In the Coteau Hills of South Dakota lives a woman named Verna Knapp who wrote and published a cookbook just for the sake of finally getting it all down.
She’d been cooking for so long and had so many ribbons from county and state fairs that she figured the time was right to organize all her hard-won knowledge. “My Recipe Roundup at the Knapp Ranch,” now in its second printing, is what followed: a thick, comprehensive cookbook liberally sprinkled with her sage wit and wisdom.
Knapp still lives on the 111-year-old ranch in One Road Township in Roberts County, S.D. I admire a woman who can make an honest-to-goodness cookbook out of a spattered recipe box and her own spunk. Knapp let me share with you some of her recipes.
You’ll have to order her cookbook to get her stories about life on the windswept, game-filled (and often comical) South Dakota prairies. “I kept it on the lighter side,” she said. “It makes my cookbook special.”
She credits her mother and sisters for fostering a semi-competitive love of cooking and for showing her how to dig for “that little extra effort or knowledge that makes something above the ordinary.”
Feast on the flavors of the season with cranberry-pumpkin muffins like the ones below. (Make sure to use plain canned pumpkin, not pumpkin pie filling, which is pre-seasoned.) Warm, spicy, fragrant muffins take the chill off a frosty morning.
Cranberry Pumpkin Muffins
2 1/4 cup presifted flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/3 cup oil
3/4 cup canned pumpkin
1 1/2 cup raw cranberries, coarsely chopped
Preheat oven to 400 F. Grease muffin cups or use paper liners. Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar and allspice together twice onto waxed paper. In mixing bowl, put oil, eggs and pumpkin; beat only until blended. Add all at one time the dry ingredients; stir until mixture is just blended. Fold in cranberries. Spoon batter into muffin cups, pushing dough down to eliminate open spaces. Fill cups two-thirds full. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from pan; serve warm or cold. Makes 18 to 20 muffins.