This is the twelfth in a series of weekly farm reports from our own Tom Hirschfeld, complete with recipes, cooking and gardening tips, and wisdom dispensed.
Tom's been gone pheasant-hunting! So today we're sharing another essay from his blog Bona Fide Farm Food (with new photos!)
Having an eclectic collection of spiral bound church, community and group cookbooks can be a chore. You have this huge tote full of the things and it sets in the garage collecting dust and the dogs are always sniffing around it, the hound dog even goes so far as to sleep on it many nights, feet hang off the edge and her tongue dangling. Each winter you have to seal it like Fort Knox so the mice don’t take up residence and chew the pages. All this on top of the countless times you have moved it not only around the garage but from one house to another during a move.
It is an obelisk full of soup can cookery for the most part and while you know you will never cook out of them you can’t separate yourself from them either, it would be a painful divorce. With every spring comes the we-can-make-this-relationship-work ritual and you crack open the tote only to be slapped in the face with grandma perfume and mothballs. You are going to give it every effort though and you lovingly turn each page as if it is the first time you have ever seen countless green Jell-O apple celery salad molds and salmon loaves.
The books are repetitive of one another and at one point it's as if you don’t know who this person is anymore. Then just when you are about ready to give up and take the tote to the dumpster, it does something nice. Right there, between the mushroom soup baked pork chops and the canned baked beans loaded with brown sugar and ketchup is the sparkle you used to see, a lone recipe with merit, some real class, the one you used to take to the dance.
You think about bringing the whole tote into the house but you have gone that route before only to have it take up residence at the kitchen table like a long lost cousin. So, you put the cover back on the tote and only bring in the one book knowing it will be months before you take it back to the garage and in a fit of nostalgia look through some more of these relics hoping to put a little spark back into the relationship again.
One of my all time favorites is a book from a now nonexistent town in Missouri named Pennytown. It was an African-American town that at some point was no more. The residents still stayed in touch and many years later created a cookbook in memory of what once was. I was fortunate enough to take a picture of the ladies who created the book and the newspaper did a story as well. As a result I gave the ladies a copy of their picture and in return they gave me a cookbook.
Steamed Brown Bread
This brown bread was created after a recipe in my mother's hometown church and their fundraiser cookbook. What kind of vessel you ultimately steam the bread in is up to you. Soup cans work great and this recipe would fill two cans. You could also use larger cans but as with everything baking times will change and so will the ingredient amounts so adjust accordingly. I find this goes great with cured meats like corned beef, brined pork and ham, is a great bread for afternoon tea and is good with hearty soups too.
Makes eight 3/4-inch slices
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour, 2.3 oz.
1/2 cup whole wheat flour, 2.3 oz
1/2 cup fine grind corn meal, 3 oz.
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3 ounces unsulfered molasses
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup raisins
unsalted butter for greasing cans
salted pasture butter for serving
Want more Tom? See last week's dispatch: What I Know About Eggs