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Cooking by instinct

By Staff | Jun 18, 2010

Fred Schroeder, of Garner, checks the tomatoes growing in his garden. The corn in the background is sweet corn that will be sold in the Garner area when it is ready.

GARNER – Growing up on a dairy farm near Waukon in northeast Iowa’s Allamakee County Fred Schroeder describes his boyhood home as Grand Central Station. There was always something going on and there were always people coming and going.

As the youngest of three boys and two girls, Schroeder learned to enjoy being outside where there was always plenty to do. When he was inside, he learned cooking skills from his mother. ”I’ve been cooking all my life,” he said.

At age 54, Schroeder is happy outdoors tending his vegetable garden and is at ease in the kitchen where he can be found preparing his favorite food. His specialty is roast beef, twice baked mashed potatoes and spicy hominy corn.

His workdays are spent as a dispatcher for Monson & Sons, a trucking company in nearby Britt. After work, he gets away from the phone and becomes the grownup farm kid, appreciating the quiet of his acreage southwest of Garner in Hancock County.

Schroeder said he cooks, but does not bake. Pies, cakes, and other baked goods are made by his wife, Lisa Schroeder, who works as a medical transcriptionist for Mercy Hospital in Mason City from their home.

The Schroeder’s are parents of three children – Jennifer, a nurse in Lu Verne, Minn., Jody, a nurse in Des Moines, and Matthew, 14, at home. They have one 9-month-old grandson, Tanner, who lives in Des Moines.

Fred Schroeder said daughter Jennifer would prefer a meal with a ribeye steak while daughter Jody’s first choice would be pork cutlets prepared by their father.

Schroeder said the best advice in cooking meat is to be careful not to overcook it, especially when cooking good beef. Schroeder’s method to judge when meat is done is watch as it starts to get stiff. Remove the meat once it begins to stiffen and you will have it medium done.

Grilling, Schroeder said, is his favorite way to cook meat. He places fresh onions and potatoes in foil on the grill with butter, garlic, and seasoning salt to be served with the meat.

Schroeder’s favorite time of year is late July when his garden starts to ripen providing many meals of fresh vegetables. ”You don’t need anything else,” he said.

The Schroeder’s garden is large enough that some of the produce is given away at church. Ratthan pay for the vegetables, people can make a donation to the Little Lambs Preschool, a favorite cause of Fred Schroeder’s.

”I probably enjoy giving it away more than anything else,” he said.

Canning is part of the routine of having their homegrown food ready for later in the year. Schroeder cans tomato sauce, chili sauce and salsa from what he has raised. The sweet corn will be frozen.

Fred Schroeder cooks instinctively relying on his intuition and inspection. Cookbooks and recipes are not part of Schroeder’s cooking routine.

He did provide a recipe for his spicy hominy corn and also gave advice on the proper cooking of meat.

When cooking a steak, Schroeder recommends starting with the meat thawed and at room temperature. If one has a thermometer for one’s grill, heat it to 250-300 degrees. Put the steaks on the grill, but do not season them until they are turned after the first side is cooked for 10-12 minutes.

Turn them over and season with black pepper and garlic powder. Cook the second side for 10 minutes. Just before the meat is done, put a pat of butter on each steak. These instructions will result in a medium done rib eye that is one-inch thick.

To prepare country style ribs, Schroeder uses a Phoenix grill which is similar to a Holland grill. Fill the drip pan with water and add a small bottle of liquid smoke to the water. During cooking, water will be added to the drip pan.

Season with Greek seasoning when the meat is almost done. Once the meat pulls back from the bone, it is done. The ribs will have a pink texture just as if they had been in a smoke house.

Schroeder advises to not use salt at any time during the cooking as it will pull the moisture out of it.

Spicy hominy corn

2 20-ounce bags of frozen corn

2 10-ounce cans of hominy (drained)

1 large jar of Cheez Whiz (melted)

1 7-ounce can green chilies

Cook and drain the corn

Mix all together

Sprinkle the top with shredded cheddar

Bake at 350 degrees until the cheese turns brown.

Contact Clayton Rye at “mailto:crye@wctatelnet.net”>crye@wctatelnet.net.

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