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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!

Gram’s Cookbook – French Buns page 10

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Today’s recipe is for French Buns.  Looking at the recipe, I’m not exactly sure why a sweet crust makes it French but…  here’s the recipe as written.

French Buns

1 quart bread sponge

1 quart scalded sweet milk, let cool

3/4 c sugar

salt to taste

flour to make very soft dough

Knead the dough very thoroughly.  Let rise very light – if you like sweet crust – mix a little milk and sugar and brush over top of buns – (that is the French part of it).  This makes about 60 buns.

Hope you will have best luck in the world with these buns.

Mrs. E. J. Adams 

I tried to find a current version of this recipe, but wasn’t able to … so this might be unique.  It could certainly be updated with modern yeasts and actual measurements for the flour.  As I’m not an expert bread maker, I will leave that project to someone who is more skilled… and if that happens to be you, please let me know!  I’d love to feature your updated recipe on the blog!   I did find something along the same lines, so if you’re so inspired to give a French bun a try, there’s a nice recipe on an Amish website here.

As far as scalded milk goes… You should know, my little family doesn’t do much in the way of dairy products.  Just doesn’t do well with our bodies and my 3 year old has never liked it.  She eats cheese but gave up on yogurt at 2 1/2 years old…  (And, it’s not just cow milk that she doesn’t like – it’s anything white and liquid.  Soy, vanilla, goat… we’ve tried them all and she’s just not interested.)  So, I don’t ever have milk in the house to cook with and the only experience I have with it was cooking as a kid (and that was a couple of decades ago!)…  So, I looked up scalded milk.   According to Baking 101, milk used to be scaled to deactivate the enzymes (and most likely kill bacteria) that caused the milk to spoil.  With modern pasteurization that’s no longer a concern (unless you have your own cow?)… But, in bread making it is still done in order to deactivate the whey proteins.  Why proteins apparently weaken the gluten that forms in the flour with kneading and if the milk isn’t scalded, the bread will be heavy and dense.  They also have directions on how to scald milk on their site if you happen to be like me and don’t already know this detail.  🙂

On another note, I found a new site that might be of interest to my recipe loving followers.  Yummly.  It appears to be a search engine just for recipes – and includes recipes from recipe sites and blogs and everywhere else.  You can search by ingredient and can limit results by “without” and “with” ingredients.  This will be very nice for those allergic to some foods!  I only just found it, so I’m not sure what I think about it yet, but it seems interesting!

Next week’s recipe page is full of fun!  There are 2 recipes that I will be trying out and that I’ve never seen in modern recipe-land before.  One is a biscuit and the other a muffin.  And, another recipe is written by a very special person (at least to me)… so stay tuned!

Gram’s Cookbook – Page 9

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My mom sent me a copy of a picture of Gram, probably in her early 20’s.  I don’t have any pictures of myself like this – all snapshots and the like.  And now days, all digital.  The ambrotype and tintype processes weren’t invented until the 1850’s… and no doubt took a few years to make it to the Kansas area.  Even still, pictures of everyday things weren’t possible, so we are left with these treasured portraits of our family members.

Gram's Cookbook - Page 9

This is the second page that was written on in Gram’s Cookbook.  I decided not to make these as breads are generally the same (well, to me…) and because I just didn’t have time this week.

The recipes:


 3 cups sponge

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup lard


1 cup warm sweet milk

Let raise, work is.

Making into buns let raise.

Bake in a slow oven.

Mrs. A. J. Williams

Baking Powder Biscuit

2 cups of flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 level teaspoons baking powder

Sift these three together!

1 heaping teaspoon lard

1 heaping teaspoon butter

Mixed thoroughly in the dry ingredients.

Moisten with milk – not too soft.  Pat and cut out.  Bake in quick oven.

Mrs. Frank T. Frist Clint Tex.

Written near Tulanosa 9-27-17

So, a couple of things jump out from these recipes.  First – sponge?  From what I can determine on line, a sponge is a mixture of flour, water and yeast that is allowed to sit on the counter for around 8 hours until it becomes thick and sticky.  For a recipe on how to make a sponge, please visit the folks at Astray Recipes.

Remember, this is in the days before instant or rapid rise yeast, so this sort of thing was how bread was made back then.  The following is from Wikipedia…

Refinements in microbiology following the work of Louis Pasteur led to more advanced methods of culturing pure strains. In 1879, Great Britain introduced specialized growing vats for the production of S. cerevisiae, and in the United States around the turn of the century centrifuges were used for concentrating the yeast,[12] making modern commercial yeast possible, and turning yeast production into a major industrial endeavor. The slurry yeast made by small bakers and grocery shops became cream yeast, a suspension of live yeast cells in growth medium, and then compressed yeast, the fresh cake yeast that became the standard leaven for bread bakers in much of the Westernized world during the early 20th century.

During World War II, Fleischmann’s developed a granulated active dry yeast for the United States armed forces, which did not require refrigeration and had a longer shelf life and better temperature tolerance than fresh yeast; it is still the standard yeast for US military recipes. The company created yeast that would rise twice as fast, cutting down on baking time. Lesaffre would later create instant yeast in the 1970s, which has gained considerable use and market share at the expense of both fresh and dry yeast in their various applications.

Bet you never thought that there was an “official” yeast of the military, did you?  Or, consider instant yeast to be a convenience  item? 🙂

The next is the baking temperatures.  What on earth is a fast or slow oven?  I happened to recently inherit an old cookbook, printed in the early 1900’s …

In it is a page with baking temperatures.

These would indicate that the Buns should be baked at 275 degrees and the Biscuits at 450 degrees.  I have no idea if Gram had an oven with a temperature scale on it or if she had to stick her hand in the oven and go by “feel”.   Or if she cooked on a wood stove back then still.

It seems we have forgotten much of our baking knowledge – what was common sense then is unknown to us now.  How much has changed since she was my age!

Next week, French Buns.  Happy Cooking!

Gram’s Slaw

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As part of the Gram’s Cookbook series, I thought that I would post my favorite recipe that most especially reminds me of her – her slaw recipe.  It’s cheap, healthy, super yummy and easy to make and a lovely cold food for these hot summer months.

Sound good?

Then, head over to Laundry on the Line where I guest posted the recipe!   While you’re there, be sure to check out Andi’s  “Nana’s Recipe Project” where she explores recipes in cookbooks left by her great grandmother.

Happy cooking everyone!

Gram’s Cookbook – Page 2

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My Great Grandmother, Edna Loveless, was born in 1894.  In 1916, the date written on the inside cover of this cookbook, she was 23 years old.  Just for some perspective, a 23 year old today would have been born in 1988…

Back in the early part of the 1900’s, life was a tad different than it is today.  First, women in most states, still did not have the right to VOTE.  Can you, as a woman, imagine being denied this fundamental right simply because you do not possess a Y chromosome?  (Or , based on the color of your skin?  But, we know that that sadly took much longer to be put to rights…)

During the beginning of the twentieth century, as women’s suffrage faced several important federal votes, a portion of the suffrage movement known as the National Women’s Party and led by suffragette Alice Paul became the first “cause” to picket outside the White House. Due to this manner of protest, suffragists were subject to arrests and many were jailed.[43] In 1918, Congress passed what became, when it was ratified by sufficient states in 1920, the Nineteenth Amendment, which prohibited state and federal agencies from gender-based restrictions on voting.

From the Wikipedia site.

Cars were also in their early years… with Model T’s not coming out until the late 1920’s…  This is the Benz Patent Motorwagen, built by the inventor of the modern automobile, Karl Benz, in 1885.

A photograph of the original Benz Patent-Motorwagen, first built in 1885 and awarded the patent for the concept

But, back to the cookbook.

Gram's Cookbook Cover

Ready Reference Recipe Book.  Written inside the cover is what appears to have been the price – 75 cents.  The book was blank, with lined pages with tabs on them – apparently to list what recipes are written on what page.  The rest of the pages are blank, with the page number in the top corner.

Inside of Cookbook Cover

My mom and I were talking about this cookbook… and why Gram had it.  There are several curious aspects to it – namely that the recipes all have names written below them and they’re all written by different people.  Mom remembered that Gram was married in 1918… and we think that this is the “wedding shower” cookbook.  So, Gram would have bought or been given the book (maybe by her mother?) and then given it to different married women that she knew so that they could give her a recipe to use in her new married life.

People still make wedding shower cookbooks – but most are written on recipe cards and then assembled – not written into a blank book just for that purpose.  And, how often do we refer to those modern books?  It looks like this book actually got a bit of use by Gram…

Page 2 - Chicken Bisque

There are 15 pages with recipes written on them – so I will post one per week for over 4 months!   Not a full cookbook, but enough to get a perspective on the foods made by the women of Kansas in the early 1900’s…

So, I will write out the recipe as written, and then, if it is reasonable according to my tastes now, tell you how I made it, with modern recipe written out, and what I thought of it.

Original Chicken Bisque – by Gertrude Hackler

Joint the fowl and cover with cold water, one quart for each pound.  Put in a large minced onion and three stalks of clery, minced fine.  Cover and cook slowly until you can slip the  flesh from the bones.  Let all get cold together; skin, take out the bones and meat, and chopp the latter fine.  Return the soup to the fire and heat in another vessel a cupful of milk (dropping in a little soda).  Thicken this with a tablespoonful of butter rubbed into a teaspoonful of flour, add a tablespoonful of minced parsley.  When the soup has reached a fast boil, stir into it the chopped chicken with a cupful of cracker crumbs soaked in warm milk; boil one minute, beat in the milk and butter and pour out.

As this seemed like a “reasonable” recipe, I decided to give it a try.  There is an updated version of the Chicken Bisque at CopyKat Recipes….

Crockpot Chicken Bisque-ish

1 whole chicken

1 onion, diced

3 celery stalks, diced

red pepper, diced

Italian seasoning


1/4 c flour

2 T. butter

frozen peas

shredded carrots

1 c. quinoa

Put celery, onion, pepper and Italian seasoning into the crockpot and add enough water to nearly cover the chicken.  Cook on high until the chicken comes off of the bone easily.  Separate the meat from the bone and skin, shred the meat into bite sized pieces.

On the stove, in a large soup pot, melt a couple of tablespoons of butter.  Add in 1/4 cup of flour – cook for a couple of minutes.  Stir in the boiling (or very hot) chicken broth from the crock a bit at a time, stirring the entire time… eventually add it all and cook until it starts to get thick.  Add back in the chicken and veggies.   Stir in any veggies you have hiding in the fridge – I had green peas and carrots.

But, my bisque never bisqued for some reason… so in a desperate act to thicken it up, I added in 1 cup of uncooked quinoa and cooked until the quinoa was done.  That did the trick…

It tasted OK, not super spicey, but OK.  My husband liked it, said that it was very filling.   We love quinoa, so it was a nice addition.  I’ll probably make the quinoa chicken soup recipe again, with more spices added to it.

I hope that you liked week one of Gram’s recipes… next week, it’s Breads!