My Mama’s Homemade Bread

My mother, Joy, has made this bread ever since I was a little girl. I have proof of that, because years ago I drew a lovely picture on her recipe! She’s even laminated it to keep the little drawing from getting ruined. Isn’t that sweet?

This bread smells like home. I can remember coming home from school smelling a roast cooking…and this bread. There was no masking the smell of this wonderful bread. It’s my favorite. Eat it with honey, butter, apple butter, soak up a stew…the possibilities are deliciously endless.

It makes me all warm and fuzzy inside. And it also makes me want to eat!

Even today with my own family, when I make this bread, everyone comes running from all directions. My little boys love it so much they’ll eat almost a whole loaf while it’s still hot. (Maybe I help a little.)

My mother says that you can freeze this bread. That would be fabulous, but I never have leftovers. I did actually freeze it once. This bread was my choice for toast after I gave birth…both times we had our home births. So when I had our third son, making this bread and freezing it was on the top of my before-birth to do list. After he came into the world (after all the baby cuddling and joyful crying) my husband prepared my toast on this bread. The best toast I ever tasted.

All this background information to say…I love this bread so everyone should make it and love it too.

Here’s how:

1 cup boiling water

½ cup honey

½ stick butter

1 package yeast

½ tsp sugar

¼ cup warm water

2 eggs

½ tbsp salt

4 cups bread flour (I use Gold Medal)

Directions: In a large bowl, combine the first three ingredients. Let the butter melt and let the water return to room temperature.

Meanwhile, combine the yeast, sugar, and warm water. Let the yeast start bubbling.

Mix up the eggs with the salt. Now, combine the first set of ingredients with the egg mixture. Add the yeast mixture. Combine it all well.

Add the bread flour one cup at a time. Mix it until all the flour is incorporated. Cover the bowl, and let it rise for 2 hours.

After the two hours is up, turn the dough out onto a floured surface. Knead it a few times. Divide the dough in two. Put the two balls of dough into two prepared loaf pans. (To prepare pans: I always butter the pans, then sprinkle them evenly with flour.) Cover the loaves in the pans and let rise another hour.

After this hour is up, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Brush the two loaves with melted butter. Put in the oven for 10 minutes.

Take loafs out of the oven, and turn the oven down to 250. (Around this time a heavenly aroma will begin to fill the house.)

Brush with more butter. Put foil over the loafs, and put back in the oven for 25 minutes.

That’s it! If I can control myself, I let the bread cool slightly before slicing it. But if I don’t care about self-control, I’ll go ahead and slice the end off and try it out with some butter or honey. Burnt fingertips will not keep me from slicing piping hot bread!

A Perfectly Peeled Boiled Egg + The Farmers’ Favorite Deviled Eggs

For years we have experimented with different ways to peel boiled eggs. Fresh eggs are notorious for being hard to peel. I’ve messed up many a boiled egg by scratching into the white part because the shells wouldn’t peel! It’s been frustrating. We tried putting salt in the water while the eggs boiled. We tried vegetable oil or olive oil in the boiling water. (This actually works very well, but it coats everything with oil and it gets messy.) Then, one day I stumbled across a new method. I had to try it several times because it was accidental. Others may have already figured this trick out years ago! But it’s been working for me for a while now. It’s quick and it’s saved many deviled eggs from ruin.

Boil eggs for 10-15 minutes. Let them sit on the stove and cool for a few minutes. When they are cooler, but the water is still pretty hot, drain the water in the sink. Immediately run some cool water over the eggs, and drain them again. Fill again with cool water and let the eggs sit in the cool water for a few minutes. I’m usually preparing the other parts of our meal at this point, so right before everything is ready, I start peeling the eggs. If they are still too warm to handle, just rinse under cold water for a minute.

Start peeling the eggs! They are so easy to peel! Look at this picture: half the shell comes off with very minimal effort.

I love this! Little things like that make my life easier and happier.

On to the recipe part for all the farmers’ favorite deviled eggs. I say all of the farmers because the plain version is gobbled up by the little boys and myself, and the jalapeno version is my husband’s favorite.

So, we have our boiled eggs from a few paragraphs ago.

Slice them in two, cutting all around the white, not cutting into the yolk. I plop the yolks into a bowl, and set the two white halves in my egg serving plate. Repeat this process until all the eggs are cut and the yolks are in the bowl. I usually make 6 eggs, so that’s 12 halves for deviled eggs.

Then I mush up the yolks with a fork. I add two gobs of mayo and mustard. (Use slightly more mustard than mayo.) Mix this all up. Now I switch to a plastic spatula, and make sure none of the yolks are stuck to the side of the bowl. I “mush” everything up well, making sure no chunks of yolk are left.

Then I transfer just a little bit into each egg half. I just scrape it off the little spatula into the egg. When all the yolks are used up, sprinkle smoked paprika lightly on to the tops of the eggs. (Notice…smoked paprika. This stuff is incredible. I get mine from Trader Joe’s. It takes everything to the next level!) That’s it! Little farm boys beg for these.

Jalapeno Version:

For a spicier, more interesting deviled egg, I just use my pickled jalapenos. When I get a slice out of the jar, I make sure there is a little bit of liquid on the fork, and drip it on the egg too. The flavors go well together. Again, I may not be the originator of this recipe, but we’ve just put it together over the years and it has become a staple in our home.

A Variation on Natural Cleaners

If you can’t tell already from my other posts, I like to make things myself. I love knowing what goes into my cleaning products. I’m not an expert on how toxic store-bought cleaners are, but they hurt my nose therefore I like to skip the cleaning isle at the store and make them myself. There are so many great recipes out there for natural cleaning products. I have tried many! I have used fresh lemons, Dawn dish liquid, baking soda, essential oils, plain vinegar… and variations on all the above! I’ve experimented for years, and found the perfect cleaner for me.

It couldn’t be too hard to mix up. I had to have something that I could whip up quickly, because I usually forget I ran out… until it’s bath time and I need it right then. (So that rules out the fresh lemons.)

It also had to be completely natural and free of harsh chemicals.

This variation is easy, clean, and quick. I’ve mixed it up in less than 3 minutes. That’s with little boys running around waiting for their bathtub to get cleaned out!

My unit of measurement for this recipe is a large spray bottle. I believe I bought mine from Target. Plastic is fine.

Fill half the spray bottle with white vinegar.

Fill the rest of the way with water. (I never fill it all the way to the top, just up to the neck of the bottle.)

This is the fun part, and I’ll switch up scents depending on how I feel.

Using pure essential oils, put 15 drops each of two oils in the bottle. If you want to use 3 different oils, just do 10 drops each. My favorites are:

Lemon

Clove

Eucalyptus

Tea Tree

Currently, I’m using Lemon and Eucalyptus. If you have another favorite, I’m sure it would work here too! All of the oils I’ve listed are natural cleaners. So without using harmful chemicals, I feel good about using plant based essential oils to kill germs. Bonus—it smells amazing!

I use this every night in my bathtub. I also use it to clean the rest of the bathroom, then the kitchen, and even my floors. For especially tough bathroom grime, I sprinkle plain baking soda on the surface of what I’m cleaning. Then I spray this cleaner on the baking soda. (It fizzes and I think it sounds cool.) I let it sit for a few minutes and then scrub with a brush. It gets the bathtub spotless. It also works great on the toilet and sink where the little farmers have made messes.

Cades Cove Snow Cream

Well it has finally snowed in our part of East Tennessee. We woke up to a beautiful sheet of snow, white covered everything. The boys and I are stuck inside next to our wood stove until their daddy comes home—then it’s play time. It doesn’t snow here often, so it is a special day when it does.

If you’re wondering why I’m calling this recipe Cades Cove Snow Cream, read on!

My husband’s great grandparents were Kermit and Lois Caughron, the last family to live and farm in Cades Cove. They moved away from the Cove in 1999 when Grandpa Kermit passed away. Today, Grandma Lois lives only a few miles from us. Her daughter, my husband’s grandma, is passionate about keeping memories of Cades Cove alive. (We call her Mamaw Ruthie.) She is always happy to answer my questions about life in the Cove and encourages all of our endeavors here on the farm!

So today, with all the snow, I wondered if they ever made snow cream in the Cove. I asked, and yes, they did! Mamaw Ruthie told me how to do it:

Get a big bowl of clean snow. (Scooped with a spoon and put in a bowl. See picture above.)

Pour milk over the snow. (I drizzled enough to melt it down just a tad.)

Add sugar and vanilla. (Two little handfuls of sugar, drizzle of vanilla.)

Stir it all up.

~~YUMMY!!~~

I’m proud to say we have a new tradition when it snows on the farm. What a fun old-fashioned treat. Try it out!

Guinea Egg Frittata

Sounds fancy, right? I love using guinea eggs because they are so unique. The shells are really hard to crack, even though they are smaller than chicken eggs. Everything is smaller, but they taste really good! I wanted to come up with a recipe where these little eggs could be the star.

Ingredients:

8 guinea eggs

½ lb bacon

1/3 c cheese

1 garlic clove

Salt and pepper

Dried parsley

Preheat oven to 350.

First, cook the bacon in the iron skillet. Once the bacon is crispy, remove it from the skillet and just drain it on a paper towel. Make sure there is enough grease left in the skillet to coat the bottom well. I actually had to pour some off because there was too much.

Whip up the eggs, add the cheese, garlic, salt and pepper, and crumble up the crispy bacon and add to the egg mixture. (As I’m writing this, I’m thinking adding spinach or bell peppers would be good!)

The skillet should still be warm. You can turn it back on for just a minute, and then when the grease is good and hot, pour in the egg mixture. It should sizzle a little. Sprinkle some parsley flakes on the top.

Let the eggs cook for a few minutes, until the edges are cooked. The middle will still be runny looking.

Now, put the skillet into the oven for about 10 minutes. Keep a good eye on it, because it burns easily!

Once the center is firm, you can take it out of the oven! I slid my frittata out on a plate, cut it in fourths, and served for lunch. When you make a big deal out of guinea eggs, little boys think it’s fun to eat! They gave this a thumbs up.

Homemade Laundry Detergent

I discovered this recipe for homemade laundry detergent about 7 years ago. (Wow, it’s been a long time!) That’s how long we’ve been married. I stumbled across a great blog that I’ve followed ever since. (The Prairie Homestead. Jill Winger is the author. I’ve used so many of her recipes!) I’ve tried several different laundry soap recipes, one other I have used is a dry detergent. This is liquid. I personally like the liquid better. Since I first found this recipe, my mama and a few friends have used it too! I based my recipe off of The Prairie Homestead, tweaked a little over the years. Here’s how I do it.

-One bar of Fels-Naptha soap, grated with a cheese grater into a large soup pot of water.

I run the water in the pot first, then grate the soap in to reduce the amount of bubbles. Running water into the grated soap tends to make lots of bubbles.

-Heat the water and soap until the soap dissolves. This doesn’t take very long, just a few minutes. Just heat slowly, no need to bring to a boil. When it dissolves, turn the heat off.

-Add 2 cups Borax. Stir well.

-Add 2 cups washing soda. Stir well. Washing soda and baking soda are two different products. Washing soda by Arm and Hammer is found in the laundry detergent section just as Borax is.

-Once all the ingredients are dissolved, I pour my soup pot full of detergent into a 5 gallon bucket. If your farm is anything like ours, we have buckets laying around everywhere. Just clean out a good 5 gallon bucket, and you’re set.

-Fill the bucket ¾ of the way with warm water from the sink. Stir it all up!

-Let the detergent sit overnight. By morning, it will be thickened.

I have used essential oils to give this a scent before, but really, I like the way it smells as is. I have added lavender and lemon, and eucalyptus essential oil in the past.

To use:

I fill a half pint jar about ¾ of the way with detergent, and pour in the bottom of my washer. For a very soiled load of laundry, such as dirty farm clothes, I might use a little extra detergent. In my experience with this laundry soap, my clothes have always came out very clean. If you know us, we are not sticklers for bright and vivid whites to say the least…haha. All I know is this do-it-yourself recipe saves me money and cleans just as well as store bought detergent. I stay away from strong smelling detergents with all the yucky additives. I will not use fabric softener because first, I think it’s a waste of money, and second, its full of crazy chemicals I don’t want on my family’s skin. I have never missed fabric softener. Same with dryer sheets. I never have problems with static-y laundry. So I don’t need dryer sheets either. I really prefer to dry my towels and sheets on the clothesline. There’s nothing like the smell of fresh towels that come from the laundry line after a day in the sun.

Try this recipe out! It’ll save you major bucks on store bought detergent! It’s fun, easy, and I always feel better about using minimal ingredients.

Caring For Cast Iron

I’m going to apologize right away for the length of my introduction for “Caring for Cast Iron”. If you want to skip ahead to the instructions, feel free. But I must first tell of my obsession and fascination with cast iron.

It started years ago when cast iron was more of a mystery to me than an every day tool. I had heard tale of such a thing as an iron skillet that wouldn’t stick, and how you can’t wash them in soap. I was always intrigued because it sounded like such a high achievement. My grandmothers and great grandmothers were cast iron wielders. Yet, here I was a new wife…learning how to cook and I only had newfangled nonstick cookware. It was nice! But it felt a little like cheating when I had the thought of that cast iron looming over me. I’ve always loved old things, and cast iron fit perfectly with my dream of learning all the skills our ancestors knew. I was given a few Dutch ovens and maybe one little skillet for our wedding showers. I think I might of took one camping once, but without seasoning it… And the bacon stuck and it was horrible.

Fast forward a few years. I’m not sure where the obsession began. I determined to get rid of all the modern cookware and only use cast iron and stainless. My husband started buying me skillets for Valentine’s Day and Christmas. He bought me a brand new one once, but after that he went to antique shops and found old brands that were made to last. Griswold and Sydney were two good ones. I was so excited. We cleaned them up and seasoned them. I had my bean pot that my daddy had given me, a tea kettle, too. Since then, I’ve acquired three more from my Abbott grandparents. (These are heirlooms, and I’ve only cooked out of the bean pot and one skillet.) Now this is all I use! I’ve completely weaned myself off of “non-stick” cookware. This was one of my lifelong goals. My kitchen is pretty well decorated with my cast iron of various sizes. I am just happy looking at them.

So how does one attain such non-stick perfection from a cast iron skillet? I’ll tell you how.

If you buy a cast iron skillet, for example, and it says pre-seasoned, you’re going to want to go ahead and season it anyway. If you have a rusty heirloom, find a husband like mine that can wire-brush the rust off. Or you can work really hard scrubbing with steel wool. Regardless, you will want to wash the skillet with soap and hot water first. After washing, dry with a paper towel and if little bits of black are still coming off, you’ll have to go back to the sink and wash it again. When you dry with the paper towel and it is clean, it’s time to move on to the next step.

Preheat the oven to 325. Place the oven rack in the center. Put a piece of aluminum foil on the bottom rack. (Do this before the oven heats up. It gets hot trying to place the foil if you forget.)

While the oven is heating up, drizzle vegetable oil in the skillet. I just drizzle a little bit, and use a paper towel to make sure the oil is rubbed in the skillet, coated evenly. You definitely don’t want the oil running off in your oven (this stinks up/smokes up the house), so just make sure it’s coated well. Also, you will want to rub oil on the underside of the skillet, and the handle, however you can manage without getting vegetable oil all over your hands.

After you finish coating the skillet, place it on the center rack in the oven. Leave it in there for an hour. For some reason, I always season my cast iron at night. So, when the hour is up, I’ll just turn off the oven and leave the skillet in the oven. That way in the morning, it will be cool.

Now it’s ready to use!

Here’s some important things to remember once you’ve started cooking:

-I always heat and oil my skillets/Dutch oven before I start my cooking. For example, cooking cornbread, I’ll put the oil in first and heat it. Or say I’m fixing sautéed green beans. I’ll heat the butter/olive oil first, then add the veggies.

-If you get something stuck while cooking, just pour some water in while it’s still hot, and it’ll come off easier. Or if you’re still in the middle of cooking, adding some liquid like broth or wine will help pull stuck food off. (You can just call it deglazing.)

-After I cook and all the food is served out of the skillet, I’ll go ahead and fill it with hot water.

-Time to do dishes. After everything else is clean, I do my skillet last. I’ll drain the dishwater.

IMPORTANT: Do not use dish soap on your cast iron! It will take the hard work you put into seasoning and wash it right down the drain!

-Hot water and a dish rag will be enough to clean off the leftover food, if there is any. If there are any hard to scrub places, I just dab at the spot with steel wool (or a fingernail), don’t scrub too hard, and the food usually comes right off.

Now the cornbread skillet is a little different. I won’t even use a washcloth on it. I’ll just lightly rinse the crumbs out, if there are any! Sometimes it comes out so clean that I’ll just wipe it with a paper towel.

-To dry the skillet properly, I’ll set it on my woodstove if it’s wintertime. But for those without a hot stove in their living room, the stovetop eye works great.

-Heat it on the eye and when all the little water droplets are gone, I actually use coconut oil spray and spritz it on the skillet. (I cook with coconut oil, so that’s just what I always have. Trader Joe’s has a great coconut oil spray that is my favorite.) Turn off the eye, and let it sit ‘til it cools. I might wipe with a paper towel to make sure the oil is evenly distributed. A few hours later I’ll hang it back up on the wall. This is how I do it. I know other cooks may do it differently. But this is what works for me! Please let me know if you have questions! If you have anymore tips that I forgot, feel free to share!

Old Timey Soup Beans

Part One:

2 lb dried pinto beans

Water

The night before you want to have beans for dinner, you have to soak. Here’s our method to soak the beans:

Rinse and strain beans two or three times. Put in a big soup pot, and add water until beans are very well-covered, two inches or more.

Bring water to a boil. Boil beans for about 10 minutes. Turn off the stovetop, and let the beans sit overnight.

Part Two:

The next morning, you can do one of two things: crockpot or soup pot, or Dutch oven on the stove. Both is the same concept. We are cooking low and slow all day, at least 6 hours, up to 8 hours. (Also, this translates easily to an open fire. Follow all these steps except hang pot over a fire all day!)

To the soup pot that has been sitting overnight, add the following:

Bacon! I brown my chopped-up bacon on an iron skillet right before I add to the pot. Add grease and crispy bacon pieces to the beans. This makes them extra yummy. If you don’t have delicious bacon on hand, fatback thrown into the pot is the more traditional way to do beans.

1 ½ tbsp dried onion flakes

2 tsp garlic powder

3 tsp salt, sometimes more

1 tsp pepper

If you’re using the Crockpot, the best invention ever, just turn on low for 8 hours.

If you’re using the soup pot on the stove eye, just keep a check on it to make sure it’s simmering all day. I suppose if you boiled them quite rapidly it may be ready in 4 or 6 hours.

Open fire—just keep an eye on them. Cook all day.

Whatever method you choose, just make sure the water doesn’t cook out. You want to keep the liquid above the beans.

Once they are nice and soft, it’s time to eat.

To keep with the theme, you may want to serve with cornbread and a big ol’ onion.

Our Favorite Cornbread

Cornbread is just one of those staples in the Appalachian kitchen. You can’t have iron skillets without cornbread. In fact, usually there is a special skillet designated just for cornbread. It’s the perfectly seasoned skillet where the cornbread just slides off onto the plate, perfectly intact. You get to where you can trust your skillet. You know that when you take excellent care of your cast iron, it will never disappoint you. (It’s a sad thing when cornbread sticks to the bottom of the skillet.)

Here’s how to make our favorite cornbread. I’ve adapted and meshed a few recipes together over the years. We like this version the best.

First, heat your skillet and pour just a little bit of grease in it. I never measure this part, but I would say maybe 2 tbsp. Just enough to coat the skillet well. You can really heat it on the stove eye, or go ahead and warm it in your oven. Oven will be set to 450.

Crack one egg in a medium bowl. Add ¼ oil to the bowl. Here’s where you can get creative. I’ve used coconut oil before, but our favorite is bacon grease or lard from smoked fatback. I’m not a fan of vegetable oil or Crisco. Good smoked bacon grease is the best!

Add 1 1/3 c. of milk, then add a tbsp or two of sour cream. Stir together, and then add the 2 c of cornmeal. Mix it all up. I really don’t overmix, just enough to get everything combined, I usually just use a fork.

Now the skillet (or Dutch oven) is ready for the batter. Get it out of the oven, and by now the oil should be very hot. Pour your batter in the skillet, and it will make a lovely popping sound as the batter hits the hot oil. This is good!

If you’re using the oven, preheated to 450, it will need to cook for about 20 minutes.

If you’re using the fire, which I frequently do, set your Dutch oven on hot coals, and heap some coals on the top of the lid. Be prepared to check it after about 10 minutes, because depending on the heat of the coals and how many there are, this could burn very quickly. Just lift the lid slightly to check on things, and if you need more time, about 15 to 20 minutes will get it done.

That’s it! A well cared for iron skillet will turn the cornbread right out! The cornbread is hot and ready for a big gob of butter.

J&R Farms Natural Products

For many years I had been on a mission to find purely natural skincare products. I finally found the perfect company to buy from, but it was a little pricey. I would highly recommend them to anyone, because I love the products.

But I still wanted something more accessible and I love making things myself while saving money. Last year, I made a successful batch of soap. (The previous batch was a disaster…more on that later.) So I came across some online sources and a few soapmaking books and started in on making my own soap. Ever since, I haven’t bought soap from the store. My whole family uses my soap. It is gentle enough for baby while being ‘good’ enough to clean my hardworking farmer husband. I found a recipe that is good for my skin, has minimal ingredients (which is a big deal for me), and lathers up well. I use these ingredients in my soap to cook with on a daily basis so I always have them on hand! (I don’t eat lye. Just the coconut oil and olive oil!)

I also have a few more things I’ve had a great time making. I’ve been making herbal creations for a few years now. I make them for my family to use, and give them away to friends that need them. I love to use the resources I have here on the farm, such as jewelweed or St. John’s-Wort, and infuse them into oils to use in skincare products.

I’ve introduced several things on Facebook that I thought people would be interested in buying. Head over to our page to see the pictures of what I’ve put up for sale! Contact me for more info if you are interested! Here’s a quick breakdown of what I have made so far:

Lavender Salve- I use this on the back of my hands for dry skin. Look up the benefits of lavender oil for skin problems! The ingredients are all known to help your skin. I use beeswax, calendula infused olive oil, shea butter, and coconut oil. A salve is not really a cream, but since it’s beeswax based it’s a little more solid but still soft.

Poison Ivy Salve- This is actually a best seller! I can’t claim that this cures poison ivy for everyone, but in my husband’s case, it sure did. I used a pretty plant that grows on our property called jewelweed, known to counteract stinging nettle rash, and tried it on his poison ivy last year. It made the itching go away. I was pretty excited about this! Naturally, I made it into a salve. Along with beeswax, the only ingredient is grapeseed oil infused with jewelweed leaves.

PineyMint Rub- This is an infused oil with pine needles! Also full of peppermint essential oil. It smells great, and in my experience has helped with anything related to tension headache or minor neck aches from stress. I think just smelling it helps me feel better.

Orange Shea Balm- This is my favorite! I use it every night on my face right before I go to bed. It smells great. It feels great. And I’d love to share it with ya’ll! I experimented all day one Friday in my kitchen until I was happy with the results. It is soft and smooth. I do caution people that a little goes a long way. Same with any other product with natural oils in it. If you use too much, your skin won’t absorb, and you’ll be a little oily. I put my Orange Shea Balm on chapped lips too.

Just to be on the safe side, I will say that none of my statements or my products have been evaluated by the FDA or the Consumer Product Safety Commission. I make my products as a hobby out of my own kitchen, and I personally have used the products I sell. Results for me and my family may be different for others. Never put any of these products in your eyes. For external use only.