Old-fashioned Cream of Corn Soup (with Bacon)

bowl of cream of corn soup

I always enjoy the rich holiday foods – but I also find that I crave simpler comfort foods as the new year rolls around. It’s also the time of year when I enjoy making soups, so I was pleased to find a hundred-year-old recipe for Cream of Corn Soup. The soup included both corn and bits of bacon, and was a delightful taste treat.

This recipe is a keeper. My husband said, “This is good,” which is high praise from him.

Here is the original recipe:

Recipe for Cream of Corn Soup
Source: The Calorie Cook Book (1923) by Mary Dickerson Donahey

The old recipe only called for using 1 tablespoon of bacon grease (fat), but that seemed like a very small about of fat when I stirred 2 tablespoons flour into the bacon grease, so I used all the bacon grease that I got when cooking the bacon.

Here is the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Cream of Corn Soup (with Bacon)

  • Servings: 4-5
  • Difficulty: moderate
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1 can corn (14-16 oz.) or 2 cups fresh corn (cooked) (Either whole kernel or creamed corn can be used. I used a can of whole kernel corn.)

3 strips bacon

2 tablespoons flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

4 cups milk

Fry bacon until crisp in a Dutch oven or large saucepan, then remove from pan and crumble into small pieces. Set the crumbled bacon aside.

Stir in the flour, salt, and pepper into the bacon grease (fat). Then gradually add the milk while stirring constantly. Add the corn and crumbled bacon. Stir to combine. Continue heating until hot and steamy.


Old-fashioned Cream of Mushroom Soup

Cream of Rushroom Soup

I am so fortunate to have such wonderful readers, and am humbled  by their kindness and thoughtfulness. Recently one reader, Judy L., gave me a special hundred-year-old cookbook out of her collection. The book is called For Luncheon and Supper Guests by Alice Bradley. Judy  is not sure, but the cookbook may have belonged to her grandmother. The small book has 10 menus and more than 100 recipes that are:

Suitable for company luncheons, Sunday night suppers, afternoon parties, automobile picnics, evening spreads, and for the tea room, lunch room, coffee shops, and motor inns.

The book’s author dedicated it to:

The thousands of women who like to entertain their friends and prepare for them something new and delicious to eat.

The book is a joy to browse through, and I can picture cooks a hundred years ago using it to plan lovely events. Judy, thank you!

The first recipe I made out of the book was the recipe for Cream of Mushroom Soup. I tend to associate Cream of Mushroom Soup with the condensed canned soup and think of it as more of a recipe ingredient than something to eat on its own. Yet the old cookbook recommended it as a special dish to serve guests, so I decided to give it a try.

This recipe is for a delicate, velvety smooth mushrooms soup that was perfect on a cold winter day – and that would be delightful for a light lunch with friends.

Here’s the original recipe:

Recipe for Cream of Mushroom Soup
Source: For Luncheon and Supper Guests (1922) by Alice Bradley

When I made this recipe I bought an 8-ounce box of whole button mushrooms – and chopped the entire mushrooms rather than buying more mushrooms and only using the stems and skins. (By the way, what is a mushroom skin?)

The old recipe says to serve the soup in bouillon cups which made me think about presentation. How would a hostess in days gone by serve  this soup to her lunch guests? I then remembered some vintage luncheon plates way in the back of the top shelf of my kitchen cabinets. They have an indentation for a  small matching bowl. I pulled my step stool over, climbed up and got one of the plates and bowls out. I then made a sandwich to go with my soup. And, suddenly, with just a little imagination, my boring Saturday lunch was transformed into a beautifully presented luncheon in a different time and place.

Cream of Mushroom Soup

  • Servings: 4 - 6
  • Difficulty: moderate
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Here’s the recipe updated for modern cooks:

2 cups milk

1/2 pound (8 oz.) mushrooms, chopped

1/4 cup onion, chopped

3 cups chicken broth

4 tablespoons butter

4 tablespoons flour

1 1/2 teaspoons salt (Use less if the chicken broth contains salt.)

1/4 teaspoon  pepper

Put milk in a saucepan, and using medium heat, heat until it is scalded (just begins to boil); stir occasionally. Remove from heat and set aside.

Put the mushrooms,  onions, and chicken broth in another saucepan, and bring to a boil using high heat. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from heat, and strain; keeping the liquid. (The vegetables can be discarded or served separately.

In the meantime, melt the butter in a large saucepan. Stir in the flour, salt, and pepper, then gradually add the mushroom broth while stirring constantly, Using medium heat bring to a boil while continuing to stir occasionally;  then stir in the scalded milk and reheat until hot and steamy.

Note: This recipe is for a silky smooth mushroom soup, but if desired, the cooked chopped mushrooms and onions that were strained out when making the mushroom broth, can be stirred back into the soup for a more robust chunky soup.


Poorhouse Soup

bowl of soupI was looking for a soup recipe to make on a cold winter day, and saw a recipe for Poorhouse Soup in a hundred-year-old church cookbook, and was immediately intrigued.

The soup is a pureed white been soup with potatoes, onions, and tomato juice. A little cayenne (red) pepper is added to give it more flavor. The soup was nice, though even with the cayenne pepper I found it a bit bland. If I made it again, I’d probably experiment a bit with the spices.

A hundred years ago many communities had publicly-funded poorhouses where the financially challenged could live. The food in the poorhouses was notoriously bad, and the residents often had to work on the poorhouse farm. This was seen as a way of encouraging people to not stay for long. Was this recipe actually based on what they fed residents at the local poorhouse? . . . or was the recipe name an inside family joke? It was an inexpensive soup to make and contains no meat, so maybe the cook’s family felt slightly annoyed that they were eating such a “cheap” food and joked about it being Poorhouse Soup.

Here’s the original recipe:

Recipe for Poor House Soup
Source: Cement City Cook Book (1922), compiled by S.W.W. Class of the Baptist Sunday School, Alpena, Michigan

Since “poorhouse{ is one word in online dictionaries, .I spelled “poorhouse” as one word when I updated the recipe even though it was two words in the original recipe. I’m not sure whether the way poorhouse is written has changed over the past hundred years or if the recipe author didn’t know how it should be written.

This recipe is lacking a few key details – such as how much water to add to the beans, both for soaking and for cooking. Based on the directions on the package of dried beans, I decided to soak the beans in 5 cups of waters of water overnight. I then drained the beans, and used 3 cups of water when I cooked them.  This seemed like an appropriate amount of water, and the soup had a nice consistency.

I know that recipe is for Poorhouse Soup – and that it is supposed to be a very basic, economical food, but I just couldn’t help myself, and garnished the soup with a few thin slices of green onion. It made a plain soup look special.

The soup wasn’t as flavorful as many modern soups (maybe I didn’t add enough cayenne pepper), but I think that it now would be considered a healthy food option rather than something for the poor (though it still is very economical to make).

Here’s the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Poorhouse Soup

  • Servings: 4 - 5
  • Difficulty: moderate
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1 cup white beans  (great northern, navy, cannellini, or other white beans) – I used great northern beans.

5 cups water for soaking

3 cups water for cooking

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 medium potato, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes

2 medium onions, chopped

1 cup tomato juice

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon cayenne (red) pepper

1 tablespoon flour

1 tablespoon butter, softened

sliced green onions or other garnish (optional)

Put beans and 5 cups water in a bowl, and soak overnight, then drain.

Put the soaked beans, 3 cups of water, baking soda, potatoes, and onions in a large saucepan, and bring to a boil using high heat; then reduce and simmer for 1 1/2 hours or until the beans are tender.

Remove from heat, cool slightly, and then puree using a blender or food processor (or press it through a sieve). Return to saucepan, stir in the tomato juice, salt, and cayenne pepper; reheat until hot and steamy.

In the meantime, put the flour and butter in a small bowl; stir to combine. Put a small amount of the hot soup in the bowl and stir until smooth. Then stir the mixture into the soup. Continue heating until the soup thickens slightly.

If desired, garnish the soup with sliced green onions or other garnish.


Old-fashioned Spinach Soup

bowl of spinach soup

I have warm memories of Popeye the Sailor Man eating spinach to grow strong. Spinach is chockful of nutrients, and is an excellent source of potassium, magnesium, vitamin K, vitamin A, manganese, folate, copper, vitamin B2, vitamin B6, vitamin E, and vitamin C, as well as being one of the best sources of plant-based iron. What’s not to like?

As a result, I’m always on the lookout for good spinach recipes. So when I came across a hundred-year-old for Spinach Soup, I decided to give it a try.

The creamy Spinach Soup was delicious with a slight peppery undertone which added interest.

Here’s the original recipe:

Spinach Soup Recipe
Source: Lowney’s Cook Book (Revised Edition, 1921)

Here’s the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Spinach Soup

  • Servings: 4 - 5
  • Difficulty: moderate
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2 quarts spinach (I used a 10 ounce package of spinach.)

6 cups water

1/2 bay leaf

1 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons flour

2 cups milk

1 clove garlic or 2 tablespoons chopped onion (I used the chopped onion.)

1/4 teaspoon cayenne (red) pepper

1/4 teaspoon celery salt

1/2 cup cream, if desired

Put spinach and water into a large pan, and bring to a boil using high heat; reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove from heat, and puree or press through a sieve. (I used a Foley mill.)

In the meantime, put milk, garlic or onion, and bay leaf in a saucepan. Using medium heat, scald the milk, while stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, and strain. (Discard the garlic or onion and bay leaf.)

Put butter in large pan or dutch oven. Melt using low heat; then stir in the flour. Slowly add scalded milk while stirring constantly. Then stir in the spinach mixture, salt, cayenne pepper, and celery salt. Heat until steamy, then serve.

If desired whip the cream, and put a dollop of the whipped cream on top of each bowl of soup.



Old-fashioned Asparagus and Chicken Soup

Bowl of Asparagus and Chicken Soup

Sometimes I think of soup as a winter dish, but I’m discovering that there are also some wonderful soups that feature Spring vegetables. I recently came across a hundred-year-old recipe for Asparagus and Chicken Soup. Chicken and asparagus tips are embedded in a delightful light asparagus-flavored broth that has a very nuanced peppery taste.

The Asparagus and Chicken Soup seemed very modern (and I never would have guessed that the recipe was a hundred years old if I hadn’t known that I’d found it in a 1920 magazine). It reminded me a bit of some of the lovely chicken miso soups that I’ve eaten in Asian restaurants.

Here is the original recipe:

Recipe for Asparagus and Chicken Soup
Source: American Cookery (May, 1920)

The recipe called for three teaspoons of salt, which seemed like a lot, so I only used one teaspoon of it. I didn’t serve the soup with croutons or Royal Custard, and must admit that I didn’t even know what Royal Custard was until I googled it, and discovered that, according to The Spruce Eats, Royale Custard (Eierstich) is an egg custard and a popular soup garnish in Germany. It sounds lovely, and if I make this soup again, I may have to also make some Royale Custard.

Here is the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Asparagus and Chicken Soup

  • Servings: 4 - 5
  • Difficulty: moderate
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6 cups water

2 pounds chicken parts (I used boneless chicken breast.)

2 bunches asparagus (about 2 pounds)

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1/4 teaspoon celery salt

Put water and chicken in a large saucepan or Dutch oven. Bring to a boil using high heat, then reduce heat and simmer for 2 hours.

In the meantime, cut the tips off the asparagus stalks and set aside. Cut the reminder of the stalks into 1-inch pieces. After the 2 hours, add the asparagus pieces to the water and chicken, and simmer for an additional 1/2 hour. Remove from heat, and remove the chicken. Cut and shred the chicken into small pieces. Strain the liquid and asparagus pieces.

Put the cooked asparagus pieces through a sieve to extract the juice and puree the asparagus. (A ricer or Foley mill can be used.)

Return broth, shredded chicken, and asparagus puree to the saucepan or Dutch oven, then add the salt, pepper, and celery salt. Heat until hot, then add asparagus tips, cook for an additional 5 minutes or until the asparagus tips are tender, then serve.


Hundred-year-old Recipe for French Onion Soup

bowl of French Onion Soup with toast and cheese on top

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:

Recipe for French Onion Soup
Source: A New Snowdrift Cook Book (1920) by Mrs. Ida C. Bailey Allen

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.

And, here is the recipe updated for modern cooks:

French Onion Soup

  • Servings: 3-4
  • Difficulty: moderate
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3 tablespoons butter

6 medium-sized onions, thinly sliced

1 quart soup stock (I used beef broth.)

1 slice of bread for each bowl of soup

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.

Old-Fashioned Pearl Barley Soup with Cabbage (Cabbage and Bacon Soup)

Soup is the perfect comfort food on these cold winter days. I recently found a wonderful hundred-year-old recipe for Pearl Barley Soup with Cabbage. The soup was delightful – but the recipe name is misleading. The recipe only calls for two tablespoons of barley – and it is not a predominate ingredient in the soup. This soup is really a hearty, rustic Cabbage and Bacon soup.

Here’s the original recipe:

Source: Good Housekeeping (October, 1917)

Since modern pearled barley does not need pre-soaking, I skipped that step. Also, I didn’t think that three green onions were very many, so I used all the green onions in the bunch that I purchased. Here’s the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Pearl Barley Soup with Cabbage (Cabbage and Bacon Soup)

  • Servings: 6 - 8
  • Difficulty: easy
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6 cups water

2 tablespoons barley

1/4 pound bacon, chopped into 1/4 inch pieces

1 small cabbage (about 1 pound), finely shredded

1 bunch green onions (6 -8 green onions), chopped

1 cup half and half

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

Put water in a dutch oven; bring to a boil using high heat, then add barley, bacon, cabbage, and green onions. Return to a boil, then reduce heat and gently simmer for 1 hour. Add half and half, salt, and pepper. Heat until steamy hot, then serve.