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Recipes from the Archives

Posted by Jane Metters.
December 9th, 2013

The winter season has long been associated with holidays, friends, family, and food.  For this week’s blog post, we bring you four recipes from the 1800s that show us how Appalachian people from that time would have made popular holiday dishes of today:  pound cake, fruit cake, corn meal rusk (a kind of corn bread eaten for breakfast), and mince pie.

Adventurous readers interested in making any of these or other recipes from previous centuries should keep in mind that cooking times may need to be adjusted to suit modern appliances.  The authors of the recipes below probably cooked their food over a fire in a hearth or with a 19th century fuel-burning stove or oven.  Instructions regarding cooking temperature are not included in these recipes, most likely because the convenient temperature knobs or electronic controls of today’s ovens were not available to the bakers of centuries past.

Recipes from Miss Catharine Baker’s Receipt Book (in A&M 1079, the Brooke Family Papers), dated 1814:

Pound Cake [with additional instructions for fruit cake]
[punctuation has been added for clarity]
Take one pound of butter, one of
sugar, one of flour, and ten eggs;
beat the eggs in a froth and the
butter and sugar to cream, then
joyn [join] the eggs and flour and a
glass of of Brandy and wine
and some spice -- if you want
a fruit cake, add a quarter
of currents [currants], quarter of seeded
raisins, and a quarter of citron, then
paper your pan and put it in
and two hours and an half
will bake it.

To make a fruit cake
[most of the punctuation has been added for clarity]
To 1 lb. of butter, take 1 lb. of sugar,
and 1 lb. of flour, 10 eggs, 3 lbs. of currants,
2 lbs. of raisins, and a half
pound of Citron, add some cloves
and nutmeg, mix it as you
would pound cake, put your
fruit in the last, when light
add a glass of rosewater and
of wine and one of brandy --
it will take longer time to
bake than pound cake.

Other recipes in Miss Baker’s recipe book include basics like icing and more complex dishes like oyster pie and “floating island,” a dessert of meringue floating on crème anglaise or vanilla custard.  She also recorded the instructions for a wide variety of puddings (lemon, coconut, apple, and almond).

Recipe Clipping from Scrapbook of George Patrick (A&M 3444), ca. 1837-1850s:

A Corn Meal Rusk
Among many delicacies in the form
of bread, which render the enjoyment
of breakfast so acceptable we know of
none more deserving of notice than the
one prepared according to the follow-
ing receipt:
Take 6 cupsfull of meal, 4 of wheat
flour, 2 cupsfull of molasses, and two
tablespoonsful of sal araetus, mix the
whole together, and knead it into
dough, then made [sic] two cakes; bake
them as you would a pone, for three
fourths of an hour, and you will have
one of the most grateful descriptions
of bread that ever graced the table.
Farmer and Gardner.

In this recipe, we see an ingredient that modern audiences might not recognize, “sal araetus,”which was a common leavening agent at that time, similar to baking soda.  The “pone” mentioned in the recipe is probably corn pone, another type of cornbread.

Recipe from Lucy Washington Packett’s cookbook (A&M 3212), ca. 1840-1880:

Mince Pie [Filling]
[most of the punctuation has been added for clarity]
Boil a beef tongue, chop it up fine;
chop up 3 pounds to beef suet, 3 pounds
of onions, 3 lb. of currants, 12 large
apples, 1 lb. of citron, 2 large spoonfuls
[powdered?] cinnamon, 2 [?] of nutmeg &
3 dozen [powdered?] cloves, 3 pounds of sugar.
Mix with a pint of brandy and quart of
wine, put it in a stone jar, tie [?] with
a with [?] a handful of peper [pepper].

Other recipes from Lucy Washington Packett’s cookbook include gingerbread, Sally Lunn pudding, and calf's head soup (or mock turtle), as well as numerous home remedies for a variety of ailments.

Blog post by Jane Metters, Assistant Curator, WVRHC.

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