Irma’s Swedish Rice Pudding

If you have ever been invited to a Smörgåsbord, you might have had the opportunity to enjoy one of the culinary triumphs of Scandinavia—Swedish Rice Pudding. It was often made for dessert when the housewife had rice left over from dinner the day before. A dessert made with leftover rice may seem a little pedestrian, but it is is just one of many classic comfort foods that use ingredients saved from earlier meals.

Bread puddings are a good example. The best versions are made with stale bread. Of course, there are savory dishes in this category as well. Sauces, soups and casseroles frequently call for stock or broth made by simmering that ham or beef bone or turkey carcass left over from Sunday dinner. We should also remember that the Thanksgiving turkey should be stuffed with dressing made with bread that is at least a couple of days old. The bags of dried croutons at the supermarket are paltry imitations of bread that has been allowed to develop its full flavor in your kitchen.

Like my mother, Irma often made her pudding with leftover rice, and it was delicious. We may have tasted it at one of the Smörgåsbords at the First Lutheran Church in New Richmond, but Irma also served it to us in her home. When I asked our friend Anne about her mother’s rice pudding, she told me she was pretty sure that it was her grandmother’s recipe. Anne’s grandmother died before she was born, but her mother was proud of the Swedish customs and recipes she had inherited. She contributed her Swedish Rice Pudding recipe to the New Richmond First Lutheran Church Cook Book.

When I asked Anne if she had any tips for me about how to make the pudding taste as good as her mother’s, she said, “Whisk the eggs until they are nice and yellow and use whole milk. Oh, the rice should be cold.”

While we were talking I had the church cookbook open to the recipe, so I replied, “The recipe says to drain the rice and blanch it in cold water.”

She hesitated and cleared her throat. “She used leftover rice, didn’t she?” I asked.

“Well, yes, most of the time,” confessed Anne. One of the secret ingredients of Swedish Rice Pudding is now known, so cook extra rice when you are making dinner. Your family will bless you on the morrow.


For the rice:
1/2 cup rice
1 cup cold water
Dash of salt

For the custard:
5 large eggs
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
4 cups milk
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup raisins


Bring the rice, water and salt to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer the rice until the water is absorbed, about twelve minutes. Rinse the rice with cold water in a colander and set it aside.

Preheat the oven to 350º and grease a three quart casserole. You could also begin heating some water.

Whisk the eggs in a mixing bowl until they are lemon yellow. Combine the sugar, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg in a small bowl and whisk these dry ingredients into the eggs. Stir in the milk and vanilla, then stir in the rice and raisins.

Pour the mixture into the casserole and put the pan on a center shelf in the oven. Pour about an inch of hot water into the pan and bake the pudding for one and a half to two hours. Using a fork, gently stir the pudding after thirty minutes to distribute the rice, raisins and cinnamon in the pudding.

After ninety minutes, test for doneness with a table knife. If it comes out clean, the pudding is done. If not, let it continue to bake for a few minutes and test again. You can serve it warm or cold.

NOTES: If you, like us, usually have only one or two percent milk in the refrigerator, you can fortify the milk with some half and half or cream. I use three fourths cup of half and half with three and a quarter cups of one percent milk. I haven’t tried it, but adding a couple tablespoons of melted butter would probably also work.

There are nine different recipes for rice pudding in the First Lutheran Church Cook Book. That number tells me that there must be thousands of different recipes for this dessert just in Wisconsin. I know that my mother made one similar to Irma’s baked in the oven, but she also made a simple version with leftover rice, milk, eggs and sugar that she cooked in a saucepan. I will try to find that recipe, as that pudding tasted pretty good too and doesn’t take as long to cook.

Irma’s Swedish Rice Pudding tastes great made with rice cooked as above and even better with leftover rice! Trust Irma! And my mother!

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Steamed Cabbage with Caraway

Growing up in northern Wisconsin, I ate a lot of cabbage. We didn’t grow cabbages, but many people did, and starting in late summer, you could buy as many heads as you wanted from strategically located wheelbarrows at the ends of driveways. Everything was on the honor system. You just picked out a head that looked good to you and put your money in the cigar box.

Jerri and I have been enjoying steamed cabbage since shortly after we set up housekeeping as a newly married couple. This is basically Jerri’s recipe with a little butter added. I like the flavor of butter on vegetables.

This is another recipe that Jerri says is not really a recipe, so think of it as simple instructions for making a tasty side dish to go with those pork chops you are cooking for dinner.


1 small head of green cabbage (4 or 5 inches in diameter or half a larger one)
1 T caraway seeds
1 tsp. butter
1/4 cup water
1/4 tsp. salt


Remove and discard any damaged outer leaves from the cabbage and wash it well. Cut the head into quarters and remove the solid white core from each quarter. If you have a larger head, just cut one half into two quarters. Slice each quarter lengthwise into wedges about an inch thick.

Put the cabbage and water into a heavy-bottomed saucepan with a tight fitting lid. Sprinkle the caraway seeds and salt over the the cabbage and dot it with butter, cover the pan and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat to a very low simmer and cook for about five minutes until the cabbage is tender but not mushy. Test for doneness with a fork and steam a little longer if necessary.

Remove the pan from the heat, taste and add more salt if you wish.

NOTE: You might want to try a bit of the core before you discard it. It is slightly bitter, but I enjoy the taste and texture. Try the more tender parts from the center of the cabbage.

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Rich’s Dropped Scones

I ate my first scone in either Oxford or Cambridge, England, with a cup of tea like a proper English gentleman. It was the summer of 1966, and I was enjoying a short vacation after my year of studies in Germany. Jerri and her friend Marilyn met me in London, and we spent time together in London, Oxford and Cambridge.

The Bodleian Library at Oxford and the University Library at Cambridge let me use their rare book rooms for a day while Jerri and Marilyn toured the cities. I think it fair to say that we liked Cambridge better than Oxford. Cambridge had more green space, which appealed to us midwesterners. We ate picnic lunches in the shade on the green and watched the crews practice on the Cam.

We thought that it was quaintly English to have horses grazing freely on the green among students and visitors until a large brown animal grabbed Jerri’s lunch bag and proceeded to eat her banana. Jerri was not the only victim. We learned from other picnickers with mangled lunch bags that the horses also liked apples and oranges.

I am not certain how the horses opened the lunch bags. I think that they just grabbed the bags in their big horsey teeth and smashed them on the ground until they found whatever it was that smelled good. A student explained that the horses would not take the bag from your hands, so our sandwiches survived our second day on the green as we traded stares with several hungry horses trying to catch us off guard.

Cambridge sticks in my memory for another reason. Finding a place to stay was a challenge. All the hotels were full, but the tourist information office helped us locate a room in a private bed and breakfast. I was traveling with two attractive young women, and our landlady, Mrs. Chillingsworth, almost refused to rent to the three of us. She looked like a character from a Dickens novel with a cold, suspicious eye and clearly suspected that we were hippies planning an orgy. We pleaded, and she finally relented after I promised to sleep on the floor.

The ladies went to bed. I went out to a pub filled with students who welcomed their “cousin” from the “colonies” and approved of my taste for two pints of bitter before I walked back to Mrs. Chillingsworth’s where I collapsed on the carpet.

Every afternoon we had tea and scones. The tea was strong, the cream was real and the scones were delicious. In the past fifty years, scones have become popular around the world. You can even buy them in New Richmond. A search on the Internet for “scone recipes” brings up over 100,000 pages, which tells me that lots of people are also making these biscuits or cakes at home today.

Our friend Rich likes them and decided he would make his own. He took ideas from several recipes he found on the Web to come up with his version. He uses 2% milk instead of cream to make a soft dough, adds dried cherries and drops the dough on a cookie sheet as if he were making dropped baking powder biscuits. His scones are tender and delicious. Here is how to make them.


2 cups all-purpose flour
1 T baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup (8 T) unsalted butter
1/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup milk
1/3 cup dried cherries


Preheat the oven to 400º. Blend the flour, baking powder and salt in a large mixing bowl. Chop the butter into small pieces and mix them with the flour. Use a pastry blender or your fingers to cut the butter into the flour until it looks like coarse cornmeal.

Use a fork to blend the sugar with the flour and then stir in the milk until you have a stiff dough. Fold in the cherries. Be careful not to stir the dough too much.

Using a tablespoon and fork, drop eight or nine globs of dough on an ungreased cookie sheet. Shape the globs if necessary so they look nice to you. Sprinkle the scones with a little sugar and bake them about fifteen minutes or until they turn lightly brown.

NOTES: If you are using salted butter, use only a quarter teaspoon of salt. You can substitute currants, dried cranberries or raisins for the dried cherries but I strongly recommend the cherries. Rich uses 2% milk while I use 1%, but both make scones that are tender and delicious.

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Grandma Emma’s Swedish Meatballs

Here is another recipe from Pegi’s grandmother, Emma Ada Melrose, that she passed on to her daughter and granddaughter. Dale and Pegi brought these Swedish meatballs to a church potluck a few years ago, and I asked for the recipe. Most Scandinavian recipes are light on spices, but Grandma Emma’s doesn’t call for any at all, unless you want to call salt a spice.

Apparently Pegi’s grandmother devised a shortcut by using a can of condensed cream of celery soup rather than the more traditional milk or cream and various spices one finds in most Swedish meatball recipes. The list of ingredients for condensed cream of celery soup includes “flavorings” which suggests spices. I was a bit apprehensive when I saw that not even black pepper was in the recipe, but I followed instructions, and my meatballs were as tasty as those I remembered.

Jerri thinks that Grandma Emma probably put this recipe together in the 1950’s when almost every cook in the United States was experimenting with condensed Campbell’s soups. That statement, incidentally, includes my mother and aunts, who fed us kids dozens of dishes promoted by the Campbell Soup Company. Jerri’s Green Bean Casserole LINK is one deriving from that time that I still love. Since Campbell’s introduced cream of celery soup in 1913, it’s possible that the recipe is even older.

The one thing I know for certain is that this is a recipe worth making once in a while. It’s extremely simple and produces Swedish meatballs just as good as most of those I have enjoyed over the years at many a lutefisk dinner. Serve the meatballs with boiled or mashed potatoes and a vegetable. If you want to be a true Wisconsinite, pass a bowl of cranberry sauce as well.


1 can condensed cream of celery soup
1/2 cup water
1 lb. lean ground beef
1 egg
2 T minced onion
2/3 cup dry bread crumbs
1 tsp. salt
A little extra water


Blend the water into the condensed soup in a small bowl to make a smooth sauce. Combine a quarter cup of the sauce with the ground beef. Lightly beat an egg and mince two tablespoons of onion. Thoroughly mix the egg, onion, bread crumbs and salt with the meat.

Lightly oil a large skillet and shape the meat into balls about an inch in diameter. Brown them in batches over moderate heat, leaving room to turn the balls without breaking them. Once all the meatballs have been browned, drain any extra fat from the skillet. Return the meatballs to the skillet and add a tablespoon or two of water. Cover the skillet and simmer the meatballs about twenty minutes until they are done.

When the meatballs are fully cooked, you can cool and store them and the sauce in the refrigerator. Later you can mix the sauce with the meatballs and heat them thoroughly in a pan, casserole or microwavable bowl before serving. If you wish to serve them immediately, mix the hot meatballs with the sauce and continue simmering them for another ten or fifteen minutes.

Jerri’s Green Bean Casserole

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Joyce’s Angel Pecan Pie

Like all of us, Jerri’s sister-in-law, Joyce, had a couple of little quirks that give her a special place in our memories. For instance, Jerri and I have occasional attacks of neatness, but for Joyce neatness was a chronic condition. She disliked clutter. When my T-shirts are no longer suitable for polite company, Jerri turns them into cleaning rags. Joyce took worn clothes to a recycling center. There were no rags in her home.

If you wanted to reread a story from last Sunday’s newspaper, you would be out of luck in Joyce’s household. When a meal was over, she got up and did the dishes rather than stalling an hour in the hope that some kitchen elves would do the job for her. They have never lent me a helping hand, but one would think that they would have left her kitchen spotless if she had only given them the chance. Like the cobbler in the story, she was a very generous Christian lady.

Her daughter, Lori, told us of another of Joyce’s quirks a few years ago. Every year when the family sat down for dinner on Christmas Day, there was a cut glass bowl filled with beautiful sweet canned Mandarin oranges on the table. Joyce never explained why she served canned oranges on Christmas Day, and Lori never asked. As you might expect, she grew up thinking that they were an expensive gourmet treat.

Lori learned otherwise when she moved away from home and started doing her own shopping. “You can even buy them at Kroger’s!” she said, “and they’re cheap! Maybe they weren’t when Mom and Dad were first married,” she mused as she told Jerri the story. It’s a mystery. My guess is that Joyce’s mother made sure that Mandarin orange slices were a part of Christmas dinner. Tevye, the milkman in Fiddler on the Roof, has the explanation: “Tradition!!”

There is, however, no mystery about why Joyce made made Angel Pecan Pie. She didn’t like to make pie crusts. Angel Pecan Pie makes its own crust. It is absurdly easy to make and is just plain delicious. Jerri asked for the recipe and Joyce obliged. It is an attractive pie suitable for serving to special guests and it is so easy to make that your family can enjoy it often. Jerri likes it because it is not as sweet as traditional pecan pie. I like anything covered with whipped cream.


4 egg whites
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. baking powder
Dash of salt
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 cup chopped pecans
1 cup whipping cream
Another dash of salt
1 heaping T granulated sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract


Preheat the oven to 300º and grease a nine-inch pie plate. Beat four egg whites until stiff peaks form. Mix the dry ingredients together and blend in the egg whites. Spread the batter in the pie plate and bake the pie for thirty minutes. A toothpick inserted near the center of the pie will come out clean when the pie is done.

Remove the pie from the oven, allow it to cool thoroughly on a rack, then refrigerate it for at least a couple of hours.

Whip a cup of whipping cream flavored with a generous tablespoon of sugar, a dash of salt and a teaspoon of vanilla. Spread the whipped cream on the pie and refrigerate until you serve it.

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Dale’s San Francisco Stew

When I applied for admission to the University of Wisconsin in the spring of 1961, acceptance was automatic for any Wisconsin resident who graduated from high school with at least a “C” average grade point. Freshman students were also automatically assigned a room in one of the university residence halls. In loco parentis was the policy then, and parents wholeheartedly approved.

Most new students also approved, and we sent our checks for the first semester dorm fee. About $400 paid for a room, twenty meals a week and even a maid to change the linens and make our beds once a week.

What was not automatic was a choice of roommate.

The big brown envelope that arrived from the UW stuffed with information for the prospective student and parents included a roommate preference form. Brought up as a Missouri Synod Lutheran near Hayward, Wisconsin, I responded by indicating that I would like a Protestant roommate from a small town and mailed it to the University Residence Halls office in the provided envelope.

My new roommate turned out to be a Jewish boy, Lauren, from a large suburb of Milwaukee. Since he had asked for someone from a large city, he was surprised to find that I grew up in the country a few miles outside of a small town where nearly everybody knew everybody. He had heard of Hayward, because a friend’s family had vacationed there, but he had never met a Lutheran before.

Within an hour we had discovered that we agreed on at least one thing. Whoever made roommate assignments was probably a retired US Army clerk who had sent wool underwear to troops fighting in Guadalcanal and cotton socks to soldiers freezing in the Battle of the Bulge. However, Lauren and I ended up enjoying each other’s company so much that we even rented an apartment together one summer.

That was after I had learned a lot about reformed Jews. The breakfasts served in the Van Hise Dining Hall were very good. I looked forward to getting up early so I could chow down before heading off to my 7:45 quiz section. The typical menu included bacon, ham or sausage and eggs, toast or pancakes, juice, fruit, milk and coffee or tea. At least a couple days a week, there were also cinnamon rolls or Danish pastries still warm from the oven.

Lauren seldom got up for breakfast. I noticed also that he never chose pork for lunch or dinner. He seemed to be a macaroni and cheese fancier at noon and a fish or sirloin beef tip man at dinner. On the one or two occasions when he did get up for breakfast, he avoided the ham and sausage. Since I knew that Jews did not eat pork, I didn’t have to ask why he didn’t pile any on his plate.

About nine weeks into the semester, when mid-term examinations were threatening us, Lauren started joining me for breakfast nearly every day. I still remember the morning when we arrived at the bacon station in the cafeteria line. Lauren piled a half dozen slices on his plate, added some scrambled eggs and toast and led me to a table. I was flabbergasted.

It turned out that he simply didn’t like sausage, ham or roast pork but loved good bacon. He proceeded to educate me about the differences between Orthodox and reformed Jewish observances and explained the peculiarities of Jewish mothers and grandmothers.

Lauren’s mother and grandmother visited us on a Sunday afternoon every six weeks or so. They always brought him two or three large cartons of homemade blintzes. Unlike me, Lauren was slender, and they were sure he was not getting enough good food at the university.

There were five or six dozen tender buckwheat crepes stuffed with meat, cheese or jam. Neither I nor the other guys on our floor had even heard of blintzes, but once we tasted them, Lauren was the most popular student in the hall on those Sundays. We had no dorm room refrigerators, so it was just as well that we finished off the blintzes quickly, probably before our benefactors had made it back to Milwaukee.

Lauren’s mother and grandmother helped outfit the kitchen in the apartment we rented for the summer after our sophomore year. The best thing I can say about the place is that it taught me how crafty landlords could be and how little time some students wasted cleaning their home. Vultures are probably better housekeepers.

We didn’t realize how bad the place was when the landlord showed it to us because he explained that he didn’t like to invade the privacy of his tenants, so he just conducted us quickly through the living room to a bedroom and guided us back out before we had a chance to inspect the kitchen or bathroom.

Two days before we had to move out of our room in Tripp Hall, we picked up the keys to our summer home. The moderately clean rug that had covered most of the living room floor was gone, revealing a greasy disgusting layer of cheap carpet. The bathroom was as bad, with soap scum on the lavatory, a toilet that had not been cleaned since the first time someone had vomited over it last fall and a tub/shower combination that looked like it had been used to hose down hogs.

The kitchen was even worse. Until I pulled out the crisper drawer of the refrigerator, I had not realized that sometimes one needed a putty knife to clean a kitchen. A half-inch-thick layer of black gunk that looked like something from a science fiction movie had taken over. The putty knife was useful for cleaning the range and countertop as well, so it turned out to be a good investment.

We rented a steam cleaner from the hardware store where I bought the putty knife and a box of steel wool, picked up a couple bottles of bleach and various detergents plus the first of a number of cans of Comet at a grocery store and hauled the load back in a taxi. Later we took a break to buy a scrub bucket, sponge and cleaning brush along with a bottle of room deodorant that the hardware clerk assured us would destroy any nasty smells. We agreed that it helped.

After shampooing the sofa we bit the bullet and invested in a throw cover for that monster. We took turns scraping the kitchen and bathroom tile floors, scrubbed them with steel wool and applied two coats of floor wax. We thought that they looked pretty good. We scrubbed the walls, cleaned the ceiling light fixtures and took the curtains to a laundromat. We bought a bottle of window cleaner and some furniture polish in hopes that it would also help cover up various odd odors.

My mother had put together a basic kit for our experiment in independent living with some silverware, plates, glasses and cups for our table and a couple of saucepans. She also furnished some cleaning rags, washcloths and towels, a set of sheets and a blanket along with a pillow and pillowcase. After two long days and evenings of housecleaning we felt pretty satisfied with the job we had done. Compared with what we had started with, we thought that the place looked like something out of Better Homes and Gardens.

Lauren’s mother and grandmother arrived on the third day with his linens plus an electric skillet, a frying pan, some mixing bowls and a tablecloth. And blintzes to put in a really spotless refrigerator.

I will never forget watching Lauren’s mother sit down gingerly on the new throw cover, survey our scrubbed domain and announce diplomatically, “This will be pretty nice, once you clean it up.” We did not contradict her. She took us out to dinner.

Lauren and I actually cooked every day in our meticulously cleaned kitchen. We ate a lot of “heat and eat” meals, usually with some kind of healthful addition. For example, I remember hot dogs and onions stirred into a can of beans served over bread, which today makes me think that I was making a predecessor of San Francisco Stew.

I had never even heard of San Francisco Stew until Dale introduced us to it an a church potluck. I liked it and asked for the recipe. Dale said that it was really easy to make, and he was right. It shares a lot with the meals Lauren and I stirred up when we got home from classes or our summer jobs at the university.

Open a couple of cans, add some fresh ingredients and meat, let things simmer for awhile and “Voila! Dinner is served.” San Francisco Stew is a little more complicated since it has both bacon and hamburger in it and needs to be baked in the oven, but we made similar dishes on top of the stove.

Dishes like this are not haut cuisine, but neither are many popular comfort foods. Macaroni and cheese, tuna salad sandwiches and cheeseburgers come to mind. We call them comfort foods because they remind us of eating at the kitchen table when we were kids and didn’t have to worry about the problems of the world.

Make a casserole of San Francisco Stew for your family on a day when the kids are busy playing outside and are sure to be hungry when they come in for dinner. If they ask for pizza, tell them the pizza oven isn’t working; if they want hamburgers, tell them the hamburgers are in the stew. For good measure you might point out that there are also baked beans in it, so it’s almost like a picnic on a plate.

Here is Dale’s recipe.


4 or 5 slices meaty bacon (about a quarter lb.)
1 medium onion (2 1/2 to 3 inches in diameter)
1 lb. hamburger
1 large can (28 oz.) baked beans
1 large can whole tomatoes
1 T brown sugar
1/2 cup uncooked white rice


Chop the bacon into half-inch pieces and clean and chop the onion into a quarter-inch dice. Fry the bacon in a skillet until it starts to turn brown but is not crisp. Use a slotted spoon to remove the bacon from the skillet and put it in a mixing bowl. Sauté the onion until it is translucent and use the slotted spoon to transfer it to the mixing bowl.

Preheat the oven to 350º.

Brown the hamburger over medium heat. Drain any excess grease from the hamburger before you put it into the mixing bowl. Add the baked beans, tomatoes, brown sugar and rice. Stir everything together and transfer the mixture to a large casserole or a nine by thirteen-inch glass baking pan.

Bake covered for eighty-five to ninety minutes. Remove from the oven, uncover and allow to rest a few minutes before serving.

NOTE: You can substitute about three cups of fresh tomatoes for the canned. Put six to eight small to medium tomatoes in a pot of boiling water for about a minute. Remove them from the boiling water with a slotted spoon and cool them in a bowl of ice cold water.

Peel and cut the tomatoes in halves or quarters, depending on the size. Put them in a small saucepan, add a quarter cup of water, a half teaspoon of celery salt and a grind of black pepper. Bring the pan to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer the tomatoes for a minute, stirring gently. Remove the pan from the heat and let the tomatoes cool while you prepare the other ingredients.

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Shrine Mont Dinner Rolls

Our good friends Al and Dardi from Richmond, Virginia, drove us to Shrine Mont many years ago. Shrine Mont is the Cathedral Shrine of the Transfiguration, a retreat and conference center of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia in the village of Orkney Springs, Virginia, on the western edge of the Shenandoah Valley.

As Episcopalians Al and Dardi have stayed at Shrine Mont many times. It is a beautiful venue for meditation, worship and conferences, and the eastern slope of Great North Mountain in the Appalachian Mountains is a good place to escape the humid air of tidewater Virginia. It is also a great place to enjoy authentic homestyle southern cooking in either one of the dining halls.

Dardi shared the recipe for Shrine Mont dinner rolls when we raved about them on the drive back to Richmond after our visit. The instructions from Shrine Mont begin by saying you should start these rolls at 10 AM or later in the summer, but you can arrange your own schedule. Just give the rolls plenty of time to rise.


2 small potatoes (3 to 4 inch diameter)
Cold water to boil the potatoes
1/2 cup lukewarm water
2 T sugar
1 cake or 2 1/4 tsp. yeast
2 tsp. lard
4 to 6 cups all-purpose flour plus extra for kneading
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. butter to brush the tops of the rolls


Stir the sugar and yeast into a half cup of lukewarm water in a small bowl and allow the yeast to proof while you cook the potatoes.

Peel and quarter the potatoes and put them into a saucepan. Add just enough cold water to cover them. Bring the potatoes to a boil, cooking them until they are fork tender, about twenty minutes. Drain but reserve the water. Mash the potatoes thoroughly to make sure no lumps remain. You should have about a cup and a half of mashed potatoes.

Mix the mashed potatoes and lard with the hot potato water in a large mixing bowl. Let this mixture cool to lukewarm, then stir in the yeast mixture. Add a teaspoon of salt to three cups of flour and sift the flour and salt by thirds into the liquid ingredients, stirring well between additions.

Sift in more flour until the dough begins to come away from the sides of the bowl, turn it out on a well-floured surface and knead until it is smooth and elastic. This is a sticky dough, so kneading will take ten to fifteen minutes. Grease the mixing bowl, form the dough into a ball and turn it in the bowl to lightly grease the surface. Cover the bowl with a damp towel and allow the dough to rise until doubled in size.

Grease two nine by thirteen inch baking pans.

Return the dough to the floured surface and press or roll it out to about a three quarter inch thickness. Divide it into equal portions and roll them into balls about two inches in diameter. Place the balls about a half-inch apart in the baking pans, cover them with a damp towel and allow the rolls to rise until doubled in size. A dozen rolls fit nicely into a nine by thirteen-inch pan.

Preheat the oven to 450º while the rolls are rising.

Bake fifteen to twenty minutes until the rolls are lightly browned. Brush the tops with a little butter as soon as you take the rolls from the oven.

NOTES: As copied by Dardi, the recipe says to make the rolls about three hours before serving. This means that the rolls would be rising more than two hours before going into the oven. If you have a cool kitchen, it might take that long, but I just watch the rolls and pop them in the oven when they are ready.

These rolls keep well for up to two days. You can also freeze them, then pop them in the microwave when you want to enjoy “fresh” dinner rolls in minutes.

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Summer Cooler

You don’t know how good buttermilk tastes until you have climbed a mile up a mountainside on a hot day. Despite our lack of hiking shoes, a friend and I had decided to see what Bad Reichenhall, Germany, looked like from Austria. It was 1965 and we were studying conversational German in that small German city. We crossed a footbridge over the creek that marked the border and started up the mountain.

It was an easy walk through open space on the edge of town. There were no signs, fences or guards, but once we had walked over the footbridge, we felt like world travelers. To be honest, Austria was pretty much like Germany, but it was the fourth country I had set foot in, the first three being the USA, Canada and Germany.

While there were no guards, there was someone watching us from a spot several hundred feet above us near a small building in the pasture. We began wondering if it was really wise to walk in someone else’s pasture without permission and briefly considered making a run for it back to the safety of the city. But we were young and confident that we could talk our way through any problem.

Though we were perhaps a bit too confident in our conversational German, we did manage to explain to the old lady overseeing her cows that we were American students at the Goethe Institute who just wanted to enjoy the view of the city from her beautiful pasture. She smiled and told us that we were welcome.

She could see that we were hot and thirsty and asked us if we would like “ein Becher Buttermilch” (a cup of buttermilk). We both said we would. She stood up from the bench she was sitting on, wiped her hands on her apron and went into the shed which we recognized as a spring house. A minute later she came out with two stoneware mugs that must have held a pint each.

How generous of her, we thought, until she said, “Funfzig Pfennig jedes” (fifty cents each). We would have paid more. The buttermilk was cold and delicious, with little bits of butter floating in it. It was so good, in fact, that we made the climb twice more over the next month and had a chance to learn a little about her. Among other things, we learned that she sold her buttermilk to lots of hikers and her butter to a shopkeeper in Salzburg.

Today much of the pasture is covered with a housing development, and hikers who want a glass of buttermilk need to find a different lady on a mountainside.

There are, of course, a few people who say that they don’t like buttermilk. Here is a way to overcome that prejudice. A student from Texas introduced Jerri to this recipe when she was a house fellow in Slichter Hall at the University of Wisconsin. It sounds odd, but it is delicious and refreshing. Here’s what you do.




Put two scoops of sherbet in a tall glass. Add ice cold buttermilk. Stir gently with an iced tea spoon. Enjoy like a root beer float with less sugar.

NOTES: Orange and raspberry sherbets are our favorites, but you can use any flavor you like. As an option, serve a scoop of sherbet covered with three or four tablespoons of buttermilk for a light dessert.

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Wild Blackberry Jam

The wild blackberries are small this summer. At least the ones I picked seemed tiny compared to the huge ones I picked as a kid. Those berries were almost as long as my little finger. Of course, my little fingers were also a lot smaller than they are today, so my memory might be colored by that fact. But small or large, wild blackberries make delicious jam.

If you want to make some of your own, start in late July by looking for blackberry patches on friends’ properties or along roads and hiking trails in the county, state and national forests of northern Wisconsin. Having identified some locations with good crops of unripe berries, you can go directly to those places in mid-August to harvest those luscious fruits before other hungry berry pickers beat you to them.

We are lucky to have blackberry patches close to our cabin. We are less fortunate to have competition from large black creatures with thick hairy coats that protect them from blackberry thorns. Bears survive because they are expert food scroungers. They have a sense of smell seven times better than a dog, which makes it possible for them to know when blackberries are ripe just by walking through the woods. Ripe blackberries have a wonderful fragrance you can smell when you hold a handful up to your nose. Bears can smell ripe blackberries a half mile away.

Bears have good memories too, especially for food. They return regularly to locations where they found good sources of food in the past. When they visit one of their favorite blackberry patches in July and find a good crop of green berries, you can bet that they won’t forget to be back in August when the smell of ripe blackberries tells them it is time for dinner.

You can always tell when a bear has been picking blackberries in a patch, because a bear tramples a nice wide path through the canes. These paths are handy for human berry pickers who are less tolerant of the thorns. Many’s the time I have thanked “Mr. Bear” (that’s what Dad always called bears) for making it easy for me to get to the center of a patch where the biggest berries are usually found. Even though “Mr. Bear” had eaten his fill, there were always enough left for me.

Picking blackberries is a relatively easy job, if you take some precautions against the thorns. Good walking shoes, long pants and and long-sleeved shirts are a must. One friend says he wears a leather glove on this left hand to hold or push canes out of the way while he picks with his right. I just resign myself to a few pokes and scratches.

Most blackberries grow at waist height, so you don’t have to bend over or crouch the way you do when picking blueberries or strawberries. Blackberries also don’t compact as much as raspberries, so your pail fills pretty quickly if you’re in a a good patch. Once you have eight or nine cups of berries in your pail, you have the essential ingredient for blackberry jam. The ingredients below will make nine to ten cups.


5 to 6 cups crushed blackberries
1 cup cold water
7 cups sugar
2 T lemon juice
1 pouch CERTO
Paraffin wax to seal the jars


Start by washing and sterilizing enough jars to hold ten cups of jam. You may not need the tenth jar, but it is a lot easier to dry it and put it away than to try washing and sterilizing an extra jar while your jam is jelling in the pot. I sterilize the jars by placing them upside down in a baking pan and adding an inch of water. When the pan comes to a boil, turn off the heat.

Wash and clean the berries, removing any leaves, stems and other foreign items such as occasional insects. The best way to do this is to clean the kitchen sink thoroughly, pour in the berries and cover them with water. Then rinse small handfuls under a trickle of water from the faucet and put the clean berries in a colander to drain.

Put the drained berries in a pan or bowl and crush them with a potato masher. Measure five cups into a Dutch oven or soup pot, add a cup of cold water and bring the pot to a boil, stirring often. Reduce the heat and simmer the berries for five or six minutes, again stirring often. I use the potato masher to stir and continue crushing the berries while they simmer.

Measure seven cups of sugar into a mixing bowl and set it aside.

Remove the pot from the heat and measure two cups of juice and berries into a small bowl. Strain the rest of the liquid through a cloth in a colander over a bowl and rinse out the pot. Put the two cups of mashed berries and juice into the pot and add two cups of strained juice to the berry mixture. If you have a little juice left over, you can add it to the pot without danger. Don’t add more than two extra tablespoons of juice, however, or the jam might not jell properly.

Stir in the sugar and lemon juice and bring the pot to a boil. While the juice and berries are heating, open a pouch of CERTO per instructions on the package and set it near the pot.

When the pot reaches a rolling boil (a boil that can’t be stirred down completely), stir it constantly while it boils for a minute. Then stir in the CERTO and bring the pot back to a rolling boil. Boil the jam for one minute, then remove the pot from the heat.

Skim excess foam, if necessary, and stir the jam for two or three minutes to help ensure that the crushed berries don’t all rise to the tops of the jars.

After you have removed the jam from the heat, transfer the jars from the pan of water and allow them to drain briefly on a rack, then stand them upright on waxed paper.

While you are stirring the jam, melt some paraffin in a small sauce pan on a burner under very low heat. Be careful not to heat the paraffin more than just to melt it. Using a dipper and a funnel, fill the hot jars, leaving one third to a half inch head space. If necessary, use a piece of moistened paper towel to remove any dribbled jam from the inside of the tops of the jars.

Use a tablespoon to put a thin layer of melted paraffin on top of the jam in each jar and allow the jam to cool without moving it. After the jam is well cooled, add a second thin layer of paraffin.

Close the tops of the jars with screw caps or plastic wrap tied in place.

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Caribbean Black Bean Soup

Many years ago for two days in a row I lunched on a vegetable soup made with pork, black beans, whole kernel corn and a variety of peppers. The final touch was lime juice which produced a bright fresh flavor. It was so good that I returned the second day just to have another bowl of the stuff. As I recall the waitress told me that it was a Cuban soup.

It was rather spicy, which may explain why it disappeared from the menu. Many cooks in northern Wisconsin think that they are being generous when they stir a tablespoon of chili powder into a gallon of tomato sauce and kidney beans. I have often thought of trying to create a soup that at least reminds me of that wonderful example of that Caribbean cuisine.

Having a few extra ears of sweet corn left over from dinner the night before and a pork hock languishing in the freezer, I decided to give it a shot. I began by reading about fifty recipes on the Web, most of which appeared to be nothing like I remembered. I then made a list of ingredients that I guessed had been in the soup I had eaten those many years ago and started work. The one ingredient I would never have included on my own was the molasses. In fact, I added it only after my wife and I tasted the soup just before I served it. We agreed that the molasses adds depth to the flavor without any sweetness.

I call this my Caribbean soup because it is simply one that reminds me of soups from the Bahamas, Jamaica and the Mayan Riviera. As one glance would tell you, I am not a native of the Caribbean, but I do love the foods developed by generations of cooks using ingredients common on the islands and coasts of that sea.


1 lb. dried black beans
1 smoked ham hock
About 2 qts. water
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 large bay leaf
3 T olive oil
1 large yellow onion (2 cups chopped)
1 medium green bell pepper (1 cup chopped)
1/2 medium red bell pepper (1 cups chopped)
1 large or two small jalapeño peppers (about 1/3 cup chopped)
1 large carrot
1 rib of celery
3 large garlic cloves
1 1/2 – 2 cups whole kernel corn
1 T cumin
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 cups chicken broth or stock
1/2 tsp. hot sauce
1 T molasses
2 – 3 T lime juice


Sort and rinse the beans the night before you plan on making the soup, removing any stones or other contaminants. Put the beans in a mixing bowl and cover them with an inch or more of cold water. Let them soak overnight.

Drain and rinse the beans until the water runs clear and put them and the pork hock into a soup pot or large Dutch oven. Add enough cold water to cover the beans and hock by an inch. Add the salt and bay leaf. Bring the pot to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer the beans and hock for about two hours.

Prepare the vegetables while the beans are cooking. Remove the dry outer layer from the onion and chop it into a quarter-inch dice. Set the onion aside in a small bowl.

Wash and stem the bell and jalapeño peppers. Remove the white membranes and seeds and chop the peppers into a quarter inch dice. Peel and clean a large carrot, cut it lengthwise into quarters and chop it into eighth-inch pieces. Clean and chop the celery into a quarter-inch dice. Remove the paper and stem ends from the garlic cloves and mince them. Set all these vegetables aside in a medium-sized bowl.

When the beans are tender and the meat is starting to fall off the bones of the hock, remove the hock from the broth. Put three tablespoons of olive oil into a skillet or frying pan over moderate heat and add the onions. Stir frequently while you cook the onions until they are translucent but not brown. Add the peppers, carrot, celery and garlic to the onion along with the cumin and black pepper and cook the vegetables about four minutes, stirring often.

Add two cups of chicken broth to the bean mixture and stir in the vegetables from the skillet along with the corn. Bring the soup to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for thirty minutes, stirring occasionally. When the hock has cooled somewhat, remove the skin and fat and chop the meat into bite-sized pieces. Stir the meat into the simmering soup.

Taste and adjust the seasoning. You may want to add more salt, hot sauce or lime juice. Serve as is or over cooked rice in soup bowls.

NOTES: Since pork hocks vary in size and saltiness, you could start with only a teaspoon of salt to begin with and add more when you are adjusting the seasoning. You can use frozen or canned whole kernel corn. Kernels cut from left-over ears of corn on the cob also work just fine. You can substitute lime juice from a bottle, but I do think that freshly squeezed juice has more flavor.

If you like your soups spicier, add more hot sauce or just put the bottle on the table. Do the same with lime juice if you more than a hint of lime.

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