I've spent this week in Florida with my parents to celebrate my dad's sister's 90th birthday. Auntie Lottie, a frequent name in this column and in my "From the Farm" cookbooks, is always wonderful helping me track down family memories, photos and recipes to share with readers.
Joining us for the fun and festivities, was another of dad's sisters from this big Polish Catholic family of nine siblings. Auntie Loretta, who is 86, lives just a couple blocks away from Auntie Lottie. (Dad's other sister, Auntie Wanda, 88, who lives in Chicago, didn't make it for this trip, but she's been calling and we've taken lots of photos.)
For the special big day, we enjoyed a strawberry layer cake with vanilla ice cream gathered in the bright and cheery "morning room" of Auntie Lottie's home near Sarasota. And to wash it down, we opened bottles of Uncle Swede's homemade Dandelion Wine brought from the farm cellar. (Uncle Swede, Auntie Lottie's husband of nearly 55 years, passed away in 1997.)
When Auntie Lottie and Uncle Swede sold their farm (just down the road from us) to move to retire to Florida in 1992, besides family, it was their big gardens they missed the most, especially their patches of asparagus and rhubarb. Of course, Auntie Lottie also missed her friends, like our farm wife neighbor Aggie Lukac, who was in Auntie Lottie's class and also turned 90 this month.
While my parents stashed large bundles of asparagus in our luggage for the flight down to Tampa, we didn't bring any rhubarb for the trip. But rhubarb has been bountiful this year, so I told Auntie Lottie I'd share some recipes for readers this week, highlighting her favorite tart taste.
My mom used the first recipe for her easy dessert sauce for the June menu of our church ladies' monthly luncheon meeting. The group's oldest member Peggy Stonebraker, was also one of Auntie Lottie's classmates, and just celebrated her 90th birthday in January. Before leaving for Florida, my mom visited Mrs. Stonebraker at her home in Wheatfield to bring her some of this sauce, which she agrees is also her favorite to make this time of year.
The second rhubarb cake recipe comes from Anne Foster of rural Kinsman, Ill., who I just wrote about in last week's From the Farm column. Sadly, on Sunday, her husband of 53 years, Norman Foster, 76, passed. After my column last Wednesday published, she was kind enough to mail me her recipe card for the family favorite cake, which I've also featured today. Prayers and blessings to all.
Peggy's Strawberry-Rhubarb Sauce
5 cups diced rhubarb
Red sugar, decorating sprinkles
3 cups chopped strawberries
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup orange juice
3 teaspoons cornstarch
1 (3-ounce) box strawberry gelatin (do not use sugar-free)
DIRECTIONS: Clean and prepare diced rhubarb. Place in a bowl and sprinkle with a little red sugar, allowing to sit for 15 minutes for color to absorb. Combine rhubarb with prepared strawberries in a sauce pan and add vanilla and sugar. Stir to combine and cook over medium heat about 15 minutes, stirring, until mixture nearly begins to boil. A potato masher can be used to further blend cooking fruit, as needed. Gradually blend cornstarch with orange juice using a fork until smooth, then slowly add to simmering sauce, stirring until all ingredients are smooth and blended and cooking an additional 5 minutes. Remove sauce from heat, and lastly, add the dry gelatin, stirring thoroughly to combine. Wonderful served warm over vanilla ice cream or at room temperature over angel food cake or pound cake. Unused portions stored in refrigerator keeps for 10 days. Makes 6 cups of sauce or 12 servings.
Mrs. Foster's Favorite Rhubarb Krumpe Cake
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup butter
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 cups rhubarb, cleaned and diced
1 3/4 cups sugar
4 tablespoons flour
4 egg yolks, beaten
4 egg whites
1/3 cup sugar
DIRECTIONS: Preheat oven to 450 degrees. To make bottom crust, combine all crust ingredients and work together just as you would to make a pie crust. In the bottom of 9-inch by 13-inch baking pan, press crust flat and evenly, but allowing a slight lip around the edges of pan. Bake in hot oven at 450 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes or until crust is golden. Remove from oven. To make rhubarb filling, combine all ingredients and pour over baked crust. Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes or until filling layer has firmed and set. During last 10 minutes of baking time, make top meringue layer by combining egg whites with sugar and beating until stiff, but not dry. Spread fluffy meringue over the hot filling layer, sealing (if possible, but not necessary) meringue to edges of baked crust. Return to oven for another 8 to 10 minutes until browned. Makes 16 slices.