Dear Anna Mae:
I met Nancy L. Hopper, R. D. #1, Hesston, Pennsylvania 16647 last year at the Rough & Tumble Show at Kinzers, Pennsylvania. She was busy taking orders for the redwood signs that her brother-in-law was making. They were quite nice and 1 ended up with a sizeable order. They would put names on them as 'The Hoppers' and then whatever type picture you desired as a gas engine, steam engine, deer, fish, etc. But, in between taking orders, she was also handling a cotton candy machine, minding some children, talking to me, etc. you get the picture a dynamic gal going strong with a full head of steam and everything was going quite smoothly. After our interesting chat I asked her to please send us a story of her doings for after all, how many folks have a nice new home and can with a steam boiler and make bread and goodies in a stone bake oven? Read on I'm sure you'll enjoy her letter
I haven't forgotten my promise to write about canning with the steam boiler and baking bread in the stone bake oven.
We have a 1925 50 HP Frick portable sawmill engine, which we use to run a cut-off saw. We heat our new home with slab wood. The slab from the local sawmill is free for hauling it away. I may never have a linen closet because if we build it in, the heat from the two stoves in our basement would not have a very easy time heating the bedrooms. The cellar door is always open, letting heat to the kitchen and the dining room. We also have a fireplace in the living room. Hence the Arabs can boycott fuel oil all they want we just won't go away next winter. We have a big oil furnace, but it is used only when we are away over night.
We use the boiler to can vegetables and fruits; also to make apple butter and to steam corn for corn on the cob. A long copper tube is attached to a live steam valve and coiled several times around in the bottom of the barrel or tub.
For canning purposes, my father cut the top third from a 55 gallon drum and turned the edge over so we wouldn't cut ourselves on it when we reached in. A faucet was installed in the bottom. Wooden slats were placed over the copper coil so the extreme heat wouldn't break the glass jars. We can put 25 to 30 jars in the bottom. My husband built a sturdy wooden rack which hangs from the lead pipes laid across the barrel. We can put 25 to 30 jars on the top also.
Meanwhile, my mother, sister and I have prepared the fruits or vegetables and packed and covered them in the jars. My husband then loads the jars in the drum and fills it with water. He then carefully brings the water to boiling, taking about 15 minutes to do so, in order not to break the jars. He then times it just as we would a water bath canner. When the time is up, he shuts off the steam and opens the faucet on the bottom to let out the water. Then he covers the drum with an old bedspread to keep out any drafts which may break the hot jars and it is left to cool until the next day. We have canned green and yellow beans, tomatoes, apple sauce, peaches and pumpkin in this manner. Although it doesn't take very long to do fruit, it saves a lot of cooking gas when we are doing so many jars (about 400 jars).
As for apple butter, we just put the copper coil in the copper kettle, add the cider, boil it down half, add snitz and cook it till thick. Then we add sugar and spices and cook it until done. We don't have to stir it, except when we add sugar or spices as the steam running through the coil creates enough movement to keep it from burning or sticking.
At the Canandaiqua, New York Show, they put a steam pipe into a huge galvanized watering trough with a lot of sweet corn in the husk. They cover it with tin and turn on the steam. They set out pans of melted butter with little dippers in and the salt and pepper.
To make a long story short, I used to not enjoy steam shows. I didn't know anyone but my husband, with whom I went and I really had no interest in that junk. But, as I was doomed to spend the entire week at the Morrison Cove Pioneer Power Show, I decided to create something of interest to women! The first year, we had a very successful quilting bee. Everyone seemed to go along with the idea and would put in a stitch or two. Then, my father and a couple other guys built us a stone bake oven just like great grandmother's.
We needed a setting in which to mix the bread, so up to the hill went the ice box, the dry sink, an old kitchen cabinet, the pedestal kitchen table and Mr. Smith's old cast iron kitchen stove. And a request for homemade doughnuts! We only meant to use the 'country kitchen' as it had become, as a live display of the kitchen of the steam engine era, but things have gotten out of hand. I suppose the gloves drying on top the stove, the boots and shoes under it perhaps a damp magnita in the oven caused the men to crowd around it, just as it was way back then. We keep a huge pot of coffee on the back of the stove along with a pot of beans or vegetable soup. A hot corn pone, gingerbread or apple or pumpkin pie may be in the oven. Someone is usually snitzing apples for the next day's apple butter. A double decker dryer not only has corn on it, but at one time, there was corn and peanuts on the bottom and green beans and apple slices on the top.
We also added a nice dough tray in which to mix the bread. We have churned butter in an old wooden churn and made a chocolate cake with the buttermilk. We have even baked pies for a pie-eating contest.
Last year a gentleman asked for a special 'old fashioned doughnut.' Just a piece of yeast dough formed into a flat circle with a hole in the center. We let it rise and then fired it. He asked us to split it and spread it with apple butter. This was as his grandmother used to make for him when he was just a kid.
Last year we attended the entire shows at Berryville, Virginia; Federalsburg, Maryland, Kinzers, Pennsylvania; Canandaiqua, New York; Center Hall, Pennsylvania; Alum Bank, Pennsylvania; and Martinsburg, Pennsylvania. We have attended shows at Arcadia, Maryland; Portland, Indiana; Ft. Wayne, Indiana; Harlansburg, Pennsylvania; New Centerville, Pennsylvania; West Minister, Maryland and Meadville, Pennsylvania. Our goal for 1977 is to make it to Mt. Pleasant, Iowa. At every show, we make new friends and share with old friends.
And Anna Mae, of most importance, it's always greatest to learn that a new friend is a Christian! God Bless You!
ABOUT THE PEOPLE IN THE STORY: Nancy - is housewife and Huntingdon County Fresh Air Chairman for the Fresh Air Program for needy New York city kids. (We placed 89 kids last year it's really great!)
Husband Jerry is a Youth Development Counselor for the Pennsylvania Department of Welfare. My father, Ralph Detwiler, night watchman for 23 years at Roaring Spring Blank Book, hoping to retire soon and build model steam engines on his metal lathes! My mother, Erma Detwiler, housewife and chief consultant for problems of a country kitchen especially since we can't seem to keep the fire burning in the cook stove! My sister, Naomi K. Detwiler, unemployed librarian, with a Master's degree (too much education to get a job). She works in a shoe factory. Would you believe that a course in working with the blind in Kutztown taught her to be sensitive enough that she is indispensable at time for the fire to be pulled from the bake oven. She is like a thermometer.
I have four more sisters, three of whom help with the country kitchen. Also a sister-in-law, my brother and two brothers-in-law help out also.