A Kitchen for Summer by Pam Crooks

Most of us would find it hard to fathom having two kitchens in our homes.  But many old ranch and farm houses did indeed have two, and any farm or ranch wife would tell you she couldn’t get through her summer canning, pickling, and baking without one.

Hoosier 2
Vintage Hoosier

Often built at the back or side of the house, its purpose was strictly utilitarian.  The main kitchen would likely be the gathering place for the family and had cabinets like any of us could imagine–holding plates, bowls, groceries, etc.  The main kitchen would have a stove, ice box or refrigerator, etc., as well as the family’s dinner table.

The old farm houses from years ago would not have had air conditioning, and so the summer kitchen was intended to keep the heat from bulk food preparation away from the main part of the house.  The summer kitchen would likely have had a ‘mother’s helper’ or more commonly known as a “Hoosier.”  The Hoosier held shelves and drawers and crannies for cookbooks.  The shelves contained bowls, utensils, measuring cups and spoons, spices, flour, sugar, and the like.  Everything a housewife would need to prepare and preserve food for her family.

The summer kitchen would have a stove, likely a sink, and a table or counter top.  They usually had two doors, some more, to open and let fresh air in.  Windows were a must so they could be opened for the same reason.  And oh, the smells that would drift into the yard and down the lane!

Although my Italian grandmother lived in the city, she had a summer kitchen in her old house. She called it simply ‘the back porch’, but it’s purpose was the same. The room was located in the back of the house, beyond the main kitchen (as small as a postage stamp!) and down a short hall.  I remember as a little girl going out there, my memories vivid of the cracked linoleum floor, the pale green walls, and bright, ceiling-high windows.  How my grandmother managed to wash them, I can’t imagine.  She didn’t have a Hoosier, but instead this green metal cabinet which I was fortunate to have as my own now.  (Alas, we keep it in the garage for garage stuff now, but I think of my grandmother every time I walk by.)

In addition to the metal cabinet, she had a nice-sized refrigerator.  Once, I opened it and discovered a package of octopus from the meat market, which totally grossed me out.  She would have boiled the octopus, sliced it, and served it as a salad with olives, oil, lemon juice, and celery and onions. Or she would have simply simmered the boiled octopus in sauce.  Regardless what she did with it, she knew better than to serve it to us kids.  We would have refused to eat it!

Next to the refrigerator was an upright freezer where she kept breaded zucchini blossoms (they are to die for!), homemade bread crumbs, sausage, and Italian bread.  But the main star of the back porch was a big gas stove where she did her canning and prepped foods for freezing.  Over those burners, she roasted hundreds (thousands?) of red peppers, then put them into bags for steaming before peeling and seeding.  I tell you, I bet those walls still hold those smoky, mouth-watering aromas to this day.

Alas, she didn’t have sink, which had to have been inconvenient, but at least the porch was close to her garden–just down a few stairs and a left hand turn outside.  Tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, and onions grew in abundance, all in preparation for their time in the summer kitchen. Mama mia!

 

 

I think if I was a ranch wife, my summer kitchen would be my favorite room in the house – even in winter!

What is your favorite room in your house?  Where do you hang out the most?

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51 thoughts on “A Kitchen for Summer by Pam Crooks”

  1. Good morning Pam. The Hoosier you posted the picture of looks just like mine in my house.
    I too would probably love the summer kitchen. Our living room is our favorite room of the house. Thanks for walking us down memory lane.

    • Good morning, Tonya! Why am I not surprised you have a Hoosier? 🙂 No doubt it fits in perfectly in your country-style home. Do you use it for kitchen-ey items? Or to display other things?

    • Hi, Yvonne! I wonder if it’s a regional thing for folks to call the main room in the house the front room vs the living room.

      I suppose that room was originally the parlor in previous centuries, but we never called the living room the ‘front room’. My mother-in-law, however, always called hers the front room.

      Interesting!

  2. I remember a built-in type of Hoosier in my grandma’s kitchen, the flour coming out of the hanging bin. If my grandma needed an extra “sink” she would use big galvanized pans. I remember there was always a large one with water and a ladle hanging above it.

    That kitchen was modernized and those features lost during the renovation. The extra freezer was in the dugout basement with a dirt floor. An old wringer washer was down there, too. She churned in there, too.

    • Oh, I can just see this, Denise! You’ve described your memory beautifully.

      I can imagine the flour in the hanging bin would be a pain to keep clean – one would have to watch for weevils!! I’ll take my kitchen canisters with their nice tight lids any day!

      My grandmother also had a basement with a dirt floor. Ugh. I was scared to go down there. So dark and dingy. But that’s where she stored her canned goods. It would’ve been hard work to carry those jars from her ‘summer kitchen’ down to that basement!

  3. Pam, I had to laugh at the octopus in the refrigerator. my grandma was a farm girl and I walked into her utility room in their little house in town to find a hog’s head! She used it to make scrapple, which I love, but the reality of it gave me a bad moment.

  4. We had a green cabinet just like your except it was painted white. I am not sure where it is now but I think its in my sister’s building where her husband does woodwork. We have a small bedroom at the back of our house where we keep our computers, so I guess I spend more room in the computer room. That is where I watch my TV shows on Netflix and serf the internet. Husband watched the TV in living room and what he watches is nothing like I would watch.

    • Howdy, Quilt Lady. Besides my kitchen, my favorite room is my office where, like you, I have my computer. I don’t watch TV on it, just do mostly business stuff. And I always seem to have so much to do. 🙂

  5. Good morning! My grandmother’s didn’t have a summer kitchen but they needed one, especially my paternal grandmother. I can’t imagine having a summer kitchen without a sink. Many homes in Mexico have summer kitchens, of a sort, that have a big metal comal over a short chimney looking area that is fueled by wood or charcoal. They do not usually have sinks though. Outside kitchens have become popular again, if you can afford that kind of thing. Grear blog. I enjoyed thinking about my grandmothers and them canning & cooking.

    • Oh how I love my kitchen! I wish I had a summer kitchen as I enjoy baking all year, and I can much of our garden produce. Might be something I suggest when we renovate our home.

      • Oh, a renovation!! Fun!! Remodeling our kitchen and adding a sunroom was the smartest thing we ever did to this house. I, too, enjoy canning and baking – just wish our girls were all still at home so I could do even more of it.

        Thanks for stopping by, Jess!

    • Yes, Steph! Outdoor kitchens have become really popular. The ones that have nice brick retaining walls, high-end grills, a dining area, and shade! We would use an outdoor kitchen alot, but we just don’t have enough yard to do one justice.

      Loved your description of Mexican summer kitchens!

  6. Pam, what a cool post! I love all these historical details that are so “unimportant” they’re lost to history. But this was the stuff of daily living back then, the stuff that brings us closer to our past. Wonderful post and great peep into how our ancestors really lived! You’re so lucky to remember your grandmother’s kitchen from childhood.

    • Thanks, Hebby! It seemed like we visited my paternal grandparents alot – more than my grandkids visit us!! So, yes, these memories are very dear to me.

  7. I have a Hoosier 2 in my kitchen and I love it! I tend to spend more time in my living room than my kitchen these days.

  8. My mother-in-law, deceased now but one of my favorite people in the world, what a sweet lady!, used to talk about canning and laundry in the summer. She did NOT have a summer kitchen and she talked about the heat. Just brutal. Washing clothes by hand. Hot water. And she, the mother of seven sons, had three children born in the fall. So she did all this heavily pregnant.
    Her last two sons were born in July (my husband) and August. She had a washing machine by then. But the canning was the same as always. I’m not sure when air conditioning entered the picture.

    • Oh, and, she didn’t can food because it was a delicious treat. She canned to feed her family. They were NOT well-to-do and that food was often the only vegetables they had. Hundreds of jars of vegetables and possible 200 quart jars of tomato juice alone. She even canned meat…which by the way, is unbelievable delicious. Canned meat is amazing. And all in that brutal heat.

      • She has my everlasting admiration, Mary. And sympathy! I suppose if one never had air conditioning, one would tend to build up an endurance to the heat, but dang. That’s not easy, and taking a couple of showers a day was likely not an option, eh?

        Canned meat requires pressure cookers, and they scare me. But yes, the meat comes out so tender and flavorful. I love my Instant Pot, which is safe and trustworthy for me.

        Thanks for stopping by!

  9. My favorite reading room is my living room, and my office/craft room is my next favorite. I’d love to have a summer kitchen, but it’d have to have A/C, since I’m in Florida!

    • A/C would be a definite must where you life, Trudy! I’ve never had a craft room. What a luxury that would be – never having to put away your ‘supplies’ or your sewing machine. 🙂

      • I make my own cards, and it’s probably going to be more my office! I haven’t gotten it set up yet, I just know that it’s eventually going to be that! Hopefully, within in the next 6 months or so. I wouldn’t have it if Mom was still alive. But, I don’t need two spare bedrooms.

  10. Welcome today Pam. Oh but this must have been wonderful. I can only imagine the memories. How cool to have a summer kitchen like this. Since I still do a lot of canning, I would love that now. Smile. My favorite reading room is in the front room. Where I have a wonderfully comfortable recliner. Both kittens love to sit on or near me. I have some iced tea or hot tea and dive in to the story. quilting dash lady at comcast dot net

  11. My grandmoms house was on a farm. I don’t recall any cabinets. But remember the cast iron stove that she cooked on. They had lots of anaminals. I remember once seeing her kill a chicken in order to have dinner. Still to this day i see the outline of her home.

    • I remember my aunt brought in a crate full of chickens from the farm to my mom once. We lived in the city. I will NEVER forget when my dad chopped off the head, and one of those chickens raced over the lawn like he knew where he was going. He even made a turn around the yard before he finally fell over, but never once did he bump into anything.

      Hahahahahaha! Even now, the memory makes me laugh. So crazy. Us kids were frozen in shock that the chicken could run so fast without its head.

    • I love old houses, Shanna. Some of them are renovated beautifully. Others are rustic enough to help you imagine what it was like to live in them in the previous decades.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  12. Very interesting, Pam. I can just picture your grandmother slaving away with sweat running off her. It was more a job I think than a labor of love back then. She had to put all that stuff up or they’d starve during the winter. Such hard times. This is quite different but I bought a house about 10 years ago that had two kitchens. One end of the long room had a cookstove and ovens and the other end had a large built in grill. There was a sink for each end and the refrigerator was in the center. All that space came in handy for family gatherings. That grill was a pain my backside to clean so we never used it much. I envy you the memories of grandparents. I never knew mine and I felt the loss growing up. Much love.

    • Your former kitchen sounds amazing. We have a large family, so one like that would be perfect for us.

      What a shame you never knew your grandparents. But now with your move, you have an opportunity to make memories as a grandmother to your own grandchildren. That’s a gift, too. I’m happy for you. You made the right decision!!

  13. The house we lived in when I was growing up had been built around the end of the Civil War. It had a summer kitchen that we called the “back room”. The sink remained, and the fireplace, though that was boarded over. We used it as a combo storage room, craft room, and even had an old upright piano in there.

    • A house from the Civil War era? Wow! A summer kitchen would likely have been common then. I can just imagine the fireplace being used with a heavy cast iron pot hanging over the fire. Now that would get hot!

      Thanks for stopping by!!

  14. I spend the most time in the living groom or on the deck. Early morning coffee is always on the deck. I love listening to the birds sing. The Hoosier is awesome! We have our grandparents old ice box and smoking stand. And a coffee grinder too. Your mom worked hard between planting the garden, harvesting the produce, and canning it all! I used to can tomato juice and spaghetti sauce. I loved canning! Now I have a large flower garden. What a heritage you have in your memory bank! Thanks for sharing with us!

    • What a shame you don’t can spaghetti sauce anymore, Kathy. I have the most awesome freezer spaghetti sauce simmered in a crock pot recipe that I would give you. You would love it–SO GOOD!

  15. When I was little my mom had a Hoosier style cabinet in our old kitchen. The flour bin was behind a cupboard door and you turned a handle like a sifter to let the flour come down (at least that’s the way I remember it). My dad built a cupboard with a countertop, storage shelves, and drawers in one end of the room and so Mom took the top off the Hoosier and Dad mounted it on the wall in his workshop in the wagon barn. I don’t remember what happened to the flour bin. I do remember learning to cook on the enameled steel top of the lower part that had become our bake center with its cupboard and drawers that held utensils and baking pans as well as all the ingredients for baking. Thanks for the good memories.

    I laughed about Tracy’s hog head incident. I had two heads soaking in a galvanized wash tub in my kitchen a couple of days after Christmas this year. We do our own butchering and my husband makes headcheese and liver sausage. I usually cook the heads and livers for him. I didn’t think about our grandsons’ reaction to them. Now I wonder what they thought.

    My favorite rooms are our kitchen-dining room and our living room with its cozy fireplace.

    • So much of our lives are centered around the kitchen. It’s my favorite gathering place when my family is over!

      Thanks for stopping by this late in the day, Debra!

  16. Our family room – kitchen combination is pretty much where we live. It has everything we need and we can get to three sides of the house from it.
    The house I grew up in had a summer kitchen. Sadly the people before us remodeled the house and it wasn’t really used. The house had some real possibilities, but my dad wasn’t a handyman, so the wasted spaces on the second floor as well as the summer kitchen were never used. It was a nice little room off the kitchen and had better cabinets than the remodeled kitchen had. It was a typical 1950’s remodel that ruined what was special about an early 1800’s house. Someone said there was a fireplace with a built in oven that they ripped out.

    • Oh, what a shame to destroy the history of the original fireplace like that. But I suppose I get the practicality of it. It sounds like a summer kitchen was enjoyed and used for many years beforehand, though.

      This comment came in really late – or should I say really early in the morning, Pat. You must be a night owl!

      • Guilty. I tend not to get to the computer until 9 or so most nights. I have online meetings today, so am checking a few sites while I wait for them to start. Have a good weekend.

  17. Hi Pam, my favorite room is our living room. My husband does most of the cooking now , he tells me that it is his turn to cook for me. I know he sure would love an old timey wood stove. Have a great weekend and stay safe.

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