28 June 2010

Family recipe Monday: appetizers

Roses in the Johnson garden

I think it's summer. Maybe. Most of the time. Except when it isn't. We seem to be having a fair number of hot humid mornings, then late afternoon/early evening thunderstorms with drastic temperature drops. On Saturday we were moving lab equipment into the new building, and the day came to an abrupt halt when a major storm thundered in out of nowhere. The hailstones were golfball-sized and jagged like ice flowers, and the noise in the 2-story atrium was phenomenal. As was the cleanup when we discovered that workmen had left a roof access door open. It was a lot like being in a WWII submarine movie, swarming up the ladder to close the hatch as the waters came pouring in.....
After a day like that, it's not the time to think about complex cooking, so I paged over to the appetizer section of Simple Gifts for cooler suggestions. What I found were some true nostalgia trips instead. I may not make these any time soon, but I have the road maps to do so once I'm ready.

Here's another recipe on scratchpad paper from a small West Texas business associate of my grandfather's.   
Vada’s pizza snacks
1 lb. sharp cheddar cheese, grated
Dash black pepper
1 small can chopped chillies
½ cup cooking oil
Dash hot sauce
3 T vinegar
1 small can chopped ripe olives
Minced onion
1 small can tomato sauce
1 tsp salt

Mix all ingredients. Spread on rye bread or cocktail bread. Bake for 20 minutes at 350*. [Mixture] will keep in refrigerator.
--Vada Brooks Johnson

Popcorn balls are not seen all that often any more and are definitely not made at home often these days. They were everywhere when we were growing up, it seems. This recipe was apparently found verbatim on every package of 3 Minute Brand Popcorn and dates back to at least the 1950s. Everyone seems to have a copy in recipe files of that vintage. 3 Minute Brand seems to have gone the way of most other non-microwave popcorns, eheu fugaces. If at all possible, don't use microwave popcorn for this recipe: you want it fresh, dry and unsalted. You will definitely want to butter your hands, the spoon, and everything else in the vicinity. It's all worth it.

Popcorn balls
2 ½ quarts popcorn balls
1 cup sugar
½ cup water
¼ light corn syrup
½ tsp salt
1 tsp vinegar
½ tsp vanilla extract

Measure popped popcorn into buttered bowl (4-quart or larger). Combine together in 1-quart heavy saucepan the sugar, water, corn syrup, salt and vinegar. Stir over heat until sugar is dissolved. Cover, bring to boil and let boil briskly for 3 minutes. Uncover, insert candy thermometer, and cook mixture to hard boil stage (260*). Remove from heat. Stir in vanilla. Pour slowly over popped corn, stirring with a large buttered spoon to coat each kernel. Immediately form into balls. Handle gently to avoid packing. Use butter on hands if necessary. Yields 12 balls, 2 ½ “ diameter.

Here's something from Gene's Pennsylvania Dutch family recipe files to sip on summer evenings. "Shrub" is a term for sweet, slightly acid fruit drinks that goes a long, long way back. There are many versions of this, most made up as sweet fruit vinegars. All versions agree that this is a perfect hot weather drink and that it can be mixed with a variety of alcoholic beverages as desired. Rum seems to be the top choice, which works for us. Dolly's version uses lemon juice instead of vinegar. The mix will keep in the refrigerator for a few days and is best served the day after it is prepared, so that the flavors have time to deepen.

Raspberry shrub
10 servings or 2 1/2 quarts

Mix, cool in saucepan 10 minutes:
3 pints raspberries
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 cups water

Strain and cool. Add 1 cup lemon juice and 2 quarts water. Serve with crushed ice
--Dolly Hess

Bon appetit, y'all, and Happy Monday. Stay cool and sweet.

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