The Farm at Prophetstown State Park

The Farm at Prophetstown State Park, outside Battle Ground, Indiana, offers a glimpse into what life was like on an Indiana farm in the 1920’s–from the garden to the barnyard to the wood-burning cookstove in the kitchen. On “The Farm” episode of Indiana Home Cooks, Lauren Reed, the education and events coordinator at The Farm, tells us all about her labor of love. (Here is the episode on Stitcher.)

The time period featured at The Farm, the 1920’s, was a period of transition for farming and for homemaking. The era of mechanization was just beginning–tractors replacing horses, washing machines replacing the washboard, to name a couple examples. The historic Gibson House at The Farm still features a wood burning cookstove in the kitchen. On the icy morning I met Lauren, the stove was not cooperating with her efforts to start a fire to take the chill out of the air. One reminder that life a hundred years ago had its challenges!

In addition to her educational duties, Lauren is also a professional chef who creates special dinners at The Farm using ingredients grown on site. Her experience in the restaurant business goes back to her college days at Indiana State.  She keeps her chef skills honed working special VIP events (as in, the Super Bowl!) with a large event catering business. She talks about her experience at this year’s Super Bowl. She also shared some pictures from the VIP tailgate party she cooked….

In the upper left image, Lauren is on the right. Guy Fieri is keeping a low profile in camo. What an experience for a girl from Rossville, Indiana! Thanks, Lauren, for giving us a peek.

Welcome to Indiana Home Cooks

Hello friends of the Indiana Home Cooks podcast. Susan Mintert here, creator and host of the podcast, and author of this blog. This is where you can find more information on what you hear on Indiana Home Cooks. If we talk about recipes, or demonstrate a dish on the show, you can look for it here. I’ll also have additional insights, pictures, and other background right here for specific shows.

So how did I get started on this podcast venture, anyway? The short answer is I have a background in radio (most of it in public radio) and a great interest in food and love of cooking. I enjoy talking to people who do the real work of putting food and drink on the table, all the way from the grower, to the processor, to the home cook or professional, to the person sitting down and eating or drinking it. I guess that’s the very definition of “farm to fork,” or “farm to glass” in the case of beer and wine.

Oh, and I should mention the other part of it. I am a Hoosier, in both senses of the word. I was born and raised on a farm in Clay County, and am a graduate of Indiana University. So the formative years were spent in Clay County and Bloomington, and now I’m based in West Lafayette. Yes, that West Lafayette, home of the Purdue Boilermakers. A crucial twenty years was spent in Kansas, but more about that later. For now, suffice to say I do have divided loyalties and am okay with that!

But back to the podcast….I hope you will enjoy hearing stories of family traditions, Hoosier customs, food and history, craft beer brewing, wine making, bread baking….in short, how food is more than what feeds our bodies. On Indiana Home Cooks we explore how food feeds the soul and how preparing a meal or a dish to share with others is an act of love.

We talk to food entrepreneurs who have turned a passion into a business. And we visit festivals that focus on food and drink, and events and sites that honor Indiana history and culture through food.

We also have fun and a few laughs along the way, especially when we get in the kitchen and create dishes right before your very ears! We’re cooking, baking, and “dishing” with a Hoosier sensibility. Check it out on Apple Podcasts or Stitcher. And let me know what you think.

Memories of Home

The first Indiana Home Cooks podcast of 2018 features reminiscences of my mom, Barbara Mercer. She sat down with me some months ago to record the first interview for a podcast venture that was still in the “concept” phase. In the intervening months I couldn’t find a good spot for it on the podcast. But with the winter winds blowing, snow falling, and the thermometer making its home in the single digits above and below zero, I thought it was the perfect time for the warm comforts of home.

In the episode, Memories of Home, Mom reminisces about “butchering day” on the farm when she was a young girl in Clay County. As I listened to her descriptions, I couldn’t help thinking about the “Little House” books by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  These were some of my very favorite books when I was a girl, and the charming illustrations by Garth Williams brought them even more to life than the vivid prose. I pulled out my copy of Little House in the Big Woods, and sure enough, in chapter one, there it was–Wilder’s account of butchering day when she was a little girl. And not much had changed from 1870’s frontier Wisconsin to mid-20th century Indiana when it came to butchering a hog.

In a wrap up of the holidays, this episode also includes the step-by-step preparation of our Fluffy Yeast Rolls. These rolls have been a staple of family dinners all my life. Special occasions, mind you, not everyday meals. It’s not that the rolls are difficult or time consuming, but they do require a little advance planning, and they are pretty rich for everyday consumption. We make them at least once a year, at Thanksgiving, and sometimes at Christmas or Easter. The recipe (with photos) is included below.

Katy Eberle and I discussed bread baking also, since I was on a little bread baking jag. I brought her a baguette I had made the day before. One of my favorite homemade bread recipes is Crusty Italian Bread from the King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion. Here is the recipe from my King Arthur book…

If you prefer a copy without spilled coffee stains, notes, and other jottings, check it out online here.

Fluffy Yeast Rolls
From the kitchen of Barbara Mercer, from Margaret Balder
Makes 18 rolls

Dissolve 1 pkg. active dry yeast in 3 T. lukewarm water in a small bowl or measuring cup. While that is dissolving, whisk together the following ingredients in a large mixing bowl:

1/2 C. (one stick) unsalted butter or margarine, melted
1 tsp. salt
1 C. lukewarm water
1/4 C. sugar
2 eggs, room temperature

Add yeast mixture and whisk again. To this mixture, add 3 C. all-purpose flour. Mix with electric mixer until fairly smooth. Stir in 1 C. flour by hand. (Total of 4 cups of flour) Dough will be sticky. DO NOT KNEAD. Leave dough in bowl, cover with a plate or plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Three hours before baking:
Remove dough from refrigerator. It should’ve doubled overnight. Grease muffin pans for 18 rolls. Melt 1/4 C. butter.

Punch down dough and pull off pieces of dough roughly the size of large walnuts and shape into balls (2 dough balls for each roll). Dip each ball into melted butter before placing in pan. Cover rolls with tea towels and let rise until double. Bake in preheated 450 degree oven for 5-10 minutes, until golden brown.* After baking, while still hot and in the pans, brush tops with more melted butter. Serve warm.

*If using dark baking pans, reduce oven temp to 425 degrees.