Old-fashioned Cranberry Conserve

18-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Tuesday, November 25, 1913:  Nothing to write.

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Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Since Grandma didn’t write much a hundred years ago today, I’m going to share a great hundred year old recipe for Cranberry Conserve. It was in the November, 1913 issue of Ladies Home Journal in an article called “Good Things for the Thanksgiving Day Table.

Cranberry Conserve

1 quart cranberries

1 cup water

Juice and pulp of 2 oranges

Grated rind of half an orange

2 cups sugar

½ cup chopped raisins

1 cup walnuts, chopped

Wash the cranberries and add the water, oranges and raisins. Cook until the cranberries burst and are soft; add the sugar, stir until dissolved, skim, turn in nut meats, and chill in individual molds.

This dish is excellent. The orange and raisins nicely balance the tartness of the cranberries, and the nuts add a nice texture.

The navel oranges that I had were very large, so I used one orange instead of two.

When I made this recipe, to get a picture that was true to the recipe,  I molded one serving  using a custard cup for the mold. I put the rest of the Conserve in a large bowl and chilled.

The individual serving  was not very firm when I unmolded it, and I don’t think that it would hold it shape for very long.

This recipe is a keeper and I plan to make it for Thanksgiving; however,  I’ll skip the molding and put all of the Conserve in a large bowl.

Old-Fashioned Raisin Meringue Pie Recipe (Funeral Pie Recipe))

18-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Wednesday, November 19, 1913:  Ditto

raisin meringue pie (funeral pie)

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Huh???? The previous day Grandma wrote “nothing much,” so I guess that it was another slow day from Grandma’s perspective; but two days prior to this entry Grandma’s maternal grandfather, John Derr, died in the nearby town of Turbotville.

I hope no one’s upset, but  I broke a rule I have and peaked ahead in the diary–Rules are made to be broken, aren’t they?—so I know that Grandma will attend his funeral on November 21.

Perhaps Grandma wasn’t doing much, but I bet that friends and neighbors were preparing food to serve for the traditional family gathering after the funeral.

Were they making funeral pies? In the old days in Pennsylvania, raisin pies were often served at funerals and they were called funeral pie.

I’ve seen other blogs that give recipes for a funeral pie that is basically just a two-crust raisin pie.  But my memory is that old-fashioned raisin pies in central Pennsylvania generally were raisin custard pies with a meringue topping, so I’ll give you that recipe.

Old Raisin Meringue Pie (Funeral Pie) Recipe

1 cup raisins

water

1 tablespoon flour

1 tablespoon corn starch

3/4 cup sugar

1 cup milk

2 egg yolks, slightly beaten

2 egg whites

1 9-inch pie shell, baked

Put raisins in small sauce pan, and just barely cover with water. Bring to a boil, then remove from heat and cool. Drain the cooled raisins. Stir the flour, corn starch, and sugar into the raisins; then add the milk and egg yolks. Stir and cook over medium heat until the mixture thickens (comes to a boil). Pour into a pie shell which was previously baked.

In a separate bowl make the meringue. Place egg whites in the bowl, and beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Then spoon on top of the pie. Bake at 350° for 15 minutes or until the meringue is lightly browned.

This pie is different from the typical modern pie, but I really like it. I want to say that this pie will appeal to sophisticated palates—but somehow that doesn’t quite seem right when I’m talking about an old-fashioned food from rural Pennsylvania.

The delicate custard filling has a subtle and nuanced raisin flavor. And, the juicy plumped raisins provide a nice texture contrast to the smooth custard and the airy meringue.

I’m definitely going to make this pie again—and I don’t plan to wait until a funeral to serve it.

Fried Pears Recipe

18-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Friday, October 10, 1913: About the same as other days.

Fried Pears

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Since Grandma didn’t write much a hundred years ago today, I’ll share a recipe for Fried Pears that I found in the August, 1913 issue of Farm Journal.

Fried pears—Fried pears are delicious. Prepare in the following manner: Remove peel, seeds and core. Slice and fry to a delicate brown in drippings or melted butter. Arrange upon a dish and sprinkle powdered sugar on each piece.

I fried the pears in melted butter. At first I used a medium temperature,  but then turned it up to medium high to brown the pears. This was hotter than what I normally use when frying with butter—but the pears won’t brown until I turned the heat up.

I used a spatula to turn the pears—and probably cooked them for about 3-5 minutes on each side. Since I used such a high temperature, I watched the pears like a hawk—because I wanted them to brown but not burn.

The powdered (confectioner’s) sugar sweetened the Fried Pears slightly—but did not garnish them for very long. The sugar dissolved in less than a minute.

The Fried Pears were yummy—though very similar to what I think hot canned pears would taste like. If I made this recipe again I would skip the sugar.

Stuffed Acorn Squash Recipe

18-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Wednesday, September 24, 1913:  Nothing much continues.

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Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Grandma, I know that you were writing the diary for yourself . . .and that nothing much happened, AGAIN.

But for those of us glancing over your shoulder a hundred years later we care about even the little things like, what did you eat for dinner?

It’s getting to be Fall, maybe you ate winter squash from the garden.  . . . and if it was a small squash perhaps it was stuffed with meat, vegetables, and cheese.

Here’s a recipe I often use to stuff acorn squash. It’s not an authentic hundred-year-old recipe—they definitely wouldn’t have had sliced American cheese back then—but I like it and it gives a sense of how people used miscellaneous fall vegetables and other common ingredients to stuff squash.

Stuffed Acorn Squash

Delicata or other small winter squash can be substituted for the acorn squash.

1 acorn squash

1/4 pound ground beef

1/2 cup celery

1/4 cup onion

3 slices American cheese

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

butter

salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Halve and seed squash. Place cut side down in shallow baking pan; pour approximately 1/2 inch very warm water in pan around squash. Bake until tender—about 1 1/4 hours.*

About 10-15 minutes before the squash has completed cooking, brown ground beef in skillet. Add celery and onion; cook until tender. Add cheeses and stir constantly just until cheese melts.  Turn squash up on serving dish; dot with butter, sprinkle with salt and pepper, then fill cavity with meat mixture.

*Or squash can be microwaved until tender—about 15 minutes.

Yield: 2 servings

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Old-fashioned Crab Apple Jelly Recipe

18-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Thursday, September 11, 1913:  Nothing much.

Crab Apple Jelly

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Grandma, you must have done something. Were you too tired to write much because you spent the day in the kitchen helping your mother with the canning?

I made Crab Apple Jelly last week-end. It’s the season for crab apples—maybe you also made some a hundred years ago.

Crab Apple Jelly

5 pounds (approximately 10 cups) crab apples

8 cups water

Sugar

Remove stem and blossom ends from washed crab apples, cut in halves and place in large pan. Add water and cook until fruit is very soft, about 10 minutes.

Strain the mixture through a jelly bag. Do not squeeze or force just through bag.

Measure juice. There should be approximately 7 cups. Pour into a large pan. Stir in 3/4 cups of sugar for each cup of juice. Bring to a boil quickly and cook rapidly until the jellying point* is reached.

Skim off foam and pour into hot one-half pint jars to within 1/4 inch of the top. Wipe jar rim and adjust lids. Process in boiling water bath for 5 minutes.

Makes about 5 – 6 half pints.

*The Portland Preserve website has a nice description of how to tell when the jellying point has been reached.

Hundred-Year-Old Suggestion for Serving Watermelon

18-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Monday, August 11, 1913:  Am busy planning.

Source: Ladies Home Journal (July, 1911)

Source: Ladies Home Journal (July, 1911)

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Grandma was planning for the Sunday School picnic. The previous day she wrote:

We have decided to have our S.S. picnic next Wed. .  .

I wonder what she needed to plan. . . . activities? . . . what food to bring?

August would be the perfect time for watermelon.

Grandma probably wouldn’t have done anything as fancy as the suggestion for serving watermelon in  Ladies Home Journal:

An  unusually nice way to serve watermelon is to have the pulp removed from the whole melon which has first been cut in halves, and replaced on cracked ice in half of the rind arranged in bowl fashion. Cone-shaped portions may then be served individually in sundae glasses, or cut in cubes in sherbet-cups.

 Ladies Home Journal (July 1911)

Hundred-Year-Old Directions for Making and Marketing Sun-Preserved Preserves

 18-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Wednesday, August 6, 1913: That’s all.

Strawberries

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Yesterday, I shared an article about “new’ gadgets a hundred years ago that can be used to making canning easier. Since Grandma didn’t write much in this diary entry, I’m going to dig deeper into one statement in that article. It said:

Canning is a great improvement over the old-fashioned way of preserving fruits pound for pound, and if canned properly fruits will retain their fresh and natural flavor.

Ladies Home Journal (May, 1913)

I wondered what that meant and then came across another article about Sun-preserved Preserves. That article contained a letter from a reader explaining how to make and market sun-preserved preserves.

Sun-preserved Preserves

The thing I knew I could do better than most people was to make preserves. My specialties were sun-cooked strawberry and cherry preserves.

I chose only the finest, most perfect fruit, seeding the cherries carefully by hand. I weighed the fruit and made a syrup of an equal amount of the best granulated sugar, using just enough water to melt the sugar and prevent burning. When the sugar was melted I dropped the fruit in carefully and let it boil, about five minutes in the case of the strawberries and ten minutes for the cherries.

I then removed the preserves to a large platter and placed them out in the sunshine, covering closely with large pieces of glass. It may be necessary to use mosquito netting also. About two days of direct sunshine usually cooks the preserves sufficiently. I tried to put them in glass jars while still hot from the sun’s rays. This is not necessary, but they are nicer if canned before the juice sets.

The next problem was to find a market for my wares, which were strictly first class, and, beautiful in shape and color. For these I must ask a good price.

I lived about a hundred miles from a large city, in a village where there was no market for my goods at any price, so I took to scanning the society columns of the city papers and thus listed the names and addresses of the people I wanted to reach. To these I wrote personal letters describing my preserves and setting my price. To a few prominent ladies I sent small samples. The responses were numerous enough to give me several very busy summers.

Ladies Home Journal (July, 1913)

Sometimes when I read old recipes like this one I just roll my eyes and throw up my hands.  These directions don’t sound like they would produce a safe, sanitary food—yet Sun-preserved  Preserves apparently were considered a gourmet food a hundred years ago. So I googled “Sun Preserves” and found a New York Times article that explains how to make them  using modern processes and procedures.

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