I often learn new things from doing this blog. For example, today I noticed a small advertisement in a hundred-year-old magazine for Farwell & Rhines Gluten Flour. Since some people have health issues that require them to go gluten free (or at least minimize their use of gluten), I was surprised to see high gluten promoted. How did cooks in 1919 use this flour? . . . Did they mix it with other flours? Use if for bread making?
Gluten is a protein. Flours with higher gluten content rise better when making breads. According to SFGate, all-purpose flour typically contains 11-12% gluten. Bread flour is considered a high gluten flour, and it contains up to 13% gluten. Cake flours only have 7-8% gluten. There are also products sold that are just called “gluten.” Gluten is sometimes added to other flours to increase the gluten content when making bread.
Leeks are a delightful, often under-utilized vegetable, so when I saw a hundred-year-old recipe for Bianca-Style Leeks I knew that I had to give it a try. The mild onion-like flavor of the leeks was accentuated by a delicate chicken broth and cream sauce. This recipe is easy to make, and very tasty. The leeks make a wonderful side dish, and are delightful with beef or pork.
When I made this recipe, I couldn’t figure out why the leeks needed to be soaked in cold water for half an hour so I skipped that step. I also didn’t cook the leeks as long as called for in the old recipe. A half hour seemed excessive; they were tender after about 15 minutes. I substituted butter for the Crisco, and made the sauce in a separate pan and then added the leeks – it just seemed easier.
Clean and trim the leeks. Cut crosswise the white and light green parts of the leeks into 2-inch pieces. Place in a saucepan and cover with water; add 1/2 teaspoon salt. Using high heat bring to a boil, then reduce heat and cook until the leeks are tender (about 15 minutes). Remove from heat and drain.
In the meantime, in another pan, using medium heat, melt butter; then stir in the flour, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and pepper. Gradually, add the chicken broth and half and half while stirring constantly. Continue stirring until the white sauce thickens. Add cooked leeks and reheat until the sauce is hot and bubbly while occasionally stirring very gently. Remove from heat and serve immediately.
Last week the eggplants at the farmers’ market just seemed to call me. Their beautiful deep purple color, and smooth curves made them aesthetically pleasing. I also knew that eggplants are known for their versatility because they have little flavor of their own, but rather absorb the flavors of the foods and spices that they are cooked with.
Once I had purchased an eggplant, I had a new challenge – finding a hundred-year-old recipe that called for eggplant.
After browsing through old magazines and cookbooks, I think that I found a winner. Scalloped Eggplant is made by slicing eggplant, then layering it in a casserole dish with grated cheese, and smothering with tomato sauce. It is then baked in the oven until the eggplant is tender.
The Scalloped Eggplant was delicious, and can be served as either a meatless main dish or a hearty side dish.
Here’s the original recipe:
Today eggplant is generally written as one word, but that has not always been the case. Based on the way it was written in this recipe, it was two words a hundred years ago.
I used cheddar cheese when I made this recipe. And, I didn’t sprinkle the layers in the casserole dish with salt because I had previously soaked the eggplant in salt water. There is also salt in the cheese and tomato sauce. Sometimes I think that people in 1919 liked saltier foods than what we do today.
Peel eggplant and slice it into 1/2 inch slices. In a large bowl, combine the water and salt. Add the eggplant slices. Put a plate or other weight on the eggplant slices to keep them from floating. Let soak for 30 minutes. Drain and rinse.
Preheat oven to 375° F. Pour one-fourth of the tomato sauce in a 1 1/2 quart casserole dish. Next put one-third of the eggplant slices in the dish. Add another fourth of the tomato sauce, then add one-third of the cheese and sprinkle with pepper. Continue layering until all of the ingredients are used, ending with the cheese.
Cover dish and bake in oven for 35 minutes. Remove lid and continue baking until the eggplant is tender (about another 10-20 minutes). Remove from oven and serve.
Food must have been a lot scarcer a century ago than it is now. A hundred-year-year old magazine had this tip about how to successfully save those tiny dabs of extra butter that are sometimes left over after buttering bread:
Use bread and butter plates – yes, even if you do your own dishes. Every bit of left-over butter or margarine can be saved this way. It can’t be, or isn’t always, if put on the dinner plate.
American Cookery (August-September, 1918)
Is it just me, or does this tip seem slightly gross? At my house, I scrape any left-over butter off the plate and throw it away. Of course, I never use bread and butter plates, but still this seems a bit over the top.
There were lots of cucumbers in the refrigerator, and my husband said, “Make sweet pickles,” so I started digging through my 1919 cookbooks for a hundred-year-old sweet pickle recipe. I found one that looked somewhat promising, but it ended up being frustrated because it lacked key information.
When I read this recipe, I had more questions than answers: How many cucumbers do I need to make this recipe? How do I make a “weak brine”? What would be a good spice combination that would result in tasty pickles?
Not to be deterred, I forged ahead – and googled “weak brine.” I then pulled out some of my other cookbooks and looked at their pickle recipes to get a sense of how many cucumbers might be needed based upon the amount of sugar and vinegar listed in the recipe. I also considered various spice combinations listed in other recipes.
Here’s my stab at fleshing out and modernizing this recipe:
Peel cucumbers, then quarter cucumbers by cutting in half lengthwise and then cutting each half in half. Scrape the seeds out of the quarters to create strips.
Put the strips in a crock, or large glass bowl or jar. Cover with the brine. (Make brine by stirring salt into the water.) Make sure the strips are submerged in the brine by weighting them down with a plate or other weight. Leave in brine overnight (at least 8 hours), then drain using a colander. Place colander with cucumber strips in sink (if not already in the sink). Scald the cucumber strips by pouring boiling water over them.
In the meantime, make the pickling syrup. Combine vinegar, sugar, turmeric, celery seed, and mustard seed in a large kettle. Using medium heat bring to a boil. Add the cucumber strips, and bring back to a boil. Cook until the strips are translucent (about 3-5 minutes).
Pack the strips and syrup into hot pint jars; fill to 1/4 inch of top. Wipe jar rim and put lid on.
Process in boiling water bath for 5 minutes.
The verdict: The pickle strips turned out okay. They were sweet and tangy, and had a texture similar to thinly-sliced bread and butter pickles. They were not as crisp as some other pickles. That said, the next time I make pickles, I’ll probably use a different recipe that provides more detailed instructions.
People have wondered for a long time how exercise and other activities affect the number of calories needed. A 1919 home economics textbook contained this table with U.S. Department of Agriculture data on the “average calorific requirements of the body under different conditions.” The book contained examples of how the table could be used to calculate the number of calories needed by an individual:
A woman of about 130 pounds, sleeping for 8 hours, doing light housework 10 hours, reading, etc. 6 hours, would require (8 X 56) + (10 X 148) + (6 X 87) = 2,450 calories. A boy of about the same weight with 8 hours sleep, 8 hours active exercise, 6 hours playing tennis (severe exercise) and 2 hours quiet would require (8 X 56) + (8 X 165) + (6 X 390) + (2 X 87) = 4,282 calories.
Household Engineering: Scientific Management in the Home by Christine Frederick (1919)
hmm. . . I wonder if the information in the 1919 table is still considered correct.