Can I let you in on a secret? March is one of the most difficult months to eat local seasonal foods. Winter staples like squash, onions, cabbage. . . even apples are starting to seen humdrum. And, it will be at least a few weeks until local fresh produce is available. Usually, I cheat a little and buy strawberries and asparagus at the supermarket, and justify it by saying they are March fruits and vegetables. . . somewhere.
But, when I browse through hundred-year-old magazines, I’m keenly aware that people actually ate local foods that had been stored all winter during March back then.
I decided to that today I was going to make an authentic March food and began flipping through the March, 1916 issue of Good Housekeeping. I came across an old recipe for Apple Johnny Cake that intrigued me.
This corn bread contains no sugar and feels healthier than modern sugared corn bread. The apples (I used Braeburn apples) embedded in the Johnny Cake are the sole source of sweetness, and work perfectly in this recipe.
The Apple Johnny Cake was good–though I must admit that I can hardly wait for the local spring fruits and vegetables to arrive on the scene (or I might cheat and buy some more Mexico, California, or Florida produce when I go to the supermarket tomorrow).
Here’s my updated version of the hundred-year-old recipe for modern cooks:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Put corn meal, flour, baking powder, salt, and milk into a mixing bowl; beat until smooth. Stir in apple slices, and then put the batter into a well-greased 9 inch X 9 inch baking pan. Place in oven. Bake 40 to 45 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
And, here is the original recipe:
The Apple Johnny Cake was an interesting corn bread, but I wanted to also try eating it crumbled and served with milk as described in the recipe.
I broke a piece of Apple Johnny Cake into a bowl (and sprinkled it with a little sugar), then poured milk on it. It was surprisingly tasty. I can see why children enjoyed this dish a hundred years ago.
There’s nothing like fresh-baked rolls to make a meal really special. When I saw a picture of Clover-leaf Rolls in a hundred-year-old issue of Good Housekeeping, I knew that I had to try making them.
The picture in the old magazine brought back warm fuzzy memories of making Clover-leaf Rolls with my mother when I was a child. I remembered how much fun it was to roll small balls of bread dough between my fingers and put them into muffin tins — 3 balls in each cup. And, I could remember how much fun they were to eat after they were baked. Clover-leaf Rolls pull apart beautifully and are delectable with a little butter or marmalade.
The recipe did not disappoint. The rolls were easy to make and my kitchen was filled with the lovely aroma of baking bread. And, when I took the rolls out of they oven, they were light and heavenly with a hint of cinnamon.
The original recipe was for Sweet Rolls, and said that it could be formed into a variety of shapes, including Clover-leaf. It called for a compressed yeast cake and 8 cups of flour. I knew I didn’t need that many rolls, so I made 2/3’s of the recipe, and substituted instant yeast for the compressed yeast.
Put milk in saucepan and scald; then cool until lukewarm (110 – 115° F.). Dissolve the yeast in the milk. Then in a large bowl combine the dissolved yeast mixture, butter, shortening, sugar, egg yolks, salt, cinnamon, and 3 cups flour. Add additional flour until the dough is easy to handle.
Knead the dough on a floured surface until it is smooth and elastic (about 8 minutes). Place in a greased bowl, cover and put in a warm spot. Let rise until doubled in size (about 1 1/2 hours).
Grease muffin pans. Punch down dough, then pinch off pieces of dough and shape into 1-inch balls. Placed 3 balls in each muffin cup, and brush with butter. Let rise until double (about 30 minutes), then place in preheated 375 ° F oven. Bake 20-25 minutes or until lightly browned.
I found a hundred-year-old recipe for Browned Whole Onions that is lovely with a hearty pot roast, game, or other flavorful meat. The onions’ robust flavor nicely complements the meat.
These onions are firmer than the sliced browned onions that are often served today–and they are not at all like the breaded onion “flowers” that restaurants sometimes serve. Instead they have a delicate outer browned layer, and firmer but delicious inner layers.
Preheat oven to 400° F. Peel onions, place in a large saucepan, cover with water, then add 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and drain onions.
In the meantime combine the flour, 1/8 teaspoon salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Dust the onions with the flour mixture.
Place the bacon drippings or olive oil in an oven-proof skillet, then add onions. Pour 1/2 cup water into the pan along the edge. Place pan in oven and bake for approximately 25 minutes. Remove from oven, and gently turn and roll the onions in the dripping in the bottom of the pan. If needed, add additional water. Return to oven and bake for an additional 15 minutes or until lightly browned. (The amount of time is dependent upon onion size. Larger onions may need to be rolled in the drippings a second time and cooked a little longer.) Remove from oven, and place browned onions in serving dish.
Add 1/2 cup water to the drippings in the skillet, and scrape the bottom of the pan to loosen any flour or cooked pieces of onion. Place on a burner, and bring to a boil while stirring constantly. Reduce heat and cook a few minutes until the mixture has thickened slightly. Spoon the “gravy” over the onions and serve.
I have a short list of brunch dishes that I regularly make. I recently found a recipe in a hundred-year-old issue of Good Housekeeping for Asparagus Omelet that I’m adding to my repertoire of go-to brunch recipes. It makes a stunning presentation, and has a wonderful texture and taste.
Often omelets are a little heavy, but Asparagus Omelet is not like the typical modern omelet. The recipe calls for beating egg whites into stiff peaks, and then folding the remainder of the ingredients into them. This omelet incredibly light and airy with embedded pieces of asparagus.
The omelet was so thick that I didn’t even try to fold it over like the typical omelet, and instead just turned the unfolded omelet onto a plate (actually I turned it onto a baking sheet) and cut into wedges.
Preheat oven to 350° F. Make a white sauce by melting the butter in small saucepan, then stir in the flour, salt, and pepper. Add a small amount of milk and make a paste. Gradually add remaining milk while stirring rapidly and continuing to heat. Continue stirring until thickens. Then remove from heat and set aside.
In a mixing bowl, beat egg whites until stiff peaks form.
In another bowl, beat the egg yolks until lemon colored. Stir in the white sauce and asparagus pieces; then fold into the beaten egg whites.
Heat a large oven-proof skillet on the top of the stove using medium-low heat. (If needed to prevent sticking, liberally grease the skillet before heating.) Pour the egg and asparagus mixture into the hot skillet, and gently cook for 1 minute. Move the skillet to the oven, and bake for about 10 minutes or until the egg mixture is set.
Remove from oven, and loosen the edges of the omelet from the skillet with a knife or spatula, then turn onto a plate. Garnish with asparagus tips and cut into wedges.
I found an intriguing recipe for something called Dutch Apple Cake in a small 1911 promotional cookbook published by K C Baking Powder. Even though it was called a cake, the serving suggestions in the original recipe said, “serve hot, with butter, as bread for supper or with hard sauce as a pudding.”
My curiosity got the best of me–What was it? . . . a cake? . . . a bread? . . . a pudding?
Well, I made the recipe, and I’m still not quite sure. When I ate it warm, it tasted like a bread. It had a nice texture with apples and currants embedded in a rich, sticky cinnamon-sugar syrup on top that reminded me slightly of the syrup on old-fashioned “sticky buns.”
But after it cooled, it seemed more like a coffee cake–a very nice coffee cake. I didn’t try it with hard sauce so I’m not sure whether it also seems similar to steamed puddings–but I did post on old hard sauce recipe awhile back so maybe someone else will try that and let us know.
The rows of cinnamon-sugar coated apple slices and currants give this bread/cake a striking, almost elegant look. It’s perfect to serve when a friend stops over for a cup of coffee. . . and if the conversation starts to lag, this food is a wonderful conversation starter: “Is this a cake, bread, or pudding?”
Preheat oven to 375° F. In a small bowl combine sugar, cinnamon, and currants. Set aside.
In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt, butter, egg, and milk. Stir until a thick dough forms. Put dough into a well-greased bread pan. Firmly press the narrow edges of the apple slices into the dough in parallel rows; then sprinkle with the sugar and currant mixture. Place in oven and bake approximately 40-45 minutes–or until a wooden pick inserted into the cake (not the apples) comes out clean. Remove from oven.
Use apples that hold their shape in this recipe. I used Braeburn apples.
Today, reasonably priced eggs are generally available year-round, but a hundred years ago people worried about the high price of eggs.
Here’s some advice in a hundred-year-old home economics textbook:
The demand for fresh eggs is great, and so many eggs are exported, that the price is high. Twenty-five cents a dozen is a reasonable price, but this is below the average at the present date. Thirty-five cents a dozen will permit the moderate use of eggs as the main dish for breakfast or luncheon sometimes, but not a liberal use in cakes and desserts.
If a recipe for soft custard calls for three eggs to a pint of milk, leave out one egg or even two, and use one or two tablespoons of cornstarch.
Foods and Household Management: A Textbook of the Household Arts (1915)
Winter farmers’ markets in the small suburb where I live are always a bit of an adventure, and I’m never quite sure what will be available. I recently was thrilled to find some lovely parsnips, but then I had a challenge: Could I find an interesting hundred-year-old recipe that called for parsnips?
I browsed through a couple 1916 issues of Good Housekeeping magazine and came across an intriguing recipe for Parsnip Balls, and decided to give it a try.
The Parsnip Balls only had a few ingredients and were surprisingly easy to make. They turned out awesomely. The balls were coated with ground walnuts which added a bit of crunch to the earthy, sweetness of the parsnips. This recipe is a keeper.
Peel parsnips and cut into 1/2 inch cubes. Place cubed parsnips in a medium saucepan and cover with water. Using high heat bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until parsnips are tender. Drain parsnips, and then mash. In the meantime, crush the saltine crackers to make crumbs.
Combine mashed parsnip, cracker crumbs, egg yolk, and salt in a bowl. Shape the mixture into 1-inch balls; then roll in ground walnuts. Place the shortening into a frying pan, and heat until hot. Drop balls into the hot shortening, then gently roll the balls with a fork until all sides are a light brown. Remove from heat and drain on paper towels.