Summertime in the Kitchen

When I was a kid, I was always fascinated by my grandparent’s farmhouse. It had a huge kitchen, with this other room jutting off to the side, accessible through a side porch. I never really knew what purpose that room served; during my childhood it always appeared to be a storage room. It wasn’t until years ago that my dad explained to me that this room was a ‘summer kitchen.’ Today, the term ‘summer kitchen’ conjures up a luxury outdoor kitchen, often poolside. However, back in the day folks cooked in an open fireplace or what we’d consider a primitive, very hot stove. Summer kitchens originated as a separate building used during the summer months to prepare food so that the main kitchen wouldn’t become hot. The summer kitchen in my grandparent’s house contained large work counters and a fireplace.

Today, my summer (and my one and only) kitchen is vastly different. My summer kitchen is one that constantly looks like the dumping site of the local produce market, always in disarray but always in production. At any given point in time, I can have piles of zucchini waiting to be grated for bread or sliced for freezing, beets to be boiled then skinned, turnips to be peeled for blanching, cucumbers to be sliced for pickling, and did I mention zucchini to be made into bread? I’ve tried plain zucchini bread, pumpkin zucchini bread (which my daughter says is the best), cherry chocolate zucchini bread, and pineapple zucchini bread. Maybe by now you catch my drift that I have an overrun of zucchini.

I digress.

What was I thinking? A whole ROW of zucchini!

Back in the day, the summer kitchen was family affair. Everyone chipped in on the task of harvesting and in the preparation of the harvest for canning, freezing, or eating. I was reminded of this just last year when I visited my aunt and uncle (who now live in that farmhouse). My aunt and her sister were grating cabbages for sauerkraut; I had lost count on how many they went through while I was there. It seemed to be a never-ending job, and their crocks they were filling seemed to be bottomless.

Today, I live 750 miles from my family, so my harvesting and food prep is a one-person show…except when my kids help out, which fortunately is pretty often. They enjoy the ‘picking’ part which is a huge help. When I was a child, I remember one of my daily chores was to pick green beans for my mother. I remember disliking picking beans, but I sure enjoyed my mother’s canned beans and potatoes. They were the best! My kids seem to have a better attitude than I did at their age about helping out, which is fantastic!

I tend to keep things on the simple side, such as freezing vs. canning when I can as it’s less time consuming (and less hot). Although, I still aim to match my mother’s canned green beans. Some things you just can’t rush, such as waiting for zucchini bread to finish baking.

Pumpkin-Zucchini Bread

3 eggs, slightly beaten
2 cups sugar
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 cup butter, melted
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup shredded zucchini
Optional: 1 cup chopped walnuts OR 1 cup raisins

In a bowl, combine eggs and sugar. Add pumpkin, butter, and vanilla. Combine dry ingredients; gradually add to pumpkin mixture and mix well. Stir in zucchini and nuts or raisins. Pour into two greased and floured 9” x 5” loaf pans. Bake at 350˚ for 45-50 minutes or until bread tests done. Cool in pans 10 minutes and remove to a wire rack. Yields 2 loaves.

Pineapple-Zucchini Bread

3 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon baking powder
1 ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 cups shredded zucchini
¾ teaspoon nutmeg
8-ounce can crushed pineapple, drained
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup raisins
Optional: 1 cup chopped walnuts

In a bowl, beat eggs, oil, sugar, and vanilla until thick. Stir in remaining ingredients; blend well. Pour into 2 greased and floured 9” x 5” loaf pans. Bake at 350˚ for one hour. Yields 2 loaves.