Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Mystery Notebook

Among the notebooks and cookbooks that I received along with Grandma Minnie's handwritten book of recipes was a second manuscript in a handwriting that I did not recognize. This mystery notebook's elaborate script was not easy to decipher:

It was not until I came across a signed letter in the same hand in the family archives that I discovered the author of the calligraphed notebook: it was Grandma Minnie's second cousin, Beulah Van Slyke Bailey.

Beulah was born in 1892 (two years after Minnie), the grand-daughter of Jonas Van Slyke's brother David H. Van Slyke. She was born in Indian Castle, New York, in Herkimer County, where she lived for most of her life. I have a vague memory of visiting her home as a young child with other relatives. A profusion of pink and purple Jacob's Coat flowering plants bloomed in the woods behind the house. Beulah shared a cutting with Minnie, which Minnie's girls planted on the hill behind their homestead.

Beulah was active in the restoration of the Indian Castle church originally built in 1769 by Sir William Johnson, as a mission church for the Mohawks, whose palisaded village, or "castle," gave the modern village its name. The little white church still stands on a hillside above the Mohawk River. It is the oldest Indian mission church in New York State.

Beulah was President of the Indian Castle Restoration Society. When she passed away in May 1965, her memorial service was held in the church that she had helped restore. I have not tried Beulah's Angel Food Cake recipe, but I did try another recipe that she had clipped out of a newspaper, probably sometime in the 1940's. The apple, cinnamon, and brown sugar make a tasty treat. 

Apple Betty

- One cup dried bread crumbs (rolled); 1/4 cup melted butter; 1 teaspoon cinnamon; 3 cups tart apples, finely chopped; 1 cup brown sugar.

- Blend the bread crumbs with the melted butter, sugar, and cinnamon. Butter a baking dish and line it with the crumbs. Place a layer of chopped apples in bottom of dish, add a layer of crumbs and repeat until all are used. Bake for 40 minutes in a moderate oven (375 degrees Fahrenheit). Serve warm with cream.

Beulah's Apple Betty

Although Beulah has been gone for almost fifty years now, the Jacob's Coat that she gave Minnie is sprouting along the path up the hill. Soon its pink and purple blossoms will open in the spring sunshine, part of Beulah's legacy along with her tasty recipes.

Beulah's Jacob's Coat

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