Beets a la Poitevine

Beets are a tasty low-calorie vegetable, have lots of fiber, and are chock full of nutrients including vitamin B, iron, manganese, copper, and magnesium. But I often struggle to find good beet recipes. So I was thrilled to find a hundred-year-old recipe for Beets a la Poitevine. Beet slices are immersed in a light sauce that brings out the natural sweet goodness of the beets. At first I thought that this recipe might be similar to Harvard Beets – but it is very different. The recipe calls for no sugar, and only a minimal amount of vinegar which I could barely taste.

I was curious about the French name of this recipe, and googled it but didn’t come up with much. Poitevine may refer to a place in France. There is a village called Bussière-Poitevine in central France.

Here is the original recipe:

Source: American Cookery (March, 1917)

And, here is the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Beets a la Poitevine

  • Servings: 3-5
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

4 medium beets (about 2 cups sliced beets)

2 tablespoons vinegar +1 tablespoon vinegar

1/4 cup butter + 1 tablespoon butter

1 small onion, finely diced

1/4 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

2 cups chicken broth

Wash and trim beets. Place in a large saucepan and cover with water; add 2 tablespoons vinegar to reduce bleeding. Bring to a boil using high heat, then reduce temperature and simmer until the beets are tender (approximately 30 – 45 minutes, depending upon size). Remove from heat, drain, and cool slightly, then peel beets. The skin is easy to remove after cooking. Slice the peeled beets.

In the meantime melt butter in a saucepan, then add diced onion and saute until tender. Stir in the flour and salt; then gradually, add the chicken broth while stirring constantly. Add 1 tablespoon vinegar. Continue stirring until the sauce boils and thickens. Gently stir in the sliced beets, and cook until hot and bubbly while gently stirring. Remove from heat and serve.

The original recipe called for adding additional butter as well as the vinegar at the very end of the cooking process. This seemed unnecessary to me – so I added all the sauce ingredients prior to adding the beet slices. After I added the beets, I just cooked it until the sauce returned to a boil and the beets were hot.

Hundred-year-old Little Pumpkin Pies Recipe

‘Tis the season for pumpkin desserts, so when I saw a hundred-year-old recipe for Little Pumpkin Pies, I knew that I had to give it a try.  Ginger and a small amount of molasses blend wonderfully with the pumpkin to create a lovely taste sensation. This recipe does not call for any cinnamon, but I never missed it.

So often dessert servings are huge. These Little Pumpkin Pies are perfect when something smaller is called for.

The old recipe suggested serving the Little Pumpkin Pies with whipped cream that is flavored with vanilla or almond extract. These pies are great by themselves – and probably would be fine with commercial whipped cream – but I highly recommend taking a few extra minutes to make homemade whipped cream. It really enhances the old-time goodness of these Little Pumpkin Pies.

Here is the original recipe:

Source: American Cookery (December, 1917)

Little Pumpkin Pies

  • Servings: about 15 2-inch pies (number varies depending upon size of pie tins)
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

And, here is the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Pies

pie pastry (Enough for a 2-crust 9-inch pie – more may be needed if pre-rolled sheets are used. I re-rolled pastry scraps several times to make all of the small pie shells)

1 1/2 cups pureed pumpkin*

1/2 cup sugar

2 tablespoons molasses

2 eggs

1 tablespoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons butter, melted

1 cup half and half

Roll pastry dough and cut into pieces. Fit each piece into the small pie pans; trim and flute edges. (I used a fairly shallow muffin pan to make the small pies.)

Preheat oven to 425° F. Combine pumpkin, sugar, molasses, eggs, ginger, salt, butter, and half and half in a mixing bowl; beat until smooth. Spoon into pie crusts. Bake 15 minutes; then reduce heat to 350°. Continue baking (for another 15-30 minutes) until a knife inserted in the center of a pie comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool slightly. Remove pies from pans. If desired, serve with whipped cream (see recipe below).

*Note: I used fresh pumpkin, but 3/4th of a can of pumpkin (14-16 oz. can) could be used. To prepare the fresh pumpkin for the pie, I peeled part of a pumpkin and cut it into one-inch cubes. About 1 3/4 cups of cubed pumpkin will make a cup of cooked pumpkin. I put the cubed pumpkin into a saucepan and covered it with water. I turned the heat to high and brought to a boil; I then reduced the heat to medium and cooked until tender (about 20 minutes). I drained the pumpkin and used my mixer to blend it until smooth. I then proceeded with the pie recipe.

Fresh pumpkin can also be roasted. Cut the pumpkin in half and remove seeds and membranes, then put it in the oven at 400° F. Bake for about an hour or until the pumpkin is tender. Remove from oven. When the pumpkin has cooled, remove the pulp from the pumpkin shell. Use mixer, blender, or food processor to blend the chunks of pulp until smooth. Proceed with the pie recipe.

Whipped Cream

1 cup whipping cream

2 tablespoons confectioners sugar

1/8 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract (I used vanilla)

Place the whipping cream in a bowl and beat until stiff peaks form. Add confectioners sugar, and vanilla or almond extract. Continue beating until thoroughly mixed.

Diet for Individuals with “Smoker’s Heart”

Picture source: Good Housekeeping (March, 1918)

The February, 1918 issue of Good Housekeeping magazine had this Q&A:

Question: Please tell me what a man about sixty years and who has a smoker’s heart and lately is troubled with indigestion should eat. Is sherry wine or porter good or bad for him?

Mrs. M.W.C., California

Answer: First of all, the man with a smoker’s heart should stop smoking; otherwise any attempt to remedy the indigestion by a course of diet would prove futile. I do not advise him to drink wine or beer of any description. His nerves are already sufficiently worn and are not in a condition to resist a new and violent stimulus. He should avoid tea, coffee, cocoa, and alcohol as well as tobacco.

A diet consisting of bread and mush made from whole ground cereals unbolted, good pure, fresh milk from healthy cows, fruits and succulent vegetables ought to prove helpful. If possible he should conduct his work and exercise so as to be properly fatigued when bedtime comes. He should sleep on a porch or in a thoroughly ventilated room, and take a morning bath as cold as can be tolerated, to secure a prompt and vigorous reaction when rubbed.

Old-fashioned Spiced Cranberries

Now that cranberries are in season, I just had to try a hundred-year-old recipe for Spiced Cranberries. Spiced Cranberries are NOT like the ubiquitous cranberry sauce that seems to be everywhere each holiday season, but rather are more of a chutney with a delightful sweet-sour flavor that is a perfect accompaniment to meat or poultry.  In addition to cranberries, this recipe calls for sugar, vinegar, and a lovely mixture of fall spices (cinnamon, cloves, allspice).

Here is the original recipe:

Source: Good Housekeeping (November, 1917)

The old recipe makes a lot – and indicates that the Spiced Cranberries should be canned. I decided to make less – and purchased one 12-ounce package (about 3 cups) of fresh cranberries, and then adjusted all of the other ingredients based on the amount of cranberries. Here is the updated recipe:

Spiced Cranberries

  • Servings: about 1 pint
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

1 12-ounce package (about 3 cups) fresh cranberries

1/2 cup vinegar

1/4 cup water

2 1/4 cups sugar

2 1/8 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon cloves

1 teaspoon allspice

Wash cranberries, then combine all ingredients in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil using medium heat, reduce heat to low and gently simmer for 45 minutes. (Do not cover pan. This mixture boils over very easily.)  Remove from heat.  May be served either warm or cold.

Buy Sugar by the Barrel

Do you want to save money? A hundred-year-old old home economics textbook says that it cheaper to buy sugar by the barrel:

When much preserving, canning, and jelly-making is to be done, a considerable saving is accomplished when sugar is bought by the barrel at its lowest price. An inspection of the fluctuation in food prices published in the daily paper will tell the woman who knows when she can buy most profitably. Sugar is a staple which it pays to buy in larger quantities than some other foods.

How to Cook and Why by Elizabeth Condit and Jessie A. Long (1914)

Traditional Spice Cookies

Tailgating. . . fall campfires on chilly evenings . .  . kids’ (and adults’) Halloween parties. .  . They all call for hearty cookies.  And (of course), I found a hundred-year-old recipe that fits the bill.  Spice Cookies are a molasses cookie spiced with cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. These cookies are slightly crispy on the outside and slightly chewy on the inside.

Here’s the original recipe:

Source: Larkin Housewives’ Cook Book (1917)

This recipe was on  a page in the old cookbook that was covered with (nearly 100-year-old?) food stains. Was this recipe a particular favorite of the original owner of the cookbook?

Here is the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Spice Cookies

  • Servings: approximately 50 cookies
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

1 cup molasses

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup shortening or lard

1 teaspoon powdered ginger

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

4 cups flour

2 eggs

Preheat oven to 375° F.  Put molasses in a dutch oven or a large saucepan; bring to a boil using medium heat. Remove from heat and stir in sugar, butter, and shortening or lard. Add ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and baking soda, stir to combine. Then add flour and eggs, and stir until well-mixed. Refrigerate dough 1/2 hour or until chilled. On well-floured surface, roll out dough to 1/4-inch thickness. Cut into 2-inch circles. (I used an upside-down water glass as the cookie cutter.) Place on greased baking sheets. Bake 10-12 minutes, or until lightly browned.  Do not over cook if a moist cookie is desired.