Meanderings in food, and food preparation, historic and personal. Bon appetite!

Soup of the Evening – Beautiful Soup

From Lowney’s Cookbook – a Relic of the early 20th Century)

New England Chowder

Sautee 1/4 cup minced onion in 1/4 cup salt pork fat. When translucent, add 4 cups clams or 4 pounds haddock, cut up, and simmer gently for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, parboil 3 cups diced potato. Add potato dice to onion/fish mixture, and add 2 cups boiling water,  (orhot court-boullion.) and simmer until potatoes are just tender.

Melt 4 Tbsp butter and blend with 2Tbsp flour,  and add 4 cups diced fresh tomatoes.  Mix into fish mixture and season with salt, pepper and cayenne. Serve in individual bowls , over buttered crackers.

Lobster Chowder

Melt 1/4 cup salt pork fat and sautee in 1/4 cup minced onion. When onion is cooked, strain fat and reserve. In the top of a double-boiler, melt 2 TBsp butter and make a roux of 2 TBsp flour. Add one quart of milk, salt to taste, pepper and one blade of mace. Add two cups cubed lobster meat and simmer over hot water for 20 minutes. Add 1 cup hot cream and the onion-steeped melted salt-pork fat.

Mulligatawney Soup

Melt 1/4 cup butter and lightly sautee in it for five minutes: 1/4 cup minced onion, 1 TBsp minced carrot, 2 cups chopped tomato, 1/2 cup chopped green apple.

Add to the butter/vegetable mixture: 6 cups chicken stock, 2 TBsp chopped cooked ham, 4 cloves, 1 tsp curry powder, 1 tsp chopped parsley, 1/2 cup chopped cooked chicken, 1 TBsp tomato catsup 1/4 cup boiled rice. Cover and cook for half an hour. Garnish with slices of fresh lemon

Salad Years, Green in Judgment

From Lowney’s Cook Book – Salads and the dressings to go on them –

Butter Salad Dressing

Melt 1/4 cup butter, and add to it 2 Tbsp flour, 2 teasp salt, 2 teasp mustard, a few grains cayenne pepper and 1 cup milk. Cook in a double boiler for 5 minutes, then pour on to 3 beaten eggs, add 1/2 cup vinegar and cook in the top of the double boiler until thick.

Cream Dressing

Mash the yolks of three hard-cooked eggs, add 1 teasp salt,  1 teasp mustard, 2 Tbsp vinegar. Beat 1 1/2 cups thick cream until stiff, and combine a little at a time to to the egg mixture. When stiff, add  1/8 teasp cayenne.

French Dressing #3

Mix together; 1 teasp mustard, 1 teasp salt, 1/4 teasp paprika, a few grains cayenne pepper. Add 3 Tbsp lemon juice and 6 Tbsp oil alternately, beating until quite thick.

Butter Bean Salad

Cover 2 cups cold butter beans with French dressing and let stand for 1/2 hour. Drain, sprinkle with a few drops of onion juice, and mix with cream dressing. Garnish with 2 hardboiled eggs, quartered, and parsley.

Cauliflower Salad

Marinate one cup cold boiled cauliflower in French dressing. Drain, and add boiled dressing, and chill. Serve on a bed of watercress and sprinkle with grated Edam cheese.

Cherry Salad

Remove stones from 2 cups cherries, Add to cherries one cup chopped English walnuts, one cup chopped celery and 3/4 cup mayonnaise. Chill, arrange in lettuce nests and garnish with one whole cherry on top of each nest.

Chestnut Salad

Cut two cups boiled chestnuts into small pieces. Add two cups oranges, cut into smallpieces, one Tbsp lemon juice and one cup mayonnaise. Chill, serve on lettuce and garnish with grated orange rind.

Tomato Jelly

Soak 2 teaspoons powdered gelatine in 1/2 cup cold water. In a small saucepan, simmer 2 cups tomatoes, 4 peppercorns, 2 cloves, 1 slice of onion, 1 teasp Worcestershire sauce, 1/2 teasp salt, and 1/2 teasp paprika for 15 minutes. Strain, and add gelatine mixture. When dissolved, pour into individual molds or into a border bold. When cold, turn out and garnish with mayonnaise dressing, or celery salad.

Chicken Salad

Mix 2 cups chicken meat cut into small pieces, with 2 cups celery, also cut in small pieces. Marinate with French dressing, chill, and arrange in a salad bowl. Mask with mayonnaise and decorate with hard-cooked eggs cut in slices, capers, and mayonnaise  pressed through a pastry bag and tube.

Summer Tomato Bread Salad

This is one of my favorite recipes when I have an abundance of two things – super-ripe and juicy tomatoes, and slightly stale artisan-bakery bread. HEB ciabatta works very well in this recipe. The bread must be of this type, which will hold shape and form when dampened, as anything else will go all soggy and disgusting.

Cube approximately half a ciabatta loaf, to make about 2 cups of 1 to ¾ inch cubes. Lightly dry cubes in a warm oven, if desired.

Slice coarsely 1 lb fresh tomatoes. You can also use a pound of cherry tomatoes, sliced in half, or even go half red and half yellow tomatoes – but they must be fresh and full of juice.

Place the bread in the bottom of a container, and the fresh tomatoes on top of them, so that the juice from the tomatoes will percolate down through the bread.

Mash together to make a paste, using something like the mortar and pestle shown here:

1 large clove garlic, cut into pieces pinch sea salt, and pepper to taste

Add to the garlic paste and wisk to a salad-dressing consistency: 1 Tbsp red wine vinegar ¼ cup olive oil

Pour the garlic paste/olive oil dressing over the tomatoes and bread. Add 1 tsp fresh marjoram or chopped parsley ¼ cup chopped fresh basil

Optional: garnish with ¼ cup Nicoise or Kalamata olives. Allow to sit for about half an hour, to blend flavors. This is not so good when left over to the next day, unless you enjoy very soggy bread – but it is superb when eaten within an hour or so of being made.

I bought the wooden mortar and pestle for a few pesetas in the local grocery store when I lived in Spain. It is now very well seasoned, through being constantly used to make things with olive oil added. I like it because – unlike most of the other mortar and pestle sets on the market in gourmet cook-shops,  it is deep, and with straight sides;  excellent when it comes to keeping fairly hard items being mashed in it from leaping out – and because they can then be mixed to an emulsion, just using the pestle.

And this recipe does not call for kitten. He was just supervising

Beef – It’s What Was For Dinner

The tattered old cookbook that my daughter found at an estate sale contained a number of colored plates: Four of them illustrated cuts of beef to be gotten from a whole side of beef. Until the post-Civil War surge in cattle ranching, and the mass transport of cattle from Western ranches, the usual favored meat among Americans was – believe it or not – pork. But after the 1880s, beef ruled the American dinner-table, and from Lowney’s Cookbook Illustrated (of 1908) supplies some of the ways and methods of serving it up.

Spiced Beef

Wash and wipe six pounds of any inexpensive piece of beef: cover with boiling water; bring to the boiling point, then simmer until meat is tender, adding, the last hour of cooking, one cup each of carrot and onions, a bouquet of sweet herbs tied in a bag, pepper and one half tablespoon salt. Remove meat and reduce liquid to one and one half cups.

Shred meat, add liquid and press in bread pan, packing closely. When cold serve in thin slices.

Beefsteak Smothered in Onions

1 dozen small onions, 1 slice porterhouse steak, cut thick, salt & pepper.

Heat a frying pan hissing hot. Put in beefsteak, searing first on one side, then on the other; cook five minutess; season with salt and pepper; add onions which have been cooked one half hour in boiling salted water. Cover and simmer twenty or thirty minutes.

Remove steak to platter, spread with butter, and season with salt and pepper. Season onions with salt, pepper, and butter, and serve around steak.

Broiled Fillets of Beef With Oysters

Cut slices about two inches thick from fillet. Shape in circles. Place on greased broiler and broil over hot coals from four to six minutes, turning every ten seconds; place on a hot platter; sprinkle with salt and pepper; cover with oysters; dot with butter; and bake in oven until oysters curl. Serve immediatly, garnished with parsley and lemon.

A Chicken in Every Pot

From Lowney’s Cook Book

Old Fashioned English Chicken Pie

Cover chicken, cut in pieces for serving, with boiling water, add two sprigs of thyme, one sprig of marjoram, bit of bay leaf, two sprigs parsley, tied in a bag. Simmer gently until tender.

One half hour before chicken is done, add one half-pound bacon, cut in small pieces.

Arrange on the bottom of baking dish, slices of hard-cooked eggs, cover with sautéed mushrooms, then a layer of chicken meat,and continue until dish is filled. Add three cups of sauce made from the liquor in the pan and thickened with two tablespoons butter and four tablespoons flour cooked together; reheat in oven, and garnish with pastry points cut in the shape of triangles, minced parsley, and serve.

Roast Boned Chicken

Bone according to directions for boning chicken. Stuff until plump with forcemeat, sew, press body into natural shape, truss, sprinkle with salt and pepper, dredge with flour and follow directions for Roast Chicken, allowing twenty minutes for each pound.

Roast Chicken

Remove pinfeathers, singe, take out tendons, draw skin back from neck, cut off neck close to body, cut out oil bag. Make an incision between the legs, running from the breastbone down, and through this opening draw the entrails. If care is taken, all of the internal organs can be removed at once by separating the membrane inclosing the organs from the body.

Draw windpipe and crop through the neck opening. Never make an incision in the breast.

Wash inside of bird with cloth wring out of cold water, removing all clots of blood. Wipe, stuff, sew up openings, truss, sprinkle with salt and pepper, dredge with flour, place on rack in dripping pan, and cook fifteen minutes in very hot oven. Then dredge pan with flour, reduce heat, and baste every ten minutes until chicken is done, turning often.

Allow fifteen minutes to the pound for roasting.

One Pan Wurst Supper

Heat 1 Tbsp oil, bacon drippings, or render one thin slice of salt-pork cut in small dice, in a medium saucepan over medium heat. When the oil is hot (or the salt-pork rendered) add ¼ cup minced onion and sauté until tender.  Add 1 8-oz. can or 1 cup of well-drained sauerkraut,  2 teaspoons brown sugar, 1/3 cup of dry white wine, beer, water – or (my addition) homemade chicken or vegetable broth, 1/8 teaspoon salt,  ¼ caraway seeds and a twist of fresh-ground black pepper. The original recipe says to cover and simmer for half an hour, then add 4 wieners or 2 knackwursts and simmer for another fifteen minutes. For my version, I add two or four smoked brats – it depends on the size of the brats and if they have been frozen – and two red potatoes, cut in quarters, cover and simmer the whole shebang for half and hour to forty minutes. The potatoes should be done, the sausages cooked through and the broth reduced and absorbed into the vegetables. Serve with a bit of whole-grain mustard on the side, and a salad of fresh garden greens. Total Teutonic bliss achieved … and only one cooking pot to wash. Yep, it doesn’t get much better than this … not until I start to make home-made sauerkraut…

Sweet Desserts

Chocolate and the Orphaned Cookbook

Color plate #1 – Cocoa fruit pudding and chocolate cream pie

Well, that’s not what it’s called, actually – the cookbook is a hundred-year old general cookbook, put out by Lowney’s – a turn of the last century chocolate manufacturer. The company does not seem to exist any more, for most of the google-mentions I can find for lowney+chocolate are for faded memorabilia. They seem to have invented the brownie, though – all hail! The cookbook they published in 1907, with a revised edition in 1912 might be taken in part as an early version of the sort of corporate publication skewered gloriously by James Lileks in The Gallery of Regrettable Foodmostly because there are a lot of recipes for chocolate in it. Not because of the various color plates inserted – which are actually rather demure and tasteful. Except maybe for the plates involving cuts of beef. No; overall the battered and next-thing-to-falling apart cookbook that my daughter picked up at an estate sale is an interesting cultural relic; it was a useful bridge between eras – between indigestible Victorian and conventional late 20th century.

And I promised to post a couple of representative and amusing recipes from it on the Splendid Table pages; representative, amusing, doable in a modern kitchen, and maybe even appealingly edible.

Recipe #1: Mushroom Ketchup.

(Believe it or not, ketchup was a condiment made from things other than tomatoes. Lowney’s has a recipe for cucumber ketchup, too.) 

Arrange layers of mushrooms and salt in preserving kettle: let stand on back of stove for 12 hours. Press through a sieve and measure. For every quart of mushroom liquor, add 1 pint vinegar, 1 Tbsp salt and 2 Tbsp each of cloves, mace, allspice and mustard seed. Boil until thick, then bottle.

Now the good stuff. Chocolate!!!!

Color plate #2 – Chocolate hermits and chocolate Swedish meringues

Lowney’s Chocolate Hermits:

Cream ½ cup butter and add 2/3 cup sugar, 2 eggs, ½ cup seeded raisins, 2 cups flour in which ¼ tsp salt and 2 tsp baking powder has been blended, 1 tsp cinnamon, and ¼ cup Lowney’s Always Ready Chocolate Powder dissolved in 2 Tbsp hot water. (Suppose you can use unsweetened cocoa powder as a suitable sub.) Drop dough by teaspoon-full onto a buttered baking sheet and place a whole raisin in the center of each hermit, and bake in a moderate oven. (My guess is about 350° for about 15 minutes.)

Cocoa Fruit Pudding:

Chop 2/3 cup beef suet, 1 cup chopped dried figs and 2 ¼ cup soft bread crumbs in a meat chopper. (Probably use a food processor for this.)  Add 1 cup brown sugar, 2 eggs, 1/3 cup milk and ½ tsp salt. Steam for three hours. Serve with Hot Chocolate Sauce and cream sweetened and flavored.

Presumably this pudding batter is poured into a lightly-buttered steamed pudding mould with a latched cover, and then boiled in a deep saucepan for three hours. Don’t knock this process – it makes a very delicate and cake-like pudding.


Color plate #3 – Chocolate Bavarian cream and chocolate trifle

Chocolate Bavarian Cream

Ah, at last something more to contemporary American taste!

In a double-boiler melt 2 ounces Lowney’s Premium Chocolate (I am guessing here that semi-sweet baking chocolate is a suitable sub, based on the amount of additional sugar called for – YMMV). Add ½ cup sugar, 4 egg yolks, 2 cups milk, ¼ tsp salt and simmer until mixture is thickened. Soak 2 Tbsp powdered unflavored gelatin in ¼ cup cold water, and add to egg-chocolate-milk mixture. Stir until gelatin is dissolved, then strain through a sieve and cool until just beginning to set. Fold in 2 cups whipped cream, pour into mold and set until hardened. Un-mold and garnish with whipped cream and fresh fruit.

Right then – anyone ready for more 100-year old recipes?

More Chocolate from Lowney’s

Lowney’s was an American chocolate producer, a rival to Hershey – and is thought to have originated the recipe for brownies. Their cookbook was a best-seller in the early 20th century – and especially heavy on recipes using  chocolate.

Cocoa Fruit Pudding

Chop together in a meat chopper (or modern processer)  2/3 cup beef suet, 1 cup chopped figs, and 2 1/4 soft bread crumbs. Add to this mixture, 1 cup cocoa powder, 1 cup brown sugar, 2 eggs, 1/3 cup milk and 1/2 teasp salt. Pour into a greased pudding mold and steam for 3 hours. Unmold and serve with chocolate sauce, or whipped cream sweetened and flavored.

Chocolate Cream Pie

Melt in a double-boiler: 2 squares Lowney’s Premium Chocolate or 1/2 Lowney’s Cocoa, and add 2/2 cup sugar, 1/4 cup cornstarch, 3 egg yokes, 2 cups milk and 1/4 teasp salt, cook until thick, stirring gently, then add 1 Tbsp vanilla. Pour into a baked pie shell and cover with a meringue made by beating 2 egg whites until stiff, and assing 2 Tbsp sugar. Brown in oven briefly, and serve cold.

Pecan Angel Slices

Frosted, Cut and Packed

This is a family favorite, drawn from my mother’s favorite basic cookbook, the Joy of Cooking – 1975 Edition. This year we decided to afflict our close neighbors with Christmas cookies, as a change from the previous years’ gifts of flavored oils and vinegars, home made cheese, preserves, pickles, et cetera.)

Cream together until well-blended: ½ cup butter and ¼ cup sugar
Beat in well: 1 egg and ½ teasp vanilla
Combine and add to the above: 1 ¼ cup sifted flour and 1/8 teasp salt

Pat dough evenly into a greased 9×12 inch pan and bake at 350° for fifteen minutes. Remove from oven.

Combine: 2 beaten eggs, 1 ½ cup brown sugar, ½ cup flaked cocoanut, 1 cup chopped pecans, 2 Tbsp. flour, ½ teasp double acting baking powder, ½ teasp salt and 1 teasp vanilla.
Pour over cookie layer and return to oven for 25 minutes

Combine 1 ½ cup sifted confectioner’s sugar with sufficient lemon juice to make a smooth, runny glaze. Pour over warm cookie/pecan/coconut layer and allow to set.

When cool, cut into bars or squares.

Shoo-Fly Pie, Demystified

I made this dessert (which in the Pennsylvania Dutch country [which isn’t Dutch but actually a corruption of “Deutch” – or German] can be eaten at breakfast) for my English-Greek neighbors, when I was stationed in Greece in the early 1980′s. They were mystified on several levels, as it is not really a pie, although it is baked in a pastry crust, and can be baked until it is sort of a cake, or left with a soggy center like a pudding. It also does not contain flies. They were also baffled about who or what, exactly, were the Amish, although that was explained very neatly by release of the movie “Witness” at about that time.

1 8-inch unbaked  pie crust, chilled or  pre-made or from scratch.

Combine: 1 1/2 cup flour, with 1/2 brown sugar, a pinch of salt, 1/4 teasp ginger, 1/4 teasp nutmeg, and 1/4 cup soft butter. Rub together with your hands until it resembles soft crumbs.

Combine in another bowl: 1/2 teasp baking soda, 1/2 cup molassas, 1/2 boiling water. (the mixture will foam up, slightly) Add to it 2/3rds of the crumb mixture and pour into the pie shell.

Top with remaining crumb mixture. Bake at 375 degrees for 40 minutes, or less if you like it sort of pudding-soggy in the middle.

Trinity Church Cookbook

Among certain small and miscellaneous items which gravitated to me from my family is a crumbling church cookbook, a simple publication professionally printed, folded and stapled through the spine. It was put out by Trinity Church in Pasadena, California; the church that my grandmother attended faithfully for about half a century, where my parents were married, my brothers and sister and I were baptized, and which my sister and her family still attend. Evidence within the cookbook indicates a date of around 1915 or 1916. The cookbook is sprinkled throughout with advertisements; for name-brand foods, local dairies, specialty shops, a department store, some restaurants, several laundries – one of which features a picture of their automobile delivery vans, lined up in front of the laundry. I don’t think any of the businesses with advertisements in the cookbook are in business locally any more, save possibly Robinson’s. It is interesting, though – many of the businesses already maintained business telephone numbers.

Herewith, some of the recipes. A number of them use canned items – such as this first one:

Salmon Loaf

1 Can salmon drained, soda crackers rolled fine, 2 eggs (1 egg will do) well beaten, 1/4 teasp Ben Hur pepper, 3/4 teasp salt, sage or other flavoring as preferred, 1 small cup of milk. Beat well, put in mould and steam 1 hour.  This is delicious, served cold – Mrs. Phil D. Herbert

Oysters with Macaroni

3/4 cup macaroni broken in 1-inch pieces. Cook in boiling salted water until soft; drain in colander and pour over cold water. Wash and pick over 1 pint of oysters. Put 1/2 of the macaroni in a buttered baking dish, cover with one half the oysters, sprinkle with salt and pepper, dredge with flour, and dot over with 2 Tbsp butter; repeat until all are used. Cover with 3/4 cup of buttered cracker crumbs, and bake in a hot oven about 20 minutes.

New England Pressed Meat

Buy 25 cents worth of pork shoulder (hock end), the same amount of veal flank, and beef shank. Boil all together 3 hours slowly. Take out the meat and run through the meat grinder with  4 soda crackers. Add salt and Ben Hur pepper to taste. Dip the fat off the liquid, strain about a cup of that liquid and mix with your meat.Put in an agate vessel, put a heavy weight on the top, and leave over night. It slices nicely, and is delicious – Mrs. N.B. Franklin

Eggs in Tomatoes

Select large, ripe, firm tomatoes. Plunge them into boiling water for a moment to remove skins. Cut out hard stem ends, making a hollow sufficiently large to hold a broken egg. Into each hollow drop a fresh egg without breaking yoke. Season with butter, pepper and salt, bake in a moderate oven until tomatoes are tender and eggs set. Serve on rounds of buttered toast either plain or with cream sauce.

Southern Cabbage

Chop or slice one medium sized cabbage fine. Put in a stew pan with boiling water to well cover it and boil for 15 minutes. Drain off all water and add a dressing made of 1/2 cup vinegar, 2/3 as much sugar, 1/2 teaspoon mustard, salt and pepper to taste, and 2 teaspoons butter. When this is boiling hot add 1/2 cup (scant) cream and 1 egg stirred together. Mix thuroughly with the cabbage, cook a moment and serve immediately. – Mrs. D.J. Clark

Scalloped Sweet Potatoes

Parboil about a pound of sweet potatoes, then peel and slice. Butter a baking dish and put in a layer of potatoes, then season with salt and pepper and a teaspoon of sugar to each layer, putting in lastly bits of butter. Pour over water to almost cover potatoes, springle a little flour between layers, cover and set in the oven to bake.

Cheese Fondu

One cup scalded milk, one cup bread crumbs, 1/4 pound grated cheese, 1 tablespoon butter, 1/2 teaspoon salt, yolks of three eggs beaten separately. Mix crumbs, cheese, milk butter and salt together and add egg yolks. Beat whites and fold into mixture. Bake in moderate oven 20 minutes – Mrs. W. E. Walker

Mead & Drink

Dandelion Delight

The Box

When all you have in your yard is dandelions  . . .

Then it’s time to make dandelion wine. When my Granny Jessie passed on, in the early 1990’s, one of the things that came to me was a little square wooden box full of recipe cards, although to be frank and fair, Granny Jessie probably did not use the recipes in it; some pre-printed on standard stock, cut out from magazines, others hand-copied in pencil, or merely cut from newspaper pages – and most of those are as brittle as ashes. No, I think she saved them because they intrigued her, or someone at a church pot-luck supper who brought something that she liked the taste of, scribbled it down for her, and she thought that she might make them someday. Some of the recipes cut from the newspaper have dates on them – from the 1970s mostly. Some of them, of course, may be older. But Granny Jessie wasn’t that much of an adventurous cook – even before Grandpa Jim died; Grandpa Jim being one of those who thought salt and pepper was about as far out on the culinary edge of things as any human being ought to go. No, Granny Jessie did basic, early 20th century American cooking – which, when it was good, was very good. Her rice pudding (with raisins in it!)  and her version of shoo-fly pie was sublime.

Among the adventurous curiosities in the little wooden recipe box was a newspaper clipping which so intrigued me that I copied out all the recipes therein – the topic was dandelions. Everyone knows what dandelions are, and people who are proud of their lawns spend a great deal of effort, expense and toxic chemicals eradicating them  . . .  and expense and effort which might not be necessary if we considered dandelions as a garden crop, instead. Yes, indeedy, the darned things are edible – at least when they are tender and young, and have not had any of the aforementioned chemicals poured upon them. Instead, what about a salad of dandelion greens – with bacon! Everything goes better with bacon!   And what about dandelion wine?

Dandelion Green Salad Fry until crisp – 3 slices bacon. Arrange in a flat, shallow dish, several cups of clean, dry dandelion greens, and crumble the bacon over it. Garnish with finely chopped chives and parsley.  Dress with 2 TBsp vinegar and 1 TBsp olive oil, and a sprinkling of salt and pepper.

Dandelion Crowns Trim leaves from whole plant, just where they turn green. Trim off root, just below crown, and clean thoroughly. Simmer for 5 minutes in water, then drain and simmer in fresh water another five minutes. Serve with a little melted butter and fresh pepper. Crowns may also be marinated for at least four hours in ½ cup olive oil, ¼ cup vinegar, 1 sliced garlic clove and a thinly sliced onion.

Dandelion Wine Clean sepals from and wash thoroughly 6 cups dandelion blossoms. Place in a sterilized jar and cover with 3 quarts boiling water. Add rind from 2 lemons and 2 oranges, Cover mouth of jar with plastic wrap and allow to set for 2 days.

Strain liquid into another sterilized jar and stir in: 2 ½ pounds sugar, juice of 2 lemons and 2 oranges, ½ lb raisins, coarsely ground, and ½ package yeast. Cover and set away for one week. Strain into a gallon jug, adding additional water to fill, if necessary. Seal tightly and allow to ferment for 3 months. When it stops fermenting, pour into another jar and allow to stand until clarified. Bottle, and seal, and allow to age.

7 Sweets & 7 Sours

The Becker family, several generations of whom figure in the Adelsverein Trilogy, and Daughter of Texas/Deep in the Heart did not come straight from Germany to the Texas frontier. Before coming to Texas in 1825, the families of Alois Becker and Maria Bloch Becker had been settled for some time in Pennsylvania, the Blochs from the very earliest times, and the Beckers from the late 18th century. (Heinrich Becker, the grandfather of Margaret, Rudi and Carl was a deserter from a Hessian regiment during the American Revolution.) Once in Pennsylvania, the Blochs and the Beckers and the rest were part of a very distinct American-German culture from which evolved the present day Amish and Mennonite communities – the Pennsylvania Dutch. One of those traditions is that of serving up seven sweet and seven sour dishes as part of the meal: seven different kinds of sweet condiments, jams, spreads or preserves, and seven different kinds of pickles, chow-chow or whole spiced vegetables. In Daughter of Texas and Deep in the Heart, Margaret Becker Vining takes a great deal of pride in the table that she sets in her Austin boarding-house … and that she carries on the tradition of setting a table with the traditional seven sweets and seven sours.

On this page are a number of recipes which might have been served at Margaret’s table, and which are favorites of my own family. New recipes will be added, as I find them!

Pepper Corn Relish

This is a recipe for a pepper and corn relish which I copied out of a Thanksgiving issue of Gourmet Magazine, lo these many years ago.

Combine and simmer for half an hour: 5 ½ cup fresh or frozen corn kernels, 1 finely chopped red bell pepper, 1 finely chopped green bell pepper, one medium onion, 2 carrots, also finely chopped, 1 ½ cup sugar, 1 teasp dry mustard, ½ teasp celery, ¼ teasp turmeric and 1 ½ cup vinegar. This relish which can be eaten fresh, or processed in the canning kettle for fifteen minutes. It makes about 5 pint jars.

Honey Pear Conserve

This recipe also came out of the same issue of Gourmet Magazine.

Combine in a large saucepan: 4 lbs Anjou pears, peeled, cored and cut unto chunks, ¾ cup lemon juice, 1 cup honey, ½ tsp cloves, 2 tsp cinnamon and ½ cup dried currents.

Simmer until thickened and pears are cooked through.

Cranberry Chutney

This is probably something that Margaret could not have accomplished at her table – not having a source for cranberries – but I always liked it. It came from the same issue of Gourmet as the first two recipes. Perhaps a creative cook might have worked up an approximation with the fruit available at the time in Texas.

Combine in a large saucepan: ½ cup cider vinegar, 2 ¼ cup brown sugar, ¾ tsp curry powder, ½ tsp ginger, ¼ tsp cloves, ¼ tsp allspice, ¼ tsp ginger, ¼ tsp cinnamon, and 1 ½ cups water.

Bring to a boil, then while stirring simmering mixture, add: 2 lemons, rind grated finely, pith discarded and lemon sectioned and chopped, 2 oranges, (ditto), 1 apple finely chopped, 3 cups cranberries, ½ cup golden raisins, and ½ cup chopped dried apricots. Simmer gently for 40 minutes, until mixture is thickened.

Add: 2 additional cups cranberries and simmer for 10 minutes.

Add: 1 cup cranberries and ½ cup chopped walnuts, stirring until the last cup of cranberries are just cooked. The variously cooked cranberries give it a lot of cranberry texture, and a very fresh flavor.

Consider the Okra of the Fields

There is one huge okra plant in my garden and another two or three smaller, they just don’t produce enough of them at a time to make a decent-sized batch of okra pickles, unless I cheat and go buy two pounds at the market and add to it whatever I have gleaned from my plants, to make a batch of spicy okra pickles. Curiously enougn, we like okra as pickles, in gumbo and even breaded and deep-fried, in which format it is as addictive as popcorn although somewhat more fattening … but okra on it’s own … that  is a vegetable that needs work.

Basically, make a pickling brine from 2 ⅔ cup cider vinegar  and 1 ½ cup water, and 1 ½ teaspoons salt, and when it comes to a simmer, either add to it, or steep in a tea-ball, 2 Tbsp. pickling spices. I used another net-recipe for pickling spice, which called for 2 Tbsp. mustard seeds, 2 Tbsp. whole allspice, 2 teasp coriander seeds, the same of cloves, 1 teaspoon of ground ginger and the same of dried red pepper flakes, a crumbled bay leaf and a two-inch length of cinnamon stick. This makes more than needed for a single batch, so save the remainder for the next batch.

Meanwhile, pack the raw okra into 2 hot and sterilized 1-quart jars, and tuck in among the packed okra in each jar, 2-3 peeled and lightly crushed garlic cloves, 2-3 dried chili pods (I used ripe red jalapeno and paprika pods from my garden) and two or three small bay leaves … I have a small bay tree in the garden, so again … from my garden. It helps to pack the first layer of okra in the jar with the wide end down, and then wedge the next layer into it pointy end down, and distribute the garlic cloves, the pepper pods and the bay leaves as they fit. Fill the jars with okra and all until just below the point on the jar where the threaded rim begins, then pour in the hot brine and process at least 20 minutes in boiling water, as per the usual canning instructions.

Scrumptious – and yet another sour to set on the table, among the traditional seven sweets and seven sours. How many have I to go, now?