When I walk into a supermarket, I informally evaluate it. Is the produce fresh? Are the clerks friendly? Does it stock all of the grocery items that I regularly buy? Is the location convenient? Does it have good prices? . . . And, if it doesn’t meet my standards, I might go to a different store the next time I shop.
Similarly, a hundred years ago people also evaluated their grocery stores; but that’s where the similarities end. A hundred-year-old home economics textbook had a Grocery Scorecard that students could use to evaluate their grocery stores – but frankly I’ve never considered the proximity to stables, or most of the other old-time criteria.
I tend to look at the past through rose-colored glasses, but when I’m honest with myself, I must admit what while some things were better a hundred years ago, I think I prefer modern food stores.
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.
I can get great locally-grown produce at the farmer’s market, or I could join a community supported agriculture (CSA) group and pick up wonderful local foods at a nearby drop point — but I dream of curated farm-fresh food coming right to my door on a regular basis. I long for the good old days. A hundred years ago families in the New York City area could get fresh fruits and vegetables from Long Island in the mail.
Here’s some quotes from a 1916 article about it.
The farm-to-family-fresh idea is Edith Loring Fullerton’s, and a very clever idea it is. Mrs. Fullerton believed that a basket of fruits and vegetables, freshly picked, sent straight from the farm would appeal to the city housewife.
Evidently it did, for the “Home Hamper” is a great success. The hamper itself is an oblong crate twenty-four inches long, fourteen wide and ten deep; it contains six baskets and weights from thirty to thirty-five pounds. In it the housewife finds such staples as potatoes, beans, peas, tomatoes, sweet corn, soup and salad vegetables, and in season strawberries, peaches, cantaloupes, eggplants, etc.
With the parcel post the hamper idea is being rapidly taken up by woman farmers, some of them adding eggs, poultry, butter or flowers to the hamper lists.
The housewife finds that not only does the hamper reduce the cost of living, but the difference between freshly picked vegetables and those picked unripe to ripen in transit is greatly appreciated by her family.
Mrs. Fullerton is one of the vice presidents of the new cooperative organization of woman gardeners — the Women’s National Agricultural and Horticultural Association, which has for one of its objects to “bring together the producer and consumer.”
Ladies Home Journal (May 1916)
I want to think that delivery services are faster and more efficient now than in the early 1900’s but apparently parcel post packages were delivered by the U.S. Postal Service much quicker and more dependably a hundred years ago than now (at least in urban areas). Parcel post began in the U.S. in 1913, and was seen as a way for farmers to get supplies, and for consumers to get farm produce. Trains, horse-drawn wagons, and trucks quickly transported the perishable parcel post hampers into the city from the outlying agricultural areas.