Secret to the BEST ice cream? Get crankin’

immergood amish ice cream freezerEditor’s Note: This article was originally posted in June 2015.

Our favorite foods and our best memories are inextricably linked. The flavor and aroma takes us back to those times of laughter, joy and camaraderie. And, what food is a better sweet memory starter than ice cream? What are your favorite ice cream memories? Running after the ice cream truck as its bell rings its way past your house? Sharing the cold sweetness with cousins at a summer family reunion?

Mine revolve around the ice cream freezer, because we always like to make our own. In fact, our hand-cranked ice cream freezer took on mythical importance to our family life. It was like an ice cream fount of goodness, the horn of plenty from which sprang sweet, creamy cold-on-a-hot-summer-day fun. Continue reading

3 Reasons YOU Should Can Tomato Juice

A few nights ago, we canned our own tomato juice. We found out that it is very efficient and easy! Discover the three reasons why you should can tomato juice every year.
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Our Easter Lamb Cake Tradition

For almost 50 years, my wife’s mother made a lamb-shaped cake every Easter. A lamb was the perfect thing for our Easter dinner.

Or (since spring is lambing season), a simple spring celebration! It certainly became an important part of our family tradition. So important, in fact, that it has become a favorite birthday cake for the less-than-5-years-old set.

Our daughter celebrated her first birthday with our famous lamb cake.

How to Decorate the Lamb Cake

Over the years, decorating that lamb cake became a huge highlight of the Holy Week events for my wife and her brothers and sisters. Last year, my mother-in-law, a very special woman I loved as much as my own mother and dearly miss, went ahead of me to a better place. But she left us all with many fond memories of her. And, the tradition of decorating the Lamb Cake has been passed from her kids to her grandchildren to her great-grandchildren.

Along the way, just exactly HOW the lamb cake is decorated has acquired a whole set of its own family traditions. Here is how we decorated the lamb cake.

  • For example, everyone our family knows that the lamb’s nose must always be a
    black jelly bean. The eyes of the lamb, however, are always chosen by the youngest child involved in the decoration.
  • The lamb’s “wool” must be made of shredded coconut. The pan around the lamb becomes a bed of green died coconut “grass.” (Can you tell our family likes coconut?)
  • The bed of “grass” is decorated with jelly bean “Easter eggs” for my in-laws and malted milk “robin’s egg” candy for me. It is acceptable for all the children to snack on the candy “eggs” during the meal. This rule has been specially modified to allow one adult in the room to pick at the malted milk eggs. (Since I am the only one that eats them, I love my in-laws for passing this rule!)
  • Most importantly there must be a trail of black raisin “lamb droppings” scattered around by the tail of the lamb. The pile of black raisins, of course, brings uproarious laughter each time. Our family (both the one I grew up in and my wife’s) has lots of room for laughter. And, every Easter we laugh at that string of raisin “lamb droppings” as if we’d never seen it before.

That lamb cake was such a central part of my adopted family’s tradition that I spent years searching for the manufacturer of the pan it requires. Last year, we finally found a supplier, and I’m proud (now that I finally found the source) to share this spring/Easter/birthday tradition with you.

We think Mom got her lamb cake mold with S and H Green Stamps. Now you can own one, too! (We’ll take Visa, MasterCard, American Express, cash or check, but not S and H Green Stamps.) May it become as special a part of your life as it has been of ours!

Our Lamb Cake Recipe

If you have a “dense” cake recipe, it will probably work. (Cakes that bake light and fluffy may break when you remove them from the mold.) Instructions come with our lamb mold; most cake recipes and cake mixes will work. I thought I would also share the lamb cake recipe we’ve always used, copied from the one my mother-in-law lovingly wrote out for us:

  • 2 cups sifted flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons for baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 beaten egg whites
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  1. Sift all the dry ingredients together. Stir shortening in mixing bowl to soften. Mix in dry ingredients.
  2. Add milk and vanilla, mix for several minutes to blend. Fold in beaten egg whites and beat for one minute.
  3. Grease lamb mold well then sprinkle with flour.
  4. Fill the half of the mold with the lamb’s face. Insert a toothpick in the nose cavity for reinforcement.
  5. Put two toothpicks in lamb’s neck for strength.
  6. Cover with other half of mold being sure it is closed tightly.
  7. Place on cookie sheet.
  8. Preheat oven to 370 degrees F and bake for 50 to 60 minutes.
  9. When cake is baked, let it cool a little before you take the top off.
  10. Frost with white icing and decorate.

At the bottom of the recipe, my mother-in-law wrote, “You can put a ribbon around the neck, but no raisins under the tail!

Galen Lehman
Galen Lehman, President, Lehman’s

Galen Lehman
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Rest Assured: USA-Made Still Matters To Us

There is a big sign in our office with a picture of my dad. sign in officeIt says, in part, “We believe in offering products made in the United States wherever possible. When we offer imported items, we choose the best quality we can find.”

This is not just something we say to sound good. We spend time every day, sometimes hours every day, hunting down USA-made products.

I will make this claim and stand by it with confidence: We have more USA product in our store by any measure (percentage of units, percentage of dollars sold, percentage of inventory value) than any other hardware store you will visit. 

But, now I’m worried that the words “USA-MADE” might be disappearing! Here’s the problem: Whole segments of American industry have been decimated by Chinese competition. Continue reading

Get Water From Your Well – Without Electricity

If you live in the country, you probably get your water from a drilled well in your basement or backyard. In most cases, the “well” looks like a steel or plastic pipe about 4″ to 5″ diameter that projects a few inches above ground and has a steel cap on it.

Depending on the depth of the well, there’s either an above-ground pump (often called a jet pump) or “deep well” submersible electric pump hidden in the well. 

Photo taken from the EPA’s website.

Either way, a power failure can leave you high and dry. Because well pump systems incorporate a storage tank (sometimes called a pressure tank), you may have a access to 20-30 gallons even without electricity. But, it’s astonishing how fast it runs out. And, how much you miss access to fresh water after it’s gone!

It’s doubly frustrating, because in many cases you can actually see the water in the bottom of the well. It’s just too far away to reach! Fortunately, we have two ways to solve the problem. Continue reading

Homemade Salsa Fresca: So Easy, SOOO Good

The Squeezo All-Metal Food Mill makes quick work of salsa, applesauce, pumpkin, berries...the list goes on and on. An absolute essential for home canning!

The Squeezo All-Metal Food Mill makes quick work of salsa, applesauce, pumpkin, berries…the list goes on and on. An absolute essential for home canning!

Getting gorgeous tomatoes and peppers from your garden or the farm market? Here’s a quick and easy salsa recipe, along with an amazing way to take out all the work:

Salsa Fresca (Fresh Salsa)
You won't believe how easy - and delicious - it is. A recipe to keep for every summer's tomato crop!
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Prep Time
15 min
Total Time
15 min
Prep Time
15 min
Total Time
15 min
Ingredients
  1. 3 large tomatoes, quartered
  2. 1 small onion, chopped
  3. 1 small green bell pepper, seeds and veins removed, chopped
  4. 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  5. 1 tablespoon olive oil
  6. 1 tablespoon fresh cilantro, chopped
  7. 1/2 jalapeno pepper, sliced
  8. 1 clove garlic, minced
  9. salt
  10. fresh lime juice
Instructions
  1. Run the tomatoes, peppers and onion through the Squeezo All-Metal Food Mill with the optional Pumpkin/Salsa screen.
  2. After you run the tomatoes, peppers and onion through the strainer, add the garlic, vinegar, olive oil, and cilantro to mixture and stir.
  3. Add salt and lime juice to taste.
  4. Cover and refrigerate until serving time.
Notes
  1. If you need more salsa (and you will) just double the recipe!
Lehman's Country Life http://blog.lehmans.com/

EPA Proposes New Woodstove Regulations: You Can Comment!

Elmira Fireview Wood Cookstove

Elmira Fireview Wood Cookstove

 

The EPA recently proposed a change to the rules regarding wood stove emissions.  These new rules set a high bar, and most specifically address stoves that are the most polluting models on the market.  Those stoves were exempt in the last round of rules, which were put into law in 1988.  It also tightens standards significantly for low-polluting stoves.

The new rules would eliminate many types of non-airtight stoves, wood-fired cookstoves and wood-fired furnaces, IF they do not meet tough new standards.  So far as I know, none of the current stoves in those categories meet the new requirements.  It is possible, but unlikely, that they will be able to. Continue reading

Maple Syrup from the Lehman Sugarbush

"...a blur of pain..."

Making a connection to a long family history.

Early this spring, my cousin posted on my Facebook page about making maple syrup, “The first hour goes great, the second is more tiring, the third I’m very sore, and after that it’s all a blur of pain and staggering through the woods trying not to fall down on the rocky ground.”

But, there’s something special about all this work. He ends his post by saying, “But it’s unique and fun, not to mention the family history connection.”

My grandpa the family sugarbush in 19??

My grandpa boiling maple sap into syrup

Sixty-five years ago, my grandfather bought several hundred acres of maple trees deep in the Adirondacks at the far northern corner of New York state. Grandpa used to say, if you go much farther north you fall off the edge of the world. What he meant Continue reading

Why We Garden

The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener Book

The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener Book

 

This time of year, most Americans who love to garden, can’t. It might be planting season in southern Florida or Texas, but for the rest of us, it’s dreaming and planning (only). We might not have dirt under our fingernails, but we can’t get it out of our heads! Continue reading