Saturday, May 9, 2009

Three Recipes from My Mother

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.

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 pan gravy from the frikadellars. They were an inexpensive and filling way to feed her family.  My family grew up enjoying them as well. 

My mother loved making refrigerator cookies. They were always baked with either black walnuts or hickory nuts that she had gathered and dried herself. My father would crack them with a vice and then she would  pick out the nut meat. 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, another treat that was always on the table when company dropped in was Danish Kringle. Growing up in a predominantly 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 another favorite.

I hope you enjoyed this tribute to my mother and Happy Mother's Day to all mothers, grandmothers and great-grandmothers!

Mother’s Pickled Cucumber Salad
Printable Recipe

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
Printable Recipe

• 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
Printable Recipe

1 cup sugar
1 cup margarine
2 eggs
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.


  1. Susan, what a beautiful thoughtful post ... So bittersweet and sweet. What a background your mother had .... It sounds like your mother and uncle definitely had strength in character.

    There are several similarities in our mother's cooking. Cucumber salad was a summer regular in our house. And refrigerator cookies were a favorite ... more often than not made with black walnuts but sometimes pecans.

    Susan, I remember when you posted the frikadellers, That was the first I'd heard of them....

    What a lovely remembrance of your mother.

    Happy Mother's Day to you, Susan.

  2. Susan – I loved your post, it has been so interesting learning about everyone’s heritage. My BIL’s father came to the Midwest on one of the Orphan Trains from New York in the mid 20’s, I had never heard of them until he talked about it. I would think growing up in an orphanage made her very strong; it was so nice she had her brother with her! The collection of bottles was great to look at, the dark small one I wondered if it wasn’t a medicinal bottle.
    The cucumber slices and refrigerator cookies are very familiar to me also… and the differences between Danish Kringle and Norwegian Kringla that I make at Christmas!
    Just a beautiful post, can’t help but shed a tear or two but then the smiles always take over!
    HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY to you !

  3. I was all set to do a Mother's Day post..and I have company now coming for dinner and my family in the day tomorrow so it may have to wait till afternoon.
    I adore this post..The photos..the memories.. the food..the feeling.
    I read an article in the Mtl Gazette the day before yesterday..Mike Boone..lost his mom last yr.. a gentleman in his late 50's early sixties..I presume..
    His first MD w/ out his mom.
    I cried..
    Of course.. you know me..

    Thank you Susan.. never met your mom of course.. heard a lot about her through you over the years.
    What a lovely daughter you are..
    I bet your mom..and my mom..and a few other moms..are up there chatting about our blogging:)
    Yours must be beaming right now..And rightly so~
    Happy Mother's Day Nana 2B.

  4. Susan, I love the picture of your grandmother with your mom and her brother. What a wonderful post with the memories and recipes. My mom makes a Sweedish kingle, even though we aren't Sweedish :-)

    One thing I do know about your Mother is that she has a special daughter. Happy Mother's Day Susan!

  5. That is so nice that you have a photo of your Mom as a baby and your Uncle as a little boy and your Grandmother. It was a touching story. Well for someone who never had anyone teach her to cook your Mom has some good recipes and thank you for sharing them. Happy Mother's day to you.

  6. Excellent post, Susan, I know exactly that feeling of the cookies! What a terrific tribute to your mom :)

    You're mom taught you well, as we know just how special a mother you are, too! Great post!

    Happy Mother's Day! and soon to be Grandmother's Day!

  7. I am loving our Mother's Day posts. Yours was so touching! Your mother led quite the life. Things were so different back then and people so resilient. I know an orphanage could be a dreary place but sometimes I think the togetherness with the other kids might be better than moving from foster home to foster home. I love the recipes you shared..homey things that remind you of her. I would love to try her cookies. Everything is better with nuts! My grandmother spent hours and hours and hours cracking, picking and cleaning pecans. I can see her in my minds eyes sitting at her kitchen table doing just that. Wonderful post Susan! Thanks for sharing your Mom's story with us.

  8. Susan, your post is heartwarming. I remember you mentioned once that your Mother grew up in an orphanage. I do believe it made your Mother and Uncle people of strong character. My Mom made cucumbers just like that. Yes, I remember your frickadellers! I love black walnuts, so those cookies are right up my alley. Lovely tribute, Susan!

  9. That's so interesting Cynthia that your mother made them with black walnuts too!

    Barb, I had never heard of the Orphan Train either! Amazing what that generation went through and survived. I looked at the little brown bottle and the imprint in the glass says 'Brownatone - Kenton Pharm Co - Covington, Ky" I Googled it and I think it was hair dye! Here's a link

    I love your image of our mother's up there chatting about our blogging, Monique :) What a sweet thought!

    Thank you, Debbie, Joyce, Carol and Jayne :)

    Suzy, of course your mother used pecans, you southern gal! The image of them sitting at the table pulling the nuts out of the shell is embedded in my mind :)

  10. I enjoyed reading your post about your mother and her brother and a wonderful tribute to her! Thanks for popping in to see Stella and me!
    Be a sweetie and Happy Mother's Day to you!
    Shelia ;)

  11. Beautiful memories...
    Happy Mother's Day~
    All Things Heart and Home

  12. Susan, what a beautiful tribute to your mother. She sounds like an amazing woman and she has raised you to become an amazing one as well. As much as we communicate I never knew the story of your mother's childhood...she and her brother must have had an amazing bond because of it.

    Great recipes too...those cookies look like ones my grandparents had.

  13. Thank you so much for coming by my blog and leaving your kind comment. How interesting that your mother and uncle grew up in an orphanage, and I really liked that picture of the two of them. I think you're right-it did make them stronger people. They probably were not pampered, but how amazing that she went on to become a wonderful mother when she probably was not exposed to mothering skills. Her recipes look delicious. Thank you for sharing them. laurie

  14. I found your blog through tastespotting, and I'm so glad I did - this post is so lovely and moving. I love that recipes and food are such strong ways of connecting with the memories of people we love. My grandfather grew up in an orphanage, and I'm certain it contributed to his strength of character.

  15. Susan, what a wonderful tribute to your dear mom. I remember you saying she grew up in an orphanage...and what a credit to them to become such strong people.
    I know you are like her ..always such a gracious hostess, and selecting such wonderful dishes.
    The bottles, how sweet!
    Thank you for sharing these memories with us, and delicious recipes too. I want to try the fricka whatevers! They sound delicious!

  16. Susan, I love this post! I find it interesting that your mother and uncle grew up in an did an excellent tribute to your mother and grandmother!
    I am sooooo glad to get that cucumber salad recipe, I loooove it! and I am going to make it!

  17. Thank you for sharing your family stories and recipes with us, Susan. So many of my most precious family memories revolve around the dinner table and dishes that my grandmother and mom prepared. The cucumbers salad is a favorite. And I can remember the bowl my Grandma Alice served it in. Very special.

  18. What a lovely story. Thank you for sharing.

  19. Very nice pictures!

    a wonderful tribute to your mother...

    do you kwon that in the north of France we have a saussage called "fricadelle"...

  20. I've been away recently but wanted to thank you all for your wonderful comments! Thank you all!

    Karyne, I would love to know more about those sausage! I will do a Google search ;)

  21. The fricadelle is a saussage served fried with chips. There is a joke saying "it's nice...what's it make of?" and people answer "we know what's make of but we don't say it"...
    It is supposed to be chicken and pork meat

    use a translater because it is in French


I appreciate your comment!