Grandma Rang’s Cottage Cheese Pie

When in my mother’s opinion, I was strong enough to get out of bed, I wanted to see what a Quarantine Sign looked like.  I had heard someone pounding on our front door, and Mom or Dad had told me that everything was all right, that no one was trying to get into the house.  It was only a man nailing a sign to the door telling people not to come inside until everyone was well again.

“Everyone” was me.  I had scarlet fever.  My mother and two sisters had to stay home, and my father had to wash carefully every morning before going to the garage where he worked. No one else in my family caught the disease, and I finally got well.  I am not sure how old I was, but it must have been between my fourth and fifth birthdays.  

One thing I remember clearly is that, when Mom first let me get up, I had forgotten how to walk.  I wanted to see that Quarantine Sign, so Mom had to hold my hand when I went to the front door.  The sign on the door was red.  At the top, big letters said “QUARANTINE”  with smaller lettering underneath explaining that our house was infected with Scarlet Fever.

That was the first time I was confined in the house because I was sick. I was eight years old when the second quarantine occurred.  I was in third grade at Blair School, the same one-room my father had attended when he was a boy.  There were nineteen or twenty students at Blair when three quarters of us came down with measles and chicken pox.

If you have the option, do not get chicken pox and measles at the same time.  I still have scars from picking those itching scabs as the blisters healed while lying in bed in a darkened room.  I can’t say anything good about chicken pox, but I complained so much that my mother taught me how to knit to distract me while I was in bed.  I knitted a pair of socks (only the straight parts, Mom knitted the heels), and I am still rather proud of my accomplishment, though I have never tried to duplicate the feat.

My sisters came down with both diseases, which are dangerous infections.  My sister Barbara was so sick that a doctor came to our house, gave her something to lower her fever and helped her recover with no permanent problems.   Children still die of measles, and many adults develop shingles, which is caused by the chicken pox virus that hides in the nervous system for life.  I have had shingles and do not recommend it.  Today, nearly all children in developed countries are vaccinated against measles and chicken pox, and there are vaccines that prevent or lessen the severity of shingles.  Get vaccinated.

Although I wasn’t as sick as my sisters, I did lose my appetite.  This may seem like a small matter to you, but it really worried my mother.  Normally I was a two-plates-of-food-for-dinner boy, as old photos confirm.  I was, however, also an active kid who filled the woodbox, fed the chickens, rode his bike when there was not snow, skated and skied in the winter, built snow forts in winter and pole and board forts in the summer.  Thus, what looks like fat is really well developed muscle.

Confined to bed in a darkened room, I simply wasn’t hungry.  Mom did her best to tempt my tastebuds.  She made chicken noodle soup, of course, since every woman I knew claimed it was a sovereign remedy for any illness.  I vaguely remember her spooning broth or lemon toddy into my mouth and offering fresh bread.  I am sure that she also baked some treats—cookies, cakes and probably pies.  “You have to eat something,” she would say, and I would try.

I don’t remember it, but she may well have made Grandma Rang’s Cottage Cheese Pie.  I found the recipe written on the back of the same card Mom had copied Grandma’s Dutch Pudding recipe.  Grandma Rang had a hen house filled with layers and made her own butter and cottage cheese, so it would have been a fairly economical dessert.  She had only to buy sugar and a lemon for the filling.

As usual, the recipe is a list of ingredients with brief instructions to mix them together, pour the batter into a flour crust and bake about an hour until a knife comes out clean.  I have made this pie several times to fine tune the instructions.  I assume that Grandma added some cream to her cottage cheese curds, so I made the pie with ordinary whole milk cottage cheese from the market.

The result is a refreshing variation on cheese cake.  Using an electric mixer breaks up the larger curds, but enough remain to give this pie an interesting texture.  The lemon zest works magically well with the cheese and eggs.  The flavor reminds me of those quarantines of long ago as we huddle in our home self-quarantined against COVID-19.  

It’s a pie to perk up your day. You really should try it.

INGREDIENTS:

1/2 cup butter

1 cup granulated sugar

3 large eggs

2 cups whole milk small curd cottage cheese

1 T corn starch

zest from one lemon

1 unbaked nine-inch pie shell

PROCEDURE:

Preheat the oven to 350º.  

Cream the butter and sugar together.  Stir in the eggs one at a time.  Grate the lemon  and stir the zest and corn starch into the egg and sugar mixture. Add the cottage cheese and and blend the batter for about two minutes.  Grandma would have used a spoon or egg beater, but I use our electric mixer on medium for about a minute and on high for the rest of the time.  

Pour the batter into the pie shell and bake at 350º for fifty minutes.  Test for doneness with a butter knife inserted near the center of the pie.  If the knife comes out clean, the pie is done; otherwise, bake five minutes longer and test again.

NOTES:  Grandma told Mom that she could substitute any shortening for the butter.

Susie’s Pumpkin Banana Bread

As a missionary for World Impact, our niece Susie spent many years working with Spanish-speaking immigrants, first in Los Angeles, California, and later in Wichita, Kansas.  She lived in the neighborhood where she ministered, teaching Bible clubs to the kids and various adult classes as well, all designed to guide people to a faith in God and eventually to establish churches.  No longer a missionary, Susie now teaches English as a Second Language in the Wichita school system to students from Asia and Africa as well as many from South and Central America.

She brought two loaves of a golden bread to a family dinner the last time we visited Jerri’s relatives in Kansas.  After two slices I asked her for the recipe and an explanation of how she came to make such a great-tasting treat as Pumpkin Banana Bread.

As she tells the story, when she moved back to Kansas from California, she wanted to plant a new church for underserved Latinos in Wichita.  She recruited a team which spent weeks walking and praying through three lower-income neighborhoods which had a large percentage of Spanish-speaking residents. They wanted to move and were seeking God’s guidance about which neighborhood was ready for a Spanish-speaking church plant.

On one prayer-walk, they discovered the “perfect house” with a large back yard for BBQ’s and rooms large enough for ESL classes, Bible studies and worship services.  However, the house was already under contract—even if World Impact had been able to afford it. They settled on an empty house with a complicated financial situation that the owners let them use for the summer to teach Bible clubs.  When the bank could not release the building for sale by summer’s end, Susie called to find out if the “perfect house” had in fact been sold.

Surprised to hear that the contract had fallen through, Susie convinced the World Impact leaders to tour the house. They could see the home’s potential for ministry and decided to move ahead. With lots of prayer and a generous gift from a WI board member, Susie and her team had a home for the new church. As Susie concludes the story, “We closed on the house in September, moved in in October, sent out a fund-raising letter in November, and paid off the house completely by the end of the year. ONLY GOD could have done that!”

Susie continues, “So. . . where does the bread fit in? We started an ESL class to get to know our neighbors. We had a big table and a big dining room, and we had fun, lively classes! But in the Latino community, there are always refreshments at every get-together. What could I serve? I bought some delicious Mexican pastries one day, but that proved to be too expensive to do regularly.  So, I decided to serve different kinds of homemade bread and coffee or tea. I made the bread and froze it so I wouldn’t have to bake before each class. The ladies loved the bread, and I accumulated quite a collection of recipes. The Pumpkin-Banana Bread was one of the breads that I served to my ESL class. They enjoyed it, and it also became a favorite of our young director!

“By the way, we planted our church–La Iglesia de Cristo Victorioso! They first met in our living room, but now they have their own building and their own pastor. They are currently completely independent from World Impact and are doing well.”

Here is Susie’s recipe for a really delicious banana bread complemented by pumpkin!

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups granulated sugar

2/3 cup vegetable oil

4 large eggs

3 1/3 cups flour

2 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. baking powder

1 1/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp. ginger

2/3 cup water

1 15 oz. can mashed pumpkin

1/2 cup mashed, ripe banana

3/4 cup chopped pecans, toasted

PROCEDURE:

Grease the bottoms and a half-inch up the sides of two 9 x 5″ loaf pans and set them aside.  Preheat the oven to 350º and lightly toast the pecans by stirring them in a small skillet over moderate heat until they begin to change color.  Mash the banana.

In a very large mixing bowl, beat the sugar and oil with an electric mixer on medium speed until they are well blended.  Add the eggs one at a time and beat them into the sugar and oil.

Sift the flour, baking soda, salt, baking powder, cinnamon and ginger into a separate mixing bowl.  Add the flour alternately with the water to the sugar mixture, beating after each addition just until the flour is combined with the liquids. 

Beat in the pumpkin and banana until you have a smooth batter. Blend in the pecans, and spoon the batter into the pans.

Bake for fifty to sixty minutes.  Check for doneness with a toothpick inserted into the center of a loaf.  If it comes out clean, the bread is done. If not, bake for another five to six minutes and check again.

Remove the pans from the oven and allow them to cool for about fifteen minutes on a rack.   Loosen the loaves from the pans and turn them out to finish cooling on the rack. 

NOTES:  Susie says that she often substitutes apple sauce for part of the oil and that you can use more mashed banana.  I mashed a large banana which produced three-fourths of a cup, and the bread turned out fine.  Incidentally, I like to butter my banana bread.

Speaking from experience, I urge you to be very careful when you toast the pecans.  I heat a small cast iron skillet first, pour in the pecans and use a wooden spoon to stir the pecans continuously.  As soon as the nuts begin to change color, remove the pan from the heat and pour the pecans into a small bowl.

As Susie suggests, you can freeze this bread and serve it a couple of weeks later.