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Growing up during the Depression: also, some 'secrets' for making whole wheat bread.

You've made my day (and more)! I've just finished reading the introductory issue you sent me. No, "reading" is the wrong word. "Devoured" is more apt! Countryside is pure delight!

Do you know the difference between "lonely" and "lonesome"? When one is lonesome, one is missing someone, some place or thing that is either far away or gone forever yet still holds a special place in your heart and mind. However, lonely is having knowledge, wisdom, information and experience, yet not having anyone to share it with or pass it on to.

Perhaps your format will give me an outlet.

Who am I? I'm a woman born in September 1930, not quite a year after the great stock market crash of 1929. I grew up in the Depression years, saw the Second World War and the rationing of food, clothing, gasoline, anything made of rubber, etc. Then the slow recovery and on to three more wars (four, if you count the Gulf War). My grandmother raised me.

She and my step-grandfather had owned a business in New Rochelle, New York and managed to sell it just as the Depression started. They purchased about 400 acres of woods--mountainside with a few acres of cleared land, a partially finished house and an old barn. There was no running water, no electricity, no indoor plumbing and an ornery Big Bertha black iron wood burning cookstove which was also the only heat. Try that at -30 [degrees]F.

The only "machine" was an old truck. No horses. Four cows and a bull, plus, in summer, two or three hogs, the calves and some chickens. We planted a garden only the size we three could handle. Grandma and I roamed the woods and the mountainsides to pick wild berries to make into jam, jelly and preserves. We found an abandoned orchard that provided crab apples, pears and some luscious big black Ox Heart cherries. Grandpa tapped the sugar maples for sap in the spring and the syrup was boiled on that kitchen stove; there wasn't enough to set up a "boil" outdoors. Grandpa did his own butchering and Grandma and I canned the meat, made soup and canned it along with vegetables and fruit.

Since those years I've lived in Vermont, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania (where I had my own big garden), in North Miami Beach and Ocala, Florida. I now live by myself in this little town just south of Jacksonville.

Florida is an area "peculiar" unto itself when it comes to trying to grow anything. This area in particular. There's little to nothing written to be of help. I've got a backyard 80' x 40' and it is enclosed with privacy fence. There are 11 dwarf fruit trees I've planted and seem to be surviving. There were more but that is another story.

Here are some whole wheat bread secrets:

The first secret is to use only hard western wheat, ground fine. If you've had a beautiful loaf turn out to be nothing but crumbs when you went to slice it, this is the first place to check.

Another tip: Always refrigerate or freeze your flour(s). Flour will oxidize (spoil). When preparing to do any baking, remove flour from the 'fridge or freezer, measure approximate amount into a big bowl and let it stand at room temperature.

If you're growing your own wheat be sure you plant hard western. Grind it as you need it, keeping the rest in the freezer.

You see, about the turn of this century the steel roller process for grinding flour was invented. Since the rollers got so hot, the oil in the wheat germ "burned," spoiling the flour. What do they do? They remove the germ from the wheat and the bran as well. That left only cellulose and gluten. Gluten is what makes your bread "elastic."

So buy (or grow) your own wheat, grind it, or have it ground. Incidentally, the germ of the wheat is your source of vitamin E. This is your heart and fertility vitamin.

Also, "people" say it's almost impossible to make light, flaky pie crust with whole wheat flour. 'Tain't so Magee! I'll tell you how another time.

Here's a recipe for whole wheat bread that I've used for over 40 years. (Only one failure when the place that ground wheat for me slipped in soft wheat instead of bard. Result: loaves of crumbs!)

This recipe is for two loaves; however, I always make four loaves at a time. This bread freezes beautifully. See additions, variations, and baking hints at end of recipe.

2 cups whole milk

3 tablespoons butter or margarine

1 tablespoon salt

1/2 cup honey (wild or clover)

2 tablespoons dry yeast (not rapid


5-1/2 cups unsifted whole wheat flour

Heat milk to just simmer. Drop butter, salt and honey into simmered milk and pour into large mixing bowl. Cool to lukewarm! Dissolve yeast in 1/3 cup lukewarm water. (To hasten yeast action, sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon sugar). Add dissolved yeast to mixture in bowl. Add three cups flour. Stir 8 minutes with electric mixer at low speed (or 300 strokes by hand). Turn onto floured board and knead until dough is smooth and elastic, kneading in more flour if necessary. (Remember: thorough kneading develops gluten, which is essential to good texture and volume. Kneading bread is also a great way to vent your frustrations or even anger. Punch the daylights out of it. You can't hurt it, only get even better bread and a sweeter frame of mind!)

Place in oiled bowl, cover with towel and let rise in a warm place until double in bulk (80 [degrees] -85 [degrees]F for about an hour).

Knead down to original size, cover and let rise again.

Knead down to original size again, cut in half, shape into two loaves, place in oiled bread pans, cover with a towel and let rise until dough begins to lift towel.

Preheat oven to 375 [degrees]F. Place pans in oven and bake for about 45 minutes or until golden brown (loaves will have a hollow sound when tapped with fingernail). Naturally you removed the towel before placing pans in oven.

Remove pans from oven onto wire rack. Cover with clean, dry, smooth towels to cool slowly.

Note: If a soft top crust is desired, brush with cream or soft butter before removing from pans. Variations and additions:

Remember this rule: to insure success when adding together ingredients you must first develop the gluten in the wheat flour by mixing thoroughly before adding other desired grains, etc.

To enrich bread, add 1/3 cup dry powdered skim milk plus 1/4 cup wheat germ.

To be "different" add 1/2 cup sesame seeds to soft dough mixture and mix in well. This makes a bread that is great when lightly toasted and spread with a little peanut butter.

When you get used to this recipe you can play with it. Try adding rolled oatmeal or finely chopped nuts or raisins, etc. Hints:

Packaged dry live granulated yeast is more dependable than yeast in cakes.

Always preheat oven at least five minutes before placing bread in oven.

To obtain a more even rise in the loaf, place dough in pans so that ends snugly touch ends of pan.

During dry weather, lightly sprinkle towel covering rising dough with lukewarm water.

Before kneading dough, grease or flour hands to avoid sticking.

When cleaning up, both hands and bowls, etc., use cold water first!
COPYRIGHT 1993 Countryside Publications Ltd.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Richards, Patricia
Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Date:Jan 1, 1993
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