Hundred-year-old cookbooks sometimes contain very basic recipes, such as a recipe for stewed prunes. I’m a little surprised when an author puts such a simple recipe in a cookbook – though I also find it fascinating how basic foods have changed over the past hundred years. Back then (and even when I was young) prunes were very dry and needed extensive soaking and cooking to make tender stewed prunes; whereas today many supermarket prunes are very moist when taken out of the package and need to be stewed for only a few minutes.
Here’s the original recipe:
One-half pound of prunes is about 1 cup of prunes. I’m not clear why the directions refer to 1/4 cup of sugar and 1 tablespoon of lemon for each two cups of prunes. Maybe the author was referring to the volume of prunes after they are soaked. In any case, when I updated the recipe, rather than trying to estimate the volume of the prunes, I assumed that the recipe calls for adding 1/4 cup sugar and 1 tablespoon lemon (if desired).
1 cup water (more may be needed if the prunes are very dry.)
1/4 cup sugar, if desired
1 tablespoon lemon juice, if desired
Put prunes and water in a saucepan. If desired, stir in the sugar. Bring to a boil using high heat, then reduce heat until it simmers. Cook until the prunes are tender and the liquid is syrupy (about 15 minutes – if the prunes are moist; longer if they are very dry). Remove from heat, and, if desired stir in the lemon juice.
The foreword to a 1921 cookbook begins with this quote. Nice quote – but I was curious about who Henry T. Finck was and why I should care about what he thought.
A quick google search turned up information about Henry Finck. He was both the music editor and the epicurean editor at the New York Evening Post. According to Oregon Encyclopedia:
Music critic Henry T. Finck spent his childhood on an apple orchard near the Christian agricultural colony of Aurora in the lower Willamette Valley. The first Oregonian to graduate from Harvard, Finck was a prolific writer and critic of contemporary music. He also wrote about horticulture, romantic love, travel, food, and his Oregon boyhood.
Coffee cake is a wonderful sweet treat to have with coffee (or without), so I was pleased to find a hundred-year-old recipe for Coffee Cake. The cake turned out well. It was moist and tender with a nice cinnamon and sugar topping.
Preheat oven to 375° F. Put all of the cake ingredients in a mixing bowl. Beat to combine. Put batter in a greased and floured 9-inch square cake pan.
In a separate bowl, place the flour cinnamon, and sugar. Stir to combine. Add the shortening, and mix together until the texture is crumbly. It may helpful to use your hands to get the shortening mixed in. (When I made the recipe I added more flour and sugar than called for in the original recipe, to make it more crumbly).
Spread the topping mixture over the top of the cake. Bake for 30 – 35 minutes, or until a wooden pick comes out clean.
Warm weather is finally here, and I’m ready to sit on the porch with tea and a snack. So when I saw a hundred-year-old recipe for Nut Squares that said, “Very nice for afternoon tea,” I knew that I needed to try the recipe.
The Nut Squares were tasty and chock-full of nuts with a crispy crust and a chewy middle. The one downside is that the crust had a tendency to crack and break when I cut the cookies into bars.
Here’s the original recipe:
I was surprised that the recipe did not call for any butter or shortening – though the cookies still had a nice texture. Perhaps the top crust may have had less tendency to break and crumble off the bars if the recipe had inclued butter or shortening.
Preheat oven to 375° F. Put eggs in mixing bowl and beat. Add sugar, flour, and baking powder; beat until smooth. Pour mixture into a greased 9 X 13 inch baking pan. Bake until set and the top is light brown (about 25 – 30 minutes). Remove from oven. When partially cool cut into squares or 1 X 2 inch bars.
When I saw an advertisement for King Arthur Flour in the back of the 1921 edition of The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book, I wondered how long it has been around. According to Wikipedia, the King Arthur Flour Company was founded in 1790 in Boston.
When I make scrambled eggs I typically break the eggs into a bowl, add a little milk, salt, and pepper, and then beat the eggs until they are smooth and frothy, but I was intrigued by a hundred-year-old recipe for Scrambled Eggs, Country Style, and decided to give it a try. The recipe was extremely easy, and similar to how I make scrambled eggs when camping.
I broke the eggs directly into the skillet and let the egg whites begin to turn white; then I broke the yolks and began mixing the eggs while they cooked. This resulted in bigger chunks of the egg white in the scrambled eggs – but they were tasty.
Using medium heat, melt butter in skillet. Break the eggs into the skillet, and cook until the eggs are partially set with the egg whites beginning to coagulate; then break the yolks and stir and fold the eggs until they are completely cooked. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to season.