501 Life Magazine | Homemade goodness at St. Joseph's Annual Spaghetti Picnic
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Homemade goodness at St. Joseph's Annual Spaghetti Picnic

story and photos by Janna Virden

On the third Saturday of June the parishioners of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church located in the Catholic Point community of Center Ridge roll up their sleeves, put on their aprons and cook.

They prepare approximately 600 pounds of spaghetti, almost as much spaghetti sauce and several hundred pounds of sauerkraut, Italian sausage, coleslaw and fire and ice pickles. They also make hundreds of loaves of bread and enough corn and dessert to feed a small army. And each and every item served to around the 2,300 guests at the St. Joseph’s Picnic is homemade.

The picnic started in 1929 to raise money for school supplies at the small community Catholic school run by the Benedictine Sisters. The parish was made up of mostly Italian immigrants who were farmers in the area. Even though money was scarce, families raised and put up their own food. They canned sausage, vegetables and made their own spaghetti in the Italian tradition. The Sisters asked the families to cook a traditional Italian sausage and spaghetti dinner as a fundraiser. Even though the school has closed, the St. Joseph’s Annual Picnic still raises funds to be used by the parish. The food for the picnic is still the traditional homemade Italian dinner from the recipes of their immigrant forefathers.

 

THE MENU

Recipes are from the “Ciao” and “Ciao II” cookbook made up of recipes from the parish cooks and used for the picnic. Each cook uses their favorite recipe.

 

Homemade Bread

 

(Ciao, p. 122-123, Teresa DeSalvo)

3 cups warm water

3 tbsp. yeast (3 pkg.)

3 tsp. salt

3/4 cups oil

3/4 cups sugar

9 cups flour

 

Dissolve yeast in warm water. Add salt, sugar and oil; let proof. Add flour and knead well. Let rise until double. Punch down and shape into 3 loaves. Put in pan, which has been sprayed with oil. Let rise until double. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until brown.

Fire and Ice Pickles

 

(Ciao, p. 12, Alice DeSalvo Riedmueller)

1 (32 oz.) jar sliced dill pickles

2 cups sugar

2 tbsp. Louisiana hot sauce

2 tsp. crushed red pepper

2 to 3 cloves garlic

 

Drain pickles. Put slices in a bowl and add sugar, Louisiana hot sauce and crushed red pepper. Let sit on the counter for 2 hours and stir frequently. Put back in jar along with the garlic. Keep refrigerated and let sit for a week before eating.

Homemade Spaghetti

 

The cooks use a simple homemade pasta dough of water, flour, eggs and salt to make the spaghetti. They have a commercial cutter at the church to help in making the 500 to 600 pounds of the spaghetti served at the picnic.

Homemade Sauerkraut

 

(Ciao, p.110-111, Alice DeSalvo Riedmueller)

(Families get together weeks before the picnic to make the kraut. This can also be purchased in the Country Store at the picnic.)

 

Shred cabbage. To each pound of cabbage mix 2 teaspoons salt or to each 10 pounds of cabbage, mix 1/2 cup salt. Put salted cabbage in a crock. The salted cabbage will make its own brine. Once the brine has formed, pack down the cabbage. Press down firmly on the cabbage, and the brine will rise. Place a cheesecloth directly on top of the cabbage. Put a glass plate topped with a gallon jug of water on top of the cloth. Cover with sheet and let sit in an area that is at least 70 degrees. The cabbage will begin to ferment within a day or two after packing. A whitish scum will form on the brine in a few days. This scum will cause the kraut to get soft, if not removed every day. To remove the scum, lift off the glass jug, the plate and the cloth. Most of the scum will come off with the cloth, but if it does not, use a spoon to take off any scum that is left. After removing the scum, place another cloth directly on top of the kraut and replace the plate and the glass jug. This will need to be done daily. It will take 1 to 2 weeks for the kraut to be ready. The fermentation will stop. Kraut should be the color of straw. After the fermentation is complete, remove from the crock. Place in a large container and add some water as a means of “rinsing” the kraut. Do not drain. Take kraut out of the container and can in quart jars. Process in boiling water bath for 20 minutes.

Homemade Spaghetti Sauce

 

(Ciao II, p. 112-113, Theresa Paladino-Wafford)

This recipe can be either cut in half or into thirds.

Olive oil

2 big onions, chopped

1 cup garlic minced

1/2 to 1 cup sugar

1 tbsp. basil, or more to your likening

1/3 cup parsley or more

Almost 1/3 cup Italian seasoning

1 to 2 tsp. salt

2 tsp. black pepper

3 gallon-size cans tomato sauce (if you use juice, must add tomato paste to thicken)

 

In a large saucepot, cover the bottom with olive oil; heat. Add the onion and garlic; sauté until tender. Then add in tomato sauce and spices. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Cover and reduce to simmer for at least an hour. Add sugar throughout the simmering process to taste and stir occasionally. Sauce will thicken the longer it simmers. You can add mushrooms, wine, green bell pepper and adjust spices to taste. Will serve 40.

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