The Fourth of July is the perfect time to turn back the clock to those days when everyone–farmers, merchants, bankers, girls, boys and dogs–turned out for a celebration of freedom. For some it is a picnic in the park followed by a public display of fireworks or home displays over the lake. But for all it is the time for old-fashioned food and lots of good company and fun. The menu should be totally traditional and easy so everyone can partake in the good time!
It seems appropriate to highlight American cooking and American food. America is often referred to as the great melting pot since it is a nation of immigrants; yet, its cooking is neither a melting pot nor a sum of all the foreign dishes that different nationalities brought with them. Rather, it has evolved into a cuisine of its own. Americans have always taken the best of the old countries from which they came and made those dishes conform to the natural resources that are plentiful in their region of America and then added a dish of, well, Americanism.
So exactly what is American cooking? It is a cuisine that is built on the greatest bounty of ingredients known anywhere and an affluence that makes it available to almost everyone. And it is a cuisine that reflects that ineffable quality–American ingenuity!
Here’s a great Fourth of July menu that is as American as–well, as American as apple pie: Deviled eggs, Hamburgers and Hot Dogs with all the fixings, Corn on the cob, Potato Salad, Baked Beans, Blueberry and Apple Pie and Aunt Fannie’s Liberty Cake!
Lynette’s Potato Salad
8 medium potatoes
1/2 cup Good Seasons Italian dressing from mix, mixed according to package directions
1/2 large onion, chopped fine
1 large dill pickle
2 Tbsp. dill pickle juice
1 cup Hellman’s mayonnaise
1 Tbsp, salt
Pepper to taste
Cook potatoes until tender; boil eggs until hard-boiled. Peel potatoes while still hot. Dice in medium dice. Pour Italian dressing over warm potatoes in bowl, In food processor, process onion and pickles until finely chopped. Add to potatoes. Shell eggs and process in food processor until finely chopped. Add to potato mixture. Stir in mayonnaise, salt, pepper and pickle juice. Chill until ready to serve.
Jan’s Baked Beans
1 pound hamburger
1 large onion chopped
1/2 green pepper, chopped
1 large can B&M Baked beans
1/2 cup Ken Davis Barbecue sauce
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. dry mustard
2 Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
2Tbsp. cider vinegar
Brown hamburger, onion and green pepper in skillet. Pour off fat; put into large Dutch oven or slow cooker with the rest of the ingredients, Cook on low heat for 1-2 hours or in slow cooker on low for 4 hours.
Aunt Fannie’s Liberty Cake with Lemon Icing
–adapted from Jane Watson Hopping’s The Country Mother’s Cookbook
(Makes one 8-inch three layer cake)
1 cup butter, softened at root, temperature
1-1/2 cups sugar, plus 2/3 cup for combining with egg whites
3 cups sifted cake flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup lemon juice
1 Tbsp. grated lemon rind
1/2 tsp. almond extract
6 egg whites
1 tsp. cream of tartar
Lemon Icing (recipe follows)
Preheat oven to 375. Grease and flour three round 8″ layer cake pans
In large bowl of stand mixer, cream butter; gradually add 1-1/2 cups sugar and cream until light. Sift flour with salt and baking soda. Combine buttermilk with lemon juice, rind and almond flavoring. Alternately add sifted flour mixture in thirds with buttermilk mixture. Beat well after each addition. In a second bowl and with clean beaters, beat egg whites until frothy; add cream of tartar and remaining 2/3 cups sugar gradually, and continue beating until egg whites are stiff. Fold butter-flour mixture into beaten egg whites, working carefully so as not to lessen the volume of egg whites. Turn into prepared pans. Bake until well risen, light brown and firm to the touch, about 30 minutes . Do not over bake. Remove from oven, let cool 10 minutes, then turn out onto wire rack to cool, When thoroughly cooled, fill and frost with Lemon Icing.
3 cups sifted powdered sugar
2 Tbsp, light cream, more if needed to make icing spread smoothly
1 Tbsp lemon juice, strained
1/2 tsp. finely grated lemon peel.
In medium bowl, combine sugar and cream. beating until moderately thick. Add lemon juice and peel; stir to blend. Ice layers as you stack them together and then lightly cover both top and side of cake.
Aunt Fannie stuck miniature flags and red candles all over the top of the cake and made everyone sing “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Then she would quote her favorite author, James Whitcomb Riley:
Sing for the good that is to be
Sing for the eyes that are to see
The land where man at last is free,
O sing for Liberty!