Sometimes old cookbooks contain recipes for very basic foods that barely seem to need a recipe. For example, I recently came across this recipe for String Beans in a hundred-year-old cookbook.
But, when I look more closely, I realize that the directions are very different than how the beans would be made today. Boiled string bean recipes today often call for leaving the beans whole and merely breaking the tips off the beans; other modern recipes call for breaking the beans into 2- 3 inch pieces. The hundred-year-old recipe, however, called for breaking or cutting the beans into small 1-inch pieces.
Modern recipes for boiled string beans also call for cooking them just a few minutes – 5 minutes or maybe 10 max. However the old recipe directs cooks to boil the string beans for 1-to 3 hours!!!
What the heck? But, next thing I knew I was boiling string beans for 1 hour. (I couldn’t bring myself to boil them for more than that).
The verdict – The beans were very soft, but still maintained their shape. My daughter said, “Why did you ruin some perfectly good green beans? They taste like frozen or canned beans.”
Break the tips off the string beans. Cut or break into 1-inch pieces. Wash beans, then put into a sauce pan. Cover with water and bring to a boil using high heat. Reduce heat and simmer for 1 to 3 hours. Add salt for last 1/2 hour of cooking. If most of the water boils away, add additional water. Remove from heat and drain. Put in serving bowl and top with a dab of butter.
This 1921 ad works for me. I’m not a fan of evaporated milk, but I’m already trying to think of recipes that call for evaporated milk – pumpkin pie . . . what else? According to Wikipedia, Carnation first used the milk “from contented cows” slogan in 1907 – and continued to use it for many decides.
Sweet, juicy, local peaches are just beginning to appear at farm stands, so I was pleased to find a hundred-year-old recipe for Peach Shortcake. The recipe turned out well – and was perfect for a hot summer day.
Here’s the original recipe:
This recipe made a little less shortcake than I was expecting. I used a 10-inch round cake pan when I made the recipe. (There wasn’t enough dough to make two layers.) If I made this recipe again, I think that 8-inch cake pans would work better, so that is the pan size that I listed in the updated recipe.
Combine sliced peaches, sugar, and lemon juice; stir gently. Spoon some of the sweetened peaches between the layers of shortcake (see recipe below). Put additional peaches and the whipped cream on the top layer of shortcake.
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons baking powder
3 tablespoons butter, softened
3 tablespoons lard
1 cup milk
butter, if desired
Preheat oven to 425° F. Put flour, salt, and baking powder in a bowl; stir to combine. Cut in butter and lard using a pastry blender. Add milk and mix using a fork until dough starts to cling together. Grease two 8-inch round cake pans, then divide dough in half and put into the pans. Bake 10-15 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool slightly, then remove from pans. Split each layer using a fork. If desired butter layers, Arrange layers with fruit filling in the middle and on top.
Until I saw directions for packing sandwiches in a hundred-year-old cookbook, I never thought about how people packed sandwiches to take to school or work back then:
Keep sandwiches wrapped in a cheese cloth which has been thoroughly dampened with cold water, and pack in a closed box until ready to use.
Lowney’s Cook Book (Revised, 1921 Edition)
Sounds like a good way to get a soggy sandwich – but apparently if the cheese cloth is merely “dampened” and not “wet,” this is not a problem.
The tip was supposed to provide cooks with guidance so they could confidently pack sandwiches. But I’m left with more questions: Was the cheese cloth reused for multiple days, or was it discarded after one use?Why didn’t the cook book suggest using waxed paper to wrap sandwiches? I’ve seen hundred-year-old recipes that call for using waxed paper to line pans, so I know it was available back then.
Packing sandwiches sure was more complicated in the days before Ziploc bags!
I often see sandwich recipes in hundred-year-old cookbooks. They often contain different ingredients from modern sandwiches, and don’t pique my interest. But. I was intrigued by a recipe for Cucumber Sandwiches. There’s a bumper crop of cucumbers this year, so decided to give the recipe a try. The sandwiches contain lettuce and cucumber slices coated with a sweet-sour Boiled Dressing.
The lettuce and cucumber slices were crisp and the sandwich was tasty – though it seemed very old-fashioned and made me think about old novels where the heroine eats dainty sandwiches similar to this.
The bread is buttered for this recipe. I haven’t buttered bread when making sandwiches in years. Which made the sandwich seem even more old-fashioned.
I probably won’t make this recipe again, but it was fun to make one time.
Here’s the original recipe:
And, here’s the old recipe for Boiled Dressing:
One loaf of bread would make 8 or 10 sandwiches. There was no way that my husband and I were doing to eat that many. So when I made this recipe, I really scaled the Cucumber Sandwiches Recipe down, and gave directions for one sandwich. The Cucumber Sandwich recipe calls for Boiled Dressing. I made the full Boiled Dressing recipe and used the left-over dressing on other salads. It kept well in the refrigerator.
1 1/2 teaspoons boiled dressing (see recipe below)
1/8 teaspoon grated onion
2 slices bread (preferably thinly sliced)
Put boiled dressing and grated onion in a small bowl; stir to combine. Add cucumber slices. Gently roll and stir the slices to coat with the dressing. Set aside.
Butter the bread slices. Put the lettuce leaf on one slice. Top with the cucumber slices that are coated with dressing. Put the second butter slice of bread on top. Serve immediately.
2 egg yolks, well beaten
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon flour
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
Put beaten egg yolks, salt, sugar and flour in a small bowl; stir until blended. Add milk, lemon juice, and butter or olive oil. Put in a saucepan, and heat using medium heat while stirring constantly. Cook until the mixture begins to thicken, remove from heat and refrigerate. If the mixture begins to curdle place the pan in a larger pan of cold water and beat vigorously using a mixer.
The dressing will keep in the refrigerator for several days.
I’ve seen several hundred-year-old articles which state that coffee is bad for your health, so I was surprised to see information in a 1921 cookbook about the benefits of coffee. Here is what it said:
The stimulating property of coffee is due to the alkaloid caffeine, together with an essential oil. Like tea, it contains an astringent. Coffee is more stimulating than tea, although, weight for weight, tea contains about twice as much theine as coffee contains caffeine. The smaller proportion of tea used accounts for the difference. A cup of coffee with breakfast, and a cup of tea with supper, serve as a mild stimulant for an adult, and forms a valuable food adjunct, but should never be found in the dietary of a child or dyspeptic.
Coffee taken in moderation quickens action of the heart, acts directly upon the nervous system, and assists gastric digestion. Fatigue of body and mind are much lessened by moderate use of coffee; severe exposure to cold can be better endured by the coffee drinker.
In times of war coffee has proved more valuable than alcoholic stimulants to keep up the enduring power of soldiers. Coffee acts as an antidote for opium and alcoholic poisoning. Tea and coffee are much more readily adsorbed when taken on an empty stomach; therefore this should be avoided except when used for medicinal purposes. Coffee must be taken in moderation; its excessive use means palpitation of the heart, tremor, insomnia, and nervous prostration.
Occasionally I make a hundred-year-old recipe that is lovely – but that seems to be misnamed. This is one of those times. The name of the recipe is Minced Potatoes – yet recipe directions call for either cutting the potatoes into 3/4th inch chunks or slicing them — I sliced them — which resulted in pieces which seemed much larger than what I’d expect for Minced Potatoes.
To make this recipe, potatoes are first boiled, the cut into pieces and put into the oven to brown. Then they are stirred and 1/2 cup of cream is poured over them. They are then returned to the oven to brown a second time. Most of the cream evaporated, but a delicate creaminess remained.
Minced Potatoes reminded me a bit of Scalloped Potatoes – but they were not nearly as creamy. But I’m saying this in a good way. The Minced Potatoes made a tasty side dish.
The recipe does not say when to add to the salt. It is not clear whether it should be added to the water that is used to boil the potatoes, or to the cream that is poured over the potatoes. I decided to add the salt to the cream – though I only used 1/2 teaspoon of salt instead of the teaspoon called for in the old recipe. A teaspoon seemed like too much. (If I’d instead added the salt to the water used to boil the potatoes, 1 teaspoon would have been an appropriate amount of salt to add.)
The recipe called for “cream.” I was uncertain whether this meant heavy cream or a lighter cream. I decided to use half and half rather than heavy cream.
Peel potatoes and put in a saucepan; cover with water. Bring to a boil using high heat; then reduce heat and cook until the potatoes are tender (25-30 minutes). Remove from heat, drain, and put the potatoes in the refrigerator to cool.
Pre-heat oven to 400° F. Cut the cold boiled potatoes into 3/4th inch cubes or slice the potatoes. (I sliced them.). Put the potatoes in a 1-quart buttered baking dish. Place in oven.
Put the cream and salt in a small bowl. Stir to combine. Set aside.
When the potatoes begin to brown, gently stir the potatoes to turn them. Pour the cream mixture over the potatoes. Return to the oven and allow to lightly brown a second time. Remove from oven and gently stir, then serve. (If desired, put the potatoes in a serving bowl. After I stirred the potatoes, they didn’t look particularly attractive in the casserole dish that I cooked them in – but they looked very nice in a serving dish.)