Waldorf Salad — 1896

Waldorf Salad — 1896

“A seed hidden in the heart of an apple is an orchard invisible.”

~Welsh Proverb

Oscar PhotographAs a young man of sixteen, Oscar Tschirky immigrated to America from Switzerland with his mother in 1883 to join his older brother in New York City  where they hoped to make a better life. Within a day of his arrival, Oscar landed a job as a busboy in the Hoffman House, an elegant hotel in the city. Five years later he was manager of a dining room in Delmonico’s, the best restaurant in New York, where he refined the skills necessary to become the Matre d’ of the Waldorf Hotel (soon to become the Waldorf-Astoria). Hired before the hotel opened in 1893, he was essential in stocking supplies, hiring staff and developing management systems. Oscar, himself, turned the key on opening day and went on to become the”face” of the Waldorf-Astoria during his fifty-year career. Ironically, beloved by heads-of-state, Hollywood types and business tycoons, Oscar’s lasting claim to fame was the Waldorf salad. 

Waldorf Cookbook coverThough not a chef, just three years after the opening of the Waldorf, Oscar published a 900-page cookbook titled The Cook Book by “Oscar” of the Waldorf  1896 which includes a now-ubiquitous recipe for Waldorf Salad. Calling for three simple ingredients, apples, celery and a good mayonnaise (recipe below), it seems much too humble for the glitz and glamour of New York high society, but the salad had had a victorious debut at a gala event planned and overseen by Oscar coinciding with the opening of the hotel.  

Waldorf Salad

Coming upon a copy of Oscar’s original Waldorf Salad recipe (above), I was disappointed that no particular variety of apple was suggested. It would be interesting to experience the exact flavor profile of the original.

Also being curious about the adaptation of the recipe over the past one hundred years, I researched nearly two dozen twentieth-century cookbooks. Interestingly I found that most of them contained a recipe for Waldorf Salad, many very similar to the original version, with some specifying red-skinned apples. The only twentieth-century cookbook, Cooking In Quilt Country 1989, that mentions using a particular variety of apple calls for Jonathan or McIntosh. Either apple may well have been the variety that Oscar used as they both grew prolifically in New York state at that time. Perhaps part of the charm and longevity of this recipe is that the home cook can personalize it simply by the variety of apple he or she uses.

Chopped Nuts

One of the earliest adaptations of Waldorf Salad is the addition of chopped nuts — walnuts usually, but also pecans as mentioned in The Joy of Cooking 1931 by Irma Rombauer. Curiously, her recipe is one of the few that suggest peeling the apples before chopping. The Waldorf Salad recipe found in The Household Searchlight Recipe Book 1944 (below) stays true to Oscar’s original recipe except for the now classic addition of chopped nuts:

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What’s In the Dressing

Another common adaptation to Waldorf Salad is the dressing, especially early in the century when commercial mayonnaise was in its infancy. Martha Meade’s Modern Meal Maker 1939 contains a recipe-ette called Apple and Celery Salad, but its confusing. How is the one cup shredded lettuce intended to be used — mixed in with the salad or as the lettuce cups — Hmmm. The Golden Dressing is the intriguing part of this recipe (below). Its fussy, but maybe not as fussy as homemade mayonnaise. And it sounds delish (recipe below).

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Mary Meade’s Modern Homemaker Cookbook 1966 suggests adding whipped cream to the mayonnaise dressing. She also suggest using unpared red-skinned apples (recipe below):

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Before salad dressings were readily available in grocery stores, cooks made them at home so older recipes frequently call for a “cooked” or “boiled” dressing. A recipe for Waldorf Salad (below) printed in General Foods Cook Book 1932 containing apples, celery and nuts calls for Cooked Salad Dressing made of thickened mustard, sugar, egg yolks, vinegar and milk — sweet or sour:

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A curious dressing for Waldorf Salad comes from a recipe found in The American Woman’s Cook Book 1966 which calls for a French vinaigrette to dress the apples, celery and walnuts. The salad is served on lettuce leaves and topped with a dollop of mayonnaise. 

Adding Variety

Mid-century home cooks began expressing their creativity by including additional fruits in their Waldorf Salad. The Good Housekeeping Cookbook 1963 is a perfect example of this. The recipe titled Pear Waldorf Salad (recipe below) suggests substituting fresh peeled and diced pears in place of apples in an otherwise typical Waldorf Salad. Being intrigued by this recipe and canning pears at the time, I decided to give it a try. It was delicious! Bartlett pears, however, are softer and juicier than apples causing the salad to break down quickly. If I were to make it again, I would follow the recipe’s alternate suggestion of using half apples and half pears. Notice the other inclusions in Pear Waldorf Salad — fresh, frozen, or canned pineapple, banana cubes (a strange term) or one cup sectioned oranges, and one cup grapes. The final adaptation of this recipe takes us full circle to the classic Waldorf Salad with unpared red apples, chopped celery, and walnuts tossed with a mayonnaise dressing and embellished with a half cup of raisins.

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The final Waldorf Salad entry is a recipe found in Farm Journal’s Busy Woman’s Cookbook 1971 titled Waldorf Variation Salad — an appropriate title for nearly all twentieth-century Waldorf Salad recipes. It takes a citrus-y spin with frozen lemonade concentrate as the dressing (recipe below):

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My Waldorf Salad recipe is fairly traditional, calling for apples, celery, and chopped pecans with a mayonnaise dressing sweetened with a little honey. Sometimes I add a handful of raisins or dried cranberries for flavor and texture. It is a delightfully crisp Autumn salad that is a nice addition to a salad bar or as a side dish. The variety of apple that I often use is Honeycrisp because of its thin, tender red skin. Older varieties such as sweet-tart Jonathon or McIntosh are also tasty choices. For a lighter version of the dressing, a thick plain Greek yogurt can be used in place of the mayo, but the salad will be missing its wonderful piquant flavor. Enjoy!

Waldorf Salad

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 3–4 large red-skinned apples
  • Juice from a half lemon OR a sprinkling of Fruit Fresh
  • 1 cup finely chopped celery

  • 1/2–3/4 cup mayonnaise or plain Greek yogurt
  • 1–2 Tbsp honey (adjust to your taste)

  • 1/2 cup chopped toasted pecans
  • 1/4 cup raisins or dried cranberries (optional)

Directions

  1. Dice apples and sprinkle with lemon juice or Fruit Fresh; set aside. Finely chop celery and mix with apples in a large bowl.
  2. In a small bowl, blend honey with mayonnaise or Greek yogurt. Drizzle dressing over apples and celery; toss to coat.
  3. Fold in chopped pecans, reserving some for garnish, add raisins or dried cranberries if desired.
  4. Chill until ready to serve.

Note: Yogurt dressing begins to break down quickly so plan to serve the salad no more than an hour after preparing. The mayonnaise dressing is more stable.

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!