Old-fashioned Hot Toasted Cheese Sandwiches

Hot Toasted Cheese Sandwich on Plate

I often make toasted cheese sandwiches for lunch (actually I make grilled cheese sandwiches, but I call them toasted cheese sandwiches), so I was intrigued by a hundred-year-old recipe for Hot Toasted Cheese Sandwiches.

The old recipe called for toasting the sandwiches in the oven (or over a coal fire!). It also called for making a cheese filling that contained grated cheese, dry mustard, and paprika – rather than just using slices of cheese.

The sandwiches turned out well. The Hot Toasted Cheese Sandwiches were crisp and toasty, and nice and gooey in the middle. The cheese filling had just a hint of the spices.

Here’s the original recipe:

Recipe for Hot Toasted Cheese Sandwiches
Source: Mrs. Scott’s Seasonal Cook Books (The North American Newspaper, Philadelphia, Winter, 1921)

The recommended way of softening the grated cheese by putting it in a bowl that is then placed over another pan containing hot water seemed very old-fashioned, but I followed the directions and it worked well. The cheese softened quickly so that the spices could be easily stirred into the cheese, and it was very spreadable.

Since I know that cheese contains a lot of salt, I skipped adding salt when I made this recipe. Also, I used a level teaspoon of dry mustard instead of a rounded one that was called for in the recipe.

Here’s the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Hot Toasted Cheese Sandwiches

  • Servings: 3 Sandwiches
  • Difficulty: easy
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1 cup grated cheese (I used cheddar cheese. American would also work well.)

1 teaspoon dry mustard

1/4 teaspoon paprika

6 slices bread

butter

Put grated cheese, dry mustard, and paprika into a bowl; stir to mix. Put the bowl in a shallow pan of hot water for 2-3 minutes (or put in the microwave for a few seconds). Once the cheese has begun to soften, stir again to get the spices evenly spread throughout the mixture.

In the meantime, butter the bread on one side. Place three slices on a baking sheet with the buttered side down. Spread the slices with the cheese mixture. Top with the remaining bread slices. The buttered side should be up.

Put under the broiler in the oven, and toast until the bread is lightly browned. Flip the sandwiches and return to broiler. Toast until the second side is lightly browned. Remove from oven and serve.

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Old-fashioned Fish Loaf

Sliced fish loaf on plate

When I saw a recipe in a hundred-year-old cookbook for Fish Loaf, I knew that I needed to give it a try. Now that the holidays are starting to wind down, I’m ready for comfort foods. Maybe most people won’t consider Fish Loaf a comfort food, but for me it fits into that category. I have vague memories of eating (and enjoying) Salmon Loaf many years ago, and I wanted to see if this recipe was similar.

The old recipe called for using any canned fish (or flaked, cooked fresh fish) so there’s lots of flexibility- though I chose to go with salmon.

This recipe was very easy to make – and it tasted just like the Salmon Loaves that I remember from my childhood.

Recipe for Fish Loaf
Source: A New Snowdrift Cook Book (1920)

One teaspoon of salt seemed like a lot to me since the canned salmon that I used already contained some salt, so I when I updated the recipe, I reduced the amount of salt to 1/2 teaspoon.

Snowdrift was an old-time shortening that I don’t think is sold any longer.

Here’s the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Fish Loaf

  • Servings: 4 - 5
  • Difficulty: moderate
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1 pound can fish or 2 1/2 cups flaked, cooked fresh fish (I used a 14.75 ounce can of Salmon.)

3 eggs

1/2 cup soft bread crumbs (I tore 1 slice of bread into small pieces.)

1 tablespoon melted butter or shortening

1 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

1 tablespoon chopped parsley

Preheat oven to 350° F. Separate the eggs. Put the egg whites in a mixing bowl, and beat until stiff. Set aside.

Put the egg yolks in another mixing bowl; beat until smooth. Flake the fish and add to the bowl with the beaten egg yolks.  Add bread crumbs, butter or shortening, salt, pepper, and parsley; stir to combine. Fold in the beaten egg whites. Put in a greased loaf pan, and place in oven and bake until firm (about 40 – 50 minutes). Remove from oven and cut into slices. If desired, serve with peas, cream or white sauce, egg sauce, or tomato sauce.

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Old-fashioned Eggnog

glass of eggnogEggnog is one of my favorite holiday drinks, so I decided to make a hundred-year-old eggnog recipe to see how it compared with the modern version. The old recipe made a lovely eggnog that had a hint of vanilla and nutmeg. It was less sweet and thinner than the typical modern eggnog – but, in my opinion, that was a good thing.

Eggnog is considered very festive today, so I was surprised to find the old recipe for it in a 1920 home economics textbook, in a chapter titled “Illness in the Home.”  Back then it was common for cookbooks and textbooks to include a chapter on cooking for invalids – and eggnog was considered a nutritious, easy to eat and digest food for someone who was sick.

Here’s the original recipe:

Recipe for Eggnot
Source: Household Arts for Home and School (Vol. II) (1920) by Anna M. Cooley & Wilhelmina H. Spohr

This recipe makes one fairly small serving. A hundred years ago, it was probably served in an 8-ounce (1 cup) glass.

Here’s the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Eggnog

  • Servings: 1
  • Difficulty: easy
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1 egg (I used a pasteurized egg.)

1 teaspoon sugar

dash of salt

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

2/3 cup milk

dash of ground nutmeg (or grate a small amount of whole nutmeg) (optional)

Put egg in a small mixing bowl; beat until smooth. Add sugar, salt, and vanilla; then gradually add the milk while continuing to beat. Strain, and pour into a glass. If desired, sprinkle or grate a little nutmeg on top. Serve at once.

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Old-fashioned Honey and Cocoa Cushions Candy

Pieces of Honey and Cocoa Cushions Candy

Ever wonder how to make a homemade candy that tastes similar to Tootsie Rolls? Well, I had never even thought about making Tootsie Rolls, but when I made a hundred-year-old candy recipe for Honey and Cocoa Cushions, I was surprised to discover that they tasted very similar to Tootsie Rolls.

Honey is the only sweetener called for in the Honey and Cocoa Cushions recipe, so it may be a tad healthier than many candies (at least that is what I tell myself when I nibble on the candies).

It is tricky getting this candy cooked to exactly the right stage, but similarly to taffy, it needs to be pulled, which can be a fun family activity.

pulling candy

Here’s the original recipe:

recipe for Honey and Cocoa Cushions
Source: Mrs. Scott’s Seasonal Cook Books (The North American Newspaper, Philadelphia, Autumn, 1920)

The ingredients list calls for a pinch of baking soda, though it is never actually mentioned in the directions. I assumed that it was combined with the cocoa and water when the thick paste was made. I generally try to avoid using old-fashioned terms like “pinch” when updating recipes – but couldn’t figure out what other term to use for the small amount of baking soda required in this recipe, so kept the original terminology and used the word “pinch” in the updated recipe.

The original recipe calls for cooking the mixture to the soft ball stage. When I made the recipe, the candy didn’t seem firm enough to pull when cooked to the soft ball stage, so I cooked it to the hard ball stage.

The original recipe also calls for cooking the mixture in an iron frying pan. When I poured 1 cup of honey into my 14-inch cast iron skillet, it barely covered the bottom of the pan, so I ended up doubling the recipe. Another option would be to use a smaller pan that is approximately 8-inches in diameter.

Here’s the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Honey and Cocoa Cushions Candy

  • Servings: about 20 pieces of candy
  • Difficulty: difficult
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(I doubled this recipe when I made it, and used a full-size cast iron frying pan.)

1 cup honey

1/4 cup cocoa

a pinch of baking soda

1+ tablespoon water

Put the cocoa and baking soda in a small bowl. Add water and stir to make a very thick smooth paste. (A small amount of additional water may need to be added to create the paste.) Set aside.

Put honey in a small cast iron skillet (about 8 inches in diameter). Using low heat, bring to a slow boil. Add the cocoa paste, and continue boiling while stirring constantly. Boil until it reaches the firm-ball stage. The firm-ball stage is when a small amount of the syrup is dropped into cold water. If it can be gathered together to form a firm ball (though malleable when pressed), it is at the right stage—or just use a candy thermometer (255 – 265 degrees F).

Remove from heat and pour onto a buttered platter. Let cool until it is cool enough to be handled. Then butter hands and pull the candy until it becomes cold and glossy (about 5 – 10 minutes). Form long thin strips of the candy and place on waxed paper; then cut with a buttered knife or scissors into pieces approximately 1/2 inch long.  If desired, the pieces can be wrapped in squares of waxed paper.

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Traditional Gingerbread Men Cookies

Gingerbread men on baking sheet

Making cut-out cookies is one of my favorite holiday traditions, so I was thrilled to see a recipe in a hundred-year-old home economics textbook for Gingerbread Men.

These delightful molasses and spice cookies are decorated with raisins or currants, and are a little thicker and chewier than some gingerbread cookies. They’d be lovely on a holiday cookie tray.

Here is the original recipe:

Recipe for Gingerbread Men
Source: Household Arts for Home and School (Vol. II) by Anna M. Cooley and Wilhelmina H. Spohr (1920)

The caption under the illustration in the old textbook says, “Some suggestions to please the children.” Today Gingerbread Men often are topped with lots of colorful icing, and very sweet. Would children in 2020 be pleased by Gingerbread Men decorated with only raisins or currants? My gut feeling is that many today wouldn’t fully appreciate  this old-time flavorful, healthier option – and would miss the icing. Which is a pity. The Gingerbread Men were wonderful.

Here is the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Gingerbread Men Cookies

  • Servings: approximately 18 cookies
  • Difficulty: moderate
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1/3 cup shortening

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 egg

1 cup molasses

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon ginger

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 3/4 cups flour

raisins or currants

Preheat oven to 375° F. Put shortening, brown sugar, egg, and molasses in mixing bowl; mix together. Add baking soda, ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, salt, and flour; stir to combine. Roll to 1/4 inch thickness. (If too sticky to roll, add more flour.) Cut into shapes using a Gingerbread Man cookie cutter. Put on prepared baking sheet. Raisins or currants may be used for eyes, mouth, and buttons. (Cut raisins into several pieces if they are too large.) Bake for 8 – 10 minutes, or until the cookies are set. Remove from oven, allow to cool for 1-2 minutes, then transfer to cooling rack.

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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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