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If you’ve visited the Ford Home during Holiday Nights in Greenfield Village, you’ve no doubt felt your mouth water as you gazed upon the beautiful Charlotte Russe cake on the Fords’ dining room table. The cake has been a must-bake dessert for us for years and a guest favorite. Beyond knowing that it’s pretty in appearance and tastes heavenly, what do you know about this centuries-old dessert?

A Charlotte Russe is a hot or cold cake with a filling of fruit and custards formed in a molded pan; if you had to select a similar dessert, a trifle would be your best bet. Invented by French chef Antonin Carême in the 1800s, the cake was named in honor of George IV’s daughter Princess Charlotte and then-employer Czar Alexander. You can learn more about Anontonin in Ian Kelly’s book, “Cooking for Kings.”

Adding grape jam to the Charlotte Russe mold inside of the Fords' kitchen in Greenfield Village.

By the late 1800s the cake had made its way to American tables, like that of the Fords. This layered cake would have been a very fancy presentation during the holidays and could have contained a number of fruit/filling combinations. In the colder months when fresh fruit wasn’t as available, families could have added preserved fruits and jams to make up the filling and stored it in a cellar to set. For a family living on a farm, all the ingredients you’d need were most likely in your backyard and in your pantry.

Charlotte RusseBy the early 20th century, a variation of the Charlotte Russe became very popular as a street food in Brooklyn. The larger cake was scaled down to an individual size and presented in a push-up-pop fashion.

Today, the Charlotte Russe is limited only by your imagination and ingredients on hand. Molds can be found in antique stores or online. While the Fords might have filled their cake with strawberries or other preserves, how does a strawberry-kiwi-grape Charlotte Russe sound?! Pretty tasty, if you ask us.

Try making your own Charlotte Russe at home and let us know how you make it your own. Need more inspiration? Use the “Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink,” a favorite resource among staff at The Henry Ford, for ideas, or visit Greenfield Village during Holiday Nights.

Charlotte Russe

2 tablespoons gelatin
1 cup sweet milk
1 cup cream
2 eggs (separated)
2 teaspoons vanilla
½ cup granulated sugar

Beat egg yolks thoroughly with ½ cup granulated sugar. Heat 1 cup milk. When hot, add gelatin and mix until dissolved. Cool down some and strain through colander into egg/sugar mixture. Flavor with vanilla. Whip 1 cup cream; fold into egg/milk mixture. Put a thin layer of jam or jelly on the bottom of the mold. Cut sponge cake into pieces to fit mold. Fill the center with custard. Harden in refrigerator.

Sponge Cake for Charlotte Russe

3 eggs
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 lemon
1 teaspoon soda
1 ½ cups powdered sugar
2 cups sifted flour
½ cup cold water

Mix together sifted flour, cream of tartar and soda. Grease a dripping pan. Separate the eggs. Set egg whites aside. In a separate bowl, add powdered sugar to egg yolks. Beat thoroughly. Squeeze half a lemon and add juice to ½ cup of water; add to sugar/yolk mixture. Beat egg whites to a froth; stir into egg and sugar mixture. Fold dry ingredients into wet ingredients. Stir without beating only long enough to get the flour well mixed. Pour into the pan and bake in a moderate oven.

Pick up everything you need to make these recipes at Meijer. For more recipes and inspiration, visit THF OnLiving.

Lish Dorset is Social Media Manager at The Henry Ford.

by Lish Dorset, events, Greenfield Village, recipes, holidays, Holiday Nights, food, Christmas

History on the vine: all about the tomato

It might sound funny to say, but historically tomatoes have had a bad rap. The classic staple condiment in today’s salads and hamburgers was once a mysterious food to many and couldn’t be found in the diets of early settlers.

Thanks to Thomas Jefferson and his adventurous palate, tomatoes were being introduced into the White House’s kitchen at the beginning of the 19th century, according to old menus. However, it would be several years before Americans truly began experimenting with this versatile fruit.

Around the 1840s, tomatoes really started to become part of Americans’ diets. Depending on where you lived in the United States, your approach to using and caring for the tomato in your kitchen varied. In southern states, a pine straw bed was used for growing plants, while other parts of the country used a trellis to stake for growing. East-coast states were first to experiment with the tomato in recipes as it arrived in the U.S., as evident from mentions in “The Virginia Housewife.” African Americans also adopted the use of the tomato in their cooking early on, utilizing them for low-country cooking.

Tomatoes at Firestone Farm

About the same time the tomato began gaining popularity, American horticulturists began experimenting with breeding new types of tomatoes. Seed house catalogs provided countless species varieties, but most gardens tended to focus on one variety at a time. Unfortunately today, close to 99 percent of these historic, heirloom varieties are now extinct.

Moving on to the 1850s, the tomato starts to become an important ingredient and sauces, like catsup. As Americans learned how to preserve their produce through canning, the tomato was a natural choice for preservation. The following years saw recipe after recipe with baking ideas for tomatoes.

Here at The Henry Ford, tomatoes are an important of our gardens and food preparation. From Eagle Tavern entrees to appetizers at weddings inside Lovett Hall, our menus are a fan of tomatoes. Varieties like yellow pear and pink brandywine are just two of the tomatoes you can see growing at Firestone Farm in Greenfield Village.

FMC Tomato Harvester, 1969: This massive machine, with 10 to 12 workers on it, performed the task of picking tomatoes off the stems of each plant in the field. Picking tomatoes by hand is a back-breaking, tedious job. Tomato harvesters, first introduced in 1959, reduced the time it took harvesting crews to pick one ton of tomatoes -- from 113 hours to 61 hours. (Object ID: 91.142.1, http://bit.ly/14WFP8k)

Today Americans have a plethora of resources to choose from when setting up their gardens and getting their tomato plants ready. Seed houses concentrating on heirloom seed options help preserve surviving varieties; looking for the latest tomato news? There’s most likely a unique magazine to suit your needs.

If you’re a tomato lover like we are, try this favorite recipe from The Henry Ford - Escaloped Tomatoes and Baked Tomatoes. Want even more tomato-based recipes? Check out our Historic Recipe Bank for recipes to make Fried Tomatoes and Tomato Soup.

Escaloped Tomates

(Escaloped Tomatoes recipe found on p. 344 of the "Buckeye Cookery and Practical Housekeeping", edited by Estelle Woods Wilcox, 1880)

Modern adaptation may need additional adjustments as measurements and temperatures are estimates.

  • Bread crumbs
  • Butter, cut into small pieces
  • Salt, pepper and sugar
  • Onions, if desired
  • Grease a 2 qt. casserole or baking dish. Sprinkle a layer of bread crumbs, dot with few butter pieces. Then place a single layer of tomatoes on top of the bread crumbs. Season the tomatoes as desired. Top with a layer of bread crumbs and butter as before. Continue making layers of bread crumbs and tomatoes until the dish is full, finishing with the bread crumbs. Bake 45 to 60 minutes in a 350-oven.

    If desired, a layer of sliced, browned onions may be added on top of each layer of tomatoes. Slice the onions ½" thick and brown slices in butter over medium heat until light brown on each side. Place browned onion slices on top of tomato layers.

    Baked Tomatoes

    (Baked Tomatoes recipe found on page 272 of "The Original Boston Cooking School Cook Book" by Fannie Merritt Farmer, 1896)

    Wipe and remove a thin slice from the stem end of six medium-sized tomatoes. Take out seeds and pulp, and drain off most of the liquid. Add an equal quantity of cracker crumbs, season with salt, pepper, and a few drops onion juice, and refill tomatoes with mixture. Place in a buttered pan, sprinkle with buttered crumbs, and bake twenty minutes in a hot oven.

    Modern adaptation may need additional adjustments as measurements and temperatures are estimates.

  • 6 medium sized tomatoes
  • Cracker crumbs
  • Few drops onion juice (hard to find, but available online)
  • 2 T butter, melted
  • ¾ c bread crumbs
  • Salt and pepper
  • Clean tomatoes. Cut a thin slice off the stem end of the tomatoes. Take out the seeds, pulp and most of the liquid. Reserve ½ of the pulp and chop fine. To the chopped pulp, add an equal amount of cracker crumbs, salt and pepper to taste, and a few drops of onion juice. Stuff the tomatoes with the mixture and bake 20 minutes in a preheated 375° oven.

    World War I Poster, "Wholesome - Nutritious Foods from Corn, " 1918: During the First World War, all of the national governments of the warring nations used poster campaigns to encourage civilian and military support of the war effort. Artists widely used an innovative advertising technique for these posters that moved away from a factual depiction of a product’s material or event’s subject to an emphasis on appealing to the viewer’s emotions.
    (Object ID: 53.5.26.2, http://bit.ly/15KUh4e)

    History in the field: corn 101

    When you think of your favorite summer meal, what’s one dish you can’t live without? Does it happen to be corn on the cob? Chances are it might be, as corn is synonymous with summer dinners and fun.

    As a new American crop hundreds of years ago, the Spanish quickly adopted corn into their diets. In the early 18th and 19th centuries, recipes called for “green” corn (pre-ripe corn) to be roasted for optimal taste and palpability.

    Do you know the difference between different types of corn? Flint is a meal corn, not sweet and was often ground into flour. Dent has medium moisture content, so it was grown for animal consumption as feed, a perfect choice for hungry hogs. Gourd seed has soft kernels and high moisture content.

    Much like tomatoes, corn was a favorite of horticulturists in the 1840s as they discovered sweeter offerings and started breeding for them. The corn you’d find on the dinner table was white, not yellow, and for fancier homes was never eaten off the cob in front of mixed company! The proper serving suggestion was to roast it, boil it, dress it, and serve it at the table in the 1880s.

    Label, "Shoe Peg Country Gentleman Fancy Corn," circa 1918: Manufacturers of similar products sought ways to make their company's goods stand out on store shelves. Attractive labels, like this elegant design for President Brand "Shoe Peg Country Gentleman Fancy Corn," helped catch the attention of potential customers--hopefully encouraging them to purchase the company's product rather than that of a competitor. (Object ID: 89.311.68, http://bit.ly/12DOkWg)

    In 1910, golden bantam is introduced. As a small, very sweet corn variety, its popularity was hard to beat. Today there are numerous corn varieties to choose from and depend on the season and location you’re in.

    Growing corn might be a pastime for today’s amateur gardener, but for farmers and those needing to feed large families, corn is grown as a row crop for higher yields. Many of the same techniques to plant corn hundreds of years ago are still used today. When it comes to food technology, corn was one of the last foodstuffs to see big advancements in planting and care.

    Can all corn pop? You bet! Whether you eat it plain or drizzle it with butter, popcorn is a long-stranding snack favorite.

    At The Henry Ford, corn is all around. To try a favorite recipe of ours, try these tonight and make sure to tell us what you think. Need more inspiration? Try the "vegetables" category over at our Historic Recipe Bank.

    Corn Fritters

    (Corn Fritters recipe found on pages 222 - 223 pf "Kentucky Housewife" by Lettice Bryan, 1839)

    Having removed the shucks and silks from a dozen young tender ears of corn, grate or scrape the grains fine from the cobs, mix with it the beaten yolks of four eggs, two spoonfuls of flour, a salt-spoonful of salt, and a teaspoonful of pepper; mix the whole together, stirring it till it is well intermingled; then drop it by spoonfuls into a pan of boiling butter or lard, making them all as nearly the same shape and size as possible; turn them over once, and when both sides are of a light brown, serve them up. It is a breakfast dish, and is quite an agreeable relish.

    Modern adaptation may need additional adjustments as measurements and temperatures are estimates.

  • 1 doz. ears of corn
  • 4 egg yolks, beaten
  • 2 T flour
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Oil or butter for frying
  • Remove the shucks and silks from a dozen ears of corn. Using a sharp knife cut the kernels off the cob. Place kernels in a large bowl. Add beaten eggs and flour to corn kernels and mix well. Add salt and pepper to taste. In large frying pan heat the oil or butter until hot. Carefully drop mixture by spoonfuls into hot oil. Fritters should be the same size for even cooking. Turn them once. Fritters are done when both sides are nicely browned.

    Green Corn Pudding

    (Green Corn Pudding found on page 329 of "Buckeye Cookery and Practical Housekeeping," edited by Estelle Woods Wilcox, 1880)

    Draw a sharp knife through each row of corn lengthwise, then scrape out the pulp; to one pint of corn add one quart milk, three eggs, a little suet, sugar to taste, and a few lumps of butter; stir it occasionally until thick, and bake about two hours.

    Modern adaptation may need additional adjustments as measurements and temperatures are estimates.

  • 2 c fresh or frozen corn, cooked
  • 4 c milk
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 4 T sugar (more/less to taste)
  • 3 T butter, melted
  • Mix all ingredients well. Pout into a greased 2 qt. baking dish. Bake in preheated 300° oven. Stir occasionally and bake until knife inserted in center comes out clean.

    Pick up everything you need to make these recipes at Meijer

    Lish Dorset is Social Media Manager at The Henry Ford.

    recipes, food

    As we celebrate Black History Month here at The Henry Ford, we were more than excited to have our own Executive Chef Mike Trombley share a few modified George Washington Carver recipes with The Detroit News today.

    Object ID: 64.167.285.9

    Chef Mike consulted Carver's 1917 pamphlet, "How to Grow the Peanut and 105 Ways of Preparing it for Human Consumption" as well as our historic recipe bank.

    Make sure to read Chef Mike's interview with The Detroit News. We've shared his recipes below, too. If you'd like to learn more about the George Washington Carver artifacts here in the Collections of The Henry Ford, take a look here.

    Peanut Bisque

    Presented by Executive Chef Michael Trombley

    Ingredients (serves 4-6)

  • 1 1/4 cups peanuts, toasted
  • 2 tablespoons Spanish onion, small dice
  • 2 tablespoon whole butter
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1 quart whole milk
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • TT kosher salt
  • pinch white pepper
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • chopped herb for garnish
  • Truffle oil for service
  • Toast nuts in an oven proof pan at 350 degree oven for 5-7 minutes or until golden brown, stir once.

    In a heavy gauge non reactive pot, add the butter and onion and cook on low until onions are translucent.

    Add the flour and stir, add milk and whisk then add 1 cup of nuts, stock, nutmeg, salt and pepper, simmer for 30 minutes.

    Adjust seasoning if needed, puree with hand held blender.

    Dish out to bowls and add the remainder of the chopped nuts, parsley and truffle oil.

    From Chef Mike: "This dish was somewhat modified for our catering and banquet menu. The truffle oil being the most noticeable, also the addition of stock, nutmeg and butter for a richer flavor. In the original recipe the milk was warmed and peanut butter was added, because of it’s delicate nature I roasted my own nuts and created a roux (butter flour) to stabilize this soup."

    Behind the scenes of Chef Mike's Detroit News photo shoot.

    Roasted Peanut, Apple and Celery Salad

    Presented by Executive Chef Michael Trombley

    Ingredients (Serves 6)

  • 1 cup roasted peanuts, coarse chop
  • 2 cups sour apples, medium dice
  • 2 cups celery, fine slice
  • ½ cup grapes cut in half
  • ¼ cup carrots cut julienne
  • ¾ cup mayonnaise
  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • TT salt and pepper
  • butter lettuce leaves for bed
  • Toast nuts in an oven proof pan at 350 degree oven for 5-7 minutes or until golden brown, stir once and let cool.

    Prepare and gather all items as described.

    In a large bowl mix mayonnaise, sour cream, lemon, salt and pepper.

    Add peanuts, apples, celery, grapes and carrots to bowl and mix.

    Line 6 plates with butter lettuce and top with the mixed peanut apple salad and enjoy.

    From Chef Mike: "This recipe was slightly modified to include grapes, sour cream, lemon juice and carrot. Chopped parsley could also make a great addition!"

    Take a look at...

    George Washington Carver: Agricultural Scientist, Social Activist

    Peanut Butter Griddle Cakes

    African American history, George Washington Carver, recipes, food

    If you’ve visited Firestone Farm in Greenfield Village, have you ever seen our presenters canning jams, jellies, and other delicious pantry staples? If not, you’re in for a treat.

    This fall we got a firsthand look at what goes into canning. While canning is a food preservation technique first experimented with more than 200 years ago, it’s gaining a resurgence among foodies and families looking to eat local as much as they can each year and enjoy favorite flavors all year long.

    When we visited Firestone Farm in September, our team was working with some fresh products from our farms almost every day. Our presenters make everything from bottle pickles to cucumber catsup. If a recipe doesn’t set quite right, it doesn’t go to waste - when peaches don’t seal, they become a tasty pie filling.

    As you’ll see in the video, presenters Becky Goodenow and Larissa Fleishman start out by sterilizing the jars they’ll use for canning that day. You can’t touch the inside of the jar, as you might contaminate it, so a clean cloth is used to wipe it down. A metal spoon is most important because it helps disperse the heat from the hot liquid. This helps to prevent the cooler glass jar from cracking as you pour in the boiling liquid.

    Today there are a variety of products to choose from when it comes to canning. You can even purchase your very own jam and jelly maker to take a lot of work out of the equation. Ball Canning brand offers a community and resources website to enthusiasts, too. Or look for the Ball Blue Book of Canning and Preserving Recipes the next time you’re at the book store.

    Watch this video to see Becky and Larissa in action making a batch of chili sauce from Buckeye Cookery. You can make it at home, too. You can also visit The Henry Ford’s library of historic cookbooks for inspiration.

    Chili Sauce, Buckeye Cookery and Practical Housekeeping, 1880, p. 132.

  • 12 large, ripe tomatoes
  • 4 ripe or three green peppers
  • 2 onions
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 3 cups of vinegar
  • Peel tomatoes and onions, chop (separately) very fine, add the peppers (chopped) with the other ingredients, and boil one-and-a-half hours. Bottle it and it will keep a long time.

    Lish Dorset is Social Media Manager at The Henry Ford.

    making, home life, Greenfield Village buildings, Greenfield Village, recipes, by Lish Dorset, food

    It seems an odd notion, but as the days grow shorter and autumn’s colors begin to creep into the trees and hedgerows of Greenfield Village, the geese take wing in to their formations, and the smell of wood smoke fills the air, the connection to the past seems even stronger. For those of us who work in the living history areas of the Village, there is also a strange pressing need associated with this change of the season to begin the preparations for the long winter ahead.

    At the two main living history sites in the Village, Daggett Farm and Firestone Farm, the slower pace of the long summer days begins to quicken as the harvest season approaches.  For our visitors, it’s a fascinating view of preparations and work with similar goals, but with very different sets of tools and technology available to achieve these goals.  The colonial Daggett family and the Victorian Firestones both needed to harvest their crops, store away vegetables and fruits, and prepare and preserve a winter’s meat supply.  And, everybody made cider!

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    farms, farming, Greenfield Village buildings, Greenfield Village, by Jim Johnson, recipes, agriculture, food, harvest, fall