Updated: Aug 11
If you drive along the country side during the hot summer months of July and August, you will notice many hay fields with it's grass cut down. Lying in windrows, the grass waits for the summer breeze to dry itself down so the farmer can begin their bailing. The other day I was driving my 90 year old mother around the section and as we passed our alfalfa hay field, she began reminiscing about her young life and helping her mom bring lunch to the farm crew busy working in the hay field. They would be hard at work either threshing or putting up hay. Both jobs were hot and labor intensive. During these seasons, a small group of farmers consisting of family and neighbors would help each other by spending long hot hours working in the field. Once they were finished, they would proceed on to the next farmer's field, then the next, and so on until everyone's wheat was threshed or hay was put up for the year.
This is my Grandpa Baker in 1900 taking a break from haying and giving an unknown woman a drink of water. Or maybe it's...
In the old days men would drink a recipe of apple cider vinegar, ginger, and honey during haying season. Switchel is an electrolyte drink that is anti-inflammatory and high in probiotics promoting good gut health.
Switchel, also called "The Haymaker's Punch" has been making a trendy comeback in restaurants and specialty grocery stores. So the next time you want to reach for a gatorade, think about making a batch of switchel instead. It's so much better for you than commercial energy drinks and besides, you'll feel trendy. Here's a recipe:
Combine four teaspoons of apple cider vinegar, a teaspoon of grated or minced fresh ginger (or 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger), four cups of filtered water, and honey or maple syrup to taste (if you like it sweetened, try adding four teaspoons of honey or maple syrup to this mixture).
Mix the ingredients in a pitcher or jug, let it sit for 12 to 24 hours in the fridge, and stir well before serving. If you are using fresh ginger, you can strain it before serving. (Note: this recipe yields four glasses of switchel.)
After workout protein bites and Switchel offered during one of
our farm events.
As we continued our conversation, I learned that a typical lunch was individually packed in paper bags and placed into an old enamel dish pan. "Why a dish pan?" I asked. My mom had no idea as to why, but guessed it was just an easy way to transfer a bunch of bag lunches to the field. And let's remember, YETI wasn't invented yet....ti.
A lunch consisted of a sandwich, a piece of fruit, coffee and a Brownstone Front Cake. A Brownstone Front Cake? I've never heard of this cake. Who makes it? Ducan or Betty? Come to find out, my mom loves this type of cake. Who knew! And upon further research, I discovered this cake is a more difficult to make than most, failing a time or two is common, and patience is truly a virtue needed to attain cake perfection. Another article claimed one needed to be a good cook to be rewarded with cake success. Then again maybe the one sharing the recipe was doing a little self gloating. Farm wives making lunches for men in the field understood the hard work and sacrifice they were doing for their families and futures. To me providing something as difficult and time consuming as a Brownstone Front cake was a small way of showing their appreciation. Good food feeds and fuels the soul. It's how the women like my grandma helped win the west.
BROWNSTONE FRONT CAKE
1/2 c. butter
2 c. Sugar
2 eggs separated
2 c. flour sifted twice
1 tsp. baking soda dissolved in 1/2 cup warm water
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/8 tsp. salt
1 egg yolk
1/3 c. water
4 squares baker's unsweetened chocolate melted
1 recipe icing (below)
1.Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2. Cream butter and one cup of sugar until sugar is thorough dissolved.
3. Beat in egg yolks one at a time
4. Gradually stir in flour, alternating with the water/baking soda mixture.
5. Add vanilla and salt.
6. Mix remaining sugar, egg yolk, water, and melted chocolate together in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and stir for three minutes and add to cake batter.
7. Beat egg whites until stiff and fold into batter.
8. Pour batter into 2 eight inch cake pans oiled and lined with parchment paper.
9. Baker for approximately 45 minutes or until tester comes out clean.
10. Cool on rack.
2 egg yolks
1 1/2 c sugar
1/2 c milk
4 squares baker's unsweetened chocolate
1 tsp. vanilla
Bring egg yolks, sugar and milk to a boil and simmer stirring occasionally.
Melt together chocolate and butter in a double boiler, pour into egg mixture, add vanilla and beat until thick. Makes 2 cups.
Make four layers by splitting the two round cakes and frosting each layer.
Mom explaining how they brought lunch to the field.
Our neighbor cutting our 80 acres of alfalfa.
Haying- The activity of mowing and drying grass to make hay. Usually grass consists of alfalfa or bromegrass. Alfalfa is richer and higher in protein compared to bromegrass.
Section: Farmland in eastern Nebraska is divided up into one mile sections or squares. We may say "Go across the section" which means go one mile to the other side in a certain direction. If you see Nebraska from the sky ( we are the fly over state) our flat land looks like a patchwork quilt. I love our flat land and I proudly call myself a "flatlander".
Windrow - A row of hay raked up to dry before being baled or stored. Hay is either baled into small squares, big round bales, or large square bales.
Will at four years old confidently thinking he could manage this bale.