Minnesota and published in 1988, it is still in print and includes a lot of recipes passed down from mothers to daughters.

Here is a beautiful main dish that tastes as good as it looks. Even better, it is surprisingly easy to make.


For the dough:
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
1 cup chilled butter or margarine
1 large egg
1/2 cup sour cream

For the filling:
4 T butter
1/4 lb. mushrooms
2 1/2 lbs. lean ground beef, veal or pork
1 medium-small onion (about 2” in diameter)
1/8 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 cup grated Cheddar or Swiss cheese
1/3 cup milk
1 egg
2 T milk


Sift the flour and salt together. Cut the butter or margarine into the flour with a fork or pastry blender until the flour looks like coarse cornmeal. Beat the egg into the sour cream, then stir it into the flour mixture. Work the liquid into the dry ingredients until you have a soft ball. Wrap it in waxed paper or plastic film and refrigerate the dough for an hour.

Make the filling while the dough is cooling. Clean and chop the mushrooms into a quarter-inch dice. Melt the butter over medium heat in a large skillet and sauté the mushrooms for about six minutes. Add the meat, onion, salt and pepper and cook them until the meat is done and the juices have evaporated. Lower the heat if necessary, so the meat and onions do not get crisp.

Preheat the oven to 375º and grease a jelly roll pan or cookie sheet.

Remove the skillet from the heat and allow the meat to cool for five or six minutes. Grate the cheese while the meat is cooling, then mix the cheese and milk with the meat.

Divide the dough in half and roll each half into a six by fourteen-inch rectangle. Put one rectangle on the cookie sheet and spoon the meat mixture into a ridge along the center of the dough. Shape the meat into a loaf, leaving about an inch of dough around the meat. Brush the exposed dough with a little milk.

Lay the second rectangle of dough on top of the loaf and trim the dough to make a neat rectangle. Seal the edges with a fork. Beat the egg and milk together and paint the dough. Prick holes on top to let the steam escape.

Bake the loaf for thirty-five to forty-five minutes until it is golden brown. Remove it from the oven, let it cool for a few minutes, then cut thick slices to produce six to eight servings.

Serve with sour cream and lingonberry or cranberry sauce.

NOTES: I have modified Mrs. Kangas’s recipe slightly by including a little salt and pepper and using only two and a half pounds of meat.

OPTIONS: If you like spicier foods, you can add a little more salt and pepper to the meat mixture, but be especially careful with the salt, as some cheeses are quite salty. Some recipes call for three or four tablespoons of finely chopped parsley along with garlic salt and Worcestershire sauce. Try them if you want, but the Finns like to keep things simple.

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Pam’s Date Squares

Many years ago a lady who liked the recipe for Grandma Rang’s Date Cookies asked if I had a good recipe for date squares. I emailed two of my sisters for help and my youngest sister, Pam, came through with the recipe. She said that it was from one of her cookbooks and that it made delicious date squares.

When you go to a church potluck or the coffee table between worship services you will often find bars like this. Mom made bars with oatmeal crusts and fruit fillings all the time. I think that dates make the best filling, but apricots are a close second. You might want to substitute dried apricots for the dates sometime just to compare the results.


3/4 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp, baking soda
1 lb. dates
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1 tsp. lemon juice


Chop the dates into a half inch dice and put them into a saucepan. Add the water and sugar and cook the dates over medium to low heat until the mixture is clear. Stir often to keep the mixture from scorching. Stir in the lemon juice and set the pan aside to cool.

Preheat the oven to 350º and butter an eight by twelve rectangular or nine-inch square baking pan.

Sift the flour, salt and soda together in a medium-sized bowl. Cream the sugar gradually into the butter in a large mixing bowl. Add the rolled oats and flour a quarter cup at a time to the creamed butter and sugar and mix well.

Press one half of the oat and flour dough in the bottom of the greased pan. Spread the date filling evenly over the bottom crust and cover it with the remaining dough. Bake for about twenty minutes or until the top begins to turn golden brown. Remove the pan from the oven and let it cool a few minutes. Cut into squares while the pan is warm.

NOTE: Don’t even think of using oleo for these bars.

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Alan’s Mom’s Chop Suey

    Maybe it was because my mother wanted to introduce her family to exotic foods, or perhaps the A & P was having a sale on cans of Chinese vegetables. All I know is that she started putting a big bowl of meat and strange vegetables on the table. Some of them looked like white worms. Mom told us they were bean sprouts, but we kids were still suspicious.

    Today I really like bean sprouts, but they were not my favorite until I got to the University of Wisconsin and discovered a neat little Chinese restaurant near Capitol Square. It was an inexpensive place to get a good meal on Sunday nights when the dining halls were closed, and in the 1960’s you and your date could each have a bottle of beer with your dinner.

    Bean sprouts, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, even tofu all rank pretty high on my list of enjoyable foods. Not as high as barbecued burnt ends, Esther’s sour cream raisin pie or nice medium rare steak, but close. I even like a plate of old-fashioned Chop Suey like Mom used to make.

    When our friend Alan mentioned that his mother’s Chop Suey recipe was still his favorite, I was interested in trying it. Alan obliged, I made it and can say that it is a lot like my mother used to make. It’s a recipe that puts a lot of food on the table without draining the food budget, and it introduces kids to some strange vegetables.

    I did make a few changes to the recipe. Alan’s mother specified veal instead of beef. I couldn’t find any and used beef. The only Chinese vegetables I could find were labelled Chop suey vegetables. Both worked fine. After dinner, Jerri and I both thought that the Chop suey was a little saltier than we preferred, so I reduced the salt to a quarter teaspoon and the soy sauce to two tablespoons.

    We were both pleasantly surprised at how tender, juicy and flavorful the meat was. It’s a good dish, and I can understand why Alan still likes it.


    3/4 cup sliced onion
    2 T vegetable shortening or oil
    1/2 lb. boneless pork
    1/2 lb. boneless veal or beef
    2 – 3 cups hot water
    1/4 tsp. onion salt
    1 1/2 cups diced celery
    2 T soy sauce
    1/4 tsp. Accent
    1 4 oz. can mushrooms, undrained
    1 #2 1/2 can Chop Suey vegetables, undrained (29 oz., 3 1/2 cups)
    2 T cornstarch
    3 T cold water
    Freshly ground black pepper to taste


    Slice the meat into thin strips, an eighth to three sixteenths-inch thick and two to three inches long. Clean and chop the celery into half-inch pieces.

    Slice the onion into quarter-inch wide by two-inch long strips. Put two tablespoons shortening or oil in a covered skillet and cook the onions over moderate heat until they begin to turn golden. Remove the onions from the pan and brown the meat in the same pan. The meat should be slightly browned but not crisp. Bring about about three cups of water to a boil.

    After the meat has browned, cover the meat with hot water and stir in the onion salt, cover the skillet loosely and simmer the meat for thirty to forty minutes. Add the celery, soy sauce and Accent and simmer another fifteen minutes. Stir in the mushrooms, chow mein vegetables and browned onion.

    Mix two tablespoons cornstarch with three tablespoons cold water and add the mixture to the skillet along with a grind of black pepper. Bring back to a simmer and cook, stirring constantly, until the sauce is clear and thickened. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

    Pour into a serving bowl and serve with white rice. Offer soy sauce at the table in case somebody would like extra seasoning.

    NOTES: Do not drain the mushrooms or vegetables. Omit the Accent if you wish. Alan’s mother’s directions said to pour the chop suey into a casserole and serve.

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Mrs. Komula’s Kropsu (Finnish Pancake)

Bill Komula’s grandfather, John Komula, homesteaded some nice clear land near Brantwood, Wisconsin in 1899. It looked pretty clear because loggers had cut the trees; unfortunately, they had left the rocks behind. John had emigrated from Sotkamo, a city in Eastern Finland, which shares many features with northern Wisconsin: Lakes, trees, rivers and rocks.

Both Finland and Wisconsin were once covered by glaciers which, when they melted, left plenty of rocks scattered over the landscape. Some places in Wisconsin have good soil with only a few rocks to keep a farmer alert, but near Brantwood picking rocks was a regular spring activity.

“It was a rock farm,” Bill told me. “Picking rocks and shocking oats were my least favorite jobs.” I understood, for I had picked rocks and piled them on the stone boat at our neighbor’s farm when I was a boy. At least I was getting paid twenty-five cents a day for helping.

Bill’s reward was plenty of good Finnish food and learning Finnish from his grandfather. Bill’s grandmother had died when he was two weeks old, and John had given the farm to Bill’s father with the understanding that John would stay and help out. The old man spoke his native language as he and his grandson worked together. I wonder if Bill’s grandfather ever taught him the Finnish proverb that inspired so many immigrant farmers, “Oma tupa, oma lupa,” which means “One’s own home, one’s own master,” as they wrestled the rocks onto the sledge.

Since Bill’s mother had emigrated with her family from Kauhava, Finland, it is easy to understand why his first language was Finnish. Though he doesn’t speak it regularly here, when he and his wife Betty visited Sotkomo and Kauhava, people kept telling him that he didn’t have an American accent, and some people they visited in Helsinki recognized his accent as coming from Sotkomo.

Betty told me that she “didn’t have a drop of Scandinavian blood” in her ancestry, but she paid attention when her Finnish mother-in-law taught her how to make kropsu, the national baked pancake of Finland. She wrote the recipe neatly on a card and made notes on it as she cooked what became one of her family’s favorite treats. I’m sure that new daughters-in-law are still preserving family recipes as Betty did, though they may be typing them into apps on their smartphones or iPads.

Bill says that Betty learned to make kropsu just his like mother’s, so you can enjoy an authentic Finnish baked pancake in your home just by following Mrs. Komula’s recipe.


2 large eggs
2 cups milk
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
1/4 cup unsalted butter


Preheat the oven to 400º and put the butter in an 8 x 12 x 2 or 9 x 13 x 2 inch baking pan.

Break the eggs into a mixing bowl and beat them with a fork until they are lemon colored. Stir or sift the salt into the flour. Stir in a quarter cup of the flour mixture and two thirds cup of milk. Repeat until all the flour and milk have been stirred in. Put the pan in the oven to melt the butter and heat the pan.

Take the hot pan out of the oven. Make sure that the bottom of the pan is covered with butter. Stir most of the butter from the pan into the batter just enough to mix everything together. Pour the batter into the sizzling hot pan and bake the pancake for forty minutes.

Cut the hot kropsu into squares and serve with your favorite pancake toppings.

NOTES: Betty said that she made two pans of kropsu for breakfast, which was just enough for Bill, her and their three kids. Bill’s mother served it with maple syrup, and that’s how Betty serves it.

She told me that her mother-in-law said that the secret of success was “having a thin batter, beating only enough to mix the batter and having a very hot pan to bake it in.”

If you use regular butter, reduce the amount of salt to three-fourths teaspoon.

A note on pronunciation: If I heard Bill right, “kropsu” is pronounced “krrrupsuh” rather than “cropsue.” It’s a good word to practice rolling your “r’s” on.

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Wild Plum Jelly

Across the small field that had originally been his grandparents’ kitchen garden when my father was a boy was a thicket of wild plums. Our home was on the southwest forty of my great-grandparents’ farm, which had been sold off piecemeal after their deaths. The homestead was three blocks away from our house and belonged to Mr. and Mrs. Hagberg.

I mowed their lawn and occasionally brought them some trout or northerns that I caught in the Namekagon river which flowed past their house. They paid me a quarter to mow the lawn, but I never took any money for the fish. They were happy to share the plums with us.

My sisters and I picked plums there every fall. They were a joy to pick. It wasn’t hot, there were no biting bugs, it didn’t take very long to fill a pail, and you could stand up while you picked. Wild plums do have some thorns, but they aren’t very sharp and each branch has only a few of them. Believe me, plum thorns are a lot less dangerous than blackberry briars.

We would bring home two or three gallons of plums that Mom would turn into jelly. When I was growing up, I don’t remember ever tasting “store-bought” jam or jelly at home. Mom made jams mostly from blueberries, raspberries and blackberries; she used pin cherries, chokecherries, apples, crabapples and plums to make jelly.

Plums have a lot of juicy flesh that makes it easy to get the juice you need, and the juice makes a beautiful rosy jelly that is a joy to serve and eat.


5 1/2 cups plum juice
1/2 tsp. butter
6 1/2 cups sugar
1 box Sure-Jell fruit pectin


Wash a gallon of plums and remove any stems, leaves or split fruit. Put the plums in an eight to ten quart pot and add four cups of water. Cover the pot and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer the plums, stirring occasionally, for twenty to thirty minutes. Most of the plums will burst open to release their juice. Turn off the heat. Stir well but do not try to mash the fruit.

Line a colander with several layers of cheesecloth or a dish towel. Put the colander in a large bowl and spoon the fruit and juice into the colander. When the liquid draining through the cloth layers reaches the bottom of the colander, pour the juice into another bowl and continue adding more plum mixture to the colander until you have emptied the pot.

You can stir the fruit in the colander but do not squeeze the cloth unless you want a very cloudy jelly. You should end up with at least five and a half cups of juice. If you need more juice, return the fruit mixture from the colander to the pot, add a cup of water and bring the mixture to a boil. Simmer for a minute or two over low heat, stirring constantly, and then spoon the mixture back into the cloth-lined colander.

You can use the juice immediately to make jelly or store it in the refrigerator for a day or two or even freeze it and make the jelly months later.

Making plum jelly is a snap. Start by sterilizing nine one cup jelly jars and lids. The easiest way to do this is to put the washed jars upside down in a baking pan on the stove top. Add about three-quarters of an inch of water and bring it to a boil. Continue boiling for three or four minutes, then turn off the heat and allow the jars to stand in the hot water for another five minutes. Transfer the jars from the water to a rack and allow them to drip for a few minutes. Stand them upright on wax paper when you are ready to fill them.

Measure the sugar into a bowl and set it aside. Put the juice, butter and Sure-Jell into a soup pot or Dutch oven, set it over medium heat and bring the mixture to a boil. Boil for a minute or two, reduce the heat to a low boil and skim off the foam Stir in the sugar and keep stirring until all the sugar is dissolved. Raise the heat to high and bring the mixture to a full boil that you can’t stir down. Reduce the heat slightly and keep the liquid boiling hard for four minutes.

Remove the pot from the heat and skim off any foam. Fill the jars and seal them with paraffin or canning lids if you are going to preserve your jelly with a hot water bath. If you are using paraffin, add a second thin layer of wax after the jars are cool.

NOTES: Plums contain quite a lot of pectin, so if you have more than five and a half cups of juice, feel free to use up to six cups, but remember to sterilize an extra jar if you do.

A breeze or shower can knock plums to the ground when they are nearly ripe. They will continue to ripen on the ground with no damage, and you can safely harvest fallen plums. Just make sure that you wash the fruit well before you extract the juice.

If you need to extract a bit more juice, it is a good idea to rinse your straining cloth well before spooning the reheated mixture back into the colander.

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Chicken and Sausage Gumbo

Gumbo is a stew that was invented in Louisiana sometime before 1764, because there is a reference to gumbo in the notes about an interrogation of Julia (Comba), a slave questioned about her knowledge of a runaway slave named Louis, on September 4, 1764. The name may have come from an African word for okra or from a Native American word for sassafras, and both are used for thickening many gumbos.

What is known for certain is that millions of people love gumbo, and I am one of them. There are almost as many recipes for gumbos as there are cooks. This one is from Leon E. Soniat’s La Bouche Creole, the cookbook where I found my recipe for Shrimp Etouffée. It is full of flavor without being spicy hot unless you add lots of filé powder.

Though the list of ingredients is rather long, making gumbo is easy. The roux takes some time, but if you keep the heat low, you can prepare the vegetables and still have time to taste the wine you plan to serve for dinner. A gewürztraminer or riesling goes well with chicken and sausage gumbo. It should be chilled, so put the bottles in the fridge after the vegetables are simmering in the broth.


3 to 4 lbs. chicken cut into serving pieces
5 T vegetable oil or lard
6 T all-purpose flour
2 large onions (3 1/2 to 4”)
1 green bell pepper
1 cup chopped celery
3 large cloves garlic
1 1/2 lbs. andouille or smoked sausage
6 cups chicken stock or broth
1/2 tsp. crushed thyme
3 bay leaves
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
1/8 tsp. ground allspice
1/4 tsp. ground cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. crushed basil
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup chopped green onions
filé powder (optional)


Heat the oil or lard in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Fry the chicken until the pieces are browned. Remove them from the pan and set them aside on paper towels on a platter or baking pan. Cut the sausage into bite-sized pieces and fry them for four or five minutes. Remove them from the Dutch oven with a slotted spoon.

Reduce the heat to low and add the flour to the oil in the pan. Use a wooden spoon to mix the flour with the oil and cook very slowly. Continue stirring and cooking until you have a brown roux about the color of milk chocolate. This can take up to a half hour.

Clean and chop the vegetables while the roux is cooking, stopping often to stir it. Remove the stem and root ends from the onions along with the dry outer layer and mince them into an eighth-inch dice. Cut the pepper in half lengthwise. Remove the stem, seeds and white membranes and chop the pepper into a quarter to half-inch dice. Chop the celery into half-inch pieces. Put the prepared vegetables into a bowl.

Add the chopped onions, pepper and celery to the roux and cook five or six minutes until the vegetables are limp.

Peel and mince the garlic. When the vegetables are limp, stir in the chicken stock, then add the garlic, thyme, bay leaves, cloves, allspice, cayenne, basil, salt and pepper. Raise the heat to medium and bring the pan to a boil while stirring continuously, then reduce the heat to low and simmer the gumbo for forty-five minutes to an hour, stirring occasionally.

Return the chicken and sausage to the Dutch oven and simmer the gumbo until the chicken is tender, usually twenty to thirty minutes.

Clean and chop the green onions into a quarter inch dice. When the chicken is done, remove the Dutch oven from the heat and stir in the onions. Cover and let the gumbo sit for ten to fifteen minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

Serve in bowls over rice with a green salad and some good bread. Add a pinch or two of filé powder to each plateful if you wish.

NOTES: If you are confident about your skill at making roux, you can turn the heat up, stir like crazy and have it done in under ten minutes. But if you end up with a black mess and have to start over, don’t say that I didn’t warn you.

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