Friday, November 11, 2011

Time for Thanks-giving

These Minnesota soldiers in training marched on the dusty streets of Camp Dodge outside Des Moines, Iowa in 1917 and 1918. Soon they would be fighting on the fields of France during World War I. November 11 was once called Armistice Day, honoring all those who fought for freedom and marking what people hoped would be the "end of the 'war to end all wars.'"

The truth is, if you had relatives in the United States in 1917, they fought in this war. They may not have been actual soldiers, but they all participated in the war efforts. Women, children, and men collected metal for recycling, folded bandages for the wounded, knitted sweaters and socks to keep soldiers and sailors warm, and changed the way they ate to conserve food for our allies and soldiers.

Here, in another picture from the archives of the Minnesota Historical Society, women attend "war cooking classes" taught by the University of Minnesota Extension Division, learning how to make meatless meals and wheatless breads. Federal food administrator Herbert Hoover lead the campaign, but citizens all over the nation cheerfully took up the cause as this poem credited to Mabel L. Clapp and appearing in Northfield, Minnesota's Norwegian American on January 25, 1918 demonstrates.

Hoover’s Going to Get You!

The “great old Hoover Pledge” has
come to our house to stay;
To frown on breakfast bacon down,
and take our steak away;
It cans our morning waffles, and our
sausage, too, it seems,
And dilates on the succulence of corn,
and spuds and beans,
So skimp the sugar in your cake
and leave the butter out!
Or Hoover’s goin’ to get you if you
Don’t Watch Out!

O, gone now are the good old days of
hot cakes, thickly spread;
And meatless, wheatless, sweetless
days are reigning in their stead;
And gone the days of fat rib roasts,
and two-inch T-bone steaks,
And doughnuts plump and golden
brown, the kind that mother makes
And when it comes to pies and cake,
just learn to cut it out.
Or Hoover’s goin’ to get you if you
Don’t Watch Out!

So spread your buckwheats sparingly,
and peel your taters thin;
And tighten up your belt a notch, and
don’t forget to grin.
And, if, sometimes, your whole soul
yearns for shortcake high and wide,
And biscuits drenched with honey, and
chicken, butter fried,
Remember then that Kaiser Bill is
short on sauerkraut.
And Hoover’s goin’ to get him if we’ll
All Help Out!

This Veteran's Day why not make a different kind of thanks-giving -- a World War I style meal. There are several recipes in the posts below. Meat Cakes, Whole Wheat Chocolate Cookies, Victory Cabbage, War Bread, Oatmeal Muffins to name just a few. Take a moment -- perhaps at 11 a.m. on November 11, to think about the contributions and sacrifices of those who have gone before. Say "thank you" to a soldier or veteran and remember to celebrate all that makes this nation great.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

"Harvesting" Meals from your Refrigerator

During WWI Americans voluntarily shifted enough food from our tables to increase supply of vital foods to our European Allies by 230 metric tons. Initially homemakers were urged to "fight a war against kitchen waste" with challenges that a "French family could live for a week on what is thrown out from American kitchens."

Cooks back then saved every scrap. Vegetable peelings and even the water they were cooked in were saved as the basis for soup stock. Delicious dishes were created from what might have been tossed. A cup of leftover rice is the basis for great main dish -- rice and cornmeal waffles. The last ounce of cheese grated into a white sauce turned vegetables into a creamed protein dish.

Slogans highlighted the possibilities -- then and now. "If a single ounce of food is thrown away in each of our 20,000,000 homes, nearly 1,300,000 pounds will be wasted each day." "One cup of milk saved in each of our homes is the product of 400,000 cows annually." The list of suggestions went on and on. The key is thoughtfully making the most of what they (and we) have.

Camouflage cookery was essential to success -- where bits of leftover meat are stretched with bread or vegetables into an entirely new meal. Cornstarch extended a baking batter instead of an egg and coffee is used instead of milk. The high point of these culinary concoctions is the "meat cake."

In some recipes meat is ground up and mixed with crumbs, stretching a sandwich worth's of roast beef into a meal for six. A writer for Wallaces' Farmer magazine set the gold standard for food shifting in this recipe for meat cakes where the role of the meat is filled simply with gravy. The recipe is still so good that it fooled a number of people at a cooking demonstration last Saturday in the baking lab at the Minneapolis Mill CIty Museum. And two charming young lads who watched me put it together liked it so much that they sent their mother back in to ask for the recipe. Here it is.

WWI "Meat Cakes"

2 cups bread crumbs -- either dry or stale
about 1 cup beef or chicken gravy -- low salt, but highly seasoned
for "hamburger" I use a lot of pepper. To mimic sausage add sage.
You may add other seasonings your family likes -- cumin, poultry
seasoning, maybe even a bit of chili powder

1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 egg
butter for frying the cakes

Put the bread crumbs into a mixing bowl and add the gravy. Mix and let stand until the crumbs absorb all the gravy, about 10 minutes, or longer if you like. Sprinkle the baking powder over the mixture and then stir in the egg. If the mixture is too dry, add more gravy. If you don't have anymore gravy, a bit of milk will do. Form the mixture into thin patties, about a quarter of an inch think. Melt a tablespoon or so of butter in a frying pan. When the butter begins to turn bubbly, gently add the meat cakes. Fry until browned and then flip over to cook other side.

Makes 4 to 6 patties

NOTE: This recipe is an approximation. Much depends on the dryness of the bread crumbs. Fiddle with it a bit as you put it together to get the mixture to approximate hamburger or sausage meat,

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Veterans Day and World War I

At eleven in the morning on November 11, 1918 the guns fell silent on the battlefields of Europe. When I was in school we stood at our desks for a minute of silence on that day at that hour in honor of all who contributed to making America safe and secure.

Today I will remember those valiant soldiers, homemakers, and soldiers of the soil as I make WWI wheat-saving bread. "Food Will Win the War" was the watchword. People grew war gardens, put up enough food to last for two years, skimped on sugar and fats and had wheatless and meatless days. The result -- a 250% increase in the export of vital foods to our Allies from savings in every kitchen in the country.

This picture from the Minnesota Historical Society Visual Database shows farm girls demonstrating the proper way to make War Bread at the Minnesota State Fair. The recipe, like the one below, was created by the University of Minnesota home economics department as a way to cut the amount of wheat used in bread so this important grain could be shipped overseas.

In the end, this was not the "war to end all wars." The nation's WWI experiences propelled America to world leadership. It is worth pausing to remember that dedication to peace and goodwill to all

Monday, April 26, 2010

Whole Wheat Chocolate Cookies and Hoover Cake

One way to stretch the supply of wheat during World War I was to use whole wheat instead of the more finely milled and sifted white flour. This plan was not without controversy. The editor of the influential newspaper Northwestern Miller editorialized in no uncertain terms: "By whatever sophistry it may be supported, every argument for increased extraction flour [whole wheat], mixed flour or flour otherwise debased is an argument for a deceptive gain in volume at the cost of more than commensurate loss in nutritive value."

Pure food advocate Dr. Harvey Wiley and Minnesota's food administrator Archie Dell Wilson took the opposite point of view. Wiley wrote of white flour: "Under present methods of milling, there are 18 pounds of waste for every 60 pounds of flour milled . . this 'waste' fed to cows is the most nutritious part of the wheat."

By the winter of 1918, homemakers had no choice. White flour was gone from the shelves. And limits of fats and sugar made the idea of cookies for dessert instead of richer cakes and pies an appealing alternative.

These whole-wheat chocolate cookies were developed by Esther Moran, director of food services for the St. Paul public schools. They are at once rich and hearty. Easy to mix up by hand and good keepers.

Whole Wheat Chocolate Cookies
1/2 cup melted shortening or butter

2 1-oz. squares baking chocolate

1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed

1 egg

1/2 cup milk

2 cups whole wheat flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup chopped raisins

1/2 cup chopped nuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Stir chocolate into melted shortening over low heat until it is melted. Stir into brown sugar and add lightly beaten eggs. Stir in milk and then flour and salt. Mix well. Add chopped raisins and nuts. Drop by teaspoon onto lightly greased baking sheets. Bake until just lightly browned, about 8 –12 minutes. May take longer, but best to check early as they can burn easily.

Remove and cool on a wire rack.

Easy Herbert Hoover World War I Cake

2 cups brown sugar

2 cups hot water

2 tablespoons lard (or butter)

1 teaspoon salt, optional

1 teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 package (8 ounces) raisins, chopped

1 teaspoon baking soda

3 cups flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Put everything but soda and flour into a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring frequently. Boil 5 minutes after it bubbles, then cool. Stir in soda and flour. Put batter into a lightly greased loaf pan. Bake 45 minutes. Cake keeps fresh a long time and can “be sent to men at the front.”

Monday, April 19, 2010

University of Minnesota World War I Breads

Home economists at the U were among the first to develop wheat-saving breads. By the middle of summer 1917 they were sharing recipes with homemakers up and down the state. Many of these recipes went on to become staples in federal Food Administration publications. They are just as tasty today. The Oatmeal Muffins have about half the flour of a standard muffin and the Rice Corn Bread has no flour at all. It is a moist bread with a lovely corn bite.

Oatmeal Muffins

2 cups old-fashioned oats, uncooked

1 1/2 cups milk

2 tablespoons melted butter

1 egg

2 tablespoons sugar

3 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)

1 cup flour

Mix oatmeal and milk in a medium mixing bowl and let stand one half hour. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Stir the melted butter and then the egg into the oatmeal and milk mixture. Mix very well. Stir in the remaining ingredients until just blended. Spoon batter into lightlygreased muffin cups and bake until lightly browned on top, about 25 to 30 minutes. Cool five minutes in pan before removing to serve or continue to cool on wire rack. Makes 36 gem-sized or one dozen 3/4-cup muffins.

Rice Corn Bread

1 cup boiling water

1 cup yellow cornmeal

1 1/8 cups softly cooked white rice

1 tablespoon melted butter or other fat

1 egg

1 cup milk

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

Pour the boiling water over the cornmeal, stir and let stand until cool. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Combine rice, fat, egg and milk in a food processor or blender and process until rice grains are finely chopped. Stir in cornmeal mixture, baking power and salt. Pulse until just mixed. Pour batter into a well-greased 9 x 9-inch pan. Bake until bread is firm in center, about 15 to 20 minutes. Served warm it is close to a spoon bread. It does firm up as it cools, but still is very moist.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Holiday Fruit Chocolates

During World War I men, women and children across the nation were urged to “save sugar for a soldier.” Sugar was one of the four commodities under short supply. Most of the cane sugar was imported and ships were needed to transport troops, not sugar.

But life could still be sweet. Clever homemakers made good use of nature’s own sweetness and combined dried fruits with honey to make a filling for hand-dipped chocolates as rich and delicious as the sweetest chocolate ganache or creamy fondant.

Make these delicious chocolates for Easter baskets, Christmas gifts, your best Valentine, or any other holiday treat. The honey, orange zest, and juice combine with sophisticated mix of dried fruits enhanced by easy to melt semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips. If you don’t tell, no one will know these might even be almost healthy.

Holiday Fruit Chocolates
1 12-ounce package raisins
1/4 cup water
1 8-ounce package dates -- either chopped or pitted and cut then in quarters
2/3 cup figs -- cut off stem and then cut each into 6 to 8 pieces
1 cup chopped walnuts
grated rind half an orange
2 tablespoons orange juice
2 tablespoons honey
1/8 teaspoon salt, optional
dipping chocolate such as melted dark or semi-sweet chocolate chips

Combine raisins with water in a microwave-safe bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and heat on high for a minute. Let stand until cool. Drain off any remaining water. Put raisins, chopped dates, figs, and nuts into a food processor and pulse until finely processed, but not mush. Add orange rind and juice along with honey. Pulse until just blended. Put mixture into refrigerator until firm. Form into balls, about 3/4 of an inch in diameter. Melt chocolate chips in microwave for one minute on high. Stir and if not completely melted, continue to heat in 10-second increments stirring in between each time. Drop fruit candy center into chocolate, stir with a fork and then lift out to drain. Place on plate for chocolate to harden. Store finished candies in the refrigerator.

No need to make all the candies at once. Filling keeps for weeks sealed in a freezer-style zipper bag in the refrigerator. Just pull some out, roll, and dip when you need a special treat.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

War Yeast Bread -- Loaf or Baguette

During World War I bread was, indeed, the staff of life. Bread was an important part of every meal before the war. A hearty loaf, spread with a bit of butter or other fat formed a key “whole food” for soldiers and citizens in the European war zone. Getting the most from our wheat crop was an important part of Herbert Hoover’s Food Administration nationwide and voluntary food conservation measures.

In this recipe the addition of cornmeal and oatmeal stretched precious war-restricted wheat flour. The resulting bread is firm-textured and moist with a complex flavor. It makes wonderful toast.

Yeast War Bread

1 cup milk

1 cup hot water

1 cup cornmeal

1 cup Old Fashioned oatmeal, uncooked

6 tablespoons brown sugar

1 teaspoon salt, optional

1 package dry yeast

4 1/2 to 5 1/2 cups white flour

Scald the milk by heating it in a 2-quart pot until bubbles appear around the side and then remove from heat and add the hot water. Stir in the cornmeal, oatmeal, brown sugar, and optional salt. Set aside to cool until just warm, about 100 degrees. Stir in the dry yeast and let stand until mixture becomes bubbly. Pour the mixture into a large bowl and stir in the flour and knead until the dough is firm and somewhat elastic. Put in a warm place to rise until doubled. Punch dough down and form into three loaves. Place in lightly greased bread pan or on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Let rise until doubled and then bake in a preheated 350 F. degree oven until well browned. Loaves will sound hollow when tapped. Cool completely before slicing with a serrated knife. Note: this bread dough has less flour-gluten than typical bread dough. It may take a very long time to rise until doubled. The test batch I made for these pictures took nearly 5 hours from scalding milk to fully-baked loaves. Time will vary depending on the warmth of your kitchen and the oomph of your yeast.

Recipe makes three loaves about 1 1/4 pounds each. Bake in an 8 x 4-inch loaf pan for a finished loaf approximately 8 x 4 x 3 1/2 inches. Make free-form baguettes that rise and bake to a finished loaf approximately 12 x 4 x 2 inches.

Copyright 2010 Rae Katherine Eighmey. All rights reserved.