In The Dairy

Imagine being able to sell your high-quality, homemade butter for a dollar a pound when the going rate at the local grocer was fifty to sixty cents. That’s what Mrs. Foster was able to do in 1921 giving her a little extra “pin money”. She even took home first prize in the county’s Better Butter Contest — a purebred heifer named Blue Fobes Olive.

Better Butter Contest

Bernice H. Irwin

NINETY-SIX representative Spartanburg County, S.C. women entered last year’s Better Butter Contest, which ended at the county fair with the award of eighteen prizes. To bring up the standards of butter in their county was the aim of the contest conducted under the leadership of Mrs. Harriet Johnson, Home Demonstration Agent. Mrs. R.W. Foster of Roebuck made the highest score and lead off the purebred heifer – “Blue Fobes Olive”. Mrs. D.A. Stewart came second and Mrs. R.C. Burnett third.

In preparation for the judging, butter demonstrations were given in sixteen communities by Mrs. Harriet Johnson, Home Demonstration Agent and Miss Elizabeth Forney, State Dairy Specialist from Winthrop College. Printed instructions were distributed covering such practical topics as: Production Of Clean Milk And Cream, Care Of Cream, Ripening And Souring Of Cream, Churning Temperature, Preparing The Churn, Straining And Coloring, Kind of Churn, Churning, Washing Butter, Salting and Working Butter, Printing The Butter, Washing The Cream.

Study of equipment resulted in the installation of many square molds, butter workers, thermometer and barrel churns. Study of methods resulted in such improved butter that the grocery men of the county commented most favorably upon butter brought to them for sale even when the producer did not enter the contest. So wide did their fame spread that Mrs. Foster was surprised one morning to have a stately stranger for the city drive up to her door and offer her a dollar a pound for her butter, this at a time when butter was selling for fifty and sixty cents.

Once a month for six months a pound of butter from each contestant was sent or brought to the Chamber of Commerce building and there scored by experts. Points on score cards were: Flavor 45, texture 25, color 15, salt 10, package 5. The average score of butter entered was 91%. These meetings were attended by from fifty to one hundred women from all parts of the county and some special feature each time made them doubly interesting. A trip to a model dairy was very much enjoyed but the real day was the Saturday when the women of Spartanburg Chamber of Commerce entertained at a luncheon for all contestants. The same spirit of cooperation and friendliness between town and country people which has brought good roads, good industries and good homes to town and county prevailed at this crowning event of the contest and everyone voted their six months of work and play together an unparalleled success socially as well as educationally.

The above article was originally printed in The Farmer’s Wife – A Magazine for Farm Women, October 1921, page 586, Webb Publishing Company, St. Paul, Minnesota

Cheese Apple Pie – 1939

September in America is apple picking time. Orchards in New England burst with McIntosh, Cortland, Granny Smith and Winesap, while orchards in the northwest hail Honeycrisp, Ambrosia, Cosmic Crisp and Envy apples. And vintage American cookbooks provide a plethora of apple pie recipes. Most recipes follow a classic formula — sliced apples tossed in sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, lemon juice and some type of thickener — flour, cornstarch or tapioca, baked until the apples are tender and the pastry is golden brown — just the way grandma used to make them. I discovered one recipe in my collection that called for a not-so-secret ingredient — cheddar cheese. As it turns out, home cooks have been serving apple pie a la cheese for years (Read more HERE).

Modern Meal Maker Revised Edition by Martha Meade
Copyright 1939
General Mills, Inc.

Modern Meal Maker 1939, a cookbook and menu planner, suggests serving Cheese Apple Pie for dessert during the first week in October. A typical apple pie except for one unusual ingredient — a half cup of grated cheddar. I have heard of serving apple pie with a slice of melted cheddar on top, but I have always been skeptical. Like my husband said when I showed him this recipe, “it sounds like a good way to ruin a perfectly good apple pie”. Not being one to shy away from a new (or old) recipe, I decided to give it a whirl anyway.

Menu Plan
Modern Meal Maker Revised Edition by Martha Meade
Copyright 1939
General Mills, Inc

Using my favorite butter/oil pastry recipe, I followed the filling instructions to a T. Wanting the pie to approximate one baked in the 1930s or 40s, I chose a classic apple variety — Granny Smith. After tossing the sliced apples in the flour, sugar and spices, I filled the pastry, sprinkled the grated sharp cheddar over the apples and baked as directed. When I pulled the apple pie out of the oven, it was beautiful!

Cheese Apple Pie
Modern Meal Maker Revised Edition by Martha Meade
Copyright 1939
General Mills, Inc.

After allowing the pie to cool, I eagerly cut a slice. As I lifted the first piece from the pie plate, lovely juices began to ooze. Sadly, on top of the juices floated a glistening pool of yellow oil that had rendered from the cheese during baking. The cheese itself had become grainy and stuck in clumps to the underside of the top pastry. Not very attractive. Overall the pie was bland. It could have used more cinnamon, nutmeg, sugar and cheese for that matter, as there was no cheddar-y goodness. We even tried jazzing the pie up with ice cream — no luck. I actually threw the rest of the pie away. This recipe can definitely go back to hiding between the pages of an old cookbook.

Chocolate Cream Cheese Truffles

Even before Pinterest, my mother was masterful at creating engaging, budget-friendly activities for me and my siblings throughout the Christmas season. Baking cookies and simple candy making were some of our favorite activities. Each child would participate at their level — the older children would do the measuring and mixing, while the younger ones might only add sprinkles or do the taste-testing. It was always a team effort. And, of course, the end results were very tasty.

Following suit, one of the simplest and most engaging kitchen activities that my children and I have enjoyed is making Chocolate Cream Cheese Truffles. The inspiration comes from a recipe in a Philadelphia Cream Cheese holiday cook booklet from the 1970s. Calling for a few simple ingredients — cream cheese, powdered sugar and melted chocolate chips — the candy is easy to prepare (adult supervision is essential when melting the chocolate). Once the chocolate is incorporated into the other ingredients and chilled, rolling little balls of chocolate in a variety of colorful holiday sprinkles creates a gift-worthy confection. Whether staying indoors due to the weather or because of Covid, this activity is sure to keep little (and not so little) hands busy. Enjoy!

Chocolate Cream Cheese Truffles

  • Servings: 3 - 4 dozen
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

  • 1 (8 oz) pkg cream cheese, softened
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 (12 oz) bag semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted OR half semi-sweet and half milk chocolate chips
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract*
  • Assorted sprinkles

 

Directions

  1. In a large bowl using an electric mixer,  cream powdered sugar and cream cheese until smooth.
  2. Melt chocolate chips in a glass bowl in the microwave, stirring every 45 – 60 seconds, until smooth and glossy.
  3. Blend melted chocolate into cream cheese and powdered sugar mixture a little at a time.
  4. Cover and refrigerate candy until firm enough to hold its shape, about one hour.
  5. Shape into one inch balls and roll in sprinkles.

*Note: Alternate extracts and flavorings such as almond, peppermint or cake batter flavoring can be substituted for the vanilla. 

Recipe Compliments of Cookbooklady.com

Christmas Eve Oyster Stew

An Irish Christmas Blessing

May you be blessed with the spirit of the season

Which is peace,

The gladness of the season

Which is hope,

And the heart of the season

Which is love.

~Unknown

The Tradition

While preparing oyster stew for my family some years ago, I called my mother and asked why we served oyster stew on Christmas Eve. She said that she had simply followed her grandmother’s tradition, besides it was easy to make on what was the busiest night of the year for a mother with young children. That was reason enough, but I was curious about the genesis of the tradition. A little research suggested that this nearly two-hundred-year old tradition was the result of Irish immigrants adapting recipes from their ancestral home to America’s indigenous foods.

Oystering

The Genesis

In the 1800s, even before the renowned potato famine of 1845–1852, Irish immigrants ventured to the United States for a chance to build a new life, bringing with them their culinary traditions and their Irish Catholic customs. In their island homeland, fish was a major part of their diet. Ling fillets (a type of cod), preserved with salt and dried in the open air, were a centuries-long staple of rural fishing communities. Following the Catholic dietary custom of abstaining from eating meat the day before a religious feast, the traditional Irish Christmas Eve meal consisted of a simple stew made of dried ling, milk, butter and pepper. In America, wild oysters made an acceptable substitute for ling with their briny flavor and slightly chewy texture. Oyster stew quickly became popular along the northeast coast of the US where oysters were abundant, easy to harvest and inexpensive. For folks living farther inland, commercially canned oysters were widely available as early as the 1840s. Fresh oysters, however, were only available during the winter months when they could be packed in seaweed, straw and ice and carried by railroad to larger mid-western cities or by steamship to southern ports, arriving just in time for Christmas.

oysters to railcars

Thick or Thin

Through the twentieth century, oyster soup recipes were as popular as oysters themselves. Whether using fresh or canned oysters, soup recipes can be divided into two types — thickened and unthickened — with unthickened soup being the most common. A recipe found in The American Woman’s Cook Book 1966 titled Oyster Stew – Unthickened (below) is representative of recipes from the first half of the century (and very similar to the way my mother makes oyster stew). An adaptation of the same recipe is thickened with a roux and seasoned with salt, pepper and paprika (the way I make oyster stew):

OYSTER STEW 001

While researching, it was interesting to note the various methods used in thickening an oyster stew. Of course, a blonde roux, as in the recipe above, was common, as was a reverse roux where a cold paste of butter and flour is stirred into the hot milk and brought to a simmer to thicken. Some soups were thickened with a flour and water paste or a flour and milk paste, but the most unusual thickening agent was tapioca, included in a recipe from General Foods Cook Book 1932 (below). I have used tapioca to thicken stews, but never one with a milk base.

OYSTER STEW 002

Other thickeners that caught my eye were dried bread crumbs or crushed cracker crumbs that were added to the hot soup just before serving. Below is a charming recipe written in the home cook’s own words, calling for saltine cracker crumbs. The final paragraph is written by a woman who compiled the recipes and bound them together in a booklet titled Cooking With Grace 1970. “Grace” was Grace Warlow Barr, food editor for the Orlando Sentinel newspaper in Orlando, Florida during the fifties and sixties.

OYSTER STEW 003

OYSTER STEW 003

Being fascinated by the recipe above, I used it as inspiration in making a variation of my own Oyster Stew recipe. As mentioned above, I thicken my soup with a roux, but instead of adding flour to the butter, I simply sauteed the vegetables and added the liquid ingredients — half and half, evaporated milk and the oyster liquor from the canned oysters (sadly, fresh oysters are rarely available in our rural area). I then heated the soup to a simmer. After rinsing the oysters to remove any grit, I added them to the hot soup. Just before serving, I ladled the soup into my most “beautiful tureen” (a bright red Dutch-oven) in which I had placed eighteen crushed saltines. Giving the soup a quick stir, I served up bowls of piping hot Oyster Stew. The flavor was exquisite, however, the texture seemed coarse compared to the velvety smooth mouth-feel of soup thickened with a roux. Yet we could not stop eating it. It was that good! In the future I will have a hard time deciding which variation to make (photos of the process below):

Flavorful Additions

Twentieth-century recipes suggested a variety of seasonings to enhance the flavor of oyster stew. The most common being salt, black pepper and paprika. Frequently, recipes called for vegetables and herbs, such as minced onion, chopped celery or celery leaves, or snipped fresh parsley. A few even called for diced potato. Some recipes included bay leaves, celery salt, white pepper, cayenne pepper, or Old Bay seasoning. Liquid flavorings such as lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, or hot pepper sauce were also suggested. The most curious ingredients called for were warm spices — nutmeg, cloves, allspice, ground mace and blades of mace. What in the world are blades of mace? According to Google, blades of mace (available on Amazon) are pieces of a web-like covering of dried nutmeg seeds. The flavor is reportedly milder than nutmeg and is commonly used in savory soups, stews and curries. The blades are typically removed before serving just as a bay leaf would be. Ground mace is the same spice in a different form and is a little less expensive than the blades. I have ordered some blades of mace to add to my Christmas Eve Oyster Stew this year. I will report back.

The following is my tried and true Oyster Stew recipe that is thickened with a roux. Alternately, I have included notations for thickening the stew with saltines. Enjoy!

Christmas Eve Oyster Stew

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 4 (8 oz) cans oysters, (rinse and reserve liquor) OR 2 pints shucked fresh oysters*

  • 1/4 cup (half a cube) butter
  • 1/2 cup finely diced celery
  • 2 Tbsp minced sweet onion
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour (omit if thickening with saltines)

  • 1 quart half and half
  • 1/2 cup evaporated milk
  • Reserved oyster liquor
  • 1 tsp salt (use a little less if thickening with saltines)

  • Reserved oysters
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 18 crushed saltine cracker squares, if using
  • Paprika for garnish, if desired

Directions

  1. Drain oysters reserving liquor. Gently rinse oysters to remove any grit; set aside.
  2. In a six quart Dutch-oven, melt butter over medium heat. Saute prepared celery and onion until limp. Add flour, if using, to butter and vegetables to create a roux. Cook and stir 2 – 3 minutes.
  3. Whisk in half and half, evaporated milk, reserved oyster liquor and salt. Bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 3 – 5 minutes to thicken, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and gently stir in oysters and saltines, if using. Add lemon juice.  Garnish with a dusting of paprika.

*Note: If using fresh oysters, drain, reserving liquor. Gently rinse oysters to remove grit and bits of shell. Saute oysters in several tablespoons of butter until edges of oysters begin to curl. Add liquor and bring to a simmer. Add to prepared soup, season and enjoy.

Recipe Compliments of Cookbooklady.com

Wishing you and yours a Merry Christmas. And may the luck of the Irish be with you in 2021. Elaine

Thanksgiving Blessing Mix — 1997

Thanksgiving Blessing Mix is not a new idea. Many variations can be found on the internet, but I would like to share the recipe that I have used for the past twenty years. Printed in a charming cookbook titled Sweet Surprises for the Holidays 1997, each ingredient is a reminder of the sacrifices made by Pilgrim setters as they struggled to survive in a new land. Tossed together in trail-mix fashion, the salty-sweet mixture is a great pre-Thanksgiving snack.

When my children were growing up, we created a fun tradition of sharing packages of Blessing Mix with our family, friends and neighbors during the month of November. We would simply put the mix in zip-loc bags, but for a fancier presentation, the mix can be scooped into mason jars or other pretty glass jars with a length of ribbon or raffia tied around the neck. We also included a signed note explaining the significance of each ingredient. It’s delightful how something so simple can create so many fun memories. Enjoy!

Thanksgiving Blessing Mix

Ingredients

  • 2 cups Bugles brand corn snacks (found in the chip aisle)
  • 2 cups pretzels (traditional twist style)
  • 1 cup candy corn
  • 1 cup dried fruit (raisins, dried cranberries, diced dried apricots)
  • 1 cup nuts or seeds (mixed nuts, peanuts, sunflower seeds)
  • 1 cup Goldfish brand crackers (any flavor)

Directions

In a large bowl, mix all the ingredients together.

Note: Other ingredients such as dry cereal, miniature crackers, marshmallows or candies (think M&Ms) can also be added.

Recipe Compliments of Sweet Surprises for the Holidays and Cookbooklady.com

The following is the type of message we would include with our Blessing Mix:

Thanksgiving Blessing Mix

Ingredients

  • Bugles — Shaped as a cornucopia, they represent the bounteous blessings we now enjoy.
  • Pretzels — Symbolize our arms folded in prayer and thanksgiving.
  • Candy Corn — Reminds us of the five kernels of corn the Pilgrims were allotted each day during their first winter.
  • Dried Fruit — Represents a bounteous harvest.
  • Nuts and Seeds — Represent the hope of a bounteous harvest next season.
  • Goldfish Crackers — Remind us of the knowledge shared by Native Americans of planting fish along with the seeds to nourish the soil.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tucked inside the Sweet Surprises 1997 cookbook was a “Dear Abby” newspaper clipping from some years ago:

DEAR ABBY 001

Wishing you and yours a Happy Thanksgiving! Elaine

Creamy Pumpkin Pie — 1980

“Hurrah for the Pumpkin Pie!”

Lydia Maria Child 1844 — Novelist, Journalist, Poet

I remember Libby’s jingle from when I was a kid — If it says Libby’s, Libby’s, Libby’s on the label, label, label — You will like it, like it, like it on your table, table, table, and as Americans, we have loved Libby’s pumpkin pie on our Thanksgiving table for generations. Since the 1950s, home cooks, including my mother and grandmother, have been making pumpkin pies using the recipe printed on the back of the label. Calling for simple ingredients — Libby’s pumpkin, of course, granulated sugar, evaporated milk, spices, and a couple of eggs blended together and baked in a pastry lined-pan — pumpkin pie (with a dollop of whipped cream) is the perfect finishing touch to a Thanksgiving meal.

MAGIC PUMPKIN PIE 006

MAGIC PUMPKIN PIE 008

Old Recipes Are New Again

Recently, after nearly seventy years of service, Libby’s classic pumpkin pie recipe underwent a makeover (recipe above). How did Libby’s update their recipe? Simply by changing the way the filling is sweetened. Instead of adding granulated sugar to the pie filling, the recipe calls for a can of sweetened condensed milk. (To adjust for the liquid in the condensed milk, the amount of evaporated milk had to be reduced.) That’s it. All the other ingredients stayed exactly the same. Did that make a difference in the flavor of the filling? Absolutely! Something about sweetened condensed milk adds a depth of rich, creamy, almost caramel-y flavor to whatever it’s in. It’s sort of like magic. As a matter of fact, adding sweetened condensed milk to pumpkin pie filling, was not a novel idea in 2019. Borden’s Eagle Brand Milk Company printed a cook booklet in 1952 with a recipe called Magic Pumpkin Pie (below) very similar to Libby’s new recipe. I guess it could be said that recipe developers in corporate test kitchens think alike.

MAGIC PUMPKIN PIE 001

A Century of Sweeteners

Curious about the sweeteners traditionally used in pumpkin pie, I took to my twentieth-century cookbooks to see what the old recipes could tell me. Of course, many recipes simply called for granulated sugar. However, in the first half of the century, brown sugar was often the sweetener. Sometimes the brown sugar was paired with half granulated sugar, but frequently, it was accompanied by a little molasses or corn syrup — dark or light.

The Modern Family Cook Book 1953 offers two recipes for Pumpkin Pie — one calling for granulated sugar and the other for brown sugar. Recipe #1 also lets the home cook know what a perfect pumpkin pie should look like:

Perfectly baked pumpkin pie has no wrinkles or cracks on its surface. Long slow baking produces a smooth, shiny surface with the true golden pumpkin color.

Meta Givens, The Modern Family Cook Book 1953

A Lost Method

The instructions in recipe #2 are unique. Calling for canned pumpkin, it says to “turn the pumpkin into a saucepan and stir over direct heat (no heat setting is given) until pumpkin is somewhat dried out and has a slightly caramelized appearance.” Evidently this caramelization step has become “lost” as it was not found in any other twentieth-century cookbook. It would be interesting to know if the caramelization adds to the flavor of the pumpkin.

MAGIC PUMPKIN PIE 005

Unusual Ingredients

Along with the typical eggs, milk, pumpkin, sugar and spices, several recipes included some unusual items in their ingredient list — baking soda, rose water, lemon juice, lemon zest, lemon extract, orange juice, brandy or rum, coconut and raisins. Mace and cardamom were each included in a recipe to go along with the traditional cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves and allspice.

Mid-Century Chiffon Pie

The American Woman’s Cook Book 1966, introduces a new approach to pumpkin pie. Instead of baking the pie in the oven, the filling for Pumpkin Chiffon Pie is cooked on the stovetop and cooled, after which beaten egg whites are folded in. The filling is then poured into a gingersnap crumb crust and refrigerated until firm.

MAGIC PUMPKIN PIE 004

A Lost Recipe

In a recipe book titled America’s Best Lost Recipes 2007 published by the editors of Cook’s Country, a charming story is shared of a young woman who submitted her grandmother’s Pumpkin Ice Cream Pie recipe — a Thanksgiving family favorite — for consideration as part of the publisher’s “lost” recipes project. Grandmother’s recipe made the cut, and after some America’s-Test-Kitchen adjustments, the recipe was included in the book. Sadly, what the reader gets is not grandma’s recipe, but the test kitchen version. Imagine my delight when I stumbled upon the original recipe.

Found in The Busy Woman’s Cook Book 1971, the recipe for Frozen Pumpkin Pie (below) calls for a quart of softened vanilla ice cream, a cup of pumpkin puree, a little sugar (Cook’s Country suggests using brown sugar) and some spices. Once the filling is blended together and spooned into a baked pastry shell, it is frozen for several hour (or overnight) — so easy. Another suggestion from America’s Test Kitchen was the use of a graham cracker crumb crust as opposed to a pastry shell — even easier. This recipe is going into my “must try” file. I will report on my results.

MAGIC PUMPKIN PIE 003

Creamy Pumpkin Pie

In the 1980s, I came across a recipe for Creamy Pumpkin Pie in an old church cookbook. I tried it and it has become our Thanksgiving family favorite. The amount of filling this recipe makes is a little too much for a traditional 9″ pie pan, so in the past I either baked the extra custard in a lightly oiled ramekin or reduced the amount of warm water to 3/4 cup. This year I tried using a 9″ deep-dish pie plate and it worked perfectly. In place of the pumpkin pie spice, I make my own combination using cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg and allspice (measurements listed below). Enjoy!

Creamy Pumpkin Pie

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: Intermediate
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 1 (9 inch) deep-dish unbaked pastry shell

  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups pumpkin puree
  • 1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice OR 1 rounded tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp ginger, 1/4 tsp cloves, 1/4 tsp nutmeg and a dash of allspice
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 cup warm water

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 450*.
  2. In a two quart mixing bowl, beat eggs with an electric mixer until light in color. Blend in pumpkin puree and sweetened condensed milk. Mix in pumpkin pie spice and salt. Stir in warm water. Pour filling into unbaked pastry shell.
  3. Bake pie on bottom rack for 15 minutes at 450*. Reduce heat to 325* and continue baking 40 to 50 minutes or until a knife inserted off-center comes out clean.
  4. Cool completely before serving. Refrigerate left overs.

Recipe Compliments of Cookbooklady.com

Magic Cookie Bars

“These are heavenly and should be called ‘Oh-no-I-shouldn’t’ cookies. They’re terribly rich, but terribly good, particularly when served with coffee as a dessert.”

Grace Barr, Orlando Evening Star Food Editor, 1968

The Back Story of Sweetened Condensed Milk

In New York, during the early to mid-1800s , the most dangerous food a child might consume was fluid cow’s milk. With germ theory yet unknown, contaminated milk was a leading cause of child mortality.

The Voyage

Gail Borden
Gail Borden, Jr. 1801 — 1874

Gail Borden, a self-taught food scientist, attended The World’s Fair in London in 1851, where he received awards for his invention of a shelf-stable meat-biscuit (think protein bar). Though revolutionary, the dehydrated meat didn’t sell well because of its unpleasant taste. While on his return voyage to New York, Mr. Borden witnessed first-hand the horrors that raw milk could hold. Two dairy cows were brought on board the ship to provide milk for immigrant babies whose families had booked passage to America. During the journey, the cattle became sick with an infectious disease and died. In turn, the children fell ill and lay dying in their mother’s arms. Mr. Borden was moved with compassion.

The Quest

Upon his return, Borden immersed himself in the development of a sanitary shelf-stable baby formula. With no knowledge of germs or bacteria, Borden knew something needed to be done to stop the “incipient decomposition of milk.” First, he boiled cow’s milk in a pot to reduce the amount of liquid to make it more transportable. Then he added sugar. Unfortunately, the result of boiling milk in an open vessel was a burned, bad-tasting mass. Having learned the hard way with his meat-biscuit, Bordon knew that taste and appearance would be key to the success of his product. He went back to the drawing board.

The Science

vac pan drawing

Hearing about a curious way that Shaker’s processed medicinal herbs by boiling them in an enclosed vacuum pan, Mr. Borden arranged to spend some time with them to learn about the process. He tried the vacuum method with milk, which resulted in a pleasant tasting product with a creamy milk-like appearance. By boiling the milk in an enclosed vacuum pan, it killed any bacteria that was present and prevented any other bacterial exposure during the cooking process. Bordon also discovered that by adding a substantial amount of sugar,  the shelf-life of the milk was greatly extended since bacteria cannot grow in such a sugary mixture.

Cook’s Science 2016 from the editors of America’s Test Kitchen explains that sweetened condensed milk has 60% of the water removed and has 40% to 45% added sugar. The editors note that an open can of sweetened condensed milk can be left at room temperature for several weeks without spoiling.

The Patent

1922_Eagle_Brand_newspaper_ad
Borden Newspaper Ad 1922

Borden did not understand the science behind the process he had developed. He just knew that it stopped the decomposition of milk, it tasted good and kept for a long time. His application for a patent on the vacuum boiling process was denied for several years due to the lack of scientific knowledge to understand what he had actually done. In time, science caught up, and in 1856, Borden was awarded the patent he sought. Little by little, the new baby formula began to catch on and is credited with saving the lives of thousands of children. Sweetened condensed milk was to be Gail Borden’s greatest accomplishment.

The Fortune

Always a man of hard work and humble means, Borden’s fortune was finally made in 1861, when the U.S. Government ordered sweetened condensed milk as part of the rations for the Union army during the Civil War. Canned, compact, and calorie-dense, the rich fluid served the soldiers well, not only through the Civil war but also during WWI. Sweetened condensed milk was later included in the foodstuffs dropped into besieged West Germany during the Berlin Airlift of the late 1940s. Returning soldiers shared their enthusiasm for the product, and “Borden’s Milk” was on its way to becoming a pantry staple.

The Legacy

coffe tea and chocolate

Advertising was important to the Borden company from the beginning. First, for baby formula, then as soldiers and their families began enjoying sweetened condensed milk in their coffee and tea, the company’s advertising pivoted from filling a nutritional need to becoming the quintessential ingredient in making desserts from ice cream to fruitcake. The printed advertisements exploded from black and white scientific-style ads in newspapers to full-page colored ads in magazines. During the mid-1960s, a recipe for Borden’s Magic Cookie Bars, with sweetened condensed milk as the “magic” ingredient, burst onto the baking scene, and desserts have never been the same.

The Recipe — 1970s

While researching this article, I was interested to learn how the recipe for Magic Cookie Bars has changed over the years. In a magazine ad from the 1970s (below), the recipe calls for one cup (6 oz) semi-sweet chocolate or butterscotch morsels, a 3 oz can or 1-1/3 cup flaked coconut, and a 15 oz can Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk. The directions say to melt the butter or margarine in a saucepan before pouring it into the baking dish to be mixed with the graham cracker crumbs. The order given for layering the remaining ingredients is illustrated in the ad with sweetened condensed milk poured over the top.

Vintage-recipe-layered-magic-cookie-bars-750x929

The Recipe — 1999

In a magazine ad from 1999 (below), the recipe for Magic Cookie Bars instructs the baker to preheat the oven to 325* if using a glass pan. The butter or margarine is to be melted in the baking pan in the oven, then combined with the graham cracker crumbs or chocolate cookie crumbs. The sweetened condensed milk is then poured over the crumb crust with the other ingredients layered on top. The can size of sweetened condensed milk was reduced to 14 ounces, and the recipe doubled the amount of chocolate chips to twelve ounces. Yum! Once layered, the home cook is instructed to “press down firmly with a fork” to bind the ingredients together. Some substitutions are suggested at the bottom of the recipe — mini M&Ms, dried cranberries, raisins, mini marshmallows or butterscotch chips. Its evident that part of the “magic” in Magic Cookie Bars is the variety of ways the recipe can be personalized. Several Christmas’s ago, a coworker substituted white chocolate chips and Craisins for the usual semi-sweet chocolate chips. They were amazing! It seems that Magic Cookie Bars are limited only by one’s imagination.

Magic Cookie Bars

A Final Note: Not everyone calls these bars Magic Cookie Bars. Sometimes they are called Seven Layer Bars, Hello Dollies, Coconut Dream Bars or Screaming Eagles. I call them delicious!

Taffy Apple Dip — 1985

In the 1980s, I listened to a radio show broadcast from Salt Lake City called The Gabby Gourmet. Fredric Wix, the Gabby Gourmet, a retired marine who loved cooking, helped pioneer the concept of gourmet cooking at home. Fred moved from radio to television when he was invited to host a cooking spot on KUTV’s midday news broadcast. Highly successful in both mediums, The Gabby Gourmet went on to publish a cookbook that is now out of print and highly collectible; however, some of his cooking videos are available for viewing on YouTube.

Mr. Wix shared the recipe for Taffy Apple Dip one day when I happened to be tuned in. I quickly wrote it down, and I have been serving it ever since, especially in the fall when the apples are ripe and fresh and crispy. Adults, as well as, children enjoy this dip, and it is much easier to make and eat than caramel apples. I serve the dip either at room temperature or a bit warmer, but it must be stored in the refrigerator. To jazz things up, a sprinkling of salt flakes over the caramel creates a delightfully sweet and salty contrast. Enjoy!

Taffy Apple Dip

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • Dash of kosher salt
  • 1 (14 oz) can sweetened-condensed milk

Directions

  1. Spray the inside of a 1.5 quart saucepan with cooking spray, add butter and melt over medium heat.
  2. Stir in corn syrup, brown sugar and kosher salt; bring to a simmer. Simmer gently for 2–3 minutes, stirring from time to time, until the brown sugar is completely dissolved.
  3. Remove pan from heat and blend in sweetened-condensed milk; set aside to cool.
  4. Serve with apple slices.
  5. Store leftovers in the refrigerator.

Serving Option: For a salted caramel dip, sprinkle a few flakes of coarse salt over dip before serving.

Recipe Compliments of Cookbooklady.com and The Gabby Gourmet

Waldorf Salad — 1896

“A seed hidden in the heart of an apple is an orchard invisible.”

~Welsh Proverb

Oscar PhotographAs a young man of sixteen, Oscar Tschirky immigrated to America from Switzerland with his mother in 1883 to join his older brother in New York City  where they hoped to make a better life. Within a day of his arrival, Oscar landed a job as a busboy in the Hoffman House, an elegant hotel in the city. Five years later he was manager of a dining room in Delmonico’s, the best restaurant in New York, where he refined the skills necessary to become the Matre d’ of the Waldorf Hotel (soon to become the Waldorf-Astoria). Hired before the hotel opened in 1893, he was essential in stocking supplies, hiring staff and developing management systems. Oscar, himself, turned the key on opening day and went on to become the”face” of the Waldorf-Astoria during his fifty-year career. Ironically, beloved by heads-of-state, Hollywood types and business tycoons, Oscar’s lasting claim to fame was the Waldorf salad. 

Waldorf Cookbook coverThough not a chef, just three years after the opening of the Waldorf, Oscar published a 900-page cookbook titled The Cook Book by “Oscar” of the Waldorf  1896 which includes a now-ubiquitous recipe for Waldorf Salad. Calling for three simple ingredients, apples, celery and a good mayonnaise (recipe below), it seems much too humble for the glitz and glamour of New York high society, but the salad had had a victorious debut at a gala event planned and overseen by Oscar coinciding with the opening of the hotel.  

Waldorf Salad

Coming upon a copy of Oscar’s original Waldorf Salad recipe (above), I was disappointed that no particular variety of apple was suggested. It would be interesting to experience the exact flavor profile of the original.

Also being curious about the adaptation of the recipe over the past one hundred years, I researched nearly two dozen twentieth-century cookbooks. Interestingly I found that most of them contained a recipe for Waldorf Salad, many very similar to the original version, with some specifying red-skinned apples. The only twentieth-century cookbook, Cooking In Quilt Country 1989, that mentions using a particular variety of apple calls for Jonathan or McIntosh. Either apple may well have been the variety that Oscar used as they both grew prolifically in New York state at that time. Perhaps part of the charm and longevity of this recipe is that the home cook can personalize it simply by the variety of apple he or she uses.

Chopped Nuts

One of the earliest adaptations of Waldorf Salad is the addition of chopped nuts — walnuts usually, but also pecans as mentioned in The Joy of Cooking 1931 by Irma Rombauer. Curiously, her recipe is one of the few that suggest peeling the apples before chopping. The Waldorf Salad recipe found in The Household Searchlight Recipe Book 1944 (below) stays true to Oscar’s original recipe except for the now classic addition of chopped nuts:

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What’s In the Dressing

Another common adaptation to Waldorf Salad is the dressing, especially early in the century when commercial mayonnaise was in its infancy. Martha Meade’s Modern Meal Maker 1939 contains a recipe-ette called Apple and Celery Salad, but its confusing. How is the one cup shredded lettuce intended to be used — mixed in with the salad or as the lettuce cups — Hmmm. The Golden Dressing is the intriguing part of this recipe (below). Its fussy, but maybe not as fussy as homemade mayonnaise. And it sounds delish (recipe below).

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Mary Meade’s Modern Homemaker Cookbook 1966 suggests adding whipped cream to the mayonnaise dressing. She also suggest using unpared red-skinned apples (recipe below):

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Before salad dressings were readily available in grocery stores, cooks made them at home so older recipes frequently call for a “cooked” or “boiled” dressing. A recipe for Waldorf Salad (below) printed in General Foods Cook Book 1932 containing apples, celery and nuts calls for Cooked Salad Dressing made of thickened mustard, sugar, egg yolks, vinegar and milk — sweet or sour:

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A curious dressing for Waldorf Salad comes from a recipe found in The American Woman’s Cook Book 1966 which calls for a French vinaigrette to dress the apples, celery and walnuts. The salad is served on lettuce leaves and topped with a dollop of mayonnaise. 

Adding Variety

Mid-century home cooks began expressing their creativity by including additional fruits in their Waldorf Salad. The Good Housekeeping Cookbook 1963 is a perfect example of this. The recipe titled Pear Waldorf Salad (recipe below) suggests substituting fresh peeled and diced pears in place of apples in an otherwise typical Waldorf Salad. Being intrigued by this recipe and canning pears at the time, I decided to give it a try. It was delicious! Bartlett pears, however, are softer and juicier than apples causing the salad to break down quickly. If I were to make it again, I would follow the recipe’s alternate suggestion of using half apples and half pears. Notice the other inclusions in Pear Waldorf Salad — fresh, frozen, or canned pineapple, banana cubes (a strange term) or one cup sectioned oranges, and one cup grapes. The final adaptation of this recipe takes us full circle to the classic Waldorf Salad with unpared red apples, chopped celery, and walnuts tossed with a mayonnaise dressing and embellished with a half cup of raisins.

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The final Waldorf Salad entry is a recipe found in Farm Journal’s Busy Woman’s Cookbook 1971 titled Waldorf Variation Salad — an appropriate title for nearly all twentieth-century Waldorf Salad recipes. It takes a citrus-y spin with frozen lemonade concentrate as the dressing (recipe below):

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My Waldorf Salad recipe is fairly traditional, calling for apples, celery, and chopped pecans with a mayonnaise dressing sweetened with a little honey. Sometimes I add a handful of raisins or dried cranberries for flavor and texture. It is a delightfully crisp Autumn salad that is a nice addition to a salad bar or as a side dish. The variety of apple that I often use is Honeycrisp because of its thin, tender red skin. Older varieties such as sweet-tart Jonathon or McIntosh are also tasty choices. For a lighter version of the dressing, a thick plain Greek yogurt can be used in place of the mayo, but the salad will be missing its wonderful piquant flavor. Enjoy!

Waldorf Salad

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: Easy
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Ingredients

  • 3–4 large red-skinned apples
  • Juice from a half lemon OR a sprinkling of Fruit Fresh
  • 1 cup finely chopped celery

  • 1/2–3/4 cup mayonnaise or plain Greek yogurt
  • 1–2 Tbsp honey (adjust to your taste)

  • 1/2 cup chopped toasted pecans
  • 1/4 cup raisins or dried cranberries (optional)

Directions

  1. Dice apples and sprinkle with lemon juice or Fruit Fresh; set aside. Finely chop celery and mix with apples in a large bowl.
  2. In a small bowl, blend honey with mayonnaise or Greek yogurt. Drizzle dressing over apples and celery; toss to coat.
  3. Fold in chopped pecans, reserving some for garnish, add raisins or dried cranberries if desired.
  4. Chill until ready to serve.

Note: Yogurt dressing begins to break down quickly so plan to serve the salad no more than an hour after preparing. The mayonnaise dressing is more stable.

Recipe Compliments of Cookbooklady.com

 

Summer Tomato Salad

“It’s difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts while eating a homegrown tomato”.

Lewis Grizzard

A recipe from Irma Rombauer’s Joy of Cooking 1974 called French Tomato Salad has been the inspiration for a a flavorful addition to my catered salad bars. The recipe calls for six thinly sliced tomatoes arranged overlapping on a serving plate and poured over with a French (vinaigrette) dressing and sprinkled with minced shallots or thinly sliced green onions.

Also taking inspiration from the 1950s Italian Caprese Salad consisting of sliced tomatoes, sliced mozzarella cheese (made with buffalo milk if you want to be authentic), fresh basil and olive oil (Americans often add a little balsamic vinegar as well to give the salad some zip), I have created a hybrid version of these two recipes that is colorful and packed with flavor. I call it Summer Tomato Salad (with or without mozzarella cheese). During late summer when fresh tomatoes are at their peak, I serve this salad often and I sometimes even make a light meal of it for myself (recipe below). Enjoy!

Summer Tomato Salad

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 3 – 4 fresh medium-size tomatoes, sliced
  • 1/2 medium sweet onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup small fresh basil leaves or more as needed
  • Optional: 1 lb fresh mozzarella, sliced (my favorite)

Dressing:

  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper or to taste
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced

Directions

  1. Thinly slice tomatoes and arrange overlapping in shallow serving dish.  Carefully insert a basil leaf in between each of the tomato slices. (If using, insert a slice of mozzarella in between each of the tomato slices then insert a basil leaf between each tomato and cheese slice). Sprinkle finely chopped sweet onion over tomatoes.
  2. In a small shaker jar, combine dressing ingredients, shake well and pour over vegetables (and mozzarella). Refrigerate salad for at least two hours to blend flavors. Serve cold.

Recipe Compliments of Cookbooklady.com