Within a recipe box or cookbook can be found a woman’s life, her love of certain foods, her family’s preferences; and sometimes personal insights into the fabric of a family and thus a close-up of a generation’s values.
Even a small handful of old recipes clipped together and tossed in an auction box can bring a woman’s life to light. Recently I purchased just such a box. Among the recipes were breads from the 1950s such as Basic Sweet Dough from Betty Crocker. Actually three recipes were flour and egg smeared, with a note on them, “My Favorite.” The woman surely baked them often and shared with family and friends.
She loved a good sugar cream pie, for there were five recipes on yellowed newspaper clippings. Perhaps she tried them all and found the one she most remembered her own mother making.
She was thrifty and saved the points General Mills gave out with its products towards Oneida Community Stainless Silverware and other items such as cookware, kitchen tools, cookbooks, scissors, and even women’s hosiery.
She was not afraid to try something new – Fresh Rhubarb Mousse. It has a question mark on the recipe, but she evidently tried it, as there are other marks on the paper. She also baked Cranberry Cookies, a treat that didn’t have to wait on fresh cranberries. The recipe called for one jar of cranberry-orange relish.
Perhaps she was a young mother with a baby to feed. She sent for a free family care pamphlet from Pet Evaporated Milk. The front cover deems the recipes, “Husband-Tested,” so her whole family would have enjoyed the meals she gleaned from those recipes. From cheese dips to soups to pork chops to fudge, Pet Milk was able to turn some ordinary ingredients into rich satisfying food.
Perhaps she lived on a farm in the area. Within the small bundle was a ragged piece of paper with a “Receipt for Sugar Curing Meat” in long hand. It called for 2 ounces salt peter, 4 ounces brown sugar, 2 pints barrel salt, 80 pounds of meat, with the single instruction to rub each piece of meat for 4 minutes.
Living on a farm, no doubt, would have given her access to fresh eggs and milk. Her recipe for bread pudding was a standard for comfort food, past and present. Here are her recipes for the bread pudding and one of the sugar cream pies. Again, the papers were covered with smudges.
Look through your own collection of recipes. What would someone be able to surmise about you and your family if they found them 50 years from now?
Old-Fashioned Bread Pudding
2 cups milk
1 1/2 cups light cream
1 cup sugar
6 cups cubed day-old bread
In large bowl, beat eggs, milk, cream, sugar and vanilla. Add bread cubes and stir to make sure all bread is soaked in liquid.
Butter 2-quart baking dish or milk pan. Pour bread and liquid in, smoothing out top. Bake in moderate oven for about 50 minutes. Or dish can be placed in larger pan with hot water up about 1 inch in pan. Pudding is done when a knife inserted in center comes out clean. Serve warm, room temperature or cold. Refrigerate any leftovers.
Connie’s Note: Milk pans were often used to bake in during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. A moderate oven is usually 325 F. A water bath bake will produce a softer, more custard like pudding.
Sugar Cream Pie
“Combine 1 cup sugar, 2/3 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt. Stir in 1 cup boiling water; add 1 cup light cream, dash of nutmeg and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla. Mix well. Pour into pastry-lined pie pan.
"Bake in hot oven for 10 minutes. Reduce oven to 350 F. Bake for about 35 more minutes, or until custard is set. Cool completely.”
Two of her recipes called for mixing the dry ingredients, placing them in the pie shell, pouring in the liquid and mixing with your fingers. This sounds unconventional, but it is how Ewing’s Cafeteria in Urbana, Ohio, mixed the pie for years, according to the paper clipping. Both of the recipes are marked “Fine” so apparently she found the mixing method to her liking!