Green Bean Salad — 1961

Green Bean Salad — 1961

In my quest to add interest to my catered salad bars, I took inspiration from a recipe for Green Bean Salad in The New York Times Cook Book 1961 (below). After tinkering with this recipe for several years, I came up with a dressing that is jazzy and delicious. This salad is served cold after marinating several hours or overnight, so it is a great summer salad and/or side-dish especially when serving Italian food. Enjoy!

green bean salad 001

Below is my interpretation of this “lost” recipe. I call it Marinated Green Bean Salad:

Marinated Green Bean Salad

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. young slender green beans
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt

Dressing:

  • 2/3 cup Olive Garden Italian Dressing
  • 2 – 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • Dash cracked black pepper

Garnish:

  • 1 – 2 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese for garnish

Directions

  1. Wash and drain green beans and snap off blossom ends (snap off tails if desired).
  2. Bring a quart of water and 1/2 tsp salt to a boil in a medium pot; add prepared green beans and cover.
  3. Once pot returns to a boil, set timer for four minutes (Cook time depends on size of green beans. If beans are a little thicker, add another minute to the  cook time).
  4. Immediately plunge cooked green beans into very cold water to cool. Drain and set aside.
  5. Combine dressing ingredients and set aside.
  6. Arrange green beans in an air-tight container, drizzle dressing over beans, cover and refrigerate for at least two hours. (Swirl the beans around in the container from time to time while marinating). 
  7. To serve, arrange green beans on a platter draining away most of the dressing. Garnish with Parmesan cheese.

Recipe Compliments of Cookbooklady.com

 

The Seventies Salad Bar

The Seventies Salad Bar
Salad can get a bad rap. People think of bland and watery iceberg lettuce, but in fact, salads are an art form, from the simplest rendition to a colorful kitchen-sink approach.~Marcus Samuelsson

One of the earliest and definitely the largest salad bars ever featured appeared regularly in an American food restaurant in Chicago called R J Grunts beginning in 1971. The restaurant boasted forty different ingredients in their salad bar at any one time. Inspired by the health food craze of the 1970s, it was a virtual self-serve farmer’s market on a plate with most ingredients presented in their rawest form. This restaurant sparked the salad bar trend that swept the nation. And oh how we Americans love a good salad bar, so much so,  that we have come to expect one in every restaurant and grocery store — the bigger the better; however, no one has done it as well as R J Grunts. Many small restaurants have tried to stay on trend by offering  run-of-the-mill iceberg lettuce, cherry tomatoes, sliced cucumbers, pickled beets, shredded carrots, boiled eggs, frozen peas, croutons and shredded cheese, but a great salad bar is what Americans have sought after for fifty years.  Sadly, covid19 has taken away the option of even eating out safely. One wonders if the American salad bar, as we have come to know it, will ever return.

Cookbook Lady’s Comments

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As a caterer, one of my underlying challenges was creating ways to jazz-up my salad bar offerings without breaking the bank or creating an overwhelming workload. I never came close to offering forty options, but I did come up with a variety of ways to add flavor and interest to a salad bar. Over the course of my next several posts, I will be sharing some of my most popular “salad bar” recipes that will also work well for jazzing-up family meals, so check back often. Enjoy!

Cooking the Perfect Ear of Corn

Cooking the Perfect Ear of Corn

cooking corn

It turns out that home cooks have been preparing corn on the cob the same way for over a hundred years. Our pots are now stainless steel as opposed to cast iron, and our heat source is gas or electric instead of wood, but no matter the style of our stove, Americans still enjoy eating an ear of corn, piping hot and slathered with butter.

My one-hundred-year-old cookbook, Fifty-Two Sunday Dinners 1913, suggests preparing sweet corn using the tried and true method of dropping the husked ears into rapidly boiling water and cooking for five to ten minutes. This is the technique that I have used for years (recipe below) — simple and hassle free.

Boiled Sweet Corn - 1913

Directions

Have the water boiling. Remove the husks and silk from the corn and drop them at once into the boiling water; bring water quickly to boiling point and let boil rapidly five to ten minutes (depending somewhat on age of corn). Drain from water and arrange in a napkin-covered platter; serve at once.

Fifty-Two Sunday Dinners by Elizabeth O. Hiller, 1913

Freshness and Tenderness

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The Modern Family Cook Book 1953 by Meta Given

When buying corn on the cob from a grocery store, its hard to know how long ago it was picked. Fortunately, good cookbooks offer tips on how to tell if the corn is fresh. The Modern Family Cook Book 1953 suggests popping a kernel (recipe below):

Corn on the Cob - 1953

Directions

Choose the freshest corn possible. To test freshness and tenderness of corn, break a kernel with your fingernail. If the milk spurts out, the ear is young, tender and at least fairly fresh. Corn is best when cooked immediately after picking. Husk the corn and remove the silks. Have plenty of boiling water ready. Put ears of corn into a kettle and pour on enough boiling water to cover. Boil 4 to 6 minutes, depending on age and tenderness of ears. Drain thoroughly and serve immediately with salt and plenty of butter.

The Modern Family Cook Book 1953 by Meta Given

Food Tastes Better Outdoors

corn on the cob picnic 001The original Weber kettle grill came out in 1952. By then America had recovered from the food rationing and shortages of WWII and outdoor grills offered a new way of cooking the recently available choice cuts of meat that folks had done without for so long. Backyard outdoor grilling took off like wildfire and we have never looked back! Right away cookbooks began to reflect this new trend, offering recipes and tips for cooking outdoors.

Farm Journal’s Country Cookbook 1959 gives instructions on two ways to cook corn on the cob outdoors — on the grill or directly in the coals (recipe below):

Corn on the Cob - 1959

Directions

  • Remove silk from corn by turning back husks [do not break off the inner husks]. Replace inner husks. Place corn on grill, turn often. Roast about 15 minutes. Serve with plenty of butter, salt and pepper.
  • If desired, corn can be husked. Spread corn with butter, sprinkle with salt. Wrap in foil. Place over hot coals about 10 to 15 minutes; turn several times.

Farm Journal’s Country Cookbook 1959

Iowa Corn on the Cob

IMG_5872 (2)Farm Journal’s Busy Woman’s Cookbook 1971 quotes an Iowa woman offering tips for preparing corn on the cob. First she suggests a way to get rid of the corn silk, then she shares two different cooking methods — the traditional drop-the-ears-in-boiling-water method, and secondly, starting the corn on the cob in cold water. I have never tried this method, but I’m definitely interested in trying it. Finally, she warns the home cook to never salt the cooking water for corn as it toughens the kernel. Dang! I am guilty of that. I will never salt my corn water again.

Iowa Corn on the Cob - 1971

Directions

An Iowa woman says, “Most good cooks in our neighborhood rush the corn from the garden, husk it; use a dry vegetable brush to brush away the stubborn silk, and drop the ears into boiling water to cover. They cook it 5 to 8 minutes — never more than 10. But I get more praise from folks around the table when I cover the corn with cold water; bring it to a boil — then drain the steaming ears and serve them at once. No smart country cook around here adds salt to the water when cooking sweet corn. It toughens the kernels.”

Farm Journal’s Busy Woman’s Cookbook 1971

Milk and Sugar

COOKBOOKS 002In the cookbook, Mrs. Witty’s Home-Style Menu Cookbook 1990, Mrs. Witty offers some up-to-date advice and suggests an energy efficient way to cook corn on the cob. She also mentions a couple of interesting add-ins (recipe below):

Cooking the Perfect Ear of Corn - 1990

Directions

If corn is not to be cooked at once, refrigerate it without husking. Shuck the ears just before cooking.

Don’t heat a big potful of water, which takes time and fuel and overheats the kitchen; boil a few inches of water in a wide pot, add corn, sprinkle on a little sugar — 1 or 2 Tablespoons — clap on the lid, bring the water just back to a boil, turn off the heat, and leave the corn for 8 to 10 minutes, when it will be ready. Serve one round of ears at a time; the rest will come to no harm if left in the water for as long as a half an hour.

Some cooks salt the cooking water — I don’t, because it toughens the corn; some swear by a cupful of milk in the water, and some use milk plus salt or sugar. Whichever way seems best to you, just don’t cook corn to death, as was once considered necessary; half an hour’s boiling was a common direction in cookbooks gone by.

Mrs. Witty’s Home-Style Menu Cookbook 1990 by Helen Witty

Cookbook Lady’s Comments

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If there is one thing that I have noticed when catering casual summertime meals, it is that many people are a little shy about tucking into a long hot ear of corn on the cob; it seems like a big messy commitment to them. However, a three inch piece of corn on the cob seems much more manageable even to the most dainty person. So cutting the cob into thirds or fourths with a heavy sharp chef’s knife will help to alleviate their hesitancy. The cutting is done before the cooking so the corn comes out of the pot “bite-size”. Extra napkins and perhaps some toothpicks on hand helps reduce any awkwardness that guests might feel.

As far as seasoning corn on the cob, I have learned that there are other ingredients that folks enjoy besides butter and salt and pepper, although those are the most popular. Mayonnaise, in place of butter, is very popular in some areas and is my personal favorite along with salt and pepper. For those who like a little heat, chili powder, smoked paprika and lime or other flavored seasonings sprinkled on corn (or any vegetable) offers a spicy Tex-Mex flavor that some folks like.

My best advice is to serve corn on the cob often during its peak season. Enjoy!

A Century of Coleslaw

A Century of Coleslaw

“For those who wonder why cabbage is way out in front as the American vegetable crop, the answer is a…four-letter word: slaw.”~Irma Rombauer The Joy of Cooking 1985

food water summer texture

In the 1600s Dutch colonist settled in the new world on the east coast of what would become the United States. Dutch holdings included part of what is now New York state where industrious immigrates planted cabbage along the Hudson River from seed brought with them to this new land. They also brought along their recipe for “koolsla”, a salad made from finely chopped cabbage, dressed with a vinegar dressing. And the rest, as they say, is history.

American Coleslaw

Interestingly, New York is still one of the top five cabbage producing states in the U.S. including Florida, California, Texas and Wisconsin. In 2016, these states produced over 1.8 million pounds of cabbage with nearly half of that being processed for slaw. Indeed, Americans have fully embraced coleslaw, often pairing it with another iconic American tradition — barbecue. Our summer picnics, cookouts and barbecues have even elevated coleslaw from a side dish to a condiment. Who doesn’t love a pulled pork sandwich piled high with cool crunchy slaw?

With cabbage having such a long history in America, it doesn’t come as a surprise that twentieth-century cookbooks contain a host  of coleslaw or cabbage salad recipes. Recipes from the turn of the century were a simple combination of chopped cabbage tossed with a boiled dressing containing vinegar, a little sugar, salt and pepper, an egg and cream, but by the 1930s, things started to get interesting. Slaw makers began experimenting with the addition of fruit, assorted vegetables, seasonings and a variety of dressings. Some of these additions are still enjoyed today. Others have gone by the wayside, thankfully.

Coleslaw in the Thirties

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The Joy of Cooking 1931

Irma Rombauer, author of The Joy of Cooking 1931, suggests adding green peppers, apples and celery to shredded cabbage for added flavor and texture. She offers two options for dressing — a French (vinaigrette) dressing or Boiled dressing. Ever practical, Ms. Rombauer offers some advice to home cooks preparing slaw as well, suggesting an improvised tool for chopping cabbage: [Place cabbage in] “a deep bowl and [use] the sharp edge of an [empty] baking powder can” [to chop the cabbage]. This homemade tool is something similar to the hand choppers we use today (EXAMPLE). Her Cole Slaw recipe also advises home cooks to soak the chopped cabbage in ice water for an hour to crisp it. Thankfully, today’s refrigeration makes this step obsolete.

IMG_5822 (2)The cookbook, Modern Meal Maker 1939 continues the creativity with several interesting ingredients as well. The first recipe simply titled “Coleslaw” calls for some chopped fresh mint “for an especially nice cooling salad,” to be dressed with Cream Salad Dressing (recipes below):

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The second Modern Meal Maker recipe is similar to the Joy of Cooking 1931 coleslaw recipe calling for chopped apple and celery, and is also dressed with  Boiled Dressing (recipes below):

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The final Modern Meal Maker recipe appears to be a carry-over from the pineapple food fad of the 1920s called “Pineapple Slaw”. The recipe simply consists of a half cup crushed pineapple added to three cups shredded cabbage and is dressed with Golden Dressing, which incorporates the tropical flavors of pineapple, orange and lemon juice (recipe below):

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Coleslaw in the Forties

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The Household Searchlight Recipe Book 1944

“Cabbage Carrot Salad” appears in The Household Searchlight Recipe Book 1944 calling for an ingredient that is common in coleslaw today — shredded carrots — and a mayonnaise dressing, also common today, with orange sections for garnish (recipe below):

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The recipe for “Cabbage Apple Salad” calls for chopped apple, of course, along with celery, green pepper, nuts and tomato to be dressed with Russian Dressing (a combination of mayo, chili sauce and chopped green pickle). With the help of pinking shears, a hollowed out head of cabbage, an unpared red apple and a stalk of celery, this salad makes a stunning presentation to be sure (recipe below):

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Once again, pineapple shows up in “Cabbage Pineapple Salad” accompanied by an unusual ingredient — marshmallows. What?! Perhaps they were added to entice the children to eat their vegetables (recipe below):

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Coleslaw in the Fifties

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The Modern Family Cook Book 1953

A coleslaw recipe appearing in The Modern Family Cook Book 1953 titled “Farm Style Cole Slaw” offers the most minimalistic cabbage salad recipe by comparison, simply calling for three thinly sliced radishes to be added to three cups shredded cabbage, and a mayonnaise dressing.

Another recipe called “Vegetable Slaw” contains shredded cabbage and carrots, sliced celery and minced onion lightly tossed in a dressing made of mayo, mustard and peanut butter. Yes, peanut butter!

 

 

 

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Farm Journal’s Country Cookbook 1959

The Farm Journal’s Country Cookbook 1959, in the section titled “From Field and Stream” is a recipe with a long name, “Coleslaw to Serve with Fish and Game”. Its not the ingredients that make this recipe interesting, its the recipe immediately preceding the coleslaw recipe that captures ones imagination — Roast Racoon, seriously!

This post would not be a thorough representation of twentieth-century recipes if I did not include a gelatin-enhanced cabbage salad. Again The Farm Journal’s Country Cookbook 1959 provides an interesting example called “Slaw with Mustard Mold”. The slaw is a combination of shredded cabbage, chopped salted peanuts and diced pimientos dressed with a French (vinaigrette) Dressing. The Mustard Mold, meant to crown the top of the cabbage salad, is a cooked mixture of unflavored gelatin, water, sugar, dry mustard, vinegar and eggs. The mixture is cooled and allowed to partially set, at which time whipped cream is folded in and the whole concoction is poured into a mold and chilled until firm. To serve, the slaw is layered on a platter with the mustard gelatin perched on top. A tasty addition to any potluck, I’m sure.

Coleslaw in the Sixties

In The New York Times Cook Book 1961, Craig Claiborne published a recipe titled “Cole Slaw with Caraway”. This understated combination of chopped cabbage and minced onion is tossed with a simple mayonnaise dressing seasoned with lemon juice, caraway seeds and salt and pepper. Claiborne even offers a helpful tip to home cooks, “blend the mixture well with the hands”.

About the same time Claiborne’s cookbook went on sale, McCormick–Schilling, published their recipe for “Caraway Cole Slaw” in a charming booklet titled “Let’s Eat Outdoors”:

Coleslaw in the Seventies

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Farm Journal’s Busy Woman’s Cookbook 1971

Farm Journal’s Busy Woman’s Cookbook 1971 offers two recipes with an ingredient that has not been mentioned yet — raisins. I like raisins, but the inclusion comes as a surprise as the popularity of these dried gems has declined throughout the latter half of the twentieth century. Today raisin producers have had to return to the advertising drawing board to try to generate interest and bolster declining sales.

The first recipe, titled “Cabbage Salad Bowl” calls for raisins soaked in orange juice, cabbage and shredded carrot. To me, this sounds like a recipe worth trying (recipe below):

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The second Busy Woman 1971 recipe, one with an intriguing name, “Carolina Autumn Salad” contains what are almost classic coleslaw ingredients at this point — cabbage, apples and celery, along with a half cup seedless raisins. This is another recipe I would be willing to try (recipe below):

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Joy of Cooking by Irma S. Rombauer 1985

Bringing us full circle is a recipe from the Joy of Cooking 1985 edition, calling for yet another unexpected fruit to go with the cabbage — green grapes. However, its the dressing that really gets a makeover. Starting with whipped cream, the following ingredients are folded in — lemon juice, celery seed, sugar, salt and pepper and slivered blanched almonds. I’m not sure about this recipe, but how can anything with whipped cream in it be bad?

 

 

I’m tossing my favorite coleslaw recipe into the mix. Its a simple combination of cabbage and apples, but my grandmother’s Poppy Seed Dressing takes this slaw to a whole new level. It is sweet and it is sassy, and it is a crowd pleaser.  Mix some up for your next barbecue. You will be glad you did. Enjoy!

Cabbage and Apple Slaw

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 2 (10 oz) bags shredded angel hair slaw
  • 2 apples, shredded or julienned (Honeycrisp apples have thin, tender peels)

Poppy Seed Dressing

  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup chopped sweet onion
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp Colman’s dry mustard
  • 1 tsp poppy seeds

Directions

Using a blender or immersion blender, pulse dressing ingredients until mixture begins to emulsify; set aside.

Shred apples using a box grater or mandolin. Toss apples with shredded cabbage in a large bowl. Drizzle with  half the prepared Poppy Seed Dressing; toss to coat. Add more dressing if needed. (Remaining vinaigrette makes a great fruit salad dressing).

Garnish slaw with apple slices and additional poppy seeds. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Recipe Compliments of cookbooklady.com

 

 

 

Rhubarb Whipped Cream Pie — 1966

Rhubarb Whipped Cream Pie — 1966

“Pies, plain old fruit pies anyway, were not In during the Sixties: too simple, too old-fashioned, too uncreative. But there was a class of pie that a modern gal could serve and still be considered a go-go gourmet. These acceptably chic pies almost always had a crushed graham cracker or cookie crust and were fill with ice cream, or pudding, or gelatin mixed with something sweet and creamy.” ~Sylvia Lovegren, Fashionable Food Seven Decades of Food Fads 1995

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While researching twentieth-century cookbooks for my blog post Rhubarb’s Reign, I discovered a “lost” sixties-chic recipe for Rhubarb Whipped Cream Pie in The American Woman’s Cook Book 1966 containing then trendy ingredients including gelatin and heavy whipped cream in a crumb crust. The resulting refrigerator pie smacked of tangy rhubarb mellowed by the rich smoothness of  whipped cream. The crunch of the graham cracker crumbs added a good textural contrast. Rhubarb Whipped Cream Pie is a delightfully retro alternative to traditional rhubarb pie — delicious on a hot summers day.

1966 001

The recipe for Rhubarb Whipped Cream Pie, suggests a Cereal Flake (corn flake) Pie Shell, I opted for the now classic graham cracker crumb crust called Crumb Pie Shell (above) included in the same chapter as the pie. The crumb mixture was easy to work with, kept its shape and held together well, however, it was a little too sweet for modern tastes. Next time I would add maybe half the sugar called for to cut down on the sweetness.

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While preparing the filling for Rhubarb Whipped Cream Pie (recipe above), I took a gamble and modernized the amount of unflavored gelatin in the recipe to coincide with the product packaging that is available now: instead of two tablespoons of gelatin, I used two packets (each packet equaling about 2 teaspoons) of Knox unflavored gelatin. In spite of this adjustment, the pie maintained a good set.

Like the crumb crust, the rhubarb filling ended up being very sweet. A full cup of sugar was more than the filling needed, nevertheless tartness in varieties of rhubarb vary so the amount of sweetener added is best left up to the cook. Next time I would start with 2/3 cup sugar and work my way up from there, tasting as I go.

My final adjustment to the recipe was to stabilize the heavy cream before whipping by blending two tablespoons of mascarpone cheese into the cream on a low speed before whipping at a higher speed. The combination of gelatin in the filling and the stabilized whipped cream kept the filling firm and the crust crunchy for several days. I would definitely make Rhubarb Cream Pie again. Enjoy!

 

Picnic Bean Salad

Picnic Bean Salad

LICENSE PLATESRoad Trip

As a kid did you ever play travel games to pass the time while on a road trip? I remember playing  “I Spy”, the “License Plate” game and “Simon Says” with my siblings as we drove across the state to visit our grandparents. My personal favorite was the memory game “Going on a Picnic” where each player says, “I’m going on a picnic and I’m going to bring…” the player then lists an item starting with the letter “A” such as Apples. The next player says, “I’m going on a picnic and I’m going to bring Apples and…”, that player adds an item beginning with “B“, and so on. In our version, the items didn’t always have to be food items — every picnic needs Paper Plates, Napkins, a Volley ball and maybe an Umbrella, in case of rain.  As I recall, the last person always brought Zucchini.

Picnic Bean Salad

Most times, when my family took a road trip, it was for a family celebration or reunion which often involved a potluck picnic where everyone brought their signature dish to share — a dish that travels well, serves a lot of people and gets the cook the most compliments. On my husband’s side of the family, my signature dish has become Four Bean Salad (a recipe handed down on my mother’s side of the family).  I almost feel guilty that such an easy salad is my requested contribution. There is almost no work involved in the prep as most of the ingredients come from a can. It travels/stores well since there is no mayonnaise in the dressing and the presentation is eye-catching with all the colorful ingredients. Best of all, the flavor is zippy! Lucky is the person who gets the last few tablespoons of vinaigrette in the bottom of the bowl once the vegetables are gone. Drizzle that over potato salad or green salad and it takes flavor to a whole new level!

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The Good Housekeeping Cookbook 1963
Nouveau Bean Salad

I remember my grandmother making Bean Salad when I was a little girl. With some research in my twentieth-century cookbooks, I discovered that Bean Salad was still fairly nouveou in the 1960s. The first Bean Salad recipe on record was printed in a booklet put out by Stokely — Van Camp (processors of canned dried beans and makers of pork-and-beans) in the 1950s. The earliest recipe printed in a comprehensive cookbook is found in The Good Housekeeping Cookbook 1963. The Good Housekeeping recipe, appropriately titled Three Bean Salad, calls for one pound cans of french-cut green beans, yellow wax beans and red kidney beans drained and combined with half cups of minced green pepper and onion, to be dressed with a classic vinaigrette consisting of salad oil, cider vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper. The directions suggest making the salad the day before serving to allow flavors to blend. My grandmother’s Four Bean Salad (recipe below) is very much like this recipe.

A Good Vegetable Salad

While researching pre-1950s cookbooks, I didn’t find a single bean salad recipe, but I did find recipes for marinated green beans to be served as a cold salad, so I’m wondering if marinated green beans might have been the precursor to the now classic Bean Salad.

bean salad 001Elizabeth O. Hiller’s 52 Sunday Dinners 1913 suggests serving a cold Veal Loaf (very similar to meatloaf of today) on the first Sunday in July. The recipe instructs the home cook to pack the seasoned ground veal “solidly in a granite, brick-shaped bread pan” and “bake in a moderate oven for three hours”. The veal loaf is then chilled, removed to a platter and surrounded with a “good vegetable salad”. The recommended vegetable salad is String Bean Salad (recipe above) comprised of cooked string beans, void of strings of course, marinated in French Dressing (meaning a vinaigrette) sprinkled with sliced fresh onion, chopped parsley and Nasturtium blossoms for garnish (Nasturtiums are a brightly-colored edible flower with a peppery flavor similar to radishes). Joy of Cooking 1931 also presents a comparable marinated String Bean Salad minus the veal loaf and flower blossoms.

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The Modern Family Cook Book 1953, Green Bean Salad (Interestingly, not only are there page numbers, but each recipe is assigned a number as well).

Modern Stringless Green Beans

Beans (Green or Wax) Young pods are now stringless. ~Betty Crocker’s Picture Cook Book 1950

After decades of hybridizing, string beans finally lost the fibrous strand that ran the length of each bean as announced by the authors of Betty Crocker’s Picture Cook Book 1950. With no strings attached, the beans eventually came to be known as green beans (however my grandmother called them string beans her whole life). The Modern Family Cook Book 1953 used modern terminology when naming its dish “Green” Bean Salad (recipe above). Celery and radishes were added for crunch, and mayonnaise is suggested as an option for dressing the salad.

3ebc5f7b6f8d91b1abcd5d8592002736At Long Last

Finally, in the early 1960s, a clever cook thought to add cooked dried beans to a marinated green bean salad —  and the rest, as they say, is history. In this charming 1964 women’s magazine ad for Kraft French (vinaigrette) Dressing, if we look closely enough, we can see a recipe for Three Bean Salad calling for 2 cups lima beans, 2 cups kidney beans, 2 cups cooked cut green beans, 1 cup chopped tomato, 1 cup sliced celery and half a cup of chopped sweet pickles, tossed with Kraft French (vinaigrette) Dressing.

 

Bean salads are always popular, especially for buffet serving. ~Ruth Ellen Church, Mary Meads Modern Homemaker Cookbook 1966

Ms. Church speaks authoritatively of the popularity of Bean Salads so we can assume that by 1966 the concept had been around for several years. Then, as with recipes now, cooks loved to personalize their dishes. The recipe in Mary Meads Modern Homemaker Cookbook 1966 is called Chinese Bean Salad (not surprising since Americans have had a fascination with “exotic” food post WWII). Ingredients include green beans, wax beans, (no dried beans however) water chestnuts and red onions tossed in a dressing of vinegar, sugar, salad oil, soy sauce and celery salt.

close up photo of raw green beans
Green Beans

Bean Salad Flattery

The Farm Journal’s Busy Woman’s Cookbook 1971 includes a recipe titled Overnight Bean Salad located in the “Make-Ahead Cooking” section promoting the convenience of Bean Salad. Interestingly, the recipe is exactly the same recipe as described above from The Good Housekeeping Cookbook 1963. Its said that imitation is the best form of flattery. I’d say its also a good indicator of a great recipe.

Below is my family’s recipe for Bean Salad. We call it Four Bean Salad. It could also be called Four Generation Bean Salad as it is the recipe my grandmother used, the one my mother and I use and the one my daughters now use. Anyone of us could say, “I’m going on a picnic and I’m going to bring a really good Bean Salad”. Enjoy!

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Four Bean Salad

  • Servings: 10
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 2 (14.5 oz) cans cut green beans
  • 1 (14.5 oz) can cut wax beans
  • 1 (15.5 oz) can kidney beans
  • 1 (15.5 oz) can garbanzo beans
  • 1 (4 oz) jar diced pimientos
  • 1 small sweet onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 green bell pepper

Dressing:

  • 2/3 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/3 cup salad oil
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • Ground black pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Rinse and drain garbanzo beans and kidney beans. Drain green beans and wax beans. Place in a large bowl and add pimientos, sliced sweet onion and bell pepper.
  2. In a small bowl, combine vinegar, salad oil, sugar, salt and pepper; whisk to combine. Drizzle over prepared beans and vegetables; toss to coat.
  3. Store in air-tight container in the refrigerator for six hours or overnight, stirring from time to time.

Recipe Compliments of cookbooklady.com

 

 

 

The Forgotten Apricot

The Forgotten Apricot

Apricots — the fruit that’s preserved for later.

I remember the year I turned eleven as the apricot summer. The neighbor’s lone apricot tree bloomed its heart out and blessed the earth with a plethora of fruit.  Everyone around was invited to help themselves to the apricot bounty, but my mother was the only one that accepted the offer.

apricots-824626_1280The tree rarely produced much fruit, due to the fact that apricots bloom ridiculously early in the year, and springtime in the northern states is notoriously fickle. But this year was different. The ambitious apricot tree burst into bloom with dainty white and light pink blossoms covering every limb of its twenty foot stature. Providently, the weather was moderate, and tiny apricots began to grow as the tree leafed out around them. Gradually, spring morphed into a hot summer, and by mid-July the tree limbs were drooping from the weight of the fruit. By early August the fruit was ripe. A canning enthusiast, my mother got out her water-bath canner, sterilized her jars, grabbed her laundry basket and started picking apricots.

Twice a day she filled her basket, washed and pitted apricots, packed them into quart jars with some sugar syrup. Then, while the apricots processed in the canner, she sterilized the next set of jars, prepared more syrup and headed back out to pick more apricots. At the end of the day, she would boil down the extra apricots into a batch of jam. (To a child that jam smelled as sweet as candy as it cooked). Once thickened, the hot jam was ladled into up-cycled jars of various sizes and shapes. Then a layer of hot melted paraffin was poured over the jam to “seal” it. While filling our mouths with warm juicy freshly-picked apricots, my siblings and I looked forward to eating home-canned apricot jam on homemade bread.

Mom’s canning routine went on for days until finally the now overly ripe apricots fell off the tree.  She had canned dozens of jars of fruit, nectar and jam and we enjoyed the bounty for several years, taking them with us when we moved.

Throughout the fifty years since the apricot summer, my mother and I have continued to can, but never has there been another neighborhood apricot tree. In fact, around here backyard apricot trees have mostly been cut down and chopped up for firewood. Its as if apricots have become a forgotten fruit.

Curious about the significance of apricots in the American diet, I started doing some research. The earliest record of an apricot tree in the US was in Virginia in 1720 grown from seeds brought over from England, however the fruit was slow to catch on. The west coast was introduced to apricots by Spanish monks coming north from Mexico into what is now California to establish missions. The apricot trees were planted and cultivated in the gardens of these religious settlements.

The Santa Clara Valley, the location of one of the Spanish missions, proved to be an ideal location for growing apricots and other fruits known as drupes (this includes peaches and almonds). The fruit became popular almost immediately. By 1792, California produced its first significant apricot crop. A hundred years later, the annual apricot harvest was close to three million pounds. During the first quarter of the twentieth century, fruit production increased as orchards grew, reaching 24,000 acres of trees producing 160,000 tons of apricots by the late 1920s.

ASSORTED APRICOTS

What in the world did America do with all those apricots? Well, during the twenties, 60 — 75% of California’s apricots were dried (laid on fruit racks by hand out in the sun), 15 — 35% were commercially canned and shipped out for retail, and less than 10% were shipped fresh or consumed locally. At that time, the US was involved in restoration efforts in post-WWI Europe by helping to feed the hungry, so many of California’s dried apricots were exported to Germany. That is, until Hitler came to power and suddenly stopped importing from the US in 1933. This happened as American farmers were  grappling with low demand and even lower prices brought on by the Great Depression. At one point, the US Government stepped in and purchased most of California’s apricots to prevent farmers from just plowing them under because of the extremely low prices. The apricots were distributed this time to feed America’s hungry.

After Japan bombed Pearl Harbor engaging the the United States in WWII, the US government again purchased almost all the dried California apricots to feed the US military and that of its allies. In 1944 and 45 all the California apricots were reserved for the war effort.

Following WWII, interest in apricots began to wane. Orchards in the Santa Clara valley were sold in large parcels to the aeronautics, defense and technology industries, leading to Santa Clara Valley’s “make-over” into Silicon Valley. In 1964 there were still 35,000 acres of apricot orchards in California, but they had dispersed to other areas. Today only about 17,000 acres of apricot trees remain.

In the 1970s, dried apricots had a bit of a resurgence with the popularity of tail mix. Although raisins were the dried fruit most commonly added, many people liked dried apricots in the mix as well. Now days folks make trail mix from any combination of their favorite dried fruits, seeds, nuts, cereals, grains and of course, candy.

APRICOT RECIPE TAGS
Some of my twentieth-century cookbooks. Each orange tag represents a page with at least one apricot recipe.

As I researched my twentieth-century cookbooks, I found that at one time the use of apricots was common and creative with a majority of recipes calling for dried apricots. Only instructions for home canning or jam-making called for fresh apricots. It became evident that during the twentieth century it was common for home cooks to keep a supply of dried apricots, like raisins, on hand for cooking and baking. Never having cooked or baked with dried apricots all these recipes piqued my interest. Over the next several months, I will feature some of these twentieth-century apricot recipes in my blog posts so we can appreciate the creativity of our mothers and grandmothers cooking.

Recently, I enjoyed a walk down memory lane by making a batch of apricot jam. I created a photo collage as I worked. You will notice that I even sealed one of the jars of jam with paraffin like my mother used to do. The others I sealed in my water-bath canner. Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Quiche in America

Quiche in America

“It seems odd that this very special pie, traditional in France, was so long in gaining popularity in America.” ~Craig Claiborne, The New York Times Cook Book 1961

The savory French quiche, made up of eggs and cream baked in a pastry shell has been around for centuries. The Germans have had zwiebelkuchen, their beloved bacon and onion pie for generations. And the Italians have created egg-based fritatas with varieties of meats, vegetables and cheeses for hundreds of years. Even the British serve up cheese and onion pie. Indeed, America has been slow to catch on to savory custard pies.

quiche_003[1]Armed with a stack of twentieth-century cookbooks, I began exploring the evolution of quiche in America. I found quiche-like recipes with generic-sounding names scattered through various sections of the cookbooks. For example, the earliest quiche-like recipe that I found,  had the unassuming name of Cheese Custard Pie printed in The Joy of Cooking 1931 cookbook, located in the “Eggs…Luncheon and Supper Dishes” section. A simple recipe —  it calls for three fourths cup hot scalded top milk (meaning the cream that has risen to the top of un-homogonized milk) in which a cup of grated cheese is melted. Two eggs are then whisked into the cheesy mixture, along with some salt and cayenne pepper. The filling is poured into a 9″ pastry shell, dusted with paprika and baked at 325* for 45 minutes and  is to be served “very hot”.

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Farm Journal’s Country Cookbook 1959

In a cookbook published nearly thirty years later, I discovered a recipe similar to quiche printed in Farm Journal’s 1959 Country Cookbook in the “Milk and Cheese” section — simply called Cheese Pie. The recipe includes shredded Swiss cheese, minced onion, eggs and heavy cream baked in an 8 inch pastry shell at 400* for ten minutes, then reduced to 300* for 40 minutes. It is to be served as an entree.

 

 

With GIs returning home after World War II and establishing homes and families, mid-

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Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book 1953

century America was a time of optimism and increasing prosperity. Entertaining in the home was in vogue, and housewives hosted bridge parties, cocktail parties, and dinner parties, creating an interest in appetizer and hors d’oeuvre recipes. The American Everyday Cookbook 1955 lists Savory Tartlets in the “Appetizers” section. These quiche-like tarts are baked in “half-dollar-size tart pans” lined with pastry and filled with eggs, cream and bacon, and seasoned with salt, pepper and dry mustard.

In the trendsetting, The New York Times Cook Book 1961, the term “quiche” finally appears. Printed in the “Appetizer” section, the cookbook presents recipes for three different types of quiche, prefaced with an explanation of sorts:

“A rich custard with cheese and bacon, it may be served either as an appetizer or a main luncheon dish.”~Craig Claiborne, New York Times Cook Book 1961

The popular Quiche Lorraine,  named for the Lorraine region of France (formerly of Germany), includes salt-pork or bacon for flavor. In The Times’ cookbook, the recipe for Quiche Lorraine calls for eggs, cream, bacon and cheese, suggesting cubed Swiss or Gruyere and Parmesan. Thinly slice onion sauteed in a little bacon fat is included, with salt, pepper and nutmeg for seasoning. The Crabmeat Quiche recipe calls for fresh or canned crabmeat, with celery, onion and parsley to be  combined with the eggs and cream. Bay Scallops Quiche calls for 3/4 pound bay scallops, sauteed onion and celery with the eggs and cream to be seasoned with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Each quiche is baked in a nine-inch pastry shell.

food photography of sliced bacon on top of brown chopping board

In the “Cheese” section of The Good Housekeeping Cookbook 1963, the recipe for Quiche Lorraine calls for twelve slices of bacon (Yum!) and grated Swiss cheese, suggesting that it be served as a luncheon or dinner main dish, or cut into thin slices and served as  “Nibbler” Lorraine.  Quiche Louisiane (not to be mistaken for Quiche Lorraine) omits the bacon and substitutes one cup shelled cooked shrimp tossed with two tablespoons of chili sauce and a dash of Tabasco. A Quiche Manhattan recipe substitutes the bacon for 1 cup cubed ham, Canadian bacon, chopped cooked beef tongue or two tablespoons snipped anchovy fillets. Finally, Good Housekeeping’s Switzerland Cheese-And-Onion Pie is a nod to Germany’s traditional bacon and onion pie and is to be served for “lunch, supper or an evening snack”.

In Mary Meade’s Modern Homemaker Cookbook 1966 in the “Eggs Cheese and Luncheon Dishes” section of the book, I found another recipe for Cheese-and-Onion Pie. Said to be:

“A close relative of the popular Quiche Lorraine, this delicacy makes an excellent luncheon dish”. ~Ruth Ellen Church, Mary Meade’s Modern Homemaker Cookbook 1966

So similar, Quiche Lorraine and Cheese-and-Onion Pie could be twin sisters, with both pies calling for cooked, crumbled bacon, eggs, milk or cream and cheese, seasoned with salt, pepper and nutmeg. The only difference  between the two is the amount of onion called for in each recipe (the Cheese and Onion Pie calls for two full cups of sliced sauteed onions). Ham and Egg Pie covertly placed in the “Meat” section of Mary Meade’s Modern Homemaker Cookbook 1966, presents a cheese-less quiche-like pie made with minced ham to be sliced thin and served as an appetizer.

My Simply Gourmet 1978 cookbook  features a recipe for Spinach Quiche in theIMG_5337 “Vegetables” section. Sometimes called Quiche Florentine — it has become a classic. Two pounds of fresh spinach, blanched, chopped and sauteed with minced scallions in butter is added to the basic egg and cream mixture. A little Gruyere with salt, pepper and nutmeg round out the ingredients. The quiche is baked in a ten-inch pastry-lined dish and served warm.

In spite of its slow start, by the 1970s Americans had fully embraced quiche, creating recipes with a plethora of ingredients from mushrooms, asparagus, tomatoes, bell peppers, broccoli, green beans, zucchini and potatoes along with distinct cheeses including goat cheese and feta.

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Mother’s Day Brunch

Not only did quiche come to light during the twentieth-century, but the concept of brunch became fashionable in America as well. A blend of the words  breakfast and lunch —  brunch has become a light mid-morning to early-afternoon meal associated with the gathering of friends and family, such as  Sunday brunch. Holidays including Easter and Mother’s Day are celebrated over brunch as well, often featuring quiche.

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Jarlsberg Quiche

My Mother’s Day Brunch menu consists of crust-less Jarlsberg Quiche (Jarlsberg is a mild Swiss-like cheese produced in Norway, but is readily available in America), a variety of muffins served along with fruit and yogurt parfaits. Its been our family tradition for years. I have also used this menu when hosting bridal and baby showers. And it works well as a new-mommy meal. Enjoy!

 

Jarlsberg Quiche

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole milk

  • 1-1/4 cup 4% cottage cheese
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp dry mustard
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt

  • 6 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 5 eggs

  • 1/2 lb Jarlsberg cheese, shredded (about 2 cups)
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350* (325* for a glass pan). Lightly spray a 9 inch deep-dish pie plate with cooking spray; set aside.
  2. In a saucepan over medium heat, melt butter; stir in flour until smooth. Whisk in milk and bring mixture to a simmer. Cook and stir for two minutes or until mixture is thick; set white sauce aside to cool for 15 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, combine cottage cheese, baking powder, dry mustard and salt in a small bowl; set aside.
  4. In large bowl, blend cream cheese with an electric mixer until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing with each addition (mixture will be lumpy). Stir in cottage cheese mixture and cooled white sauce.
  5. Fold in shredded Jarlsberg cheese and Parmesan.
  6. Pour mixture into prepared pie dish and bake for 35 — 40 minutes or until a knife inserted halfway between the edge and center of the quiche comes out clean (OR test the center of the quiche with a thermometer for a  desired temperature of 170*).
  7. Allow quiche to set for 15 minutes before serving.

Option: Several strips of bacon can be cooked crisp, crumbled and folded into the quiche mixture with the shredded cheese. Cooked finely diced ham may also be added.

Note: Quiche can be prepared a day in advance. Bake as directed and cool completely. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature or reheat in the oven before serving.

Recipe Compliments of cookbooklady.com

Whipped Cream

Whipped Cream

“Life is SO much better with whipped cream on top.” ~Unknown

close up photo of pumpkin pie with whipped cream
Pumpkin Pie with Whipped Cream

It turns out that Whipped Cream has been around for a long time. Records show that the Italians were whipping cream in the mid-1500s, with the French not too far behind. Evidently cooks used a handful of twigs or thin branches to form a primitive sort of whisk with which to whip the cream. As time went by, wire whisks became the tool of choice. Eventually whisks morphed into rotary beaters, and those beaters evolved into electric mixers. Recently, I read about an innovative family that  puts cream, sugar and vanilla into an air-tight container and lets the children shake their “whipped” cream.

Rich, Aged and Chilled

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The American Woman’s Cook Book 1966

The American Woman’s Cook Book 1966 gives a basic formula for whipped cream success: Rich, Aged and Chilled. Rich refers to the level of butterfat in the cream to be whipped. The higher the fat content, the more stable the whipped cream. Heavy whipping cream, as regulated by the FDA must contain 36 — 40% butterfat. Regular whipping cream contains 30 — 35%.  Light cream comes in at 18 — 30% , and Half and Half contains only 11 — 18%. By comparing the levels of butterfat, it becomes apparent that heavy cream and regular whipping cream are suitable for making whipped cream, whereas, light cream and Half and Half are mainly coffee creamers. (Incidentally, heavy whipping cream is a better option in cooking as well — think of alfredo sauce or scalloped potatoes — as it is less likely to separate or curdle with its high fat content).

The American Woman’s Cook Book 1966 continues to point out:

“Cream must be ‘aged’ [24 hours] to produce lactic acid. The acid thickens the cream”.

Watkins Cook Book 1948 also calls for “day-old” cream for whipping. However, in the twenty-first century, cream is now ULTRA-pasteurized, meaning that dairy products are quickly heated to 280*F (as opposed to traditional pasteurization of 161*F). This higher temperature extends the shelf-life of dairy products, but causes the cream to become more difficult to whip. To offset this, processors add stabilizers to the cream to help make it whip-able again. And unlike the days of family farms and local creameries, the time it takes these days for milk to go from producer to processor to consumer, the cream has already “aged”.

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As far as the chilling goes, everyone knows that the cream must be thoroughly chilled. Nearly all twentieth-century whipped cream recipes suggested chilling the beaters and the bowl as well, warning that the warmer the cream gets the more likely it is to churn to butter. Joy of Cooking 1985 warns home cooks to begin whipping cream on low and to increase the speed only to medium-high as the mixture thickens. Beating cream on HIGH creates friction which warms and softens the butterfat resulting in a softer set. With all this fuss, its no wonder whipped cream from a spray can has become so popular. However, I’m sure most home cooks would agree that a homemade dessert deserves homemade whipped cream.

Stabilization

Home cooks of today want their whipped cream to be soft and billowy, yet sturdy and long lasting. Our twentieth-century grandmothers were no different. While researching, I found several interesting suggestions to extend the life of whipped cream:

cookbook 006Modern Meal Maker 1939 includes a recipe for Whipped Cream Sauce (above) which suggests folding a stiffly beaten egg white into a cup of sweetened whipped cream.

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cookbook 008

Watkins Cook Book 1948 offers two stabilizing suggestions (above). The first recipe says to dissolve a teaspoon of unflavored gelatin in a tablespoon of water and to add it to a pint of whipped cream. The second recipe calls for an eighth teaspoon of Cream of Tartar to be whipped with a cup of cream. These suggestions may seem a little antiquated, but many home cooks of today still use them. A more modern suggestion comes from Cooking from Quilt Country 1989 — a teaspoon of light corn syrup per cup of heavy cream. (My recipe for Whipped Cream, including a “magical” stabilizing ingredient is posted below).

Flavorings

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A lot of things can be said about twentieth-century home cooks — hard working, industrious, dedicated — but creative must top the list. I am amazed with how many different ways cooks elevated humble whipped cream. Sweeteners ran the gamut from powdered sugar to honey, jam, jelly or marmalade, brown sugar, maple syrup, corn syrup and molasses. Recipes included almond extract or flavored liqueurs in the cream. Fresh or frozen fruit purees, orange juice (I must say, adding liquid ingredients to the cream seems risky to me), crushed fresh berries, chopped nuts, including pecans, pistachios, hazelnuts, almonds, toasted coconut or almond paste were all suggested add-ins. Crushed candy, such as nut brittle and mints were listed. Instant coffee, ground cinnamon, nutmeg and chocolate sauce were included as well. The American Woman’s Cook Book 1966 published the most unusual whipped cream recipe of all. Flavored with salt and sprinkled with paprika and finely chopped parsley, it is recommended as a simple garnish for soup. I have never tasted whipped cream flavored with anything but sugar and vanilla. Its obvious that I have been missing out!

What is a Dover

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While doing research for this post, I found instructions for making whipped cream in my grandmother’s The Household Searchlight Recipe Book 1944 that calls for a particular tool that I had never heard of — a “dover”. So I turned to the internet to learn that “Dover” is a brand of cast iron egg beater manufactured by the Dover Stamping Company located in New Hampshire at the turn of the last century. Dover beaters were so popular that they became synonymous with all rotary egg beaters, (similar to “Kleenex” in referring to any brand of facial tissue) and folks just called them “dovers”.   Interestingly, in my collection of vintage kitchen utensils, I found a cast iron egg beater (above). Now I know it is a Dover!

Stabilized Whipped Cream

cookbook 003As promised, I have included my recipe for whipped cream (below) along with the “magical” stabilizing ingredient — mascarpone cheese. In the article above it was mentioned that the higher the fat content the more stable the whipped cream, so by adding additional fat (mascarpone cheese) it stays whipped longer. Fortunately mascarpone has a mild taste so it won’t over-shadow the addition of creative flavorings. This is my go-to recipe every time I make whipped cream, and I also use it for frosting cakes. If refrigerated, the “frosting” will stay fluffy 24 — 48 hours. Enjoy!

Stabilized Whipped Cream

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup mascarpone cheese
  • 2 Tbsp powdered confectioners sugar (or to taste)
  • Speck of salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Chill mixing bowl and beaters in refrigerator for 30 minutes or more.
  2. Place mascarpone cheese in chilled bowl, mix on low  for a few seconds.
  3. Continue mixing on low and gradually add heavy whipping cream. Sprinkle in powdered sugar and salt, increasing speed gradually as mixture thickens. Blend in vanilla extract.
  4. Whip until soft peaks form (at this point it can be used as a topping), or continue whipping until stiff peaks form (to be used as frosting), being careful not to over-mix.

P.S. A couple years ago, I was having guests over for a meal. In a rush, I over-whipped my cream and it started to turn to butter. I didn’t have a Plan B for dessert, so I used it anyway to frost my Banana Poppy Seed Cake. Everyone complimented me on the delicious dessert. Whew! I got lucky.

Recipe Compliments of cookbooklady.com

 

Strawberry Shortcake

Strawberry Shortcake

“The minute the biscuit is taken from the oven, it is slathered with butter, and partially crushed berries are ladled over the hot wedges.” ~Marcia Adams, Cooking from Quilt Country 1989

Picking Strawberries

close up photo of strawberries
Freshly Picked Strawberries

When I was growing up, my family lived not too far from a U-pick strawberry farm. Each year around the first of June, it was tradition to drive the station wagon loaded with shallow boxes to the farm to pick berries at the crack of dawn (strawberries get warm and soft as the day wears on). We would crawl along the rows of strawberry plants filling our buckets and our bellies until we had gathered eight or ten or twelve gallons. We gently emptied the buckets into our boxes, spreading the berries out in a single layer to prevent them from getting mashed. The car smelled of damp earth and warm strawberries as we hurried home to begin our jam making enterprise. For dessert that night there would be Strawberry Shortcake.

My mother was a cake person, as opposed to a sweet biscuit person, so she would bake a large single-layer Hot Milk Cake as the foundation for our Strawberry Shortcake. She would crush and sweeten the berries and whip some cream. It was a fine reward for our hard work. We would eat the jam throughout the year (on homemade bread, I might add), pleased with our efforts.

As fate would have it, I married a man who was a sweet biscuit person, as opposed to a cake person, so I learned how to make sweet biscuits for the foundation of our shortcake. I picked berries each year around the first of June at the same U-pick strawberry farm, spread them out in shallow boxes and brought them home to make jam. For dessert that night I would invite the in-laws over for Strawberry Shortcake, with biscuits, sweetened berries and plenty of whipped cream.

Last year, to change things up, I made a Hot Milk Cake as the foundation for our Strawberry Shortcake. (Sadly the strawberry farmer got old and sold his farm, so I bought my berries from the store). I crushed and sweetened the strawberries and made some whipped cream. When I served dessert, I learned something about myself — I am a sweet biscuit person. (Its important to know these things).

Shortening

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Butter, Lard and Shortening

Shortcake biscuits usually call for shortening so I did some research on this twentieth-century kitchen staple: The production and sale of vegetable shortening began early in the 1900s as a substitute for lard which could not be produced fast enough to meet America’s demand. Butter was also used in baking,  but it couldn’t keep up with the demand either. Thus, prices for lard and butter went higher and higher. Producers of shortening advertised that not only is shortening less expensive, but it also created a better baked product. Shortening was even touted as being as healthful as olive oil. American home cooks were sold.

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For All Shortening and Frying Use COTTOLENE

Interestingly, my oldest twentieth-century cook book, 52 Sunday Dinners 1913, is sponsored by a shortening production company — Cottolene, and it contains a classic recipe for Strawberry Shortcake (below):

 

 

 

 

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Strawberry Shortcake

The shortcake dough is made in typical biscuit fashion, however,  I was interested to discover a “lost” method of creating double-decker biscuits:

“divide the [biscuit] dough into two equal parts, roll each piece [in]to [a round] one-half inch thickness; lay one piece on a buttered jelly cake pan, brush over with soft  butter, and place remaining piece on top. Bake in hot oven”. Voila! Double-decker shortcakes.

For the assembly, the large biscuit is turned out onto a platter, separated, buttered again (gotta love all that butter) and the bottom layer is covered with strawberries. The other biscuit is placed back on top, layered with berries, sprinkled with sugar and “masked” (not sure what masked means) with orange flavored whipped cream. Fancy and delicious!

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Strawberry Mixture — Two Ways

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Sprinkle Strawberries with Sugar

To prepare the strawberries for shortcake, the recipe (above) offers two suggestions. The first starts with washing, hulling and slicing or lightly crushing the berries. They are then sweetened with a simple syrup made from two cups sugar and one-half cup water, boiled together for four minutes. This boiling method is sure to dissolve all the sugar crystals so there is no surprising crunch in the strawberry mixture. The second suggestion is the way I have always done it — sprinkle sugar over prepared berries, stir to combine and let stand for an hour to allow the sugar to thoroughly dissolve.

More Double-Deckers

Still curious about double-decker shortcakes, I wanted to find out if this concept was unique to one particular cookbook, or if they were featured in other cookbooks as well.

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Biscuit Short Cake

In my 1944 The Household Searchlight Recipe Book, the instructions for Biscuit Short Cake (above) say to combine the biscuit ingredients and roll into a quarter-inch thickness. Different from the recipe above, these will be individual double-decker biscuits, as opposed to a full round. The rolled dough is cut with a floured cutter, then half the biscuits are spread with butter and placed on a baking sheet. The other half of the biscuits are placed on top of their buttered partners, brushed with butter themselves, then popped into a hot oven.

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Watkins Cook Book 1948

Inside an old battered copy of the Watkins Cook Book 1948 is a recipe for Strawberry (Biscuit) Shortcake.  This recipe (below) also says to roll the biscuit dough into a quarter-inch thickness and cut into individual shortcakes, stack two together with butter between and bake.

 

 

 

 

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Strawberry (Biscuit) Shortcake

Across the page from Strawberry (Biscuit) Shortcake is a Sponge Cake recipe (below), said to be, “An excellent cake to serve with… strawberries or sliced peaches and whipped cream”. Finally, a nod to the cake-loving people. (By the way, sliced fresh peaches sweetened with a little sugar over cake or rich biscuits makes an excellent shortcake)!

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Sponge Cake

Betty Crocker Picture Cook Book 1950 and Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book  1953 both have recipes for double-decker shortcakes as well. I just don’t know how this method became “lost” as it appears to have been the standard way of making shortcake for some time.

Old-Fashioned

I got a tickle out of the Betty Crocker Cook Book’s 1950 introduction to Strawberry Shortcake:

“The good old-time American dessert…still first choice”

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Old-Fashioned Strawberry Shortcake 1939

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Crescent Creations 1935

Modern Meal Maker 1939, titled its recipe Old-Fashioned Strawberry Shortcake. In a charming 1935 recipe booklet named Crescent Creations, was yet another recipe for  Old-Fashioned Shortcake. If shortcake was old-fashioned in 1935, what would we call it today? Let’s just call it delicious.

Speaking of old-fashioned, in The Searchlight Household Recipe Book 1944, the recipe for Biscuit Short Cake  was found in the Pudding section. Americans haven’t called dessert “pudding” for over 200 years. What were they thinking?!

Versatile and Adaptable

Two great characteristics not only for humans, but also for our ideas and inventions, is the ability to be versatile and adaptable. The concept of Strawberry Shortcake is just that. Start with freshly baked cake or biscuits, adapt the recipe to the fruit in season and a home cook can create a variety of  shortcakes. This concept of versatility was demonstrated throughout my twentieth-century cookbooks.

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Mixed Fruit for Shortcake

I have already touched on Peach Shortcake which was the alternative most frequently mentioned throughout my research. Not surprisingly, many varieties of berries were recommended — raspberries, blackberries and cooked blueberries. A number of fruit combinations were suggested as well: crushed raspberries with diced oranges, sliced bananas with strawberries, rhubarb with pineapple, raspberries with pineapple, and a mixture of cranberries, apple and crushed pineapple.  Finally, the two ideas that seem really unusual were apricot shortcake and applesauce shortcake. Hmmm. Maybe with lots of whipped cream they would be okay.

Thanks for joining me on my shortcake adventure. Below is my mother’s old-fashioned Hot Milk Cake recipe and the recipe that I use for sweet biscuits. This year I’m going to make them double-decker with plenty of butter. Enjoy!

Old-Fashioned Hot Milk Cake

  • Servings: 8-9
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 1 cup cake flour (all-purpose flour will work in a pinch)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • Dash salt

  • 1/2 cup milk, scalded
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350*.
  2. Grease and flour a 9″ round (or square) cake pan or line with parchment paper.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt; set aside.
  4. In a small sauce pan, scald milk. Add butter and vanilla; set aside.
  5. Using an electric mixer, blend eggs until thick and foamy, about three minutes. Continue mixing while gradually adding sugar, about three minutes more.
  6. Add flour mixture  alternately with scalded milk, mixing after each addition.
  7. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 30 — 35 minutes. Allow cake to cool 15 minutes before removing from pan.

Note: This recipe can be doubled and baked in a 9″X13″ or two layer cake pans. If using 9″X13″ pan, increase baking time by several minutes.

Recipe Compliments of cookbooklady.com

Shortcake Biscuits

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt

  • 1/2 cup (1 cube) butter, frozen

  • 1/2 cup half and half cream
  • 1 egg

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 450*.
  2. In a large, bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.
  3. Cut frozen butter into thin slices, add to flour mixture and cut with a pastry cutter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs; set aside.
  4. Measure the half and half cream into a small bowl, add egg and blend with a fork; set aside.
  5. Create a “well” in the center of the flour and butter mixture. Pour cream and egg mixture into the “well”. Stir with a fork until mixture begins to form a ball.
  6. Turn dough onto a lightly floured board and knead 8 — 10 strokes. Roll to a half-inch thickness and cut with a 2-1/2″ — 3″ lightly floured cutter. Place biscuits on an ungreased or parchment lined baking sheet.
  7. Bake biscuits for 10 — 15 minutes at 450* or until golden brown. Remove from oven and brush lightly with melted butter if desired.

Recipe Compliments of cookbooklady.com