Recipes That Didn’t Age Well

This post is part of the series, “The History in My Grandmother’s Recipe Boxes“.  The series includes some timeless classics.  Some, however, are better markers of the past.

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With dubious distinction, this recipe wins on the first line alone, calling for a pig’s head with ears and brains removed!  It’s like someone requesting “wet work” in Pulp Fiction!  Then it actually uses the word “sloppy” in the recipe.  I’m sorry, you’re already starting with a pig’s head, the word “sloppy” just drives home the unsavory nature of this dish.

Head Cheese–in this case Hog’s Head Cheese–is a relatively common dish from the recent past.  It could take the form of a cold-cut like an olive loaf, but more often was a terrine, more like paté.  Anthony Bourdain (a favorite food and travel writer of mine) once said if people didn’t know what was in the Scottish dish Haggis it would be the second most popular sausage in America.  Be that as it may, I now know what’s in Hog’s Head Cheese and will definitely not be recreating it at home!

The thing is, I’m an adventurous eater and if served a sausage in a restaurant, I’m not going to trifle over where on the pig it came from; but this!  I mean, “pick out the bones and skin”?!?!  The recipe says, “It will be ready for use as soon as it is cold”  Cold in Hell maybe!

What really surprises me is that someone from Woburn, MA with the initials “M.E.J” actually wrote in to the paper asking for this recipe!  Did they say, “I’ve got a hog’s head and I don’t know what to do with it?”

I’m sure there are people who insist this was actually good back in the day and you can’t get good Hog’s Head Cheese now, but I am personally glad you can’t get this now!

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Seriously, back in 1935 someone wrote to a newspaper with a recipe for “hot dog stew”!  They didn’t even have the pride to put their own name on it, just, “Tillie’s Neighbor”.  They also offer the helpful portion advice that it could be halved if too much.

I can only hope that this is more reflective of the Great Depression than it is of the culinary state of the union in 1935.  Apparently my grandmother tried it and like it, actually making a note that it was “good”.  Hot dogs with fried onions, canned tomatoes and peas does not a “Frankfurt Luncheon Dish” make.

IMG_2530This one calls for boiling hot dogs, then skinning and grinding them!  You couldn’t already get ground hot dogs in a can in 1943?  Isn’t that what “Deviled Ham” was?  This got mixed with cracker crumbs, tomato soup, and an egg and baked for an hour.  An HOUR!  I’m half inclined to make this just to see how it comes out.  It seems like an hour in the oven would turn it into some sort of adobe block.

My grandmother has lots of good recipes in her files and many, like the Meatloaf Taste Test evolved through the years into modern classics.  These, however, are a few that will be left in the 1930’s and 40’s.

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Meatloaf Through the Years – A Taste Test

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This recipe calls for you to take a piece of pork and a piece of beef and grind them together. That recipe would lose most of today’s home cooks right there on the first ingredient!

This post is part of the series, “The History in My Grandmother’s Recipe Boxes“.  It is not so much about the food and recipes as it is about the history and commentary on the times.  There are, however, some great recipes!

The Meat section of Gram’s recipe boxes contains more meatloaf recipes than any other item.  Meatballs was a close second.  There has to be at least a dozen recipes, spanning from the 1930’s to the 1990’s.  Some came from newspaper clippings, some from friends and one peculiar mystery that appears to come from my Aunt Mary but someone crossed out Mary’s name and wrote that it was from her sister, Pat.  I’ll get to the bottom of that one.

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This handwritten recipe–from the apple-flavored category–was initially credited to my Aunt Mary but her name was crossed out and Aunt Pat’s was written in. It could have been an honest correction, Aunt Pat was not one to take credit for someone else’s work; but, one cannot rule out the work of a mischievous brother (my father) trying to make trouble!

I laid all the meatloaf recipes out on the counter and reviewed the differences.  There were a few items they all had in common.  All called for an onion, at least one egg, salt and pepper and of course meat.

There was also a few item types common to all with variations in what was used.  For example, all called for some sort of breading–usually breadcrumbs–but variations included cracker crumbs, oatmeal, and rice.

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I would create three representative meat loaves of each style and host a blind taste test for family and friends.

I put each recipe in one of three categories.  One was meatloaf at its most basic, almost generic version.  Most of these recipes had the title “Savory Meat Loaf”.

There were a number of recipes with variation in breading, flavoring, and additional ingredients.  I made a representative composite of these.

Finally, there were several versions that used apples or applesauce as a flavoring and that inclusion of the sweetness from apples intrigued me so that became a separate category.

I would create a meatloaf from each category and serve up a  blind taste test to my family and a couple neighbors.

The magic of Gram’s recipes:  The results were not only interesting but fun.  There was spirited debate on favorites, stories told, guessing on ingredients, and lively conversation of the family-dinner-table-variety.  More than a solid meatloaf recipe, what I am finding in these boxes is some of the close-knit family bonds that we associate with the past.  If my grandmother had any idea that filing a meatloaf recipe from 1943 would generate a cheerful evening of enjoyment more than 70 years, she’d be ticked pink and would say, “Isn’t that grand!”

Catsup vs. Ketchup

All of the recipes that called for it referred to it as “catsup”.  Curious, I did a little research  (i.e., I googled it.)  I learned that both words are derived from a Chinese sauce called “ke-tsiap”.  Relieved to know there was no connection to cats, I had a suspicion that “ketchup” was a trade name created by Heinz; that is not the case.  In fact, the original Heinz sauce was called catsup and was later changed to ketchup.  Both words were used from the very beginning as an attempt to create an English word that sounded like the Chinese name.  Ultimately “ketchup” simply became the American preferred term but both are considered appropriate to this day.

So here are the three recipes and the comments and votes they received.

Meatloaf #1 – Basic Savory Meatloaf

This was the version that was most representative of the basic savory meatloaf.  The older the recipe the blander it was and the more reflective of how they didn’t have expensive, out-of-season, exotic ingredients readily available like we do today.

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Here’s to you Mrs. Robinson and your representative recipe for meatloaf of the 1940’s.

For my version I used cooked rice as described in the recipe above and I would not do that again.  It took away from the “meatloaf” quality and was too visible, making it look more like a casserole (another plentiful category in Gram’s files).  I did use the evaporated milk as the liquid, and the poultry seasoning as the flavoring.  It had a mixture of beef and pork, about 3 to 1.

This was the least favorite of the group and in my opinion it was a combination of flavor and texture.  The mixture was rather watery going into the oven and I suspect that caused it to steam more than roast.  The result was no browning or caramelization.  The lack of any other flavors made the poultry seasoning so pronounced that dinner guests were commenting that there was “too much sage”, and it was “too herbal in flavor”. It suggests to me a good reason why my grandmother was constantly seeking to update her meatloaf recipe.

Meatloaf #2 – Using Oatmeal for breading, and a mixture of beef and pork

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This recipe came from a friend named Odessa Gamache, a classic French Canadian name. It called for Quaker oats as the breading, as did several others. I was interested to see what effect that had.

The use of oats interested me and I wanted to see if it had a cereal flavor, or if the oats were recognizable in the meatloaf.  Neither of those happened.  The texture was really nice and this recipe was a close second to Meatloaf #3 in popularity.  I also used chopped green bell peppers in this one and they added a nice flavor element.  Additional flavor was added by ketchup and yellow mustard, humble ingredients but they made a difference.  This recipe had the exact same amount of poultry seasoning as #1 but it did not come through as strong, perhaps because of other flavor elements.

Here is the recipe I used.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 lb ground beef
  • 1/2 lb ground pork
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 rib celery, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 cup milk, scalded
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp poultry seasoning
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 1 Tbs yellow mustard

Scald the milk (that is, heat it just short of a boil) and pour it in a bowl over the cup of oats and let them cool.

Add all remaining ingredients, put in a greased loaf pan, and roast at 350° for 1 hour.

Meatloaf #3 – Using Apples as Flavoring

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Ironically, the one meatloaf recipe on Gram’s pig recipe cards did not call for pork!

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I love the warning at the end. The recipe uses an apple in the meatloaf so for God’s sake serve a non-apple dessert!

This recipe was representative enough of the category that I made it as written.  It was the favorite among almost all of my guests and had a great flavor.  The sugar in the apples created a caramelization that caused people to guess ingredients like teriyaki, Worcestershire, and barbecue sauce.  The meat is all beef, no pork and the texture was closer to a hamburger than the other two and less “loafy”.

It’s a fairly recent recipe, coming from 1988 and it shows.  None of the recipes from the 30’s and 40’s call for such powerful flavors like garlic, fresh parsley, and horseradish.  It also called for three eggs and no other liquid which I think had a lot to do with the texture.  The conclusion of the group was that this was “how meatloaf should taste”.  It was my personal favorite as well.  While the green bell peppers made for an attractive presentation they did not add discernible flavor.

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The recipe is attributed to Lib Andrews and I wondered if that was a friend or neighbor but I later found a newspaper clipping of a column called “Cooking with Lib” with this recipe.

I hope this motivates you to try your own perfect recipe to reflect what you grew up with or what flavors you appreciate.  Please be sure and let me know if you do!

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Tortiére – French Canadian Classic

This is the first post in a new series, “The History in My Grandmother’s Recipe Boxes

I grew up eating a lot of Polish food from my mother’s side of the family, and the food we ate from my father’s side of the family tended to be traditional New England dishes.  There was one, however, that my grandmother made around New Year’s Day that was pure French Canadian.  It is called Tortiére, although for some reason I remembered we called it “too-kay”.

As I have sifted through my grandmother’s recipes I decided this was the fitting recipe to begin this series.  The recipe is fairly simple, brown ground pork and beef and blend with baked potato.  Add allspice, cinnamon, and cloves and bake in a pie crust. The result, however, is a magical flavor and texture that evokes cold winter nights by the fire!

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Judging by the dog-eared edges, the revisions, and the actual food on the recipe card I suspect this was Gram’s go-to recipe for Tortiére

The recipes I found in my grandmother’s recipe files were all pretty similar, except for one thing.  Some were written in French!  Gram received a weekly French newspaper that was sent by mail.  It was published out of Woonsocket, RI and called L’Union.  I have mentioned the rich history of my grandmother and this is one small example.  As I researched this newspaper, I learned that there were numerous Franco-American newspapers all over New England as French Canadians immigrated.  L’Union came out of a fraternal organization called Union Saint-Jean-Baptiste or USJB, based out of Assumption College.  USJB was founded in 1900 for the purpose of teaching French culture and language to New England boys from French-speaking homes.

I found two recipes for Tortiére in clippings from L’Union.  Sadly, the clippings did not include the date.

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This French recipe is not radically different from my grandmother’s handwritten version but does add parsley, celery, and garlic.

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This version directed, “To those amateur chefs” calls for veal and the herb called savory (sariette).

The Recipe

I have not written this below as an exact recipe.  You have three versions above and many versions on the internet.  I do show, however, the technique for making it.  Take that and make it your own!

The Crust

In my pictures you will see the telltale aluminum foil pie plate that says I used store-bought pie crust.  I have a life to live and I make pie crust rarely enough that I can’t just bang one out in minutes, nor would it taste any better than the one I bought.  I will say, however, that this is one of those places where you can use beef fat in your pie crust.  Lard, beef suet, here’s your chance!

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For my version, I started by browning equal parts of ground beef and ground pork and added chopped onions, garlic, celery and carrots.  This is simmered for 20-30 minutes to let the spices mix in.  I used allspice, cinnamon, and ground cloves.

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The next step is to blend in baked potato (without skin).  You cannot really see the potato once it’s blended in, and this is not like Shepherd’s pie in that respect.  It does, however, create a velvety texture and is, in my opinion, the secret ingredient that makes this dish different from just being a meatloaf in a pie crust.

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The whole mixture goes into a piecrust and topped with another (and vented) and into a 350° oven for about a half hour to 40  minutes.

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I hope you enjoy this new series and welcome your feedback!

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