Sometimes I think that peas are a boring and blasé food; but there are a couple of weeks each year when fresh garden peas are available at the farmers’ market, and that’s a totally different story. Fresh peas are a to-die-for sweet, yet delicate, taste sensation – and lovely when served in a traditional “cream” sauce that is made using milk.
I dug out my hundred-year-old cookbooks, and found this recipe for Creamed Peas.
The Creamed Peas were lovely and the simple sauce enhanced the subtle flavors of the tender peas. The dish was simultaneously an easy-to-make, but almost elegant food, and a delightful comfort food.
Put the flour in a cup or small bowl, and gradually stir in the 2 tablespoons of milk to make a smooth paste. Set aside.
Put the peas into a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil using high heat, then reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Drain the peas, then pour 1/2 cup of milk over the peas. Return to the heat and using a medium heat bring the milk to a boil. Quickly, but gently, stir in the flour paste. Cook the creamed peas for a few seconds while continuing to stir until the milk mixture thickens. Remove from heat and serve.
I was surprised that the recipe author didn’t make a white sauce that was poured over the peas, but instead covered the peas with milk, heated it, and then stirred in a flour paste to thicken it. Maybe she was trying to minimize the number of pans on the stove. I made the recipe using the flour paste, but it would work fine to make the white sauce separately.
Visiting with old friends is always special. For the last 15 or 20 years, my husband and I get together a couple times a year with my daughter’s former girl scout leader and her husband to play pinochle. There are shared memories, family updates, and just plain good times.
It recently was my turn to host the gathering, and I wanted to make a special dessert – but something not too heavy. And, of course, my other criteria was that it had to be made using a hundred-year-old recipe. When browsing through an old cookbook, I came across a recipe for a citrus sponge cake called Sunshine Cake that peaked my interest, so I decided to give it a try.
The cake turned out wonderfully and did not disappoint. It was light, tender, and tasted divine. The recipe calls for both orange juice and lemon juice so it has a nicely balanced citrus flavor. The cake requires beating egg whites until stiff peaks form but it is worth the effort.
The trick to getting a really light cake is to cool it upside down. The cake can be inverted on a cooling rack when it is removed from the oven. In the old days, cakes often were inverted on an empty glass 1-quart soda-pop bottle to cool.
Recently a serendipitous event occurred. I saw a recipe for Chicken a la King in hundred-year-old magazine, and a left-over chicken breast languished in my refrigerator.
My mother and grandmothers often made Chicken (or Turkey) a la King to use left-over poultry – and I suddenly craved this old-time comfort food. The recipe did not disappoint. This delightful dish was both tasty and easy to make. The diced meat was embedded in a lovely thick and creamy sauce that contained mushrooms and green pepper. It is perfect when served over toast, biscuits, rice or pasta.
1/4 pound mushrooms, sliced and coarsely chopped (about 1 cup)
1/2 green pepper, chopped
1 tablespoon onion, chopped
1 cooked chicken breast, diced into 1/2 inch pieces (or use 1 cup diced left-over chicken or turkey)
3 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon paprika
Combine the half and half, chicken broth, lemon juice, and egg yolks in a mixing bowl; set aside.
Melt butter in a skillet, then stir in mushrooms, green pepper, and onions. Using medium heat, cook until the vegetables are tender (about 5 minutes) while stirring occasionally; then stir in the diced chicken. Stir in the flour, salt, paprika and pepper. While stirring constantly, slowly pour in the combined liquids that previously had been set aside and bring to a boil over medium heat. Remove from heat. May be served over toast, biscuits, rice, or pasta.
When browsing though old books and magazines, I always keep a lookout for easy-to-make, hundred-year-old breakfast recipes. So when I saw a recipe for Sour Milk Griddlecakes in a 1915 home economics textbook, I just had to give it a try.
Of course, griddlecakes are just another name for pancakes, but somehow even the name evokes old-fashioned goodness.
The Sour Milk Griddlecakes did not disappoint. Unlike most modern recipes, this recipe doesn’t call for any sugar, so the griddlecakes have a very delicate, slightly tangy, neutral flavor that is ready to soak up the goodness of syrups, jams, or other sweet toppings.
Put all ingredients in a mixing bowl, beat until smooth. Heat a lightly greased griddle or skillet to a medium temperature, then pour or scoop batter onto the hot surface to make individual pancakes. Cook until the top surface is hot and bubbly, and then flip and cook other side.
Here’s the original recipe:
This recipe is from an era when pasteurized milk was not the norm since it calls for sour milk. In the old days raw milk would sour—but still be good for cooking. Vinegar can be used to “sour” pasteurized milk, so I made that adaptation when modernizing the recipe.
There are so many kinds of tea. It’s always challenging to decide which purchase . . . bags or loose? . . . black, green, or herbal? . . . strong or mild? . . . organic, fair trade, or unidentified pedigree? . . . cheap bargain brand or pricey gourmet blend? . . .
I need help. So, when I saw information on how to select tea in a hundred-year-old home economics textbook, I eagerly read the advice:
In buying tea, choose the variety most pleasing to your taste. It should be free from stems and from powdered particles. When put in boiling water the leaves should not entirely unroll in a short time. Soak a pinch of tea, unroll the leaves, and note their size and shape. Also note proportion of large to small leaves and stems.
A very low priced tea is not really cheap. More is needed to give the required strength than with more expensive teas and it also yields more tannin, which we wish to avoid. Tea does not keep well, so it should be bought in small qualities and kept in air-tight glass jars.
A good grade of English Breakfast with a flavoring of Orange Pekoe makes a very pleasing tea.
The Science of Home Making: A Textbook in Home Economics (1915)
Each week I browse through hundred-year-old magazines and cookbooks in search of the perfect recipe to feature. Occasionally a reader’s comment provides the inspiration for the recipe I select. Today was one of those times.
A month or so ago, Ronit Penso at Tasty Eats commented on a hundred-year-old menu that mentioned Lettuce Soup:
As for the lettuce soup – it was quite common in classic French cuisine. It’s interesting that it somehow lost popularity. I wonder why. I still use it in certain soups. It adds lots of body and creaminess without making the soup heavy. . .
Ever since then I’ve had this urge to make a hundred-year-old lettuce soup recipe, and when I saw some awesome leaf lettuce for sale this week, I knew that now was the time to give it a try.
The Lettuce Soup turned out wonderfully, and was good either hot or cold. This nutrient rich soup contains several vegetables which results in a lovely, nuanced combination of flavors that beautifully combine the mild bitterness of the lettuce with the slight tanginess of onions and green pepper. It is lovely when served hot with small, delicate Egg Balls.
And, when served chilled, this refreshing soup is perfect on a hot summer day. (I skipped the egg balls when I served it cold.)
Here is the recipe for Lettuce Soup with Egg Balls updated for modern cooks:
Melt butter in large sauce pan. Add the chopped lettuce, and cook using medium heat until the lettuce is wilted, while stirring occasionally (8-10 minutes). Add the chicken broth, onion, green pepper, parsley, cloves, and sugar; cover the saucepan and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and cool slightly; then puree using a blender or food processor. Return the pureed mixture to the pan.
In a mixing bowl, stir the egg yolk into the flour, then add a small amount of milk and stir to create a paste. Gradually add the remaining milk and cream while stirring to create a smooth sauce. Then stir the sauce into pureed lettuce mixture. Heat mixture until hot and steamy using medium heat; stir occasionally. May be served either hot or chilled. If desired, serve with Egg Balls.
1/2 cup fine bread crumbs
2 egg yolks
clarified butter or other shortening
Combine bread crumbs and egg yolk in a bowl. Shape the mixture into 1/2-inch balls. Place the clarified butter or shortening into a frying pan, and heat until hot. Drop balls into the hot butter, then gently roll the balls with a fork until all sides are a light brown. Remove from heat and drain on paper towels. Put several egg balls into each cup of Lettuce Soup.
Here’s the original recipe:
The original Lettuce Soup recipe made 12 or more servings, so when I adapted the recipes for modern cooks, I divided the soup ingredients by 3. The Egg Balls recipe did not seem overly large, so I did not need to make a similar adaptations to that recipe; however, I used one fewer egg yolk in the Egg Balls than called for in the original recipe because the consistency of the dough was better.
Memorial Day in years gone by was often celebrated by parades and local festivals – and incredible homemade ice cream. An old-time favorite was Maraschino Cherry Ice Cream.
I tend to think of Maraschino cherries as a cocktail garnish (or an ingredient in canned fruit cocktail), but Maraschino cherries were a popular recipe ingredient in the early 1900’s. Back then the cherries were a pricey delicacy, and a popular ingredient that hinted of sophistication and class.
The recipe I adapted was in a hundred-year-old Pennsylvania church cookbook, and it was incredibly easy. This ice cream recipe didn’t require any cooking; I only needed to combine cream, sugar, and lemon juice, and then chill for a few minutes before putting the mixture into the ice cream maker (the cherries are added after the ice cream is frozen). I actually worried that the recipe was too easy, but my fears were totally unfounded. The ice cream was awesome.
The festive Maraschino Cherry Ice Cream was sooth and creamy, and oh so rich, with embedded pieces of Maraschino cherries adding a fun texture and the wonderful nuanced tartness.
My husband and I did not eat all of the ice cream on the day we made it, so we put it into the freezer in our refrigerator – and had a wonderful treat for the next several days. The ice cream texture remained smooth (and unlike what happens when some homemade ice creams are stored, no large granules of ice developed). The inclusion of lemon juice in fruit-flavored ice creams like this one is an old-fashioned way of minimizing the likelihood that large ice granules will develop – and it worked perfectly.
Here’s the recipe updated for modern cooks:
Maraschino Cherry Ice Cream
Time: 10 min. active prep + time in the freezer and chilling
In a large bowl, stir the lemon juice into the sugar. Add 2 cups of the half and half, and stir until the sugar is dissolved, then add the heavy cream and the remaining half and half. Stir to combine. Chill the mixture in the refrigerator (or put into the freezer for 15 minutes), then put the mixture into the ice cream maker, and follow the manufacturer’s directions.
After the ice cream is frozen, stir in the chopped Maraschino cherries. Repack in ice in ice cream maker (or put in the freezer) for two hours.
Note: This recipe is for a 4 quart ice cream maker. Adjust amounts if another size of ice cream maker is used.