COOKBOOK COLLECTION | Bring On the Comfort Food, Part 2

Another post—in two parts this time—in a series from the cataloger of the Anne M. Cranston cookbook collection, which consists of approximately 4,400 British and American cookbooks from the 19th and 20th centuries. In this series, Shelley shares fascinating recipes, quotes, kitchen solutions, and anecdotes she has uncovered in the collection.

Frontispiece of Mary Emma Showalter, Mennonite Community Cookbook: Favorite Family Recipes. Second printing. Philadelphia; Toronto: John C. Winston Co., 1950.

Frontispiece of Mary Emma Showalter, Mennonite Community Cookbook: Favorite Family Recipes. Second printing. Philadelphia; Toronto: John C. Winston Co., 1950.

What would a discussion of comfort food be without the obligatory fried chicken? Chicken fried in lard? Absolutely. My great-grandmother did it this way and no fried chicken ever matched hers in my estimation. If done at the right temperature, the chicken will not absorb the grease and will be the best you have ever tasted. This recipe is from The New Dixie Cook Book. I roll the chicken in the flour as alternatively suggested. A deep cast iron skillet works best.

Fried Chicken

Put frying pan on stove with a half tablespoon each lard and butter; when hot lay the piece of chicken, sprinkle with flour, salt, and pepper, place on lid and cook over moderate fire; when light brown, turn the chicken and sprinkle flour, salt, and pepper over top as at first; if necessary add more lard and butter and cook slowly until done, keeping closely covered; make gravy same as for baked chicken. As a general rule, three quarter of an hour is long enough to fry spring chicken.

[To make the gravy, add a half pint or more of water, set the dripping pan on the stove, and add tablespoon flour mixed with half cup cream or milk, stirring slowly, adding a little of the mixture at a time. Let cook thoroughly, stirring constantly to prevent burning, and to make the gravy nice and smooth; season more if necessary. Some do not put water in pan, but use plenty of butter, or drippings and butter.]

Or put in a tablespoon each butter and chopped parsley, pint of cream and seasoning of salt and pepper; stir over the fire, loosening all browned particles from pan and adding tablespoon flour if necessary. Boil up and serve, poured around the chicken, or send on in sauce-boat. Some dip pieces in hot water and roll in flour instead of sprinkling with it and they may also be single-breaded.

Caroline French Benton. Easy Meals. Boston: Dana Estes & Company Publishers, 1913.

Caroline French Benton. Easy Meals. Boston: Dana Estes & Company Publishers, 1913.

There were so many meat loaf recipes that I almost despaired of picking just one. One directed that bacon be placed over the top. Another directed that the top be brushed with egg. My favorite recipe contains two hard boiled eggs in the loaf so that each portion would contain a slice of egg. This recipe was the most basic.

Meat Loaf

Take any raw meat, beef, veal, or ham and veal mixed, or any ends of steak or bits of lamb; put through the meat-chopper till you have three cupfuls. Add a cup of fine bread crumbs, a beaten egg, salt and pepper, and a little bit of onion; put in a bread pan and bake, basting often with hot water mixed with butter. Serve with brown gravy or tomato sauce.

Appropriately, the final recipe is for a favorite dessert from a mid 20th-century Mennonite cookbook. A few years ago the subject of pie toppings came up. The usual suspects were mentioned such as whipped cream, custard, and ice cream. Somebody mentioned cheese on apple pie and half the group said, “Ahhhh,” and the other half groaned in disbelief. It is a regional thing and the traditional way to eat apple pie in Yorkshire with either Wensleydale or cheddar.

Apple Crumb Pie

6 tart apples
¾ cup flour
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 cup butter
Pastry for on 9 inch shell

Pare apples and cut into eighths; mix ½ cup sugar and cinnamon together and sprinkle over apples; put apple mixture into unbaked pastry shell; combine remaining sugar and flour. Add butter and rub together until crumbs are formed; sprinkle fine crumbs over apples; bake at 425ₒ for 10 minutes and then reduce temperature to 350ₒ; bake 35 minutes longer. Reheat just before serving; delicious when served with cheese.

Frontispiece of Estelle Woods Wilcox, comp., The New Dixie Cook-Book: Carefully Compiled from the Treasured Family Collections of Many Generations of Noted Housekeepers…. Revised and enlarged edition. Atlanta: Dixie Cook-Book Publishing Co.; L. A. Clarkson & Co., 1893, 1889.

Frontispiece of Estelle Woods Wilcox, comp., The New Dixie Cook-Book: Carefully Compiled from the Treasured Family Collections of Many Generations of Noted Housekeepers…. Revised and enlarged edition. Atlanta: Dixie Cook-Book Publishing Co.; L. A. Clarkson & Co., 1893, 1889.

Shelley Kresan is a rare book cataloger in The Huntington’s technical services department.

2 thoughts on “COOKBOOK COLLECTION | Bring On the Comfort Food, Part 2

  1. I envy you going thorough all of these cookbooks. I’m going to try the fried chicken without the lard. I don’t think I could find lard at the market. Thanks for your two articles.

  2. You are very welcome. I don’t know your location, but if you ever did want to experiment with lard (a must in tamale making and to some a must for the best pie crust) you can find it in Hispanic markets in Southern California.

    Enjoy the chicken!

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