No Meat? No Problem: Meal Hacks For Times of Inflation - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
No Meat? No Problem: Meal Hacks For Times of Inflation
Kentucky (Alexey Stiop/Shutterstock)

With all the talk of lower gas prices, a full tank of gas still costs me over $100, and I use regular. Even with spring sprung, heating bills have me wearing long johns and sweaters, and the price of groceries has me digging out my Aunt Ruth’s transcriptions of great-grandma Sarah Amanda (Coldiron) Howard’s recipes.

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My great-grandpa Jacob Howard was a good provider back in the piney woods of Bell County, Kentucky. He raised cattle, kept a string or two of horses, supported a couple of families of sharecroppers, and ran a blacksmith shop on the premises. Sometimes times were good, and sometimes times were tough. When times were good, great grandma dazzled family, friends, and guests with fare fit for New Orleans dandies. When times were tough? Well, you’d just hardly know it.

When Jacob sold beef, he kept the cheaper cuts, and Amanda exercised a gourmand’s flair. Liver, kidneys, brains, tongue, heart, and oxtail made for savory and nourishing meals. If meat was scarce, you wouldn’t really miss it. Eggs, milk, butter, wheat, rye, and corn took up the slack. Little was wasted. The carefully emptied shells left over from any of her myriad of egg dishes were filled with cornstarch pudding (blancmange) — and when set, the carefully shelled treats were served up on nests made from strips of colored calf’s foot gelatin. A bit of elegance in times of want.

She cracked peach and plumb pits, dried the kernels overnight, and used them to flavor pies, pastries, creams, and cakes as ersatz bitter almond. 

She saved rose petals, rubbed them with a sprinkling of sugar, and soaked them for a day or two before boiling them into jelly with more sugar and lemon juice (if she had any lemons).

If times were indeed tough and morale was ebbing a tad bit, she’d make a “sure fire” pick-me-up with warm-from-the-cow milk sweetened with rose jelly and a shot of whisky — just the thing to start the day off right. 

I priced offal the other day — some of great grandma’s go-to cuts. Oxtails cost $14 per pound, beef tongue $6 per pound (a whole tongue cost $22), and even beef liver (when I could find it) priced out at over $7 per pound.  Yikes. Back to Sarah Amanda and her “silk purses from sow’s ears” cookbook.

Bread & Beer Soup

  • 8 slices of pumpernickel bread
  • 1 bottle of dark beer
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 medium lemon (use bottled lemon juice, or even vinegar, in a pinch)
  • Cream
  • Sweetener (sugar, honey, or karo syrup)

Cube the pumpernickel into a bowl or saucepan, add beer and water, cover and let sit in a cool spot for three to four hours (or overnight). At mealtime, heat to a simmer over a medium flame, beating with a fork as it thickens. Grate the lemon into the soup, add the juice, and sweeten with sugar as desired. Plate with a good dollop of cream (fresh or whipped) in the center.

Barley & Buttermilk Stew

  • Pint or so water
  • 1/3 cup barley
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 2 tbs chopped green onions (or chives)
  • 1/3 cup chopped parsley
  • 4 cups buttermilk
  • 1 tsp freshly ground cumin seed
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tb freshly toasted whole cumin seed, crushed for final plating

Boil barley with water and simmer covered until tender (around 30 minutes).  Add remaining ingredients except for whole cumin seeds and return to simmer. Season with salt and pepper, and plate with a sprinkling of freshly crushed toasted cumin seeds. 

Fruit & Oats Stew

  • 2 pints water
  • 1 orange, peeled and roughly chopped (optional)
  • 1 large apple, peeled, cored, and roughly chopped
  • 12 (pitted) dried prunes
  • 12 dried apricots
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries (I’ve substituted dried cranberries, or “Craisins,” to good effect)
  • 1/2 cup pressed or rolled oats
  • 1 scant tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt, or to taste

Put in a good-sized pot and simmer for one hour, stirring occasionally and adding water if needed. Adjust salt, and plate with a good dollop of whipped cream (or sour cream).

The above selections are meatless (although none would be harmed by substituting chicken or meat stock for water), surprisingly satisfying, stick-to-the-ribs meals that can serve as breakfast, lunch, or dinner, supplemented appropriately with milk, cider, coffee, beer, salad, and/or a big hunk of buttered bread. And just so you don’t skip over the “sure fire pick-me-up,” here’s her easy recipe for rose jelly.

Rose Jelly

  • 1/2 pound of pesticide-free rose petals (fragrant heirlooms work best)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 pints water 
  • 2 lemons

Rinse petals well and soak for two to three days. Drain, pat dry(ish), add one cup of sugar, mix well, and store in a cool spot overnight. Pour water, lemon juice (plus pips), and the remaining cup of sugar in a saucepan. Raise to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Add sugared rose petals, return to a simmer, and cook for 20 minutes, stirring frequently. Bring to a boil for five minutes and continue to stir frequently until mixture thickens. Remove lemon pips with a slotted spoon, and pour hot jam into clean, heated, sterile jars. Seal with lids, paraffin, or a linen cloth (if you don’t intend to store it for any significant period of time). 

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