Cranberries with Prunes

cranberries with prunes 2

Cranberries are beginning to appear in the produce section at my supermarket.  I remembered seeing a recipe for Cranberries with Prunes in a 1915 issue of Good Housekeeping, and just had to give it a try.

Cranberries with Prunes are a lovely taste treat with bright notes of both fruits.  The rich sweetness of the prunes mingles with the tart cranberries to create a vibrant mixture.  Like many hundred-old-recipes, this classic recipe is simple to make with only four ingredients.

This recipe combines two super foods. Both cranberries and prunes are noted for having lots of antioxidants, fiber, and other good things. Amazingly, even though terms like antioxidant were unknown to cooks a hundred years ago, people seemed to have an intuitive sense of healthy food combinations.

Cranberries with Prunes

3 cups cranberries
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 cup prunes

Combine cranberries, sugar, and water in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil using medium heat; then reduce heat and simmer until cranberries burst. Add prunes and remove from heat. Cool before serving.

Adapted from recipe in Good Housekeeping (November, 1915)

I’m often amazed how foods and cooking techniques have changed over the past hundred years. As with many old recipes, I needed to adapt this recipe. The original recipe provided detailed directions for preparing the prunes.

Cover the prunes with water and soak overnight. Simmer gently till thoroughly tender. Take up with a skimmer, and when perfectly cool slip out the stones. Add the cranberries to the water in which these were boiled, pouring in more water if necessary. . .

The prunes I used were already pitted and very moist, so there was no need to soak them overnight or to pit.

Old-fashioned Brussels Sprouts Au Gratin

Brussels Sprouts Au Gratin

Now that Fall is in full swing, I’m enjoying several seasonal vegetables. One of them is brussels sprouts.

Brussels Sprouts Au Gratin is an old-time way to serve them. The delicate essence of the cheese in the sauce nicely balances the slightly bitter taste of the brussels sprouts.

Brussels Sprouts Au Gratin

1 pint (2 cups) brussels sprouts

1 1/2 tablespoons butter

1 1/2 tablespoons flour

3/4 cup milk

2/3 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1/3 cup bread crumbs*

Preheat oven to 350° F. Wash the brussels sprouts and remove any wilted leaves; then put in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil using high heat, then reduce heat to medium and simmer until the brussels sprouts are tender (about 5 minutes). Drain well.

Meanwhile, in another pan, using medium heat, melt butter; then stir in the flour. Gradually, add the milk while stirring constantly; add the cheese. Continue stirring until cheese sauce thickens.

Add the brussels sprouts to the cheese sauce. Stir gently to combine. Put into a casserole dish, and sprinkle the bread crumbs on top of the mixture. Bake until hot and bubbly (about 15 minutes).

*Note: To make the bread crumbs, I took a bread crust, folded it into quarters, and then used a grater to grate the crumbs.

3 servings (Recipe can easily be doubled.)

An aside—I struggled when I wrote this post because I couldn’t decide whether to capitalize brussels. I googled it, and found that there was no consensus. I ended up using a lower case b –but don’t really like how it looks. What do you think? Should the b in brussels be capitalized?

Honey-Glazed Squash

Honey-glazed Squash

The farmer’s market has oodles of awesome squash—butternut, hubbard, acorn, and lots of other wonderful varieties whose names I don’t know. It’s time to make Honey-Glazed Squash.

This old-time recipe contains not only honey, but also lemon juice and ground mace. The lemon juice gives lovely citrus undertones to the honey which mingles with the delicate flavor of the mace.

If desired, chopped walnuts can be mixed with the squash for added flavor and crunchiness.

If you are looking for a recipe for candied, squash, this IS NOT the recipe for you. But if you want a classic recipe for a rich, but sophisticated glaze, that is unexpectedly flavorful, you’ll love it.

Honey Glazed Squash

2 cups winter squash (butternut, hubbard, etc.) –pared and cut into 1 inch cubes

2 tablespoons butter

1/4 cup honey

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/8 teaspoon ground mace

1/3 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Put cubed squash in a saucepan and cover with water. Turn heat to high and bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium and cook until just barely tender (about 12-15 minutes); then thoroughly drain the squash.

Meanwhile in another pan, melt the butter; then stir in the honey, lemon juice, and mace. Using medium heat bring to a boil, then reduce heat so that the liquid simmers. Cook until the liquid begins to thicken into a honey syrup (about 8-10 minutes). If desired, add the walnuts. Add the drained squash cubes to the syrup, and gently turn the cubes to coat with the honey glaze. Place glazed squash in a serving bowl.

3 servings

DSCN0767

Any type of winter squash can be used for this recipe, but here is the squash that I used.  Can you help me identify it? It cooked up beautifully–the cooked pieces were tender, but retained their shape well.

At the farmer’s market, it was in a group of squash—all which had long crooked necks—that were labeled as butternut squash. However, the butternut squash every other producer was selling had much shorter necks.

This squash probably weighed about 5 or 6 pounds. I have a very vague memory of a squash called the Pennsylvania Dutch crookneck squash that we grew when I was I child which I think looked similar to this. But this squash was smaller than what I remember them being. So I’m confused. Is it a butternut squash? . . . Pennsylvania Dutch crookneck squash? . . . something else?

Old Opera Cremes Recipe

Opera Cremes

I recently flipped through the pages of the October, 1915 issue of Good Housekeeping and came across this recipe for Opera Cremes. This beautiful, delectable treat is one of the best homemade candies I’ve ever made. The pecans and creamy sweetness blend wonderfully to create a decadent taste sensation.

I don’t know for sure why they are called Opera Cremes, but I do know that a hundred years ago almost every town—even small ones– had an opera house.

When my grandmother was a teen in central Pennsylvania, she sometimes mentioned going to the opera house in Watsontown in her diary. For example, on February 28, 1914 she wrote:

Ruth and I went up to Watsontown with Pa this evening. The senior class gave their play in the opera house. Was the best one I ever was to. Some parts certainly did call forth plenty of laughter. Can hardly begin to describe how much I enjoyed it.

Helena Muffly

Hmm . . . maybe between their laughs, they found time to enjoy a few Opera Cremes.

Opera Creams

3 cups sugar

1 cup cream

1/3 teaspoon cream of tartar

1 cup chopped pecans

approximately 4 dozen whole pecan halves

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

confectioners’ sugar

In a medium saucepan, stir together sugar, cream, and cream of tartar until well blended. Using medium heat, bring to a boil. Reduce to low, and cook about 7 minutes without stirring until a very soft ball (237 degrees F.) is formed when tried in cold water. Remove from the heat.

Allow to cool for a few minutes. When tepid, stir in the vanilla and beat until creamy, then turn out on a board that is slightly dredged with confectioners’ sugar, and knead until smooth, working in the chopped pecans at the same time. Spread out in a shallow buttered pan, press on the pecan halves. Cool and cut into squares. Can also be shaped into bonbons.

Shh .. . .  don’t tell my friends, but I’m already planning to make Opera Cremes again in December to give as gifts.

Food Gifts for Friends and Neighbors & Cherry Almond Cake Recipe

19-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Tuesday, December 15, 1914: <<no entry>>

Front door decorated for Christmas
Source: Ladies Home Journal (December, 1913)

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

What was keeping Grandma so busy that she had no time to write in her diary? Maybe she was baking holiday treats to give friends and neighbors.

I have warm memories from my childhood of neighbors knocking on the door holding a tray of cookies, homemade plum pudding, or a tin of candy—and I’m guessing that food gifts were even more common a hundred years ago.

The many readers who are participating in the Bake-a-thon are giving Grandma a wonderful send-off to live the rest of her life as the diary winds down. As part of the Bake-a-thon, Pam (Quiall) at Butterfly Sand included a wonderful recipe for Cherry Almond Cake in a comment several days ago. Here’s her story and recipe.

My Mother and I would make several batches of Cherry Almond Cake. Some were small loaves for the neighbours and a big round one for us. Wonderful memories of Christmas,

CHERRY ALMOND CAKE

1 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup almonds
1 teaspoon lemon extract
1 1/2 cups glazed cherries
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 1/2 cups flour
4 eggs
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon almond extract

Preheat oven to 300 degrees

First:
Slice cherries and nuts (buy almonds already blanched and sliced). Combine 1/2 cup flour with cherries and almonds in bowl. Mix until fruit is well coated.

Second:
Combine remaining flour, baking powder and salt in a separate bowl.

Third:
Cream butter until fluffy, add flavourings. Gradually add sugar, mixing until creamy. Beat eggs until light and lemon-coloured. Add to creamed mixture. Beat together well.

Fourth:
Add dry ingredients to butter, etc., alternately with almonds and nuts, folding in gently until well combined. Add lemon juice and then milk.

Turn into prepared tin. Bake at 300 degrees for 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 hours.

If using small loaf pans (4 will do) bake for 1 hour and then check. Time will vary because of the size of the loaves.

Candy Cane Memories

Friday, December 11, 1914 :<<no entry>>
Readers participating in Grandma’s Bake-a-thon have shared many wonderful memories. We are giving Grandma a great send-off to live the rest of her life after the diary ends.

Today I’d like to share the awesome post that Sharon at Dirndl Skirt Gatherings did about her memories of baking Candy Cane Cookies with her mother.

One of the things that I most enjoy about Dirndl Skirt Gatherings is how Sharon infuses her art and artist’s perspective into many posts. Be sure to scroll to the bottom of the post to see her awesome holiday drawing of a woman wearing a candy cane skirt.

Dirndl Skirt Gatherings

Bettcandycan credit: Me and My Green Bin

Growing up in the early 1960s, and being a kind of girly-girl, I do remember I liked my food pink. And sugary. When standing in line with my mom at Acme Supermarket, the impulse buy of choice near the cash register was those awful (to me now) pink marshmallow cookies with white coconut sprinkles. This was before red dye #2 was banned.

vintage mom &amp; me My mother, Shirley, and me in her state-of-the-art kitchen, 1957.

But at Christmas time, we made cookies. Mom did like to bake, if not actually cook. (Hey, it was the Atomic Age, and she had better things to do, like paint!) One of my favorites from that era was candy cane cookies. We had to divide the dough, and color one half. Then keep it moist until we twisted the braids together and curved them into the cane hook. Some baking…

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Christmas Fudge

Thursday, December 10, 1914:  <no entry>

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Many readers of A Hundred Years Ago are participating in Grandma’s Bake-a-thon, and are sharing a family recipe story that is special to them. This Bake-a-thon is being held to give Grandma a wonderful send-off to live the rest of her life after the diary ends. On several days when Grandma didn’t write anything, I plan to reblog some of those stories.

Today, I’m featuring a post by Lillian at Lillian’s Cupboard. She directed me to a wonderful post she wrote about Christmas Fudge.

Lillian's Cupboard

During the rationing of World War II, we children craved sugar

As we watched Mother sprinkle carefully measured spoonsful over our oatmeal.

We wanted more sweetness in our hot chocolate, in our pudding;

We longed for a bottomless sugar bowl.

But in the fall Mother stood in long lines that coiled around the city tenements

To get an extra bag of sugar allotted for canning and preserving.

She squirreled this away until Christmas

When it was transformed into the most glorious pecan studded fudge,

Sweet enough to make up for a whole year of rationing.

“Christmas Fudge”, by Lillian – 1997

My mother was famous in our family for her homemade fudge, made without benefit of a candy thermometer and cooked and beaten until it was perfect.  Then, it was placed in a special rose-bedecked tin to be brought out on Christmas Eve, opened and squares of never-to-be-forgotten goodness placed…

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