Friday, February 24, 2012

Family Recipe Friday–Cheese Straws

I think every Southern woman, of at least my mom’s generation, has a favorite cheese straw recipe. My mom used to make them for parties and holiday celebrations. I’ve always loved them, and I would eat too many. They’re habit forming like eating potato chips—at least in my humble opinion. I haven’t had any in years. Do people make them anymore? I don’t know if they’ve fallen out of favor or maybe people got tired of them. Food trends change.

Cookbook cover
Several years ago (actually, many, many years ago), my Aunt Catherine (Redles) gave me a cookbook for writing down and collecting favorite recipes. She included several recipes from our Roberts side of the family, and I filled it with even more recipes. I still have this cookbook. Here’s the front cover. I love the 70s look of it.
A couple of the recipes she included were for Cheese Rings and Cheese Straws. No matter what you call them, they are delicious! Oh dear. Writing about this and reading the recipe is making me crave them. I’m a cheese lover and I love Cheese Straws! Below is one of these recipes.

Cheese Rings
1 lb. sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1/2 stick butter
2 cups cake flour (sift before measuring)
1 tsp. salt
1/4 to 1/2 tsp. red pepper

Cream butter. Add cheese, salt, pepper, and flour. Can use a cookie press or roll the dough out and cut into strips. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

It seems that my mom always used a cookie press. I remember watching her in the kitchen squeezing the dough into shapes with it. When she wasn’t looking, I would sneak a few samples after they came out of the oven. I don’t remember ever making these myself. I could always count on eating some at my mom’s.



  1. Hi Catherine, I'm also a Georgia girl and to answer your question, people are still making cheese straws, at least in the South. As far as I know they haven't gone out of style. I've seen them at parties, baby & bridal showers and holiday gatherings. They are still delicious! I like the cover of your vintage cookbook - what a nice keepsake from your aunt. Thanks for sharing your recipe.

  2. Thanks for letting me know! Glad they're still around. I think I'm going to have to make a batch. I've been thinking about them since I wrote this last night.

  3. I love cheese straws! Though they are very addictive. I didn't realize the recipe was so simple. I'll have to try them.

  4. Catherine PendletonMarch 2, 2012 at 10:42 PM

    I love them, too!

  5. Dear Catherine: I read your post about "the Slaves of Philip Coleman Pendleton (Update)" and found it fascinating.

    I live in Virginia, but I found your research quite valuable in providing a truer picture of the modest slave-holdings of the Pendletons for a talk and powerpoint presentation I gave to the Alnwick Grove Historical Society in Bryn Athyn Pennsylvania on my great-grandfather William Frederic (no "k") Pendleton, the eldest son of P. C. Pendleton, entitled "W.F. Pendleton, Soldier - Doctor - Priest. It dealt with his early life as a boy and young man. I tried to go deeper than the "cleansed" version my Aunt Connie produced with "Confederate Memoirs".

    I grew up three houses down on the same street as my great-grandfather's house and spent a lot of time in their enormous house that was built near Philadelphia on the plans of "Mineola"--the plantation house of the Youngs--the family W.F. Pendleton married into when he married Lawson Young. W.F. married "above his station" financially when he married into the Youngs, who had vast property and many slaves to work their land holdings.

    One time, when I was about 13, I was wandering around W.F.'s house and saw a photo on a corner wall of an African-American woman. I asked my aunt Freda if it was a picture of a slave. She seemed horrified at my use of the term and, as if to banish the image, told me, "Dear, we call them 'hands'." Then she said, "Her name is Violet and she was much beloved."

    Anyway, I enjoy your posts and the valuable information (including cemetery locations of our ancestors.)


    Alan Pendleton
    Arlington, Virginia

  6. Catherine PendletonApril 27, 2012 at 5:47 PM

    Hi Alan,

    It's so nice to hear from a Bryn Athyn cousin! Which of Alan's sons is your grandfather? (I assume he was the only boy of WF and Lawson.) I visited Pendle House in 1966 when I was about 12. We drove over when we were in Washington, DC for a family vacation. I met your aunts Freda, Constance, and Amena. I had no idea the house was modeled after the Young house. It seemed huge to me as a kid. We also toured the cathedral where William and Nathaniel were bishops. I met Philip Pendleton when I was a teenager when he visited Valdosta (late 60s or early 70s). I made contact with another Bryn Athyn Pendleton-Young cousin through 23andme DNA testing (he descends from Wertha).

    Alexander Shaw Pendleton, the younger brother of your great grandfather, was my great grandfather. Lawson's sister Catherine was my great grandmother on my mom's side---not the only instance of a Pendleton marrying into my mom's family.

    I'm glad you found my blog post about Philip's slaves useful. I didn't know he owned slaves until I came across the slave schedule, and even then, I discounted it thinking "this must be a different Philip Pendleton." I guess I missed that part in "Confederate Memoirs" or had forgotten it. I read through it years ago but still consult it now and then. I would have loved to have seen your presentation. That's so interesting that you saw a photo of Violet at WF's house. I wish I knew what became of her.

    Thanks for clearing up for me whether or not William's middle name ended in a "k." I stay confused because my uncle and my great uncle both are named WFP and both have a "k" on "Frederick."


  7. Dear Catherine: Just to give you some personal background of my ingrown lineage . . . W. F. Pendleton was my great-grandfather. My grandfather Alan (born 1895. died 1936)), for whom I was named, was the only son and youngest child of W. F. and (Mary) Lawson Young. Alan married his first cousin, Marion Childs Pendleton (born 1901. died 1963), the second child of W.F.'s youngest brother Nathaniel Dandridge Pendleton and his wife, Beatrice Childs. The Philip C. Pendleton you met in Bryn Athyn was my grandmother's older brother--N.D.'s oldest child. Uncle Phil was the mayor of Bryn Athyn for many years.

    Though I knew the aunts all my life, and as a younger teen had secured the job of cutting their plantation-sized lawn every week for $3.00, it wasn't until I lived at Pendle House in the summer of 1967, between my Junior and Senior years in high school, that I really got to know them. By that time, you are right, there was only Amena, Freda (Frix) and Connie. Aunt Amena died in 1973 at age 99 and then the house was sold to one of Wertha's grandchildren--Kevin Odhner, who lives in it today.

    Wasn't Albert Sidney Pendleton an Alexander Shaw child? I know my parents and my uncle and aunt visited with him in Valdosta in the late 80s or early 90s (I'll have to ask my mother). My father was Lawson Alan Pendleton (died 2008) and my uncle is (he just turned 90 in March) Philip Coleman Pendleton.

    There are no more Philips in my or succeeding generations around Bryn Athyn. But my younger brother is named Nathaniel. Our family didn't seem to have much imagination or diversity when it came to names! There must have been a Philip or Nathaniel in ever generation since 1674! But I can't criticize, I named my daughter Rebecca Lawson.

    I'm in the process of converting my powerpoint talk into a DVD. I'd be happy to mail it to you if you like. When it's completed, I'll write you at the email address you give on the blog and you can send me your mailing address.

    I look forward to reading your blog and learning more about our family. Those of us whose ancestors moved north after the Civil War don't know much about our Georgia cousins anymore, and that's a pity.


  8. Catherine PendletonApril 28, 2012 at 1:43 AM

    Hi Alan,

    Yes, Albert Sidney Pendleton (my grandfather) was a son of Alexander Shaw Pendleton. Granddaddy died in 1965, so the Albert your parents and aunt and uncle visited in the 80s or 90s was my dad Albert Sidney Pendleton, Jr. (he died in 2006). Did your dad go by "Alan?" I think I met him then.

    These Pendletons have been hard to research since they like to use the same few names over and over. I've always wondered where the name "Albert Sidney" came from. I haven't run across it in my research. My oldest brother is also ASP but goes by "Andy" which was Alexander Shaw Pendleton's nickname.

    Us cousins in the south feel like we don't know much about the ones in the north. Although, my dad knew a lot about our family connections. I wish I had become interested sooner.

    My mother's parents Leona Roberts (daughter of Catherine Young and John Taylor Roberts) and William Liming Redles got married in Pendle House in 1923. They supposedly used WFP's Confederate sword to cut their cake.

    I'd love a copy of your presentation. Yes, please email me and I'll give you my address :)


  9. Dear Catherine:

    My father always went by "Lawson". Alan was his middle name. He was born the same year as your dad (1925) and died in 2008. His brother, P.C. Pendleton, who was also on this particular trip to Valdosta in the 90s, always went by "Red" on account of his red hair. They all talked for years about the great time they had visiting Valdosta and meeting your family. Your father squired them around town and showed them all the family sites. My father was missing his left arm below the elbow, so this "distinguishing characteristic" might have identified him, even though I seldom thought about his missing arm while growing up, since he seemed to be able to just about anything in spite of its loss when he was 16.

    You may have met my father (or even me) when you visited Pendle House in 1966--as I mentioned earlier, we lived only three houses down Alnwick Road. That would have been the last year our family lived in Bryn Athyn before my father left to teach elsewhere. So in the summer of 1966, we still would have been around. But I am only 4 years older than you, so you would likely NOT have confused me with my father. And I am the only member of the northern family named Alan.

    Uncle Red turned 90 in March. He's always lived in California. He has W.F.'s Civil War sword, though I imagine one of his sons has it now. He's in a nursing home and one of his children texted me yesterday that he has an infection that is spreading rapidly, so they will put him in Hospice care next week. My wife pointed out that when Red dies, I will be the oldest descendant of W.F. Pendleton to carry the Pendleton name. I guess that and $3.00 will get me a cup of coffee at Starbucks!

    Growing up, we Northern Pendletons always heard stories about our Southern relations on account of my aunts regular travels back and forth. During their lifetimes, my aunts would go back to Valdosta, Savannah and Waycross every few years to visit with their Pendleton, Young, Tebeau, and Wyche relatives. For them, if you were related, you could do no wrong. There was something comforting in that kind of unlimited acceptance and unconditional love. My aunts loved even the horse thieves in our family! (though I'm sure they would have referred to them only as "horse traders.")

    During family gatherings at Pendle House, as a bored teen, I'd have to sit around the living room (with the dark wallpaper, dark stained wood columns and panels, lit only with 25 watt bulbs) and listen to my aunts tell my parents, and other aunts and uncles and cousins about their latest trips to see family in South Georgia. That's when I first heard I had a relation named Albert because I remember thinking at the time that since my mother's brother was also named "Albert", this meant I had the name on both sides of my family.

    I was going to name my son Alexander Shaw, but we decided to give him a name from my mother's Gyllenhaal side--Anders. He named Anders and so my grandson is called Andy. So he came around to that nickname without having the name Alexander!

    I'm so glad I found you! And there are others in your Northern family who are intrigued about you bunch down South too. So I hope to keep in touch with you, although I don't want to intrude on the pages of your blog in the midst of cheese straw recipes! You can write to me at << >> and I'll reply to whatever email address you prefer.

    I've attached a picture of Pendle House I took last week when I was in Bryn Athyn for my speech. I couldn't fit the entire house in the picture--the wing on the right which includes the study and the porch is not visible and the facade hides the enormity of the depth of the house. Though a huge structure, of course it's smaller now than when I was 10 years old!


  10. Catherine PendletonApril 29, 2012 at 7:36 PM

    Hi Alan,

    I think it's funny that we're corresponding on the cheese straw recipe post! It's a southern delicacy after all :) Plus, what great info about your family you've written for our relatives to find!

    I've been trying to figure out why your name is so familiar besides it being your grandfather's name. Maybe we did meet way back then in 1966. Or I'm confusing the name Lawson with Alan. Maybe I've seen a picture of you or something. I went back to the chapter in my dad's memoirs (that I'm retyping) where he wrote about our trip to Washington. He does say that your dad and mother and "Red" and his wife all came to Pendle House while we were there visiting your aunts. Red and his wife were visiting from California. Dad says your aunts served us a picnic supper.

    Thanks for the photo of Pendle House! I'm so glad you found me, too! I thought that now my dad is gone, we had lost touch with our northern branch. He seemed to be the only one in our family who tried to stay in touch. He was the letter writer in our family.

    I'll email you.