Old-fashioned Black Walnut Taffy Recipe

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

Monday, December 22, 1913:  Carrie was over this afternoon. We picked out nuts. Made taffy this evening, but it didn’t get good and the nuts were wasted.

Grandma had problems, but my taffy turned out great.

Grandma had problems, but my taffy turned out great.

The taffy before I wrapped it.

The taffy before I wrapped it.

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

Hmm. . . What kind of taffy did Grandma and her friend Carrie Stout make? . . . Maybe they picked black walnuts out of the shells and then made Black Walnut Taffy.

I decided to give it a try. . . and held my breath. My husband and I cracked, and picked out, some black walnuts last week-end. It was a lot of work—and I really hoped that I’d be more successful making the candy than Grandma was.

Old-fashioned Black Walnut Taffy

1 1/2 cups sugar

1/2 cup molasses

1/2 cup water

1 1/2 tablespoons vinegar

1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

4 tablespoons butter

1/8 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 cup finely chopped black walnuts

Combine sugar, molasses, water, and vinegar in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat.  Stir in cream of tartar. Reduce heat and continue to boil until the mixture reaches the hard ball stage (256 degrees on a candy thermometer).

Remove from heat. Stir in butter and baking soda; then stir in the black walnuts.  Pour onto a well-buttered plate or shallow bowl.

As the candy cools along the sides fold into the center.

When cool enough to handle, coat hands with butter,  pull the candy using hands until color lightens, and it becomes airier and less sticky.

Shape into strips approximately 3/4 to 1 inch in diameter, and place on wax paper that has been placed on a cookie sheet.  Chill slightly, then cut the candy into bit-sized pieces.

Cut rectangles of waxed paper approximately 2 inches X 4 inches. Wrap the candy in the waxed paper and twist ends.

The taffy turned out wonderfully. The two intense flavors– molasses and black walnut—merged to a more nuanced, but awesome, taste sensation.  I highly recommend this taffy.

Here are the links to two previous posts that you might enjoy:

How to Crack Black Walnuts

Old-fashioned Sugar Taffy 

Old-time Waffle Recipe

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

Saturday,  December 6, 1913: The whole family was invited out for dinner today. We all went except Pa. It was up at Tweet’s place. We had something that I always had a curiosity to know what they tasted like. It was waffles.

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

mmm. . . Waffles sound good.

Until I read this I hadn’t realized that waffles were around a hundred years ago. I wonder how they were made back in the days before electric waffle makers.

Here’s an excellent old family recipe for waffles and it may be similar to the recipe that Tweet used.

Waffles

2 cups cake flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 eggs, separated

1 1/4  cup milk

6 tablespoons melted butter

Beat egg whites until stiff. In a separate bowl combine cake flour, baking powder, salt, egg yolks, milk, and butter. Add flour gradually, beating only until smooth. Gently fold in beaten egg whites. Bake in a hot waffle iron.

Yield: approximately 4 servings

This recipe old, but it’s not a recipe of Grandma’s. Let me tell you its story:

This recipe was in my mother’s recipe card box. I think that it is the waffle recipe that my maternal grandmother used. (The grandmother I write about in this blog is my paternal grandmother).

We often had waffles when I was a child—but we never used this recipe—instead we used the recipe on the Bisquick box.

A few years ago I compiled my recipes—including recipes of my mother’s  which were in my recipe box but that I’d never made—into a family cookbook. I gave the cookbook to my children and other relatives.

A couple of months ago my adult son said, “Mom, that’s a great waffle recipe in your cookbook.”

And, I responded, “What recipe?” since I’d never made the waffle recipe and had forgotten that I’d put it into the cookbook.

I recently actually made this recipe and it’s wonderful—and it’s even more wonderful that my children are discovering their food heritage.

Tweet was the nickname of Helen Wesner. She was a friend of Grandma’s and lived with her family on a farm at the edge of McEwensville.

12/7/13 Update

My readers are wonderful. I now know what an old-fashioned waffle iron looks like. RuthAnn at Labyrinth Living sent me a picture of an old-fashioned cast iron waffle iron that her great-grandmother used. She gave me permission to share it with you. Here is what she wrote:

waffle.iron.1890

It would have been used on a wood cook stove, but I know Grandma also used it later on her electric stove, just right on the elements.  If you can see on one piece, one end has a round socket and the other piece has a round ball that fits into the socket.  So those two halves fit together and are placed on the stove to heat.  One lifts the handle to open the halves, and puts the batter on the waffle grid, then closes it and holds it for about a minute and then lifts the two handles together and swivels it around (the ball in the socket is the swivel) and puts it down to cook the other side.  When it stops steaming, it should be ready to remove and serve.

Old-fashioned Cranberry Conserve

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

Tuesday, November 25, 1913:  Nothing to write.

DSC08404

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.

Since the recipe called for grating the orange rind (peel), I bought a bag of organic oranges. The oranges 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.

DSC08305

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

.

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.

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