(The following was written by Marilyn Gibboney, and is reprinted from “Reflections”, a collection of local stories available at the Grove City Welcome Center and Museum. Any opinions made in the article are from the author.)
Every established Farm had an orchard. It was part of the scenery; the trees were planted by the early arrivals. There were many kinds and varieties but the popular ones included cherry, peach, plum, pear, quince; but apple topped the list. The apple was to the fruit family what pork was to the meat. It had so many uses and could be stored during the winter. The list is long for ways to use apples but the common ones included sauce, baked, pie, dumplings, cakes, stewed, kuchen, schnitz (dried), jelly, apple butter, and cider, which next year became the vinegar.
The cherries were canned, made into pies, jelly, jams and wine. The peaches and other fruits had about the same uses, and all were carefully taken care of each year. Another feature of the farms was a grape arbor. The grapes were also used in many ways and grape wine was the most popular kind made.
In the early spring the rhubarb was the first fruit ready to eat and everyone ate some to purify the blood after the long winter. Sassafras was available and made into tea which also cleansed the blood.
Citrus fruits were not readily available but were given as a special treat at Christmas. The children were thrilled when they received an orange as a Christmas present. A cousin told me the following story. One of the girls in the one-room school had a brother who was ill for a whole year. A lady came out from Columbus to visit him and brought him a grapefruit. None of the children had ever heard or seen a grapefruit and were very curious about this new fruit. The date was between 1905-1910.
A special part of the garden was devoted to the herb family. Herbs and found their way into the Germans’ medicine chest. The most common kinds of herbs grown were sassafras, basil, catnip, comfrey, fennel, sage, wintergreen, hops, lavender, and several varieties of mint. They were used in many different ways, most of which were effective.
It is necessary to mention the equipment and tools the housewife used to prepare her meals. There was the stove; a coal or wood burning monster that had to be fired constantly. It provided a source of heat in the winter but made the kitchen very hot in the summer. An important part of the stove was the oven which was used for much of the cooking including roasting, baking, frying, making butters, and drying children’s wet gloves. Later models had a warming closet set on top that kept meals hot and crackers fresh. The reservoir on the rear when filled with water was a source of hot water.
The cooking utensils were heavy cast-iron, granite, crock, and Ironstone. There was always a tea kettle on the stove. These skillets and pans were cast iron, and food tasted special prepared in them. The crocks included bowls, jars in all sizes including a 10 or 20 gallon crock for making sauerkraut, dill pickles and wine. The water jugs were used by the men in harvest time or when working in the fields during planting time. The kitchen utensils included choppers, egg beater, potato masher, greater, knives, ice pick, large ladle, spoons, three-pronged fork and a coffee grinder.
(The continuation of this story in the next blog entry.)