Old-fashioned Corn Meal Griddle Cakes (Corn Meal Pancakes)

Stack of Corn Meal Griddle Cakes on Plate

Saturday morning, and I still hadn’t made a hundred-year-old recipe for this week. I wanted to make something easy, yet tasty. And, week-ends are the perfect time for pancakes, so I flipped through my hundred-year-old cookbooks looking for an easy pancake recipe. I found a recipe for Corn Meal Griddle Cakes that fit the bill.

After adapting the recipe a bit because the batter was too dry (it wasn’t even really a batter) when I followed the original recipe, the Griddle Cakes turned out well. They had a nice taste and texture that reminded me a bit of corn meal muffins.

This recipe made me wonder how spelling and terminology has changed over the past hundred years – though I ended up deciding that perhaps it reflected regional variation more than change over time.  If I’d written this recipe, I would have combined “corn” and “meal” into one word “cornmeal.” And, I’d have called them “pancakes” rather than “griddle cakes.” Yet when I google whether corn meal is one word or two – it appears that either way is acceptable. And, there are modern recipes for griddle cakes..

Here’s the original recipe:

Recipe for Corn Meal Griddle Cakes
Source: New Royal Cook Book (Published by Royal Baking Powder Co., 1920)

Something is off with the amount of liquid called for in this recipe. When I made it, I ended up with a crumbly mixture rather than a batter, so I added small amounts of additional milk several times until I had a thick batter. By the time, I had a satisfactory, batter I’d added almost an additional cup of milk beyond what was call for in the recipe.

Here’s the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Corn Meal Griddle Cakes (Corn Meal Pancakes

  • Servings: 4 - 5
  • Difficulty: easy
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1 1/2 cups water

1 1/3 cups corn meal

1 tablespoon shortening

1 1/4 – 1 3/4 cups milk

1 tablespoon molasses

2/3 cup flour

1 teaspoon salt

4 teaspoons baking powder

Bring water to a boil in a large saucepan, then stir in the cornmeal. Remove from heat, and stir in shortening, 1 1/4 cups milk, and molasses. Add flour, salt, and baking powder; beat until well-mixed. If the mixture is too dense, add additional milk until there is a thick batter.

Heat a lightly greased griddle to a medium temperature, then spoon batter onto the hot surface to make individual pancakes. Use back of spoon to spread the batter into 3-4 inch circles. Cook until the top surface is hot and bubbly, and then flip and cook other side.

[Note: I made this recipe in a large saucepan that did not contain a stick-free surface. I added ingredients and beat the mixture in the pan. However, all the beating and stirring has the potential to damage the coating of some pans, so it might be preferred to heat the water to boiling, then pour it over corn meal that is in a mixing bowl – and then proceed from there using a mixing bowl rather than a saucepan.]

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Old-fashioned Thanksgiving Gelatin Pudding

Molded Thanksgiving Gelatine Pudding on a plate

I’ve always loved the days and days of cooking and baking in preparation for Thanksgiving. Homemade pies and more pies, a huge turkey with stuffing, candied sweet potatoes, homemade cranberry sauce. . .

My mother and grandmother used to also make fussy molded gelatin desserts (they called them salads) that took hours to prepare because it had to be made in layers where each layer was chilled until it set before the next layer was added. But, I’ve let that tradition go. Gelatin desserts have never been quite my thing. And, for many years they were out of style. People joked about gelatin desserts; and, quite frankly, I didn’t want to be teased about my cooking.

But this year is different. I’m roasting a chicken instead of a turkey, and might not make any pies. And, when I saw a recipe in a hundred-year-old cookbook for Thanksgiving Gelatin Pudding, I suddenly realized that there was something else I wanted to do differently this year. I wanted to make a fussy molded gelatin salad. The hours spent adding layers of gelatin would revive a tradition, and fulfil my need to spend time in the kitchen in preparation for Thanksgiving.

There was only one problem. The recipe for Thanksgiving Gelatin Pudding was the strangest molded gelatin recipe I’d ever seen. The recipe used unflavored gelatin and called for making homemade fig juice, which was mixed with coffee, to flavor the gelatin. The gelatin was then layered with chopped dates, raisins, and walnuts.

And, the old recipe also called for making a homemade custard sauce (another somewhat tedious cooking activity) to serve with the Gelatin Pudding.

The verdict: This rich Gelatin Pudding is very different from modern gelatin dishes, but it was good in its own unique way. And, the custard sauce was lovely with just a hint of caramel. To use my husband’s words, “This is better than I thought it would be.” I’m taking that as a compliment.

And, I had fun making the recipe. So the bottom line is that this recipe was a winner in more ways than one.

Here is the original recipe:

Recipe for Thanksgiving Gelatin Pudding
Source: Good Housekeeping’s Book of Recipes and Household Discoveries (1920)

I found it very confusing that the gelatin pudding part of the recipe called for “1/2 teaspoonful ground mixed spices,” but the actual list of spices was down in the custard sauce part of the recipe where it says, “For the mixed spices in the pudding use cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, cloves, and ginger.” Why weren’t the spices just listed in the pudding section of the recipe? And, there were five spices in the list, which doesn’t easily match the 1/2 teaspoon of mixed spices called for, since if 1/8 teaspoon of each spice was used, the total amount of  mixed spices would equal 5/8 teaspoon not 1/2 teaspoon (4/8 teaspoon). I decided to just use a scant 1/8 teaspoon of each, assuming that would be close enough.

Here’s the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Thanksgiving Gelatin Pudding

  • Servings: 12 - 16
  • Difficulty: moderate
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1 cup dried figs, chopped

4 packets (0.25 ounce) unflavored gelatin

1 cup cold water

1 cup dark corn syrup

1/8 scant teaspoon cinnamon

1/8 scant teaspoon nutmeg

1/8 scant teaspoon mace

1/8 scant teaspoon ground cloves

1/8 scant teaspoon ground ginger

3 cups strong coffee

1/4 cup lemon juice

1 1/2 cups dates, chopped

1 1/2 cups raisins, chopped

1 1/2 cups walnuts, chopped

Put the figs in a saucepan, and cover with cold water, then heat using medium heat until the mixture boils. Reduce heat and simmer for 1/2 hour. Remove from heat and strain. There should be about 1 cup of fig juice. (Reserve the chopped figs.) If needed, add water to get 1 cup of juice.

In the meantime, put the 1 cup cold water in a bowl. Sprinkle the gelatin on top of the water, and let soak for 20 minutes.

Put the corn syrup, cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, cloves, and ginger in a large saucepan, and heat to boiling while stirring. Add the gelatin that has been soaked in water, the coffee, and fig juice. Bring back to a boil while stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in the lemon juice, and cooked chopped figs.

Wet a 9-cup gelatin mold with cold water, then pour a 1-inch layer of the gelatin mixture into the mold. Refrigerate until the molded gelatin in set (about 1-2 hours). (Keep the remaining gelatin at room temperature so it stays liquid.)

In the meantime, put the dates, raisins, and walnuts in a bowl, stir to mix.

After the layer of molded gelatin has set, add a layer of the date/raisin/walnut mixture (about 1/3 of the mixture). Pour gelatin on top of this layer, and refrigerate until firm. Repeat two more times.

To serve: Quickly dip the mold in hot water, then unmold onto serving plate. Serve with the custard sauce.

Custard Sauce

1 egg

1/2 cup dark corn syrup

1 tablespoon corn starch

2 cups milk

1/4 teaspoon vanilla

Beat the egg slightly, then add the corn syrup and corn starch; beat until smooth. Set aside.

In the meantime, put the milk in a saucepan. Heat using medium heat until hot while stirring constantly. Then place a small amount (approximately 1 – 2 tablespoons) of hot milk into bowl with the egg mixture, stir quickly. Add this mixture to the hot milk and stir. (This helps prevent the egg from coagulating when the egg is introduced to the hot liquid.)  Return to stove and cook, using medium heat while stirring constantly until the mixture begins to thicken or coat a spoon. . Remove from heat, and stir in vanilla. Chill at least 3 hours.

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Old-fashioned Creamed Turnips

Creamed Turnips in Bowl

I recently came across a hundred-year-old recipe for Creamed Turnips, and decided to give it a try. Creamed Turnips makes a lovely side dish. I served them with pork chops, and the earthy sweetness of the turnips immersed in a velvety cream sauce perfectly complemented the meat.

Here’s the original recipe:

Recipe for Mashed Turnips
Source: Mrs. Scott’s Seasonal Cook Books (The North American Newspaper, Philadelphia, Autumn, 1920)

One teaspoon of salt seemed like a lot of salt for the Cream Sauce, so I only used 1/2 teaspoon.

Here’s the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Creamed Turnips

  • Servings: 5 - 6
  • Difficulty: easy
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2 pounds turnips

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon flour

1 cup milk

1/2 teaspoon salt

dash pepper

Peel the turnips, and cut into 1/2-inch cubes. Put the cubed turnips in a saucepan, and cover with water. Bring to a boil using high heat, then reduce heat and simmer until tender (about 15 minutes). Remove from heat, drain, and put in serving bowl.

Cream Sauce

In the meantime, melt butter in another saucepan. Stir the flour into the butter. While stirring constantly, slowly pour in milk and bring to a boil over medium heat. Add salt and pepper, then reduce heat and continue boiling for 2 minutes while stirring constantly.  Pour cream sauce over the turnips.

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Old-fashioned Lemon Apple Pie

Slice of Lemon Apple PieI love apple pies, but sometimes I get bored by the typical cinnamon-flavored pie, so when I saw a recipe for Lemon Apple Pie in a hundred-year-old cookbook, I decided to give it a try.

The pie was delightful – and nothing like any apple pie I’ve ever had before. Chopped apples are smothered in a tart lemony sauce.

Here’s the original recipe:

Recipe for Lemon Apple Pie
Source: Good Housekeeping’s Book of Recipes and Household Discoveries (1920)

Here’s the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Lemon Apple Pie

  • Servings: 6 - 8
  • Difficulty: moderate
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2 cups chopped apples

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup water

1 egg beaten

juice and grated rind of 1 lemon

1/2 cup saltine crackers (about 12 crackers), rolled fine (I put the crackers in a plastic bag and crushed with a rolling pin.)

milk, sugar

pastry for a 2-crust, 9-inch pie

Heat oven to 425° F.  Put the sugar, water, egg, lemon juice, and lemon rind in a bowl; stir to combine. Add the crushed saltine crackers and chopped apples, stir. Turn into pastry-lined pie pan. Cover with top crust and flute edges. Brush crust with a small amount of milk; sprinkle with sugar.  Bake in oven for 10 minutes; then reduce heat to 350° F. Bake an additional 20 to 30 minutes or until crust is lightly browned and juice just begins to bubble.

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Old-fashioned Squash Nuggets

squash nuggets

According to a 1920 Good Housekeeping article, squash are a gold-mine and are “almost as variously useful as tomatoes.” One of the recipes included in the article was for Squash Nuggets. I decided to give it a try and was glad I did.

The Squash Nuggets were a fun, easy-to-eat, small sweet muffin that had just a hint of orange. They are just the right size for a small snack or treat – and great with coffee. They were especially tasty when eaten warm, but also good cold.

Here is the original recipe:

recipe for squash nuggets
Source: Good Housekeeping (February, 1920)

The pureed squash that I used was very moist. When I made this recipe the dough was very sticky, and I had to add a lot of extra flour (a whopping 1 1/2 cups of additional flour) to get a dough that can be rolled.

And, here is the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Squash Nuggets

  • Servings: approximately 35 small muffins
  • Difficulty: moderate
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4 tablespoons margarine or butter, softened

6 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons dark corn syrup

1 egg (or 2 egg yolks) (I used an egg.)

1 cup squash puree (I cooked cubes of Hubbard squash, then put through a Foley mill to make smooth. Butternut squash would also work well – or use canned or frozen squash.)

1/2 teaspoon grated orange peel

1 1/2 cups pastry flour (All-purpose flour may be substituted) + additional flour if needed (My squash was very moist and I needed to add an additional 1 1/2 cups flour to get a dough that I could roll.)

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons baking powder

Preheat oven to 375° F. In a mixing bowl, cream together the butter or margarine and the sugar. Add the corn syrup, egg, squash puree, orange peel, flour, salt, and baking powder. Stir to combine into a soft dough that can be rolled to create log shapes. Add additional flour if the squash was very moist. Cut each log into 1-inch pieces. Place on a greased baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes or until lightly browned.

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Old-fashioned Spinach with Gravy

Spinach with Gravy in Bowl

I’m always looking for new ways to use vegetables, so when I saw an easy-to-make recipe for Spinach with Gravy in a hundred-year-old cookbook, I decided to give it a try.

The recipe turned out well. The gravy enhanced the flavor of the spinach, and was quite tasty. I served it as a stand-alone side dish – though I think that Spinach with Gravy would also be delightful on toast.

Here is the original recipe:

Recipe for spinach with gravy
Source: Good Housekeeping’s Book of Recipes and Household Discoveries (1920)

The directions in the old recipe for the gravy are a little confusing. The recipe calls for meat gravy, which I would assume already contained some flour or other thickener, yet it also indicates that 1 teaspoon flour should be stirred into 2 tablespoons of melted butter – and then the gravy should be added. This suggests that the recipe author thought that the gravy needed to be thicker than the typical gravy – though 1 teaspoon of flour isn’t much, so why bother?

I used the second option (which is described in the text beneath the ingredient list), and used bouillion cubes when I made the gravy. It worked fine.

Here’s the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Spinach with Gravy

  • Servings: 3 - 5
  • Difficulty: easy
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2 quarts (1 8-ounce bag) spinach

Gravy – Option 1

2 tablespoons butter

1 teaspoon flour

1 1/2 meat gravy

Gravy – Option 2

2 bouillion cubes (I used beef bouillion cubes.)

1 1/2 cups boiling water

2 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons flour

Wash spinach and cut into small pieces. Put in a pan, and using medium heat cook until tender (3-5 minutes). The water clinging to the spinach may provide sufficient liquid for cooking the spinach; if not, add a small amount of water.

In the meantime, make gravy.

Gravy: Option 1: In the meantime, in another pan, using medium heat, melt butter; then stir in the flour. Gradually, add gravy while stirring constantly. Continue stirring until the gravy is hot and bubbly. Remove from heat, and add the cooked spinach. Stir to combine.

Gravy Option 2: Dissolve the bouillion cubes in the boiling water to make a broth. In a pan, using medium heat, melt butter; then stir in the flour. Gradually, add the broth while stirring constantly. Continue stirring until the gravy is hot and bubbly. Remove from heat, and add the cooked spinach. Stir to combine.

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Old-fashioned Fried Cauliflower with Onion

Fried Cauliflower with Onion in Serving Dish

Cauliflower is a tasty, nutritious vegetable. It contains lots of vitamin C and folate – and is a good source of fiber. So I was thrilled to find a hundred-year-old recipe for Fried Cauliflower with Onion. The recipe was easy-to-make and delicious. This makes a great side dish.

Here is the original recipe:

Recipe for Fried Cauliflower with Onions
Source: Good Housekeeping’s Book of Recipes and Household Discoveries (1920)

I cut the florets from the stalk before putting boiling – though the head of cauliflower could be put in a large pot of boiling water to cook, and then the florets could be separated after cooking, if preferred.

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

Fried Cauliflower with Onion

  • Servings: 4 - 6
  • Difficulty: easy
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1 head cauliflower

1 teaspoon salt

1 large onion, chopped

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

Cut cauliflower florets from the main stalk. Put florets in a saucepan and cover with water; add salt. Bring to a boil using high heat, then reduce heat and cook until tender, about 5 -7 minutes. Remove from heat and drain.

In the meantime, put fat in a skillet and heat until hot using medium heat. Add onions and fry until transparent and just beginning to brown while stirring occasionally. Add cooked cauliflower florets, and fry until lightly browned (about 10 minutes), while stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and serve.

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