8 Apr 2011

Prairie Recipes From The Family Cookbook

Prairie Crack a.k.a. Puffed Wheat Square.
Image Source: Buttercream Barbie
In light of my latest post - where I drooled over culinary memories and ranted like a lunatic over the name of a cupcake store - I figured I would share some of the prairie delights I referenced. Hey, maybe someone will take these recipes and open up the western bakery / eastern donair shop of my dreams here in Toronto.

Lucky for me, I have a family cookbook that was put together by my dad's mom's side of the family, the Stefflers. Yup, I'm (paritally) of proud German decent. The Stefflers were among some of the earliest European families to settle parts of southern Alberta, which gives these recipes all kinds of prairie street cred, yo - that is, if the prairies had streets. We actually just have fields of wheat with paths matted down by buggy wheels.

Hopefully none of my aunts or distant cousins have a problem with me sharing parts of this cookbook. I've always found it odd when people today want to keep their family recipes a secret. I mean, back in the day when women were limited in accomplishing things outside the domestic arena, I could understand why they may have wanted to secure and protect the thing that set them apart from the other ladies on the block - even if it was "just" baking the best chocolate chip cookie. But the social dynamic has changed, making "recipe protecting" less necessary or logical. Most people have more than their baking to be proud of. In fact, most people I know rarely bake - and when they do, the act invokes a squishy little white man to appear on their countertop. I wonder how many cherished family recipes - recipes that the great grandmas of the world protected like maniacal leprechauns hovering over pots of gold - have vanished from collective memory because of lack of use?

Instead, I say give credit where it's due and spread the tastiness!

Here's the inside cover of the cookbook, which my Grandma Price signed when she gave it to me for Christmas. Isn't her handwriting divine? It makes me want to work on my own penmanship, which currently kind of looks like something from the prop table of My Left Foot. It turns out that 1996 was my grandmother's last Christmas, so it's extra special to have this.

Up first are Mom's Jam Buns (the titular mom is my great grandmother Marian Steffler). Both Saskatoon and rhubarb jam are suggested for them (this cookbook features a lot of rhubarb, by the way, which I love). It doesn't say how long to bake it, so presume the oven is at 350 or 375 and take the buns out when the tops are golden:
I don't think there is anything particularly unusual about Plain Pie Crust (hence the name), but it's a good staple recipe to have:

The family recipe book doesn't have a specific entry for Saskatoon Berry Pie - but that's just because the recipe is imprinted in the souls of western folk when we're born. This is the basic recipe that I know, but I welcome you to chime in if you use a different one:

3 1/2 cups Saskatoons
1/2 cup water (use less water if you're using frozen berries)
3/4 cup sugar
3 tbsp cornstarch
2 tsp lemon juice
1 tbsp butter
1/2 tsp almond extract

Cook the berries in water until boiling. Mix the cornstarch and sugar together in a bowl. Add the contents of the bowl to the berries and boil until clear, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Add the lemon juice, butter and almond extract. Cool. Fill your pie crust with the Saskatoon mixture and bake at 425 for 15 minutes.

And here's a recipe for Saskatoon Crisp. It says you can substitute blueberries, but that would be awfully silly of you:

My sister, who is currently living in France (what a bitch, right?), recently emailed me to ask for this recipe for Baked Apple Dumplings. This dish is that good - even people in the mecca of foodie goodness desire these babies:

People sometimes accuse Matrimonial Cake of "just" being a date square. But it's not. Why? BECAUSE I SAID SO. If you add chocolate chips to the top, it becomes a Honeymoon Cake.

This recipe for Peanut Butter Slice is basically the key to getting children to trust and like you. Unless they have a nut allergy. Then you're screwed.

And, finally, one of my favourites - Puffed Wheat Squares. It's moist and chewy and sweet (but not sickly). A bag of puffed wheat cereal (which, no matter where you shop in the country, is always on a bottom shelf of the cereal aisle) is dirt cheap but takes up half your grocery cart. This recipe will use a bunch of it up, so no worries if you have limited pantry room. Plus, there's a good chance that you'll immediately make a second batch after having eaten the first one in single a day:

If you try any of these recipes out, please let me know what you think of them!

Happy weekend, y'all.


Erin,  2:22 pm, April 08, 2011  

I'm going to try the Puffed Wheat Squares this weekend. Thanks!

Unknown 5:10 pm, April 08, 2011  

I agree with you on the recipes! I think it's even worse, though, when someone posts on their blog about how they're making some super-secret family recipe cookies/cake/pie that is SOOOOOOO much better than any other of that kind they've ever had anywhere, but never in a million years are they ever telling anyone that recipe, because their great-grandma swore them to secrecy and they aren't having any kids so they won't be passing it on at all. That's just obnoxious.

I'm encouraged, however, by the fact that many times when someone has shared their grandma's best-ever recipe for something with me, it turns out to be almost identical to MY grandma's best-ever recipe for whatever. My grandma is a cookbook hoarder and has a lot of those locally-published "community cookbook" sorts of things, and through careful questioning I've learned that a lot of her most awesome recipes are cribbed from those. So maybe there aren't so many lost recipes after all.

Foxy Renard 9:16 pm, April 08, 2011  

Oh man, my sister and her husband used to eat a puffed wheat cake (that's what they called it, I think because they ate the whole thing) whenever they found themselves particularly boozed. Hah!

Anonymous,  10:19 pm, April 08, 2011  

One of my favorite things about your blog is clicking the links and going to something surprising and hilarious. This post is no exception.

Di Smith 5:06 pm, April 09, 2011  

Am I total idiot or is that "cane sugar - syrup?" Like... something different than dry cane sugar and actually found near the pancake syrup??? I'm only asking 'cause I TOTALLY want to make those puffed wheat squares and eat... I mean, share the whole pan. Help??!!! Cane sugar or cane sugar syrup? And... am I an idiot?

Anonymous,  9:51 am, April 10, 2011  

Diana - That would be corn syrup.

Di Smith 10:32 pm, April 10, 2011  

Brilliant. And thanks for not calling me an idiot :)

Jennifer 10:46 am, May 05, 2011  

thank you thank you thank you for posting the recipes!!! I can't wait to try them. And an extra thank you from my coworkers who will get to share in the baked goodness joy.

Anonymous,  12:59 pm, January 16, 2012  

Hey Jen. I picked up some chocolate-covered saskatoon berries from Nuthouse at Bloor/Lansdowne yesterday. Remembering your cupcake rant from last year, I thought you might like to stop by for some too: http://www.blogto.com/grocery/nuthouse-toronto

Jen 2:47 pm, January 16, 2012  

Ooooh! Ed Eyes! Thank you!

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Need words? I'm a Toronto-based freelance writer who injects great ones into blogs, websites, magazines, ads and more. So many services, one lovely Jen (with one 'n').

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