Universal Translator

Friday, 31 January 2014

"Coahoma Cooking:every day and Sunday too, or Favorite Menus and Recipes"

Cover of cookbook from 1957

Four editions of 
Coahoma Cooking:every day and Sunday too, or Favorite Menus and Recipes by the Coahoma Woman’s Club, Coahoma, Mississippi were published between 1949 and 1957. This book is a product of its time containing many recipes of Southern heirloom status.  The cookbook reminisces in the food of the “plantation South” –featuring local and historic menus and recipes. However, modern readers and cooks would be offended by the unflattering illustrations of African-Americans throughout the book, accompanied by Uncle Remus-esque sayings.  Regardless of its illustrations, the locally published cookbook gives us a historical glimpse at rural Mississippi Delta culture through its food.

Sample from the cookbook:

Pauline’s Luncheon
(Special for Yankee Guests)

Frosted Mint Julep
Shrimp Cocktail with Hot Cheese Boxes
Southern Fried Chicken     Rice and Cream Gravy
Tender Greens with Ham Hock     Eggplant a la Palmirissa
Sweet Potato Surprise
Corn Pones     Hot Rolls
Egg Nog Pie
After Dinner Coffee

The Recipes

Mint Julep

1 or 2 lumps sugar, according to the size of the julep
Bourbon Whiskey
1 bouquet freshly gathered mint
1 sprig of mint
1 Silver Goblet

A thin glass will do, but the silver goblet takes the frost better and is more in accord with the noble character of the contents.  Put in the sugar, sprig of mint, and water in the goblet.  Crush well and fill with freshly shaved ice.  Pour in the whiskey till within half inch of the top of the goblet.  With a spoon stir briskly from the bottom, touching the goblet with the hands as little as possible.  It becomes covered with fine white frost.  Garnish with a thick bouquet of mint so hat the entire top is filled with leaves.  Serve it to a worthy and thirsty person, sitting at ease on a shady porch on a hot day.  This drink could very appropriately be called the hospitality drink.

Southern Fried Chicken

Select fryers not over 2 ½ pounds.  Dress carefully and cut into attractive pieces.  Chill thoroughly before frying.  Add salt to flour and roll pieces thoroughly in this.  Then drop into a deep layer of hot fat (375 degrees F) until golden brown.  Remove chicken and drain on unglazed paper.  Serve hot or cold.  For extra special, soak chicken in sweet milk 30 minutes before frying.  Add pepper (unless white) after it is cooked to keep it from turning dark.

FYI:  When Southerners refer to “sweet milk”, they mean regular whole cow’s milk.  The phrase “sweet milk” differentiates it from the sour buttermilk that was also popular among Southerners.

Sweet Potato Surprise

3 baking yam potatoes
1 cup nuts
1 ½ cups sugar
1 cup sweet milk
4 eggs
½ cup sherry
½ cup butter
1 tsp baking powder

Bake or boil potatoes, mash, and add sugar, butte, milk, nuts, sherry, and baking powder.  Beat until fluffy.  Place in well-buttered baking dish.  Top with nuts and marshmallows.  Bake in 350-degree oven 30 minutes.

Eggplant a’ la Palmirissa

1 eggplant, peeled and sliced
1 cup milk
6 slices of bread
½ pound cheese
4 eggs
salt and pepper

Drop eggplant and bread in deep fat.  Fry until brown and crisp.  Beat eggs well and add milk.  After bread and eggplant have been browned place in baking dish which has been well buttered.  A layer of eggplant and a layer of bread, then a layer of cheese until baker is filled.  Add cheese last.  Then pour over all the eggs and milk.  Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

Egg Nog Pie

12 eggs
2 pkgs. Gelatin
1 qt. cream
1 dozen ladyfingers
24 tbsp. whiskey

Separate eggs.  Beat whites stiff.  Add 1 tablespoon sugar at a time to stiffly beaten whites.  Beat yellows thoroughly.  Add whiskey a drop at a time to yellows.  Fold yellows into beaten whites. DO NOT beat.  Next fold in whipped cream.  Add gelatin last, which has been dissolved by placing cup in hot water.  Line spring form pan with ladyfingers after splitting in halves.  Pour in egg nog.  When ready to serve slide out of pan and garnish with whipped cream, red and green cherries.

Monday, 27 January 2014

Interesting Southern Heirloom Cake Recipes I

Mrs. A.D. Clements’ Alabama Fruit Cake (1949)

1 lb raisins
 ¼ t. cloves
½ lb butter
1 cup watermelon preserves
¾ cup brown sugar
4 eggs
¼ cup grape juice
2 cups flour
1 cup fig preserves
1 T. baking powder 1 cup or more pecan meats
1 t. mace
½ t. nutmeg

Cream butter, add sugar, add egg yolks, beaten, add beaten egg whites.  Sift flour with spices and baking powder.  Add fruits, then grape juice.  Beat well.  Bake 2 hours in a slow oven.


FYI: When recreating old chocolate recipes, be sure you use chocolate with 60% cacao.  The chocolate in America’s recent past was a uniform 60% cacao and the recipes were created with that in mind – don’t use 70% or 80% cacao thinking it will make it better and more chocolate-y, it doesn’t work like that.

Dixie Chocolate Cake (1949)

3 cups cake flour
3 eggs
4 squares chocolate (melted with boiling water)
3 t baking powder
½ t. baking soda
¾ cup lard
1 ½ cups milk
2 cups sugar
1 ½ t. vanilla
[3/4 t. salt? see note]

Sift flour once, measure and sift again with baking powder, soda and salt.  Cream lard. Add sugar gradually and continue creaming until light and fluffy.  Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition.  Add melted chocolate and blend.  Add sifted dry ingredients alternatively with milk and vanilla, beating after each addition until smooth.  Line the bottom of 3-9 inch pans with waxed paper.  Pour in batter.  Bake in moderately hot oven (375 degrees) for 25 minutes.  Cool and frost.

(NOTE: Salt is not listed in the original recipe but is in the instructions.  There is a similar recipe for chocolate cake that uses ¾ teaspoon salt in its recipe, so we included it here. (Some old recipes leave out ingredients because of common knowledge or mistakes in copying.)

Mrs. W.M. McDonald’s Chocolate Fluff Frosting (1949)

6 T. butter
4 squares chocolate
2 ¼ cups confectioner’s sugar
½ t. salt
½ t. vanilla
3 egg whites
Cream butter.  Add 1 cup sugar and blend.  Add vanilla, melted chocolate and salt, and mix well.  Beat egg whites until stiff but not dry.  Gradually add remaining sugar to egg whites, beating until mixture stands in peaks.  Fold into chocolate mixture and stir until smooth.


“Dating back to the 1930's, Mystery Cake was tremendously popular as it required very little butter and eggs, precious ingredients in Depression era America. The flavors in this cake are rich with no true tomato taste, just the warmth of the spices and sweetness of the raisins. This cake keeps beautifully and can be enjoyed as a snack cake with no icing needed, or iced with a simple vanilla glaze to dress it up. ‘This is a pleasant cake, which keeps well and puzzles people while you are cooking other things, which is always sensible and makes you feel rather noble, in itself a small but valuable pleasure.’-M.F.K. Fisher (1942)” --http://www.kingarthurflour.com

Mystery Cake, or Tomato Soup Spice Cake (1930s)

4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg, well beaten
1 can condensed tomato soup (Campbell's preferred) 10 3/4 ounce size
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 scant teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup raisins (optional)

1) Preheat oven to 350°F. Spritz a 9" round cake pan with cooking spray. Line with a parchment circle and spritz with spray again. Cream butter and sugar in large bowl. Add egg and mix well.
2) Combine baking soda with undiluted soup in can. Let foam for 1 minute. Pour soup mixture into butter/sugar/egg and blend well. Mixture will look slightly curdled. This is normal.
3) In a small bowl combine flour, baking powder and spices. Whisk well and add to tomato soup mixture. Beat together for 1 minute on medium speed. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 30-35 minutes. Cool on wire rack and ice as desired.

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Eliza Leslie (1787-1858): First Author of a Southern Food Cookbook?

Eliza Leslie (November 15, 1787 - January 1, 1858)

Eliza Leslie [frequently referred to as Miss Leslie] was an American author of popular cookbooks during the nineteenth century. 

She was the first American cookbook author to write about Southern cooking and the vital influence of African-Americans in this regional cooking.  In her 1854 book New Receipts for Cooking, she wrote: “A large number [of recipes] have been obtained from the South, and from ladies noted for their skill in housewifery.  Many were dictated by colored cooks of high reputation in the art, for which nature seems to have gifted that race with a particular capability.” Her comment today would be considered racist; however, we have to remember the time in which it was written.  The fact that this lady would write a cookbook celebrating recipes from African- American women and other marginalized groups – even recipes specifically from the Southern states in a time of political uneasiness- is incredible. The book contains a large number of Southern recipes, many taken from African-American women, as well as recipes coming from French and Native American sources.

The recipe below is from Leslie’s New Receipts for Cooking, copied directly from her book:

Filet Gumbo

“Cut up a pair of fine plump fowls into pieces, as when carving. Lay them in a pan of cold water, till all the blood is drawn out. Put into a pot, two large table-spoonfuls of lard, and set it over the fire. When the lard has come to a boil, put in the chickens with an onion finely minced. Dredge them well with flour, and season slightly with salt and pepper; and, if you like it, a little chopped marjoram. Pour on it two quarts of boiling water. Cover it, and let it simmer slowly for three hours. Then stir into it two heaped tea-spoonfuls of sassafras powder. Afterwards, let it stew five or six minutes longer, and then send it to table in a deep dish; having a dish of boiled rice to be eaten with it by those who like rice.
This gumbo will be much improved by stewing with it three or four thin slices of cold boiled ham, in which case omit the salt in the seasoning. Whenever cold ham is an ingredient in any dish, no other salt is required.
A dozen fresh oysters and their liquor, added to the stew about half an hour before it is taken up, will also be an improvement.
If you cannot conveniently obtain sassafras-powder, stir the gumbo frequently with a stick of sassafras root.
This is a genuine southern receipt. Filet gumbo may be made of any sort of poultry, or of veal, lamb, venison, or kid.”

The following recipe is from Miss Leslie’s earlier book Directions for Cookery, followed by a modernized version by Ester B. Aresty, who called the recipe as "still outstanding among Southern recipes":

Sweet Potato Pudding (original by Eliza Leslie, 1851)

“Take half a pound of sweet potatoes, wash them, and put them into a pot with a very little water, barely enough to keep them from burning.
Let them simmer slowly for about half an hour; they must be only parboiled, otherwise they will be soft, and will make the pudding heavy. When they are half done, take them out, peel them, and when cold, grate them. Stir together to a cream, half a pound of butter and a quarter of a pound and two ounces of powdered sugar, add a grated nutmeg, a large tea-spoonful of powdered cinnamon, and half a tea-spoonful of beaten mace. Also the juice and grated peel of a lemon, a wine glass of rose water, a glass of wine, and a glass of brandy. Stir these ingredients well together. Beat seven eggs very light, and stir them into the mixture in turn with the sweet potato, a little at a time of each. Having stirred the whole very hard at the last, put it into a buttered dish and bake it three quarters of an hour.”

Miss Leslie’s Sweet Potato Pudding 

(updated by Esther B. Aresty in her book, The Delectable Past, 1964)

“2 cups cooked, mashed sweet potatoes
3 egg yolks, slightly beaten
¼ teaspoon each: nutmeg and cloves
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ cup sugar
¼ pound butter, melted
¼ cup wine and brandy mixed
½ cup milk
3 egg whites, beaten stiff but not dry

       First, combine the potatoes with the spices and beaten egg yolks.  Then add all the other ingredients, except the egg whites, and beat well.
       (Mrs. Leslie’s original recipe called for rosewater; I substitute the milk, to which I add ½ teaspoon of rose extract.  Try it.)  Last, fold the stiff (not dry) egg whites lightly into the potato mixture.
       Heap in a buttered 2-quart casserole.  Sprinkle top lightly with a mixture of sugar and cinnamon.  Bake at 350-degrees for about an hour.  Serve with chicken, ham or pork.”

Books by Eliza Leslie:

  • Seventy-Five Receipts for Pastry, Cakes, and Sweetmeats, 1828.
  • American Girl's Book, 1831.
  • Domestic French Cookery, 1832.
  • Pencil Sketches; or, Outlines of Characters and Manners, 1833.
  • Miss Leslie's Behavior Book, 1834.
  • Directions for Cookery, in its Various Branches, 1837.
  • The Indian Meal Book, 1847.
  • The Lady's Receipt-Book: A Useful Companion for Large or Small Families, 1847.
  • Amelia; or, A Young Lady's Vicissitudes, 1848.
  • Miss Leslie's Lady's New Receipt-Book, 1850.
  • Miss Leslie's Directions for Cookery, 1851.
  • More Receipts, 1852.
  • Miss Leslie's New Receipts for Cooking . . ., 1854.
  • Miss Leslie's New Cookery Book, 1857.

Source(s): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eliza_Leslie; New Receipts for Cooking . . ., 1854; Directions for Cookery, 1851; The Delectable Past by Esther B. Aresty, 1964, Simon And Schuster, Inc.; http://chestofbooks.com

Sunday, 12 January 2014

"Charles H. Baker, Jr.'s Own Deep South Barbecue Sauce, 1939"

Charles Henry Baker, Jr. (December 25, 1895 – November 11, 1987) 
Charles Henry Baker, Jr. was an American author best known for his culinary and cocktail writings. Baker spent much of his life traveling the world and chronicling food and drink recipes for magazines like Esquire, Town & Country, and Gourmet, for which he wrote a column during the 1940s called "Here's How".  Baker collected many of those recipes in his two-volume set The Gentleman's Companion: Being an Exotic Cookery and Drinking Book, originally published in 1939 by Derrydale Press. John J. Poister in 1983 wrote, "Volume II of The Gentleman's Companion, by Charles H. Baker, Jr., is the best book on exotic drinks I have ever encountered". Condé Nast contributing writer St. John Frizell wrote, "It's his prose, not his recipes, that deserves a place in the canon of culinary literature ... at times humorously grandiloquent, at times intimate and familiar, Baker fills his stories with colorful details about his environment and his drinking companions — Ernest Hemingway and William Faulkner among them".

I know there are recipes for white barbeque sauces, but nothing like this.  From the lack of liquid, I assume this sauce is rather thick and heavy --I don't know much roasting juices you'd really get from grilling meat (I figure you could use stock or broth). The following recipe is from Baker’s The Gentleman's Companion: Being an Exotic Cookery Book (1939):

“THE AUTHOR’S OWN DEEP SOUTH BARBECUE SAUCE , for all sorts of Miscellaneous Game such as ‘Coons, ‘Possums, Big Fox or Cat Squirrels, Marsh Rabbits, Wild Shote & God Knows What Else of Dark Flesh, or Gamy Flavour, or Both
       We’ve been hungry plenty of times on camp hunts, and seem to have eaten just about anything that swims, flies or runs, through the Florida flatwoods, the pine islands in swamps and Everglades, or in the vast sawgrass marshes.  We’ve nourished on alligator tail, sand hill crane, limpkin, crow, rattlesnake, ‘possum, ‘coon, wild razorback shote, pelican and –credit it or not! – whippoorwill.  ‘Coon, ‘possum, and big brown marsh rabbits are good eating, but have to be smothered in a sauce hot and potent enough to disguise the gamey meat.  This sauce is fine to add to the braising pot half an hour before meat is tendered, or to work up while game is being grilled, roasted, smothered, or what not.  Make it plenty hot with peppers.

1 lb odd trimmings from the animal
1 big chopped carrot
1 big chopped onion
½ tsp dry hot mustard
½ cup evaporated or fresh cream
4 tbsp butter
2 to 3 tbsp lemon juice or vinegar
1 to 1 ½ tbsp flour for thickening
1 piece yellow lemon peel
Salt and lots of black pepper
1 tsp or more of worchestershire

Soak strong meats as long as possible, overnight is best, in strongly salted water, then use this sauce, made as follows:  brown the chopped game trimmings, onion, and carrot in 3 tbsp of the butter.  Cream mustard with a little gravy, and add to trimmings pan.  Take some roasting juices from the meat from time to time, and add –along with lemon juice and seasonings.  Smother and simmer until rich; strain out bones and sinew, pound vegetables fine, thin out with more of the cooking gravy, reduce 1/3, and finally thicken with 1 tbsp flour and same of butter –worked smooth—adding the cream at the last.”