Old-Fashioned Cooking – Squaw Corn Casserole

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In this modern-day-take-it-out-of-the-freezer-and shove-it-in-the-microwave world, we often lose sight of what real food tastes like. Not too surprising, when you look at the ingredient lists on most prepared foods. I figure if you can’t even pronounce half the ingredients, you shouldn’t rely on it as a major food source. Many so-called foods have more chemicals than food ingredients. Just think about beef stew or chili simmering slowly through the day, ready to warm the cockles of your heart – not to mention your cold hands – come dinner time. Or home-made breakfast burritos or Cornish pasties, stored in the freezer for those mornings when you can barely find the kitchen, let alone think up a menu.

This is an oldie but goodie. Years ago, in the days of my youth, my father went into business raising Charolais cattle with a partner who had extensive experience in the beef industry. The partner’s wife introduced me to the recipes in the Farm Journal. I loved to page through Edna’s cookbooks and old magazines, mentally taste-testing everything from pot roast to doughnuts. At that time, if you lived on a ranch or farm, the woman of the house was expected to be ready for drop-in guests at a moment’s notice, so many of the recipes were coffee cakes and other tidbits easy to pull from the freezer and reheat in the oven. Since the farm wife always had too much to do and was frequently asked to drop her plans for the day in order to bale hay or perform some other outside task, she also kept a few things handy that could be used for dinner at the end of the day. This is one of those recipes, circa 1970, from the food editors at Farm Journal.

Squaw Corn Casserole

1 pound ground beef
2 Tablespoons fat
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon thyme leaves
1/4 teaspoon marjoram leaves
1/4 cup chopped onion
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup milk
1 cup soft bread crumbs
1 (1-pound) can cream-style corn
2 teaspoons prepared mustard
1/2 cup bread or cracker crumbs, or crushed potato chips
2 Tablespoons butter (omit if using potato chips)

Brown beef in fat. Add seasonings, onion, eggs, milk, 1 cup crumbs, corn and mustard. Mix well and put into a greased 2-quart casserole. Mix remaining crumbs and butter and sprinkle over casserole. Get this dish ready to bake, then refrigerate; cook just before you want to serve it. Bake in moderate oven (350 degrees) 30 to 40 minutes. Makes 8 servings.

 

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Old-Fashioned Cooking – Hasty Pudding

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In this modern-day-take-it-out-of-the-freezer-and shove-it-in-the-microwave world, we often lose sight of what real food tastes like. Not too surprising, when you look at the ingredient lists on most prepared foods. I figure if you can’t even pronounce half the ingredients, you shouldn’t rely on it as a major food source. Many so-called foods have more chemicals than food ingredients. Just think about beef stew or chili simmering slowly through the day, ready to warm the cockles of your heart – not to mention your cold hands – come dinner time. Or home-made breakfast burritos or Cornish pasties, stored in the freezer for those mornings when you can barely find the kitchen, let alone think up a menu.

Although American colonists grew wheat, most of it was exported to England. Corn was the grain most likely to be found on the colonists’ tables, in corn bread, corn dodgers, corn mush and hasty pudding. You may remember this dish from the lines of the old song “Yankee Doodle:”

“Father and I went down to camp

Along with Captain Gooding

And there we saw the men and boys

As thick as hasty pudding.”

Hasty pudding was originally a mush that was slowly simmered over the open fire and topped with butter and whatever sweetener was available, such as honey, maple or sorghum syrup. This version is baked, more of a fancy dessert, and has some additions that are not strictly traditional.

Hasty Pudding

3 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1/2 cup molasses
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
4 large eggs
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces

 

Preheat oven to 275 degrees F. Lightly grease a 6- or 8-cup soufflé or baking dish with butter. In a medium-sized saucepan over medium-low heat, scald the milk. While the milk is heating, pour the cream into a medium to large bowl, add the cornmeal, sugar, molasses, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger. Add this cream/corn meal/spice mixture to the scalded milk. Cook, whisking constantly, over medium-low heat until the pudding has thickened to the consistency of syrup (about 5 minutes). Remove from heat. In a bowl, beat eggs with a whisk. Temper the eggs by slowly adding 1/2 cup of the hot cornmeal mixture to the eggs while whisking rapidly. Vigorously whisk the egg mixture into the remaining cornmeal mixture. Add butter, one piece at a time, stirring until melted. Pour mixture into the prepared soufflé dish, and place dish on a shallow baking pan on the center oven rack. Pour enough HOT water into the shallow baking pan to come 2/3 of the way up the outsides of the soufflé or baking dish. Bake until pudding is set and a tester inserted close to (but not in) the center comes out clean, usually about 2 to 2 1/2 hours. Remove from oven and remove from the water bath and let cool slightly. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream or heavy cream.

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What’s in a Jar?

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Sometimes it’s fun to take a mundane object and dig a little deeper. In this case, I’m speaking of canning jars. My jars come from multiple sources: yard and garage sales, my mother’s cellar, my son-in-law’s grandmother’s garage and a few bought new. I have some we found during the process of cleaning up the old buildings here on the ranch and some that other people have given me with jellies, jams or pickles. In addition to the jars made specifically for canning, I have old glass jars that probably contained mayonnaise, pickles or any of the other foods once processed in glass jars that are now processed in plastic (which is one of the reasons I can my own — plastic leaches).

You might not know that we have Napoléon Bonaparte to thank for the canning process. He wanted a better way to store and transport food for his armies, so he (or at least the French military under his regime) sponsored a contest. A gentleman named Nicholas Appert developed canning, which was perfected in 1806. John Mason invented the grooved canning jar lid in 1858, which made the process much easier. In 1882, William Putnam invented the jars with a glass lid and metal bale that held it closed on top of a rubber gasket. Called Lightning Jars because they were easy to get into and reclose, this style was still being used in the 1960s and can sometimes be found in flea markets or garage sales. Alexander Kerr invented the first wide-mouth jar around 1903 and first used the metal lid with permanently attached rubber gasket and a separate screw-on ring.

If you take a close look at a canning jar — even from the same manufacturer — you’ll often see a distinct difference in the thickness of the glass, with older jars being thicker. Some of the older jars are also slightly tinted rather than completely clear. Antique jars were often made of colored glass. The embossed writing and logos also differ according to the age of the jar. If you have a Ball jar with the name in script, and a loop in the final “L” that reverses to make a line under the name, the jar could be over 100 years old, as that logo was used from 1900 to 1910. I have a jar that indicates it was manufactured for the Table Products Inc. Company in Los Angeles. The heavy weight makes me suspect this is an oldie — probably a mayonnaise or pickle jar — and my research indicates it was probably used by the General Foods Company in the 1930s-1940s.

 

Just think of all the hands these jars have gone through and the families they kept fed. A little bit of history on your pantry shelf.

 

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