9 Vintage Recipes That Will Make You Glad You Live in Modern Times

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As I was researching vintage Easter recipes, I came across some amazing Pinterest boards filled with examples of truly tasteless dishes from the 1950s and 1960s. I just had to share some of my favorites. Don’t worry, I won’t try making any of these–unless  you really, really want me to. Actually, this would be a great theme for a dinner party!

Clean your frig out... throw all the leftovers into some jello. I'm sure nothing can go wrong.

Clean your frig out… throw all the leftovers into some jello. I’m sure nothing can go wrong.

This looks so wrong. I'm speechless.

This looks so wrong. I’m speechless.

He's freaky and how the heck do you cut and serve this guy?  Also, is anyone else weirded out by the fact that the narrative is first person?

He’s freaky and how the heck do you cut and serve this guy? Also, is anyone else weirded out by the fact that the narrative is first person?

Well, my kids might actually eat Cream of Wheat if I did this.  I feel like this is what happens after mom wakes up with a hangover.

Well, my kids might actually eat Cream of Wheat if I did this. I feel like this is what happens after mom wakes up with a hangover.

The disgusting predecessor of chicken and waffles.

The disgusting predecessor of chicken and waffles.

Nothing says holiday dessert like a bleeding cake.

Nothing says holiday dessert like a bleeding cake.

No. Words.

No. Words.

Well, if it's digestible, then why not?

Well, if it’s digestible, then why not?

We close with this culinary mash-up nightmare.

We close with this culinary mash-up nightmare.

New recipes are coming soon. They won’t be disgusting, I promise.

Lemon Chess Pie

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I love pie. I love all kinds of pie. I even like the word “pie.” It sounds comforting, solid, delicious, predictable.  I love pie in all seasons and for all occasions.

A co-worker of mine recently left the job and to wish her well, I made this version of a chess pie from the cookbook Vintage Pies: Classic American Pies for Today’s Home Baker by Anne Collins. It’s a new book, published in 2014, but it contains many classic pie recipes without fussiness or adornment, along with a brief history of some recipes.

Linda Stradley of the What’s Cooking America website says chess pie can trace its roots back to the 1700s and Martha Washington’s Book of Cookery, which contains a recipe for a cheese-less cheesecake (what?!) that looks very much like a chess pie-a simple concoction of eggs, sugar, butter, flour, and flavoring. Since the words “cheese” and “chess” are similar, we may infur that the chess pie got its name when someone mispronounced the word “cheese.”

In any case, if you’ve never made a pie or you haven’t had much luck with fruit pies (as is the case for me!), a chess pie is an easy, delicious dessert that serves well for any occasion.

Chess pie

Chess pie

Ingredients

One unbaked pie crust
One medium lemon or 1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup salted butter
3 large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons yellow cornmeal

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Juice the lemon, measuring out 1/2 cup.

In a small saucepan, melt the butter. In a medicum bowl, whisk the eggs until they are light in color. Add the sugar, the butter, the cornmeal and the lemon juice and stir the ingredients until they are just combined.

Pour the filling into a pie crust.

Place the pie in the oven and bake until the filling is set in the middle, about 35-40 minutes.

Chess Pie

Chess Pie

Enjoy!

Julia Child’s Filets de Poisson Bercy aux Champignons (Fish Filets Poached in White Wine with Mushrooms)

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Julia Child's Fish Poached in White Wine Sauce

Julia Child’s Fish Poached in White Wine Sauce

It’s been too long since I’ve done any Julia Child recipes. I had a few hours on a Sunday afternoon and a desire to cook up some fish that we brought back from our vacation to the Outer Banks. The filets were tilefish–meaty and mild, and they were well-protected in their freezer wrap but still, after a few months, you need to dress them up a bit.

Julia, with her penchant for wine, butter, and cheese, had just the solution. This was a relatively easy dinner from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and was just fancy enough to be special without being too pretentious.

Ingredients

12 ounces of fresh white mushrooms, cleaned, patted dry and sliced
5 tablespoons butter, divided
1/8 teaspoon salt
Pinch of pepper
2 1/2 pounds filet of sole, flounder, or tilefish
2 tablespoons finely minced shallots or green onions
1/2 cup water
1 cup white wine
2 1/2 tablespoons flour
3/4 cup milk or heavy cream
1/4 cup grated cheese

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a skillet. Toss the mushrooms in the butter over moderately high heat for a minute or two without browning. Season with a bit of salt and pepper and set aside.

Sprinkle half the onions along the bottom of a buttered dish that can be used on both the stovetop and oven (I have a cast-iron dutch oven). Season the filets with the salt and pepper and lay them across the onions in one slightly overlapping layer. Sprinkle the remaining onions or shallots over the fish, then add the mushrooms, and finally the water and white wine. Bring the dish to simmer on the stove.

Spray a piece of parchment cut to size on one side and lay it over the fish.
Place the dish into the oven and cook until just barely done, 8-12 minutes, depending on the thickness of the filets. You’ll know it’s ready when a fork can easily pierce the skin of the fish but don’t let it get dry and flaky. Take the dish out and drain all the cooking liquid into a saucepan. Set the fish, still inside the dutch oven, aside, covered.

Preheat the oven’s broiler. Meanwhile, bring the cooking liquid to a rapid boil and boil it down until it has reduced to one cup. Take it off the heat. Meanwhile, soften the remaining three tablespoons of butter and beat it into the flour to form a paste. Beat that paste into the boiling, reduced cooking liquid, then mix in 1/2 cup of milk or cream. Bring that mixture to a boil. Thin the sauce with additional tabelspoons of milk or cream until it coats the spoon nicely. Season to taste and spoon it over the fish.

Cover the fish with the cheese. Place the whole cooking dish back until the oven, under the broiler for 2-3 minutes, just long enough to melt the cheese and reheat the fish. Serve as soon as possible.

Enjoy!

The Night Before Christmas Movie, ca. 1905.

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nightbeforeMerry Christmas readers! Thank you for following Bite from the Past this year. Here’s to more vintage recipe exploration!

My gift to you is this awesome film which popped up in my Facebook feed today. It’s from 1905, titled “The Night Before Christmas.”  It’s so much fun to watch! Be sure to check out the fantastic tree and the beautiful clothing.

Be sure to subscribe to the blog for all the great recipes to come in 2015 and follow me on Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest for more fun.

Happy 2015!

Burnt Sugar Cake, ca. 1917

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Confession: I made this cake because 1.) I had literally 1.5 hours until I had to leave for a serious round of holiday parties and 2.) burnt sugar is in the title. How could I resist?

When I’m in need of something unusual, I turn to one of my Local 12 parting gifts-a fantastic cookbook called A Thousand Ways to Please a Husband; The Romance of Cookery and Housekeeping. That’s right ladies… cooking and housekeeping are romantic. Published in 1917, it tells the story of Bettina and Bob’s first year of marriage through a series of special events and the meals that Bettina cooks. (Also found in this cookbook was this Deviled Eggs recipe which was divine. No kidding.)

Cupid in a chef's hat.  That's awesome.

Cupid in a chef’s hat. That’s awesome.

This is fast cake with a mild taste. Turns out that one of the guests at one of the parties I attended that night remembers this cake from her childhood. Her mother baked it for her every birthday. I love when food leads to memories like that, don’t you?

Burnt sugar cake.

Burnt sugar cake.

Ingredients
1 1/2 cup granulated sugar, divided
1 cup boiling water
1/2 cup butter
2 eggs, separated
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla

Instructions

Pour 2/3 cup of the sugar into a non-stick skillet and heat over medium, stirring constantly, until the sugar melts into an amber-colored liquid and there are no lumps. Add the boiling water and stir thoroughly. Set aside and allow to cool.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and spray two full size loaf pans with cooking spray.

Beat the egg whites thoroughly.

With an electric mixer, cream the butter. Add the remaining sugar and egg yolks and mix thoroughly.

Next, add the salt, flour, baking powder, vanilla, and the cooled sugar liquid. Beat two minutes. Fold in the beaten eggs whites.

Pour the mixture evenly between the two loaf pans and bake at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Mmm... cake!

Mmm… cake!

Allow to cool and top with drizzles of icing of your choice!

Enjoy!

Creamy Fudge, ca. 1955

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Creamy fudge

‘Tis the season for sugar comas!

Seriously, if you have to bring one treat to any party or gathering this year, the easiest thing to make is fudge. It’s foul-proof and everyone loves it. I NEVER bring home leftovers.

This is a fabulously easy and creamy version found in a fun cookbook lent to me by a friend. The Better Homes and Gardens Junior Cook Book for the Hostess and Host of Tomorrow has a fabulously 50s cover (hot dogs and cake, anyone?) and some pretty awesome photos.

Back when the dinner bell was used...

Back when the dinner bell was used…

I love how this boy is getting ready to enjoy his hot dog while wearing a tie.

I love how this boy is getting ready to enjoy his hot dog while wearing a tie.

Because kids everywhere flip over stuffed dates...

Because kids everywhere flip over stuffed dates…

And just in case the box isn't clear enough, here is the recipe for making boxed macaroni and cheese!

And just in case the box isn’t clear enough, here is the recipe for making boxed macaroni and cheese!

All kitsch aside, I think you’ll really find this recipe useful. There’s no candy thermometer involved!

Creamy fudge

Ingredients
Five one-ounce squares of unsweetened chocolate
One eight-ounce package of cream cheese, softened
Four cups of powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Dash salt
1/cup chopped toasted walnuts (optional)

Instructions
Grease an 8-inch square pan.

Using a mixer, whip the cream cheese until smooth and soft. Sift powdered sugar and salt together and slowly add to cream cheese until well blended.

Place your chocolate in a microwave safe dish and microwave in one minute intervals at 50 percent power, stirring between each round, until the chocolate is melted.

Add melted chocolate to cream cheese mixture. Mix thoroughly. Add vanilla and nuts and mix again.

Pour mixture into the pan. Chill until firm, about two hours. Cut into squares-top with another walnut if you like. Enjoy!

Pumpkin Cake, ca. 1948

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Check out other vintage holiday recipes here!

Thanksgiving is coming. We’re already more than halfway through November and we’re in the midst of prime pumpkin-everything season. Are you sick of it yet? Me neither.

Easy to mix it all up...

Easy to mix it all up…

And while I love a good pumpkin pie with a hefty topping of whipped cream, sometimes it’s good to mix it up a bit, don’t you agree?

Beautiful straight out of the oven

Beautiful straight out of the oven

I found this easy recipe from a 1948 ad for a brand of shortening called Dexo. (that sounds appetizing, isn’t it?) I used Crisco.

The Dexo pumpkin cake recipe

The Dexo pumpkin cake recipe

 

A happy eater!

A happy eater!

It was really easy. I made this for a cookout we attended and it was loved by everyone, even Grace.

The recipe was for layer cake but I baked mine in my Bundt pan, increasing the bake time by 10 minutes. If you do it in layers, bake for only 35 minutes.

Ingredients
2/3 cup shortening
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice OR 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg or mace, 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger, and 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 cup milk, divided
1 cup canned pumpkin
2 eggs, beaten

Instructions
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Measure vegetable shortening into bowl. Sift flour with baking powder, salt, sugar and spices onto vegetable shortening. Add 1/2 cup milk and pumpkin. Beat with mixer 1 minute.
Add remaining milk and eggs. Beat 2 minutes with mixer. Scrape bowl often during beating.
Pour mixture into greased and floured bundt pan and bake for about 45 minutes. Allow cake to cool completely before removing from pan. Frost and serve! (For an easy drizzle of frosting on any bundt cake, buy canned frosting. Put two tablespoons in a microwaveable bowl and microwave on half power for about one minute until melted. Drizzle and allow to set!)

pumpkin

Enjoy and HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

Peach Pie, ca. 1840

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I went to the Farmer’s Market and I saw a sign. “Last peaches of the season!” And I was suddenly seized with the irrestible desire for peach pie.

pie

Why wax poetic about peaches? They have a unique ability to keep some of the best parts of Indian summer– the sun, the heat, the laziness of the days–trapped in their skin and transferred to your tongue in juicy, succulent bites. Colonial cooks loved to preserve the fruit in brandy and bring it out as an accompaniment to meat during the holidays… a little taste of summer in the dead of winter. Peaches are a sign that cold days are only temporary.

My search for a vintage peach pie seemed to be quite difficult at first. I had a hard time finding a recipe in my current store of cookbooks. However, I did find a “recipe” in Directions for Cookery and Its Various Branches published by Eliza Leslie in 1840. I put “recipe” in quotations because in my opinion, a plain peach pie is one of the easiest fruit pies to make. You need two crusts, some peaches, some sugar and flour and an oven.

I especially loved this pie because it’s the first fruit pie I’ve made in a long time that wasn’t runny!! Eliza Leslie suggests you serve it cream whipped with sugar or cold boiled custard. In other words, ala mode with ice cream!

The beautiful peaches blanched, peeled and chunked. It's hard for me to make fruit pie. I'd almost rather eat the fruit as is!

The beautiful peaches blanched, peeled and chunked. It’s hard for me to make fruit pie. I’d almost rather eat the fruit as is!

Really, making a fruit pie is super easy and quick. No wonder it was a favorite in vintage kitchens.

Really, making a fruit pie is super easy and quick. No wonder it was a favorite in vintage kitchens.

Ingredients
Two pie crusts
5 large peaches
1 1/2 tablespoon flour
3 tablespoons sugar

Instructions
Place first pie crust in your pan. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Prepare an ice bath.
Boil a small pot of water. Cut an “x” in the top of the peaches with a knife. Drop peaches, one at a time, into the water for about 2 minutes or until the skin is just starting to get slippery. Transfer peach to ice bath and proceed with boiling the next peach until all have been dipped in the boiling water. The skins should slip off easily in the ice bath.

Cut each peach in half and remove the pit. Then cut the peaches into chunks and transfer to a medium bowl.
Mix peaches with the flour and sugar. Spoon mixture into the pie crust. Place the second pie crust on top. (I tried cutting it onto slices and braiding it).

Seal the pie and vent if you are using the whole crust on top.

Bake in the preheated oven for about 45 minutes or until the insides are bubbly and the crust is golden brown.
Enjoy!

Depression-era Blueberry Pudding

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Blueberry Pudding

A librarian friend of mine recently came across a cookbook in our collection that she felt I had to know about! It is The World’s Modern Cook Book and Kitchen Guide for the Busy Woman by Mabel Claire, published in 1932. It’s got beautiful typeset that makes you want to bob your hair, grab your heels and gloves, and hop a train into the city.

Mabel Claire's cookbook. I love that typeset.

Mabel Claire’s cookbook. I love that typeset.

But a close look through the recipes reveals less than glamorous times for American housewives, who struggled to stretch food dollars in the midst of one of the greatest economic calamities of our country’s history. The book is full of recipes for casseroles, potluck desserts, and dishes made with cheap commodities like eggs, oats, and noodles. I wonder if the women who cooked from it thought, as I do, that it does a good job of making frugal cooking look fancy.

The batter is much like muffin batter.

The batter is much like muffin batter.

I began with this lovely blueberry pudding. It has relatively few ingredients and an elegant presentation. And it was delicious… there were no leftovers. If you have some ramekins, this would be an easy dish for company, especially for lunch or brunch. Plus it’s a steamed dessert (why are we modern cooks so fixated on baking everything??) so that makes for a great conversation starter!

It's hard to see because my casserole dish is white, but these are the ramekins in the water ready for steaming.

It’s hard to see because my casserole dish is white, but these are the ramekins in the water ready for steaming.

Blueberry Pudding

Ingredients
One egg, beaten
½ cup sugar
4 tbs. butter plus ½ cup butter
½ cup milk
1 cup flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 cup blueberries
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla

Instructions
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Place a kettle of water to boil on the stove and find the largest casserole dish you have-test to see if 4-5 ramekins will fit inside.

Cream together the 4 tablespoons of butter and sugar in a mixing bowl. Add the egg, flour and milk alternately and mix until combined.
Add the baking powder and stir until combined.
Stir the blueberries carefully into the mixture with a rubber spatula. Pour into individual ramekin’s which have been prepped with cooking spray. (My batch filled four 6-ounce ramekins).

Pour the boiling water into the casserole dish until there is about an inch or so of water in the bottom. Carefully place the ramekins inside the casserole dish. Cover the whole thing with a sheet of foil and place in the oven for about half an hour or until a toothpick stuck into the middle of one of the pudding cups comes out clean.

While the pudding is steaming, make a hard sauce by creaming the rest of the butter. Then gradually beat in the powdered sugar. Stir in the vanilla.

Serve room temperature with hard sauce and a few blueberries for garnish.

Judy Garland’s 5 Minute French Dressing

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Publicity photo from "Love Finds Andy Hardy", released in 1938.

Publicity photo from “Love Finds Andy Hardy”, released in 1938.

I will never buy salad dressing again.

I saw a post on the PBS Food Facebook page recently about a book called “What Actors Eat When They Eat” (hilarious title!) by Rex Lease and Kenneth Harlan. Published in 1939, the book contains the favorite recipes of more than 100 of the biggest actors and actresses at the time.  It also features publicity photos (including a now-shocking shot of Al Jolson in black face), bios listing the actors birth date (no year for most of the women), height, weight (!), and the studio they were contracted with, and funny notes about the food. It is really interesting and I’ve highlighted two more recipes I hope to create and share with you before I have to return the book to the library.

Love that 1930s typeset!

Love that 1930s typeset!

I decided to try this French Dressing recipe submitted for the book by Judy Garland. It looked really easy, I had a hankering for salad, and I loved the page dedicated to her. Wizard of Oz was released in 1939, but it’s clear this book was compiled the year before, as her bio lists her latest movie as Listen Darlin’.

Judy's page from "What Actors Eat When They Eat."

Judy’s page from “What Actors Eat When They Eat.”

Judy instructs the cook to mix the dressing into the salad using your hands, to ensure that all the lettuce is coated evenly! She ends by saying, “Then you eat it and you’ll say it tastes swell. And mother says it’s very healthy too.”

I used smoked paprika and it was beyond swell… like I said, I don’t think I’ll ever buy dressing again.

It's got a beautiful color.

It’s got a beautiful color.

Ingredients
1/2 cup olive oil
4 tablespoons vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 close garlic, minced
1 teaspoon sugar

Instructions
Put all the ingredients into a salad bottle and shake! Enjoy!

Judy Garland's French Dressing is good on any salad!

Judy Garland’s French Dressing is good on any salad!

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