Old-fashioned Fig Meringue Pie

A hundred years ago, fresh fruit was scarce during the long winter months, so pies were often made using dried fruit.  I found a wonderful recipe for a Fig Meringue Pie in a 1919 cookbook. The delectable fig filling is topped with a creamy meringue.

Here’s the original recipe:

Source: Recipes for Everyday by Janet McKenzie Hill (1919)

And, here’s the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Fig Meringue Pie

  • Servings: 5-6
  • Difficulty: moderate
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12 ounces dried figs

1 1/2 cups water

2 eggs separated

2 tablespoons sugar + 4 tablespoons sugar + a small amount of additional sugar

dash salt

1 8-inch (small) baked pie crust

Remove stems from figs, then chop. (There should be approximately 2 1/2 cups of chopped figs.) Put chopped figs in a saucepan, add water. Bring to a boil using high heat, then reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes while stirring occasionally. Remove from heat.

In the meantime, preheat oven to 325° F. Place egg yolks, 2 tablespoons sugar, and salt in a bowl; beat together. Place a small amount (approximately 1 – 2 tablespoons) of hot fig mixture into bowl with beaten egg mixture, stir quickly to prevent eggs from coagulating. Then put this mixture in the saucepan with the cooked figs while stirring. Return to heat (medium), and cook until the mixture thickens while stirring continuously.  Pour into a pie shell which had been previously baked.

In a separate bowl make the meringue. Place egg whites in the bowl, and beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Gradually add 4 tablespoons sugar while continuing to beat. Then spoon on top of the pie and swirl; sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 20 minutes or until the meringue is lightly browned.

Old-Fashioned Pastry Hearts

heart-shaped pastries

Are you looking for a tasty, fun-to-make Valentine’s Day treat? Well, I may have found the perfect recipe for you. Pastry Hearts are made by spreading jelly on pastry dough, rolling into a log, slicing, and then shaping into hearts. The process of squeezing and pressing the dough to create the hearts was fun and felt a bit like playing with play dough.

Here’s the original recipe:

recipe for Pastry Hearts
Source: Recipes for Everyday by Janet McKenzie Hill (1919)

Here’s the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Pastry Hearts

  • Servings: approximately 12 hearts
  • Difficulty: moderate
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pie pastry for a 1-shell pie (or use scraps of pastry dough left-over after making a pie crust)

1 egg white

red-colored jelly – red raspberry, cherry, etc. (I used red current jelly, but if I made this recipe again, I’d select a redder jelly.)

sugar

Preheat oven to 425° F. Roll pie pastry into a rectangle 1/8 inch thick. Thinly spread with jelly. Starting at the narrow end, firmly roll into a log-shape. Cut into 1/4 inch slices.

Place slices on a greased cookie sheet. Shape into hearts by pulling into a point at one end, and pressing in at the other end. Use a paper towel to dab away any excess jelly. Brush with egg white and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for approximately 10 -15 minutes (or until lightly browned).

Old-fashioned Sour Milk Waffles

Recipes from a hundred-years ago often contain minimal directions and can be difficult to interpret. And, I occasionally come across old recipes that call for ingredients that are no longer available. Today is one of those times. When I read a 1919 recipe for Sour Milk Waffles, I immediately knew that I was not going to be able to exactly replicate the recipe.

Source: American Cookery (March, 1919)

A hundred-years-ago many families still lived on farms; and, even in towns, much of the milk that was sold was not pasteurized. Back then, if the non-pasteurized milk was not used quickly, the “good” bacteria in the milk would turn it into a sour milk suitable for use in recipes. Today’s pasteurized milk can be turned into a sour milk by adding a little vinegar or lemon juice to create a slightly curdled acidic milk.

But this recipe calls for “thick sour milk.” The soured milk that I make with vinegar or lemon juice isn’t very thick. Then I remembered that milk in days gone by would have also contained cream that floated on the top. Perhaps the recipe is referring to the thickness of the soured cream. So, I substituted 1/4 cup sour cream, 3/4 cup milk, and 2 tablespoons vinegar for the thick sour milk.

The recipe also says that if the milk lacks richness, add additional shortening. I decided that the sour cream added sufficient richness, and that no extra shortening was needed.

I was pleased with how my updated version of Sour Milk Waffles turned out. If you are looking for a soft waffle recipe, this is the recipe for you. The waffles had an old-fashioned goodness, and were very tasty. They browned nicely, and were fluffy and soft –  though they were not crispy like most modern waffles.

Here’s the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Sour Milk Waffles

  • Servings: 3 - 5
  • Difficulty: easy
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3/4 cup milk

2 tablespoons vinegar or lemon juice (I used vinegar.)

2 eggs, separated

1 1/2 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons baking powder

3 tablespoons shortening, melted

1/4 cup sour cream

Put the milk in a cup or bowl, then stir in the vinegar. Set aside for at least 2 minutes.

Put the egg whites in a small mixing bowl, beat until light and foamy. Set aside.

Put flour, baking soda, salt, baking powder, shortening, sour cream, egg yolks, and milk soured with vinegar or lemon juice in a mixing bowl. Beat until smooth. Gently fold in beaten egg whites.

Ladle batter onto a hot waffle iron and cook, following the waffle iron directions.

Old-fashioned Canned Corn Custard, Mexican Style

corn custard in casserole dish

Today I often hear that fresh fruit and vegetables are best – and that canned vegetables aren’t as tasty. This differs from a hundred years ago when canned vegetables were considered a “modern” way of preserving food.

I recently came across a hundred-year-old recipe for Canned Corn Custard, Mexican Style that intrigued me, and – though knowing that canned corn is not trendy – decided to give it a try. Perhaps part of what intrigued me was the claim that this was an internationally-inspired recipe. Was it really Mexican style? – or did the recipe author just think that a humble dish seemed more enticing if it was billed as an internationally-inspired food?

I’m glad that I gave this recipe a chance. The Corn Custard was rich and silky, and brought back warm, fuzzy memories of family gatherings many years ago when a similar dish was served.

Here’s the original recipe:

Source: American Cookery (January, 1919)

And, here’s the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Canned Corn Custard, Mexican Style

  • Servings: 7 - 9
  • Difficulty: moderate
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2 tablespoons butter or margarine

1/4 cup onion, chopped

1/2 green pepper, chopped

1 pint corn (15-ounce can corn) – I used creamed style corn.

3 eggs, beaten

2 cups milk

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon paprika

Preheat oven to 400° F.  Melt butter in a skillet using medium heat. Put chopped onion and green pepper in skillet; saute until tender.

In the meantime, in a bowl, stir together eggs, milk, corn, salt, and paprika; pour mixture into the skillet with the onions and green peppers while stirring constantly. Continue stirring until the mixture is hot and steamy. Remove from heat and pour into a well-greased 2-quart casserole dish.

Place a pan of hot water (the water should be about 1/2 inch deep) in the oven. (I used an old aluminum baking sheet with sides for the pan.) Then set the casserole dish with the corn mixture in the water. Bake until the corn custard is firm in the center and lightly browned. The length of time this dish needs to cook will vary depending upon the depth of the casserole dish. (When I made this recipe, it took about 45 minutes for corn custard to get firm.) Remove Corn Custard from oven. (I left the pan with the hot water in the oven until it cooled to avoid the risk of burning myself.)

Old-fashioned Graham Pop-overs

I recently made a hundred-year-old recipe for Graham Pop-overs. The pop-overs did not rise as much as anticipated, but nevertheless they were a delightful bread that seemed more like a muffin than a pop-over. The Graham Pop-overs had a slightly nutty flavor, and were wonderful when served warm with butter or honey.

Graham flour is a coarsely ground whole wheat flour that contains the endosperm, the bran, and the wheat germ. Modern graham flours sometimes have most of the wheat germ removed to prolong shelf life and to help keep it from going rancid.

Year ago graham flour was considered a health food, and I regularly see recipes that call for it in hundred-year-old cookbooks.

Graham flour is named after its inventor Sylvester Graham. He began making graham flour in the 1830s, and promoted it as part of a health movement which encouraged eating vegetarian meals and unseasoned foods.

It might take a little effort to find graham flour. I had to look for the flour at three stores before I finally found it.

Here’s the original recipe:

And, here’s the recipe updated for modern cooks.

Source: Recipes for Everyday (1919)

Graham Pop-overs

  • Servings: approximately 12 Pop-overs
  • Difficulty: moderate
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3 eggs

2 cups milk

2 cups graham flour

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons shortening, melted

Preheat oven to 450° F.  Beat eggs, then add milk. Beat in graham flour, all-purpose flour, sugar, salt, and shortening. Beat until just combined. Put batter into well-greased custard cups (ramekins) – or a muffin tin may be used. Fill each cup 1/2 full. Place in the oven and bake for 25 minutes. Do not open oven to help ensure the pop-overs rise completely. Reduce heat to 350° F. (The oven may now be opened to test for doneness.) Bake another 5 – 10 minutes or until the pop-overs are lightly browned and spring back when lightly touched. Remove from oven and immediately remove from custard cups/muffin tin.

The pop-overs baked more quickly than indicated in the original recipe, so I reduced the baking time.

Alcoholic Beverage Recipes a Hundred Years Ago

Source: The Blue Grass Cook Book by Minnie C. Fox (1917 edition)

The 18th amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibited the sale of intoxicating liquors. It was ratified on January 16, 1919, and prohibition went into effect a year later. The hundredth anniversary of this event is a good time to take a look at recipes for alcoholic beverages from the 1910s.

Bathtub gin, speakeasies, and flappers would be on the scene soon, but in 1919 people were celebrating the move toward temperance. At the time when the 18th Amendment was ratified, it was widely supported throughout much of the U.S. This amendment was the culmination of many temperance efforts by individuals and organization during the preceding decades.

Cookbooks published during the 1910s mirrored the trends of the times – and most contained no recipes for alcoholic beverages with the occasional exception of a recipe or two for egg nog for invalids – cooking for invalids was a common topic in cookbooks of that era –  that called for adding a couple of tablespoons of whiskey or other liquor.

The one cookbook that I’ve found that contains numerous recipes for alcoholic beverages is a 1917 edition of a Kentucky cookbook called The Blue Grass Cook Book by Minnie C. Fox. The two recipes included in this post are from that cookbook.

Old-fashioned Curried Chicken

I recently made a hundred-year-old recipe for Curried Chicken. The recipe turned out wonderfully. The crispy chicken is served with rice and a delightful mild curry sauce that has just a hint of sweetness. This recipe is a keeper, and I’m sure that I’ll make it again.

Here’s the original recipe:

Source: Recipes for Everyday by Janet McKenzie Hill (1919)

This recipe is from a  1919 cookbook titled Recipes for Everyday that was published by Proctor and Gamble. Many of the recipes, including this recipe, call for Crisco shortening which was produced by Proctor and Gamble. At the time, it was considered a new and modern fat. Crisco was first sold in 1911. It was the first shortening made completely from vegetable oil, and was originally made from cottonseed oil. According to the  cookbook’s author:

The careful housewife fully understands that her success in cooking absolutely depends upon the quality of the ingredients she chooses. A variable cooking fat like lard, often having unpleasant odor and flavor, cannot give the pleasing, appetizing results insured by a clean, pure, tasteless , odorless, uniform fat like Crisco.

And, here is the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Curried Chicken

  • Servings: 4 - 5
  • Difficulty: moderate
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1 chicken, cut into pieces

cold water

1/2 cup flour + 3 tablespoons flour

1/2 cup shortening (Lard could be substituted for the shortening.)

1/2 teaspoon salt + 1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 large onion, sliced

1 tablespoon curry powder

1/4 teaspoon paprika

1 cup milk

1/2 cup light cream

2 tablespoons currant jelly

1 teaspoon lemon juice

cooked rice

Dip chicken pieces in water, then roll in 1/2 cup of flour to coat. Heat shortening in a frying pan using medium heat. Stir 1/2 teaspoon salt to the melted shortening. Place the coated chicken pieces in frying pan and cook until lightly browned. Turn the chicken to brown all sides.

In the meantime, preheat oven to 400° F. Line a baking sheet with foil, then put the pieces of browned chicken on baking sheet and place in oven. Bake until the chicken is completely cooked.

After the chicken is removed from the frying pan, strain the shortening. Return 3 tablespoons of shortening to the frying pan; then reheat using medium heat. (The remainder of the shortening can be discarded or used for another purpose.)  Add sliced onions and stir occasionally; cook until lightly browned. Stir in 3 tablespoons flour, curry powder, paprika, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Continue stirring until hot and bubbly, then gradually add milk and cream while stirring constantly. Continue stirring until the mixture comes to a boil. Add currant jelly and lemon juice; stir until the jelly is dissolved. Removed from heat and strain. Serve the sauce with the chicken pieces and rice.