Ham and Biscuit Ring – Perfect End to a Holiday Ham

In my paternal grandmother’s notebook she kept for her cook was the following recipe written in her hand.  The notebook no doubt dates from the 20s’ and 30s’ since she died in 1941.

Ham Biscuit Ring

  • Put through the food grinder (you can use a Cuisinart but don’t get the meat too fine) 1 lb cooked ham.
  • Add ham to your favorite rich biscuit recipe, adding an extra teaspoon of baking powder to the mix.
  • Bake in well-greased ring mold until done – in moderate oven (350)
  • Turn out on hot platter and fill the center with hot buttered peas.
  • Surround with peach halves filled with ground nut meats, brown sugar and butter having been glazed on a cookie sheet in the oven (375).

Enhanced Carrot Cake in an Enhanced Turn of the Century Kitchen

Just park your "brolly" and come into the most interesting kitchen in, well, the United States and Texas.

A delightful family bought a large old turn of the penultimate century home in my village.  The wife, a Canadian transplant and I have cooking and art and music and home restoration and even Canada in common.  She has painted and sanded and worked her way through each room of this manse to bring a new life to an historic home.  Her kitchen is the heart of the “plant” and that is where she embellishes recipes daily.  She is a mother to three but all are in college except one.  She is, therefore, cooking for 3 and often me.

Catherine went out and found period cupboards and hutches to put in the kitchen.  She had the granite kitchen island installed with her sink across from her range/oven.  The brick pillar is what remains of a chimney for an old pot-belly stove.

Harry James is the family’s Beagle mix.  Make no mistake.  He is the king of this castle.  He stays close to the cook because it’s warm and fulfilling in the kitchen.

Large windows overlook the gardens in back of the house.  The pantry can be seen at the far end of the room.Harry James has his own chair at his own large window.

Below, a picture of an interesting lamp Catherine picked up at a garage sale.  She has an eye for prints and old things of all periods and she pulls them all together in vignettes that are fresh and imaginative and completely her own.

Behold, the better carrot cake - a lot like a better mousetrap! It really grabs you if you love fruit cakes.

Catherine loves to tweak recipes and to generally add more of the healthy ingredients to them.  With the carrot cake she baked this week, she added extra nuts (walnuts AND pecans), cran-raisins (in addition to raisins called for by the recipe), extra carrots and, in her one slip from the healthy pathway, she used coconut oil instead of vegetable.  What a moist, sweet cake.  We enjoyed it without frosting.

Just take your favorite carrot cake recipe and tweak it a la Catherine. Bravery in the culinary field of battle should be recognized.  Catherine, this is in honor of  your successful cooking campaigns over many years.  You get a SamHenry heart of appreciation ♥

Dust off the Waffle Iron. It’s Time to Get Saturday Night Serious

This is an old-fashioned cast-iron waffle iron for making waffles using a stove burner. To purchase one, click on the picture.

Having watched our politicians waffle on this tax extension matter (among many matters) I would like to make some waffles this Saturday night, name them after the worst political wafflers and BITE THEM!

The following recipes came from a little notebook kept by my paternal grandmother’s cook.   They date from the 1930s-40s – times like our own now.

Plain Waffles

  1. 2 cups Flour
  2. 2 teaspoons Baking powder
  3. 1/2 teaspoon Salt
  4. 3 eggs Eggs
  5. 1 cup Milk
  6. 4 tablespoons melted Shortening
  • Sift flour once, measure. Add baking powder and salt. Sift again.
  • Beat egg yolks and combine with milk and melted shortening.  Add gradually to the first mixture beating until smooth and creamy.
  • Beat egg whites until stiff.  Fold in gently to the above.
  • Bake in waffle iron.
  • Makes four 4-section waffles.

Next:  Fora change,  select your favorite waffle or try making some of each – a waffle worshiper would do nothing other than this.

  • Graham waffles – Use graham in place of white flour.  Because graham is not to be sifted, add dry ingredients from the basic recipe and blend very thoroughly before combining with the liquids also from the basic recipe.
  • Cheese waffles – add from 3/4 to 1 cup grated American cheese to plain waffle batter, stirring it in just before adding the beaten egg whites.  These waffles are delicious served with broiled bacon or with grilled tomatoes.

Rice Waffles

  1. 1 and 3/4 cups flour
  2. 2 tsp baking powder
  3. 1 teaspoon salt
  4. 3/4 cup cold cooked rice
  5. 2 eggs
  6. 2 Tbs sugar
  7. 1 and 1/2 cups milk
  8. 4 Tbs melted shortening
  • Sift flour.  Add baking powder, salt and sift again.
  • Add the rice and blend with a fork.
  • Beat the egg yolks and sugar. Combine with milk and melted shortening.
  • Combine the above two mixtures.
  • Beat until perfectly smooth.
  • Beat egg whites until stiff and fold into the two combined mixtures.
  • Bake in hot waffle iron. Makes 6 four-sectioned waffles.

SamHenry’s Saturday Night Specials – No Pun or Gun Intended

Grandmothers did a lot with cheeses.  Economical and readily available and in an  infinite variety, they had to be a key ingredient.  On Saturday or Sunday night for supper, they wouldn’t get out the fondue pot and long forks and set up the lazy Susan. If they did, they would probably use Tyler Florence’s recipe found here. More than likely they would serve something like Mountain Republic’s good old mac and cheese found right here OR they would have a little Welsh Rarebit.

Welsh Rarebit you say?  It is melted sharp cheddar and beer and a thickening agent, etc. over toast.  Mmmmmm.  Why it is called Welsh Rarebit is the stuff that fills whole lexicons.  Have fun Googling your idea of an answer.  There are many.

Served with a side of warm fruit compote (easily made) or fresh fruit on lettuce with a poppy seed dressing (or tossed greens with a light olive oil, apple cider vinegar, Dijon mustard and salt/pepper dressing) and you’re back in front of the TV with dinner, a beer and dessert and you only had to carry the plate in one hand, the beer in another.

Best to cook the compote ahead because, although simple to make, it takes 3 hours in the oven at low temperature to “candy” or sweeten  the fruit.  All fruit sweetens when cooked.  Here’s all you do:

Fruit Compote:

Pre-heat oven to 250 degrees.  In a baking or casserole dish, combine the following well-drained canned fruits:

1 can of cubed pineapple

1 can of peaches (cut to size of the pineapple cubes)

1 can of pears (cut to size of pineapple cubes)

Canned cherries if desired

Stir the mixture.  Sprinkle with brown sugar and unsalted butter pieces (or Olivio).

Cook for 2 hours. Then set temperature at 350 degrees and cook for another hour.  Delicious!  Worth the wait.  Probably VERY bad for you.

Now for the Welsh Rarebit:

I have attempted to lower the calories in this and to keep the ingredients simple.  There are many variations on this recipe so “Google” a few.

In a medium saucepan over low to medium  heat, make a roux of roughly 2 Tbs each unsalted butter (or Olivio) and flour ( all purpose or use Wondra – it’s easier).  A “roux” is the French culinary term for 1/2 flour and 1/2 fat cooked until smooth with a slight bubble.  It is the basis for most sauces.  How easy it that, eh?

Stir in a scant teaspoon Dijon or dry mustard and tsp Worcestershire sauce and the remaining ingredients:

dash of salt and pepper (freshly ground always).

1/2 cup whole milk or 3/4 cup heavy cream. (add more milk if mixture thickens too much)

1 and 1/2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese.

1/2 cup of your favorite beer

I always crush a clove of garlic and put a little of the juice in.

Stir the above until melted and smooth.  Pour over your favorite toast (rye, whole wheat, etc.)

Now wasn’t that easy?

In My Grandmother’s Pantry

Long after your grandmother has died, when you think back about her  table settings, her choices will reveal  her “ways” in a manner you had not imagined.  For this reason, everything about a grandmother’s table is of historic, sociological and family interest.  A meal is central to our socialization and it tells us volumes.

Large family dinners and large business-related dinners meant that my paternal grandmother had lots of “gear” to go.  Because her husband ran a department store with an office in London, she could source beautiful linens, stem ware and china at cost.  She favored Minton and L’Imoges and today what she had in her pantry are now styled “Antique Minton” and  “Antique l’Imoges.” Some resembled the following.  My favorites were the raised patterns with gold:

Minton colbalt blue
Detail of raised gold

Her collection of china was very much like the above.  It was like looking at candy.

Her tablecloths and table runners were exquisite.  But most amazing were champagne silk place mats with lace edges.  There were square pieces for the stem ware.   This group includes a tea-tray cloth.

Because grandmother gave large card parties with tables set up all over the downstairs, I found that she had a minimum of 20 luncheon napkins in each style to accommodate the tables when set for the meal that preceded the playing.  Long ago, a lovely lady who had helped at the house when Grandma was alive, took me through the downstairs and showed me where she had set up the tables and described a typical gathering.

Among my grandmother’s linens I found a crocheted lace piece that was a peculiar shape. Because it was heavy, I assumed it must have been worn by my grandmother’s Belgian mother as a kind of cap.  So I tried it on.  Oh, how lovely.

I was quickly disabused of my talent for identification of ancient pieces.  In looking over pictures of grandmother’s house, I found a picture of a chair wearing it.  Can you say “antimacassar”?

©SamHenry

At Great Grandmother’s Table in Ormond Beach, FL ca 1920

My Great Grandfather had a home on the Halifax River in Ormond Beach, Florida where he lived winters.  He was a Scottish merchant and other Scottish merchants had homes near him.  They called themselves “the Scottish Syndicate.”  The home was called Rowallan after a castle in his native Ayrshire.

Above is my Great Grandmother’s table at Rowallan (ca 1915). The centerpiece appears to be flowers and fruits.  These round tables are making a comeback now but with one difference: they are constructed so that you can add leaves around the outside to expand them if you wish.  Otherwise, they might be ungainly in today’s interiors.

There was a small orange grove on the property.  When the house was sold, the appraiser, in trying to devalue the place for tax purposes said: “it must have cost one dollar per orange to produce fruit in that grove.”  In other words, it wasn’t set up for economies of scale!

You could eat fruit al fresco in the grove as my cousins did here:

Or you could eat it at table using a citrus spoon with enameled orange blossoms.  This is a spoon actually used at Roallan.  It was the gift of a cousin in the family pictured above.  She was the youngest and is not pictured.

We know for certain that wild turkey was on the menu at the house.  Here is a picture of my young father (ca 1925) with one that had just been shot.  We must remember that Florida in those days was not developed to the extent it is today and so wild turkeys were not far away.

We are fortuate to have these pictures and some artifacts from those days almost a century ago.   There were seven children in the family and so a spoon is a treasure!

©SamHenry.  Registraton pending.

Unhappy Holiday Dinners at “the Children’s Table”

Proof there were children's' tables at many homes in the 1950s and '60s. This is from the internet.

We used to have big old-fashioned family gatherings at Thanksgiving and/or Christmas at Grandma’s house.  Helping Grandma and Grandpa,  it was as if everyone were in a flotilla. Deep in conversation, we all floated in family formation from the kitchen to the dining room and back again to set the table and to help make sure everything was ready.

Ah but then something came out that ended the togetherness: a smaller table. We little cousins knew what THAT was: the children’s table – our table.  Face it, we loved playing together but we did not want to eat together.  We wanted to be with the adults.  The adult’s table was only a matter of feet from us but it seemed as if we were on an island off the coast.

After dinner, the adults would sit around the table for hours talking in the residual glow of another good meal at Grandma’s.  We children carried plates to the kitchen as they talked.  I hurried through this so that I could stand by my parents at their table and listen to the stories.  There was a living room filled with comfortable furniture but that table was the center of the universe at holiday time.  To move to another room would have broken some kind of spell.

The sad fact about a table for children and another for adults is that it gets the children thinking about what it would take for them to get to the big table.  If there were room enough for everyone, we would all have been together.  So  you think and you imagine a way and then it  hits you:  death.  Someone at that table would have to die before you could have a place.  Oh my God did you felt guilty for having such a thought as if the thought itself were a murder weapon.  Kids are ripe for tragedy.  They despair of a way out.  It’s the drama of childhood!

When we all became adults with little people of our own, the reasonable solution finally arrived:  dinner out.   It was never as cozy or warm or as good as holiday dinner at Grandma’s house but then in this milieu,  I usually got to sit next to Grandma herself.  That was worth the wait.  That’s one of the wonderful moments when you realize it isn’t about a place – it’s about the people in it.  Grandma’s table can be anywhere as long as Grandma is sitting at it with us.

©SamHenry – atgrandmastable.wordpress.com.  Registration Pending.

Grandmother’s Recipes – From The Family Canning Company

There was a canning company in my family until 1920.  After her father’s death, my Grandmother (paternal)  ran it with her uncle.  But when he died and she had married my grandfather, the time had come to sell it.

The Company had a rich history.  The Curtice Brothers, Simeon and Edwin, had a grocery store in Webster, NY near Lake Ontario.  It was a prime growing area for fruits and “garden truck.”  They made jams and jellies in their mother’s kitchen after  hours.  All of this led them to found a canning company in 1868.  The headquarters was located in Rochester, NY but their produce came, in the main, from the Genesee Valley south of Rochester.

Their fastidiousness about freshness and quality led them to locate canning plants in the fields where produce could be captured and processed at the peak of freshness.  They were pioneers in this approach.

Today, their advertisements, labels, jars and bottles are prime collectors items.  Anything I have has been purchased on the internet since most records of the company did not survive.

Here is a little booklet published in 1908 “Original Menus” that includes suggestions for the use of Curtice Brothers products along with original recipes.  Over time, I will reproduce some of the pages from this booklet.  It is a gem.

Grandpa’s Table: Breakfast At Our Adirondack “Camp” from SamHenry

My maternal great grandfather started going to this little gem of a Lake in the foothills of the Adirondacks before I was born.  His son, my grandfater, owned his first cottage in a fairly well-populated bay but found a heavenly parcel with three lots and government property ringing most of it.

The house dated from the turn of the last century and was buried in trees with tall grass.  Not much mowing and all natural.

My favorite view of the property - from the old flat-bottomed fishing boat.

Inside was plain, not winterized, with tongue and groove unpainted walls.  The furniture was about the same date as the house; the kitchen dishes were depression-era glass and cheap reproduction willow ware and deep blue glasses.  In short, these camps were filled with anything you didn’t want at your main house anymore.

Grandpa with an iron frying pan full of sunny side up fried eggs cooked in bacon grease.

I began my trips there my first year on the planet and they continued until the camp (cottage for non-Adirondack vacation homes) was sold following my grandfather’s death.  In later years, my grandfather, a doctor, was the chief cook.  He and my uncle cooked wonderful breakfasts.  There was no dishwasher, a refrigerator only instituted in the place after 1970 and just the most basic iron cookware.  Water piped in from a well and turned off and on using faucets replaced the pump on the counter next to the sink around the same time.

All dining table and cooking equipment was kept in tall metal cabinets that shut tight to protect them from the mice and bugs.  Shelves were lined with oil cloth and, unlike today, seemed effortlessly spaced for successful storage.

I loved going fishing with Grandpa – often for the entire day.  He made up some Grandma Brown’s Baked Bean sandwiches (canned beans made in Mexico, NY) and brought some pop and other unrefrigerated snacks for lunch.  This was before ice packs and coolers.  He was not good about minding my mother’s rules about candy.  He would give me a few pieces and say “now I want you to take one of these once every ten minutes and see if you don’t feel better.”  When she would complain, he would turn to her and say: “I don’t get cavities from eating candy.  I keep my teeth in a glass nights and they are fine.”  He was a tease and a character.

Grandma and Grandpa on their way to the camp next door that was owned by his roommate at medical school. That family still owns their camp. This is one of my all time favorite pictures albeit from an early Kodak Instamatic.

Napkin Folding Spoken Here – From SamHenry

The beautiful Wye River Valley.

In the summer of 1966, my brother and I were tramping about Britain and we treated ourselves to a stay at the Chase Hotel, Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire just because we drove past and liked how it looked!  Serendipity is the best travel planning guide.

We had no idea that its main restaurant was gourmet and had been awarded Britain’s highest honor, an AA Rosette. This inspired the owners to have napkins folded in the shape of a rose on each service plate at table.

My brother who fancied  himself a chef but was more often mistaken for one of the Beach Boys  at airports, was fascinated.  Soon he was getting up with the sun and wending  his sleepy way to the dining room to be educated in the mysteries of napkin folding.  He also satisfied his chef fantasy by ordering Steak Diane made at the table each of the four nights we were there until he had that down.

♣ Napkin folding

was practiced in the 18th and early 19th centuries in Europe and America by people in service who had entire guide books for the purpose to train them.

I found one – a fragile “paperback” in a used book store a few years back and bought it for my brother.  Now, through the magic of the internet, instructions formerly confined within such covers or to the memory of an aged grandmother or  an old flunky would have limited the instances of the art found on tables today.  Many of the old patterns may be found here.

The rosette – alone or with a cup of soup nestled in its center – is found below:

Rose napkin pattern

The Rose Napkin Fold

Despite looking fairly elaborate, this fold is an easy one, and it can be done with almost any variety of napkin. Display small bowls or glasses on top of these, or use them as novelty cocktail napkins.


Napkin Fold #1
1. Lay the napkin face-down in front of you.
Napkin Fold #2
2. Fold the two right corners of the napkin in so the tips rest at the center.
Napkin Fold #3
3. Fold the remaining two corners of the napkin in so the tips meet with the last two in the center.
Napkin Fold #4
4. Once again, begin folding the outer corners in so they meet at the center.
Napkin Fold #5
5. Once all of the tips are folded you are left with a square about 1/4 the size of the unfolded napkin.
Napkin Fold #6
6. Flip it over.
Napkin Fold #7
7. Fold the corners in so they meet in the center and then place something sturdy in the center, or hold it with your fingers.
Napkin Fold #8
8. While maintaining downward pressure in the center of the napkin, reach underneath each corner and pull out the flaps to create petals.
Napkin Fold #9
9. Remove the center weight and your rose should look as pictured here.
Finished Rose Napkin Fold
10. If you like you can reach underneath the center of each side and pull out a second set of petals to fancy it up some more. Place something in the center and you’re done, have a rosy meal!