Food was a major expense for many families a hundred years ago, and cooks tried to minimize food waste. Bread – often homemade – sometimes went stale before it was eaten, and rather than just throwing the stale bread out, they looked for ways to use it.
I recently came across a hundred-year-old recipe for Bread Griddlecakes that called for using stale bread crumbs (and relatively little flour), and I just had to give it a try. The Bread Griddlecakes turned out well. This recipe made relatively thin pancakes that had a nice flavor. If I hadn’t made them myself, I never would have guessed that they contained breadcrumbs. Maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised since bread is made out of flour – so at some basic level this recipe contains similar ingredients to may typical recipes.
Here’s the original recipe:
Modern bread (at least store-bought bread) doesn’t seem to go stale, so I just used bread that wasn’t stale when I made this recipe.
I’m not sure why the old recipe called for scalded milk, so I used milk that I didn’t scald. It worked fine.
It’s fascinating how words change across the years. The original recipe title had a hyphen between “griddle” and “cake.” Today “griddlecake” is generally written as one word – or people just call them pancakes.
My mother knew how to dress a chicken. I’m (happily) clueless about how to even approach dressing a bird. A hundred years ago, dressing a chicken was apparently considered such an important skill that a home economics textbook contained directions for how to do it. Times sure have changed!
In case you ever need to dress a chicken, here are the directions:
To Dress a Chicken
Remove feathers by pulling them out, after plunging the fowl into boiling water and holding it there for a moment or two. Fowls are sometimes picked without scalding, if the work can be done immediately after they are killed.
Singe the plucked fowl by holding it in a flame of gas or burning paper, being sure that all parts are exposed during the process so that all hairs are removed.
Cut off the head, if it has not been removed. The neck may be removed by pushing back the skin and cutting it off.
Remove the feet in cutting and breaking the legs at the joints.
Make an incision one inch above the vent and crosswise between the legs. Draw out the intestines and other organs carefully, cutting away the vent. Remove from the mass the heart, liver and gizzard, being careful not to break the gall bladder which lies under the liver. Cut the gall bladder away carefully.
Remove the skin from around the gizzard; open the gizzard and remove the inner skin and contents.
Wash the liver, gizzard and heart, squeezing the latter to remove any blood. These organs are known as the “giblets.”
The crop and windpipe may be removed at the neck. Do this without breaking the crop, or tearing the skin at the neck.
Remove all pinfeathers with a sharp-pointed small knife. Remove the oil bag from the tail.
Wash the chicken well in cold water, both inside and out. Dry with a cloth. The fowl is now ready to be used from baking.
When a fowl is to be cut into pieces, as for stewing, it is usually convenient to remove the wings and legs before removing the intestines and other organs from the body.
Poultry should always be allowed to stand several hours after dressing before it is cooked.
Elementary Home Economics (1921) by Mary Lockwood Matthews
Fruit salad is perfect for hot summer days, so I was thrilled to find a delightful hundred-year-old recipe for Pineapple and Strawberry Salad. The fruits are paired with a sunny dressing that contains lemon juice, and pineapple or other fruit juices.
Here is the original recipe:
And, here is the original recipe for Golden Dressing:
Three-fourths cup of Golden Dressing seemed like a lot, so I used about 1/3 cup which seemed like plenty.
Here’s the recipe updated for modern cooks:
Pineapple and Strawberry Salad with Golden Dressing
2 cups diced fresh pineapple (dice into bite-sized pieces)
1 cup strawberries (cut into half – or quarters if the strawberries are large)
1/3 cup Golden Dressing – use more if desired
Put pineapple and strawberries in a bowl. Add Golden Dressing and stir gently to coat the fruit with the dressing.
1/4 cup pineapple juice, apple juice, or other light-colored fruit juice
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/3 cup sugar
Beat eggs for the yolks and whites until combined (but not foamy). Add the remaining ingredients, and beat until mixed. Put in a saucepan and cook using medium heat until the dressing thickens; stir constantly while cooking. Remove from heat and strain. Put in the refrigerator to cool. May be stored for several days.
Food preferences change across the years. Some foods increase in popularity over time, while other foods that were once common are now seldom made. As I work on this blog, I often think about food fads and trends over the past hundred years. Occasionally 1921 cookbooks and magazines provide a window into even earlier times. For example, in 1921 a reader of American Cookery asked for a recipe that she remembered from her childhood.
Gingered Rhubarb apparently was a food that was eaten in the late 1800’s in Scotland, but by 1921 it apparently was not part of the repertoire of cooks on the U.S. side of the Atlantic. Why had it become less popular? Was it already considered an old-fashioned dessert a hundred-years ago?
The query also contains a serving suggestion. The individual requesting the recipes states that she remembers eating Gingered Rhubarb on rice desserts (which I took to mean rice pudding).
In any case, I was intrigued and decided to make Gingered Rhubarb. I also made Rice Pudding to serve with the Gingered Rhubarb. The recipe I found was for a Baked Rice Pudding (rather than the type of Rice Pudding that is made in a saucepan on top of the stove).
The verdict: Gingered Rhubarb is a tart sauce embedded with sweetened chunks of rhubarb. It goes nicely with Baked Rice Pudding (which is drier and less sticky than many modern Rice Puddings). That said, you need to enjoy rhubarb and its intense flavor to like this recipe. My husband and I both liked the Gingered Rhubarb with Baked Rice Pudding. However, our daughter did not think it was edible. My conclusion- this recipe features rhubarb with its unique tart taste. If you really like that taste, you’ll enjoy this recipe. However, if you are lukewarm to rhubarb, this recipe is not for you.
Here are the original recipe for Gingered Rhubarb:
I put the rhubarb mixture in a large glass casserole bowl and let it sit overnight on my kitchen counter. The next day, I put the mixture in a stainless steel pan and cooked. it I used ground ginger when making the recipe.
I was pleased with how well the rhubarb pieces retained their shape when I cooked the Gingered Rhubarb. I think that allowing the rhubarb and sugar mixture sit overnight before cooking may have helped the pieces retain their shape. The sugar drew liquid out of the rhubarb.
The 1 1/2 hour cooking time seemed long to me, but I think that it allowed the flavors to concentrate as some of the liquid boils off. The rhubarb turned brownish as it is cooked (similarly to how apples turn brownish when cooked for a long time to make apple butter).
This is a very large recipe. When I made the recipe, I halved it.
Here is the original recipe for Baked (Plain) Rice Pudding:
Cooks many years ago would have made both the Gingered Rhubarb and the Baked Rice Pudding using a wood or coal stove. Both of these recipes have a long cook time – but that probably wasn’t considered an issue when the stoves operated constantly, and foods could be cooked for several hours with little attention from the cook.
Here’s the recipes for Gingered Rhubarb updated for modern cooks:
3 pounds rhubarb, cut into 1/2 pieces (about 6 cups of pieces) -Do not peel.
4 cups sugar
1 tablespoon ground ginger
In a crock or large glass casserole bowl combine the sugar and ground ginger. Add the rhubarb pieces and stir to coat the rhubarb with the sugar mixture. Cover, and let sit overnight at room temperature.
The next morning put the rhubarb mixture in a stainless steel pan and bring to a boil using medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 1 1/2 hours. Gently stir several times while it is cooking.
Remove from heat. May be serve hot or cold. If desired serve with rice pudding, ice cream, or other dessert.
Preheat oven to 325° F. Wash the rice, and combine with all the other ingredients. Pour into a 2-quart buttered baking dish. Place in oven and bake for a total of three hours.
During the first hour, stir three times. Then reduce heat to 3oo° F. and continue baking. After another hour, stir again. Continue baking for an additional hour, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. If desired, when the rice pudding is set, the Rice Pudding can be put under the broiler for a short time to lightly brown the top. May be served hot or cold. Refrigerate, if not served immediately.
Some foods have retained their popularity across the years. Bacon is one of those foods. Here are hundred-year-old directions for frying bacon:
To Fry Bacon
Use a thick, or what is called a well-seasoned, frying pan. Put the slices of bacon in the cold pan and set over a slow fire until cooked, pour off the fat and set aside, not mixing it with other frying fats, for it is best kept separate for cooking eggs and frying slices of graham bread. Put some of the slices of bacon back into the pan to crisp, for those who like it that way, and toss about.
Spice cakes are a favorite around our house, so when a birthday rolled around I got the usual request for a spice cake. I wanted to honor the request – yet at the same time, do something different – so I was pleased to find a hundred-year-old recipe for Ribbon Cake, which is a three-layer cake. There are yellow cake layers on the top and bottom with a spice cake layer in the middle.
The spice cake layer contained two dried fruits- chopped raisins and chopped figs. I’ve often eaten spice cakes with raisins. This is the first time I’ve ever had one that also contained figs, and they were a wonderful addition. When eating the cake, I couldn’t distinguish between the chopped figs and the chopped raisins – but together they added a richer and more nuanced flavor and texture than if just raisins had been used.
Here’s the original recipe:
The old recipe doesn’t say to beat the egg white before adding to the cake batter, but I did since I couldn’t figure out why else the recipe would have called for separating the eggs. Adding beaten egg whites results in a lighter cake.
Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease three 9-inch round cake pans; line with waxed paper or parchment paper, then grease again and lightly flour.
Put egg whites into a mixing bowl, and beat until peaks form. Set aside.
Put butter, sugar, egg yolks, milk, flour, and baking powder in a large mixing bowl. Beat until well-mixed. Fold in the beaten egg whites. Pour the 2/3’s of the batter into two cake pans (1/3 in each pan).
Add the cinnamon, mace, nutmeg, and molasses to the remaining batter. Gently stir until thoroughly combined, then gently stir in the raisins and figs. Put in the third cake pan.
Bake the three layers for 25 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 5 minutes. Remove from pans. Cool 1 hour or until completely cooled.
Trim cake layers if needed to make even, then put a yellow cake layer on a plate. Spread with apple jelly, and then put the spice cake layer on top of it. Spread with apple jelly, and then place the remaining yellow cake layer on top.
If desired, frost cake. (I frosted the cake with buttercream icing that was flavored with maple extract.)