Steamed puddings and small holiday gatherings just seem to go together. So each year, as the holidays approach, I look at the steamed pudding recipes in hundred-year-old cookbooks and find one to try. Steamed puddings served with a sweet sauce were much more popular back then than they are now.
Steamed puddings typically require several hours of steaming – and often are considered too time consuming (and energy consuming) to be worth making. But back in the days when homes had wood or coal cook stoves that were always lit, steamed pudding were considered easy. The large pot with water that the molded pudding was put into could be put on the back burner of the stove. The cook could then move on to other activities, and come back several hours later and the pudding would be done.
This year the steamed pudding recipe that intrigued me was one for Ginger Pudding, so I decided to give it a try. It was lovely when served warm with Vanilla Sauce. The pudding texture was lovely, and the sweet warmth of the ginger created a taste treat.
Here’s the original recipe:
Here’s the recipe for the Vanilla Sauce:
And, here’s the Lemon Sauce II recipe (and not the Lemon Sauce I or the Lemon Sauce III recipe) that the Vanilla Sauce recipe refers to:
It always seems a little odd how old cookbooks often refer cooks to multiple recipes scattered throughout the cookbook rather than just placing the entire recipe in the correct format in one spot – but I guess that it saved a little space (though, in my opinion, it tends to make the original recipe that I was trying to make a bit more confusing).
Put the butter in a bowl and then cream; gradually add the sugar while continuing to beat. Add egg and beat; then add the milk, baking powder, salt, ginger, and flour. Beat until smooth. Pour the batter into a greased pudding mold, cover, and steam for two hours. Remove from the steaming water, wait a few minutes, then remove from mold. Serve warm with Vanilla Sauce. (This pudding is also excellent cold without the Vanilla Sauce.)
*Notes: I used a 2 liter mold, but had some extra space at the top. One slightly smaller could be used. Historically coffee cans were often used as molds. Cooks Info describes how to steam a pudding (or follow the directions that come with the mold).
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup boiling water
1 tablespoon cornstarch or 1 1/2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
Mix the sugar and cornstarch in a sauce pan; add the water gradually while stirring constantly using medium heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and continue to boil for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the butter, vanilla, and salt. Serve warm; may be reheated.
The November, 1921 issue of American Cookery provided four menu options for Thanksgiving meals:
Three course dinner for small family in a servantless house
A simple company dinner of six courses
A formal company dinner. Eight courses
Elaborate formal dinner. Ten courses
My Thanksgiving meals clearly lean toward the three course option (though with turkey instead of chicken) – but if I could get in a time machine and go back a hundred years, I’d head to a house serving the ten course meal.
Sweet potatoes are a holiday classic, so I was pleased to find a hundred-year-old recipe for Glazed Sweet Potatoes. The sweet potatoes are glazed with a sugar sauce and baked until tender. The glaze is made with white sugar (not the brown sugar or maple syrup that is more typically used today). The Glazed Sweet Potatoes were tender and sweet, but they were not immersed in a thick sauce – rather (as the recipe title says) they had a sugar glaze.
Here’s the original recipe:
The old recipe called for boiling the sweet potatoes for 10 minutes to make it easy to slip the skins off them, however, the skins didn’t come off very easily. I don’t think that they were boiled for quite long enough, so when I updated the recipe, I indicated that they should be boiled by 15 minutes.
Wash sweet potatoes and then place in a Dutch oven or other large pan. Cover with water and add the salt to the water; bring to a boil using high heat. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool enough to handle. Remove skins from the sweet potatoes. They should slip off easily. Then cut the sweet potatoes in half lengthwise and arrange in a large rectangular casserole dish.
In the meantime, preheat oven to 375° F. And, make the sauce that will be used to glaze the sweet potatoes by putting the sugar and water in a saucepan; stir. Using medium heat, bring to a boil while continuing to stir. Boil for 3 minutes then remove from heat and stir butter into the sauce.
Using a basting brush, spread sugar syrup on the arranged sweet potato halves. Put in oven and bake until tender and the syrup begins to brown (about 30 – 40 minutes). While baking, baste several times with the syrup.
Here’s how a 1921 home economics textbook describes a high-quality pie:
A pie should have a light, flaky, tender crust that is thoroughly baked. Pie crust must be chewed thoroughly, since even the best is hard to digest. It is easier to make tender pie crust from pastry flour because that contains less gluten and more starch than bread flour. Bread flour may be used, however. Many kinds of fat are used in pie crust, such as lard, butter, vegetable fats and oils. Fat make the crust “short” and flaky, and is often called “shortening.” The crust is made tender by careful handling, and by folding and rolling several times so that air is folded into the dough. This air, and the steam formed from the water used in the mixture, expand the dough during baking and make the pie crust light.
Elementary Home Economics (1921) by Mary Lockwood Matthews
I’m always on the lookout for new pie recipes that I might make for Thanksgiving, and fresh, seasonal cranberries are one of my favorite November foods. So when I saw a hundred-year-old recipe for Fig and Cranberry Pie, I decided to give it a try.
The pie turned out beautifully with a lovely purple filling. The sweetness of the figs and the tartness of the cranberries perfectly balanced each other. If you didn’t tell your holiday guests which fruits were in the pie, I don’t think that they’d ever guess. My husband said that the pie wasn’t too sweet and it wasn’t too sour, but (ala Goldilocks) it was just right.
pastry for 2-crust 10-inch pie (It might possibly fit in a 9-inch pie shell, but it would be really full.)
Put chopped figs and water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil using high heat, then reduce heat and simmer until the figs are tender (about 15 minutes). Add the cranberries and continue cooking until the cranberries pop.
In the meantime, put the sugar and flour in a small bowl, and stir until combined.
Once the cranberries have popped, gradually add the flour and sugar mixture while stirring constantly. Continue cooking and stirring until the mixture comes to a boil. Remove from heat and stir in the butter and lemon juice.
Preheat oven to 425° F. Turn cooked fig and cranberry mixture into pastry-lined pie pan. Cut the second pie dough circle into strips and make a lattice top crust and flute edges. Brush crust with a small amount of milk; sprinkle with sugar. Bake in oven for 10 minutes; then reduce heat to 350 degrees. Bake an additional 20 to 30 minutes or until crust is lightly browned and juice just begins to bubble.
The 1921 edition of the Boston Cooking-School Cook Book lists 12 ways to preserve food. Some still are commonly used – others less so.
Ways of Preserving
By Freezing. Foods which spoil readily are frozen for transportation, and must be kept packed in ice until used. Examples: Fish and poultry.
By Refrigeration. Foods so preserved are kept in cold storage. The cooling is accomplished by means of ice, or by a machine where compressed gas is cooled and then permitted to expand. Example: meat, milk, butter, eggs. etc.
By Canning. Which is preserving in air-tight glass jars, or tin cans hermetically sealed. When fruit is canned, sugar usually added.
By Sugar. Examples: fruit-juices and condensed milk
By Exclusion of Air. Foods are preserved by exclusion of air in other ways than canning. Examples: grapes in bran, eggs in lime water, etc.
By Drying. Drying consists in evaporation of nearly all moisture, and is generally combined with salting, except in vegetables and fruits.
By Evaporation. There are examples where considerable moisture remains, through much is driven off. Example: beef extract.
By Salting. There are two kids of salting, –dry, and corning or salting in brine. Examples: salt, codfish, beef, pork, tripe, etc.
By Smoking. Some foods, after being salted, are hung in a closed room for several hours, where hickory wood is allowed to smother. Examples: ham, beef, and fish.
By Pickling. Vinegar, to which salt is added, and sometimes sugar and spices, is scalded, and cucumbers, onions, and various kinds of fruit are allowed to remain in it.
By Oil. Examples: sardines, anchovies, etc.
By Antiseptics. The least wholesome way is by the use of antiseptics. Borax and salicylic acid, when employed, should be used sparingly.
A few recipes in the 1921 edition of The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book have French names. One of those recipes is Macedoine of Vegetables a la Poulette. After googling the words in the name, I think that it roughly translates into cut vegetables in a creamy sauce. In any case, this is a nice recipe for an attractive vegetable mixture containing matchstick-sized pieces of carrots and turnips, as well as peas, in a rich sauce made with chicken broth and cream.
1/2 cup turnips cut into matchstick-sized pieces (about 1 medium turnip)
1 1/4 cups carrots cut into matchstick-sized pieces (about 3 medium carrots)
1 1/4 cups peas
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup cream
2 egg yolks, slightly beaten
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
salt and pepper
Cook each of the vegetables (carrots, turnips, peas) in a separate pan; cover each vegetable with water (add salt to water if desired), bring to a boil, reduce heat and cook until tender. Drain vegetables.
In the meantime, melt butter in another pan. Stir the flour into the butter. While stirring constantly, slowly pour in chicken broth and cream, and bring to a boil over medium heat. Add the vegetables. Reheat until the sauce comes back to a boil while stirring gently. While continuing to gently stir, add lemon juice and egg yolks. If desired, add salt and pepper to taste. When the added ingredients are combined into the sauce, remove from heat and serve.