Food at reunions is very important and always highly anticipated.
Recipes are treasures of reunion tradition.
Recipes are often shared as part of the reunion and ultimately, in some cases, assembled into cookbooks.
Reunions are perfect times for collecting favorite recipes; those that are traditional to the family; grandma’s chocolate cake or bread pudding, Opa’s special barbecue sauce and Uncle Ed’s crispy fish fries. Often planners of potluck events ask cooks to bring their recipes on cards to be passed around.
Years ago, in the early days of Reunions magazine, we did reunion recipe contests and included our favorites in the magazine. We share some of those here and encourage you to share your best reunion potluck recipes. We might consider resurrecting our recipe contests in a future issue of Reunions magazine.
Driving south to delicious reunions
Back in the 1960’s many “First Northern” African-American couples loaded car trunks with suitcases, pillows and blankets and piled children and slinkys into the back seat to begin a southern-bound journey home. We went back to revisit childhood memories, reunite with family members and savor foods from our Southern culture and rich heritage.
Though all of the culinary treats at our family reunions were delicious and festive to behold, nothing compared to my Great Aunt Nell’s Baked Ham.
White Plaines, New York
Great Aunt Nell’s Reunion Ham
1 fully cooked smoked (bone in) ham, approx 10-12 pounds
1 liter of ginger ale
2 cups pineapple juice
1 9-15 oz can unsweetened pineapple rings
6 whole cloves
Reserved pineapple juice
1/3 cup water
1 firmly packed cup dark brown sugar
1 T prepared yellow mustard
A few splashes of basting liquid to moisten
Stir into paste.
1. Place ham in a large pot. Add ginger ale, pineapple juice and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes.
2. Remove pot from heat. Drain off and save the ginger ale/pineapple liquid. Allow the ham to cool.
3. Pre-heat oven to 325?. Prepare basting mixture and glaze.
4. When ham is cool to the touch, trim off all except for a thin layer of fat. Cut a diamond pattern in top of ham. Stud ham with the 6 whole cloves.
5. Place ham in a roasting pan. Bake uncovered for one hour, basting occasionally with the pineapple juice/water liquid.
6. After one hour remove ham from the oven. Spread or brush on glaze (add a little hot tap water if glaze has stiffened). Lay pineapple rings on top. Place one maraschino cherry in the center of each pineapple ring. Place ham back in oven for 30 minutes. Remove. Cool. Slice. Enjoy!
7. Save ham bone for soup stock.
Desserts are always the most popular part of the picnic
Poppy Seed Cake a passport into Bohemian family
I married a 100% Bohemian man. He called me a “Scrub” — his term for my mixed ancestry. I overcame his friendly kidding by mastering Bohemian cooking. My favorite recipe originated with another “Scrub!”
Zajicek family reunions are a 60-year tradition highlighted by a picnic dinner. My Bohemian Poppy Seed Cake went over big the first time I served it but it was too small for everyone to taste — no matter how tiny we cut the pieces.
After that, I baked three 9 x 13 inch cakes and joined them with filling to form a three-layer cake. My husband covered a board with aluminum foil to use as a cake plate. I purchased a plastic pan to cover the cake and protect it on the way to the reunion.
My Bohemian Poppy Seed Cake is now a Zajicek Family Reunion tradition. One year when I was ill, my husband and daughter attended the reunion without me — and no cake, either. I received cards from other attendees saying, “We missed the Bohemian Poppy Seed Cake.” No one said they missed me!
I don’t mind, though — because my Bohemian Poppy Seed Cake helped me accomplish my aim of becoming a part of the Bohemian family — and I’ve left my “Scrub” nickname behind.
Orpha R. Zajicek
Gays Mills, Wisconsin
Bohemian Poppy Seed Cake/filling/frosting
2/3 cup poppy seeds
1 cup milk
1/2 cup butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 cup all purpose flour
2 teaspoons of baking powder
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 egg whites (save 2 yolks for filling)
Soak poppy seeds in milk overnight.
The next day cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the soaked poppy seeds and milk. Mix. Sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Add this to the other mixture and mix together. Add vanilla. Beat egg whites until stiff but not dry, then fold into the rest.
Bake in 3 well greased layer pans at 350? until a tooth pick inserted into the center of the layer comes out clean.
Cool. Assemble layers with the filling. Frost top and sides.
1 cup milk
3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons corn starch
2 eggs yolks
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
butter the size of a walnut
Combine milk and sugar in a double boiler and heat. Mix beaten egg yolks with corn starch and salt, using some of the warm milk to thin it. Add to the hot milk and cook until thick. Remove from the stove. Add butter and vanilla. Let cool. Spread between poppy seed cake layers.
Cream Cheese Frosting
8-oz package of cream cheese (softened)
1/2 stick of butter or margarine
1 box of powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Cream together cream cheese and butter or margarine until smooth.
Add powdered sugar, vanilla and cream until smooth. Frost sides and top of cake.
When I take this out, everyone loves it, young or old. It is better if served cold, so you might want to take it in your ice chest.
Johnye D. Ducker
Calico Rock, Arkansas
1 16-oz can whole corn drained 1 small onion chopped
1 green pepper chopped.
1/2 cup sour cream.
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
salt & pepper to taste
Mix dressing. Combine with vegetables and refrigerate at least two hours before serving. Serves 6 to 8.
You’ll love it! Very easy and your friends will love you. Call me if you’re in Vegas. I’d be happy to cook 4-U!
Las Vegas, Nevada
Perry’s Cabbage Salad
Wash all the veggies first!
1 small cabbage
1 medium onion
2 carrots, peeled
1 medium cucumber, peeled
6 T chopped fresh parsley
2 T soy sauce
6 T peanut or olive oil
6 T vinegar
1 T sugar
Season to taste.
Mix dressing, combine with vegetables
and serve at room temperature.
A never-fail reunion salad
The Heiser Family Reunion includes 18 members; parents, their children and grandchildren. They are spread out all over the country and want to have more than letter and phone contact to have the children know each other. Reunions every couple of years are their solution. Sarah Windsor, Seattle, Washington, describes Heiser Reunions as “just joining our lives for a week.” They all stay in one big house and enjoy the togetherness and ins and outs of everyday life.
This recipe is a Heiser Family Reunion hit! Windsor says, “I have never served anything else that every single person liked! And it makes such a large amount that you don’t have to make a 10 or 20 times recipe unless you are having a really large reunion.” Each recipe serves approximately eight — in a one dish meal.
Club Sandwich Salad
1 head iceberg lettuce, shredded
3 hard cooked eggs, sliced
2 large chicken breasts, cooked and sliced in julienne strips
2 T green onions, chopped
18 cherry tomatoes, halved
1 pound bacon, fried crisp and broken into large pieces
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup grated Co/Jack, Swiss or Monterey Jack cheese
salt and pepper
Ranch dressing (optional)
In a large glass salad or serving bowl, layer half the lettuce, sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper, layer eggs, chicken, green onions, tomatoes, bacon and remaining lettuce. Frost top with mayonnaise. Sprinkle with cheeses. Cover loosely and refrigerate up to 2 hours.
6 slices French or homemade-type bread
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup vegetable oil
Parmesan cheese, grated
Trim bread crust and cut into 1/2 inch cubes. Saute cubes in butter and oil over low heat to dry and toast until golden. Sprinkle lightly with garlic salt and/or Parmesan cheese.
To serve, sprinkle salad with cooled croutons. Serve with Ranch dressing, if desired.
Submitted by Sara Windsor
A sparkling reunion salad!
Marilou Robinson reports, “Our family reunion menus pay tribute to our father’s Irish and our mother’s southern heritage. Several years ago, we featured a salad bar that reflected this heritage. The idea was a success — salads ranged from meat and/or fish combinations to pastas, fruits, vegetables, with both hot and cold dishes. We offered a choice of breads, and dessert was home-churned ice cream.”
Here are two of Robinson’s salads; simple, easy to transport and delicious.
6 cups shredded red cabbage
1 cup shredded radishes
1 cup raw shredded beets
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1 red bell pepper, seeded, chopped
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon-style mustard
Salt and pepper to taste
1/3 cup olive oil
Garnish: Red-leaf lettuce leaves
Toss vegetables in a large bowl. Place dressing ingredients in a small jar with tight-fitting lid; shake well. Pour dressing over salad and toss. To retain crispness, add dressing just before serving. Makes 8-10 servings.
Pasta Salad for the ages
8 oz pack thin spaghetti
1 bunch chopped green onions (about 2 cups)
1 each, seeded, diced red and yellow pepper (about 2 cups)
1 lb fresh asparagus spears, cut diagonally into 2-inch lengths (about 2 cups)
4 oz Chinese pea pods
2 T finely chopped fresh ginger
1 minced garlic clove
1 c defatted chicken broth
8 oz can water chestnuts, drained
2 ripe peeled, seeded, chopped tomatoes (about 1 1/2 cups)
1/4 c low-sodium soy sauce
3/4 t crushed red pepper flakes
Cook spaghetti according to package directions. Meanwhile, spray a 12-inch nonstick frying pan with vegetable spray; add onions, bell peppers, asparagus, pea pods, ginger and garlic. Cook over medium high heat, stirring, till vegetables are barely tender-crisp, about 5 minutes. Add broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer about 5 minutes till vegetables are just tender but not mushy. Remove from heat. Drain spaghetti and place in a large bowl. Add the vegetables with any liquid, water chestnuts, tomatoes, soy sauce and pepper flakes. Toss to mix well. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight. Serves 6.
Submitted by Marilou Robinson, Portland, Oregon
Reunion veggie salad
1 head cauliflower, cut in bite-size pieces
1 bunch broccoli, cut in bite-size pieces
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1/2 cup light mayonnaise
4 tablespoons of sugar
Toss dressing and vegetables.
Fruit of the reunion
Cut up fruits in season – so easy in summer. Include many varieties of melons, grapes and berries, cherries and peaches. If the fruits are assembled several hours in advance, there should be no need for sugar. Add a little fruit juice if you feel there’s need for sweetening. Lemon juice prevents peaches and apples from discoloring. Serve in a large glass bowl that shows off the colorful mixture. Encourage kids to count the number of fruits included.
Submitted by Judy Weber