When I prepared my first entry for this month’s foodies challenge, I said that I did not have a lot of strong cooking memories from my childhood. True. But I do have some very strong food memories. Waking up to breakfast with my father’s family in Roanoke, VA is one of the strongest of those memories.
My father was a child of the depression who grew up in a large extended family. By the time I was a child, those family members were all living together in a smallish house in Roanoke. My grandmother, Mary Lee, lived there along with my great-grandmother English and several of my great aunts and uncles. Aunt Liz was widowed during World War II and never married again. She kept parakeets. Uncle Ed was a life-long bachelor. Aunt Lura and Uncle Claude were married and shared a room upstairs. Uncle Claude suffered from some kind of disability and never left his room; what was wrong with him remains one of the unsolved mysteries of my childhood. The house was very full indeed and when we came to visit, the children always bedded down on the sleeping porch where we woke up every morning to the smell of breakfast from the kitchen down below.
Ah, those breakfasts! We had bacon and sausage. We had eggs fried in bacon grease so that the yolks remained soft but the edges turned brown and crispy. There were biscuits made from scratch. At one end of the kitchen stood a cabinet I thought of as the “biscuit making place”. This marvelous piece of furniture held dispensers for the flour and had a marble surface for rolling out the dough. And always there were homemade jams and applesauce. In Roanoke, we had no need for alarm clocks to wake us in the morning. No one could possibly sleep through the smell of breakfast. Preparations would begin and soon the scents of bacon and sausage would wind their way upstairs. And when our noses took notice, our eyes opened; we’d pull on clothes and thunder down the stairs to the kitchen. So it was in Roanoke that every day started with all the family gathered round the large kitchen table, breaking the overnight fast.
Having resurrected these memories, I convinced my sister that we should get together and make a Roanoke breakfast. Well, that turned out to be more of a challenge than we thought it would. My niece is a vegetarian. We added vegetarian sausage to the menu. My brother-in-law is on a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet so no eggs or pork sausage for him. We substituted turkey sausage for pork and added hash brown potatoes to the menu. I have sensitivities to MSG and a number of other chemicals in food. I volunteered to bring uncured, nitrate-free bacon along with organic strawberry jam and applesauce. Neither of us could recall what was in those Roanoke biscuits though we both suspect that lard was lurking there somewhere. With no family recipe to draw on, we found one for lard-free, buttermilk biscuits that looked like it would do. And when push came to shove, we couldn’t quite bring ourselves to fry up our eggs by dipping them in a sea of bacon grease. We opted instead to reserve a couple of teaspoons for flavor and fried the eggs in a nonstick skillet. But in the end, we sat down Sunday morning to a breakfast that smelled just as wonderful as those we both remembered.
This is not a gourmet meal by any stretch but here are recipes for two of my contributions, Strawberry Jam and Applesauce.
1 lb of organic strawberries, cleaned and thinly sliced
¾ cup of sugar
2 tablespoons of lemon juice
Combine all ingredients in a pan and cook over medium-low heat until the fruit begins to break down and the mixture starts to thicken, 15 to 20 minutes. To test for doneness, place a small bowl over ice. Place some of the mixture into the bowl and let it sit for half a minute or so. If it is still very liquid and runny after that, cook for a little while longer. Otherwise, remove the pan from the heat and allow the jam to cool to room temperature. I store this in a glass jar in the refrigerator. It keeps well for about a week or so. I have also made this with peaches or plums. With plums, I don’t bother to peel them. I always use organic fruit but that is my own preference. Note that this is not a jam made with pectin so it will have a looser consistency than what you may be used to.
4 lbs of apples, cored, peeled and cut into smallish chunks – ½ in. or so
¼ cup of sugar or to your taste
1 cup of water
Place all ingredients into a pot and cook over medium heat until the apples break down and release their juices, 20 minutes or so. The apples should be soft enough to mash. What you do with the mixture at this point depends on how you like your applesauce. I like mine chunky so I usually go at it with a handheld potato masher until it acquires a consistency that appeals to me. If you like your applesauce smoother, you can puree it in a food processor or a blender. Cool to room temperature and then store in a container in the refrigerator. You can also flavor the applesauce by cooking a few slices of fresh ginger or a couple of cinnamon sticks with the apples. Just remember to remove those before processing the apples. For you apple purists out there, my favorite apples to use here are Jonathans but I will make it with whatever I happen to have on hand. And this recipe can easily be halved or even quartered if you want to make smaller amounts.
©HollyKL. 2011. All rights reserved.
This article was produced for the Newsvine Photographers Foodies! challenge.