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

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.

Simple Meal During Troubled Times

One can imagine the relieve the war-weary residents of Port Jervis, New York, (a small city on the Delaware River near the New Jersey – Pennsylvania border) felt when they sat down to read their copy of the Evening Gazette on Saturday November 2, 1918 – the front page headlines told it all:

Kaiser Charles Quits Vienna,
Turkey agrees to Conditions, and
Over 1,000 Square Miles of Italy is Conquered.

The Evening Gazette, November 02, 1918, Page 1, accessed from NYS Historic Newspapers

One can image that they were also relieved to read the letter home from a wounded soldier and that in the nearby Pennsylvania community of Matamoras, the flu quarantine had been lifted, and churches and schools would be opening on Monday.













Meat and Spud
The Evening Gazette, November 02, 1918, page 14, accessed from NYS Historic Newspapers

Tucked on the last page was the recipe for Minced Beef with Potato Border. This simple entree was similar to Sheppard’s pie, with the mashed potatoes serving as a border to the chopped meat center.




This 2016 version followed the 1918 recipe nearly exactly; the only difference was that the beef was cooked just prior to assembly. The beef was simmered in a little water to get the required beef stock.

While it was a tasty, simple meal, modern cooks might add garlic, Worcestershire sauce, or mustard to enhance the flavor of the meat.

Cost : about $6.50 – US