Nut Bowls

Mid-century nut bowl
Mid-century nut bowl

Many of my December memories are linked to food: cut-out cookies, homemade fudge,  fruitcake, and nuts in the shell. Yesterday I saw a display of nuts in the shell at the supermarket and bought a bag. When I got home I dug out my mid-century nut bowl.  Each time I crack a nut, my thoughts go back to chatting with my mother while cracking, and then nibbling on, nuts in the farmhouse kitchen when I was a child.

This morning I browsed through a hundred-year-old issue of Ladies Home Journal and saw an ad for a Parsons Nut Bowl. Nuts in the shell have been a holiday tradition for a long time.

Parsons Nut Bowl Advertisement (Ladies Home Journal, December, 1916)
Parsons Nut Bowl Advertisement (Ladies Home Journal, December, 1916)

Hundred-year-old Cocoa Recipe

CocoaBrrrr, it’s snowy,  the temperature outside is in the single digits, and I’m cocooning until the weather improves.  Then I remembered  seeing a  recipe for  Cocoa in a hundred-year-old home economics textbook, and knew it was the perfect time to try it.

The Cocoa only took a few minutes to make – and soon I was relaxing with a steamy cup of rich and creamy Cocoa.  There was no comparison to the modern pre-mixed cocoa products.  The Cocoa made using old recipe was better . . . much, much better.

Here are the old directions for making Cocoa:

Source: Foods and Household Management: A Textbook of the Household Arts by Helen Kinne and Anna M. Cooley (1915)
Source: Foods and Household Management: A Textbook of the Household Arts by Helen Kinne and Anna M. Cooley (1915)

Here is the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Cocoa

  • Servings: 2
  • Time: 10-15 minutes
  • Difficulty: easy
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4 teaspoons cocoa

4 teaspoons sugar

2 cup milk

Put the cocoa and sugar in a bowl, and stir to combine. Add 1 tablespoon and milk and stir until smooth; then add another tablespoon of milk and stir.  Set aside.

Put the remainder of the milk in a medium sauce pan. While stirring constantly, heat the milk until hot and steamy using medium heat; then stir in the cocoa mixture. Remove from heat and serve.

When I made this recipe, I looked at the Cocoa recipe on the can of cocoa. The recipe on the can called for more sugar, and had a 2 to 1 ratio of sugar to cocoa, while the hundred-year-old recipe had a 1 to 1 ratio of sugar to cocoa which resulted in a delightful hot drink that featured the nuanced chocolaty notes  of the cocoa without being overwhelmed by the sweetness of the sugar.

Preface in Hundred-Year-Old Church Cookbook

Source: Tried and True Cook Book, published by The Willing Workers, Minneapolis Incarnation Parish (1910)
Source: Tried and True Cook Book, published by The Willing Workers, Minneapolis Incarnation Parish (1910)

People compile church and community cookbooks for many reasons: to preserve favorite recipes, for fund-raising purposes, to help community members get to know each other better, etc.  But I must admit that I was surprised when the preface in a hundred-year-old church cookbook promised to make readers’ husbands “contented” men.

Hundred-Year-Old Hermits Cookies Recipe

hermit-cookies

Tis the season . . . for baking cookies. Old-fashioned, traditional cookies are my favorite, so I was thrilled to find a hundred-year-old recipe for Hermits. Hermits are a soft, spicy, raisin cookie. They have been around a long time so there are lots of variations. This recipe was for the traditional drop cookie version.

The Hermits were delightful. They had a lovely texture and the right amount of chewiness. The old-fashioned goodness of the Hermits was enhanced by just the right amount of cinnamon and mace, and a hint of molasses.

The recipe was easy to make–and would be a perfect addition to a holiday cookie tray.

Here’s the hundred-year-old recipe:

Source: American Cookery (October, 1916)
Source: American Cookery (October, 1916)

And, here’s my updated version of the recipe for modern cooks:

Hermits

  • Servings: approximately 40 cookies
  • Time: 1 hour
  • Difficulty: easy
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1/2 cup butter, softened

1 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon milk

1 tablespoon molasses

2 eggs

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon mace

2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

2 cups flour

1/2 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 375° F.  Put butter in a large mixing bowl, and stir (cream) until smooth; then stir in the brown sugar. Stir in milk, molasses, eggs, cinnamon, mace, and baking powder. Add flour, and stir until all ingredients are combined. Add raisins, and stir gently to distribute the raisins throughout the dough. Drop rounded teaspoons about 2 inches apart on a lightly greased baking sheet.  Bake 10-12 minutes, or until lightly browned.

Caramels: Comparison of Old and Modern Recipes

caramels
The caramels with walnuts were made using the hundred-year-old recipe. The other caramels were made using the modern recipe.

The holidays are a time for family fun, so when my daughter was recently home for Thanksgiving we decided that it was time for another post that compares a hundred-year-old recipe with a modern one. This year we decided to make Caramels.

I made a Caramel recipe from a hundred-year-old magazine that listed nuts, preferably black walnuts, as an ingredient. My daughter made a Caramel recipe that did not call for nuts from Sally’s Baking Addiction called Sea Salt Vanilla Caramels.

My recipe called for brown sugar. The modern recipe used three sweets: brown sugar, white sugar, and light corn syrup. It included a note which said that corn syrup is “a controversial ingredient, for sure, but an imperative one for making candy as it prevents crystallization and keeps the caramels smooth as silk.”

The Verdict: The two candies were both good, but very different from each other.

The modern recipe was delectable. The Sea Salt Vanilla Caramels were smooth and creamy, and melted in my mouth. If you want a great Caramel recipe, I strongly recommend clicking on the link and going to Sally’s website for her recipe.

On the other hand, the  hundred-year-old Caramel recipe made a candy that barely seemed like a caramel. It tasted more like a praline. If, by chance,  you are looking for a delightful walnut praline recipe, the old recipe is the recipe for you.

The hundred-year-old recipe included a warning, “These directions must be followed to the letter.”  I tried my best to follow them to the letter, but apparently failed since I think that the caramel may have partially “crystalized” (or perhaps a caramel a hundred-years-ago was different from a modern caramel).

Here’s the hundred-year-old recipe:

Source: Good Housekeeping (April, 1916)
Source: Good Housekeeping (April, 1916)

Here’s my version of the hundred-year-old recipe updated for modern cooks. (I made half of the original recipe.)

Caramels

  • Servings: approximately 50 pieces
  • Time: 1 hour active prep time
  • Difficulty: moderate
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1 pound light-brown sugar (2 cups, packed)

2 tablespoons butter

1 cup milk

1 cup chopped nuts, preferably black walnuts

Prepare a 8 inch by 8 inch square pan by lining it with foil, and then buttering the foil.  Set aside.

Put the brown sugar, butter, and milk in a large, heavy saucepan. Using medium heat, bring to a boil while stirring. Reduce heat so that there is a slow rolling boil. Continue to stir until the mixture reaches the firm ball stage (245 – 248° F.). This can also be tested by dropping a small amount of the hot mixture into ice-cold water. It is done when a caramel-textured ball is formed. Add nuts before removing from the heat. Remove spoon from mixture while still boiling to prevent crystallization.

Quickly pour into the prepared pan. Scrape what remains into another dish. When cool turn onto a cookie sheet or board.  Cut into bite-sized pieces. If desired, wrap caramels in waxed paper.

walnut-caramel