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Capturing The Bounty of Summer

As I look at the calendar, I see the summer winding down. Sunset arrives earlier each day. Back-to-school shopping is completed. But Mother Nature is not yet ready to give up her hold on the hazy, hot and humid days of summer; we are sure to get another wave of balmy weather here in the Coal Region of Northeastern Pennsylvania as the first weeks of the new school year come and go.

Gardens. farmers' markets, and roadside stands are over-flowing this time of year with fresh and tasty fruits and vegetables, and some of my favorite foods - peaches, tomatoes and corn - are sweet and plentiful. It is this time of year I dust off the hot water canner, gather my supplies, and get ready to preserve the tastes of summer for enjoyment throughout the cold and snowy days that will be upon us in the not-too-distant future.

This issue's "Featured Recipes" highlight the best summer has to offer including recipes for fresh corn relish and fresh peach fritters, plus Pa. Dutch Chow Chow and more.

"Life's Musings" focuses on a hidden gem in the Coal Region; Knoebel's Amusement Resort in Elysburg, PA. This family run amusement park is still FREE admission and pay-as-you-go or one-price rides. It is a perfect destination for a day trip or extended stay for the entire family. Knoebels holds a very dear place in the hearts of Coal Region kids, especially baby-boomers, like me.

"How Did I Live Without This?" spotlights a great little - and affordable! - kitchen gadget I find myself using over and over again to make perfectly hard-cooked eggs for egg salad, deviled eggs, and my Pa. Dutch Red Beet Eggs and Amish Mustard Eggs.

"In The Spotlight" features links to safe canning and preserving practices to insure your efforts yield great results.

Featured Recipes

As a child, my family visited the Gratz (Pa.) Farmers' Market almost weekly. Although the building held many goodies like the candy stand and smoked meats and cheeses, the stand that often caught my attention was located outside. At the end of the summer as fresh, local, Pennsylvania peaches came into season, I made a beeline to this stand, bypassing the fresh cut fries for these - fresh peach fritters. This recipe reminds me of warm August nights at the market in the middle of Pa. farmland.
Pa. Dutch Peach Fritters

1/2 cup white sugar
2 eggs, well beaten
1/3 cup softened butter
2 cups all purpose flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups chopped peaches (fresh or well-drained canned)

1. Cream the butter and sugar; add the eggs. and beat thoroughly. Stir in the milk, lemon juice and vanilla.
2. Sift the dry ingredients together and fold into the wet mixture until incorporated.
Fold in the peaches.
3. Drop by small spoon fulls into hot oil or shortening (do not make too large; the outside will become overdone before the inside is cooked). Fry until golden brown. Fry a few at a time not crowding pan.
4. Remove when cooked and golden and drain on rack on paper towels. Sprinkle while warm with powdered sugar and serve.
Fresh Corn Relish is a true favorite in my family. First my Dad, now my husband, have been seen eating it right from the jar with a spoon! Yes, the jars in my photo are upside down; l always turn my jars upside down to cool -- my Nana did it and insisted it made them seal better and I always do it, too! The secret to this recipe is to use good, freshly picked corn. I have tried making it with frozen corn and did not like the results - at all!
Fresh Corn Relish

8 to 9 cups fresh corn kernels cut from cob, do not scrape cobs
4 cups chopped cabbage
1 cup chopped sweet red bell pepper
1 cup chopped green bell pepper
1 cup chopped sweet or white onion
1 Tablespoon celery seed
2 teaspoons salt
1 Tablespoon turmeric
2 Tablespoons dry mustard
1 Tablespoon yellow mustard seed
1 cup water
4 cups white distilled vinegar
2 cups white sugar

1. Prepare canning jars (6 or 7 pints)
2. In large pot combine all ingredients and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes.
3. Pack while very hot into jars leaving 1/2 inch head space.
4. Wipe rims, adjust lids, process in hot water canner 10 minutes at less than 1,000 ft. altitude. Add 5 minutes processing for 1.001 to 3,000 feet, add another 5 minutes for 3,001 to 6,000 feet, add another 5 for over 6,000 feet.
5. Remove hot jars, set on a towel lined counter, allow to cool and check seals.

You Might Also Like

Pa. Dutch Chow Chow

Chow chow is quintessential Pa. Dutch; a sweet and sour mix of pickled vegetables often served as a side dish next to other Pa. Dutch classic foods.
Not only delicious, it it near and dear to a “Dutchie”s heart — we let little to nothing go to waste. In this pickled dish, we salvage odd amounts of vegetables left at the end of harvest, hence another name you might have heard it called, “end of season relish.”
Read more
Pa. Dutch Chow Chow

Spiced Tomato Jam

This is the time of year I hold in deep anticipation through the fall, winter, spring, and early summer – the season where red, ripe, just-picked off-the-vine tomatoes show up by the boxes and baskets at farmers’ markets, farm stands, and even in cardboard boxes on upturned milk crates as hastily created “displays” at the end of someone’s driveway who is selling the bountiful crop of tomatoes from their own garden.
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Spiced Tomato Jam

Crisp Pickle Slices

Crisp Pickle Slices
Our family pickle making adventures ended a few years before both my parents passed away, but several years ago, I came across the recipe we had used from an old Pa. Dutch cookbook and the memories of those good times we shared working side-by-side came flooding back. I went to a market one day, brought back a bunch of pickling cucumbers and announced to my unsuspecting husband, “I got a bargain — and we’re making pickles!”
Read more

Nana's Fried Red Tomatoes

Everyone seems to have heard of fried green tomatoes. My Nana (grandmother) periodically made them, most often at the end of tomato season when she salvaged the remaining tomatoes from the plants in our garden.
But I particularly loved fried RED tomatoes. Oh, the joy of the sweet, juicy taste of summer only a tomato fresh from the garden or roadside farm stand treats the taste buds to.
Read more
Nana's Fried Red Tomatoes

Life's Musings

Our Summer Outing at a Hidden Gem In The Anthracite Coal Region

One of my favorite places ever, Knoebels Amusement Resort (aka Knoebels Grove to us baby-boomers) has a very special place in the hearts of many of us from the Coal Region. Only 30 minutes from my childhood home, Knoebels was a regular destination on Sunday afternoons for my family. It was affordable, fun, and never boring for any one from very young children to grandmas and grandpas.

Located in Elysburg, Pa. the amusement park has weathered devastating floods, grown to include the tastes of today's thrill-seekers while still providing excitement for the little ones, and remains FREE to enter. Pay by the ride (or one price options are available) or pay nothing at all to enjoy a day of people watching under the groves of trees that gave Knoebels its original name.

Voted best in amusement park food year after year, Knoebels also allows you to bring in your own food and non-alcoholic beverages and provides plenty of pavilions and picnic table for you to use. Knoebels was always a gem among us Coal Crackers, now it has become a destination for families from all over. Knoebels brings back very fond memories for me and I can close my eyes and be right there with my Mom and Dad in the mid '60's, laughing and believing this was the most magical spot on earth.

My husband never experienced the joys of a family amusement park and I always felt he was missing out on something very special. Having returned to live in Pa. after being away for nearly two decades, the pull of things familiar and near and dear to my heart became overwhelming. I was "home" and wanted to celebrate with the sights, sounds, foods, and places that made me "me".

After having to cancel plans at the last minute several times, my hubby and I finally got the chance to climb into the van and make the trek from Johnstown, Pa. to Knoebels. It was well worth the wait!

Surprisingly, I remembered some rides and attractions with amazing detail and clarity from over 40 years ago, but oh, how the park has grown (and in a good way). In the '60's, the park was based on kiddie rides, the grand carousel, the Crystal Pool, the bandstand, and the roller rink. The roller rink is no more, but now there are several coasters, including the world famous wooden Phoenix. A museum highlighting Anthracite Mining is free to tour, the ever popular sit-down restaurant The Alamo is as popular (and good) as ever, and there is a much wider range of rides to please all ages, yet many of the beloved rides of my youth remain, including the original teacups, whip, and bumper cars.

Most notable is the park is BIG. If planning a visit, arrive early and allow plenty of time to enjoy the great food and rides or plan to stay over and make your trip a multi-day adventure. They even have a very affordable campground right next to the park.

Parking is free, shuttles are available. Most important to me, much of the park is handicap friendly. The park offers courtesy bands for those with needs that might prevent them from waiting in long lines allowing the band wearer and a couple companions to board from the exit side and avoid the lines. There are family friendly (translation = roomy) bathroom facilities scattered all throughout the park AND an adult care center. The paths are paved or packed stone making it easy for strollers, wheelchairs, and mobility scooters to navigate. Rentals of mobility scooters and strollers are available in the park, but in our case, we brought our own.

Our biggest regret was only that we did not realize how much there was to do and see and wished we had more time there. To me, that is the perfect reason for a return trip!

If you get a chance, check out this hidden gem in the Coal Region!

Links of Interest:

WVIA Documentary on Knoebels, its history, and founder.
Knoebels Amusement Resort website
Wikipedia entry on Knoebels Amusement Resort

How Did I Live Without This?

Dash Rapid Egg Cooker

I consider myself an experienced and accomplished cook, but I have always struggled to turn out the perfect hard cooked egg. I have researched different methods but none yielded consistent, satisfactory results. Until I found this little gem!

Cooked in a compact, east-to-store unit using steam with an auto shutoff feature, I can now turn out perfectly cooked eggs for use in my Pa. Dutch Red Beet Eggs and Amish Mustard Eggs time and time again.

In addition, the eggs cooked in this little wonder peel easily and like a dream; something I cherish as my hands lose dexterity from advancing Rheumatoid Arthritis.

You can read the post in full, including how it works, why I love it, and where to purchase this egg cooker (for less than $20!), on my main website.

In The Spotlight

Canned food

Safely Canning At Home

It is exciting to preserve the foods that came from your garden, your favorite recipes, or your farmers' market finds. As long as you do it safely, you might find you will can more foods than you originally intended.

It is important to know how to home can foods in a safe manner. If canning is done improperly, there is a risk of contracting botulism poisoning from the finished product.
Botulism poisoning is a serious disease caused by a germ found in soil. If you can your food improperly, the toxin that causes botulism can grow in your canned food and could make you sick when you eat it – it can even kill you.

There are two main home canning methods: water bath canning and pressure canning. Understanding the components and difference between the two processes will help you choose the method best for the foods you want to preserve.
  • Water Bath Canning: is a lower temperature canning process used for high acid foods. The combination of time and temperature destroys the mold, yeast, and enzymes that cause spoilage while creating a vacuum seal.
  • Pressure canning is the only processing method that reaches the high temperature (240°F) needed to safely preserve low acid foods by destroying food borne bacteria and creating a vacuum seal necessary to prevent spoilage.
In addition, you need to understand the differences between high acid and low acid foods, the types of jars and lids to use, the difference between "raw pack" and "hot pack" when filling jars and processing, general procedures for using the different types of canners, how to test for successful jar seals, storing your canned goods and spoilage.

Penn State Extension offers a wonderfully clear guide for those new to home canning or those wanting to refresh their skills which can be found on their website. You can even download it from there as a .pdf file.

I recommend you choose a quality hot water or pressure canner along with some accessories that will make the job easier and help insure success; a canning funnel to make filling jars easier (one that fits both regular and wide mouth canning jars), a one-handed jar-lifter to help you safely remove processed jars from the hot water, a magnetic lid lifter or lid rack to make it easier to remove lids from the water they are sterilizing in (often combined with a bubble remover to help force air from the jar when filling) and a lid wrench.

Some great products for canning can be found highlighted in my post on Canning Safety on A Coalcracker in The Kitchen's website.

With a basic knowledge of the proceedures related to home canning, you can safely enjoy the taste of summer all year round!

More Canning Resources

National Center For Home Food Preservation
Video on the Basics of Canning

You'll find hundreds of searchable Coal Region comfort food recipes on the main A Coalcracker In The Kitchen website.
Stop by, rate the recipes, and say hello!.
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