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Reviving the aromas of fall

POSTED: November 22, 2012 7:37 p.m.
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Above, peanuts roast in a pan.

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This is the time of year that I think of all the aromas of fall like burning leaves, pies baking in the oven and so much more. The pumpkin and sweet potato pies with spices have probably been baked and consumed for Thanksgiving, but we will be baking other items from now through Christmas: pecan pies, sugar cookies and so much more.

I had the pleasure recently of an old-time treat — roasting fresh peanuts. As the shells began to heat and brown in the oven and the smell permeated the house, it brought me to other places and times gone by. Aunt Elice Reiser would "parch" peanuts (we say roast nowadays) in her woodstove and it always smelled good.  She was a fine cook and also made some crisp gingersnaps that we all enjoyed.

Nothing is better to smell than fresh-baked bread, and in the case of Effingham County, it is raisin bread. A slice of toasted homemade bread and some freshly brewed coffee could sure enhance your waking hour.

Apples stewing with some cinnamon are wonderful smelling and better yet if the filling is baking in a homemade pie crust. Back in the day, they made the pastry from scratch and rolled it out to make pies, unlike today when most buy frozen pie shells. 

My grandmother Exley, whom I named "Kopy," was a great cook. She inspired me to bake, cook and tackle preparing anything that could be consumed.  I can see her double-crust pie in my mind, in a white enamel red-rimmed pie pan (10 inches across) or a big aluminum pie plate with fillings between two crusts like dried apple, dried peach or our favorite prune. 

Nothing was better than prune pie with fresh whipped cream. The prunes were pitted and stewed until thick and sweetened generously. Those pies cut into wedges could be picked up and a slice eaten by hand without being messy or dripping. No one had to get a plate or fork to eat her pie; just pick it up and go.

You could even dunk a piece in a glass of cold milk for Sunday night supper. 

Fruitcake and pound cakes were being baked this time of year in days gone by.  Citrus fruit was a treat for people back then as it was not available at other times. The smell of orange or grapefruit rind offered the olfactory senses a crisp, fresh, easily-identified seasonal treat. Grinding fresh cranberries with oranges to make cranberry sauce is a unique item that accompanies turkey and dressing and smells so good simmering on the stove. 

Roast some peanuts or pecans for a holiday treat. Dry peanuts need to roast at about 350 degrees in a shallow pan in the oven, stirring every 10 minutes or so until the skins turn red and the nuts taste roasted not green and chewy.  It may take an hour or two depending on the moisture in the peanuts. And the fun is sampling often for doneness. 

For pecans, roast them at 200 degrees for about an hour, stirring every 15 minutes. You may add butter or margarine and salt if desired. I roast the ones I plan to cook with, without any additives. 

If the pecans have been frozen, it freshens them and takes a bit longer if you begin roasting them frozen. The roasted pecans are done when they change to a light golden brown. 

Plain roasted pecans are better in any cookies or cakes as the heating enhances the flavor when used in anything from nut cake to apple crisp or congealed salad. Nuts are a fairly healthy snack for the holidays.

Soon we will smell peppermint, homemade divinity and chocolate fudge and all the goodies for Christmas. Take time to cook some homemade delights and enjoy the aromas of fall and the holidays. I hope your memory will remind you of good times as you get a whiff of an old-time treat.

Historic Effingham has our gift shop open for your shopping needs weekdays Monday 9 a.m.-noon and Tuesday through Friday from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Our new Christmas ornament is Laurel Hill Lutheran Church, celebrating 150 years this month. Our 2013 School Days Calendars are available as are our books, ornaments, note cards, prints and other items.  Books are discounted 10 percent for the holidays. 

This was written by Susan Exley of Historic Effingham Society. If you have photos, comments or information to share, contact Susan Exley at 754-6681 or email her at: hesexleyherald@aol.com.

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