Saturday, October 08, 2016

More On Picnicking, Vintage Style

We've got another picnic coming up. This one is in conjunction with an apple picking expedition. We pick apples every year, just the two of us, but I know this group is good fun and good company, so we're in. The place we're headed doesn't seem to grow heritage apples, so we'll be making a trip somewhere else on another day to pick up Rhode Island Greenings.

What am I covering this time? Food.

In detail, that is. With an apple picking theme, apples will figure in my menu plans. Here are some of my ideas so far: spicy pork & apple hand pies; pumpkin soup or pumpkin chili; orange-cocoa tea cakes; maybe an apple cake or torte. I make a mean apple pie, but it looks like other people will have that covered, so I'm choosing different things. Another idea is apple marmalade over cream cheese, to be spread on crackers.

Cookies are a picnicking staple. In keeping with the fall theme, crunchy, spicy molasses cookies would be ideal.

For drinks...water, and maybe a whisky cocktail of some kind. There will be cider at the orchards, if we care to buy some.

If you search the blog you'll find pumpkin soup and pumpkin chili recipes and ideas. A word to the wise: if you like a very savory pumpkin taste, allow quite a lot of time for cooking and mellowing of flavors. Vinegars, lemon juice and Worcester sauce are your friends.

As for the pies, cream cheese pastry always answers--I like the one from the New York Times Cookbook. For the filling, cook ground pork with minced onion, cumin, a dash of cinnamon, black pepper, and red pepper flakes; for additional heat, add a few dashes of Tabasco. Deglaze the pan with cider and cook down till the mixture is nearly dry. Allow this to cool before using in the pastry.

Layer this with thin slices of tart, firm apple and very thin slices of onion.

I am also playing with the idea of making a version of a raised pie, complete with jelly added in at the end. That will probably require a hot water pastry--I'll get a recipe from one of my British cookery books.

I haven't yet decided on what to wear but it will be casual, and plaid and wool will certainly play a part. I have great 1940s reproduction dungarees which I might wear, and green and white saddle shoes.

The other thing to remember is some sturdy (empty) baskets--we're bound to find a good farmstand or two, in addition to what's on offer at the orchard's stores.

Thursday, October 06, 2016

1928 Orange Cake / 2016 Orange-Cocoa Cake

Twice in two days! (The world isn't ending, don't least, I hope it's not.)

I made this yesterday.

...because on the weekend, my husband and I went to a favorite antiques shop, and I found the cookbook pictured above (and below).

I collect old cookbooks, in original and facsimile editions, from about 1650 to 1950, though most fall into the 1900 - 1939 category. I use them, too, though you do need to be aware of changes. For example, what in the world does a gill measure? (Half a cup.)
This book was published in 1928, and in 1928, double acting baking powder was around, but not the default leavening agent for quick breads. One could make baking powder at home, with baking soda and cream of tartar, and many people did.

Single acting baking powder starts to rise when it gets wet. Double acting baking powder starts (for the first time) when it's wetted, and begins to rise again when exposed to heat. According to some sources, the amount of rise is the same with both versions of baking powder.

From my own experience, I can say that it is not; if you're using double acting baking powder on an older (1920s or 30s...maybe even 40s), you're liable to end up with something that rises too fast once in the oven, and cracks as a result; in fact, it's possible that it will even fall after the quick rise, as the structure isn't yet hardened enough by cooking to uphold its new height.
I have a "feather cocoanut cake" recipe that I've perfected from a 1930s cookbook that took three or four tries to get right. One thing I did was to change from liquid fat to solid fat, and cream it, but even more importantly, I decreased the amount of baking powder.

I got lazy with this cake...and yes, it rose too fast, and cracked. Hence the flat top...because I turned it over. Which works, within reason!
Here is the original recipe--I'll post the changes I made after this.
Orange Cake
2/3 c. Crisco
1 1/2 c. sugar
3 eggs
3 cups flour
3 t. baking powder
1 t. salt
3/4 c. orange juice
1/4 c. water
Cream Crisco and sugar together. Add well-beaten eggs and mix well.  Mix and sift flour, baking powder and salt and add alternately with the combined orange juice and water to the first mixture.  Beat thoroughly. Pour into 3 greased layer cake pans and bake in a hot oven (400 degrees F) 20 to 25 minutes. Cool.
I only had one orange, which meant I had about 1/4 c. orange juice. I did have orange flavoring, and also some good cocoa on hand. Besides, I love orange and cocoa together.
I used 2 3/4 flour, and 1/4 c. cocoa; 3/4 c. water, and 1/4 c. orange juice; 1/8 t. orange flavoring, and 1 tbl. freshly minced orange peel. And, as is usual, I decreased the amount of salt to about 1/4 t.
This makes a fine, velvety cake. It has a pronounced chocolate flavor, because there is no dairy to interfere with the development of the chocolate taste--water will always give you a richer flavor. It is very tender, as well.
The glaze on top is made as follows:
Bittersweet Chocolate-Orange Glaze
2 oz. bittersweet chocolate
2 tbl. Cointreau
2 1/2 tbl. unsalted butter
Melt together over very low heat, stirring constantly. Pour over cooled cake and swirl over top. Dust center of cake with finely minced fresh orange zest.
I did make the full recipe and used the rest of the batter to make four cupcakes and 12 small teacakes, all now in the freezer for teas and picnics of the future. 

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Vintage Picnics: An Art Deco Guide

I know. It's been an age. Several, in fact--I haven't posted in more than a year.

However...we've had a lovely time in the past year or so, vintage-wise. We are now firmly part of the Greater Boston Vintage Society (GVBS), after meeting up for the first time for a Tweed Ramble, last October.

One of the nicest things about our this group is the predilection we have for picnics. We have them in the spring, summer, and fall. So far...who knows, maybe a winter picnic is next! (Though you probably won't catch me ice skating or skiing.)

My husband and I love this kind of thing. We've been collecting wicker baskets and the proper fittings, recipes to fill them, and the clothing to wear for years...this year we've been to Gatsby picnics, mostly, because of the summer, but I enjoy the fall outings, too.

Some of these photos will give you an idea of what sorts of things we drag along to have these events. Oddly, I can't find any from our Gatsby event at the Crane Estate, but I suppose they're all on Facebook.
What kinds of things do we bring to eat and drink? Well, if it's a private area, alcohol is fine; in that case, Champagne trumps the rest, and a flask or two is usually around, to add to lemonade or punch.
We also like soda water, sparkling fruit juices, and good old water. (It's often a good idea to put a bottle of frozen water in your basket, to keep things cool. When it thaws you have a bottle of chilled water.)
For food, I often make hand pies, either savory or sweet. Examples: cheese and ham; apple; spicy pork and apple; get the idea. My favorite pasty is cream cheese pastry--it's very easy to work, it's good cold, it's rich and also flaky and tender.
We usually bring some kind of fresh fruit, whatever happens to be in season.

I make cookies (or, if you're British, biscuits). Lavender shortbread, rose biscuits, molasses cookies; anything that will travel well and doesn't have a sticky topping works well.
Salads can be good, but do stay away from mayonnaise or anything else that must stay cold for safety's sake. A good German coleslaw is wonderful (vinegar dressing).
Yes, we bring tea sandwiches. Some favorites: liverwurst, onion and cream cheese; spicy peanut butter, cream cheese and hot pepper; cucumber/butter; onion; butter/radish.
Cakes are a nice addition. I usually bring something like a chocolate zucchini cake, fruitcake, or a Devonshire cake (like a light fruitcake, but flavored with rosewater rather than vanilla). If it's sturdy and doesn't have a sticky icing it will probably travel well.
There are plenty more things you can bring, but I do suggest you consider how anything you pack will travel.

Collect pretty tins; they are a wonderful way to transport things, and they look good as well. I usually bring a tin of candied orange peel, as it's something I always have on hand, and it travels well. You can find tins in thrift shops (charity shops, op shops), and the wicker as well. Believe it or now, a couple of months ago I found a small Fortnum and Mason picnic hamper! And not in the UK; I found it here, in Rhode Island. Keep your eyes open...I promise you, if you do, you'll find the treasures. They're out there.

We are going on an autumn picnic in about a week and a half; I am thinking of making molasses cookies and savory hand pies...also chili (if I can find enough Thermoses to carry it). Probably hot cider as well, and bread-and-butter sandwiches.

You probably have a good idea now, even if you've never gone on a vintage picnic. A few more notes: you'll need a decently sized blanket (preferably wool); a tarp or other waterproof item to place under your blanket, if you like; parasols or umbrellas for wandering around without acquiring sunburns; knitting or magazines for amusing yourself (or for sharing with others); a camera or the phone app on your camera, because you will want pictures!; and a good weather forecast.
Don't forget to dress for the occasion!

Friday, April 17, 2015

Cooking with Gas

I know I barely post these days, but this time I have a pretty decent excuse; I am finally back to work on my cookbook, and the first rough draft is shaping up.

It would be terrific to get it published properly, by a brick-and-mortar house, but if not I will still have a vanity press edition made up.

I expect the testing phase will take a long time, especially as friends and acquaintances in the UK and Europe have requested that I include weight and metric measurements. Luckily, a few people have volunteered to help with the testing; I won't have to do all of it.

Knitting is still happening--here's some proof:

I'm working on an Acadian Shawl (sideways knit, with a simple diamond lace border), and have plans for a late 30s cardigan with simple Fair Isle, and even have my eye on a lace cardi in the most recent edition of Vogue Knitting.

In other news, spring is finally here, and the snow is GONE. The garden is rather confused, but it's game. We'll see what happens. My husband and I had also wanted to have a straw bale garden this year, but the winter was so bad that there are no straw bales to be had anywhere. We do have a galvanized trough to use for some container gardening, but it will only fit two small crops. Tomatoes and zucchini, I expect--we know we'll use those (in this house there's no such thing as too much zucchini, as I use it for our favorite pickles).

Happy spring to you, too (or fall, if you're on the other side of the world).

Saturday, September 27, 2014

A Productive Summer

It's been a busy summer. I didn't do a lot of canning last year, and this year I suspect I've made up for that, even though I'm not finished yet.

So far this year: sweet pickled cherries, sour pickled cauliflower, sour cherry-peach marmalade, black cherry-whiskey jam, sweet cherry-jalapeno chutney, peach salsa, pumpkin pickles, plum jam, white currant jam, dilly wax beans, crabapple jelly.

On the way: beach plum gin, cherry bounce, juniper berry sauerkraut.

Lots of knitting, too. I've made simple shawls for DH's aunts, am finished a February Lady Sweater for my MiL, a cotton scarf for my sister, hats for one of my MI nephews and for a local friend. Still need to make a hat for a new BiL, and maybe a couple of small things for other people.

Here's some good news: if your batch of jam or jelly doesn't set, don't re-make it with commercial pectin (that involves quite a lot of extra sugar). I made my sour cherry-peach jam into marmalade with the addition of lots of lemons, and my black cherry-whiskey jam set beautifully when I added the pulp left over from making crabapple jelly. No extra sugar or off texture.

We haven't gone apple picking yet, though I found some lovely Macoun and RI Greening apples at the farmers market today, as well as some zucchini, so that I can make spicy zucchini pickles.

When we do go apple picking I'll make applesauce and apple marmalade. I also want to make cranberry catsup again--we went through that fast last year.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Yes, it's been a VERY long time. Sorry.

Life happened. As it does. One lovely thing--we went to London again. I went everywhere via the Tube, did some antiquing, and we even dined at Simpsons-in-the-Strand, which, whatever you've heard, isn't on the outs just yet. Try the breast of wood pigeon, if you don't believe me.

On the other hand, my mother died in April. My mother was wonderful. Gracious, kind, intelligent, decent, funny...and my mother. Both of my parents in one; my father died when I was a toddler and my sister was an infant.

I'm no toddler now, and neither is my sister. Mom was 74 when she died. But nothing--even longterm illness--really prepares you for losing your only living parent. My sister and I were there when she died. I was holding her hand. But at the moment, it feels like it will hurt forever. So far not a day has gone by without me thinking, "I need to tell Mom...."

We were lucky. Very, very lucky to have such a parent, and very lucky to have had her not only through childhood, but into middle age.

My sister and I sorted through the things she left. It wasn't a terribly long task; Mom sold her house 10 years ago and went to live with my sister, so we sorted through a few things left in a room. But I took the bulk of the photos, including some that had belonged to my father.

Here are a few of the pictures I brought home.

Joan Minckler, 1956

The Minckler Family, ca. 1944

John (Johnny) and Joan Minckler, ca. 1940

Tech Sgt. Richard (Rick) F. Forster, ca. 1942?

Margaret (Meg) and Eileen Forster, ca. 1969