Dateline: 23 November 2008
Updated: 8 January 2014
(click here to read her obituary)
For 38 years, Lancaster Farming readers have followed the day to day happenings of Ida Risser as she transitioned from dairy farm wife and mother of six to a grandmother of 15, and a retiree who at 88 years wants to slow down a bit.
In her early columns her peers could relate to her as she juggled the many tasks of dairy farming, gardening, housekeeping, cooking, food preservation, child rearing and more. In recent years, her columns offered a glimpse into the lives of a former generation—a lifestyle that is fast fading away.
Ida’s weekly columns were like a page out of her diary. She wrote about growing and preserving papaws, quince, poke and other fruits and vegetables that few in this generation have heard about. She talked about her husband, Allan, who at 90 years of age needs for medical reasons to resort to using a cane, but hasn’t let that stop him from picking up black walnuts to fill numerous wheelbarrow loads, and who still drives a car and mows the couple’s hilly lawn. He rototills the large garden that his wife maintains. Because her husband can’t bend, Ida takes care of all the hand weeding and harvesting of the vegetables. Her husband gathers most of the many different varieties of fruit from trees planted on their property for his wife to preserve.
This year alone, Ida preserved 285 quarts of 27 different items. Her columns can educate even a food aficionado. For example, in one column, she recommended harvesting poke weed, considered a noxious plant by many. According to Ida, if the stalks are harvested in the spring and cooked, it tastes like asparagus. In fact, she has fooled people by serving poke and having them convinced it was asparagus.
In addition to preserving old-fashioned fruits such as quince and papaws, Ida cans and freezes more traditional fruits such as apricots, multiple varieties of cherries, red and black raspberries, apples for sauce, and much more. She also grows a variety of heirloom peas and beans that she dries and stores in glass jars until ready for cooking.