compiled by Teresa Martin Klaiber
May 31, 2011
Saving Voices Part 3 continues with a transcription of a cassette tape during a summer visit in 1978 with the Klaiber family and their memories of growing up in Boyd County. This segment talks about food. You never left the Klaiber home hungry nor without a jar of Elsie's wonderful sweet pickles.
John Henry Klaiber: You always had to have something to eat or drink every place you went…
Elsie Rucker Klaiber: There were these stoves …and there was these pumpkins over these drying places. You know they dried the pumpkin. And Aunt Minervy [Minerva Patton wife of William Vincent Sexton] did it that way at that old Sexton house and gave Martha [Martha Klaiber Cox] that cupboard.
John Henry Klaiber: Uh they would put a, they would make a frame and put fine wire over it and hang it up over the cook stove and they would dry their stuff that way.
Elsie Rucker Klaiber: Apples, beans…
John Henry Klaiber repeating over wife: Apples, beans…Teresa Martin Klaiber: I thought they hung them in the dark…
Elsie Rucker Klaiber: No over the stove to dry them.
John Henry Klaiber: Now beans
Elsie Rucker Klaiber interjecting: I used to string them and hang them out here in the sun, you know
John Henry Klaiber: Beans you would take a needle and run a string through them and pull them up.
Elsie Rucker Klaiber: Them’s leather britches.
John Henry Klaiber: Hang them up and let dry.
Elsie Rucker Klaiber: And let the flies speck em. [laughter]
Teresa Martin Klaiber: And what would you do with the dried beans then?
John Henry Klaiber: Well eat em!
Elsie Rucker Klaiber: They are called leather britches and buddy they are the gassiest things you ever eat. [laughter] Did you ever eat any Jim? Yeah I had some before Jimmy was born and the kids was up here, my nieces.
John Henry Klaiber: The bean was pretty good sized before you would string em and dry them.
Elsie Rucker Klaiber whispering so to not interrupt: You cook them all day long. … But Terri, everybody had leather britches, they called them. That was just an old fashioned name for dried beans. And then they would put them in a bag and put them away for the winter. They may put some pepper or something in there to keep the bugs away.But I had sauerkraut. I used to make sauerkraut when we was first married. And one day, I think on Monday, the kids had been here, Harolds [Harold Rucker brother of Elsie] kids. Two or three of them. They would come stay while their mother [Virginia Wiley Rucker] went to college. Mom and I went down there and she said “Elsie you take two and I’ll take two. I can’t stand to see those five girls there locked up in that house all day long. Their so scared.” Up from Dog Fork they would throw rocks and everything you know at the house. They lived in the school house. So I said well we will take two up there then. And on a Monday we had had hard bargains. You know when you fried the chickens on Sunday we had the hard bargains. The necks and all the scrap parts instead of stewing them and make dumplings I just fried em.
Teresa Martin Klaiber: What did you call them?
Elsie Rucker Klaiber: Hard bargains.
Teresa Martin Klaiber: That’s the left overs?
Elsie Rucker Klaiber: No that’s the part that joins the back.
John Henry Klaiber: It’s the piece of the chicken that went over fence above the legs.
Elsie Rucker Klaiber: It’s just nothing but the bones…that is just the way we cut them…that was just an old fashioned name for them. But anyway, Terri, we had these last nest of these dried beans. I had the Kraut and the kids had gone out here on the hill. It was two years before Jimmy was born  and after my first baby was born [a little girl born and died 17 April 1945]. I got over there with them and got some good berries [if berries were in it had to be June/July 1945] and we made a cobbler. And the county agent – we had a screened in porch you know – before we remodeled our house. The county agent came and John asked him to eat while I was in there. And there were all those scrappy foods.
John Henry Klaiber: Why it was Henry Pope and it wouldn’t make no difference.
Elsie Rucker Klaiber: And John said well we have some leather britches here and Lord we had leather britches forever. And kraut and blackberry cobbler. Oh he enjoyed it but I was so embarrassed.
John Henry Klaiber: You see the way they used to make kraut. I don’t know if you know or not.
Elsie Rucker Klaiber: She was never raised, her family wasn’t raised [meaning that the first 11 years of my life I grew up in town.]
John Henry Klaiber: You see you would take a cloth bag and put it in a stone jar and cut your kraut up like ya was cutting slaw
Elsie Rucker Klaiber: With a kraut cutter.
John Henry Klaiber: Put the kraut down in there and make yer brine, salt brine strong enough to hold up an egg.
Elsie Rucker Klaiber: That is the old fashioned way.
John Henry Klaiber: Then you pulled your cloth bag together and tied it. Poured that up over it and put you a rock down over it.
Elsie Rucker Klaiber: A clean rock. You always scrubbed it.
John Henry Klaiber: Well it wouldn’t always matter if it was clean or dirty [laughter].
Elsie Rucker Klaiber: Terri, and you would cut the stalk. Do you know what the stalk is. That is the old fashioned name. You know the center, the part you throw away of the cabbage when you make slaw?
Teresa Martin Klaiber: The heart?
Elsie Rucker Klaiber: The heart.
John Henry Klaiber: Don’t you eat that? That’s the best part …
Elsie Rucker Klaiber: But pickle those and buddy they are real. And kraut juice, my mother [Barbara Elizabeth McGlothlin Rucker] couldn’t keep kraut juice cause we loved it so. We’d drink it and then she’d have to make new brine. Oh it’s a good laxative. … I can’t have kraut now …
John Henry Klaiber: It would be made a little different from what you buy I imagine.
Elsie Rucker Klaiber: It tastes better. The women make it now and just put it in quart jars and beat it down and they take a teaspoon full of salt, teaspoon full of sugar and boil in water and seal it up… then they would pickle their beans –
John Henry Klaiber: They would cover their jar over so nothing would get in it. Pickles the same way, corn. Sulphur apples –
Elsie Rucker Klaiber: Oh yeah, sulphur apples are delicious. Elzema [Rucker Gallup] and Mildred [Rucker Hall] brought us some last year. You have firm apples. You put them in a barrel and you put the sulphur down in there and leave them so many days.
John Henry Klaiber: You set it afire. Get a sulphur fire and put it in a barrel and put the apples over it and let them stay there til that sulphur burns up through em. It will keep I don’t know how long.
Elsie Rucker Klaiber: And they are the prettiest white ones. They brought me a gallon…
Teresa Martin Klaiber: What do they taste like?
Elsie Rucker Klaiber: You just rinse that sulphur off. You just slice them and fry them or stew them and make pies. They are the most delicious things you ever saw. But she did hers in glass jars. And people pickled their corn the same way.
John Henry Klaiber: You see you killed your own meat. Salt it down. Then you’d take it up and hang it and let it drip, drain. Then you’d build a fire under it and smoke it. Then when you would get it smoked enough it got brown all over with smoke. Use Hickory or sassafras. You didn’t want a fire blazing. Lay there and smoke, see. Then they’d take their meat down and wash it in alum water. Then rub it with brown sugar and black pepper.
Elsie Rucker Klaiber: Honey, it’s delicious.
John Henry Klaiber: Then put it in a paper sack, or put a cloth over it and put it down in a cloth bag and hang it up in the smoke house and let it hang there. Then you’d have ham to eat all summer.
Elsie Rucker Klaiber: Then they quit using that and packed them in Morton Salt.
Teresa Martin Klaiber: I remember dad bringing some home when he would go on a country call [John Geer Martin DVM] and paying him with ham and soaking it. …John Henry Klaiber: To take the salt out of it.
Elsie Rucker Klaiber: They’d use Morton’s Salt. A lot of them it didn’t taste good like that.
John Henry Klaiber: Well then they didn’t have Morton’s Salt. I expect when your dad started he got a lot of ham or chickens to help pay his bill.
Elsie Rucker Klaiber: He said [John Geer Martin, veternarian] that is how he got started with these farmers. You were a baby and he said “I got to get back, I’m in the dog house. I haven’t been home for supper in so many nights…been workin”
John Henry Klaiber: Used to pay the work hands. You had a work hand with you, you go down to the smoke house and cut them off a big chunk of bacon. And that would pay them for a day’s work.
Elsie Rucker Klaiber: …my mother would make ten gallon of pickled beans, ten gallon pickled corn, ten gallon of kraut. Then they would kill a hog. And they’d take that, well some people still …I was raised on pickled beans. My mother would get them out and fry them. We’d have a pot of corn bread, onions, tomatoes and everything.
John Henry Klaiber: Them pickled beans, let them be a little warm and sprinkle a little sugar over them. Not any better eatin.
Elsie Rucker Klaiber: Well I will tell you. My mother, every night, there were seven of us in the family. We had to string a whole quart, I mean a whole gallon crock full of beans. The next morning she would go out and dig some potatoes and we would scrape those potatoes. She took that big iron pot, three legged and put it on the fire and she would wash them beans and par boil them and get all the vitamins out. We didn’t know any different. She would get a little slab of meat. And sometimes she would put it down in the bottom and she’d put those beans in and they were all cooking early in the morning. Right before dinner she would drop those potatoes in. Then she would go out and get cucumbers and onions and slice them up and put them in vinegar. Then slice a big platter of tomatoes. And we knew she cooked up enough beans for our dinner and we left the other part for supper. And that’s what we ate and we loved it. Oh those green beans, potatoes, corn bread, cucumbers and onions.
John Henry Klaiber: You had corn bread and good ole bacon . Let the grease stay in it. Pour it out on your plate and mix your corn bread in it. Good eatin.
Elsie Rucker Klaiber: I’ll tell you what I liked. I was like my daddy [David Leander Rucker]. I always liked pork. Back bones and ribs cooked down to thick broth. And then make hot biscuits.
John Henry Klaiber: Terri, they’d dig out a little hole and throw straw and leaves in it and put the potatoes in it. Pile the potatoes on up. Then throw straw or leaves on over it, throw dirt all around and up over it that thick. … That would keep them all winter.
Elsie Rucker Klaiber: And turnips the same way.John Henry Klaiber: And cabbage. You turn a cabbage upside down and cover it over. Let the roots stick up out of the ground and it will keep all winter.
Elsie Rucker Klaiber: You would go to town in the Fall in your wagons and bet a barrel of flour and a barrel of meal. And they always had a pantry.
John Henry Klaiber: No they usually ground their own corn for meal.
Elsie Rucker Klaiber: But they put the meal in one barrel and they had a great big biscuit board … that covered two barrels and we had a little pantry. And you reached down in there and got your, I seen my mother, get biscuit dough out. Get the flour and she would put it out and make a great big lot of biscuits leaving that other stuff in there. All that good buttermilk. She could pat them out and she would make pasteries. She never would make one pie. She would make half a dozen pies on the weekend. Cause you know there was company coming in car load and wagon load after wagon load. We lived in the big house there at Mavity and everyone came for the weekend from town. They would drive their, you know, buggy and drive out for the weekend to Barb’s house. They made two gallon of ice cream and had a big chocolate cake.
John Henry Klaiber: Now apples. They would either put a wooden barrel or make an A frame. You didn’t put them in like you did potatoes. You went into them oftener than you did potatoes. You’d always leave a door opening so you could get in there and get some apples out. … If you went in and got you some you’d get them out and then take your shovel and shovel your dirt back against the door to cover it all up.
Elsie Rucker Klaiber: You had pork and chicken on Sunday and that was all you had unless somebody killed a beef. You know it would break a leg or something … and you would have the best steak you ever ate. … But Terri you didn’t have to buy very much, you know, produce, from town, like we do now.
Stay tuned for a little bit about home made brew!