Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Little Something from Grandma

For most of my childhood, at least until sometime in junior high school, my maternal grandmother, Irene Nieschwietz, lived with us. (Mom had to put her into a nursing home the last year or so of Grandma's life and she died the fall I was a freshman in high school). I've always felt blessed by the gift of growing up in a multi-generational household. It was hard for Mom as she had no help from her siblings, but that's another story for another day.

Grandma had already been completely blind for more than a decade when I was born due to a hereditary condition, but in the kitchen at least, it didn't slow her down much. Among the things I remember with great fondness is her gravy. It was wonderful and after she stopped being able to cook and I was subjected to a variety of substances masquerading as gravy, I came to the conclusion that I would have to learn to make gravy myself. I did eventually succeed in that quest. And having learned to make gravy, I marvel that she did it so well without being able to see.

But the one recipe of Grandma's that has been handed down is the one for her fruit salad dressing. you can find a version of her fruit salad at any family gathering during Thanksgiving and Christmas. Each family of cousins has its own version of the fruit salad itself, the most basic of which is the one my siblings and I preferred: diced apples and bananas mixed with the dressing. Some of my aunts added pecans and/or marshmallows. But the key to the salad was the dressing. And I offer it to you here. I served it this past Thanksgiving with a salad consisting of raspberries, blackberries, pears, and bananas. And I served it on the side, not mixed in the salad as, much to my dismay, none of my children have taken to this particular delight. This dressing, more than any other family recipe, brings back memories of the holidays of my childhood.

Irene's Fruit Salad Dressing

3 whole eggs
1/2 C sugar
1/4 C white vinegar
1/2 dry mustard
1/2 tsp. salt
Evaporated milk

In a mixing bowl, beat the eggs.

In a small saucepan, stir together the sugar, vinegar, mustard, and salt. Bring to a rolling boil. Take the pot off the stove and very slowly add the beaten eggs, stirring constantly with a whisk to keep the eggs from scrambling. Place the saucepan back on low heat and cook, stirring constantly, until thick. Remove from heat. If needed, add a little butter and evaporated milk to thin slightly. (I rarely have to do this step.)

Let cool. You can serve on the side or toss into a fruit salad. Store in the refrigerator. Can be made ahead of time.

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