Madison, Ind. — In this part of southern Indiana on the edge of the Ohio River, time has not interfered much with tradition. Many Madison residents still head occasionally for the bluffs of nearby Hanover to spend time watching the river barges go by. Saturday night catfish suppers are still common, as they have been for years.
Many of the homes date back to the early 1800s when the town was first settled, and button factories, iron foundries, and a pork packing shipyard provided jobs.
You will still find cross-stitched samplers on the walls with work ethic maxims such as ''When a task has once begun, never leave it til it's done.'' Colorful country quilts are draped over rocking chairs or sofas.
In the same vein, many young homemakers here do not think twice about the difficulties of cooking from scratch - particularly in baking breads and cakes.
Inherited recipes are put to everyday use. Many have been passed from family to family to the point where no one is quite sure which great-grandmother or her daughter originally supplied them. But by the same token few care.
The communal approach to cooking in this rural area close to the Ohio and Kentucky borders is friendly, relaxed, and sometimes less than precise about the exact measurements involved in some of the older recipes. When you've been cooking them for years, after all, you just know how much cinnamon or salt to use.
One of the easiest and tastiest recipes is printed a cookbook of the area called ''Savory Samplings.'' It is an apple dessert which this reporter has made and far prefers to apple pie. Fresh Apple Cake 1/2 cup shortening 1 cup sugar 1 egg 1 cup all-purpose flour 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon 1/2 teaspoon soda 1/2 teaspoon salt 3 cups diced cooking apples
Cream shortening and sugar. Add egg and beat until fluffy. Add sifted dry ingredients. Add apples. Bake in 8-by-8-inch pan, approximately 50 minutes at 350 degrees F. Millican Sausage Cake 1 pound raisins, mixed with a little flour to keep them separate 2 cups ground unseasoned pork 2 cups hot water 2 cups sugar 1 cup dark molasses 2 teaspoon baking soda 1 pound dried currants 1/2 teaspoon allspice 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon 4 1/2 cups flour 1 cup dates, chopped 1 1/2 cups nuts, preferably English walnuts
Mix raisins with a little flour to keep them separate. Pour hot water over unseasoned pork. Stir remaining ingredients together.
After adding pork, pour batter into a well-greased angel food cake pan. Cover the bottom with waxed paper or greased brown paper if you like.
It rises very little but needs time to cook because of the pork - about 1 1/2 to 2 hours at 325 degrees F. Lemon Jelly Cake 1/2 cup butter 1 1/3 cups sugar 1 cup milk 3 large egg whites 2 1/2 cups cake flour 3 heaping teaspoons baking powder 1 teaspoon vanilla Few drops almond extract Lemon filling (recipe below)
Cream butter. Add sugar gradually, creaming until light and fluffy. Sift flour and baking powder together then add a little to butter mixture alternately with milk until all is well mixed.
Fold in stiffly beaten egg whites and flavoring. Pour batter into three 9 -inch well-greased and floured layer pans. Bake 15 minutes in a 400 degree F. oven or until layers test done. Lemon Filling: 1 cup sugar 4 tablespoons cornstarch 1 egg yolk, beaten Juice of 1 medium lemon Grated rind of 1 lemon 1 cup hot water Mix sugar and cornstarch. Beat egg well. Add sugar mixture alternately with juice and rind of lemon, beating well. Stir in hot water. Cook over medium heat , stirring constantly until thickened. Cool. Spread between cake layers and frost with 7 minute icing which Miss Jeanette always cooked in 10 minutes or any favorite white icing.
''Savory Samplings,'' is published by the local chapter of Psi Iota Xi, a national philanthropic sorority. It is filled with other Madison favorites, including one for ice box rolls made with mashed potatoes. The book, now in its second printing, is available for $6.50 from Sheryl Campbell, 614 East Second, Madison, Ind. 47250.