I recently came across a hundred-year-old recipe for Cocoa Cookies that I just had to try. This recipe was actually a cut-out cookie recipe. The cookies had a crispy exterior with a softer, cake-like interior, and just the right amount of sweetness. They are lovely with coffee (or milk).
Here is the original recipe:
When, I followed the recipe, the cookie dough was extremely dry and crumbly, so I added a second egg to make the dough a better consistency that could be rolled.
Preheat oven to 400° F. Cream butter (or shortening) and sugar; then stir in milk and eggs. Add the baking powder, salt, and cocoa; stir until combined. Add the flour and stir until well mixed. Roll out to 1/4 inch thick; then cut into shapes. Place on greased baking sheets. Bake 9-12 minutes or until lightly browned.
French Onion Soup topped with toast and Swiss or Gruyere cheese is my favorite “restaurant soup,” so I was intrigued when I saw a recipe for French Onion Soup in a hundred-year-old cookbook. I could immediately tell the old recipe wasn’t exactly like a modern one because the soup was topped with toast and American cheese.
I have a somewhat negative stereotype of American cheese (and it just isn’t the same as Swiss or Gruyere cheese), so my expectations weren’t very high for this recipe. But I was pleasantly surprised. The resulting soup tasted similar to modern French onion soups–and the melted American cheese was yummy (and not the least bit jarring) when immersed in the soup. My husband even said that he liked how the cheese was “less stringy” than the cheese on the typical French Onion Soup.
Here’s the original recipe:
Old cookbooks often just use the generic term “cheese.” This is the first time I’ve seen a hundred-year-old recipe explicitly call for American cheese. According to Serious Eats, James Kraft patented a method for making process American cheese in 1916, and it apparently was widely available by 1920.
This recipe is from a promotional cookbook for Snowdrift published by The Southern Cotton Oil Trading Company. Snowdrift was a shortening made from cottonseed oil. When I made the recipe, I substituted butter for the Snowdrift.
1 slice American cheese for each bowl of soup (Use 2 slices per bowl if the slices are thin.)
Melt butter in a Dutch oven or stock pot, then add onion slices. Using medium heat sauté until the onions have softened and caramelized while stirring occasionally. It will take approximately 45 minutes for the onions to caramelize. Add the soup stock, and bring to a simmer.
In the meantime, lightly toast bread. Cut toast into squares small enough to fit the soup bowls; then cut the American cheese into squares slightly smaller than the toast. Top the toast with the squares of American cheese. Put under the boiler until the cheese melts (about 1 minute); remove from oven.
To serve: Ladle soup into bowls, and top with the toast squares/melted cheese.
When I recently saw a hundred-year-old recipe for Fried Parsnips, I decided to give it a try. As winter begins to wind down, I’m enjoying some of the less common vegetables.
The parsnips are cut into large chunks. After they are cooked, each piece is dipped into a batter and then fried. The Fried Parsnips had a delightful earthy, sweetness which was accentuated by the crispy coating.
Here is the original recipe:
I could not figure why the cooked parsnips were supposed to stand in the butter for half an hour, or why the batter was to sit for half an hour – so I didn’t include extended wait times when I updated the recipe.
I also substituted butter for some of the Crisco, and any shortening or lard works for frying.
Peel parsnips and cut into 2 1/2 inch chunks. Place in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil using high heat, then reduce heat and simmer until tender (approximately 20 – 25 minutes). Drain.
While the parsnips are cooking, make the batter. In a mixing bowl place the egg, milk, flour and 1/4 teaspoons salt. Beat until smooth; set aside.
Melt butter in skillet, then add cooked parsnips. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, then gently roll in the melted butter. Remove parsnip pieces from the skillet, then add enough shortening or lard to the skillet so that there is 1/2 inch of shortening once it is melted.
Dip each piece of parsnip in the batter to coat, remove from batter, let any excess batter drip off, then put the batter-coated parsnips pieces into the hot fat. Cook until lightly browned on the bottom, then gently roll several times to brown other sides. When browned, remove parsnip pieces from the skillet with a fork. Drain on paper towels, then serve.
Sometimes it is a challenge to make a recipe in an old cookbook. The cookbook may make assumptions about the knowledge level of the cooks who will use the cookbook that totally miss the mark when it comes to modern cooks; or one recipe may refer to another recipe which might then refer to still another.
For example, I recently found a hundred-year-old recipe for Canned Fruit Custard that at first appeared very simple – Make a thin (soft) custard and pour it over drained canned fruit. But there was just one problem; the cookbook did not contain a recipe for thin custard. Apparently cooks were just supposed to know how to make thin custard.
Unfortunately I am not as knowledgeable as cooks a hundred year ago, and didn’t know how to make a thin (soft) custard, so I searched through other old cookbooks for a recipe. I finally found a soft custard recipe in a 1920 home economics textbook.
All was good, but I then was surprised to discover that I needed to find still another recipe. The Soft Custard recipe said to “mix the materials in the same way as for steamed or baked custard.”
Whew, this was getting complicated. After I found all three recipes, I took a stab at synthesizing all the directions, I finally made Canned Fruit Custard using canned sweet dark cherries. The dessert was lovely, with the cherries coated with a creamy, slightly sweet custard sauce, but the whole process has left me feeling drained.
So that others don’t need to go through the process of synthesizing the recipes, here is the Canned Fruit Custard recipe updated for modern cooks.
2 pints canned fruit (15-16 ounce cans) – I used canned dark sweet cherries.
2 eggs, separated
2 cups milk
1/4 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
To make the custard, first scald the milk. To do this, put the milk in a heavy sauce pan (use a double boiler if available); then heat using medium heat. Stir frequently until the milk just barely begins to bubble, then remove from the heat.
In a bowl beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Set aside.
In a separate bowl, beat egg yolks slightly, then add sugar and salt. Beat to combine. Then place a small amount (approximately 1 – 2 tablespoons) of hot milk into bowl with the egg mixture, stir quickly. Add this mixture to the hot milk and stir. (This helps prevent the egg from coagulating when the egg is introduced to the hot liquid.) Return to stove and cook, using medium heat while stirring constantly until the mixture begins to thicken or coat a spoon. Quickly stir in the beaten egg whites. Remove from heat. Strain and then stir in the vanilla. Chill at least 3 hours.
Drain canned fruit. Put the fruit in dessert dishes, and spoon the soft custard over the fruit.
Based on a quick scan, many cooking blogs currently have Super Bowl posts – The Best Super Bowl Food Ideas, Easy Super Bowl Recipes, Super Bowl Crowd Pleasing Snacks, and so on.
So I asked myself, “A hundred years ago what would people have eaten during the Super Bowl?” And, I immediately realized that it was a stupid question – the first Super Bowl wasn’t held until 1967.
So I revised my question, “Are there hundred-year-old recipes that might make a crowd pleasing snack for Super Bowl LIV?”
Success. . . I think I found a winner. A 1920 cookbook, Good Housekeeping’s Book of Recipes and Household Discoveries, has a wonderful recipe for Dainty Cheese – which is actually a cheese ball. I have no idea why it was called Dainty Cheese; but, regardless, the cheese ball is delicious, and would be a perfect Super Bowl snack.
The Dainty Cheese cheese ball is made with cream cheese embedded with finely chopped stuffed olives and hard-boiled egg, and a bit of onion. Since the old recipe does not call for cheddar cheese, it’s less “cheesy” than many modern recipes. (hmm . . . Maybe that’s why it is called Dainty Cheese.”) It also isn’t coated with nuts, bacon, or pepperoni like many modern balls.
But, once I set aside my modern expectations, the Dainty Cheese cheese ball was delightful. It is slightly salty with a mild onion and olive taste that works perfectly when spread on crackers.
Here is the original recipe:
I couldn’t find onion juice at the store (Is it still made?), so I substituted 1 teaspoon grated onion for the 1/3 teaspoon onion juice. When I made the cheese ball, instead of following the old directions and packing the mixture into a mold (which I worried that I’d have difficulty unmolding), I shaped the cheese ball on a piece of plastic wrap. then wrapped it in the plastic wrap and chilled until firm.
Here is the modern recipe updated for modern cooks:
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened to room temperature
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1/3 teaspoon salt
dash cayenne (red) pepper
15 stuffed olives, finely chopped
1 hard-bowled egg, finely chopped
1 teaspoon onion, grated
Put cream cheese in a mixing bowl, beat until smooth. Add butter, salt, and cayenne pepper; beat until combined. Add olives, egg, and onion; stir until combined. Shape into a cheese ball on a piece of plastic wrap, then wrap in the plastic wrap. Chill (at least two hours), then unwrap, put on plate, and serve with crackers.
Preparing eggs in the basic ways can get boring, so I was pleased to find a hundred-year-old recipe for Eggs with Spinach and Cheese. Each egg is served in an individual ramekin which makes an easy to serve, lovely presentation that can turn any breakfast into a special meal. The eggs are embedded between layers of creamed spinach and cheese.
Here is the original recipe:
I’m not sure what a “very moderate” oven meant in 1920, but I interpreted it to mean 350° F. Maybe it actually was higher. The 5-8 minutes baking time called for in the original recipe was not nearly long enough to set the eggs. It took about 15 minutes for them to set.
5 ounces (5 cups) of fresh baby spinach (approximately 1/2 cup cooked spinach)
1 tablespoon butter
1 1/2 tablespoons flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup milk
1/2 cup shredded cheese (I used cheddar.)
salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 350° F. Wash spinach and put in a sauce pan. There should be some water clinging to the spinach. Using medium heat, cook until the spinach has wilted down (about 2 minutes) while stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and set aside.
In the meantime, in another pan, using medium heat, melt butter; then stir in the flour and 1/8 teaspoon salt. Gradually, add milk while stirring constantly. Continue stirring until the white sauce thickens. Remove from heat, and add the cooked spinach. Stir to combine.
Put 1/6 of the spinach and white sauce mixture in each of 3 small ramekins; then sprinkle with 1/6 of the shredded cheese. Then break an egg into each of the ramekins. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Put 1/6 of the spinach and cream sauce mixture on top of each egg; then sprinkle with 1/6 of the shredded cheese on top of it.
Put in oven and cook for 15 – 18 minutes, or until the eggs are set.
Now that we’re in 2020, I’ve set aside the 1919 cookbooks and magazines that I got recipes from last year, and have been gathering 1920 cookbooks and magazines. (EBay is wonderful source of old cookbooks.) As I shift to 1920, I am really enjoying browsing through a whole “new” set of old recipes.
One recipe that piqued my interest was a recipe for Mushroom Croquettes. The coquettes are made by combining mashed potatoes, and chopped mushrooms. They are then browned in a skillet.
The Mushroom Croquettes were crispy on the outside, and filled with a delectable creamy mashed potato and mushroom mixture on the inside.
vegetable oil (shortening or lard would also work)
Mashed potatoes should be at room temperature when making this recipe. Either allow hot mashed potatoes to cool, or remove cold mashed potatoes from refrigerator and allow to warm to room temperature.
In the meantime, chop the mushrooms into small pieces. There should be approximately two cups of chopped mushrooms. Melt butter in a skillet, then add the chopped mushrooms. Sauté for 20 minutes while stirring occasionally. Then remove from heat.
Place the mashed potatoes into a mixing bowl, stir in the salt and eggs; then add sautéed mushrooms and stir until the mushrooms are evenly distributed throughout the mixture.
Heat about 1/2 inch of vegetable oil in a large skillet. Then drop heaping spoonfuls of the mushroom and potato mixture into the hot oil. Cook until lightly browned on the bottom, then gently turn to brown the other side. When browned, remove croquettes from the skillet with a fork or slotted spoon. Drain the croquettes on paper towels, then serve.