Have a good old-fashioned 4th of July
Winchester — Leave the red, white, and blue to the party decorations not the food.
With a good old-fashioned Fourth of July picnic, the all-American flavor comes from the dishes served and the traditions they represent, said Sharon Thornton, executive director of the Godfrey Miller Historic Home and Fellowship Center in Winchester.
The activity center for seniors holds an annual Fourth of July picnic, which usually is geared toward those who don’t have family nearby to celebrate with, she said. This year’s event is at 6 p.m. July 5 at the center at 28 S. Loudoun St.
While some seniors like to bring their specialty dishes, the food the center provides focuses on “old fashioned standard fare,” she said. Hot dogs on the grill are joined by standards, such as potato salad, cole slaw, baked beans, corn on the cob, watermelon, and ice cream.
“Our picnic is a throwback to what you did as a kid and a celebration of our country,” said Thornton, of Stephens City. “Our people are patriotic and enjoy food.”
This year’s celebration includes the dedication of three bricks in the center’s courtyard, she said. The bricks are sold for $100 and help fund programming.
The center’s board donated a brick in honor of the Rev. James Utt, who retired this year from Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church after 30 years, and Godfrey Miller volunteer Sandy Jones. Margaret Myer donated a brick in honor of the center.
The public can attend the free event with reservations. Call the center at 540-667-5869.
Rather than have entertainment at the picnic, Thornton will encourage people to bring their own chairs and at 7:30 p.m. head over to the lawn of the Old Court House Civil War Museum for the Bluemont Concert Series. The July 5 concert is Hard Swimmin’ Fish.
One of the standards for any July Fourth picnic is potato salad, which covers a broad spectrum of recipes, said Lisa Carey, the center’s cook and program director.
For several years, her go-to recipe has been a Pennsylvania Dutch-style potato salad she got from a friend and adapted.
“It has a vinegar base so it has a little tang, but it also has sugar. So you get a sweet and sour blend,” said Carey of Stephens City.
The recipe uses red potatoes, which bring a nice taste and texture to the salad, said Carey. It calls for salad dressing, which needs to be added to the potatoes right after they are cooked and peeled and are still warm so it absorbs.
One of the aspects Carey likes most about the recipe is that it is good warm or cold. Either way, she waits to add the mayonnaise until just before serving, which also cuts down on sogginess.
Although it is not as common a side as potato salad or macaroni salad, broccoli salad is another tasty addition to a July Fourth picnic, Thornton said. She prepares it with bacon, red onion, golden raisins, and a mixture of sugar, vinegar and mayonnaise. For a little crunch, add sunflowers or other nuts.
“You can go into a lot of restaurants and get potato salad or cole slaw,” she said. “Usually you can’t do that with broccoli salad, so that is something you should do at home.”
Her baked bean recipe comes from three different ones she cobbled together while living in Texas. She prefers her baked beans sweet with a bit of a kick, and bacon is a must for flavor.
The sweet comes from molasses, brown sugar, and ketchup. She gears the spiciness level to who is eating the meal. Chili sauce, chopped jalapenos, and hot sauce are some of her preferred methods of adding a little bite.
Her cole slaw is much simpler — a mix of grated cabbage, carrots, and onion with mayonnaise, salt, and white pepper. The recipe came from her mother, Mary Wolfe of Winchester.
Since Thornton’s son doesn’t like vinegar, this cole slaw recipe was a good solution for getting him to eat it, she said.
No picnic would be complete without deviled eggs, which again is one of those dishes that everyone brings their own preferences to, Thornton said.
She likes them to have a tang, so she uses a little mayonnaise, mustard, pickle relish, onion salt, salt, and pepper. Smoked paprika sprinkled on top adds extra flavor and color.
“Lately, my family is really into hot sauce,” she said. “We just add a few drops and it gives it a little kick.”
For another picnic favorite, corn on the cob, the center will boil them July 5 because of the volume they need, Carey said. But if people have time, they also taste good grilled for about 25 to 30 minutes while wrapped in aluminum with butter and salt or still in the husk.
The grill is a good way to prepare vegetables for more nutritional offerings at a picnic, Thornton said. She likes adding vegetables that are in season to the grill. Her favorites are summer tomatoes and Vidalia onions grilled with a little salt and pepper.
For dessert, volunteer Sandy Jones of Winchester has a go-to recipe in a chocolate sheet cake she learned about from a neighbor and adapted. When you need a dessert to feed a large number of people, the recipe is good “if you don’t want to spend all day making it,” she said.
Aside from standard cake ingredients, the recipe’s flavor comes from buttermilk, cocoa, and vanilla. It is a rich, moist cake that is “very chocolaty,” she said. “It is quick and it is good.”
Depending on how hot the day gets, the perfect foil for the heat would also be a bowl of homemade ice cream, she said. “It has a better flavor and you get to actually make it.”
Starting with vanilla as a base, fruit flavors, especially ones in season, keep the ice cream from getting too heavy, she said. She leans toward strawberries or bananas, which she purees and adds to the ice cream.
“If you put chunks in there, it gets really hard,” she said. “You want to mash it up and you still get the flavor.”
The Godfrey Miller Historic Home and Fellowship Center is open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. For more information, contact 540-667-5869 or go to godfreymillerhome.org.
— Contact Laura McFarland at email@example.com