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:
And, here’s my updated version of the recipe for modern cooks:
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.
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:
Here’s my version of the hundred-year-old recipe updated for modern cooks. (I made half of the original recipe.)
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.
Mashed Potatoes are a quick and easy-to-make comfort food. It’s one of those foods that I never use a recipe to make. Long ago I learned how to boil the potatoes, whip them, add a little butter and milk, and whip a bit more to combine.
Given how easy it is to make Mashed Potatoes, I was very surprised to discover a hundred-year-old recipe for Mashed Potatoes that contained extensive detail. Back then even the most complex recipes were generally short and lacked details, Why would recipes for difficult-to-make foods leave a huge amount of latitude for interpretation, while a recipe for a basic food be very specific?
This recipe referred to two other recipes. One explained how to boil potatoes:
The other recipe mentioned in the Mashed Potato recipe was the Potato in the Half Shell recipe, which contained information about how much butter, milk, and salt should be used when making potatoes:
I generally use electric beaters to make “mashed” potatoes, but I decided to give the old-time recipe a try. I dug out my old potato masher out from under all my other seldom-used kitchen utensils in the back of bottom drawer in the kitchen cabinets, and made real mashed potatoes.
4 cups potatoes, pared and cut into 1-inch cubes (4-6 potatoes) (I used red potatoes – though russets would also work well.)
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon butter
approximately 1/4 cup milk
Put enough water into a large saucepan so that it is about 1/3 filled; add salt and bring to a boil using high heat. Add diced potatoes; return to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 15-20 minutes or until the potatoes are very soft when poked with a fork. Remove from heat and drain. Using a wire potato masher, mash the potatoes until smooth. Add the butter and half the milk. Mash a little more to combine. If the potatoes are too stiff, add additional milk until the potatoes reach the desired consistency. (Do not over-mash or the potatoes will get gummy.) Reheat the mashed potatoes using medium heat To reheat, put the pan with the mashed potatoes back on the stove using medium heat for 15-30 seconds; stir once or twice. Remove from heat and put in serving dish.
Remember the old-fashioned gelatin salads with embedded mystery fruits and vegetables that great-aunts inevitably brought to Thanksgiving dinners? Well, I’ve found one of those old recipes. The hundred-year-old Cranberry Salad recipe called for gelatin — and celery and walnuts.
When I made this salad I didn’t want to like it, but I was pleasantly surprised. It tasted similar to jellied cranberry sauce. The colorful, tart jellied sauce was perfectly punctuated with the crunch of the celery and walnuts.
The original recipe was for Cranberry Salad, but when I updated the recipe I renamed it, Jellied Cranberry Sauce with Celery and Walnuts, to more accurately describe the dish. Here’s the original recipe:
I bought a 12-ounce bag of cranberries to make this recipe. When I measured how many cranberries were in the bag, I realized that I only had 3 cups of cranberries, not the 4 cups (1 quart) called for in the old recipe. I reduced all of the other ingredients proportionately and made three-fourths of the original recipe.
When serving the Jellied Cranberry Sauce with Celery and Walnuts, I didn’t cut it into squares, and I skipped the lettuce and mayonnaise. I just put it in a pretty dish and let people serve themselves. Here’s my updated recipe:
Put cranberries and 1 1/2 cups water in a medium saucepan, bring to a boil using medium heat, then reduce heat and gently simmer for 20 minutes while stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and cool slightly, then press the cooked cranberries through a sieve or strainer. (I used a Foley mill. A food processor could also be used to puree the berries). Return the cranberry sauce to the sauce pan and sprinkle the gelatin over the puree. Let sit for one minute, then add the sugar and stir. Put on the stove and bring to a boil using medium heat while stirring constantly, then reduce heat and cook for an additional minute. Remove from the heat.
Put half of the cranberry sauce into a serving dish or bowl; refrigerate until just set (about 1 1/2 hours). (Keep the remainder of the cranberry sauce at room temperature.) Remove the set cranberry sauce from the refrigerator and sprinkle with the chopped celery and walnuts. Pour the remaining half of the cranberry sauce over this , and return to the refrigerator until set.
Frankly I’m tired of the ubiquitous pumpkin pie recipe that calls for evaporated milk and a 1-pound can of pumpkin. Is it really necessary to use evaporated milk–or would regular milk work? And, of course, I then made the short leap to: How did they make pumpkin pies a hundred years ago?
I found an awesome pumpkin pie recipe in the Lycoming Valley Cook Book. It was compiled by “the Ladies of the Trout Run M.E. Church, Trout Run Pa”. in 1907. The pie is similar enough to modern recipes that it won’t alarm your Thanksgiving guests. They’ll just think you used your usual recipe–but that it turned out better than it does in a typical year.
The resulting pie has a nice blend of spices that don’t overwhelm the pumpkin. The recipe calls for just two spices (cinnamon and ginger) rather than the three or four typically used in modern recipes.
It also uses more eggs than are generally used in recipes that call for evaporated milk. Since the milk used in the old recipe contains more liquid, additional eggs are needed to set the custard. This pie also requires more baking time than modern pumpkin pies, but the result is a rich and creamy custard filling.
Here’s my adaptation of the old recipe for modern cooks:
Preheat oven to 425° F. Combine all ingredients (except pie shell) in a mixing bowl; beat until smooth. Pour into pie crust. Bake 15 minutes; then reduce heat to 350°. Continue baking (about 50-60 minutes) until a knife inserted in the center of the pie comes out clean.
Notes: This recipe filled the 8-inch pie shell to the very rim, and it was a little difficult to get it into the oven without spilling. (Don’t overfill pie shell. If there is too much filling put the extra in a small casserole dish and cook separately.)
There is an old saying that Blancmange should be wobbly but not as rubbery as a rubber ball. I recently made a hundred-year-old recipe for Chocolate Blancmange, and using the criteria in the old saying, it was excellent. The Blancmange was rich and decadent, and trembled just a little.
Even though Blancmange is an old dessert, it was new to me; and this was the first time that I ever made this lovely molded dessert.
This recipe is a keeper. As my husband finished the Blancmange, he asked, “When are you going to make this again.?”
The old recipe was part of an advertisement for Minute Tapioca. (Yes, Minute Tapioca as been around for more than a hundred years).
Here’s the original recipe:
When I saw the illustration for the Blancmange, I realized that I actually owned some old dessert plates that once belonged to my grandmother that looked very similar to the ones in the picture. I hadn’t seen the plates in years, but I pulled a chair over to my highest kitchen cupboard, and climbed up. A few minutes later I’d found the plates. They weren’t identical to the ones in the drawing, but I had a lot of fun trying to semi-replicate the old picture.
The old recipe called this dessert “blanc mange.” I think that today, the two words are generally combined into one (blancmange), so that is the way that I’ve spelled it.
In a medium saucepan stir together the tapioca, sugar, cocoa, and salt. While stirring, slowly add the milk. Using medium heat, and while stirring constantly, bring to a boil. Reduce heat so that there is a slow rolling boil. Cook for an additional 5 minutes while stirring constantly. Be sure to stir to the very bottom of the pan because this mixture will easily burn. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla.
Pour into individual molds. Custard cups work well as molds. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours.
To serve, set the molded dessert in a pan of hot water for a few seconds; then run a table knife around the edge of the mold to loosen and turn upside down on serving plate to unmold.
If desired, serve with whipped cream.
To make homemade whipped cream, Put 1 cup whipping cream in a mixing bowl. Add 2 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar. Whip until there are stiff peaks.
Cook’s note: I did not make the cocoa (hot chocolate) prior to making this recipe. It seemed unnecessary to use a two-step process. Instead, I found a recipe for hot chocolate on a can of cocoa. I combined the dry ingredients in that recipe with the dry ingredients called for in the hundred-year-old Blancmange recipe. I then stirred in three cups of milk. This streamlined process worked just fine.
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.