Old Opera Cremes Recipe

Opera Cremes

I recently flipped through the pages of the October, 1915 issue of Good Housekeeping and came across this recipe for Opera Cremes. This beautiful, delectable treat is one of the best homemade candies I’ve ever made. The pecans and creamy sweetness blend wonderfully to create a decadent taste sensation.

I don’t know for sure why they are called Opera Cremes, but I do know that a hundred years ago almost every town—even small ones– had an opera house.

When my grandmother was a teen in central Pennsylvania, she sometimes mentioned going to the opera house in Watsontown in her diary. For example, on February 28, 1914 she wrote:

Ruth and I went up to Watsontown with Pa this evening. The senior class gave their play in the opera house. Was the best one I ever was to. Some parts certainly did call forth plenty of laughter. Can hardly begin to describe how much I enjoyed it.

Helena Muffly

Hmm . . . maybe between their laughs, they found time to enjoy a few Opera Cremes.

Opera Creams

3 cups sugar

1 cup cream

1/3 teaspoon cream of tartar

1 cup chopped pecans

approximately 4 dozen whole pecan halves

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

confectioners’ sugar

In a medium saucepan, stir together sugar, cream, and cream of tartar until well blended. Using medium heat, bring to a boil. Reduce to low, and cook about 7 minutes without stirring until a very soft ball (237 degrees F.) is formed when tried in cold water. Remove from the heat.

Allow to cool for a few minutes. When tepid, stir in the vanilla and beat until creamy, then turn out on a board that is slightly dredged with confectioners’ sugar, and knead until smooth, working in the chopped pecans at the same time. Spread out in a shallow buttered pan, press on the pecan halves. Cool and cut into squares. Can also be shaped into bonbons.

Shh .. . .  don’t tell my friends, but I’m already planning to make Opera Cremes again in December to give as gifts.

Two Stylish 1915 Tea Sets

Picture Caption: A new idea in China painting that is rich in color and luster (Source: Ladies Home Journal; June, 1915)
Picture Caption: A new idea in China painting that is rich in color and luster (Source: Ladies Home Journal; June, 1915)

There’s nothing better than chit-chatting about everything and anything while having tea with a friend.

I wish that I could tell you that I serve the tea in lovely tea cups . . .but, I don’t.

We generally have tea (or coffee) at a nearby coffee shop. And, when I have friends over, I use mismatched, chipped mugs.

Sometimes I miss the matched tea sets that were used a hundred years ago.

Source: Ladies Home Journal (June, 1915)
Source: Ladies Home Journal (June, 1915)


Old-fashioned Apple Relish Recipe

apple relishSince I love to try interesting meat toppers and relishes, I was excited to see a hundred-year-old Apple Relish recipe in a 1915 Ladies Home Journal.

This recipe is a winner. The Apple Relish was easy to make, and is one of the best tasting relishes I’ve ever eaten. Its sweat-sour, spicy, fruitiness perfectly complements grilled or roasted beef or pork.

Apple Relish

7 cups  apples (chopped and peeled)

2 cup raisins

1 cup vinegar

3 1/2 cups sugar

1 orange

1/2 teaspoon powdered cloves

1/2 teaspoon powdered cinnamon

Combine all ingredients in a large plan. Bring to a boil, then stir occasionally and boil steadily for half an hour.

Ladle into hot half-pint or pint jars. Wipe jar rim, and adjust lids. Process in boiling water bath for 15 minutes.

Makes approximately 8 half-pints (4 pints)

Adapted from Recipe in Ladies Home Journal (September, 1915)

Hundred-year-old Double Boiler Advertisement

Double Boiler Ad (LHJ, 1-1915)
Source: Ladies Home Journal (January, 1915)

Double boilers apparently were extremely popular a hundred years ago. I’m intrigued that the Quaker Oats Company apparently considered them so desirable that they were part of the company’s marketing initiative. Customers were given double boilers when they sent in a dollar plus several trademark pictures cut off the oatmeal packages.

When I made the Coffee Pudding recipe earlier this week, the hundred-year-old recipe stated that it should be cooked in a double boiler.

Since many people today don’t own double boiIers, I adjusted the recipe to say that it should be cooked “in a saucepan (use a double boiler if available)”.

Double boilers reduce the likelihood that food in contact with the bottom surface of a pan will be scorched. If a double boiler isn’t used when making puddings, and other easy-to-burn foods, it is important to stir constantly, and ensure the spoon goes to the very bottom of the pan and regularly touches every single millimeter of the bottom surface.

Old Coffee Pudding Recipe

Coffee Pudding
Coffee Pudding

Lattes, coffee-flavored candy, coffee ice cream. . . I like them all, so when I saw a recipe for Coffee Pudding in a hundred-year-old Ladies Home Journal I had to try it.

The verdict — I loved the Coffee Pudding. This delightful dessert was easy to make, and it sort of reminded me of a Frappuccino, but smoother and deceptively light. I thoroughly enjoyed the Coffee Pudding — and tried not to think about the hefty amounts of cream and sugar in it. (I’ll worry about that tomorrow.)

Coffee Pudding

2 eggs, beaten

1/2 cup sugar

3/4 cup cold coffee

dash salt

3/4 heavy whipping cream

Combine eggs, sugar, coffee, and salt; then put through a strainer to remove any clumps of egg white. Put the strained liquid into a sauce pan (use double boiler if available), and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and boils. Remove from heat and chill.

After the mixture has chilled, put the whipping cream in a separate bowl and beat until stiff peaks form. Gently fold the whipped cream into the chilled coffee mixture. If desired, put the pudding in individual serving cups or bowls.

Adapted from a recipe in Ladies Home Journal (February, 1915)

Table Setting for a 94th Birthday Party

94th birthday table 2
Source: Ladies Home Journal (September, 1915)

The text that went with the picture said:

Six old ladies were in the habit of visiting a certain tea house once a week—all interesting women, and one of the number was soon to celebrate her ninety-fourth birthday. She confided to the proprietress that she wanted to give a party, and it was to be as jolly as she could make it.

There were to be no peppermints and no weak tea. She had had peppermints given to her every birthday since she was seventy.

The party was a luncheon carried out in yellow and white. The daisies in the centerpiece were made into six bunches, one for each of the party. The favor at each place was a Dresden pincushion, and the place cards were symbolic of the Fountain of Youth.

I know that the drawing and text do not refer to a real woman, but the fact that this picture was in a mass-circulation magazine suggests that lots of hale and hearty women in their eighties and nineties were reading the magazine a hundred years ago — and thinking about how to celebrate their birthdays.

This brings to mind a post I did several years ago when I speculated that there were some incorrect dates in a genealogical resource I was using because the materials indicated that an extremely old woman was very engaged in family and community activities. A reader commented, “I think the dates are correct. Women were strong back then.”

Old-fashioned Sweet Potato Pancakes (Waffles)

Sweet Potato Pancakes
Sweet Potato Pancakes

When I saw a recipe in a hundred-year-old issue of National Food Magazine for sweet potato waffles, I was intrigued—but I seldom make waffles. I then wondered if the same recipe would work to make pancakes.

Well, I gave it a try, and the Sweet Potato Pancakes were awesome. The recipe called for separating the eggs, and beating the egg whites until stiff. It definitely was worth the extra effort. The pancakes were incredibly fluffy and light.

I served the pancakes with maple syrup. The vivid, yet delicate, sweet potato flavor worked perfectly with the maple syrup to create a lovely taste experience.

Sweet Potato Pancakes would be perfect for an autumn brunch. This seasonal dish will impress even your most discerning foodie friends.

Sweet Potato Pancakes (Waffles)

1 cup mashed sweet potatoes

1/2 cup flour

2 tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 eggs, separated

1/4 cup milk

2 tablespoons butter, melted

Combine the mashed sweet potatoes*, flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, egg yolks, milk, and butter. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Gently fold the beaten egg whites into the sweet potato mixture.

To make pancakes: For each pancake, put two heaping tablespoons of the batter on a hot, lightly-greased griddle. Using the back of the spoon gently spread the batter to make a 3-inch pancake. Lightly brown on both sides. Serve with butter and honey or maple syrup.

Makes 12-15 3-inch pancakes

Note: Batter may also be used to make waffles.

*Mash cooked sweet potatoes with a fork until smooth.

Adapted from recipe in National Food Magazine (September, 1914)