Saturday, June 28, 2014

Add Some Flavor to Your Next Batch of Whipped Cream!

Our Georgian and Victorian ancestors loved a good whipped cream!  They didn't serve them up without any added flavoring though; they used fruits, nuts, chocolate, and wines to give their whipped creams a little excitement.  

Try this 18th c. recipe for white wine flavored whipped cream next time you need a dollop of the delicious, sinful stuff:

To Make White Wine Cream
The Compleat Housewife by Eliza Smith,  London, 1758
Take a quart of cream, set it on the fire, and stir it until it is blood warm; then boil a pint of white wine with sugar till it is syrup, so mingle the wine and cream together; put it in a China bason, and when it is cold serve it up.

This is a variation of the original period recipe
2 cups white wine
¾ cup granulated sugar
4 cups heavy cream
Grated Nutmeg, optional
Grated Lemon Zest, optional

Whisk together the wine and sugar in a saucepan and set on the stovetop uncovered over medium high heat.  Boil the wine and sugar together until it thickens into a syrup, whisking frequently.  About 10 minutes is enough time to reduce the syrup by half and make it a thick enough syrup.  Remove the wine syrup from the heat and cool in the refrigerator.  Whip the cream and add the wine syrup to it once the cream starts to thicken.  Whip until stiff peaks form.  Place in a serving bowl and sprinkle top with grated nutmeg and lemon zest, if desired.  Refrigerate until needed.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Kitchen Pepper: Long Before There Was Old Bay

This recipe comes from a collection of recipes found in a manuscript journal located in the H. Furlong Baldwin Library at the Maryland Historical Society in Baltimore. The manuscript is attributed to Ann Maria Morris and the date of 1824 is written on the inside cover. The recipe below is one of many from the manuscript that will be included in a book I am writing. The book will contain biographical information about Mrs. Morris, an annotated transcript of the entire manuscript as it was written, and a section of modern recipe adaptations (including this one!).

Kitchen Pepper History 

Kitchen Peppers were common in households from the Medieval days to well into the 20th c.  Each household would have their own concoctions of spices blended and ready to use for a variety of dishes. These blends often combined savory spices with sweet spices.

About 100 years before Gustav Brunn, a German immigrant to Baltimore, Maryland, invented the iconic Baltimore crab seasoning Old Bay in 1939, Baltimore's own Ann Maria Morris jotted down her recipe for kitchen pepper, a combination of sweet and savory spices (similar but not the same as Old Bay) for use in beef dishes.


Kitchen Pepper (for beef)

Mix in the finest powder, one ounce of ginger, of cinnamon, black pepper, nutmeg & Jamaica pepper, half an oz. of each. ten cloves & six ounces of salt.  Keep it in a bottle, it is an agreeable addition to Brown Sauce, or Soups
The Manuscript of Ann Maria Morris, 1824
Baltimore, MD

Kitchen Pepper: Modern Recipe Adaptation


1 Teaspoon Ground Ginger
½ Tsp Ground Ceylon Cinnamon
½ Tsp Ground Black Pepper
½ Tsp Grated Nutmeg
½ Tsp Ground Allspice
¼ Tsp Ground Cloves
6 Tsp Salt


1.  Mix all the spices together very well, being careful to ensure that all of the spices are evenly mixed.
2.  Store in a sealed jar or plastic baggie.

3.  This amount will yield slightly more than 3 Tbsp of Kitchen Pepper.  Use in beef gravy, as a rub for roasts and steaks or in beef-based soups.

A Rainbow of Spices!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Hot Chocolate, a 17th c. Spanish Version

Image:  Melendez's, Bodeg√≥n con servicio de chocolate, 1770 - Museo del Prado  
The cakes of processed, spiced, and sweetened chocolate were grated to make hot chocolate.

Antonio Colmenero de Ledesma was a physician and surgeon from Andalusia is Spain. In 1631, he published one of the first ever treatises on the benefits of chocolate, including a variety of recipes for how to make it from the cacao bean and how to spice it for optimal flavor and medicinal benefits. The treatise was translated into English in 1652 by Captain James Wadsworth.  The 1652 English translation of the treatise is titled:

Chocolate: Or, An Indian Drinke.  Originally written in Spanish by Antonio Colmenero of Ledesma, Doctor in Physicke, and Faithfuly rendred in the English, By Capt. James Wadsworth, 1652.

Here are Some of Ledesma's Original Recipes (my interpretation is listed below):

Spanish Chocolate Receipt, The Receipt of him who wrote it at Marchena [Spain]
Of Cacaos, 700; of white sugar, one pound and a halfe; Cinnamon, 2 ounces; of long red pepper, 14. Of Cloves, halfe and ounce:  Three cods of the Logwood or Campeche tree; or in steade of that, the weight of 3 Reals, or a shilling of Anniseeds; as much Agiote, as will give the colour, which is about the quantity of a Hasell-nut.  Aome put in Almons, kernalls of Nuts, and Orange-flower-water.

 “The Best Receipt”[according to the author in the “the third Pointe” section]
To every 100. Cacaos, you must put two cods of the Chiles long red pepper, of which I have spoken before, and are called in the Indian Tongue, Chilparlagua; and  in stead of those of the Indes, you may take those of Spaine which are broadest, & least hot.  One handful of Anniseed Orejuelas, which are otherwise called Pinacaxlidos:  and two of the flowers, called Mechasuchil, if the Belly be bound.  But in stead of this, in Spaine, we put in six Roses of Alexandria beat to Powder:  One Cod of Campeche, or Logwood: Two Drams of Cinnamon; Almons, and Hasle-Nuts, of each one dozen:  Of White Sugar, halfe a pounde:  of Achiote enough to give it the colour.  And if you cannot have those things, which come from the Indes, you may make it with the rest.

Modern Recipe Adaptation   17th c. Style Spanish Hot Chocolate, 
Serves 4

Spanish Hot Chocolate, c. 1631
Serves 4

4 Cups Water
4 Ounces Dark Chocolate (preferably at least 84% chocolate), scraped into slivers with a serrated knife, or You Can Use Chocolate Chips
1/4-1/2 Cup Granulated Sugar, to Taste
2 Teaspoons Pure Vanilla Extract
Chocolate Spice Mixture (below)
Milk, to taste (optional)*

Chocolate Spice Mixture
Once mixed, you can add this to any chocolate recipe.

1 Teaspoon True Ceylon Cinnamon
1/2 Teaspoon Freshly Ground Nutmeg
1/4 Teaspoon Ground Cloves
1/4 Teaspoon Ground Annatto

1/4 Teaspoon Ground Cayenne Pepper
1/4 Teaspoon Ground Star Anise

Boil the water in a large saucepan.  Add the chocolate, sugar, vanilla, and spices.  Stir very well with a whisk until the chocolate and sugar are dissolved and the mixture begins to froth.   Pour into four large serving mugs and serve hot.  

*Note:  Ledesma does include versions of hot chocolate with milk.  If milk is desired, you could substitute the water for milk and follow the rest of the directions as stated while bearing in mind the milk should be heated to a simmer, not boiled.

Monday, June 23, 2014

10 Common Revolutionary Cake Flavorings

Forget Chocolate Cake and Bring on the Brandy Cake this 4th of July!

Nowadays, chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, Red Velvet, Caramel, and Peanut Butter, just to name a few, are the expected cake flavorings of choice in the 21st century.  If we were to travel back to the days of the AMERICAN REVOLUTION, we would find these flavors listed below to be the norm (in no particular order):

1.  Nutmeg

2.  Cinnamon:  This is Cassia cinnamon, what we are accustomed to eating.  True cinnamon is tan in color, flakier, and more brittle.

3.  Mace:  This spice forms the outer covering of the nutmeg.  It tastes a lot like nutmeg and is its own spice with its own flavor profile.

4.  Brandy

5.  Sweet White Wine:  Canary or Sack Wine was usually what was called for in baking recipes. These sweet, fortified wines were from the Canary Islands or Spain.  Sherry is a good substitute. 

6.  Fruit (fresh or dried):  Golden Raisins (Sultanas) were popular as were tiny Zante Currants.

7.  Zest of Citrus Fruits such as Lemons, Oranges, or Citron

8.  Rose Water

9.  Orange Flower Water:  This comes from the distillation of the bitter orange flowers.


In my next post, I'll have a recipe for a truly Revolutionary Cake!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Enchilada Sauce: Historic Food Fortnightly Challenge 2

Historic Food Fortnightly 

Challenge 2:  Soups, Sauces, and Stews

Enchilada Sauce

The Recipe: From, Mexican Cookery by Erna Fergusson, University of New Mexico Press, edition originally published in 1945, reprinted in 1973.  Available as download on Google Books.

To Make Chile Pulp

“To prepare either fresh or dried red chile, wash, break off the stems, and remove as many seeds as possible. Put to boil in cold water, and allow to boil slowly, moving the pods about in the water, but taking care not to break or mash them.  Forty-five minutes to an hour’s boiling is usually enough to let the skin slip easily.  If the small end of the pod is pressed the pulp and seeds come out of the stem end easily.  Rub through a colander to remove the remaining skin and seeds.
            Boil for about 15 minutes in water in which the pods are boiled, and salt to taste.  The final consistency should be that of thick gravy.  Twelve pulps* make about a cup. This pulp should be made fresh every time, as it molds readily.”
*I used about 4 dozen dried chiles

Enchiladas [Sauce]
 2 tbsp lard
4 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 tsp oregano
3 cloves garlic, chopped
½ tbsp salt
4 cups chile pulp
2 Tbsp vinegar

Brown onion and garlic in hot lard.  Add chile pulp, vinegar, olive oil, oregano, and salt.  Cook for at least 30 minutes; longer is better.

The Date/Year and Region:  c. 1945; The recipes in this book were in common usage in the area of Mexico that became New Mexico, USA.

How Did You Make It:
  • Chiles Used:  Dried New Mexico, Guajillo, Ancho, and Pasilla
  • All chiles were toasted in a hot cast-iron pan.
  • Each chile was cut open and all stems, seeds, and ribs were removed
  • All the chiles were put in a stock pot with cold water, brought to a boil, and simmered over medium heat for 45 minutes.

Chile Toasting in Pan

Removing Stems, Seeds, and Ribs
Chiles Cooking 
Enchilada Sauce:  Final Product

Time to Complete: About 3 hours

Total Cost: $10 for the chiles and the Mexican oregano; I had everything else.

How Successful Was It?It's thicker than I thought.  It's also much more bitter than I thought it would be.  I'm wondering if the peppers I chose are what's making it bitter.  Any ideas?  It was an educational experience but too bitter to eat!  I will definitely do some more research on this and try again.

How Accurate Is It?: I followed the recipe completely but I toasted the chiles based on other research that I did.  AS for grinding everything up, I went with a modern food processor as I don't have a mortar & pestle that would be large enough (and I was afraid I might stain the white marble one that I have). 

Thursday, June 19, 2014

400 Years of Cornbread Recipes!

The native American grain corn, also known as maize or Indian Corn, has been consumed by Americans (and subsequently people all over the world) since the time of discovery of the New World, and, of course, for centuries before that by the indigenous populations of all of the Americas. Cornbread is a great recipe to track through the past few centuries because it was so prolific a crop in America that it was consumed across class, race, and regional lines. Corn lends itself to change very easily and therefore variations of cornbread recipes through time, in regards to types of ingredients and technological advances, have enabled it to keep its important place in American cuisine.

The most basic cornbread recipe was made using cornmeal, water, cooking fat, and possibly salt. Native Americans may have also added other ingredients to make a more substantial and nutritious cake such as sunflower seeds, nuts and berries. Native Americans would fry the cakes on hot rocks or in an iron skillet (after contact with Europeans). Settlers commonly called this type of cornbread, “Hoe Cake,” because they could be baked on a garden hoe held or wedged up against an open fire. These small individual cakes were cooked and eaten with soups or stews.

American home cooks eventually started adding additional ingredients as wealth increased, luxury products became easier to acquirer such as yeast, butter, eggs, milk, buttermilk, sugar and molasses, and technological advances changed the taste of corn. These additional ingredients transformed the dense plain hoe-cake into a lighter and sweeter cornmeal cake.

Eventually, by the 1840s the first wave of chemical leavening agents such as pearlash (potassium carbonate) or saleratus (potassium bicarbonate) were in relative common usage in American kitchens. By the middle of the 19th century, these chemicals, which could be bitter in taste, were replaced with baking soda (sodium bicarbonate). By the third quarter of the 19th century, yeast powders (baking soda and cream of tartar sold together but in separate containers with instructions on how to mix), now sold already mixed as baking powder, also emerged. Cornbread recipes using these chemicals were offered alongside traditional ones using yeast.

Technological changes over time actually are largely responsible for the addition of sugar into cornbread recipes. When grinding mature, field-dried cornmeal on a mill, the result is a naturally flavorful and sweet product that is so tasty no additional sugar is necessary. On the other hand, at the turn of the 20th century, a new roller mill for grinding corn developed that stripped the corn of lots of its flavor and created a much finer meal. Flavor is lost because roller mills eliminate much of the bran of the corn which has a lot of the corn's great flavor. In addition, instead of using mature, ripe corn, unripe corn that is dried with hot air is used which yields a lot less flavor. 
Therefore, as sugar became more affordable and mechanized corn processing stripped it of its natural sweetness, sugar became a regular ingredient in the recipe. Similarly, the finer grind of roller mill-made cornmeal makes it harder for the cornmeal to react with a chemical leaven.  Therefore, wheat was often added to make the bread rise properly.*

400 Years of Cornbread Recipes

Fighting Old Nep:  The Foodways of Enslaved Afro-Marylanders 1634-1864 by Michael Twitty, 2006

1 cup of white stone-ground cornmeal
¾ cup boiling hot water
½ tsp salt
¼ cup of lard, vegetable oil or shortening
Mix the cornmeal and salt in a bowl.  Add the boiling water, stir constantly and mix it well and allow the mixture to sit for about ten minutes.  Melt the frying fat in the skillet and get it hot, but do not allow it to reach smoking.  Two tablespoons of batter can be scooped up to make a hoecake.  Form it into a small thin pancake and add to the pan.  Fry on each side 2-3 minutes until firm and lightly brown.  Set on paper towels to drain and serve immediately once all the hoecakes have been cooked.

Indian Sunflower Seed Bread
Cooking Wild Foods the American Indian Way by Dawn Manyfeathers, 2000

3 ¼ cups sunflower seeds
3 ¼ cups water
2 ½ tsp salt
6 Tbsp corn flour
1 cup sunflower oil

Put the sunflower seeds, water, and salt into a covered pot and bring to a boil.  Simmer slowly for 1½ hours.  After this cooking time, crush the seeds and make a paste. Add the corn flour to the paste one tablespoon at a time to thicken.  The dough should hold together easily for patting out.  When the dough is cool enough to handle, work it with your hands to smooth it, the pat it out into 4-5 inch thin circles.  If you oil your hands before handling the dough, the dough will not stick to them.
Heat the oil in a heavy skillet.  Fry the circles of dough on each side until golden brown and thoroughly done. Drain on paper towels and serve hot.  You may also want to sprinkle some powdered sugar over them of dip pieces into honey.  These are also good with homemade jellies. 

Johnny Cake, or Hoe Cake
American Cookery by Amelia Simmons, Albany, NY: 1796 (the first published book of American cookery)

Scald 1 pint of milk and put to 3 pints of Indian meal, and half pint of flower--bake before the fire. Or scald with milk two thirds of the Indian meal, or wet two thirds with boiling water, add salt, molasses and shortening, work up with cold water pretty stiff, and bake as above. 

Corn Meal Bread
The Virginia Housewife by Mary Randolph, 1824

Rub a piece of butter the size of an egg into a pint of corn meal, make a batter with two eggs and some new milk, add a spoonful of yeast, set it by the fire an hour to rise, butter little pans and bake it.

Indian Batter Cakes.
Seventy-Five Receipts for Pastry, Cakes, and Sweetmeats by Eliza Leslie, Boston: 1828

A quart of sifted Indian meal, [mixed with the flour]
A handful of wheat flour,
Three eggs, well beaten,
Two table-spoonsful of fresh brewer’s yeast, or four of home-made yeast
A large tea-spoonful of salt
A quart of milk

Make the milk quite warm, and then put into it the yeast and salt, stirring them well.  Beat the eggs, and stir them into the mixture.  Then, gradually, stir in the flour and Indian meal.
Cover the batter, and set it to rise four or five hours.  If the weather is cold, and you want the cakes for breakfast, you may mix the batter late the night before.

Should you find it sour in the morning, dissolve a small tea-spoonful of pearl-ash in as much water as will cover it, and stir it into the batter, letting it sit afterwards at least an hour.  This will take off the acid.
Grease your baking-iron, and pour on it, a ladlefull of the batter.  When brown on one side, turn the cake on the other.

Batter Cakes (associated with Thomas Jefferson)
The Virginia Housewife by Mary Randolph, 1824
(Thomas Jefferson supposedly enjoyed eating corn batter cakes for breakfast.  Mary Randolph’s recipe is thought to be the type of batter cake Jefferson ate on a regular basis.)

​Boil two cups of small homony very soft; add an equal quantity of corn meal with a little salt, and a large spoonful of butter; make it in a thin batter with three eggs, and a sufficient quantity of milk--beat all together some time, and bake them on a griddle, or in waffle irons. When eggs cannot be procured, yeast makes a good substitute; put a spoonful in the batter, and let it stand an hour to rise.

Plain Indian Cakes
The Good Housekeeper by Sarah Josepha Hale, 1841

Take a quart of sifted meal, sprinkle a little salt over it, and mix it with scalding water, stirring it well; bake it on a board before the fire, or on a tin in a stove.  It is healthy food for children, eaten warm (not hot) with molasses or milk.
 Indian cake made with buttermilk, or sour milk, with a little cream or butter rubbed into the meal, and a tea-spoonful of pearlash in the  milk, is very light and nutritious.

Indian Johnny Cake
The American Home Cookbook by an American Lady, New York: 1854
1 quart, 1 cup flour, 2 eggs, 1 cup of molasses, 1 tea-spoonful of saleratus, 1 of ginger, then stir in the meal.

Corn Cream Cake
Jennie June’s American Cookery Book by Jane Cunningham Croly, 1870
Take a quart of milk, or buttermilk, and put a sour thick cream mixed with sufficient bi-carbonate of soda to sweeten it, add cornmeal enough to the milk and cream to thicken it to the consistency of pound cake, stirring it in; put it an inch thick in floured pans, and bake it in a quick oven.

Corn Bread
The American Home Cookbook by an American Lady, New York: 1854
1 quart of milk, 4 eggs, tablespoon of sugar, 1 of butter, tea-spoonful of salt, some nutmeg, a large tea-spoonful of soda, and 2 of cream of tartar; stir in the meal until it makes a thick batter and bake in buttered tins in a quick oven.

New England Corn Cake
The White House Cookbook by Fanny Lemira Gillette, Chicago: 1887

One quart of milk, one pint of corn-meal, one teacupful of wheat flour, a teaspoonful of salt; two tablespoonfuls of melted butter. Scald the milk, and gradually pour it on the meal; when cool, add the butter and salt, also a half cup of yeast. Do this at night; in the morning beat thoroughly and add two well-beaten eggs, and a half teaspoonful of soda, dissolved in a spoonful of water. Pour the mixture into buttered deep earthen plates, let it stand fifteen minutes to rise again, then bake from twenty to thirty minutes. 

Corn Bread
The Times Cookbook, Various California Women, Los Angeles, 1905

NO. 6. CORN BREAD. Mrs. N.S. Alling, Lamanda Park, Cal.--One and one-half cup yellow corn meal, one and one-half
cup flour, one-half cup white sugar, one-half teaspoon salt, three teaspoons baking powder; sift into a large bowl and pour over it one pint sweet milk, butter size of small egg, melted soft; stir in one well-beaten egg at the last. Put in a well-greased biscuit pan and bake forty minutes in a good heated oven, being careful not to burn. To be eaten while hot, with butter, or with sweet cream and sugar.

Here is the quintessential late 20th to early 21st century recipe for cornbread.  It contains chemical leavening  instead of yeast for convenience, sugar for sweetness, and wheat flour and eggs for lightness:

Quaker Cornbread Recipe
1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup Quaker or Aunt Jemima enriched corn meal
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)
1 cup skim milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 egg whites or 1 egg, beaten

Heat oven to 400 F. Grease 8 or 9 inch pan.  Combine dry ingredients. Stir in milk, oil and egg, mixing just until dry ingredients are moistened. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown and wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. 

Saturday, June 14, 2014

10 Food Additives from the "Good" Old Days

           #5 is Particularly Bad!

       In light of the recent ruling (and subsequent backtracking) by the FDA to make it illegal for artisan cheese-makers to cure cheeses on wooden boards, citing possible pathogen contamination to the cheese from potentially unsanitary wood, I immediately became enraged that the government would want to put an end to a centuries’ old tradition. Then, I thought about all of the good that the FDA in the US and the equivalent regulatory agencies of other countries do to keep us safe. Here is a list of potentially dangerous food additives that were quite common into the 19th century. This list makes anyone who hearkens back to the good old days think twice before firing up the time machine and going back even just 100 years!

1. Alum and chalk was added to flour to whiten it.

2. White mashed potatoes, plaster of Paris, pipe clay, sawdust was used to increase the weight of bread loaves.

3. Rye flour or dried powdered beans could be used to replace wheat flour.

4. The sour taste of stale flour could be disguised with ammonium carbonate.

5. Strychnine was used to 'improve' the taste of beer and save on the cost of hops.

6. Spent (used) tea leaves were boiled with copperas (ferrous sulphate) and sheep's dung, then colored with prussian blue (ferric ferrocyanide), verdigris (basic copper acetate), logwood, tannin or carbon black, before being resold.

7. Some varieties of cheap teas were made entirely from the dried leaves of non-tea (camellia sinensis) plants.

8. Used coffee grounds were rejuvenated with roasted beans, sand/gravel, and mixed with chicory, the dried root of wild endive, a plant of the dandelion family. Chicory itself was sometimes adulterated with roasted carrots or turnips and the dark brown coffee color was achieved by using 'black jack' (burnt sugar).

9. A substance called “bittern" was added to batches of bitter beer in large quantities. It contained copperas (ferrous sulphate), extracts of Cocculus indicus, quassia and liquorice juice. There was also a preparation of ground coriander seeds, with Nux vomica and quassia, again to impart bitterness to the brew. Most of these are poisonous!

10. Anchovies were colored with Armenian bole (red clay), Venetian red, red ochre.

· L. Jackson, The Victorian Dictionary, 29 Sept 2005, <>
· Royal Society of Chemistry,