Sunday, 1 March 2009

Some Old Recipes from The Canadian Farm Cookbook of 1911

Actually, I'm assuming it was 1911. That's the handwritten date in the front cover, along with the name of my great-aunt's mother-in-law; it was her book. The date of printing has been obscured by recipes clipped from newspapers and glued in over the years.

I've gotten hours of entertainment out of this book. It's a fascinating look at what Canadians were eating 100 years ago, and my interpretations of a couple recipes from it have already appeared on this blog. No doubt there will be a number more.

Right now though, I want to share some of the stuff I have abso-freaking-lutely no intention of ever trying.

For example, I am not going to make my own yeast:
"WET YEAST. - Boil 1 large handful of hops in a gallon of water for half an hour, grate 5 medium sized potatoes and strain the boiling liquid over it, stirring well; add a little salt, sugar and ginger; let cool then add 1 White Swan Yeast Cake and put in a warm place to rise; stir frequently. It is best made in a large dish and afterwards put into a jar and corked tight. - Mrs Harry Platts, Alma, Lot 3, P.E.I."
Huh? If you can get White Swan Yeast Cakes, why not just use White Swan Yeast Cakes? I don't get it.

You've got to love the organization of old-fashioned cook books, by the way. The way I figure it, word went out to the women of Canada that a cook book was to be published, they sent in their best recipes, and then they were sorted and organized. Sorted and organized by a man, plainly; and not just any man - certainly not one with any knowledge of cookery - I suspect the printer himself - and the resulting level of organization is approximate at best. I note, for example, the following mixed in amongst the yeasts and breads:
"SCOTCH BREADS. - 2 pounds flour, 1/2 pound brown sugar, 3/4 pound butter, 1/4 pound lard, roll, sprinkle with sugar, cut in squares. - Mrs. Will McKay, Altona, Ont."
Right, should be with the cookies. Should be baked, too, but that's just my opinion. These should have been with the cookies too:
"LEMON BISCUIT. - Take 2 1/2 cups sugar, 1 1/2 cups lard, 1 pint sweet milk, 2 eggs, five cents worth of baker's ammonia in sweet milk, and five cents worth of lemon oil; beat sugar, lard, and eggs together, pulverize and dissolve ammonia in sweet milk, put lemon oil in last, mix in flour until stiff, then roll about as thick as pasteboard, cut in squares or round shapes, and bake in a quick oven; add a little salt. - Mrs C. W. Macklin, Grafton, Ont.

Also sent by Miss Emma Reid, Reid's Corner, Ont.; Mrs. Jas. Symons, Box 26, Craik, Sask.; Mrs. R. Roe, Hawkstone, Ont.; Mrs. John Ferguson, Camlachie, Ont.; Mildred Gearns, Dalston, Simcoe Co., Ontario."
Obviously, this was a popular recipe at the time. But thus is seen the folly of calling for ingredients by their current price or package without reference to size. Future generations will have to guess: just how much baker's ammonia and lemon oil was that, anyway? Still, that was precision of a kind. I suspect this "recipe" was always just annoying:
"CEREAL AND VEGETABLE SOUPS. - Heaping tablespoon of barley, rice, wheat, oats, beans, peas, or whatever you desire; potato, carrot, tomato, cabbage, turnip, celery tops, parsley, onion, or whatever desired to suit taste; season with celery salt (table salt may be used). For bouillon, use excess of turnips and cabbage for flavouring and strain. If you desire to make richer by adding milk, omit cabbage and turnip. Select your vegetables as preferred. Any combination is good. Absolutely no stock or butter is required. - E. G. Harris, 109 Park Street, Buffalo, N.Y."
Well, wasn't that helpful? No? Well, maybe I'll try again next week with some different recipes.


ejm said...

This is the kind of cookbook I love to wander through. I have "The New Kate Aitken Cookbook" published in 1953 (not nearly as old as "The Canadian Farm Cookbook"). There's not really anything particularly remarkable about the recipes which are a little on the bland side but have decent measurements.

It's the footnotes on several of the recipes that I really love. And what a sign of the times!

Footnote to "Oyster Stew" that calls for milk: NOTE TO UNDERWEIGHT OYSTER LOVERS: Half cereal cream and half milk may be used instead of all milk.

Footnote to "Old Fashioned Rice Pudding": NOTE TO BRIDES: Save the rice water; it's a grand starch for thin curtains, collars and cuffs

My favourite footnote is after "Bacon muffins" which call for 1/2 c crisp cooked bacon pieces to be added to the basic muffin batter: NOTE TO THE BRIDE: Served for breakfast on a chilly morning these muffins send any husband whistling off to work


P.S. I still use the pancake recipe from this book.

Ferdzy said...

Underweight. Oyster lovers.

Eh, things have changed.

ejm said...

Yes, indeed! (I'm still wondering where 1950s Canadians FOUND oysters for their oyster stew! Mrs. Aitken calls for canned or fresh oysters)


Jannett said...

do you have a picture of the front of this cookbook? I am trying to find it.
Love your blog.;o)