Preface in Hundred-Year-Old Church Cookbook

Source: Tried and True Cook Book, published by The Willing Workers, Minneapolis Incarnation Parish (1910)
Source: Tried and True Cook Book, published by The Willing Workers, Minneapolis Incarnation Parish (1910)

People compile church and community cookbooks for many reasons: to preserve favorite recipes, for fund-raising purposes, to help community members get to know each other better, etc.  But I must admit that I was surprised when the preface in a hundred-year-old church cookbook promised to make readers’ husbands “contented” men.

Hundred-Year-Old Hermits Cookies Recipe

hermit-cookies

Tis the season . . . for baking cookies. Old-fashioned, traditional cookies are my favorite, so I was thrilled to find a hundred-year-old recipe for Hermits. Hermits are a soft, spicy, raisin cookie. They have been around a long time so there are lots of variations. This recipe was for the traditional drop cookie version.

The Hermits were delightful. They had a lovely texture and the right amount of chewiness. The old-fashioned goodness of the Hermits was enhanced by just the right amount of cinnamon and mace, and a hint of molasses.

The recipe was easy to make–and would be a perfect addition to a holiday cookie tray.

Here’s the hundred-year-old recipe:

Source: American Cookery (October, 1916)
Source: American Cookery (October, 1916)

And, here’s my updated version of the recipe for modern cooks:

Hermits

  • Servings: approximately 40 cookies
  • Time: 1 hour
  • Difficulty: easy
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1/2 cup butter, softened

1 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon milk

1 tablespoon molasses

2 eggs

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon mace

2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

2 cups flour

1/2 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 375° F.  Put butter in a large mixing bowl, and stir (cream) until smooth; then stir in the brown sugar. Stir in milk, molasses, eggs, cinnamon, mace, and baking powder. Add flour, and stir until all ingredients are combined. Add raisins, and stir gently to distribute the raisins throughout the dough. Drop rounded teaspoons about 2 inches apart on a lightly greased baking sheet.  Bake 10-12 minutes, or until lightly browned.

Caramels: Comparison of Old and Modern Recipes

caramels
The caramels with walnuts were made using the hundred-year-old recipe. The other caramels were made using the modern recipe.

The holidays are a time for family fun, so when my daughter was recently home for Thanksgiving we decided that it was time for another post that compares a hundred-year-old recipe with a modern one. This year we decided to make Caramels.

I made a Caramel recipe from a hundred-year-old magazine that listed nuts, preferably black walnuts, as an ingredient. My daughter made a Caramel recipe that did not call for nuts from Sally’s Baking Addiction called Sea Salt Vanilla Caramels.

My recipe called for brown sugar. The modern recipe used three sweets: brown sugar, white sugar, and light corn syrup. It included a note which said that corn syrup is “a controversial ingredient, for sure, but an imperative one for making candy as it prevents crystallization and keeps the caramels smooth as silk.”

The Verdict: The two candies were both good, but very different from each other.

The modern recipe was delectable. The Sea Salt Vanilla Caramels were smooth and creamy, and melted in my mouth. If you want a great Caramel recipe, I strongly recommend clicking on the link and going to Sally’s website for her recipe.

On the other hand, the  hundred-year-old Caramel recipe made a candy that barely seemed like a caramel. It tasted more like a praline. If, by chance,  you are looking for a delightful walnut praline recipe, the old recipe is the recipe for you.

The hundred-year-old recipe included a warning, “These directions must be followed to the letter.”  I tried my best to follow them to the letter, but apparently failed since I think that the caramel may have partially “crystalized” (or perhaps a caramel a hundred-years-ago was different from a modern caramel).

Here’s the hundred-year-old recipe:

Source: Good Housekeeping (April, 1916)
Source: Good Housekeeping (April, 1916)

Here’s my version of the hundred-year-old recipe updated for modern cooks. (I made half of the original recipe.)

Caramels

  • Servings: approximately 50 pieces
  • Time: 1 hour active prep time
  • Difficulty: moderate
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1 pound light-brown sugar (2 cups, packed)

2 tablespoons butter

1 cup milk

1 cup chopped nuts, preferably black walnuts

Prepare a 8 inch by 8 inch square pan by lining it with foil, and then buttering the foil.  Set aside.

Put the brown sugar, butter, and milk in a large, heavy saucepan. Using medium heat, bring to a boil while stirring. Reduce heat so that there is a slow rolling boil. Continue to stir until the mixture reaches the firm ball stage (245 – 248° F.). This can also be tested by dropping a small amount of the hot mixture into ice-cold water. It is done when a caramel-textured ball is formed. Add nuts before removing from the heat. Remove spoon from mixture while still boiling to prevent crystallization.

Quickly pour into the prepared pan. Scrape what remains into another dish. When cool turn onto a cookie sheet or board.  Cut into bite-sized pieces. If desired, wrap caramels in waxed paper.

walnut-caramel

Old-fashioned Mashed Potatoes

mashed-potatoes-f

Mashed Potatoes are a quick and easy-to-make comfort food. It’s one of those foods that I never use a recipe to make. Long ago I learned how to boil the potatoes, whip them, add a little butter and milk, and whip a bit more to combine.

Given how easy it is to make Mashed Potatoes,  I was very surprised to discover a hundred-year-old recipe  for Mashed Potatoes that contained extensive detail.  Back then even the most complex recipes were generally short and lacked details,  Why would recipes for difficult-to-make foods leave a huge amount of latitude for interpretation, while a recipe for a basic food be very specific?

Source: Foods and Household Management: A Textbook of Household Arts (1915)
Source: Foods and Household Management: A Textbook of Household Arts (1915)

This recipe referred to two other recipes. One explained how to boil potatoes:

potatoes-boiled

The other recipe mentioned in the Mashed Potato recipe was the Potato in the Half Shell recipe, which contained information about how much butter, milk, and salt should be used when making potatoes:

potatoes-half-shell

I generally use electric beaters to make “mashed” potatoes, but I decided to give the old-time recipe a try. I dug out my old potato masher out from under all my other seldom-used kitchen utensils in the back of bottom drawer in the kitchen cabinets, and made real mashed potatoes.

Here’s the old recipe updated for modern cooks:

Mashed Potatoes

  • Servings: 4-5 servings
  • Time: 30 minutes
  • Difficulty: easy
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4 cups potatoes, pared and cut into 1-inch cubes (4-6 potatoes) (I used red potatoes – though russets would also work well.)

water

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon butter

approximately 1/4 cup milk

Put enough water into a  large saucepan so that it is about 1/3 filled; add salt and bring to a boil using high heat. Add diced potatoes; return to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 15-20 minutes or  until the potatoes are very soft when poked with a fork. Remove from heat and drain. Using a wire potato masher, mash the potatoes until smooth.  Add the butter and half the milk. Mash a little more to combine. If the potatoes are too stiff, add additional milk until the potatoes reach the desired consistency. (Do not over-mash or the potatoes will get gummy.) Reheat the mashed potatoes using medium heat  To reheat, put the pan with the mashed potatoes back on the stove using medium heat for 15-30 seconds; stir once or twice. Remove from heat and put in serving dish.

mashed-potatoes-b

Hundred-Year-Old Advice Recommends Washing Fruits and Vegetables

fruits-and-vegetables

Sometimes, I am slightly taken aback by advice in hundred-year-old magazines. The October, 1916 issue of American Cookery gave an explanation of why fruits and vegetables should be washed. The advice was good, but I was amazed that it was considered somewhat controversial to wash fruits and vegetables:

Wash Your Food

The Pennsylvania Health Commissioner, Doctor Samuel L. Dixon, warns against eating raw food unless it is thoroughly washed.

“Care should be exercised in the preparation and serving of green foods, as they are subject to much handling between the garden and the table. Unless the hands through which they pass are absolutely clean they are more or less contaminated. Food exposed for sale in markets is also often subject to indiscriminate handling by prospective purchasers, and is seldom properly protected from dust and dirt.

As a protection, berries and foodstuffs eaten raw should be washed before being served. It is far better to risk a slight impairment of the flavor than to chance eating unclean foods”