They sure knew how to package Jell-O a hundred years ago. The “Safety Bag” would keep it “as pure and sweet” as the day it was made for years.
I checked the “best used by” date on a package of Jell-O in my cupboard. The date was November 16, 2014. Time flies, and I don’t remember when I bought it, but I don’t think that it was real long ago. In any case, I discarded the package . . . sigh . . . I wish that modern Jell-O would keep for years like the old-time Jell-O in its Safety Bag.
Have you ever “hidden” vegetables in food to get your kids to eat healthier? I thought that hiding vegetables was a recent trend, but when I made a hundred-year-old recipe for Squash Bread, I discovered that cooks have been hiding vegetables for a long time.
The Squash Bread had a rustic artesian look, a nice texture, and a sunny yellow tinge – but I couldn’t taste the squash in it. It just tasted like the typical homemade bread.
The verdict: If you want to hide vegetables in bread this recipe is worth a try; otherwise, just stick with your usual bread recipe.
1 cup pureed winter squash (Butternut squash works well in this recipe.)
1 tablespoon shortening (or lard)
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons salt
Scald milk by heating in a sauce pan until the milk begins to steam and form bubbles; use medium heat and stir occasionally. Remove from heat before it comes to a boil. Let the scalded milk cool until it is lukewarm, then dissolve the yeast in the milk.
Put 2 cups flour, squash, shortening, butter, sugar, salt, and the water and yeast mixture in a large mixing bowl. Beat until smooth. Add enough additional flour to make a soft dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes).
Place in a greased bowl. Cover; let rise at room temperature until doubled in size (about 1 hour). Turn onto lightly floured surface and knead for an additional 5 minutes. Divide dough into two equal parts and shape into loaves. Place in 2 greased loaf pans, 9″ X 5″ X 3″, and cover. Let rise until doubled in size (about 30 minutes).
Bake loaves in 400° F. oven for 35 minutes or until lightly browned.
I always find old-time bread recipes particularly difficult to interpret because modern yeast is so different from what it was a hundred years ago. Back then it was not dried like the yeast that we generally use today. I guessed that 2 packages of dried yeast would be the equivalent of 1/2 cup (1/2 yeast cake) back then. This substitution worked just fine when I made this recipe.
Did you ever plan the menu for a meal with 200 people? . . . and ended up getting sticker shock at how much it would cost? According to a hundred-year-old magazine, a church supper for 200 people in 1916 would cost only $74.58. To keep the costs down, the menu did have a few limitations. For example, canned peas were listed as the main vegetable. But, on the other hand, the person planning the menu did budget $3.50 for “help”.
We really should factor in inflation when looking at this old menu. According to an online inflation calculator, a dollar in 1916 is worth $22.22 today. So in today’s dollars, the total meal cost $1,657.17 or $8.29 per person – which, at least in my book, is still a very reasonably priced meal.
I found a delightful Bavarian Cabbage recipe in a hundred-year-old magazine. This traditional German dish was refreshingly sweet-sour (more sour than sweet), and would be lovely served with sausages, roast beef, or pork. It tasted very authentic; and if I closed my eyes and listened hard enough, I could almost see myself sitting at an outdoor cafe on the banks of the Rhine on a cool October day while listening to merry Octoberfest music.
1 tablespoon bacon drippings or butter (I used bacon drippings.)
1 tablespoon onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
Using medium heat, melt the bacon drippings (or butter) in a frying pan; add onions and cook until tender (but not browned). Add the vinegar, sugar, salt, and pepper, and stir to combine. Then add the shredded cabbage and stir; cover the pan and gently simmer for 20 minutes. Remove pan cover once or twice during cooking to make sure there is enough liquid; if too dry add enough water to keep from burning. (I did not need to add any water.)
I used less salt than the original recipe called for. One tablespoon of salt seemed like a lot – so I decided that it probably was a typo and instead used 1 teaspoon of salt. I also didn’t quite understand the last part of the old recipe about cold water (though I’m guessing that it was directing the cook to wash the cabbage prior to cooking).
There’s a lovely suggestion for serving grapefruit in a hundred-year-old magazine. The membrane between the segments is removed, and a maraschino cherry (or other fruit) is added as a garnish.
When two of my children visited recently, I tried serving grapefruit this way. The feedback very positive. Both agreed that the grapefruit was attractive and easy to eat.
Updated directions for modern cooks: Halve the grapefruit with a small paring knife; next cut around the edge of the grapefruit and around each segment, and then carefully remove several segments. With the knife cut the center membrane near where it is attached to the grapefruit rind, and then gently remove all of the membranes. After the membranes are removed, replace previously removed segments, and garnish with a maraschino cherry.
I love peanut butter cookies, so when I found a hundred-year-old recipe for peanut butter cut-out cookies I had to give it a try.
Here’s the original recipe:
When I made this recipe, it quickly became apparent that something was wrong. When I combined all the ingredients, I had a thick batter instead of a dough–and there was no way I could roll it out. I wasn’t quite sure what was wrong with the original recipe, but I decided that the best way to salvage it was to add additional flour – lots of flour. The resulting soft dough rolled out nicely.
The verdict: The cookies were nothing like modern peanut butter cookies, but if you can totally suspend expectations, the cookies were good. The old-fashioned cake-like cookies had a hint of peanut butter, and are lovely with milk or coffee.
Preheat oven to 400° F. Place the butter, peanut butter, and sugar in a mixing bowl, stir to combine. Stir in the egg and milk, then add the flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir until well-mixed. Refrigerate dough 1/2 hour or until chilled.
On well-floured surface, roll out dough to 1/8 inch thickness. Cut into desired shapes. Place on greased baking sheets. Sprinkle with sugar. Bake 9-11 minutes.
I’ve often thought that fruits and vegetables seem “waterlogged” when I harvest them after a rainfall. I recently discovered why the composition varies when I read an article in a hundred-year-old trade magazine for the canning industry called The American Food Journal. I also enjoyed seeing how a scientific study was written up in the early 1900’s. Here’s a few excerpts:
Influence of Rainfall on Composition of Tomatoes
It is the experience of many canners that tomatoes are unusually “sloppy” in seasons of excessive rainfall. They find this is evident both from the amount of water that separates on the peeling table on in the can during or after processing.
The composition of tomatoes varies through rather wide limits because of the environment in which they are grown. Arrangements were made with the Bureau of Plant Industry and the Maryland Experiment Station by which the laboratory secured samples of tomatoes of known varieties grown on plants set aside by these institutions for that purpose. During the growing seasons of 1914 and 1915 tomatoes were picked as fast as they ripened (usually two or three times a week).
In both the years mentioned the rainfall was higher before the tomato season than during the season, and the ground was well saturated at the time the tomatoes began to ripen.
There was considerable variation in the composition of successive pickings, which could not be explained by variation in rainfall. There appears to be a general tendency for the soluble solids to decrease in amounts as the season advances. Tomatoes ripening in September and October may contain less solids than those ripening in August because of the cooler weather.
We are not warranted, therefore, in concluding that the high rainfall and the relatively high soluble solids in the first part of the season are evidence of a relation between the two. The question would have been simplified if we had, as we hoped to have, a heavy, soaking rain preceded and followed by dry weather. However, it appears improbable that the “watery” condition of tomatoes observed after a heavy rain is due to a greater percentage of water in the tomatoes.