Pass the Smucker’s, please.
That’s a frequent comment at the House of Hollenbeck because homemade jelly doesn’t happen there.
We’re big fans of Smucker’s. We also have a close association with the folks at Bama and Welch’s.
This past summer, during one of my visits to the Farmers Market (which I do love) at the Saline County Courthouse square, someone suggested that I purchase some fresh fruit and concoct some homemade jelly.
He might just as well has suggested that I build a 30-story building. This would be just as likely.
Truth be told, I’m probably more inclined to be an architect than a chef.
The delusional person who presented the interesting proposition to me had been inspired by having read a story about a farming family — people who really do know about jelly-making and such.
This individual has been acquainted with me for several years and was well aware I’m no Paula Deen. He apparently suffered a temporary memory lapse.
I didn’t “just say no,” as a former first lady advocated. I was even more adamant.
“With my last breath, I’ll be saying ‘no’ to that,” I quickly responded.
The following is a capsuled version of my culinary status:
• I don’t can.
• I don’t make jelly, preserves, etc.
• I don’t make pies, cakes, etc.
• I don’t make biscuits or rolls, unless you count opening a can or package, putting the contents onto a pan and letting the oven do the rest. That I can do, if I think about it in time.
My singular making-biscuits-from-scratch attempt is part of local history, but I’ll share it again for newcomers.
There was a valid reason for abandoning the endeavor. The results of my biscuit-making labors resembled anemic vanilla wafers.
A lot like flat rocks, to tell the truth. Even the dogs refused them and our canine assembly at the time included a cocker that begged daily for bread. Barney, with tail a-wagging, eagerly took the biscuit I offered and rushed to the other side of the room to savor it. Within 30 seconds, he had rushed back to me to dump the uneaten biscuit at my feet.
I actually saw him shudder.
In a former life, I occasionally made cakes the old-fashioned way. Most of them turned out pretty well — at least I thought so until Shorty Wilmoth opened my eyes.
This story also has been told before, but it’s one of those that bears retelling since no one can turn a phrase quite like Shorty.
Taking one look at what I believed to be a good-looking chocolate cake, Shorty commented, “Offhand, ma’am, I’d say your cow has too much bulk in her diet.”
I’ve blamed my lack of cake-baking in recent years on Shorty’s scathing tongue.
My pie crust tries were equally pathetic. No need to bore anybody with details.
I do have a pickle-making success story I can include in my memoirs. Unlike Aunt Bee’s batch, my bread and butter pickles really were good, according to pickle aficionados who scarfed them down.
Since I don’t eat pickles — and I mean nobody’s pickles — I can’t swear to this myself, but I received many accolades for my effort.
I didn’t get into the pickle project because I wanted to. I was the unwilling recipient of what appeared to be a truckload of cucumbers and I couldn’t bring myself to toss them. I had been indoctrinated by Mamma’s “waste not, want not” code for living.
I had no idea what I was getting into. To cut to the chase, I’ll say that what I naively expected to be about a two-hour project turned into an exhausting, all-day affair.
That happened a lot of years ago, but not long enough ago that I can’t remember enough to reject any possibility of a repeat performance.
Anytime someone brings up the topic of making pickles, I can say, truthfully, “Been there, done that, never again.” End of story.
In a church where my husband served as pastor, there were two women who actually made their own ketchup. When I heard them talking about it, I was floored.
I didn’t even know this was possible. The only observation I had ever had of ketchup being made was in the movie “Meet Me In St. Louis” where Marjorie Main (Katie) is making the condiment and everyone in the family comes by and doctors it a bit.
But these two weren’t actresses, but real-live friends who actually claimed to make ketchup regularly. And without a movie script. I was so in awe that I didn’t know whether to bow or curtsy or beg to kiss their rings.
There are some things I produce in the kitchen that are taste-worthy. Not a lot, mind you, but still a few.
I can make really good creamed (mashed) potatoes that have NO lumps. This is important to me.
I can’t swallow even a small serving of potatoes if I encounter the tiniest lump.
Another food I prepare reasonably well, albeit not from scratch, is cornbread. I like cornbread sticks cooked in an iron pan until they’re slightly browned and crisp. Even if it does sound commercial, I will say that cornbread made from Cotton Pickin’ cornbread mix is as good as you’ll find anywhere
And there’s the old standby that’s gone with me to many a potluck dinner — green bean casserole. That I can do.
In recent years I’ve learned to make broccoli coleslaw that’s tasty and festive-looking. It’s a nice addition to a gathering.
If I’m honest, I have to admit I’ve never tried making jelly or preserves. As a result, I’ve done no harm in that area.
It would seem foolhardy to tarnish a flawless record.
Lynda Hollenbeck is Senior Editor of the Saline Courier