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English Fruit Cake

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So, this is the first real recipe out of Hermena’s cookbook.  It was not part of the original cookbook but instead, she apparently cut it out and glued (pasted) it in.   She even used her pinking shears to cut the edges – and I remember those shears in her kitchen when I was a kid.  (I also now have a new pair in my sewing room that I use – predates serger sewing machines and clips a curved seam like magic!)

Because baby Eleanor and I are now gluten free, I’ve updated the recipe and made it gluten free (gf), too.  And it still tastes yummy.

And my husband loved it.  You should know that he HATES bananas.  He tried this voluntarily even though I thought he might be ill for doing so.  I never intentionally trick him into eating something I know he doesn’t like.  So was very surprised at his trying it AND liking it.  That should be sufficient testimony that this is a very yummy recipe!


So, while this may be CALLED fruit cake, it really seems to me to be more of a banana bread with fruit in it.  In fact, because of the stigma attached to fruit cakes, I would not tell anyone what the real name is if you make it.  🙂

That said – what IS a fruit cake?  It is a cake made with chopped candied fruit (maraschino cherries) and/or dried fruit, nuts, spices and sometimes soaked in alcohol.  It is an old timey recipe and this combination is for a reason – to preserve fruit to eat later.

Long ago, before electricity (or even the internet!) storing food was a problem.  Drying fruit worked well but… so does making candied fruit – which is fresh fruit boiled in a sugar syrup – trading the water in the fruit for sugar.  High concentrations of sugar prevent bacteria and mold from growing – so the fruit is preserved.  With the developement of sugar plantations in the Caribbean in the 1500’s following the western discovery of the new world, sugar suddenly became plentiful and so much cheaper – allowing many more people to preserve their fruit in this manner.

Along these lines, rum is often frequently used in fruit cake.  Rum is made from sugar cane juice (sugar cane is a grass – the juice is squeezed out and the sugar is extracted from the juice – so yes, sugar is just grass juice) and because alcohol also stops bacteria and other creepy crawlies from doing their thing on food, it also was an excellent means of food preservation.

So, you combine a whole lot of candied and dried fruits with a flour dough and then soak them in alcohol and you then have an excellent way to preserve food all winter long.  Makes you appreciate your local grocery store a bit more now doesn’t it!

English Fruit Cake

On to the recipe…

If you aren’t gluten free, you don’t need to worry about this, but if you are, this is the flour mix that I used.

GF Flour Mix – makes 3 cups

2 c white rice flour

2/3 c potato starch flour

1/3 c tapioca flour

1 t xantham gum

English Fruit Cake – updated

1/2 c coconut oil
1 c sugar
2 eggs
3 bananas, mashed (about 1 1/2 c. mashed bananas)
2 c flour
1 t salt
1 t baking soda
1/2 c nuts, chopped
1/2 c chocolate chips – mini works better
16 oz jar stemless maraschino cherries – chop 2/3 of the jar (about 1/2 c) and slice the remaining in 1/2


Cream together coconut oil and sugar. Add eggs and mix well. Add bananas.

Sift flour, baking soda and salt together and add to batter.

Fold in the nuts, chocolate chips and chopped cherries.

Pour into greased angel food or bunt cake pan.  Top with cherry halves.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 55 minutes or until knife inserted comes out clean.


It really came out well, not terribly tall, but yummy still.  Mini chocolate chips will work better – the big ones sank down to the bottom of the cake.  Still good though!  (I made the first one without adding the cherries to the top – I like the extra ones showing better!)


The second version of this cake baked a bit long… and got a bit dark.  Ah well, tasted yummy so no matter!

So, I hope you enjoy this first of many recipes from my Grandma’s cookbook.  Have a lovely day!

Hermena’s Cook Book

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Recently, my little family and I went to the beach and to Moody Gardens (in Galveston TX).  It was great fun!  Pictures of that to come.  But, while we were there, my oldest daughter caught a little cold bug with a fever for one day… no big deal.  Then, the baby caught it a few days later.  And 5 days later she still has a fever and is fussy and not sleeping at night … and neither am I.  I’m also not getting much of anything else done.  And we get to go to the doctor before the weekend hits…

front of book

front of book

But, on the way to the beach, we stopped at my lovely aunt Virginia’s house.  We were catching up and talking about my blog and clothespin bags and how I love old cookbooks and… and much to my surprise, she had my paternal grandmother’s cookbook!  First, I didn’t even know it existed and second, I had no idea that Virginia had it.  It’s in tough shape to be sure, many pages from front and back, including the covers, are missing.  But she said that this was the book that as a kid, they used every day.  It was a book that my grandmother used every day.  She passed last year at age 99 and was an amazing lady is so many ways.  Raising 5 kids in cloth diapers with no washing machine.  Raising any kids at all on a farm in the middle of the dust bowl.  Raising a huge garden, canning and freezing and… the memories that I have (we lived 1/2 mile from my grandparents) of picking every last cherry on the tree and ALL of the strawberries and picking potato beetles and putting them into a jar of kerosene for a penny each and….

back of book

back of book

So, now I have both grandmothers and one great grandmothers cookbooks.  And, I also have a collection of cut out recipes from one of my husbands grandmothers.  These to me are the things that are important.  They give insight into what they liked, what they ate, who they were.  Despite my grandma’s wanting to throw this book in the trash, it is a true treasure and I’m so glad that my aunt retrieved it.

And, much of what is inside is funny.  This is a beer ad in the book.  Notice the “now that this healthful brew has returned to the home” part?  That’s because prohibition ended in 1933 – 6 years previous!  In the 13 years since they had outlawed alcohol (it started in 1920 with the 18th ammendment and ended in 1933 with the 21st ammendment) many home cooks likely stoped using beer.  So, the industry needed to get people consuming it agian – either through drinking it or cooking with it.  Just a little line in an ad and all of the controvery of the early 1900’s is encapsulated.  They helpfully included a recipe for beer sauce – which I think I need to try making!  Then, below it you’ll notice this: “The sight of beer, the smell of beer, the taste of beer were as common to the senses as….(the) chaste smell of starch”.  Hillarious!  I’ve NEVER associated being chaste and starch together before.  Or knew that gingham cloth smelled frugal?  Not to mention I have no idea what sassafras tea smells like either.

I’ve looked through the rest of what I have and can’t find the other beer recipe that is mentioned in the ad.  I want to get a copy of a better condition book and take pictures of the rest of the pages….  The book is as far as I know only found in one university library in Kansas… published in 1939 from the town (Seneca KS) where my grandma was from.  And of course, the page with the most stains, so likely the greatest use – the cookie page.  🙂

Oh, and I linked up to a blog hop on all things domestic, farm, home made… you know – fun stuff!  It’s the Creative Home Acre Hop.  You can find the rest of the blogs in the hope at Mumtopia… Ciao!

I have a recipe ready to write up from this book.  As soon as my baby gives me a minute I’ll get that posted.  For now – I hope you enjoy!

Two Romantic Vintage Salad Recipes

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Sadly, no pictures of the finished products of these vintage recipes.  I think that reading them should present enough of a visual image for most of you.  That, and I have never in my life enjoyed jello salad, especially the sort made before it was called Jello.

So, what is gelatin?  According to the wikipedia site it is :  “Gelatin is a mixture of peptides and proteins produced by partial hydrolosis of collagen extracted from the skin, boiled crushed horn, hoof and bones, connective tissues, organs and some intestines of animals such as domesticated cattle, chickens, pigs and horses.  Food-grade gelatin is produced mainly from two raw materials, beef skin and pig hide.   Photographic and pharma grades of gelatin are generally made from beef bones, although some beef bone gelatin is used by the food industry. Gelatin is an animal protein unlike many other gelling agents used by the food industry.”  YUM!

Back in the days before purified gelatin was available in the stores, you got to make your own by boiling a calves foot.  Thus, the “calves foot jelly” really is just a jello salad made from the gelatin extracted from the foot of a calf.  Doesn’t that sound delicious?

Now, to be fair, sensibilities back in the day were a bit different than now.  Most people weren’t as far removed from their food as we currently are (save for the few farm kids, which I am proud to say I am a member of).  Even if you did grow up on a farm and raise the calves from babies that you were later to eat at dinner like I did, we still never boiled a foot to make desert.  And regardless, it was never the source of the gelatin that made it unpalatable for me – it was the texture.  There are some instances where it is fine but most of the time I just can’t do it.  My brother however – he loves the nasty stuff.  And my mother, as most moms of the 70’s and 80’s did – she seemed to make a lot of it.  It was an easy way to get fruit into the meal I think and was easy for pot lucks.

Now, I do have to say that my mom has a fabulous cranberry jello salad that I WILL eat.  That recipe will come on another day when I have time to make it.

For now, you get two very romantic gelatin recipes taken from the 1948 owners manual of the Westinghouse Refrigerator.  I found my copy of this little cookbook at a local antique store and knew it had to be a part of my tiny little collection.  And the romantic recipes?  Yesterday I was married 8 years to my amazing husband.  I think it was gift enough that I didn’t make either recipe for him!

And as an aside… most fruit used in jello recipes are canned or cooked first.  Fruit like pineapple, kiwi, figs and papaya all have proteases in them that chemically cut the gelatin resulting in a jello that never sets which is why it is important to used canned or cook the fruit before making the salad.  Bananas are lacking in these proteases so those are usually used fresh in salads.  Just in case your favorite salad, like that of the greatly esteemed Mr. Cosby, is boiled calves foot jelly.

Sweetheart Salad

2 c crushed pineapple                                              2 T lemon juice

1/2 c sugar                                                                  2 T cherry juice

1 1/2 T granulated gelatin                                       6 ounces cream cheese

1/4 c cold water                                                         1/2 pint whipping cream

12 cherries

Heat pineapple with sugar, add gelatin which has been softened in 1/4 cup cold water.  Stir until melted.  Add lemon and cherry juice, cool.  Mash cream cheese, add cherries which have been cut fine, mix with pineapple, adding a small amount of pineapple mixture to cheese at a time.  Chill until slightly thickened.  Whip cream and blend with pineapple mixture.  Mold and chill.  This makes 12 small servings.

Valentine Vitamin Salad

1 package strawberry gelatin                                 1/2 c shredded carrot

1 c hot water                                                              1/2 c celery, sliced fine

1/4 t salt                                                                      2 ripe bananas

3/4 c ice cubes and water                                        2 T lemon juice

1/2 c pineapple

Dissolve gelatin in hot water and add cold water to cool.  Shred carrots, slice celery, and cut bananas into cubes.  Sprinkle lemon over the bananas.  Add the salt to the hot gelatin.  When cool, and it begins to thicken, add the vegetables.   Mold in decorative molds and serve with mayonnaise on shredded lettuce, garnished with water cress.  Serves 6.

Gram’s Cookbook – page 43 Preserves

Today is a busy day for the Gram’s Cookbook series – it’s preserve day!

Water Melon Preserves

Peel and cut up watermelon rind, soak several hours in salt water, pour off salt water.  Cook till tender in clean water.  Drain in colander til quite dry.  Make a syrup of two parts of sugar to one of diluted vinegar, add a little cloves and a stick of cinnamon to taste.   Cook syrup till quite thick and then put in rind.   Boil slowly till syrup is thick again and the rind is transparent.  Remove the spices or syrup will darken. 

Marian Recbud

Ripe Tomato Pickle

One peck of ripe tomatoes, peeled and sliced, eight onions, sliced thin, one cupfull salt thrown on them.  let stand 24 hours.  Drain off liquor and add 1 quart vinegar, 1 pint water, 1 tablespoonful each of ground mustard, ginger, cloves and allspice.  Stew slowly 3 hours and when nearly done add 2 pounds of brown sugar and 1/2 cup of white mustard seed.

Green Tomato Pickle

8 pounds green totatoes

1 pint vinegar

4 pounds brown sugar

1 t. of mace, cinnamon and cloves

Cut tomatoes in slices and add sugar.  Let them boil down three hours, then add vinegar and spice and cook the whole for 15 minutes.  Let cool – seal.

Spiced Peach Pickle

1 pk freestone peaches

7 pounds sugar

1 1/4 gallon cider vinegar

cloves, allspice and cinnamon to taste

Pear Pickle

6 cupfull sugar

Firm, ripe pears

sick cinnamon and cloves

1 quart vinegar

Peel and cut pears in strips.  Boil the sugar and vinegar for a few minutes and put in fruit.  Let it cook until tender, then remove fruit of juice.  Place in bottom of jars a layer of pear with a stick of cinnamon and a few cloves.  Repeat.  Pour syrup over fruit and stand over night.  Drain syrup and scald again.  Repeat two or three more times.  Seal hot.

1914 advertisement for a combo steam canner and roaster.

Preserves did just what the name implies – preserve food that is available NOW for a time when it’s not.  But my, how things have changed in the past century!

I grew up with my mom making our own pickles using  a pressure canner and glass quart canning jars.  She also canned lots of veggies and tomato sauce and our basement had shelves full of the bounty from her large garden.

But, what did they can in 100 years ago?  Before that?

The modern Mason jar wasn’t invented until 1858 and used screw on zinc lids.   Some earlier methods used a persnickity wax seal around the edge and was used up into the early 1900s…

They also used jars with hinged lids and rubber gaskets on them (now more commonly used for dry storage) but still used and sold today.

And, if you think that there’s nothing new in the canning technology land… think again!  There are now reusable canning lids!

Modern pickles also use store bought vinegar – but historically, before the advent of the fancy canning jars, food fermented to achieve preservation.  Think sauerkraut, kim chi and a zillion other fermented veggies out there.  In addition to the nutritive quality of the food being preserved, the bacteria causing the fermentation (generally various lactic acid bacteria) may introduce some B vitamins, too.  Plus, there is the health benefits of the bacteria themselves, these generally being the “good” type – and there are many reports of positive health responses to these raw foods.

There is LOTS of information out on the internet about fermenting foods – way more than I can even begin to talk about here.  But, if you’re interested, there is a recipe for Fermented Sour Pickles.  Now you can actually find a use for all of those old crocks that you found at your grandmother’s house!

(And, before you get all yucked out about eating bacteria, please remember that yogurt, wine, beer, bread… all use the little beasties…)

Now, the word “pickle” is a funny word.  Try saying over and over…. pickle, pickle, pickle, pickle… Who comes up with these words?  Well, depending on the website, it has a couple of different origins.  According to the wikipedia site, the origin of the word is from the Dutch word pekel meaning brine.  But, a site in the UK, The Phrase Finder, it pekel is a Dutch or Low German word meaning ‘something piquant’.

The phrase, “in a pickle” is (or maybe was) a common phrase… and means to be as disorientated or mixed up as the vegetables that make up a pickle.  In my understanding, it would mean to be in a bit of trouble but nothing so serious that you can’t find your way out of it…

And, on a side note related to sauerkraut, I LOVED it as a kid.  I mean, one of my favorite things.  As a mom to a 3 year old, I’ve never served it to my daughter, but I apparently got it a lot at that age.  So much so that I had my very own version of the word for it – “sour crap.”  🙂


Apple Pudding

Below is a post that I had written for a long gone blog of mine… in keeping with the pudding theme from last week, I thought that this was appropriate.  I’m sorry for not having a post from Gram’s Cookbook today, but with my daughter having a good GI bug this week (and nearly going to the hospital from dehydration) I just didn’t have the time or energy to get it posted.  I hope that this will suffice.  🙂

apples in a bowl

Apple pudding and vanilla ice cream… reminds me of fall on the farm, hay bales and the nip of frost in the air. Wait a minute… apple pudding? What about apple pie?

Apple pie is truely a yummy treat. But, it involves making a pie crust, which has loads of fat in it and is a pain to make. I don’t mind making them, but they’re not the “Hay, I have apples going soft, let’s make something up real fast” kind of dessert. But apple pudding – now that is an apple-icious yumminess of a much easier nature.




I found this recipe in a 1940’s era Workbasket magazine a few years ago. I don’t remember which issue or which year for sure, but I do remember looking through and reading the recipes (and being yucked out by most of them) and then seeing this gem. Pudding though? I mean, how am I going to make apples into the consistency of vanilla pudding without making apple sauce first? As the base ingredients sounded good, I gave it a go and rediscovered the wonders of the old-fashioned pudding. Of course, I added to it a bit, a few more spices, maybe some additional blueberries or other fruit – but the base is the same in all its pudding goodness.

A near cobbler-like texture with the flavor of a pie, it combined all of things I love most about pudding and left out the things that I dislike. First, it’s just good. Then, the texture is doughy without being heavy, has no added fats as it completely lacks any crust and has no milk – a big bonus for me (loverly lactose issues…). Hubby loves it so much that he has decided that it is a breakfast food and whatever I do make, doesn’t last long.

apple pudding

Apple Pudding

2/3 c. sugar

1/3 c. flour

1/2 t. baking powder

1/8 t. salt

1 t. cinnamon

1/2 t. nutmeg

1/2 c. chopped nuts (I use pecans)

1 egg – beaten well

1 t. vanilla

2 c grated apples (I core and leave the peel on, then give it a whirl in my mini-processor)

Mix dry ingredients. Stir in nuts to coat. Add wet ingredients. Place in to a buttered 1 1/2 quart casserole dish (without the lid). Bake at 375 F for 30 minutes or until knife placed into center comes out clean and the edges are golden and starting to pull away from the dish.

Note: I have successfully added 1 cup of frozen blueberries to the apples (3 c. fruit total) and it has come out extra yummy. I would imagine that other fruit that complements apples would work as well. Enjoy!

Love From Inder

This weekend, I received a lovely email from a lady named Inder.  Apparently, she reads this blog and was so inspired by my Gram’s Cookbook series that she had to post about it and the recipes of her Nanny.

In her post and subsequent emails, I’ve discovered a fellow blogger who not only loves to SEW but also loves vintage family things, like recipes.  And, we’ve decided to do a co-post in a few weeks about the Ration Cake recipe (on her blog) – so stay tuned for that!

If you or some blog that you know happens to have recipes that date from before the 1960’s – please send me an email and let me know!  I’d love to have a link up to all of the other vintage recipe sites.

And if you have a recipe, but not a blog, and would like to have your recipe featured here on this blog – I would LOVE that, too!

Happy Wednesday everyone…

Gram’s Cookbook – Page 33 Graham Pudding and Vanilla Egg Sauce

Graham Flour Pudding.  Yumm-o!  Wait, you don’t see it in the instant pudding section at the grocery store?  Well, that’s odd…

Pudding in the USA is usually a milk based thing that is creamy in texture and loved by nearly all kiddos.  Everywhere else in the world though, a pudding varies… and in England it is usually a starchy solid thing that can be sweet (figgy pudding) or savory (kidney pudding) and used to often be served as a main attraction at a meal.  Lots more information at this wikipedia site.

The interesting thing that I learned was that puddings can be prepared and then stored for 3 MONTHS before eating it.  I’m not sure exactly how that works, but the website, said either in the fridge or just out on the counter.  Boiled puddings (which are cooking inside a muslin sack in boiling water) are hung to age for up to 4 months!  I’m no germaphobe, but I think that I’ll skip the storing thing unless it happens to be in the refrigerator.

But, in thinking about it, puddings like this make sense.  Back before the days when every kitchen had an oven (even a wood burning one) people cooked on an open fire either outside or in the kitchen fireplace.  If you wanted something like a cake – this was the way to get it.  And, if it really lasts as long as they say, it was also a way to preserve food for later.

With that in mind, today’s recipe is not the Jello version – this is a solid sweet labor of love…

So, today I’ll give the original recipe, the updated version with cooking directions and the write up by the fab Caitlin of the blog, Ubiquitous non Sequitur.

Graham Pudding

3/4 c. molasses
1 c sour cream
1 t baking soda
1 t baking powder
pinch of salt
1 t cinnamon
1 c sugar
1 c graham flour
1 c raisins
Then steam.

Dressing –
2 eggs
large tablespoon of butter
1 c of sugar
1 cup of water
1 T vanilla
2 t flour or cornstarch

Alice Noone

Directions in an updated fashion:

Combine molasses, sour cream and sugar in a bowl.  In a separate bowl, mix the remaining dry ingredients and raisins.  Slowly stir into wet ingredients.

Prepare a mold of adequate size – remember this will expand a fair bit.  The mold will need to be about twice as big as the amount of batter prepared and then carefully greased with butter.  You can also line the bottom of the mold with baking paper that has been buttered on both sides. 

After putting the batter inside the mold, take a large piece of aluminum foil, line it with more buttered baking paper.  Tent/pleat the foil so that there is room for the pudding to expand and then use kitchen string to tightly tie the foil around the outside edge of the mold so as to prevent steam from entering the mold and making the pudding soggy.

The mold should fit inside a large pot and enough boiling water between the two that the water reaches 1/2 way up the side of the mold.  Steam for 3 hours, (turn the stove down to simmer) making sure to check the water level every 1/2 hour or so to make sure that it is still 1/2 way up the side of the mold.  A knife inserted into the pudding should come out clean when it is done.  Let rest for 5 minutes and then run a knife around the edge of the mold – and turn out onto a warm plate.

While the pudding is cooking, make the sauce.

Most of the cooking directions I found after giving the recipe to Caitlin and were located on the site.  It has much more detailed directions and lots of good information!

Sauce directions:

Combine sugar and cornstarch or flour.  Place in a sauce pan, add water.  Bring to boil and simmer until the sugar has dissolved.  Beat eggs until frothy, then SLOWLY add into the sugar mixture beating the entire time.  Return to the stove, heat until thick and creamy, stirring constantly – a few minutes.  Stir in the vanilla and butter.  Serve over the pudding.

So, last week I asked for volunteers and Caitlin sent me this lovely write up and pictures so…

Caitlin’s Review

First of all, thanks to Jeannie for letting me do this! I have stolen this recipe. I foresee it becoming a frequent visitor on my holiday table – possibly with a few tweaks. But not many.

This recipe reminded me of MY grandmother who loves a proper English pudding, and would make one now and again (on the rare occasion we were near her for the holidays. Which was not very often…). She would make a hard sauce to go with it, and I could usually make it through less than a serving before the heavy weight of that pudding would sink in and I wou;dn’t be able to do anymore. (and the sauce was maybe a bit boozy for a small kid…). This recipe managed to hit all the traditional notes without the heaviness I remember from puddings gone by, and the sauce is awesome (although a bit sweet for me – but I LOVE the texture I got out of it!).

As Jeannie mentioned, the directions are such that the author expects you to know what you’re doing. And unfortunately common cooking terms and techniques have changed over the years. The pudding seemed straight forward enough, but the sauce kind of stumped me at first. Lucky for me, I am a recovering restaurant cook (with pastry experience) and I collect vintage cookbooks. Unlucky for me they do not fit in my Airstream, and are all in my mom’s basement in Vancouver, BC. But with a little help from the links Jeannie sent, google, and with a little time spent pouring over scanned vintage cookbooks from 1918 (thank you Google books!), I came up with something that I do like very much.

Here’s what I did:

Gathered the materials. Graham flour used to be a common ingredient, but in 2011 Burlington NC, not so much. Thankfully Wikipedia actually had a ‘recipe’ for graham flour – even in the one cup amount I needed! – so I made my own. ~2/3 cup white flour, ~1/3 cup wheat bran, and 1 tsp of wheat germ. All things I already had. Whew. First obstacle cleared.  (Jeannie here – my little HEB has graham flour and it is also available on Amazon – Bob’s Red Mill is one brand that I know carries it so check your store to be sure.)

I mixed the sour cream and molasses together in one bowl, and the dry ingredients in another. At this point I decided to deviate from the recipe. Slightly. For two reasons: 1) I didn’t have raisins on hand, and 2) will NEVER have raisins on hand as I abhor them. I apologize to Jeannie for this, but I really don’t think the end result suffered too greatly.  (Jeannie here – I deplore raisins, too, so this is totally acceptable to me!)

And here was obstacle #2, which seemed to be pretty common even back in the day when people made steamed puddings more commonly – I don’t have a pudding mold. Evidently people used to use an old can with a piece of foil (or cloth I suppose?) tying it down. I used a pyrex bowl. And oh joy of joys! Obstacle #3: I had no foil. I first tried wax paper with a rubber band, but the steam popped it off, so I tied the wax paper around the rim of the bowl with nylon mason twine (out of kitchen twine at the moment….). This worked and kept it on. I put the batter in the greased bowl, tied on the top, put it on a washcloth laid on the bottom of a pan, filled the pan up with water until the bowl was submerged 2/3 of the way, covered the whole thing and cooked it for an hour.

That’s right. An hour. Did I not mention obstacle #4? I didn’t have anything big enough for all of the batter, and I knew from my research that it would puff up and I shouldn’t fill it more than 2/3 of the way, so I only cooked about 1/3 of the batter. My research also leads me to believe that the entire amount at one go would probably take about 3 hours.

For the sauce I mixed together the sugar and cornstarch, and then added the water. I put the whole thing on the stove and heated it until the sugar dissolved. I beat the eggs until they were frothy, and then slowly added the sugar mixture to the eggs, beating all the while. I dumped the whole thing back into the pan and cooked it on low heat (only a few minutes) until it was nice and thick and creamy. I took it off the heat and added the vanilla and the butter. Whisked them in, and poured the warm sauce over the pudding.

As I mentioned, the pudding fires on all holiday cylinders, without being like a rock or a doorstop. The sauce is a bit sweet for MY taste, but it remained frothy and pretty and shiny. The model sauce, really.

I took this pudding to my neighbor’s house (my ‘family’ is moving in with me this weekend and I wanted another opinion), and every single member of that family (once I assured them that steamed puddings of this nature were a food genre) tried it and loved it. Enough said. I myself managed to eat the full pudding I made for photographic purposes (another 1/3 portion) for dinner. I figure the bran and wheat germ are good for me 🙂

Finally… “The proof of the pudding is in the eating” which is the original version of “the proof is in the pudding”.  Don Quixote used the phrase in his book, Miguel de Cervantes in 1615 but may have originally been published by Bileau in Le Lutrin.  Regardless of the originator, it means that one can only know the value of something when it is used.  Which is a bit like how I like things – the pretty things that are useless don’t mean much to me, but the things (or people) that are of substance are treasured greatly.

The next two weeks will be all about preserves and pickles.  Jam packed 2 pages of them!

Thanks for visiting and please share my blog with others – thanks!

Gram’s Cookbook – Page 29 Pies

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Pie.   The perfect country food.  Homemade crust, fruit filling… yum.  Growing up, we had sour cherry trees over at my Grandmother’s house and us grandkids were conscripted to help pick ALL of the cherries every summer.  There were at least 5 trees.  The only good thing about it all (other than all of the pie that we got to eat later) were the ice cream bars that were in my grandparent’s basement freezer.   Later, we got to pit all of those cherries and then help my mom can them.  I didn’t realize that sour cherries didn’t live everywhere or appreciate how wonderful they really are… and now in Texas, narry a sour cherry tree is found here.

But, fruit pies are not what we’re here to talk about this week.  Nope, this week is about other types of pies…

Chocolate Pie

Eight tablespoons grated chocolate

Four cups of milk

Yolks of four eggs

Two cups of sugar

Four tablespoons of cornstarch or flour

Cook until thick – this will make four pies.

Agnes Noone

Butterscotch Pie

1 cup brown sugar

2 level tablespoons butter

2 rounding tablespoons flour

2 egg yolks

1 1/2 cup milk

Mix and cool well together, stirring.

Mrs. J.W. Newburry

Pumpkin Pie

1 qt pumpkin

3 cups of milk

1 1/2 cups sugar

ginger & cinnamon

a little sorgum

 This makes 3 pies.

From Mrs. Geo. Melvin Harper Ks. 

So, for me, the cream pies… are not really my thing.  All that milk and… but pumpkin pie?

Peggy Greb - USDA via Wikipedia

Part of my families holiday tradition.  Of course it is – it’s nearly on everyone’s table.   Except for the milk issue… which of course, I try to limit.  There are many pumpkin pie recipes out there that use tofu, but I’ve never been able to get my mind around tofu unless someone else cooks it.  Then, I found this recipe.  I haven’t tried it yet, but it uses almond milk and looks like pie!   So, there is hope for me yet.

Now, as far as pie goes… This is truly an old fashioned dish.  Like ancient.  Lots of good information on the wikipedia site but the gist of it is – it is thousands of years old.  Originally used as a method of transporting food for trips on ships or on long trips on land.  Remember – no refrigeration  and no fancy preservatives.  Think Cornish pastry – meat and veggies inside of a pastry pocket.

The wikipedia site also stated that pies were preferred cooking method because they could be made on an open fire with no need for an oven.  I’ve never seen a pie cooked over an open fire but… pies do seem more common in rural areas.

But, pies are not all old fashioned.  In fact, there is an American Pie Council.  Did you know that?  Another good place for recipes of all things pie!

So, that’s it for pie.  Next week, a very unusual pudding that I’ve never heard of before.  Anyone want to volunteer to make it and send me a picture/review?  Still too much milk for me… but I’d love for someone to give it a try!  If you’re interested, please let me know!

Gram’s Cookbook – Page 22 Fruit Salad

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Fruit salad.  Honestly, not my favorite thing for some reason.  Still, it’s a popular dish and appears to have been made for a long time.  This is what is on page 22 of Gram’s Cookbook.

Fruit Salad

1 lb marshmallows

1 lb English walnuts

1/2 lb white grapes

1 small can pineapple

Quarter the marshmallows with scissors.   Half and seed the grapes.  Cut pineapple in small pieces and mix together.

Heat 1/2 cup sweet milk.  Add the beaten yolks of 4 eggs, 1/4 tsp ground mustard and cook until thick.  When cool add 1 pint of whipped cream and the beaten whites of 4 eggs.  Pour the mixture over the fruit and let stand 12 hours.


Did you know that there are different species of walnuts?  English Walnuts – Juglans regia and is native to the  mountains of  central Asia, including parts of China, Tibet, Nepal, India and Pakistan.  The word “walnut” in English means “foreign nut” – it was introduced into western and northern Europe probably before the Roman era and to the United States (by English colonists) in the 1600s.

These are different than Julans nigra, or Black Walnut, which is native to the midwest and east central United States.  The Black Walnut was introduced into Europe in 1629 and is cultivated there and in North America as a forest tree for its high quality wood.   Apparently, the Black Walnut has a stronger taste than the English Walnut, which may be why the English was specified in the recipe.

It states on the wikipedia site that the shell of the black walnut is used as an abrasive and in cosmetics…  And no doubt, this is true.  Gram used to use the black hull of the black walnut as a natural hair dye back in the day – though I have no idea how she went about preparing and using it for this purpose.

As for the grapes – can you imagine having to take the seeds out of all of those?  Yet, I remember when I was little that Gram would buy the very expensive (because they had just come out onto the market) seedless grapes for me when I visited.  I LOVED them.  These days, you hardly think twice about grapes not having seeds, but really, it is rather odd that any exist that DON’T.  That is possible due to mutations that cause seeds not to form in the fruit and that grapes can be asexually propagated through grafting.  So basically, they’re clones.

Know of any other seedless fruit like that?  A few are common ingredients in modern fruit salads, though not listed in this recipe.   Bananas, watermelon and oranges!  See, you learn something new every day on this blog.  🙂

As for the marshmallows… now days, it’s easy enough to buy a bag of corn syrupy campfire fun at the store.  100 years ago?  Nope, not a chance.  Marshmallow is actually a plant,  Althaea officinalis, and was originally used to treat sore throats.   Marshmallows as a treat first came about as a candy in France in the 1800s using the sap of the marshmallow plant  and adding sugar and a lot of work.  In the late 1800s, the French came up with a slightly easier way to make them using gelatin and egg whites (but notice the lack of an electric mixer – so all of the beating and whipping of all of it was by HAND)….  The modern, extruded round marshmallows that we find in plastic bags at the grocery store weren’t invented until 1948 and didn’t have a company to make them like this until 1961.   (And, they usually don’t ever contain any marshmallow extract anymore…)

Picture by Nina Hale, wikipedia

Picture by Nina Hale, wikipedia

So, Gram most certainly would have either had to buy hand made marshmallows (possible) or make them herself… And you can make your own at home, too!  OK, so I haven’t done that yet… as we’re in like the worst drought in a million years here in Texas, it’s just a given that there will never be a campfire allowed again.  BUT, if you are interested in giving it a go, there’s a great recipe over at the blog, Smitten Kitchen.

So, as you might guess, I didn’t try this recipe.  I know, it looks easy, but I really don’t like milk much and especially not on fruit and… and the sauce looks icky.  I’m sorry, it’s true.  Milk and egg yolks and whipped cream?  I know that the mustard sounds like a really strange ingredient, but it is commonly used as an emulsifier – or something that keeps things like oil and vinegar from separating… so that was probably its purpose in this recipe, too.  Sooo…. if YOU try this recipe, I’d love to know what you think about it!

Have a great week…

Gram’s Cookbook – page 16 Meats

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Today is all about meat!  One of these is a fairly common dish in modern American diets – the meat loaf.  I don’t make these much, so don’t have a new recipe for you on this.  The other is Mince Meat – which may not be something most folks are familiar with.

Beef Loaf

A dimes worth of beef.

Fifteen cents worth of pork.

Grind the meat then season.  Put in about a cup of rather fine bread crumbs. Season with salt, pepper, allspice and sage.  One egg and about 1/2 cup of water enough to moisten well.  Mix well together, mold and bake.


Mince Meat

1# cooked lean meat (weight after cooking) 

1# seeded raisins

2 1/2 # chopped apples

1# currants

1/2# kidney suet chopped fine

2 1/4 cups sugar

2 cups meat broth in which meat is cooked.

1 cup cider vinegar

1 teaspoons cloves

3 teaspoons cinnamon

4 teaspoons salt

This can be added:

1/2# citron

2 oz. candied orange peel

Juice 1 lemon & grated rind

Juice 1 orange & grated rind

1/2# chopped nuts

Steam & simmer raisins separately until they have “plumped” before adding them.  Apple cider can be added.  This can be sealed while hot.

Mrs. A.J. Austin

First things first – the Beef Loaf recipe is the only recipe in this book that is submitted by a man!   Who knows, maybe it was a lady who went by Bob, but still…

Clearly, the first issue for the Beef Loaf recipe for us is the understanding of how much a “dimes worth” or “fifteen cents worth” of any meat was in 1916.  I’ve done several internet searches and not come up with much… I did find this reference which has the prices listed from an add in a New Jersey newspaper for December 1910.   It doesn’t directly list beef, but pork loins were 18 cents a pound – so maybe 15 cents was about a pound back then.  Who knows.  (Plus, this add is great fun just for seeing how much things cost 100 years ago!  And, the sorts of things available – steamer trunks, smyrna figs, women’s corsets…)  But, this does greatly illuminate the need for volumes to be written in recipes – not a “can” of soup or a box of jello… Cultural understandings of these things change over time and while the author of such recipes might know, her great grandchildren might not.  🙂

Mince meat pie, from Wikipedia under the Creative Commons, by author Jmb

Mince Meat is well, not a common thing these days.   Not many people my generation have had it or like it I’m sure.  But, I remember my paternal grandmother making it and my finding it strange that meat would be put into a pie!  (Pies are all fruit and pudding, right?)  Now as an adult, I’ve discovered that my father in law loves it – but few people make it anymore and finding an authentic recipe is hard.  Wikipedia explains that mincemeat has changed over the years and current version that you can buy in stores don’t have any meat in them at all!  As a method of using of scraps of meat, it seems silly to make it into a savory fruit pie… I mean, it DOES have the word “meat” in it!  So, at some point, my father in law will get a go at this 100 year old recipe and an authentic mince meat pie and maybe compare it to this updated version on Epicurious.  That is, if I can find…

From the Wikipedia site under Creative Commons by FotoosvanRobin

Kidney suet – what the blazes is that?  I had to look it up and apparently – it is the fat surrounding the kidneys of a cow and is dense and hard.  It used to be rendered into tallow to make candles and was used in the English Christmas Pudding.   And, they also used to use it to make pie crusts!  For me, that’s enough of a reason not to eat pie!  Another, more modern use for this is in bird feeding blocks – no doubt because there is lots of suet as a by-product of all of the meat we eat and how very little suet is consumed by humans these days.  (And really, I’m not offended by feeding this to the birds…)

Citron is another unusual ingredient from today’s perspective.   Unlike the lemons and oranges this it is most closely related to, there is little to no juice in the citron and instead, the white pith of the rind is most often used in recipes.  However, unless you happen to live near a specialty grocery store, I don’t think that this is easy to find anymore.  There are many sources on Amazon (and I get no money for anything from this blog – including links to products like this) including a 10 pound tub and a 6 – 8 ounce tubs.   However, looking at the Christmas shopping prices previously mentioned in today’s post, Leghorn citrus IS listed at the price of 18 cents/pound!   Compare that to the prices on Amazon that range from $3 – $7 today.  Wouldn’t my Gram have a fit over that?

candied orange peel in syrup - Creative Commons from Wikipedia by User:Manutius

Candied Orange Peel is crazy simple to make.  It involves boiling the orange peel, then rinsing and draining it, then boiling it with equal part of water and sugar, then draining it and then coating it with sugar and letting sit out to dry for a couple of days.  Easy, but not fast.  For a more detailed recipe, try this one at Epicurious.  Or, you can buy it for $10 per pound on Amazon.

Currant fruit - from Wikipedia, creative commons by author Aconcagua

Currants are a berry that grows  on bushes that was native to northern Europe and Asia and are very high in vitamin C and other polyphenols, in addition to lots of dietary fiber.  According to the Wikipedia site:

Blackcurrants were once popular in the United States as well, but became rare in the 20th century after currant farming was banned in the early 1900s, when blackcurrants, as a vector of white pine blister rust, were considered a threat to the U.S. logging industry.   The federal ban on growing currants was shifted to jurisdiction of individual states in 1966, and was lifted in New York State in 2003 through the efforts of horticulturist Greg Quinn.   As a result, currant growing is making a comeback in New York, Vermont, Connecticut and Oregon.   However, several statewide bans still exist including Maine and New Hampshire.

Obviously, at the time the recipe was written, currants were still available to American grocers, and thus included in the recipe.  And, I believe that it is still easy to find currants in larger grocery stores – though I have not ever used them.

That’s it for this week…  next week, we move on to fruits!  And, I’m still working on finishing the recipe page from last week where I did not go into detail on the soap recipe – that is in the works and will have some good information on it!  Stay tuned!