Here is a photo of my mother (in the middle), her older brother and the grandmother I never met. She died when she was only 32 years old.
My mother and her brother at the orphanage where they grew up.
My mother wasn't a gourmet cook by any means. She never had a mother to teach her and almost all of the family recipes came from aunts or other relatives. What she knew was how to be a wonderful and gracious hostess to anyone who would visit and visitors were many. She always had something ready to offer guests. She was cheerful, adventurous, outdoorsy and had hobbies and collections that fascinated everyone. One of her hobbies was collecting antique bottles. Here are just that I kept. I love the old milk and beer bottles and I like to use some of them as vases.
I tried to choose a few recipes that brought back the most vivid memories of my mother while growing up with my older sister. The first is her simple cucumber salad. This was often made with fresh cucumbers from her garden.
Since my family was Danish, frikadellers were something that was a recurring item our family table. There are many recipes for frikadellers, some of which include ground beef, veal and pork and some that are pork only. Some are bound with flour and egg, some with bread and egg. My mother usually used ground beef and sometimes pork as they were the easiest to find at the grocery store. They were often served with potatoes and gravy.
I'm sure most of your mothers had a refrigerator cookie recipe. My mother made them with nuts but not just any common nut. They were always baked with either black walnuts or hickory nuts that she had gathered and dried herself. My father would crack them with his vice and then she would carefully pick out the nut meats. Now that black walnuts are readily available at the grocery store, I used them in my cookies. These are the cookies that were almost always on the table when friends and family stopped in to visit.
I was a little worried that I would be overcome with emotion the first time I made them after she passed away but, as I tasted the cookies, I remembered all the good times and conversations we had while eating them :)
Lastly, one of the things that was always on the table for company was Danish Kringle. Growing up in a predominantely Danish city with Danish culture and bakeries, you never had to make kringle at home - you could buy wonderfully flaky pastry kringle in several well-known, authentic Danish bakeries in town. My favorite was and still is pecan kringle but it's made with all sorts of delicious fruit and nut filling varieties. Raspberry is my other favorite.
I hope you enjoyed this tribute to my mother and Happy Mother's Day to all of you mothers, grandmothers and great-grandmothers!
Please visit Barb at Foley's Follies and join in with your Mother's Day memories too! You can also find the link on my sidebar.
Now, for the recipes!
Mother’s Pickled Cucumber Salad
1 cup vinegar
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon celery seed
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups peeled and sliced cucumbers
1 cup peeled and thinly sliced red onion
Mix first three ingredients and stir until dissolved.
Place cucumbers and onion slices in a large enough bowl to fit them plus the liquids. Add liquid mixture, celery seed and salt and stir to combine.
Keeps in the refrigerator for 2-3 months.
Frikadellers - My Mother's Way
• 1 pound lean ground beef or a mixture of ground beef and ground pork
• 1 medium onion, chopped
• 1 egg, lightly beaten
• 1 slice hearty white bread, cut into small cubes - about 1 cup total (day old is great)
• 1/3 cup milk
• Salt and Pepper to taste
Soak bread cubes in milk for 5 minutes. Add soaked bread cubes with milk, egg, onion, salt and pepper to meat and mix just until blended (don't overmix).
Refrigerate for about 30 minutes to make handling easier. Form into small patties with your hands - using about 1/8 cup or more of mixture - you decide. Flatten slightly.
In large, heavy skillet (seasoned cast iron is preferred), over medium heat (with a tiny bit of oil or butter, if needed) brown patties well on both sides, about 3-5 minutes per side. Continue to cook until no longer pink in the middle - about 20 minutes.
You can make a gravy with the pan drippings and serve with boiled potatoes.
My Mother's Refrigerator Nut Cookies
1 cup sugar
1 cup margarine
1-1/2 tsp vanilla
3-1/2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
½ tsp baking soda
½ cup finely chopped black walnuts or hickory nuts
Cream sugar, butter, eggs and vanilla. Stir in flour, salt, baking soda and nuts. Divide dough into three parts. Shape each part into a roll 1-1/2 inches in diameter and about 7 inches long. Wrap in waxed paper or plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 4 hours.
Heat oven to 400F. Cut dough into 1/4-inch slices and place 1 inch apart on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake until light brown, 8 to 10 minutes.
Immediately remove from baking sheet.