Country Kitchen: The Art of Bread & Yeast Making

Country Kitchen: The Art of Bread & Yeast Making
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As I browse through newspaper columns written by my grandfather more than 60 years ago, I discover that raising food on their farm and preparing tasty meals occupied much of the farmer and his wife's time. Papa Coon, as we children called him, was a farmer who also enjoyed writing poetry, music, newspaper columns and essays.
His writings for weekly newspapers have become a source of family and local history, bringing back memories of the days we visited their farm. A scrapbook of his columns, encompassing the years of 1941 and 1942, was given to me for safekeeping and enjoyment.

His sense of humor, his keen observations of life, his philosophy for living, his religious beliefs, and the day to day activities on the Coon Farm as well as his neighbors' give interesting insight of life of those times.

Homemade Yeast

As I read Papa Coon's description of yeast making, I remembered helping my aunt do this. (She lived with them and cared for my grandmother after Papa Coon's death in 1942.)

Although my grandfather praised the bread his wife made, I recall the bread making of my aunt and the delicious aromas coming from her kitchen when we visited. In fact, she taught me to make my first loaf of bread.

According to Papa Coon, "My wife is an old-fashioned woman and she makes homemade yeast. Most everybody that comes here thinks her bread is better than baker's bread." He explains that one of her secrets was using homemade yeast.

"Did you ever see old-fashioned "turnpikes?" he asked. These were yeast cakes made of homemade yeast and cornmeal.

Papa Coon relates when he was a youngster he helped his mother make dozens of turnpikes.

"They were rolled out to a certain thickness, like pie crust, only thicker and then cut out with a cookie cutter," he explained. " That was my job. Then they were laid out on a table to dry and covered with mosquito netting to keep the flies off."

Shortcuts to Breadmaking

Papa Coon might be aghast at the shortcuts we take with breadmaking these days. What would he think of a breadmaking machine?

However, even though he sometimes was skeptical of modern improvements, he also was far sighted. When he could see an advantage, he become enthusiastic.

DROP BISCUITS - My mother often made these as an addition to our meals. They were quick and easy, but tasty, too. Her mother made them, too, when she didn't have time to stir up a batch of bread.

Combine 2 cups sifted flour with 3 tablespoons baking powder, ½ teaspoon salt. Cut in 3 tablespoons shortening. Stir in 1 cup milk and mix.

Drop by teaspoonfuls onto greased cookie sheet. Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes, until browned. I sometimes use a baking pan instead of cookie sheet.

These are tasty when spread with butter to accompany a meal. Or use them as biscuit base for creamed chicken. They also can be buttered, sprinkled with cinnamon sugar or spread with jelly as a dessert. They're good as a snack served with tea.

Article (C) 2005 Mary Emma Allen

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About The Author

Mary Emma Allen researches and writes from her multi-generational NH home. Check out her new site, Tea Time Notes

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