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1940s Archive

Food Flashes

Originally Published April 1949

Bring on the ham, a ham super-elegant, pearly pink the meat, and richly perfect in the mouth, with the taste of the smoke in each juicy fiber. These are hams of corn-fed hogs from the corn belt country, given the long sherry cure, smoke-washed free of all impurities. The hams cook while they smoke, while they absorb the deep-hearted wood flavor. Comes the scoring of the fat, the quilting with cloves, each nailhead set in true diamond pattern; comes the glazing, and into the oven. Now frequent sherry bastings to make the crust shine. These hams are ready-to-eat as they come to you, averaging 10 to 16 pounds, price $1.50 a pound postpaid, wrapped in Cello-phane with a gay overwrap, prepared by an old Pennsylvania Dutch formula on Hickory Valley Farm, Little Kunkle-town, Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania.

The same farm has the White Holland smoked turkeys, smoked just as we like them, that is, most delicately, slow gold on the outside, the breast meat white with the palest pink tinting, whole smoked birds $1.75 a pound postpaid, average weight 10 to 20 pounds.

Best thing traveling from their farm is the hickory-smoked sausage, delicately spiced 4 pounds stuffed into a casing, price $4.60. Want something different in bacon? Then order the lean pork loin, the Canadian-style bacon, dry-cured, hickory-smoked, all meat, no waste, 4 to 6 pounds, $1.75 a pound postpaid. Slab bacon, too, this like the bacon you remember in the prewar years, lean, tasting of hickory smoke, $12 for the 10-pound piece, or 5 pounds for $6.25. The meats are packaged in the gayest of gift boxes, decorated with Pennsylvania Dutch figures and motifs, with a hand-drawn picture of the old farmhouse and barn. One October afternoon we drove from New York City into the Pennsylvania Dutch country to see the farm plant where these good things are made. It is the last word in modern equipment, and as to cleanliness, no conscientious Dutch housewife could do better.

Something different in the way of an Easter ham is an Old-South ham cured by a recipe ten generations old, cured and cooked to sell mail-order by Mary Watkins McLaughlin, Halifax, Virginia. Mary can trace the origin of her recipe back to 1730, to William Morton Watkins of Virginia, who received from George II of England a grant of land on which he built the family home. Here Mary lives. Here ten generations of the Watkinses have lived, raising the razorbacks and giving the hams the special cure by the recipe William brought to the colonies out of England.

It's now Mary's father's farm, and Dad raises the “pine-rooters,” as the lean, bacon-type hog is locally known. It's Mary who attend to each detail of the curing, the cooking, the marketing.

The curing is done in the back-yard smokehouse, which has stood just where it is since Civil War years.

It's a long, slow job getting a ham from hog to table, by Mary's way of doing. The salt-and pepper rub, that's the first trick, a do-it-by-hand job, once a day for three weeks. After that the hams are ready for bagging, and off they go to hand in the hickory-chip smoke for a period of weeks; then comes the ten-month air cure.

Hams are boned and cooked only on order, and the cooking is a ritual. They are soaked overnight, then put into cold water, this brought to a boil, and simmered slowly two hours. At this point the ham is removed from the water, dried, wrapped in yeast dough, and put to bake for six hours in a slow oven. Then it's crack off the dough, pour off the juice, take off the skin. The ham is returned to the oven and let bake golden-brown. In the cooking as well as in the curing no flavoring is used, no sugar, no molasses, not a whit of spicing. The result is a ham of an incredibly mellow, sweet flavor. The color of the meat is distinctive, darker than the usual ham, and the aroma more pungent. Here is ham unlike anything we have seen in the market, and not to be used like the regular commercials. This should be sliced paper-thin and served as a cocktail appetizer. It can be used as a main course, but serve small portions, for the ham is rich, rich!

Hams arrive wrapped in Cellophane, boxed, postpaid, ready to serve with instructions for the carving. Weight 10 pounds or over, priced $2 the pound—no bone, no waste. The finished ham weighs less than half the weight of green ham before curing. Address Mary Watkins McLaughlin, Halifax, Virginia.

One of the whitest, the finest, and best flavored water-ground corn meals we ever made into spoon bread come from Byrd Mills, Louisa, Virginia. The main portion of this mill was built in 1747, and there is stands today, the hand-hewn beams solid as when young Patrick Henry brought corn to be ground from his fahter's nearby plantation. Water power turns of great wheel at sedate pace. There is no heating the meal, as in mills which operate at high speed.

The mill offers the white corn meal, also yellow corn meal and crakced wheat, each, 5 pounds 82 cents. There is whole-wheat flour and a buckwheat flour, 5 pounds $1.05, Old-fashioned flour and natural flour, 5 pounds 95 cents. Send checks, please, no C.O.D. shipping, minimum order $1.

Little Finland has foodstuffs starting our way. First item here the Finlandia candies made by Karl Fazer in his Helsinki factory. Before the war this firm turned out 2,000 varieties that won first prizes in expositions all around Europe. The crown box carries the prize selection, a beauty of a box, its white cover gold-lettered, the Imperial British Crown the center decoration, the right for its use extended by Edward VII. Candies in this box are préed fruits, not jellies as we know them here. Pear for one, made of the Dutchess pear, of distinctive flavor, which grows only in Europe. Other kinds are sgrawberry, orange, lemon, in all 10 flavors, all made of the pulp of the fruit like a concentrated essence. Karl Fazer sends the dragées, these famous the world over. One is of ground hazelnut, other kinds are orange, lemon, and mint. Our favorite of the many Fazer sweets is the mint cream, this piece shaped like a maple leaf and chocolate-coated.

The importer tells us he has 100,000 pounds of these candies in revolving stock. In New York City Finlandia sells at Charles and Company, 340 Madison Avenue; across the river in Brooklyn, find them at Ecklebe & Guyer, 1 DeKalb Avenue; at Fox and Company and Sage and Allen, Hartford, Connecticut; Marshall Field, in Chicago.

World-famous herring is the Capitaine Cook, coming from France, marinated in white wine, packed with a slice of sweet onion, a slice of lemon, First shipment since 1940 has arrived in New York and is around in the stores, the 11-ounce tin selling for around $1.10 at Seven Park Avenue Foods, 109 East 34th Street. The herring is dressed in the round, head off, skin off, 4 to a tin, each about 5 inches long. The marinade treatment gives a fish most tender, most delicate, a product inimitable. The flavor of old france returns with the herring. They come seasoned of the mist and sunshine of the Brittany Coast, holding something of the magic of the cobbled old streets where the blue fishing nets are spread out to dry.

Welcome wheatmeal “Digestive” biscuit from Carr's factory in England, but no longer labeled “Digestive.” What's so digestible about a mere cracker? Ask the government boys who take care of matters regarding the Food and Drug rulings. Now the round, flat biscuits packed in the tall cannister come labeled “Wheatsworth.” the price is $1.258 for the 15-ounce tin, selling in New York at Enoch's Delicatessen, 872 Madison Avenue, and Hammacher Schlemmer, 145 East 57th Street. The Abraham & Straus grocery has the item for Brooklyn. With the arrival of Wheatsworth, the Carr family, which started its trek back in December, is almost complete, but two members are missing: the Cumberland biscuit and the afternoon teas. It's good to see the picture-wrapped tins again in circulation, and to read the familiar old names, Charm, Fisher Boy, Sally, Carnival, Springtime, and such, which designate the different sweets of the line.

When Sally Munro was asked to run a candy booth at a church bazaar, she dug out grandma's recipes and made a sale feature of old-time sweets. This was during war years when good candy was at a premium, and crowds pressed in three deep to buy. Sally sold out almost before she got started. Followed a deluge of telephone calls from local women offering to bring in their own sugar if Sally would take a hand with the candy. When the sugar situation eased, Mrs. Munro decided to make candy her business, in partnership with her son.

The Munros moved into Burlington, Vermont, opened a candy kitchen to make “Lucullus Tidbits.” As Sally explains, “I chose the name because I felt the candy was good enough to have pleased that great Roman host.” Her chocolates are in a great variety of shapes, with innumerable fillings of nuts, creams, and fruits. Surprising thing is that the candies, although they are made in very small batches by home technique, wear a professional air, each piece sleek and trim. Some are topped with silver dragés, others carry fondant flowers, nut halves, chocolate sprinkles. The price is $2.50 the 1 ½ pound box, about 65 pieces. Order from Lucullus Tidbits, 28 School Street, Burlington, Vermont. Postage is extra.

Supercolossal the green ripe olives, each as big as a plum, the flesh firm and meaty, packed with the seed, Old Monk the brand. These olives are picked one at a time, handled with care, not to bruise or to mar. No chance for these olives to wilt and to wither, for they are packed the day they are picked. Tins holding 16 of theb wolrd's finest olives, each one like the other in size and in shape, are at Maison Glass, 15 East 47th Street, New York, the price 65 cents.

It's the month of the wafer—new arrivals from abroad, new originals appearing along the home biscuit front. Stickbits are the newest wafer wizardry of the spring. Hollow, crisp, strawlike affairs, these come 20 to 25 pieces to a box, stuffed with cream fillings, three sweet, one savory. The Carlsbad almond is the top favorite, the filling vanilla cream blended with crushed roasted almonds. One stick has a stuffing of French chocolate cream, mixed with finely ground hazelnuts. A third holds the same cream, but Jamaica—rum-flavored and the filled wafers chocolate-dipped, all rich as candy. Twenty of these to a box price $1. The other sticks pack 25 to a tin for 85 cents. The cocktain stick holds a softened Sardi cheese, but it lacks the distinctive character of the sweet varieties. There is a Stickbit for every occasion. Chocolate and hazelnut go nicely with ice cream, are good to pass with stewed fruit or the fresh-fruit compote. The almond is a natural with port. Cheese stick is tailored to accompany the cocktails, or to pass with salad.

Stickbits are packed in tin boxes, the lids decorated with allover patterns of birds, flowers, hearts, butterflies—done in peasant effect. The new wafer is the latest creation of the Transatlantic Biscuit Company, makers of the Carlsbad Oblaten. Do you know the Oblaten which comes in pie-shaped pieces, the wafer composed of thin layers sandwiched with sweet fillings such as vanilla cream mixed with crushed roasted almonds? Frou Frou has a hazelnut filling, the piece chocolate-covered. Chocolate Doublette is filled with a plain bitter-sweet chocolate cream. Hazelnut cream fills the Hazelnut Fancies.

All available at Charles and Company, 340 Madison Avenue, Vendome Table Delicacies, 415 Madison Avenue, and Bloomingdale's, Lexington Avenue at 59th Street.

Stroop waffle comes to America for the first time, a Gouda, Holland, product as famous in its way as the cheese of the town and the stained-glass windows. This wafer is like the French, gaufrette, only this a sandwiched proposition, put together two by two with a golden syrup, sticky and tasting like heaven.

Originally these waffles were a home-kitchen specialty, baked in hand irons, then carefully spread with the syrup for a coffee-time sandwich, for holiday celebrations. Eventually the household tidbit evolved into a commercial wafer and is now turned out by the thousands of dozens to be in everyday use, passed with coffee, tea, cocoa, and wine. But even these factory-baked waffles are made by home recipes handed down the generations. Ten round waffle sandwiches are packed to a tin, each measuring 3 inches across, 85 cents a package at C. Henderson's, 52 East 55th Street. To mail-order, add extra for postage.

An aristocrat among seasoners is the Creole spice- and herb-scented vinegar made for seventy-five years by the A. M. Richter Sons Comapny. It adds flavor excitement when used to season salads, meats, fish, and vegetables. So many the way to put it to work, in marinades, soups, and sauces. It does something most special for a pot of baked beans. No sharpness as you might imagine, but smooth, a blend of three vinegars, cider, malt, and the distilled, mellowed by aging in wood. The elusive flavor which is typically Creole results from the use of certain French herbs known in Creole kitchens. A mail-order job, two pints $1.50 postpaid, address A. M. Richter Sons Company, Dept. G-2, Manitowoc, Wisconsin. No C.O.D.'s.

Bourbon balls were passed with the after-dinner coffee, something to sweeten and burn the blood. Rich and so tiny, about an inch through, a cuddlesome size for the mouth. We could eat three and no more—a trifle potent! We mean “reely!”

“Wherever did you get them?” “Made by a friend,” our hostess informed, “Nan MacDonald, 319 East 50th Street, New York.” We went calling on Mrs. MacDonald to see what in the world?

Crushed vanilla wafers with finely ground nuts and confectioners' sugar, that's the bourbon ball's backbone, the crumbs stuck together with eggs. Whisky added, all the crumbs can soak in. The balls are flavored two ways, with coffee or chocolate, price $1.25 a dozen, parcel post included.

The most expensive coffee to come our way is Sherry's Mayan, in a vacuum-packed, $1-a-pound tin. This is a coffee styled without consideration of price, styled to the taste of the late Lucius Boomer, Chairman of the Board of the Waldorf-Astoria and a great coffee lover, whose judgment of a brew was invariably unerring. Ten years ago Mr. Boomer, then president of the Louis Sherry Company, called a meeting of the executives and outlined a plan for a coffee blend, no expense to be spread. He himself would tour Mexico and Central America in search of the bean outstanding enough to provide the basic flavor.

It was in Guatemala that he tasted a coffee called Antigua, of exquisite flavor, yet with strength enough to bring it exactly to his liking. There was little of this coffee grown, no more than 20,000 bags annually—but that was no worry. A de luxe coffee such as Sherry's planned would be blended for the few, those with palate appreciation and the money to pamper their taste. Other coffees grown in the lands of the ancient Mayan civilization were chosen to build up the blend to the requirements that Mr. Boomer demanded as to body and richness of aroma and small subtleties of flavor.

The result was a really now coffee, unlike any other. This was roasted to precisely the right degree to bring out its mellow way, then vacuum-tinned under the brand name Mayan. War came, coffee was rationed, tin was at a premium, fine coffees were hard to get, Mayan was off and on the market, very hush about its fine self. Luxury coffee was not patriotic. Now Mayan is around again and telling the world it's a brew rich and dark with a certain dryness in flavor as a wine might be dry. The second cup is better than the first, all the flavor still there. We can't quite say why this coffee seems so different but, by Jove, we realize here is something unique. Our warning: one cup and you are well on the way to making Mayan a habit. Selling at Louis Sherry's, 300 Park Avenue, and the Louis Sherry shop at Fifth Avenue and 59th.