I am sure we all have a different list of foods when we think of picnic fare. Some people have to have their steaks. Others like fried chicken. For us, there are the traditional hot dogs and hamburgers, plus whatever else we can put together. Of course, we have farm fresh ground beef for our hamburgers or farm fresh sausage with peppers and onions. We almost always have baked beans. There are several different recipes I use for those but my favorite one is one that must be set overnight.
When I was a child my mother belonged to a small pinochle club. There were usually two tables and yes, they competed for prizes. Every summer the club had a picnic with the families included. I loved to be able to go to that because many of the members had children, too. Mrs. Nevins always made the baked beans. I remember when I asked her if I could have her recipe. She put it on a card and gave it to my mother at one of the meetings. After that we always made Mrs. Nevins baked beans.
When I say that they set overnight I mean that the whole beans had to soak in water before you could begin to cook them. After they were cooked they still needed to be baked. There was no just opening a can and doctoring them up. They were well worth the effort. The bacon on top lent a wonderful rich flavor.
Another thing I think of is the salads. Usually keeping things cold was not an issue for us since many picnics were held at relatives homes. Potato salad is my favorite. I make potato salad like my grandmother did, but with a couple of twists. If you are a regular reader you probably remember that I have mentioned before that while my grandmother was an excellent baker, she was just so so with her cooking. I have tweaked the recipe and made it my own. When my children speak of potato salad they refer to my version.
I cannot wait for summer to be able to enjoy good potato salad. Part of our Christmas Eve smorgasbord is potato salad. It really does go good with either ham or turkey. I think the reason I started making potato salad for Christmas was because I could make it ahead of time and let it set. It made my preparation that much easier after our Christmas Eve church service.
We also enjoy macaroni salad. If I need a salad quickly, I usually make macaroni because I can cool it with cold water so it can be put together faster. I make many types of macaroni salad. Sometimes I do pasta salad with Italian dressing as the mixer. Sometimes I make macaroni salad with eggs, grated carrot, and other assorted vegetables. Sometimes I make macaroni salad with tuna fish. I even make macaroni salad with chicken. When I make the chicken variety I add fruit such as grapes and apples. We do not wait for summer to arrive to enjoy these either.
When I think of the tuna salad it takes me back to a particular Fourth of July when we were not finished with the haying. There was no possibility of us getting to the local parade or fireworks. That day I mixed up my macaroni salad and planned a special treat for the children so they would not feel bad about missing the local festivities. I let them make the old-fashioned tri-corner hats out of red, white, and blue paper, then, I involved them in a scavenger hunt, sans their costumes. Since they were not old enough to read very well I drew small pictures for them to follow. They ran from spot to spot around the yard picking up their clues. When they got to the last one it directed them to the freezer to find some homemade root beer popsicles. It was a Fourth of July celebration they still talk about.
Quite often we have a relish tray and a plate of fruit for our picnic. The young children really like the raw vegetables and fruit.
When the children were really little I usually made rice pudding to take to family picnics that way I knew there was something on the table that they could eat. We were good Swedes. We liked our rice pudding. We usually ate it warm as part of the main course.
If the early apples happened to be ripe I made fresh applesauce. If you do not care for the store- bought variety, try making your own. It is really easy to do. I especially liked the applesauce made with the early apples, called Transparents, because it was so light colored. There was no short cut with this though. The apples had to be peeled and cut up or there were slivers of skin throughout.
Our picnic fare varied with our guests. Everyone brought something. Usually dessert was something simple. We might have cookies or cake squares. I have several recipes for cake squares, too. I always like to make those because they travel well. You pop a cover over the pan and you are out the door.
We are still working on our menu for the fair, but I volunteered to cook the first meal. We are having traditional picnic food. The hot dogs and buns are packed as well as the rest of the fixings. We will have baked beans, raw vegetables, and macaroni salads. I sure hope there are some leftovers for lunches at the fair.
Ann Swanson writes from her home in Russell, PA. Contact at firstname.lastname@example.org