A Story and a Recipe

By Dorothy Johnson

Last week the farmers were harvesting their vegetables and getting them ready for the winter.  This week we will continue to look at the vegetables that were on the farm on the Ridge.  We had carrots, turnip, cabbage, beets, squash and potatoes that had to be preserved as long as we could keep them. Most of them went in the cellar or more specifically in the root cellar.

The root cellar at the farm was a low-ceilinged room just to the left of the cellar steps.  In my day, I thought the room was small and had shelves for the canned goods.  Last week, I found out that the root cellar is quite a big room and extends as far west as the foundation does.  The ceiling of the root cellar is not any part of the actual house; it is actually covered by the concrete on the piazza. Grandpa must have planned this when he built the place, but as a child there is no way I would have explored that spider-infested room.

Some root cellars had soil in them for the floor so the vegetables could be “planted” to keep them from rotting.  It is my opinion that Grandpa kept his home made root beer in his root cellar.  In the old days every farm had its own dump.  As a kid, I dug around our old dumps looking for old bottles.  What I found was a lot of small crockery bottles with old-fashioned snap-on tops.  I think Grandpa cleaned these out of his root cellar.

We canned beets, both pickled beets and beets as a winter vegetable.  Other vegetables were just stored in the main cellar.  One year apples were scarce and my aunt used carrots in place of the apples in her mincemeat.  I have to admit that I would not have believed it except for the orange flecks in the mincemeat pie.  It was that good.

Our big crop for fall and through the winter was potatoes.  First we killed the tops of the potatoes and then we dug the “hills” in the rows with a potato digger hauled behind the tractor.  The potatoes would roll off the digger and fall on the ground.  Workers then had to pick them up, first in baskets we carried. When the baskets were full, the potatoes in them would be dumped into barrels. The full barrels were lifted on the trailer by two workers, hauled to the cellar windows and dumped into the cellar.

To prevent serious damage to the potatoes, we would dump them on a sluice which was placed through the window space and aimed where the boss wanted the potatoes to land. Certain kinds of potatoes (Green Mountain, Katahadin, Kennebecs) were delegated to certain “bins” in the cellar.  That positioning determined which of the cellar windows were used with the sluice.

As the winter went along, the potatoes had to be picked up again, put in peck (15 pound) paper bags after the dirt had been rubbed off.  The bags were weighed and stiff wires were twisted around the top of the bags.  Then they were carried up out of the cellar and taken to market.  Growing and selling potatoes made for work intensive periods that everyone helped with.  I was allowed to stamp the bags with my father’s ink stamp, weigh the peck bags and use the manual tool for twisting the wire around the tops.  I was allowed to carry the potatoes out of the cellar when it was time.  The farm always had a chore for everyone.

This week’s recipe is a short and easy one for Sweet-and-Sour Carrots.


Sweet-and-Sour Carrots Ingredients: 3 cups sliced carrots (four large) 4 green onions cut into one-half inch pieces 1/4 Cup unsweetened pineapple juice 2 TBSP honey • 2 TBSP margarine or butter 1 TBSP vinegar • 1 TSP cornstarch • 1 TSP soy sauce Method: 1. In a medium saucepan cook fresh carrots, covered, in a small amount of boiling water for 7 to 9 minutes or till crisp-tender. Drain. Remove from pan. 2. In the same saucepan combine onions, pineapple juice, honey, margarine, vinegar, cornstarch and soy sauce. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly. Add carrots, tossing to coat; heat through. Serves four. Enjoy your vegetables throughout the winter.