Chicken al a King, Without The Chicken

The challenge was to create a mock food, try a recipe for something that isn’t what it sounds like.  Common examples are mock turtle soup made with a calf’s head and mock apple pie made with crackers.

For this  Historical Foods Fortnightly challenge, we found a tasty recipe for mock chicken al a King in the Lake Placid News, June 17, 1932.  News of the day included the Regents testing schedule, freckle contest winner, and a how the divorce rate in the North Country was higher in 1931.

Mock chicken al a King was found on page 7.  This same recipe and the accompanying article were found in The North Countryman., May 26, 1932,  The Medina daily journal and Medina Register., June 01, 1932, and The Patchogue Advance., June 03, 1932. It was interesting to note that the same recipe ran in two newspapers three years earlier: The Medina Daily Journal., July 11, 1929 and The Adirondack News., August 17, 1929.


Recipe was very easy to follow and was very tasty.  Since it did not have a recommendation on what to serve with the chicken al a King, we opted for egg noodles.

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Time: about 3 hours

Cost: about $8 (not including chicken feed)

Successful: Somewhat, thought it could use a bit more Worcestershire sauce

Accurate: somewhat, used Portobello mushrooms since they were in the refrig. as was the local Jersey Girl cheese that we used instead of the grated American cheese.  And wasn’t sure about the Spanish olives, used the green olives stuffed with. pimentos – maybe that was right?


A Casserole for the March Family

Book Lovers Cook Book

Oh, a Literary Foods challenge, foods and or meals mentioned in books, now that was one during the last round of Historic Food Fortnightly that by-passed because I just can’t remember what people eat in books.. Since then, a friend gave me The Book Lover’s Cookbook by Shaunda Wenger and Janet Jensen. This book is full of “recipes inspired by celebrated works of literature and the passages that featured them” and suddenly this challenge became much easier.

In Little Women, Louisa May Alcott (writing as T. Tupman of “The Pickwick Portfolio”) wrote

Once upon a time a farmer planted a little seed in his garden, and after a while it sprouted and became a vine, and bore many squashes. One day in October, when they were ripe, he picked one and took it to market. A grocerman bought and put it in his shop. That same morning, a little girl, in her brown hat and blue dress, with round face and snub nose, went and bought it for her mother. She lugged it home, cut it up, and boiled in in the big pot; mashed some of it with salt and butter for dinner; and the rest shed added a pint to of milk, two eggs, four spoons of sugar, nutmeg, and some crackers; put it in a deep dish, and baked it till it was brown and nice; and next day it was eaten by a family named March.

Choose a squash recipe because we had a couple of butternut squashes stored in our basement from last year.

From this quote, we turned to New York Historic Newspapers for our recipe. Found many recipes similar to what Alcott wrote but also found a tasty variation of the squash casserole with pineapple from the Plattsburgh Daily Republican, January 5, 1935. Plattsburgh is a small city in northeastern New York, near the Canadian border, Lake Champlain, and Fort Ticonderoga.

News of the day featured President Roosevelt’s continued efforts to bring the US out of the Great Depression, the latest from the trial of Bernard Hauptmann, the accused kidnapper of Charles and Anne Lindbergh’s eldest child Charles Jr., and a profile of women school teachers who were unable to marry fellow male teachers due to a court order.

On page nine, Home Features of Timely Interest, we find an article about trains of musicale gowns and a joke about which ship women are really waiting for. Also featured on page nine was the Squash and Pineapple in Casserole recipe.

Started by removing the skin and seeds from the squashes, cutting them in large chunks, and boiling them for about an hour. Then strained off the water, mashed the squash, and added the pineapple (mistakenly bought chunks not crushed pineapple so chopped up the chucks in the food processor), butter, nutmeg, orange peel and, mistakenly, bread crumbs to the squash and mixed it up. Upon realizing that the bread crumbs were supposed to go on top (it does help to READ the recipe sometimes) we made more bread crumbs with bread slices in the oven heated at a low temperature, added softened butter to the bread crumbs to make buttered bread crumbs, sprinkled the bread crumbs on top of the casserole, then baked the casserole for 45 minutes at 350o F.

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Time: about 4 hours (due to the need to make more bread crumbs)

Cost: about $4

Successful: Yes, a tasty addition to our squash recipes

Accurate: Fairly accurate except adding bread crumbs to the squash mix.


NY Historic Newspapers, Plattsburgh Daily Republican, January 5, 1935

Wenger, Shaunda  and Janet Jensen, The book lover’s cookbook : recipes inspired by celebrated works of literature and the passages that feature them, New York : Ballantine Books, ©2005, ©2003.

They Were Pretty As A Picture

Hum, the challenge is Pretty As A Picture “make a dish that looks just as spectacular as it tastes.” Oh now this is a challenge. While making tasty food is one thing, making a spectacular presentation with that food is, well, another thing. I tend towards the utilitarian side of things, including how food is served up. The most decorating of food I will do is a stray sprig of parsley in some mashed potatoes or something equally as simple. I’m more about how the food tastes than how it looks on the plate. While I personally don’t do much food presentation, I always admire the creativity that others have with their food presentations.

So this was an especially interesting challenge, come up with something simple that I can tweak into an interesting presentation. For some reason the cheery yellow of deviled eggs popped into my head as I was thinking about the challenge. Headed back to New York Historic Newspapers and found a simple deviled egg recipe from the South New Berlin Bee., August 2, 1940. South New Berlin is a hamlet in the rural farming town of New Berlin. It is located about 40 minutes west of Cooperstown. True it is rural roots, the front page of the South New Berlin Bee featured local news including local baseball scores and county fair news. International news was found on page two it included a funny article about a speech that Hitler gave.

South New Berlin bee., August 02, 1940. p 6

Couldn’t resist trying the deviled egg recipe on page 6 using the eggs from our backyard chickens.  That devil graphic is great!


Time: about 3 hours

Cost: about $5 (not including chicken feed)

Successful: Yes! We both really enjoyed them

Accurate: Yes

Local Fruits Yield A Tasty Cake

Cocoa Apple-Sauce Cake

We found another tasty recipe in the Rochester Catholic Journal (Rochester NY) this one from December 7, 1917. By 1917, the Rochester Catholic Journal had become a women’s newspaper with articles on women’s sleeve styles in women’s clothing (all of page 2), an article about two women who were chased by a bear in Maine, and a delightful story of a Civil War romance. It was interesting to note that articles about the Great War, which the US had entered earlier that year, were scattered on pages three, six, and seven.

The recipe we chose was the Cocoa Apple-Sauce Cake. We chose this cake because we have homemade applesauce in our lard that was made from a variety of early Macintosh apples from our backyard. The tree that produced the apples is at least 80 years old.


The recipe called for sour cream. On a whim we decided to make our own sour cream with heavy cream and buttermilk. It came out well.

The cake was very easy to make; the frosting was a bit of a challenge, heating the sour cream and sugar to the soft ball stage- we might have heated it a bit over the 240oF. The frosting did not spread like normal frosting, it had to be placed by hand and gently manipulated into place. It was a messy endeavor that lead to sticky fingers.  The cake was very tasty; the orange frosting (which was a little gritty) was a nice compliment to the chocolate spice cake.

Time: about 27 hours (including making the sour cream)

Cost: about $8

Successful: Yes, very tasty despite the grittiness of the sugar in the frosting.

Accurate: Almost, used raw sugar instead of granulated sugar.

Sources:          New York Newspaper Project

Mother Earth News – Make Your Own Cream Cheese and Sour Cream

A Summer Roast

On July 19, 1917 The Honeoye Falls Times reported that the US was readying for the draft of soldiers to enter the Great War but the details of which were still being finalized. Front page news also reported on the locations of hydrants for area firefighters, regional New York news, and the program for the band concert on July 21, 1917. Honeoye Falls is a small town in western New York, about 33 miles (53 kilometers) south of Rochester.

On page 4, flank steak roast, rhubarb tapioca, and bean croquettes were the recipes featured for the summer recipe.

We tried the flank steak roast. When we started, we didn’t realize the steak was stuffed with bread crumbs, so, for the first time in many years, we purchased a loaf of white bread which we dried in the oven to make the bread crumbs. Because the steak came from grass-fed beef, we tenderized the meat before pounding it with our improvised meat mallet – a wooden mallet that was in the tool drawer.

The stuffing proved easy to make once we realized we needed bread crumbs for the base. Roasted the meat for a hour at 350oF which seemed like just the right length of time.


While it looked neat when it was cut, the roast did not have a lot of flavor for the 21st century palate. Half of us enjoyed it; the other did not and had wished he remembered the bottle of Worcestershire sauce that was sitting in the cupboard.

Time: about 4 hours (due to drying the bread in the oven)

Cost: about $18 (used local grass-fed beef)

Successful: 50/50

Accurate: Yes

Recipe in a Rhyme

When looking through old newspapers, it is nice to be reminded of the importance that newspapers once held in our lives. One great example of that was the July 2, 1898 edition of the The Catholic Journal of Rochester, NY. This Catholic newspaper featured news of the Catholic Church, both local news and national/international, news about local church members, international news about the Rough Riders and the Battle of San Juan Hill, notes about the peculiarity of Holland, and a charming peanut brittle recipe that was written in the form of a rhyme.

The Catholic Journal., July 02, 1898, Page 7

The recipe seemed simple enough, just melt the brown sugar, add the peanuts and pour into greased pie pans. Melting the sugar is always a challenge as it means standing and stirring, standing and stirring, something that I get easily bored with. Fortunately help arrived just when I was ready to start the candy and this person has the patience to stand and stir the sugar until it melted. Despite our best efforts though, we burned the sugar because we were not sure what the finished temperature of the candy. We heated the candy a bit beyond the hard crack stage and burned some of the sugar on the bottom of the pot. Fortunately we were able to save the burned pot by simmering water and baking soda in the pot for about a half hour then scrubbing the pot using lots of elbow grease.

Poured the candy into two pans, one steel, the other glass. The glass pan was a mistake; the cooled candy stuck to the pan like glue and was only removed by soaking the pan in hot water. Good to know for next time – melted sugar needs to go in steel pans! Not sure though, whether there will be a next time unless I can find someone to stand and stir.

Because the sugar got burned, the brittle has a slightly burned taste.

Time: about 2 hours

Cost: about $8

Successful: Almost – did burn the sugar a little

Accurate: Think so, although not sure about which type of brown sugar we should have used.

The Successes and Failures of a Culinary Detective

There is something alluring about being a detective; to be someone who uncovers lost secrets and forgotten mysteries. People who cook from historical recipes are often culinary detectives as they search for ingredients and techniques from long ago.

The recipe for the History Detective challenge came from the Gilboa Monitor, a weekly paper that ran from 1878 – 1918. Gilboa New York is a small town in the northern Catskills. This once vibrant town was dramatically changed in about 1918 when the New York City Water Board began construction of a dam along the Schoharie River to provide drinking water for New York City. The residents of the original town center were relocated when the dam was flooded.

The front page of the Jan 28, 1915 Gilboa Monitor featured local and county news, including a story on the dam project and some news about the Great War. Advice for housewives and recipes were scattered on pages 2 and 3. One of those recipes was for Steamed Beef.

It sounded simple, just steam some dried beef in spiced vinegar for fruit pickles. But what is spiced vinegar for fruit pickles? And where does one find dried beef? After much searching, detecting, for spiced vinegar for fruit pickles in the New York Newspaper Project we found reference to the Cornell Bulletin for Home Makers No. 294 Cornell Pickles and Relishes, 1934. This little gem has lots of interesting pickle recipes, including many recipes of fruit pickles. We used the Pickled Pear II recipe on page 29 for the spiced vinegar.

Finding the dried beef was much harder. We were not confident in the dried beef we could find in our local grocery store so we made our own from part of a bottom round roast, drying the beef in our food dehydrator. We just sliced the beef thin and dried it for 5 hours in the dehydrator.

We cut up the dried beef smaller that the recipe called for because we were concerned that the meat would be tough, it was not.

We steamed the meat as we would steam vegetables but we believe this was a mistake as the meat came out very dry and tasteless. We think we should have simmered the meat in the spiced vinegar for an hour which would have really rehydrated the meat and given it some flavor. Worcestershire Sauce and Ruby Relish (an apple/beet relish) improved the flavor of our meat tremendously.

While we are disappointed with our results of this recipe, we were really happy to find the Cornell Bulletin on Pickles and Relishes.

Time: about 7 hours, over two days

Cost: about $13 (used local, grass fed beef)

Successful: No

Accurate: Probably not since we did not use dried beef that was available 100 years ago and we steamed the meat wrong. And we served the meat over potatoes, not toast.