By Marcia Pilgeram
Reader Food Columnist
I remember that first Christmas on the ranch like it was yesterday. I unwrapped the cumbersome, heavy box and beamed at the shiny, white KitchenAid stand mixer within. It came fully accessorized with a stainless-steel bowl, flour shield, paddle, whip, dough hook and grinding attachment. I don’t remember the rest of that day, but I do remember that I had a batch of bread dough clinging to the hook before nightfall.
Watching that mixer magically knead dough was a marvel, and even though I felt a tinge of guilt that my elderly mother-in-law was still kneading her doughs by hand, I never offered to share my new K5-SS model for even a day.
A couple of years later, with the cattle and timber markets financially strong, we built a beautiful custom home where we planned to raise the next generation of Montana ranchers. I designed every inch of the kitchen. It was magazine-beautiful and ever so functional. My mixer had its own sturdy pop-up shelf and, in two swift moves, it could be stored under an old slab of marble made into a countertop (which I also used for candy making).
Life on the ranch was a dichotomy. I loved everything about rural life except the isolation, and nothing made me happier than weekend visitors. I loved entertaining and my K5-SS took my dinner party skills to new and daring levels. Bravely, I whipped up chilled soups and palate-cleansing sorbets to boost the multi-course dining experience for my guests.
That faithful mixer never let me down as I blended, kneaded and whipped my way through cake and waffle batters, then progressed to Italian and Swiss meringues and silky mousses. Not every recipe was a piece of cake, but I spent hours pursuing my passion and became quite adept at whipping up some pretty tasty concoctions.
I kneaded more batches of salt dough than I can count and learned from a salt dough artist friend to add a dash of olive oil, which made it more pliable for artistic little fingers. Many rainy days at the ranch were dedicated to crafting creatures and baking them into immortality.
With the workhorse grinder attachment, I made wild game burgers to feed the ever-present ranch hands and apple gruel to nourish orphaned fawns. I came up with a few half-baked ideas too, like the time I tried to grind up a bucket of wild horseradish root. The smell was so overpowering that the kids and I had to evacuate the house. There wasn’t a day that went by that my dependable mixer stood idle.
Then, over the next few years, life took many turns as we left the ranch, moved to town and resettled. Then we moved again and resettled. More than once, I packed up a few prized possessions and started over. From designer kitchens to chipped counter tops in bad rental homes, the moves always included my beloved mixer.
Looking back, I don’t know where the time went, but we’ve been comfortable in our current space for nearly 20 years. I can’t count the batches of wedding cake batters that I whipped up and turned out for my girls and all the other girls I have loved as my own. Or the countless batches of dough for cookies, shipped first to college kids scattered across the country, and now packaged with love and mailed to my own eight grandchildren.
For the past couple years, I have been painfully aware that my mixer’s top speed produced a groan of sorts, and I’ve done my best to keep her oiled. I’ve also applied appliance paint to cover her now-worn and chipped enamel.
This past Saturday, while whipping up some savory ingredients to prepare wedding appetizers for a local young man I adore, my beloved old mixer said enough and froze up on the spot. I was on a tight deadline, overseeing a wedding meal for 300 guests, so there was no time to mourn her loss. Until the next morning.
Through many tears, 40 years of mixer memories flashed through my mind. One especially poignant memory made me laugh out loud, remembering the scornful look on my aged mother-in-law’s face when I served lemon sorbet between courses. She suggested I ought to save it for dessert. You can serve it as you wish.
We had a good run. Now, rest in peace, K5-SS.
• 1 cup sugar
• 1 cup water
• 3 tbsp finely grated lemon zest
• 3/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
Place sugar and water in a small saucepan; bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, 2 minutes. Cool completely. Pour into large bowl of standup mixer.
On low speed, pour in lemon zest and juice and mix for a minute. Freeze, in mixing bowl, until firm, about 1 1/2 hours.
Return bowl to mixer and use whisk attachment, on low, for a minute or two – incorporating more air, results in a lighter sorbet. Freeze until firm, about 4 hours.
Serve or move to a freezer storage container until ready to use.
Garnish each serving with a twist of lemon peel, mint or fresh berries.
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