Sunday, April 29, 2007

Beet wine and better days

By all measures, April has been a really unproductive month. Just took a walk with the husband and all we could say for ourselves was that May is coming. With any luck we're through with the chills, the monsoons, the constant cloud cover shrouding our spring. With any gumption I'll shake the tangles out of my head regardless.

I was born 2 months shy of my mother's 30th birthday, so when I'm really in the mood to give myself what for, I compare whatever it is that I'm failing to accomplish with what her daily duties were like--or in an even more extreme mood, those of my grandmother--when she was my age. I grasp the obvious stuff right away--like the fact that I've never had to potty train a toddler, let alone do so in an outhouse in Minnesota in the winter, or follow it up by warming water on the stove for a succession of baths--but a letter from my friend who's still waiting for her mohair straightjacket this past week really gave me insight into how even in the kitchen, where I'm pretty proficient, I can't begin to match what previous generations of women considered routine. M had been out at the farm visiting her elderly mother-in-law, and came across an old recipe box. In it was a recipe that she thought (in the spirit of this blog) I needed for beet wine (& it is true that I was drowning in beets from our weekly CSA farm shares last summer) that goes like this:
5 lbs. beets
3 lbs. sugar
1 lemon sliced
1 orange sliced
1 lb. raisins
1 yeast cake

Cover beets with water and boil until done. Take out beets and add just enough clear water to make a gallon. Put in jar and add sugar, lemon, orange, raisins and yeast. Let stand 28 days. Stir every day. Strain and let stand 4 or 5 more days to settle. Put in jugs or wine bottles.
The real kicker, though, was the list she turned up on another recipe card of what this woman canned as a young bride in 1940. My friend's note puts it mildly: "It makes me tired just to read the list...and she didn't have electricity & the water was hand pumped." In a later conversation she told me that the carrot pickles had apparently been made from the little skinny ones pulled out when thinning the rows, so that truly nothing was wasted. It's a list I'll keep on my desk and read daily in May, if I have to. Onward!

1940 canned:
Beans 25 Qts.
Carrot pickles 8 pts.
Beet pickles 10 pts. 2Qts.
Peas & Carrots 4 pts.
Bean pickles 1 Qt. 2 pts.
Strawberries 20 Qts.
Cherries 10 Qts.
Apricots 12 Qts.
Sauerkraut 5 Gallons
Mixed veg. 12 pts.
Rhubarb 24 Qts.
Strawberry jam 10 jars


hlp said...

This post is fantastic! I need to print up the canning list and post it in every room in the house, and at the office. Might make a decent tattoo... ;)

Anonymous said...

Don't forget that your mother also had to harvest her produce. Makes one appreciate modern markets, though I envy the idea of 1940's self sufficiency. Thanks for sharing. I found this blog looking for a beet wine recipe.