Bible Gateway

Friday, August 14, 2009

19th Century Recipes

Today, I'm posting recipes often used in Texas during the nineteenth century. The amazing thing about Texas is that it had six flags flying overhead at one time or another. That means Texas cuisine has a plethora of flavors, which still has relevance today. Of course, dominating countries weren't the only ones who left their mark on Texas. Immigrants also influenced cooking, such as the Germans.

I'm quoting from the out-of-print book entitled, The Saga of Texas Cookery by Sarah Morgan. (I have found this book on Amazon doesn't carry the book, but there are several people selling used editions of this book) Each chapter, showcases the prevailing ethnicity of the states flavors. I'm posting one recipe from each chapter, a recipe which was used during the late 19th century.

The French in Texas

Golden Cream - 1887 Style

Custards, which have always been an important part of the French cuisine, took many forms in the early days of our history, The following recipe found in an early edition of The White House Cookbook (first published in 1887), is a good example of how simple ingredients were turned into an elegant dessert.

A quote from The White House Cookbook:

Boil a quart of milk; when boiling stir into it the well beaten yolks of six eggs; add six tablespoons sugar and one tablespoonful of sifted flour, which has been well beaten together; when boiled turn it into a dish and pour over it the whites beaten to a stiff froth, mixing with them six tablespoonful of powdered sugar. Set all in the oven and brown slightly. Flavor the top with vanilla and the bottom with lemon. Serve cold.

The Spaniards in Texas

Rice Breakfast Cakes

This unusual mixture of yeast and rice is seldom found anymore except in homes where the influence of the forefathers is still felt and cherished. In the early days of our history the maids in the homes would make these, deep-fry them, and then take them out on the street, while they were still very hot, and sell them!

To make 6-8 servings: The night before these cakes are to be served, dissolve 1 package yeast in 1/2 cup warm water, Mash well 3 cups of cooked, moist rice, add the yeast and 1 tablespoon sugar. Cover this mixture and let rise over-night. In the morning, beat 3 eggs until light, add 1/2 cup sugar, 3 tablespoons flour, or a little more, 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, and mix well. Set aside again to rise for about 20 minutes. Butter a hot griddle and drop by tablespoons, cooking as you would any griddle cake. Drain (on paper towels) and serve with bacon, ham, or syrup.

The Mexicans in Texas

The Story of Chili Sauce:

There was a time when the Mexicans, the Indians, and the early Texas settlers gave chili sauce a great deal of credit for a large number of important influences on the human race. Some of them believed that the sauce, providing it was quite hot and strong, would protect one against colds, malaria, aid digestion, and clarify the blood. There were other people who believed that it acted as a stimulant to the romantically inclined and helped to develop robustness and resistance to nature's adverse elements. Be that as it may, a basic chili sauce such as the following can serve many and varied purposes when cooking Mexican foods.

Chili Sauce

To make approximately 2-1/2 cups: Fry 4 tablespoons finely chopped onion and 1 chopped garlic clove in 3 tablespoons lard or bacon fat until tender. Blend 6 tablespoons of chili powder with 2 tablespoons flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon cumin powder. Add this to the onion mixture. Stir and cook for about 5 minutes. Gradually add 1-1/2 cups of hot water, stirring constantly. When the mixture is well blended and smooth remove from the heat. If a thinner sauce is desired add a little more water. Serve this sauce hot over meats, tortillas, tomatoes, noodles, rice or over other Mexican dishes.

The New Republic

Ash Cake, Hoe Cake, Corn Dodger

Life would have been intolerable many times for the early settlers had it not been for a basic food product, the corn. The pioneer cooks used this vegetable in countless ways and cooked it by many different methods, but one of the most satisfying and most often used ways was the bread, especially the simple and easy breads such as the Ash Cake, the Hoe Cake, and the Corn Dodger.

These three cakes are a great deal alike in that they are made of a corn meal batter, which is salted and made wet with cold or hot water.

The Ash Cake batter is cooked on either the hot hearth with hot ashes spread over the top, or out in the open spread between hot ashes. When the cake is brown the ashes are brushed off. Some of the ashes will penetrate the batter, but this only serves to enhance the flavor- or so the early settlers thought.

The Hoe Cake is the same batter cooked on a helveless (handle-less) hoe. The batter is spread on the inside of the hoe and then propped up against the open blaze or placed directly in the hot ashes until brown.

Corn Dodger is the same batter made into small or large cakes, patted into rounds or oblongs with the hands and baked inside an oven on flat tins of some type. As the settlers were able to get a variety of food supplies they added bacon fat and eggs to the Corn Dodger. And finally they added soda or baking powder or both, making a light and tasty bread.

German Noodles

The pioneer women taught their daughters to make these noodles as soon as they were old enough, or tall enough, to reach a work table. It was not hard work to them but great fun.

To make 6 to 8 servings: Sift 2 cups flour onto a pastry board and make a well in the center of the flour. Break one egg into the well, add 2 tablespoons warm water, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. With the fingers work the mixture together, gradually adding about 1/2 cup warm water or just enough to make a very stiff dough, but very smooth. Divide the dough into 2 equal parts. Roll out as thin as possible. Cut into ribbons or strips and let it rest for 30 minutes. In a deep kettle have a generous amount of salty water boiling, or you may wish to use meat stock instead of the water. Drop the noodles into the liquid, a few at a time, and boil just until tender. Drain them, toss with melted butter, and bread crumbs and serve hot.

To make green noodles, add 1/2 cup spinach puree to the first mixture and as much additional flour as is necessary to make a stiff dough.

Texas Under the Confederacy

Slapjacks - 1883

The slapjack was evidently one of the many forerunners of the modern-day pancake; however, this recipe which follows could be said to be the forerunner of just about anything. I found it in The Old Confederacy Receipt Book, 1863:

Take flour, little sugar, and water, mix with or without a little yeast, the latter better if at hand, mix into paste and fry the same as fritters in clean fat.

Fortunately, for today's cooks that method went out of style years ago. For a newer version I like the following recipe for Slapjacks:

Sift 2 cups flour with 1 teaspoon salt and 1 tablespoon sugar. Scald 1 cup milk and cool. Soften 1 yeast cake, or package, in 1/4 cup warm water. Combine the mixtures. Beat in 2 eggs and let rise for 20 minutes. Stir down, add 3 tablespoons melted butter and drop 1 tablespoon at a time on a hot griddle to fry as pancakes.

How many will this recipe serve? Who knows? Try it and see - that was the manner of cookery in the days of the Confederacy.

Grandma's Pound Cake

Only Grandma or Grandma's Grandma could follow this recipe without some misgivings. However, some of the romantic sounding measurements used during this period of Texas history were really quite practical and certainly familiar to the housewife of that day. It is given here as it is said to have come down from a very old "receipt":

First, stoke the fire and lay in some wood. You'll need a moderate oven. Take 1-1/2 teacups butter, 2 blue cups sugar, 5 eggs, dropped in one at a time, and 5 handfuls flour. The cake will be fine and close with not a suspicion of any toughness or heaviness, not porous like a cake made light with gas from soda and cream of tartar.

Now, for those not brave enough to follow the old "receipt" above, here is a modern version (and I can assure you it is excellent). Beat 1 cup sweet cream butter with 1-2/3 cups sugar until smooth. Add 5 eggs, one at a time, and beat well after each addition. Next stir in 2 cups flour to which 1/2 teaspoon of mace, 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar has been added. Stir in the grated rind of 1 lemon and blend well. Bake at 350 degrees in a well greased and floured tube pan for about one hour or until the cake tests done.

The Union Forever

Ranch-Style Beef Hash

To make 4 to 6 servings: Into 4 cups beef stock add 1/2 cup chopped onion, 1/4 cup chopped green pepper, 1 minced garlic clove, 2 tablespoons chopped fresh red pepper, and 2 small potatoes, peeled and cubed. Cook this mixture until the onion and potatoes are almost tender. Drop in 2 cups cooked roast beef (or stewed beef) cut and complete the cooking, about 10 minutes. Crackling cornbread goes well with this hash.

Fried Okra

Although okra is not native to Texas, it is one of the most popular of the vegetables found in our diet. It is also well known that people who like it claim to "love it" and those who dislike it say they "hate it".

To make 2 to 4 servings: Wash 1 pound of fresh okra thoroughly, by taking the pods in the hands and making sure they tiny, sticky, leaves are removed. Slice each pod into 1/3 inch rounds, snipping away the ends. Dip the pieces in a mixture of cornmeal, salt, and black pepper. Drop the slices into a frying pan of shallow hot bacon fat. Fry over medium heat, turning to prevent sticking until the pods are tender and slightly brown, about 15 minutes. Prick with a fork to test tenderness. A tablespoon of grated onion is often added to the cornmeal mixture to enhance the flavor.

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