Old-fashioned Grapefruit Pie

Grapefruit Pie

I was intrigued by a hundred-year-old recipe for Grapefruit Pie, and decided to give it a try. The pie was bursting with a sunny grapefruit flavor. It reminded me of lemon meringue pie, but was a little less tart.

Here’s the original recipe:

Grapefruit Pie

Recipe for Grapefruit Pie

Source: American Cookery (March, 1922)

Rather than squeezing a grapefruit to get juice to make the pie, I purchsed a bottle of grapefruit juice. A typical grapefruit contains about 3/4 cup of juice.. When I made this recipe, the pie filling was a little juicy, so when I updated the recipe I added an additional egg yolk, (The original recipe called for 2 yolks and 3 egg whites. Using an additional yolk eliminates the need to figure out what to do with an extra yolk.). I also added an additional 1/2 tablespoon of cornstarch when I updated the recipe to further thicken the filling.

Here’s the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Grapefruit Pie

  • Servings: 6 - 8
  • Difficulty: moderate
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1 cup sugar

1 cup water

3 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch

1/8 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup grapefruit juice

3 egg yolks, beaten

1 9-inch pie shell, baked


3 egg whites

6 tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoons grapefruit juice

Place water, sugar, cornstarch, salt, and grapefruit juice in a saucepan, stir until thoroughly mixed and smooth. Using medium heat, bring to a boil while stirring occasionally. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Add a small amount of the hot mixture to the beaten egg yolks, while stirring constantly, and then slowly add to the contents in the saucepan while stirring constamtly. Remove from heat. If not smooth, stain the mixture. Allow the mixture to cool.

In the meantime, preheat oven to 400 ° F. and  make the meringue. Place egg whites in a bowl, and beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Gradually add 6 tablespoons sugar while continuing to beat; add the 2 teaspoons of grapefruit juice and beat.  Then spoon on top of the pie and swirl. Place pie  in the oven and bake for  8 – 10  minutes or until the meringue is lightly browned.


Several Hundred-Year-Old French Dressing Recipes

Salad and Salad DressingSome recipes don’t change across the years; others do.  As tastes and preferences change, recipes are updated. In other cases, lack of availability of an ingredient might lead to tweaking of an old recipe. Also, for commercially-prepared foods, government regulations can affect their composition.  Last week I was amazed to discover that the government regulated French Dressing for many years.

On January 13,  the Wall Street Journal had an article titled “The U.S. Federal Government Deregulates French Dressing.”  The government established the standard for French Dressing 72 years ago, and “according to the original 1950 standard, a French dressing should include vegetable oil, and a vinegar and/or lemon or lime juice, and could be seasoned with ingredients such as salt, sugar, tomato paste or puree, and spices such as mustard are paprika.”

This article made me remember the many French Dressing recipes that I’ve seen in hundred-year-old cookbooks over the years, and how those recipes differed from today’s seemingly ubiquitous creamy orange dressing. Back then the dressing was often more of a vinaigrette. Here are two French Dressing recipes from 1922 cookbooks:

French Dressing Recipe
Source: Mrs. DeGraf’s Cook Book (1922)

French Dressing RecipeSource: Good Housekeeping’s Book of Menus, Recipes, and Household Discoveries (1922)

I made the French Dressing in the photo using the first recipe.

Several years ago, I did a post with a recipe for Endive Salad with Homemade French Dressing that contained three 1912 French Dressing Recipes. Here are those recipes:

3 French Dressing Recipes
Source: Lowney’s Cook Book (1912)

And, here is a 1922 magazine article that responds to a reader’s question about French Dressing. The response differentiates between French Dressing and Russian Dressing -though it is mostly focused on French Dressing:

magazine article
Source: American Cookery (June/July, 1922)

Whew, my head is spinning. Who would have guessed that for a least a hundred years people have been giving lots of thought to exactly what comprises French Dressing?

Fried Onions with Apples

Fried Onions with Apples in Bowl

A hundred years ago there was a limited selection of fruits and vegetables during the winter months.  Onions and apples are two foods that store well, and were frequently eaten during the winter – though I had never thought of them as being foods that would be combined in one recipe until I saw a recipe for Fried Onions with Apples in a hundred-year-old cookbook. I couldn’t picture what this recipe would taste like, so decided to give it a try.

The sweet tartness of the apples combined beautifully with the sharpness of the onions to make a tasty side dish. I served the Fried Onions with Apples with roast beef and it nicely complemented the meat.

Here’s the original recipe:

Recipe for Frined Onions with Apples
Source: Good Housekeepng’s Book of Menus, Recipes and Household Discoveries (1922)

Here’s the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Fried Onions with Apples

  • Servings: 3 - 4
  • Difficulty: moderate
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4 medium onions, sliced

3 large tart apples, peeled and sliced (I used Braeburn apples.)

2 tablespoons bacon fat or other fat (The old recipe called for meat drippings.)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup water

Heat fat in a skillet, then add the onion slices. Saute using medium heat until the onions begin to turn transparent, then add the apples, salt and water. Cover and cook until the apples are soft (10 – 15 minutes). Remove lid, increase heat to medium high, and fry until the water has evaporated and the onions and apples are a light brown; stir frequently.


Old-Fashioned Brown Beef Stew with Dumplings

January always energizes me. This year I am sharing 1922 recipes. I have a whole new set of hundred-year-old cookbooks and magazines that I’m just beginning to explore, and I look forward to trying recipes that look intriguing and sharing them with you.

Cold, wintery January days always make me crave comfort foods, so for my second recipe this year, I decided to make Brown Beef Stew with Dumplings. This hundred-year-old recipe made a delightful stew. The stew had a wonderful aroma while it cooked, and was hearty and flavorful with tasty homemade dumplings.

Here’s the original recipe:

Brown Beef Stew with Dumplings
Source: Mrs. De Graf’s Cook Book (1922)

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

Brown Beef Stew with Dumplings

  • Servings: 3 - 5
  • Difficulty: easy
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1 1/2 pounds stewing beef, cut into 1/2 inch cubes

1/4 cup flour

3 tablespoons fat (lard, shortening, or cooking oil)

1 small onion, finely chopped (about 1/3 cup)

3 cups water

1/2 teaspoons salt + 1/2 teaspoon salt for dumplings

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

approximately 1/3 cup milk


Put the stew beef in a bowl with the flour. Stir until the beef is coated with the flour.

In the meantime, melt the fat in a skillet or other broad pan that has a lid (I used a 12 inch skillet with a lid). Then put the chopped onions in the skillet and saute until translucent. Add the flour-dredged stewing beef. Increase heat to medium high and saute while stirring until the meet is browned. Then add water, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper. When it begins to boil, reduce the heat, cover, and gently simmer for 1 hour and 45 minutes.

While the stew is simmering make the dumpling dough by putting the flour, baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a bowl; stir to mix. Add 1/3 cup milk slowly stirring until a smooth dough forms. (Add additional milk if crumbly and too dry.)

Drop heaping teaspoonfuls of the dumpling dough into the simmering stew; evenly space the dropped dumpling dough across the top of the stew. Cover tightly with lid and steam for 12 minutes. Remove lid and remove from heat, serve.


Poorhouse Soup

bowl of soupI was looking for a soup recipe to make on a cold winter day, and saw a recipe for Poorhouse Soup in a hundred-year-old church cookbook, and was immediately intrigued.

The soup is a pureed white been soup with potatoes, onions, and tomato juice. A little cayenne (red) pepper is added to give it more flavor. The soup was nice, though even with the cayenne pepper I found it a bit bland. If I made it again, I’d probably experiment a bit with the spices.

A hundred years ago many communities had publicly-funded poorhouses where the financially challenged could live. The food in the poorhouses was notoriously bad, and the residents often had to work on the poorhouse farm. This was seen as a way of encouraging people to not stay for long. Was this recipe actually based on what they fed residents at the local poorhouse? . . . or was the recipe name an inside family joke? It was an inexpensive soup to make and contains no meat, so maybe the cook’s family felt slightly annoyed that they were eating such a “cheap” food and joked about it being Poorhouse Soup.

Here’s the original recipe:

Recipe for Poor House Soup
Source: Cement City Cook Book (1922), compiled by S.W.W. Class of the Baptist Sunday School, Alpena, Michigan

Since “poorhouse{ is one word in online dictionaries, .I spelled “poorhouse” as one word when I updated the recipe even though it was two words in the original recipe. I’m not sure whether the way poorhouse is written has changed over the past hundred years or if the recipe author didn’t know how it should be written.

This recipe is lacking a few key details – such as how much water to add to the beans, both for soaking and for cooking. Based on the directions on the package of dried beans, I decided to soak the beans in 5 cups of waters of water overnight. I then drained the beans, and used 3 cups of water when I cooked them.  This seemed like an appropriate amount of water, and the soup had a nice consistency.

I know that recipe is for Poorhouse Soup – and that it is supposed to be a very basic, economical food, but I just couldn’t help myself, and garnished the soup with a few thin slices of green onion. It made a plain soup look special.

The soup wasn’t as flavorful as many modern soups (maybe I didn’t add enough cayenne pepper), but I think that it now would be considered a healthy food option rather than something for the poor (though it still is very economical to make).

Here’s the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Poorhouse Soup

  • Servings: 4 - 5
  • Difficulty: moderate
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1 cup white beans  (great northern, navy, cannellini, or other white beans) – I used great northern beans.

5 cups water for soaking

3 cups water for cooking

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 medium potato, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes

2 medium onions, chopped

1 cup tomato juice

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon cayenne (red) pepper

1 tablespoon flour

1 tablespoon butter, softened

sliced green onions or other garnish (optional)

Put beans and 5 cups water in a bowl, and soak overnight, then drain.

Put the soaked beans, 3 cups of water, baking soda, potatoes, and onions in a large saucepan, and bring to a boil using high heat; then reduce and simmer for 1 1/2 hours or until the beans are tender.

Remove from heat, cool slightly, and then puree using a blender or food processor (or press it through a sieve). Return to saucepan, stir in the tomato juice, salt, and cayenne pepper; reheat until hot and steamy.

In the meantime, put the flour and butter in a small bowl; stir to combine. Put a small amount of the hot soup in the bowl and stir until smooth. Then stir the mixture into the soup. Continue heating until the soup thickens slightly.

If desired, garnish the soup with sliced green onions or other garnish.


Raisin Sauce for Skirt Steak

Skirt steak with raisin sauce

The local meat market recently had some lovely, very reasonable priced, skirt steaks for sale. I almost never buy this flavorful, juicy cut, but remembered seeing a recipe in a hundred-year-old magazine for skirt steak with a Raisin Sauce, so decided to give it a try, and was glad that I had. The skirt steak was lovely, and the sweet and sour Raisin Sauce was nicely balanced and enhanced the steak

Here’s the original recipe:

recipe for Raisin Sauce with Skirt Steaks
Source: American Cookery (November, 1921)

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

Raisin Sauce for Skirt Steak

  • Servings: 8 - 10
  • Difficulty: moderate
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1 skirt steak

1/2 cup raisins

2 cups water (use less if the raisins are very moist)

2 tablespoons flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon white pepper

2 tablespoons melted butter or margarine (I used butter.)

juice of 1/2 lemon r 2 tablespoons vinegar (I used the lemon juice.)

Grill, broil, or sear skirt steak. See Simply Recipes  for more information about how to prepare a skirt steak.

In the meantime, make the Raisin Sauce (or prepare the sauce ahead of time, and reheat to serve.)

Put the raisins and water in a saucepan, and bring to a boil using high heat; reduce heat and gently simmer for 15 minutes.

While the raisins and water are cooking, put the melted butter or margarine into a small bowl, and stir in the flour, salt and white pepper; continue stirring until smooth.  Then after the raisins have simmered for 15 minutes, slowly add the flour and butter combination while stirring constantly. The mixture should return to a boil, and then simmer for an additional 3 minutes while continuing to stir constantly.  Remove from heat and stir in the lemon juice or vinegar.


The Glace Nut Disaster


Glace Nuts

People often ask me if I ever have cooking disasters when making hundred-year-old recipes. And, I usually say, “No, that’s very rare. I like some recipes better than others, but most recipes turn out fine. A few I really like and they become part of my regular recipe repertoire, and I make  them many times.”

But today’s post is an exception – I made a hundred-year-old recipe for Glace Nuts that was a disaster.  Let me explain.

Recipe for Glace Nuts
,  Source:: The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book (1921 Edition)

I wasn’t quire sure about using a pin to dip the nuts in the syrup as described in the old recipe, but I had some fairly long pins so decided to give it a try. (Did they use hat pins a hundred years ago when making Glace Nuts?)

First, I put the ingredients a saucepan and brought the mixture to a boil. I regularly checked the temperature with a cooking thermometer – 240° F. . . . 264° F . . . 285 ° F . . . 296° F.  I decided that it was time to  get some waxed paper (it probably was similar to oiled paper) out to put the nuts on after I dipped them in the sugar syrup.. I put pieces of waxed paper on several plates, and then looked at the boiling syrup – oh dear, it was brown. I turned off the heat and grabbed the candy thermometer. – 320°. Maybe the syrup was only slightly discolored.

I put some cold water in the sink and lowered the saucepan into it for a few seconds. Then I put some water in the microwave to heat. When it was  hot, I poured it into a shallow pan, and then set the saucepan with the syrup in it. I inserted a pin in a walnut and carefully dipped it into the syrup; then I removed the sugar-coated walnut, and laid it on the waxed paper. I repeated the process with four more nuts – as the syrup rapidly began to thicken and then harden in the pan. Clearly not watching the cooking syrup closely enough and letting it reach a temperature of 320° was causing problems. I also noticed that the dipped nuts were sticking to the waxed paper.

I decided to make a fresh batch of the sugar syrup. Sugar doesn’t cost much. It would only take a few minutes to make the syrup, – and I’d watch it like a hawk to ensure that I took it off the stove at exactly 310°.

Twenty minutes later I had a another batch of the sugary liquid. I  put it in cold water then, then set the saucepan in some hot water. And, I inserted a pin in a nut and began dipping once again.

One nut. . two. . . three. . . four. . . five nuts. . . the syrup again began to get very thick. I inserted a pin in the sixth nut, and immersed it into the syrup. The rapidly thickening syrup began to pull the nut off the pin. I instinctively reached with my  hand to grab the nut before it fell off the pin – and my middle finger and thumb slipped into the hot sticky syrup. OUCH! I’m burned!

Dang it! My fingers hurt – but then I smiled. I always seem to have a minor crisis or disaster during the mad rush in the days before Christmas. This apparently is my disaster this year.

I do not recommend this recipe – and since I don’t recommend it, I not going to update it for modern cooks.