Easter Sunday seems to be early this year — Sunday, April 4 — the first Sunday in April. No matter the date it will always be a treasured memory for me and I am sure for many others also. Today’s column I have written especially for Mrs. Eva Dixon of Greensboro. Mrs. Dixon is a faithful reader of my column and loves re-living the “good ole days” through my stories of the days growing up on the farm. Mrs Dixon and I agree that this is what America is all about — hard work, dedication to family and home, making do with what you have and helping those less fortunate than us. Mrs. Dixon is 90 years old, still drives, very active and has several daughters who are amazed at her independence. Let’s get started today with a typical Easter season back in the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s before the world started changing.
Easter Sunday dinners were planned weeks before the big day. The dinner was always held at my parents house on the farm in Bishopville. We had lots of space — huge kitchen, big table, large outside area for the kids and two daughters who “loved” washing all those dishes by hand. My sister and I loved shopping for our Easter finery to wear to church, but not the boys, who complained about stiff shirt collars. My mom and dad picked out which ham to cook from the smokehouse. Holiday dinners were big affairs at the Hitchens farm on the West Line Road. The yard was full of vehicles with the overflow parked on the sides of the road of the two-lane country road. My mom loved having her family and relatives home for dinner and always plenty of food for everyone — invited or not. Mom would always have dumplings — no matter the meat or menu — she always said dumplings would feed a town! My late sister and I would complain there were “enough dirty dishes for a town.” No modern dishwashers on that farm except the red-haired and blonde-haired ones.
What great memories of several generations of family celebrating together. Grace was always said at our house before every meal — holidays or no holidays. Usually a guest would say grace and other times it was my mom or dad. I always loved the folks talking at the table, telling stories. Mom loved that part of dinners and she never complained about the hard work involved in the preparation. In her later years I asked mom if she ever got tired of having the big dinners and she replied, “No indeed — I loved my life as a farm wife and mother, the hard work and the satisfaction of all of it — and never regretted one minute of it.” God Bless you, Mom — I could never fill your shoes.
Let’s start our Easter dinner — this year will be different due to being quarantined from everyone, but carry on the tradition with those in the household — even if there are only one or two others. Life goes on no matter the circumstances, and to maintain mental health, let’s carry on.
OLD FASHIONED HAM WITH BROWN SUGAR
This is a long time favorite and easy to make. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Place one 10 to 12 pound smoked ham in a large roasting pan. Pour 1 cup unsweetened apple juice over the ham and cover ham with parchment paper, and then cover the entire roasting pan with a large sheet of heavy duty foil — covering ham and roasting pan, making sure edges are sealed. Bake ham for about 3 hours and 45 minutes in a preheated oven. When time is completed, remove ham from the oven and remove foil and paper. At this point, turn the oven up to 375 degrees. Carefully drain off juices. Cut the rind off the ham leaving about 1/4 inch layer of fat. Using a long sharp knife, score fat in 1 inch wide deep diamond pattern. Spread 1/2 cup Dijon mustard evenly over the fat layer of ham. Pat 2/3 cup packed brown sugar over the mustard, pressing firmly. Drizzle 1/4 cup honey over top. Return ham to the oven and bake for another 30 minutes covered with a lid only. Remove from the oven and transfer to a serving platter. Let cool about 45 minutes before cutting.
The ham is ready and we need a couple of sides to complement our ham.
SWEET POTATO CASSEROLE is always a favorite. Boil and mash enough sweet potatoes to equal 4 cups. In a large bowl, combine the sweet potatoes with 1 cup sugar, 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 cup melted butter, 1 cup milk, 1/2 cup chopped walnuts and 2 eggs. Mix well and pour into a buttered casserole dish and sprinkle marshmallows on top. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 25 to 35 minutes.
BAKED PINEAPPLE is another popular food to complement the ham. Combine together 3 eggs, 3 tablespoons flour, 1 can crushed pineapple, 6 slices bread, cut into small cubes, 2/3 cup sugar, a dash of salt and 1 1/2 sticks melted margarine. Mix well, pour in 1 1/2 quart baking dish and bake at 400 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes or until lightly browned.
GREEN BEAN CASSEROLE. Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl stir together 2 cans cut green beans with 1 can golden mushroom soup and a half can of water. Then mix in 1 cup grated cheddar cheese. Mix gently and transfer to a 2 quart casserole dish and sprinkle top with 2 cans fried onion rings. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil from the casserole carefully and continue to bake for another 15 minutes, until bubbly.
There are many more sides to complete your dinner, a few suggestions: corn bread, macaroni and cheese, kale, potato salad, coleslaw, deviled eggs, beets, corn pudding are a few possibilities.
To give the cook a break, let’s make IMPOSSIBLE COCONUT PIE. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine 4 beaten eggs, 2 cups sugar, 1/2 cup flour, 2 cups milk, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and 1 can flaked coconut. Mix well and pour into 2 eight inch pie plates, lightly greased. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. This pie makes its own crust.
Happy Easter everyone! Stay safe, stay healthy, and stay positive. May God bless each one of you, and Mrs. Dixon, I hope I brought a smile to your face today.