Cooking with happy memories

  • Carol Lively cooks at her mother's home in Rowe. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Carol Lively with a piece of Apfelkuchen, or apple cake. The cake actually more closely resembles pie, with fruit laid on top of pastry. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Carol Lively with her mother and a sheet pan of her grandmother's Apfelkuchen, or apple cake. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

For the Recorder
Published: 11/29/2022 4:43:53 PM
Modified: 11/29/2022 4:43:37 PM

Carol Lively of Rowe is a generous but frugal cook. She grows much of the food she and her family eat, from vegetables to chicken. She freezes and cans with abandon.

She grew up cooking for her family much of the time. “My mom worked so I was home before her, and I made dinner a lot when I was a kid,” she said.

She has cooked extensively around Rowe, first as a member of a local gourmet club and eventually professionally at the Rowe Elementary School. She worked at the school for 12 years.

“I do love to cook,” she said. “I’ve always entered the local fairs. I call (colleagues there) my fair family. We would get together and cook and bake and try things. We haven’t done this since COVID, but we have to get it going again.”

Right now, she is spending much of her time taking care of her parents, who have been experiencing health issues. She has still done a lot of harvesting and canning, however.

“I start canning probably in June when the cucumbers are ready,” she noted. “I make jams and jellies. I have raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, and tons of red currants.”

She often freezes fruit in bags that are just big enough for a batch of jam so she can continue making jam in the winter.

This summer, she said, “I made zucchini pickles. I made relish. I tried what they call cowboy caviar; it’s like a relish, with jalapenos but sweet. I made applesauce. I made dilly beans.”

She also freezes her favorite type of broccoli, super sweet corn, rhubarb, and other vegetables. And when tomatoes are plentiful she loves to can tomato juice and a mild salsa.

Nothing is wasted in the Lively kitchen. When she peels apples, Carol saves the peels for her horse, although the horse is now so old that Carol has to cook the peels so that they are soft enough for the creature to consume them. Potato peels are briefly microwaved and then fed to the chickens.

At this time of year Carol is getting ready for an avalanche of holiday baking. Her family is German American on both sides. She makes a lot of holiday cookies and Christmas stollen; the latter is enhanced by her homemade marzipan.

The recipe she shared with me is for Apple Kuchen. The recipe came from her mother and before that from her maternal grandmother.

As readers may know, “kuchen” is the German word for “cake.” Kuchen is actually closer to pie in American terms; it involves fruit laid on top of pastry. As the recipe indicates, it can be made with a variety of fruits. At this time of year, Carol likes to use apples.

The variety she used most recently was Cortland. “It’s a nice soft apple,” she explained. She purchased these apples at Clarkdale Fruit Farms. Normally, she uses her own apples, but this year the crop was small, and the deer ended up consuming most of what grew on her apple trees.

Carol observed that she enjoys making the kuchen because it makes her think of her mother, Anne Besgen of Rowe, and of the German family in which Anne grew up. The family traditionally made the kuchen for pot lucks or when they went to visit friends.

“When you went to dinner on Sundays, or when you went on holidays to visit, (the kuchen) was always on the table,” added Carol. “It’s something you can pick up and eat with your hands.”

Oma’s Kuchen

Apfel, Blaubeeren, Pflaumen

(apple, blueberry or plum)

Ingredients:

for the kuchen:

2 to 2-1/2 cups flour

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

2 tablespoons bacon fat (for best flavor, but shortening may be used)

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 to 3/4 cup milk

1 pinch salt

4 cups peeled and sliced apples, blueberries, or pitted and halved Italian-style plums (or a combination of fruits)

additional sugar for sprinkling over fruit

cinnamon to taste (about a tablespoon)

for the topping:

3/4 cup flour

1/2 cup sugar

6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 11-by-15-inch jelly-roll pan with a 1-inch rim. Combine all the kuchen ingredients (start with 2 cups of flour and ½ cup milk) except the fruit in a medium bowl.

You should have a stiff dough. Add another ¼ cup milk if you need it to make the dough so that you can handle it.

“You sort of pop it onto the cookie sheet,” Carol Lively said of the dough.

“Then you add more flour to make it spreadable if needed.”

Flour your hands (to avoid sticking). Press the mixture into the prepared pan.

Spread the fruit evenly over the top, perhaps in rows, to cover the pan. Sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon to taste.

Combine the topping ingredients in a small bowl. (Carol said that when she was little, “I had the job to squish the topping together with my hands to make a crumbly mixture. You probably could use a pastry cutter … but what fun is that?”)

Sprinkle the topping evenly over the fruit in the pan and bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until the kuchen is lightly browned on the edges.

Cut the kuchen into approximately 3-by-3-inch squares or any size you like.

If you want, Carol noted, you can make this with a combination of fruits, like half blueberry or half apple; then your guests can eat whichever part they like!

Makes about 18 pieces.

Tinky Weisblat is an award-winning author and singer. Her latest book is “Pot Luck: Random Acts of Cooking.” Visit her website, TinkyCooks.com.


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