Are you feeling stressed about how to make your Thanksgiving turkey?
Relax, don’t worry, I’ve got you covered. The November, 1916 issue of Ladies Home Journal had a “Kitchen Movie” that shows how to do it.
Mashed Potatoes are a quick and easy-to-make comfort food. It’s one of those foods that I never use a recipe to make. Long ago I learned how to boil the potatoes, whip them, add a little butter and milk, and whip a bit more to combine.
Given how easy it is to make Mashed Potatoes, I was very surprised to discover a hundred-year-old recipe for Mashed Potatoes that contained extensive detail. Back then even the most complex recipes were generally short and lacked details, Why would recipes for difficult-to-make foods leave a huge amount of latitude for interpretation, while a recipe for a basic food be very specific?
This recipe referred to two other recipes. One explained how to boil potatoes:
The other recipe mentioned in the Mashed Potato recipe was the Potato in the Half Shell recipe, which contained information about how much butter, milk, and salt should be used when making potatoes:
I generally use electric beaters to make “mashed” potatoes, but I decided to give the old-time recipe a try. I dug out my old potato masher out from under all my other seldom-used kitchen utensils in the back of bottom drawer in the kitchen cabinets, and made real mashed potatoes.
Here’s the old recipe updated for modern cooks:
4 cups potatoes, pared and cut into 1-inch cubes (4-6 potatoes) (I used red potatoes – though russets would also work well.)
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon butter
approximately 1/4 cup milk
Put enough water into a large saucepan so that it is about 1/3 filled; add salt and bring to a boil using high heat. Add diced potatoes; return to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 15-20 minutes or until the potatoes are very soft when poked with a fork. Remove from heat and drain. Using a wire potato masher, mash the potatoes until smooth. Add the butter and half the milk. Mash a little more to combine. If the potatoes are too stiff, add additional milk until the potatoes reach the desired consistency. (Do not over-mash or the potatoes will get gummy.) Reheat the mashed potatoes using medium heat To reheat, put the pan with the mashed potatoes back on the stove using medium heat for 15-30 seconds; stir once or twice. Remove from heat and put in serving dish.
Remember the old-fashioned gelatin salads with embedded mystery fruits and vegetables that great-aunts inevitably brought to Thanksgiving dinners? Well, I’ve found one of those old recipes. The hundred-year-old Cranberry Salad recipe called for gelatin — and celery and walnuts.
When I made this salad I didn’t want to like it, but I was pleasantly surprised. It tasted similar to jellied cranberry sauce. The colorful, tart jellied sauce was perfectly punctuated with the crunch of the celery and walnuts.
The original recipe was for Cranberry Salad, but when I updated the recipe I renamed it, Jellied Cranberry Sauce with Celery and Walnuts, to more accurately describe the dish. Here’s the original recipe:
I bought a 12-ounce bag of cranberries to make this recipe. When I measured how many cranberries were in the bag, I realized that I only had 3 cups of cranberries, not the 4 cups (1 quart) called for in the old recipe. I reduced all of the other ingredients proportionately and made three-fourths of the original recipe.
When serving the Jellied Cranberry Sauce with Celery and Walnuts, I didn’t cut it into squares, and I skipped the lettuce and mayonnaise. I just put it in a pretty dish and let people serve themselves. Here’s my updated recipe:
3 cups cranberries (1 12-ounce bag)
1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 envelops unflavored gelatin
3/4 cup celery, chopped
3/4 cup walnuts, chopped
Put cranberries and 1 1/2 cups water in a medium saucepan, bring to a boil using medium heat, then reduce heat and gently simmer for 20 minutes while stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and cool slightly, then press the cooked cranberries through a sieve or strainer. (I used a Foley mill. A food processor could also be used to puree the berries). Return the cranberry sauce to the sauce pan and sprinkle the gelatin over the puree. Let sit for one minute, then add the sugar and stir. Put on the stove and bring to a boil using medium heat while stirring constantly, then reduce heat and cook for an additional minute. Remove from the heat.
Put half of the cranberry sauce into a serving dish or bowl; refrigerate until just set (about 1 1/2 hours). (Keep the remainder of the cranberry sauce at room temperature.) Remove the set cranberry sauce from the refrigerator and sprinkle with the chopped celery and walnuts. Pour the remaining half of the cranberry sauce over this , and return to the refrigerator until set.
Frankly I’m tired of the ubiquitous pumpkin pie recipe that calls for evaporated milk and a 1-pound can of pumpkin. Is it really necessary to use evaporated milk–or would regular milk work? And, of course, I then made the short leap to: How did they make pumpkin pies a hundred years ago?
I found an awesome pumpkin pie recipe in the Lycoming Valley Cook Book. It was compiled by “the Ladies of the Trout Run M.E. Church, Trout Run Pa”. in 1907. The pie is similar enough to modern recipes that it won’t alarm your Thanksgiving guests. They’ll just think you used your usual recipe–but that it turned out better than it does in a typical year.
The resulting pie has a nice blend of spices that don’t overwhelm the pumpkin. The recipe calls for just two spices (cinnamon and ginger) rather than the three or four typically used in modern recipes.
It also uses more eggs than are generally used in recipes that call for evaporated milk. Since the milk used in the old recipe contains more liquid, additional eggs are needed to set the custard. This pie also requires more baking time than modern pumpkin pies, but the result is a rich and creamy custard filling.
Here’s my adaptation of the old recipe for modern cooks:
1 cup pumpkin
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 8-inch (small) pie shell
Preheat oven to 425° F. Combine all ingredients (except pie shell) in a mixing bowl; beat until smooth. Pour into pie crust. Bake 15 minutes; then reduce heat to 350°. Continue baking (about 50-60 minutes) until a knife inserted in the center of the pie comes out clean.
Notes: This recipe filled the 8-inch pie shell to the very rim, and it was a little difficult to get it into the oven without spilling. (Don’t overfill pie shell. If there is too much filling put the extra in a small casserole dish and cook separately.)
Here’s the original recipe:
Have you ever “hidden” vegetables in food to get your kids to eat healthier? I thought that hiding vegetables was a recent trend, but when I made a hundred-year-old recipe for Squash Bread, I discovered that cooks have been hiding vegetables for a long time.
The Squash Bread had a rustic artesian look, a nice texture, and a sunny yellow tinge – but I couldn’t taste the squash in it. It just tasted like the typical homemade bread.
The verdict: If you want to hide vegetables in bread this recipe is worth a try; otherwise, just stick with your usual bread recipe.
Here’s the original recipe:
Here’s the recipe updated for modern cooks:
2 cups milk
2 packages dry yeast
5-6 cups flour
1 cup pureed winter squash (Butternut squash works well in this recipe.)
1 tablespoon shortening (or lard)
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons salt
Scald milk by heating in a sauce pan until the milk begins to steam and form bubbles; use medium heat and stir occasionally. Remove from heat before it comes to a boil. Let the scalded milk cool until it is lukewarm, then dissolve the yeast in the milk.
Put 2 cups flour, squash, shortening, butter, sugar, salt, and the water and yeast mixture in a large mixing bowl. Beat until smooth. Add enough additional flour to make a soft dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes).
Place in a greased bowl. Cover; let rise at room temperature until doubled in size (about 1 hour). Turn onto lightly floured surface and knead for an additional 5 minutes. Divide dough into two equal parts and shape into loaves. Place in 2 greased loaf pans, 9″ X 5″ X 3″, and cover. Let rise until doubled in size (about 30 minutes).
Bake loaves in 400° F. oven for 35 minutes or until lightly browned.
I always find old-time bread recipes particularly difficult to interpret because modern yeast is so different from what it was a hundred years ago. Back then it was not dried like the yeast that we generally use today. I guessed that 2 packages of dried yeast would be the equivalent of 1/2 cup (1/2 yeast cake) back then. This substitution worked just fine when I made this recipe.
Did you ever plan the menu for a meal with 200 people? . . . and ended up getting sticker shock at how much it would cost? According to a hundred-year-old magazine, a church supper for 200 people in 1916 would cost only $74.58. To keep the costs down, the menu did have a few limitations. For example, canned peas were listed as the main vegetable. But, on the other hand, the person planning the menu did budget $3.50 for “help”.
We really should factor in inflation when looking at this old menu. According to an online inflation calculator, a dollar in 1916 is worth $22.22 today. So in today’s dollars, the total meal cost $1,657.17 or $8.29 per person – which, at least in my book, is still a very reasonably priced meal.
I found a delightful Bavarian Cabbage recipe in a hundred-year-old magazine. This traditional German dish was refreshingly sweet-sour (more sour than sweet), and would be lovely served with sausages, roast beef, or pork. It tasted very authentic; and if I closed my eyes and listened hard enough, I could almost see myself sitting at an outdoor cafe on the banks of the Rhine on a cool October day while listening to merry Octoberfest music.
Here’s the original recipe.
Here’s how I updated the recipe for modern cooks:
1/2 head cabbage (6 cups) shredded cabbage
1 tablespoon bacon drippings or butter (I used bacon drippings.)
1 tablespoon onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
Using medium heat, melt the bacon drippings (or butter) in a frying pan; add onions and cook until tender (but not browned). Add the vinegar, sugar, salt, and pepper, and stir to combine. Then add the shredded cabbage and stir; cover the pan and gently simmer for 20 minutes. Remove pan cover once or twice during cooking to make sure there is enough liquid; if too dry add enough water to keep from burning. (I did not need to add any water.)
I used less salt than the original recipe called for. One tablespoon of salt seemed like a lot – so I decided that it probably was a typo and instead used 1 teaspoon of salt. I also didn’t quite understand the last part of the old recipe about cold water (though I’m guessing that it was directing the cook to wash the cabbage prior to cooking).