4Shoes 'BOOKENDS'; Morgan Horses

4Shoes 'BOOKENDS'; Morgan Horses
“Hold fast to dreams, For if dreams die, Life is a broken-winged bird, That cannot fly.” ~Langston Hughes *pictured: '4Shoes Bookends'

Friday, 13 January 2017

Crackles

In low-German, we call this 'grievel' or 'grieven'; in English we say 'crackles'.
Mr Shoes was brought up a Mennonite; in the family home they grew up speaking low-German (high-German language was reserved for formalities, solemn occasions, & for keeping secrets from nosey children). Over the years, the family moved from one place to the other, & often they were the only Mennonite family in an area. English started creeping into the family vernacular &, by the time I came onto the scene, even Mr Shoes' Mama spoke English in the home (liberally peppered with low-German, of course, or high when it was something she wanted to say only to Papa). 

The first time I asked for a translation, Papa's ears turned red & he chuckled... As I had walked away I had heard him say to Mr Shoes, "Schmuachabein", which translates to, "Nice legs". Then my ears turned red...

As someone who grew up with absolutely no teaching about group culture or family heritage, I really didn't have an identity other than simply 'white Canadian'. I was curious & willing to learn their ways, to say nothing of being a young woman eager to be accepted & loved by her in-law family. Without any particular discussion or decision to do so, we incorporated many of the Mennonite ways & traditions into our family. I'm very glad that we did, because I think it's been a gift to our children to know their family background & the richness of the history that is their birthright. 

Grievel, or crackles, is a Mennonite tradition & a fond breakfast treat, though one that a person either likes or dislikes (that's me, standing here by myself in the dislike category). Grievel is, essentially, the little bits of meat & meat jelly that are the by-products of rendering raw fat. 

The other day, after rendering for many hours, I strained the liquid fat through a fine wire sieve (but you could use cheesecloth), & then pressed the crackles firmly to give up as much liquid as possible (which solidifies into precious, snowy white lard). Whatever solids are left after pressing the oil is the crackles. 

The crackles themselves still have a fair amount of fat per serving, "but not enough to make a guy's heart explode, so get on with it, Woman!", (as said by Mr Shoes). 

For this next part, a small wire sieve is a handy serving tool... 
Scoop out approximately 1/2 a cup of grievel into a small saucepan & heat gently until the lard turns back to fat & the crackles are hot through. Using your little wire sieve, scoop up the crackles, then press the back of a spoon firmly into the scoop to press off as much liquid fat as desired. 
A usual serving would be 2 pressed scoops of crackles served alongside 1-2 slices of hardy grain bread (such as rye or pumpernickle). Spoon the crackles onto bites of bread, then use the crust to mop up any leavings. This is important in Mennonite culture... masters of 'the clean plate club*'.

Personally, I never developed a taste for grievel - just too greasy for me to enjoy. Mr Shoes & Boot though? They were back & forth from my kitchen, ensuring that I would indeed be saving the crackles for them. And they're welcome to them, family tradition & all.  
*Obviously, incorporating Mennonite family traditions is important to Mr Shoes & I, & we (again, obvious) do care about the old ways & values such as using the resources we have (gardens & livestock), & not being wasteful of them. But, I checked out of the 'clean plate club' mentality a long time ago... because I believe that such  ridiculous pressure leads to people growing up to have all kinds of 'food issues'. 
We chose to raise our children to adhere only to 'food rules'  dictated by their own bodies; that is not to say that they ate a ton of candy & ice cream, but rather, that I offered an equal alternative if there was something they did not like (don't like beans? How about some mashed potatoes?) I'm happy to say that both of our grown children are good-looking, healthy, & fit, & (thankfully) free from any food or bullshit body image issues. 
And still never a bite need go to waste, though occasionally diverted to feed for pigs or for compost... & so the circle goes. 
This is what we chose. That said, I am not offering my opinion as parenting advice (today. Check back another day, you never know when I might be feeling more 'preachy'). 

13 comments:

  1. I think I'd have to stand in the dislike line on that stuff too. My grandparents were from Germany and they ate a lot of stuff that I just couldn't bring myself to eat. Looks like a lot of work to make it.

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    1. Well, it's just the byproduct of rendering lard, so no extra work, just collect it. I could never develop a taste for it though, too greasy for my liking. Which is just as well, because Mr Shoes would fight me to keep it to himself.

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  2. My father always enjoyed cracklin cornbread and pig brains with scrambled eggs. I on the other hand was never brave enough to try them.

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    1. Hmmm, the cornbread could be interesting, might try something like that for Mr Shoes... the brains, however, have been taken care of by scavengers, as was the hide & the gut pile.

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  3. Great post. I first read about craklins in The Little House books, so the first time I rendered goat fat I saved them. Really nice flavoring for cornbread or eggs!

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    1. Think I'll whip up some cornbread & see if the men like them that way.

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  4. I think I'd be with you on the dislike side of crackles. I also don't adhere to the clean your plate rule but somehow still find myself saying it occasionally. I'd guess because that was how I was raised. Enjoy the rest of your week!

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    1. How I was raised was in a threatening, fearful culture around food that operated on a ridiculous premise (that food would go to waste - which it never did because pigs & compost), is why I call BULLSHIT on the entire notion. I think a loving parent can see that a child truly doesn't like something, & I don't think there's a good enough reason to make food (which should be nourishing and enjoyable) become a power struggle & possibly set children up for future food & body issues. JMHO.

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  5. Thanks for visiting my blog and now I have popped over to check out your post and was delighted. My family background is Mennonite, but much of the culture you describe was gone before I arrived on the scene except for the family tradition of making a good pie that always included using lard as the shortening for the crust to assure it was wonderfully flaky. There are a number of Mennonite communities not far from where we live and the nearest orchard is owned by a group of Mennonites and where I find great cheese, trail bologna and whatever fruit and veggies are "in season". Have a blessed day!

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    1. Because Mr Shoes family left the camaraderie of a colony, they missed much of the benefits of living amidst a community of like-minded souls; but, luckily, some things stick hard in the mind & heart. Thank you for stopping by!

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  6. I don't know if I'd like crackles, but I do love traditions. So, I'd give it a shot. I grew up with the clean your plate rule, but I didn't teach it to my children and I try to retrain myself, though it's hard. Eating fast and cleaning the plate is ingrained in me.

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    1. Took me a long time to get the voices about food out of my head - they're gone now. Wish I could say the same about some of the other crap they told me that lingers in there...

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    2. Took me a long time to get the voices about food out of my head - they're gone now. Wish I could say the same about some of the other crap they told me that lingers in there...

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