My Grandma Ruth
Wendy L. Huston Robinson
I want to share a recipe from my grandmother Ruth Cater for Homemade white bread. It is really good and simple to make and it is the first bread I ever learned to bake.
Therefore, I want to tell you a little about my grandma, how I feel about her and this recipe.
My grandmother was born in 1923, Ruth Stroud in North Carolina, (one of a set of twins) to tobacco farmers who later lost their farm in the Great Depression of the 1930’s. They then did share crop farming I believe in South Carolina, which makes it hard to make enough money to get by I would think. My grandmother was old enough to remember all this and the hardships and she often said that she associated farming purely with hard work and being poor all the time in her experience. She went to Georgia as a young woman and became a telephone operator and during World War II, she met my grandfather who was in the Navy on a double blind date. He was not her date (he was the other girls’ date) but they hit it off and in 1946 they were married, and my mother was born nine months later on Christmas Day.
Over all the years my grandma had hard times, 5 children and lost my grandpa from heart attacks at a young age, he was only 56 I think and worked for many years as a cook for the hospital in Des Moines, Iowa where they lived. Her later life contained a multitude of health issues and yet she still kept herself busy with church, cooking,friends and family. She lived by herself with the help of my aunt until a few months before she passed away.
Through it all, she was a human, not always perfect, but I truly believe she did love her children, grandchildren and other family members, as well as her friends.
I never doubted that Grandma loved me. When I was a girl, on one of her visits to Colorado to see us she showed me on how to make bread and we did it together, it was then I made the following recipe for homemade bread. We measured, kneaded, let it rise, kneaded it again, let rise it once more and baked it; and when it finally came out of the oven a lovely golden brown with the aroma filling the whole house I knew I was hooked on baking.
My Grandma was an excellent cook, whether it was her southern roots I am not sure but she made some of the best-fried chicken I have ever had, wonderful pies, mashed potatoes, gravy, rolls, pork chops, etc. I would call a lot of her cooking comfort food but it did not change the fact it was yummy always.
As an adult Grandma and I became very close and we would call each other regularly and swap recipes or talk about the family, friends, what each of us was doing even if it was just what she had watched on T.V. She always was there to listen if I was upset or sad and she would share her thoughts and concerns as well too.
When she passed away, it created this huge chasm in my life that no one can fill and I miss her and wish I could call her every day with some tidbit of news or a thought but of course, I cannot.
However, I like to think of the strong woman who made it through the Great Depression, who had a long but not easy life and old age that never complained, she always said, “God only gives you as much as you can bear” and so Nothing I could write about her would ever be good enough to express how I feel but I wanted to tell you a little about my Grandma. If you are lucky enough to have a grandma in your life whom you can spend time with consider it a blessing and treasure it for it cannot be replaced.
I miss you Grandma, more than you can know.
Grandma Cater’s White bread
1 pkg of dry yeast
2 cups of warm water
1 or 2 Tbsp of shortening
1/2 cup sugar
2 dashes of salt
4 to 5 cups of flour
Dissolve yeast in a large mixing bowl with the warm water (the water needs to be warm but not hot- if hot it will kill your yeast and it will not rise properly. If the water is too cold it won’t activate)
After dissolving your yeast add the shortening and stir and cut till shortening is in small pea size and add salt and sugar and gradually add flour. Stir till it is too hard to stir and no longer gooey. When you have enough flour to make dough then you want to start kneading the dough until no longer sticky, put on a floured board its easier to knead. Knead until it is elastic and smooth (my grandma said ’till it’s a smooth as a baby’s bottom’)
Then put in a large bowl preferably lightly oiled and let rise in a warm place for about 1 hour.
Then punch down and knead well again till smooth and elastic. You may have to add a smidge more flour. Break in half and knead some more and shape into a rectangle and put into a loaf pan that you have greased well. After doing both pieces put the 2 pans to rise in a warm place for 30 to 60 minutes. When the dough has risen almost to the top of the bread pan put into a 350 degree pre- heated oven to bake. It will take about 30 to 45 minutes depending on your oven. I always set the timer for the 30 minutes mark and check the bread. It should be a light golden brown and be that way on the bottom too if you were to pop the bread in to your oven mitt to check. Be aware it could even take a little longer than the time I have written here.
You can also brush the tops of the loaves with butter and a pastry brush if desired, it makes a more golden tender crust but I usually don’t worry about it.
After it is done I put in a wire rack to cool. It will keep about 5 days to a week without refrigeration but since it does not have preservatives, homemade bread never keeps as long as store bought. In our house it never lasts long enough to worry about it.
Also, I usually make two batches at once because I can bake four loaves at one time in my oven.
My Grandmother Ruth Cater taught me how to make bread with this recipe and I have used it often since I was a little girl, it usually comes out wonderful.