Season with Intelligence

Source: How to Cook and Why by Elizabeth Condit and Jessie A. Long (1914)

I take pride in being able to successfully interpret most hundred-year-old recipes, but I recently came across a 1914 recipe for Cream of Carrot Soup that flummoxed me. The soup is supposed to be “seasoned with intelligence.” What the heck does that mean?

This recipe appeared in a home economics textbook. According to the book’s introduction, the book was written “in the hope of doing service to all such homemakers, to the teachers of classes of older girls – whether in high school, Y.W.C.A., settlement, or elsewhere – and to the girls themselves.”  Apparently, a hundred years ago even relatively inexperienced cooks knew how to season with intelligence.

Army Food Procurement: 1918 and 2018

Source: Ladies Home Journal (June, 1918)

How the U.S. military procures food for soldiers has changed over the past hundred years.

In 2018, the Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support Subsistence program purchases the food. Here’s what the Defense Logistics Agency website says:

The Subsistence supply chain provides food support for the military all over the world. From individually packaged meals in a soldier’s ruck sack, to a ship’s galley and to full service dining facilities on military installations, Subsistence gets that food there.

We work with our industry partners around the globe to feed the newest troops in training and seasoned sailors at sea. And we take pride in ensuring our service members have a taste of home for the holidays, no matter where they’re deployed.

In 1918, World War I was raging, and I’m sure that much food for the soldiers was purchased from large companies; however, the army also purchased home-canned foods. Here are some excerpts from an article in the June, 1918 issue of Ladies Home Journal:

How Twelve Girls Fed a Camp of Soldiers

I have been asked to give an account of the work done by the Girls’ Canning and Evaporating Club of Harvard, Massachusetts in order to demonstrate what twelve patriotic girls between the ages of nine and seventeen can do. The club was organized in the spring of 1917, with a special aim in view – that of creating what one might call an emergency supply. President Wilson said, to the women of the country, that one of the most patriotic things they could do was to conserve a surplus amount of food that would be available in case of a general shortage.

In the case of towns around the army camps, the possibility of being called upon to help out with food for the soldiers in case of shortage made this idea of an emergency supply of added value.

Now, while amateur work is often excellent, there is always the element of chance in it, because the knowledge of the fundamental principles is apt to be superficial. It was decided to give the girls a thorough training that would be a solid groundwork. A paid demonstrator was engaged to instruct the class every Saturday.

Toward the end of the season the club was invited to send an exhibit to the big Eastern States Exhibition that was held at Springfield, Massachusetts, and had the great pleasure and encouragement of being awarded a medal. This added zest to the work being done by the club, and all hands redoubled their efforts as the day for the home exhibition, held at the Town Hall at Harvard, approached. The results of the work were 1,000 jars of canned food done in the club and 200 pounds of evaporated food.

When the day came, in spite of a drenching rain, the doors had hardly been opened when the whole club exhibit of canned and evaporated food was sold to Battery F, 303d Heavy Artillery, through Lieutenant Martindale, the Battery’s mess officer, who expressed a wish that there was double the amount to secure.

The next morning a large army truck was sent over from the camp, and we had the great joy and satisfaction of seeing it packed with the results of our labor.

Clara Endicott Sears

How to Make Vinegar from Apple Parings

When I came across a hundred-year-old recipe for making vinegar from apple peels and cores, I had to give it a try. I put the apple cores and peels, molasses, and water in a bowl, covered with cheesecloth, set on the kitchen counter,  and viola – a month later I had vinegar. The use of molasses in this recipe results in a delightful dark robust vinegar.

Here is the original recipe:

Source: American Cookery (December, 1917)

And, here is the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Homemade Vinegar Made from Apple Peels and Cores

  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

This recipe makes about 3 cups vinegar. It can be doubled, tripled, etc.

approximately 2 quarts apple peels and cores

1 quart water

1/4 cup molasses

Put the apple peels and cores in a large bowl or crock (or the peels can be put in quart canning jars).

In a separate bowl stir together the water and molasses. Pour over the apple peels until covered. (The peels may float. If they do weight them down with a plate.) Cover with cheese cloth, and tie with a string to hold in place.

Set in a warm spot, and wait one month. (I stirred weekly to help ensure that the peels are under the liquid; then re-covered – but I don’t think that it is necessary. Over the course of the month some white “mother” will develop as the vinegar ferments.)

After a month, strain at least three times. First strain to remove the large pieces of peels, then restrain to remove smaller pieces of pulp. Next line the strainer with cheese cloth and strain a third time.

Put vinegar in bottles or jars. This vinegar will get stronger over time. Once it reaches the desired strength, store in the refrigerator to slow any additional fermentation.

Gluten Peculiar to Wheat

Source: Foods and Household Management: A Textbook of the Household Arts (1915)

A hundred years ago, much of the wheat (and wheat flour) in the United States was being shipped to Europe to feed the troops in World War I.  Cooks were trying to figure out how to successfully bake bread while using little or no wheat.  Here’s a question and answer about the gluten in wheat which appeared in a 1918 magazine.

Gluten Peculiar to Wheat

Question: Will you please give me a list of the various flours now on the market as wheat substitutes with their gluten content. What combination of these flours will yield the lightest loaves of bread if made without any wheat whatever? Is it necessary to use more yeast than with the same amount of wheat flour? Is it true that breads made from these flours are less digestible than bread made from wheat flour?

Miss A.C.P., Vt.

Answer: Practically none of the cereals, except wheat, contains gluten. Even wheat does not contain gluten until the flour is moistened. Two of the constituents of wheat, glutenin and gliadin, then unite to form gluten. Gluten it the best agent in ordinary flours to hold the gas bubbles which make light or leavened bread. Other cereals which have properties permitting aeration are rye and oatmeal.

All the substitutes for wheat are benefited from the point of view of palatability by mixing in a certain amount of wheat flour. It is probable that more yeast is required with wheat substitutes than with wheat alone. Bread is not necessarily more wholesome when leavened but usually it is more palatable.

Biscuits (crackers) and unleavened breads are perfectly wholesome when well masticated, and are just as digestible as the more porous breads. The breads made from other cereals than wheat are not necessarily less digestible than wheat bread. The chief difficulty is that the art of making other breads has not been fully developed.

Good Housekeeping (September, 1918)

Role of Potatoes in Diets a Hundred Years Ago

Potatoes were an important part of the diet a hundred years ago. Here’s what a cookbook said:

Housewives are always interested in new ways of preparing the potato as it appears on the average menu 365 times in the year. There are innumerable ways of preparing potatoes for the table.

When potatoes are practically the only vegetable used in the household, they should always be cooked in their skins, so that all the mineral salts may be retained. When salad plants and other vegetables are used freely, the skins may be removed before cooking, although it is not economy to do so. Sometimes convenience and palatability decide in favor of the latter.

Potatoes, combined with milk and cheese, provide a dish fully as nourishing as when combined with meat. This is interesting to know when meat prices are high.

The Housewife’s Cook Book by Lilla Frich (1917)

Hundred-year-old Directions for Cooking Macaroni

Source: Wikipedia

What did macaroni look like in 1918? I’m a bit foggy about what macaroni looked like a hundred years ago, but I found directions for preparing it in a century-old magazine that provides a few clues.

To cook macaroni successfully is not difficult. Break into short lengths. If it comes from a sealed package, it does not need washing; if it is “loose,” it should be rinsed in cold water. Drop into boiling salted water, adding a level tablespoonful of salt to a quart. Stir to prevent sticking, but be careful not to break the pieces. If the dish is greased before the hot water and macaroni are put in, it will not stick so readily. Cook until tender, then toss the macaroni into a colander and let cold water run through it. This process is called blanching, and is to prevent it from sticking together.

American Cookery (August – September, 1918)