Mor Monsen’s Kaker-Norwegian Christmas Cookies

plate of mor monsen’s kaker (my mother’s cake)

 

I took the winter off from college in 1973, to work at Big Mountain Ski Resort in Whitefish, Montana.  There in my small studio apartment’s kitchen, I first made these incredible bars, which are known for gracing Norwegian Christmases.

Scandinavian baking is in a class all its own.  These people are known to be masters of pastry as well as open-face sandwiches-often incorporating cardamom, rye, and saffron in their creations.   Presently, their culinary genius has reached new heights: numerous times in this past decade, Noma of Copenhagen has been the title winner of The World’s Best Restaurant; it promotes the popular New Nordic cuisine, which is a style of food that has gone beyond the boundaries of Scandinavia.

New Nordic is best known by the terms local and healthy.  In Norway, with a growing season that might last from June until August, it creatively uses the ocean, wild game, root vegetables, and cold-climate berries, such as the native cloudberry, which is highly valued in this country, as it can only be foraged, not cultivated commercially.

My simple, rich recipe exemplifies the culinary excellence of Norway; these lavish bars only call for currants and almonds, amidst the flour, eggs, sugar, and typical pound of butter.

Currants have an interesting history.  Today, these small dried seedless grapes, known as Zante currants, essentially come from the grape cultivar Black Corinth (Vitis vinifera), which is from the genus Ribes.  Related varieties, such as the White and Red Corinth (and other cultivars from the Black Corinth), are used rarely.

There are a total of about 150 categories in Ribes, including the above, as well as golden currants, gooseberries, and ornamental currants.  These various kinds are native to the northern latitudes of Europe, Asia, and North America, and within each individual species there are many cultivars-horticulturally derived plants, as distinguished from natural varieties-which have been developed over time.

Currants, which are most commonly dried, are generally referred to as Champagne grapes, when sold fresh, by U.S. specialty grocers.

The study of the origin of the word currant helps identify the history of our tiny fruit.  Written records of it initially date back to Pliny the Elder in 75 A.D.  A millennium later, we see the Middle English term raysons of couraunte, also known as raisins of Corinth (a region in ancient Greece which produced and exported these Ribes).

The word couraunte stands for (raisins of) Corinth, taken from the name Courauntz, which is of the Norman French dialect-a variety of speech used in Normandy and England in the Middle Ages-for this Greek region; this in turn comes from the medieval Old French Corinthe; thus, the dialectal name reysons de corauntz was first used for these grapes, when they were brought to the English market in the 14th century, from which the word currants eventually evolved.

In the 1600’s trade patterns shifted from Corinth to the Ionian Islands, particularly Zakynthos (Zante); thus, this small grape became known as Zante currant.

In 1854, the Zante currant the Black Corinth cultivar came via a trade ship to the United States, which eventually resulted in its commercial production in California; the related varieties the White and Red Corinth were established there in 1861.  (Presently, this state is one of the four major world producers of currants, with Greece covering about 80% of this total generation.)

Actually, trade ships were bringing varieties of Ribes to our soil as early as the 16th and 17th century; natural Corinth raisins, however, were indigenous here as well; the Native Americans had been harvesting them from the wild, long before any Europeans arrived, using them for medicines and dyes.

These Zante currants,  which were initially reported at the time of Christ, are presently hard to find.  In earlier days, I could find boxes of dried currants in many local supermarkets, but recently I can only find them in bulk at such upscale grocers as the national chain New Seasons, which also carries the seasonal, fresh Champagne grapes.

Try adding this dried delight to your next Waldorf salad, a batch of scones (see Scottish Oat Scones, 2016/06/20), or these superb Norwegian Christmas cookies.  Expect wonders!

References:

https://ag.umass.edu/sites/ag.umass.edu/files/fact-sheets/pdf/currants.pdf

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

https://1historyofgreekfood.wordpress.com/2007/10/02/raisins-currants-sultanas/

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/best-scandinavian-cookbooks_us_5756c7e2e4b07823f951302c

http://www.cookingbythebook.com/cookbook-reviews/cookbook-review-scandinavian-baking-by-trine-hahnemann/

cutting bars in triangles

Mor Monsen’s Kaker-Norwegian Christmas Cookies  Yields: 4 dozen bars.  Total prep time: 60 min/  active prep time: 30 min/  baking time: 30 min.   Note: these freeze extra well, to have on hand throughout the holidays.

1 lb plus 2 tbsp unsalted butter, softened

2 c sugar  (Organic is best; available at Costco and Trader Joe’s.)

4 lg eggs

1 tsp vanilla

2 c flour  (Bob’s Red Mill organic unbleached white flour is ideal; may also grind 1-1/3 c organic soft winter white wheat berries to make 2 c fresh-ground flour.)

distributing currants on dough

1 tsp salt  (Real Salt is important for optimum health; available in nutrition center at local supermarket.)

3/4 c almonds, chopped small (May purchase almond slivers for easy chopping.)

1 c dried currants

A large 11” x 16” cake pan*, or a 12” x 16” jelly roll pan  (May use a 9” x 11” pan, in addition to a 9” x 9” square pan.)

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Grease pan-see optional sizes listed above-with 2 tbsp butter; set aside.
  3. Cream pound of butter with sugar, until light and fluffy, using an electric mixer.  Add eggs one at a time, beating well with each addition; mix in vanilla.
  4. distributing almonds on top of currants

    Blend flour and salt easily, by shaking vigorously in a sealed gallon-size storage bag; then, add this to butter mixture, beating only until all is incorporated, to keep cookies from toughening; set aside.

  5. Chop almonds fine with a sharp knife, or use a food processor, by repeatedly pressing down on the pulse button, cutting any big chunks in half with a sharp knife.  Set aside.
  6. Spread batter evenly on greased pan; sprinkle surface FIRST with currants; see photo in list of ingredients; then, distribute almond pieces over the top of these; see photo above.  Press nuts and currants down into batter slightly with fingers, so they are embedded; see photo below.  (This keeps them from falling off the baked bars in crumbles.)
  7. Bake for 20-35 minutes, or until golden brown, time varies with pan-size.
  8. While bars are still hot-using an 11” x 16” pan-cut 4 rows across the width and 6 rows across the length; then, cut these squares in half; see photo of cutting technique at top of recipe.  (Amount of rows may vary with differing pan

    pressing almonds and currants into dough, to embed them before baking

    sizes.)

  9. These freeze really well, to have on hand throughout the holidays.  They are a treat!

1880’s Ozark Honey-Oatmeal Cookies

Ozark honey-oatmeal cookies

My library holds many old cook books, some copyrighted in the 1800’s; I also have a number of facsimiles, exact reproductions of the originals.  These aren’t considered costly with collectors, but are highly valuable to me, with their precise historical evidence required for my work.

A number of these republications help me with my need for early U.S.A. food history.  For instance one illuminates the 18th century: American Cookery, by Amelia Simmons; this was the first truly U.S. cook book, with such strictly American dishes as Indian pudding, Indian slapjack (pancakes), and johnnycake (flat corn cakes).  All early cook books, that were published on our soil, prior to this 1796 publication, were actually reprints of English cook books, none of which contained American ingredients such as: cranberries, clams, cornmeal, shad (fish of the genus Alosa), terrapin (turtles), etc.  Interestingly, recipe books were not in demand in our young country, where rivaling colonial plantations jealously guarded their family’s treasured receipts, and rich city dwellers adhered to their individual Old World cooking traditions.

In a recent cooking class, I taught Ozark Honey-Oatmeal Cookies from one of my facsimiles: the Silver Dollar City Edition of Miss Parloa’s New Cook Book, by Maria Parloa, which Washburn-Crosby Co. published in Boston originally, in 1880.  Its facsimile was issued at an unknown date during the 20th century, by General Mills, the successor to Washburn-Crosby Co.  Access the fascinating history of Maria Parloa, her cook books, these two flour mills, and this period cuisine at my following entries: 1800’s Escalloped Salmon (2017/04/17), 1880’s Minced Cabbage (2017/04/24), and 1880’s Clam Chowder (2017/01/30).

These cookies call for shortening; its definition is fat used in cooking, made from animal, vegetable, or compound manufactured substances.  Examples of the latter are margarine, discovered in France in 1869, and Crisco, which is a hydrogenated vegetable oil, created in America in 1911; Crisco usually comes to mind when shortening is mentioned today.

The term shortening, however, first surfaced in the early half of 18th century; it is considered to be American.  As far as cook books are concerned, it appeared in several of Amelia Simmons’ recipes in American Cookery, 1796, such as johnnycake and “another plain cake”, though she doesn’t define the word.

In the April 6, 1892 edition, the New York Times promoted Cottolene, as a “New Shortening…a vegetable product far superior to anything else for shortening and frying purposes”.  This, the first hydrogenated vegetable oil, was primarily used as a cooking medium, in some households.

In June of 1911, Procter and Gamble began selling hydrogenated cottonseed oil, as Crisco (short for “crystallized cottonseed oil”); they discovered this shortening in their quest to generate a raw material for soap, through a technique that had its origins in 1897 France.  Because of an intense promotional campaign, it became the first popular national shortening product of its kind (this ingredient is extremely prevalent in 20th century recipes).  To this day, Crisco remains the best known brand for this item in the U.S.; there are other well-known brands in a number of other countries.

These Ozark Honey-Oatmeal Cookies allow for a healthy means to satisfy our sweet tooth, for they are made with such powerful foods as: organic oats, semi-sweet chocolate chips, organic raisins, unsweetened coconut flakes, pumpkin seeds, nuts, raw honey…In place of refined sugar, I use the healthy alternative coconut sugar.  The recipe from this 1880’s cook book calls for shortening, which probably referred to either butter or lard initially, though those baking from its facsimile, in the 20th century, would have used then popular Crisco; I leave this choice up to you.

This recipe is easy to make and is extremely good!  Enjoy.

References:

  1. Facsimile of Amelia Simmons, American Cookery, 1796 (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1965), pp. 57, 58.
  2. Silver Dollar City Edition of Maria Parloa, Miss Parloa’s New Cook Book (Minneapolis: Washburn-Crosby Co., 1880); this facsimile was reproduced by General Mills at an unknown date  in the 20th century.
  3. Esther B. Aresty, The Delectable Past (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1964), pp. 183-186.
  4. http://www.foodtimeline.org/shortening.html
  5. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shortening

mixing oatmeal into dough in stages

1880’s Ozark Honey-Oatmeal Cookies  Adapted from a recipe in General Mills’ 20th century Special Silver Dollar City Edition of Maria Parloa, Miss Parloa’s New Cook Book (Boston: Estes and Lauriat, 1880).  Yields: 4 1/2 dozen.  Total prep time: 1 hr.

1 3/4 cup flour  (May grind 1 1/3 cups organic hard red spring wheat berries-I choose this berry for its high protein content-this makes 2 cups of flour; BE SURE to remove 1/4 cup of flour, after it is ground, for the required 1 3/4 cup.)

1/2 cup butter, or shortening

1 1/4 cup sugar  (I use coconut sugar for its health benefits.)

2 large eggs

1/3 cup honey

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt  (Real Salt is important for health; available in nutrition center at local supermarket.)

2 cups oats  (Organic is only slightly more expensive; so much healthier.)

1/3 cup unsweetened coconut flakes  (Available inexpensively in bulk at our local Winco.)

1/3 cup pumpkin seeds

1/3 cup nuts, chopped

1/3 cup raisins  (Organic is important; available reasonably at Trader’s.)

1/2 cup chocolate chips  (High quality, semi-sweet chocolate chips are available at Trader Joe’s.)

Parchment paper, wax paper, and 2 cookie sheets

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. If grinding your own flour, begin to do so now.
  3. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar with a fork; beat in eggs, one at a time; blend in honey.
  4. placing dough on parchment paper

    Stir salt and baking soda into flour in another large bowl.  (May place these ingredients in a sealed gallon-size storage bag and shake vigorously.)

  5. Mix this flour mixture into the shortening/sugar/eggs; do not over beat the dough, as this makes cookies tough.
  6. Stir coconut, pumpkin seeds, nuts, chocolate chips, and raisins into this mixture, distributing evenly.
  7. Mix half the oats into this dough gently (see photo at top of recipe); add other half; stir with a large rubber spatula or spoon, just until blended.
  8. Using a teaspoon, drop dough 2 inches apart on parchment-paper-covered cookie sheet, shaping rounds roughly with fingers, as you go (see above photo).
  9. Place pan in preheated oven for about 9-10 minutes, or until golden brown.
  10. Meanwhile start a second pan, by shaping dough on another piece of parchment paper.
  11. When first pan is done, immediately start baking this second pan.
  12. cookies baked to perfection

    Cool baked cookies on cookie sheet for 2 minutes.  Remove and place them on a large piece of wax paper (see photo).

  13. Using a new piece of parchment paper, prepare the third pan of cookies, to be ready for the oven as soon as second batch is done; repeat until all the dough is used.  (Pans should be cool before spooning dough on them.)
  14. These freeze well, to have on hand for healthy snacks.

Creative Caesar Salads

creative Caesar salad topped with serungdeng kacang

When I was growing up, we lived in the small resort town of East Glacier Park, Montana, which is the east entrance to Glacier National Park; there were only 250 residents at the foot of these glorious Rocky Mountains.  Because of our town’s minuscule size, it was necessary to travel to larger cities to take care of our major shopping needs, such as school clothes every late summer.  Usually we traveled within our State, 150 miles east to Great Falls; on special occasions, we ventured as far away as Spokane, Washington.  I can still feel the thrill as we prepared, in the early morning dark, to leave on these revered journeys.

During the extra special trips to Spokane, the Ridpath Hotel captivated me; we ate many dinners in its plush dining room, always partaking in their Caesar salad, which came with the pomp and flair of table-side service.  My young heart was even then preparing for my career in food history, for I was fascinated by the coddling of the egg, with the torch used for that purpose; in like manner, I rhapsodized over the delight of the powerful garlic on my tender tongue.

To this day I love Caesar salad; I share a recipe here that lives up to this enduring mental monument.  Be prepared to enjoy.

There are several accounts of how this famous dish began.  After much research, I chose to attribute its origin to the Italian chef Caesar Cardini (1896-1956), who created this American classic at his well-known restaurant in Tijuana, Mexico, when in 1924 he was serving an unusual number of Californian visitors, escaping there for the Fourth of July weekend during prohibition.  This original production was served table side, without anchovies, and included whole lettuce leaves, which were eaten by the stems, using one’s fingers.

Caesar salad enhanced with beans

There are numerous opposing views on the safety of coddled eggs.  Some profess that they are not a threat: it is adequate to place the eggs in rapidly boiling water, remove the pan from the heat, and then allow the eggs to cook for 60 seconds; indeed, this technique provides the best taste.  Others propound that holding eggs at 140 degrees F (60 degrees C) for five minutes kills potential contaminants, such as salmonella; this can also be achieved instantly by heating them to 160 degrees F (71 degrees C).  Still others declare that uncooked and under-cooked eggs are not safe at all; they rigidly promote the use of either hard-boiled or pasteurized eggs; the latter are available in some grocery stores.  Note: it is important to use caution in highly susceptible populations, such as small children, pregnant women, the elderly, and those with health problems.

Here I cover this dilemma with two good solutions: my favorite version of this dressing is made with coddled eggs, which have been cooked for 60 seconds; nonetheless, for times when extra special care is needed, I provide a method of heating the prepared dressing to 160 degrees; this last procedure, however, thickens our treasured concoction quite a lot.  With both of these two options, the powerful recollected taste from my youth is maintained, which is heightened even further with strong combinations of foods in my creative Caesar salads.

References:

https://whatscookingamerica.net/CaesarSalad.htm

www.reluctantgourmet.com/caesar-salad/

www.foodandwine.com/fwx/food/we-can-thank-tijuana-and-prohibition-caesar-salad

www.ochef.com/447.htm

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

www.safeeggs.com/blog/will-the-real-safe-caesar-salad-recipe-please-stand-up/

finished Caesar dressing

Caesar Salad Dressing  Yields: about 1 1/2 cups.  Total prep time: 30 min.  If cooking the dressing, total prep time is 45 min.

3 fresh, free-range eggs, at room temperature  (Place in warm water for 10-15 minutes.)

2 tbsp fresh garlic

1 tbsp cider vinegar  (Raw is best; available inexpensively at Trader Joe’s.)

1 scant tbsp Dijon mustard  (Aioli Garlic Mustard from Trader’s is also excellent.)

2 small lemons, juiced

3 dashes of Tabasco

3 dashes of Worcestershire

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 anchovy, optional

3/4 tsp salt, or to taste  (Real Salt is important for health; available in natural foods section at local supermarket.)

1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper, or to taste

3/4 cup olive oil  (Personally I prefer a light olive oil for flavor; Bel’Olio from Costco is great.)

  1. Use room temperature eggs, by placing them in warm water for 10-15 minutes.  For health reasons, it is important that they are washed, free-range, and fresh.  (I feel comfortable with coddled eggs; these make the best dressing, but if you are sensitive to them, or storing this dressing for more than 4-5 days, take the extra precaution of cooking it as described in step 6-better yet use pasteurized eggs, which are available in some grocery stores.)
  2. coddling eggs

    For coddled eggs, bring a small pan of water to a boil over high heat; prepare an ice bath, using a bowl of cold water with ice cubes.  Place eggs in rapidly boiling water; quickly remove from heat; let them sit for 60 seconds; then, immediately transfer to the ice bath, to the stop cooking process.  Crack them on side of bowl, scooping coddled egg out of shell with a spoon, set aside (see photo).

  3. Meanwhile mince 2 tablespoons of garlic: easily do so by filling a coffee measure, which is 2 tablespoons, with peeled garlic cloves, cut in small pieces, until it is full; then, chop this in a food processor by repeatedly pressing pulse button; set aside.  (TO MAKE DRESSING BY HAND: chop the garlic with a sharp knife; mix all ingredients, except the oil, in a medium/small bowl; then, beat in the oil SLOWLY, to emulsify the dressing.  May also make this in a VitaMix or blender.)
  4. Juice the lemons, set aside.
  5. Add all ingredients, except the oil, to the garlic in the processor.  Turn on machine and blend; place oil in the feeder, which is located on the top (see this feeder in above photo of finished product); thus, oil will drip in slowly for an emulsified dressing.  Adjust seasonings.  This will keep in the refrigerator for 4-5 days; for longer storage, go to the next step.  Serve on the creative salads given lastly.
  6. For cooked dressing, prepare an ice bath, using a large bowl with a smaller one inserted in center (see photo).  Prepare Caesar dressing as described in steps 2-

    cooked dressing cooling in ice bath

    5; transfer this mixture to a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan; cook dressing over low heat, stirring constantly, until this egg mixture reaches 160 degrees F (71 degrees C); immediately place in the ice bath to cool, adding more ice as needed.  Note: the dressing will thicken as it cooks. Serve on salads described below.

  7. I like to be creative with my Caesar salads; here are two suggestions for using foods that highly complement this excellent dressing.  First: mix greens, sweet onion, avocado, Parmesan cheese, and homemade croutons (2016/08/15); then, top this with serungdeng kacang, which is crispy coconut chips and peanuts sautéed with a garlic/onion puree (2017/01/09).  Second: mix greens, Parmesan cheese, homemade croutons, and beans; legumes really accentuate the flavor of this dressing!  Enjoy.

Borscht (Beet Soup)

a bowl of borscht

This borscht recipe has been with me since my catering days, during the early 1980s, in Billings, Montana, when I was preparing soups for a café in an art gallery.  Now it graces my table every summer.  A particular prayer partner claims my version is far better than that which she had in Russia.  Indeed, this chilled soup is a beautiful offering on a hot summer day!

This delicacy has been long popular in Eastern European countries under the following names: borscht, borsch, borshch, and bosht.  Over time it has spread from these nations to other continents, as their people emigrated.  In North America, it is commonly linked with the Jews and Mennonites that came from these areas.  The common name borscht is derived from the Russian borsch meaning cow parsnip, which was an original recipe ingredient of the Slavs.

The most familiar American adaptation of this soup, which is made with beetroot, is of Ukrainian origin.  With its first record being in the 12th century, this dish subsequently emerged from a wide variety of sour-tasting soups present in the Eastern European section, such as rye-based white borscht, sorrel-based green borscht, and cabbage borscht.  Our well-known Ukrainian recipe was originally inspired by the addition of leftover beetroot pickling; thus, its brilliant color and tart flavor.

There are as many different preparations for this beet soup as there are homes in which it is consumed; they may include the additions of meat, fish, cabbage, carrots, tomatoes, and potatoes.

Spanish conquistadors brought potatoes and tomatoes from America to Europe in the 16th century; these vegetables, however, weren’t a common part of the Eastern European peasants’ diet until the 19th century, at which time they found their way into the Ukrainian and Russian borscht-food of both poor men and princes.  As a result of emigration, tomatoes and potatoes are a part of borscht recipes around the world, but my version has neither of these.

Still other variations occur with this renowned soup involving its garnishes and side dishes.  Smetana, or sour cream, is its most common topping; chopped herbs, hard-boiled eggs, bacon, and sausage may also be utilized.  There are plentiful side dishes; among them are pampushky (Ukrainian garlic rolls) and treasured pirozhki (individually sized pastries or dumplings filled with meat and onions).

You can see that despite its centuries-long history there is no consistent receipt for this sustaining chilled delight, for even this latter characteristic may vary, and it may be served hot.  My borscht is a cold, meatless, summer soup adorned with sour cream and eggs; for the benefit of added protein make this recipe with bone broth (see its benefits and easy recipe at my post on Tortellini Soup, 2016/10/10).  This is a treat!

References:

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

https://www.britannica.com/topic/borsch

www.dictionary.com/browse/borscht

easy mincing of onion

Borscht (Beet Soup)  Yields: 4-5 servings.  Total prep time: 1 hr/  active prep time:30 min/  cooking time: 30 min

1 tbsp oil  (Coconut or avocado oil is best; olive oil is carcinogenic when heated to high temperatures.)

1 med/lg yellow onion

3 lg purple beets, a little less than 2 pounds trimmed

1 qt broth  (I prefer bone broth-for recipe and powerful health benefits, see Tortellini Soup, 2016/10/10.)

1 c water

2 small lemons, juiced  (Use half of this to start; then, adjust with more to taste.)

1 tbsp honey, or to taste  (Local raw honey is always best, for its localized bee pollen is known to relieve allergies naturally, through the concept of immunotherapy.)

1 tsp Better than Bouillon, or to taste

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

1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper, or to taste

sweating onions

Sour cream

3 eggs, hard-boiled and chopped  (I prefer duck eggs; see Rosemary Eggs, 2017/08/21, for their information.)

  1. Chop the onion in small pieces the easy way.  Peel it leaving the root on; next, score this by cutting slices close together across the top one way, going 3/4 of the way down into the onion; then, turn it and cut slices the opposite direction.  When onion is thus prepared, shave the small pieces off the end with a sharp knife (see photo in list of ingredients).  May discard root end; set aside chopped vegetable.
  2. Heat oil in a stock pot over medium heat; add piece of onion; when it sizzles, add remaining onion; sweat, cook only until translucent (see photo above).  Set aside, go to next step.
  3. Spray beets with an inexpensive, safe, effective vegetable spray (mix 97% distilled white vinegar with 3% hydrogen peroxide in a spray bottle).  Let sit for 3 minutes and rinse well.
  4. Peel and cut beets in 1/4″ dice; add to cooked onions.
  5. Cover with broth and water; bring to a boil over med/high heat; reduce heat and simmer for about 30 minutes, or until beets are soft.
  6. borscht cooking in pot

    Add half the lemon juice and honey.

  7. Stir in Better than Bouillon; then, add salt and pepper.
  8. Adjust lemon juice, honey, Bouillon, salt, and pepper to taste.
  9. Chill for 4 hours or overnight.  Serve topped with sour cream and chopped hard-boiled eggs.
  10. This freezes well.  I love this summer soup!

1880’s Minced Cabbage

cooked minced cabbage

Gold Medal Flour, Betty Crocker and Miss Parloa all had their beginnings in Washburn-Crosby Co.  Along with last week’s post on escalloped salmon, I discovered this elegant minced cabbage in Miss Parloa’s New Cook Book, which was originally published in 1880 by Washburn-Crosby Co.

Its successor General Mills reprinted this same worthy account in the twentieth century.  This latter company, however, is better known for publishing recipe books under the pseudonym Betty Crocker, who never existed, unlike our illustrious 19th century writer Maria Parloa.

In 1921, before the above transfer of title, Washburn-Crosby was first to use the name “Betty Crocker”.  This came as a result of their being inundated with 30,000 entries, in a contest promoting their Gold Medal flour.

Many of these participants asked questions concerning baking.  Washburn-Crosby discerned that the replies would hold more influence if signed by a woman; thus, the inspiration for this sham Betty Crocker, which was derived from the surname of a retired company director.

General Mills continued in this tradition, after it was created in 1928, when it began merging Washburn-Crosby with 26 other U.S. flour-milling companies.  This, then the world’s largest flour mill, initially portrayed this fictitious authority photographically, in 1936, as a gray-haired home-maker.  Her image was frequently revised throughout the last century, as Betty Crocker was used as a major brand name for their various products.  (See more history at my 1880’s Clam Chowder-2017/01/30-1880’s Escalloped Salmon-2017/04/17-and 1880’s Ozark Honey-Oatmeal Cookies-2017/10/30.)

It is jarring when we learn the falsehood of long accepted traditions, like the authenticity of this established person, for truth is fundamental to our stability.  We implicitly search for verity in all things, cooking included.

Rejoicing occurs when a good source for teaching the basics is found, such as those required for food preparation, as well as the execution of life; I hope you will discover these fundamentals present in my writings.

May you come to rely on my receipts, preparing them with the ease with which they are intended.  They may look lengthy at times; this is because I spell out shortcuts with care, for in a sense my blog is like going to cooking school.  Quickly you learn my simple, creative techniques, thus gaining the ability to follow my recipes adeptly.

This effortless minced cabbage comes with the height of freedom.  Enjoy!

References:

  1. Silver Dollar City Edition of Maria Parloa’s Miss Parloa’s New Cook Book (Boston: Estes and Laurait, 1880); this facsimile was published at an unknown date during the 20th century.
  2. James Trager, The Food Chronology (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1995), pp. 434, 456, 488.
  3. http://www.pbs.org/food/the-history-kitchen/who-was-betty-crocker/
  4. https://foodimentary.com/2012/03/24/a-history-of-betty-crocker-the-woman-who-never-was/
  5. http://www.fundinguniverse.com/company-histories/general-mills-inc-history/

chopping cabbage in a food processor

1880’s Minced Cabbage  Yields: 4 servings.  Total prep time: 25 min.  This is adapted from a recipe in General Mills’ Special Silver Dollar City Edition (copyright date unknown) of Maria Parloa’s Miss Parloa’s New Cook Book, (Boston: Estes and Laurait, 1880).

Note: this can be made ahead and reheated just before serving.

1 1/2 lb green cabbage

2 tbsp oil  (Coconut oil is ideal for quality and flavor here; avocado oil is also good; olive oil is carcinogenic when heated to high temperatures.)

2 tbsp butter

2 tbsp flour

1 tsp salt, or to taste  (I prefer a coarse salt here, such as a kosher salt or Trader Joe’s coarse sea salt. )

  1. Chop cabbage either by hand, or more quickly, by using the slicing attachment to a food processor.  If using a food processor, cut cabbage in pieces that will fit in its feeder tube (see above photo).  Set aside.
  2. Heat oil over medium heat in a large sauté pan, in which you have placed a small piece of cabbage.  When it sizzles, add rest of cabbage, and stir well to evenly distribute oil; cook until vegetable is limp, stirring frequently.  Meanwhile go to next step.
  3. cooking roux

    Make roux in a small sauté pan: melt butter over medium heat, add flour, and stir with a wire whisk.  Cook  until mixture is a light brown, about 2 minutes; remove from heat and set aside (see photo).

  4. When cabbage is soft, add salt, and stir well.
  5. Blend roux into vegetable, cook until consistency of cabbage is somewhat thickened, stir continually.
  6. When done, remove from heat.  May serve immediately, or better yet, make ahead, and reheat just before serving.  When it sits, cabbage juices form in pan; as you reheat it, stir in juices and loosened fond, which is obtained by scraping these caramelized pan drippings and browned bits off bottom of pan, using a wooden or plastic cooking spatula.  This adds great flavor!  (See top photo for finished product.)

1880’s Escalloped Salmon

ingredients for escalloped salmon

Maria Parloa blessed us with a recipe for escalloped fish in Miss Parloa’s New Cook Book, which Washburn-Crosby Co. published in 1880.  This company’s successor General Mills brought her proven receipts back to America, by republishing them in their Special Silver Dollar City Edition of this book, at an unknown date during the twentieth century.

Both these companies are known for their production of Gold Medal flour, which they successively produced; thus, this product has been on the market for nearly two and a half centuries.  (For more details on Miss Parloa, Washburn-Crosby Co., General Mills, and 19th century American cooking, see 1880’s Clam Chowder-2017/01/30, 1880’s Minced Cabbage-2017/04/24, and 1880’s Ozark Honey-Oatmeal Cookies-2017/10/30.)

This 19th century cook book was one of many written by Maria Parloa, who was an important figure in the gastronomical world of her day.  She taught an abundance of classes at her own two schools, as well as the Boston Cooking School, the home of Fannie Farmer’s Boston Cooking School Cook Book, which was forerunner to the renowned Fanny Farmer Cook Book.

In Miss Parloa’s New Cook Book, Parloa shared modern techniques and included 93 “essential” utensils for the kitchen, which boasted of such items as an apple corer, melon mold, and squash strainer.  Her writings catered to the affluent, for she recommended that a dinner for twelve need cost no more than $25, this at a time when an unskilled worker made about $1 per day.

In this book’s preface, the author’s desire for clear, complete, and concise directions is set forth, but these are vague compared to our present standards.  Her instructions, however, have far greater detail than those in many of the contemporary cook books of her day.

This recipe called for five pounds of fish, that which was normally required to sustain a family of six at the main, mid-day meal; by contrast, this same amount provided for twelve guests at a dinner party, as these hospitable affairs were always profuse in delectable dishes.  My directive only calls for one pound of salmon for four people in this creamy recipe, because this is a rich food for our relatively sedentary bodies; in these former days people were highly active, requiring many more calories than we do today.

As with this outmoded receipt, things call for adaptation; we must learn to adjust to the essential needs of any given time.  Our living God perpetually covers us in all instances of unforeseen change, bringing healthy modification, if we ask believing.  At times this process is slow; thus, patience is critical for success.

This is a joyful race we are running; nothing is too difficult for us!  We simply align our hearts to the “recipe” our Father is dictating at each turn, purposing to not be alarmed when our five pounds of fish becomes one pound, or with equal intention, staying calm when it reverses back to five pounds.

Recently I enjoyed escalloped salmon with friends that I hadn’t seen for a long time; our reunion was marked with excellence in both fellowship and food.  This dish is a winner for special occasions, especially when served with next week’s entry, teaching Miss Parloa’s minced cabbage.

References:

Special Silver Dollar City Edition of Maria Parloa’s Miss Parloa’s New Cook Book (Boston: Estes and Lauriat, 1880); this was published by General Mills at an unknown date during the 20th century.

James Trager, The Food Chronology (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1995), p. 310.

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

https://www.lib.umich.edu/blogs/beyond-reading-room/happy-172nd-birthday-miss-parloa

http://www.nber.org/chapters/c2500.pdf

 

baked escalloped salmon

1880’s Escalloped Salmon  Yields: 4 servings.  Total prep time: 1 hr & 15 min/  active prep time: 45 min/  baking time: 30 min.  This is adapted from a recipe in General Mills’, 20th century Silver Dollar City Edition of Maria Parloa’s Miss Parloa’s New Cook Book (Boston: Estes and Lauriat, 1880).

Note: this may be prepared ahead of time following steps 1-8; when doing so, reheat this refrigerated dish for a total of 1 hr before serving.  The original recipe calls for white fish; I, however, find this exceedingly bland in flavor, where salmon is perfect.

1/4 c bread crumbs  (May purchase ready-made, or grind 2 slices of stale bread in a dry food processor.  Make extra, as these freeze well; for stale bread, leave pieces out for about 8 hours.)

1-1 1/2 lb salmon fillet  (A minimum of 1 lb is needed if fillet is boneless and skinless, more if there are bones and skin.)

1 tsp salt, or to taste  (Himalayan, pink, or Real Salt is best for optimum health; a fine grind Himalayan salt is available at Costco for $4.95/1b.)

1 c whipping cream  (Heavy whipping cream is best health wise.)

1/8 c water

1 tbsp flour

1/8 tsp white pepper, or to taste

Steamed rice, cooked according to directions on package

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. If salmon fillet is large, cut in pieces that will fit in a 3-quart saucepan.  Place in pan and cover with salted water (add 1/2 tsp salt); bring to a boil over medium heat.  Cook until center of thickest part of salmon is opaque, when pierced with a fork.  Saving broth, remove fish from liquid and cool.  Reduce broth to about 1/4 c over high heat.
  3. If preparing your own bread crumbs, grind 2 pieces or more of stale bread in dry food processor, pressing pulse button repeatedly until crumbs are fine.  Set aside 1/4 c-freeze extras.
  4. Heat cream over medium heat in a small saucepan, only until a soft boil is formed, stirring frequently; watch carefully.  As soon as it comes to a bare boil, reduce heat to med/low.
  5. While heating cream, dissolve flour in water.  With a wire whisk, stir flour mixture into softly boiling cream, to which you have added 2 tbsp of reduced broth; cook until sauce is thick, beating frequently.  Season with 1/2 tsp salt and white pepper.  Taste and adjust seasonings; set aside.
  6. Start rice, following directions on package (wait if you are preparing salmon ahead).
  7. Butter a small, 1-quart baking dish; place a light layer of sauce in bottom of dish.
  8. Skin and carefully debone fish, placing bite-size pieces in baking dish on top of layer of cream, as you debone it.  When all the salmon is thus prepared, press down on fish to make compact; cover the top with the remaining cream sauce.  (If you are making this ahead of time, place dish in refrigerator; in which case an hour-twice as long- will be needed to bake cold fish; start rice when you place refrigerated salmon in oven.)
  9. Just before placing this in oven, spread bread crumbs on top of sauce.  If a skim has formed on top of cream, gently break apart with a spoon; this makes surface wet again, so crumbs can stick.  Then bake for 30 minutes in preheated oven; all the flavors will meld.
  10. Serve with 1880’s Minced Cabbage, which is next week’s entry.

1880’s Philadelphia Clam Chowder

mincing clams

mincing optional fresh razor clams

My great clam chowder is adapted from a recipe in the General Mill’s 20th century Special Silver Dollar City Edition of Miss Parloa’s New Cook Book; this reproduced cookbook was originally published in 1880, by Washburn Crosby Co., the makers of Gold Medal flour.  (This collection also includes my all-time favorite oatmeal/chocolate chip cookie, which I will share at a later date.)

I have enlarged upon this 19th century method of making this dish, by adding such flavor/texture enhancers as garlic, onion, celery, and unpeeled potatoes.  Miss Parloa calls her receipt Philadelphia clam chowder.  It introduces the technique of straining the clams, thus lending a delicate touch to the fish soup.  I am not a big fan of clam chowder, but I love this because of its mellowness, resulting from the removal of the clam juice.

There is much to be said about the distinctive flavors of shellfish and fish.  Harold McGee shares this apt science in his excellent treatise On Food and Cooking.  He teaches why ocean and freshwater creatures vary so greatly in taste, the former having a much stronger bite.

Ocean water is about 3% salt by weight, while the optimum level of all dissolved minerals inside of animal cells is less than 1%.  Consequently ocean creatures need to balance this substantial salt mineral, that they are breathing in and swallowing; they do this with amino acids, amines, and urea, which their bodies produce.  1

Behold, these substances have different flavors!  For example the amino acid glycine is sweet, while glutamic acid is savory; shellfish are especially rich in these and other amino acids.  Unlike shellfish, finfish rely heavily on the amine TMAO (trimethylamine oxide) for processing salt, which is largely tasteless.  Sharks, skates, and rays make ready the salt water with a slightly salty and bitter urea. However, this urea and the amine TMAO are converted into the stinky substance TMA (trimethylamine), by bacteria and fish enzymes in these dead, ocean-dwelling fish; thus, after they are killed, their meat tastes and smells powerfully bad with age, while that of their freshwater relatives doesn’t.  Note: our kitchen-cleanser ammonia is made from TMA.  2

Freshwater fish have a gentler effect on our taste buds, because the water they live in is actually less salty, than that of their cells; therefore, they do not need to accumulate these pungent amino acids, amines, or urea, which their ocean-dwelling cousins require to process the dissolved mineral salt.  3

You can see that different shellfish and fish supply our mouths with unique experiences.  Seawater varieties use a diversity of amino acids, amines, and urea to balance the salt in their cellular systems; these differing substances boast of a wide variety of powerful tastes.  Their freshwater counterparts, which don’t require these salt equalizers, are bland by comparison.

Miss Parloa counters the strong flavor of clam chowder by straining the clams, removing their excess liquid, which has an abundance of the above mentioned amino acids.  (For more history on Miss Parloa and 19th century American cuisine, see 1880’s Escalloped Salmon-2017/04/17, 1880’s Minced Cabbage-2017/04/24, and 1880’s Ozark Honey-Oatmeal Cookies-2017/10/30.)  I take this illustrious chef’s simple inspiration and provide an even richer experience, with additional textures and mouth-watering thrills.  You will like this delicious-yet mild-chowder!

References:

  1. Special Silver Dollar City Edition of Miss Parloa’s New Cook Book (Boston: Estes and Lauriat, 1880).  This reproduction of Marie Parloa’s cookbook was published by General Mills at an unknown date during the 20th century.
  2. Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking, (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1984, 2004), pp. 188.
  3. Ibid., p. 188.
  4. Ibid., p. 189.

Philadelphia Clam Chowder  Adapted from a recipe in General Mill’s 20th century Special Silver Dollar City Edition of Maria Parloa’s  Miss Parloa’s New Cook Book (Boston: Estes and Lauriat, 1880).

Yields: 8 servings.  Total prep time: 1 hr & 30 min/  active prep time: 30 min/  cooking time: 1 hr.

Note: if you don’t have large enough pots for the makeshift double boiler-see below photo and directions-just cook the soup over direct heat; this, however, may cause it to separate some, but this last option will reduce the cooking time.

1 tbsp oil  (Coconut or avocado oil is best; olive oil is carcinogenic at high temperatures.)

1 lg yellow onion, chopped

6 oz drained weight minced clams, or 3 strained 6.5 oz cans  (May use 6 oz fresh razor clams, chopped fine, see top photo.)

2 stalks celery, cut in 1/4″ dice

3 tbsp parsley, minced

1 lb potatoes, unpeeled, chopped in small 1/2″ pieces

5 lg cloves garlic, minced  (May use 3 cubes of frozen garlic from Trader Joe’s for easy prep.)

1 1/2 qt milk  (Whole milk is preferable, for both health and flavor.)

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

1/2 tsp white pepper, or to taste

3 tbsp butter

3 tbsp flour

  1. make-shift double boiler

    make-shift double boiler

    Heat oil, over medium heat, in a 4-quart pot that will sit inside a slightly larger pot to make a double boiler; see photo.  (If you don’t have two large pots, cook the chowder over direct heat; cooking will be faster with this last option, however, the cream soup may separate some.)

  2. When a small piece of onion sizzles in oil, add the rest of the onions and sweat, cook until translucent.  Remove from heat when done.
  3. Fill larger pot 2/5’s full of hot tap water, cover, and bring to a boil over med/high heat.
  4. Spray celery, parsley, and potatoes with a safe, inexpensive, effective produce spray: fill a spray bottle with a mixture of 97% distilled white vinegar and 3% hydrogen peroxide.  After spraying vegetables, let sit for 3 minutes, rinse really well.
  5. Drain canned clams in a colander.  If using fresh razor clams, drain and chop fine (see top photo).
  6. Chop all vegetables and garlic; add to pot of cooked onions.
  7. Add milk, clams, salt, and pepper to the pan of vegetables.  Fit this smaller pan into the larger pot, so it sits above the boiling water (see photo).  Watch water level while cooking to make sure water doesn’t boil dry.  Cook chowder until potatoes are soft, about 50 minutes.  Note: if preparing over direct heat, bring soup to a near-or slight-boil over medium heat; lower heat and simmer until potatoes are soft.  This option will lessen the cooking time.
  8. Meantime make roux, by melting butter in a small sauté pan over medium heat.  Add flour and stir constantly with a wire whisk.  Cook until light brown in color, about 2 minutes; set aside.
  9. When vegetables are soft, beat in roux with a big spoon; cook 5 more minutes, or until soup is thickened, stirring constantly.
  10. Adjust seasonings and serve.  May freeze leftovers; when you heat thawed chowder, however, it will be of a thinner consistency.  If desired, you may thicken with a small amount of roux-about 1 tbsp of melted butter cooked with an equal amount of flour-this amount will be adequate to thicken 4 leftover servings.
  11. I am passionate about this soup!