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Memories and Musings

By Cheri Sims
A recent chat with a friend, Clare Emanuel, has sent me searching for a grape-orange marmalade recipe. I have never eaten this flavor of marmalade but it sounds delicious. If anyone has this recipe please email it to us at “”. A following conversation with her daughter brought back some fond memories; the Witmer family has restored their heritage grape arbor and for the last few years have been making old fashioned Concord grape jelly, so they have the beginnings of the grape-orange recipe. Donna and I shared a few old memories of our grandparents and of her and husband Steve’s own first experience at making grape jelly from scratch. I understood that it was an intense two day endeavor but the results were so gratifying that they have continued each year making the jelly for gifts.

My Granny had a huge grape arbor; when I was just a toddler I would play under the vines and make her irritated because I would dislodge some of the grape bunches she had tied up so they would get more sun. I think I need to visit the Witmer grape arbor and relive my childhood. I recall a story my Mom told me about when she was with child and was craving a grape pie. Granny had never made one but she figured it out and surprised my Mom at dinner. Mom said the pie was delicious and she ate the whole pie, by herself over a two day period. Unfortunately, she also spent the next couple days visiting the outhouse quite frequently and never asked for another grape pie.

Another friend of Hubby’s also had a large grape arbor and one September they could not pick all the grapes and invited us to come to their house and clean off the vines. I, too, had no experience with grapes but we came home with four water buckets filled to the brim. Hubby was not involved in the preparation of the grapes and it took me a week to cook them all and make the jam. I made some with sugar and some without sugar and while they all turned out great we really got tired of grapes. I did not make a pie, thanks to Mom’s story, and my favorite way to eat them is a peanut butter and jelly sandwich but I did make a couple grape pastries which we really enjoyed. Hubby made a BBQ recipe which utilized grape juice in the sauce and he thought that was pretty unique and for years after, when we were finally out of our prepared grape juice, I would have to buy a can of grape juice so he could make his BBQ sauce. Hubby never wrote down his recipes but I have found one which looks much like the ingredients I remember he used, with a few changes. I know it is not time to harvest grapes but I wanted you to have plenty of time to search your recipe files for a grape-orange marmalade recipe to share.

Donna and I shared a similar black raspberry story too. Long before we came to Charleston her in-laws would drive around Coles County and pick black raspberries and they would make delicious pies with them. After Hubby and I moved to Charleston we would ride the back roads on his motorcycle and pick black raspberries and I would have to balance the bags on my lap as we rode home. We made black raspberry Canadian pasties, which is much like a pie but with only one crust. I would roll out a large crust, fill half with the prepared berry mixture, then fold over the crust, crimp the edges, egg wash the crust and sprinkle it with sugar and bake like a pie. Ahhh, the good old days!

It is almost peach season and I would love to take our usual trip to Calhoun County, ride the Brussels ferry to the island and bask in the glory of river country. The ferry is about 160 miles from Charleston and a lovely drive, especially the road between Alton, Illinois and the ferry, along the Mississippi and Illinois rivers. Our favorite BBQ joint did not survive the pandemic but I understand, from friends, that the Grafton Pub is a nice place to eat in Grafton, Illinois. If you would like to venture to the river for lunch, a bit of shopping and to pick peaches you can check out the Grafton Pub menu at this link (  My friends highly recommend the catfish sandwich, homemade cheese balls and fried pickle chips.

Besides tending a huge garden my Grandparents had apple, peach and cherry trees and it seemed to me like Granny was always canning something and making fruit pies. Her cherry pies were amazing and I have never eaten one better. Her apple pies were great too but she excelled with peach pies, peach dumplings and some kind of breakfast peach pastry but none of us can find her recipe. It was almost like peach shortbread but I have made that and it wasn’t quite correct. Mom said it was more like a corn with peach topping and I have found a recipe which I plan to try. If you try the recipe let me know if you like it.

Happy summer!

Grape BBQ Sauce


* 3/4 Cup fresh red or 

purple juice (3/4 pound 

of grapes)

* 1/2 Cup ketchup

* 1 Tbsp Dijon mustard

* 1 Tbsp minced onion

* 1Tbsp cider vinegar

* 1 Tbsp molasses


Combine all ingredients

Note: Hubby did not like mustard so he would not have used it and he preferred onion powder over real onion. He also would have added salt and pepper dark brown sugar.

Upside-Down peach 

Cornbread Cake


* 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) 

unsalted butter

* 1/3 cup light brown 


* 1 teaspoon ground 


* 1 teaspoon kosher salt

* 3 fresh peaches, pitted 

and sliced 1/2-inch thick, 

or 3 cups frozen peaches, 


* 1 cup finely ground 

yellow cornmeal

* 3/4 cup all-purpose 


* 1 teaspoon baking 


* 3/4 cup granulated 


* 3 large eggs, at room 


* 1/2 cup whole milk, at 

room temperature


1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Melt 3 tablespoons butter in a 10-inch cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Stir in the brown sugar along with the cinnamon and 1/2 teaspoon salt, then cook, stirring, until the sugar is melted and begins to bubble, about 10 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat and let it cool slightly.

3. Arrange the peaches in the bottom of the skillet, fanning out in a circular pattern. Set aside.

4. Whisk together the cornmeal, flour, baking powder and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt in a small bowl. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or using a hand mixer, beat the remaining 9 tablespoons butter together with the granulated sugar on high speed until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. On low speed, add half the dry ingredients, half the milk, the remaining dry ingredients, then the remaining milk. Increase the speed to medium and beat just until everything is well mixed, scraping down the bowl once. (Use a spatula to be sure there are no dry ingredients stuck to the bottom of the bowl.) Drop the batter in large dollops over the peaches in the skillet, then use an offset spatula to gently smooth it out, being careful not to disturb the peaches.

5. Bake until the top is golden brown and puffed and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes. Let cool for 20 minutes. While the cake is still warm, run a butter knife around the outside, then invert onto a serving platter. Serve warm.

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