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Memories and Musings

By Cheri Sims
When I was a small child our family would drive from Taylorville to Stonington every Sunday morning and every Wednesday night to go to church. To this day I have no idea why we did not go to church in Taylorville but those two weekly drives were the best of times. Some days I would go with my parents and on others I would ride along with my two aunts and an uncle and two younger cousins. I have vivid memories of many of those drives and growing up with wonderful fellowship with all the other Church members. I can recall that when I first started going  to the Stonington Church it did not have indoor plumbing and we kids were taken to the outhouse between Sunday school and Church service. I was in fourth grade the winter the Pastor unveiled the new inside bathroom next to the Sunday school class rooms and can recall his pleasure as he announced that both his parish house and the Church had indoor bathrooms but to his astonishment on the first Sunday we had run out of toilet paper so he had provided a stack of news papers for the late comers.

Every fourth Sunday the congregation held a potluck dinner in the classrooms after the Church service and I must admit that it was very hard to sit through the Sunday sermon knowing there was food being prepared on the other side of the pulpit. I have written, many times, about Mrs. Durbin’s homemade chicken and noodles and how I have tried for 55 years to make noodles like hers but the other thing I remember about the potlucks were the days the ladies held their pie contests. The potluck committee made the Sunday meals a pleasure; the food was good and I don’t think I ever ate anything I didn’t like. A couple times a year they would have pie or cake baking contests and I recall these contests were taken very seriously. Everyone was eligible to vote, even the kids and every kind of pie imaginable was brought to the contest.  My Dad and Uncle Don would make a beeline for the chocolate cream pies and my two aunts would pick apple or pecan but I made sure I got a piece of my Aunt Georgie’s lemon or rhubarb pie. The only rule in the contest was that no one could vote for their own pie and I have always wondered if the adults stuck to that rule. My Aunt Georgie won many of the contests; she was a wonderful cook and baker and to this day I make many of my pies with her recipes. My nick name for my aunt Georgie was “aunt pie” because her pies were the best!

My cousin Jenna and I have used my Aunts recipes for years and over the years we have discussed the fact that our pies don’t seem to taste the same way they did when my Aunt made them. During one discussion I asked Jenna if she used lard for the pie crust and she said she used her favorite shortening and I agreed that I did the same. We then asked our Moms if they used lard and their answer was the same, the pies tasted different and they used vegetable shortening too. I decided to test out my theory and purchased a tub of lard for the crust and almost proved the theory right; but even though the pie was better it still was not quite the same. Then Hubby offered his theory, did my aunt and granny render their own lard? This question was posed to our Moms and we discovered that when they were kids Granny rendered her own lard and continued to do so until the late 1950’s, which is when I ate most of their cooking. So mystery solved, I have actually saved grease from pork and bacon and tried that for my crusts but the pie tasted too much like bacon so now make my scratch pie crusts with lard.

It is time to make fresh rhubarb desserts and I am thrilled that my son’s family likes rhubarb because Hubby did not care for it and I felt like a pig when I would make a rhubarb pie and then eat the whole thing myself. If you like rhubarb but don’t want to bake your own pie then I suggest you order one from Yoder’s Kitchen in Arthur. I have made the trip a couple times through the winter just to buy their rhubarb-strawberry pies and it is well worth the drive. Yoder’s makes their pie with a crumble top crust and I like it that way too. I am also very fond of rhubarb cobbler but it does not freeze as well as the pie, but I make a smaller batch and it will keep about a week in the refrigerator.

A few years ago, while in Canada, I was introduced to rhubarb-blueberry cobbler and I became a convert. At first I was not sure I would like it because back then I was not as fond of blueberries as I am now but I also ordered it again when dining at a restaurant in Maine and then again in Michigan. Recently, while searching for a rhubarb-blueberry cobbler recipe I discovered a shop in Grand Haven, Michigan which has the recipe posted on their “Blueberry Haven” website. (https://blueberry-haven.com/recipes/blueberry-rhubarb-cobbler/)  Two other of my favorite rhubarb recipes are rhubarb pudding and rhubarb cream pie. The recipe below is an old recipe from the “almanac.com” website and my rhubarb cream pie recipe is just your favorite vanilla cream pie filling recipe with two cups of finely chopped and stewed rhubarb and an extra half cup of sugar stirred in before the filling begins to bubble. I had rhubarb cream pie for the first time in Hannibal, Missouri at a pie shop and the owner told me just how to add the rhubarb and extra sugar. I miss that shop, we returned there a few years later and the older woman was no longer baking and the pies we had were not quite as good.

Enjoy some rhubarb!

Rhubarb Pudding (An old recipe)

Ingredients

* 1 quart rhubarb, cut 

up

* 1-1/2 cups sugar

* 1/4 cup butter, melted

* 1 teaspoon vanilla

* 2 eggs, well beaten

* 1 cup flour

* 1 teaspoon baking 

powder

* 1/4 teaspoon salt

Instructions

Mix rhubarb and 1 cup sugar. Place in a buttered 2-quart baking dish. Combine melted butter, vanilla, eggs, flour, baking powder, remaining 1/2 cup sugar, and salt; pour over rhubarb. Bake at 375 degrees F. for 45 minutes or until done: the pudding will be a bit soft inside. Good served warm with maple syrup. https://www.almanac.com/recipe/rhubarb-pudding-old-recipe

Rhubarb-Blueberry 

Cobbler

Filling

*  1/4 cup Packed 

Brown Sugar

*  1 tbsp Cornstarch

*  1/2 cup Cold Water

*  2 cups Sliced Fresh 

Rhubarb

*  2 cups Fresh 

Blueberries

*  1 tbsp Lemon Juice

Topping

*  1 cup All-Purpose 

Flour

*  1/2 cup 1/2 cup 

Granulated Sugar

*  1 1/2 tsp Baking 

Powder

*  1/2 cup Milk

*  1/4 cup Softened 

Butter

*  2 tbsp Coarse 

Granulated Sugar (or a 

blend of brown/white 

granulated sugar)

*  1/4 tsp Ground 

Nutmeg or Cinnamon 

or a blend of both

For the Filling:

In a medium saucepan stir together brown sugar and cornstarch; stir in water. Add rhubarb and blueberries. Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened and bubbly. Add the 1 tablespoon butter and the lemon juice; stir until butter melts. Pour into an ungreased 1-1/2-quart casserole. (You can use an 8 x 8 inch Pyrex pan.) While the filling is cooking, make the topping!

For the Topping:

Stir together flour, the 1/2 cup granulated sugar, and the baking powder. Add milk and the 1/4 cup butter all at once. Stir until smooth. Spoon topping in mounds over hot filling; spread evenly over filling. Sprinkle with a mixture of the 2 tablespoons coarse sugar and the nutmeg and/or cinnamon. Bake cobbler in a 350 degree F. oven about 35 minutes or until bubbly and a toothpick inserted into topper comes out clean. Serve warm with ice cream, if desired. Makes 6 servings. https://blueberry-haven.com/recipes/blueberry-rhubarb-cobbler/

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