Sunday, May 8, 2011

Minnie's Garden

Periwinkle or myrtle
In the back yard, there is an underground spring that nourishes the periwinkle that grows on the hill behind the house. There is a winding path between the blue spruce and the grove of buckeye trees. The seeds for the buckeye trees came from Buck's county, Pennsylvania, where Minnie's eldest daughter lived for many years.

There is a patch of Jacob's Coats, which bloom in shades of pink, purple, and blue. Minnie got those from the garden of her cousin Beulah at Indian Castle. There is a stand of blueberry bushes, which bear tart fruit for making pies or jam.

In years gone by, a pipe poured water from the spring into a large barrel under the grape arbor, where two tangerine-colored coy fish twirled in the cool water. An enamel cup hung from a hook over the barrel, so that you could let the fresh water drip into the cup with a ringing sound and quench your thirst while watching songbirds dart around the bird feeder.

Jacob's Coat

During the Depression, hobos who rode the rails through the Mohawk Valley often came up the walk to the back yard to drink from the clear spring water. Sometimes Minnie or her mother would give them a plate of food to eat out under the grape arbor. One left a note scrawled in chalk on the sidewalk, letting the next visitor know: "Nice lady, good food."

Perhaps she had given him a piece of her coffee cake:

Minnie's coffee cake

 It actually has coffee in it. Here's the recipe:

I usually reduce the amount of sugar in any cake recipe I use, and I found that that was a good idea here, considering that the molasses was sweet as well. I used half the sugar, half the molasses, and two eggs instead of three, which also cut down on the cholesterol. The cake was plenty moist with two eggs. I  baked it at 350 F. until a toothpick came out clean.

Although I didn't make this as fruit cake, I did add a teaspoon of cloves, and found that that was plenty. I also used "fake" butter  --  a butter-flavored shortening, which also reduced the cholesterol content. This fake butter product is something new to me since my early days of baking cakes from scratch. Using real coffee in a coffee cake was another baking technique I had never tried before, but it gave the cake a "kick" of caffeine, not a bad thing if you need a waker-upper.

I was able to bake this cake courtesy of my brand-new oven, which you can see here:

Brand new stove
Bright and shiny, but perhaps not for long, unless I am careful to clean it after each use!

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