When the July weather reaches to 90-degree temperatures and smothering humidity, kitchen canning duties make for an uncomfortable chore.
While we've been busy at our farm making wild black raspberry preserves and blackberry jam, down the road, our farm friends the Scamerhorns have already started canning green beans.
On Monday, I joined my parents, with the Scamerhorns to pay our respects for the passing of our mutual farm neighbor Elizabeth "Betty" Vendl, who died Friday at age 93. Our back field connects to the more than 100-acre farm of Betty, and her late husband Jim. I love the wonderful photo of her from 70 years ago in the potato patch in her garden during World War II, which I've published with today's column.
In her earlier years, Betty did the baking for the nuns at Little Company of Mary Hospital in San Pierre, prior to the facility's later tenure as a nursing home.
Like many traditional farms, the Vendl Farm included a detached summer house kitchen, to keep the heat (and mess), associated with cooking, canning and baking, away from the main house.
Betty's son Larry, who lives in Valparaiso with his wife Bernice, said his mother even had a large chest freezer in her summer kitchen. Like his parents, Larry, who works at Bethlehem Steel, is a hard worker who spends much of his time at the family farm, helping with tending to everything from crops to pig and sheep.
While I was growing up, I recall we would sometimes get a telephone call from Betty alerting us that our collie Lady had crept across the field and ditch dividing our property lines and was "spooking" her sheep. Collies are a dog breed prized for sheep herding, but ours was usually more prone to wanting to chase cars. Betty was also a good friend to Auntie Lottie, who turned 90 last month, since the two were also longtime farm wife neighbors.
Joann Scamerhorn provided me with a copy of today's recipe for an easy lemon cookie, which was handwritten and shared by Betty years ago. At the top of the yellowed recipe sheet, Betty writes the word "Delicious" and underlines it. It's the same description I associate with Betty's love of the kitchen arts.
Personal note: My sympathy to my Times Crown Point editor colleague Marlene Zloza, whose mother, Elsie Zloza, 83, of Lowell passed away Saturday morning. She was a favorite smiling face who so often attended my Times' cooking events and will be missed by so many.
Betty Vendl's Frosted Lemon Bonbon Cookies
1 cup softened butter or margarine
1/3 cup sifted confectioner's sugar
2 cups chilled sifted flour
2/3 cups finely chopped nuts (optional)
1 cup sifted confectioner's sugar
1 teaspoon butter
2 tablespoons lemon juice
DIRECTIONS: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine the butter and confectioner's sugar and cream together. Stir in the flour. On wax paper, sprinkle the nuts, if desired. Use a teaspoon and scoop out the dough to form each scoop into balls and place each round on the wax paper. Using the bottom of a floured glass, flatten each round on the nuts. Transfer the flattened dough to an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes. Let cool. To make frosting, combine the sugar, butter and lemon juice in a bowl and beat well. Add two to three drops of pink or green food coloring. Place dollop of frosting on each cookie. Makes 4 dozen cookies.