Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Candles for the Cake.

Today is …. Hallowe’en.  Today is also …. the seventh birthday of The Old Foodie.  I suspect that on the global scene the former event will eclipse the latter, but I am proud to share my day with any friendly witches, hobgoblins, ghosts and other spooky things of the night.

Fire in all its forms has been since ancient times a traditional method of both keeping scary or evil influences at bay, and of celebrating good and happy times. Everyone , and they certainly elevate any celebration to an entirely special level.

So, when and where did the tradition of candles on the birthday cake begin? The consensus seems to be that it began in Germany or Switzerland. The first known written reference to them that I know of is in the account of the birthday in May, 1747 of Count Nikolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf und Pottendorf, bishop of the Moravian Church,

“ … the Count's birthday falling in May … there was a Cake as large as any Oven could be found to bake it, and Holes made in the Cake according to the Years of the Person’s Age, every one having a Candle stuck into it, and one in the Middle; the Outside of the Court was adorned with Festoons and foliage …”

It seems to have taken over a hundred years for candles on the cake to become standard birthday fare in the English-speaking world. Here is an article from a late nineteenth century Australian newspaper which suggests the concept was still somewhat of a novelty at the time.

A Birthday Suggestion.
There is a quaint custom in vogue for children's birthday parties which might with advantage be more generally known. The birthday cake – which is a very elaborate erection duly iced, and with the child's name and date engraved thereon in sugar – is placed in the centre of the table and surrounded with lighted candles, the number corresponding to the age of the child. Much merriment is caused by the efforts of the guests to count these candles: if they have reached the “teens” the number of twinkling light is quite dazzling, and the child feels great with the importance of an added candle at each recurrence of its birthday party. To be quite correct, the mother should withdraw the candle that represents the year just begun before it is extinguished, put it out herself, and keep it, to be burned out the next year.
The Warwick Argus, (St. Lucia, Qld) March 6, 1897

Note that in this particular example the cake is surrounded by candles, they are not on the cake itself, although this was certainly an option at the time. Note also the addition of an ‘extra’ candle representing the upcoming year, which is removed and kept until the following birthday. This is a lovely idea, I think, although no longer in vogue. Perhaps it is worthy of revival?

As the recipe for the day, I give you a party favourite suitable for celebrating Hallowe’en or The Old Foodie birthday.

Red Toffee Apples.
1 lb sugar
½ pint cold water
2 tblspn. Vinegar
12 small red eating apples
[red colouring]
Put sugar, water, and vinegar in saucepan. Heat slowly to boiling-point, making sure sugar is dissolved before it boils. Quickly wipe sides of saucepan free of any undissolved sugar. Boil to 310 degrees F, or hard-crack stage (If you haven’t a thermometer, the syrup should be golden-brown, and a little dropped in cold water will form a hard ball that cracks.) Remove from heat, stand saucepan in another of hot water to keep toffee from setting. Colour quickly. Dip in skewered apples, then place to dry on greased tin.
Sydney Morning Herald, October 25, 1951

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Condensed Ration.

I am intrigued by the idea that, in the relatively recent past, it was possible to patent a recipe. In a previous blog post I gave the details of a patent for tomato soup. Today I want to share another find with you. It is essentially for a type of condensed complete meal – an idea which should resonate with those of you who are military history re-enactors and camping enthusiasts, as well as those who enjoyed the previous story ‘A Condensed Breakfast, and Useful Hints for Bachelors.’

Condensed Ration and Method of Making Same.
Louis Osborne Ferson, of Chicago.
Letters Patent No. 665, 416 dated January 8, 1901

My object in this invention is to provide a superior and palatable article of food in condensed form and specially adapted to be used by soldiers in the file, by seamen, by travelers, and by others in cases where it is desirable that the food should be reduced both in bulk and weight to minimum to render it easy to carry or transport.
The invention consists in the improved article produced by the process hereinafter set forth – to wit, pork and beans combined, compressed, and baked, and the method of preparing the same.
In the preparation of my improved article of food I proceed substantially as follows:
After thoroughly washing the beans and removing all foreign substances mixed with them I soak them for twelve hours in cold water, and at the conclusion of the soaking, rinse them again. Then I put them into a kettle with the pork, first scoring the rind of the pork. If the beans measure one quart, the pork should weigh one pound, and six quarts of water should be put in the kettle with them. The kettle is then heated slowly for half an hour, after which the contents are poured into a colander and strained, after which I put them in an earthen pot, placing the pork in the center of the mass. I now mix salt one table-spoonful, soda one teaspoonful, and mustard one teaspoonful, with one quart of boiling water and pour the mixture into the pot with the beans and pork. If the beans are not completely covered, add more water. The pot is now covered and the contents cooked slowly for ten hours, adding hot water from time to time as required. I next pour the contents of the pot into a shallow pan and subject them to moderate heat until quite dry, and then crush or beat them to a smooth paste, and add for each quart of paste four ounces of wheat flour and four ounces of water, mixing them thoroughly, so as to carry the flour through the mass. Other kinds of flour may be substituted for the wheat, if desired, but I prefer to use the wheat-flour. The paste, with its admixture of flour, is then rolled out and subjected to severe pressure, sufficient to reduce the bulk of the mass, say, four-fifths or five-fifths, thereby thoroughly incorporating the fat of the pork with the beans. The compressed material is then cut into smooth squares, cubes, or other shape desired, placed in shallow pans, brushed lightly with melted butter or lard in order to glaze the top surface, and baked in a moderately-heated oven unti l a rich brown colour is obtained. The product is then ready for consumption, and may be eaten as a biscuit or dissolved in a small quantity of hot water and converted into a purée or soup, the proportion of water being regulated by the consistency desired.
The advantages attending my invention are manifold. The product contains in correct proportions all necessary food elements—such as proteids, carbohydrates, fats, salts, and extractives—and presents them in simple form, with minimum of waste, and the process of preparation reduces them to a condition in which they are highly digestible and capable of prompt assimilation. As is well known, the beans contain a large proportion of nitrogenous, as well as starchy, material, and the addition of the pork and seasoning supplies the other essential nutritive elements. The repeated soaking and slow process of cooking employed by me dissolves the tough envelop of the bean and liberates the nitrogenous and starchy materials, and the pulverizing reduces them to a condition which admits of ready absorption. The addition of the pork raises the percentage of fat and increases the digestibility. The swelling starch granules released by the cooking mingle with and absorb the melted fat during the cooking, and the fat tissues are forcibly incorporated with the starchy parts by the pressure. The product not only thus contains a large amount of available nutriment, but is so condensed that it is easily carried by the tourist, miner, or soldier and is well adapted for use as an army ration. It will keep for a long time without being protected from the air; but if inclosed in hermetically-sealed packages it may be kept an indefinite period in any climate. It provides the consumer within itself all the elements of a complete meal— viz., soup, vegetable, and meat. It will be understood that I do not wish to be limited to every detail of the process set forth, but that the essential steps of the process are those set forth in the claims. It will also be understood that I do not wish to be limited to the periods specified for the various operations set forth, nor to the use of the particular seasoning materials specified, nor to the glazing of the cakes. I claim—
1. The process of preparing compressed and baked pork and beans consisting in soaking the beans in cold water, boiling the beans with the pork and seasoning, then drying them, then beating or crushing them to a paste, then adding flour and water, then severely compressing the combined materials, then reducing them to form in cakes, and then baking, substantially as described.
2. The process of preparing compressed baked and seasoned pork and beans, consist- 25 ing in reducing the boiled beans and pork to a paste, then mixing flour in the paste, then compressing the mixture, and then baking, substantially as specified.
3. The improved condensed ration consisting of a compressed, coherent, baked cake or biscuit, composed of a homogeneous mixture of cooked pork and beans with flour, as set forth.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Pumpkin Wine, Grown on the Vine.

I hope you are working up a Halloween thirst, as I have some ideas for you. Last week we had appleade and Witches brew,  but I am thinking something a little more potent is needed to ward off all those ghosts and goblins.
How about the following interesting idea:

Sir, - Remembering what magnificent pumpkins used to be grown in Central Queensland, way back in the eighty’s, I presume they are still grown on every station up there, and wishing to cheer the inland hard-working classes, including the owners, managers, and overseers, I venture to send you some information taken from the “Morning Post”, August 17th, in their New York cables. A growing pumpkin is tapped and sugar dropped in and the plug replaced tightly. Nature does the rest, and it keeps growing and at length produces a pumpkin wind of rare excellence and flavour – a stronger wine than the pre-war beverage. Now, this is something to learn, and I am sure will be welcome to the thirsty souls in Central Queensland.
Yours faithfully, Frank N. Snodgrass, 420 Burke-street, Melbourne.
The Western Champion (Barcaldine, Queensland) September 3, 1927.

A recipe for Pompion Ale from 1771 keeps on popping up on the Internet, and to be honest, I thought it was urban myth, but on checking, it is indeed in the archives of the American Philosophical Society.

Receipt for Pompion Ale.
Let the Pompion be beaten in a Trough and pressed as Apples. The expressed Juice is to be boiled in a Copper a considerable Time and carefully skimmed that there be no remains of the fibrous Part of the Pulp. After that Intention is answered, let the Liquor be hopped cooled fermented &c as Malt Beer.

If neither of these recipes suit your impending thirst – and, in truth, there is not time now to prepare them – perhaps a nice cider punch will do the trick.

Witches Brew.
3 quarts cider
1 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon whole cloves or allspice
8 sticks cinnamon
½ cup lemon juice
1 quart orange juice
1 quart ginger ale
1.Boil together five minutes one quart cider, sugar and spice, stirring till sugar is dissolved. Cool and strain.
2.Add lemon and orange juice and chill.
3. Pour over ice in a hollowed-out pumpkin or punch bowl, and add ginger ale just before serving.
Yield: about four and a half quarts
New York Times, 26 October, 1951

Friday, October 26, 2012

Queen Victoria’s Hallowe’en, 1879

The Morning Post (London, England) of November 4, 1879 described the show put on for the royal family at Halloween a few nights earlier.

Last Friday night the old Scottish festival of Hallowe’en was celebrated at Balmoral with more than usual display. The preparation for its observance had been going on for days beforehand, and the result was a spectacle that for weird effect has seldom been witnessed in the Highlands. Her Majesty, Princess Beatrice, and the members of the Court remained out of doors the whole time the demonstration lasted, and almost as soon as the sports closed, the weather changed and became bitterly cold, with heavy showers of rain and snow. Just as darkness set in a procession, numbering over 300 torches, paraded the lawn in front of Castle-hill, meeting another large number of torch-beareres approaching from the west. Both bands united, and all turned back and marched to a huge pile of wood and other combustible material which had been stacked in front of the Castle. Lights were applied, and the monster bonfire was soon blazing furiously. Presently a band of quaintly-dressed figures was seen coming from the royal stables. They were dressed in white robes, with masks, like hobgoblins, and were preceded by a band of pipers. In the centre were four figures more grotesquely dressed than the others. They carried a large fir tree instead of the banners which were borne by the rest. Then followed a masquer dressed in robes of office to represent the sheriff. Behind him came a car drawn by a fierce looking dragon, and seated in the car was an effigy of the witch whose trial was about to take place. The car having been drawn several times round the bonfire, a court was held to decide as to the punishment the witch should receive on the charge of witchcraft. It was decided by the court that penalty should be death by burning. Sentence of death was then passed by the sheriff, and the effigy was dragged from the care and tossed into the flames amid the shrieks and howls of the assembled demons. The preconcerted escape of one of the witches into the woods and a hunt with torches, rockets, and separs, which followed, were the cause of intense amusement to the large crowd of spectators, and when the Royal party appeared, they seemed not the least interested and delighted. Refreshments were served to all and sundry. The scene was very effective, and will be long remembered on Deeside by those who saw it. The number of persons present is estimated at over 500. Next day a snowstorm set in with much severity, and by night the ground was covered to a depth of several inches.

The reporter was clearly very enthralled by the event, but also just as clearly assumed that his readers would not have been interested in the exact nature of the refreshments served. I feel reasonably confident that gingerbread would have been amongst them, however, as it is very much a tradition in the north at Halloween. Hence, I give you a very delicious-sounding recipe for what we would probably call gingersnaps today, from an old Scottish cookery book.

Honeycomb Gingerbread.
Half a pound of flour, half a pound of the coarsest brown sugar, a quarter of a pound of butter, one dessertspoonful of allspice, and double that quantity of ginger, half the peel of a lemon grated, and the whole of the juice. Mix all these ingredients together, adding about half a pound of treacle, so as to make a paste sufficiently thin to spread upon sheet tins. Beat it well, butter the tins, and spread the paste very thinly over them. Bake it in rather a slow oven, and watch it till it is done; withdraw the tins, cut it in squares with a knife, the usual size of wafer biscuits, and roll each round the fingers as it is raised from the tin. This paste, put into a jar, and covered closely, will keep for a month; but the biscuits will be found best when newly baked.
The Practice of Cookery, Adapted to the Business of Every Day Life, (1830) by Mrs. Dalgairns.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Theme it Orange.

If you like the idea of an orange-themed luncheon for Halloween, here are some ideas on how to do it, from the Washington  Post of October 23, 1928.

To Help the Homemaker.
Halloween Suggestions Include Decorations for Table – Pumpkin Used,
Hollowed Out and Filled with Fruit or Candle.

(Featuring Pumpkin Color)
Chilled Diced Oranges and Apricots
Chicken Croquettes
                Mashed Sweet Potatoes
                Buttered Peas
Egg Rolls               Peach Conserve
Carrot and Celery Salad    Cheesed Wafers
Mint Sherbert       Orange Drop Cakes

Make individual sweet potato “pumpkins” by shaping 3 inch balls of the mashed potatoes. Place on a greased baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes. Insert small green stems. The peas may be served around the “pumpkins,” carrying out the green and orange colors of Halloween.
Tiny paper pumpkins pasted on tooth picks and inserted in the salads give a pretty effect.
Bake the orange cakes in deep muffin pans and frost all over with white frosting. Mark features on the top with a small stick dipped in melted chocolate.

Chilled Diced Oranges and Apricots, for Eight.
(This may be served in glasses, with mint leaves.)
1 cup diced canned apricots
2 cups diced, peeled oranges
1 ½ cups water or fruit juice
¼ cup lemon juice
½ cup sugar.
Mix the water, lemon juice, and sugar and boil for 2 minutes. Cool and add the rest of the ingredients. Chill and serve in pumpkin colored crepe paper cups.

Carrot and Celery Salad, for Eight.
Two cups diced cooked carrots, 1 cup diced celery, 2 hard cooked eggs, diced; ¼ cup chopped sweet pickles, 1 tablespoon finely chopped onion, 1 teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon paprika, 1 cup stiff mayonnaise.
Mix half the mayonnaise with the rest of the ingredients. Chill. Serve in cups of crisp lettuce leaves and top with the remaining mayonnaise.

Table Decoration Suggestions.
A large pumpkin hollowed out and filled with fruit.
A hollowed out pumpkin filled with popcorn balls.
A lighted Jack o’Lantern may be used for the center of the tables and low candles may be grouped about on the table.
Small pumpkins, fashioned into lanterns, may be used for place cards at each place. The name cards may be nestled in some corn stalks and candy corn may be sprinkled about the table cloth.
Candy pumpkins may be made from fondant, which has been colored orange and shaped like pumpkins. The ridges on the sides may be made by using the dull edge of a knife. Insert a small bit of green for the stem.
Cheese pumpkins may be made from yellow cream cheese by mixing a little paprika with the cheese to give the “pumpkin color.” Mold into pumpkin shapes 1 ½ inches in diameter. A small piece of parsley stalk may be inserted for the “stem.”