Jerry Apps shares memories, family recipes in new book

Wisconsin State Farmer


Story master Jerry Apps returns with a warm-hearted Apps family Old Farm Country Cookbook: Recipes, Menus and Memories. Joined by his daughter Susan Apps-Bodilly, Jerry shares the memories that footnote the family recipes plucked straight from the matriarch Eleanor Apps's well-worn, Depression Era recipe box.

From canned chicken and fresh peas in milk sauce to ring bologna and wild blueberry cobbler, this realistic study of food and farm life from the 1930s-50s guides readers through a time when food was local, farming was a family affair,and homemade ice cream tasted better than anything you could buy at the store.

Joined by his daughter Susan Apps-Bodilly, beloved author Jerry Apps shares the memories that footnote the family recipes used by his mother Eleanor Apps in "Old Farm Country Cookbook".

The Wisconsin Historical Society Press cookbook features many of the Depression Era and Midwestern comfort food recipes often "forgotten" in traditional cookbooks.

Seasoned with personal stories, menus and family photos, Old Farm Country Cookbook recalls a time when electricity had not yet found its way to the farm kitchen and almost every ingredient was "locally sourced."

After escaping usual rainy-day farmwork, Apps and his siblings would grab their cane poles and head out to Norwegian Lake, hoping to catch some bluegills, sunfish or perch for supper.

"Back home, with our fishing poles tucked up under the corn crib eaves and the extra worms dumped on the ground behind the chicken house, we cleaned our catch, looking forward to a fish fry that evening."

Beer Batter Fried Fish

1 c. flour

1/2 t. salt

1/4 t. pepper

1 egg, beaten

1 1/2 c. beer

2 c. crushed cornflake cereal or bread crumbs

1 lb. fish fillets, cleaned and ready to fry

Oil for frying

Set up the fish-coating station like this: Mix together the flour, garlic powder, salt, and pepper in one bowl. Mix together the beaten egg and beer in another bow. Have the crushed cornflakes or break crumbs ready on a plate.

When everything is ready, prepare each fillet, keeping one hand "dry" for the flour bowl and crumbs plate and one hand "wet" for dipping into the egg and beer. Place the fillet in the flour and lightly dust with flour mixture. Place fish in the egg-and-beer bowl and turn to coat thoroughly. Dip the egg-coated fish into the crumbs and thoroughly coat all sides.

Heat the oil in a large, deep skillet. Fry the fish until golden brown and the fish flakes easily with a fork. Place fried fish on layers of paper towels while waiting to serve.

Susan Apps-Bodilly, co-author of Old Farm Country Cookbook with her father Jerry Apps, licks the beaters from her first recipe experience in 1965.

"When I was growing up, if you were German (and a lot of us in central Wisconsin were), you knew about cabbage, and you especially knew about sauerkraut. By the beginning of September, the early cabbage was ready to harvest, the green heads as large as an adult's head, plump and firm."

Sweet and Sour Cabbage

1 head red or white cabbage

Salt and Pepper

2-3 sour apples

2 T. butter

Boiling water

2 T. flour

4 T. brown sugar

2 T. vinegar

Clean and shred the cabbage. Add some salt and pepper to taste. Slice or grate the apples and add to the cabbage. Heat the butter in a frying pan and add the cabbage and apples. Pour some boiling water over them and cook until tender.

When the cabbage and apples are tender, sprinkle them with the flour. Add brown sugar and vinegar and mix together. Cook a little longer and then serve hot.

"By late June, Ma's pea crop was ready for picking and processing. I don't know how it was decided which of the three brothers got to help shuck peas and which got to continue hoeing - maybe we took turns. As boring as shucking peas was, it was a lot easier than hoeing...besides, when you shucked peas you got to sit in the shade."

Author Jerry Apps latest book "Old Farm Country Cookbook" was inspired by his mother Eleanor Apps who kept her family fed with simple, wholesome foods including pumpkin pie, the recipe written in her hand on this recipe card.

Fresh Peas and Cheese Salad

Mix together cut-up pieces of fresh lettuce, cubes of cheddar cheese, cubes of cooked ham, and fresh peas. Make a dressing with 1/2 c. mayonnaise, 2 T. milk, 1 T. sugar, and salt and pepper to taste. Add as much dressing as you like to coat the lettuce and other ingredients.

Because no wild blueberries grew on the home farm, Apps recalls piling into the Plymouth with several milk pails, and heading off to his dad's old stomping grounds in Adams County to pick the elusive berries.

"The main problem for my  brothers and me was putting the blueberries into the pails rather than our mouths. The juicy little purple berries were so sweet and tasty that we managed to ignore the hot sun baking our backs and the relentless mosquitoes drilling into our hides as we enjoyed the berry feast."

Wild Blueberry Cobbler


2 1/2 c. fresh blueberries, rinsed and drained

1/2 lemon, juiced

1 t. vanilla

1 c. sugar

1/2 t. flour

1 T. butter, melted


1 3/4 c. flour

5 T. sugar

4 t. baking powder

5 T. butter

1 c. milk


2 t. sugar

1/2 t. ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and lightly grease an 8- or 9-inch square baking pan.

In a bowl, gently stir the blueberries with the lemon juice and vanilla. Stir in the sugar and flour. Mix gently. Pour the blueberries into the baking pan. Sprinkle the blueberries with melted butter. Set aside.

To assemble the cobbler, stir together the flour, sugar, and baking powder in a medium bowl. Cut the butter using a fork until the dough is in small pieces. Make a well in he center and quickly pour in the milk. Mix until just moistened. Spoon the batter over the blueberries.

To make the topping, mix together the sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle over the blueberries and batter. Bake cobbler until the top is golden brown, about 20 minutes. Let cool a bit before serving.

Book Launch Events

Old Farm Country Cookbook Launch Event, 7 p.m. July 12, : Middleton Public Library, 7425 Hubbard Ave, Middleton, WI

A Taste of the Old Farm with Jerry Apps & Susie Apps-Bodilly,  5:30 p .m. Taste, 6 p.m. Book Talk, July 26, Patterson Memorial Library, 500 Division Street, Wild Rose, WI

Old Farm Country Cookbook Cooking Class, 6-8 p.m. Sept. 18, Willy Street Co-op West, 6825 University Ave., Middleton, WI.

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