I recently made a recipe for Lemon Dumplings, and I have a conundrum. Should I change the name of a hundred-year-old recipe if the original name doesn’t come even close to describing the actual food?
The dumplings are made by dropping a sticky dough into a boiling molasses syrup. The dough is magically transformed into a dessert dumpling coated in the thick syrup that has a surprisingly complex flavor which combines the robust, nutty, sweetness of the molasses with citrus notes provided by lemon juice and lemon peel (which I assume is the reason for the name).
But, if I’d named this recipe, I won’t call them Lemon Dumplings. To me, the name “Lemon Dumplings” suggests a light, tart, yellow, citrus-flavored dessert. But the actual dumplings are a delectable old-fashioned dessert bread swathed in a rich molasses sauce. These dumplings should be called something like, “Molasses Dumplings” or “Great-Grandpap’s Favorite Dumplings” . . . or . . . anything but Lemon Dumplings.
When I made the dumplings, I asked my husband, “Is the molasses taste too strong?”
“No . . .” His voice drifted off. “They remind me of something my mother used to make, but I can’t quite place it.”
The Lemon Dumplings must have reminded him of something good, because they vanished with amazing speed.
Here’s the original recipe:
An aside: The recipes in the June, 1917 issue of Good Housekeeping had a new format that I hadn’t previously seen. The recipes included the number of calories. But, for some mysterious reason, the calories for all recipes seemed extremely high. Perhaps the magazine was reporting the total number of calories for the entire recipe rather than the per serving amount.
Put egg in a mixing bowl, and wisk until smooth. Add grated lemon peel, lemon juice, molasses, sugar, and water, and stir until combined. Put syrup into a skillet, and add the butter. [Use a skillet with a lid.] Using medium heat, bring the syrup to a boil while stirring occasionally.
In the meantime, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add 1/2 cup milk, and stir to combine. If the dough is too dry, add additional milk to create a sticky dough.
Drop 1-inch balls of dough into the boiling syrup. Reduce heat to low, and cover pan. Cook for 10 minutes, then remove lid and gently roll the balls of dough to cook the other side. Put the cover back on and cook for an additional 15 minutes. Remove from heat.
[Cook’s note: Stay nearby while the dumplings are cooking. I didn’t have any problems, but I think that the syrup could potentially boil over if the temperature is too high and care is not used.]
There are lots of things I like about Easter, but using all those hard-boiled eggs lurking in my refrigerator can be a challenge. So I was pleased to find a hundred-year-old recipe for Egg Sauce. It was easy to make, and is delightful when served on asparagus or other green vegetables.
Here’s the original recipe:
The Egg Sauce recipe called for one pint (2 cups) of Cream Sauce. The Cream Sauce recipe made approximately one cup of sauce. To make the two recipes compatible I halved the Egg Sauce recipe.
Melt the butter in a saucepan using low heat, stir in the flour. Increase the heat to medium; gradually add the milk while stirring constantly. Continue stirring until hot and bubbly. Add salt, pepper, and chopped eggs. Stir to combine, continue heating until the sauce again begins to bubble. Remove from heat and serve immediately.
I’m always on the look-out for good homemade salad dressing recipes. so when I saw a hundred-year-old recipe for Thousand Island Dressing, I had to give it a try.
The Thousand Island Dressing was delightful, though much thinner than the typical modern commercial rendition. This olive oil- and mayonnaise-based dressing had just the right amount of spiciness and a lovely citrous undertone.
The modern version typically contains sweet pickle relish; the hundred-year-old recipe called for sliced chestnuts and olives. The sweet nuttiness of the chestnuts and saltiness of the olives added an appealing new (old?) dimension to this classic dressing.
8 chestnuts, sliced ( I used vacuum-packed, recipe-ready chestnuts.)
Put the olive oil, lemon juice, orange juice, onion, parsley, mustard, salt, paprika, Worcestershire sauce, and mayonnaise in a medium bowl; and whisk together until smooth. Stir in the olives and chestnuts.
Pork chops can be a little boring – but add some dressing (stuffing) and an onion slice; and, a mundane meat is transformed into a special dish. The recipe that I used was from a hundred-year-old magazine – but the Pork Chops with Dressing are timeless.
The Pork Chops with Dressing smelled wonderful while baking – and the finished dish did not disappoint. The presentation was lovely, and the dressing was delightful with just the right blend of herbs and onion.
Preheat oven to 375° F. Place the pork chops into a baking dish or oven-proof pan. (I used a cast iron frying pan.) Sprinkle each pork chop with salt and pepper, then set aside.
Put the bread crumbs in a mixing bowl, then sprinkle water on the bread crumbs. Add enough water, so that when squeezed, the pieces of bread cling together. Add the chopped onion, melted butter, egg, pepper, poultry seasoning, and salt. Stir to combine. Then divide the dressing into five equal portions Shape each portion into a ball and press together firmly.
Place a ball of dressing on top of each pork chop, then top each with an onion slice. Dot the onion slices with butter. Pour a little water (about 2- 3 tablespoons) into the edge of the pan. Place in the oven and cook for 50 minutes to an hour. (Time depends upon thickness of the pork chops.) If the onion slices start to brown midway through the baking time, flip the onions and dot with additional butter.
A key to successfully making many hundred-year-old dishes (as well as many modern ones) is the ability to make a good white sauce. An article in a century-old magazine called it the mother sauce. Here’s some excerpts from that article:
The Mother Sauce
The mother sauce is merely a very-well-made white sauce. But tremendous importance is attached to the words well-made. When it is done, it should be creamy, ivory-tinted, smooth, a velvety liquid that clings, but does not stifle, blending its delicate flavor with and invariably enhancing that of the croquettes or vegetables with which it is served. But though the sauce be light and ethereal when rightly made, the making of it must be undertaken with concentration and seriousness.
Such a sauce is not often encountered – more’s the pity – but it is quite as simple to prepare as the less pleasing variety, and because of its many uses its secret should be mastered by every housekeeper. Thin, it provides the most delicious of dressings for vegetables, omelets, fish, and other dishes, or it forms the base of the most delicate of our cream soups and souffles. Thick, it is the foundation for the best of our croquettes, souffles, and dishes au gratin. And, with it as a background, any number of variations may be produced by the addition of flavors, herbs, or other condiments.
A perfect white sauce is made in the following manner. Mix together to a smooth paste two tablespoonfuls of butter and two of flour. Cook to a smooth, bubbling, semi-liquid consistency over a hot fire. Do not allow the mixture to brown, but see that the flour is well cooked. Now add slowly and carefully a cupful and a half of cold milk. Stir constantly until the boiling point is reached. Then season with a half-teaspoonful of salt and a dash of white pepper. If you have stirred the sauce conscientiously, it will be as smooth and delicate as you can possible desire. No straining will be necessary; but it will do no harm to pass the sauce through a fine sieve.
An unusually rich cream sauce is sometimes required. In that case make the sauce half milk and half cream, and it will be extraordinarily good.
Usually when I browse through hundred-year-old cookbooks searching for a recipe to make, I skip over the ones that seem particularly odd or strange. However, I recently read a quote that made me give some of these recipes a second look:
Recipes that a century ago would have been the apogee of culinary chic may no longer be prepared because they are no longer in vogue; they may be considered unappealing, outdated, or unhealthful.
(Eat My Words: Reading Women’s Lives Through the Cookbooks They Wrote, 2002)
So when I saw a colorful illustration for Asparagus Shortcake in a hundred-year-old promotional cookbook published by the KC Baking Powder Company, my curiosity was piqued. Was Asparagus Shortcake an example of a food that once had been at the “apogee of culinary chic”?
When I made this recipe, I worried that my husband and I won’t like it, so I only made half a recipe so that I won’t have too much left-over.
The verdict: Asparagus Shortcake gets high marks for the “wow” factor when served. And, while the combination of asparagus and shortcake seemed a bit odd, the dish was tasty. The asparagus in its rich butter sauce worked well with the shortcake. Overall, Asparagus Shortcake made a satisfying lunch.
Preheat oven to 425° F. Grease and lightly flour a 6-inch round baking pan; set aside.
In a mixing bowl, combine the 1 1/4 cups flour, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and baking powder. Cut in the shortening; then add the milk. Stir gently with a fork to create a dough. Place on a pastry cloth or other prepared surface, and gently knead for 15 seconds; then shape into a 6-inch round disc and place in the prepared baking pan. Place in oven and bake 20-25 minutes or until the top is light brown.
In the meantime, put the asparagus pieces in a saucepan and add water. Using high heat bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat; simmer for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and drain (reserve liquid).
In another saucepan, melt two tablespoons butter using medium heat, then stir in the 2 tablespoons of flour. Add the asparagus liquid while stirring constantly; continue to stir until the sauce begins to thicken. Remove from heat, and immediately stir in an additional 2 tablespoons of butter, then gently fold the cooked asparagus into the sauce.
To assemble the shortcake, split the baked shortcake. Place the bottom half of the shortcake on the serving dish and then spread with half of the asparagus sauce. Cover with the top of the shortcake and spread with the remaining sauce. Garnish with hard-boiled egg quarters. Serve immediately.
A hundred years ago there were some delightful cake recipes. I recently found an old recipe for Cocoa Angel Food Cake with Boiled Icing. It made a delectable light and airy cake with an absolutely decadent old-fashioned gooey frosting.
The Boiled Icing brought back memories of fluffy, glossy frosting on incredible cakes that great aunts brought to family reunions. (Does anyone still make Boiled Icing?) I’d forgotten how good it is.
Here’s the original recipe:
This recipe makes a relatively small cake. It has a wonderful texture, but it is not as thick as many modern angel food cakes.
Preheat oven to 375° F. Sift together cocoa and flour, then stir in the sugar. Set aside.
Put the egg whites in a mixing bowl and beat until foamy, then add the cream of tartar and continue beating until the mixture holds stiff straight peaks. Gently stir in the vanilla.
Sprinkle a small amount of the flour and sugar mixture (about 2 tablespoons) onto the whipped egg mixture; and then fold it in. Continue sprinkling and folding the flour and sugar mixture until it all is folded in.
Gently spoon the batter into an ungreased 10 X 4 tube pan with removable bottom (angel food cake pan). Bake for 30 minutes or until the cake is lightly browned and the top springs back when lightly touched.
Invert pan until cool (at least 1 hour) and then remove cake from pan, and ice with Boiled Icing
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
dash cream of tartar
2 egg whites
1/2 teaspoon sugar
Combine sugar, water, and cream of tartar in a saucepan; put on medium heat. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Once the mixture reaches a bowl, reduce heat so that there is a slow boil. Continue boiling until the mixture reaches the soft ball stage (240° F.), then remove from heat.
In the meantime, in a mixing bowl beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Slowing pour the hot sugar mixture over the egg whites while beating constantly. Add the vanilla; continue beating until cool. Immediately use to ice cake.