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Joni Woolf: Recipes for a Harvest Hand Orgy from Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings

In her novel “The Sojourner,” Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings describes a feast for the harvest hands —those whose hands produced the foods that were offered as celebration of harvest time. She describes it (in a slightly edited version) thusly:

“The harvest hands were seated at the dining room table, stretched out to its last leaf. The table was piled with food, even more thickly than at Christmas … Manners were of no importance, and men reached across the table to spear pieces of crusty fried chicken, lamb and pork chops, to scoop up helpings of baked beans and stewed tomatoes. They wolfed down the food without speaking. [The servers] replaced the empty dishes with full ones, kept the biscuits coming, made room on the table for the salads, the sweet onions, the cucumbers … and the men insisted they did not need clean plates for the desserts, for they had already cleaned them, they roared with laughter … It was a time of pride in the season of abundance, and apple dumplings and wild raspberry shortcakes jostled the pies and shortcakes for attention … until the greediest man of all could hold no more and the table was bare.” It was a celebration of the pure joy of good food, and enough of it for all to be filled. What follows is a menu from Rawlins’ recipes that celebrated that seasons of abundance — the time we call harvest.

The menu included Gala Pork Chops, Golden Harvest Bean Pot, Onions and Cucumbers (sliced in vinegar), Stewed Tomatoes, Watermelon Pickles, Hot Biscuits, and Peach Cream Pie. Several of the recipes are featured here.

 

Gala Pork Chops

6 thick loin pork chops

¼ teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

1 tablespoon olive oil

¾ cup sour cream

1 tablespoon sherry wine

3 tablespoons chopped parsley

Season the chops with salt and pepper and brown in olive oil in a heavy skillet. Cook slowly for about 5 minutes before turning, then cook for about 30 to 40 minutes longer. Remove chops and pour off all except 2 tablespoons fat. Add the sour cream, wine, and parsley. Stir. Return chops to pan and baste for a few minutes over low heat before serving.

 

Stewed Tomatoes

8 large tomatoes

½ teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

1 tablespoon butter

½ cup chopped celery

1 tablespoon snipped celery leaves

¼ teaspoon dried basil

Remove the skins from tomatoes (drop in boiling water for 10 seconds and peel). Cut into quarters, put on saucepan with the remaining ingredients, and cook over low heat until tender, about 15 minutes.

 

Golden Harvest Bean Pot

2 (No. 303) cans Boston-style beans

1 teaspoon dry mustard

1/3 cup maple syrup

4 tablespoons chopped onion

6 slices bacon

Topping:

¼ tsp. soda

1/3 cup buttermilk

1 unbeaten egg

1 ¾ cup corn meal muffin mix

Place beans in a buttered deep casserole, stirring in the mustard, syrup, and onions. Fry bacon until crisp and crumble over the beans. To prepare topping, stir soda into the buttermilk. Add this and egg to corn meal muffin mix and stir until moist but still lumpy. Spread over the bean mixture and bake for 25 minutes at 375 degrees F., or until the topping is a rich, golden brown.

 

Peach Cream Pie

6 medium-size peaches

3 tablespoons granulated sugar

½ cup brown sugar

1 cup commercial sour cream

½ teaspoon vanilla

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

1 unbaked pie crust

Pare and cut 4 of the peaches into eighths. Sprinkle sugar over them and let them sit for ½ hour. Line a 9-inch pie pan with crust. Drain peach slices, saving juice. Arrange slices in overlapping design in bottom of crust. Sprinkle with the brown sugar. Mix the juice from the peaches, sour cream, vanilla, and cloves. Spread over top of peaches. Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees F. for 15 minutes, remove foil and continue baking about 45 minutes, until crust is light brown, and filling bubbles. Refrigerate. Before serving, garnish with the two remaining peaches which you have sliced, and spoon over the juice that has formed in the bottom of the pie.

 

Joni Woolf, a writer and editor, now lives in Schley County, having moved from her home in Macon several years ago. Contact her at indigojoni@windstream.net

 

 

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