Ham and bean soup warms on frosty midwinter days

The temperature has dropped down to the teens this morning. It sounds windy outside.

Today is Thursday so it’s laundry day again. We usually wash laundry on Mondays and Thursdays. Usually by the next morning the clothes are dry on the lines in the basement. Oh, how nice when spring weather comes and we can wash clothes, dry them outside, and have them folded in one day.

Daughter Loretta came home from school sick on Monday forenoon. She hasn’t been able to go back yet. I called the doctor and he thinks it is probably the flu.

Tomorrow and Monday there isn’t any school, as it’s midwinter break. My plans are to take Joseph to the dentist to get a small cavity filled and to get some groceries.

Sons Benjamin, 15, and Joseph, 12, went over to Timothy’s house two nights this week to help him with his work. They really enjoy spending time helping him.

Son Kevin, 9, usually takes care of our chickens. He has been bringing in around 40 eggs every day from the new chickens we raised this fall. Kevin still has his run-ins with the mean rooster.

Last Saturday my husband, Joe, and sons helped Jacob and Emma dress a beef. With Loretta being sick, I haven’t had time to ask if they need help this week in cutting it up.

Brother Amos is back to work but has still been having dizzy spells. He has seen several doctors, but so far they haven’t really been able to figure out what is causing them. He still works construction work—helping build Menards buildings. They have quite a few hours of traveling to do every day. I hope it’s nothing serious. Amos has always been a hard worker and it’s hard to get him to slow down. He’s ten years older than I am and will be 54 this year.

Daughters Verena, 17, and Loretta, 14, recently attended their friend Grace’s birthday party. They enjoyed the evening with friends and made some new ones.

Joe plans to smoke the summer sausage this coming Saturday. He is hoping it won’t be too cold outside.

We still have lots of snow piled outside. The driveway is cleared off and the roads are dry, which is nice to see.

This week I’ll share a recipe that I tried for ham and bean soup. Not too many in our family like ham and beans, but if you do, I would suggest you try this recipe. I sent some over to Jacob and Emma, and they really liked it.

The Eicher family enjoyed ham and bean soup recently on a cold evening and this week Lovina shares the recipe with readers.
The Eicher family enjoyed ham and bean soup recently on a cold evening and this week Lovina shares the recipe with readers.

Ham and Bean Soup

1 pound dry Great Northern beans
8 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 ham hock
1 cup carrots, chopped
1/2 stalk celery, chopped
1 cup onion, chopped
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon mustard powder
2 bay leaves
2 cups ham, chopped
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Rinse beans; bring water to a boil in a large pot. Add salt and beans and remove from heat. Let beans soak in hot water for at least an hour. Then place ham hock, carrots, celery, onion, garlic, mustard, and bay leaves in the pot and return it to high heat. Stir well and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 60 more minutes. Remove ham hock, cut off meat, and discard bone. Stir in chopped ham and simmer 30 more minutes. Season with black pepper.

Lovina Eicher is an Old Order Amish writer, cook, wife and mother of eight. Formerly writing as The Amish Cook, Eicher inherited that column from her mother, Elizabeth Coblentz, who wrote from 1991 to 2002. Readers can contact Eicher at PO Box 1689, South Holland, IL 60473 (please include a self-addressed stamped envelope for a reply) or at LovinasAmishKitchen@MennoMedia.org.

February brings snow drifts, baptism services, and butchering

Greetings from snowy Michigan! We received more than a foot of snow over the weekend. Some had reports of 16-18 inches. It’s a pretty sight to look at. The evergreen trees have enough snow on their branches to make such nice scenery. What a wonderful creator our God is! The temperature also dipped down to almost zero degrees. The wind chill was even colder.

With all the snow and wind, the roads weren’t opened until Monday. Everyone was home—factories closed and schools all closed in the county. We did the laundry and Joe mixed the summer sausage so we could get it in bags. We hung it in the pole building to cure for a week or two. Then Joe will smoke it in the smoker. The recipe calls for 100 pounds of hamburger and sausage, so we ended up with almost 40 bags of summer sausage. We added cheddar cheese to some of it and also hot pepper cheese to some of it.

The Eicher family recipe for summer sausage is a large one—calling for 100 pounds of hamburger and sausage. They added either cheddar or hot pepper cheese to some of the sausage.
The Eicher family recipe for summer sausage is a large one—calling for 100 pounds of hamburger and sausage. They added either cheddar or hot pepper cheese to some of the sausage.

Saturday we helped Jacob and Emma with pork butchering. We made Pon Haus (similar to scrapple) out of 21 gallons of pork juice and rendered the lard.

Sunday we visited a neighboring church district to attend baptism services for four young souls. One of the boys is a brother to Mose (Susan’s friend). The building was filled to capacity with people. When we left in the morning only a few inches of snow were on the ground. By the time we started home in the afternoon, the roads had nice-sized drifts on them. Our ramp and steps to the house had quite a bit of snow on them. By the time we walked through the drifts of snow to the house, our shoes were all wet.

Our neighbor boy shoveled out our drive on Monday with their skid loader. In the yard we have huge piles of snow, which the younger children enjoy playing on.

Daughter Verena went to the community building on Saturday evening. The youth all gather there on Saturday evenings. A few sets of parents go as chaperones. Verena went home with niece Salome and some friends and spent the night at Salome’s house (Joe’s sister Loretta and her husband, Henry).

They all came to the baptism church on Sunday that we attended. Verena got to hold little Damaris, Loretta and Henry’s new baby. Sounds like she’s a real cutie! Salome will be baptized to the confession of faith in a few weeks, so we hope to attend the services in Nappanee, Ind. When children take this serious step, what a blessing it is to parents.

Tomorrow evening daughter Susan will go to her special friend Mose’s house in honor of his birthday. Happy birthday, Mose! Mose and Elizabeth’s friend, Timothy, have both been such wonderful friends to our daughters. They are always willing to pitch in and help when work needs to be done around here.

My very special friend, Ruth, will also have a birthday on Feb. 9. Happy birthday, Ruth! She has been a great help and encouragement to me to continue with this column. God bless her!

A reader requested a recipe for cashew crunch, which I didn’t have. But another reader was kind enough to send one to me. God bless!

Cashew Crunch

1 pound cashews, coarsely ground
1 5-ounce can chow mein noodles, coarsely ground
2 cups miniature marshmallows
1 16-ounce package chocolate candy coating

Place cashews, noodles, and marshmallows in a large bowl. Melt coating and pour over mixture. Mix well. Pour onto a wax paper lined cookie sheet and spread out. Let cool and break into pieces. Store in an airtight container.

Lovina Eicher is an Old Order Amish writer, cook, wife and mother of eight. Formerly writing as The Amish Cook, Eicher inherited that column from her mother, Elizabeth Coblentz, who wrote from 1991 to 2002. Readers can contact Eicher at PO Box 1689, South Holland, IL 60473 (please include a self-addressed stamped envelope for a reply) or at LovinasAmishKitchen@MennoMedia.org.

Freezers filled, but two emergencies send family members to the hospital

Greetings from cold, sunny Michigan! I have ham bones in the pressure cooker. I want to make ham and beans for supper tonight.

Our pork is almost all pressure canned or in the freezer. We still want to smoke 100 pounds of summer sausage using hamburger and sausage.

BeefChunks
After butchering their own beef, the Eicher family canned some beef chunks.

The vegetable soup we canned last week totaled 30 quarts. I make it thick so that more tomato juice can be added to the soup at the point you open a quart if preferred.

VegSoup
Last week the Eicher family canned vegetable soup. Lovina likes to make it thick, so that more tomato juice can be added once opened.

Our freezers are filled beyond capacity. We ended up putting some meat in Timothy’s freezer for now.

Saturday we will help Jacob and Emma butcher pork. Then we should be done with that for another year. It’s a lot of work but well worth it once it’s in the freezer.

On Friday, my brother Amos was working with his construction crew. He was found outside, lying down. They called an ambulance. He was taken to the nearest hospital, where the doctors think he had a mini-stroke and a bad ear infection, causing dizziness, vomiting, etc. He still is almost too weak to walk but was released to travel home, about three-and-a-half hours away.

It was two years ago in January when Amos was also taken to the hospital by ambulance after being in a van accident on his way to work. They hit black ice, causing the van to roll numerous times and taking the lives of two of my cousins, Dan Graber and Chris Eicher. The Michigan hospital Amos was in this time is two hours from here. Jacob, sister Emma, sisters Verena and Susan, Joe, and I went to visit with Amos at the hospital Friday evening. Amos’s wife Nancy and children, and all their married children were at the hospital too. It was a long drive for them.

Saturday visitors here were sister Liz, Levi, Levi Jr., Rosa and Suzanne, and their married daughter Elizabeth with husband Samuel. They spent the night with sisters Verena and Susan. Rosa and Suzanne were going to spend the night here with my daughters Verena and Loretta. Plans changed when daughter Verena was taken to the emergency room after not being able to be awakened. Doctors ordered chest x-rays as her heart rate was dropping fast from hyper-ventilating. Diagnosis was a panic attack from being too stressed, and pain from headaches. They also gave her IV fluids as she was starting to dehydrate. It gave us all a scare but we are glad she is back home and doing well.

Sister Liz had her 46th birthday on Saturday, Jan. 24, as did daughter Susan celebrating her 19th. Happy birthday wishes to both!

God bless you all! Try these cookies. Sister Susan made them awhile back.

Delicious Cookies

1 cup sugar

1 cup brown sugar

1 cup soft margarine

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1 egg

2 teaspoons vanilla

3 1/2 cups flour

1 teaspoon cream of tartar

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup nuts

1 cup oatmeal

1 cup Rice Krispies

1 cup coconut (optional)

Mix ingredients in order given. Shape into balls on cookie sheet. Dip a fork or glass in sugar and flatten each cookie. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes.

Lovina Eicher is an Old Order Amish writer, cook, wife and mother of eight. Formerly writing as The Amish Cook, Eicher inherited that column from her mother, Elizabeth Coblentz, who wrote from 1991 to 2002. Readers can contact Eicher at PO Box 1689, South Holland, IL 60473 (please include a self-addressed stamped envelope for a reply) or at LovinasAmishKitchen@MennoMedia.org.

Hog butchering, Amish style, plus recipe for hamburger-veggie soup

Another week has gone by already. These last weeks have been extra busy with working on our beef and pork.

On Saturday we butchered the four pigs we raised. They were pretty big already. After all the hams, pork chops, bacon, and ribs were cut out, the bones were trimmed of the meat and the meat cut into strips for the grinder. The bones were cooked in a big black iron kettle. After the meat was soft enough to come off the bones, it was taken off and put through the grinder.

The juice that is left from cooking the meat off the bones is saved and returned to the kettle after it is measured. We then return the meat and add flour, salt, and pepper to the kettle to make Pon Haus (something similar to Scrapple). After it is cooked to the right thickness it is poured into cake pans, baking ware, or whatever you want to use. After it is cooled you can slice and fry it as a meat.

PonHaus

The lard was rendered in the big black kettle and we now have many gallons of lard again. It turned out really nice and white. I like when it isn’t dark from being cooked too long.

The sausage is ground and seasoned. A lot of work goes into a day of butchering. We still have some sausage to make into breakfast links and brats and more meat that needs to be packaged for the freezer. We are gradually working on that this week.

Sausage

Today we are canning beef vegetable soup. We cooked the beef from the bones to put in the soup. How thankful we are to be able to fill jars and the freezer with meat for another year.

Saturday, January 24, daughter Susan will be 19 years old. It will also be sister Liz’s 46th, so happy birthday wishes to both of them.

The schools closed their doors yesterday due to icy roads. This morning they had a two-hour delay because of the roads. It worked out well yesterday, as I could take Kevin to get his new leg braces repaired. A few screws had fallen out and he was unable to use the braces. They help him a lot so we didn’t want to have him be without them too long.

For the new readers of this column: a few of our children have limb-girdle type 2A muscular dystrophy. Kevin needs the leg braces to help keep his heels on the ground. They help him stay balanced when he runs or bikes. Thanks for all your prayers and encouragement. It is not an easy thing to accept, but we know God makes no mistakes. We need to put our full trust in God.

Congratulations go to Joe’s sister Loretta and Henry! They were blessed with their tenth child. A little girl named Damaris Joy was born to them on December 31, 2014—the final day of 2014.

I will share a recipe for hamburger soup.

Hamburger Soup

2 tablespoons butter
1 pound ground beef
1 cup chopped onion
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup chopped green pepper
1 cup sliced carrots
2 cups tomato juice
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/3 cup flour
4 cups milk

Melt butter in saucepan and brown meat. Add onions and cook until onions are transparent. Add remaining ingredients except milk and flour. Cover and cook over low heat 20-25 minutes until vegetables are tender. Combine flour and one cup of the milk and stir into soup mixture. Bring to a boil. Add remaining milk and heat, stirring frequently. Do not boil after adding remaining milk.

 

Lovina Eicher is an Old Order Amish writer, cook, wife and mother of eight. Formerly writing as The Amish Cook, Eicher inherited that column from her mother, Elizabeth Coblentz, who wrote from 1991 to 2002. Readers can contact Eicher at PO Box 1689, South Holland, IL 60473 (please include a self-addressed stamped envelope for a reply) or at LovinasAmishKitchen@MennoMedia.org.

Whole family gets in on butchering this week

It’s another cold January day. The temperature is finally one degree above the zero mark. The sun is shining though, which gives everything a brighter look!

We are glad for all the sun we get in the winter months. The solar freezer we have depends on the sun to keep running. We are still glad we invested in it. We have not had to spend a penny on it since we bought it a few years ago.

Beefquarters
Workroom for beef butchering

Our freezers and canning jars are filling up fast with meat. We butchered a beef last week. I gave my husband Joe a meat grinder for his birthday in December. It has sure come in handy. The children gave Joe a hamburger patty and jerky maker for Christmas that attaches to the grinder. Joe made the jerky with it and now has made hundreds of hamburger patties with it. He is very happy for all of it. We put the patties in the freezer with freezer sheets between them. It is so handy to just pull them apart and put them right in the frying pan or on the grill.

We also canned a lot of beef chunks. I cooked the meat off the bones and want to make vegetable soup to can with the meat and broth.

friedbrains
Fried brains, a delicacy for some.

Joe and some of the children like to eat the cow brains. I have never tasted them! I fried the brains for them Sunday morning. Joe likes it with eggs and fried potatoes.

Our highlight of butchering is that we can make “rare beef.” We take very thin sliced pieces of the most tender steaks. Then we put salt and lots of black pepper on both sides of each piece and fry in very hot lard or oil. You only put it in for a few turns, then flip it over for a few more turns and it’s done. This is a favorite meat for us around beef butchering time. Everyone usually starts eating as I fry it, as it is best right out of the pan. I remember my mother standing by the Kerosene stove frying it one piece at a time. Now I know what she must have thought: it is a relief to be done when everyone has had their fill. It’s a greasy job and my propane stove keeps the oil lots hotter than when I had a Kerosene stove to make it on.

rarebeef
Rarebeef, a special treat

How blessed we feel to once again be able to put meat in the freezer and jars. Since we have two freezers, I can a lot less. It is so much easier to package it than to pressure can everything.

Saturday we have plans to butcher the four pigs we raised. They are really big already so they should give us a lot of pork.

Jacob, Emma and family and sisters Verena and Susan and all the special friends plan to come help us. Many hands do make lighter work. We appreciate all the help. I’ll write more about it in next week’s column.

Our school closed its doors two days last week due to extremely cold temperatures. Everyone is back to school and work this week, leaving all the work to daughter Verne and me again.

God’s blessings to all! This week I’ll share with you one of our favorite breakfast casseroles.

Sausage Gravy Breakfast Casserole

8 oz. bacon, fried and crumbled
1/2 package Smoky links, chopped
1/3 cup ham, cubed
2 cups shredded potatoes
6-12 eggs (scrambled), quantity depending on how many you are serving
1/4 cup green peppers, diced
1/4 cup onions, diced
1 cups Colby cheese, shredded
2 quarts sausage gravy

Mix everything together except gravy (see below). Spread in a greased 9 x 11 inch pan or larger. Spread gravy over everything. Bake at 350 degrees for 40- 45 minutes or until thoroughly heated.

Sausage Gravy

1 pound bulk sausage
1/4 cup flour
4 cups milk
Salt and black pepper

In a cast-iron skillet, brown sausage over medium heat. Drain off grease. Sprinkle in flour and brown lightly. Gradually add milk and mix until very smooth. Bring gravy to a boil, stirring frequently. Reduce heat and cook until the desired thickness is reached. If gravy becomes too thick, additional milk may be added. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Lovina Eicher is an Old Order Amish writer, cook, wife and mother of eight. Formerly writing as The Amish Cook, Eicher inherited that column from her mother, Elizabeth Coblentz, who wrote from 1991 to 2002. Readers can contact Eicher at PO Box 1689, South Holland, IL 60473 (please include a self-addressed stamped envelope for a reply) or at LovinasAmishKitchen@MennoMedia.org.

Frigid cold but warm family fellowship over haystacks, barbecued meatballs

School doors closed for the day. We are having frigid temperatures with a bitter cold wind. The wind chill is minus 30 this morning and the temperature minus 8. Brrrr! But we are enjoying winter scenery. The ground is covered with snow.

My husband Joe and daughters Elizabeth and Susan are back working at the RV factories after a two-week break. Their holiday vacation went way too fast. Joe has been at this factory ten years now.

Jacob, sister Emma and family, sisters Verena and Susan, and the girls’ special friends Timothy, Mose, Marvin, Menno, and Manuel were all here for a breakfast brunch on New Year’s Day. We added an eight-foot table and a card table to our ten-foot dining room table to make room for 24 people to sit down. We had a breakfast haystack.HaystackBreakfastEditedFor a breakfast haystack you put a variety of foods on top of each other such as: scrambled eggs, diced ham, diced Smokies, crumbled bacon, crumbled biscuits, hash brown potatoes, diced tomatoes, diced green peppers, diced onions, hot peppers, salsa, cheese sauce, and sausage gravy.

After the brunch we exchanged gifts. We had traded names earlier. It’s always exciting to see what all everyone gets and who had each other’s name. Jacob and Emma’s son Benjamin had my name. He gave me three Pyrex bowls, two memory foam pillows, and cookie cutters.

In the afternoon Mose’s parents and some of his family came by to pick up Mose and daughter Susan. They headed to Iowa to visit Mose’s sister Marilyn for a few days.

Friday evening daughter Verena left to travel the couple hours to Marvin’s place. They attended a family gathering on Saturday.

Daughter Elizabeth and Timothy left Friday evening to attend a dinner that Timothy’s employer was having for all his employees. The house seemed empty with the three oldest not at home.

Saturday afternoon Timothy came over to help Joe and the boys dress one of the beef cows we raised. They think the beef weighed around 1,400 pounds. How thankful we are that we will have hamburger and beef chunks again.

Joe also smoked some venison trail bologna in the smoker. We made quite a few pounds of venison jerky and some venison breakfast sausage. This was all from the deer that Timothy and Mose gave to us.

VenisonSausage VenisonJerky

On Tuesday, January 6, Joe and all the children were home in honor of Epiphany. Timothy and Mose came for dinner and we had a nice family day together.

This week we are working on cutting up the beef. I will write more about that next week.

God bless you all! Stay warm and healthy during this cold weather. Try this recipe for barbecued meatballs. Enjoy!

Barbecued Meatballs

3 pounds ground beef
1 and 3/4 cups milk
2 cups oatmeal
2 eggs
1 cup chopped onions
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons chili powder

Mix and shape into balls. Put in a pan, only one layer per pan. Put the sauce on top. Cover and bake for 1 hour at 350 degrees.

Sauce:

2 cups ketchup
1 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons liquid smoke
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

Lovina Eicher is an Old Order Amish writer, cook, wife and mother of eight. Formerly writing as The Amish Cook, Eicher inherited that column from her mother, Elizabeth Coblentz, who wrote from 1991 to 2002. Readers can contact Eicher at PO Box 1689, South Holland, IL 60473 (please include a self-addressed stamped envelope for a reply) or at LovinasAmishKitchen@MennoMedia.org.

Ringing in the new year with a party for 24

This is the final day of 2014 as I write. A brand new year awaits us. May God be our guide as we travel into the unknown future.

Sister Emma, Jacob and family, and sisters Verena and Susan and all the girls’ special friends plan to be here for supper tonight. We will then play games such as Aggravation, Mancala, Connect Four, checkers, and various other games to keep 24 people entertained until midnight. The children enjoy staying awake to see the new year arrive. Joe and I would much rather get some extra sleep, but it’s fun to see the excitement. Everyone will sleep here and we will have brunch together tomorrow. We will set up beds and air mattresses in the basement for the boys and the rest will sleep upstairs or on the couches. The number of people has grown from last year. We add tables to our big dining room table, making enough room to set it up for 24. We will have a gift exchange too.

Saturday evening the youth in our church district went Christmas caroling to the older people in the church and neighborhood. Instead of having to deal with snow, it was rain. It wasn’t too bad until they were all back at our neighbor’s. The 30 youth all gathered here earlier in the month to exchange names and play games. How blessed we can be to have such a well-behaved group. Everyone brought snacks and we had hot dog sandwiches. Saturday evening they all took snacks to enjoy after caroling. The girls were happy with the gifts they received.

SnacksNewYearsEve

Timothy brought us a deer one evening. It was a big doe and had a lot of meat. Joe wants to make summer sausage and jerky with it. Yesterday Mose sent a 5-gallon bucket full of deer meat from a doe he shot yesterday morning. We are so thankful for the meat. We all love jerky so the children are hoping Joe gets some made before going back to work.

On Sunday our church had its annual Christmas potluck. There was so much food. Pasta casseroles, potato casseroles, ham and cheese sandwiches, a variety of salads, pies, cakes, bars, cookies, puddings, etc. There was more than enough food.

We still don’t have snow. We have a few flurries now and then. It’s so different than last year.

Yesterday morning the mercury on the thermometer dipped down to a cold 12 degrees for a while. Son Benjamin, 15, left for work around 5:30 a.m. Then around 6 a.m., Joe, son Joseph, 12, and I traveled the eight miles to town to get some groceries. The ride was nice and cozy with the heater going in the buggy. How spoiled we feel since we used to travel in an open buggy when we lived in Indiana. When we made the move to Michigan almost 11 years ago I needed time to adjust to driving in a covered buggy. Now I would have a hard time getting used to driving in an open buggy—especially in the rain and cold winter months.

I made cinnamon rolls and Long John rolls over the Christmas holiday. I’ll share the recipe for Long John rolls.

LongJohnsFried

Long John Rolls

1 cup lukewarm water
2 packages active dry yeast
1 cup milk
2 large eggs, beaten
1/2 cup butter or margarine
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
Pinch of ground nutmeg
6 to 7 cups bread flour
Vegetable oil for frying

Frosting, optional

Pour the water into a small bowl, and then add the yeast and stir until completely dissolved. Set aside. Scald the milk and let cool to lukewarm. Add the milk to the dissolved yeast.

Blend together eggs, butter or margarine, sugar, salt, and nutmeg until well blended, and then add to the milk and yeast mixture. Gradually add flour until the dough is elastic and easy to handle. Knead until you form a round ball. Put in a bowl and cover with wax paper. Put it in a warm place and let rise until doubled in size, about 2 hours. Punch down and divide the dough into 2 large pieces. Roll out each piece to a 3/4-inch thickness. Cut into 7-inch oblong pieces. Let rise again.

FryingLongJohns

Heat vegetable shortening in a deep pan to a depth of 2 to 3 inches until very hot. Fry the rolls in batches until golden, 2 minutes on each side. Frosting may be added if desired, once the rolls have cooled.

Long John rolls cannot be frozen or stored; they should be eaten the day they are made.

Lovina Eicher is an Old Order Amish writer, cook, wife and mother of eight. Formerly writing as The Amish Cook, Eicher inherited that column from her mother, Elizabeth Coblentz, who wrote from 1991 to 2002. Readers can contact Eicher at PO Box 1689, South Holland, IL 60473 (please include a self-addressed stamped envelope for a reply) or at LovinasAmishKitchen@MennoMedia.org.

Fond memories—and peanut butter cups—grace year’s end

We are almost to the end of 2014. A brand new year lies ahead. What will it have in store for us? If we would know, would we be able to go on? Anything is possible if we let God lead the way and keep our full trust in him.

As I sit here thinking of how my family always spent New Year’s Day, a lot of memories come to my mind. When my maternal grandparents were still living they would have their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren home for the Christmas gathering. The day would start out early. We would get up early to get the cows milked and have breakfast. We lived very close to my grandparents, so some of the uncles, aunts and cousins would start gathering at our house as soon as breakfast was done.

It would still be very dark outside, and all of us children would be so excited. We would all walk over to my grandparents’ house in the dark, and sometimes we had a lot of snow to trudge through. We lived on a road that wasn’t traveled much back then, so it was an enjoyable walk. My grandparents had eight children and more than 80 grandchildren. Uncle Henry and Aunt Barbara lived in the big house attached to Grandpa and Grandma’s little house. They would set up tables in their dining room and living room to seat all the adults and the older children. The younger ones were fed before everyone else ate.

When we arrived at Grandpa and Grandma’s, all of us would stand outside their door singing the traditional New Year’s Song in German. The New Year’s Song is a song wishing everyone a good year. The English translation is as follows:

’Tis time now to welcome the happy new year,
God grant you to live and enjoy the new year.
Good fortune and blessings to dwell in your home,
God grant you such blessings in this year in your home.
In heaven before the great heavenly throne,
God grant thee reward in that heavenly home.
In closing this year we repeat this one wish,
God grant you on high once that heavenly bliss.

While it was being sung, everyone would go into the house. All of us grandchildren would line up to take our turn to wish Grandpa and Grandma a happy new year and give them a kiss. They would sit in their hickory rocking chairs.

After the noon meal was over and the dishes were all washed, Grandpa and Grandma would pass out gifts to all of us. For the grandchildren it was usually a dish of some kind, or a mug. And we would all get a lunch-sized bag with candy and an orange in it. I remember how my cousins and I would dump all our candy out of our bags and look at it before putting it back in our bags to take home. My mother would mark all the dishes they gave us and what year we got them. When I got married, I had a different dish or mug for every year.

After Grandpa and Grandma died, my parents always had our family Christmas gathering on New Year’s Day. We would all gather there for breakfast and set the tables again for the noon meal.

I will share with you my mother’s recipe for peanut butter cups. She would make these every Christmas season. She would have to hide them from us children as we loved them so much!

I wish all of you God’s richest blessings in the New Year 2015 and always!

Peanut Butter Cups

2 pounds peanut butter
1 pound margarine
3 pounds powdered sugar
melted semi-sweet chocolate

Mix peanut butter and margarine. Then work in powdered sugar until smooth. Shape into balls the size of big marbles. Dip in melted chocolate.

Lovina Eicher is an Old Order Amish writer, cook, wife and mother of eight. Formerly writing as The Amish Cook, Eicher inherited that column from her mother, Elizabeth Coblentz, who wrote from 1991 to 2002. Readers can contact Eicher at PO Box 1689, South Holland, IL 60473 (please include a self-addressed stamped envelope for a reply) or at LovinasAmishKitchen@MennoMedia.org.

Christmas countdown energizes Eicher children

Christmas Day is only days away. Daughter Lovina, 10, and son, Kevin, 9, are keeping track of exactly how many days. Every morning they mark off another day on the calendar. Oh, to be so young and carefree, with only worries such as how many days there are until Christmas!

Lovina and Kevin will both be in the elementary school Christmas program on Thursday evening. Next year Lovina will be a fifth grader and in middle school. This is her last Christmas program and Kevin has only next year—unbelievable! My husband Joe and I used to sit in the audience with the little ones while our older children were in the program. Now the six oldest children are back in the audience sitting with us, and our two youngest children are in the program.

On Friday the school will only have a half day of school. Lovina and Kevin’s classes are having a gift exchange. Kevin is so worried that he doesn’t have his gift wrapped yet. I want to make snacks for their party, and he reminds me every evening not to forget.

We were disappointed to hear that our children’s bus driver, Rich, has quit driving the bus route. He was a great bus driver to our children for almost eleven years. Daughter Loretta, 14, with her handicap needs more time to walk out to the bus and to get up the steps. Rich was always very patient and caring. So far they have had only a substitute driver, but the children are hoping the next bus driver will be like Rich was. We wish Rich well at his new job.

Joe will have his forty-sixth birthday on Monday, Dec. 22. I want to have a birthday supper in his honor but am undecided yet which night to have it.

On Sunday the women in our church all decided what each one of us would bring to the annual Christmas potluck. I plan to take a large roaster with a pasta casserole. The potluck will be after our next church services, which will be on Dec. 28.

Joe and I will have our family Christmas on Christmas Day. The children usually want to open their presents before they eat, so we usually end up having a brunch. May we always remember the true meaning of Christmas. Jesus is the reason for the season!

I wish all of you readers a joyous Christmas that brings blessings of peace and hope now and through the coming year 2015. May each of you stay healthy and enjoy being with family and friends through the holiday season. And most importantly, let us thank our Heavenly Father for bringing Jesus our Savior into the world so that our sins can be forgiven. Blessed wishes to all!

This week I will share with you the recipe for sour cream cut-out cookies. We like this recipe to make Christmas cookies.

Making sour cream cut-out cookies takes time—to mix up the dough, roll them out, cut out and bake—but the Eicher family comes back to this recipe year after year.
Making sour cream cut-out cookies takes time—to mix up the dough, roll them out, cut out and bake—but the Eicher family comes back to this recipe year after year.

Sour Cream Cut-Out Cookies

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 large eggs, beaten
1 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons vanilla
3 1/2–4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda

Frosting:
1/3 cup shortening
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 cups powdered sugar, divided
1/2 cup milk
food coloring (optional)
colored sprinkles (optional)
chocolate chips (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly grease a baking sheet. Cream the butter and sugar together in a large bowl. Stir in the eggs, sour cream and vanilla. Combine the flour, baking powder and baking soda in a medium bowl, and stir with a whisk to blend. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, and stir until it forms soft but firm dough. Roll the dough out to a 1/2-inch thickness on a floured surface. Use your favorite cookie cutters to cut out the dough. Place the shapes on the prepared pan.

Bake until golden brown around the edges, about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool on the pan for 5 minutes. Then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

To make the frosting: Cream the shortening, vanilla and 1 cup powdered sugar. Gradually add the milk and the rest of the powdered sugar, beating constantly. More powdered sugar can be added to make a thicker icing. Food coloring can also be added. Spread the frosting on the cooled cookies. Decorate with colored sprinkles or chocolate chips if desired.

Lovina Eicher is an Old Order Amish writer, cook, wife and mother of eight. Formerly writing as The Amish Cook, Eicher inherited that column from her mother, Elizabeth Coblentz, who wrote from 1991 to 2002. Readers can contact Eicher at PO Box 1689, South Holland, IL 60473 (please include a self-addressed stamped envelope for a reply) or at LovinasAmishKitchen@MennoMedia.org.

Mother-daughter bonding and festive treats for the season

First of all, a happy 17th birthday to daughter Verena today, December 10. How could those 17 years have gone by so fast? I am glad to have Verena here at home during the day. It’s good to have someone to help me with cooking, cleaning, laundry, sewing, and all that goes with keeping a house going with a family of ten. Every one of the girls has helped me before getting a full-time job. This is a precious time to me: spending time with my daughters and making a lot of memories together that we will always treasure.

It is also a great learning experience for them to learn how to do sewing, canning, baking and cooking. I helped my mother after I was out of school, and I remember how precious it was to work and talk together. Not only was she my mother but also my best friend. I want the same friendship with my children. My daily prayer is to be a good example to my children and to always guide them to live the life God wants.

Since Verena’s special friend, Marvin, lives a couple hours away, we decided to surprise Verena on Sunday while he was here visiting in Michigan. Others who came in honor of Verena’s birthday were Timothy and Mose; Jacob, Emma and family; their daughters’ friends, Menno and Manuel; and also my sisters Verena and Susan.

On the menu was barbequed chicken, hot wings and T-bone steaks, mashed potatoes, chicken gravy, dressing, corn, potato salad, lettuce salad, sliced cheese, homemade bread, butter, strawberry jam, peanut butter pies and a variety of Christmas candy. Verena had another surprise when Marvin presented a Dairy Queen ice cream cake to her with candles for her to blow out.

Lovina's family celebrated daughter Verena's 17th birthday with a surprise party.
Lovina’s family celebrated daughter Verena’s 17th birthday with a surprise party.

I forgot to mention that Barbara, a friend of our daughters, was also here for Verena’s birthday. She and Verena were born not too far apart, and Barbara’s mother and I both had the same midwife. Right after Verena was born at 6:32 a.m., someone came to our house to get the midwife, because Barbara was being born. Happy birthday wishes to Barbara!

Christmas is only a couple weeks away. Joe and I did some shopping on Saturday. Verena is wrapping some of the gifts this afternoon. I don’t mind that job, but it seems I always have something else that needs to be done. I have a meeting at the school this afternoon.

I would like to thank Carol from Washington for the four 1,000-piece puzzles she sent. We will have lots of fun putting them together this winter. And also a thank you to all the rest of you readers for your encouraging letters!

This week I’m going to share my recipe for popcorn balls. Mother made these every Christmas. She would put red food coloring in the syrup to give them a reddish color. I usually do half of them with red food coloring and half with green. It gives them a Christmas look during the holidays.

Lovina's family celebrated Verena's 17th birthday with a surprise party.
Lovina shares her recipe for popcorn balls this week.

God’s blessings to all!

Popcorn Balls

2 1/2 quarts of popcorn (popped)
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon vinegar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
food coloring (optional)

Cook sugar, water, salt, and syrup to a very hard-ball stage (256 degrees). Add vinegar and vanilla (and food coloring if desired) to light crack stage (270 degrees). Pour slowly over popcorn. Mix well to coat every kernel. Press into balls and cool.

Lovina Eicher is an Old Order Amish writer, cook, wife and mother of eight. Formerly writing as The Amish Cook, Eicher inherited that column from her mother, Elizabeth Coblentz, who wrote from 1991 to 2002. Readers can contact Eicher at PO Box 1689, South Holland, IL 60473 (please include a self-addressed stamped envelope for a reply) or at LovinasAmishKitchen@MennoMedia.org.