1950s’ Lemon Bars

1950s’ lemon bars

Here I give details concerning the known history of tantalizing lemons-dating back to before Christ-as well as a time-tested receipt for lemon bars.

In the 1950s, my mother often made these great bars, using a then popular recipe probably derived from a magazine, to which I have added my touches to make them simpler, tastier, better!

There are many variations of fruit that grow on trees in the genus Citrus, and these are prone to form hybrids with each other, making it hard for scientists to work out family relationships.  Today it is believed that the common domesticated citrus fruits all derive from just three parents: the citron Citrus medica, the mandarin orange Citrus reticulate, and the pummelo Citrus maxima.  1

Lemons, so valued for their acidity-often 5% of the juice-are widely used in cooking and are highly revered in the making of beverages, pectin, medicines, and beauty products.  This fruit may have originated as a two-step hybrid, in which both steps were citron-crossed with lime.  It is proposed that the first step of this hybrid arose in the area of northwest India and Pakistan, while the second took place in the Middle East, where the citron, crossed with lime, was crossed additionally with pummelo.  2

In Food in History, Reay Tannahill postulates that people may have been eating lemons and limes as early as 2300 BC, when the cities of Harappa and Mohenjo-Dato, of the great Indus civilizations, were at their peak.  3

Around 100 AD lemons arrived in the Mediterranean via Arab traders; by 400 they were planted in orchards in Moorish Spain.  Presently they are mainly cultivated in subtropical regions, with many varieties of true lemon, as well as a couple of further hybrids, such as the Ponderosa and Meyer lemons; the Ponderosa is large and coarse, probably a lemon-citron cross.  The Meyer, probably a cross between the lemon and either orange or mandarin, however, is thin-skinned, with less acid, and a distinctive flavor due in part to a thyme note (from thymol); this later came to California in the early 20th century.  4

“Curing” promotes longer shelf life of lemons.  Being picked green, they are held in controlled conditions for several weeks, allowing their green skins to yellow, thin, and develop a waxy surface; curing also promotes enlargement of the juice vesicles.  5

Epicures appreciate the preserved lemons of northern Africa as a condiment; they are made by cutting and salting lemons and letting them ferment for several weeks.  (Up to a month may be required, as suggested in the great recipe at https://nourishedkitchen.com/morrocan-preserved-lemons/.)  This process allows for the growth of bacteria and yeasts, which softens the rind and changes the aroma from bright and sharp to rich and rounded.  6

Often attempts are made to shorten the steps with many in-depth cooking procedures today.  Such has occurred with these preserved lemons-for example they are frozen and thawed to speed salt penetration, then salted for a few hours or days.  This will bring some of the needed chemical changes as the oil glands are disrupted and their contents are mixed with other substances, but without fermentation, full flavor development will not occur.  7

In On Food and Cooking, Harold McGee writes that lemon comes via Arabic from a Persian word, reflecting the route these Asian fruits took as they made their way to the West.  8

Enjoy the explosion of great flavor in this proven lemon bar recipe!

References:

  1. Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking (New York: Scribner, 1984, 2004), p. 373.
  2. Ibid., p. 377.
  3. Reay Tannahill, Food in History (New York: Three River Press, 1973, 1988), pp. 38, 39.
  4. Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking (New York: Scribner, 1984, 2004), p. 377.
  5. Ibid.
  6. Ibid. and https://nourishedkitchen.com/morrocan-preserved-lemons/
  7. Ibid.
  8. Ibid.

finished product

1950s’ Lemon Bars  Yields: 16 small bars.  Total prep time: 55 min/  active prep time: 20 min/  inactive prep time: 10 min/ baking time: 25 min.  (There was a note on Mom’s recipe to add more lemon to this original 20th century recipe; thus, I increased both the lemon juice and flour to 3 tbsp each.)

1 c plus 3 tbsp unbleached white flour  (Bob’s Red Mill organic is high quality.)

1/2 c butter, softened

1/4 c powdered sugar  (Organic is best; available at Trader Joe’s.)

2 lg eggs

1 c sugar  (Coconut sugar is ideal, in place of the white; may also use turbinado, raw cane sugar.)

Zest of 2 small lemons  (Organic is very important, in order to avoid the taste of pesticides; available inexpensively at Trader’s.)

3 tbsp lemon juice, fresh squeezed

1/2 tsp of salt  (Himalayan, pink, or Real Salt is critical for optimum health; an inexpensive fine grind Himalayan salt is available at Costco.)

1/2 tsp baking powder

  1. golden crust

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

  2. Spray lemons with a safe, effective, inexpensive produce spray (combine 97% white distilled vinegar with 3% hydrogen peroxide).  Let sit for 3 minutes and rinse well.
  3. With a fork in a medium bowl, blend 1 c flour, butter, and 1/4 c powdered sugar, until mealy like a pie crust.  Pat mixture firmly into an ungreased 8” x 8” pan and bake for 15 minutes, or until golden brown (see above photo).  Cool on wire rack for 10 minutes.
  4. frothy filling mixture

    Meanwhile zest lemons, then juice them.

  5. Slightly beat the eggs in a bowl with an electric mixer; blend in your choice of 1 c white, coconut, or turbindo sugar.  (For info on coconut and cane sugars, see Zucchini Bread-2017/07/24-and Pear Pie-2016/10/31-respectively.)
  6. Mix in remaining 3 tbsp flour, salt, and baking powder; add lemon zest and juice, beating until frothy (see photo above).  Set aside.
  7. bars at end of baking

    Spread lemon mixture evenly on top of slightly cooled crust.  Return to oven and bake for 25 minutes more, or until golden brown.  Note: this will firm up more with cooling.  See photo.

  8. Dust with powdered sugar and cut into 16 pieces, while bars are warm.  Refrigerate leftovers.

1950’s Wild Rice with Almonds

wild rice laced with mushrooms, almonds, and onions

The history of wild rice is intriguing!  From the 1950s forward, my mother frequently blessed our family and her many guests with this buttered wild rice, laced with mushrooms and roasted almonds.  It usually accompanied her pheasant casserole, which was Mom’s favorite dish.  (I will post the pheasant recipe the next time I am offered this wild fowl; both of these recipes came from Maude Benson, an “older” woman-to my young mind-in my village of 250 people in Montana’s Glacier National Park.)

In 1673, Jacques Marquette, a French Jesuit missionary-explorer, described this grain as a fausse avoine, or false oat, when he discovered the Mississippi River and the rivers near its headwaters.  This annual plant which he encountered was Zizania palustris, or what we call northern wild rice today.  1

Wild rice-not a species of the true tropical rice genus Oryza-is the whole grain of a cool-climate North American water grass. Its unusually long grains are up to three-quarters of an inch, having a complex, distinctive flavor, with a greenish-black seedcoat.  What you find on the market today is primarily cultivated in artificially flooded paddies, and harvested mechanically after the fields are drained; relatively small amounts come from uncultivated, naturally occurring stands.  It is necessary to read labels carefully, if you want to taste truly wild rice from its native region and savor the differences among small producers.  2

Originally it was gathered in canoes by the Ojibway and other native peoples in shallow lakes and marshes of the Great Lakes region of North America; it is the only cereal to have become important as a human food in this northern continent of the Americas.  3

This wild crop was first cultivated in the early 1950s by James and Gerald Godward, who were meeting the rising demand for this delicacy in the U.S.  4

This grain is unusual among other cereals in that it contains double the amount of moisture at maturity, around 40% of the kernel weight.  The result is it requires more elaborate processing than true rice in order to be stored.  This process includes maturing it in moist piles for one to two weeks; next, parching dries it,  enhances flavor, and makes the husk brittle; and finally it is threshed to remove the husk.  5

The parching process contributes to its firm, chewy texture, but also makes its cooking time longer, because its starch has been precooked into a glassy, hard mass.  Another factor giving it a relatively lengthy cooking time is its intact bran layers are resistant to water absorption, as they are impregnated with cutins and waxes.  This later quality protects the grains that fall into the natural lakes, allowing them to lie dormant for months or even years before germinating.  6

To improve water absorption and lessen cooking time, some producers will slightly abrade the grains, while cooks may choose to soak them in warm water for several hours, which isn’t all that effective.  7

Raw wild rice has flowery, green, earthy, tea-like notes.  The technique of curing amplifies the tea notes, but may also bring an undesirable mustiness.  Parching generates browning reactions, lending toasted, nutty characteristics.  Producers use different methods of both parching and curing, which brings variations in the flavor of wild rice.  These methods of curing range from none to brief to extended, while parching may utilize low to high temperatures, be over open fires, or performed in indirectly heated metal drums.  8

It has been said that how the rice was cured, as well as how old it is, dictates the timing required to prepare it.  Regardless of this actual cause, to insure readiness, it is best to prepare this dish before dinnertime, and then reheat it in a well-buttered casserole in the oven for 30 minutes.

References:

  1. James Trager, The Food Chronology (New York: Henry Holt and Company, Inc., 1995), p. 137.
  2. Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking (New York: Scribner, 1984, 2004),  pp. 476, 477.
  3. Ibid., p. 476.
  4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wild_rice
  5. Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking (New York: Scribner, 1984, 2004),  p. 476.
  6. Ibid., p. 476.
  7. Ibid., p. 476.
  8. Ibid., p. 476.

wild rice with cranberries, orange, and onion

1950’s Wild Rice with Almonds  Yields: 6 servings.  Total prep time: 1-1 3/4 hr/  active prep time: 30 min/  cooking time: 30-75 min.

Note: may make this ahead of serving to insure readiness, as cooking time will vary.  For poultry, substitute dried cranberries and orange with zest, in place of mushrooms and garlic.  For pork, substitute tart apple and celery.

1/2 c slivered almonds

1/2 c butter

1 c wild rice

3 c chicken broth  (Organic, free range broth can be purchased inexpensively at Trader Joe’s; better yet use bone broth for high nutrition, see Tortellini Sausage Soup and Bone Broth, 2016/10/10.)

1 bunch green onions, including green stems, chopped  (Organic is only slightly more expensive and so much healthier.)

1-1 1/2 tsp salt, or to taste  (I like this well-seasoned.  Himalayan, pink, or Real Salt is critical for optimum health; a fine grind Himalayan salt is available inexpensively at Costco.)

3/4 tsp freshly ground pepper, or to taste

2 c sliced mushrooms  (For poultry, substitute: 1 c dried cranberries, plus 1 chopped orange with zest.  For pork, substitute: 2 c chopped tart apple, plus 1 c diced celery.)

2 lg cloves garlic, minced-only use this with the mushrooms  (For easy prep, may substitute 1 cube of frozen garlic; available at Trader’s.)

  1. rice about 15 minutes before being finished

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spread almonds on a cookie sheet and roast in oven for 10 minutes; set aside on a plate to cool.

  2. In a 3-qt sauce pan, melt 1/4 c butter over medium heat; add rice and sauté for 10 minutes.
  3. Add broth, raise heat to med/high, and bring to a boil.
  4. Lower heat and simmer until chewy, or soft-test for desired tenderness.  Timing will vary from 30 to 60 minutes, or longer.  Stir occasionally and WATCH WATER LEVEL CAREFULLY WHILE COOKING.  (See photos.)
  5. Meanwhile in a sauté pan, melt remaining 1/4 c butter over medium heat.
  6. Lower heat to med/low, add onions, salt, pepper, and mushrooms (substituting cranberries and orange with zest-instead of mushrooms-to accompany poultry,  or apple and celery for pork).
  7. rice completed to a chewy texture

    Sauté produce until desired tenderness is reached, stirring frequently.  At this point, add garlic-only if using mushrooms-and cook until aroma arises; set aside.

  8. Blend sautéed onion mixture and almonds into finished rice, adjust seasonings.  To insure readiness, may set aside at this point to reheat just before serving.  If doing this, place rice medley in a well-buttered 2-qt casserole and bake, uncovered, in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes.
  9. Serve with confidence!

Chocolate Mint Pie, Another Variation of Blum’s Famous Pie

chocolate mint pie

Let’s journey back to the mid-nineteen hundreds, with another variation of Blum’s coffee toffee pie.  My sister Maureen, who is a kitchen genius, created countless desserts, with this famous pie’s receipt as a basis; we served these in our family restaurant high in the Rocky Mountains, at the east entrance to Montana’s Glacier National Park, during its 50-plus years of operation.

While in San Francisco for my rare eye operation in the late 1960s, my bold mother asked Blum’s for their coffee toffee pie receipt (see 2017/08/21), which my sister expanded on over and over again; this exceptional mint pie is just one of the exquisite results of her ingenuity.  She made it with crème de menthe for the extensive dessert bar in our dining room; I, however, employ peppermint essential oil, which is healthier and more economical.

Many visitors arrive at my blog in search of information pertaining to Blum’s, which left its indelible mark on the history of San Francisco and American cuisine.  Before it closed in the 1970s, it was an upscale restaurant, serving exquisite desserts, candies, and lunch items.  I recall being fascinated with a pin-wheel sandwich there, which I saw with my one unbandaged, post-operative eye.  The swirling of white and dark bread was new and stunning to me back then.

The early ‘60s saw the ushering in of high-end cuisine for the growing middle class; this was introduced by Julia Child, teaching French cooking techniques; she became established in the kitchens of America, due to Jacqueline Kennedy’s placing a French chef in the White House.  This decade’s middle class had the money, as well as the developed acumen, to learn involved French cooking from Child, with all its vast richness-butter and more butter, cream, eggs, cognac.  1

My mother, however, was busy following Time-Life Books Foods of This World, creating foods of France and many other countries (see my 1960s French dinner, 2016/05/30).  This extensive sequel came out in 1968, as a result of the changes that Child had produced in the American palette.

Other food movements were rising along with this adoption of the gourmandise; one was the growth of fast food.  While we were spending three winters in Tucson in the early part of this decade, my parents took us kids out for hamburgers on their nights out with friends; we always preferred the burger at JB Big Boy-founded in 1961-over that of McDonald’s.  2

McDonald’s first opened its simple hamburger restaurant in 1948; nevertheless, it was with a building renovation in 1952 that they created the concept of fast food.  3  Likewise in 1962, their openness to change brought about fast seafood; this transpired when franchise owner Lou Groen creatively placed a Fillet-O-Fish sandwich on his Cincinnati menu.  He had a desperate need to increase his dwindling business, due to the meatless practices during the 40-day Lenten period, of the this Catholic-heavy population in southwest Ohio.  With this innovative addition being accepted by headquarters, a new era of experimentation and menu expansion took place for McDonald’s, as well as fast food as a whole.  4

Yet another trend in food was birthed in the 1960s; social unrest was on the rise, which my family was highly aware as we walked the streets of San Francisco, during my eye operation.  This brought about a generation devoted to Birkenstocks and bean sprouts that popularized vegetarianism and cooked-from-scratch foods.  (I, myself, produced much homemade granola in the late ’70s, during my personal reliving of the hippie movement.)  5

There seemed to be an apparent schism take place with the birthing of both gourmet and hippie food in America-while fast food was also growing ever predominant during these tumultuous years.  Nevertheless, all three of these food trends are still found to be thriving in our present day society, which has witnessed even greater diversity and imagination in its ever expanding movement of food, in the years leading to 2019.  American ailment, which was previously boring, is extremely exciting presently!  6

References:

  1. https://leitesculinaria.com/10348/writings-100-years-american-food.html
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/JB%27s_Restaurants
  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_McDonald%27
  4. https://www.thrillist.com/eat/nation/most-important-dishes-food-that-changed-america#slide24
  5. https://leitesculinaria.com/10348/writings-100-years-american-food.html
  6. Ibid.

Chocolate Mint Pie, a variation of Blum’s Coffe Toffee Pie  Yields: 1-10″ pie.  Total prep time: 1 1/2 hr, plus 1/2 hr for cooling/ active prep time: 1 1/4 hr/ baking time 15 min.

Note: this is best kept in the freezer for long-term use, cutting off pieces as needed; serve partially thawed for a favored ice cream-like texture.

1 c flour  (Bob’s Red Mill organic unbleached white flour is high quality.)

1/2 tsp salt  (Himalayan, pink, or Real Salt is critical for optimum health; an inexpensive fine grind Himalayan salt can be purchased at Costco.)

3/4 c butter, softened

1/4 c brown sugar, packed down  (Organic is best; available sometimes at Costco and always at Trader Joe’s.)

3/4 c walnuts, chopped fine

2 oz Baker’s unsweetened chocolate, plus extra for garnish

1 tbsp water

1 tsp vanilla extract

3/4 c cane sugar  (Organic is ideal, best buy is at Costco, also available in a smaller quantity at Trader Joe’s.)

2 lg eggs, at room temperature  (If sensitive to raw eggs, may use pasteurized eggs for extra safety, which are available at some grocery stores.)

Peppermint essential oil, or mint flavoring of your choice

2 c heavy whipping cream  (Must be heavy, to whip properly.)

1/2 c powdered sugar  (High quality organic is available at Trader’s.)

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Few drops of green food coloring

Ganache

1 c heavy whipping cream  (Organic is important for health; available for $3.29/pint at Trader’s.)

8 oz (1 1/3 c) semi-sweet chocolate chips  (Trader’s carries some of high quality.)

1 tsp vanilla extract

  1. baked pie crust

    Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

  2. Combine flour and salt; blend in a scant 1/4 c butter well with a fork until mealy in texture.
  3. Mix in brown sugar, chopped walnuts, and 1 oz chocolate, grated with a sharp knife.  Add water and vanilla; blend well.
  4. Butter a pie plate generously; press pie dough in a well-greased pan firmly with fingers. Bake for 18 minutes, or until light brown; begin cooling on a rack, for about 10 minutes, finish cooling in freezer (see photo above).
  5. Chill a bowl in the freezer for whipping the cream (the whipping of cream is greatly facilitated when utensils are ice-cold).
  6. Melt remaining 1 oz of chocolate over med/low heat, watching carefully as not to burn. Set aside and cool to room temperature.
  7. ganache

    Make ganache, by bringing 1 c heavy cream to a very low simmer, over med/low heat (should be very hot-steaming-not boiling).  Add 8 oz chocolate pieces and continue to cook, beating with a wire whisk, until mixture is glossy/shiny.  Remove from heat, add vanilla, set aside.  See photo.

  8. Check to make sure 1 oz melted chocolate (above) is still in liquid form; if hardened, gently add a little heat, being careful to melt it only, but not get it very warm. Beat 1/2 c butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer until creamy.  Gradually add 3/4 c cane sugar, beating well with each small addition.
  9. Add 1 egg-must be room temperature-mix on medium speed for 5 minutes.  (The following makes this preparation foolproof: it is important to have ingredients at room temperature, for if your kitchen is either really hot or cold, this mixture may curdle.  You can easily correct this: if it curdles or breaks because it is too hot, make the addition of the second egg a cold one, directly out of the refrigerator, to bring the filling back to its full volume.  If the

    filling

    butter/sugar/egg combination is too cold and curdles, warm the chocolate a little and mix this in before adding the second egg; then, follow the directions for beating.  Ideally when done, this should be like fluffy whipped butter or soft whipped cream, providing ingredients are room temperature, in a moderate kitchen.  In this way, you will never fail with this recipe!)

  10. Add second egg and beat for 5 more minutes, see above photo.
  11. Blend in cooled chocolate and several drops of peppermint essential oil, or to taste.
  12. Clean and place beaters in freezer for ease in whipping the cream.
  13. Fill the bottom of the cold pie crust with a layer of ganache, freeze ganache in shell for 10 minutes, see photo above. (May have to slightly warm ganache at this point, for easy pouring.)
  14. Meantime using frozen bowl and beaters, beat cream until it starts to thicken; add powdered sugar and several drops of peppermint essential oil, or to taste, and few drops of green food coloring.  Continue beating until stiff; set aside.
  15. Place filling on top of chilled ganache in pie shell; return to freezer for 30 minutes; see photo.
  16. Cover pie with whipped cream and garnish with drizzled ganache-may have to warm slightly for easy drizzling.  Top with chocolate curls, made with a sharp knife.
  17. May serve now, or freeze for future use.  When frozen, cover well with plastic wrap for storing; cut pieces as needed.  Serve partially thawed for optimum pleasure.

1960’s Josephines (a great hors d’ouvres)

Join me on a journey to the mysterious wonder-world of childhood foods with these josephines. which boast of green chillies.  At the end of this entry, I will explore the historical Pakistani  and Indian applications of chillies in their respective cuisines.

We can all relate to the thrilling memories of our particular favorites from mom’s best; these captivated our young hearts with taste thrills in our mouths, as well as simultaneous, soft sensations in our stomachs.  When faced with like foods today, we instantly return to these initial impulses from the treasuries of our early experiences.  Such comes to me double-fold, for not only did my mother supply these rich impressions, but my father-also a great cook-left indelible culinary marks on my soul.  Mom applied her expertise to the hosting of dinner parties, while Dad skillfully prepared food in our family’s restaurant-it was here we ate all our daily meals, while I was growing up.

Both parents were self-taught.  My mother lacked the normal advantages of learning cooking from her mother, who died of cancer when Mom was 11 years old (her father passed on two years later).  Hence being raised by nuns at a boarding school, she didn’t receive the normal, gracious “passing-down” of womanly skills; rather these were hard-won for her.

josephines

Everything Mom put her hand to, however, she mastered, for she knew the importance of “pressing-in” ardently-a trait I learned first-hand.  This included cooking in which she particularly excelled.  I grew up amidst the flurry of her entertaining many guests with gourmet foods.  She was always baking Irish oatmeal bread to go with her many feasts, often with foreign themes; this at a time when America was eating Spam, jello, canned vegetables, and the perpetual, “miraculous” Crisco.  (The history of shortening is in 1880’s Ozark Honey-Oatmeal Cookies, 2017/10/30, while that of canning can be found at Bean, Corn, and Avocado Salad, 2017/10/02.)

On the other hand, my grandparents, on my father’s side, lived in a small house just behind our home, allowing for their constant, close presence.  Grandma was a fantastic cook, accomplishing all by a sense of feel, with no recipes needed-a handful of this, a pinch of that.  Nevertheless as with Mom’s maternal experience, Dad didn’t learn his methods from her, but rather his schooling was provided by a gigantic industrial cook book, brought to our restaurant by a traveling salesman in the early 1960’s (see Buzz’ Blue Cheese Dressing, 2016/08/25).

These heart-imprints, established as a result of my father’s disciplined efforts, literally soar when I presently encounter light buttermilk pancakes, exceptional potato salad, or a good doughnut, for these were institutions in his establishment; thus, such soul foods provide me with a quick transport back to the mid-twentieth century.

For me these Mexican-inspired Josephines carry this same weight, with recollections from Mom’s culinary domain.  Hors d’ouvres were always a part of her feasts; this being one of our favorites.

As mentioned, 1960’s cooking employed lots of canned foods, with this recipe being no exception, as it calls for canned green chillies; originally this vegetable made its way from America to Europe, and beyond, in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.

Chilli peppers were first introduced in India by the Portuguese, where they added heat to curries.  Curry is actually an English name, derived from the Tamil word kari, meaning “sauce”; thus, our English word indicates the basic Indian method of preparing food, utilizing their ever-present sauces.

Red and green chilies have long been present in both Hindu Indian and Muslim Pakistani cuisines.  These social groups existed together in Kashmir for most of the 400 years prior to the 1947 formation of Muslim Pakistan; here both cultures relied on the basic dish of rice and either kohlrabi or a vegetable similar to our spring greens, which was flavored with red and green chilies.  The Muslims enhanced this with garlic, while the Hindus added hing (asafoetidfa), distinguishing the two styles of preparing this food.  A more marked difference in their diets, however, resided in the ratio of meat to vegetables, with Hindus eating far more vegetables than meat, while Muslims did the opposite.

This American receipt calls for chillies, long present in world cookery; not being fresh, these reflect the popularity of canned goods in the 20th century.  Enjoy the ease of this hors d’ouvres with its great taste.  Note: my niece Cammie retains our family’s fond memory, by creatively using goat cheese and gluten-free bread here, to meet her dietary needs.  One way or the other, you will never forget this taste-treat!

References:

Reay Tannahill, Food in History (New York: Three Rivers Press, 1988, 1973), p, 271.

James Trager, The Food Chronology (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1995), pp. 87, 88.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chili_pepper

https://cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/65202/what-was-indian-food-like-before-the-arrival-of-the-chilli-from-south-america

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kashmir

finished product

Josephines  Yields: about 1 1/2 dozen.  Total prep time: 45 min/  active prep time: 20 min/  baking time: 25-30 min.  Note: may make cheese/mayo mixture ahead, to have on hand in refrigerator.

1 c aged, grated cheddar cheese  (It is preferable to not use packaged shredded cheese; Mom always grated Sharp Cracker Barrel; I use imported, aged cheddars.)

1 c mayonnaise  (Best Foods is of high quality.)

1-7 oz can diced green chillies

easy grating of cheese in food processor

Tabasco sauce, about 8 vigorous shakes, or to taste

3/4 tsp salt  (Himalayan, pink, or Real Salt is so important for optimum health; an inexpensive fine grind Himalayan salt is available at Costco.)

1 loaf French bread  (Trader Joe’s sells an ideal, organic 11.5-oz baguette for $1.99; this spread is enough for 2 baguettes.)

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Grate cheese by hand, or with grating attachment for food processor (see photo above).
  3. Mix cheese and mayonnaise in a bowl; may store this in refrigerator in a sterile container for months.
  4. Add drained chillies, Tabasco, and salt to cheese mixture; set aside.
  5. bread spread with cheese/mayo mixture

    Split loaf of bread in half lengthwise, place halves on cookie sheet split-side up, and evenly spoon cheese spread on these surfaces (see photo).

  6. Bake in hot oven for 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown (see photo at top of recipe).
  7. Cool slightly, cut,  and serve.  These are dynamite!

1950’s Boiled Raisin Cake

boiled raisin cake

The glorious Big Sky country of Montana was the recent setting for my mother Pat’s memorial, which holds the story of redemption.  This couldn’t have been more special, with family there from all over the state, as well as Washington, California, and Oregon.  It was a blessed reunion of next of kin and old friends, many of whom I hadn’t seen for decades.  My 94-year old mother, who was so eager to be with her Maker and my father, was smiling down from heaven, highly pleased with all our gaiety.

Needless to say, the food at this week’s many meals was the greatest.  My sister Maureen, who follows a ketogenic diet, is highly gifted in creating memorable ailments. (She trains people in ketogenic-style cooking and presently is writing a cook book, which includes beautiful creative desserts; I will promote it when it comes out.)

Today’s boiled raisin cake, however, dates back to my early childhood in the 1950’s; my mother probably found this well-known cake recipe in a popular magazine.  Maureen knows the original instructions by heart, to which I have added a few twists of my own, such as freshly ground flour-this is totally optional, but oh so good!

Pleasing the palate beyond words, this world’s easiest, foolproof cake is mixed in the saucepan in which you boil the raisins.  I couldn’t help but share it at this time, thus honoring my mother.

Death normally brings loss; Mom’s departing, however, promoted life and goodness.  Her long-term desire to be with Jesus and my father “Buzzy Baby” was finally granted; our Redeemer brought great liberty to many with her passing.

Food, friends, and faith were the best description of her earthly sojourn; thus, these attributes also marked her transition to heaven, for my sister Maureen labored to insure their presence at all our gatherings, thus commemorating our beloved mother-nothing was overlooked.  This week-long series of family events highly esteemed this great woman, with the actual memorial, in our village of East Glacier Park, being the height of the glory which was signified by her home-coming.

At this treasured celebration, I was able to reunite with many childhood friends-some of whom I hadn’t seen since the 1970’s.  During the reception, extreme laughter blessed us at one table, as we traversed memory lane, for we were recalling our shared employment at my parent’s restaurant.

So many people who came to memorialize Mom’s life had worked for my parents in their fifty-plus years of restaurant ownership; all were bearing rich, belly shaking stories.  It was at this respected establishment that I first learned my love for food, in which I have a unique approach of educating with health and history.

Here I note that the raisins in this cake receipt were most likely sun-dried on rows of paper in the vineyards for about three weeks, as is their most common form of production in the United States.  There are many thousands of grape varieties, which are of the genus Vitis V. vinifera.  Here in North America, we have about 25 native grape species, where in temperate Asia, there are about 10; the major source of wine and table grapes, however, is native to Eurasia.  About two-thirds of the world’s grapes result in wine; of the rest, about two-thirds are consumed fresh, with the remaining made into raisins. 1

Urbain Dubois published a recipe in his 19th century cook book, in which he ingeniously combined raisins and capers; presently, Jean-Georges Vongerichten has capitalized on this unique paring, enhancing it even further by pureeing it with nutmeg as a sauce for skate (this popular dish is on his restaurant menu). 2

Loving food and adventure, my mother would have appreciated this daring treatment of raisins.  You may experiment with this raisin/caper combination, or just securely rest in Mom’s proven boiled raisin cake.  (I suggest making the latter with white vanilla, which is ideal for white frostings-this uncommon flavoring was my recent gift from friends traveling to Mexico, the home of the world’s most outstanding, dirt-cheap vanilla.)

References:

  1. Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking (New York: Scribner, 1984, 2004), p. 363.
  2. Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page, Culinary Artistry (Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley& Sons, Inc., 1996), p. 70.
  3. https://calraisins.org/about/the-raisin-industry/

finished cake after final frosting

Boiled Raisin Cake  Yields: 12 servings.  Total prep time: 1 hr & 50 min, with 45 min inactive prep time for cooling raisins, unless you boil them ahead of time, following step one/  active prep time: 20 min/  baking time: 45 min.

3 c flour  (Optional: may grind 2 c organic soft white wheat berries to make 3 c flour.)

2 c raisins

3 c water

1 cube butter

2 lg eggs, beaten

1 tbsp vanilla

2 tsp baking soda

2 tsp baking powder

1 1/2 c sugar  (Coconut sugar has a low glycemic index; for health benefits, see Zucchini Bread, 2017/07/24.)

1 tsp salt  (Himalayan, pink, or Real Salt is critical for optimum health; an inexpensive, fine grind Himalayan salt is available at Costco.)

1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

1 1/2 tsp nutmeg

1 tsp cloves

1 c pecan pieces, optional

Spray oil  (Coconut oil is best for flavor and health; Pam coconut spray oil is available in most stores; our local Winco brand, however, is far cheaper.)

Glaze:

2 c powdered sugar  (Organic is best; Trader Joe’s has 1-lb packages, where Costco has more economical, larger packets.)

1/2 c butter, melted

1/2 c cream  (Organic heavy whipping cream is better for your health.)

1 tsp vanilla

1/4 tsp salt

  1. easy mixing of batter

    In a 3-quart sauce pan, bring raisins to a boil in 3 cups of water over medium heat; cook for exactly 5 minutes; add butter.  Place in a sink full of cold water to cool quickly.

  2. If using fresh ground flour, grind wheat berries now.
  3. Make glaze by mixing above “glaze” ingredients, set aside.
  4. When raisins are cool, preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  5. Add flour and all other “cake” ingredients to pan; blend well; do not over-beat, however, as this toughens cakes and cookies.  IF grinding your own flour, be sure to let batter sit for 45 minutes, as freshly ground flour is coarser and absorbs the liquid more slowly.
  6. Pour batter into 9”x13” pan, which has been sprayed with coconut spray oil.
  7. icing cake the first time

    Bake for 45 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean, and cake lightly responds when pressed with finger.

  8. When hot out of oven, immediately poke holes over the whole cake with a toothpick or skewer.
  9. Pour 2/3’s of glaze evenly on cake (see photo).  When cake has cooled, frost with remaining icing; see photo of finished product at top of recipe.
  10. This cake is dynamite, and it gets better as it sits over time!

The Best Corned Beef

corned beef and cabbage

In Ireland, they do not celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with corned beef and cabbage, but rather lamb or bacon, on what has long been a religious holiday there. Why therefore does the rest of the world, in particular the U.S., count this dish synonymous with this day that has become so filled with frolic?  It was through numerous developments that the Irish immigrants in America adopted this tradition, with its roots which are actually Gaelic.

These immigrants first arrived here when fleeing the Great Famine, which was brought about by the European potato blight that desperately hit their homeland, starting in 1845.  They disembarked knowing only “about” the corn beef of their forefathers, and that differing greatly from what they began to eat in the U.S.

This dish has a complicated history.  Beef was originally not regarded as an option in the old country, but rather pork and bacon provided the rare meat at a meal (pig is still their favored animal to be bred only for food).  From ancient times on, the common Irishman regarded the cow as a work animal, consuming only its milk products, not its flesh; this latter was primarily reserved only for the wealthy few, and even for them, merely at celebrations and festivals.  Salting was their typical means of preserving meat.

When the English conquered this country in the 16th century, the cow turned into a food commodity.  Since the time of Roman invasion, the English have had a voracious appetite for beef, hence their need to outsource for this.  After their conquest of the Gaelic land, tens of thousands of live cattle were exported yearly across the Irish Sea, until the mid-17th century, when a series of Cattle Acts enacted by the English Parliament put a stop to this export; thus, providing the fuel that ignited the Irish corned beef industry.  These Cattle Acts left Ireland with an inundation of cows, bringing meat prices down, and making it affordable and abundant for their salted beef production, their means of preservation; thus, now even the peasant could consume this food.

It was around this time that the term corned beef became popular, because of the large size of salt crystals used to cure it, for they looked like a kernel of corn.  The word kernel is derived from the Old English crynel, meaning seed or kernel, a diminutive of corn.

Subsequently Ireland became known for its abundant, high quality salted beef, now called corned beef, which tasted more like salt than beef.  In addition to the overflow of cows due to the Cattle Acts, they also had access to the highest quality of imported salt, as their salt tax was one tenth that of England.  (In good corned beef, the quality of salt is almost as important as the cut of beef.)  The demand for this best-on-the-market, Irish corned beef soared in Europe and the Americas, spiking the price so high that the common Irishman could no longer afford to eat it; thus, the potato, which the English had introduced in the 1580’s, became their major food source in the Gaelic land.

This high, European and American demand for Irish salted beef continued until the end of the 18th century, when the North American colonies began producing their own; the glory days of Irish corned beef came to a close over the next 50 years; hence, the economy in Ireland was affected greatly.  This coupled with the Great Famine-brought by the European potato blight starting in 1845-resulted in great destruction in this land, as this plant disease completely destroyed the Irish food source.  As a result, about a million people sought refuge in America.  Being the land of plenty, they could now afford meat, a first in their lifetimes; that which they chose happened to be the affordable “corn beef”.  Here, however, it greatly differed from that of the corned or salted beef of their ancestors 200 years prior.

These immigrants settled in the urban centers of New York and Philadelphia, next to their Jewish neighbors, who had kosher butcher shops, where the Irish bought this product; the Jewish butchers used brisket, a kosher cut, for what they called corned beef.  Being a tougher cut, it called for the salting and cooking processes that rendered the extremely tender corn beef, with its exceptional flavors, such as we know today.  The Irish paired this with their beloved potato and the inexpensive vegetable cabbage.  This “Jewish” corned beef then became the celebratory meal for the American Irish on their religious holiday St. Patrick’s Day.  Time transformed this hallowed feast day into its present, grand celebration of Irish heritage.

Today this beef brisket-cut is generally cured or pickled by injecting seasoned brine (the brisket-cut comes from the area just above the front legs; it rests on top of the shank cut, which is immediately above these legs in the forefront).  Hence today most of our savory corned briskets never actually touch any salt grains, the size of corn kernels or otherwise, like that of the famous salted beef of old.

Though not the typical corned brisket of the former era, in The Hamilton Cookbook, 2017, Laura Kumin cites Richard Briggs’ 1792 recipe “To Stew a Brisket of Beef”, from The English Art of Cookery: “a pint of red wine, or strong beer, a half of pound of butter, a bunch of sweet herbs, three or four shallots, some pepper and half a nutmeg grated.”  Browned, boiled turnips were added at the end, after the liquor-or gravy-had been thickened with “burnt butter”.

The following is my sister’s modern recipe, which calls for braising, resulting in super tender morsels of meat.  Enjoy this effortless receipt, while wearing the green this year.

References:

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/is-corned-beef-really-irish-2839144/

http://www.foodandwine.com/fwx/food/complicated-irish-history-corned-beef

http://www.kitchenproject.com/history/CornedBeef.htm

Reay Tannahill, Food in History (New York: Three Rivers Press, 1988, 1973), pp. 289-291.

Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking (New York: Scribner, 2004, 1984), p. 175.

Laura Kumin, The Hamilton Cookbook (New York, Nashville: Post Hill Press, 2017), pp. 90, 91.

glazed meat

Corned Beef Brisket  Yields: 6-8 servings.  Total prep time: 7 1/4 hr for 3 1/2-lb brisket/  active prep time: 30 min/  cooking time: 7 hr (or 2 hr for each lb of meat).

3 1/2 lb corned beef brisket

1 lg yellow onion  (Organic vegetables are best.)

8 extra lg cloves garlic, or the equivalent

6-8 red or Yukon gold potatoes, cut in halves

1 1/2 lb green cabbage, cut in sixths or eighths, leaving root on

1-1 1/4 lb carrots, cut in large pieces

2 tsp salt  (Himalayan, pink, or Real Salt is critical for optimum health; an inexpensive, fine grind Himalayan salt is available in bulk at Costco.)

Yellow mustard

Brown sugar  (Organic is best; available at Trader Joe’s or Costco.)

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees; take veggies out of refrigerator to warm.
  2. preparation for initial braising

    Rub seasonings from spice packet on brisket.  Place in oven-proof stock pot with onions and garlic.  Barely submerge in water (see photo); cover with lid and braise for 1 hour in oven at 375 degrees; then, lower temperature to 325 degrees, if brisket is normal size of 3 1/2 to 4 lbs-if brisket is larger, only lower heat to 350.  Cook meat for 6 hours for 3 1/2 lbs.  The TOTAL cooking time should be determined by figuring 2 hrs per lb (this time includes that needed for the replacement of vegetables for the meat the last hour of cooking); thus, a total of 7 hours for a 3 1/2 lb brisket).

  3. 1 1/3 hour before serving, spray vegetables with an inexpensive, safe, effective vegetable spray (a mixture of 97% distilled white vinegar and 3% hydrogen peroxide); let sit 3 minutes; rinse really well.  Scrape carrots with a sharp knife (this preserves vitamins, as opposed to peeling); cut in halves or large pieces; peel the potatoes; if large, cut in halves.  Cut cabbage in sixths or eighths, leaving the root on, and set this aside separately.
  4. 1 hour before serving, remove brisket from braising water, place in a baking dish, covered with tin foil, and set aside.  This should be extremely tender; if not, put a little liquid in bottom of dish, cover well with foil, and place back in oven while veggies are cooking (see photo below).
  5. preparing brisket for further cooking if needed

    Turn the heat up to 375 degrees.  Add potatoes, carrots, and salt to hot broth, cover with additional water, and return to oven to cook until tender, checking periodically.  As vegetables are done, remove to a baking dish, with small amount of broth in bottom, cover with foil, and place in oven to keep warm.

  6. Add cabbage to pot 30 minutes before serving if you like it soft; for a crisper version, add 20 minutes before dinner.  (Be sure to check vegetables to see if cooked, remove to baking dish as needed, and return to oven to keep hot.)
  7. About 30 minutes before serving, prep the glaze, by generously spreading yellow mustard over brisket, sprinkle with brown sugar, and place in oven at 375 degrees.  Bake for about 15-20 minutes, or until it bubbles and glaze is formed (see photo at top of recipe).
  8. Cut meat, cover with foil, and place back in oven, if not ready to serve yet.  When all cooking is done, turn oven down to 200 degrees for keeping meal hot.
  9. To serve, place on platter or plates and surround with vegetables (see initial photo).  This dish is best accompanied with Irish Soda Bread, last week’s post.

Irish Soda Bread

Irish soda bread

Following is a family recipe for the best Irish soda bread and information on soft and hard flour, as well as details on what happens to gluten in the the kneading process.

There are two varieties of wheat flour: soft and hard.  This recipe uses the soft whole wheat pastry flour, with low-gluten content; cake flour, which is the other soft flour, is even lower in this mixture of plant proteins.  Hard, all-purpose, or bread flour is the other variety, which is high in gluten.

All wheat flour contains two proteins, gliadin and glutenin, which combined form the gluten.  When dough is initially mixed, these proteins are mangled and knotted together in a relatively unorderly fashion.  Kneading lines these up; bonds are developed between neighbors; thus, gluten chains form, creating the surrounding substance within which the dough can develop.  In this way strength and structure are established, which trap gases and allow the dough to rise; this process is critical in producing a good loaf of yeast bread.

Unlike yeast bread, such manipulative action is minimal in its soda counterpart, providing for little  gluten development; its soft flour, being comparatively low in these proteins, produces a quick bread with its own appeal, which is a fine, tender crumb.  Being fast to prepare, it must be eaten with haste as well, as it becomes stale swiftly.

Irish soda bread has simplicity and a basic composition; it is leavened with the rapid-acting chemical baking soda, and as it has been said, brief mixing minimizes its gluten development.  This luscious loaf may be enhanced by adding either raisins or currants (see Mor Monsen’s Kaker, 2017/11/27, for the history of currants).

It is an understatement to say that my mother Pat, who now resides in heaven, loved her Irish heritage while sojourning on earth: I grew up, during every March, with a month’s worth of corned beef and cabbage.  On St. Patrick’s Day itself, sometimes there were scrambled eggs colored with green food dye, or toilet bowl water tinted likewise, and always a mandatory wearing-of-the-green.  (She would have to dash in the bathroom to revive the toilet water following each use.)

Mom will always be remembered by all, for her passion for green; year-round she favored this color in her clothing, home decorations, and above all God’s splendid paintings in nature.

I am honoring her during her month, by sharing our family’s recipes for Irish Soda Bread and of course, corn beef and cabbage, which will be next week’s entry.  Irish soda bread is a quick bread, traditionally made without fat; it generally calls for soft flour-made from soft winter wheat berries-which is marketed as whole wheat pastry flour.

References:

Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking (New York: Scribner, 1984, 2004), pp. 521-523, 537-538, 549-550.

https://www.thespruce.com/the-science-of-kneading-dough-1328690

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wheat_flour

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kneading

http://www.sodabread.info/history/

bread with Kerrygold butter from Ireland

Irish Soda Bread Yields: 10-12 servings.  Total prep time: 45-55 min/  active prep time: 20 min/  baking time: 25-35 min.

3/4 cup milk  (Alternative milks will do, or may purchase buttermilk.)

8 squirts from plastic lemon ball, for souring milk

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour  (Bob’s Red Mill flour is high quality; may grind 1 1/3 cup organic soft winter wheat berries, to make 2 cups fresh flour.)

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

3 tbsp sugar  (Organic is best; available at Trader Joe’s, or more inexpensively, in a 10-lb package at Costco.)

4 tbsp butter, softened

1/2 cup raisins or currants  (Currants available in bulk at upscale grocers, such as the national chain New Season’s.)

Spray oil  (Pam coconut spray oil is ideal; our local Winco brand, however, is far cheaper.)

  1. cutting butter into flour until mealy

    Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

  2. If grinding fresh flour, begin to do so now with 1 1/3 c soft winter white wheat berries; wait to preheat oven with this option.
  3. Sour milk by placing it in a medium bowl, squeezing about 8 squirts from lemon ball over surface; set aside.
  4. In a large bowl blend flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and sugar, with a fork.
  5. Cut 3 tbsp softened butter into flour mixture, until mixture is mealy and butter is well incorporated (see above photo).
  6. dough after kneading for 1 minute

    Stir in soured milk and raisins or currants.  Knead dough gently for 1 minute,  flouring counter and hands to keep dough from sticking.  See photo.  (Note: if grinding flour fresh, be sure to let dough sit in bowl, covered, for 45 minutes before kneading, to absorb excess moisture present in the coarser fresh-grind.)

  7. Form into a round loaf and place on a cookie sheet sprayed with oil.  With a sharp knife, cut an X on top of loaf about 1/2-inch deep.  Optional: dot with softened butter (see photo below).
  8. Bake for 25-35 minutes, or until golden brown and there is a hollow sound when tapped on bottom; see top photo.  Cool on rack.
  9. loaf ready to be baked

    This is best served with imported Irish Kerrygold butter-this treat is available many places, but the best buy is at Costco, when in stock.