R. D. #1, Box 110, Hookstown, Pennsylvania 15050
Enclosed find a menu for a threshing dinner and recipe for homemade bread. My sister, Mrs. Elizabeth Cain, R. D. #1, Hookstown, Pennsylvania 15050 wrote it out for me.
Threshing dinners were high points in summer. There were many extra things layed away in readiness for the day, such as extra dishes, tablecloths, silverware, extra boards for the tables, large kettles, extra towels, wash basins and wash benches to be put in the yard.
Meat was a big item, some farms were near enough to a butcher shop to get fresh beef from their ice house early in the morning and put it on to cook. Other farmers would butcher a sheep or a calf at dark, the night before, and let it season in cold salt water in the springhouse all night and put it on to cook soon after daylight before flies were on the wing. Some had a ham saved in the smokehouse for the big day. A few would have sausage from winter butchering canned in lard. Chicken was seldom served, as men didn't have time to pick bones and it was a Sunday dish. Corn was never served on the cob, as men did not have time for them either or like to handle hot ears. Large bowls of creamed corn were served at each end of the table as well as beans, usually Kentucky wonders, picked from the plants vining on the corn stalks. They also prepared a bushel of potatoes for a meal either mashed or boiled in meat broth. Salads were cole slaw, sliced tomatoes and pickled beets. Desserts were pies one meal and cake and fruit the next. One farm wife always served tapioca pudding. Many farm women served the same meal each year. It usually took more food to fill men on the first days of threshing, and always more food for noon meal than evening.
Men often talked about special dishes and knew just the treats they were going to enjoy. Always plenty of coffee, buttermilk and water. Anything stronger was served under the barn. The threshing crew was often 20 men, and 2 men with threshing machine would stay all night wherever the machine was at dark. Farmers furnished coal and water for steam engines. The whistle was blown when they started to work and again when they quit for meals etc. Threshing was a social event with the hard work of preparing for winter.
Hop Starter Bread
1 cup mashed potatoes
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup salt
Potato water and luke warm water to make 2 quarts.
1 quart starter saved from last baking.
Mix all in one gallon crock the night before baking and keep in a warm place. In the morning save out a quart of starter for next baking. Then add starter to some flour to make a sponge in a bowl, after it sets for a bit and bubbles, add it to more flour in a big bread mixing pan till enough flour is worked in to make the bread dough. Keep in warm place such as a bread raiser. When raised make out in to loaves and-let them raise to double size and bake. Starter is renewed by adding hop tea once in a while. If starter spoils, a new quart has to be borrowed from a neighbor.
I want to add this bit of my own experience. When I was about 8 or 9 years old, my cousins and I thought it was great sport to go with the tank wagon to get water from an old watering trough. It was great fun pulling that pump handle. Later it was pure work pitching sheaves, measuring grain and the worst of all was building the straw stack. Now it is fun to go to a show and do it all over again.