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A fine snow is sifting down upon the countryside, and the cows stand on the hillside and look bewildered at the change of weather. After a few mild days, it is hard to re-adjust to winter making another swipe at us. It is still February however, and we can expect more winter weather to come.

There is still time to go through your files and update paperwork– clear out old material and clean out clutter. My problem is, that I can’t bear to discard anything in print, and thus I am overwhelmed with a mountain of old papers. I did go through a file of “grandchild memories” and ended up keeping every bit of it. It is invaluable to me, and I hope there will be someone to treasure it after I am gone.

Since we are still mostly housebound, it is an ideal time for cooking and baking. We have had several requests for different recipes. We heard from Ella Williams of Richwood who writes, “I have lost my deep fried oyster recipe that I cut out of the Gazette several months ago. I tried to “’wing it” but refused to serve the end results at a Christmas gathering. If anyone has this recipe, send it to me and I will use it in my column.

Kitty Severn of Leon is looking for a recipe for “Head Cheese.” Mom always made “Souse,” and I inquired of my sister Mary Ellen (the family advisor since Mom is gone) what the difference was. We both did some research on it, and, found that it was almost the same thing. The biggest difference that I can see is that souse uses vinegar. Mom used the whole pig’s head, plus the feet. Ms. Severn wanted to use a round pork roast that contains some fat, and Mary Ellen sent me a recipe that called for pork meat. It still uses a pig’s foot, which gives the final product the jellied consistency.

10 cups water
2 ½ pork meat (roast?)
1 pig’s foot
2 teaspoons salt, divided
¾ lb. onion, chopped
1 tablespoon parsley flakes
1 tablespoon celery flakes
1 cup green onion, chopped
1 teaspoon black pepper
¾ teaspoon red pepper

Measure water into five-quart saucepan. Add pork meat, pig’s foot and salt. Cook until meat is tender and pig’s foot can be easily boned. About three cups liquid should remain in saucepan.

Add chopped onions, parsley flakes, celery flakes, chopped green onions, the remaining teaspoon salt, black pepper and red pepper. Cook three minutes and remove meat.

Place in food processor bowl. Chop fine but don’t puree. Mix chopped ingredients and reserved liquid. Pour in shallow pan (9X13X2”).
Chill thoroughly before slicing.

Mom cooked the pig head and feet, and, mixed the other ingredients in raw. She used fresh horseradish (which we grew in abundance) dill pickles, celery, onions and vinegar in the meat, which she then poured into loaf pans and refrigerated. It was simply delicious!

Some folks may be squeamish about using a pig’s head, but it is the making of your head cheese. She also used the pig ears, cooked them along with the head, and chopped them along with the other meat. If you have never tasted home cooked pickled pig feet, you have missed something. They are not like the commercially made pinkish product you find in the supermarket.

One cold winter day, Criss and I decided to try our hand at making scrapple. We had a wood cook stove on the back porch of the old house, which was enclosed and warm. After stoking the stove with firewood, we put the freshly cleaned pig’s head in a large kettle (probably a pressure canner) and boiled the meat until it fell off the bone.

After picking the meat off the bone, we mixed it with the cooking broth, adding salt, sage and cornmeal, and then cooked it. After pouring it in loaf pans and refrigerating it, it could be cut into slices. Dipped in flour and fried in oil or bacon grease, it is a welcome addition to your breakfast meal. Scrapple got its name from the scraps of meat left over after butchering, for nothing was to be wasted. I’ve heard it said that Mom used everything from the pig except the whistle!

Our grandparents were pretty self-sufficient, even down to using home remedies for common ailments. I remember Daddy concocting poultices for the many stone bruises we suffered in the summer time from different plants. He used sassafras leaves and cabbage leaves wrapped in a white rag to draw out infection, and I remember his putting scraped potato on a bone felon I once suffered.

Come to think of it, you never hear of a stone bruise nowadays. Perhaps it is because today’s youngsters wear shoes now, when we romped all through the summer with bare feet. It probably didn’t help that we jumped out of the barn loft without shoes. I’ve never heard of a bone felon since, because it is probably called by some other name. I do know however, that when Daddy took me to Dr. Smith, he lanced my finger and along with a lot of infection, a sliver of the bone came out.

It seems that a lot of today’s parents are looking for some home remedies for their babies (going back to nature?) and my friend Gloria asked me if I’d ever heard of putting a slice of potato in an infant’s sock to ward off a common cold. As Mom would say, “I never heard tell of such a thing!” I have heard of greasing the sole of a baby’s foot with Vick’s salve for nighttime coughing.

We were never subjected to having a bag of asafetida tied around our necks to ward off diseases, although it was a common practice in earlier generations. I am told that it was an extremely foul-smelling substance that was worn day and night. I did notice a necklace of amber-colored beads around a toddler’s neck that was supposed to help with teething.

The Lord has sent us a beautiful, sunny day that has melted yesterday’s snow and cheers up the heart. He wants cheerful people. “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands. Serve the Lord with gladness: come before His presence with singing.” Psalms (100:1-2)

I heard a song bird this morning singing a spring song of cheer. My heart is singing along with him.

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Alyce Faye Bragg

She writes the "News From the Hills" column. Born and raised in the country, and still lives on the same farm where she was raised. Has a sincere love for nature and the beauty of the hills. Began writing in 1981 & currently has three books published. > Read Full Biography > More Articles Written By This Writer