The Becker family, several generations of whom figure in the Adelsverein Trilogy, and Daughter of Texas/Deep in the Heart did not come straight from Germany to the Texas frontier. Before coming to Texas in 1825, the families of Alois Becker and Maria Bloch Becker had been settled for some time in Pennsylvania, the Blochs from the very earliest times, and the Beckers from the late 18th century. (Heinrich Becker, the grandfather of Margaret, Rudi and Carl was a deserter from a Hessian regiment during the American Revolution.) Once in Pennsylvania, the Blochs and the Beckers and the rest were part of a very distinct American-German culture from which evolved the present day Amish and Mennonite communities – the Pennsylvania Dutch. One of those traditions is that of serving up seven sweet and seven sour dishes as part of the meal: seven different kinds of sweet condiments, jams, spreads or preserves, and seven different kinds of pickles, chow-chow or whole spiced vegetables. In Daughter of Texas and Deep in the Heart, Margaret Becker Vining takes a great deal of pride in the table that she sets in her Austin boarding-house … and that she carries on the tradition of setting a table with the traditional seven sweets and seven sours.
On this page are a number of recipes which might have been served at Margaret’s table, and which are favorites of my own family. New recipes will be added, as I find them!
Pepper Corn Relish
This is a recipe for a pepper and corn relish which I copied out of a Thanksgiving issue of Gourmet Magazine, lo these many years ago.
Combine and simmer for half an hour: 5 ½ cup fresh or frozen corn kernels, 1 finely chopped red bell pepper, 1 finely chopped green bell pepper, one medium onion, 2 carrots, also finely chopped, 1 ½ cup sugar, 1 teasp dry mustard, ½ teasp celery, ¼ teasp turmeric and 1 ½ cup vinegar.
This relish which can be eaten fresh, or processed in the canning kettle for fifteen minutes. It makes about 5 pint jars.
Honey Pear Conserve
This recipe also came out of the same issue of Gourmet Magazine.
Combine in a large saucepan: 4 lbs Anjou pears, peeled, cored and cut unto chunks, ¾ cup lemon juice, 1 cup honey, ½ tsp cloves, 2 tsp cinnamon and ½ cup dried currents.
Simmer until thickened and pears are cooked through.
This is probably something that Margaret could not have accomplished at her table – not having a source for cranberries – but I always liked it. It came from the same issue of Gourmet as the first two recipes. Perhaps a creative cook might have worked up an approximation with the fruit available at the time in Texas.
Combine in a large saucepan: ½ cup cider vinegar, 2 ¼ cup brown sugar, ¾ tsp curry powder, ½ tsp ginger, ¼ tsp cloves, ¼ tsp allspice, ¼ tsp ginger, ¼ tsp cinnamon, and 1 ½ cups water.
Bring to a boil, then while stirring simmering mixture, add: 2 lemons, rind grated finely, pith discarded and lemon sectioned and chopped, 2 oranges, (ditto), 1 apple finely chopped, 3 cups cranberries, ½ cup golden raisins, and ½ cup chopped dried apricots. Simmer gently for 40 minutes, until mixture is thickened.
Add: 2 additional cups cranberries and simmer for 10 minutes.
Add: 1 cup cranberries and ½ cup chopped walnuts, stirring until the last cup of cranberries are just cooked. The variously cooked cranberries give it a lot of cranberry texture, and a very fresh flavor.