Baked Crispy Peaches (c.1939-1945) ★★★★★


Back around November, a friend contacted me about a recipe book she had recently acquired. It was an undated WWII cookbook, focused on using canned foods. Although we don't know the publication date of the cookbook, it was obviously sometime during WWII. It was published by the American Can Company, possibly in Iowa. She asked me if I was interested in the recipes, and of course I replied that I was. She was very generous in photographing the entire cookbook and sending it to me. You can see the cookbook in its entirety here. There isn't a huge selection of canned foods in my little Japanese town, so I settled on this fairly simple recipe for baked peach halves.

(By the way, Kitchen Historic's 4th birthday was on February 6th! I can't believe it's been this long. Many thanks to you, my lovely readers!)


Original Recipe:


BAKED CRISPY PEACHES

1/2  No. 21/2 can Peach Halves     3  tablespoons Brown Sugar
3/4   cup Cornflakes                       1  tablespoon Butter or Margarine

Drain peach halves. Crush cornflakes. Roll peach halves in cornflakes.
Place peaches, hollow side up, in baking dish. Fill centers with sugar;
dot with butter or margarine. Pour 1/4 cup juice around peaches. Bake
in moderately hot oven at 375 F. for about 25 minutes until browned.
Serve hot with cream or evaporated milk.                             4 servings.


The Verdict:

Well, at first I didn't think much of this dessert. But then I was surprised to find myself wanting more, even after eating two. However, there is no mistaking - this is a cheap recipe. It's certainly not surprising to find this in a wartime cookbook. But, it's a tasty and simple recipe to make, and I can see it being a fun treat during wartime.

Some notes:
The majority of the cornflakes were kind of soggy.
The syrup from the peaches mostly just burned to the bottom of the pan. Not sure what the point of that was, other than to just prevent the peaches from burning to the bottom, I guess.
After 25 minutes, the peaches were still very firm; not inedible at all, but definitely firm.
I drizzled my peaches with some sweetened condensed milk sauce I already had on hand. I couldn't really taste it, and the peaches would be just as good without it.


Modernized Recipe:

(Adapted from Wartime Recipes From Canned Foods)

The original recipe is easy to follow.


Ginger Tablet (1845) ★★★★



Ages ago, in my 4th out of 5 years in university, I submitted an essay to be published in an online undergraduate journal. Unfortunately my essay wasn't chosen, but they told me I was the first alternate choice and they encouraged me to apply again the next year. So my 5th year rolled around and I received an email from the editor, asking if I would apply this time as well. I brushed up my work a bit and resubmitted. And they accepted it! I had to go through gruelling edits, which took months to complete - all during a move to Japan!

My essay was finally published this November. If you're interested in Scottish-Canadian foodways, please have a look! The official title is Cookbooks as Sources of Scottish-Canadian Identity, 1845 – 1934. Its all about the first two Scottish cookbooks published in Canada and how they interact with and reflect Scottish and Canadian identities at the time. Its my first published work, and to be honest, I can see that it needs still more refining. But for an undergraduate work, I'm pretty pleased.

So without further ado, here is a recipe from one of the cookbooks I analyzed in my essay. Modern Practical Cookery was an early cookbook publication in Canada, but it had already been published in Scotland nearly 40 years earlier. It was the first Scottish cookbook published in Canada. Of course I wanted to pick a recipe from this book which was distinctly Scottish.

Before I started research for my essay, I had never heard of tablet (also called butter tablet or Swiss milk tablet). Its actually a traditional Scottish sweet, similar to sucre a la creme, something I ate when I was a child in Canada. The Oxford Companion to Food includes an entry on tablet:


"...a Scottish sweet made from sugar and milk or cream boiled to the soft ball stage (116C/240F), and then stirred vigorously to make it ‘grain’ or crystallize. It is poured into trays and allowed to set before being cut into smaller pieces or ‘tablets’. The texture of this confection resembles crisp fudge. It was known in the early 18th century when purchases of ‘tablet for the bairns’ were recorded in The Household Book of Lady Grisell Baillie (1692-1733), and Mrs. McLintock (1736) gave recipes for orange, rose, cinnamon, and ginger tablets in the earliest work on cookery published in Scotland."

I tried to find this reference in Lady Grisell's book, but all I could find was an offhand reference by the editor of a 1911 edition, edited by Robert Scott-Moncrieff: "Fruits and confections are frequently bought, and occasionally 'taiblet for the bairens.'" Scott-Moncrieff's version is highly edited and transcribed, so plenty is left out. I couldn't find any record of "taiblet" in the book. I suppose we'll have to take his word for it, as I am unable to get my hands on the original source.

Unfortunately, Mrs. McLintock's Receipts for Cookery and Pastry Work seems to be a rare book, so I was unable to examine it myself. However, Food Timeline includes an interesting blurb from Sugar-Plums and Sherbet: The Prehistory of Sweets by Laura Mason:

"Recipes for tablets flavoured with orange, rose, cinnamon and ginger were published in Glasgow by Mrs. McLintock in 1736. These are simple candy recipes, made only with sugar, water and flavourings. This is her recipe: "Orange Tablets with the Grate: Grate the Oranges, take 2 lib. of sugar, and a mutchkin of water, then clarify it with the White of 2 Eggs, and set it on a slow Fire, and boil it till it be almost candyed, then put in the Grate of the Oranges, and take your white paper, rub it with fresh Butter, pour it on your Paper, and cut in little pieces." This is a candy similar to those from the previous century. The word tablet has medicinal overtones, as in the commonly accepted meaning of a small flat disc containing some drug or health-giving substance...In tablet now made in Scotland, both orange and ginger are still found amongst the flavourings, but milk has become essential to the definition."

As for the name, the Oxford English Dictionary suggests that it may have come from medicinal origins, which isn't uncommon for candy. This seems especially possible considering the common flavours of ginger, cinnamon, rose, and peppermint.

So what do we know about tablet? It dates back to at least the 1730s. The candy likely had medicinal origins. Popular flavours included ginger, cinnamon, peppermint, rose, and citrus. The earliest recipes were mostly sugar and water, and the dairy component came later. The texture should be hard and grainy, rather than smooth and soft like fudge.


Original Recipe:


GINGER TABLET.

Clarify the sugar, as directed for barley sugar
(p. 308,) and boil it down, but not so high as for
barley sugar ; to know when it is candy high, dip
the end of a spoon in cold water, then in the boil-
ing sugar, and when it hangs to the spoon, ropy,
take it off the fire ; to two pounds of sugar, have
half an ounce of the whitest ginger you can get,
pounded and sifted, put it in the sugar and stir 
it, rubbing it well, and breaking all the knots 
with the back of the spoon against the side of the
pan ; when done, have the marble slab rubbed
over with butter, pour it on it, and let it stand
till quite cold, then score it into dice for orna-
ment, but not too deep, cut it into square cakes,
and lay it by in boxes.

TO MAKE BARLEY SUGAR.

Take two pounds of lump sugar, break it in
small pieces, take a clean brass pan, put in a pint
(mutchkin) of water, drop in the white of an egg,
and whisk it well, put in the sugar, put it on the
fire, and, when melted, bring it to the boil ; as
soon as it boils, draw it to one side, to make it
boil on one side of the pan ; skim it till it be
perfectly clarified, then set on the fire, and boil
it down quick ; in the mean time have a marble
slab ready, rub it over with a piece of butter ; to
know when the sugar is at a proper height, dip
the end of a spoon in cold water, then into the 
boiling sugar, and quickly into the cold water,
if the sugar has gathered round the spoon, slip it
off, and if it be hard, and crimps in your teeth, it
is enough ; take it off, and drop six or eight drops
of the essence of lemon into it, pour it on the
marble slab, and before it gets too cold, with a
pair of large scissors, cut it into long sticks, rol
them on the slab, and lay them to cool ; this do
as quickly as possible, as it will get too cold for
cutting ; when done, keep it in a box, or in some
place from the air, and it will keep a long time.



The Verdict:

Well, the Oxford English Dictionary may be on to something when it says tablet may have had medicinal origins, because this is like medicinal strength ginger. Wow! It's very strong - but delicious! I like it, but I can only eat a small bite at a time. Mr. Man loves ginger and he really loves this. It is very sweet as well, though.

One thing - I wish I had made the tablet a bit thinner, because it was quite the feat to cut through it. Its a very hard candy, although it dissolves in the mouth. It has a rough and grainy texture, very unlike the smoothness of fudge.

It takes a bit of time to make with all that boiling, but overall, simple and tasty. I may make this again with Little Y, as it strikes me as something simple enough that a kid could do a lot of the recipe.

As for clarifying the sugar with the egg white...its probably an optional step by now. I did it just for fun, but I'm not sure it accomplished much.

Note: I used unrefined brown cane sugar (or at least I think so...it looked like it anyway) to make this recipe. I think any kind works fine, since its measured by weight and boiled down. The most authentic way would be to use lump sugar  - I suppose if you have access you can buy it, or if you're really dedicated you could make your own, but its really just sugar wetted with water and formed to a cone.



Modernized Recipe:

(Adapted from Modern Practical Cookery)

1 pint water
1 egg white (optional)
2 pounds sugar
1/2 ounce ginger, powdered
butter for greasing

1. In a large pot, whisk together the water and egg white (if using). Add the sugar.
2. Cook over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved. Then bring it to a boil.
3. If you are clarifying with the egg white, as soon as it starts to boil, move the pot so that only half of it is on the burner. This will allow any scum to shift to the opposite side. Skim it off until there is nothing left to skim.
4. Simmer the candy until it reaches the correct temperature. Make sure to stir and scrape down the sides from time to time. It is ready when it reaches around 240-245F. You can test by dropping a bit onto a plate and seeing that it does not run, or when it reaches the consistency of soft putty when dropped in cold water.
5. When the candy is ready, add the ginger and mix well. Pour it onto a greased marble slab or into a greased pan. Smooth it with a spoon or spatula to the desired thickness.
6. Let the tablet cool completely. Score into dice for decoration and cut into squares.


Sources:

Baillie, Grizel, and Robert Scott-Moncrieff. The Household Book of Lady Grisell Baillie, 1692-1733. Edinburgh: Printed at the UP by T. and A. Constable for the Scottish History Society, 1911.

Davidson, Alan. The Oxford Companion to Food. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2014.

Mason, Laura. Sugar-Plums and Sherbet: The Prehistory of Sweets. Devon: Prospect, 1998.

Olver, Lynne. "The Food Timeline: Tablet." The Food Timeline. Accessed 31 Jan. 2015. <http://www.foodtimeline.org/foodcandy.html#tablet>.

"Tablet (confectionery)." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation. Accessed 31 Jan. 2015. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tablet_(confectionery)>.

Lemon Cake (Finest ever.) (c.1905) ★★★★★




I am alive!
And living in Japan!

It has been quite the adventure so far, especially culinarily. Firstly, I eat kyuushoku, the same school lunch the students eat, every day at work. Kyuushoku is mostly so-so, sometimes awful, sometimes good, and every now and then delicious. The lunches are made by a nutritionist, but they are very high in calories (600-900) and often lack vegetables or much color other than beige. The meals always include rice or bread, whole milk, and some kind of soup. However, I am consuming more fish and seaweed than ever before in my life, which I guess is probably a good thing overall.

One neat thing I love about Japan is their obsession with local food. Each prefecture has its famous foods - mine happens to be famous for Japanese pears, which have become my new obsession.

I've felt bad for neglecting this blog. Mostly I have been too overwhelmed getting used to life in Japan and my first real job. Also, its difficult finding ingredients. A lot of things are difficult to find, especially if they're out of season (absolutely no berries in my grocery store right now!). On top of that, Japanese people don't really use ovens, so we had to purchase one, which is so small that it fits on a countertop!

My current kitchen set-up. That's my oven on the counter! The whole other side opposite the fridge and counter is a giant sink and a stovetop.

Anyway, enough about Japan! I finally feel good about posting a new recipe here! I picked something simple, with ingredients I basically already had on hand (although it took me a while to find cornstarch!).

Original Recipe:


NO. 18. LEMON CAKE. (Finest ever.) Mrs.
Clara Moulton, Loura, Cal,--Take one good
cup sugar, one-half cup butter, three eggs,
(save the yolk of one,) one-half cup milk, two
cups of flour, one tablespoon baking powder,
jelly between layers, one cup cold water, one
cup sugar; the rind and juice of one large
lemon, one tablespoon corn starch, heaping
with the yolk of one egg and a little butter,
and a little water. Put in the corn starch and
yolk when it commences to boil and cool it
before spreading the layers.


The Verdict:

Delicious!
The cake was a bit dense, but very soft and a wonderful texture. There was a bit of a crunchy crust on top of the cake, but I actually kind of like the extra crunch thrown in there. The cake itself was a bit bland, but it wasn't bad. I think it could have benefitted from a bit of vanilla is all.
The curd was lovely and bright. I ended up adding waaaaay more cornstarch, partially due to it not thickening up and partially due to a huge mistake! But it turned out really great and the perfect consistency.
Overall, my whole family loved this cake! We ate it with fresh whipped cream, but its just fine on its own too.

Baking notes: I used cake margarine instead of butter because it was what I had on hand. Also, my measuring cup may be different from North American measurements and I used my weird little convection oven to bake.


Modernized Version:

(Adapted from the Los Angeles Times Cook Book No. 2)

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter
3 eggs (save one yolk)
1/2 cup milk
2 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder

1 cup water
1 cup sugar
juice and rind of one lemon
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon butter

1. Preheat the oven to 350F and grease a cake pan.
2. In a mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar. Add the eggs and milk and mix until smooth. Add the flour and baking powder, mix well, and pour into the prepared pan.
3. Bake the cake. It took around an hour for me, but I have a weird oven.
4. Let the cake cool and prepare the filling.
5. In a saucepan, mix the water, sugar, and lemon juice and rind. Bring to a boil.
6. Add the butter, egg yolk, and cornstarch to the filling. Whisk well to combine.
7. When the filling has thickened, remove from heat and let it cool before filling the cake.


Breakfast-in-a-Glass (1959) ★★★★




For a while now I've seen smoothie recipes floating around the internet that include oatmeal in the ingredients. As a self-proclaimed smoothie enthusiast, I found the idea nothing short of heresy. Although I can't deny the fact that oatmeal is a very nutritious food, I just couldn't allow myself add it to my smoothies, which only contained fruit, juice, and yogurt...up until now, I guess.
Since we're now right in the midst of "warm summer mornings," I decided to go for it and make this Breakfast-in-a-Glass recipe from 1959. Okay, okay, so to be fair my original plan was to make Little Y the tester, since she loves smoothies and would be oblivious to the oatmeal secretly lurking within. But I felt up to a challenge today, so I decided to just go for it and see what an oatmeal smoothie is really like for myself. Historical style, of course.

Original Recipe:



For each serving of Breakfast-in-a-Glass put 1 cup milk and 1/3 cup cool, cooked oatmeal in Mixer or other container.
Add 1/3 cup crushed strawberries (fresh or frozen) or other fruit; add sugar to taste and vanilla if desired.
Blend in Mixer or blender...or use electric or hand beater until smooth. Serve immediately.


The Verdict:

The first thing I did was make the oatmeal. I was annoyed by the extra step and too lazy to bother looking up how to properly make oatmeal, so I threw a handful in a bowl, added what looked like enough milk, and zapped it in the microwave for one minute. It came out cooked, so that was a pleasant surprise. I added the cooked oatmeal, milk, and some frozen strawberries to my blender, along with a bit of vanilla and about two teaspoons of sugar. I whizzed that until it looked smooth.
Taste-wise, this was actually not bad. I could definitely taste the oatmeal, but I didn't mind. However, texture-wise this really bothered me. The oatmeal didn't completely blend in, so it was basically strawberry milk with chunks. Not so yummy. That said, Little Y loved it and happily drank the entire glass. I think that if the oatmeal had been completely blended I would drink this again by choice, so I give this recipe four stars on that condition.






Modernized Recipe:

(Adapted from a Quaker Oats advertisement, found at jonwilliamson.com)

The original recipe is good!



Nelson Balls (1881) ★★★★



If you haven't already heard of The Foods of England Project, I really recommend exploring the website. Its a really informative site and its where I found today's recipe for Nelson Balls.

Apparently Nelson Balls may have been named after Admiral Horatio Nelson (1758-1805). Nelson was a British officer, recognized for his service during the Napoleonic Wars. He is known for his famous quote, "England expects that every man will do his duty." I'm not sure what this has to do with lemon-flavoured confections, but I suppose its a nice enough legacy for a war hero.

Amusingly, the recipe on The Foods of England Project page came from a book published in the United States. There wasn't much other information, other than the earliest known reference to Nelson Balls was in an 1803 advertisement: "E Russell, Bread and Biscuit-baker ... the greatest variety of biscuits, Nelson's balls, Dutchess of York's biscuits..." So I decided to do a little internet digging. I did a search through Google Books and found a plethora of references to Nelson Balls. Several sources offered definitions of the food:
Salopia Antiqua (London, 1841)
Dictionary of Archaic and Provincial Words (London, 1855)
The English Dialect Dictionary (1905)

I also found an interesting article about Nelson Balls:
So it appears that the treat was known under several names: Nelson Balls, Nelson's Balls, Waterloo Balls, and Nelson's Bullets. In one case, it appears that some schoolboys decided to refer to the confection as "horseballs." Nelson balls also seem to be a critical ingredient in the recipe for Nelson Puddings:

While there was a huge selection of recipes available for Nelson Pudding, I could only find one other for Nelson Balls:

Massey and Son's Biscuit, Ice, & Compote Book (London, 1866)
By the way, if you're interested in what a biscuit break is, Ivan Day has a great post all about that.


Original Recipe:

NELSON BALLS  3 lbs flour ½ lb butter ½ lb sifted sugar Essence of lemon to flavor.   Mix up very stiff with milk; place in a cloth for a half hour; break smooth with a biscuit break; mould into small balls about the size of a walnut; bake in a rather quick oven, and put in a warm place to dry.

The Verdict:

This recipe looked huge, so I decided to third the amount of ingredients. In the end I got maybe 30 or slightly less balls out of the thirded recipe. There wasn't really a described method, so I ended up mixing the ingredients in order. I put the flour and sugar in a bowl and mixed in the butter with my fingers. Then I added the milk and lemon extract, working it to a stiff dough with my hands. I let it sit for longer than half an hour because I got distracted. I beat the dough with my rolling pin for a while, until it looked nice and smooth. I wasn't sure about "size of a walnut," but since the recipes for Nelson Puddings called for 6 balls or small cakes, I made them about golf ball size. I baked them for about 15 minutes at 380F.

These aren't bad. The are not very sweet at all and I could have used more lemon flavouring (even though the dough smelled strongly, it wasn't enough after they were cooked). Some fresh lemon zest would have been great, actually. Mr. Man loved them (he doesn't like overly sweet things), but we both agreed these would be improved by some icing on top or even lemon curd in the middle, as they're a bit dry and dense. I can really see how making them into a pudding would be a great improvement. They're definitely edible as is, though!

Modernized Recipe*:

(Adapted from The complete bread, cake and cracker baker)

455g FLOUR
76g SUGAR
76g BUTTER
LEMON EXTRACT
MILK

1. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour and sugar. Add the butter and combine with your fingers until crumbly.
2. Add in a little milk at a time, mixing until you get a stiff dough. Add the lemon extract to taste. On a flat surface, knead and beat the dough with a rolling pin until it is smooth.
3. Cover the dough with a cloth or plastic wrap and let sit for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 380F.
4. After the dough has rested, roll into balls about the size of a golf ball. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until the tops just start to turn light brown. They don't rise or spread much at all, so they can sit close together on the baking sheet.


*Thirded recipe