Mrs. Heins’ Barley Hot Dish

A few years ago I bought a used cookbook published in 1962 by the Ladies Aid of the Eidskog Church in Ortonville, Minnesota. Ortonville is a small city in western Minnesota founded by Cornelius Knute Orton and incorporated in 1881. Four years later, Scandinavian immigrants in the area began worshipping together in their new church. Services were conducted in Norwegian until 1942.

Like many churches in rural areas, Eidskog experienced shrinking membership in the past few decades. Finally, after 130 years of serving their congregants and community, the church was forced to close. Hoping that the church furnishings could continue to be used by another congregation, Eidskog advertised in The Lutheran that it was closing and wanted to contribute items to any interested church.

The ad caught the eye of Dick Jackson, a member of a new congregation in River Falls, Wisconsin, that was planning a church building. Jackson and his wife met with people from Eidskog and recommended that Hope Lutheran Church accept the generous gift offered by the Eidskog congregation. The River Falls Journal published the story on November 11, 2015. Today, Hope Lutheran is a vibrant congregation with kitchen equipment and even the pews from the church built 130 years ago by those immigrants on the prairie.

I treasure the cookbook put together by the Ladies Aid of that old church. There are eighteen sections in the book, each headed by a verse from the Bible. The last two sections are not recipes but rather useful notes for housewives. “Stain Removal” includes a tip for removing cod liver oil stains, which brought back a memory of dodging the spoon when Mom dosed us with that nasty stuff from the brown bottle. “Household Hints” is organized as a series of “Did you know” questions, and I may test the one suggesting “That hamburger fried in ketchup gives it a barbecue flavor.”

Many of the recipes remind me of potlucks of long ago, and not all of the memories are pleasant. For example, there are seventeen recipes for salads made with Jello or gelatin including the infamous Jello Carrot Salad. However, even the salad section has lots of recipes I would like to try, and as might be expected in a Lutheran Ladies Aid cookbook, the hot dish section is loaded with intriguing possibilities.

One that tempted me used barley instead of the noodles or rice so often found in potluck dishes. I hesitated to try it when I saw that one ingredient was a can of green peas, but I am glad I made it. The barley lends a satisfying texture missing from rice or noodles, and the combination of vegetables is delicious. You might want to make it for the next potluck you attend. If you think “hot dish” is too pedestrian, you could call it Beef and Vegetable Stew, since that is what it’s like.

INGREDIENTS:

2 tsp. shortening
1 1/2 lbs. lean ground beef (at least 85% lean)
1 small onion (2 to 2 1/2 inches in diameter)
1 large or 2 medium ribs of celery
3/4 cup pearl barley
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 green bell pepper (about 3 inches in diameter)
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can green peas
1 can cream of mushroom soup
2 – 3 T water

PROCEDURE:

Coat a large skillet with the shortening and cook the ground beef over moderate heat until it is no longer pink. While the meat is cooking, clean and chop the onion into a quarter-inch dice and the celery into half-inch pieces.

Preheat the oven to 375º and lightly grease a three quart casserole.

Add the onion, celery and barley to the meat along with the salt and pepper and continue cooking for about five minutes. Wash the pepper, cut it into quarters and remove the seeds and white membrane. Chop the pepper into a half to three-quarter-inch dice.

If the skillet is large enough, add the pepper, tomatoes, peas and the can of mushroom soup to the meat mixture. If it is not, combine everything in a large mixing bowl. Rinse out the cans with two or three tablespoons of water, stir everything together and spoon the mixture into a three-quart casserole.

Cover and bake for 1 1/2 hours.

NOTES: This recipe is from a Lutheran cookbook. Feel free to add a little more salt and pepper or even a few drops of hot sauce if you prefer a spicier dish.

Do not drain the vegetables, as you want the flavor and liquid in the dish.

Finally, a sincere thank you to Mrs. Heins for her recipe and to all her friends who worked so hard at Eidskog and in so many other churches to share their favorite recipes with latecomers like me.

John’s Haluski

When John first described this recipe to me, I was a bit sceptical. I like cabbage, I like noodles. But together? After making his recipe for Haluski, the answer is a resounding YES!

Haluski is a dish that originated in eastern Europe. There are versions from Poland, Slovakia, Ukraine, Hungary and Romania–all places where cabbage grows well and people like dumplings and noodles. Since my grandfather Rang grew up in northern Germany where people like both, he probably ate something similar to haluski, though his mother may have called it something like “Speck mit Kraut und Spaetzle.”

As is the case with most dishes created by housewives needing to feed their families on limited budgets, there are many different haluski recipes that use ingredients available in different regions. All, however, use cabbage and noodles as the two main ingredients. John started with a recipe from the food channel and modified it to make it more pleasing to the eye and tastebuds.

The result is a one dish meal that you really should try. Like me, you may put it on your “Make it again” list.

The quantities below will make four to six servings.

INGREDIENTS:

1 green cabbage, about 6 inches in diameter
1/2 stick butter
1 large onion, about 4 inches in diameter
2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 lb. bacon
1/2 lb. cooked ham
8 oz. wide egg noodles
1 small sweet yellow banana pepper
1/4 red bell pepper
1/4 green bell pepper
1/2- 3/4 cup chicken broth
1 T white vinegar
2 T water
1 teaspoon black pepper
Grated Romano or Parmesan cheese

PROCEDURE:

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. While the water is coming to the boil, wash the cabbage head, removing any bad outer leaves. Cut the top and bottom off the onion and remove the outer husk. Wash the peppers. Cut off the stems, cut the peppers in half and remove the white membrane and seeds.

When the water comes to the boil, put the cabbage into the pot and cook it until crisp tender, about five to eight minutes. Remove the cabbage head to a colander to drain and cool. Reserve the hot water for cooking the noodles. When the head is cool enough to handle, remove the core and cut the cabbage into half inch slices. You should have five to six cups of cabbage.

While the cabbage is cooking and cooling, julienne the onion and peppers. Julienne means to cut the food into thin strips. To Julienne an onion, cut it in half from top to bottom, put the cut side down on a cutting board and slice parallel to the grain. Cut the peppers into strips about 1/8 inch wide and 2 inches long. You should have about two cups of onion and a total of about 3/4 cup of the peppers.

Cut the bacon and ham into half inch pieces. Melt a tablespoon of butter in a large skillet and fry the bacon over medium heat until it begins to crisp. Add the ham and fry until it begins to brown, about 2 minutes.

Remove the meat from the pan, add three more tablespoons of butter and the onions.  Sprinkle on about 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook the onions about ten minutes over low heat, stirring often.

Stir in the cabbage and raise the heat to medium or medium high. Stir every minute until the onions and cabbage start to caramelize. This will take 10 to 12 minutes. Add the julienned peppers and cook for one or two minutes.  Remove the pan from the heat if the noodles are not ready.

While the onion and cabbage are cooking, heat the water in the large pot to boiling.  When the water is at a full boil, add a teaspoon of salt and the noodles and cook to al dente (about five or six minutes). Drain them in a colander and rinse in cold water to stop the cooking process.

Put the onion and cabbage mixture into the large pot. Place the pot over low to medium heat. Deglaze the skillet over medium heat with a tablespoon of white vinegar and two tablespoons of water and pour the liquid into the large pot.

Add the meat and noodles, chicken broth, the remaining garlic powder, 1/4 teaspoon salt and the pepper. Mix well and let the haluski cook for 5 more minutes or so to blend the flavors. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Sprinkle lightly with the grated cheese and offer more at the table.

Serve with bread, salad and a glass of good beer for a satisfying and tasty dinner.

NOTES:  Do not overcook the noodles!  They will continue cooking after the other ingredients are added when you assemble the dish.  John uses garlic salt instead of powdered garlic and regular salt.  You can deglaze the pan with a quarter cup of dry white wine.  I used instant chicken bouillon to make the broth.  Feel free to customize this recipe after you have made it once or twice.

If you don’t like peppers, leave them out or substitute a carrot.  If you don’t have ham, use kielbasa.  If you think a little parsley sprinkled on top would add to the dish, try it.   Have fun!