I spent the day today with Mark’s Aunt Regina and his stepmom, Patti, at Regina’s house outside Kilgore. Patti had been telling me that the cookbook and recipe collection stuffed in the cupboard above Regina’s refrigerator was a treasure, and she was right.
We set aside two accordion files to go through today, hunting specifically for things Regina, or her mother (that would be my children’s great-grandmother), or Patti had written down. I ended up capturing more than 240 images this afternoon. And occasionally taking notes.
Sometimes Regina just had a list of ingredients and the barest of instructions. We talked through it all, to make sure we knew what we were hanging on to and what we were tossing.
I noticed, as I’ve often seen with older recipes, that most of them were quite simple. Regina clipped and saved a lot of recipes, but you could tell by the splatters which ones she used. Patti asked about one that had long instructions. “Did you make this?” she asked. “Oh, no!” Regina said. “When it takes two pages of instructions, no, I didn’t make it.”
I was the most excited to see some of her DIY recipes — salami and ravioli and brisket and hot sauce (below) and sweetened, condensed milk, “for those times when you can’t find it,” Regina said. There’s never been a time that there wasn’t sweetened condensed milk, even the nonfat variety, at the store when I wanted it for a recipe. But Regina is 91, with a life experience that transcends the Great Depression and several wars. That just gave me pause, thinking how much life can change.
We’ll start with the hot sauce. “It’s hot. You have to use gloves,” Regina says.
12 red peppers
12 green peppers
Grind peppers and onions. Cover with boiling water and let set 5 minutes. Drain.
2 cup sugar
2 cup vinegar
3 tablespoons salt
Combine sugar, vinegar and salt. Boil until sugar melts. Add peppers and onions. Cook 5 minutes.