In the Kitchen Pepper Rings

Close Up of hand slicing peppers
Slicing Peppers

A Cornucopia

During their years in Pepin, Wisconsin the Ingalls family had more and a bigger variety of food then they would until they became established in De Smet, South Dakota. Being settled they were able to have a larger variety of livestock and a garden. Living in the border area between woods, prairie, and lake, there was a much larger group of things they knew about to harvest from the wild. Many of which are described in Little House in the Big Woods including honey, molasses, fish, bear, deer, and forage for their pigs, etc.

Hand pointing to tab
These tabs go in holes to hold the window up.

The variety of food stuffs followed various methods of preservation. Laura describes the attic of the little house full of food preserved for the winter. One of the things she describes are dried peppers. There are different ways to dry them, but here is a beautiful thing you can dry like Laura.

Woman in Apron Threading Pepper
Sarah threading pepper slices on the string to hang between windows.

A Pepper String

In old houses windows often had a peg on each side in the frame of the window. These pegs were used to press in to keep the window raised. Another use was an excellent way to dry pepper rings. Not only is this method useful, multicolored pepper rings drying in your window are lovely and give the sense that you are actively using your kitchen. Let’s walk through how you do this in both an old-fashioned kitchen and in your kitchen.

What You Need:

Washed Peppers, you’ll need several if you want the string to appear full

Cutting Board

Sharp Knife

String

Suction Cups (if you don’t have old windows)

What You Need To Do

Step 1: Grow or buy bell peppers of various colors. – It doesn’t matter to the rings whether you buy them at a store or farmer’s market or grow them yourself.

Step 2: Wash and dry the papers and lay them on their side on a cutting board. With a sharp knife cut the peppers into rings, leaving the circle of the rings intact. The width of the pepper rings can vary, but the thinner you make them the easier it is to accidentally cut a ring in two. Somewhere between a quarter and a half inch wide.

Step 3: Tie one end of the string to a peg.

Step 4: String the rings along the string. Leave space between the rings according to how you think look best.

Step 5: Tie the other end of the string around the opposite peg pulling the string tight.

Pepper Rings in Window
Pepper Rings in Window

If You Have New Windows

If your window doesn’t have pegs, use two suction cups instead. Stick the suction cups on opposite sides of the window, one on the far right side and one on the far left side of the window. Follow the rest of the directions as is except substitute tying to the suction cups for the pegs.

Close Up Dried Peppers on a String
Suction Cups for Pepper Ring String

How Do You Use Them?

Dried Peppers will last for a long time. If you get them completely dry they can last almost forever. It can be used in various recipes, normally they have to be rehydrated first. A benefit of using them is often recipes may call for a smaller amount than a whole pepper and this allows you to easily use part of the pepper without wasting or scrambling to use the rest.

Sarah S. Uthoff is a nationally known Laura Ingalls Wilder authority and has presented at five of the Wilder homesites, many times at the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum, many conferences and numerous libraries, museums, and events around the Midwest. She is the main force behind Trundlebed Tales fighting to bring the History, Mystery, Magic, and Imagination of Laura Ingalls Wilder and other greats of children’s literature and history to life for a new generation. How can you help? Attend one of her programs, schedule one yourself, watch her videos, listen to her podcast, look at her photos, and find her on Facebook , Twitter , Google+LinkedIn , SlideShare, and Academia.edu . Professionally she is a reference librarian at Kirkwood Community College and former director of the Oxford (Iowa) Public Library.

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In the Kitchen With Laura Supper vs Dinner

A late 19th century kitchen table
Kitchen Table Greenmead Historic Village MI

A Meal By Any Other Name…

If you follow me on social media you know that I just love passing on interesting articles. One recently caught my eye was about what you call the evening meal. Now if you’ve followed along with me, you’ll know that I’m concerned with words having meaning and the loss of that meaning on our culture.

Or Supper Is the Evening Meal To Begin With…

Although there are other non-related meal words out there (like breakfast and brunch), there are 3 thorny words that fight for dominance over just two meals: Lunch, Dinner, Supper.

Let’s start with Dinner since that’s the biggest meal and also the start of the confusion. The term Dinner doesn’t really mean a meal at any certain time of the day. It just means your biggest meal of the day.

So picture it — a traditional farming family back in the days when you worked on the land most of the time. The big meal is at noon. (See dinner bell to call everyone in.) That’s when everyone is together. It fuels people through the rest of the day and means that no one has to go to bed on a full stomach.

Supper was then the evening meal – supper is ALWAYS the evening meal and can’t be correctly used at a different time of day. Supper was usually a lighter affair. Just a light meal to end the day. The term supper clubs – where people went for a meal on the town – was also meant to imply a light, evening meal which would be accompanied by dancing, etc. and that is still the term used today.

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The Great School Lunch Power Grab

Now I can’t say I have any numbers on this from my school lunch survey . (I tried, but you try to construct a question that asks did you start calling dinner lunch when you went to school without prejudicing the response or confusing people.) But I really think school has has much to do with this name change as anything. It didn’t take long for a dinner pail to become a lunch box with a much smaller meal than dinner. Once you’re used to calling the noon meal lunch at school (which was common school use), you’re not going to differentiate between the noon meal being called different things depending on whether you are at school or not. Also, in urban areas and office jobs, lunch became a light meal. You just “grab lunch.”

So if you now have your big meal of the day in the evening and the big meal of the day = Dinner, you start to refer to the big meal in the evening as Dinner.

Where Lunch  and Dinner Wins

So in this game of musical meal names, Lunch has grabbed the power position of the noon meal, Dinner has – in many cases – elbowed Supper out, and Supper is often let standing when the music stops. People today usually equate Dinner and Supper whether their last meal of the day is their biggest or not. Some people, me included, deliberately say Supper as the evening meal just to be clearer when I mean, but I think Dinner is going to win.

UPDATED May 27 2018: I got a great tweet in response that I’m including as an update.

Sarah S. Uthoff is a nationally known Laura Ingalls Wilder authority and has presented at five of the Wilder homesites, many times at the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum, many conferences and numerous libraries, museums, and events around the Midwest. She is the main force behind Trundlebed Tales fighting to bring the History, Mystery, Magic, and Imagination of Laura Ingalls Wilder and other greats of children’s literature and history to life for a new generation. How can you help? Attend one of her programs, schedule one yourself, watch her videos, listen to her podcast, look at her photos, and find her on Facebook , Twitter , Google+LinkedIn , SlideShare, and Academia.edu . Professionally she is a reference librarian at Kirkwood Community College and former director of the Oxford (Iowa) Public Library.

In the Kitchen With Laura Kerosene Lamps

Beyond Candles

Although making candles is one of the major pioneer crafts that is demonstrated at museums or pioneer events today, as soon as they could people moved on to lamps that were fueled with whale oil, coal oil, and later with kerosene. People did definitely make candles, but mostly in the earlier years of American history, at lower economic levels, or in very isolated frontier areas without a settlement nearby. Lamps were easier to clean than candles, easier to keep functioning, and allowed a cleaner, sharper light. One of the many products once created by whaling was oil for lamps. The entire country ran on whale, but by the mid-19th century that was quickly shifting as the beginning of petroleum products stepped in to many of these uses – at least those that weren’t directly related to food.

Kerosene is Introduced

Robert Edwin Dietz patented the first practical kerosene lamp in 1859, independent of similar work being done in Poland. According to the Dictionary of Energy, “The Dietz Company went on to manufacture hundreds of lantern models, and became a pioneer in the automotive electric lighting industry.” Kerosene was the first useful product from crude oil and is produced by distilling it. Kerosene was where the money was. Gasoline was known during the same time, but didn’t have an immediately apparent use.

Karl and Jean Carrying Kerosene
Karl and Jean Carrying Kerosene

Laura and Kerosene Lamps

Although there is mention of candles in the “Little House” books, kerosene lamps or lanterns are definitely the rule as the series moves on in time. There is a lot of work to keeping a kerosene lamp operating properly and Laura wrote how glad she was that they could be put away in the cupboard in favor of electric lights.

While I was growing up we used to keep a lamp lit every time there was a storm and while I’m just as glad that our generator means no more blackouts, I still miss having a reason to get out the lamp and light it on a fairly regular basis.

Video

For this month’s In the Kitchen With Laura post we’re learning all about how you work and take care of a kerosene lamp.

Sources

These are resources I used for some of the invention details from our library, ask at your local library to ILL it.

“Cracking.” 50 Chemistry Ideas You Really Need to Know, Hayley Birch, Quercus, 2015. Credo Reference, http://resources.kirkwood.edu/login?url=http://search.credoreference.com/content/entry/quechemistry/cracking/0.  Accessed 03 Mar 2017.

“Dietz, Robert Edwin 1818-1897,” Dictionary of Energy, edited by Cleveland, Cutler and Christopher Morris, Elsevier Science & Technology, 2014. Credo Reference, http://resources.kirkwood.edu/login?url=http://search.credoreference.com/content/entry/este/dietz_robert_edwin_1818_1897/0. Accessed 03 Mar 2017.

Sarah S. Uthoff is a nationally known Laura Ingalls Wilder authority and has presented at five of the Wilder homesites, many times at the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum, many conferences and numerous libraries, museums, and events around the Midwest. She is the main force behind Trundlebed Tales fighting to bring the History, Mystery, Magic, and Imagination of Laura Ingalls Wilder and other greats of children’s literature and history to life for a new generation. How can you help? Attend one of her programs, schedule one yourself, watch her videos, listen to her podcast, look at her photos, and find her on Facebook , Twitter , Google+LinkedIn , SlideShare, and Academia.edu . Professionally she is a reference librarian at Kirkwood Community College and former director of the Oxford (Iowa) Public Library.

In the Kitchen With Laura Losing Words

In the Kitchen With Laura, both the program and the blog post series, continue to be very popular. I really enjoy them too, so watch for more.

A book heart in a foodways reference book
A book heart in a foodways reference book

Words Have Meaning

In today’s post, I want to discuss the importance of words to food. Knowing the proper words for food helps you talk about it, helps you read recipes correctly, and generally makes eating a more pleasant experience.

A lot of the food words Laura Ingalls Wilder would have used or known, for things like a spyder (a type of frying pan) or mangoes (a specially prepared kind of pepper, NOT the tropical fruit) are no longer common place. This can cause a barrier of understanding whether you’re reading a cookbook or a “Little House” book. Keep the question “do you really understand what they’re saying?” in mind while you’re reading and if you don’t know, look it up! Also, talk with people especially older people and children about food. Learn how people used to describe things and pass on that knowledge and what words you use today on to young people.

Check out what Merriam-Webster has to say about the change of iced tea to ice tea:

Chronology of Food History
Chronology of Food History

Sarah S. Uthoff is a nationally known Laura Ingalls Wilder authority and has presented at five of the Wilder homesites, many times at the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum, many conferences and numerous libraries, museums, and events around the Midwest. She is the main force behind Trundlebed Tales fighting to bring the History, Mystery, Magic, and Imagination of Laura Ingalls Wilder and other greats of children’s literature and history to life for a new generation. How can you help? Attend one of her programs, schedule one yourself, watch her videos, listen to her podcast, look at her photos, and find her on Facebook , Twitter , Google+, LinkedIn , SlideShare, and Academia.edu . Professionally she is a reference librarian at Kirkwood Community College and former director of the Oxford (Iowa) Public Library.

In the Kitchen With Laura Update 2017

Another year and we’ve added at least a couple of our In the Kitchen With Laura posts. Enjoy the directory of all our posts.

Sarah in costume holding Fannie Farmer and Joy of Cooking cookbooks
Fannie Farmer and Joy of Cooking Show the Change in Cooking

What is In the Kitchen With Laura?
http://littlehouseontheprairie.com/in-the-kitchen-with-laura-ingalls-wilder

Learn more about my program In the Kitchen With Laura:
https://trundlebedtales.wordpress.com/2013/12/09/fizz-boom-read-and-in-the-kitchen-with-laura-ingalls-wilder

Check out these images from the program:
https://trundlebedtales.wordpress.com/2013/09/11/in-the-kitchen-with-laura-test-shots

Pig Tail
Pig Tail

In the Kitchen With Laura Posts

Butter and Egg Money:
https://trundlebedtales.wordpress.com/2014/07/23/in-the-kitchen-with-laura-june-2014

Churning Butter as in the Little House books:
https://trundlebedtales.wordpress.com/2017/05/17/in-the-kitchen-with-laura-churning-garth-williams/

Cook’s Country Food History Videos:
https://trundlebedtales.wordpress.com/2015/04/30/in-the-kitchen-with-laura-morel-mushrooms

Fannie Farmer Cookbook and The Joy of Cooking:
https://trundlebedtales.wordpress.com/2014/09/29/in-the-kitchen-with-laura-august-2014

Fire:
https://trundlebedtales.wordpress.com/2017/04/20/in-the-kitchen-with-laura-fire

Ginger Water:
https://trundlebedtales.wordpress.com/2014/08/11/in-the-kitchen-with-laura-july-2014

Goats:
https://trundlebedtales.wordpress.com/2014/05/30/in-the-kitchen-with-laura-april-2014

Handwritten Recipes:
https://trundlebedtales.wordpress.com/2014/01/21/in-the-kitchen-with-laura-project-jan-2014

Measurements:
https://trundlebedtales.wordpress.com/2014/04/29/in-the-kitchen-with-laura-project-march-2014

Morel Mushrooms:
https://trundlebedtales.wordpress.com/2015/04/30/in-the-kitchen-with-laura-morel-mushrooms

Roundup of Food History Videos:
https://trundlebedtales.wordpress.com/2015/02/20/in-the-kitchen-with-laura-cooks-country-food-history

Shortening:
https://trundlebedtales.wordpress.com/2014/06/30/in-the-kitchen-with-laura-may-2014

Spices:
https://trundlebedtales.wordpress.com/2016/06/10/in-the-kitchen-with-laura-spices

Whipped Cream:
https://trundlebedtales.wordpress.com/2016/01/18/in-the-kitchen-with-laura-whipped-cream

Woodstove Basics:
https://trundlebedtales.wordpress.com/2014/02/25/in-the-kitchen-with-laura-project-february-2014

Wringer Washer:
https://trundlebedtales.wordpress.com/2015/06/12/in-the-kitchen-with-laura-wringer-washer

Sarah S. Uthoff is the main force behind Trundlebed Tales striving to bring the History, Mystery, Magic and Imagination of Laura Ingalls Wilder and other greats of children’s literature and history to life for a new generation. Uthoff is a nationally known Laura Ingalls Wilder authority and has presented at five of the Wilder homesites, many conferences and numerous libraries, museums, and events around the Midwest. Attend one of her programs, schedule one yourself, watch her videos, listen to her podcast, and find her on  FacebookTwitterGoogle+, LinkedIn, and Academia.edu. Professionally she is a reference librarian at Kirkwood Community College and director of the Oxford (Iowa) Public Library.

 

In the Kitchen With Laura Churning Garth Williams

Today’s In the Kitchen With Laura is reworking an old post. We’re going to look at one of the things that is most closely associated with Laura, churning butter.

Garth Williams Pictures Farmer Boy

This last read through of Farmer Boy has convinced that Garth Williams has led me astray. I always liked the barrel churn Williams pictured in Chapter 17 “Summer-Time” (page 198 in the yellow back paperbacks). I always wondered why Almanzo didn’t get on and ride it like a rocking horse. I always wanted to see one like it. I haven’t yet, but I suppose there was one Williams based his drawing on as I can recognize most of the equipment in the drawing behind Almanzo.

Dasher Churns

There are different kinds of churns. The one that the Ingalls family is described using in Little House in the Big Woods is a dasher churn. The dasher is the paddle in the middle that you push up and down to create butter. They are normally high capacity and operated while standing up.

Dash Churn
Dash Churn

Barrel Churns

I have seen lots of barrel churns. They just looked nothing like the rocking horse model. Well, this time I read through a line jumped out at me, “Almanzo turned the handle, and the churn rocked.” There is nothing to turn on the one in Garth Williams drawing, but a normal barrel churn turns the barrel by turning the handle. Loaded with cream it’s constantly off balance and does rock, though not on rockers.

Dashe and Barrel Churns
Dasher and Barrel Churns

I’m including a photo of a normal barrel churn which I’m now 95 percent sure that it is like the one Mother Wilder used. The churn on the left is a dasher churn, like the Ingalls Family used in Little House in the Big Woods. The metal ones on the far side are new to me, but I would guess they might be from a commercial dairy to go with the other photos in the chapter.

Don’t Feed That Cow Turnips!

Just as a fun note turnips came in as fodder feed for cows in the 18th century. Laura Mason notes in the Encyclopedia of Food and Culture that when cattle feed was less uniform different feeds created different tastes in butter. Turnips were especially know “for giving a characteristic and much-disliked taint to butter.” (Vol. 1, p. 272) So the cow eating turnip tops in On the Banks of Plum Creek was probably not giving the best tasting milk, even if she was producing any. 🙂

Sarah S. Uthoff is the main force behind Trundlebed Tales striving to bring the History, Mystery, Magic and Imagination of Laura Ingalls Wilder and other greats of children’s literature and history to life for a new generation. Uthoff is a nationally known Laura Ingalls Wilder authority and has presented at five of the Wilder homesites, many conferences and numerous libraries, museums, and events around the Midwest. Attend one of her programs, schedule one yourself, watch her videos, listen to her podcast, and find her on FacebookTwitterGoogle+ LinkedIn, and Academia.edu. Professionally she is a reference librarian at Kirkwood Community College and director of the Oxford (Iowa) Public Library.

In the Kitchen With Laura Fire

In the Kitchen With Laura, both the program and the blog post series, continue to be very popular. I really enjoy them too, so watch for more.

Prairie Burn
Prairie Burn

Was Fire a Big Danger When Laura Cooked?

Among re-enactors it’s a joke how people who aren’t aware of social history assume that most women died of fire back in the time of open hearth cooking. This isn’t true.

Fire was a normal presence in a house during most of the time Laura Ingalls Wilder was alive. It was a tool whether it was a camp fire, an open hearth, or within a cookstove. You got used to dealing with fire and wasn’t as big a deal as it is now. Still accidents did happen when you got careless or had a piece of particularly bad luck. Such an accident led to the little grey house in the west burning down.

Fire in the Kitchen Today

People are much less accustomed to dealing with fire today so it’s even more important to be prepared when cooking in your kitchen.

Here are some steps to help avoid kitchen fires.

Be aware of what NOT to do when putting out a kitchen fire. It’s NOT the same as a camp fire.

Be sure to have a fire extinguisher in the kitchen. America’s Test Kitchen takes you through comparing fire extinguishers in the video below and recommends the Kidde ABC Multipurpose Home Fire Extinguisher.

And while we are talking fire extinguishers and road trips, it’s a good idea to keep a fire extinguisher in your car as well. You never know when a quick reaction can save the day.

Sarah S. Uthoff is the main force behind Trundlebed Tales striving to bring the History, Mystery, Magic and Imagination of Laura Ingalls Wilder and other greats of children’s literature and history to life for a new generation. Uthoff is a nationally known Laura Ingalls Wilder authority and has presented at five of the Wilder homesites, many conferences and numerous libraries, museums, and events around the Midwest. Attend one of her programs, schedule one yourself, watch her videos, listen to her podcast, and find her onFacebookTwitterGoogle+ LinkedIn, and Academia.edu. Professionally she is a reference librarian at Kirkwood Community College and director of the Oxford (Iowa) Public Library.