Tuesday, December 20, 2011

50's Dessert Recipe: Raisin Crumb Pudding with Hard Sauce

This was my favorite dessert for the December 50's menu experiment.  It is called a pudding, but isn't the creamy stuff that comes to mind when we say pudding now.  It is a little bit of work, but makes a pretty and delicious product.  It is a steamed pudding, and the only one in the book that doesn't call for suet.

From Meta Given's Modern Encyclopedia of Cooking, 1959 revision

Raisin Crumb Pudding

An old-time moist, tasty, inexpensive pudding
1 tbsp fine dry breadcrumbs
1 c seedless raisins, washed
3/4 cup fine dry breadcrumbs
1 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp soda
1/8 tsp cloves
1/4 c soft butter
1/2 cup moist brown sugar, pkd
2 tbsp light molasses
1 egg, beaten

Steam raisins in a colander over boiling water for 5 minutes to plump them.  Grease a 4 to 5 cup mold well with soft butter, then dust with the 1 tbsp crumbs, shaking to distribute evenly.  (I didn't have a mold and used a short squat handle-less pot from our backpacking stove.)  Get steamer ready.  (I didn't have a steamer, so I improvised by using my largest pot and using a small metal trivet from my pressure cooker in the bottom to raise up the pudding "mold" so it doesn't sit directly on the bottom of the pot.  You will want to add enough water to come up 1/3 of the way on the sides of the mold and have a total water volume of 1 to 2 quarts.)  About 10 min before needed, add the water to the steamer and place it over low heat.

Cool and dry off plumped raisins.  Mix the buttermilk with the 3/4 c dry bread crumbs and set aside for 10 min to soften.  Sift flour, measure and resift 3 times with the next 3 ingredients.  (I don't own a sifter and skipped that process, just mixed them together.)  Stir in raisins.  Cream butter and sugar thoroughly; beat in molasses until smooth and fluffy.  Beat in egg well; stir in crumb mixture and flour-raisin misture just until well blended.  Pour batter into prepared mol;' it should be about 3/4 full.  Cover mold with a square of greased, floured parchment paper, fastened securely with rubber band.  (I also put a square of aluminum foil on top of that, also secured with a rubber band, as recommended in another portion of the book on steaming puddings.)
Place mold in steamer, cover and steam vigorously for 1 hr; reduce heat and steam at a moderate rate for 2 hrs longer.  (Add more water if needed)  Lift out onto cake rack;  remove lid or cover, and immediately invert pudding on cake rack covered with parchment paper.  Parchment covers may be re-used in this way.  Carefully lift off molds.  Serve warm; or cool thoroughly, wrap in waxed paper, and store in refrigerator until ready to serve.  Then reheat by steaming.  Serve warm with hard sauce.  (Steamed puddings should be served warm.  Don't leave standing in steamer at the end of cooking to keep warm.)  Makes 6 to 8 servings

For the hard sauce, I used one that did not have any alcohol in it.  Although I believe that it is probably more customary to use one with.  I found one at allrecipes.com that seemed to have a heritage dating back to the appropriate time frame.  Hard Sauce for Cake 

Monday, December 19, 2011

A 50's Weekday Menu

Another menu based on my cooking 50's style experiment.  This one is meant for a weekday.  No luncheon is included, because we don't have lunch together as a family, unlike what seemed to happen more frequently back then.

Freshly sliced oranges
Poached eggs on toast

Pan fried onions
Mashed potatoes
Shredded lettuce with Mayonaise
Bread and butter
Apple Cobbler

Sunday, December 18, 2011

A 50's Sunday Menu

I thought it would be fun to post a Sunday menu, based on the menu's I cooked for my 50's cooking experiment.  It contains some of our favorite things I cooked.

Grapefruit halves
Griddle Cakes

Roast Chicken
Mashed potatoes and gravy
Whole Wheat Bread and Butter
Raisin Crumb Pudding with Hard Sauce

Egg Salad Sandwhiches
Dill Pickles

Results of the 50's Cooking Experiment

My 50's cooking experiment has lasted longer than the original week I had intended.  Either this menu is really idealized or the 50's housewife spent a lot of time in the kitchen.  Cooking 50's style just doesn't mesh well with our busy lifestyle.  So, the 50's meals have been spread out and intermixed with quicker, busy day meals.  My family in general has loved 50's style cooking, especially breakfasts.  Things I have learned about cooking 50's style:

1.  They ate a lot more eggs and bacon and sausage.  Bacon and sausage are served at 6 meals during the week, 5 breakfasts and one lunch.  We kept the serving sizes to 1 or 2 slices each, to limit fat.  Interestingly, when I've had 50's breakfast, even if I don't eat any more volume, I stay full until lunchtime.

2.  There are a lot more "sides."   Even for breakfast.  So, instead of cereal and juice, one would serve cereal, toast, bacon and a dried fruit compote/grapefruit half/sliced oranges.  Both my husband and I remember visiting grandma's and having them serve more complicated breakfasts like this.  I always thought it was cooking for guests, but perhaps it was an everyday thing.  My family loved eating breakfast this way every day.

3.  Desserts were different.  Most were made with very simple ingredients.  It's amazing the variety of results you can get from using things like eggs, flour, butter, and cream.  Fruits were frequently used.  And desserts were served every night.  Most of the deserts were surprisingly good.  I had to learn several new cooking techniques: using a double boiler, steaming a pudding, baking a custard, poaching merengue.

4.  Meals were pretty.  Not every single meal, but most had a variety of color and texture.  The number of sides made this easier to accomplish.  But, overall a 50's meal was pleasing visually as well as in taste.

5.  They used a lot of dried fruit.  There is quite a range of fresh fruits and vegetables for a December menu, so they had pretty good access to a variety of produce.  Some were not ones that we typically use and see at our grocery store, like brussel sprouts and rutabagas.  But, dried fruit was still heavily used.  I wondered if this was a carryover from times when produce was less available and dried foods would be needed in the winter months. 

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Eating 50's Style

So, I'm onto my latest kooky experiment.  I was recently reading a cookbook from the 50's: Meta Given's Modern Encyclopedia of Cooking.  I love reading domestic books from that era.  The way they phrase things and the insight into the homemaker mind at the time just fascinate and amuse me.

Anyways, I came across the menu planning section.  In it they gave a week's worth of sample menus for each month of the year: "Using seasonal foods in thrifty balanced menus."  Planning menus every week gets to be a drag sometimes, so I thought it might be fun to give these a try.  It seemed like a fun way to get a glimpse of what cooking and eating at home was like in the 50's, in an immersive experience.  Granted, the menu is probably an idealized one.

Some of the foods to be eaten daily:

quart of milk for children, pint for adults
meat, poultry, fish or cheese; liver or variety meat weekly
1 egg, if possible
a yellow or green veggie
white or sweet potatoes
1 other veggie
 a serving of citrus or tomato
another fruit

You'll notice that there are 5 fruits and veggies.  Qualifying for the "5 a day" campaign we hear about now.  The menus also serve a dessert with every dinner and almost every lunch.

The guidelines for feeding young children differ from what we do today.  Before the age of 5 or 6, the child should be served foods that are bland.  Cereal should only be slightly sweetened.  No pepper or spices, except a tiny amount on special occasions. No rich gravies or pastry.  His heaviest meal should be mid-day, with his evening meal a milk soup, cereal and milk or bread and milk as its basis.  And for convenience, the child may be fed early and sent to bed before the rest of the family is served.  Needless to say, we aren't subjecting Cyrus to these guidelines. 

The book emphasizes that because we no longer have the large appetites that our agrarian forefathers had, that we eat less food, and hence need to carefully select that food to make sure we cover all of our nutritional requirements.   The meals tend to have a great more dishes served than I usually do.  And yet, by strictly following the recipes according to serving sizes, I think they must have had much smaller serving sizes than we think of today.

The lunch menus are much more elaborate than I would ever do with just Cyrus and I at home, so I haven't been following them.  We speculated that perhaps the rest of the family was more likely to come home and eat lunch at that time than happens now.  A couple times I have replaced the dinner menu with the lunch menu, when the suggested dinner menu is likely to cause mutiny.  Another interesting tidbit: on Sunday, lunch is called dinner and is the big meal of the day, and dinner is called supper.

Finally, The Meal Planner's Creed:

The health of my family is in my care; therefore--
I will spare no effort in planning meals containing the right kinds of foods in the right amounts.

Spending the food dollar to get the most for it is my job; therefore--
I will choose foods from a wide variety, variously priced to save money without sacrificing health.

My family's enjoyment of food is my responsibility; therefore--
I will increase their pleasure by preparing a variety of dishes attractive in color and form and pleasing in flavor and texture.

My family's health, security, and pleasure depend on my skill in planning meals; therefore--
I will treat my job with the respect due it.

Italics as written.  This was serious business!  As this was an era of modern labor saving advances, caring for the family and serving them food was much easier than it had ever been.  What does a woman do with all that extra time?  Why, raise standards and use it to do what she does even better!  I'm speculating that is what happened.  And that perfect housewife paradigm then led to the feminist revolt, perhaps?  Anyone know of a good history book on this subject?