As the oldest of seven siblings, Ruby Cave of Washington County said she’s made quite a few pans of biscuits in her life.
"When my mother came home from the hospital with one of my baby brothers, I stood in a chair to reach the counter to make my first biscuits," recalled Ruby, but she said she wasn’t the only child in her family who cooked.
"Even the boys learned to cook. We all had to learn to cook and wash and mop and do all the chores, including milking the cow, although some of us were better at that than others," she said.
And many skillets of biscuits and cornbread later, Ruby still cooks three meals a day for her and her husband of 45 years, Glenn Cave.
In addition to her two daughters and their families, all living near Glenn and Ruby, she said she also shares her kitchen creations with her neighbors across the road from her home: the folks at the Farmers Cooperative Market in Leroy.
"We really enjoy our Co-op, especially having them across the road. They’re like another set of children to me, and they get the benefit of my leftovers from time to time," Ruby said.
Known to her granddaughters and some others as "Ru Ru," Ruby relies on her Co-op store for more than most people might think.
"We grow a little corn and have a garden patch or two, but we buy more than our gardening supplies from the Co-op. If I have any shopping to do for Christmas or birthdays even, I start at the Co-op. They have toys, candles, John Deere and Carhartt brands, just something for everybody," she explained.
Ruby also keeps her chickens, cats and dogs fed with the help of her Co-op neighbors, and her granddaughters, Kaitlin and Katherine, are learning to love the Co-op, too.
"When one of the girls had to draw a map of Alabama for school, she drew the Co-op insignia for Leroy. And we even had one of their birthday parties at the Co-op. They still have the pictures up in the store," Ruby said.
Ruby added however that the Co-op employees have been far more than fair-weather friends to her family.
"Earlier this year when my brother was in a farming accident, they brought a forklift over from the Co-op to help lift the bush hog off of him. Not many businesses would do something like that," she said, adding her brother is now recuperating at home.
Never much of a by-the-book cook, Ruby said she has come up with many of her recipes through trial-and-error or through necessary substitution, using buttermilk in her frosting recipe, for example, because she was out of regular milk.
"You have to try and see sometimes, and work with what you have. I just hope people enjoy these recipes," she added.
Kellie Henderson is a freelance writer from Troy.
3 bundles turnips
2 bundles mustard greens
Ham hock or 4 slices pepper bacon
Dash of baking soda
Dash of sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
2 Tablespoons pepper sauce
Wash and stem greens. In a large pot, add ham hock or bacon to 4 quarts of water. Bring to a boil. Add greens, one handful at a time until all greens have been added to water. Return to a boil. Add remaining ingredients. Cook until tender.
Zucchini and Yellow
1 Tablespoon butter or bacon drippings
2 medium zucchini, washed and diced, but not peeled
2 medium yellow squash, washed and diced, but not peeled
1 large onion, diced
2 medium red new potatoes, sliced thin, skins intact
1 cup broccoli florets
1 cup cauliflower, chopped
½ cup bell pepper, diced
1 box Healthy Harvest wheat thin spaghetti, cooked and drained
1 jar prepared Alfredo sauce
In a large skillet, steam all veggies in butter or bacon drippings until tender. Place a serving of spaghetti on each plate; top with veggies and sauce. Serve with crackers or garlic bread and a green salad.
4 Tablespoons oil, divided
2 cups yellow self-rising corn meal
2 cups white cornbread mix
½ cup self-rising flour
3 large eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
2 large onions, diced
4 medium jalapeno peppers, grated
1 (16 oz) can cream or whole-kernel corn
4 to 6 cups sharp cheddar cheese, grated
Buttermilk as needed
Preheat oven to 450o. Pour 2 Tablespoons oil each into two large cast iron skillets. Place in oven to preheat.
In a large bowl, combine corn meal with next eight ingredients and stir to mix. Add buttermilk (about 2 cups) as needed to make batter soupy. When pans are hot, fill each ¾ full of batter and bake until golden brown. Repeat with remaining batter. Makes about 4 pones of bread.
Okra and Tomato Soup
4 cups okra, cut
2 large onions, diced
1 (10 oz) can diced tomatoes with green chiles
1 (28 oz) can diced tomatoes
2 ribs celery, diced
2 quarts beef broth
Salt and pepper to taste
Combine all ingredients in a 6 to 8 quart stock pot. Simmer until vegetables are tender.
Optional: Add one large can mixed vegetables to make vegetable soup.
Red Beans and Rice with Sausage
1 pound smoked sausage, sliced
1 large onion
4 cups water
2 cans red beans or dark red kidney beans
1 cup instant brown rice
1 envelope brown gravy mix
In a 6-quart pot, brown sausage and onions. Add water, rice and beans. Cook over medium heat until rice is fluffy, adding more water if necessary. Meanwhile, stir gravy mix with water as directed on package. Add to rice and cook 1 to 2 minutes more before serving.
6 (10-inch) flour tortillas
½ pound Conecuh smoked sausage
6 large eggs
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated
¼ cup bell pepper, chopped
1 large banana pepper, grated
1 large onion, chopped (or substitute chopped green onions)
Slice sausage into ¼ to ½-inch slices. Cook over medium heat in a large skillet until brown. Add onions and peppers. Cook until tender. Remove from pan. Beat eggs and cook until soft and fluffy; remove from pan. Warm one tortilla shell at a time. Place about 2 Table-spoons sausage/pepper down the middle of each shell. Top with the same amount of eggs and cheese. Fold up like a burrito and brown on each side in skillet before serving. Top with chunky salsa if desired.
Ru Ru’s Honey Ham
1 (8 to 10-pound) butt-portion ham
1 (15 oz) can sliced pineapple
½ to ¾ cup honey
1 (12 oz) can cola
1 cup brown sugar
Line a large roasting pan with heavy duty foil. Place ham, cut side down, in pan. Cover top and sides of ham with pineapple slices, using toothpicks to secure. Pour cola over ham; pour honey over ham. Pack brown sugar over top of ham. Bake uncovered at 300o for 2 hours or until medium-brown.
Lemon Pound Cake
1 box lemon cake mix
1 (3 oz) package instant lemon pudding mix
4 large eggs
1 cup fat-free milk
1/3 cup vegetable oil
Glaze: 1 cup powdered sugar
2 to 3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Preheat oven to 350o. Grease and flour a 10-inch Bundt or tube pan. Combine cake mix, pudding mix, eggs, milk and oil in a large bowl. Beat with an electric mixer at medium speed until well blended. Beat 2 minutes more. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Invert onto serving plate.
Stir together powdered sugar and lemon juice until smooth; pour glaze over hot cake.
Ru Ru’s Chocolate Icing
8 ounces Hershey’s cocoa
4 pounds powdered sugar, divided
5 teaspoons salt
2 cups shortening
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
Buttermilk as needed
In a large bowl, mix cocoa, half the sugar and salt. Cream in shortening and ½ cup buttermilk. Mixture will be stiff. Add remaining sugar and mix, adding additional buttermilk as needed to reach spreading consistency. Good for icing brownies as well as yellow or chocolate cakes. For white decorator icing, omit cocoa and continue as directed.
Lemon Ice Box Pie
2 graham cracker pie shells
1 cup lemon juice
2 (14 oz) cans sweetened condensed milk
6 large eggs, separated
1 teaspoon salt
Sugar for meringue
Combine lemon juice and milk in a large mixing bowl. Mix in egg yolks, beating until smooth.
In a glass bowl, beat eggs whites until frothy, adding salt a little at a time. Add sugar just until egg whites are glossy and stiff.
Divide the filling evenly between the pie shells and top each pie with half the meringue. Bake at 350o until lightly browned. Cool and refrigerate overnight.