If you are among the fortunate to have been born into a family that loves cooking and baking, consider yourself lucky. Good cooks usually come from good stock.
I was reminded of that recently when three of my cousins invited me to go deer hunting with them and to share a cabin on Round Lake near Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge north of Detroit Lakes, Minn.
Not only did it offer me a chance to catch up with Kim, Joe and Tom Menard, it also afforded aus an opportunity to share some meals together and reminisce about our family.
The Menard boys are the sons of my mom’s kid brother, Fritz, who also happened to be my godfather. Fritz, my Aunt Harriet Hendrickson and my mom, Lilah, all passed away within a year or so of each other since May 2012, so it’s not like we haven’t seen each other, but the hunting getaway provided us an opportunity to meet under more pleasant circumstances.
While you may think hunting would be focus of our get-together, it actually was cooking and eating. I provided a meal of spaghetti with meat sauce, but it was cousin Kim who was the head chef at the hunting camp. He cooked up some great wings, knephla soup, chili and enchiladas and also some shrimp scampi in homemade garlic butter.
Over the course of the four days I was with my cousins, we talked a lot about our grandparents, the late Albert and Vella Menard. Grandma was quite the cook and baker, and she passed it on to her children. My mom, as well as her three siblings, were pretty adept in the kitchen,
Both Kim and I carry on some family cooking traditions, including making Grandma’s baked oysters, which are a staple at both our Thanksgiving and Christmas feasts.
One night while we were sitting around, Kim asked me if I had Grandma’s recipe for spare ribs with apples, prunes and bread dressing and wondered if he could get it. I said sure.
Pork was a favorite of my grandparents. Grandma liked to combine pork and veal roasts for Sunday dinners. But it was her recipes for spare ribs and sauerkraut and the aforementioned one with apples, prunes and bread that were staples on our dinner table.
Here are those two recipes, which are among my favorites.
Spare Ribs and Sauerkraut
3 pounds spare ribs
1 quart sauerkraut
Salt and pepper to taste
Brown ribs in roasting pan in 350-degree oven. Next, top with sauerkraut and bake another hour or so, until the ribs are tender. Serve with mashed potatoes.
German Spare Ribs with Apple-Prune-Bread Dressing
4 pounds lean, meaty pork spare ribs
12 prunes, cut up, with pits
8 apples, pealed and cut up
8 slices dried bread, broken in pieces
Cinnamon to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
Place ½ of ribs in the bottom of a roasting pan. Season ribs with salt and pepper. Mix prunes, apples and bread and season with a little cinnamon. Place on top of ribs.
Place the remaining ribs on top of prune mixture and season with more salt and pepper.
Add water to pan and cook for 3 hours at 350 degrees.