From the Kitchen: July – the month for canning, county fair, and sweet corn

Editor’s Note: Thanks, Julie Van Manen, for filling in over the summer months in Shelly Rankin’s absence. Look for the Wooden Spoon to return this fall.

Last week, I had a new canning experience. Jacob has always grown beets for Grandma B. to pickle. She likes to give them away as gifts, and we like to eat them. However, Grandma B. had back surgery this summer. In fact, she just came home from Newton Village Saturday morning, but she insisted that we bring the beets to her house so she could teach Emily and I how to can pickled beets. So, Emily met us in town at Grandma B.’s with the beets and other supplies in hand. (Another reason we took this project to Grandma’s kitchen is because at home, the other crew – Kevin, Jacob, Kate, and Kate’s sister Christina – decided it was a great day to butcher chickens.) On a side note – a few weeks ago, we wondered if we would even have any beets as the garden took quite a beating from the hail storm on June 15. Yes, J & E’s Delicious Sweet Corn also received the hail. The first planting was just ready to tassel, so it did not fare very well. However, the next plantings are looking better, and they hope to have sweet corn ready by the time you are reading this article.

Pickling beets is not a difficult task – it just takes time. We completed the whole process in one day. When Grandma does them by herself, she cooks them one day and then pickles them the next day. After we had obtained the needed pints and quarts for the year’s supply, we sliced and froze the rest of the cooked beets in quart bags. Frozen beets can be cooked and served with butter as a side dish. Pickled beets can be served with hot meals or a sandwich. They add some great color to any meal. Pickled Beets can also be a great 4-H project as well. (Follow the recommended processing rules for fairs.)

Speaking of a fair, the other recipe I am sharing won Emily a blue ribbon at the Iowa State Fair during her 4-H career. When I found the recipe in her 4-H Record Book, I had to laugh when I read what she had written under the “Things I learned” section. Her last sentence stated, “Grandma and Grandpa like it when I show up at their house with my Pella Apple Bread for coffee time, too!”


Pickled Beets

Grocery list:

  • Beets
  • Equal parts sugar, water, and white vinegar.


I usually start with 4 cups of each.

The How-To:

  • Cook beets. Leave root and one-inch stem on beets (this prevents the beet from bleeding and loosing color). Place in a large pan; cover with water. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 35-40 minutes or until tender.
  • Drain and rinse with cold water; drain. Cool slightly. Trim off beet roots and stems. If beets are done, the skin should slip right off.
  • If beets are large, halve or cut into quarters.
  • Combine sugar, water, and vinegar in saucepan and bring to boil. Cook until sugar is dissolved.
  • Place cooked beets in pan and cover with vinegar mixture. Heat to almost a boil.
  • Fill sterilized pint or quart canning jars one-half to one inch from rim and cover with sterilized lids and rims. Tighten rims.

Apple bread Grocery list:

  • 1 c. sugar
  • 1/2 c. vegetable shortening or margarine
  • 1/4 tsp. butter flavoring
  • 1/4 c. buttermilk or sour milk
  • 1 tsp. soda
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla flavoring
  • 2 c. flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 c. peeled, finely diced apples
  • 1/2 c. chopped nuts


Topping Grocery list:

  • 2 Tbsp. butter or margarine
  • 1/2 tsp. burnt sugar flavoring
  • 2 Tbsp. sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. flour
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon


The How-To:

  • Mix all ingredients together. Drop by bits on top of batter in pan. Press lightly with fork.
  • Bake at 350 degrees for 45 to 50 minutes or until done. Turn out on cooling rack.
  • Excellent warm or cold. Freezes well.


Here is a fun little story that may bring back some county fair memories! (Some of you are living it this week and others can look forward to future years.)

'Twas the night before fair and all through the house not a person was sleeping – not even the mouse. The unfinished clothes were hung with care, in hopes to be finished in time for the fair.

The children were hustling, making mother see red, while visions of ribbons danced in their heads. As Judy sewed kerchief and Sue knitted cap, Mom and Dad wished for a long winter's nap.

When out on the lawn, there arose such a clatter, those darn steers were out again! That was the matter. Away to the window flew Mom like a flash, pulled open the drapes and threw up the sash. The moon on the breast of the lawn freshly mowed, gave a luster of mid-day to creatures below. Bill ran for the halter, Dad put on his shoes, the girls smelled bread burning -- there go the blues!

More rapid than eagles, the steers, running, came as Dad whistled, shouted, and called them by name. Back to the barn, the steers quickly flew, followed by Dad, Mom, and all of us, too. Bill came in covered with hay from head to his boot, so Mom quickly scolded and told him to "Scoot!" "I'll finish the tags, you finish your sewing, Dad'll help John wash sheep, where is this night going."

The bread is a bit brown, but pre-serves looked quite merry, Sue iced coffee cake, topping it with a cherry. Now blouses have buttons, skirts hemmed at last. The dress looks better with seams pressed flat.

By two in the morning, the sheep clean at last, John sat in the kitchen and took a short rest. Bill said his tool box paint was still very wet, but Mom said, "At this hour -- Too late to fret go take your showers" -- and she tweaked his nose.

With yawns and a stretch, the children arose. Mom cleaned the kitchen while Dad sipped iced tea, glanced at his watch, and said, "You'll agree, we've finally done it -- we've got time to spare, 4-H really is a family affair." With a wink of his eye and a nod of his head, he said, "Let's go to bed, Mother, we've a big day ahead." (Author unknown)


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