Sometimes old cookbooks contain recipes for very basic foods that barely seem to need a recipe. For example, I recently came across this recipe for String Beans in a hundred-year-old cookbook.
But, when I look more closely, I realize that the directions are very different than how the beans would be made today. Boiled string bean recipes today often call for leaving the beans whole and merely breaking the tips off the beans; other modern recipes call for breaking the beans into 2- 3 inch pieces. The hundred-year-old recipe, however, called for breaking or cutting the beans into small 1-inch pieces.
Modern recipes for boiled string beans also call for cooking them just a few minutes – 5 minutes or maybe 10 max. However the old recipe directs cooks to boil the string beans for 1-to 3 hours!!!
What the heck? But, next thing I knew I was boiling string beans for 1 hour. (I couldn’t bring myself to boil them for more than that).
The verdict – The beans were very soft, but still maintained their shape. My daughter said, “Why did you ruin some perfectly good green beans? They taste like frozen or canned beans.”
Break the tips off the string beans. Cut or break into 1-inch pieces. Wash beans, then put into a sauce pan. Cover with water and bring to a boil using high heat. Reduce heat and simmer for 1 to 3 hours. Add salt for last 1/2 hour of cooking. If most of the water boils away, add additional water. Remove from heat and drain. Put in serving bowl and top with a dab of butter.
Sweet, juicy, local peaches are just beginning to appear at farm stands, so I was pleased to find a hundred-year-old recipe for Peach Shortcake. The recipe turned out well – and was perfect for a hot summer day.
Here’s the original recipe:
This recipe made a little less shortcake than I was expecting. I used a 10-inch round cake pan when I made the recipe. (There wasn’t enough dough to make two layers.) If I made this recipe again, I think that 8-inch cake pans would work better, so that is the pan size that I listed in the updated recipe.
Combine sliced peaches, sugar, and lemon juice; stir gently. Spoon some of the sweetened peaches between the layers of shortcake (see recipe below). Put additional peaches and the whipped cream on the top layer of shortcake.
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons baking powder
3 tablespoons butter, softened
3 tablespoons lard
1 cup milk
butter, if desired
Preheat oven to 425° F. Put flour, salt, and baking powder in a bowl; stir to combine. Cut in butter and lard using a pastry blender. Add milk and mix using a fork until dough starts to cling together. Grease two 8-inch round cake pans, then divide dough in half and put into the pans. Bake 10-15 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool slightly, then remove from pans. Split each layer using a fork. If desired butter layers, Arrange layers with fruit filling in the middle and on top.
I often see sandwich recipes in hundred-year-old cookbooks. They often contain different ingredients from modern sandwiches, and don’t pique my interest. But. I was intrigued by a recipe for Cucumber Sandwiches. There’s a bumper crop of cucumbers this year, so decided to give the recipe a try. The sandwiches contain lettuce and cucumber slices coated with a sweet-sour Boiled Dressing.
The lettuce and cucumber slices were crisp and the sandwich was tasty – though it seemed very old-fashioned and made me think about old novels where the heroine eats dainty sandwiches similar to this.
The bread is buttered for this recipe. I haven’t buttered bread when making sandwiches in years. Which made the sandwich seem even more old-fashioned.
I probably won’t make this recipe again, but it was fun to make one time.
Here’s the original recipe:
And, here’s the old recipe for Boiled Dressing:
One loaf of bread would make 8 or 10 sandwiches. There was no way that my husband and I were doing to eat that many. So when I made this recipe, I really scaled the Cucumber Sandwiches Recipe down, and gave directions for one sandwich. The Cucumber Sandwich recipe calls for Boiled Dressing. I made the full Boiled Dressing recipe and used the left-over dressing on other salads. It kept well in the refrigerator.
1 1/2 teaspoons boiled dressing (see recipe below)
1/8 teaspoon grated onion
2 slices bread (preferably thinly sliced)
Put boiled dressing and grated onion in a small bowl; stir to combine. Add cucumber slices. Gently roll and stir the slices to coat with the dressing. Set aside.
Butter the bread slices. Put the lettuce leaf on one slice. Top with the cucumber slices that are coated with dressing. Put the second butter slice of bread on top. Serve immediately.
2 egg yolks, well beaten
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon flour
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
Put beaten egg yolks, salt, sugar and flour in a small bowl; stir until blended. Add milk, lemon juice, and butter or olive oil. Put in a saucepan, and heat using medium heat while stirring constantly. Cook until the mixture begins to thicken, remove from heat and refrigerate. If the mixture begins to curdle place the pan in a larger pan of cold water and beat vigorously using a mixer.
The dressing will keep in the refrigerator for several days.
Occasionally I make a hundred-year-old recipe that is lovely – but that seems to be misnamed. This is one of those times. The name of the recipe is Minced Potatoes – yet recipe directions call for either cutting the potatoes into 3/4th inch chunks or slicing them — I sliced them — which resulted in pieces which seemed much larger than what I’d expect for Minced Potatoes.
To make this recipe, potatoes are first boiled, the cut into pieces and put into the oven to brown. Then they are stirred and 1/2 cup of cream is poured over them. They are then returned to the oven to brown a second time. Most of the cream evaporated, but a delicate creaminess remained.
Minced Potatoes reminded me a bit of Scalloped Potatoes – but they were not nearly as creamy. But I’m saying this in a good way. The Minced Potatoes made a tasty side dish.
The recipe does not say when to add to the salt. It is not clear whether it should be added to the water that is used to boil the potatoes, or to the cream that is poured over the potatoes. I decided to add the salt to the cream – though I only used 1/2 teaspoon of salt instead of the teaspoon called for in the old recipe. A teaspoon seemed like too much. (If I’d instead added the salt to the water used to boil the potatoes, 1 teaspoon would have been an appropriate amount of salt to add.)
The recipe called for “cream.” I was uncertain whether this meant heavy cream or a lighter cream. I decided to use half and half rather than heavy cream.
Peel potatoes and put in a saucepan; cover with water. Bring to a boil using high heat; then reduce heat and cook until the potatoes are tender (25-30 minutes). Remove from heat, drain, and put the potatoes in the refrigerator to cool.
Pre-heat oven to 400° F. Cut the cold boiled potatoes into 3/4th inch cubes or slice the potatoes. (I sliced them.). Put the potatoes in a 1-quart buttered baking dish. Place in oven.
Put the cream and salt in a small bowl. Stir to combine. Set aside.
When the potatoes begin to brown, gently stir the potatoes to turn them. Pour the cream mixture over the potatoes. Return to the oven and allow to lightly brown a second time. Remove from oven and gently stir, then serve. (If desired, put the potatoes in a serving bowl. After I stirred the potatoes, they didn’t look particularly attractive in the casserole dish that I cooked them in – but they looked very nice in a serving dish.)
During the summer heat, cool desserts are the best. So when I saw a hundred-year-old recipe for Lemon Snow, I decided to give it a try. The Lemon Snow is served with Custard Sauce, and, if desired, could also be topped with Whipped Cream. I skipped the whipped cream.
The Lemon Snow was light and had a sunny, lemony flavor. The creamy Custard Sauce paired nicely with the Lemon Snow.
Here are the original recipes:
I put the Lemon Snow in custard cups. It may be possible to remove the chilled Lemon Snow from the cups (molds) for serving, but I served the chilled dessert in the cups. When I made this recipe, I served the Lemon Snow with Custard Sauce, but I skipped the whipped cream.
Since hot liquid is stirred into the beaten egg whites, the egg whites may be largely cooked, but I used a pasteurized egg for extra safety.
Put the sugar and cornstarch in a bowl; stir to combine. Set aside.
Put the egg white and the dash of salt in a bowl; beat until stiff. Set aside.
Put the water, lemon juice, and lemon rind in a sauce pan. Using medium heat, bring to a boil. Remove from heat and strain the hot liquid.
Slowly pour the strained liquid over the sugar and cornstarch mixture. Stir until smooth. Return this mixture to the saucepan, and bring to a boil using medium heat while stirring constantly.
Remove from the heat and slowly pour over the beaten eggs whites while using a whisk to combine.
Rinse 2 or 3 custard cups with water. Pour the Lemon Snow mixture into the wet cups. Put in the refrigerator to chill (at least 2 hours).
If desired, serve with Custard Sauce or Whipped Cream.
2/3 cup milk
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon sugar
3-4 drops (a dash) of vanilla
Put the egg yolk and sugar into a small bowl; beat until smooth. Set aside.
Put milk in a saucepan. Using medium heat, heat until hot and steamy while stirring constantly. Put a small amount of the lot liquid in the bowl with the egg yolk mixture while rapidly stirring. Then slowly add the egg mixture into the hot milk while stirring constantly. Continue cooking, while stirring, until the hot mixture thickens slightly and coats a spoon. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla. Strain and then put into a bowl; chill in the refrigerator.
Food was a major expense for many families a hundred years ago, and cooks tried to minimize food waste. Bread – often homemade – sometimes went stale before it was eaten, and rather than just throwing the stale bread out, they looked for ways to use it.
I recently came across a hundred-year-old recipe for Bread Griddlecakes that called for using stale bread crumbs (and relatively little flour), and I just had to give it a try. The Bread Griddlecakes turned out well. This recipe made relatively thin pancakes that had a nice flavor. If I hadn’t made them myself, I never would have guessed that they contained breadcrumbs. Maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised since bread is made out of flour – so at some basic level this recipe contains similar ingredients to may typical recipes.
Here’s the original recipe:
Modern bread (at least store-bought bread) doesn’t seem to go stale, so I just used bread that wasn’t stale when I made this recipe.
I’m not sure why the old recipe called for scalded milk, so I used milk that I didn’t scald. It worked fine.
It’s fascinating how words change across the years. The original recipe title had a hyphen between “griddle” and “cake.” Today “griddlecake” is generally written as one word – or people just call them pancakes.
Food preferences change across the years. Some foods increase in popularity over time, while other foods that were once common are now seldom made. As I work on this blog, I often think about food fads and trends over the past hundred years. Occasionally 1921 cookbooks and magazines provide a window into even earlier times. For example, in 1921 a reader of American Cookery asked for a recipe that she remembered from her childhood.
Gingered Rhubarb apparently was a food that was eaten in the late 1800’s in Scotland, but by 1921 it apparently was not part of the repertoire of cooks on the U.S. side of the Atlantic. Why had it become less popular? Was it already considered an old-fashioned dessert a hundred-years ago?
The query also contains a serving suggestion. The individual requesting the recipes states that she remembers eating Gingered Rhubarb on rice desserts (which I took to mean rice pudding).
In any case, I was intrigued and decided to make Gingered Rhubarb. I also made Rice Pudding to serve with the Gingered Rhubarb. The recipe I found was for a Baked Rice Pudding (rather than the type of Rice Pudding that is made in a saucepan on top of the stove).
The verdict: Gingered Rhubarb is a tart sauce embedded with sweetened chunks of rhubarb. It goes nicely with Baked Rice Pudding (which is drier and less sticky than many modern Rice Puddings). That said, you need to enjoy rhubarb and its intense flavor to like this recipe. My husband and I both liked the Gingered Rhubarb with Baked Rice Pudding. However, our daughter did not think it was edible. My conclusion- this recipe features rhubarb with its unique tart taste. If you really like that taste, you’ll enjoy this recipe. However, if you are lukewarm to rhubarb, this recipe is not for you.
Here are the original recipe for Gingered Rhubarb:
I put the rhubarb mixture in a large glass casserole bowl and let it sit overnight on my kitchen counter. The next day, I put the mixture in a stainless steel pan and cooked. it I used ground ginger when making the recipe.
I was pleased with how well the rhubarb pieces retained their shape when I cooked the Gingered Rhubarb. I think that allowing the rhubarb and sugar mixture sit overnight before cooking may have helped the pieces retain their shape. The sugar drew liquid out of the rhubarb.
The 1 1/2 hour cooking time seemed long to me, but I think that it allowed the flavors to concentrate as some of the liquid boils off. The rhubarb turned brownish as it is cooked (similarly to how apples turn brownish when cooked for a long time to make apple butter).
This is a very large recipe. When I made the recipe, I halved it.
Here is the original recipe for Baked (Plain) Rice Pudding:
Cooks many years ago would have made both the Gingered Rhubarb and the Baked Rice Pudding using a wood or coal stove. Both of these recipes have a long cook time – but that probably wasn’t considered an issue when the stoves operated constantly, and foods could be cooked for several hours with little attention from the cook.
Here’s the recipes for Gingered Rhubarb updated for modern cooks:
3 pounds rhubarb, cut into 1/2 pieces (about 6 cups of pieces) -Do not peel.
4 cups sugar
1 tablespoon ground ginger
In a crock or large glass casserole bowl combine the sugar and ground ginger. Add the rhubarb pieces and stir to coat the rhubarb with the sugar mixture. Cover, and let sit overnight at room temperature.
The next morning put the rhubarb mixture in a stainless steel pan and bring to a boil using medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 1 1/2 hours. Gently stir several times while it is cooking.
Remove from heat. May be serve hot or cold. If desired serve with rice pudding, ice cream, or other dessert.
Preheat oven to 325° F. Wash the rice, and combine with all the other ingredients. Pour into a 2-quart buttered baking dish. Place in oven and bake for a total of three hours.
During the first hour, stir three times. Then reduce heat to 3oo° F. and continue baking. After another hour, stir again. Continue baking for an additional hour, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. If desired, when the rice pudding is set, the Rice Pudding can be put under the broiler for a short time to lightly brown the top. May be served hot or cold. Refrigerate, if not served immediately.