Monday, 24 September 2012

Brownies for Bubbie Lou's 94th Birthday



Now that the school year is upon us (yes, I still measure my life according to the school year!) I am settling back into a routine and slipping into a state of organized bliss.

I spent a glorious 2 hours yesterday (Saturday) morning going through my long list of emails, loading extra-curricular and school events into my online organizer (you really should check it out - it's amazing and can be utilized by the whole family, via computer or smart phone)....aaaah.

But first, I pulled out Mom's Cookbook and had an epiphany.  I am just like my matriarchs before me...baking was a source of relaxation/pleasure not only for Mom, but for her mom, Bubbie Lou.  There are tons of baking and dessert recipes written by my Bubbie that are beckoning...just waiting for me to resurrect them from their long slumber.  

And so, yesterday (still Saturday, although this post won't be published until Monday September 24th, in honour of, and on, Bubbie Lou's actual birthday) I decided to try my hand at her homemade brownies, with hot fudge topping...mmm mmm good!

I have tried making brownies before, but never with success.  This recipe was unbelievably simple and easy, and turned out perfectly.  I made it with nuts, so it won't go to school, but it is a great after school or evening snack and was a hit with the family - even with me and Sara, and we are not chocolate fans!  And the topping...what can I say?  It was another simple recipe, but it was really delish!

And so, from my family to yours, I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we did.  I wish you a wonderful day filled with family, fun, friends and fantastic food.  B'Tayavon, Buon Appetito, and Happy 94th Birthday Bubbie Lou!

Bubbie's Brownies

Ingredients:


  • 1 C sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 squares of chocolate
  • ½ C butter
  • ½ C flour
  • ½ C chopped nuts

Method:Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Beat eggs and sugar.  Melt butter and chocolate, adding to egg and sugar mixture. Add flour and nuts.  Pour batter into 8 x 8 pan (greased or parchment-lined) and bake for 40 minutes, or until edges come away from side of pan.  Top with Hot Fudge Icing (recipe below), cool, slice and serve.

Hot Fudge Icing 

Ingredients:


  • 2 squares of chocolate
  • 1 C icing sugar
  • 1 egg (beaten)
  • 2 tbsp melted butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 C mini marshmallows
Method:
Melt chocolate squares in double boiler.  Add remaining ingredients to melted chocolate, stirring constantly. Pour the hot mixture over the brownies (top with more chopped nuts) and allow to set.  

Friday, 21 September 2012

I'll Love You Forever, I'll Like You For Always...I will remember...


If you had told me 10 years ago that I would be blogging about my mother, who fell prey to Alzheimer's Disease at the age of 59, I would never have believed you. 

I thought it might happen one day, but not so soon.  I don't think anyone expects it to happen to them - this is a disease that touches someone else, someone elderly...

Today, as I write this short note, I remember the amazing life my mother gave me, my father, my brother and my kids and Carlo.  I remember the love, the nurturing, the smiles and the laughter.  I remember the lessons she taught, the traditions she passed down, the obstacles she overcame, the home (and meals) she lovingly made for her family...and I smile. 

Thank you all for sharing this journey with me...MMT readership makes me feel a little less alone on this long and difficult road...knowing that her memory lives on, even if it is lost to her, takes the edge off the searing pain of losing her spirit far too soon.

For everyone out there who has been affected by, is/was living with Alzheimer's...let us remember together, and remain vigilant in our efforts to fight this disease. 

(Sorta) in the words of Robert Munsch:

 Joychee - I love you forever, I like you for always, as long as I am living, your baby I'll be


Sunday, 16 September 2012

Rosh Hashana 5773: Dill Pickles...a story unfinished

Shana Tova: hoto source - http://httpforward.com/
articles/144288/ubiquitous-holiday-greeting-irks-some/


So here I am, in the wee hours of the morning, perusing the cookbooks and floating down memory lane.

I am looking for another, new matriarch recipe to add to our Rosh Hashana meal and introduce to the family tomorrow night.

The kids are asleep - Becca with a fever and cold (just in time for Rosh Hashana) - and just I discovered yet another dill pickle recipe in Mom's cookbook!  So I pulled it out, and with it came a slew of papers, little slips of paper some with writing and notes, others were store receipts with notes on them.  They are a record of Mom's pickling years - she tracked everything!  The quantities of everything she bought (cukes, tomatoes, dill, spices & salt, vinegar, garlic, lids), the cost and the yield.   There are even dates!!

One of two sets of Mom's pickling records

The Yomim Tovim (Jewish holidays) are especially difficult for me (as I am sure they are for Davie and Dad too).  It was a time that I spent with my mother - whether I wanted to or not! - reviewing menus and deliberating quantities, helping set tables, preparing the occasional dish, and mostly just spend time with my mom.  I loved the smells of her kitchen during the holidays, and that is probably what drives me to cook for hours on end, until my arthritic feet ache so badly I can barely stand...knowing that my children are experiencing the same haymishe (friendly) household that I did.  Really - there is no greater satisfaction for me than when they all come into the kitchen excitedly sniffing the air, guessing at what I am preparing.

Every Rosh Hashana, Chanuka and Passover I find myself reaching for the phone to call my mother and review my menu.  To update her on my progress, and boast of yet another dish I've completed for the festive meal.  But those days are gone, and the best I can hope for is that she is sufficiently alert to perhaps hear and process what I am saying when I visit...then I may see a smile and a twinkle in her eye.

And so, it is a sweet surprise for me to discover these notes, telling me so much in what appears to be nothing.

  • That my memory is clear, she DID make tons of jars every year - 262 quarts in 1976(!), but on average she made 75 quarts a year. 
  • That she always made them in the middle of August - except for the year Carlo and I married (1995), when she waited until late September.  
  • That she was a more diligent record keeper than I realized, albeit on the fly and on scraps of paper (THAT I knew!).  
  • That the last time she made them was August 11th, 1996 - 16 years ago...


In my mind, and my heart, I believe that this was a message I was meant to receive today, on the eve of Rosh Hashana 5773 (2012).  I think my matriarchs are up there, watching over Mom, me and my girls, and they knew I needed some answers and inspiration.  The whole time I was making the pickles (2 weeks ago tomorrow) I was kicking my younger self for not having the foresight to realize that everything my mother told me was valuable, that I needed to listen carefully so I would have the information for the future, when I no longer had her to turn to.  And now I have some more information to go by - what quantities I really need to buy and when I should be making my pickles.  And I have another little piece of my mother to keep close and treasure.
The second set of records...{{sigh}}

Most of all, these little discoveries push me forward, to write more, blog more and share the stories and recipes with my kids...so one day, when I am no longer able to guide them, and remember, they will still have the treasured memories and flavours of my childhood and theirs.  Y


So,from my family to yours, I wish all those celebrating a happy, healthy and peaceful New Year, may 5773 be the best one yet for all of us.

Whatever you're cooking, may your Sunday be filled with family, fun, friends and fantastic food.  B'Tayavon & Buon Appetito and Shana Tova u Metuka!




Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Dill Pickles, Kensington Market and a multitude of matriarchs

My first batch of dill pickles

I grew up in a beautiful old house in a lovely neighbourhood in Toronto.  My bedroom had vaulted ceilings and lots of windows that faced our front yard.  Mom helped me choose my wallpaper - a lovely soft rose pink colour with ivory cameo designs.

One feature of our century home was that the basement was more like a cellar.  The ceilings were low (maybe 6½ feet high).  It was mostly used for laundry and storage, but I took over the room at the bottom of the stairs and transformed it into my classroom.  I had chalk boards, and a makeshift teacher's desk, and would spend countless hours down there teaching my imaginary students.

The only other time I went down there other than to "teach" was to help Mom make pickles.  Oh what an adventure it was each year...

Mom would pile us in her station wagon and off we'd go to Kensington Market to see Sam at the Augusta Fruit Market.  Sam was an older man who both my Baba Dora and mother went to for all their "produce preserving production" needs.  He would have a couple of boys load bushel upon bushel of "cukes" (small cucumbers) into Mom's car, along with tons of garlic and fresh dill, and off we'd go.

I don't remember how everything made it to the basement laundry room, but I do remember my job once it was all in place...scrubbing endless sink-loads of cucumbers.  I stood there for what felt like hours - and probably was - scrubbing every last hint of dirt from them...do you think that it what made me the clean freak I am today?!

I can remember Mom peeling garlic as the rinsed dill lay out to dry on the makeshift  counter tops (towels on the top of the washing machine and dryer).

I can see Mom dropping the garlic cloves & dill into each mason jar, then stuffing the cucumbers into them, contorting her hands to squeeze as many as she could into each jar, then pouring the brine over top and sealing the jars...

Oh how I wish we had photos of this assembly line operation - it was something to see, and to experience!

We would make tons and tons of jars...they lined the walls of our basement storage room, and everyone loved them.  We would anxiously wait for the pickles to be ready...it took weeks, and then, voila - pickles for everyone!

When Mom got sick it dawned on me, for the first time, that all the delicacies I grew up eating and enjoying would never pass to the next generation.  There was no way I could recreate these dishes from scratch, without any clues as to the ingredients, measurements, etc.

When I started going through My Golden Treasures I stumbled upon these 2 recipes...Auntie Adele's Cold Pack Dill Pickles and Louise's Boiled Brine Dill Pickles.  I can remember Mom boiling the brine, so I know she made her mother's recipe. I cannot explain to you what a thrill it was for me to discover that all was not lost.  I can keep the recipes going, and document them for my kids, brother, niece and cousins...so the recipes will not stop with the generation before...they can continue.

Bubbie Lou's original recipe card


And I have decided that it is high time I take my rightful place in the line of matriarchs and take on the Mount Everest of Mama's recipes: Bubbie Lou's Dills.  I find this intimidating and exciting at the same time.  My memories of pickle-making are those of a little girl...we hurdled mountains to make these things - or so it seemed from a young girl's eyes.  More than intimidated, I am on shpilkis (defined by the Urban Dictionary as 'bounc(ing) off the walls', nervous energy without purpose. In English - to be 'on pins and needles'.) because I am the third (maybe fourth if it originated with Bubbie Gertie) generation to make this recipe...I am keeping it going...

I think I might have backed out of the whole pickle-making adventure, except that I came home to find that my husband picked up a box of jars and a basket of mini cucumbers for me to start my project.  And so began my pickling adventure.  There was just one small problem - we were already committed to making 3 cases of tomatoes into sauce with my in laws over the long weekend.  So I put off my pickle project to the Labour Day Monday.  

When Monday came around I washed the mason jars, soaked and scrubbed the mini cucumbers, rinsed the dill, boiled the brine, and starting peeling garlic.  It all came back to me - the smells of the dill and the bubbling brine, even Mom's trick for easily peeling the garlic.  

All the years since I had last made pickles had slipped away, in my mind I went back in time...I was with my mother again, learning at her side, pickling under her watchful eye.  And so it was that I was overcome by a strange combination of comfort and loss.  I contorted my fingers and managed to squeeze all the cucumbers into the jars.  When I ran out of cukes, I managed to find a fantastic farm just minutes away that carries the most amazing produce and picked up 2 more baskets so I could finish off the job.  

All in all, it was not nearly as daunting an undertaking as I thought it would be, and even though I started small, making just 11 jars of cucumbers and 1 jar of green cherry tomatoes, I am left with a satisfying sense of accomplishment.  Next year I am planning on pickling a bushel!

So from my family to yours, here is a pictorial step-by-step of Bubbie Lou's dills pickles.  I hope you enjoy them as much as we did.


Soak and scrub the cucumbers

Rinse and drain the dill

Pour 16 cups of water in large stock pot

Add 2 cups of PICKLING vinegar

Add 7/8 cup of coarse PICKLING salt

Add 2 tsp of mixed pickling spices

Bring combination of all ingredients to a boil,
boiling gently for 5 minutes and then let cool

Peel garlic cloves (2 cloves to each jar)

We're ready to start packing and pickling!

Brine is cooled and ready to pour

Place 1 clove of garlic and a few
sprigs of dill in the bottom of each jar

Pack each jar with cucumbers (or green tomatoes)

Pour brine over packed pickles until
brine reaches top of each jar, seal tightly,
store for 2 weeks, then fill jars with brine
to overflow and reseal...they're ready!  



Louise's Dill Pickles (Boiled Brine)

Brine Ingredients:
16 C tap water
2 C Heinz pickling vinegar
1 small C pickling salt (ie ¾  to ⅞ in the measuring cup)
2 tsp whole mixed spices

General Ingredients:
dill weed
garlic cloves, whole and peeled
small cucumbers, scrubbed

Method:
Boil the brine ingredients for 5 minutes or so, and cool.  In washed jar place dill..garlic..pickles..dill, garlic..(I am assuming it is layered throughout the jar), then pour brine to overflow (ie right to the top of the jar (I will be doing this in the sink!).  Seal tight - set on table or boards with papers.

In 10 days to 2 weeks, unseal and add brine to overflowing.  Wipe jars and place on shelf.