I started off today’s post by intending to answer queries from several readers about the Butternut Coffee with Peanut Cream on the menu of the vegetarianThanksgiving dinner which featured here last week. As so often happens, one apparently simple road tempts one down many interesting little side-roads, and I ended up in a more distant spot, having learned some interesting things along the way.
First things first, as they say. The butternut coffee on this menu would indeed have been made from the seeds of the butternut pumpkin (squash.) Vegetarians of the time were commonly also vehemently against stimulants and condiments of all kinds , so the coffee on this menu should not be confused with the popular canned coffee known by the brand-name of Butter-Nut which was originally made by the Paxton & Gallagher Company in Omaha in the early twentieth century.
The Peanut Cream which topped the coffee on the vegetarian Thanksgiving menu also seasoned the soups, so it was clearly an adaptable item for those who eschewed animal flesh in 1899. Luckily for us, the go-to book for vegetarian nut-cookery of the time - Guide for Nut Cookery: together with a brief history of nuts and their food values, by Mrs. Almeida Lambert, (published in 1899, the same year as the Thanksgiving menu, in Battle Creek, Michigan) – contained recipes for both the ‘coffee’ and the ‘cream’:
Put butternut kernels on a pie-tin, and bake in the oven until they are nicely browned, but not scorched. When cold, mash them to a meal with a cup or glass bottle on the tin, and use 1 tablespoonful for 2 cups of coffee. It is rich, and has the best flavor of all coffee substitutes.
For making cream, the peanuts should not be roasted so much as for making butter. They should have a light straw color. Then grind them very fine, and to a tablespoonful of nut butter add 1 ½ cups of water, adding a little at a time, and beating until it is smooth.
This recipe brought me to one of those tempting information byways. Finding peanut cream in this book opened up my eyes to a wonderful range of nut milks that I immediately wanted to share with you. I have touched upon ‘alternative milks’ before, but only briefly. Artificial Asses’ Milk and Almond Milk, have appeared in previous posts, and you might like to look at them again. Don’t be misled, however, by the version of Asses’ Milk which appeared alongside Elephant Milkin yet another post – they are completely unsuitable for the young of any species, and for adults of a temperance persuasion.
For those of you who love nut milks, and are keen to make your own, I give you, from the book of the day:-
Make like the peanut cream, only add more water. The amount of nut butter to be used depends upon the richness of the milk desired.
Dissolve 1 tablespoonful of almond butter [equates to almond meal, in this book] in 1 pint of warm water, adding a little at a time.
Crack the hickory-nuts and pick out the kernels; grind them through the mill, being careful not to grind them too fine or they will be oily. Then to each heaping cupful of the nut meal add 1½ cups of lukewarm water and beat thoroughly, rubbing the mixture against the side of the dish with the back of the spoon. Then line a large bowl with two thicknesses of clean, strong cheese-cloth, pour in the nuts, and squeeze out the milk. After the milk is taken out, the remainder can be made into sausages or gravy.
Grind the pine-nuts through the mill, and then add about 1½ cups of water to 1cup of the butter or meal; beat well and press all the milk through a cloth. The remainder that is, the part that is left in the cloth - can be used in making sausages, soups, or in roasts. The milk can be used in vegetables or in making gravies, while the cream that rises on top is excellent for making crisps, rolls, cakes, and pie crust.
Select good, fresh chufas, wash them well in several waters, and grind quite fine; then pour over them hot water enough to wet well, but not to make them too watery; rub well, pressing them against the dish, with the spoon, and pour into a jelly-bag made of two thicknesses of cheese-cloth. Then press with the hands to squeeze out the milk.
Select a cocoanut that has milk in it, cut a hole in the eye of the nut, and let out the milk. Then break the nut with a hammer, remove the meat, and with a sharp knife peel off the hard, brown, woody coat, being careful to take as thin a peeling as possible, as the most of the oil is next to the skin. Then grate through a cocoanut-shredder, or on any grater, or grind through the mill, then for each cocoanut, add 2 cups of boiling water, and with a tablespoon beat and work for ten or fifteen minutes. Place a clean new cheese-cloth over a large bowl, and pour the cocoanut into it. Work well with the hands, and squeeze out all the milk possible, then empty the cloth into a stew-pan, pour boiling water over it the same as before, work well again, and squeeze through the cloth the second time. You will then have all the milk that can be taken out, but the cocoanut can be cooked in water for twenty or thirty minutes and then strained, and the water used for making pie, the same as in cocoanut-pie recipe.
I feel confident that ‘chufas’ will raise some questions. Be patient, folks, for more on chufas on Monday.