The children are home from school for their mid-winter break, so I have a few extra helping hands around the house today. My husband Joe went back to work at the factory after having not worked the past week.


The children are home from school for their mid-winter break, so I have a few extra helping hands around the house today. My husband Joe went back to work at the factory after having not worked the past week. He was glad to have work with a construction crew for two days, though, last week. The weather was almost spring-like with the temperature reaching 60 degrees for a few days. It made working outside in February really pleasant.

In a week’s time, our thermometer moved up 75 degrees. That is really a fast change in temperature. We liked the short taste of spring even though it made the ground slushy and muddy. So muddy, in fact, that son Kevin, 5, took a short-cut across the garden and became stuck with the mud coming up over his boots. Son Benjamin, 11, went to his rescue and sunk down too far to be any help to Kevin. My husband Joe helped both of them get out. Needless to say, we had two pairs of boots that needed to be cleaned inside and out.

Now we are having snow and ice. Everything is really slippery outside, and the trees are loaded with ice.

Last Monday afternoon, we brought in the two front quarters of the beef, which we had dressed the previous Saturday. We cut up all the meat on the back porch where we do not heat during the winter, so the meat stays cold. The children came home from school and also helped. Daughter Elizabeth’s friend Timothy came after work and joined us. The saying “many hands make light work” proved true. We finished the two front quarters that night, and Joe and Timothy carried in the two hind quarters. This way, we could have an early start on Tuesday morning.

Tuesday morning, sister Emma, her daughter Elizabeth and son Steven came to assist us with the remaining beef. Her husband Jacob came after work to help, and their children came off the bus after school with ours.

Most of the hamburger was ground, and the beef chunks were all cut up and ready for canning by the time the children came home. The steaks were then all sliced and the T-bones cut up.

After all the work, I made “rare beef” for everyone. Daughter Elizabeth also made chicken and noodle soup, and we had ice cream, canned peaches and pears, and cake to go along with it. But the best part of everyone’s supper was the “rare beef,” except for daughter Loretta, 10. She helped cut up the meat but is going through the age when it is difficult to eat the meat when it is finally sinking for her where it is coming from.

Several of our children went through this stage, but usually it passes by as they get older. The rare beef is a tradition handed down on my mother’s side of the family. Grandpa Graber couldn’t put enough black pepper on his. I don’t put as much on ours since it is almost too hot for the children to eat it. Lovina, 6, and Kevin, 5, said it doesn’t matter if it is hot — they just drink lots of glasses of water.

The steak has to be sliced very thin to make good rare beef. The most tender part of the steaks have to be used. I put shortening in a small frying pan. Mother used lard. but shortening seemed to make less smoke from the deep-frying.

I put a slice of rare beef in the hot grease and take one turn (just enough to take a turn around the pan and then out) and flip over and take another turn, and it is done. It is best to eat it right away. Usually, I end up making it while everyone eats and when everyone has enough, I make some for me.

It seems I have my share by the time I get done as I have learned to eat in between frying the slices. When the grease cools a while, I wait to let it get really hot again before frying more. We open a few windows or otherwise smoke alarms go off. It is a greasy job for the ones making it, and although I like rare beef, it always seems good to know when you are done for another year. I imagine that is how my mother felt when she would do it for our family. (Editor’s note: A photo of Lovina’s “rare beef” dish has been posted at www.amishcookonline.com. Obligatory safety note: This is being shared for culinary and cultural insight as it is a popular dish in some Amish settlements. However, the USDA recommends thoroughly cooking all meat before consuming. Contact your local extension agent or go to USDA.gov for procedures.)

We put quite a few hundred pounds of hamburger in the freezer and steaks for the grill. Also some cubed beef for our outdoor soups this summer. How thankful we are for all of this meat. I can the beef I get from cooking the meat off the bones. This summer, I want to open the jars of beef broth to make vegetable soup to can. It makes a quick meal to open a jar of vegetable soup on a rushy day.

Here’s a recipe for homemade vegetable soup:

Vegetable Soup

1 pint chunk beef

1 onion, whole (for flavor)

2 cups potatoes, diced

1 cup carrots, diced

1 pint corn

1 pint peas

1 quart tomato juice

1 1 /2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

Brown hamburger and onion in a skillet. Put beef chunks and onion into a large pot and add potatoes, and carrots. Cook until potatoes are almost soft. Then add corn, peas, tomato juice, and salt and pepper. Cook over medium heat until vegetables are tender, 20 to 30 minutes.

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