1950s Archive

Food Flashes

Originally Published July 1951

Mighty like a rose and it is rose, a rose-petal honey made by a recipe taken from the famous Martha Washington cookbook, the original copy now owned by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

Martha kept a stock of this honey on hand, and one garden of red roses was grown at Mount Vernon just for its making. This pale honey of the delicate rose flavor is made almost exactly like that brewed by Martha.

The maker is Mrs. Abraham Elkon, a former food columnist for French and Canadian newspapers, who loves experimenting with food. While perusing the Martha Washington cookbook, she took a fancy to the honey recipe.

The honey is processed with rose petals, which are purchased in quantities, “scummed” carefully, and allowed to cool slowly. In accordance with modern tastes, she has reduced the rose flavor slightly. For centuries after the Crusades, rose was one of the most popular flavors, Rose petals, rose crystals, rose waters, were a frequent addition to sauces and cakes. The ancestral palates were more used to this flavor than ours. Knowing this, Mrs. Elkon makes her honey most delicate of the rose, much less heavily scented than Martha turned out for George. But that flavor is “something very special, ” one taster wrote.

The honey sells in a one-pound jar for $1.60, in a ½ pound size for 85 cents, and in a small breakfast-tray guest-jar for 40 cents. Order from Moroney's, Purchase Street, Rye, New York. Add 35 cents for packaging and postage. Sage cheese is the traditional dessert cheese for many connoisseurs. May we suggest it now for potatoes au gratin? The whole cheese (approximately 11 to 18 pounds) costs $11.93, or cuts for $1.13 a pound.

A vintage Cheddar and a great cheese, made when the nights were cool and the grass lush in May, 1917, costs whole (78 to 80 pounds) $103, to lay by like a fine wine; cuts for $1.53 a pound. Order from Oneida Dairy Products, 110 South Warren Street, Syracuse 2, New York.

Jellies, herb jellies, that's the Clara Ross line, ten of these and a spiced pickled crab apple, put up in small lots and mailed from the maker's own kitchen in Fast Hardwick, Vermont.

Pickled crabs are the product unusual. Tiny whole crab apples arc spiced and pickled by an old Vermont recipe, the dark red apples in thick brown sugar syrup tanged gently with vinegar made interesting with spices. These come packed in a pot-bellied 10-ounce jar, the price 65 cents; after you have eaten the apples, try the juice on baked beans.

The wine and herb jellies come clear and sparkling. The white grape wine jelly is light and sweet, one to “relish” a roast. Concord grape, a red-purple, we would serve as complement to the blond. The elderberry color is exactly that of elderberry wine and gives the same little glow. And blackberry, the berries for this straight from the back pasture, is a shimmering stuff, deep red and gorgeous. And cherry, marvelous with fish, game or fowl.

The herb kinds arc rosemary with orange, to serve with an omelette. Thyme with grape, two flavors made for each other, combining so perfectly with the cream cheese. Marjoram and lemon, this to pair with roust chicken. Summer savory and grapefruit offer plenty of kick rolled in a jelly roll. That clear, translucent green is garden mint—seductive with lamb. Gift jellies are $1.75 postpaid, four 3-ounce jars, any four varieties attractively packaged in a gift box.

Looking for homemade miracles? Stock your jelly-relish shelves with Joelmar Products, a fanciful line of custom-canned wares made by Clara J. Levinson, a New Jersey housewife. These “picklin” and “preservin” delights run their course straight from the time of the first strawberries through appletime.

Our favorite of the line is a bread-and-butter pickle, a blue-ribbon winner at the Trenton, New Jersey, Fair in 1949. One long, deep whiff and we are linked hack with a thousand associations. A Kansas garden among the sprangly cucumber vines, the August sun bathing the body, beating iron-hot on bent shoulders. The little cucumbers arc the only ones to go into the basket for Mom's bread-and-butter pickles. In the shade of the vine-covered back porch, the cucumbers arc sliced tissue-thin, each slice like the next. And that's exactly Mrs. Levinson's way. “So right, ” she tells us when the pickles are used in a sandwich. She has one bread-and-butter pickle with a trifle thicker slice and a little extra red pepper for use as a meat relish. Otherwise, the two packs arc the same in their saucing. Both arc piquantly yours and the proof of the pickle, of course, lies in its piquancy; the price, $1.50 a pint.

The Levinson wild strawberry preserves are a labor of love. It is tedious toil to gather the little heart-shaped berries. Fingers redden with the stain, yet a joy, to remember the unbearable sweetness of pastures in June. The special gooseberry jam pleasures the nose. Wild huckleberries in spiced molasses syrup is something to try with cream cheese. Both the wild berries and the strawberries arc canned without sugar for diabetics; price, $3.50 a quart.

The kumquats are the finest item we sampled, the fruit golden and tender, deliciously preserved. Price $1.50 a pint, $3 a quart, and a quart's not too many.

And look, sweet-pickled sour cherries put up in sour cherry vinegar. It takes eleven days of processing before these cherries get canned. And for what? The place of the onion or the olive in the Martini cocktail. Spiced Bing cherries on the Levinson shelf, these in a red wine vinegar, something to serve as a pick-up with cocktails or a relish note with the meat. The brandied Bings are packed with stems on, pits in. The seed, of course, helps impart real cherry flavor. Expensive, 14 ounces $2.50, but Mrs. Levinson is not trying to compete with products in stores, but does custom canning.

A box of crystallized ginger is a convenient little luxury to keep bandy in the pantry. Good passed with the tea. and do try a bit cut into smallish pieces to garnish fruit salad and to give a new flavor to old candy favorites such as the fudge and the penuche. Keep a box of crystallized ginger on the reading table. a marvelous aid to digestion. Ginger has been used since ancient times both as a medicine and as a sweetmeat. The wise old kings of the Orient nibbled ginger boiled in honey. Marco Polo was the first traveler to have a glimpse of the growing ginger plant, and the fact is duly noted in his journal of 1298.

Rich's crystallized Canton ginger is top grade, tender with a sharp ginger bite, packed in the famous yellow and black box, and found at candy counters everywhere.

Add a few drops of Eau de Fleurs d'Oranger Triple to a cup of tea, and the most bracken brew will taste like a high-bred jasmine. The orange water, imported from France, sells at R. H. Macy's, New York, the 4-ounce bottle 39 cents.

Three exciting new ice cream sauces: a pale peppermint, an amber gingery one, and a deep brown mocha. The Chanteclair brand means excellent; in this instance, fresh butter and heavy cream. The peppermint sauce could be used nicely with lemon sherbet, the sherbet dipped into a tall parfait glass, a hole made down through the middle and filled with green fragrance. So creamy rich in the mouth, a joy to the eyes. This is a sauce made with white chocolate.

The mocha is of the most delicate flavor, a combination of the expensive Noisette Paste, a blend of ground filberts and chocolate, along with fine coffee. Languidly it pours, giving of its richness. A spoonful will raise any pudding above smug monotony.

Ginger sauce tastes of the sun, a nectar surprising with its hot little back bite. Use it over fresh fruit to sweeten and enhance or let it “sundae” ice cream. Anywhere that ginger may delight. this sauce serves well. The ginger root is finely ground, but its heat is all there. These Chanteclair food delicacies arc sold in New York City at Vendome Table Delicacies, 415 Madison Avenue, Ellen Grey, 800 Madison Avenue. Seven Park Avenue Poods, Park Avenue and 34th Street, and B. Altman's grocery; the price, around $1.15 a jar.

A new, instant all-chicken bouillon cube is being introduced in the stores, a sister to the Nestlé's beef cube, a year old this past spring. With a mere pressure of the fingers, you crumble the small square into a cup of boiling water and instantly—a real chicken-flavored bouillon! Serve it as is or use in recipes calling for chicken or light stock. A flavor-lifter when added as an ingredient and extender in soups, sauces and gravies, in rice and vegetable dishes.

The little cube is flavor-packed with real chicken essence, nothing synthetic. Chicken cubes sell in packs of five for about 10 cents; packed by the dozen, the average price is 23 cents. Ask for Ibis item at any grocery store; the cubes now are in distribution across the nation.

Trying to eat our way around the United States, we stopped in Charleston, South Carolina—rich pasture for a roving food reporter. Breakfast there is an honest-to-goodness meal, potted birds, let's say, if the morning is Sunday, or salted mullet roe served with hominy and gravy if the morning is Monday. If the morning is any day, it's hominy with a siding of crisp bacon or eggs or fish cakes. We tried a few dozen dishes, brand new to us. She-crab soup, cooler soup with eggs, pine bark stew, shrimp pie, and Bull's Bay oysters, a local specialty, each oyster no larger than a cherrystone clam. But what we ate every turn of the way and want to share with you are the benne seed wafers.

Never a moment when a visitor to Charleston hasn't a benne seed stuck fast in a back tooth. Every Charleston kitchen makes the benne seed biscuit, the benne wafers to serve with the cocktails, to pass at teatime. Fragrant, nutty-sweet little trifles, whose secret is in the toasting of the seed before it's added to the batter. Northerners and Westerners who never see a benne seed can buy the wafers by mail from a kitchen in the Old Slave Mart. 6 Chalmers Street, Charleston. This historic mart originated in the 1850's under the auspices of one Thomas Ryan for the holding of auctions, including the sale of slaves. Notices in the Charleston Courier during the fifties attest to such sales, the last in 1863 just before the exodus from the lower part of the city to escape federal bombardment.

Now almost a century later, the Old Slave Mart is a busy kitchen turning out the delicacies and sweets of the ante-bellum South.

Proprietor A. S. Furtwangler told us that benne seeds were planted first in slave days as a “good will crop.” The true name of the seed is sesame, or Sesamum indicum, its origin in the Hast Indian archipelago. In the old years the seeds were prepared in the form of cakes, waffles, and brittlcs. The Slave Mart has benne bits, a cocktail wafer about half the size of a stamp, the 9 ½ ounce jar $1.10; benne wafers, $1.80 a pound; benne brittle, $1.30 a pound.

Peach leather, a most famous Charleston sweet, is also a mail-order item from the Mart. Wc saw this being made, pounds and pounds of it: A jam-like combination of peaches and apricots is spread over trays to dry into a thin, Icatherish stuff, cut into small pieces about two inches by four, rolled, and dipped in granulated sugar. Pound boxes are $2, and delicious!

Amusing names for the old time candies, Granite cakes are a peanut and molasses mixture. $1 a dozen. Monkey meat proves to be coconut patties in three flavors, wintergreen, peppermint, and maple; one- and two-dozen boxes at $1 a dozen. There are pecan pralines and a black walnut kind, $1.25 a dozen. and pecan cream pralines, $1.80 a pound, sherry almond pralines, $2.80 a pound. All items are postpaid.

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