The Mexican Fermented Pineapple Soda, From a Cincy Guatemalan Market for a Kentucky Fusion Cocktail

IMG_1616

Who says Cincinnati has no diversity?    I never have.     But you may never experience it if you don’t venture out of your neighborhood.  Two weekends ago I learned how to make real fermented German Kraut from a Belarusian immigrant, Gary Leybman, at his wonderful restaurant The Pickled Pig in East Walnut Hills.   I just tasted it two weeks in and its the best kraut I’ve ever had!    Gary recommended going online to check out instructional videos of  other fermented products.      I’m now a total ferment geek and will never be without fresh kraut.

So one of my classmates did his homework and found a fermented pineapple soda called Tepache that’s very popular in Mexico and has an immense history.     A text of a bourbon-tepache cocktail recipe from my kraut classmate sent me on a treasure hunt.   I had been exploring Price Hill and Fairmont for another project recently, and I noticed a number of Mexican and Guatemalan bodegas, markets and taquerias in abundance there.     So, instead of going to Jungle Jim’s I thought I’d explore them to find Tepache and test my terrible Spanish.

IMG_1617

 

On the way down Lick Run at Quebec, I noticed a Guatemalan market with no name, only an address, in an 1890s Italianate building.     All the product signs in the windows were in Spanish, so I knew I had a chance of finding my soda.   As I parked in the lot, I passed three workers chowing on what looked and smelled like awesome tacos from a Taqueria truck parked outside, talking in Spanish.     I walked in the non-airconditioned market, passing a shelf full of intriguing spicy puffed cheeto-like snacks, all labelled in Spanish.      But that’s an exploration for another time.

I greeted the checkout girl with a friendly “Ola” that she echoed.       Then, I shyly hobbled together a sentence – “Yo quiero una cola de Mexico llamada Tepache.”      She sort of smirked and took me to the cola aisle, which had popular sodas from Mexico, Guatamela, and other Latin American countries.   It was a smorgasbord of wild flavors we don’t have in the U.S.  and most I couldn’t pronounce.   Sure enough, there on the second shelf was my fermented pineapple Tepache.    So I left, armed with my find, eager to taste test the Kentucky-Mexican fusion cocktail with my friend.     The Bon Appetit recipe refers to it as a Bourbon-Tepache cocktail, which means I get to name it.   I dub it the Lick Run Chapito.

inline-Meet-Tepache-Summers-Favorite-Fermented-Pineapple-bottle-composite-720x480

Tepache is very popular soda in Mexico, and although its available commercially, many Mexicans make it at home.   It’s fairly easy.     Taking one pineapple, one cuts off the top and bottom, leaving on the skin and cutting into small chunks.    It’s recommended not to wash the skin as good bacteria and yeast on the outside help with fermentation.    Put this in a fermenting jar with water to cover all the chunks, throw in a few cloves, a cup of Mexican piloncillo sugar, and shake it up to dissolve the sugar.    Other spice variants replace cloves with ginger root and cinnamon sticks.    Piloncillo is pure, unrefined cane sugar commonly used in  Mexican cooking.   It’s sold in cones and has a deep molasses flavor, even though it doesn’t have molasses in it.     Brown sugar is a substitute, but it is made from refined white sugar with molasses added.     Let the concoction ferment for three days and enjoy chilled by itself or with your favorite bourbon and a few dashes of angusturo bitters.    If you let it ferment much longer than four days it will become pineapple vinegar, not what we’re looking for.

aztec.JPG

Tepache dates from pre-Columbian Mexico, as a popular drink among the Nahua people of Central Mexico.   The Aztec word tepiatl, means drink made of corn, as the Tepache was originally made of fermented maize.    There are a variety of commercial brands of Tepache in Mexico.     The brand that I found in Lick Run is made by Frumex Corporation, branded Tepachito, and  contains 10% pineapple juice fermented with the skins, but not made with barley, as some of the other brands use.     Mexicans drink it in the summer chilled by itself, or mixing it 2/3 Tepache with 1/3 lager beer or Hefeweizen.   It also pairs nicely with spiced rum, tequila, or mezcal.

I look forward to enjoying the Lick Run Chapito on the back porch this summer and exploring the abundance of Latin groceries on the West Side.

 

 

The Great Cheese Puff Debate

IMG_1567.jpg
To initiate the holiday weekend and summer picnics, a friend of mine threw a backyard cookout on Friday. This group of friends are all foodies, and everything was amped up. Burgers were fresh ground beef from a beloved local market, served with home made egg buns. There was eggless seitan curry egg salad for the vegans. There was jalapeno bacon potato salad. And there was a German quark cheese dip called Huttenkase mit schnitlauck. The cooler was filled with beers, sours and ciders from local craft breweries. Urban Artifact’s Pickle Beer floated in ice next to Rhinegheist’s Wowie, or Bubbles 2.0, as we like to call it.

simply-cheetos-puffs-white-cheddar-jalapeno.png
One of our saltiest foodie friends admitted freely, not under duress – that he liked the new white cheese jalapeno Cheetos. He also admitted he had eaten squirrel and liked it. This is a guy who will walk out of a microbrewery if he’s served a Kolsch that tastes more like a nut brown ale, and scoffs at LaRosa’s pizza and its over-sweet sauce. And that’s what I like about humanity – the little unexpected idiosyncrasies that defy our known personas and make us human and a little bit wonky. No one could have predicted this confessional from our foodie friend. But it brought all of us cheese puff, Cheeto, and cheese curl lovers out of the closet to begin the Great Cheese Puff Debate.

utszcheese.JPG
So the discussion began. The first item for argument was what form is best to deliver a puffed, cheese flavored crunchy snack – a curl, a ball, or an irregular, stick, like the Cheeto. Full disclosure – I am in the cheeseball camp. I think the curl is too large and irregular and deposits more cheese globules on the inside surface of the teeth. And there’s something very unnatural to me in the crunch of a Cheeto. One friend is convinced that Utz makes the best cheeseball on the market today. And she likes that they come in a huge 35 oz. plastic tub. I stood my ground that the old Eagle Snacks made the best, crunchiest, yet greasiest cheese ball and I have stopped eating them since Eagle snacks left the industry.   Another friend contended that Planter’s had the best cheeseballs, but when they brought them back they weren’t as crunchy and greasy as the originals, so not the original recipe.

There were side conversations about whether it was best to wait till the end of your gorge to lick the Dayglo orange dust off your fingers, or continuously lick during your munchfest. There was also a  challenge to try the new Grippos cheese nibs – so a cheese puff roundup is in order.    By the way I love that Grippos uses the term ‘nibs’ to name their puffed cheese snack – it’s very market distinguishing.

512oIVv8RLL.SX409_SY500_CR,0,0,409,500_PIbundle-12,TopRight,0,0_SX409_SY500_CR,0,0,409,500_SH20_.jpg
We didn’t care that these snacks are heat-extruded, corn based dough with a high glycemic index, way over-salted for our middle-aged body chemistries, and employ unnatural neon orange artificial coloring that has been used to describe our current president. And, although there was no consensus on whose puff, curl, ball or stick was the best – we could all agree that the Cheese puff is a truly American snack that has stood the test of time, and one of which we are proud to enjoy.     Maybe there should be a red-white-and-blue cheese puff for July 4th.

Frank Duveneck – The Accidental Civil War Sutler

 

Photo of Frank Duveneck, 1867, and one of his first canvas paintings, 1860s, perhaps biographical depiction of him as a young boy.

At the beginning of the Civil War, our beloved local painter Frank Duveneck was an impressionable 12 year old boy.   He was living with his stepfather, Joseph Duveneck and mother Mary Siemers, and nearly 8 siblings in Covington, Kentucky.    Joseph was a successful and respected business man, owning two microbreweries that made common ale, and operating a beer garden next to their home.  But, during the Civil War, it was a struggle to keep the beer garden and breweries afloat, as many of the local men were off fighting the war.    And, there were many mouths to feed in their family.     Frank’s early life was well documented by his daughter-in-law Josephine, in her book Painter–Teacher.

Even though Kentucky was neutral, the Duvenecks were Union sympathizers.   Young Frank would run out of the house with a bucket and dipper to quench the thirst of Union troops marching by their house on the way to the front.    To make ends meet, Mrs. Duveneck would bake pies and send Frank to deliver them in his express wagon to the officers at the Union Camp on 18th Street in Covington.   This of course, was before 12 years olds needed livery licenses to operate horse drawn wagons!   We do not know what type of pies Mrs. Duveneck made for the officers, but they must have been good if he was allowed in numerous times. He would exchange them with the officers for coffee and meat for the family.   So, young Duveneck became a camp rat, something that he would reminisce about in his letters to family while he was studying in Munich many years later.    He was fascinated by the characters he met and the activities he could observe of camp lifestyle.   Even though civilians were not supposed to hang around the camp, the officers seemed to be ok with Frank.     How great would it be to have an early camp sketchbook of Duveneck’s from those days?

Another time, Frank and his father, became accidental sutlers to the Confederate side, when accosted on a trip from their second brewery.      Joseph Duveneck owned a small second brewery in a small town, now lost to time, called Volturce, Kentucky, which was about a day’s ride from Covington.    He and Frank would drive their huckster wagon to the brewery every couple of weeks to get fresh supplies, stopping along the way to deliver goods and news to farmers.

One trip, when they were about halfway home, they heard the sound of horses behind them, and were soon surrounded by a band of Confederates.    The leader of this band was none other than John Hunt Morgan, who was on his raid through Kentucky, Indiana, and southwest Ohio.   Joseph pleaded with them to only take his beer, as he had a large family and needed the horses and wagon.      The raiders complied and only took the Duveneck’s beer.     Frank retold the story years later, remembering how decent a man Morgan was, and how fine his horse was.    Unfortunately the Duveneck beer quenched and refreshed these vagabond raiders, causing the involvement of about 20,000 Union Troops either trailing them or guarding against their possible arrival.

There was very little opportunity for artistic pursuits for Frank during the Civil War, except in sign painting.   At the time the larger homes in Covington had brass plates engraved with the names of the inhabitants, often in very artistic script.   Frank would use clay to run up and take impressions of these plaques to make stamps to study their writing.  He had painted a large sign for his father’s beer garden.   In florid script it noted Joseph Duveneck Beer Garden, also depicting a beer mug, a sausage, and a loaf of rye bread.    The butcher who supplied the sausages to the beer garden, was a frequent visitor to the gardens, admired the sign and asked Frank to paint one for his business.   Frank painted a magnificent pig’s head, a chain of link sausages and a forboding butcher’s knife.    Other Covington merchants commissioned Frank to paint signs for their businesses, and he was able to contribute to his family during the war as both a camp sutler and sign painter.

The Antebellum Pork Packing Salt Being Brought Back to Cincy by a Craft Kraut Maker

salt.JPG

 

Over the weekend I  took Pickled Pig’s inaugural Kraut 101 class.    I was excited to learn how to ferment one of my favorite German dishes.     Gary Leybman, the owner, talked about how important using good, unadulterated sea salt is to the flavor and the fermentation.    Most sea salts have anti-caking agents – like aluminosilicate –  and other preservatives that add weird flavor notes and can slow down fermentation.

60612715_2326822697406192_4309644453380882432_n.jpg

Gary Leybman of the Pickled Pig teaching us how to cut our kraut cabbage before salting it.

Gary uses an all natural sea salt with no preservatives from a company called J.Q. Dickinson, in Malden, West Virginia, in the Kanawha River Valley.     They call it a  well-to-jar salt because it’s pumped from a well with access to a 400 million year old ocean underneath the Alleghany Mountains,  called the Iapetus.

The company is owned by brother and sister, Nancy Bruns and Lewis Payne, who are seventh generation descendants of William Dickinson.

Dickinson heard people in Kanawha, Virginia, (it became West Virginia during the Civil War) had been boiling brine from springs to make salt and he bought properties there.    The Native Americans were the first to make salt in the area, when they noticed their horses licking the brine from natural springs.  Dickinson first dug a well for mining this ancient sea salt in 1817 on the farm where Nancy and Lewis now harvest their own Iapetus salt.   By 1850, there were more than a hundred wells along the Kanawha River, producing over three million bushels of salt a year, making it the largest salt producing region in the U.S.    And Malden, West Virginia, on the farm where he made his salt, and where his seventh great grandchildren now make it,  became known as the Salt Capital of the East.

Dr_Dickinsons_Box_and_Pouch_1024x1024.jpg

They even market the nigari –  the mother liquor left after harvesting the salt – as Dr. Dickinson’s Hangover Helper.   The name sounds Japanese, because this is what is used in Japan to coagulate soy during its production.   The liquid is rich in 74 minerals that help revive the body with electrolytes after a night of heavy drinking.

IMG_1437.jpg

Before the Civil War, this Dickinson salt was provided to the over 100 pork and meat packers of Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky, who used it to cure their hams, salt pork, and bacon.    With the Kanawha being a tributary to the Ohio and the Mississippi Rivers, it was fast steamboat trade to Cincinnati and as far away as New Orleans.    Kanawa salt was marketed as adding better flavor to meats, curing it faster, and an insurance against souring and spoiling.   Before Cincinnati meat makers were curing bacon with Grippos potato chip spices, they were curing it with Dickinson Salt.    It was the salt industry that lead to the coal and later natural gas industries that built our nation.

saltwors.jpg

J. Q. Dickinson is only about a three hour drive from Cincinnati and offers tours of their salt making facility.    They also host monthly farm-to-table dinners from some of the amazing restaurants in the area.    And William Dickinson even shows up in period garb to tell the story of his business.  So I am headed there this summer for a weekend to taste the fresh wonders of West Virginia and its cuisine.

An Old Italian Sandwich Vendor and the Creepiest Statue in Sacred Heart Church

 

This morning I visited Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Camp Washington.    Its school lunchroom next door is the scene of a beloved 108 year old ravioli and spaghetti dinner.   The handmade spinach ravioli they serve are delicious pockets of joy. They’re the last remnant of a once massive Cincinnati Italian community who started Italian immigrant food businesses like Pasquale’s and LaRosa’s Pizza, and Caproni’s and Scotti’s Restaurants.  People wait in line for up to an hour just to taste this local Italian delicacy twice a year.

Today I was there not to gorge spinach ravioli, but to photograph the murals painted above the altar in 1893 by German immigrant artist Edward Heinemann.   At that time the church ministered to a mostly German immigrant congregation.    The Italian Sacred Heart Church on Broadway merged with this German congregation in Camp Washington in about 1969.   While photographing the paintings I was stopped in my tracks by the creepiest statue I have ever seen.     At first glance the female saint looks like any normal statue.  She holds a palm frond in her right hand and is dressed in the robes of an early Christian martyr.   That’s all cool until you realize in her other hand she holds a plate with two human eyeballs.    Gradeschool religion classes taught me that there were some pretty gruesome martyrdoms, but this statue should have had a warning.   My sister makes great bloody hard boiled egg eyes with olives inserted for retinas at her Halloween parties.   These reminded me of them.   It was startling.

I’d never seen this representation of a saint so had to find out who she was.   But then I noticed an interesting plaque at the foot of the pedestal on which she was standing.   It didn’t ID her, but was inscribed “In Memory of Sam Gatto, from the Employees of the Cincinnati Post.”   Ok, I was sure there was a great story behind this, and like a clue from a Dan Brown novel, I knew exactly where to look.

I first learned she was St. Lucy – or Santa Lucia to the Italians.    She was a rich Sicilian girl, who gave all her money to the poor, vowed to be a virgin and was tortured by the gouging of her eyes by Emperor Diocletian for being a Christian, and refusing to marry a pagan suitor in about 300 AD.   She is the patroness of the blind and those with eye ailments.  She’s also the patroness of authors and journalists, so an appropriate choice from the employees of the Cincinnati Post.   The faithful pray to her for cures of eye ailments and for pure thought, which journalists today should continue to heed.   Her saint’s day is December 13, and Italians celebrate by not eating bread on this day.

I like the Scandinavian version of her much better.   In Sweden, she’s a beautiful blonde in a white gown, wearing an evergreen crown with lit candles.   A young girl usually dresses as her, carrying a plate of goodies to be passed out (mostly iced cardamom buns) with a host of other girls and boys serenading.   But leave it to the Italians to be more maudlin with their representation.

Of course the day – January 20, 1954 – when the statue was hoisted into place at the now demolished  Italian Sacred Heart Church on Broadway, the Post had an article about Sam and this tribute to him.    The subline read, “Old Sam Gatto was a stubby old Italian sandwich vendor who never did much for the world except love everybody.  If he liked one type of person more than another, he especially like the people who worked for newspapers.”

At the time of his death, Sam Gatto was a widow, without any children, living at the Browne Hotel on Sixth and Elm Streets, and attended mass at Sacred Heart.   Fr. Louis Bolzan, the pastor of the church, had a close connection with St. Lucia.   The church in his hometown in Italy was named for her.  Before coming to Sacred Heart he built the St. Lucia Church in Chicago.    I wonder if there’s a creepy eye-holding St. Lucia statue there too.    So when the Post employees came to Fr. Bolzan for a suggestion of a statue tribute, he already had the perfect choice.   And, what a testament to this Sam Gatto that in less than a month after his death on New Years Eve 1954, a collection was taken, a statue purchased, placed and dedicated to him.

Sam Gatto was born in Cincinnati in 1873, to Italian immigrant Gianni Gatto.   Like Buddy LaRosa’s father and grandfather, Gianni Gatto was a fruit vendor at one of the many public markets in downtown Cincinnati, probably the Fifth Street Market.   Sam started his career as a manager of a plumbing supply company.  But for over twenty years Gatto operated a lunch room at 218 Post Square, across from the offices of the Cincinnati Post Newspaper.    So, his lunchroom became a hangout for newsies.   He gave them beer and meals on credit, gave them the run of the cash register, and gave them lectures when needed.     Known as “Gat” and “The Unofficial Mayor of Post Square,”  his lunchroom became known as Paddle Casino, because he made his customers write IOUs on the wooden paddles or spoons he served with the ice cream.   There were several articles about his positive attitude – after being burglarized numerous times – and his generosity – in some cases trusting customers to lock up at night and help themselves after he left to finish their games of dominos.

Two days after his death a morning High Requiem Mass was said at St. Xavier downtown, not at Sacred Heart, because it was closer to his ‘family’ at the Post.  Without any kids, he gave his estate to his two nieces Virginia and Catherina, and a goddaughter.    The Post article said, “Looking at it (the statue) made you feel pretty good.   Except that a lot of people were going to see that statue years from now and not know who Sam Gatto was.”   When the Italian congregation moved from the Broadway church to Camp Washington in 1969, they brought two pieces of art – the Mural of Italian Immigrants painted in 1933 by Italian-Chicagoan Angelo Cangelosi (which hangs in the dining hall of the ravioli dinners) and the creepy eyeball-holding statue in memorium to Sam Gatto.

 

The Delhi Cheese Dip of the Area’s Pioneer Dairymen From Baden

schnittlauch-huettenkaese-mit-gemuese-sticks-43491

Cottage cheese dip – known as Huttenkuse mit schnittlauch in Switzerland and Alsace Lorraine- cottage cheese with chives.

When Klawitter’s Restaurant and Beer Garden in Delhi was demolished in 1974, the Enquirer referenced an interesting German dish.   “Klawitter’s is gone now, along with evenings of good German music and beer.   No more cottage cheese with schnitlock (top of green onion) from the restaurant.”      We have heard about the many German taverns of Over-the-Rhine, but its rare to get a glimpse of what a ‘country’ German Cincinnati tavern’ looked like at the turn of the century.   When I saw this I thought I had uncovered a forgotten culinary gold mine.   Was cottage cheese mit schnitlock the West Side’s version of Kentucky Beer Cheese, or the south’s Pimento Cheese.      Could we reinvigorate a long forgotten regional German-Cincinnati Cheese dip?   Thanks to the amazing Delhi Historical Society and their features on the tavern, and some online sleuthing I was able to find out.

klawitter

In front of Klawitter’s Tavern, 1895. On horse is Henry Reimerink, Kate Kuper Klawitter (Proprietress), baby is Clara Miller, Theresa Reimerink-Miller Alyward, Anna Miller, Eduard Klawitter (Proprietor), dog, Joseph Klawitter, John Barnhorst, Herman Nutter (note the wooden shoes Nutter is  wearing, worn by the many floral gardeners of Delhi – consider them the German ‘crocs’ – and probably made by Valentin Bestil, a manufacturer of wooden shoes in Delhi in 1900)

Klawitters had been an iconic place for Delhi residents since 1895 when Eduard Klawitter and Katie Kuper Klawitter purchased it in 1895 from John and Lillie Brune.  It was right across the street on Neeb road from Our Lady of Victory Catholic Church, the first German Catholic Church on the West Side of Cincinnati.   So every kid who went to school at OLV knew it as a place to get candy or a ham sandwich after school.   Their fathers knew it as a place to get a cold Hudepohl beer, get hardware they needed, or catch up on the local news.    It was like a grocery, hardware store, department store, saloon, and party hall rolled into one.

 

The French-Bauer Dairies were in Delhi, where The Farm Reception Hall is on Anderson Ferry today.

It’s not so far fetched that Delhi would have a cottage cheese dip, given all the German dairymen who farmed in the hills that bordered the Ohio River.    In 1900 in Delhi, there were the dairies of Joseph Witsken, Joesph Behne, George Brosse, Henry Broxterman, Anthony Burhmann, Wilhelm Duebber, Gerhard Fennon, Fred Hunsicker, William Krebs, Henrich Wiegaus, and August Wuellner, to name a few.     The dairy farmers used the spent grain from the breweries of Over-the-Rhine to feed their dairy cows.    It was carted onto the Price Hill incline and loaded up the hill and transported by wagon to the farms of Delhi.

They all made cottage cheese, and there were plenty of wild onions growing on their farms to chop into chives to herb the cottage cheese.     The cottage cheese must have been amazing – before pasteurization requirements,  brewery grain-fed, and free range.   The herbed cottage cheese would have been well known to the Delhi residents from lower Baden, which borders Switzerland and the Alsace Lorrain region of France, where I found that Huttenkase mit Schnittlauch is sold and enjoyed today.

 

 

The variety of brands of herbed cottage cheese – Hutenkase mit Schnittlauch – found today in Switzerland, Baden and Alsace Lorraine.

Berta Myers, a Delhi native farmgirl, wrote her recollections of her family providing cottage cheese to Klawitter’s Tavern from 1908-1917:

“During the summer months every Monday and Thursday was spent preparing the produce raised on the farm for marketing. …Mom took a wagon load of vegetables, fruits, eggs, butter, cottage cheese and buttermilk to our closest suburb, a three-mile trip. One of Mom’s customers was a woman who, with her husband ran a saloon. We’d arrive around noon and sometimes Mom would get ham sandwiches for our lunch. Big slabs of fresh rye bread and layers of delicious ham for a nickel.”

klawittertavern.JPG

While adults could drink Hudepohl beer, kids had a choice of three drinks: mineral water, white or red Dewey, and sarsaparilla.    The Klawitters added a party barn, where many wedding receptions were held, and a bowling alley.    One unfortunate man, John Reimerink, met his death at the end of a ten pin to the skull, from his brother-in-law in front of the tavern.

mrsfrank.JPG

Mrs. Frank, chief cook at Klawitter’s Restaurant in the 40s and 50s.

A Mrs. Frank was the chief cook and caterer for Klawitter’s Restaurant and the party barn in the 40s and 50s, who proliferated the cottage cheese and schnittloch they served. It’s not known if she or her family were from lower Baden, or maybe she just continued a long standing tradition of the area.

I think  the Crow’s Nest should bring back the old Delhi Dip – huttenkase mit schnitlauch – and add it to their menu.

 

White Zinfandel – The “Secret” to Fr. Angelo Caserta’s Century-Old Italian Supreme Sauce

ceciliabrendel.jpg

A painting of Fr. Caserta by artist Cecilia Brendel, who painted interiors of St. Boniface Church in Piqua, Ohio, and Incarnation in Dayton, Ohio.

It’s not too many priests who have the opportunity to serve for over 70 years, and even fewer who live to be over 100 years old.    Even fewer are known for their secret Sicilian pasta sauce that comes from an over 100 year old family recipe.    Some say the sauce is even better on pizza than pasta.   That is the legacy of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati’s oldest priest, Fr. Angelo Caserta, who passed away yesterday at 100 years, five months.      But, for someone whose life was devoted to serving, there are really no secrets.   He lovingly shared his recipes (below) for the sauce, meatballs, and other delicious recipes for which he was famous.

The secret to his sauce:  white zinfandel – the needed sweet acid so many forget to add.   And, the secret to his meatballs:  Old Bay seasoning, anise seeds, and Bob Evans spicy sausage.

fr.casertamakingmeatballs

Fr. Caserta rolling the meatballs.

Angelo Caserta grew up in a very Sicilian, very devoutly Catholic family, with 10 other siblings, son of Charles Caserta and Nunciatina “Nancy” Cipriano.   When Caserta’s father, Charles came through Ellis Island from Messina, Sicily,  they told him to change his first name from Carmello to Charles.   He met his wife, also from Sicily (Palermo), in Piqua, and in 1916-ish they started the Charles Caserta Restaurant, still in business in Piqua, Ohio, at 331 South Roosevelt, two blocks from their ancestral home on Wood Street.

After graduating valedictorian in 1936 from Piqua Catholic High School, he worked for his father’s restaurant, store, and catering business.   Here he learned the art of dealing with people, and how to make the wonderful Sicilian dishes he shared with thousands of people over his 70 years.

 

Charles Caserta’s Restaurant in Piqua, Ohio, today.

He was called away from the sauce in 1937 and spent four years studying philosophy at St. Gregory Seminary in Mt. Washington, and then four years of theology at Mt. St. Mary in Norwood.    The Archbishop of Cincinnati chose him to study two more years in Rome, where all classes were taught in Latin, and he was ordained a diocesan priest by Archbishop McNicholas, on February 24, 1945, only a few months before World War II ended.

He first taught math to students at St. Gregory Seminary, and then served administrative duties, until becoming Dean.   He was assigned pastor in 1970 of St. Lawrence Church in Price Hill until 1984, and then was back at his home parish of St. Boniface in Piqua, where he served until he ‘retired.’

A record of someone’s healing through prayer with him in life has been recorded.   Another record of healing attributed to him in life or after life, could make Fr. Caserta eligible for sainthood.     He was out of town and he and a female parishioner, who was diagnosed with a rare form of cervical cancer, prayed together on the phone after her second operation for God’s healing.   She remembers, “I broke out in a sweat and I felt like I was talking to God. Father said that he would not be surprised if the cancer was gone.” The doctor was amazed to find out that the cancer was completely gone.

Fr. Angelo Caserta will be remembered by the thousands of parishioners in the Archdiocese  of Cincinnati – from Piqua to Price Hill – whom he fed with his counsel and his pasta sauce.

fr.caserta

 

Fr. Caserta’s Italian Supreme Pasta Sauce
Everyone who makes pasta sauce feels that he or she has the best recipe. The difference lies in the kinds and amounts of ingredients used in making the sauce. This is Father Caserta’s secret:
1 can (28 oz.) crushed tomatoes
1 can (28 oz.) diced tomatoes
6 oz. can tomato paste
3 tbsp. garlic powder or minced garlic
3 tbsp. onion powder
3 tbsp. basil
2 tbsp. oregano
1 cup fresh parsley
1 diced medium onion
6 oz. extra virgin olive oil
6 oz. of a semi sweet wine (like zinfandel)
Cook on low to medium low heat for at least 4 to 6 hours. (Diced green peppers and sliced mushrooms are optional, but highly recommended. If using mushrooms first sauté them in olive oil for 15 minutes.) Use of mixed Italian spices not recommended!
Meatballs
Meatballs could be ½ pork sausage and ½ ground round or sirloin, or all-beef, or all-sausage; the all sausage meatballs seem to many the best! yet to others the ½ and ½! yet to others the all-beef. When using sausage (hot or regular) Bob Evans is highly recommended. For best results:
2 lbs. of one of the above meat options
1 egg
10 oz. (by volume, not weight) parmesan cheese
2 tsp Old Bay spice
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tbsp onion powder
½ tsp pepper
(Optional 2 tsp anise seeds or powder)
No bread crumbs used (the Italians used bread because of the high price of meat!). Before putting meatballs in the sauce, bake in the oven for 15 minutes at 350°; place in sauce about 1 hour before serving (by cooking any longer meatballs lose much of their flavor). Enjoy!
If you make your own pizza or if you buy frozen pizza, try some of the above sauce on it!

 

The German Stone Mason Who Built Cincinnati’s Lager Beer Cellars

IMG_0480.jpg

If you’ve taken one of American Legacy’s Underground tours or the Brewery District tours, you have probably been amazed at the size and workmanship of the lager cellars below ground in Over-the-Rhine.    You can’t imagine the amount of sweat and brawn required by a team of men to first dig out a cellar and then lay the arched stonework that is still standing over 150 years later.    These craftsman knew well what they were doing and were worth their weight in gold to the brewers of Cincinnati Lager beer.   This was especially true in the 1850s when Cincinnati was going through an evolution of taste from English style ales and porters to German style lagers and pilsners.      The new German immigrants wanted lighter, crisper lagers and pilsners they loved from their homeland, not the dark, heavy ales of their Anglican neighbors.

Although many of the men on these teams remain anonymous, we are lucky to know the name of the man who is responsible for designing and building the majority of these lager cellars.   His name is Andrew Behm and he was a Germanic immigrant from Lower Franconia, near Bavaria.   He travelled with fellow countryman Andrew Noll to Philadelphia, in 1840, arriving in Cincinnati with him in 1848.     Noll built his brewery on Vine Street (on the site that would later become Suder’s Art Store, next to the People’s Theatre) in December of 1849, credited with being the first lager brewery in Cincinnati, (at least by his son, but there are other contendors of being the first lager brewer in Cincy).

Behm built the lager cellars for Noll’s brewery as a journeyman mason.    Unfortunately the brewery only lasted a few years, but Behm saved money and incorporated himself, and continued to build the lager cellars for most of the major lager breweries in Cincinnati, namely Moerlein and Kauffman, until his death in 1876.    He also got contracts for the above ground portions of the breweries.      Behm employed scores of other Germanic immigrant stone masons and made it possible for them to create a good life for their families.   The value of Behm’s estate at his death was $40,000, a pretty sizable sum for a stone mason in 1876.

Noll went to Louisville after the demise of his Over-the-Rhine brewery and started the City Brewery.  His son Charles moved to Lancaster, Ohio, in 1877 to operate the Becker Brewery.  Charles’ son, Herbert took over the operation of Becker after Charles’ death, but sold out right before Prohibition, moving to Alabama, and then New York, where in 1933 he gathered investors to open the New Amsterdam Brewery in Queens.

A lager cellar, prior to ammonia refrigeration, had to be able to be big enough to hold a large quantity of ice and keep a  consistent dry  temperature of 32-48 degrees F to allow the bottom fermenting lager yeast to make alcohol.     Consistent brews were a product advantage in an increasingly competitive Cincinnati lager market.     The cellars also had to have venting to take the carbon dioxide out of the cellars to street level to not asphyxiate the brewery workers.   It’s these street level metal vents in the old building of Over-the-Rhine area that have allowed new owners to recognize the existence of hidden lager cellars.   It’s a testament to Behm’s engineering and building prowess that we can still safely marvel at these cellars on tours a century and a half later.

Andrew didn’t stop at laying stone.   He was a very active Democrat, serving in the 1860s as councilman for Ward 12 – the West End by his York Street home.    He was nominated to be an Ohio state representative for the Hamilton County District, served as County Commissioner, and served on boards related to the Cincinnati Public Works, arbitrating on contracts for building of the city’s stone water towers and reservoirs, like Eden Park’s.

His legacy of building passed on to his son and grandsons.   In 1880 his son’s company Behm and Durm,  got the contract to build a stone wall outside the Franklin Brewery on Lebanon Road.     And Andrew’s three grandsons, Andrew, Walter and Harry were general contractors for the building of Crosley Field in 1912.

What Do Victorian Cyclists and Punjabi Muslims Have in Common?

maxresdefault

What do English Victorian-era cyclists and Punjabi Muslims have in common?  I know it sounds like a “….walks into a bar” joke.     No, it’s not colorful, skin tight spandex.    It’s not super-long handlebar-y moustaches or facial hair.     It’s actually a drink used for hydration that both seemingly unconnected groups have been drinking since the 1870s – milk and soda water.   Or they’ve been drinking variations on that theme, milk and mineral water, or sweet cream and tonic, Vichy, or sodas.

I know what you’re thinking, “That sounds nasty – who would ever think of mixing milk and soda water.”   But if you think of the properties of milk – soothing to the stomach and protein rich; and soda water, healthy, clean and refreshing.    Also consider this drink the grandfather to the American phosphate soda, the ice cream soda, the brown cow (and other cows), and finally the ice cream sundae.

In Pakistan and Punjabi regions of India, Muslims observe an all day fast during the month of Ramandan.   Man, Catholics think they have it bad to observe meatless Fridays during Lent.    But imagine not being able to even drink water during the day!    Talk about been Hangry and even Thangry (angry thirsty).    So observant Muslims have devised a drink they call doodh soda, which mixes either 7 up or Sprite with milk in about a 50/50 ratio that they drink at sundown to quench their thirst from the day’s fast.   Sprite and 7 up are considered digestive aids in Pakistan and India.    Some mix  the cream or milk with a regional bright green, super sweet citrusy-vanilla cola called Pakola.    Think of the Pakola doodh as a Green Cow.   Aside from quenching the Ramandan thirst, these drinks are served to help cool the spiciness of Punjab cuisine outside of the holy month.    And Indians and Pakistanis alike consider doodh soda healthier than just plain soda.

It was thought that the lassi, probably the world’s first smoothie,  was the grandfather to this Pakistani tradition, which was developed centuries ago in Punjabi regions.     It’s a creamy drink made of yogurt, spices like coriander and ginger, fruit juices or fruit pulps, and sometimes water.      It can be savory or sweet, but either is delicious.   Mango lassi is popular in Indian restaurants in the U.S.   My neighborhood Indian cafe, –  Baba in Oakley – whose cooks are Punjab, serves up mango lassis.

There’s another Indian drink related to the lassi, called chaas (and other names regionally) which uses a thinner yogurt – dahi – without the butterfat, and adds water to dilute with spices.   This is probably more similar to the doosh soda of Pakistan than the lassi.

But Pakistani food writers like Majid Sheikh,  have connected the doodh soda’s heritage to their English colonial oppressors and their love of cycling.    Aha – another food of oppressors like the Franzbrotchen of northern Germany.   (see   https://dannwoellertthefoodetymologist.wordpress.com/2018/01/02/the-franzbrotchen-a-pastry-of-northern-germany-born-from-napoleonic-occupation)

After a grueling race, Victorian era cyclists would cool off with a beer, but found the result a feeling of heaviness.   So doctors recommended they drink carbonated water.   Some were put off by the taste of soda water so they added milk or sweet cream and found a drink that became wildly popular.      When they brought it to India during the colonial period, the Indians already were familiar with their creamy lassis and chaas, and loved the carbonation.      As modern sodas were created regionally and brought from the West in the late 1940s in India and Pakistan, the doodh soda became more like what we might call a “Cow” in the U.S., although without ice cream.

All the origin stories of the birth of the ice cream soda in the U.S. start with a milk or cream based drink and phosphate soda.    After the Civil War soda fountains started popping up all over the U.S., and doctors touted the benefits of phosphate and soda waters.    Soda jerks mixed phosphate or soda water with fruit pulps and syrups to create refreshing drinks.   I always loved a raspberry phosphate at Graeters – where the acidic phosphate literally burning your tonsils with its ph of 2, created a refreshing sensation.

The man credited with inventing the ice cream soda at an exhibition in Philadelphia in 1874, Robert Mccay Green, was said to have run out of sweet cream at his soda fountain, but had access to ice cream, and started serving customers what became the ice cream soda.

Then march in  the Temperance folks.   When pharmacists like Dr. John S. Pemberton were formulating new American soft drinks like Coca-Cola (with cocaine originally), they touted them as tonics to cure headaches, fatigue and other ailments.   The Temperance movement thought that those consuming large amounts of soda water or soft drinks were at a moral failing, using them as ‘medicine’.     So, soda jerks would not sell sodas on Sunday, the Lord’s day.   But they didn’t want to lose sales of ice cream, so they created a dish without the fizz, but will all the syrups and toppings – something even more decadent – and called it the ice cream sunday – later spelled sundae.

And then, when soft drinks became the mainstream soda jerks and ice cream parlors started mixing them with ice cream to form the family of colored ice cream “cows” or soda floats we all love- the brown cow (ice cream plus root beer),  pink cow (red cream soda),  black cow (coke), purple cow (grape soda), orange cow (Orange Crush), the Boston cooler (Vernor’s Ginger Ale), the green cow (Mountain Dow or other green cola) and even our local Nectar soda (ice cream plus nectar syrup, or nectar soda, in New Orleans).

So the next time you enjoy a float, a sundae, a phosphate, or a lassi, you can thank a sweaty dehydrated English cyclist with a curly handlebar moustache.

The Cincinnati Beer of One of the Haymarket Anarchists at the Bellevue House “Eight Hour Picnic”

image-placeholder-title

Lithograph of the Chicago Haymarket Riot, May 4, 1886.

Today, May 4, marks the anniversary of the Haymarket Riot in Chicago in 1886.   This riot is considered the foremost event in world labor rights history, as well as the first act of U.S. domestic terrorism.     The year 1886 was a tumultuous one for the working class, who in solidarity with brothers and sisters across the U.S. were marching and striking on May 1 to gain an 8 hour day with fair pay.    Their meeting places in cities like Cincinnati, St. Louis, New York City, and Chicago were the German neighborhood beer halls and saloons, where most of the U.S. urban working classes lived, cramped in tenement houses.  Most workers in America at the time worked grueling 12 and 14 hour days in terrible working conditions for low pay.   It was this year that the concept of “the weekend” was created with these strikes and protests.

That year workers unions had gathered near Haymarket Square in Chicago’s West Loop on May 4 at 8:30 PM to protest a police interaction at a labor protest the day before at the McCormick Reaper Plant, that had ended in the death of six workers.

Anarchist and editor of the Chicago Workingman’s paper The Alarm,  Albert Parsons invited everyone at the end of the speeches to meet at Zeph’s hall, a block north for a beer, probably a Schoenhofen, brewed in Chicago by that time on large scale, by Prussian immigrant Peter Schoenhofen.     Parsons and his wife, Lucy and two children left the rally early and were enjoying a beer at Zeph’s when they heard the explosion of the bomb at the Haymarket that killed eight Chicago policeman and an undetermined number of civilians.    Although he couldn’t have thrown the bomb, Albert Parsons was convicted of murder, along with seven others involved in the planning of the Haymarket affair, and he was hanged in 1887.   He and his comrades were immortalized by Diego Rivera in his murals at the Palace of Justice in Mexico City, which I had the pleasure of seeing last year.

Albert_Parsons_portrait

Albert Parsons, executed for murder in the Haymarket Riot.

Albert had just returned the morning of the Haymarket Riot from Cincinnati, where he addressed a crowd of 8000 workers at the Bellevue House.   In his memoirs written before his execution he writes,

“The Labor organizations of Cincinnati Ohio decided to make a grand Eight-Hour demonstration & street parade & picnic on Sunday May 2nd (at the Bellevue House at the top of the Bellevue incline, now Bellevue Park in Clifton) in commemoration of the 8-hour work-day. On their invitation I went there to address them & left Chicago on Saturday, May 1st for that purpose. Returning on Monday night I reached Chicago on the morning of Tuesday May 4th, the day of the Haymarket meeting.”

Cincinnati workers unions had already staged a May 1 parade in solidarity with their working brothers and sisters around the country.    Another noted socialist Oscar Ameringer wrote about his involvement in the first Cincinnati workingmen’s parade that year:

“The organization I had joined was a branch of the Deutsche Holz Arbeiter Verein—German wood-workers‘ union—affiliated with the Knights of Labor. The wood-workers’ union was an industrial, or vertical, union. It embraced all wood-workers with the exception of basket weavers and wooden-shoe makers. The membership was almost exclusively German and seasoned with a good sprinkling of anarchists. Prior to the first of May, 1886, when the eight-hour-day strike was to be launched, there had been groups of older or more militant members manufacturing bombs out of gas pipes. All of us expected violence, I suppose.

Too young to be admitted to the inner circle, I had converted a wood rasp into a dagger, in anticipation of the revolution just around the corner. The prelude to the revolution was the May Day parade in which I marched, bloody upheaval in heart and dagger beneath my coat tail.  Only red flags were carried in that first May Day parade, and the only song we sang was the “Arbeiters Marseillaise,” the battle cry of the rising proletariat. Even the May Day edition of the Arbeiter Zeitung was printed on red paper. Testifying further to the revolutionary intent of the occasion, a workers’ battalion of four hundred Springfield rifles headed the procession. It was the Lehr und Wehr Verein, the educational and protective society of embattled toil.

Unfortunately for the pending revolution, the forces of law and order in the city made no attempt to interfere. ….And so we just marched and marched and sang and sang, until with burning feet and parched throats we distributed our forces among the saloons along the line of march where we celebrated the first victory of the eight-hour movement with beer, free lunch, and pinochle.”

The free lunch of these workingman socialists was probably a Cincinnati wienerwurst and a pickle, as the now famous image of Vine Street saloons documents.   And the beer they drank was a function of what saloon along Vine they stopped.

The parade on May 3 in Cincinnati was a huge one made up of three units that joined in along the parade route.       Workers marched from the Central Turnhall on Walnut Street near 13th Street to Court Street, west to Central, south to 7th, east to Main Street, North to 12th, west to Vine Street, north to McMicken and the foot of the Bellevue Incline.

The first unit was made up of the Carpenters’, the Fresco Painters’, the Cigar Makers’, Plumbers’, Journeymen Bakers’ and Harness Makers’ Unions.    They were met at Court Street by the Typographers, Moulders, and Upholsterers.  And finally, the third phalanx, made up of Beer Brewers, Tailors and the Rhinephalz Men’s Choir joined at Elm Street.    The West End Turners decided not to march because they didn’t want to be so closely associated with anarchists and any violence that might ensue.     But all the May Day activities in Cincinnati were well controlled and no rioting or violence broke out.

IMG_1024

Cincinnati Union Member’s parade ribbons like those worn in the original Cincinnati May Day parades.

Each union wore their union ribbons and held signs in English and German touting the need for 8 hour work days.     The workers of the tenement houses along the parade route also decorated their windows in red ribbons of the socialist workers movement.

 

Banners in German and English, from the parade that were shown in the Cincinnati Enquirer.

W. B. Ogden a member of the local typographer’s union spoke to the Bellevue House crowd saying,  “The capitalist in Cincinnati lives in his fine house on the hill.   The laborer lives in a hovel where the darkness can be handled and the stench cut with a knife.”

When Albert Parsons got up to speak, he stood atop a beer table.    He said, “The twelve hour man gets up at 5:30 AM, with broken slumber, dirty, ignorant, and stinking, drinks some steeped over coffee and with a dinner bucket with a few scraps of bread, goes to work. .. The eight hour man is emancipated, the twelve hour man is in slavery…. The working man is at last asking for these rights, and by the gods, we intend to have them!”

Bellevue%20House.jpg

Even though it was Sunday and Cincinnati’s blue laws prevented Sunday drinking, Parsons shared none other than a Moerlein lager with his audience at the Bellevue House beer garden that day, the exclusive beer served at the hilltop resort.

 

Zeph’s Hall left in the Haymarket day, and right today.

The only remaining building of the Haymarket era in Chicago is the former Zeph’s Hall, which is now owned by the Grand Stage Lighting Company.    The third floor hall where the Haymarket eight and hundreds of other union members and socialists met is in tact and there were plans for it to be made into a Labor Museum.

Moerlein doesn’t have a beer named after Parsons, but the Haymarket Brewery in Chicago, near where the riot occurred,  has one named after Parsons’ wife, Lucy, called Lucy’s Belgian Style Abbey Triple.   They also have a Belgian Ale named after Oscar Neebe, called Oscar’s Pardon.   Neebe was a Chicago Northside Turner and founder of the Beer Brewers and Maltsters Union # 1 of Chicago, and one of the Haymarket eight who was pardoned.