Cookie Jar Adventure

Chocolate chip, sugar, pinwheel, shortbread … there are zillions of cookies to choose from when perusing a cookbook, walking into a bakery, or strolling through the local grocery store.

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One of over 3,000 cookie jars on display at Grannie’s Cookie Jars and Ice Cream Parlor

Canisters ranging from the utilitarian to the ornate, quirky or perplexing, somewhere there is a perfect cookie jar for every cookie-lover – and that ideal container is probably sitting on a shelf or tucked into a corner at Grannie’s Cookie Jars and Ice Cream Parlor in Metamora, Indiana.

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Just the suggestion of cookies invites happy memories of warm kitchens, fragrant trays of gooey deliciousness – oooo … that first wonderful taste. Cookies and milk are comfort food at its finest.

Still family owned, Grannie’s is an integral part of Metamora, a small canal town located in Southeastern Indiana. Open year round, this welcoming shop is the place for a refreshing cone, a hot cup of coffee, and friendly conversation.

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Even on the coldest of days, folks stop in to search for the cookie jar of their childhood. During the summer season, the historic canal boat eases past the front door and Grannie’s bustles with first-time visitors and repeat customers.

Outside there are benches and picnic tables beneath the many shade trees along the banks of the canal. With ice cream cone – or hot coffee – in hand, visitors to this friendly Midwest canal town remember to slow down a little. They being to stroll, to hold hands with their sweetheart, to share with their parents, to laugh with their children. And enjoy.


Discovering Dillsboro, Indiana

Part One: Changing Rural


The Dillsboro Branch Library invites the public to experience a special Smithsonian curated traveling exhibit: “Crossroads: Change in Rural America”. For six weeks this fall, the library, located just off US50 in Dearborn County, Indiana, will host an interactive display as part of Indiana Humanities Museum on Main Street program. Dillsboro was selected to be the first of six sites in the state to host this free event designed to spark conversation about and promote understanding of the history, changes, and the future hopes of these special communities.


For generations, much of the country’s prosperity stemmed from rural America. Still, large numbers of folks from farms and small towns moved away from their communities and family land. Young people and even entire families relocated to growing cities that were desperate for those workers seeking higher wages and greater opportunity. That migration took its toll on once close-knit areas. In spite of only 3.5% of the country being deemed ‘urban’, the percentage of people living in rural areas dropped from 60% in 1900 to only 17% today.


The “Crossroads” exhibit examines this significant change and its long lasting impact on the communities and families left behind. Visitors to the Dillsboro Branch Library will take the elevator not merely to the lower level of the building but through time as they learn about the many changes that have shaped rural areas and small towns like Dillsboro.

To sample a little of Crossroads: Change in Rural America, please follow the link to the Indiana Humanities You Tube Channel: https://youtu.be/iUyKdJl23r8


Peggy Dean, the director of the Aurora Public Library District, says, “Fewer people make their living through agriculture now, so that’s one of the big things we’re focusing on with our local content. We’re adding, we’re focusing on the role of transportation in driving some changes to this area.”


“US 50 used to go right through downtown. North Street to Bank Street was Route 50,” says Dillsboro Branch Manager Cathy Wilkymacky, “so moving it out to the outskirts of town did have an impact on the community itself. But just overall transportation changes: I-74, 275 to Northern Kentucky, added onto the Route 50 shift just changed the dynamics of shopping and where people can work, where they can live and that sort of thing.”


Mrs. Dean agrees, “I-74 shifted the growth in Dearborn County to the northern half because that was such an easy commute to Cincinnati, so some of those things we will have in our local content.”


She continues, “They asked us to focus on 1950 and forward for the majority of the display, but we’re still going to do a little bit of the history of Dillsboro with the sanitarium; that was early 1900s, because that helped develop and build the town, but not originate the town.”


The public is encouraged to share their own stories after viewing the six themes of the exhibit: Introduction, Change, Land, Community, Persistence, and Managing Change. There will be postcards available at the end of the tour for anyone who would like to have their memories and perspective included in the display.


In addition to these personal narratives, the exhibit will also showcase the recent photography contest, and there will be an area devoted to the winning entries of the student writing contest.

For more information please visit:

Dillsboro Branch Library of the Aurora Public Library District: https://eapld.org/

Indiana Humanities: https://indianahumanities.org/programs/crossroads-change-in-rural-america-inseparable

Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition: https://www.sites.si.edu/s/topic/0TO36000000aR1sGAE/crossroads-change-in-rural-america

Museum on Main Street: https://museumonmainstreet.org/

What:

Crossroads: Change in Rural America

This exhibition is part of Museums on Main Street, a collaborative program between Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES), Indiana Humanities, and the Dillsboro Branch Library, part of the Aurora Public Library District.

When:

September 7th through October 20th

Monday-Friday, 10am-6pm

Saturday, 10am-2pm

Sunday, 1pm-4pm

Where:

Dillsboro Public Library

10151 Library Lane

Dillsboro, IN 47018


Look for future installments to be published later this month:
Part 2: Celebrating Rural
Part 3: Growing Up Rural
Dillsboro is a small town with a lot to offer – look for special events, interesting programs and more on the Calendar Page.

Culinary Zest

August 29, 2019 is National Lemon Juice Day, so I thought we might want to celebrate with a little something nice. Maybe some lemon curd filled pastries?

Here is an easy and quick recipe for Zesty Lemon Filled Choux Puffs.

Blogging 2015 Zest Lemon Heavy

I would happily make these delights all day long. They can look rather impressive, but the business of making the choux (pronounced shoe, as in tennis) is easy peasy. And just between us, although it might not be ‘correct’, I sometimes add just a touch of almond, vanilla, lemon, etc. to the choux. If possible, I use the highly concentrated oils rather than the more liquid flavorings, for fear of ruining the consistency.

Not a fan of lemon filling? Not an issue – these are nice with butter, chocolate mousse (another easy recipe, but for another day), or strawberry preserves beaten with whipped cream. They even work well with savories like tuna salad or veggies. You are only limited by your imagination!

Well, enough of that! Here we go with the actual recipe and some photos just for fun.

First, make your Choux:

1/2 cup generous Water (I use a touch more than the usual 1/2 cup, but not too much!)

4 Tablespoons Butter (use the very best butter you can find, preferably unsalted)

1/2 cup Flour

2 Eggs (room temperature is best, but if in a rush, at least try to warm them in a warm towel)

Blogging 2015 Zest Choux Ingredients

Preheat the oven to 375* 

Line cookie sheets with parchment paper, or if you are not as wild about parchment as I am, have at the ready unlined and ungreased cookie sheets.

In a medium saucepan, bring the water and butter to a boil. Remove from heat, then add the flour all at once. then replace the pan over moderate heat and stir like mad until the mixture comes away from the sides of the saucepan, making a ball. Remove the pan from the heat again, letting the dough cool for about five minutes. Then add the fresh eggs, one at a time, assertively stirring each one into the cooled dough until the mixture is smooth and has the consistency of white glue – like the kind used in classrooms.

Using large spoons or iced tea spoons if you’d like smaller puffs, drop equal sized dollops of dough about 2″ apart onto the cookie sheets.

Blogging 2015 Zest Choux and Pan
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Bake one sheet at a time for 30 minutes, or until they are puffed and golden.

Some people insist that you need to poke a small hole into each puff in order to allow the steam to escape, but I don’t always think about it and have had dry centers even when I’ve forgotten to do it.

Nonetheless, cut open the upper third and fill with the  … hey! Wait a second! Do try to stop eating them before they are all gone since you still have a lot of filling to use. Oh well, these are simple enough to make again … and again … and again!

The Lemon ZEST Filling

Blogging 2015 Zest Lemon One

I am going to share the simplest lemon filling I know with you, but as you are already aware, there are a zillion recipes for lemon curd, lemon butter, lemon everything. Play with this and make your own complicated or straightforward version. Just remember that the idea is to have a good time in the kitchen!

2  8-ounce packages of real cream cheese (the substitutes simply don’t work as nicely)

1  14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk (yup, this is going to be very easy!)

1/2 cup sour cream (I use plain yogurt because we never have sour cream in the house)

1/4 cup lemon juice (I do prefer to squeeze fresh lemons, but it’s your recipe now, so that’s up to you)

The zest of at least one lemon (the more lemons, the zestier the outcome)

Dash of lemon oil, vanilla, coconut, etc. (not actually necessary, but an option if you’d like to experiment with flavors)

Place all of the ingredients in a bowl or food processor – or blender, I suppose – and blend until smooth, creamy and wonderful. Assuming all of the fresh-from-the-oven delights haven’t been devoured, spoon the filling into the few remaining Choux Puffs. You will have more than enough, so it might be wise to make multiple batches of choux pastry, or use the leftovers as filling for a refrigerated cake.

  • If you are concerned about the degree of icky sweetness, only pour about 1/2 to 2/3 of the can of sweetened condensed milk into the bowl above, then blend and adjust for taste and consistency. You could use heavy cream, plain yogurt, and/or more cream cheese instead of the entire can.

And then it is time to serve these wonders with a dab of filling and a scattering of lemon zest on top – or drizzle them with melted white chocolate, or lightly sift confectioner’s sugar on top.

Whatever you’d prefer!

Blogging 2015 Zest Lemon Heavy

Visiting the Whitewater Canal Tunnel

Just a short drive from Lawrenceburg, Indiana, this often overlooked piece of history is located in Cleves, Ohio. It is the Cincinnati-Whitewater Canal Tunnel. During the summer months, it can be difficult to see the opening, but in the winter, the brush and grasses die back enough to allow for a much better view.

Now the tunnel is filled with silt and offers little more than a hint of what it once was and what it once promised for the region. It had been used by canal boats for just thirteen years before being sold to the Indianapolis and Cincinnati Railroad in 1863. Tracks were laid so locomotives could thunder through the often flooded tunnel – until being abandoned in the late 1880s.

Built during the years of 1839 – 1843, the Whitewater Canal Tunnel linked Hagerstown and Connersville, Indiana to Harrison, Ohio and continued on to Lawrenceburg, Indiana, a bustling river town situated next to the mighty Ohio.

http://www.indcanal.org/

One of twelve canal tunnels in the country at the time, today only four such tunnels remain. This nearly forgotten structure was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2001.

For more information, please visit:

http://www.cincinnati.com/story/news/2014/03/24/problems-plagued-canal-projects/6833875/

http://www.northbendohio.org/CanalTunnel.html

http://www.cincinnati-transit.net/whitewater.html


Treacle Tart is Surprisingly Refreshing!

I recently had the opportunity to make my very first Treacle Tart to celebrate July 4, 1862 – the very day that Lewis Carroll set pen to paper and began to write Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Not surprisingly, I chose Mary Berry’s own recipe – except I tweaked it just a little. (I do hope you’ll overlook such impertinence, Mary Berry!)

Lyle’s Golden Syrup simply cannot be compared to corn syrup. Try to find the real McCoy for a tastier tart.

Her recipe called for a 14-ounce can of Lyle’s Golden Syrup, but here in the Midwest I could only find 11-ounce cans. Her tart pan diameter was 7-inches – I have only 11-inch diameter tart pans. And so the number crunching began, but as usual, I ended up playing it by ear. I did try to pay attention to the quantities, but even Mary Berry suggests we adjust the amount of bread crumbs to thickness and the lemon to taste, so a little vagueness might be forgiven. Oh and a familiar but important hint – any work that is required for this recipe is in the prep – be that the pie crust, the fine milling of bread crumbs, the grating and juicing of lemons, or the second crust that will become a lattice top.

That being said and without further ado, here is the recipe that certain Friends and family tasted and approved. I hope you, too will enjoy the lemony freshness and the flaky crust. Please be sure to let me know what you thought of the tart as well as what, if anything, you tweaked – and if you’ll be making it again.

Enjoy!

Mary Berry’s (pretty much) Treacle Tart

The following quantities filled two 11″ diameter tart pans.

  • 1 1/4 cups finely processed fresh bread crumbs
  • 4 good sized organic – not waxed – lemons for zest and juice
  • 3 11-oz cans Lyle Golden Syrup
  • Pastry crust for two 2-crust tarts * see note below
  • 1 fresh egg, beaten for egg wash
The finer the crumb, the more uniform the filling will be.

Slice one (approximately 16 oz) French or Italian loaf of fresh bread. Place on cookie sheet in 350*F oven for about 20 minutes. Check often and turn slices to allow for even drying. The idea is to dry, not necessarily toast the bread, although a little golden crust makes for a nice flavor. Remove from oven and cool enough to finely process enough bread to equal a bit more than 1 cup of bread crumbs. Set aside.

Wash and roll the lemons. By applying gentle pressure to the whole lemon while rolling on the counter, you can increase the amount of juice released in the later step. After rolling, zest all four lemons. When grating or zesting the lemons, be wary of the white layer (the pith) below the skin. This is terribly bitter and too much in pie, cookies or cake can make for a rather unpleasant experience.

After zesting, halve the lemons and squeeze as much juice as possible from all halves. Be sure to remove all of the seeds from the juice. I use a vintage glass juicer, so after juicing each half, I can easily see and remove any seeds that have fallen into the liquid – but I never remove the pulp. Feel free to combine the zest and juice, then set aside.

Poking holes into the unbaked bottom crust will allow steam to escape – preventing bubbles and an uneven layer.

Using your favorite pie crust recipe – or grocery store variety – roll out two 14″ diameter crusts between sheets of parchment paper, working with one crust at a time. Make each crust rather thin. I used a brand name crust from the dairy section and each crust rolled out perfectly to 13 – 14″. They were thin, but remained sturdy enough to maneuver into the tart pans. Use a fork to poke holes into the bottom crust. Set aside.

For the top crusts, working with only one rolled-out crust at a time, place the dough on a sheet of parchment paper – or waxed paper, come to think of it. Brush each crust lightly with whole egg wash. Do not cut the crust into strips yet. Layer the freshly egg-washed crusts between waxed or parchment paper and place in fridge.

*Note – I never have enough room in my fridge when I need it, so I placed freezer packs in our good-sized microwave and gently placed the pie crusts inside until it was time to fill and top the tarts.

Now that the preliminary work is done, it’s time to focus on the filling. In a large pan, gently heat the syrup that you poured and scraped from all three cans. Heat over low-medium heat. Do not boil the syrup. When it is runny – you will be able to tell the difference as you slowly stir it – add the lemon juice and zest. Stir to combine.

Now it is time to lower the temp to low and add the bread crumbs. Pour in about 2/3 of your total quantity. Stir the mixture and add more if necessary. I had used very juicy, fresh lemons, so I ended up using one and a quarter cups – maybe a touch more – bread crumbs. You want the mixture to look like gruel – not porridge. I stirred the filling gently over low heat for just a few minutes – long enough for it all to combine nicely.

Very carefully ladle or pour equal parts filling into each prepared tart pan. Set aside. Preheat the oven to 350*F

Now it’s time to prepare the lattice top for the tarts. Work with only one crust at a time unless you are a pro at weaving dough while juggling. Lattice work isn’t difficult at all – but you will need to pay attention to which strip is up, which is down.

Laying your crust on a flat surface with the egg-wash side facing up, cut the dough into strips (1/4 or 1/2″ thick). Do not remove the strips until all of the cutting is done. Carefully peel and set aside every other strip – being sure to keep the egg-side up. Beginning on the far left or right of the crust, weave the longest strip through the center of the remaining strips, alternating the position of the strip – over, under, over, under. Continue to do this with every strip, working from the center and out.

When the dough has been woven into a lattice pattern, cover with parchment or waxed paper and flip upside down. Lift the now paper-sandwiched lattice with one hand/arm and peel back only one-half of the top non-egg-washed- side paper. Flip and place the dough onto the filled pie using the center of the pan as the starting point and keeping the egg-wash side up, then carefully unpeel and place the second half of the lattice onto the second half of the filled pie. Remove the remaining top layer of paper. Press the dough across the fluted top edge of the tart pan, discarding any excess. Repeat with the second crust.

Place each lattice-topped tart pan on a cookie/baking sheet. Mary Berry suggests we preheat the sheet prior to placing the unbaked tart on it, but I didn’t do that with the first tart. I did use the hot baking sheet with the second tart, but didn’t notice a difference in the bake.

I popped each tart into a 350*F oven for 40 minutes and 50 minutes, respectively. Mary Berry’s recipe calls for a 400*F oven for the first 10 minutes, check for browning and top with aluminum foil if needed, then continue to bake the tart for another 25-30 minutes at 350*F – or until golden brown on top with a set-filling. Use your own judgement – I am no Mary Berry, so am inclined to follow her lead on this, but I was multitasking while baking these tarts and didn’t take the chance I might miss that 400* 10 minute deadline. Burnt tarts are to be avoided at all costs!

Serve small slices of the lemony and refreshing, not too sweet tart either warm or chilled. I offered ice cream or freshly whipped cream to my tasters, but no one thought anything more was needed. It was described as refreshing, lemony, rich and delicious – so that was a relief! I hope you and your fellow foodies like it at least as much!

Happy Baking!!


Take Along Some Fried Chicken – Made the Wagner’s Way!

It’s the season for picnics, whether that’s under sunny skies or during dazzling fireworks. One of the easiest ways to enjoy time with family and friends is by packing enough delicious Indiana fried chicken to feed everyone before heading to the lake, park, or the coolest part of the backyard.

Wagner’s Family Restaurant in Oldenburg, Indiana is one of the most popular choices in Southeastern Indiana. Call ahead to order plenty of fried chicken for a crowd, or meet everybody inside this casual, comfortable local place where the piping hot chicken is served up with dish towels instead of napkins, and the sweet tea is fresh and cold.

Waitress and daytime bartender Betsy McCray grew up in Oldenburg. She knows most of the diners by name and rarely has to offer a menu even to the newcomers since most folks come in for the Family Style Chicken Dinner.

The heady fragrance of chicken frying in cast iron pans makes hungry guests grow impatient, but when those generous portions arrive, it’s obviously worth the wait. Brian Larimore and his father Robert drive up from Lawrenceburg to enjoy the delicious food and enthusiastically recommend the freshly fried chicken dinner.

All of that crispy, moist, amazing chicken is piled onto plates – what a sizzling, aromatic feast. Betsy serves steaming bowls of tempting side items against the backdrop of a cheerful dining room noisy with conversation, laughter and TV sports.

The coleslaw is creamy and just a little sweet. Those flavors marry well with the peppery gravy made onsite. The dinner rolls are the store-bought, in-a-plastic-bag kind and are actually perfect with a generous spread of butter, or smeared with extra gravy.

The green beans come to the table with a dollop of butter and plenty of salt, while the mashed potatoes are of the standard variety, leaving the diner plenty of opportunity to focus on the flavorful chicken and rich gravy.

According to Betsy, there are delicious desserts available, as well. Fruit cobblers, a variety of cheesecakes … it’s all so tempting, but after such a banquet, dessert might require a separate visit all its own.

Fortunately, a return trip to Oldenburg is just a scenic drive away …


Finding the Unexpected in Moore’s Hill, IN – Carnegie Hall

Driving through the small town of Moore’s Hill, it’s easy to sit back and relax. Narrow tree lined streets, dogs sleeping on front porches and a quiet Main Street lull the visitor into a sense of time lost. Suddenly, with no warning whatsoever, an architectural treasure appears to rise behind the trees.

In the mid-1800s, John C. Moore and his contemporaries decided to build a college from the ground up in Moore’s Hill, a Southeastern Indiana town that had been founded by his father, the Rev. Adam Moore. These far sighted individuals joined forces with Southeastern Indiana’s Methodist Episcopal Church to open the Moore’s Hill Male and Female Collegiate Institute in 1856.

Alumni Gary Norman is a bassist with the band, Burlap Bag of Bobcats. He says, “This auditorium was built for the acoustics …It’s one of the best places we’ve ever played. You can stand on the balcony and talk and hear it clear as a bell down here.”

In 1907, construction of Carnegie Hall got underway, built in part with the financial support of its namesake Andrew Carnegie. By June 1908, it was completed. The building’s Collegiate Gothic and Jacobethan Revival design, arched doorways, marble steps, acoustically perfect auditorium and attractive setting came at a final cost of over $40,000. Ultimately, this rural Indiana college would be the alma mater of 487 graduates. Tragically, the first college building to stand on the property, the three-story Moore Hall, was lost to fire in late 1915.

From 1907 through 1916, Carnegie Hall housed administrative offices, science labs, classrooms and more, but the college struggled financially, and eventually the college was relocated to Evansville, where the institution continues today under the name of University of Evansville.

The vacant campus was given to the public school system for use as an elementary and high school. The last senior class graduated in 1978, and only nine years later, grade school students were dismissed from Carnegie Hall classrooms for the last time.

But thanks to dedicated volunteers, concerned school alumni and a lot of hard work, Carnegie Hall has survived financial woes, neglect and even threats of demolition. Operating from donations, memberships and grants, this beautiful building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is open to the public.

Visitors are invited to explore this historic building. Inside they will find three museums (Military, Local History and Academic), original chalkboards, countless photos, artifacts specific to the area, and much more. Everyone is encouraged to support and enjoy this historic site by attending special events such as the annual Winter Luminaria Walk, and to take advantage of the public tours – usually lead by an alumni of the school. Your friendly guide will share local stories and historic facts during these informative tours that are offered every Sunday (except some holidays) from 1-5, or by appointment.

Moore’s Hill is a small town located just off SR350 in Dearborn County, Indiana. Drive south on Manchester Street, turn right onto Main Street, and soon you’ll see the impressive 112 year old Carnegie Hall on the left.

For more information about tours, renting the facility, and upcoming special events, please call Linda Ickenroth at 812-744-4015 or visit: http://thecarnegiehall.org