In 1981 I was living in Houston and was absolutely broke. I planned to return to Pennsylvania for the holidays but that would leave me with no money for presents. So I got the bright idea to put together a cookbook from all the recipes I'd collected over the years. It was a bigger hit than I ever could have dreamed of! I hand-wrote most of it and included my Mother's recipe for baking breads and pies, recipes from my grandmothers and great aunts, as well as a few stories about growing up in our wild and crazy family.
My Mother absolutely loved the book. She made literally hundreds of copies of it and sold them for $3 a piece. When she came to visit me in Houston she brought me the profits and we used them for a trip to New Orleans.
In 1992 I decided to update the book and expanded it considerably. It contained a couple hundred recipes and more stories. I typeset it on the first computer I had ever used and it was a considerable improvement over the first one. It had recipes for rye bread, dozens of kinds of pickles, relishes, preserves, desserts, casseroles, and a huge section on sauerkraut. It became very popular among people who collected Pennsylvania Dutch recipes and a food writer, Fran Frye, from the Erie Daily Times got hold of a copy and wrote a total of three columns about it. My mother was in xerox-heaven!
Once the internet became a daily part of my life I made a web site that featured some of the most popular PA Dutch recipes and I got a lot of feedback over the past 5 years about it. One of the funniest things was an email I got from someone who said a guy in his office had made home-made keuchels (a PA Dutch fried dough) and gave him one to taste. He said it tasted just like the ones his mother used to make and didn't believe his buddy when he said the got the recipe off the internet. He went to the URL, found the recipe and looked at the accompanying picture and said, “Oh my God, that's my mother!” It was my cousin Jack Dippold. No wonder they tasted just like his mother's, they were from her recipe!
So, now that Each Angel Burns is published and I am a long way from the next novel I decided it is time to re-do the cookbook and include more stories and memories. This will be extra fun because two of my nieces, my brother Jack's daughter Amy and my sister Chris's daughter Tasha, are going to help. I've sent out a call to the family for more recipes and the book is well underway. I have an entire box of recipes I brought back from my mother's kitchen after she died and some of them are old Pennsylvania recipes I don't want to see be lost.
My late brother Jack had a notebook that he called his “recipe book”. It was filled with his recipes from experimenting making pickles, preserves, beer, wine and, of course, his famous sausages. I called Amy, his daughter, and asked whatever became of that book after he died. She said she's pretty sure it is still in the bookcase at her mother's house so I am hoping she will let me borrow it and add some of those recipes. It would be a wonderful way to honor him and god only knows what recipes are in it. We may find some new uses for groundhog or squirrel.
So we are hoping to have it ready by Spring. I don't know yet how many recipes will be in it but I can assure you they will either be very good or very interesting. I know there will be a section on soltz, elderberries, home-grown tomatoes, and,of course, sauerkraut! Stay tuned.
Thanks for reading.