Several Hundred-Year-Old French Dressing Recipes

Salad and Salad DressingSome recipes don’t change across the years; others do.  As tastes and preferences change, recipes are updated. In other cases, lack of availability of an ingredient might lead to tweaking of an old recipe. Also, for commercially-prepared foods, government regulations can affect their composition.  Last week I was amazed to discover that the government regulated French Dressing for many years.

On January 13,  the Wall Street Journal had an article titled “The U.S. Federal Government Deregulates French Dressing.”  The government established the standard for French Dressing 72 years ago, and “according to the original 1950 standard, a French dressing should include vegetable oil, and a vinegar and/or lemon or lime juice, and could be seasoned with ingredients such as salt, sugar, tomato paste or puree, and spices such as mustard are paprika.”

This article made me remember the many French Dressing recipes that I’ve seen in hundred-year-old cookbooks over the years, and how those recipes differed from today’s seemingly ubiquitous creamy orange dressing. Back then the dressing was often more of a vinaigrette. Here are two French Dressing recipes from 1922 cookbooks:

French Dressing Recipe
Source: Mrs. DeGraf’s Cook Book (1922)

French Dressing RecipeSource: Good Housekeeping’s Book of Menus, Recipes, and Household Discoveries (1922)

I made the French Dressing in the photo using the first recipe.

Several years ago, I did a post with a recipe for Endive Salad with Homemade French Dressing that contained three 1912 French Dressing Recipes. Here are those recipes:

3 French Dressing Recipes
Source: Lowney’s Cook Book (1912)

And, here is a 1922 magazine article that responds to a reader’s question about French Dressing. The response differentiates between French Dressing and Russian Dressing -though it is mostly focused on French Dressing:

magazine article
Source: American Cookery (June/July, 1922)

Whew, my head is spinning. Who would have guessed that for a least a hundred years people have been giving lots of thought to exactly what comprises French Dressing?

Fried Onions with Apples

Fried Onions with Apples in Bowl

A hundred years ago there was a limited selection of fruits and vegetables during the winter months.  Onions and apples are two foods that store well, and were frequently eaten during the winter – though I had never thought of them as being foods that would be combined in one recipe until I saw a recipe for Fried Onions with Apples in a hundred-year-old cookbook. I couldn’t picture what this recipe would taste like, so decided to give it a try.

The sweet tartness of the apples combined beautifully with the sharpness of the onions to make a tasty side dish. I served the Fried Onions with Apples with roast beef and it nicely complemented the meat.

Here’s the original recipe:

Recipe for Frined Onions with Apples
Source: Good Housekeepng’s Book of Menus, Recipes and Household Discoveries (1922)

Here’s the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Fried Onions with Apples

  • Servings: 3 - 4
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

4 medium onions, sliced

3 large tart apples, peeled and sliced (I used Braeburn apples.)

2 tablespoons bacon fat or other fat (The old recipe called for meat drippings.)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup water

Heat fat in a skillet, then add the onion slices. Saute using medium heat until the onions begin to turn transparent, then add the apples, salt and water. Cover and cook until the apples are soft (10 – 15 minutes). Remove lid, increase heat to medium high, and fry until the water has evaporated and the onions and apples are a light brown; stir frequently.

http://www.ahundredyearsago.com

1922 Opinions About the Relationship Between Vitamins and Colds

apple and orange

Here are a few excerpts from a hundred-year-old article about vitamins and colds.

Have vitamins anything to do with one’s immunity to colds? Through some years of watching the needs of a family, in dietetics, and in nursing, I have concluded that they have.

In the days when the real necessity for raw foods was unknown, when fruits were cooked for winter serving and we used canned vegetables, colds were very common. The longing for spring and fresh things was almost irresistible. The one really well person in the house was great grandma who never left her chair, ate only what she liked, but who always had her morning orange, her cream, and fresh laid eggs. We went through many dense years, fighting through the winter, to spring.

When the children went to college, a wonderful inspiration made me insist that, while there, they ate freely of apples and oranges, to break up the concentrated diet. Soon, the young people joined Grandma in the ranks of those who took few colds.

The children have graduated, but they stick to their love for fresh fruits and salads, and quickly throw off contagion.

Abridged from American Cookery (March, 1922)

Old-Fashioned Brown Beef Stew with Dumplings

January always energizes me. This year I am sharing 1922 recipes. I have a whole new set of hundred-year-old cookbooks and magazines that I’m just beginning to explore, and I look forward to trying recipes that look intriguing and sharing them with you.

Cold, wintery January days always make me crave comfort foods, so for my second recipe this year, I decided to make Brown Beef Stew with Dumplings. This hundred-year-old recipe made a delightful stew. The stew had a wonderful aroma while it cooked, and was hearty and flavorful with tasty homemade dumplings.

Here’s the original recipe:

Brown Beef Stew with Dumplings
Source: Mrs. De Graf’s Cook Book (1922)

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

Brown Beef Stew with Dumplings

  • Servings: 3 - 5
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

1 1/2 pounds stewing beef, cut into 1/2 inch cubes

1/4 cup flour

3 tablespoons fat (lard, shortening, or cooking oil)

1 small onion, finely chopped (about 1/3 cup)

3 cups water

1/2 teaspoons salt + 1/2 teaspoon salt for dumplings

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

approximately 1/3 cup milk

Directions

Put the stew beef in a bowl with the flour. Stir until the beef is coated with the flour.

In the meantime, melt the fat in a skillet or other broad pan that has a lid (I used a 12 inch skillet with a lid). Then put the chopped onions in the skillet and saute until translucent. Add the flour-dredged stewing beef. Increase heat to medium high and saute while stirring until the meet is browned. Then add water, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper. When it begins to boil, reduce the heat, cover, and gently simmer for 1 hour and 45 minutes.

While the stew is simmering make the dumpling dough by putting the flour, baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a bowl; stir to mix. Add 1/3 cup milk slowly stirring until a smooth dough forms. (Add additional milk if crumbly and too dry.)

Drop heaping teaspoonfuls of the dumpling dough into the simmering stew; evenly space the dropped dumpling dough across the top of the stew. Cover tightly with lid and steam for 12 minutes. Remove lid and remove from heat, serve.

http://www.ahundredyearsago.com

How to Get a Child to Drink Milk: 1922 Advice

glass of milk

Parents both now and a hundred years ago sometime have difficulty getting their children to drink milk. The 1922 edition of Good Housekeeping’s Book of Menus, Recipes, and Household Discoveries had the following tips:

Text about how to get a child to drink milk
Source: Good Housekeeping’s Book of Menus, Recipes, and Household Discoveries (1922)

Text about getting a child to drink milk
Source: Good Housekeeping’s Book of Menus, Recipes, and Household Discoveries (1922)

Poorhouse Soup

bowl of soupI was looking for a soup recipe to make on a cold winter day, and saw a recipe for Poorhouse Soup in a hundred-year-old church cookbook, and was immediately intrigued.

The soup is a pureed white been soup with potatoes, onions, and tomato juice. A little cayenne (red) pepper is added to give it more flavor. The soup was nice, though even with the cayenne pepper I found it a bit bland. If I made it again, I’d probably experiment a bit with the spices.

A hundred years ago many communities had publicly-funded poorhouses where the financially challenged could live. The food in the poorhouses was notoriously bad, and the residents often had to work on the poorhouse farm. This was seen as a way of encouraging people to not stay for long. Was this recipe actually based on what they fed residents at the local poorhouse? . . . or was the recipe name an inside family joke? It was an inexpensive soup to make and contains no meat, so maybe the cook’s family felt slightly annoyed that they were eating such a “cheap” food and joked about it being Poorhouse Soup.

Here’s the original recipe:

Recipe for Poor House Soup
Source: Cement City Cook Book (1922), compiled by S.W.W. Class of the Baptist Sunday School, Alpena, Michigan

Since “poorhouse{ is one word in online dictionaries, .I spelled “poorhouse” as one word when I updated the recipe even though it was two words in the original recipe. I’m not sure whether the way poorhouse is written has changed over the past hundred years or if the recipe author didn’t know how it should be written.

This recipe is lacking a few key details – such as how much water to add to the beans, both for soaking and for cooking. Based on the directions on the package of dried beans, I decided to soak the beans in 5 cups of waters of water overnight. I then drained the beans, and used 3 cups of water when I cooked them.  This seemed like an appropriate amount of water, and the soup had a nice consistency.

I know that recipe is for Poorhouse Soup – and that it is supposed to be a very basic, economical food, but I just couldn’t help myself, and garnished the soup with a few thin slices of green onion. It made a plain soup look special.

The soup wasn’t as flavorful as many modern soups (maybe I didn’t add enough cayenne pepper), but I think that it now would be considered a healthy food option rather than something for the poor (though it still is very economical to make).

Here’s the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Poorhouse Soup

  • Servings: 4 - 5
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

1 cup white beans  (great northern, navy, cannellini, or other white beans) – I used great northern beans.

5 cups water for soaking

3 cups water for cooking

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 medium potato, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes

2 medium onions, chopped

1 cup tomato juice

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon cayenne (red) pepper

1 tablespoon flour

1 tablespoon butter, softened

sliced green onions or other garnish (optional)

Put beans and 5 cups water in a bowl, and soak overnight, then drain.

Put the soaked beans, 3 cups of water, baking soda, potatoes, and onions in a large saucepan, and bring to a boil using high heat; then reduce and simmer for 1 1/2 hours or until the beans are tender.

Remove from heat, cool slightly, and then puree using a blender or food processor (or press it through a sieve). Return to saucepan, stir in the tomato juice, salt, and cayenne pepper; reheat until hot and steamy.

In the meantime, put the flour and butter in a small bowl; stir to combine. Put a small amount of the hot soup in the bowl and stir until smooth. Then stir the mixture into the soup. Continue heating until the soup thickens slightly.

If desired, garnish the soup with sliced green onions or other garnish.

http://www.ahundredyearsago.com