Thursday, December 18, 2014

Project 52: Rationing - Week 50 - Eggnog

Borden's Elsie the Cow - 1952
I don't know about you, but eggnog was a Christmas tradition in my family growing up. The holidays just wouldn't be complete without a glass of sweet, cold, creamy, nutmeg-hinted delight. I just love that stuff! I've had all kinds of eggnog over the years. Some amazing, some not that great. I even made my own cooked eggnog from scratch as a teenager once. I think I ended up scorching it on the bottom, because I don't remember it tasting that great. Regular ol' store bought eggnog, in my opinion, is too cloyingly sweet and much too thick. I always thin it out with milk. It also has a bunch of weird junk in it. Then a few years ago I tried an eggnog made from grass-fed cow's milk & cream... oh my. It was amazing! All eggnogs are definitely not created equal.

I was really excited to try an eggnog recipe for one of my final ration recipes. And I'm pretty sure that most people will not want to try this recipe. The biggest reason is because this Eggnog recipe uses raw egg.

I know this is a subject that gets people feeling testy, so this is all I'll say about it: I grew up unabashedly eating raw cookie dough and testing raw cake batter. It is sad that the salmonella issue surrounding raw eggs keeps people from enjoying raw dough and recipes like this one. I recently came across a recipe for Raw Eggnog on a homesteading site (The Prairie Homestead) and I like what she says about it. (Her blog is definitely in the raw milk camp which is a whole different topic of debate.) I like what she says about eating raw eggs though - how the main cause for concern really comes from store-bought eggs from chickens raised in unnatural and unhealthy conditions and not eggs from pasture-raised healthy chickens. We get eggs from our own chickens, so I don't feel it's a concern for me. If you'd like to make this recipe, I'd recommend getting your eggs from a farmer near you that you can trust, or you can make a cooked eggnog recipe where the egg is still in a liquid form, but it is cooked.

As far as I can tell from recipes, people in the 1940s were not worried about eating raw eggs. I've only ever seen raw egg used in drinks recipes, like a breakfast drink for instance. Eggnog is another obvious one that is perfect for the holidays- or anytime really!

So, let's get to it! The ingredients are wonderfully simple: one egg, 3/4 Tbsp. of sugar, 1 cup milk (I used whole milk), some vanilla and nutmeg.

Whisk the egg, then add the sugar, whisking it in.

Before adding in the sugar I took the additional step of straining my egg through a fine sieve. I am not a fan of stringy, slimy, egg white and definitely didn't want to be drinking it. It made a huge different in the texture of the egg, making it smooth and creamy. Just what you want for an eggnog!

Whisk the egg and sugar mixture with the milk. Add a splash of vanilla and some nutmeg to taste. Mix it up and you're done!

You may have noticed that this makes just enough eggnog for one person. How perfect!

Because everyone needs to be able to make a single-serving size of eggnog at a moment's notice!!

Oh dear. There seems to be only enough for me.
Don't mind if I do!

This eggnog was absolutely delicious! It was light, smooth, just the right amount of sweet and all around perfect. I couldn't have asked for a better eggnog. And I made it in less than five minutes. Not bad! The best thing is that the sugar and nutmeg are adjustable. That's always the benefit of making something yourself. :-)

Here's the recipe:

H for V cookbook - December 1942


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Project 52: Rationing - Week 49 - Lemon Sunshine Salad

Lemon Sunshine Salad
The past couple of days have been a bit dreary, so I thought it would finally be a good time to try the Lemon Sunshine Salad that I've had on my list of recipes to try this year. I wanted to try one more gelatin recipe before the end of this project for several reasons. A big reason is because gelatin or "Jello" recipes are so iconic to the time period and to our American food culture. Another reason that I've mentioned before is because gelatin recipes were so quick and easy and made a great dessert or side that you could make ahead of time - perfect for wartime families. The last reason is that when I saw this recipe awhile ago, I thought it looked slightly scary - which is why I knew I should probably try it! haha!

This recipe actually reminded me of one of my mom's favorite Jello recipes she would make a lot when I was a kid - lemon Jello with shredded carrots, crushed pineapple, and sometimes chopped walnuts. I always skimmed the plain Jello off the top to eat and left the rest. :-)

While this recipe for Lemon Sunshine Salad makes it sound like a lovely dessert, it is not. It is actually a lunch or dinner side. The addition of 1 tsp. salt, cabbage, carrot, and onion made this instantly apparent! Okay. Take a deep breath and here we go!

Ingredients: 1 regular box lemon gelatin, 1 cup boiling water, 1 cup cold water, 1 tsp. salt, 1 Tbsp. lemon juice, 1 Tbsp. finely minced onions, 1 cup finely shredded cabbage, and 1 cup finely grated carrots.

I did all my shredding/grating for the cabbage and carrots on my antique aluminum set of graters. I grew up using a set of these and I love them. I was so happy to find the whole set at an antique store! They do tend to get a bit rusty, but it's nothing a little steel wool won't fix!

First, pour the boiling water over the lemon gelatin and stir until it's dissolved.

Add in the salt, lemon juice, and cold water. Stir to combine. Put in the fridge for about 30 min. - 1 hour to thicken. I guess it depends on how cold your fridge is. Check on it now and then to make sure it doesn't get too solid. You want it to be a thick liquid.

When it's thickened, add in the rest of the ingredients and stir to combine. The recipe says to not shred anything until you're ready to add it in. From what I've read of the time period, I imagine this would be because they felt that as soon as you shred the vegetables, the exposure to air would begin to deteriorate the vitamins. Since I shred them beforehand, I followed the recipe's advice and put the veg in the fridge until I was ready to add them.

It's ready to go back into the fridge until it has set up nicely. That will take about another hour or so; longer if you want it to be more solid.

Well, it is a lovely, cheery color isn't it? I think it's been named appropriately.

Finally, the taste test! 

This gelatin was... interesting! I didn't love it. I didn't hate it. With the 1 teaspoon of salt, the salad definitely had that sweet/salty thing going on. The texture is nice and I liked the combination of the cabbage and carrots, though I wasn't a fan of the onion. Overall, this is a funky, bright, crunchy salad. I'm still not 100% sure how I feel about it, but I'm glad I tried it, even if it was a bit scary!

If you're brave enough, give it a go:
If not, just make some Jello and enjoy how awesome plain Jello can be. haha!

December 1942 Westinghouse Health-for-Victory magazine

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

WWII Cigarette Cards

I had never heard of WWII cigarette cards until my good friend, Mairi, sent me one she found in an antique shop in Glasgow:
I instantly fell in love with this cool little card! I thought it was a fantastic glimpse into wartime Britain. What I found out was that in every carton of cigarettes there was a collectible card. There were numerous series of cards produced. The card above is one of a series of 50 about Air Raid Precautions. There were also cards series about Aircraft, Army Badges, Modern Navel Craft, etc. I found a great page on ebay that lists a whole bunch of the military type ones. 

I was super excited to obtain a complete set of these Air Raid Precaution cards from England recently.
Here are a few more in the set that I thought were neat:

I love her outfit! She looks so professional in that ventilated gas-proof shelter.

That picture of the civilian Anti-gas school is a bit creepy, isn't it?

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Project 52: Rationing - Week 48 - Soya Fudge

While doing research for a history class assignment in college, I stumbled on these two great articles about "war bread" from WWI. I've been excited to share them for a long time, so here they are:

What else do you do with peanut cake leftover from oil extraction? Make bread of course!
Davis County Clipper (UT), April 26, 1918

Here are some wise (albeit cheeky!) words on "War Bread" from WWI that would have applied just as well to WWII:

The Box Elder News (UT)
February 8, 1918
"Those who can't live on the bread made from war flour will either have to die or else eat something else." Haha! I love that article!

If you remember from some of my previous ration posts, war bread made another appearance in WWII, especially in England. "War bread" or "Victory bread" was made from a mixture of other grain flours along with wheat which was referred to as "National flour". It wasn't as nice tasting as pre-war bread, but most Brits didn't have much of a choice.

While I haven't run across any recipes for Peanut Flour Bread, another protein-rich flour that was encouraged for use (at least for Americans) was soya flour made from ground soybeans. Americans were encouraged to add soy to many of their regular recipes like cookies, ice cream, pie crust, baked goods in general, and casseroles to boost nutrition and improve texture. They even taught that soya flour could sometimes save the use of eggs too since soya flour could act as a binder. Lots of interesting things I didn't know about soy!

Thus, this week's recipe features soya (or soy) flour. I've made bread a number of times for this project, so I wanted to find another use for soya flour. The December 1943 edition of the Westinghouse Health-for-Victory booklet focuses on using soy as a meat replacement and it had a few interesting recipes where you wouldn't think of using soy flour. I decided on Soya Fudge mainly because I haven't made candy yet for my project and I've never made fudge in my life. Seriously! I actually don't even like fudge. *gasp!* (I know. Weird, huh?) But SOYA Fudge? Weirder still!

Since everyone else seems to love fudge, though, I thought Soya Fudge would make a nice holiday recipe idea... Maybe.... I guess we'll just have to see.

Ingredients called for are sugar, cocoa powder, margarine or butter, soya flour, salt, corn syrup, milk, and vanilla.

Mix together the dry ingredients, the margarine, and the corn syrup.
I realize now that the directions for this recipe weren't very good. I probably should have melted the margarine before adding it.

Slowly add the milk and stir until combined.

Heat (on roughly medium - the recipe didn't say!) until boiling and cook until the temperature reaches 240ยบ F (soft ball stage).

After it reaches temperature, the recipe says to sit the pot in a pan of cool water for 3 minutes to help it cool. (What?!) Okay, so I did that. The fudge on the bottom became really stiff...)
Now this is where more knowledge of the fudge process would have helped me. At this point I added in the vanilla (which the recipe somehow left out in the instructions!), and then you add in the soya flour. The recipe says to beat until it becomes thick. I guess I didn't beat it long enough, which apparently is an important stage.

Pour it out onto a greased pan and allow to cool and set. Cut into bars before it gets too cool. So, my fudge was not thick at all and it pretty much stayed as this weird chocolatey taffy mass. I tried cutting pieces, but it just oozed back into my cut marks. Beating the fudge is important, people!!! (By the next day, though, it had hardened considerably and was nearly impossible to get out of the pan. Arrg!)

So, here it is:
Soya Fudge..
Such as it is.
Then came the taste test. I put some in my mouth and it started off pretty nice I guess. But then there was this really weird and funky aftertaste that lingered a long time after the fudge was gone. It took me a few minutes to pinpoint what it tasted like. This is going to sound weird, but it tasted like I took a shot of liquified alfalfa sprouts after plopping in the fudge. That's right. SPROUTS! It was so nasty. I mean, I don't like fudge anyway, but adding a sprouts aftertaste is just where I have to draw the line!

So of course, that meant I had to give some to my kids to try. Haha! And you know what? They loved it! I guess their experience with fudge is so limited... Poor kids.

Just to compare I had to look up a different old-fashioned fudge recipe to double check the cooking method. Check it out here.

So, in the end, I don't think this would go over well for a holiday recipe idea. Just stick with your ol' tried and true recipes and enjoy this as some quick recipe reading material. In fact, I may just need to redeem myself by attempting fudge again, this time with a recipe like "Dark Chocolate Cherry Fudge". Even that sounds good to me!

As a bonus I'm posting below the article in this December 1943 issue of Health-for-Victory about using soy because I find it so interesting! I know there are various stances on soy today, but back then they were learning how to use it to supplement their meager protein ration. Enjoy!

See that picture of fudge up there on the top right? 
I wish my fudge had at least turned out like that even if it didn't taste that great! :-(

P.S. I did end up making a modern fudge recipe just so I didn't feel like a complete failure at fudge. I made the Dark Chocolate Cherry fudge that I mentioned above and it turned out great! My family and neighbors were happy. :-) 

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Robinson Nature Center Updated

Back in March I wrote a blog post about "Building a Museum Exhibit - part 1". In it I talked about a super cool exhibit at the Robinson Nature Center, but I unfortunately didn't have very good pictures to draw from and couldn't find the ones I'd taken a few years ago. So, my kids and I went back and I took all new pictures and have updated the post to include my most recent observations. Their mill exhibit is absolutely fantastic and such a brilliant use of technology in a museum.

Check it out! HERE

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Project 52: Rationing - Week 47 - Fat & Fritters

Most of these images I found through
Happy Thanksgiving! 

I'd have to say that this week's ration recipe is one of the most important when it comes to talking about food rationing during WWII. Both in the UK and in the United States, saving fat drippings for use in cooking was a huge deal as fat was rationed during the war and it was a vital ingredient in making explosives. Any waste fat was saved and given to munitions factories for the glycerin to be extracted from the fat. Housewives had a direct impact on the war effort by donating those fats.

Fat was of huge importance, not only because it was essential for the war effort, but also because fat made food taste better and it added much needed calories and nutrition for hard working men and women. But since it was rationed, they needed to make their fat ration stretch as far as they could. Saving every ounce of fat and rendering it to be reused again in their cooking and baking was absolutely essential.

There were quite a few posters about saving fat from the British and American governments:

 So, let's say you were a patriotic citizen and you saved your fat drippings from bacon, beef, hamburger, ham, sausage, whatever. What would you do with it then? How would you get it from fat contaminated with food particles, flavors, and smells to a nice clean fat you could cook with?

Well, that's what we're going to explore today. I'm excited for this one and it's been on my to-do list for a long time! Today's ration recipe comes in two parts: rendering the fat, and then cooking something with the fat. My recipes and information are from two British wartime leaflets that talk about fat - "How to Fry" and "Making the Most of the Fat Ration".

I collected fat from several sources - beef broth, bacon drippings, and ground beef drippings. The majority of the fat was bacon drippings and smelled heavily of smoky bacon. I really wondered if I was going to be able to change that into a useful cooking fat.

The recipe says to put your fat into a saucepan and cover with water.

As the fat melts, it will look a little gross as a thick fat layer floating on top of the water. Blech.

Bring it to a boil and then remove from heat.

Pour the fat into a container and set it in a cool place, like your fridge.
I wanted you to be able to see the water and fat in layers, but my container was too small!
Thus the two containers.
 After sitting in the fridge, the fat is a nice creamy white and the impurities have mingled in the water or sunk to the bottom.
 The recipe says to scrape the bottom of the fat to remove any additional impurities that stuck to the bottom, but the bacon fat was much too soft and it all kind of fell apart. I think beef fat is the best as it's a much stiffer, sturdier fat to work with.
My cleaned fat.
 At this point your fat is ready for baking, but if you'd like to use it for frying or to keep it longer term, you have to cook it again to drive off the water. If your fat has a strong smell (like mine did), the recipe says you can cook a cut, raw potato in it until it's brown which will absorb any flavors/smells. Interesting, eh?
The fat will sputter and steam as the water works its way out of the fat and evaporates. Once it's stopped doing that, your fat is ready for frying or storage.
Cut potatoes cooking in my rendered fat to get rid of the bacony smell and flavor.

My cleaned and purified fat! It was looking more golden than I was expecting...
I was happily surprised that it didn't smell like bacon anymore! Amazing!
 As for a recipe, I used the one provided in the "How to Fry" leaflet for Fritters. I've never made fritters and always wanted to try. They are such a simple, and wonderfully easy food to make.

For the fritter batter, it calls for 4 oz. flour (about 1 cup), a pinch of salt, 1 egg, 1/4 pint milk and water (1/2 cup with 1/2 milk and 1/2 water). That's it!
Ingredients for the fritter batter.
 Mix it all up. It will make a nice, thick batter. You can use this to dip fish or apples in, or you can add chopped ingredients to the batter and just drop spoonfuls of batter into the hot oil. I opted for the latter, but I wanted to try a sweet and a savory version.
Once the batter was made, I divided it into two separate bowls.

For the savory I chose their suggestion of flaked fish. I had a tin of canned salmon, so I opened that up and put in about half the can.
Fritter batter with flaked, canned salmon
 For the sweet, they suggest using chopped, dried fruit and I felt using cranberries would be appropriate for the Thanksgiving holiday!
Fish Fritter batter on the left
Cranberry Fritter batter on the right
 Heat up your oil on medium heat and fry spoonfuls of the fritter batter. I used a small saucepan to get the depth I needed since I didn't have that much rendered fat. I'd say the fritters took about 5 minutes, flipping several times throughout their cooking. I also made sure to fry my cranberry fritters first so they wouldn't taste like fish from the fish fritters!

They cooked up very nicely and in the end my oil was even deeper golden in color:
I'm not sure if this is too dark to reuse or not. The recipe says that as long as you don't burn the fat,
you can use it many times over. After you've gotten as much use as you can from the fat,
you would sell it to your butcher to be sent off to the munitions factory.
 And here they are! The recipe suggested that you could sprinkle a little sugar on the sweet fritters which I took liberty in doing. Both the fish and the cranberry fritters were very tasty! They are such a simple, yet filling food, and so much easier than I thought they'd be! I think it helps that you can just throw the chopped ingredients in instead of worrying about dipping. It saves a lot of time!

My husband had the fish ones for lunch. I think they could have used a little malted vinegar. I seriously just need to buy a bottle, already! The cranberry ones were just perfect - the only sweetness being lent by the sweetened cranberries.

I was also very happy that my fritters didn't have any off or bizarre bacony flavor. That, I think, was the big victory with this recipe. (Just as a side note: I only fried a few of the fritters in my rendered fat to try for the recipe, because the fat was starting to look really dark. So, for the rest of the batter I fried them in grapeseed oil and they turned out great.)

Here are a few portions from the British Wartime leaflets published in the fabulous book Eating for Victory: Healthy Home Front Cooking on Wartime Rations that I would highly recommend to anyone to buy! 

"Making the Most of the Fat Ration"
by The British Ministry of Food

The rest of the pictures come from "How to Fry"
by The British Ministry of Food

I followed these instructions for clarifying fat

Here are the recipes for the fish and fruit fritters!
The celery and cheese fritters look interesting!

Happy rendering and frying! And have a wonderful Thanksgiving!