By: Judy Watkins
My grandmother’s cooking has always provided me with fond memories. Her parents were Germans that emigrated to the U.S. in 1894 from south Russia. From my earliest childhood I remember Grandma in her garden growing vegetables for the family. On Sunday she would kill one of the chickens she raised for dinner. She baked the bread for the family and we could always depend on a pan of cinnamon rolls on baking days. The smells coming from Grandma’s kitchen were heavenly.
Grandma’s parents came from Russia to New York on a ship then took a train to North Dakota. They had three children when they came but had no possessions and no money. They lived in abandoned houses until they could build one of their own.
Their first house was built of sod and the walls were whitewashed to make the room light. Grandma’s father was a tone mason and eventually he built a house, barn and granary of stone. The stones could be gathered without cost while wood would have to be purchased.
Grandma went to school until she was fifteen. They lived near the one-room schoolhouse and the children and teacher came home for dinner each day. Their family boarded the teacher so there was always company in the house. German was spoken at home and the children were taught to speak and to write English when they went to school. Grandma remembered that it was very difficult to learn.
Her parents had a 160 acre homestead and horses were used for farm work. Grandma helped in the fields. She drove a four-horse team, plowed and drove the grain to the elevators.
As a girl she remembered food being stored in the cellar to preserve it. Meat was butchered in the summer and hung in the well to keep it cool. A large garden fed the family and although she didn’t recall canning foods, she remembered making sauerkraut and pickled watermelon rinds.
Grandma was married in 1917 in the stone church that her father helped to build.
Recently as I was thinking of Grandma’s cooking I remembered the wonderful bread she made. After all these years I thought I remembered that she put potatoes in it. Could that be right? In a 1936 cookbook I found this recipe that looks as though it could be the right on. I tried it and made cinnamon rolls with caramel topping with half the dough. Oh how wonderful they were and it was a labor of love to make them and remember the days when I was a child at Grandma’s house.
Buttermilk Potato Rolls (Makes about 46 clover-leaf rolls)
This dough is delicious. It may be prepared and baked as directed or it may be combined, covered and placed in the refrigerator for 5 or 6 days.
Peel and boil 1 large potato; rice it while hot – about ¾ cups (Grandma squeezed the potatoes through a cloth bag.)
Cut into the potato ½ cup lard (yep, lard…I used oleo)
Beat into mixture 1 yeast cake (I used package of yeast)
2 T. sugar
2 cups buttermilk (not cold)
Add 2 well beaten eggs
7 ½ cups sifted bread flour
Knead and allow to rise, about three hours (new yeasts don’t take that long)
Make into clover-leaf rolls with buttered hands. Spread the tops with 1 egg, well beaten. Permit to rise again until doubled in bulk. Bake at 425 degrees.
Try it. You will love it.