She’s never in a pickle in the kitchen

Published 8:48 am Thursday, February 11, 2010

WINDSOR—For someone who couldn’t cook when she got married, Lorene Johnson has more than redeemed herself.

The Windsor resident taught herself so well that at age 77, she is still called on to help friends and family with that special dinner, and even now, has her entire family, which is quite large, for dinner on Thanksgiving and Christmas.

In addition to that, up until just a few years ago she was a member of the Windsor Woman’s Club, where she “was always chairman of the ways and means committee, as well as head of the cooking brigade.”

Johnson left school and married when she was only 15. She said she had to learn to cook pretty quickly.

“I really didn’t learn much when I was growing up, because mama said I made too much mess in the kitchen.

“But when I started to cook I found that I liked it. I’d ask different people how to make different things. Then I’d put my own touch on it.

“I experimented a lot,” she said, remembering with a laugh.

“Take my fresh apple cake, for instance. The recipe came from my Aunt Ruby and I just jotted down the ingredients when she gave them to me.

“But when I first started making it, the raisins all settled on the bottom.

“Then I found that if you put the raisins in a little warm water for a few minutes, it plumps them so they will be better distributed through the cake batter.

And when I bake it, I put a pan of water on the rack underneath. It makes a more moist cake.”

The active great grandmother, who worked for 35 years, while, with her late husband, Raymond, raising four children, says they all praise her cooking.

“They say I make the best chicken salad, but the only thing I do different s to include my homemade sweet cucumber pickle,” she said.

Two things Johnson did learn from her mother, however, was how to sew, which is her hobby, and to “put up” food for the coming winter.

“I remember seeing her can vegetables, of course, but she also canned meats. After a big hog killing on our farm, she’d cook pork tenderloins in gravy, then fill and process the jars like she did the vegetables.

“It was such a treat on a cold, snowy day. We’d have pork tenderloin — tasted just like fresh.”

Today, Johnson cans vegetables and makes several kinds of pickle like her mother did.

“I think home-cooked foods are so much better than those from the supermarket,” she said.

Name: Lorene B. Johnson

Age: 77

Occupation: Retired secretary

Favorite food: Fish

Least favorite food: Liver

What is the first thing you remember cooking? Fried potatoes

What has been your worst cooking experience? When I was first married, I made a chocolate pie and left the cream of tartar out of the meringue. The meringue was pretty flat, but we ate it.

One ingredient you can’t cook without and why? It would have to be salt, because it makes things taste better

What is the most important thing you have learned about cooking? Don’t leave what you’re cooking unattended. A pot can boil over in the blink of an eye.

Who is the best cook you have ever known and why? My mother, Frankie Butler. She cooked everything from scratch and knew her recipes by heart. I was born during the Great Depression, and things were tough, but mama could make the best meals out of very little. Fortunately, my dad was a farmer and we raised most of our food, so we never went hungry. I can remember how my mother canned everything she could, including meats, which most people didn’t do during those days. I still remember how good her canned pork tenderloin was.

If you could eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be? Fish

Lorene Johnson’s Recipe Is:

Barbeque Meat Loaf

Meat Loaf Ingredients:

1½ lbs hamburger

½ cup bread crumbs

1 tsp salt

1 medium onion, chopped

½ can tomato sauce

1 egg

Sauce Ingredients:

1 ½ cans tomato sauce

½ can (sauce can) water

2 tsp Worchestershire sauce

3 Tbsp brown sugar

3 Tbsp vinegar

2 Tbsp mustard


Combine meat loaf ingredients and shape into loaf. Place in loaf pan.

Combine sauce ingredients and pour some over meat loaf. Bake in 325-degree oven for one hour, basting with the rest of the sauce halfway through cooking time.