Parsnips with Drawn Butter Sauce

Parsnips with Drawn Butter Sauce in Bowl

I seem to get into ruts when making vegetables, so am always on the lookout for recipes for some of the less common vegetables. When I saw a recipe for Parsnips with Drawn Butter Sauce in a hundred-year-old cookbook, I decided to give it a try.

The recipe turned out well. The sweet, nutty, earthly parsnips were cut into strips about 2-inches long and cooked, and then embedded in a rich, buttery sauce.

Recipe for Parsnips with Drawn Butter Sauce
Source: Boston Cooking School Cook Book (1923)

I was surprised that the old recipe for the Drawn Butter Sauce called for water and flour. Today, Drawn Butter is generally just a clarified butter – but apparently it was a thickened butter and water sauce a hundred years ago.

When I made this recipe, I made half a recipe for the drawn butter sauce. I used hot water rather than fish stock. I peeled the parsnips rather than scraping them. (Does anyone scrape parsnips – or carrots for that matter – anymore?)

Here’s the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Parsnips with Drawn Butter Sauce

  • Servings: 3 - 4
  • Difficulty: moderate
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1 pound parsnips (about 4 medium parsnips)


1 teaspoon salt + 1/4 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons butter

1 1/2 tablespoons flour

dash pepper

3/4 cup hot water

1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

Peel parsnips and cut into pieces two inches long and 1/2 inch wide. Put in a saucepan, cover with water; add 1 teaspoon salt.  Bring to a boil using high heat, then reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes or until tender.

Melt half of the butter in a saucepan using medium heat; stir in the flour, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and pepper. Gradually add the hot water while stirring constantly. Bring to a boil while continuing to stir, reduce heat and continue to stir while the mixture slowly boils for 5 minutes. Stir in remaining butter and the lemon juice. Immediately remove from heat and pour the sauce over the cooked parsnips. Gently stir to combine.

Hundred-Year-Old Tip to Prevent Pots from Boiling Over

Saucepan that boiled overWhen I boil potatoes, beans, or other vegetables, I often have issues with the water boiling over. Here’s a household hint in a hundred-year-old cookbook about how to prevent a pan from boiling over:

To Keep the Lid on a Boiling Pot – A teaspoonful of butter dropped into the water in which you are boiling dry beans, or other starchy vegetables will stop the annoyance of having the lid on the pot jump off, as it will otherwise do. The butter acts the same as oil on troubled waters and keeps it calm and manageable.

Cook Book (Published by Bethany Shrine Patrol No. 1, Rochester N.Y., 1923)

(Black) Walnuts and Sweet Potatoes

Black Walnuts and Sweet Potatoes

I love the bold, earthy taste of black walnuts – but seldom see them in stores, so I often forage for them. One of my favorite autumn activities is gathering black walnuts, hulling them (oh, what mess!), and then on a cold winter day cracking them to get the nut meats out. I now have a jar of black walnuts in my refrigerator so was excited to see a recipe for Walnuts and Sweet Potatoes that called for black walnuts in a hundred-year-old cookbook.

The recipe was delightful. It called for sugar instead of the usual brown sugar used in sweet potato recipes which allowed the robust taste of the black walnuts to shine.

Here’s the original recipe:

Walnuts and Sweet Potatoes Recipe
Source: Larkin Housewives’ Cook Book (1923)

This recipe calls for a lot of sweet potatoes (12), so when I updated the recipe I reduced it to 4 sweet potatoes (2 pounds). After all the specificity about the number of sweet potatoes, the recipe was oddly unspecific about the amounts for the other ingredients. So when I updated, the recipe I also added amounts for the other ingredients. And, I changed the name from Walnuts and Sweet Potatoes to Black Walnuts and Sweet Potatoes to better describe the recipe.

Here’s the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Black Walnuts and Sweet Potatoes

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: moderate
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2 pounds sweet potatoes (about 4 medium sweet potatoes)

3 tablespoons butter

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup black walnuts, coarsely chopped

Wash sweet potatoes and then place in a Dutch oven or other large pan. Cover with water and bring to a boil using high heat. Reduce heat and simmer for 25 minutes or until the sweet potatoes are tender. Remove from heat and let cool enough to handle. Remove skins from the sweet potatoes. They should slip off easily. Then cut the sweet potatoes in quarters and arrange in a shallow baking dish.

In the meantime, preheat oven to 375° F.  Dot the sweet potatoes pieces with small pieces of butter, then generously sprinkle with sugar. Top with the chopped black walnuts. Put in oven, and bake until the sweet potatoes are  hot, and the sugar is melted and bubbly.

Fried Oysters in Batter with Philadelphia Relish

Fried Oysters with Philadelphia Relish

Oysters were much more popular a hundred years ago than what they are now, and many old cookbooks had numerous oyster recipes.  Oysters were widely available and relatively inexpensive. By 1923 trains could quickly transport oysters to most places in the U.S.

I decided to make a fairly basic hundred-year-old oyster recipe – Fried Oysters in Batter. The cookbook recommended that the oysters be served with Philadelphia Relish, which is a cabbage slaw with a vinegrette dressing, so I also made that.

The oysters turned out well and were very tasty. The Philadelphia Relish reminded me of cabbage slaws that were served at church dinners when I was child.

Here’s the original recipe:

Fried Oysters with Philadephia Relish
Source: Boston Cooking School Cook Book (1923)

This recipe made a lot of batter. Since I had a pint of oysters, I halved the batter recipe (and still had more batter than I needed).

My sense is that green peppers have gotten much larger over the past hundred years, so I chopped 1/2 pepper instead of a whole one for the Philadelphia Relish. Also, the recipe called for “mustard seed,” but it didn’t seem like whole mustard seeds would work in this recipe, so I used ground dry mustard.

Here’s the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Fried Oysters in Batter with Philadelphia Relish

  • Servings: 2-4
  • Difficulty: moderate
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Fried Oysters in Batter

1 pint oysters

1/2 cup bread flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

dash pepper

1 egg

3/8 cup milk

lard, shortening, or vegetable oil

Put flour, salt, pepper, egg, and milk in a mixing bowl; beat until combined and smooth. Set aside.

Drain oysters, and dry on paper towels. Heat about 1/2 inch of lard, shortening, or vegetable oil in a large skillet. Then drip oysters in the batter, and put in the skillet. Cook until lightly browned on the bottom, then gently turn to brown the other side. When browned, remove from the skillet with a fork or slotted spoon. Drain the on paper towels, then serve.

If desired, serve with Philadelphia Relish.

Philadelphia Relish

2 cups cabbage, shredded

1/2 green pepper, finely chopped

1 teaspoon celery seed

1/4 teaspoon dry ground mustard

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1/4 cup vinegar

Combine shredded cabbage and chopped green pepper in a bowl. Set aside.

In a small bowl, put the celery seed, mustard, salt, brown sugar, and vinegar; stir to combine. Then pour over the cabbage and green pepper mixture. Stir gently to evenly distribute the dressing.

1923 Tables for Calculating Food Portions for a Large Group

Table showing amount of food needed for church suppers
Source: Order of the Eastern Star Relief Fund Cook Book (Michigan Grand Chapter, 1923-1924, p. 37)

Old community and organization cookbooks provide a wealth of information – and I’m never quite sure what I’ll find when I start leafing through one. For example, I’d never considered how much butter, meat, or coffee was needed when having a large church supper, so it was helpful to find information about the amounts needed of page 37 of a hundred-year-old cookbook published by the Michigan Grand Chapter of the Eastern Star.

I was even more amazed when I flipped to page 81 of the same cookbook and found a table showing the amounts of various foods needed to serve 50 people.

Food needed to serve 50 people.
Source: Order of the Eastern Star Relief Fund Cook Book (Michigan Grand Chapter, 1923-1924, p. 81)

And, I was flabbergasted that some of the recommendations differed across the two pages. For example, for church suppers, a pound of butter will be enough for 48 to 56 servings, so it looks like a pound of butter would be enough for 50 people; but the chart on the amount of food needed for 50 people says that 2 pounds of butter is needed. Similarly, the church supper information says 1 pound of coffee is needed to serve 40 to 50 people, but the other table indicates that 2 pounds are needed to serve 50 people; however, there is some good news.  The information on both pages agree that 1/2 bushel of potatoes are needed to serve 50 people.

“A Homely Way to Make Potatoes” Recipe

Potato Mixture in Dish

I love to browse through old community cookbooks. Sometimes the recipes have unusual names that intrigue me. This is one of those times. A 1923 cookbook published by the General Welfare Guild of the Beaver Valley General Hospital in New Brighton, Pennsylvania had a recipe for “A Homely Way to Cook Potatoes.” Can potatoes be “homely?”

The recipe called for putting potatoes, onion, parsley and seasonings in a saucepan with water, and then boiling the mixture. The recipe was easy to make. The potatoes reminded me of old-fashioned parsley potatoes. And, the homely potatoes (dare I say it?) were attractive.

Here’s the original recipe:

Potato Recipe
Source: General Welfare Guild Cook Book (Published by the General Welfare Guild, Beaver Valley General Hospital, New Brighton, PA, 1923)

I’m not exactly sure how much  “4 large tablespoon butter” is, so I used four tablespoons of butter. It also did not seem like boiling water needed to be used in this recipe. I just used cold water. I’m sure that it took a little longer to heat, but that was okay with me.

Here’s the recipe updated for modern cooks:

A Homely Way to Make Potatoes

  • Servings: 4 - 6
  • Difficulty: moderate
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6 large potatoes, peeled and sliced

1/4 cup chopped parsley

1 large onion, sliced

1 teaspoon salt

dash pepper

4 tablespoons butter

1 cup water

Put all ingredients in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil using high heat; then reduce heat and simmer until the potatoes are tender (approximately 15-20 minutes). Remove from heat and drain. Serve immediately.