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"A Scratch with the Rebels" -- A Recipe or Two
"A Scratch with the Rebels" -- Battle Accounts
"A Scratch with the Rebels" -- The Inspiration
"A Scratch with the Rebels" -- a Photographic Record
"A Scratch with the Rebels" -- A Synopsis

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"Roundheads and Ramblings"

recipes

"A Scratch with the Rebels" -- A Recipe or Two

Want a real taste of what life was like for soldiers during the Civil War? I know of no better way than to provide  a recipe or two taken from the records of the day.

HARDTACK CORN CHOWDER

•                6 pieces hardtack
•                1 cup milk
•                ¾ pound salt pork
•                1 large onion, peeled and sliced or chopped
•                4 large potatoes, sliced or diced
•                2 cups water
•                2 cups corn, kernels sliced off cob (about 2 ears)
•                1¾ teaspoon salt
•                ¾ teaspoon paprika if available
 
Soak hardtack in milk. (Skim off weevils and other objectionable matter. You may want to start this the night before, depending on age of hardtack.)
When they are softened, cut salt pork into cubes and brown over medium fire. Add onion and cook until soft.
Add potatoes and water and cook until potatoes are soft, or at least tender.
Stir in hardtack and milk, then add remaining ingredients. Stir and cook to almost boiling, and serve at once.

(For those of you wanting to try this, here's a recipe for hard tack. You'll have to make this first and let it get good and stale!
" Mix 5 cups of flour to 1 cup of water containing a 1/2-tablespoon of salt. Knead into a dough and roll out to 3/8-inch thickness. Cut into approximately 3-inch squares and pierce each with a fork or ice pick several times. Bake in a 400-degree oven for 30 minutes or until slightly brown."
Sounds really yummy!)

  CABBAGE STEW

•                One head green cabbage
•                Salt pork
•                Onions
•                Stewed tomatoes
•                salt, garlic, pepper, ground red pepper
 
Cut the salt pork into small cubes.Slice the cabbage and onions (approximately ½ & ½) If you use canned tomatoes, open the can. If not, cook them well ahead of time.

Fry the salt pork in a large, hot, cast iron pot until well browned. (Do NOT drain).Turn the heat down. Add cabbage and cook until wilted. Add onions and cook until wilted. Let cook approximately 1 hour (low fire). Add tomatoes to more than cover. Simmer. You can't really overcook this dish. The flavors will blend nicely the longer it cooks.

Add seasonings. Be sure to taste after adding each time. It takes the seasoning a few minutes to make themselves known. Better to add too little than too much. People can add more at the table if they wish.
After approximately 2-3 hours, start tasting. . . . It's the cook's sworn duty to taste test!! If you feel really brave, offer a spoonful to someone else. 

 
AULD REEKIE COCK-A-LEEKIE

This is an old Scotch-Irish recipe much favored by soldiers for obvious reasons.

•                5 ounces single-malt Scotch whiskey
•                4 pints water
•                1 tablespoon dried tarragon
•                1 teaspoon brown sugar
•                1 3-pound boiling chicken, giblets removed
•                3 slices streaky bacon, chopped
•                1 pound shin of beef
•                2 pounds leeks, chopped (white and pale parts only)
•                1 large onion, chopped
•                salt and pepper to taste
•                8 prunes, pre-soaked
 
Mix the whiskey with the water, tarragon and sugar. Place the chicken, bacon and beef into a large bowl andpour the whiskey marinade over. Leave to marinate overnight.
Next day, transfer mixture to a large soup pot. Add the leeks (reserving one) and the onion, and season to taste. Bring slowly to a boil, cover, and then simmer for 2 hours, or until the bird is tender. Skim off excess fat from the liquid.
Remove the chicken from the pot, skin, remove bones and cut meat into pieces before returning to the pot (cut up the shin of beef, if necessary). Add the prunes and remaining sliced leek and simmer gently for 10-15 minutes.

 

Celebrating the New Year, German-Style


In honor of my German (Hessian) great-grandparents, and in the tradition handed down to the Schweinsberg granddaughters through Grandma Karolina, I have been busy this morning making sure that my little household will be as lucky as possible in the coming year. (And Heaven knows, we may need all the help we can get!)

My southern friends won't understand this. They'll want to talk about back-eyed peas and greens, but -- trust me -- on a blustery New Year's Eve, whether in Germany or Pennsylvania-- finding a pot of pork and sauerkraut is about as lucky as it gets!

Tradition says that it always brings good luck to eat pork, although for those who don't like the meat, a marzipan pig makes a good substitute. The pork itself can take many forms -- a schnitzel,  a roast, a tender chop, or --  ideally -- slow-cooked with sauerkraut. Why sauerkraut? Because it comes with a wish that you may have as much money as there are shreds of cabbage in a vat of sauerkraut.

My own favorite version of the old recipe combines the following ingredients in a slow cooker and lets them meld on low for six hours. Yes, I suppose it might taste better in a cast iron pot simmering on the back of a wood-burning stove, but, hey! Serve with mashed potatoes. And why mashed potatoes? Because it tastes good!


  • a pork loin cut into small cubes
  • a quart of deli sauerkraut
  • half an apple, sliced into thin wedges
  • half an onion, similarly sliced
  • lots of minced garlic
  • liberal shakings of salt (depending on the nature of your sauerkraut), dill weed, and dry mustard
  • half a bottle of good German beer

Therein, of course, lies a moral challenge. The onion and apple halves can last for another use, but what does one do with a half a bottle of beer, rapidly warming and losing its foam? Well, I'm fairly sure Grandma Karolina would have said:


"Abfälle, die nicht wollen, dass nicht."  (Waste not, want not).

A Recipe for around the NaNoWriMo Campfire

First a little back story.  Last week I was in Costco looking for some very boring items -- toilet paper, Kleenex, baking soda for the cats' litterbox. But on my way to the baking soda, I passed a display that stopped me cold. Two large jars of Nutella, that seductive combination of ground hazelnuts and chocolate, containing a total of 67 ounces of the delectable spread. That's over four pounds! Did I need four pounds of Nutella? Of course not. But the price was roughly what I  pay for one 13-ounce jar of the stuff at Kroger. Well, who could pass up a bargain like that?

Next problem: What does one do with four pounds of Nutella? i like to dip bananas in it, but that would be way too many bananas for my taste.

And then I found it: an impossible recipe on Facebook for 3-ingredient brownies. And yes, Nutella was one of the three ingredients. Problem solved.

Here's the recipe:

1 cup of Nutella (spray your measuring cup with PAM and it will slide right out.)
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour
2 eggs.

That's it. (I ended up adding some chopped walnuts, as if there were not already enough nuts in this stuff, but I needed to use up thee walnuts.)

Stir the ingredients together until you can't see the individual parts an then plop it into a greased 8-inch square Pyrex pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. That's it. Cool, cut into 16 2-inch brownies, and enjoy.  They are pretty wonderful.  Mine came out more like cake than sticky fudge, but you can probably adjust the end product by increasing the amount of Nutella you use.  If you fell for the Costco deal, like I did, you'll have plenty.

And that's what I accomplished today, along with writing chapter 3 of the last quarter of my upcoming book. Word total for this week so far is 6315 words. I'm not leading my cabin, but several of us are going neck to neck. Four people (mostly the mid-life crisis types) have not written anything. Our leader is over 10,000 words. but she's been on vacation this week with lots of time on her hands.  We'll catch up in the coming days.

Soup is Better Than Lemonade

You've probably heard the old adage about making lemonade when life hands you a lemon.I admit it has its points, but for me, when I hit a rainy day, I want to make soup.

It's been raining here ever since we had breakfast and is showing no signs of letting up. The little ditch behind our house has turned into Schriber Creek, and the neighbor's soccor ball that landed in our yard yesterday is getting ready to float away. It's cold and damp, and the only thing I want to do this afternoon is make a pot of soup. 

Luckily, the fridge is full of odds and ends--half a bag of mixed vegetables left over from a recipe that turns canned biscuits into little chicken pot pies; a cup or so of diced ham, left over from a cobb salad; half an onion and some minced garlic from last night's been stroganoff recipe. I also have on hand a bag of frozen vegetable soup mix (lots of veggies including potatoes and turnips), a good supply of chicken broth, and some cans of stuff in the pantry.  

There isn't a recipe for this sort of day. It calls for invention. So I'll start with some water and the soup mix, which comes with its own seasonings. Then into the pot will go all the left-overs, along with about a quart of chicken broth. Cans? Maybe some white beans and diced tomatoes. And after a while, a handful of barley to add some starch and pull the broth together. Add that to a couple of other leftovers -- a heel of a French baguette and a half-opened bottle of this week's treasure, the first wine from the 2014 French harvest -- Beaujolais Nouveau.  Then let it rain!


3 Ways to Deal with the Holiday Calendar Crisis

I've just been looking at my calendar for the next two months. Holy Datebook! November's almost over, or will be by the time we negotiate next week's Thanksgiving trip. Then it's December with my husband's birthday and our anniversary both coming before Christmas. And smack in the middle of the various scheduled holiday parties comes the week we will be spending in the condo at Hilton Head. Do I really think I'm going to accomplish much between now and the New Year? Not a chance of that, but maybe there are some ways to turn a lot of small tidbits into a productive whole. Here's what I'm thinking this morning.

1. Give up on the idea of racing all the other NaNoWriMo writers to the finish line.  On November 15th, I was ahead of the curve. Now I'm slipping behind at an ever increasing pace. OK, so be it. It's really not about how many words you can put on paper; it's about how important your words are. Better not to write than to write drivel. If my characters want to talk to me, they can go ahead. I can add some bits and pieces of conversation without feeling I have to create a whole chapter at a time.

2. Go ahead and start planning for Christmas instead of worrying that there won't be time to get everything done. I woke up this morning thinking about my mother's recipe for Christmas sand tarts. It's been several years since I've made them, and we're trying to cut the calorie intake around here, but  . . . why not just do it? The darn things last forever, so instead of waiting for Christmas week, I may mix up a batch by Thanksgiving and kickstart my Christmas memories. Oh, and I must remember to take last year's fruitcake out of the freezer and see if it has survived.

3. Relax by having a little fun in the middle of the work day.For the next few weeks, I may turn this blog into a scrapbook of items that make me smile for one reason or another. Serious blog posts on the art and craft of indie publishing can wait until I'm actually practicing that art and craft full time again. In the meantime, here's what made me smile today. Purely by accident I ran across a picture of a marriage certificate signed by Gen. Rufus Saxton, who is a prominent character in The Road to Frogmore, and who will appear again in Yankee Reconstructed. I don't recognize the names of the bride and groom, Minerva Morris and James Bythwood, but I smiled when I actually saw a sample of Saxton's signature. I know that many of my characters are real people, but it's still fun to find traces of their lives.