Walking into Jeannine Berkemeyer’s home, it is evident she’s organized and meticulous, especially in her kitchen, where every item has its place. But there is a lot of her personality in that room — to include her prized tins and collection of salt and pepper shakers.

But beyond anything, the smell of fresh cinnamon rolls and apple pie will bring you in and sit you down among her massive collection of recipes.

“I’m good at pies,” she says. “I learned how to make pie crust in a commercial kitchen and store it in gallon jars. I work in multiples of three when I make crusts, just depending on how many pies I want to make.”

Although her family will point out her Thanksgiving contributions like dressing and giblet gravy — pies included — Jeannine is most proud of her pies. And she should be. They are beautiful.

“I worked at Coy’s drive-In before it was Stoby’s,” she says. “My older sister worked there. I started in April 1963 as a carhop at first. Everything I know about making pies I learned from Mrs. [Ruth] Crow.”

According to local historians, Ruth Crow was locally known for her pies topped with thick meringue. The Crows sold the restaurant in 1972. 

“Seeing her pies, I always said, ‘I have to try,’” Jeannine says. 

Jeannine says her pumpkin pies and pecan pies are the most desired by her family. 

“Some people say they never liked pumpkin pie until they tried mine,” she says bashfully. “I use sweetened condensed milk. I just think it is so much better than evaporated milk.”

Her cornbread dressing is a must, Jeannine says. She learned how to make it when she was a senior in high school at St. Joseph’s.

“Our class was trying to make money to help pay for our senior trip,” she says. “Some organization was having a dinner at the school cafeteria. I helped make the dressing under the instruction of Mrs. Schichtl. I still don’t know it by recipe. I just throw it together starting with cornbread, stale bread, chopped celery and onions and chicken broth and an egg, sage and poultry seasoning.”

In her own home through the years, Jeannine says her boys wanted chocolate chip cookies.

“My kids took their lunches to school,” she says. “I probably made chocolate chip cookies twice a week when they were younger.”

Her grandchildren, also enjoy making cookies with Granny. Whenever they spend the night, Jeannine gets them in the kitchen to make those family-famous cookies.

“They are 9 and 11, and when they came to spend the night, we got up the next morning and made cookies,” she says. “I let them measure and crack the eggs. They like that.”

And there’s always something to talk about in Granny’s kitchen. She will give you the best tips on mixers — her favorite is a Bosch mixer she’s had for two decades. It has a dough hook, and that’s a plus. 

“I would be lost without that mixer,” she smiles. “It has several attachments, a blender, food processor, meat grinder and a salad maker for slicing and shredding. It has a whisk attachment for whipping cream and egg whites, and it has a dough hook for when I make bread and rolls.

“And look at this,” she says picking it up with ease. “It’s portable.”

Her salt and pepper shakers are interesting, too. And she’s been collecting since she was 9 years old. She has a set from all the trips she’s taken over the years, and now her family members remember to bring her sets from all over the world.

“They’re my memories,” she says. “I have ones I have collected myself and they tell where I’ve been.”

Jeannine also is an expert at quilts and home-grown vegetables, maintaining a garden on a section of what remains of her family’s original 120 acres in Vilonia. 

And she remembers one instance just last summer when she had more green beans than she knew what to do with.

“I was all ready to can, and then we smelled gas when we turned the burners on, and that wasn’t good,” she says. “So we called a repairman and decided the range was too expensive to repair so we went to Conway to look for a new one.

“We picked one out at Sears but it was two days before it could be delivered. By then, I had even more beans to can!”

As for the future, Jeannine knows keeping up with a garden and all the hard work will grow more challenging, but she considers very much the value of the vine.

“I would encourage young people to look at growing their own vegetables,” she says. “You’ll save money that way and you know what you’re eating. 

“We’ve always grown a garden so the food is fresher. And most of the time, you’ll want to share those things. We always try eat supper together.”

Old-Fashioned Apple Pie
Farm Journal Complete Pie Cookbook, 1965

Pastry for 2-crust pie

¾ to 1 c. sugar 2 tblsp. Flour ½ to 1 tsp. Cinnamon ⅛ tsp. Nutmeg ¼ tsp. Salt 6 to 7 c. sliced, peeled apples     (2 to 2 ½ lbs.) 2 tblsp. Butter or margarine

Combine sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.
Mix lightly through apples (sliced ¼” thick).
Heap in pastry-lined 9” pie pan. Dot with butter.
Adjust top crust and flute edges; cut vents.
Bake in hot oven (425 degrees) 50 to 60 minutes or until crust is browned and apples are tender. 

NOTE: Amount of sugar you will need varies with tartness of apples.

Grandma’s Cinnamon Rolls
The Best of Red Star’s 3rd Baking Recipe Exchange, 1979

5 ½ to 6 cups all-purpose flour 2 pkgs Red Star Instant Blend Dry Yeast ½ cup sugar 1 ½ teaspoons salt 1 cup milk 1 cup water ¼ cup butter or margarine 2 eggs ⅓ cup butter or margarine, melted ¾ cup sugar 1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon ½ cup chopped nuts

 GLAZE

3 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted 2 cups powdered sugar 3 to 4 tablespoons hot coffee ½ teaspoon maple flavor

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.
In a large mixer bowl, combine 2 cups flour, yeast, ½ cup sugar and salt; mix well.
In saucepan, heat milk, water and butter until warm (120-130 degrees; butter does not need to melt).
Add to flour mixture. Add eggs.
Blend at low speed until moistened; beat 3 minutes at medium speed.
By hand, gradually stir in enough remaining flour to make a soft dough.
Knead on floured surface until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes.
Place in greased bowl, turning to grease top.
Cover; let rise in warm place until light and doubled, about 1 hour.
Punch down dough.
Divide into 2 parts.
On lightly-floured surface, roll or pat each half into a 12x9-inch rectangle.
Brush each part with melted butter.
Combine ¾ cup sugar, cinnamon and nuts.
Sprinkle over butter. Starting with shorter side, roll up tightly, pressing dough into roll with each turn.
Pinch edges to seal.
Cut each roll into 12 pieces.
Place cut-side down in greased 13x9-inch pans.
Cover; let rise in warm place until almost doubled, about 30 minutes. 

Bake 375 degrees for 20 minutes until golden brown.
Combine glaze ingredients; blend until smooth.
Drizzle over hot rolls.
Cool on racks. 

If you know a favorite family cook and would like to nominate them for a feature, please email ksublett@thecabin.net.