Friday, May 31, 2013

Wartime Potato Cakes.

There was a short exchange of letters on the subject of potato cakes in The Times (of London) in September 1917.  Due to the exigencies of war, wheat - and therefore also flour and bread – were expensive and substitutes were eagerly sought.

On September 6, the following Letter to the Editor was published.

Sir, - Owing to flour’s being dearer than potatoes, potato cakes would be very appetizing at breakfast or tea. To make them take 1 lb. of well-mashed potatoes, add pepper and salt according to taste, also some butter (about the size of a walnut); then add an egg, but milk is used for economical purposes. Form them into small rounds and bake to a golden brown, and then they will be found to be excellent.
Yours faithfully, S. Lisle-Simpson,
Compton, Milford-on-Sea, Hants., Sept. 3

Another reader responded a few days later.

Sir, - I read with interest the recipe for potato cakes in The Times of September 6. May I send a very well-known Irish recipe which is a bit different?
Take ¾ lb. of potatoes previously boiled in their skins, and rub through a sieve. Add 2 oz. of flour, some salt, and a teaspoonful of butter; mix together with a yolk of an egg or milk. Make them into rounds and fry till a golden brown. They are excellent served hot. These cakes are very common in Ireland, where they are made every dat.
Yours faithfully.
A Thrifty Colleen.

And here is a very interesting flavour variation of the same basic concept, also from the WW I period, but this time from an American newspaper (Boston Daily Globe of September 1918.)

Dear Readers—I send you a recipe for Irish potato cakes which my mother makes. They are eaten as fast as she cooks them. Can use left-over potatoes. Mash, season with salt, add caraway seeds to taste, pinch of soda, sweet or sour milk, flour enough to roll out. Roll about H inch thick, cut to advantage, fry on hot griddle; butter and eat hot.
Mrs P. U.

And finally, a more substantial version, from the Lowell Sun of October 24, 1914.

Corned Beef and Potato Cakes.  Mix two cups of cold chopped corned beef with two cups of hot mashed potato, a tablespoon of milk, and one egg. Form into small flat cakes and brown on both sides in hot butter.

I still haven’t met a potato I didn’t like. How about you?

Thursday, May 30, 2013

More Excellent Coffee Recipes.

Yesterday we considered (and critiqued) the instructions on “how to make good coffee” and also “vanilla coffee” which appeared in the Decatur Review of  August 21, 1898. Assuming you have now learned the technique, it is time to look at ways of using the delicious beverage as an ingredient, as suggested in the same article.

A NOTE: I do not recommend that you dip your finger into the hot caramel under any circumstances, as suggested in the following recipe! Place a bit of it onto a chilled plate, perhaps, and chill it briefly, then test it.

Coffee Bonbons.
To a pint of ordinary coffee, made with water, add one pound of loaf sugar. Set it on the fire and let it boil to a high degree; then very carefully add one pint of thick double cream. Set it on the fire to boil again, stirring it constantly until it comes to a caramel consistency. Take a basin of cold water in one hand, dip your finger into the water then into the caramel, and if the sugar breaks clear between the teeth it is done and ready to be poured onto a buttered plate, which should be standing ready. Then rub a rolling pin with butter and roll the caramel out, cutting it while it is warm into small dice or squares.

The next recipe is not what the title suggests to modern ears. It may not be acceptable to some of you who fear raw eggs.

Coffee Sponge.
Make a very strong infusion with one-quarter pound ground coffee and pass it through a fine muslin bag. Then dissolve three-quarters of a pound of sugar in one pint of double cream, add to it the yolks of six eggs, then put in the coffee and whisk it until it has the consistency of lemon sponge and may be piled up on a dish. A little isinglass may be mixed with the cream if it will not whisk stiff enough.

Coffee Wafers.
Mix one tablespoonful of ground coffee with one quarter pound sugar and one quarter pound flour, sift them well together and then mix them with as much good cream as will make a thick batter. Then rub over the wafer iron with a little butter tied up in a muslin bag. Put in a spoonful of the butter and bake over a smart fire, turning the iron once or twice until the wafer is done on both sides to a fine brown color.

Coffee Tartlets.

Have ready two cupfuls of good strong coffee, sweeten to taste, then mix in a little flour and about half a cup of cream, together with the yolks of three well beaten eggs. Boil this for 30 minutes and keep stirring continually; then pour into patty pans lined with good puff paste and bake in a quick oven. When done, beat up the whites of the eggs and put the froth on the top of each tartlet.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

"Some Excellent Coffee Recipes"

“Almost everyone likes coffee and is glad to hear of good coffee recipes” said the Decatur Review on Sunday morning, August 21, 1898. I doubt too many of the newspaper’s readers, or the readers of this blog would disagree with that statement. The newspaper went on to give “Some Excellent Coffee Recipes” including coffee bonbons, coffee wafers, tarts and sponges, but first of all, it gave instructions for the starting point – “a good cup of coffee.” I doubt that those of you who are serious coffee-lovers, familiar with the beverage produced by a modern machine with a skilled barrista in charge, will think much of the advice, but here goes:

Fill a coffeepot three-quarters full of boiling water, and put in the coffee carefully, a spoonful at a time, stirring it thoroughly between each spoonful; then set it on to boil gently, still stirring to force it into combination with the water. After a few minutes draw it to one side, and let it continue gently boiling for one hour; then draw it off the fire, but as it finally boils up, throw in about half a cupful of cold water to let it settle, which it should be allowed to do as far from the fire as possible. In about one hour or less, the coffee should be quite clear. Then pour it off into another coffeepot, taking care not to disturb the sediment.
Coffee made in this manner may be kept three days in summer and longer in winter and is always conveniently ready when wanted, as it only has to be heated in the coffeepot, and is ready for use.

There you are: a good boiling for an hour, then another good heating up again (and again and again, for up to three days, perhaps?) after the hour of settling the sediment. Alas! You do need two coffee pots. But think of the convenience of several days’ supply of the beverage!

The next recipe in the article was for “Vanilla Coffee” - without the vanilla. Considering the cost of vanilla beans, it could (I am not saying should) be tried.

Vanilla Coffee. Boil a cupful of oats in soft water for five or six minutes. Throw the water away; then fill it up again with the same quantity of water and let it boil for 30 minutes. After that strain it through fine muslin or silk and use the water for making coffee. It will then have the most delicious flavor of vanilla.

 Who knew? Oats can give the flavor of vanilla at a fraction of the price! Of course, you do also have a muslin or silk cloth to wash at the end of this process, but is this a reasonable price to pay for the convenience of a pile of cooked porridge oats for breakfast?

Tell me, is this advice going to change your coffee-making practice?

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Extreme Kitchen DIY: Cornflakes.

John Harvey Kellogg, of Battle Creek, Michigan, was granted Patent No. 558,393 on April 14, 1896, for “Flaked Cereals and Process of Preparing Same.” He described the end product of his process in the documents:

The improved cooked alimentary product, from grain such as wheat, hereinbefore described, which exists in the form of large, attenuated, baked, crisp and slightly brown flakes of practically uniform thickness, the same being readily soluble and containing dextrin, as specified.

Kellogg’s Cornflakes were born.

If you want to make your own cornflakes, the instructions are right there, in the patent application. Of course, you would need some heavy duty rollers if you wanted to get the flakes really thin, but there are always some compromises (but not necessarily deficiencies) with DIY, aren’t there?.

Kellogg says in the patent specifications:

In carrying out my invention I use as a material from which to produce my improved alimentary product wheat, which is preferably in its natural state, although it may be slightly pearled without materially affecting the desired result, barley or oats prepared by the removing of a portion of the outer husks, corn, and other grains.
The steps of the process are as hereinafter described.
First. Soak the grain for some hours - say eight to twelve - in water at a temperature which is either between 40° and 60° Fahrenheit or 110° and 140° Fahrenheit, thus securing a preliminary digestion by aid of cerealin, a starch-digesting organic ferment contained in the hull of the grain or just beneath it. The temperature must be either so low or so high as to prevent actual fermentation while promoting the activity of the ferment. This digestion adds to the sweetness and flavor of the product.
Second. Cook the grain thoroughly. For this purpose it should be boiled in water for about an hour, and if steamed a longer time will be required. My process is distinctive in this step - that is to say, that the cooking is carried to the stage when all the starch is hydrated. If not thus thoroughly cooked, the product is unfit for digestion and practically worthless for immediate consumption.
Third. After steaming the grain is cooled and partially dried, then passed through cold rollers, from which it is removed by means of carefully-adjusted scrapers. The purpose of this process of rolling is to flatten the grain into extremely thin flakes in the shape of translucent films, whereby the bran covering (or the cellulose portions thereof) is disintegrated or broken into small particles, and the constituents of the grain are made readily accessible to the cooking process to which it is to be subsequently subjected and to the action of the digestive fluids when eaten.
Fourth. After rolling the compressed grain or flakes having been received upon suitable trays is subjected to a steaming process, whereby it is thoroughly cooked and is then [Fifth] baked or roasted in an oven until dry and crisp.
The finished product thus consists of extremely thin flakes, in which the bran (or the cellulose portions thereof) is disintegrated and which have been thoroughly cooked and prepared for the digestive processes by digestion, thorough cooking, steaming, and roasting. In this respect it differs from any similar alimentary article which has been heretofore produced.

I am now most interested to know when cornflakes became an ingredient in biscuits (by which I mean cookies, for those of you who use the “other” form of the English language.)  I have not made a thorough search for the earliest use, that would take some time, but the following recipe is interesting in that it was given as wheat-saving recipe in World War I.

Cornflake Cookies.
2 eggs; 1 cup sugar; 4 cups corn flakes; 1 cup nut meats; ¼ teaspoon salt; flavor with nutmeg.
Drop from end of a teaspoon on baking sheet; bake in a quick oven.

Attica Daily Ledger April 20, 1918

Monday, May 27, 2013

A Fish Dinner in 1522.

The Corporation of the City of York, England,  invited Lord Boos, the warden of the East Marches, to a fish dinner at the ‘Pyke Garths’ in the year of 1522. A garth was a small piece of enclosed ground, and a fish-garth was a garth or enclosure on a river or the seashore for keeping fish. The dinner guests certainly reaped the benefit of the fish-farming in York at the time, if we are to judge from the record of the bill of fare.

Six pikes
2 Trenches

2 Turbot


1 Bret

2 Keelyngs

5 Lings




3 lbs of Almonds,
2 lbs of Rice



Cooks services

Servants for fetching and carrying


Some of the fish are a bit of a puzzle. Trenches are presumably tenches. Bret is said to be either brill or turbot. Keelyngs – I have no idea, so if you do, please let us know.

Here are some general cooking instructions for fish, from A Proper newe Booke of Cokerye, published in the mid-sixteenth century.

A Pyke sauce for a Pyke, Breme, Perche, Roche, Carpe, Eles, Floykes and al maner of brouke fyshe.

Take a posye of Rosemary and time and bynde them together, and put in also a quantitye of perselye not bounde, and put into the caudron of water, salte and yeste, and the herbes, and lette them boyle a pretye whyle, then putte in the fysshe and a good quantitye of butter, and let them boyle a good season, and you shall have good Pyke sauce.

For all those fysshes above written yf they muste bee broyled, take sauce for them, butter, peepper and veneger and boyle it upon a chafyngdyshe and then laye the broyled fyshe uppon the dysche; but for Eeles and freshe Salmon nothing but Pepper and vyneger over boyled. And also yf you wyll frye them, you muste take a good quantitie of persely, after the fyshe is fryed, put in the persely into the fryinge panne, and let it frye in the butter and take it up and put it on the fryed fyshe, and frye place, whyttinge and suche other fyshe, excepte Eles, freshe Salmon, Conger, which be never fryed but baken, boyled, roosted or sodden.

Friday, May 24, 2013

An Empire Day Dinner.

May 24 was, in the last decades of the era when the globe was patched with pink bits, called Empire Day. On this day, citizens of the British Empire, wherever they may have been, and wherever they may have been born, took pause from their labours or their official duties to celebrate. In the 1930’s a last effort was made to ward off the end, and to stimulate Britain’s economy and pride, by the establishment of the Empire Day and the Empire Marketing Board.

The furthest reach of the British Empire was of course, its old penal colony, Australia. The Examiner (Launceston, Tasmania) May 21, 1932 included the following advice on celebrating the day.

To enable Tasmania[n] women to comply with a request issued by Lady Isaacs and Mrs. J.A. Lyons, that on Empire Day … Empire products only shall be served for meals, a special Empire dinner menu has been compiled. In order that it will be suitable for Empire Day celebrations, the menu includes five courses. A selection of dishes can be made for private use. All the ingredients mentioned can be obtained within the Empire, the majority of them being produced in Australia.

Soup Maigre    Ox Tail Soup
Crayfish Cutlets                       Baked Barracouta
Oyster Patties               Mutton Cutlets
Roast Duck                  Roast Beef
Boiled Ham                 Casserole of Mutton
Cauliflower with White Sauce
Creme of Carrots
Baked and Boiled Potatoes
Empire Pudding,                      Apple Pie
and Wine Sauce                       Banana Chartreuse.

This is an interesting menu which says a great deal about the Australian national sentiments in the 1930’s. We would hardly call this an “Australian” menu today - it is clearly a British menu transplanted to Australia! The ingredients may well have been sourced here, but they are British to the core.

The newspaper article included recipes for the dishes. My choice is for the Banana Chartreuse, because bananas – though very popular in Britain then as now, do not grow there, but they are an important industry in Queensland and northern New South Wales.

Banana Chartreuse.

Four bananas, one gill cream, two pint packets of jelly crystals, vanilla, three-quarters of a pint milk, two ounces sugar, half an ounce of gelatine, half a gill sherry, pinch salt. Make jelly by pouring one and a half pints boiling water over the crystals, then add sherry and stir well. Pour some of the jelly into a plain mould one inch deep and let set. Put a pattern of sliced bananas round the edge of the jelly and very gently pour a little jelly on top of bananas to set them. When set, stand a smaller mould on top of jelly and fill it with water. Pour the rest of the jelly round the small mould and let set. Cut up the gelatin and soak half an hour in milk, then dissolve slowly and cool. Add vanilla, salt, sugar, and whipped cream. Remove small mould by pouring out the cold water and wiping round inside with a hot cloth. Pour in and let set; then turn out onto a pretty dish.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Fun at an Insurance Company Dinner.

For those of you working in the insurance industry, and especially for those of you that think insurance companies are humourless organisations, I give you the menu of a dinner held by the Western Department (Rockford, Illinois) Security Insurance Company of New Haven, Connecticut, in 1913.

In consideration of  GOOD WORK Premium does insure
SECURITY PRODUCERS for the term of FOUR Hours from the
21st day of  JANUARY 1913 at 6.30pm to the 21st day
of JANUARY 1913 at 10pm against all immediate and direct
loss or damage by Hunger except as hereinafter provided to an amount
not exceeding A GOOD DINNER of the following described property
while located and contained as described herein and not elsewhere to wit:

The only sour about the Security
Celery              Olives              Salted Almonds
The only place for Delinquent Agents
Potatoes Parisienne
Not a Company Product. There are no Security Lobsters.
Caught seeking a warm place – possibly a steam heated hotel
French Peas     Potatoes au Gratin      Asparagus Tips
A serious water damage
ENDIVE SALAD, Cream Cheese Bar le duo
This is not alfalfa, so not on prohibited list
ICE (HOUSE) CREAM  Neapolitan
Prohibited – always a total loss
Cigars              Cigarettes
A Bad Smoke Damage
If the risk be increased by any means within the knowledge of the assured, or if any change take place in the appetite or digestion of the assured; or if the assured is not able to be the sole and unconditional owner of the eatables consumed; or if once eaten this dinner be assigned; or if foreclosure proceedings be commenced without the consent of the company; then this policy shall be null and void.
This company shall not be liable for any loss or damage to the dinner eaten caused by foreign invasion or by the neglect of the assured to see all practicable means to save and preserve the same from damages.
This policy cannot be cancelled by the return of edibles eaten.
In case of loss or damage to this dinner the assured shall give immediate notice thereof and shall at once separate the damaged and undamaged articles and shall furnish if required verified plans and specifications of all totally lost property and shall, if required, submit to examination for the purposes of ascertaining the cause of said loss and the extent of same. Any fraud or attempt at fraud or any swearing (false or otherwise) on the part of the assured shall cause a forfeiture of all claims under this policy. The company reserves the right to restore and/or replace any property upon which damage is claimed. No special Agent, Examiner, or Officer of this Company shall have the power or authority to waive any of the conditions of this policy.

There are many variations on the theme of grapefruit cocktail, here are two of them:

Grapefruit Cocktail.
Cut three medium-sized grapefruit into halves, remove pulp and membrane and separate the pulp into flakes. Mix this lightly with quarter of a pound of Malaga grapes, which have been skinned and seeded, sprinkle liberally with sugar and chill thoroughly. Serve in the grapefruit shells with a little crushed ice.
Bedford Daily Mail November 25, 1910

Grapefruit Cocktail.
For six persons, mix eight tablespoons of grapefruit juice with two of sugar syrup, add two tablespoons of maraschino if liked. Add a few tiny pieces of the pulp and pour the whole into small glasses filled with cracked ice. This should be drunk from the glass and not eaten with the spoon.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

It can be done! Onion Candy!

I didn’t believe it possible, but you can make candy containing onions. It is candy with a specific purpose, to be sure, but still qualifies, does it not?  According to the author of the book that has given us some fun over quite a few posts, Candy-making revolutionized; confectionery from vegetables (1912,)  onion candy is a useful medicine for colds, and a nice confectionary for onion-lovers.

Onion Cold Tablets.

By supplying a more wholesome sort of confectionery, vegetable candy – at least in the eyes of its friends! - has decreased the need of household remedies for indigestion and similar ailments. On the other hand, the newly discovered candy-making brings a definite contribution to the family medicine chest. From onion can be made tablets that have the virtues assigned to our foremothers' cough syrups and even are good to eat, according to those who like the flavor of the onion.

Onion cold tablets, then, are offered both as confectionery and as a household remedy. It should be borne in mind, however, that no household remedy, however good, or tried, takes the place of the physician. The family health is too precious a commodity to be entrusted to unprofessional hands.

To make the tablets, cut into thin slices two ounces of raw onion - about half of a good sized onion, - work the onion into two cupsful of sugar and let the mixture stand for two hours. Add two-thirds of a cupful of cold water, place the mass on the fire, and let it come just to a boil. Strain the syrup so made into a granite saucepan, and add one teaspoonful of vinegar and the amount of red pepper that the point of a knife will hold. Place the mixture on the fire, and when the mass begins to boil, put a wooden cover over the pan. Continue the boiling for several minutes; thoroughly "steam down" the side of the pan. By "steaming down" the side of the pan is meant confining the steam which rises from cooking so that it will free the sides of the pan from the accumulation of the mass that is cooking.

Remove the cover, insert a thermometer, and cook the mass to three hundred and thirty-five degrees. Thereupon stir in one tablespoonful of butter, remove the mass from the fire, add one teaspoonful of salt, and baking soda the size of a large pea. Thoroughly mix the mass, and pour it between candy-bars on a well-oiled marble slab. As the confection sets, mark it off in squares, and be sure to run the knife under the whole sheet to free it from the marble. Unless the sheet is so freed from the marble it will be sure to stick so that it can be handled only with difficulty. When the mass is cooled, it will easily break into the
squares into which it has been marked. For preserving, pack the tablets in tin boxes.

For those who do not like so much red pepper, the quantity may be regulated to suit. The amount of onion used may also be increased or diminished as the taste of the candy-maker dictates.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Carrot Sweets from Sweet Carrots.

The idea of sugar from potatoes which I told you about yesterday intrigued me greatly. On a whim, I decided to look and see if carrots have ever been taken seriously as a source of sugar. I have not, to date, found any evidence of a carrot-sugar industry, but being determined to give you a sweet carrot story, I went back to Candy-making revolutionized; confectionery from vegetables (1912.) 

To the art of candy-making, the use of carrots has brought a harmless new color. Formerly the peculiar yellowish orange of the carrot candy was a shade that the confectioner, amateur or otherwise, could not hope to attain without the use of artificial substances.

The statement that carrots are valuable in candy-making for their color must not be thought to mean that the confections made from them are not very good to eat. Quite the contrary; carrot candies have a very pleasing flavor.

Carrot Rings.
To make them, peel medium sized carrots and let them stand several hours in cold water. Cut crosswise into slices about one-quarter of an inch thick and with a small round cutter or sharp
knife remove the center pith. Drop the rings into boiling water and cook until tender. After they have thoroughly drained, drop them into a syrup made by boiling one part of water and three parts of sugar to two hundred and twenty degrees. Boil until the rings become translucent,  probably about ten minutes. Dry on a wire rack, taking care that the rings do not touch.
The next day, heat the syrup to two hundred and twenty-five degrees and again dip the rings and dry as before. If desired, when they are dry, fill the centers with bonbon cream or marzipan. When this center has become firm, dip the candy into a syrup cooked to two hundred and twenty-eight degrees. Even if the centers are not filled, it is well to make this third dipping; the ther-
mometer should, however, register two hundred and thirty degrees instead of merely two hundred and twenty-eight.

And here is a completely different concept of Carrot Cake, from The Cook's Dictionary and House-keeper's Directory (1830) by Richard Dolby

Carrot Cake.
Take a dozen large and very red carrots; scrape and boil them in water with a little salt; when done, drain them, take out the hearts,and rub the rest through a bolting; put them in a stewpan, and dry them over the fire. Make a cream patissière, with about half a pint of milk; and when done mix it with the carrots; add a pinch of minced orange-flowers pralinée, three quarters of a pound of powder-sugar, four whole eggs; put in, one at a time, the yolks of six more, and a quarter of a pound of melted butter; mix all these ingredients together well; whip up the six whites to a froth, and stir them in by degrees. Butter a mould, and put some crumb of bread in it, in a minute or two, turn out all the bread, and three quarters of an hour before the cake is wanted, pour the preparation into the mould and bake it. Serve it hot.