Homemade Gravy Right in the Skillet–Really Good, Quick and Just the Thing To Go with Fried Meat

I’ve received so many views of my Hamburger Gravy post that I thought I’d add a post with the gravy recipe that I learned from my mom out on our farm near Dorrance, Kansas. We made gravy after frying almost any kind of meat. We always had gravy from frying our home-grown chicken and steak. Of course, we made it with pork chops too. You can even make gravy with fried liver!

I think using a cast-iron skillet for frying the meat, and in particular, for making the gravy afterward, works best. Non-stick type frying pans just don’t work as well for getting the meat nice and browned and producing all those little leftover bits and goodies that make gravy really delicious. (Do remember: cast-iron skillets will rust, so hand wash and dry them.  Don’t put them in the dishwasher.)

For really good gravy, the meat needs to be well-seasoned and well-floured before being put into the greased skillet. This leaves a great coating on any meat, some of which will fall off and be left behind in the skillet. Also having the skillet and the oil nearly sizzling to start with helps the flour and meat to brown well, which also adds flavor and more tasty tidbits for the gravy. After the outside of the meat is browned, the heat can be turned down so that the meat can continue to cook and become tender and juicy.

After the meat is cooked, take it out and set it aside to rest. Drain (or spoon out) most of the excess grease from the skillet, carefully saving the crunchy fried tidbits of flour and meat. (Be careful when pouring hot grease out of a heavy skillet in order not to get burned, from either the pan or from splashing hot liquid.) There should be only about a tablespoon or two of grease left, enough so that the bottom of the skillet looks well coated and the morsels have a sheen to them. The heat under the skillet at this time should be hot but not high heat. Add 2-3 tablespoons of flour to the skillet, and with a dinner fork, start mixing and combining the flour with the remaining grease and morsels so that everything is combined well. At this same time, the flour mixture will be cooking and getting a light brown cast to it. This does not take long, around a minute or so. Don’t let it burn.

Be ready with the liquid–usually milk, but you could use cream or half and half to make a very rich gravy. In hard times, even water was used. Start by adding about a half cup of the liquid into the hot skillet, working it quickly into the flour mixture. This combination should become thick and bubbly, almost like a mini-geyser. Now is a good time to salt and pepper well. Gravy needs to be seasoned or it will taste very bland. Let that cook for just a short time–15-30 seconds, so that the flour is really cooked. Start stirring in more of the liquid. Of course, the more gravy you want, the more liquid you will need to add, but the more liquid that you add the more diluted the flavor of the gravy will be, so be sure to adjust the seasonings. For a regular meal for 3 or four people, probably no more than a couple of cups of liquid is needed. And remember, you can add some water if you have already used some milk. However, you need to continue stirring the gravy, the entire time you are cooking it.

Turn off the heat under the skillet a bit before the gravy completely reaches the consistency that you want because it will continue to cook on its own in the hot skillet. If it gets thicker than you want, immediately add some more liquid while it’s still cooking. If the flour in the gravy has too many lumps or has become too thick, a hand-held blender can help you get the consistency that you want.

Making the gravy should be the very last thing that you do before serving the food. That way it will be hot and not start to get “gloppy”.  It is really isn’t difficult to make good gravy to go along with your favorite meats.  If your results the first time are not perfect, don’t give up; a couple more tries and you’ll get the knack of it.

Usually there is not enough gravy left to save for leftovers. Likewise, it is not one of those foods which works great as a leftover because generally it congeals in the refrigerator, and just reheating it doesn’t work well. However, it can be reheated in the microwave and brought back to somewhat of its original consistency with the hand-held blender, or by reheating the gravy on the stove in a saucepan, adding some more milk and using the hand-held blender, you can make it “stretch” for another meal.

Actually, I’ve only made gravy after frying hamburgers one or two times because gravy isn’t generally something that we have with hamburgers, but it can be done. As I wrote before, I had no luck making gravy from hamburgers and using all of the grease that fried out. If you want to make gravy after frying hamburgers, most of the grease (just like when frying other meats) needs to be drained off. Even though there probably are those who can make hamburger gravy without draining off the grease, that much meat fat (and, hence, the cholesterol) cannot be good for you.

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Who Are These Republicans Nowadays Anyway?

After all the viciousness that the McCain and Palin have been putting forth in their campaign speeches, finally, but finally, today McCain had to admit that “Obama is a decent man”, only to be booed by many of his supporters for saying that. However, what I liked about it was there was sincerity in his voice and on his face when he answered the questions about Obama, something we haven’t seen from him in the debates. What is unfortunate is that the Republican campaign has spent so much time and energy before today revving their voters into almost a rampant frenzy. Where do they get all their ideas anyway?

My mom and dad were Republicans. I grew up thinking the Republicans were the good guys and the Democrats were the bad guys. My mom didn’t like JFK, mostly I think because he was Catholic. I remember her telling me about when she was a girl there was a KKK in or around Dorrance. Back in the 1920s, the KKK was a big political force in the U.S., but of course, in places like Kansas in those days, there were very few black people, so there had to be someone to be the scapegoat–someone to blame–someone to discriminate against–so it was the Catholics. I don’t know if my grandparents liked Catholics or not, but my mom sure didn’t.

She also said that only the Democrats got the country into wars. I guess that was because FDR was President when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor and the U.S. was forced into WWII. She always loved George W. Bush, but when your mother is in her 90s, you just don’t say, “But Mom, I thought you used to say ‘Only Democrats get us into wars.”

I always liked Eisenhower. Still to this day, I think of the 50s as the “good days”, even though I was just a little kid, and I know that for most little kids as long as they can play, have enough food to eat, and don’t get abused, childhood is “the good days”. I remember seeing “Ike” in some parade in Salina, maybe when he was running for his second term. And, of course, Ike and Mamie and the baby are buried right there in the Eisenhower Center, where I’ve been many times.

Bob Dole was our county attorney. Because Dad was township trustee, I’d sometimes go with him up to Russell to the courthouse to Dole’s office. Mom and Dad were also the Republican precinct chairman and chairwoman some of those years, so sometimes Bob Dole would come out to the farm campaigning, both for when he was still running for county attorney, then later when he was running for congress from Kansas’ Big First District. If I remember right, Kansas still had 6 congressional districts at that time (now it has just four). I still have the letter of congratulations from him from when I was sent to Kansas Boys’ State at KU. I always thought and still think that he is a pretty good guy. He did after a McCain-like marriage situation. He divorced his first wife, and a lot of people said it was because she was good enough to be a politician’s wife–a Washington wife. She eventually got married to a farmer from Sylvan Grove, and I would see her off and on when I was working over there in the summers. Then later, he married Elizabeth. She’s now a Senator from North Carolina and probably get beat this year, but why either of them wants to stay in politics at their age is a wonder.

I guess I liked when he ran for President the first time, but the first time I remember voting was for John Anderson. I guess by that time I’d already started thinking more about the realities of what the political parties stood for, but I still wasn’t ready to vote for a Democrat. By the time, Jimmy Carter came around, I had more idea of which side thought more like I do, and I haven’t changed my mind much since when Ronald Reagan’s time when all these religious right people started getting more and more control in the Republican party.

But really, it’s hard to tell who these people are; they’re not at all like the Republicans from earlier years that I remember. For sure, those on either side of the political fence could get very argumentative about their positions and put their feet in the ground about where they stood on the issues. But where does all this hate come from? They don’t even seem to care about the issues. Actually, some of things I see from them at rallies looks more like Serbians or other Eastern Europeans, when they were fuming about their former neighbors, who were of a different ethnicity. Or like what I’ve seen on old news reels of some of the German people lashing out against the Jews during Hitler’s early years, before WWII.

It’s really frightening.

I know there are probably still lots of good Republicans out there, but at the moment, the ones who the McCain-Palin campaign are attracting to their events act more like doberman pinschers guarding the junkyard fence.

Yahoo!!! And Connecticut Makes Three–Another U.S. State Legalizes Gay Marriage

From msnbc.com: Hartford, Connecticut–Connecticut’s Supreme Court ruled Friday that same-sex couples have the right to marry, making that state the third behind Massachusetts and California . . . .

The divided court ruled 4-3 that gay and lesbian couples cannot be denied the freedom to marry under the state constitution, and Connecticut’s civil unions law does not provide those couples with the same rights as heterosexual couples.

There will be those that cry out that this is the act of legislating judges, but those that do that have forgotten what they learned in civics and government classes: the constitution was not written to just favor the majority, but was also written to protect the rights of the minority. This has been the case in so many situations of civil rights discrimination. Where the minority has tried to vote in discrimination, courts have had to step in, in order to follow the constitution. This was what happened with “equal-but-separate” and the segregation of schools. Many of the civil rights laws of the 60s would never have been passed if judges first had not stepped in to follow the Constitution.

One thing that I still remember learning in Mr. McKain’s (different spelling and so cute back in those days) government class back at good ol’ DHS (Dorrance, Kansas–that was also when church people set about doing good in the community, rather than spewing out hatred) is that one person’s rights only go to the point where they do not step on another person’s rights. That means (for all of you who still need a lesson in American civics) that your religious rights only go up to the point where they meet a gay person’s right to get married or the right to serve in the military. In other words, you do not hold a trump card. You may think you do, “but it ain’t so.”

It won’t be long before more states follow Connecticut. “Times are a changin'” as they say. A lot of the old coots that hold on to this antiquated thinking are older than me and are going to be dying off in the not too distant future. There are people like Fred Phelps, who has brain-washed some of his children and grandchildren, but in tough times, these hate-mongers might find it more beneficial to use their funds to put food on the table than to travel long distances to spout out more of their vile.

VW Bug and College Life on the Great Plains (Chapter 4)

I went to college in the middle of the Vietnam War years. Though I’d had my VW painted purple and maybe even had a peace sticker on the back window, I was hardly a hippie or a protester. Right at the time I started college, my brother had just come back from Vietnam and gotten out of the army, so I was personally aware of the war and its consequences, but I’d really never thought about whether I was for or against it.

I went to college in Hays (Fort Hays State) and sometimes drove the 44 miles home on the weekends. Forty-four miles seemed much further in those days, and some of the trips back to school on a Sunday night felt long, especially in the winter. The VWs of the 60s had terrible heaters, and sometimes the car never got warmed up the entire ride, and if there was snow or sleet, it would freeze on the windshield because the defroster had so little effect. I know there were times that it was so difficult to see through the windshield and through the blowing snow that it was only because the car knew its own way that we got back to Hays.

However, being light-weight and having the engine in the back, the car got really good traction. Because of that, if the streets around Hays hadn’t been plowed clean, my roommates would always get me to drive. My last year at Fort Hays, we had gone back for inter-session ( a short 2-week mini-semester) early in January, but there had been such a big blizzard that they called off classes for a few days. Of course, we had to get out of the apartment anyway. We found out that the movie theater downtown was open, so we got into the VW and headed out. With the weight of four guys in the car, we moved pretty well through the snow-filled streets, but sometimes we’d run into a drift in the road and the car would just get stuck; then, the other three would jump out of the car and push it through, jump back in and off we’d go. When we finally made it downtown, there weren’t many other cars out and the crowd inside the movie theater was a meager bunch of the most hardy of souls, or maybe the craziest. I guess we felt something like pioneers for being able to get ourselves through all that snow to watch a movie.

The student population at Fort Hays was very homogeneous in those days. The farm population of western Kansas was already dwindling, but not nearly as much as it has in more recent years. Most little towns still had their own high schools as consolidation had just barely started. Like me, the majority of the students came from small Kansas towns and from a more or less isolated existence. There were some out-of-state students and a few foreign students, but most of us came from the same rural background. The first black guy I met was at Fort Hays, but he too was from a small western Kansas town. (Nicodemus, Kansas was started by the exodusters, freed slaves from the South, who settled in western Kansas after the Civil War.) The people I went to school with were basically nice people, really good people, but I think most of us had grown up relatively naive to what was going on very far beyond our part of the state.

Even so, there were a few anti-war rallies on campus, but they were tame in comparison to most, and certainly there were no campus buildings damaged or destroyed by war protestors like happened at KU and some other campuses around the country.

There was a “head shop” that sold mostly black lights and black light posters, but drug use wasn’t that big. Like most college towns, there were a few bars and clubs that attracted students, but aside from weekends, I didn’t know that many people who drank that much. However, one of my roommate’s dorm friends was a pothead of sorts. Through him, I had my first and only experience in Hays of getting high. He had this stash–and, yes, it was truly stashed. One night four of us went out to the college farm to this pasture testing area. There were some test plots, which had fences around them in order to let the native plants grow and prevent the cows–or maybe buffalo (they had some buffalo out there too)–from eating them. We drove all over the place until we located the right plot, and the guy who had the pot stashed went and dug out this big bag of pot–I mean it was about the size of a bread sack. (I wonder how much that amount might be worth today.) He got back in the car, and we drove to another place there on the college farm, which looked out over the city. (At about 15,000 it was a city to all of us from towns of 300 or so.) He rolled some, and we proceeded to smoke it, looked at the glowing city lights, peered through the swirls on glass Pepsi bottles, and laughed a lot. I don’t know whether I got high from smoking the marijuana or just from the excitement of that new experience, but whatever, it all felt a bit dangerous but nonetheless fun.

My social life was typical of most of the “dormies”. Most of the students at Fort Hays were either dormies, lived in a frat or sorority house, or lived at home and commuted. Of course, like my roommates and I during our final year, some of the dormies eventually moved into apartments.

Looking back, the four of us probably could have been classified as nerds, but I don’t think there was such a stigma of being studious as there is today. The three of them were science majors of one kind or another and I was an English major. They studied more than I did, but we all ended up getting good grades. On the other hand, after living in the dorm for three years, we did like to have parties. About once a month, on a Saturday night, we’d throw a party, inviting everyone we knew. Of course, it was always alcohol-centered. If food was involved, there was never anything much more elaborate than some bags of chips. Sometimes, we’d have a “trashcan party”. We’d get some cans of Hi-C, pour it into a big plastic trash can, then everybody would add whatever booze they’d brought into the can. Sometimes, there would be 60 or 70 people inside our small two-bedroom apartment on Custer Drive, with the majority of them spilling out onto the balcony that ran all along the second floor. Well, maybe we weren’t such nerds (and maybe some people did drink quite a bit) after all.

Somehow I got this girlfriend, the first semester of my senior year. I had had a few dates before then, but for the most part, I was scared of girls. Don’t get me wrong; I liked girls, and always had lots of friends who were girls, starting from grade school. Dating, though, was a different matter. In college, I was pretty out-going and involved with student government and other organizations, and lots of other guys I knew were dating, and even getting married, so I guess I felt it was something I should do. I really never felt pressured to do it, for sure not from my roommates, who had less going on in that part of their social lives than I did.

Anyway, that fall, I started dating this girl, who was a year younger than I was. I guess you could say she was on the aggressive side when it came to making the moves. No doubt, she was more experienced than I was, because I had never had any kind of physical relationship with a girl up till then. She seemed to really be into me, so at the beginning I liked going out with her. She liked to come out to our apartment and get me into my shared bedroom, even with the roommates out in the living room, which sort of embarrassed me. There were two things, though, making me reluctant to go all the way: one, I just wasn’t quite as interested in doing it as she was, and second, my mom had put “the fear” in me when I was back in high school about getting a girl pregnant. So while we can say there was sometimes a lot of frenzied action, “no deal was ever completed”.

We soon “started going steady”, exchanging high school class rings and framed photographs. Then not too far down the road, she got me even to look at some engagement rings in a downtown jewelry store. I didn’t think about it at the time, but in hindsight, I realized that this girl was one of those who went to college to get an M.R.S. degree. One weekend, we drove out to meet her parents in Ulysses, where her dad was a school administrator.

Saturday of that weekend, we went around town looking at different churches because the church she and her parents attended would just not do for the wedding she was thinking about; it wasn’t big enough nor nice enough. Mind you, I had not even asked her to get married, but to her it was a foregone conclusion. Sunday morning, we all went to their church, a Baptist church. (Growing up, I went to the Methodist church in Dorrance with my family, and it was pretty low key: a lot of singing of hymns, which I liked, and listening to the boring sermons, which were mostly about how to be a good person, and probably sometimes about how people needed to give more money. When I was about 13 or 14, there were three of us who took catechism classes at the church parsonage in Wilson, taught by the grizzly old preacher that we had at that time. We had to learn Bible verses and other lessons in order to become full members of the church. I really didn’t like going because this old geezer thought that he really had to put the “fear of God” in us. He treated us like we were stupid and primarily terrified us. In the end, I did become a member of the church, but I never liked going after that.) I knew people who were Baptists when I was growing up, and they were no different than any of the rest of us Methodists, Lutherans, Catholics, or whatever. I guess maybe they weren’t supposed to dance, but I think at that time if you were really a strict Methodist, you weren’t supposed to dance either.

But this Baptist church in Ulysses was really different. The preacher was one of those “fire and brimstone” types, and he said that if you weren’t a Baptist, you were going to Hell, but you couldn’t be just any Baptist; if you weren’t a member of that particular Baptist church there in Ulysses, you were going to Hell.

Needless to say, I was beginning to feel like a runner caught between second base and third base in a squeeze play. That drive back to Hays was one that I couldn’t wait to end, and over the next few weeks, I began to distance myself. I knew I didn’t want to get married to this girl, (and somewhere in the back of my mind, I knew that I didn’t want to marry any girl), not because of what had happened during that weekend, but I knew I wasn’t in love with her.

She still had one more card to play; a couple weeks later, she called up and told me that her period was late. I didn’t do anything but worry for a couple of days, wondering how her being pregnant was biologically possible and what I would do if she were. Then finally convinced by a mutual friend, she told me that she had made it up. The one thing I wanted back was my class ring, so I went over to her dorm with her ring and picture. She still had a couple more scenes left in that little drama of hers; when I took her ring and picture back over to her dorm, she started screaming and threw my ring and framed picture down the stairwell at me, shattering the glass all over the place.

Sometime after I had graduated and was already in the Air Force, I heard that she was able to get that M.R.S. degree. Over the years, I’ve thought back on that fall of my senior year and what a miserable mistake it would have been if that relationship had gone any further.

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You may also want to read VW Bug and a Summer Job, VW Bug and a Summer Job, Chapter 2, and VW Bug and Saturday Night in a Small Town.

After Hurricane Ike: Getting Back To a Routine, But Thinking About Blizzards and “Bierochs” (Recipe Included)

This week really felt good–getting back to a normal schedule, after being at loose ends without electricity and not working. I feel so fortunate to have pretty much everything back to normal, when there are so many who don’t, from those still without electricity here around town, to those down on the coast and other places inland, who lost so much–homes, jobs, and, in some cases, even loved ones.

A Clean Fridge

A Clean Fridge

It’s actually nice to start with a clean, fresh refrigerator. I threw everything out the next day after Hurricane Ike came through, knowing that even though the fridge was still cool, the electricity probably wasn’t going to come back on soon enough to save anything, and, in fact, it didn’t.

Somehow restocking the fridge and just going through being without utilities for a few days got me to thinking about the blizzards that we used to have on the farm when I was a kid. If there was an ice storm, or the winds were strong enough and snapped a pole, then there’d be no electricity. And the electric crews couldn’t get out to repair the lines until the snow plows opened up the drifted roads.

The worst storm I remember was when I was in maybe second or third grade. The drifts in front of the house were lots taller than Dad, and some of the drifts on the roads covered them completely, so it was hard to know where the roads and ditches were or where the stone post and barbed wire fences were alongside them. That year, the National Guard flew out in helicopters or airplanes and tried to throw hay bales down for the herds of cattle that were stranded out in the snow. Apparently, they missed their target somewhere between our place and town, because they ended up tossing some of the bales down onto some power lines, and made getting the electricity back on much more of a problem. It took two weeks to get electricity back and for the snow plow to come make a way for us to get out.

During the time the lights were out, the biggest problem on our farm was getting water because there was an electric pump on the well. There was a tank in the well, but even if there was electricity, sometimes the pipe from the well to the house would freeze up. If it didn’t freeze, we’d try to make the water from the tank stretch, just using it for drinking. For washing, we’d go out and get snow to melt or go to the creek, break the ice on top, and bring it back, then strain it with the milk strainer to get it clean enough to use.

A lot different than these “modern” days, when a hurricane comes through during the hot months, keeping food and cooking it was never really a big problem when the electricity went off during a blizzard. Things from the fridge that needed to stay cold could go out in the wash house, where they would stay really cold or even frozen. Also Mom always kept cupboards stocked with the basics like flour and lard, and there was milk and cream from the couple of milk cows that we usually had, which needed to be milked blizzard or no blizzard. We also used propane for the cook stove and heating, so we always kept warm and ate well. Out back, we had “the cave”, which held the jars of canned vegetables and fruits and a bin filled with potatoes. (The cave is another story altogether.)

Mom cooked a lot on cold days because it warmed up the kitchen, which helped keep the entire house warmer. It seems like we always had a lot of soups on those cold winter days. Because we had chickens, we had homemade noodle soup and from our own meat, vegetable beef soup, and, well, chili too. Mom made the best angel food cakes, and I usually got a chocolate angel food cake for my birthday. (You’re thinking I’m changing the subject, but I’m not.) The angel food cake Mom made took a dozen egg whites, so then the yolks were left over–Just what is needed to make homemade noodles. Mom would roll them out on the linoleum-topped kitchen table into big round circles, and then hang them over the backs of the chairs to dry a bit. Then she’d lay all of them one on top of the other, roll them up, and slice them into thin, curly strips, spreading them out on the table to dry some more. That’s when we’d try to sneak a few of the fresh, uncooked noodles without her seeing us. Well, I did that; being the youngest, I know I did. And I got away with it most of the time.

We had our own meat from the cows we raised. Dad would get somebody to take one of the younger ones that had been born the spring before into Klema’s in Wilson, where it would be butchered. Klema’s also had a locker plant, which rented lockers where you could keep the meat that had been butchered frozen. I’d go back in there with Dad when we went to get groceries; it was so cold that they had extra coats hanging on some hooks that you could wear while you were inside the locker part. Dad had his own key for our locker, which he opened and got the meat that we wanted for that week. There was no cellophane or styrofoam on those packages of meat; everything was wrapped in white butcher paper, taped closed, and stamped with whatever cut of meat was in the package: Pike’s Peak roast, round steak, hamburger, and the like.

From our own ground beef, one of the best cold weather dishes that Mom made was bierochs (pronounced beer-rocks). (Actually, now that I’m writing this I’m thinking that I’m going to make some when the first really cool weekend arrives here in Houston. But who knows when that will be?) Not many people are familiar with beirochs unless they’ve got some German-Russian in their heritage. And I don’t mean German or Russian, I mean German-Russian. In the area of Kansas where I grew up there were lots of people whose heritage is German-Russian. I don’t know the history of it all because our family was not of that descent, but apparently, for reasons of not wanting to be in one military or another military, at some point, large numbers of these people immigrated from Germany to somewhere near the Volga River in Russia, and then in the late 1800s and very early 1900s, many of them or perhaps their descendants immigrated to the US, especially to parts of central and western Kansas.

And one of the best things they brought with them was bierocks. It was one of those dishes that many people in my little town of Dorrance made (and still make), and my mom was one of them. I guess she may have learned how from an aunt. We didn’t have bierochs too often at home because they’re one of those delicious dishes that take time to make. Basically, they are a meat and cabbage filled bun. The filling is the easy part, and it doesn’t take exact measurements. How much of the few ingredients you use depends on how many bierochs you want to make.

In a big skillet, you need to brown up some ground beef (a pound or two) and some onion, just like you might do if you were making spaghetti sauce. Then drain off any grease that cooks out. Then add at least a half of head of shredded cabbage. Again, you might want more cabbage if you’ve used more ground meat. (My mom used to complain that some other women were cheap and didn’t use enough, or maybe any meat.) Salt and pepper well because the cabbage, especially, will absorb the seasonings. (I’ve lived in Texas so many years that sometimes I also add about a quarter teaspoon of cayenne pepper.) Put a lid on the meat and cabbage mixture and let the cabbage cook down some. The cabbage can stay a tad on the not-so-cooked side because this filling will cook a bit more when baking the bierochs themselves. When cooked, let the mixture cool down some before filling the dough. I’ve seen some recipes that add ketchup and mustard and a few other ingredients, but ground beef, cabbage, a little onion, and salt and pepper is “the Dorrance way”.

To make bierochs quickly, some people like to roll out dinner rolls from the dairy case to use for the outside. I’ve tried that, but the results are just “OK”. You really need a good recipe for homemade rolls, or “buns” as we’ve always called them, for the bread covering of the bierochs, if you’re going to make “real” bierochs. As I said before, the filling is the easy part, so if you’re going to make homemade dough, you have start it first. And if you’re going to have bierochs for supper, you might want to get the dough started in the morning, depending on how fast your dough rises. Making bierochs really is not difficult, but because there are several steps, it does take time.

Here is my mom’s “bun” recipe, but I’ve also used one that included a mashed boiled potato and the potato water. Both are good.

1/4 cup warm water, 1 package yeast, 1/2 cup sugar, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, 3 tablespoons shortening, 2 beaten eggs, 2 cups boiling water, and 7 cups flour

Dissolve yeast in the 1/4 cup of water. (Add a teaspoon of sugar to make the yeast rise.) Put sugar, salt, and shortening in a large glass or crock bowl. Add 2 cups of boiling water, and let cool. Add beaten eggs, yeast, and four cups of the flour. Beat well (with an electric mixer). Then add the rest of the flour and stir in gradually. Let rise until doubled.

For bierochs, take a portion of the dough and roll it out on a flour-covered surface until it is about 1/4 (or less) inch thick. Cut the dough into pieces about six inches square. You’ll probably need to roll each piece again as it tends to pull back together once you cut it. Using a spoon, heap about 1/4 cup of the filling into the center of the square of dough. Then fold the corners in so that all 4 corners meet; pinch all of the seams tightly closed. Then place the bierock in a greased baking pan, seam side down. Continue making the individual bierocks and arranging them in rows in the baking pan. The bierocks do not need to touch in the pan because they need to rise one more time before baking. Place a tea towel over the entire pan (or pans depending how many you have made) and let rise until they look like soft pillows. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Bake the bierochs until they are golden brown on top. (If you have made more dough than filling, you can make the rest of the dough into “buns”. With your hands greased, roll the dough into balls a bit larger than a silver dollar, place them in a greases baking pan, let rise, and then bake at 375 degrees for 25 minutes.)

Some people like to make much bigger bierochs, maybe because they think they can make them faster, but I like them about the size of a hamburger bun (only square). Plan for two or three per person. These are great with a nice salad or vegetables alongside. Some people (including me) like to dip bierochs in a little ketchup; however, some people are purists and like them plain. They are great right out of the oven, but they can also be kept in the refrigerator and heated up in the microwave. They also freeze well if they are kept in a very tight plastic bag or container.

Still today, after eating foods from all over the world, if someone asks me what my favorite is, I’ll still say the same thing that I would have said when I was about 10 years old: bierochs.

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If you liked this article, you might like Hamburger Gravy, Puddin’ Meat, Coffee Milk and Hopalong Cassidy, and Sex in a Pan.

VW Bug and Saturday Night in a Small Town (Chapter 3)

When I was working at the depots at Sylvan Grove, Luray, and Natoma, I drove back and forth every day to the folks’ farm, where I was staying for the summer, so I had no rent to pay. With only to supply my own lunches, I didn’t have much to pay out of pocket for food since I rarely ate breakfast, and Mom always made supper. Most all of my summer wages I could save for college. For entertainment at home, we watched TV in the evenings like we had always done since we got the first TV set.

But every Saturday night, I “went to town”. Town was my little hometown of Dorrance, where I had graduated from high school. Going to town was what almost every country boy who had his own car did on Saturday nights. It was also kind of a tradition for the boys in my family. My older brothers had gone to town on Saturday nights after they had their own cars. And those summers after I had my own car, I went to town.

Not that there was all that much to do in Dorrance on Saturday nights. By that time, the drug store had been closed quite a number of years, and I’m not sure if there was even a restaurant any more. There was the pool hall, but I didn’t spend time in there because my aunt and uncle ran it. I had been taught at home that it wasn’t the kind of place to hang out. I did go there sometimes in high school when some of my friends went there, and we played a little snooker or 8-ball. It was such a weird situation because we grew up in this little town, but we were never close to most of our relatives, so the aunt and uncle who ran the pool hall didn’t really seem like relatives; on the other hand, to hang out in the pool hall and drink beer in front of my aunt and uncle seemed like something I shouldn’t be doing. Though, they, of course, were the ones who sold the beer! (That’s really convoluted thinking, isn’t it?)

So those summer Saturday nights, I would buy a six-pack of beer (maybe at the pool hall or maybe I would go to Wilson), and do the only thing there was much to do in Dorrance for a young guy with a car–drag main street. Of course, dragging main street in Dorrance could be pretty repetitious–because the part of main street that we would “drag” was only one block long. You drove one way to the corner, made a u-turn and then drove the other way and made a u-turn, hoping some of your friends would be doing the same thing. If they were, sometimes you’d stop in the middle of the street and shoot the breeze for awhile because there probably wouldn’t be any other cars for awhile, and if there were, the street was wide enough that they could get by with no problem.

Of course, dragging main got old after a while, so then you started driving around the rest of town, which even if you drove only about 20 mph would only take about 15 minutes, and that would be all of the streets on both the north and south sides of the railroad tracks. I usually didn’t find too many of my friends because by my last two years in college, many of them had gotten married or moved away.

If I didn’t find anyone to talk to or hang out with, sometimes I would take off the seven miles down Old 40 to Wilson or even the fifteen miles to Russell and drag main street in those towns. The only object was that it was some place to drive to, because more than likely, I wouldn’t find anybody I knew, but for sure in those towns there would be more people “dragging main”.

At the end of the night, I would have finished my six-pack. Probably not the most exciting thing to do on a Saturday night, but I’m sure it wasn’t so different from what a lot of young guys in rural areas with their own cars did on Saturday night. (After all, both beer and gas were cheap back then.)

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If you liked this one, you might want to read “VW Bug and a Summer Job and “VW Bug and a Summer Job, Chapter Two”.

Picnik: A Cool Photo-Editing Site (UPDATE: Read about Picmonkey Below)

If you look at the dates of my blog, you can see that I haven’t been at it very long, or maybe you can tell it for other reasons. I’m not an expert and I know it, but I’m learning and have found lots of other great blogs as well as helpful sites.

One that I really like is Picnik. It’s a photo-editing site. It’s free and you don’t have to download anything to use it. That’s one reason I like it so much. I have a couple other ways to edit photos on my computer, but I think they are more difficult to get to if I’m working on my blog. If you keep the Picnik page open, you can just download one of your pictures, edit it, and–wham–it’s ready to add it to your post.

It’s all pretty intuitive too. I think anyone who works with photos and artwork would like it; probably you scrap-boogers–I mean scrap-bookers (and you know who you are) would like it because it’s really easy to change the sizes of photos and crop them. What I really like is being able to easily–and yes, it’s easy–to overlay text on a photo. There are lots of special effects features as well.

I’ve used it on most of the pics I’ve added in my blog, including all of the flower photos in the blog below. I did my banner at the top with it, from the little picture that’s under it on the left. I started first with the old Dorrance postcard, which you can see in one of my first posts, Fishing on the Flooded Smoky River.

Another good photo-editing site is FotoFlexer.

UPDATE:  Picnik is no longer a functioning photo-editing site.  It is now a part of Google+, and since I don’t use Google+, I tried to find a photo-editor similar to Picnik.  Picmonkey is the best substitute that I have found. 

Picmonkey, for the most part, functions like Picnik did.  I use it mostly for cropping, re-sizing, and framing photos for my blog, and it works well and fast with these functions.  However, I am disappointed with the type fonts, as it doesn’t have nearly as many as Picnik, and many are of the handwriting-style, rather than the more standard fonts.  Also, I’ve experience problems moving back and forth from one function to another.  For example, if I crop and re-size a photo, then frame it, sometimes I can’t go back to the original main functions, so I just have to start all over with the photo.

For the most part, though, Picmonkey satisfies my basic photo-editing needs, and perhaps they will do some upgrading to work out the kinks in the site.