A hundred years ago people didn’t have markers that could be used to write labels on canning jar lids. They also didn’t have printers to print labels or even clear tape that could be used to attach labels to the jars. Back then newspapers often printed labels that could be cut out and pasted on jars of freshly canned food.
I generally prepare posts for this blog fairly quickly – but today’s post is an exception. It’s taken me over five years from the time that I first thought about doing this post to actually posting it.
I recently was browsing through a hundred-year-old magazine and saw this tip:
Sometimes the women folks can’t remember when they put up certain cans of fruit. Paste a dated slip of paper on the side.
Farm Journal (August, 1915)
The old tip reminded me that back in 2011, which was the first year I was doing this blog, that I’d scrolled though some old microfilms of hundred-year-old issues of the Milton (PA) Evening Standard, and had been surprised how the newspaper regularly printed labels for commonly canned foods – cherries in July, tomatoes in August, grape juice in September . . .
I copied a page with labels for tomatoes from the newspaper and planned to do a post on it – but somehow I never actually got around to writing that post and quickly forgot about it until I saw the Farm Journal tip. So here is the post – better late than never.
I recently came across a glossary in a hundred-year-old cookbook that defined 62 words. I was surprised that several words that are commonly used now (for example, mayonnaise) needed to be defined in the early 1900s; that the meaning of several other words had shifted across the years (for example, hors d’oeurves); and that noir was an important food-related word back then.
Even since then I’ve been pondering the following question: If I wrote a cookbook in 2016 and decided to include a glossary, which 62 words would be the most important words to define?
With its long vise-like fingers this device reaches down into the boiling water and lifts out the jars with safety.
The July, 1916 issue of Good Housekeeping had several photos of canning equipment. Some of the pictures make me think about how much has changed over the past hundred years in how we can; others make me think that it hasn’t changed all that much.
An excellent improvised canner is a wash boiler with a wire frames which may be purchased separately in sizes to hold gallon, quart, or pint jars. Any other receptacle with a tight-fitting lid may be used or an outfit may be purchased complete.
This water-seal canner has a thermometer, a safety valve, and a pet-cock. It confines steam under pressure, and in it vegetables are canned with one cooking.
I tend to picture women’s activities a hundred years ago being somewhat constrained by the times and their clothes. I was pleasantly surprised to see an article in the July, 1913 issue of Ladies Home Journal titled, “Girls’ Frolics in Wood and by Stream: Merry Times on Hikes and Around Streams” that contained lots of picnic and campfire ideas. Here’s a few suggestions for a surprise boat trip:
A surprise boat trip was the pleasure awaiting a crowd of girls invited by their hostess to meet at the boat landing at three p.m. Soon they were moving up the river on a “voyage of discovery.”
A half hour’s ride brought them to a beautiful grove, where they landed, and search parties were sent out in different directions. In a short time triumphant cries were heard over the discovery of large watermelons found hidden in secluded spots. (A boat with supplies had been sent up the river ahead of the party.) After justice had been done to the melons the girls went upstream until they landed and were told to raid the country.
The enthusiasm of the moment sent everyone forth to discover this time ears of corn. These were loaded into the boat, and the party again set forth toward other lands, in search of whatever they might find. . . fruit hanging from branches of trees.
The last voyage brought them to land just about sunset. They did not need to search long before many parcels were found, containing ham, bacon, beefsteak, sandwiches and marshmallows, which, with the corn for the corn roast and the fruit, provided a substantial supper. Further search brought them to a pile of wood for a bonfires, just waiting to have the match put to it.
It was not long before the girls were sitting around a roaring fire, cooking their meal, and last of all, toasting marshmallows and telling stories as they watched the fire die out. The trip down the river by moonlight was not the least of the afternoon’s enjoyment.
I like candy, but always feel guilty when I eat it, so I was pleased to discover hundred-year-old advice on the role of candy in the diet.
The Use of Candy in the Diet
Candy is an energy-giving food, but, unfortunately perhaps, it is not (at all times) a most desirable energy-giving food. Sugar exists in candy in concentrated form. In this condition, sugar is irritating to the organs of digestion.
Sugar is contained in large quantity in some fruits, especially in dried fruits, figs, dates, prunes, etc. These fruits are a much better source of sweets for children than is candy, because they do not contain as much sugar, and have, in addition, valuable food materials in the form of ash.
Candy should never be used to excess. A little eaten at the end of a meal is not harmful to a normal person. At that time the sugar does not come in direct contact with the walls of the alimentary canal, as it would if eaten between meals.
A Text-Book of Cooking by Carlotta C. Greer (1915)
The quote mentions “ash” in fruits. Ash is an old-time term for the minerals in foods.
Here’s some hundred-year-old advice for selecting meat:
Beef should be a bright red and well streaked with fat.
To understand the difference between the tough and tender cuts we must be familiar with the structure of the muscle. Each muscle consists of bundles of tubes held together by connective tissues. In tough meat, the muscle tubes are thicker and there is more connective tissue present.
Exercise strengthens the muscle, and this accounts for the fact that the unexercised muscles of the young animal give us a softer meat. In the mature animal the muscles most exercised furnish a tough meat, and the less-used muscles the tender.
The tough cuts come from the neck and legs, the tender cuts from the middle of the back, the toughness increasing as the cuts approach the neck and the hind legs. The muscles of the abdomen are also tender, but they give a coarse-grained meat.
The tender cuts from the ribs and loin are the most highly prized, and therefore bring the highest price. These cuts are liked because of their tenderness although the nutritive value of the tough meat is as high or possibly even higher than the tender. We must take pains to use the cooking processes that will make the tough meats palatable.
Excerpts from Foods and Household Management : A Text-book of the Household Arts by Helen Kinne and Anna M. Cooley (1913)
Almost roasted today. Went to Sunday school this afternoon. We had company this evening.
Air conditioning didn’t exit, and my grandmother’s family didn’t have electricity so there were no electric fans. In those days families congregated on the porch on hot summer days to relax and enjoy the breezes. Friends would often stop by, and a dessert would generally “just appear.”
I’m glad that modern technology makes our summers more bearable now, but I sense that we’ve also lost something. Does anyone sit (or entertain) on their porch anymore? (As I write this, I realize that we now have decks and outdoor rooms. Maybe they serve the same purpose that porches did in days gone by.)