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Nothing dumpy about these dumplings

Daughter says recipe tweaked to 'perfection'

Daughter says recipe tweaked to 'perfection'

October 21, 2007|By TIFFANY ARNOLD

BOONSBORO - Place Pauline Reeder's 62-year-old apple dumpling recipe on the list of things that get better with age.

Reeder, 80, of Boonsboro, cooks up dozens of them at a time and sells them for $2 a pop.

It's a recipe she discovered in a 1945 cookbook and, according to her daughter Charlene Jones, has since been tweaked to "perfection." (A Herald-Mail editor said after eating a dumpling purchased from Reeder: "That might be the best apple dumpling I've ever had.")

"She makes the best apple dumplings in Washington County," Jones said.

Reeder said the secret is in picking the right kind of apples. She uses sweet Golden Delicious apples fresh from the fruit stand and fills them with a mixture of sugar, cinnamon and butter and bakes them in a sugary syrup.

They only take an hour to bake. Once they've baked, she pours more syrup over them.

Reeder has four children and is the wife of the late Dennis Reeder, a professional baseball player who was inducted into the Washington County Sports Hall of Fame. He died in 2001.

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"Ever since he died, I get these cooking fits," Reeder said.

She grew up in Washington County during the Depression, when "you ate what you had."

At that time, what you had, Reeder said, might have included pickled watermelon rinds with cinnamon and cloves or jelly made from corn cobs.

"It tastes like apple jelly," she said.

Reeder recently sat down with The Herald-Mail to talk about food and life while making up batches of dumplings in her kitchen.

Q: Where did you learn to cook?

A: Well, my dad worked on the railroad and my mom wasn't home too much and it was four of us girls, and so we had to learn to cook for ourselves when we were young. And then I went to work for Fairchild cafeteria when I was 16. We had to kill chickens, make sauerkraut and make everything there during (World War II).

Q: Were you born and raised here in Boonsboro?

A: Born and raised in Hagerstown. You know you didn't have much money in the late '20s and '30s (during the) Depression. We would make ground-flour potatoes, cook hominy and eat ketchup on it. It's a treat to have hamburger maybe once or twice a month. We had our own cow. Mother (Frances Shank) made her own butter. What we raised in the garden, that's what we lived off of almost. We didn't have big stores like you see now.

Q: Tell me about your own family.

A: I was married twice, the first time to a World War II soldier in 1945. We had four kids - two girls, two boys. (They're now) between the ages 60 to 50. They all have their own homes. I have four grandkids - one boy, three girls. My first husband died, after 32 years (of marriage), of a heart attack. We truck-farmed on South Mountain, raised berries and had a fruit stand. I worked out in the field picking berries. Sometimes I'd carry out 25 crates of black raspberries a day. I had to close after he died. I couldn't do it myself.

I remarried about five years later.

Q: Did any of this cooking rub off on your children?

A: My oldest daughter (Charlene Jones), she does cook ... but then it's things like apple dumplings and baked macaroni and cheese and potato salad that mother makes, when she wants that - potato soup I had to make potato soup yesterday - she can't make it as good as her mother does. Lord knows what she'll do when I die. (I'd have to) make her a big batch up.

Q: She said you make the best (apple dumplings) in Washington County, by the way.

A: Well, in Boonsboro. I don't know about Washington County - that's a big area. According to her, I do (laughing).

Q: How do they taste and how are they different from other recipes?

A: (Golden) Delicious has a different flavor. A lot of apples are tart. These are sweet. You don't have to put much sugar in them.

Q: Does it matter where you get the apples from?

A: I would never buy them at the grocery store. They're expensive anyway.

Q: But it's worth it (to get them from an orchard) if you want good apple dumplings?

A: Right (she says as she heads over to the oven). If you want good apple dumplings ... this one's about ready. You see them? It takes about an hour.

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